Top 10 Best Travel Tips

1. Book 6 months in advance
It’s always good to be organised and it’s wise to book in advance for obvious reasons. Analysis has stated that 6 months in advance is the ideal amount of time to book. I noticed that booking flights now for July 2018 is still very expensive.

2. Use a low charge travel money card
I could write a book on this. I spent hours researched money travel cards and you can find a blog post about it soon. Some friends paid 5 pound every time they withdrew money from an ATM. Also remember don’t exchange money from the airport they always give the worst rates and waiting to exchange money or withdraw in your destination country is always a clever option.

3. Don’t always imminently use Skyscanner and Kayak For my RTW trip, obviously went to my bible of wanderlust: skyscanner. Surprisingly, STA and flight centre worked out cheaper than skyscanner. It is also more convenient to pay off instalments with this travel agencies rather than pay all at once. While this idea may sound counter-intuitive it saved me £2000.

4. Book your flights on a Sunday
Every December, Expedia release a travel analysis document. This information is based on the December 2016 document but the information will be updated soon. They discovered that the cheapest flights were found on Sundays and as I mentioned earlier if you book 6 months in advance you should get the cheapest possible option.
Friday is the most expensive day of the week to buy a plane ticket, according to new research, with flights on average 13 per cent dearer than if booked on a Sunday.

5. Use an incognito tab
Travel companies log cookies based on what you search. If you use an incognito window it means they won’t know your previous search information and hopefully your flights or accommodation will work out cheaper rather than being based on previous searches. The more you search for a flight the more of a price increase due to supply and demand.These are the ideal features to look for in a debit card: Foreign transaction rate of 0%
International ATM withdrawal fee of $0
Competitive points or cash-back rewards program (at least 1% of the purchase price)

6. Bring a dry bag, a sarong and a card skimmer If you’re a solo traveller, it would be impossible to go swimming without a dry bag. It means you don’t have to worry about your valuables, it may not look cool but either is being robbed of your possessions while enjoying the sea. A sarong is always something you should have by your side whether you are male or female. Even in the best of establishments, bed linen may not always be clean. Obviously if it’s very bad you will complain but it’s always better to lay on your own clothes than hostel bed linen. Sarongs are essential in Asia and more conservative countries as you never know when you might come across a temple or a place of worship. I read so many stories about cards being skimmed in Asia but surprisingly it happened to somebody I was travelling with in Australia. This person was left with no money. I was so lucky to have kept my cards in a skim proof wallet.

7. Ensure you have access to a MasterCard and Visa
Credit and debit cards are the cheapest, easiest ways to get money and make payments overseas. Credit cards are accepted worldwide, and when you need cash, ATMs are abundant in every country. ATMs are internationally networked through the Visa/Plus and MasterCard/Cirrus networks.

8. Don’t keep money/ cards all in the same place.
Three is the lucky number. This rule has saved me from despair during my travels. Unfortunately, my money and phone was stolen in America. I was lucky that I had kept some money and my credit card in my bum bag  and she had stolen money and my debit card from my handbag.

9. Best way to avoid queues
I had a connection flight from London to Cork after arriving from Singapore. The passport line would have taken me an hour, meaning there was no way of getting to my flight on time. In a panic, I rushed to security and explained my situation. Even though, I produced every blandishment I could think of from my bag of tricks. If you’re severely allergic to queuing, so can you!

10. Don’t be shy or too naive
In order to make the most of your travels and new cultures you should engage with others. I know you worry about what people think. It takes courage to talk to strangers but everyone is in the same boat. All around you there are other solo travelers looking for friends. They want to meet new people too.

Just say “hello” and everything else will fall into place. The most common questions asked while travelling are, Hi where are you from? What’s you’re itinerary like? What was your favourite place? The mundane repetitive conversations get tiring after a while but they make it easier to meet new people.

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How to Travel the World for Four Months

During my travels and when I returned, the same two questions consistently occurred “How did you do it?” or another rendition of that question such as:

How in the world could you afford that?
Did you hit the jackpot?
What do you do for a living?
Did you work while traveling?
Where do you get your money from?
You must be rich.

Fortunately, all of these questions and comments lead to my determination to initiate a travel blog and write this post. People would question how I could afford to stay in one of the most exclusive hotels in the world, afford to feed myself, take 20 flights around the world and maintain a great social life. Some were unable to fathom the magnitude of space covered and how I was able to afford this trip of a lifetime. It really wasn’t that difficult and you can do it too.

One tip I would advise is to book three of the most expensive aspects of your trip before you leave. That way you won’t get a shock when you have to pay for it on the day and a lump sum comes out of your travel money. It is prerequisite that you are prepared and investigate the prices of most amenities such as hostels and activities before you go. It is absurd travelling the world and not living life beyond expectation; a small budget will hinder opportunity. I made the mistake of not researching prices in New Zealand which was one of the last countries on my list to visit. It ended up being the most expensive and most people wondered the same thing, “have I been robbed?” At least two people said they questioned that as NZ is so expensive. I even had my KIWI experience bus paid for before hand but for instance the jet-boat activity we did cost $300 AUD, so be prepared.

Personally, I have always preferred to travel for a shorter period of time. Three months maximum is perfect for me. You do begin to miss your luxuries, during the last few weeks and travelling for up to a year can prove difficult. After returning I still live by that rule. I compared my travelling lifestyle to people who were travelling for up to 6 months. They couldn’t enjoy the same opportunities as us and one girl we met in a hostel near Noosa, Australia was working there and complaining that she is so broke after 5 months and wants to return home. You need to make sure you feel financially secure during your trip and especially when you come home too.

How

Before you go
Save, save, save! For every birthday or event, give some subtle hints to family and friends that you would like them to buy you hotel nights as your present. Some of they are so cheap. Try and book the first half of your accommodation before you go so that it eases the pressure. I paid for the first three countries accommodation before I left as I wanted to stay in hotels: Dubai, Bali and Singapore. You are better off waiting until you get to Australia and New Zealand to book it there as you may meet people you want to remain travelling with.

Before I went I saved as much as I could. We decided to travel in April 2016 and we left in February 2017.I figured out how much I could need for three months which was £6500. STA was great to book with as we were able to pay off on the flights in installments. The only reason I would not recommend STA is that their travel advisors are very hit and miss. We went from having an experienced trustworthy advisor to having an advisor that flew us into wrong airports which made things hard for us (more detail in the NZ blog post). Just make sure that you have the itinerary planned out for yourself and that you are certain on the airports and dates. They offer an unlimited change of flight for 99 pound but this offer is deceiving so please read the fine print! We ended up paying your extra flights. As I saved it was getting closer to depart and I knew I wanted to feel comfortable, have the trip of a lifetime and grab every opportunity by the horns by not worrying about finances. I had saved 4000 and in the end I did take out a small loan independently. If you are not eligible for a loan you can use your parents as a guarantor which means there is a higher chance of getting the loan. Have a savings goal in mind and put that much away every week/month. A girl I meet told me she had three jobs to save for travelling. If you want to do it you will!

Australia

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Out of all the emails I receive in regards to budgeting for travel plans Australia is without a doubt the place people are most worried about or needing information on. With their ever strengthening economy it’s not the cheap backpacker country it once was and it’ll take up a large chunk of your budget.

With most places I usually say around £1,000 per month (my monthly budget for Thailand was even less!) will leave you with plenty of cash to splash…Australia though (and I hate to be the person to break this to you!) will be nearly double that.

So here’s a break down of the main backpacker spends in Australia – accommodation, food, booze, activities and transport – so hopefully you can prepare for an amazing adventure down under…

Most Expensive Bed – Bounce, Sydney $40 £25 €28

Favourite Hostel – Bounce, Sydney

Average nights accommodation (shared dorm) – $30 (£18.75)

Average nights accommodation (double/twin) – $80 (£50)

Average campsite (per tent) – $16 £10

Estimated accommodation costs – $900 (£562)

Food and Drink Costs

Australia is pretty expensive when it come to eating out – so if you’re on a budget you’ll want to mix it up with a good bit of home cooking. Saying that though many hostels offer some great backpacker feeds (like Sydney’s “Wakeup”) for around $5 and there’s plenty of backpacker bars (like Byron Bays “Cheeky Monkeys”) which do the same, so you can grab a budget feed on the go too.

If you’re going out to party again the backpacker bars are the way forward and many of them (like Woody Surf Shack in Byron Bay or The Woolshed in Cairns) offer a whole host of giveaways and competitions, from surfboards to dive courses, so you make your night out well worth the money!k

Cheapest meal – 5 min noodles! – $0.50 (£0.30p!) (add some veggies to pimp it out a bit!) YEs! I did just have noodles for dinner some nights.

Average backpacker meal – around $5-10 (£4-7)

Average meal (based on cooking veggie pasta) – $5 (£3)

Average cost of Wine- $5 £3 ( Probably the cheapest thing to drink)

Average cost of a box of goon (Golden Oaks, 4 litres) – $15 (£9)

Average cost takeaway coffee – $5 £3.12

Estimated food costs (based on cooking lunch, backpacker meal for dinner) – $375 (£318)

Make sure you always factor in activities and the two main ones that everyone does in Australia are Whitsundays and Fraser Island. The price of this was a shock for me, we paid $950 each for the two trips and apparently we got a bargain! An even bigger shock was when Frazier was cancelled after a day because of Cyclone Debbie and most people’s insurance didn’t cover the cyclone.

Travel

The best way to travel the east coast is to book the greyhound bus before you leave home. This is so flexible and you can change your arranged trip at any stage before you get on the bus. Most people on it are backpackers too which make sure it all that bit more interesting. The best way to do it is to get a KM pass. You will need a 2500 km pass if you are travelling from Sydney to Cairns. Most people travel up the coast not down, but we are not most and travelled down.

You can find out more about Australia in my OZ blog post (coming soon!). Any other information or details you would like to know about my trip please ask. Below you can see my whole flight itinerary with STA too.

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Vietnam: 2 week Itinerary

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Vietnam is the most cultured country I have visited so far. I asked many backpackers where their favourite location was and those who visited Vietnam declared their love for this country, which is full of diversity. It is a chaotic city surrounded by mountains, bikes, beaches, palm trees and pines. When we arrived in Vietnam from Auckland as we were meeting my parents for my dad’s 60th. Safe to say there were tears at Hanoi airport after being away from them for months.Unable to contain my excitement, we began to explore the bustling streets of Hanoi.

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While traveling in Vietnam, we trekked through rice terraces, experienced the locals making their traditional dishes, explored famous caves, looked for land mines near the Chi Chi tunnels, ate everything we set our sights on especially the Vietnamese traditional soup Pho, which was delicious. We cruised around Halong bay, one of the wonders of the world while sipping wine on our balcony and travelled the Vietnamese trains with locals. We also ended up off the beaten path in towns where no other tourists were in sight. Vietnamese people stared at us as they explained they never saw westerners before. We experienced poverty like no other which made us appreciate our trip even more.

The food, the motorbikes, the landscapes and the people made this one of our favorite destinations in Southeast Asia. Vietnam is a country that surprised us in every way, and we can’t wait for you to experience its flavours, sounds and warmth for yourself.

Before you travel to Vietnam

Get a Vietnam visa: This process is a bit more complicated than other countries in Southeast Asia. You need to fill out a form online before you go, the website is below. You should take a copy of the acceptance letter with you. Many young tourists didn’t read the small print on this letter and never realised they needed $25 American dollars on arrival to get their visa. Also make sure you have a passport photo or else you will end up paying ten dollars and waiting 30 minutes extra for your photo. The tourists that didn’t have the $25 dollars were really worrying about this during the process. It is better to be prepared for a smooth start to you trip.  http://visa.mofa.gov.vn.

Get travel insurance: This isn’t just a smart thing to do – it’s absolutely necessary. From motorbike crashes to stories of theft, we saw quite a few accidents in Vietnam. We even met one young traveler whose friend needed to be airlifted to Bangkok after hurting himself and the local hospitals couldn’t treat his injury. Travel insurance is cheap, and although you hope you never need to use it, you’ll be more at ease knowing you’re covered in case of an emergency. Check out our guide that explains how to choose the best policy for you.

2 week Vietnam Itinerary At a Glance

Hanoi: 2 days
Halong Bay: 2 days
Nha Trang: 1 day
Huế: 1 day (or half-day)
Hoi An: 2/3 days
Da Lat: 2 days
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): 3 days

Hanoi

When you start your journey in the capital city of Hanoi, you may be in for a bit of culture shock. You’ll witness motorbikes flowing chaotically yet synchronously through the crammed streets. It’s a wonderful place to start. Here you will learn quickly how to cross roads in Vietnam. The best advise I got is pretend you own the road and cross confidently. I never did master this until I got to hoi an where the roads were more country like. Don’t believe in the pedestrian crossings in Vietnam because the locals don’t!

What to eat in Hanoi: Bun Cha. Do it. NOW. Originating from Hanoi, this dish consists of grilled pork patties and noodles served with lettuce, herbs and a dipping sauce. We several delicious meals of Bun Cha in Hanoi and it was too hard to choose a winner so I’m sharing our 2 favorites! One was in a small shop on the northeast corner of St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the other was at a restaurant called Bun Cha Ta at 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân. Try them both to compare and let us know which one you liked better. Bun cha is just one of many dishes to try in Hanoi!

Where to stay in Hanoi: there are many hostels in Vietnam but I was not looking for hostels on this leg of my journey. We stayed in the Golden Sun Palace hotel. The best thing about this hotel was definitely the staff. They were so friendly and helpful, like most Vietnamese people. They booked our Halong Bay trip for us and all our transport. The cruise they booked could not be faulted. It was called the Huong Hai Sealife cruise. They made us feel like royalty, we received welcome drinks and they played music every time we entered the ship from a trip. We could see the sea from our showers and each room had a balcony which is the main reason we choose this particular cruise over the 2nd option. They also offered yoga and tai chee karate in the mornings. Every day we got a breakfast lunch and dinner buffet like I have never seen before. All the staff were delightful and so friendly, in particular Sunny, she sang ‘all of me’ for the whole cruise ship on the last night and it was fantastic. Not one person who left the cruise has a bad word to say. The food staff and cabins were 5 stars. We did pay a lot more for this in comparison to the backpacker cruise. It was 180 US dollars but worth every penny! IMG_6239

How to get to the city from the airport: The Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) for Hanoi is about 30 km away from the main city center and there are many ways to get there. The best option is to take the airport shuttle bus which leaves just outside of the gates. The cost is 40,000 VND ($2 USD) and takes about 40-60 minutes depending on the traffic. If you are one of the first on, you’ll have to wait a bit because they typically leave once they have a full bus. If you arrive during the day you can take the city bus number 7 that terminates at Kim Ma Bus station and number 17 that terminate at Long Bien bus station. The cost is 4,000 VND and take about one hour. The last option is to take a taxi, but they are known to overcharge traveler and typically charge $35 USD one way.

Halong Bay

One of the most iconic destinations within Vietnam is the lush island cliffs rising from the still waters of Ha Long Bay. Choosing from the numerous boat cruises is a tough task, especially when there are a lot of scams scattered on the Internet. Make sure to look at reviews and ratings before paying for your trip. It’s a bit of a splurge, but the landscape is incredible and you can’t miss this. There’s a boat tour style for every traveler – from calm sight-seeing tours to foodie cruises to drink-til-you-drop booze cruises. I did explain above the cruise I wholly recommend and I hope you take my advice!IMG_6250

Nha Trang

The high-rise, high-energy beach resort of Nha Trang enjoys a stunning setting: ringed by a necklace of hills, with a sweeping crescent beach, the city’s turquoise bay is dotted with tropical islands and is home to many Russians. Some critiques disliked that there were an overload of Russians here but we enjoyed the beach, skyline and 4 island boat trip.

The shoreline has had a huge makeover in recent years, with quiet parks and sculpture gardens spread along the impressive promenade, while the streets inland reveal quirky boutiques and a cosmopolitan array of dining options. As restaurants wind down, nightlife cranks up – central Nha Trang is a party town at heart, like any self-respecting resort should be. Most of it is aimed directly at the many Russian and Chinese tourists. Forget the curfews of the capital; visitors play late in this town.

There are more sedate activities on offer too. The beachfront has quiet, open bars. Or try an old-school spa treatment with a visit to a mud bath or explore centuries-old Cham towers still standing in the town centre. It was nice to visit Nha Trang to unwind for a day. We travelled from Hanoi to Nha Trang by train as we originally booked a bus but it was not as we expected so we went with plan B! Being on a train in Vietnam is a culture experience in itself. We took the ‘first class option’ but in Vietnam it’s more of a novelty option and we laughed so much during this adventure. Trying to get onto the bunk bed  was a struggle. They are designed for the Vietnamese as they are all very petite.

The 4 island trip is a must. The islands were like paradise and the staff went all out singing happy birthday to my friend and having a disco on board. Make sure you bring food as it wasn’t very clean.

Hoi An

If you don’t visit Hoi An, Graceful, historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage, and the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent.

The face of the Old Town has preserved its incredible legacy of tottering Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouses – though, of course, residents and rice fields have been gradually replaced by tourist businesses. Lounge bars, boutique hotels, travel agents and a glut of tailor shops are very much part of the scene here. And yet, down by the market and over on Cam Nam Island, you’ll find life has changed little. Travel a few kilometres further – you’ll find some superb bicycle, motorbike and boat trips – and some of central Vietnam’s most enticingly laid-back scenery and beaches are within easy reach.

Where to stay: when we were in Hoi An our hotel was like a Santorini place and it just so happened to be called Hoi An Garden Palace and Spa. This is the sister hotel to the one we stayed in when we were in Hanoi. It cost £35 a night or 10.7 million Vietnamese dong. There is a free shuttle service to the main part of Hoi An or you can walk it in 20 minutes!

Tailor in Hoi An: The tailor I used in Hoi An was called Yaly Couture. They were absolutely brilliant and seen as I am a semi shopaholic (while I’m at home), this experience was a highlight while in Vietnam. I returned from Vietnam four months ago and I still email them to make me clothes as they have all my details. Other tailor shops in Vietnam will not allow you to contact them online and custom make something without being in the shop. I know this as I enquired with many tailors (Kimmy, being one) about this service before purchasing a coat and a dress. http://www.yalycouture.com/ Is the website. Visit them with a style in mind and then they will show you all the fabrics available. In Hoi An you can get clothes made cheap but as many people said in forums ‘you get what you pay for’. My coat was 90 US dollars but the fit and fabric is impeccable and I know I got value for money.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) 

We stayed here for 2 days and our top excursion was to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels which made for an eye-opening afternoon. Used by the Vietnamese during the war with America, these extraordinary underground tunnels granted whole villages to stay safe. Our tour guide explained that when the American army dogs were sniffing for Vietnamese they could never be found because the Vietnamese army left American scented  (clothing) at the top of each tunnel. They were highly intelligent and considered every aspect of possibly being caught. The Vietnamese people even made shoes so that they would not leave footprints.

Visitors can crawl their way through a 100m stretch of tunnel and watch their tour guide demonstrate with ghoulish pleasure the ingenious traps the Vietnamese used to kill or maim US soldiers. Costing from $20 for a half-day tour (8am-2pm or 1-7pm), this trip includes return transfers plus entry to the tunnels. If you look at my Instagram page there is an amusing video which shows me attempting to enter the Chi Chi tunnel.

While you are in Saigon, a prerequisite is to visit the war museum which provides a wealth of information about the history of Saigon and the war.

Where to stay: We stayed in the Alagon Hotel and Spait was reasonably priced and you could have breakfast and afternoon tea included in the price of the hotel.

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Drinking Mai Tai in the pool as the sun goes down.

Dubai: A champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget

We stopped over in Dubai for 3 days and checked into the Ascott Park Hotel on Sheikh Zayad Road. The receptionist told us the standard room we booked was not available and that she would upgrade us to the superior apartment suite. I have NEVER stayed in a nicer hotel. The apartment was over two stories and it was luxury. Being backpackers were over the moon about this and it was the best beginning to our round the world trip. Before this happened I continued to joke with my travel partner that we may get upgraded on our Emirates flight from London to Dubai. Somebody must have heard my wish!

We were quite tired when we arrived but the adrenalin rush meant that we were too thrilled to nap so our first stop was of course, the Dubai mall. Dubai was certainly a culture shock for both of us, from the different gender trains to the fact that we were not appropriately dressed in the mall. Honestly, it was so hot and my poor Irish skin knew it too. I had no choice but to throw on my pennys (of course) shorts! The mall was made for the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-z, unfortunately, I didn’t splash out on the first day of my three month backpacking trip around the world, but believe me it was hard !

I continued to remind myself that I’m travelling for memories and not to splash out on the next Gucci handbag. I would much prefer a passport full of stamps than a designer handbag. Although, if somebody handed me one I wouldn’t say no either. After looking around the mall we went back to our palace (and that it was!). We relaxed and got ready to look at the famous waterfall display at the mall which is called The Dubai Fountain Show. It is on every half an hour and we were so amazed with it we watched it twice. Take the boat trip around the fountain too as it is worth the 10 dirham.
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There were a few things we didn’t get to do in Dubai which is why I am already planning a return trip. Luckily, we did get to the top of the observatory tower in the Marriott Harbour hotel. You can go in and use the lift to get to the top floor. We enjoyed a few cocktails and that very moment, I realised I was experiencing a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget. My friend and I did look like typical backpackers, we were wearing shorts and runners, while a group of cosmopolitan city chicks indulged in lobster ravioli and caviar. I continued to sit back relax and smiled from ear to ear while looking out at the millionaire yachts, the palm islands alongside the famous Atlantis hotel and high-rise buildings.

Safari Trip Recommendations

Travel by 4×4 across the deserts of Dubai on this exhilarating 6-hour excursion! Enjoy an adrenaline rush sand-boarding down Dubai’s desert dunes, take a camel ride and get a henna tattoo! Complete your experience with a visit to our on-site Shawrma station or enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner under the twinkling Arabian stars while watching a traditional tanoura dance performance. It’s a must-do experience when visiting Dubai!

Highlights
Free hotel pickup and drop-off included
Get off the beaten track in a 4×4
Free drinks included
Dinner included

After a pickup from your centrally located Dubai hotel, relax in an air-conditioned 4×4 vehicle as you head to the desert that surrounds the city. Admire views of the barren yet enchanting landscape on the way, and listen to your guide’s tales about the region and its fascinating geology.

First stop on your desert rendezvous is a traditional camel farm to see herds of the magnificent hump-backed herbivores. After showing off your balancing skills on a camel ride around the enclosures, learn about the different types of camels that are commonly seen in the desert around Dubai.

Continue by 4×4 across the desert plains to the campsite in the desert and try your hand at a popular local pastime: sand-boarding! Learn to master the art of ‘surfing on sand’ and race your friends and fellow travelers down the sand dunes during in an adrenaline-rushing experience.

Show off your balance skills on a camel ride or relax and take a seat outside to watch your show as the sun sets over the craggy canyons and sun-baked plains. Get a henna tattoo design on your hands or feet, watch a traditional tanoura folk dance.

I advise you to book Arabian Nights tour LLC. Ours cost 99 dirham but the prices change due to high and low seasons. Most people were not satisfied with the BBQ as it was very unorganised so if you can pick an option without this, I advise you to.
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New Zealand: South Island

When we arrived New Zealand we flew from Sydney to Christchurch. But we were not the only ones to make this mistake and it was due to STA travel advising us that it was better to fly to Christchurch. Most people flew into Auckland and started in the north island. We realised we made a mistake when searching for tours from Christchurch, most of them started in Auckland. So make sure you start in Auckland as you will have many more tour options.

In the end it worked out ok and we found the ‘Funky Chicken’ tour which included Milford Sound and this tour was with the KIWI EXPERIENCE. The only problem with the small mistake we made was that we ended up back in Christchurch twice. For those of you who have been in New Zealand before, you will know Christchurch resembles a bleak city full of rubble due to the earthquake. When we paid for the Funky Chicken we were lucky there was a sale on and it was $550 dollars. We made sure to pay for this before we left home as we knew the NZ bus tour was going to be expensive. Now that there is not sale it cost $1159 for the bus tour only. Which is expensive but it is completely worth it as you get to see tourist spots at your ease and you don’t have to worry about driving on the dangerous NZ roads ( and there are many accidents on these roads). The only downside of the KIWI experience is that it does bring you to places you may not necessarily want to be in and people on our bus requested to skip areas but this was not an option. I will discuss this in more detail below.

My travel partner was in New Zealand before and knew that we shouldn’t spend long in Christchurch so our first journey was 7 hours to Kaiteriteri. Here you can visit Abel Tasman National Park or go kayaking for $99. The beach was beautiful and resembles Thailand beaches the sand is yellow. We didn’t visit Tasman Park but we did walk to little Kaiteriteri and make sure you do that because it was beautiful and the area is luxurious. They give you options to stay here more than one night but we felt 1 night here was enough. I highly recommend you visit Kaiteriteri. On the way from Christchurch to Kaiteriteri you will stop at Nelson Lakes National Park. Everybody has a photo in their New Zealand album of these lakes, there are no words. IMG_6219

The two stops after Kaiteriteri were disappointing and a waste of time. The next stop was Westport. When we arrived they brought us to the supermarket to stock up. Most people brought a cooler bag around to each hostel with food like bread noodles and pasta. New Zealand is the most expensive country I have ever been in. I advise you to take the cooler bag option if you are on a budget. We did dine out from time to time but I would much prefer to spend money on new experiences. Westport was so disappointing, it appeared to be like a ghost town. Sometimes the KIWI experience brings you to hostels because they aim to satisfy the hostel owner as it could be a friend of the family owned business (KIWI EXPERIENCE). I definitely only spent one night in Westport and I would not have visited the ghost town if I had that option. Everybody thought the same.

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After Westport we visited Lake Mahinapua, the driver was the same age as us (26) and began to open up to us after he had some alcohol. He informed us that the only reason we visit Lake Pua is because the owner of KE owns the hostel/pub. Nonetheless, we all really enjoyed the visit here even though we didn’t leave the hostel because it was isolated and no shops or tourist spots were around us. Tonight was a fancy dress night and when we were in Westport we were given time to buy some fancy dress. The theme was anything but clothes. The main thing wr enjoyed about this hostel was that seven of us girls spent hours in the outdoor jacuzzi with some drinks and it was really enjoyable. One man on our bus did ask to skip this location as he was made aware of the fact you could be in Ireland/London and it doesn’t give you a Kiwi Experience. He wasn’t able to skip it. We had to pay $45 dollars for the hostel and a breakfast the next morning.

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The next stop made us realise why we visited New Zealand, we arrived in Franz Josef. The hostel didn’t have that hostel feel, we had a spacious kitchen, an outdoor jacuzzi that could fit 20 people, an outdoor sauna, glaciers and some fabulous views. It was truly amazing and out of this world. I recommend staying here for two nights and make sure you indulge in the pizza night, all you can eat pizza for $20. Although my friend did think this was too expensive and I did only eat two slices, so it depends how much you will eat. Unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy the scenic heli-flight over the glacier, nor could we hike on Franz Josef because of the weather it was cancelled that day. Oh well! It just makes for another excuse to return. The first day we went kayaking for $99, it was so worth it and I never laughed as much. Mainly because I was awful at steering and we spent most our kayaking trip in the bushes which made it even more fun. The views were absolutely incredible and the pictures look like postcards. I recommend you hold off doing kayaking anywhere else and do it here! Make sure you bring plenty of mosquito repellent on this trip especially if you are like me and allergic to them.  After our kayaking trip we returned to our jacuzzi and spent most of the afternoon relaxing before the party began. That night we tried many cocktails, enjoyed the dj and some dancing.

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The next morning in Franz we went on the tartare track walk, there are so many walks/ tracks in NZ and this was one in particular that was full of excitement. Not too many people know about this walk. After the sun goes down, grab your torch and head off on this glow worm walk. The cave was full of water so bring some old shoes and thick socks as you will get soaked like we did. We travelled through the whole tunnel which took 20 minutes, to realise the other side was closed. It reminded me of the Chi Chi tunnels in Vietnam but lucky enough it was not as claustrophobic.

With the many memories in my mind and an overwhelming feeling of joy that I experienced the wonderful location of Franz Josef we left to stay the night in Wanaka. Make sure you visit Mount Cook and the Wanaka tree here. You should probably stay two nights to experience it fully. Accommodation cost 35 dollars and there is a supermarket next to the hostel.

I was so excited to make it to Queenstown after Wanaka as many people told me it is the best location in New Zealand. Well they were right. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD. The mountains reflected on lake Wakatipu. Queenstown is the prime location for extreme sports. I witnessed many people doing sky dives and bungy jumps which is the highest in the world. My friend did the canyon swing. Unfortunately I was brace enough to get on the plane and preferred my feet on the ground. I did do one extreme sport and there were no regrets. So if you are like me and completely terrified of heights, the shotover jet was the worlds most exciting jetboat ride. My stomach hurt after it from laughing so much, also from feeling like a bag of nerves as it reached speeds of 85 kph in a narrow river with large rocks. It was memorable and I’m so glad I worked up the courage to do it. We stayed in Queenstown for three days but there were so many nice restaurants and tourist attractions that I wish we stayed for longer. There is a cable car at the top of the mountain that brings you down to the centre of the town. Make sure you do that. Queenstown was New Zealand’s party central and we did go out and let our hair down every night. From Queenstown you can do the day trip to Milford Sound which is a must!!

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After Queenstown we visited Lake Tekapo and this was my favourite spot in the whole of New Zealand. It was a very quiet village but the experience there was different to Queenstown as it was quieter and full of fantastic Pinterest moments. Here you can watch the stars over the church, it was like nothing I have ever seen before. We spotted many astronomers with the equipment required to spot the Milky Way. We however did not have this equipment and it was still phenomenal. There was not one part of the sky that didn’t have stars. You could do professional stargazing for $200 but we didn’t feel the need as some people let us look through their telescopes for free when we got there.

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That next morning I climbed Mount John, it took about 2 hours but as you can see it was worth it!

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The following night we watched the stars and the sun go down from the outdoor hot pools. Every moment in Lake Tekapo kept getting better that was until we thought it would be fun to go glamping. We were frozen but it was all part of the fun! Moments like those make you remember your trip.IMG_6225

After Tekapo we left for the north island which meant we had to do Christchurch again and that 7 hour drive on the first day. If I was doing it again I might do Tekapo and fly from Christchurch to Wellington but we slept during the drive anyway so it didn’t matter too much and we didn’t miss anything. There are many ways to navigate around New Zealand and really it is what works best for you. The main tour bus companies are KIWI which is a younger crew ( we were the oldest and people didn’t let us forget that either) or Stray bus which is an older crew. Some bought cheap cars and sold them at the end of their journey. Personally because kiwi was half price and as we also made some friends for life, I know we made the right decision. New Zealand was very expensive and 100 dollars a day was a realistic budget and sometimes I spent more depending on activities. We stayed in NZ for 3 weeks and I spent $2500. The South Island was incredible and I’m so glad it was on my bucket list.

 

 

 

 

 

Bali: My 7 day itinerary

I’ve visited over 20 countries so far, some of which I have returned to many times. One place strikes the heart as the most desirable hotspot of 2017 is Bali. Before my travel partner (Jess) and I arrived we envisioned Bali as a blogger heaven with picturesque views, unforeseeable beauty and warm water that beckoned in the tropical sun. We enjoyed the culture experience of Bali but it was a little disappointing as the resorts portrayed Bali tourism through social media platforms and it was not a true reflection of Bali we witnessed in Eat Pray Love.

IMG_6193.PNGUnfortunately, we were dreaming of the jam in the donut which are the luxurious resorts in Bali. We were imagining a Bali of long ago. We hadn’t anticipated the environmental disaster that Bali has become and the fact that the roads and everything other than the resorts echoed poverty and ruins.
Overview of our advised itinerary:

Ubud 2 days but 1 day is enough!
Uluwatu: 1 day (Make sure it is a Sunday and that you have your billabong or roxy attire to fit in)
Jimbaron: 1 day
Seminyak: 2 days
Gilli Islands: 2 days

NOTE: If you are stuck for time spend one day in Seminyak. Make sure you do not visit Kuta.

Tips for first time Bali tourists

1. Dress and act modestly when visiting temples.
2. Take off your shoes when entering a house and some shops will require you to do this too (which I found peculiar).
3. Do not step on the offerings at doorsteps and gates which are small fragrant parcels made of palm leaves, incense and flowers. You will see these everywhere.
4.Avoid touching a person’s head. The Balinese believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body.
5. Always use your right hand when taking money off people or giving, the left is thought to be disrespectful. Most Balinese do understand that you are a tourist and won’t comment on this.

Indonesia’s currency is the rupiah and it’s roughly trading at about 9,000 to the USD and fluctuated around 1% during my time there. Coins exist but are not frequently used as many vendors will simply round to the nearest banknote, often in your favor, but occasionally not. Banknotes start at 1000 rupiah and go up from there: 2000 rupiah (a quarter), 5000 rupiah (a half-dollar), 10000 rupiah (a bit over a dollar) 20,000 (a dollar and a quarter) 50,000 (five and half dollars) and 100,000 (11 USD).
While I didn’t see many businesses openly advertising that they accepted US dollars, most will roughly know the exchange rate and will accept US dollars if needed, but don’t expect to get a good rate if you need to use USD in a pinch.

Rather than limit the amount of people that can descend on this small island, Bali has expanded Denpasar International Airport to cram even more holiday revellers into the already tight space. When we arrived in the airport, many tourists were struggling with the same situation; finding a taxi that was not overcharging. When we exited the airport I counted 25 taxi drivers who swarmed around us shouting taxi. It was highly intimidating and not what we visualised.

Budget for 1 week in Bali

Cheapest Bed – Bali Reef Divers, Tulamben – £2.50 per person per night (4 share dorm)

Expensive Bed – La Kiya No I Biu– £60 per person per night (double room)

Most Expensive Bed – Pertiwi Bisma 1 Ubud – £70 per night (double room)

Average nights accommodation (double/twin room) £5-7

Cheapest meal – Indonesian buffet at Warung Indonesia (in Kuta, Bali) – £1

Average Indonesia meal – around £1

Average western meal – around £2

Meal in a more established restaurant/chain (inc drink) – around £3-5

Most guesthouses also have a free breakfast too which is always a budget saver!

Average cost of beer (large Bintang, Circle K) – £1.50

Average cost of beer (large Bintang , restaurant) – £1.75

Favourite place to eat – Warung Indonesia, an absolutely amazing Indonesian Buffett place in between Poppies 1 and 2 and you can have a solid feed and a drink for under £1.50!

My Trip Details

IMG_6194When we arrived in Ubud, I could tell my travel partner was not impressed with the unpleasant scenery during the drive as the true . Many of the streets were covered in rubble, uneven paths, crowed roads, seedy men and no sign of the pininterest dream posts of Bali but what was invisible in the photos, was quite apparent when one drives from the airport to Ubud. We stayed in Ubud for 2 days but this was probably the biggest waste of my trip around the world. I was not a fan of Ubud but our hotel was impeccably flawless. Our room portrayed typical Balinese interior with a massive balcony overlooking an infinity type pool. It was called the Pertiwi Bisma 1. This hotel was central to all tourist activities and more importantly we felt safe. The food in the hotel was delicious. A full pizza cost 4 pound. We had a 3 course meal and a glass of wine here for 14 pound.
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Below are some pictures of the affordable central hotel with friendly staff and a fancy pool.


Make sure you book this hotel while you are in Bali or you will miss out!

On our third day, after relaxing in our hotel and making the most of all our accommodation has to offer we paid terenungan waterfall a visit on the way to Uluwatu. We paid the taxi driver 130 IDR to go from Ubud to Uluwatu. Make sure you ask in Pertiwi Bisma 1 the right price for taxis so that you do not get ripped off. The staff here were honest and told us the true prices.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with the taxi drivers in Bali. Terenungan was probably the nicest tourist spot that we found apart from the hotels. It was packed with people and did cost 100,000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) to enter but the waterfall itself was beautiful. Be aware that there are 100 or more steps down to this so bring proper footwear, unlike I did. Flip flops were not a good idea.

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Day four was a Sunday and we stayed in Uluwatu, mostly to experience the famous surfing hotspot and Single Fin bar which is popular for their Sunday sessions. We watched the sunset at single fin and it was that moment I started to enjoy Bali a bit more. In Uluwatu, we stayed in Mamo hotel as our friend recommended this hotel before we left. It was a bargain and had a real backpackers feel to it, which was enjoyable.
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Day five and six: After Uluwatu we made our way to Jimbaran as I had seen pictures of an amazing resort on many blogger Instagram pages. The best part of Bali was the secret hidden resort of La Joya Biu Biu which had a clean sandy private hidden beach. It also has a jacuzzi on a cliff over-looking amazing views. They do charge you to enter the jacuzzi for half an hour but it was so cheap it didn’t bother me. Potatoe Head Beach Club was beautiful which had an infinity pool overlooking a clean beach. These two positive experiences were hotels. The resorts are selling a mirage which the visitor doesn’t find out about until it’s too late. Bali is like a jam donut, cheap, dry and plain on the outside and surprising while tasting the jam which are the resorts.IMG_6200cropped-img_6181
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Day seven: we left Jimbaran and made our way to Kuta as we wanted to ensure we were close to the airport. What we didn’t realise is that even though Kuta does have a Starbucks and a Zara which was heaven the beaches were polluted with bottles and rubbish. The sunset in Kuta was probably the best I saw in all of the 10 countries I have been in.20170925_203246.png But you can also experience this sunset in Seminyak. In Seminyak we visited the Potatoe Head Beach Club. Honestly, this is one to add to you bucket list. It is full of people seeking a good fun time, the atmosphere is amazing and wild horses could not have stopped me visiting this place. I mean did you really visit Bali if you didn’t go to Potatoe Head Beach Club….don’t be surprised by the amount of security before you entered PHBC. You can stay in Potatoe Head Beach Club for the day if you spend 300k IDR on food and drink. Then you get a large double sunbed. We made sure we were there for 8.30 am as it is such a popular club that the sunbeds are taken before 11am if not sooner. Before I left for Bali I thought PHBC was a hotel and I couldn’t figure out why it was not on trivago or booking. It is a Beach Club with a restaurant and bar inside and outside the pool. IMG_6284IMG_6286

As you can see my suggested itinerary at the beginning is different to the itinerary we experiences. As the saying goes you learn from your mistakes. We were so tired at the end our Bali trip that we decided to skip the Gilli Islands. We made the mistake of staying in Kuta rather than Seminyak but we did end up spending our days in Seminyak.
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Overall, I never regret anything and Bali was heaven on earth but I would not return. Firstly, it’s overrated. Secondly, you can find many fabulous resorts anywhere in the world without spending £700 plus to travel on a 14 hour flight solely to experience well-known resorts such as Potatoe Head Beach Club.

Welcome

Like many people, travel is my passion but I want to write about my memories and experiences. Even if I am the only person who reads this in many years to come, I will feel a sense of pride reflecting on my travel experience. However, if somebody does stumble across this blog, I hope you enjoy my travel reviews as much as I did experiencing them.

I am lucky enough to have jetted off on a holiday every year since I was four. This year, I completed a round the world trip. This was a big step for me as I am absolutely terrified of flying in recent years as I started to think more about flying. I visited 9 countries so far this year and intend of doing more trips closer to Christmas. I will discuss how I managed to travel to nine countries in the space of four months. I will write many posts on finance tips, recommendations and general tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

In my lifetime I have visited the following 20 countries and I aim to blog about each of these and continue to post about my journey around the world using London as my base.

Zweena x

 

 

 

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