Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga



I'm back fresh from my week in Rarotonga and I couldn't wait to start writing. As well as a travel diary and hotel review - one thing I particularly wanted to write about was the food!
I am starting 'Food'/ 'Best Places to Eat' as a new category on my blog as I am such a big foodie and I always love reading other people's suggestions of where to eat too.

As I was so busy with wedding stuff most of the time I only ate around Muri which is the area I was staying in, but I was more than happy with that. Every single meal was so good it surprised me! Food is a big part of Cook Island culture and that was reflected everywhere by being readily available, fresh, tasty and lovingly prepared.

Muri is one of the top places to stay in Rarotonga - with a stunning crystal clear aqua lagoon hugging the white sandy beach, many great accommodation options, activities and of course a fantastic selection of restaurant and cafe choices!
Here are my top picks around Muri, Rarotonga for the best places to eat:


The Pacific Resort

I'll start with The Pacific Resort, where I was staying at as I ate there quite a lot.
I have to also quickly mention their cocktails which were so good and always beautifully presented, giving that ultra tropical holiday vibe.


'Barefoot Bar' is located right on the beach and you can enjoy a range of different drinks with a superb view.
They have two happy hours a day which is well worth using to cut down those costs.
They go from 4 - 5 pm and 8:30 - 9:30 pm. Certain cocktails go for $10 and beers come down to $5 (both almost half price).
I must also mention they did the best flat whites (coffee) we could find and had one there every day.

A mai tai and pineapple mojito at the Pacific Resort

'Sandals' is their restaurant and like the bar, you don't have to be a guest to eat there, but bookings are recommended.
My very first dinner there I ordered the 'Fish of the Day'- and I think that was the best fish I've ever had in my life! (I'm going to mention fish quite a lot in this post because it's their top local food and OH so good!).
It was Yellow Fin Tuna which I had grilled and it was per-fec-tion. It came with a nice fresh salad and you could choose any other side you wanted with it, I had the roasted vegetables. Everything was fantastic - I devoured it! For $28 NZD it was really great. (I didn't take a picture of it as I was eating with my family and forgot).
Sandals is an open-aired restaurant overlooking a stream, lit with candles and has a live musician every night which all made for a beautiful setting and a very pleasant evening.

Later in the week, we decided to have dinner there again as it was pouring with rain and we didn't want to venture too far. We hadn't booked and they were full up, but they let us eat at the bar which was fine as it was still a nice table but with a view overlooking the beach.
Three of us shared a main sized Ika Mata for our entree.
By then we had tried Ika Mata a few times before (Rarotongan raw fish salad) and loved it - but we discovered the Pacific Resort was the absolute master of it. It was so incredibly zingy, tasty and fresh - we were fighting over it at the end! It also came with a side of crispy taro chips - another local fave.

Ika Mata
As my main, I had the 'Chef's Special' which was a sizzling hot plate of fish and vegetables. Again, it was cooked so well and the coconuty sauce on top was so creamy and delicious.
The fish changes daily depending on their catch of the day - this one was Parrot Fish.
This was their most expensive dish at $35 NZD, and I was more than happy with it.

Chef's special
The Pacific Resort also catered for our wedding reception and everyone told us they loved the food.
We chose to have a gourmet buffet and selected from a range of food options which all were perfectly cooked, delicious and there was also a very large amount of it.
The staff at the Pacific Resort always went out of their way for any minor request, their service was impeccable and I have now written a glowing review of my stay and wedding there if you're interested. Their genuine friendliness and kindness made our week there all the more better.


Vili's Burgers

Just down the road from the Pacific Resort in the heart of Muri is Vili's!
We heard numerous times from locals that this place has the best burgers on the island and is "the McDonalds of Rarotonga"- quoted by my wedding coordinator!
I didn't get a chance to eat there until Friday, the day after the wedding and we went there for breakfast/brunch. (Gareth - now husband - ate there three days in a row).


There is a good range of burger choices available - I chose the 'Tamatoa' for $13 NZD which had a beef patty, bacon, egg, cheese, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and their special secret sauce.


It was absolutely massive! Definitely the biggest burger I've ever had (I've never been to America) and it was also the best! It was so juicy it was literally dripping down my arm (so attractive). I ate almost the whole thing and it certainly kept me full until dinner time - it was just incredible.
I had the same thing again the next day for lunch - except I went halves with my bestie cause I definitely couldn't eat a whole one again.
Highly recommended if you're in Muri and you like your burgers. They are open from 11:30 am - 9 pm every day except Mondays.

Tamatoa burger at Vili's

Muri Night Markets

The night markets in Muri originally started out on Thursday nights to cater for tourists and became so popular it has expanded to now every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evening.
They have a great selection of local food stalls with main dishes, snacks, desserts, drinks and there is something for everyone.


Gareth and I ate there twice, the first time we shared Ika Mata, a fish curry and crispy spring rolls.
The second time we shared a chicken rukau with rice (a local dish - leaves of taro - similar to spinach) and finished with a crunchie cheesecake. Everything was so good!
The portions tend to be enormous so I would recommend sharing if you can.
The markets are always brimming with people but there are plenty of tables and chairs in the centre under a shelter to sit down and for if and when it rains.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually quieter with fewer stalls, and Thursdays and Sundays offer a greater selection with live music playing to add to the great atmosphere.
The markets start from 5:30 pm so get in quick if you want something in particular - the most popular foods get sold out pretty quick!

Chicken rukau
Crunchie cheesecake
The Mooring

Another place we had heard from two different locals for the "best fish sandwiches on the island" was The Mooring Fish Cafe. We saw it was only a 15-minute walk from the Pacific Resort so we ventured there for lunch on our final day.
It's an outdoor cafe where you sit at picnic tables and enjoy the lagoon view. As it was a Sunday it was full of local people all dressed up in their Sunday-best, they had clearly just come for lunch after church.
The shop itself is within a converted shipping container and decorated and painted in vibrant colours.
There were some great choices on the menu - too many so we asked what they would recommend. The lady said the most popular was the 'FOB' or the Hot & Spicy if you liked spicy food - which we did, so we got one of each to share and also a fresh baby coconut.


Even though they were so busy our order came out super fast. The FOB sandwich was crumbed Mahi with lime mayo and the Hot & Spicy was seared tuna with pickle. Both came on delicious Turkish style bread and were enormous!
They were so fresh and tasty and I really enjoyed both - but I think my favourite was the FOB. The batter on the Mahi was so crispy and the lime mayo with it topped it all off.
We both left feeling very full and satisfied we had found the best fish sammies on the island. For $13 each, it was fantastic value as well. They also do salads, desserts and main fish dishes and are open every day for lunch except Saturdays.

Walking home with my coconut!

LBV Cafe

LBV Bakery & Cafe (Le Bon Vivant) offers freshly baked goods, deli pastas and salads, hot meals, coffee, wine and sweets.
We had lunch there on our first day - we both just felt like a sandwich and we saw a tomato and cheese baguette in their cabinet. We ordered one each and it came served to us cut in half with a nice bowl of chutney on the side. The sandwiches were huge and very fresh and tasty - which we were glad for at $9 each.
We sat to the side in their garden which was very pleasant. My friends and family also ate there regularly and always said their food was good.
I had also pre-arranged catering through them for my 'Hens Day' and they did a fantastic job for that. I ordered a cheese and deli platter, a bakery/sweets platter and a fresh fruit one. There was so much food that arrived (they delivered it free of charge) and it came in a small portable fridge for it to stay cold and fresh.
The bakery sweets were amazing, the cheese platter came with plenty of fresh bread and crackers, there were prawns wrapped in prosciutto - I totally over ordered for 11 people but everyone enjoyed as much as they could. (The photo below was only half the amount!).


There is also an LBV cafe in Avarua if you happen to be around town. Highly recommended for a bite to eat or for catering if you need it.
They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.


Sails

Sails Restaurant & Bar is located on Muri beach where you can enjoy excellent views of the lagoon. The first time I went there for lunch I didn't even bother looking at the menu - because right outside was a line of locals and tourists alike lining up for a spit roast pork roll. The roasted pig was right there with the guy carving for each person and rows and rows of hot dog sized rolls pre-filled with butter and coleslaw - I thought it was like a Rarotongan styled sausage sizzle!
They went for $10 each and had a decent amount of pork on top and came with gravy and apple sauce if you wanted it. It was the perfect lunch for me.
I knew Gareth would have loved it too (he was with his friends), so the next day we went back hoping for another one. I'm not sure if it was a Tuesday only or just a random thing because it wasn't there again.
No matter - I got to actually look at their menu this time and I ordered pulled pork soft tacos and Gareth got crispy calamari and a side of chips.


We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful sea view. My tacos came in two so we had one each and just shared everything like we normally do. They were very tasty and the calamari came with a really nice dipping sauce which we also dunked the chips in.
We saw they have regular live sports on their big screen TV and there was an All Blacks game playing the next morning - but we were a bit too busy to go.
The total was $38 including a soft drink each - so a bit pricey, but not too bad for $19 each for a good lunch. The service was great and the food too.

The sweet view from Sails

That brings us to the end of my best places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga! I hope you found this post helpful if you are heading there yourself in the near future.
I really enjoyed the food in Rarotonga - it was always fresh, delicious, decent prices and huge portions, and the people are so friendly which means great service.
Coming up next is my Travel Diary from my week there which I'll be posting before I'm off again to Vietnam which is in four days.

I also made a video for Youtube of the highlights from my week in Rarotonga:


Hope to catch you at my next post!
Thanks for reading,

Pin it! :)

I’m getting married in the Cook Islands!


Hey all,

This is a quick post to let you know that I will be away from here for a little bit as I am off to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to get married!

I will be away in tropical paradise for just over a week and when I return I plan to write a travel diary blog post of my time in Rarotonga as soon as I can!
Then I will be off again a few days later to Vietnam with my then husband (the word seems so strange to me at the moment!) for a fun and adventurous honeymoon.
We are spending two weeks there starting in Ho Chi Minh City, then venturing north to Hanoi where we will be visiting Ha Long Bay which is one of my bucket list dreams!

I recently made a video on my YouTube channel about my wedding and travel plans if you're interested:


I will be back home on the 18th of December so I'll be very busy the week up until Christmas catching up on my blog posts as well as making my YouTube videos!
For those that don't know I have a YouTube channel where I post travel vlogs, lifestyle and a bit of everything really, it's become a great creative outlet for me this year along with my blog.
I'll be doing a Rarotonga travel vlog as well as one for each of the places I go to in Vietnam.
Make sure you're subscribed if you wish to see those!
When I return I will also be writing a hotel review from Rarotonga and plenty as well for Vietnam so I will be one very busy lady!

If you wish to come along on my travels and keep up to date with me follow my social media where I am most active (WiFi dependent!):

Instagram: instagram.com/krystijaims

Twitter: twitter.com/randominic

Snapchat: snapchat.com/add/krystijaims


Thanks so much for everyone's support on my blog this year. I've hit nearly 30,000 views already which is pretty amazing. I'm absolutely loving blogging and I have big goals for the future that I am working hard towards!

I'm off at 3 am tomorrow morning so I will see everyone for a new post when I'm back by the end of November!

Peace and love,

Travelling on a Budget Tips


Travelling can be rather expensive - with long haul flights, visa costs and accommodation being just the beginning. There is such an enormous variety of places to go and so many things to see - it’s natural to think you might need to take out a second mortgage to get it done in a way that truly does it justice.
Travelling on a budget, however, is easier than you might expect - so many people are doing it and you don't have to be a young backpacker to do it yourself.
Here are a few of my top tips for anyone travelling even on the tightest of budgets.

Transport

Overland travel in particular, is quite affordable with inexpensive buses, train tickets as well as other means of cheap transport such as car sharing.
There are plenty of low-cost airlines out there as well - you just need to know where to look!

A good place to start that I love to use is the website www.rome2rio.com.
This compares the costs of multiple airlines, bus, ferry, car and train companies to help find you the most affordable route.
If you're wondering how to get from point X to point Z for example - you can easily find out through this website.

Below I've put together a list of cheap transport options that could come in handy and might save you money while travelling:


Budget flight sites:


This search site is similar to Rome2Rio but focuses on flights and enables users to find the least expensive flights to any destination in Europe.


Similar to above, this search engine helps find and compare flight prices and find the cheapest flights for any destination in the world.


Another search engine to help find the most inexpensive flights around the world.

If you are flying in Europe don't forget your etias.com documents.


Budget bus lines:


Eurolines is an affordable long distance bus company covering Europe and Morocco.


This bus company operates mainly in the UK and USA, with some buses operating through mainland Europe.


This is a German bus company with very affordable fares operating through mainland Europe.


This is Poland's low-cost bus service with routes into Germany, Slovakia and Czech Republic.


International routes connecting major cities including Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, London, Berlin, Bonn, Moscow and many more.


Best train search site:


This site has the most up to date and best routes for train travel, with fare prices and time of travel within most countries in the world.


Ride Shares:


The largest and most trusted carpooling site in Europe- it connects drivers who are travelling through Europe with people looking for a ride. Fuel costs for the journey are shared.


Trip hopping searches not only ride share sites but also buses, trains and planes.
You can post a request to see who is offering a ride.



Budget Accommodation

There are many budget accommodation options out there from hostels to couchsurfing. Here are a few good websites to find the best prices depending on where you'd like to stay:


If you don't mind sharing a room with other people this website is the best to find what you're looking for and compare prices.


Couchsurfing allows you to meet some amazing locals and staying with them is free! Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to get a room, but sometimes you’ll literally be on the couch.


This is my personal favourite option - as I prefer to stay somewhere with my own room!
You can search for rooms available and filter by your price range, specific requirements (eg. laundry, wifi) and in the area you would like to stay.
If you've never tried it before and would like to, sign up by using my code following this link here and get $50 AUD off your first stay.

Hotels

You can still find hotel rooms pretty cheap sometimes. Some good places to filter from the cheapest rooms available first include:



www.agoda.com



Now that we've covered the basics - here are a few more quick tips to keep those travelling costs down!

Choose lower-cost places

If you wish to take a trip somewhere for a decent amount of time and not spent all of your money in the first couple of weeks - choose destinations known to be more budget-friendly.
South-East Asia is one of the most popular regions to travel to in the world for a reason.
You have the ability to stay somewhere fairly decent and eat and drink well even on the lowest of budgets. Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are the ones I've travelled through so far and can vouch for.
Same goes for travelling through Eastern Europe. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were all very inexpensive and perfect places for travellers on a budget. These are just places from my own experience - I'm sure there are many more around the world, such as South America for example.


Go for the free attractions

Of course plan for those few special things you want to do that cost, but there are loads of attractions in every city that are still amazing that won't cost you a thing!
Many museums and galleries are free, there are beautiful parks and all sorts for nothing.
One of my favourite things to do in a new city is to go on a free walking tour.

Free Walking Tours

There are two great companies I know of that I will always choose to go for:

Next City Tours- I have done their walking tours in Prague and Barcelona.

Sandemans - I have done their walking tours in London, Dublin and Berlin.

Both are excellent and a great way to be introduced to a city. You get taken around by foot to a lot of the main highlights and attractions and the guides are always very friendly, helpful and full of interesting historical facts and stories.

Do some research before you go, I'm sure many travel blogs out there will be able to share free or very cheap things to do in each specific place.
If you’re a student, teacher, or under age 26 you can sign up for discounts and save a lot that way. When I travelled through Europe I got into loads of attractions (such as the Acropolis in Athens) for free just by showing my student ID card.

Live like a local

Even the cheapest of countries can still be expensive if you live like a tourist. 
Restaurants, resorts and tour companies are out there to take advantage of you and your money and will take any opportunity to hike up the price.
Living like a local will save you a tonne of money as well as allowing you to truly experience the country as well.
You can do this by eating where the locals eat and ordering off a non-English menu.
Find out where the locals drink their beer - it's usually a heck of a lot cheaper!
Stay somewhere on the outskirts of those big tourist attractions where the locals live.
This is where you'll find many of their local places, supermarkets, shopping and fresh food markets and so on.


Cook your own meals

Whenever you are able to - cook your own meals. Be sure to of course try the local food and eat out occasionally, but make the most of cooking for yourself which will save you a lot of money. Consider going for the street food, rather than sit down restaurant meals - eat like the locals! Buying your lunches from a supermarket or local bakery too is a very budget friendly option.


Work while you're there

Depending on how long you are travelling for, you might be able to find work to help supplement your trip. It's usually fairly easy to find casual jobs working as a bar worker, hostel worker, tour guide, Au pair, waiter/waitress and so on, as long as you speak the language and are willing!


You don’t need a tonne of money to be able to travel. You just need to make it a priority. 
Do your research, keep an eye out for deals, travel cheaply and enjoy!
Stop making excuses and turn that travel dream into a reality!



I hope you found these tips helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or budget travel tips of your own to add.

Thanks for reading,

Pin it! :)

*This post is a collaboration and contains images that are not my own.

Krakow on a Budget | Travel Guide




Continuing on in my budget travel guide series, (so far I have done Berlin and Barcelona), it is now my pleasure to write about Krakow.
This beautiful city in southern Poland truly surprised me and quickly became one of my top five favourite cities in Europe.
With a very sad history and war-torn past, the city has undergone many changes to become what it has today- which is an absolute gem, brimming with Polish culture, rich history, charming architecture and a thriving cafe, restaurant and bar scene.

Krakow remains one of Europe’s best value destinations, making it very popular for budget travellers. Many of the attractions are free and Poland offers travellers good value when considering accommodation, food and transport costs compared to most other European countries.
It is such a delight to explore and very easy to enjoy even on the tightest of budgets.
Without further ado, here is my ultimate travel guide with top money-saving tips for getting the most out of your visit to Krakow.



TRANSPORT

From the airport:

If you fly into Krakow the most affordable way to get from the airport is to take the bus.
There are two that run during the day and one during the night that have a good connection between the airport and the train station in the city centre.
It takes 30-40 minutes to get to the train station and costs 4 zl / 1 € (it’s 89 zl /€ 22 if you go by taxi).
Tip: Try to have exact coins to pay the fare on the bus.
Here is the link for the timetables and further info: krakowairport.pl.

There is also the option to take the train which is slightly more expensive but more convenient than taking a bus. A one-way ticket costs 8 zl / 2 €, a return ticket- 14 zl and trains typically leave every 30 minutes. More information can be found here: krakow-info.com/train2Krakow-airport.

By bus:

Polski bus is an affordable and reputable Polish bus company with routes throughout the country as well as into neighbouring countries, with services to Berlin, Prague and Bratislava. The earlier you book the cheaper the fares are.
I took the Polski bus from Krakow to Prague, via Wroclaw and it was a very comfortable journey. It has free wifi, power outlets, air conditioning and the drivers speak English.
I paid around 80 zl /€ 20 which isn't bad for an 8-hour journey!
Here is their website for more details: polskibus.com/en.
A second bus line that I used often whilst I lived in Germany was Flix Bus/ Meinfern Bus. It's an excellent German bus company with connections all over Europe including connections from Krakow to Berlin and Prague and many more.
Their website is: meinfernbus.de/en.
I had arrived from Budapest, Hungary so I used a different but still good and cheap bus line- orangeways.com/en.


Around the city:

Krakow is very easy and best to walk around by foot. However, if you want to explore places outside of the old centre like Schindler’s factory then Krakow has a great bike plan.
All around the city you can find docking stations where you can pick up your bike and return it at any other docking station around town.
You can register and pay with a credit card at any docking station where you can find the information in English.
An overview of the costs to use a bike:

Minimum balance = 10 zl (€ 2,50)
0-20 minutes: FREE
21-60 minutes: 2 zl (€ 0,50)
60-120 minutes: 3 zl (€ 0,75)
Every hour after that: 4 zl (€ 1)
Maximum rental period: 12 hours

As you can see it's a very affordable way to get around the city. There are trams but I found them a little confusing as the site is mostly in Polish. Here is the website if you want to check that out: mpk.krakow.pl/en.
I took the tram only once and mostly walked everywhere.
The Polish girl I was staying with tipped me that the taxis are very cheap so when it sadly came time to leave I took a taxi to get from my accommodation to the bus station as it was very early in the morning- and it only cost a couple of Euros so it was very convenient.


ACCOMMODATION

The number of hostels in Krakow is growing rapidly and they are a great budget-friendly option to stay in very central locations in the city. Most include breakfast and free wifi.
Shared dorm rooms typically start from 36 zl / 9 €.
Here are four hostels I've heard are good depending on what kind of atmosphere you are looking for:
Mosquito Hostel is the number one hostel on Trip Advisor. It is known for its friendly staff, comfortable rooms, great central location and free extras including laundry.
Let’s Rock is a party hostel in a very central location. It offers nightly activities before they head out into the city to party.
Good Bye Lenin hostel is located in the Jewish Quarter. When you enter their garden it has an immediate backpackers feel to it, with people chatting, eating and preparing a BBQ. 
Mundo Hostel is a good place to stay if you’re looking for a comfortable place to relax after a day in the city with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The view from the loft I stayed in

I used AirBnB which I was extremely happy with. I stayed in a modern loft in the Jewish Quarter, only 10 minutes walk from the Market Square. I chose a place with excellent reviews and a decent price and I had a lovely stay.
I used AirBnB a lot for my solo travels as I personally would rather have my own room than staying in a mixed hostel.
Of course, there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels, it all depends on your travel style and budget.


FREE THINGS TO SEE & DO

Medieval Market Square

The main square of the Old Town in Krakow dates back to the 13th Century and at 40,000 square metres it's known as the largest medieval town square in Europe.
It's surrounded by historic townhouses and churches, in the centre is Cloth Hall- rebuilt in 1555 in Rennaisance style, and rising above the square are the gothic towers of St Mary's Basilica.
The Market Square is great for people watching, it's colourful and lively year round where you can find florist stalls, gift shops, restaurants, beer gardens, (even a Hard Rock Cafe) and horse-drawn carriages.
I was surprised to find that even though it is full of tourists the restaurants are still reasonably priced and I enjoyed a frozen margarita and a plate of pierogis with a fabulous view of St Mary's.



Standing in the Market Square with St Mary's in the background.

Wawel Castle

Krakow offers free entry to popular attractions on certain days. Wawel Castle is free on Mondays (April to October) or free on Sundays (Nov to March).
This is a royal castle built for The Great King Casimir the 3rd who reigned from 1333-1370.
As the political and cultural heart of Poland in the 16th century, Wawel Castle is a potent symbol of national identity. It's now a museum containing five different sections including Crown Treasury and Armoury, State Rooms, Exhibits and Royal Private Apartments.



Stroll the Jewish Quarter

Up until the mid 16th century, there was no other place in the Jewish world more significant than Kazimierz. Even today Jews from all over the world travel here to find roots of their spirituality.
By the end of the 1930s the Jewish community of Krakow was 25% of the cities population, but it was almost totally destroyed during the Second World War.
After years of communism, where culture was suppressed and silenced, it was here where a cultural outburst took place.
Today Kazimierz has new life and you can stroll through the Jewish Quarter, see the ghetto, significant symbols, memorials and discover the rich history, culture and traditions of Polish Jews.



Rynek Underground Museum

Below the Cloth Hall in Medieval Market Square lies the Rynek Underground Museum, which has free entry on Tuesdays (except for the first Tuesday of the month).
This fascinating attraction is an underground route through medieval market stalls and other long-forgotten chambers. The 'Middle Ages meets 21st-century' experience is enhanced by holograms and audiovisual wizardry.



Schindler's Factory Museum

Oskar Schindler's Factory has been turned into a modern historical museum of World War Two. Entry is free on Mondays (except the first Monday of the month).
The museum is devoted to the wartime experiences in Krakow under the five-year Nazi occupation during WW2. The exhibitions combine period artefacts, photos and documents with multimedia and set-piece arrangements in an attempt to create a full-immersion experience.



Admire the architecture

The architecture of Krakow is simply stunning. Going for walks are made even more enjoyable as in every direction is a feast for your eyes full of beautiful and historical buildings.






ATTRACTIONS WORTH THE MONEY

'Free' walking tours

Freewalkingtours.com offer many excellent tours in Krakow including free and paid upfront. The free tours include: Old Town Krakow, Jewish Krakow, Macabre Krakow and Street Art.
I did the first two tours as well as a paid Foods of Krakow tour which I will go into more detail in my food and drink section further below.
Walking tours are a great way to get introduced to a new city as well as learning a lot about the history and all the highlights it has to offer. The guides are always super friendly and helpful if you have any questions.
You are expected to give a small tip at the end for what you think their time was worth but it's whatever you can manage, which makes the usually 2.5-hour tours still extremely cheap and well worth it for what you get out of it.

A snapshot of the Ghetto Memorial which we pased through on the Jewish Krakow walking tour

St Mary's Basilica

I didn't enter St Mary's myself (just admired it from the outside), but if you wish to go in one of Europe's top sacred churches it costs only 10 zl / 2,2 € or 15 zl to go up the tower as well.
The striking gothic brick church was first built in the 1220s and rebuilt again after the Tartar raids destroyed it in the 1300s.
The stained glass windows are known to be magnificent and the highlight of the interior is the 15th-century wooden altarpiece carved by the master carver Wit Stwosz, which incorporates more than 200 carved and painted figures.
Tip: If you are near St Mary's near a new hour, on the left-hand side of the building around the corner look up. Once every hour on the hour the lone trumpeter in the high tower stands at the window and plays a song on his bugle.



Auschwitz day trip

I'm sure the majority of tourists who come to Krakow will want to visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives- the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps.
The now UNESCO World Heritage Site is the site of the gravest mass murder in the history of humanity, which now remains as a memorial. It's a very haunting but important reminder for us all.
You can now only visit Auschwitz by a group tour and it's important to pre-book.
Every hostel or tour agency offers tours to Auschwitz and Birkenau, or you can easily book online. I did the Escape2Poland Auschwitz & Birkenau full day tour and I would recommend it.
I researched on Trip Advisor what the best-reviewed tours were as well as for the best price.
We were taken in a small group in a comfortable van and there was plenty of time in both places to walk through and get the feel, and the guide was very well-spoken and knowledgeable. 
It cost 25 Euros including a pickup and drop off near my accommodation. 
It is one hour drive away and as a tip I would recommend bringing food and drink with you as there are very limited options.







Wieliczka Salt Mines

The Salt Mines is one of the largest attractions in Poland. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located in the town of Wieliczka, which lies within the Krakow metropolitan area.
It's visited by over one million visitors every year including the likes of JRR Tolkien, the royal family and Benedict Cumberbatch (as I happily found out on the guided tour!).
It's famous for its deep salt mine which is an eerie world of pits and chambers, and everything within its depths has been carved by hand from salt blocks.
The mine has a labyrinth of tunnels, about 300 km over nine levels, the deepest being 327 metres underground.
A section of the mine- 22 chambers connected by galleries, from 64m to 135m below ground is open to the public by a guided tour and it’s an incredible and highly fascinating trip.
Visitors are guided in groups and the tour takes two and a half hours. You walk about 2 km through the mine, so wear comfortable shoes.
Entry costs 84 zl / 19 € for an adult.
Here is their wedsite for more information: wieliczka-saltmine.com.
I decided I wanted to go last minute- the night before, so I booked a private tour with krakowdirect.com as it is half an hour's drive away, so I though a tour including pick up and drop off was a lot more convenient. I paid 130 zl / 29 € for the 3.5-hour tour and I was more than happy with that, their service was great and I would highly recommend the company.

Tip: If you wish to visit both Auschwitz and the Salt Mines there are plenty of companies that offer both over two days at a discounted rate.




Extra Tip: Don’t pay for a city tour

When you walk around Krakow you’ll see plenty of golf carts racing around with typical tourists in them. But Krakow is small enough to explore by foot and it gives you the opportunities to find those magical alleyways and small cafes in the inner courtyards of the buildings. So save yourself the money and experience more of the city.
Do the free walking tours instead if you wish to be shown around otherwise do it yourself and save the money!


FOOD & DRINK

On to one of my favourite topics! The food and drink in Krakow is fantastic and so inexpensive.
Starting with the drinks: the tap water is clean and safe to drink so take a refillable bottle with you when out and about.
Krakow has one of the highest concentrations of drinking establishments, both per square kilometre and per capita in the world.
It also has the cheapest beer in the world (hooray!) at around 5 zl /€1 a glass depending where you are. You can also buy single bottles of beer from bottle stores situated all throughout the city for half that amount!

A bar I stopped by for a refreshing beer one late afternoon

Some must-try foods I have to mention are:

1. Pierogies: Polish dumplings that can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients (meat, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, spinach etc.) and they are amazing! Buy a whole platter of them for a couple of Euros! I'm pretty sure I ate this for dinner every single night.



2. Zapiekanka: basically a Polish pizza- it's an open-faced baguette usually topped with sauteed mushrooms, grilled cheese and tomato sauce. You can pick them up for 8 zl / €2 so it's a cheap and quick option for lunch on the go!


3. Polish bakeries: I can't just pick one thing from the bakery because everything in there is delicious! Breads, sandwiches, sweets- the bakeries offer a great variety of well-priced goods. On every corner you can also find bagel stands (Obwarzanek) where you can buy a super cheap bagel for 1,50 zl / € 0,34.
Okay, there is one thing in particular I have to mention from a bakery- I don't know the name of it but it tasted like a cheesecake bun! I would go back to Krakow just to have one more of those!

Food of the gods

I did a Foods of Krakow tour and I absolutely loved it. It's one of the paid tours the free walking tour company I mentioned above offers- but you only pay for what you eat.
We got to soak up the history of Polish food and eating habits and try about twelve different things! I was so full afterwards! From herring and vodka shots to soups, pickles, pierogis and ice cream.
Afterwards the tour guide invited us all to join him for a beer at a popular and very cheap beer garden where we got full litres for €1, it was truly amazing.

For particular places to eat and drink at I still have my recommendations from the Polish girl I stayed with, so I have pasted them below:

A LOCAL'S GUIDE TO THE BEST & CHEAP PLACES FOR FOOD & DRINK:

Cheap vodka bars are located all around The Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. The most popular ones are those at SZCZEPANSKI SQUARE. They serve vodka & herring, vodka & pickled cucumber etc. Everything is one euro or 4 zloty. Some names I can recommend are: PIJALNIA WODKI I PIWA (Tomasza Street, Szewska Street, Plac Nowy @ Jewish Quarter), BANIALUKA (Szczepanski Square), PRZEKASKI (Slawkowska street), SLEDZ (Stolarska street), SLEDZ U FRYZJERA (Stolarska street), WODKA (Mikolajska Street).

CK BROWAR, @Teatr Bagatela tram stop /Karmelicka&Krupnicza street crossing) the place has its own brewery, they serve beer in the huge pipes (like 1m long).

ALCHEMIA BAR, Estery 5 @ Jewish Square for live concerts, drinks and light food. Cool and cozy atmosphere: international but also very Krakow in spirit.

PLAC NOWY @ Jewish Square for snack during drinking (popular long-tostie "zapiekanka" at ENDZIOR).

FORUM near Rondo Grunwaldzkie (big building by the river with big LATO neon) nice outdoor place, good music, very nice pizza, good/cheap drink. However, it's very hipster, so you need to like that sort of specific vibe to enjoy it.

ZAPIECEK, Sławkowska street for pierogi/dumplings, barszcz (beetroot soup) and zurek (sour soup) - traditional polish dishes.

MOA BURGER, Mikolajska Street great, huge burgers (I highly recommend the lamb one, it's beyond nice).

MARCHEWKA Z GROSZKIEM, Mostowa street. Very good and v e r y cheap food. A lot of traditional Polish dishes. This is a must go to place in Krakow if you want to have a taste of real polish cuisine and not spend all of your money.

U BABCI MALINY, Szpitalna street. Very nice and equally cheap polish food.

WINE BAR & RESTO, Lipowa 6F (real nice, open until around 23, good to connect with Schindler's Factory or Mocak tour, it's all very near by).

KLEPARZ FOOD & VEGETABLE MARKET, Rynek Kleparski 14. If you want to eat at home - Kleparz is the best source for fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as cheese, meat, eggs etc. It's not only cheap, but also a really interesting place to visit - loud, full of polish culture, polish grannies, polish cheese etc.

MASSOLIT, Smolensk, Felicjanek streets. Amazing cheesecake (Smolensk) and a great selection of American books - both vintage and new (Felicjanek).

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I hope you found this Krakow on a Budget Travel Guide helpful!
As I said earlier Krakow is one of my favourite places, the people are so friendly, the city is so old and beautiful and to top it off it's extremely budget friendly!
I really cannot wait for the day when I get to go back again.

Leave me a comment if you have any questions or more tips to add of your own- I'd love to read them.

Thanks for reading,

Visas 101: All you need to know


You’ve got your trip booked, your passport renewed and you’re ready to pack your bags.
But, there’s just one more thing; your visa! It can sometimes be a complicated affair, getting documents like a visa prepared.
There are forms to fill in, photos to take, potential interviews and a heap more to do.
At other times it can be as simple as filling out a form online.
To give you a helping hand- this post will take you through some important information regarding visas. Of course, every country is different, and so is every visa- so be sure to do some research for yourself.


What Is A Visa?

A visa is a document issued by a country's government. It specifies that the visa holder is entitled to stay within the country for a certain amount of time. Of course, breaking a country’s laws or rules could result in a visa being taken away.
Sometimes you can choose how long you want a visa for, other times there is a limit. Sometimes it also depends on whether you need a work visa or a tourist visa.
Visas are used to curb illegal immigration, by making it possible for people to prove that they’re legal. It also gives the country’s government time to vet people before they enter the country. This means that existing criminal records can cause visas to be rejected by certain countries. You can find all of the requirement information for your specific destination online.




Do I Need One?

It depends on where you are going and where you are from. Sometimes, you won’t need a visa at all. This is usually the case when travelling within a group of countries like the EU. But, if you’re travelling between continents or countries with strict border control, you’re likely to need a visa. 
To find out whether or not you will need a visa, look for the country’s government site regarding immigration. They are usually very upfront with this information and it’s easy to understand.
Another way you can check what countries you need a visa for is via Wikipedia.
For example, I would google "Countries New Zealand needs a visa" and the Wikipedia page with the full list immediately comes up.


How To Get A Visa

Getting your hands on a visa can potentially be a long process.
Visit the website set up by the country’s government, for visa handling. This will give you an overview of the application process. They’ll let you either download forms to print out or complete an online form. 
In some countries, you can even get an electronic visa that you don’t need paperwork for. 
The next step in the application process is different for each country. Some countries will allow you to buy a visa on arrival in the airport. This requires no prior application and is usually quite cheap.

My Visa Experiences:

I am travelling to Vietnam in three weeks and I had to complete an online form to apply for a tourist visa for less than a month. A few days later after it was approved, they sent through the paperwork which I have printed out.
I just have to take that and two passport-approved and sized photographs with me and I can get my official visa done and stamped on arrival at the airport before entering Vietnam. It costs around $40 USD.

When I studied and lived in Germany last year, as I was staying for longer than three months I needed a student visa. This required many many forms (the Germans are very bureaucratic), photos and a small interview. Thankfully as the forms were in German the university helped us international students to fill these in and took us to the office to get it sorted as a group.
We also needed bank statements with a certain amount of money in it proving that we could afford to live in Germany for however long we were staying for.
My visa fee was waved as I was on a scholarship, however it would have otherwise cost 80 €.


When To Apply

You should apply for your visa as soon as you possibly can. The process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to even a few months, so it’s best to be liberal with time. 
Some countries won’t let you apply any earlier than three months before the visa start date, so definitely be aware of these restrictions and apply as soon as you can.


Possible Requirements

During the application process, you may be asked for more than you originally had to give. Sometimes, you’ll need to travel to an embassy for an interview. Other times, they may require more documentation. A lot of the time these extra requirements countries may enforce are done on a random basis. They do this to make it harder for certain people to avoid detection. But you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide!


Hopefully this will ease some of the stress when it comes to planning your next big trip that requires a visa! Just remember to do plenty of research in advance. This will give you an edge when it comes to getting all of the applications done in time.


Thanks for reading,
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*This post was a collaboration and contains images that are not my own.

How to plan a Destination Wedding: My Experience



Choosing the destination

First things first! Choose the right destination! Do you have somewhere in mind you have always dreamed of getting married? If it is somewhere that you truly want- then make it happen!
Make sure you have heard the place is known for weddings and that it's a good fit for you.
Whether it's one or two years away or even a few months, it should be an affordable price you can manage.
Pick somewhere that gets you excited thinking about it, where you can imagine tying the knot and having the best day of your life.
Is it on a tropical island on a beach? Perhaps it's in an exciting city in a grand church, or on a vineyard in Tuscany.
Wherever the place, try to pick somewhere that's relatively easy to get to and keep in mind your guests that you wish to come too.

My destination:

For me, I'm not too fussed about the whole wedding thing- I wouldn't mind being married in Las Vegas! For my fiance- his dream destination is in Tuscany (and hey I agree that would have been amazing!).
But if we had of chosen Europe- my family and the majority of our friends would not have been able to make it. We would have been lucky to have more than four guests.
Because we did really want our family there as well as our closest friends- we compromised and chose Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
It's a country we haven't been to (exciting for me), it's on a stunning tropical island that apparently really does look exactly like the pictures, and it's an easy flight from New Zealand (about four hours) where all of our guests are coming from.


We did consider Fiji as well (also in the Pacific Ocean), but we found the prices of Rarotonga to be more comparable to New Zealand, whereas in Fiji prices of things were over-inflated and quite often double. Rarotonga was better value for ourselves and our guests too and it looks just as gorgeous- if not even more so!

We thought Rarotonga would be perfect for us because we aren't having a traditional wedding, rather we want it to be a very relaxed and fun affair for all of our guests and for us as well- we want to actually have an amazing and enjoyable day!
So many people we have heard from say that their wedding day was ghastly expensive, stressful and goes by in the blink of an eye.
That's why we thought going 'Island Styles' and having a casual ceremony on the beach, followed by a relaxed reception under a marquee in the sand with good music, food and drink would fit us perfectly.




Picking the wedding venue

Once you have chosen your destination it's time to get researching on the wedding venue options! It's a great idea to go with ones that already have great reviews and to choose one that comes with a package and a wedding planner.

What we did:

We booked our trip through Flight Centre and they gave us three good recommendations of resorts where you stay and host both the ceremony and reception.
We took those recommendations on board but the most important thing is to do your own research. We spent hours and hours on Trip Advisor going through every place that offered wedding resorts.
In the end it was a hard toss up between two and I honestly think both would have been perfect. The comments were all lovely and had glowing reviews as wedding venues.
We ended up choosing one over the other because of the stunning luxury beachfront suite we would be staying in for one, which looks like an absolute dream!

We chose The Pacific Resort and we are so incredibly happy that we did because organising our wedding with them has been such a breeze.
They have a fabulous weddings coordinator and she is so great at answering any of our questions, incorporating everything we want and she knows exactly how to make our day run smoothly and without a glitch. We've had numerous emails back and forth throughout the year as well as two skype calls and it really has been so simple and stress-free to work with her- she is very good at what she does!
I can't wait to write a review of the resort as a wedding destination as I'm very confident it will be everything we can possibly imagine!

Once the venue and dates have been chosen, book it along with your flights and travel insurance.

This will be the view from our room at The Pacific Resort! *love heart eyes emoji*

Guests

Choosing who you wish to come is the next step. Start with Save The Dates and send them out as early as you can. If you want as many guests to be able to make it then the earliest warning and most time to save is ideal (for both parties!).
For ours, I just created my own Save The Date image and sent it in an email to each person to save a bit of money.
We asked for an informal RSVP and a few months later once we knew who was interested in coming we mailed out the formal invitations.
For destination weddings it's always nice to keep it small and personal. For us the ideal amount was no more than 30 of our closest friends and family.
If you wish to invite only a select few, then you just have to be very hard on yourself when sending out the Save The Dates. You don't have to invite every distant relative or co-worker- it's your special day so only invite those who you truly want to be there.



Sort the details with the planner

Next it's time to get working with the wedding planner and sort out all of those details!
This will include:

  • Ceremony time and details
  • Celebrant
  • Marriage license
  • Reception details
  • Food and drink
  • Music and entertainment
  • Cake and flowers

Your wedding planner should be able to provide you with all of the information and choices for the above- all you have to do is choose what you would like!
In our packages with The Pacific Resort most things are included and you can opt into extra things if that tickles your fancy.
For example, we just took the basic ceremony package which includes the celebrant, marriage license and certificate, a perfectly groomed area on the beach with 8 decorated chairs and signing table, floral arrangements, sound system and of course the unlimited services of the professional wedding coordinator.
They have many wonderful extras you can include and a couple we have chosen is having a handmade floral archway to stand under and a string band to play for the ceremony and then into the reception for the first couple of hours.
For our reception package included is a beautifully decorated marquee with fairy lights, floral table decorations and candles, flaming tiki torches, linen and chair covers and a sound system.
With our food and beverage packages we have a personal bar with a bartender as well as all of the food organised and cooked fresh on site.
We don't have to worry about a thing on the day except to enjoy ourselves as it will all be taken care of and the wedding coordinator will be there the whole time as well to help with anything to make the day as perfect as possible.



Organise yourself:

Some things that you will have to organise yourself include:

  • Makeup and hair 
  • Photographer 

(For these two above planners should be able to give you good recommendations).

  • The obvious things like your wedding dress, suits etc.
  • Any extras you might like that gives it a personal touch.
    Maybe you'll want to organise some games, have sky lanterns, extra bride and groom table decorations, a lolly bar or ice cream truck etc.
  • Speeches and any readings
  • Seating plan arrangements and any gift bags
  • Hen and stag activities

Extras, gift bags and hen and stag activities are totally optional, but it's always a nice touch especially as your guests are travelling a long way to be with you for your day, and it's a great way to acknowledge that and thank them.
We wanted a day where we could all get together before the wedding, meet up and have some fun- so we organised a boys and girls activity day.
The boys are going out on a big game fishing trip and will be enjoying a BBQ lunch and a few beers on board. 
The girls are doing an afternoon to sunset cruise on a glass-bottomed boat with drinks and nibbles and some organised games on a sandy island. 
Afterwards, everyone is meeting up together at a chosen place for dinner and drinks and it's a fantastic chance for all the guests to meet prior to the wedding day and for us to all hang out.




Enjoy!

I'm yet to test this point out- but not long to go for me now! We fly into Rarotonga on the 20th of November and I have no doubt that everything will be taken care of and we will feel instantly relaxed.
My destination wedding planning experience so far has been better than I imagined and I'm so grateful to The Pacific Resort for that.

Our first full day there is a Monday and we have a morning meeting with the lovely wedding coordinator, where she will show us through the resort and wedding locations and go through all of the fine details and any last minute decisions.
We will also meet with the celebrant during that time and go through how we want our vows to be done.
After that we have an afternoon meeting with our photographer and the rest of our time is free to relax and enjoy ourselves.
On Tuesday I have my hair and makeup consultation and then our organised Hen and Stag activities in the afternoon, and our meet up afterwards for dinner and a few drinks.
Wednesday is a free pamper day for me where I am planning on getting a nice massage and my nails done, and then Thursday the 24th is the big day!


It's less than two weeks until I fly out now so it's all getting very exciting.
I hope you found this post interesting and helpful in any way if you are planning a destination wedding of your own.
Stay tuned for a Rarotonga Travel Diary upon my return, and then a hotel and wedding destination review of The Pacific Resort.
If I have any more tips to add I may do a second more updated post on destination weddings.

Thanks so much for reading and I hope to catch you in my next post!

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*This post contains images that are not my own.

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