Franz Josef, New Zealand Travel Guide


I visited Franz Josef recently while travelling with Stray - an adventurous New Zealand travel company with flexible Hop-On Hop-Off guided bus routes, and it was one of the top highlights of my time in the South Island.

Due to the exciting must-do activity I just had to do and unpredictable weather, I ended up spending five nights there and it didn't take long for the cosy town to begin feeling like a second home.

Franz Josef is a destination that should be on everyone's South Island road trip and this guide shares my recommendations and top tips for visitors, including that incredible South Island activity I stuck around for that was totally worth it!



ABOUT FRANZ JOSEF

Franz Josef is a true gem on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island and worth staying for a couple of nights at least, at any time of the year. 

Known for its stunning scenic surroundings where glaciers meet the rainforest, it's an incredibly picturesque place to visit and a nature-lovers dream, to say the least.

There are many beautiful hikes from short to long and Kiwi-typical adrenalin-pumping activities on offer to make your time in Franz Josef especially memorable.

The Franz Josef Glacier is the biggest drawcard and doing a Glacier Heli-Hike is the number one activity to do there. 


WHERE TO STAY

Rainforest Retreat is the perfect place to stay in Franz Josef. It's located just off the main village street, making it secluded but in close walking distance to every local activity, including the Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hikes which is literally one minute away.


At the feet of the Southern Alps, the property has magnificent mountain views and is nestled amongst native bush, making it the ultimate base to unwind and explore from.

For backpackers, travelling families, flashpackers and campervanners - they have cheap and cheerful Dorm Rooms, Motel Park accommodation, a Holiday Camp Site and even Deluxe Tree Huts and Lodges to suit everyone's needs and budget.

Onsite, they have a fantastic restaurant and bar Monsoon with daily Happy Hour specials, a great menu, fireplace and pool table, as well as a large outdoor spa pool, shared kitchen and laundry facilities and any tour information you might need. 

The staff are incredibly friendly and happy to help with any local tips or information you might need to make your stay a great experience.




WHAT TO DO

Glacier Heli-Hike

As mentioned, the top activity to do in Franz Josef is the Glacier Heli-Hike and trust me, it is worth every single cent! It's the steepest and fastest moving glacier in New Zealand and it's truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an #NZMustDo.

Beginning at the Franz Josef Village glacier base, you will be briefed with all the tour information you need and get geared up with everything provided for you, including jacket, pants, gloves, boots, socks, crampons etc.

Then you get to experience a fun helicopter ride with the most amazing scenery that lands on the glacier itself.


Once all set with your crampons on, you are then guided on an incredible three-hour hike on the glacier by your professional and friendly guide. 
They show you through the best and most beautiful parts of the glacier and tell you a lot of interesting facts and history about it as well.

Of course, there is plenty of time to take some Insta-worthy shots and soak in the magnificent surroundings around you.




I found the hike to be not too challenging, it is quite easy-going as you move at a fairly slow pace to be safe. The three hours spent on the ice went by so quickly - probably because I was having such a great time!

I was so glad to have stayed behind in Franz Josef to do it. My tour was cancelled due to high winds three days in a row, but on the fourth day, it was perfect conditions!

The weather is very hard to predict so I would advise being flexible with your dates if the Glacier Heli-Hike is something you really wish to do.




Glacier Thermal Hot Pools

If you do the Heli-Hike the entrance to the Glacier Thermal Hot Pools at the base is included in the cost, otherwise, you can pay separately.

Surrounded by rainforest, it's the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate after an exciting day of adventuring. There are three natural hot pools with different temperatures to suit any preferences.

They also have private spas, showers, lockers and even massage facilities onsite to make it an ultra experience.



Scenic hikes & walks

Franz Josef is spoiled for beautiful hikes and walks. If you may not be able to afford the Heli-Hike you can still hike pretty close to the glacier to get a good view of it.

The start of the hike carpark is 5 kilometres from the village centre. To save your legs until the real hiking begins, there is a shuttle bus service that will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation for $12.50 both ways. 

The hike to the glacier is 1.5 hours return plus there is a beautiful mirror lake walk that is 20 minutes return. You can also do a guided tour if you choose which you can book through Franz Josef Glacier Guides. You will learn a lot more about the area, walk through lush rainforests, get close to the glacier and get taken to a hidden waterfall. 


Spot some local wildlife - the native Kea is protected on the West Coast

Other activities

Those are the main activities that I enjoyed myself but there are so many other great ones on offer too including:



WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

There are a few little bars and eateries around the township for you to take your pick, but one that I especially enjoyed eating at was Rainforest's own on-site restaurant and bar Monsoon.


From 7-9 pm they have happy hour specials with $5 beers, house wines and cocktails which you can enjoy on their deck for sunset or in front of the cosy fireplace.

They also have an excellent dinner menu where they specialise in gourmet woodfire pizzas, and their burger was one of the biggest and best of my life!



Another great option that I frequented for lunch is The Landing (a popular spot for a drink also). Our Stray bus driver recommended it to us and they do great food there and coffee and cake.
I had their soup of the day and eggs benedict (at different times), both dee-lish.



TOP TIPS

Summer is peak tourist season in New Zealand and the Heli-Hike is extremely popular and busy. If you're around during the shoulder months, why not go then? There is just as much chance of flying in winter as there is in summer and it's not too cold at all, especially when the sun is shining. I went in early June and it was a warm 13 degrees up there.

As mentioned earlier, I would recommend staying in Franz Josef for at least two nights if you are wanting to do the Glacier Heli-Hike. The weather at the top of a mountain is super unpredictable and tours can often be cancelled at the last minute. 

If doing the Heli-Hike make sure to wear a pair of pants/trousers that aren't jeans. Jeans aren't allowed on the ice, nor are selfie/GoPro sticks. Wear your own thermal layers underneath and bring your sunglasses, everything else is provided.

If it's a wet day (as it often can be on the West Coast), grab an umbrella and browse the cute souvenir shops in town or bunk up in the local cinema to kill a few hours.





I was travelling the South Island with Stray's Ron Pass - a 2-3 week route that explores the best parts of the South Island, including Stewart Island!

More information about my incredible time travelling with Stray is coming very soon on the blog, stay tuned!

Pin it! :)

Is hiking a glacier on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Travels,

New Zealand Travel Guide


Being a Kiwi, it was about time to write a bit about my own country - New Zealand!
I am planning on writing plenty of in-depth travel guides on the top cities to visit, such as Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, as well as a Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth post - being such a huge fan myself it's inevitable.

This travel guide is an introduction and a brief overview for fellow travellers wanting to head to New Zealand for the first time.
For best things to do check out my post on 20 Must-do's in New Zealand.

Let's begin by clearing one thing up first: 
It's not the same as Australia!


Yes, people get us confused all the time and many think that we are a part of Australia (we're not). Many also can't tell the difference between a Kiwi and Aussie accent (there's a big difference!). Our countries overall are very different.

New Zealand's North Island is mostly pretty warm with nice beaches (sadly not as warm as Australia), while the scenery in the South Island more resembles Ireland (thanks to lashings of rain) or Canada in the Alpine regions.

Australia... is more than 28 times bigger than New Zealand! And you might hear about Australians a lot more - that's because there's 24 million of them, whereas there are only 4 million Kiwis.

70% of Australia is classed as a desert, so though there can be some small similarities between our countries' landscapes in certain places, the differences are a lot more.

Those are just the beginnings of the many contrasts between our countries, but just know it's comparable to calling America and Canada the same, or China and Japan.


My little spin on little New Zealand

We may be at the bottom of the world but New Zealand is a wonderful country to visit and definitely worth travelling that far for.
After exploring the world so far away for the first time - I came back and saw my country with whole new eyes.

I grew up here, so I always thought New Zealand was - well, boring. There's nothing old and historical here and it's so far from everywhere else. Not that I didn't appreciate the stunning beauty of it - Queenstown when I saw it for the first time especially took my breath away.

I just mean, this is where I grew up and camping, bushwalks, going to the snow, road trips, beaches - were all a part of everyday life and I thought that was normal.
Image result for im a kiwiLittle did I realise our small country was such a gem, because it had all these things - packed into one.

Everywhere you go in New Zealand you're not far from stunning and picturesque landscapes. Our country really is a natural beauty with everything ranging from snow-capped mountains to white sandy beaches, native bush and forests, fresh springs and mud pools.

From any point in New Zealand, you are no further than 130 kilometres from the sea. It's no wonder why I am so attracted to water and I simply can't imagine those who have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to even see water.

I now know, since embarking on my travels and as amazing as this world is, there is nowhere quite like New Zealand and I am really appreciative and proud to be a Kiwi.



Travelling New Zealand 

Perhaps when you think of New Zealand a few images may spring to mind - the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the All Blacks (our excellent rugby team), Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (our biggest selling white wine) and lots and lots of sheep.
These are all quite fair images but there's a whole lot more to our country than just that!

Firstly, many people may wonder: which is better to travel to - the North or the South Island? I would absolutely say both because they are so different to each other and you can't really get a full 'New Zealand' experience doing just one.
If you have the time I would recommend starting from the top of the North and work your way down South. 

How?
The best way to travel New Zealand is by vehicle, whether a car, bus or campervan, as nature and beauty surrounds you everywhere. The varying landscapes are so different and interesting to see all throughout the country and travelling by land is the best way to see this.

You can easily hire a car or campervan, or an affordable bus line that I've used many times is Intercity CoachlinesThere are many different tour companies offering Hop on Hop off style bus tours such a Stray Travel, Kiwi Experience and package tours like Wild Kiwi, Contiki and Intrepid.

If you're from North America, New Zealand Vacations are a leading company with excellent customised vacation packages. They are New Zealand travel experts who can help you create your own dream self-driving itineraries. They offer constant support, experience and the best prices with local tourism operators.

You can also pick up internal flights relatively cheap enough if you book in advance.
Our two main flight carriers are Air New Zealand and Jet Star.

Image credit: rankers.co.nz

Accommodation?
There are plenty of campgrounds in most places which is an affordable way to travel in New Zealand. You can book your own cabin, pitch a tent, park a camper van or even your car and use the facilities.

My family travelled around New Zealand this way when we were growing up. Every couple of years in the summer holidays we would either go down south or right up north.
Campgrounds are safe, usually in very good locations (on the lake, near the beach or city centre), basic but have everything you need - a big communal kitchen you can use, toilets and showers and often games and playgrounds for children.

There is, of course, Airbnb, plenty of budget hostels, motels and hotels - it all depends on your preferred style of travel and your budget.

When?
New Zealand is great year round but the very best time to visit is during summer. This way you can enjoy swimming, camping, better weather and warm temperatures.
Our warmest months are December, January and February. Any time between October and April is also great.
Travelling in winter, if you don't mind the cold, is also very beautiful. The mountains are covered in snow and you can enjoy our awesome ski fields in both the North and South Island.

Where?
The biggest decision to make is deciding where to go! If you have the time I would say, go to as many places as you can.
For the top places and attractions to visit here is my small overview of our two main islands - the North and the South, and the main highlights of each:


North Island

The North Island is a great place to start, with Auckland being our biggest international airport. In the north, it is a lot warmer, with nicer beaches, more unique geothermal characteristics and Maori culture.

Auckland

If you're a city dweller then you will love Auckland. It is New Zealand's largest and most populous city with over one-third of the population living there (over 1 million people). Auckland is based around two large harbours and is known as 'the City of Sails'.

Centred in the middle is the iconic Sky Tower - our countries' tallest structure that you can go up for stunning panoramic views of the city or even bungy jump off.
You can visit Waiheke Island - famous for its vineyards and wine-tasting.
Auckland is dotted with many beaches and large parks and is home to plenty of great food, art, culture and museums.

Auckland city
Coromandel

The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most popular areas for Kiwis and tourists alike to visit during summer. The golden coastline with white sandy beaches, native forests and a laid-back vibe make Coromandel one of the best-loved holiday destinations in New Zealand.

The towns are small and quiet making it a great place to get away and unwind at the beach. There are plenty of great bush walks, glow worm caves and even a Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own hot pool at low tide.
Make sure to see Cathedral Cove while you're there too, a famous picturesque cave.

Enjoying kumara chips at the beach in Coromandel

Matamata (Hobbiton!)

I thought I should mention at least one hotspot for Lord of the Rings fans out there! Matamata is a small country town that you can take as a day-trip from Auckland or Tauranga and Rotorua - it is less than a couple of hours away from each of those places.

Hobbiton is simply spectacular and a must-do if you're a fan, and even if you're not - my partner, for example, was surprised at how much he enjoyed the trip when I made him go with me.

You get taken around the whole area which is surprisingly large and immaculately maintained, and you finish off in The Green Dragon pub for a complimentary 'Hobbity' ale or cider. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours and I highly recommend it.
Check out my Guide to visiting Hobbiton for more info.


Tauranga & Rotorua

Tauranga and Mount Maunganui is a great place to visit especially in the summer. There is a beautiful beach, large harbour and mountain (Mount Maunganui) that is half on land, half in water that you can walk around or climb to the top for stunning views.
I grew up in Tauranga and though there isn't that much to do activities-wise, it is a great destination because of the large white sandy beach and it's a popular spot for surfers.

Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most popular places for tourists to visit. Only a 50-minute drive from Tauranga, Rotorua offers plenty of fun activities such as luging, zorbing, cultural Maori village experiences and shows, wildlife parks, hot pools, geothermal attractions such as Wai-O-Tapu and many more.

Mount Beach
Rotorua Luge track

Taupo

Taupo for New Zealanders is usually a stop-over place as you drive through, whether you're going North from there to Auckland or South from there to Wellington for example.
It does offer some nice tourist attractions though and can be a good place to stop for a night or two.

It's home to the great Lake Taupo - Australasia's largest lake, plenty of geothermal activity walks, bungy jumping, the beautiful Huka Falls waterfall, great cafes and more.

#LoveTaupo sign on the lakefront

Tongariro National Park

Less than one and a half hours drive south from Taupo is Tongariro National Park - New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage site.
Here, nestled between ancient native forests and desert landscapes are three impressive volcanoes; Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

Mount Ruapehu is the North's only place to ski and offers two excellent ski fields on the active volcano, Whakapapa and Turoa.
Treking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the world's greatest hikes and a must-do if you have the time.

Above the clouds on Whakapapa ski field
Emerland Lakes, Tongariro. Image credit: backpackerguide.nz

Wellington

Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and is commonly known as 'the smallest capital in the world.' Many people wonder why Wellington is the capital when it is home to around only 200,000 people, whereas Auckland has over a million. That's just where our parliament is centred and I think it's a pretty cool capital in my opinion.

I lived in Wellington for 4 years before jetting off overseas and I enjoyed living there (it's a lot more exciting that Tauranga and way less busy than Auckland).
The one thing I didn't like so much was the weather. 'Windy Wellington' it is also commonly known as - was recently proved to be the windiest city in the world!

Nevertheless, it is a really cool place to visit and it's a compact city bursting with creative talent, art and culture, cool cafes, great coffee and craft beer, and my favourite thing about it - it's our little 'Wellywood.'

Home to Sir Peter Jackson, this is the base where The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed and there are plenty of attractions around Wellington where you can visit and see locations such as the Weta Cave.
(Stay tuned for a more in-depth post about LOTR tourism in NZ coming soon!).

Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, Wellington

South Island

The South Island is home to only one-quarter of the population in New Zealand - so as you can imagine, it's a lot more quiet and peaceful. There is a different sense to this island, there are wide open spaces with the enormous mountainous spine running through the middle of it (the Southern Alps). It's a great opportunity to get away from it all.

Nelson

Nelson is the sunniest region in New Zealand, located at the top of the South Island. If you are travelling by car and have crossed the Cook Strait by ferry, it's a great place to stop over. It's known for its local arts and crafts stores and art galleries.
It's also a popular base for nearby caving sights, vineyards and Abel Tasman National Park - a famous protected area with stunning coastal hiking trails and great kayaking spots.
Nelson has it all with golden sandy beaches, untouched forests, rugged mountains and a great summery holiday feeling about the town.

Image result for nelson new zealand vineyard
Image credit: from winenelson.co.nz
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a small but scenic town located on the East Coast of the South Island.
It is hugged by beautiful snow-capped mountains and its special attraction is mammal encounters - whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters.
Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day with a great sighting success rate, you can swim with the dolphins and the local seal colony is always entertaining.
Kaikoura is a great place to stop if you are driving from Blenheim to Christchurch or vice versa.

Image result for kaikoura
Kaikoura. Image credit: rankers.co.nz

Christchurch

Guest paragraph: Juliette from Snorkels to Snow has kindly offered to write a piece for Christchurch. Her blog is amazing and you should definitely check it out.

[Side Note: If you didn't know - on 22/02/11 Christchurch was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. It tragically killed 185 people, injured thousands and destroyed much of the CBD.]

Christchurch is still “home” to me - despite the tragedy which struck in 2011. It’s taken a long time for the city to get back up on its feet - but the rebuild has made way for some great new concepts. 
The Re:Start Mall in the central city is a fun, vibrant shopping area with a great cafe scene. The best bit - all the shops are made out of colourful shipping containers! 
It breathed new life into the city after such a tragic event and has continued to be a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. There are a number of lively bars which have opened up since the earthquake including Engineers Bar, the city’s only rooftop bar - a great spot to spend a balmy Canterbury evening. 

Walking through the Christchurch CBD, you will still see many empty lots where buildings once stood, the ruins of the damaged Christchurch Cathedral and memorial sites such as at the former CTV building, which had the highest loss of life. It’s sobering seeing this first hand but it is also an important reminder of why this city needs tourism to help get it back on its feet. 

Further out of Christchurch city you can explore all of Banks Peninsula - catch a ferry from Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour and enjoy the beautiful walks and hikes in the area while listening to native birdsong. For a taste of France, head to Akaroa - the tiny French settlement on the peninsula about 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch. 
Rebuilding a city takes time, but there’s still plenty to see and do in Christchurch - and it needs tourist dollars to help it grow into a stronger, colourful city of the future.

Image result for christchurch restart mall
The colourful Re:Start Mall. Image credit: australiandesignreview.com
West Coast

The West Coast is one of the more remote and sparsely populated areas - it seems like a million miles from civilisation, but it offers some of New Zealand's most wild and natural beauty and landscapes.
There are countless opportunities for hiking and mountaineering in the South Island, and the West Coast is a great base for that. Close by you have Mount Aspiring National Park, Mount Cook, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. 

Some great little towns to stay on the West Coast include Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport. There are many activities on offer such as glacier walks, jet boating, kayaking, old mining towns and of course the rugged beaches and stretch of coastline.

Image result for fox glacier new zealand
Fox Glacier. Image credit: thousandwonders.net
Queenstown

When people ask me where to go in New Zealand I say you have to go to Queenstown!
It is my favourite place in New Zealand and it is absolutely magical. It reminds me of a slice of Switzerland. For much of the year, the surrounding Alps are snow-capped and the lake is a stunning mixture of blues.

Queenstown is known as the 'adventure capital of New Zealand.' It is home to bungy jumping, jet boating, paragliding, white water rafting, luging, you name it. You can find these activities all throughout the country but everything is here compacted into one small town.

The scenery is simply incredible. In winter the whole town turns into a winter wonderland, the streets are filled with snow, the ski fields are the best in New Zealand, it's like a ski resort town in Canada.

From Queenstown, you can take many day-trips or overnighters to other great nearby places such as Wanaka, Te Anau, Glenorchy, Fiordland National Park where you can cruise through the Milford Sound and many more.

View from the top of the Gondolas overlooking Lake Wakatipu
A boat cruise through Milford Sounds
Shotover Jet- one of Queenstown's top adrenaline attractions
As well as Bungy jumping! I jumped off this ledge!
Beautiful snow-capped Southern Alps (and this was in November!)
The incredible view from Roy's Peak overlooking Lake Wanaka is what dreams are made of.
Image credit: riverrun.co.nz

Of course, there is so much more to New Zealand that just what I've mentioned, I have merely given quite a brief overview of many of the top places to visit. 
There are plenty of other lovely places I haven't mentioned such as Russel and Bay of Islands, Waitomo Caves, Napier, Hamner Springs, Dunedin, Invercargill and so on.
There certainly is a lot to see and do packed into one small country.

I put together a rough map of the places I have mentioned so you can see where they are located on each island.


I hope that I've given you some insight into my lovely home country. Feel free to leave me a comment if you want to add anything or ask any questions.

For more ideas on what to do head to my post on 20 Must-Do's in New Zealand and stay tuned for plenty more New Zealand posts heading your way soon.

Follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with all my latest travels and wanderings.

Happy travels,
Pin it! :)

* Please note this guide was originally created two years ago and has since been updated and republished.

Top Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam


Hoi An is an incredibly charming town on Vietnam’s central coast, well-known for its greatly preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals.

I absolutely loved spending a week there, exploring the beautiful ancient city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was lucky enough to be there during the lunar lantern festival where the old town shuts off electricity in the evenings, is closed to traffic and transforms into magical alleyways of colourful lanterns, flickering candles and lively gatherings.



Once a major port, the melting-pot history is reflected in its grand architecture, a mixture of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.

It is an atmospheric and delightful place to visit, with little traffic and pollution, a nearby stunning beach, delicious and fresh cuisine and so much to do. 

Here are my top recommendations for Hoi An, a place not to be missed on your next trip to Vietnam.


Wander the ancient streets


There's no better way to explore a new place than by walking the streets. Admire the ancient and contrasting architecture; shops, bars, restaurants and coffee houses are all a photographer's delight.

Walk across the ornate Japanese Covered Bridge, check out the Tan Ky ancient House, visit the local fresh food markets.

Japanese Covered Bridge

There is so much to see and it's all in a relatively compact area, so wear comfy walking shoes and take regular breaks and refresh on traditional Vietnamese ice coffee to beat the heat.

A local market

After doing the sights in town (temples, ancient houses, chapels, the covered bridge) head south over the central footbridge to An Hoi islet, where the riverfront is lined with bars offering ice-cold glasses of the daily-brewed refreshing lager called 'Bia Hoi.' They usually go for around 5000 VND (US 20 cents!) and it's a great place to people-watch.


Gioan Cooking Class


One of my favourite and most memorable experiences throughout my time in Vietnam was doing a Vietnamese cooking class at Gioan Cookery School.

Hoi An is known for its diverse and excellent food, and it can seem that every other restaurant is offering cooking classes, but Gioan was one of the first original family cookery schools in Hoi An and they have a great reputation.

Beginning with a trip to a local market, we learned all about and hand-picked our fresh ingredients to use for the day. We got to choose our favourite dishes to learn how to make which were: fresh Vietnamese spring rolls with dipping sauce, Banh Xeo (country savoury pancakes), chilli chicken and lemongrass stir fry and traditional beef Pho!

Busy making Pho!

It was such a fantastic experience from start to finish and our teacher was so funny and easy-going. I learned so much that day and can't wait to start using my new culinary skills at home. The feast we got to eat at the end of it with our freshly made food was phenomenal.

Banh Xeo

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and very highly recommend it!


Have a beach day


The nearby An Bang Beach is only 5 kilometres away or a 15 minute leisurly drive (or cycle if you're keen!). The sand is soft, the water is lovely and refreshing to swim in and there are plenty of loungers with sun-umbrellas to relax on free of charge if you purchase a drink or two.



There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area to choose from and I highly recommend going to a place called French Bakery and Restaurant.
They offer a range of options but their Banh Mi in particular was one of the best I've ever had. I had the special pork one with chilli jam and for 40,000 VND ($1.70 US), it's an incredible price as well.


Get a new wardrobe


I didn't do this myself, but I know Hoi An is very well-known for this. There are many budget tailors and it's the place to take home a complete wardrobe of new clothes and leather goods. 
Shoes can be made to order and many handicraft shops specialise in embroidered linen.

If you decide you want a new wardrobe, do your research before you go; some of the tailors are cheap and very good, some are expensive and not good value, and some are pretty poor. 
If you have a favourite item you wish to replicate, take it with you, or take pictures of the clothes you want made.
Word of mouth is usually a great source and I'm sure Trip Advisor would be able to steer you in the right direction with the best reviewed places.


Do a bicycle/boat/walking tour


There are many tours on offer to explore more of Hoi An how you please. From sunset boat cruises along the Thu Bon River, to walking street food tours in the Old Town to venturing further with a bicycle tour.

Many homestays and hotels offer bikes to guests, and joining the many cyclists on the roads provides an instant immersion into local life.
There are group tours you can join for an easy few hours with just 9 km of cycling along quiet lanes, lunch included, or a more demanding 50 km adventure. All take in traditional villages, handicrafts, fragrant rice paddies and rickety floating bridges.


Visit Marble Mountains 


Only a half an hour drive away are the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills, named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth. 
I visited on my way down to Hoi An from Da Nang, as it is between the two cities.



It is a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples. There are Buddhist sanctuaries and even a special circular cave which leads to the summit where you can enjoy panoramic views.


Indulge in the local food

One of my favourite parts about travelling is trying the local cuisine. I have already written 'Best Places to Eat' for Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and I will next write one for Hoi An too, as the food there was just as spectacular.

A few of the best local dishes that are a must-try and special to Hoi An and the central Vietnam region include:

Cao Lau - one of the most famous dishes, this noodle speciality has been eaten in the city since the 17th century. The hand-cut noodles are tossed with sliced pork, crunchy rice crackers, spices, big handfuls of fresh herbs and a small amount of super-tasty broth.


White Rose (Banh Bao Banh Vac) - A popular symbol of food in the ancient town, these are special shrimp dumplings made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. It takes three years to learn how to master them and apparently, there is only one family in Hoi An that produces them and distributes them to all the local eateries.


Mi Quam - a delicious bowl full of rice noodles, a choice of meat (chicken, pork, shrimp, quail egg etc.), fresh vegetables, a little broth and topped with peanuts, rice crackers or crunchy spring rolls.


Stay tuned for my next post where I will share my favourite places to eat including Banh Mi Phuong, Morning Glory, Phi Banh Mi and Cafe 43.


When to go: the central coast is at its driest and sunniest in May, June and July.
Be wary of the rainy season (September to November) as it can be prone to heavy downpours and bouts of flooding.


How to get there: getting around Vietnam is easy and there are many ways to get to Hoi An depending on your budget. Take a bus or train from any other major city to save money, or fly if you have less time and a bit more to spend. If you are only an hour or two away you can hire a driver to take you for around $100 USD and they will happily stop at any sights along the way.

Where to stay: there are many types of accomodation available to suit all budgets including guesthouses, hostels, AirBnbs, low-budget hotels to luxury hotels. Try and choose one close to the Old Town so you can easily walk or cycle there, or stay at the beach if you prefer a more relaxing style holiday. Most places offer multiple daily transfers to either the Old Town or the beach. If you can afford it, pick somewhere with a pool, as it's hot year-round!

Need to know: tourists need to purchase an entrance ticket to the Hoi An Ancient Town. It costs 120,000 VND ($5 USD). The tickets are valid for 10 days and you need to have it on you at all times. For more information visit the Hoi An Tourism site.



I hope you are inspired to visit Hoi An, a beautiful little city with so much to offer.
Let me know in the comments if you've been or are planning to in the near future!

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Happy Travels,

L O N D O N | 25 Top Spots to visit!


London is such a fascinating, vibrant and eclectic city. Being so large and diverse, there are countless amazing things to see and do, so this post focuses on my top tourist attractions and spots to visit, particularly for first-timers.

This is part two of my London guide, check out: L O N D O N | Top 10 Travel Tips if you haven't already. Of course, absolutely do whatever you wish to in London - these are just some of my favourite places and recommended things to do that I really enjoyed myself, to give you some ideas and inspiration.


1. Natural History Museum

This is easily my favourite museum I've ever visited and it's a must-see for anyone!
Most famous for its impressive dinosaur displays, there's an enormous range of exhibits showcasing specimens from all throughout history. You could easily spend an entire day here and best of all it's totally free.



2. Tower of London 

Officially known as 'Her Majesty's Royal Palace' and 'Fortress of the Tower of London', visiting this historic castle is worth the money. Book online to save a little bit of money.
Full price adult tickets cost £24.00 and this includes access to the Tower and the Crown Jewels display, many exhibitions and the always entertaining Yeoman Warder guided tour. While you're in the area, don't forget to check out the Tower Bridge.



3. Big Ben 

One of the most famous clocks in the world, Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Seeing one of the major iconic symbols of London with your own eyes is a must-do for any first time visitor. 



4. Trafalgar Square

Ever since the Middle Ages, the iconic Trafalgar Square has been a central meeting place. It's a great place to hang out and admire its wonderful fountains and architecture.
It's surrounded by museums, galleries, cultural spaces and historic buildings and being the largest square in London, it is thought of as the heart of the city.



5. Buckingham Palace 

Seeing Buckingham Palace is an essential part of any trip to London. It has served as the official London residence of the UK's sovereigns since 1837 and today it is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. Make time to see the Changing of the Guard, for times and dates check the website here.



6. Westminster Abbey 

Don't miss seeing the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, one of the world's great churches with a history stretching back over a thousand years. Admire the Gothic abbey from the outside or if you wish to visit properly, book tickets online for £20.



7. The British Museum 

The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture and houses an impressive collection of historical world art and artifacts including the Rosetta stone, iconic sculptures from Ancient Greece and Egypt and many more. Free to all visitors, you can again easily spend an entire day exploring the many rooms full of treasures.



8. Harry Potter studio tour

This attraction does of course depend if you are a fan or not - but if you are then this Warner Brother's tour is an absolute must-visit! Well worth the £39, book your date and time slot in advance here to enter the magical world of Harry Potter and see the authentic sets, behind the scenes and making of the films.



9. St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral with its world-famous dome is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Head inside the seat of the Bishop of London to see the Anglican Cathedral's beautiful interior and uncover fascinating stories about its history. Optional guided tours are £18, for more information visit their website.



10. Covent Garden

Just on the fringes of West End, Covent Garden offers excellent shopping, theatres, restaurants and pubs. Inside the marketplace, you can find the most wonderfully talented buskers who come to perform in the hopes of making it big.



11. Notting Hill

Notting Hill in West London is an iconic and captivating neighbourhood. There's a reason why so many films are set here. It's wonderful to walk through the quaint streets filled with rustic townhouses and especially great on a Saturday when Portobello Market comes to life. 



12. London Eye

Also known as the Millennium Wheel, the London Eye is the world's tallest Ferris Wheel.
It is officially the United Kingdom's most popular paid tourist attraction and offers breath-taking views of London from high above the River Thames. Be sure to book your tickets and a time slot in advance online, as the queues can be hours long. Ticket prices start at £23.



13. Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is a free national art museum housed in the Bankside Power Station built after World War II. Enjoy a most impressive collection of international modern and contemporary art ranging from the 1900's to the present day.



14. Camden Town

If you like alternative places then you will enjoy this area. Find unique fashion and accessory shops, great live music, eclectic dining, plenty of piercing and tattoo parlours and many cool pubs - my favourite is the World's End pub.



15. Camden Market

While you're in Camden be sure to visit the very cool alternative markets with over 1000 shops and stalls selling fashion, music, art and food next to Camden Lock. Open every day of the week - don't miss the 'Cyberdog' store for a very surreal shopping experience!



16. Leicester Square

A famous pedestrian square in the West End of London, it's the home of entertainment with plenty of great shows in the area. There are also many great restaurants and cool shops including the giant M&M's World, which is a must-see.



17. Hyde Park

One of the largest parks in London, Hyde Park is a particular favourite to stroll through. The Royal Park covers 350 acres and is home to a number of famous landmarks including the Serpentine Lake and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Aside from squirrel-spotting you can go cycling, open water swimming, boating and even play tennis.



18. Oxford Street

Oxford Street is known to be the UK's favourite High Street, with more than 300 retailers from designer outlets to department stores and is the most visited shopping street in Europe. You could find anything you are looking for here and with the beautiful architecture and great nearby restaurants, it's a must for any shopping lover. One of my favourite department stores is Selfridges.



19. South Bank

One of my favourite areas is South Bank along the river Thames. It's perfect for a stroll on a nice day and there are plenty of entertaining things to see and do along the way.
It's home to the London Eye, Shakespeare's Globe, the London Dungeon, and the National Theatre just to name a few. You just can't beat the views of seeing some of London's most iconic buildings across the river.




20. Baker Street

If you are a fellow Sherlock Holmes fan then don't bypass 221 B! On Baker Street is the Sherlock Holmes Museum where you can step back in time. Tickets for adults cost £15. It's also very close to Abbey Road and Madame Tussaud's if any of those interest you. (Next time I return I want to see Benedict Cumberbatch's wax figure!).



21. Borough Market

One of London's most well-known food and drink markets, Borough Market is fantastic for fresh produce and goods and a large variety of international food stalls.
Open from Wednesday to Saturday and located next to London Bridge, it's perfect for a lunch stop or quick shop if you're out and about in the area.



22. The Shard

The Shard is home to some of the best offices, restaurants and hotel rooms in London - along with breathtaking views. The 95-storey skyscraper is Western Europe's tallest building. For the best views over London head to The View, the highest viewing platform. Book in advance online to save 15%. Prices start from £15.95.



23. Greenwich 

One of the earliest established districts of London, Greenwich is a great place to spend the day. Many people enjoy seeing the famous Meridian timeline up close, from where you can enjoy magnificent views over London. There are beautiful parks, the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark ship, Greenwich markets and plenty of great eateries and shops.



24. Kings Cross

Again, if you are a Harry Potter fan then head to the Kings Cross station to line up for your picture taken at the Platform 9 3/4 spot! There is also a souvenir shop selling plenty of merchandise if you can't make it to the studio tour.



25. Harrods

Visiting one of the world's most famous department stores, Harrods is a must for any shopping lover. It's incredible just for browsing (and drooling over) the high-end goods or spending all of your money in the cafe or chocolate section.




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As mentioned, there are so many more wonderful things to do and top spots to visit, this is merely some of my favourites that I would recommend to someone going on a first or second trip to London.
Do you have a favourite place not mentioned here? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to read them.

Happy Travels,

P A R I S | Top Travel Tips!


They say you either instantly fall in love with Paris or stay completely indifferent to the city for good. Before my first trip several people warned me saying:
"Paris isn't all it's cracked up to be, it's just famous because of the Eiffel Tower."
"Paris is so dirty."
"The people are all rude and snobs."
Well, let me tell you - I am so glad I'm not one of those people that let others form an opinion for me before deciding for myself.
Because all of those preconceived ideas or stereotypes are just out of the mouths of those who may have had a single negative experience, but you simply cannot judge an entire city from that.

Honestly, I couldn't tolerate a thought about not loving Paris. Paris is so close to being my favourite city in the whole world - with London only just nudging into first place.
I first visited in November 2014 for a week and instantly fell in love with it.
I was lucky enough to visit again in July 2015 and I'm glad I got to experience two different seasons (as both Summer and late Autumn were lovely times to visit).

This is my second post on Paris which are guides, particularly for first-time visitors. For my top recommended things to do check out my first post: P A R I S | Top Things To Do!
Here are my top travel tips for those visiting the city of love.


Getting Around

Walking around the city is my favourite way of getting around (if it's not too far!). I can't get enough of the beautiful cobbled streets and awe-inspiring architecture.
Otherwise, the Metro is an easy, comprehensive and safe way to travel around Paris.
You can download a free Paris metro map app for your phone to make it easier to navigate.
A river cruise along the Seine on a nice day is the perfect way to see Paris. There are hop on hop off boats called Batobus with nine different stops near the main attractions and highlights of Paris, which you can get one or two day passes for.

Enjoying a Batobus ride

Museums, art & history

Paris is home to many of the finest art galleries in the world, a large number of monumental churches and around 130 museums. If you love your history then you are in for a treat!
Aside from the obvious must-sees Louvre and Notre-Dame (featured in my first Paris post), I can particularly recommend the national military museum - Musee de l'Armee, which holds an impressive collection of weapons and uniforms, plus the famous Napoleon's Tomb.
Musee d'Orsay is another grand museum devoted to all the arts between 1848-1914.
Sainte-Chapelle is an impressive royal Gothic-style chapel that has stunning architecture and amazing stained glass windows. There is a lot - so be sure to do your research and pick your favourites to see if you're only going for a short time.

The Dôme des Invalides, which contains Napoleon I's tomb

Shopping

Let's be real - who wouldn't want to come to Paris and do some shopping! Parisians are forever well-dressed and chic - they take real pride in their appearance. Being the fashion capital of the world, there is no shortage for your retail therapy needs.
Visit Galleries Lafayette for the ultimate department store shopping experience.
Tip: head to the rooftop for great views over Paris!
The Champs-Elysees is like the Times Square of Paris and is a shopping-lovers haven, studded with many high end and designer stores. For independent eclectic boutiques- the Marais is the place to go.

Les Arcades Des Champs-Elysees

Cheap & free things to do

If you are a student then do bring along your ID card. You can get discounts and freebies on everything from transportation to museum admissions.
Paris is filled with many beautiful parks. Luxembourg Gardens, in particular is absolutely stunning. Take a picnic on a nice day and enjoy the surroundings.


To discover Paris on a small budget Sandeman's Free Walking Tour is a great way to get acquainted with the city. The guides are full of interesting facts and stories and walk you through several neighbourhoods and to most of the famous sights. They ask for just a small tip at the end, whatever you can manage and what you think the tour guide deserves for their time.
Pere-Lachaise Cemetery is a popular free tourist spot. See the graves of Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison among many more.


French etiquette

French may have the reputation for being rude, but it's more accurate to say they are formal and minimise interaction with strangers. Don't expect them to strike up a random conversation with you.
Try to speak as much French as you can - even if that is only 'bonjour' (hello), 'merci' (thank you) and 'au revoir(good bye). In France, this is basic manners they teach to their children from a young age, and being foreign doesn't exempt you. Failing to do this may earn you a rude treatment in return. 'Parlez-vous Anglais' (do you speak English?) is an expression you should try to learn off by heart before asking a question.



Avoid the queues

Many places let you book tickets online in advance, such as the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower and many more. This is a smart option to choose a particular time slot, especially in the busy Summer months to cut down on waiting in line.
Otherwise, I would highly recommend heading to your attraction slightly before the opening time, because lines can potentially take hours up of your day, and time in precious!


Food & drink

Parisians take real pleasure in their food and drink along with good company.
During the day they love their coffee and you can find a cafe on practically every corner, as well as Patisseries (French bakeries) for fresh bread, filled sandwiches and baked goods.
Said Patisseries are an absolute must-visit - they are the best in the world! Everything in there is perfection - the baguettes, chocolate eclairs, croissants, layered custard slices... I could go on and on. Paris is also well known for their chocolat shops and of course their macarons.

Trying French treats on my first day in Paris!
The French are very social and spend hours enjoying their meals sitting outside in the quaint streets, drinking wine well into the hours of the evening with their friends (can I please be Parisian?). They tend to eat dinner at 8 pm or later. You may not find many restaurants open until this time, although the ones that are may offer an 'earlybird' special if you don't mind eating earlier.
French cuisine is flavoursome and hearty. If you're not sure what to order try some typical famous dishes like escargot (snails!) or duck l'orange (roast duck with orange sauce). Their soupe à l'oignon (French onion soup) is also obviously delicious!
I highly recommend ordering a fromage and bread platter at least once - their cheese and bread -  no words.
Their wine is also top-notch. Ask the waiter for recommendations if you're unsure of what to order on a menu - they'll usually set you right.
If you do have the time I would recommend doing a food and wine tour, it's great to learn more about their cuisine and they always give you their best quality goods to try.
A great option for lunch is to have a traditional crepe. You can choose your fillings, savoury or sweet and it's usually very large and filling for a reasonable price.

My favourite - ham, cheese and mushroom!

Be aware

Being a popular tourist destination do be aware of pickpockets, as they do prey on tourists in particular. Only carry one card with you and only as much money as you need for the day.
Take an official taxi from the airport and not random offers from people that don't belong to a company, they will charge you a lot more.
Ignore and avoid certain people at busy spots such as the big tourist attractions and train stations. There are many gypsies who are known to try and scam people.
Around these places there is also no shortage of people trying to sell you selfie sticks and cheap tacky Eiffel Tower souvenirs, so do ignore them and be firm if you have to, as some can be a bit confronting (unless of course you actually want to buy one).



Enjoy!

Paris is known to be the city of love and has that romantic reputation for a reason! The only way to truly discover it is by exploring for yourself.
It's an incredible city and one that I will forever hold dearly in my heart and I can't wait until I next return. If you are heading there yourself I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I always do.


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* This post contains some images that are not my own.

Best of Rome: Three Day Itinerary


Aah, Rome. The Eternal City is one of my all-time favourite places to visit in Europe.
It is bursting with astounding history, incredible art, the world's best pasta and gelato to indulge in, Baroque churches, infamous landmarks and fabulous shopping.
After more than 2000 years in existence, there is enough to explore to keep you busy for years, but if you only have a few days to explore Rome- here is a three full-day itinerary which is perfect for a first-time visitor. 
Of course, do customise it how you like, these are simply top places to visit in central Rome with some insider tips to help make the most of your time there.


Day One

8.00 am Start your day the Italian way and have a standing espresso and a small pastry to fuel up for a big day ahead. (You are charged for 'table service' if you choose to sit down).

8:30 am Begin your epic Roman adventure with a visit to the must-see Colosseum.
(It opens at 8:30 am but do arrive earlier if you don't have a skip the line ticket or especially in the Summer months to beat the queues). Marvel at the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire with its bloody history beginning in 80 AD.


Top TipI highly suggest buying your tickets in advance. For 12  you can purchase a double ticket valid for two days that allows for one entrance to each one of the two sites Colosseum and Forum/Palatine hill. For more information on how to buy tickets visit: here.

11:00 am Once you've taken your time inside head back out to see the Arch of Constantine and walk around the entire Colosseum to get those winning shots.

Top Tip: Near the Colosseo metro station is a free water refill station which has a sparkling water option! Also, do try to make time to see the Colosseum again at night- it's all lit up and looks stunning.

12:00 pm Only a five-minute walk from the Colosseum is a great little Trattoria called Luzzi. It's a perfect place for both lunch and dinner (I've been for both multiple times).
I highly recommend the lasagne, Caprese salad, pizzas and the inexpensive chiantis of red wine.


Top Tip: If you decide to have dinner at Luzzi, do arrive early as it's so popular the lines are usually down the street and the lasagne tends to sell out fast.

1:00 pm Take your time to wander Via dei Fori Imperiali- the road leading from the Colosseum to Altare della Patria and admire Trajan's Column along the way.



Head to the top of Altare della Patria for amazing panoramic views over the city.
It's free at the first point (where the photo taken below was) or pay 7 € to take the elevator to the very top for even better views.


2:00 pm  Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling amongst the incredible ruins of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. See remnants from Imperial and Ancient Rome that dates all the way back to 500 BC.


4:00 pm By now I'm sure you are exhausted after a long day of walking and exploring! It could be a good time to head back to the area in which you are staying for a rest or to find a nice place for an aperitivo before a well-deserved pizza or pasta dinner.

Top Tip: When choosing a restaurant, I recommend taking advantage of local knowledge. Ask the reception or people from where you are staying for their favourite places for example. Try to avoid places that have pictures of food on their menus and are in major touristy areas. They will be overpriced and not as good quality as getting more off the beaten track.

Today's map with pinpoints from left to right: Altare della Patria, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Luzzi.

Day Two

8:00 am Spend the morning in the world's smallest country! Do a morning half day Vatican City tour either with a group such as Viator or if you would rather go through yourself I would still highly recommend buying in advance skip-the-line tickets. Lines can be up to two hours long so it is worth the money to save your time and sanity in my opinion! Check this link for more information: here. Enjoy St. Peter's Basilica and Michelangelo's incredible Sistine Chapel.

Top Tip: It is closed on Sundays and make sure your shoulders and knees are covered or you could be turned away.



12:00 pm Cross the scenic River Tiber over one of the many beautiful bridges and make your way towards Centro Storico.


Have a bite to eat and a rest from the busy morning before getting lost in the countless streets and alleyways where you’ll find churches with Baroque art, boutiques selling everything from carved wooden figurines to jewellery, private courtyards where the wealthiest Romans live and plenty of enticing cafés and restaurants.


3:00 pm If you're up to walking a bit further head to the Pantheon, a former Roman temple and admire the architectural marvel from outside and in.



3:30 pm Reward yourself for a day well-spent at one of the most famous gelaterias in Rome- Giolotti, only a four-minute walk from the Pantheon. It is always packed no matter what time of the day or year but it's worth the wait with over 100 delicious flavours to choose from.


Top Tip: Another excellent gelateria is called Fatamorgana, which you can find at different locations all over the city.

4:00 pm Knackered yet? Find a nice spot with happy hour specials or head back to your accommodation to rest before carb-loading on pasta before your final action-packed day!

Today's map with pinpoints from left to right: Vatican City, the start of Centro Storico, Pantheon, Giolotti.

Day Three

8:30 am Begin your day by tossing a coin in the Baroque masterpiece Trevi Fountain, bright and early to avoid the crowds. (If you get a chance to visit at night, it is beautifully lit up as well). Legend has it that anyone who throws a coin in the fountain will return to Rome.



Top Tip: Not far from the fountain is Enoteca where you can enjoy free limoncello tastings of all sorts of delightful flavours.

9:00 am If you fancy a spot of shopping most of the best stores are concentrated around Via del Corso near the Spanish Steps. Work your way up the street on your way there. If you're looking for (or just interested in browsing) high-end fashion, you'll want to hit up Via dei Condotti. Here you'll find high-end fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Prada and various others. For smaller brands, check out streets such as Via Frattina and Via del Babuino for the best boutiques.

11:00 am Head to the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) and climb the famous steps leading to the Trinita dei Monti church to admire the piazza and Bernini’s ship-shaped fountain from above. It's also a great place to kick back with a beer in the late afternoons and people-watch.



11:30 am Literally a two-minute walk away from the steps is where you can find the best tiramisu in Rome at Pompi. It is an absolute must-try and also a great place to have lunch if you can find a table available! Otherwise, you can always eat on the Spanish Steps. (There is also gelato and many other delightful cakes and treats to choose from).


1:00 pm After lunch and a twenty-minute stroll (to help burn it off) from the Spanish Steps is Galleria Borghese. Nowhere in Rome or maybe even the world will you find such a magnificent collection of Baroque art. Tickets must be reserved in advance for slotted times. Prices start from 15 € for a two-hour slot from 1-3 pm for example. Check here for more information.


Top Tip: It is closed on Mondays and there is free wifi available.

3:00 pm I daresay your legs must be tired by now. Time for a pick-me-up espresso or to head back to the hotel for a small rest and pack your things for your next destination. Why not book in advance one of Rome's best restaurants for your final night? You can check them out here. Enjoy your final evening, have a red wine, some more delightful Italian cuisine and a mandatory daily gelato.

Today's map from bottom to top: Trevi Fountain, Via del Corso, Spanish Steps, Pompi, Galleria Borghese.

It's going to be an action-packed three days, but undoubtedly very enjoyable.
If you can stay for longer I would really recommend it as there is so much more to do than just the highlights I have mentioned. Do leave me a comment if you have anything else you would add!

Happy Travels,
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B A L I | Travel Guide & Tips


I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time and I finally had a great excuse to get around to it - I'm heading back to Bali for the third time! I've booked a one-way ticket and I'm going with my group of very best friends for a special occasion so I'm super excited.

I absolutely fell in love with Bali the first time I visited. It's a stunningly beautiful island, the culture and people are so lovely, there is so much to do as well as being a perfect place to retreat and relax if that's what you're looking for. Not to mention the shopping, weather and food are all amazing!
It's my absolute pleasure to write this Bali travel guide overview and tips for top things to do and be aware of if you're heading there for the first time.


WHEN TO GO?

The first thing to decide is what time of the year to visit. There is no right or wrong answer for this, but May, June and July are generally considered to be the best months in terms of weather. The dry season is May to October with the wet season being November to April.
July and August tend to be the peak months where prices will usually go up due to the high volume of tourists, therefore April, May, June and September are good months to aim for. However, I went late November once and the wet season hadn't started as it was late, but it was very very humid. The plane tickets during that time though were extremely cheap!



WHERE TO STAY?

Where to stay depends on what type of holiday you are looking for.
The three most popular and main areas to stay in are Seminyak, Kuta and Ubud.

Seminyak, being the more upscale choice of the three, is spilling with high-end boutiques, restaurants, spas and luxury accommodation. This relaxed area is great for couples, families and those wanting to be near the beach, great food and shopping.
I personally enjoy staying at The Breezes - a mid-range 4-star resort and spa, which is a bit more affordable that those dreamy beachfront villas!

Kuta is generally popular for the surfers and younger, party-centric crowd. There are a lot of raging nightclubs and has a noisier party atmosphere. I stayed there the second time and didn’t enjoy that area nearly as much. However, there are still plenty of nice beachside accommodation resorts or cheap hostels if that does happen to be your thing. There's a big waterpark in Kuta if you have kids and the beach is a great spot to catch a wave.

Ubud is for those looking for some real peace and quiet away from the touristy areas and shops, loud drinking people and so on. Ubud is often referred to as the heart of Bali.
Not only a paradise for yogis, vegetarians and vegans, it is also the island’s cultural and spiritual centre- thanks to the movie Eat, Pray, Love. It's a lot quieter and there are less food choices, but there's still plenty to do and it's where most of the amazing artwork is made.

The Breezes Resort & Spa in Seminyak

TRANSPORT

From the airport
How to get around Bali? The only way I would recommend is by the official Bluebird Taxis (Taksi). Even from the airport. Don't do what I did the first time which was book a package that included hotel transfers. The transfers cost over $50 each way... but we had no idea at the time that price was five times more than what we would pay if we just hopped in a taxi at the airport!
It should cost you no more than $10 AUD to Seminyak, which is about a twenty-minute drive away depending on the traffic.

Official Bluebird taxis
Around town
There is no shortage of taxis anywhere in Bali and you will know this from the incessant honking they do to let you know their taxi is available (annoying at times until you actually need one!).
A short trip from one end of town to the other can take up to half an hour in bad traffic, but it will still cost you less than $4. Always ask beforehand if they will run the meter; only hop in if they say yes (most will). Never accept a fixed price or get into a taxi that is unofficial as they will charge you a lot more.

Day trips
You can hire your own personal driver for the day if you want to do a full day trip somewhere. Many taxi drivers will outright ask you if you need one and will offer a fixed price for a certain amount of hours.
I have used this method three times and all have been great experiences. Your driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you wherever you wish to go, and if you're not sure - they know plenty of popular hot spots to go to. You get dropped at each place and they wait for you however long you take and then will drive you on to the next place.
I have done two day trips north to Ubud and a trip south to Uluwatu and it cost between $30-$50 for 7-10 hours which is an extremely good price. We always gave them a very good tip because their service and friendliness have always made that trip all the more special.


TOP 5 THINGS TO DO

1. Visit the temples

There are so many incredible temples to visit and all are unique and beautiful in their own way. Some favourites well worth visiting include:

Uluwatu Temple - an 11th Century cliffside temple in the south where you can watch a traditional 'Kecak and Fire Dance' sunset show.
Entrance fee: 40,000 IDR.
Optional show fee: 100,000 IDR.

Uluwatu

Pura Tirta Empul - a beautiful and sacred water temple in central Bali said to have holy water with healing properties. (Also pictured as the header image).
Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.

Pura Tirta

Goa Gajah - or 'Elephant Cave' is a 9th Century archaeological site in Ubud of significant historical value that once served as a sanctuary.
Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.

Goa Gajah

Tanah Lot - is an ancient Hindu shrine and one of Bali's most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and stunning sunset backdrops.
Entrance fee: 30,000 IDR.

Tanah Lot

2. Take a day trip to Ubud

If you decide not to stay in Ubud, then you at least have to visit for a full day as there is so much to do there and getting away from that main tourist hub will show you a more authentic side of Bali. About an hour's drive away, here are some top places to visit:

Tegalalang Rice Terraces - this is a must-see in Ubud, famous for its beautiful scenes of vibrant green rice paddies and terraced rice fields.
Entrance fee: 10,000 IDR.



Monkey Forest - it's one of those places you have to see once in your lifetime.
A nature reserve and Hindu complex, it is filled with monkeys of all sizes roaming freely.
You can buy bananas there to feed them if you wish and get a picture with them but watch your things because they will try to steal from you!
Entrance fee: 40,000 IDR.



Bali Pulina - there are a number of Luwak coffee plantations you can visit in Bali, but this one is by far my favourite thanks to the incredible scenery of rice paddies you have while you sip on different tea and coffee tastings. The tastings are free but if you are brave enough to try the Luwak coffee itself (also known as cat-poo coffee!) that costs 50,000 IDR.


Tegenungan Waterfall - if hiking through a jungle to a hidden waterfall is your idea of paradise, then this is a beautiful and scenic place to visit and come for a dip.
Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.



Also, as mentioned above, be sure to visit the Goa Gaja and Pura Tirtha Temples while you're in central Bali!


3. Enjoy the beaches

The beaches all along the coastline are very nice and perfect to relax on a lounger, go surfing or do some fun water activities.

Lounging
Along Seminyak, Legian and Kuta beach you can find loungers and comfy bean bags with umbrellas dotted everywhere. Pay 50,000 IDR to hire one unlimited for the day and you can enjoy swimming and can purchase and be served cold drinks as you please.
You will constantly be hassled by sellers however, so it might not be as relaxing as you’d like it to be and the toilet situation isn't the greatest, but it's still a great activity to watch the surfers as the sun sets.


Watersports
If fun and adrenaline-rush activities are your thing - then get stuck into the watersports on offer in either Kuta or Nusa Dua. You can go banana boating, donuting, jet skiing, parasailing and snorkelling just to name a few.
Balitobali.com is a company that offers packages, for example you can go parasailing, on a banana boat and jet ski all for 300,000 IDR ($30 AUD) which is an excellent price for so much fun!
I haven't been snorkelling myself yet in Bali but here is a good website which shows the best beaches to do that: bali-indonesia.com. I remember looking at snorkelling full day trips and they are still quite pricey- at least $120 USD each.
If you're keen to give surfing a go prosurfschool.com has a great reputation. Open year round, they are located at Kuta Beach and teach anyone of all levels from beginners to pros.

Watersports in Nusa Dua

Beach Clubs
There are some very nice beach clubs along the coast of Seminyak where you can lounge, enjoy infinity pools, delicious cocktails, food, listen to local DJ's and of course watch the epic sunset with a drink in hand!
The most famous in Bali is the Potato Head Beach Club. It's a very popular spot for sunset drinks so arrive early in the afternoon if you want a seat with a good view! Bring your swimwear to enjoy the infinity pool, they have changing rooms and full facilities to use.
Cocktails go for $10+ AUD, so not the cheapest but you're paying really for being in an awesome place- it's great to do at least once.
Other notable sunset venues include Ku De Ta (also a fine-dining restaurant), and Double-Six Rooftop (atop a luxury hotel).



4. Treat yourself

Spas
It's always nice to relax while you're away on holiday, but for me - I tend to still wear myself out as I like to explore everywhere on foot and get out and about every day.
I'm not normally one to get my nails done or get a massage or facial (too expensive), but when I discovered in Bali you can really pamper and treat yourself for such a good price - I am all over that!
There is no shortage of beautiful spas all over Bali, so there is plenty to choose from.
One that I particularly like is Bali Spa, which has stores in both Seminyak and Kuta (both are great). The service is wonderful and the cost even better. A full mani-pedi costs $10 AUD, an hour long facial is also $10 and an hour traditional Balinese massage costs $15, and there is a huge range of treatments and types of massages to choose from. If I were to get all three of these at home it would cost me over $250 - so definitely make the most of it!

Fresh nails done at Bali Spa

Hair & Beauty
If you're in need of a haircut and colour or any beauty services then get it done in Bali!
A place I went to last time and loved is Smart Salon and Spa in Legian/Kuta.
I have been getting blonde foils in my hair for years and I have never had such a good job done on me - I was so pleasantly surprised! The hairdresser was immaculate in his attention to detail and spent so much time on my hair- which turned out perfectly and cost half what I would normally pay ($80 AUD).
They also offer plenty of beauty services including makeup, lashes and brows, massages etc so you could make a full day out of it if you wanted to!

Happy with my new hair
Tattoos
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo - Bali is renowned for it. There is a tattoo parlour on practically every corner, but do, as always be careful which one you select. Do your research and find a parlour with a great reputation and perfect reviews.
One that I can highly recommend is Bali Tattoo Studio which is located in Legian/Kuta.
I got my sixth tattoo done with them last July and it was as good as any other I had gotten from my most trusted tattoo artist back at home (except it was half the price!).
They are global award-winning artists, highly professional, talented and most importantly perfectly hygienic.
As a tip: try to book in for your final day there, as you can't swim with fresh tattoos. You don't want to miss out on the pool in such hot weather!

Loved my tattoo done by Bali Tattoo Studio

5. Food & Shopping

Food
Along the same lines of excellent prices - enjoy the delicious food and the shopping too. There is a large range of food options as well as a price range, but if you mostly stick to traditional Balinese food in local places you can eat like a king for little to nothing!
Local family-owned restaurants are called Warungs and that is where you will find delicious and well-priced meals. I have written a post on Top Places to Eat & Drink near Seminyak, Bali so check that out for more information.
But quickly, one of my favourite places to eat is called Warung Padmasari which always has exceptional local Balinese and you can get a three-course meal and a drink for literally $20 - it's astounding and so yum! I've been there three times for both lunch and dinner.

One of my all-time favourites - nasi goreng and satay skewers

Being quite westernised in Seminyak and Kuta there are a lot of Australian-owned cafes and restaurants as well where you can find any kind of food from Mexican to vegan and there are plenty of Asian food options like Thai and Indian if you get sick of Balinese!

Shopping
There is also a variety of shopping you can do from thrifty markets to high-end fashion stores. There are some really amazing art, antique and homeware shops selling locally made goods that go for a decent price. You can pick up plenty of knockoffs in street shops and stalls if that's your thing, from 'Gucci' handbags to 'Nike' runners. Make sure you barter in the streets and don't accept the first price -  knock it down by at least a third.
If you prefer real labels and designer clothes there are heaps of legit Australian owned surf shops selling Roxy and Billabong for half the price you would pay back in Australia and there are many unique boutique stores in Seminyak that any shopper would love.
You can find really nice souvenirs for yourself or gifts all over the place for very cheap prices.

One of my favourite stores in Seminyak- sold only skull things!

HANDY FACTS & TIPS

  • As of June 2015, 30 more countries were added to the free entry list - New Zealand included. Which means we don't need a visa or to pay the $35 USD fee hooray! (Australia was added in 2016).
  • Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the day you plan on leaving Indonesia.
  • The currency is Indonesian Rupiah - 10,000 IRD is around $1 AUD which is easy to remember.
  • Balinese people are highly religious and practise Balinese Hinduism, which is why there are so many beautiful temples and offerings laid daily on the streets.
  • Only use bottled water, even to brush your teeth. You can pick up large 1.5-litre bottles for around 50 cents so stock up whenever you get the chance and carry around a refillable smaller bottle during the day.
  • Bring or buy a sarong, you’ll need it - even males. Whether it’s covering up for a temple visit, using it as a beach cover-up or as a seat cover.
  • Do stay somewhere with a good pool. It's really hot year round with average temperatures of 32॰C and daily dips are necessary!

Having a place with a pool bar- even better! 

  • You’ll probably experience a case of 'Bali Belly', so bring Imodium. Consider yourself warned! Also be sure to bring panadol, tissues and hand sanitizer.
  • You can find free wifi in most cafes and restaurants.
  • The island of Bali looks like a chicken... just a random fact!
  • You can hire a scooter really cheaply and you don't have to wear a helmet by law - but you'd be mad not to!
  • Beer and drinks such as coke are very cheap from local stores. The local beer is Bintang which are around $1.50 for a large bottle from the stores, so take a bunch back to your hotel room to drink if you have a nice balcony for example. It’s probably a third of the price at least than buying it from your hotel.
  • You are also allowed to drink in public places such as walking in the streets and at the beach.


  • The local people are very friendly but the sellers on the streets and in public places can be very pushy at times. This is their job though so do just ignore them if you aren’t interested and keep walking or just say no thank you.
  • Both the locals (mostly men) and every second tourist smokes because they are dirt cheap in Bali, so you might get a bit of a shock if you're used to smoke-free zones. It's not surprising to see young boys smoking or children selling cigarettes either.
  • Do get as much cash out that you think you'll need before you arrive. There are ATMs available but I personally was the subject of credit card fraud the last time I went (and I only used an ATM machine once in a convenience store). Better not risk it!
  • You're not expected to tip, but it's a nice gesture if you receive a good service. The Balinese people are lowly paid, and yet extremely generous and hospitable.
  • I highly recommend seeing a cultural performance of traditional Balinese dance. It's a very ancient dance tradition that is beautiful and unique, and is closely connected to religious rituals. Many places offer 'dinner and a show' and they are well worth experiencing at least once.

Balinese dance performed at The Breezes in Seminyak 


Once Bali gets under your skin, don't be surprised to find yourself returning again and again. Some Australians holiday there annually; others never return back home (Bali is full of Australian ex-pats). There's something magical, ethereal and beautiful about Bali.
Be sure to get out beyond your hotel to find it!

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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,

Barcelona on a Budget | Travel Guide


Barcelona is a beautiful laidback city sitting on the Mediterranean Coast.
Much of the cities architecture is famously designed by Antoni Gaudi and it is incredible to see in real life.
I was lucky enough to spend a week in Barcelona last Summer, I had been on a France and Spain Contiki tour that spent 3 nights there and that's where it ended.
I stayed on for a further 4 nights by myself and I had a brilliant time. I was into my final month of travelling around Europe so I was on a pretty tight budget, as I still had Greece, Italy and Germany yet to come on my big trip. You can read all about my solo travel trip here: Solo travel | My Experience & Thoughts.
This fabulous and fun Spanish city was a joy to explore and very easy to do so even on a budget. Here is my ultimate travel guide with top money-saving tips to help you get the most out of Barcelona.


TRANSPORT

From the airport:

From the airport there is a handy shuttle bus called Aerobus that picks up from both Terminal 1 and 2 and drives directly to the city centre, which takes around 35 minutes.
It runs every day of the year and departs every 5 minutes. It costs 5.90 .
This is the easiest and cheapest way to get both to and from the airport, as taxis would cost at least 30 €. It stops and picks up from three of the most strategic points in Barcelona. Here is their website for more details: www.aerobusbcn.com/en.

Around the city:

Barcelona can easily be explored on foot, but for those attractions a bit further away there is an underground metro which is easy to navigate.
A single ticket costs  so if you plan on venturing about for the whole day it might be better value to purchase a day ticket which gives you unlimited rides for 6.95 .
If you are in Barcelona for a while, the best deal would be to get a 10 ticket book which you can use over any number of days, which costs 9.25 .


FREE THINGS TO SEE & DO

Park Guell

The famous Park Guell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.
Designed by Gaudi himself, it is full of beautiful gardens and showcases many of his major works in Barcelona. The architecture is amazing and there are nice walks you can take around the area.
However you do have to pay to enter the Monumental Zone. I didn't do this due to the three hour waiting time, and also I was rather impressed with everything I saw without having to pay! I spent a good hour and a half there walking around and enjoying the park which is very large.
If you do want to buy a ticket it costs 7  and I would recommend purchasing it in advance online to avoid the major lines and waiting time!





La Rambla

La Rambla is a famous street in Barcelona and one of the major city centre points.
Popular with tourists and locals alike, it is a great street to stroll along and browse the many stalls, pop-up markets and street performers. The tree-lined street stretches for 1.2 kilometres and on either side it is lined with many shops, bars and cafes.



Admire the architecture

There is an impressive amount of architecture in Barcelona practically everywhere you turn your head! Some notable buildings and places to check out include:

Barcelona Cathedral- located in the Gothic Quarter is the stunning Gothic Revival Roman Catholic church built from the 13th-15th centuries.



Casa Vicens was Gaudis first important building. Built between 1883 and 1888, this was an imaginative residential project made for a wealthy family that owned a ceramic factory.



Le Pedrera (or Casa Mila), is another modernist residential building designed by Gaudi. You can pay 20  to go inside, but if you're on a budget like me- you can just admire the architecture from the outside!



Casa Batllo is the result of an old conventional house built in 1877, restored by Gaudi in 1904. It was highly criticised by the public at first, but soon went on to win being one of the three best buildings of the year.



Torre Agbar is a 38 story bullet-shaped skyscraper and a new attraction in Barcelona. The tower represents a water fountain that constantly changes its appearance.
Depending on the light- the tower changes colours and is lit up brilliantly at night as well.



There are so many more dotted all around the city. I'm not sure of the name of the building below but it was across the road from a big mall quite close to La Rambla.


In the distance

The beach

The coastline stretches for 4.5 kilometres and offers a wide variety of excellent beaches.
Barceloneta is the closest beach to the city and you can walk there from the city centre in 20 minutes, or it is one stop away on the metro.
The beaches are a popular hot-spot in the warmer months and are well maintained and kitted out with sun beds and lifeguards. There are plenty of restaurants nearby and places that offer refreshments.

Walking the boardwalk on the way to the beach



La Monumental

One of Barcelona's newest attractions, this used to be the Old City Bull Ring. As of 2012 bull fighting was banned in Barcelona and the old stadium has since turned into a trendy shopping and lifestyle complex.
On the top floor you can find restaurants and an observation point with excellent 180 degree city views.




Montjuic Magic Fountain

Just up the road from La Monumental is the Montjuic Magic Fountain. This is a free show at night which is a spectacular display of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics.
Times and days of the shows are dependent on the season. Check the website to find out when it is on: Magic Fountain website.
This is a must-see when you come to Barcelona and highly recommended. Try to get there earlier to get a good viewpoint- but don't stand too close or you'll definitely get wet!




Montjuic viewpoint

Close to the fountain is the hill Montjuic, which offers fantastic views over the city.
The hill features a large number of other attractions too including The Spanish Village, MNAC- one of the cities most important museums, the National Palace, gardens, a fortress and much more.
It's a bit of a hike to get to the top but the lookout points over Barcelona is worth it! Otherwise, you can pay to take a cable car to the top.



Free Walking Tour

A few companies offer free walking tours around Barcelona, but one that I myself went on- Sandemans is one I can fully recommend! The tour was fantastic- you get taken to many of the main attractions and highlights, and the guides are full of interesting facts, information and stories.
It's a fantastic way to start off in a new city as you get your bearings and learn where all the main landmarks are by walking. They offer help at the end of the tour if you have any questions at all, and do just ask to give a small donation for what you think the tour was worth- as it is their main job.
They also offer many other well-priced tours such as bike tours, Gaudi architecture tours, a tapas experience and so on. Here is the link to their website for more information.


ATTRACTIONS WORTH THE MONEY

La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona's most famous attraction! This is my number one most recommended thing to do here- it is an absolute spectacle and worth every penny to admire from the inside as well as out.
I have been to many cathedrals in my time- but this is without a doubt the most amazing one I have ever been to.
Although incomplete, the building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can learn all about the history, construction and Gaudi's visions inside.
A basic entry ticket costs 15  and it is highly recommended to book a time-slot online in advance.





Camp Nou

If you're a football fan then you would probably love to do a tour of Camp Nou- home to the world-famous FC Barcelona. 
The stadium is the largest in Europe and is one of the cities most popular tours.
Each year thousands of football fans from all around the world come to visit the grounds and football museum. Tours start from 24 €.



Hop on Hop off tour

Like many major cities Barcelona offers this bus tour which is a great way to see a lot more of the city than just by foot or underground metro.
It stops at all the major attractions and you can get on and off as you please. It also includes free wifi and an audio guide so you can learn all about the city while you ride.
You can purchase a 24 or 48 hour ticket and you can get discounts if you're a student.


 ACCOMMODATION

For budget friendly accommodation, hostels are a great option. For my first three nights in Barcelona I stayed at the Generator Hostel.
I highly recommend it- I'm pretty sure this is the best hostel I've ever stayed at.
The decor was modern and cool, it was in a great location, was clean and had great facilities.
Prices for a mixed dorm start at around 20  a night.
For my other 4 nights I booked a private room for myself at Residencia Universitaria.
I found the place on Trip Advisor and basically it's university residences that are available to book out over the Summer and other holidays. I chose here because it was well-priced and I got my own self-catered room. It was also just one street over from La Rambla, so it was very central and in perfect walking distance to everywhere.
The room was 32 € a night but worth it in my opinion to have my own room for a little bit since I had been sharing for the last two weeks and was about to again for another three!
AirBnB is always a great budget-friendly option as well to filter through places to stay in your price range and location wise.

Hostel fun at the Generator bar

FOOD & DRINK

Make use of the discount supermarket chains to save on eating out for every meal.
Carrefour Market Ramblas is a large supermarket I made frequent use of on La Rambla with everything you could need: groceries, products, fresh food, fruit, baked goods and there's even a stall making fresh paella at the entrance (which was delicious!).
I was all over the fruit and salads here as I had been eating out a lot prior.
A popular market I enjoyed going to on La Rambla was La Boqueria. If you've ever been to London's Borough Market- it's very similar to that! It offers different sections such as fresh seafood, meat, fruit, pastries, sweets, you name it.
It's also a hot-spot to come for lunch as there is plenty of delicious food made on site as well.

La Boqueria Market
Some must-try local food to have in Barcelona includes the famous paella- a delicious Spanish rice dish usually made with fresh seafood.


Tapas bars are all throughout Barcelona and a popular place to fill up on many tiny bites with a glass of wine.
Being on the coast, seafood in restaurants is abundant and good quality.
Churros can be found at street stalls and many restaurants and is a delicious dessert.
Of course trying sangria is mandatory and you can find this refreshing drink everywhere!
The local beer and wine here is also very good.


FINAL TIPS

Siesta Hours

Barcelona, like most places in Spain has very different business hours compared to the rest of the world. Many stores open from 10 am and close at 2 pm for a 'siesta' break.
Stores then re-open at 4:30 pm until 8:30 pm, with larger chain stores in the city often staying open until 10 pm.

Meal Times

You don't have to abide by the Spanish meal times, but if you would like to- it usually goes like this:
08:00+ Breakfast
11:00+ Morning snack
13:30+ Aperitivo
14:00+ Lunch
17:30+ Afternoon snack
20:30+ Drinks & Tapas
21:00+ Dinner
23:00+ Copas

Be Aware of pickpockets

Apparently Barcelona is the worst city in Europe for pick-pocketing so do be aware!
I never felt worried or unsafe but I did make sure to keep my bag secure at all times.
Try to choose a bag with hidden zippers or if you have a backpack, a small padlock might be a good idea. I had a bag that I strapped across my chest and I always kept one hand on the top when I could to stop any 'flap-lifting.'

Enjoy!

Barcelona is perfect for a coastal getaway and a good dose of Spanish! The locals are extremely friendly and English is widely spoken.
The shopping is fantastic, the nightlife is renowned- if that's your thing. The streets are beautiful and clean, the bathrooms are free, the food is delicious, the attractions and amazing architecture makes Barcelona so unique- all of this makes the city a wonderful place to visit and I'll definitely be back and look forward to it.



I hope this guide has been helpful! I have plenty more budget travel guides in-stall so stay tuned for those! As always feel free to comment your thoughts or if you have any questions or tips of your own you may have.

Thanks for reading ,

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Bangkok: My Experience | Guide & Tips


Thailand was my first proper foreign country I travelled to, and it was a life-changing experience. I had only been to Australia twice before- and although I enjoyed travelling there to a new country and visiting new cities and places, it wasn't much of a difference as it is so similar to my own country New Zealand (except a lot warmer!).

Bangkok was my first taste of a world so completely different from my own.
It was this trip that truly solidified my wanderlust and passion for travelling and learning about different places and cultures.
My partner Gareth and I travelled to Thailand for three weeks around three contrasting areas of the country. The entire trip was an incredible experience and I have been wishing to return ever since I left.

In this post I will run through a brief overview of our trip including the main highlights and activities we got up to, followed by some travel tips for first timers to Bangkok/Thailand.
Coming soon will be two similar posts on the other places we visited- Chiang Mai (in Northern Thailand) and Koh Samui (an island).


BANGKOK


A bustling and vibrant city, full of coloured taxis, tuktuks and motorbikes going in all directions. It was very hot and sticky (we went in early February) and you had to shower twice a day (because your feet get pretty dirty as well walking around the streets).
But it was a real experience, as I mentioned it was such an eye-opener.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at CityPoint Hotel in Klongtoey and we both really liked it. It was clean, modern and in a great location- very close to shops and near a Skytrain stop.
The service was also great and the front desk staff were very helpful with suggestions on nearby restaurants. I would definitely recommend this hotel to others. It cost about $80 (NZD) a night.
Obviously you can stay in a lot cheaper places in Bangkok but we were also on holiday and had worked hard to save for our trip- so we did want to stay in fairly comfortable places.


What we did:

Wat Pho. We visited the oldest temple in Bangkok (also known as 'Temple of the reclining Buddha'). The architecture of the buildings and sculptures were incredible.






Chatuchak weekend market. We spent a few hours at the largest market in Thailand. There were so many stalls and everything was a very good price. I got my first taste of bartering (but I pretty much just let Gareth take the reigns!).
I also tried my very first Mango Sticky Rice there which became my favourite new lunch meal in Thailand!


Grand PalaceWe took a boat along the Chao Phraya River and stopped off near the Grand Palace. It was one of the most incredible places I had ever seen!
Everywhere you looked was so magnificent and beautiful, and we had a very enjoyable afternoon walking around the palace grounds.
(I also remember it was a sweltering hot 45 degrees Celcius and wearing a thick sarong wrapped around my legs made it even hotter!).



Thai massage. We treated ourselves to a traditional Thai massage. Let's just say I'm still scarred by that experience HA!

'Ladyboy' Show. We ventured out one night and saw a ladyboy show- because when in Thailand. We weren't allowed to take photos but that's okay- I don't think it's something I'll ever forget! It was... colourful and entertaining!

Shopping. Quite a bit of shopping was done as we took advantage of the great prices! We explored many big markets and several of Bangkok's giant malls. Even proper labelled shops such as Converse were half the price than back at home (I stocked up on my shoes and clothes!). It was also nice to be inside in the air conditioning for a while.



Sky Bar. We went to the world's highest open rooftop bar. (63 floors high!).
The view was pretty cool but as it was slightly smoggy and my camera wasn't the best back then none of my pictures turned out very good.
It's free to catch the lift up but the drinks are very expensive for Bangkok- our cocktails were $25 NZD each (so I only had one!) but it was worth it for the view.



Khao San Road. One evening we visited the notorious 'K Road'. Not for the faint-hearted. No we didn't go see a 'ping-pong show'! We just had a couple of beers sitting outside a bar and people-watched. Saw some... uh, very interesting 'going-ons'...




Explored. Mostly we just explored. We walked a lot, rode tuktuks, enjoyed the food and the awesome cheap prices of beer! Gareth even got a three-piece suit tailored and made up for him because the price and quality of that is very good in Bangkok.


Ways to get around:

Skytrain, or the 'BTS'- Bangkok Mass Transit System is a fast and reliable way to get around. The maps are in English as well and it's easy to navigate.
It only costs 20 baht per trip for an unlimited distance or you can get other group tickets if you are staying for a while.


Taxis are everywhere and a convenient way to get around. Have your destination written down as many drivers don't speak English well. Also make sure to run by the metre and say no to price negotiations- you will be ripped off.
The fare should start at 35 baht and it stays there for the first 2 kilometres. Typical trips around a few km's are usually 50 Baht.

TukTuks are an experience to be had while in Thailand, however I would recommend it for shorter trips only and try not to go during rush-hour traffic- the fumes from the other cars on top of the smog is pretty bad. (You can see why many locals drive around on their motorbikes with masks covering their mouths).
Unlike taxis, the driver will give you a price depending on where you want to go, the time of day- and what mood they're in! They usually have a 'special ' price for foreigners, but you can try barter them down to something reasonable if they want too much, otherwise just walk away and find someone else. A very short trip should cost 30 baht.


River boats are a great way to get around. You can view many temples and great architecture from the river and hop off to many attractions as you please.
There are several kinds of boats offering different services- express boats that only stop at the main piers, ferries that only cross the river (3 baht), river boats that go up and down the river stopping everywhere (10 baht), as well as plenty of tourist boats and river cruises.



Where we ate:

I can't remember the names of most places (as this was nearly 4 years ago), but one restaurant in particular I do remember was called Cabbages & Condoms- and it was recommended by our hotel. It was excellent and a very unique experience!
There were sculptures made out of condoms- but it was still a nice place! We sat in a lovely outdoor garden area filled with pretty fairy lights and the food was all fresh and delicious.
The best part was the incredibly cheap prices. We had a three-course meal each plus cocktails and I remember it only cost us around $20 NZD in total- I couldn't believe it!



Our entrees

We did a mixture of eating at places recommended by Trip Advisor as well as eating at local mall food courts, pop-up restaurants on the street and of course eating street food!
I absolutely loved the Thai food so that gets a whole category to itself!:


Thai food you must try!
You simply cannot go to Thailand without trying the following:

Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles)
Gaeng Daeng (Red curry)
Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Green curry)
Tom Kah Kai (Chicken in coconut soup)
Mango sticky rice (sweet coconut rice with fresh mango)
Tom Yum Goong (Spicy shrimp soup)
Khao Pad (fried rice)




Travel Tips


Scams
As mentioned always agree on a price before getting in a TukTuk and make sure the Taxi is metred.
If the driver asks to take you to a 'special place' that not many tourists know about- say no thanks. Many drivers get paid a commission if they take you to certain places such as jewellery and suit-making stores.
Be aware of pickpockets and keep your belongings close to you.

Respect the culture
Don't touch a Thai person on the head, it is sacred to them. Don't kiss in public.
Try not to raise your voice and get angry- the Thai are very placid people. A smile will get you a long way.
Shoulders and knees must be covered to visit and enter the temples.

Enjoy the food and beer
It will be better than you expect. You haven't really tried Thai food until you get to Thailand! It is abundant, high quality and astoundingly cheap. But to avoid certain stomach upsets- eat where there are crowds and if you see locals eating there. A faster turnover means fresher food.
It's the original home of pop-up restaurants. Every night the footpaths of Bangkok's major thoroughfares become pop-up dining rooms as food vendors set up shop, complete with plastic tables and rickety stools. Do as the locals do and join the budget feast.
Enjoy the cheap local beer. Be aware that Singha is 6% and Chang a whopping 7%.

Enjoy the shopping
Shopping along with eating are two national pass-times! There are at least 25 new malls under construction in Bangkok alone. Get some relief from the heat and enjoy the air conditioning and reasonable prices.
From the markets you will find a lot of fakes and knock-offs, but there are plenty of well-priced authentic brands in the malls.
Make sure you barter in the markets- the first price you're quoted should come down by at least a third.

Bathrooms
Always carry hand sanitizer and tissues with you everywhere. The majority of public toilets do not provide toilet paper or soap. Also public toilets are quite rare, so use them when you can at meal breaks- in restaurants and bars, and you can find them at the larger malls.

Water
Drink only bottled water as well as brush your teeth with it. You can buy them for very cheap so stock up with as many litres as you can when you first arrive and have a smaller bottle to refill when you go out and about. Stay hydrated as it is a very hot and humid city year round.

Traffic
To be honest the traffic is pretty terrible and dangerous. Thailand has a horrifying road safety record- with 80 lives lost every day. They pretty much don't abide by any road rules and first in first served! So be careful. Definitely do not cross a road without using a safety crossing or traffic lights.

Get Vaccinated
It is extremely advised to be vaccinated before going to Thailand. Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid are common boosters. You can get these done by your doctor.
Also it's a good idea to pack insect repellent with you to avoid pesky mosquito bites.



Final Thoughts:

I saw things that shocked me to my core. I saw things that even made me cry (I was pretty young back then!). But that didn't stop me from enjoying my trip.
If you are travelling there for the first time yourself and you've never been somewhere like it before- just realise that it is very much a poor country and there is a lot of poverty on the streets- many homeless people, beggars and uh... limbless people, babies on the ground only lying on newspapers... I could go on.
But even so I have never met a more genuinely smiley and happy people. I was blown away by their beautiful culture and kindness towards us tourists.
I never had any trouble or concerns with safety issues.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and Bangkok is forever etched in my memory as the discovery of my desire to travel to far and wide places of the earth, and I am so grateful to have been able to experience Thailand and all of its differences.



Bangkok is the gateway to the rest of Thailand and to be honest my next destination after that- Chiang Mai- I loved twice as much.
Stay tuned for my Chiang Mai and then Koh Samui post coming soon!

Thanks for reading, do leave me a comment if you are planning on going to Bangkok soon or if you have any other tips and recommendations to add!


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