12 Pro Tips for Travelling South East Asia: Before You Go & When You Arrive

We have put together 12 pro tips for travelling to South East Asia including 6 pro tips for before you go and 6 pro tips for when you arrive. These are a few key things we wish we had known prior to our first trip to South East Asia and now, after countless trips to this incredible side of the world, we feel these are something every first-time traveller should know.

Before You Go

1. Pack Light 

When travelling to South East Asian countries, the weather will be HOT so the last thing you want to be doing is carrying around a huge backpack/suitcase packed with expensive clothes you probably won’t end up wearing anyway. In Asia, clothes are super cheap, which means you can pick up vests, t-shirts, shorts, dresses etc. for the equivalent of a couple of pound. They are often lightweight too, which makes them perfect for the local weather. Plus, you won’t have to worry about losing or ruining these clothes as they can easily be replaced. However, the sizes are often pretty small so make sure you try the first few items on to get a feel for the size that you need and make sure you are comfortable wearing them before buying lots of items. 

2. Don’t Over Plan 

One of the great things about travelling is all the people you will meet along the road who will open your eyes to places you might not have even considered before. Therefore, although it’s good to have a rough plan on places you want to go and things you want to see, leaving a bit of wiggle room for a change of plans and spontaneity could lead to the experience of a life time. When we travelled to Bali, Indonesia, for the first time, it was only when we arrived that we found out about the beautiful Gili Islands. As we had already booked our flight out of Bali and are next accommodation, we could only squeeze in a one day excursion to the islands! We did return the next year though…check out our photo highlights here.  

3. Get Travel Insurance 

A wise man always travels with insurance. No matter how long or short the trip, having the right cover is as much of an essential as accommodation. There are many factors to consider including which destinations you plan to travel to, what activities you plan on doing, and how long you plan on travelling for. Therefore, ensure you provide as much accurate information as possible when deciding on your insurance. Our go-to site is compare the market as it makes it super easy to compare between various travel insurance providers to ensure you get the right cover. 

4. Get Relevant Vaccinations 

Depending on what you plan to do and where you plan to go when you arrive in South East Asia will determine which vaccinations you will need. For example, if you plan to spend a lot of time in Thailand’s jungle, you will likely need malaria prevention, among many others. However, if you plan on staying in the inner city, this likely won’t be a requirement. Prior to travelling, ensure you visit your local doctor and provide as much information as you can with regard to your travel plans as this will ensure you get the vaccinations you need. If you are unsure whether you will visit the jungle but it’s a possibility, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get the vaccination anyway. That way, you won’t have to miss out on any spontaneous trips for these reasons. 

5. Have Some Local Currency 

It’s always handy to have some of the local currency when arriving in a new country so you can grab essentials such as transport to your hotel and food and drinks. Plus, it might take some time to find a local currency exchange so having enough cash to get you through a day or two is recommended. It might be a good idea to change extra cash as you need it so that you are not travelling with lots of money on your persons. This can be more secure and should you lose your cash, you will always have a back-up with the money in your bank. Plus, you can often get better rates when exchanging cash locally in South East Asian countries.  

6. Get to Know the Visa Requirements 

Each destination you visit will likely have different visa requirements and it’s important you are aware of the regulations before you arrive. Often countries require you to have the visa in place before you arrive at the airport, while others (e.g. Thailand, Indonesia) allow you to complete a short form when you arrive at the airport and get your visa upon arrival. This is often for short stays (e.g. 1-3 months), however, it always depends on the country that your passport was issued, so it’s really important that you check out the guidelines on the country’s official government website in advance of visiting to ensure you have the correct documentation in place. 

 

When You Arrive

1. Educate Yourself on the Local Culture and Respect It 

South East Asia is beaming with culture that is very different to what you may be used to, specially if you are travelling from Western countries such as the UK, Europe or America. It’s important that we remain with respect when visiting these countries and particularly when visiting religious monuments such as temples and statues. Educate yourself on the local culture prior to arrival and then practice it when you are at the destination. There is plenty of information available on official government websites and travel blogs so you shouldn’t go short on places to find reliable information.

2. Agree a Taxi Price before You Get In  

It’s always best to agree a taxi price before you get in the taxi and specially before you arrive at your location to ensure you get the best and most accurate price for the trip. Not all taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travellers, but just like in many other countries around the world, there is the possibility that this could happen in South East Asia. Therefore, we recommend agreeing a price before you set off on your journey and ensuring you are aware of the local conversion rate would help too. 

3. Always Pay for an Air Conditioned Room 

Although South East Asia has its storms and wet weather, it is renowned for its intense heat and humidity, something we from the UK might not be all too familiar with. It remains hot at night too, so make sure the room you are staying in is well air conditioned (and that the air conditioning actually works, well!), otherwise you could be in for a rather uncomfortable night, which could impede on your plans the next day if you end up super tired from lack of sleep. 

4. Learn How to Bargain for a Good Price  

Bargaining for the best price in Asia is expected, specially in the local markets – it’s part of the South East Asian culture. Therefore, you should become comfortable with haggling and never accept the first price offered by the seller. They know the price is too high and they expect you to try and get a better price. A rule of thumb is that you should pay around half the original price offered by the seller. But, it’s always wise to shop around and see what others are asking for the same item, then you can price compare and make a confident purchase decision. 

5. If You Rent a Scooter, Ensure You Take Pictures of it Before You Leave  

It’s great fun renting a scooter in South East Asia. You can easily explore the wonderful places at your own leisure and get off the beaten track to seek out quiet beaches and local bars and eateries. The price isn’t too bad either and for the equivalent of a couple of UK£/US$ per day (this varies depending on location), you can often take the scooter wherever you want, just as long as you bring it back in the same condition as when you rented it. Because you often have to provide your passport and hotel details, we highly recommend taking pictures of the scooter outside the rental place before you leave. That way, the existing damages are evident so you can’t be accused or charged for something that you didn’t do. Always lock the scooter up outside your hotel or when going for food and drinks because if it gets stolen, it’s your responsibility. Also, if you do plan on hiring a scooter, quad bike or car for example, ensure you have an international drivers license as its against the law to drive without one in South East Asia and your travel insurance won’t cover you. 

6. Ensure You Have Evidence of Onward Travel 

If you have a 30 days visa, you will be expected to provide evidence of your onward travel after the last date so although it’s always good to plan loosely not precisely, it’s always best to have some form of transport arranged for your exit from that specific country. Failing to do so might result in you being restricted access from entering the country or leaving the country you are already in to travel to the country you are aiming to go to. For example, you might be restricted from leaving Australia to get to Indonesia if your visa in Indonesia is 30 days and you don’t have proof of onward travel from Indonesia after the 30 day period. 

Have you got any more tips that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below and we will add them on, with credit to yourself and your blog!

6 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Tokyo for the First Time

Tokyo is one of the most exciting cities in the world where you can enjoy unique and unforgettable experiences. From seeing the largest Mountain in Japan to exploring the city by Mario Go Kart, you won’t go short of fun things to do in this exciting city.

However, there are many things first time visitors need to be aware of when visiting Japan’s capital for the first time from correct etiquette when out in public places to avoiding disappointment when visiting top attractions. Spending a bit of time planning your trip before you go can ensure you have a more satisfactory trip and get to see and do all the things you planned to.

Having learned the hard way during our first visit to Tokyo, we want to ensure you don’t experience the same pitfalls as we did. Therefore, we have compiled our list of 6 things you should know before visiting Tokyo for the first time. This includes how to behave in public areas, using public transport (including getting to and from the both Narita and Haneda airport), the best times to see cherry blossoms, how to ensure you are equipped to experience one of the top tours in Tokyo (Mario Go Kart), and finally, having realistic expectations of Mount. Fuji.

1. Be Aware of How to Behave in Public Areas

Japan is a country where respect is everything so as a tourist you should respect this rule and ensure you are aware of the basic manners, behaviours and etiquette to abide by when visiting this part of the world. A few basics that we learned the hard way where to cover up tattoos in public, keep a low voice (i.e. no shouting) in public areas, and do not eat or drink in the street or on public transport.

A word on tattoos: When awaiting the check-in time for our hotel after a sleepless night of travelling from Hong Kong, we visited another hotel to laze about by the outdoor pool. Upon arrival, we were kindly informed that Brett couldn’t go in unless he covered up his entire forearm tattoo. We then had to leave the hotel to seek out a local pharmacy where we purchased a cover up for his arm that was suitable for swimming. In order to avoid being in this situation, make sure you cover up any tattoos when visiting public areas and this includes both small and large tattoos.

Keep a low tone when out in public: Being quiet when out in Japan is also a must so make sure you don’t raise your voice as this may seem aggressive or disrespectful and could land you in some trouble. Even if you are simply expressing excitement, ensure this is in a soft and quiet manner.

Tipping isn’t expected: Although in many European and American countries it’s often polite to provide a tip to hospitality staff as restaurants, taxi drivers or your hotel, for example, it’s quite the opposite in Japan. Tipping is often not expected given that the Japanese believe that good service is the standard and attempting to provide a tip may result in your it being refused and handed back to you.

If you insist on tipping, it’s recommended that you place the money in an envelope to hand it over, rather than pulling money directly from your pocket or purse. However, given that tipping is not expected by the Japanese, it can be more polite to not provide a tip and just express your gratefulness for a great service by thanking the employees and keeping your money to yourself.

Additional points to consider: Other things to consider which might seem disrespectful are pointing with your finger, staring at locals, being on the phone in public, blowing your nose in public (make sure you go the toilet for this) and counting change when you have made a cash payment. Overall, ensure you read around Japanese etiquette before visiting the country to avoid upsetting the locals and if you take anything from this post, remember that quietness and respect go a long way in this country.

2. Using Public Transport in Japan

The Japanese public transport network is known for being clean, reliable, and offering an excellent, efficient service. As with most major cities, visitors are provided the option of bus, subway or train with the subway being the most convenient and preferred way to get around the city (including ours). You can buy multi-day tickets that can be used throughout 1-3 days costing around 800-1500 Yen (approx. £6-£12), which can be more convenient and save you time each day.

Although the underground system isn’t the easiest to understand given the vast size of the metropolitan area, taking taxis can be timely (given the inner-city traffic) and costly, so it could pay off in the long run to try your best at getting to grips with the underground system.

Granted, the subway can be even trickier for foreigners who don’t understand the local language given that there the majority of signs etc. are in Japanese. However, bear in mind that the locals are often more than happy to help and you could always ask the ticket staff although a high level of English language isn’t guaranteed so getting to know a few basics of the local language could go a long way. Alternatively, Google Translate could be your new best friend.

3. Pre-book Airport Transfer or Take Public Transport

During our first trip to Tokyo, we arrived at Haneda Airport during the early hours of the morning so public transport was limited. We joined the orderly taxi queue and as we were surviving on no sleep, we didn’t even realise we had been bundled into a local black cab (i.e. the more expensive taxi!). It wasn’t until 15 minutes into the journey, Brett noticed the metre quickly growing and when we finally arrived at our hotel around 25 minutes later we were blown away by the fee, which was the equivalent to more than 32,000 Yen (approx. £250)!

For just a short 25 minute journey, we paid the equivalent to more than one nights stay in our hotel. We quickly learned that getting around by taxi was not the most economic mode of transport to say the least. For the rest of our time in Tokyo, we walked and took the subway.

However, when leaving Tokyo and travelling to Indonesia on an early morning flight, we decided to take the train rather than pay 38,500 Yen (approx. £300) for a taxi as quoted by our hotel. We caught the subway to central Tokyo and after some running around we eventually found the platform where the first airport train was due to arrive. The JR Narita Express takes around one hour to reach the airport and costs around 3000 Yen (approx. £24) one-way with departures every 30-60 minutes.

When the train stopped, we were informed that we couldn’t board with the tickets we had purchased as the JR Narita Express is reservation only so pre-booked seats are required. We were then challenged with running back to the ticket office to purchase the correct tickets and overall it was a lot of fuss and unnecessary stress that could have been avoided had we planned our trip more carefully and known this vital information.

So when you are visiting Tokyo, make sure you have either pre-arranged airport transfer or ensure your flight lands during the hours that public transport is operating to avoid a hefty taxi fee like we did.

Also, if you travel by train, make sure you pre-book your seats. We recommend doing this online or have your hotel book it for you as trying to achieve this at the various train stations like we did could result in a lot of lost time and money and a lot of stress in fear of missed flights!

4. Realistic Expectations of Mount. Fuji Tour

One of the main attractions for people visiting Tokyo is to take a day excursion to see the wonderful Mount. Fuji (or Fuji-san in Japanese), Japan’s highest and most prominent mountain standing at a staggering 3,776 metres high. Located around 60 miles west of the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area, Mount. Fuji attracts over 250,000 visitors per year.

Although it has remained dormant since its last eruption in 1707, geologists still classify it as an active volcano. There are many options for experiencing the mountain and visitors can opt to climb or take a full or half day tour by bullet train or cruise/bus tour. Check out Get Your Guide for more specific options and pricing, which varies from £50 upwards (approx. 6,500 Yen) and the option to add on extra activities such as shopping or fruit picking. You can also book tours locally while in Tokyo, which we recommend based on our experience below.

The mountain is best viewed from afar, so during our stay we aimed to book on a full day tour to experience the views of Mount. Fuji and the surrounding areas including shrines, hot spring towns and Lake Kawaguchi and Oshino Hakkai. However, when we headed to a local tour operator to book our day excursion, we were kindly informed that even on the clearest of days, the visibility of the mountain is limited.

During our stay, we hadn’t experienced the best weather in Tokyo but it had brightened up in the 24 hours prior to our visit and us aiming to book a tour. However, the forecast wasn’t that great so the tour operator suggested for us to not waste our money on the tour that would have cost us more than 25,000 Yen (approx. £200).

So if you plan on visiting Mount. Fuji during your trip to Tokyo, it’s recommended that you visit from Autumn to Winter. It’s visible from the capital on some days between November and February and rarely between April and August with September being Typhoon season, so again visibility is low.

We will be heading back to see the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site in the future, this time with better planning!

5. International License Required for Mario Go Kart City Tour

One of the most exciting and popular tours in Tokyo is the Mario Go Kart city tour, a real-life Mario Kart experience. It’s exactly as it sounds, you dress as your favourite comic such as Mario or Luigi and explore the city by Go Kart for between two and four hours.

The tours are led by a local guide and you will get to see top attractions such as Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing and Rainbow Bridge, among many others. You can even hire an action camera to record your entire journey, all you have to do is bring or buy your own SD card. The Karts are also equipped with Bluetooth speakers so you can enjoy your own music while exploring the city in the most exciting way.

Prices start from around 8,500 Yen (approx. £66) and vary depending on which of the three tours you decide to take and you can also access reduced-rate tickets via Voyagin. There are also a few things to consider prior to your tour with the most important being the correct drivers license.

Given that the Go-Kart experience takes place on the roads, it’s important that you have one of the following drivers licenses depending on your country of origin:

  1. A full Japanese Driver’s license
  2. SOFA driving license for US Forces Japan
  3. Passport with forieng driving license (issued in Switzerland, Germany, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Solvenia or Monaco) with Japanese translation by authorised organisation
  4. Passport with an international driving permit (issued by a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention)

It’s best to make sure you have the correct license prior to visiting in order to ensure you can take part in this exciting tour during your visit. For further information, click here.

6. Cherry Blossom Blooming Dates are Short and Sweet

When absorbed in the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced city life, it’s always nice to escape into nature for a while, which is why we always seek out parks and gardens on city breaks. During our visit to Tokyo, we visited Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (featured in our 15 Photos that Will Make You Want to Visit Tokyo), which is one of the capital’s largest and most popular parks.

The gardens are conveniently located just a short walk from Shinjuku station and you just pay a small fee of 500 Yen upon entering through Shinjuku Gate. Then, you are free to wander the tranquil scenery and make your way through the many gardens including the Japanese Garden, English Garden and French Garden.

The gardens are one of the best places in the city to see the Cherry Blossoms. However, as we found out during our trip, they are in bloom for a very short period of time so it’s important to plan your visit accordingly if you aim to see them during your visit to Tokyo.

Ensure you double check when they are due to start blooming and plan your visit to coincide with this. Be aware that once they have begun to bloom, they hit full bloom around a week later and a further week later most of the blossoms will have fallen off the trees. This gives you just a two week window to see the wonderful pink cherry blossoms during your visit to Tokyo.

Also, the gardens open at 9am throughout the year, however, the closing hours vary from season to season so make sure you double check this too. High season (July-August) is often as late as 7pm, reducing to 6pm during mid-season (March-June and August-September) and 4.30pm during low season (October-March).

There are so many exciting things to see and do in the ultramodern city of Tokyo. We love this city because it isn’t like any other and you can easily combine exploring national parks and gardens with the hustle and bustle of the city centre. We hope these tips and tricks help planning your trip to this incredible part of the world!

 

5 Activities for a Rainy Day in Ubud, Bali

Bali is well known for its glorious warm weather that attracts lots of visitors from all over the world throughout the year. But, just like similar destinations such as Thailand and the Philippines, it is also prone to tropical thunder storms and heavy downpour, which can come and go quickly, but often they like to stick around for a little while.

On our previous trip to Ubud, Bali, we found ourselves in this very situation. While we had initial excitement experiencing the thunderstorm from our balcony at Ubud View Bungalow, we hadn’t really thought of any activities that didn’t involve being out in the lovely sunshine such as exploring temples, wandering the markets, or simply lazing by the pool.

As the thunderstorm continued overnight and into the morning, we found ourselves pondering on what to do with our days not knowing how many we would have to fill with ‘rainy day’ activities.

After some serious thought and a little research, we managed to compile a list of several fun things we could do while the thunderstorm continued outside.

We quickly figured out that if a thunderstorm calls for anything, its a bit of self-care such as a spa day or yoga class and a bit of indulgence such as enjoying delicious food and drinks.

As the rain continues to pour down here in the UK, this seems like a fitting time to reflect and share our fun rainy day activities with you guys. While the list below is focused on our recommendations in Ubud, you can easily enjoy these or similar rainy day activities in other locations.

1. Take a Yoga Class

Ubud is well known as the ideal retreat for rejuvenation so it comes as no surprise that Yoga is thriving here. There are abundant Yoga retreats and classes available so you won’t be short of a place to practice.

In Ubud, you will be surrounded by lush greenery including jungles and rice paddies, which provides the perfect backdrop and tranquility to relax and unwind.

The Yoga Barn is one of the largest retreat centres in South East Asia and a popular location that provides classes and workshops year-round from early morning to late evening. The Yoga Barn is an artistically crafted studio and retreat centre that captures the true essence of Ubud and the island of Bali.

2. Lunch at The Alchemy

Take advantage of the rainy day weather by filling your tummy with delicious food, which you won’t go short of in Bali!

Our favourite spot here is The Alchemy for sure, which is the first 100% raw vegan cafe in Bali. It provides freshly prepared dishes that are free from refined sugar, flour, dairy, wheat and chemical additives. They offer a wholesome raw and vegan salad bar that serves the best buddha bowls in the area. You will find everything from zucchini pasta and coconut noodles, to raw burgers and curried vegetables.

The real treat here is the juice menu that is full of organic, energising juices, as well as the dessert bar serving mouthwatering raw chocolates, truffles, brownies and more. Situated in-store is the Alchemy’s own health store stocking superfoods, organic produce, and cosmetics for you to take home.

3. Take a Cooking Class with the Locals

Taking a cooking class will allow you to discover exotic Balinese fruits, herbs and spices and their medicinal properties too. Many are hosted by local families who provide private traditional Balinese cooking experiences where you can learn to cook local dishes such as Pepes Ikan and Bregedel.

You can sit back and enjoy the delicious dishes you helped to prepare from the family’s home while learning about life in Bali from people who have grew up there.

Many of these private experiences include extras such as a guided tour around Ubud and even pick-up and drop-off to and from your hotel.

The best part? You’ll be helping to support the local people and economy. TripAdvisor is a great place to find traditional Balinese cooking experiences and its always good to hear stories from others who have experienced it previously.

4. Cook Traditional Balinese Food with Local Produce

Depending on where you are staying you could even take advantage of cooking your own food using local ingredients.

Seek out fresh produce that you might not get back home such as Mongosteen and Durian (fyi, Durian tends to be touch and go due to the strong smell and taste and is often banned from hotels so perhaps only useful if you are in private accommodation).

You could always try your hand at recreating traditional dishes such as Nasi Goreng (rice with vegetables and egg). Brit and The Blonde have compiled a pretty good list of 10 Indonesian Dishes for Vegetarians that we highly recommend checking out.

5. Enjoy a Traditional Balinese Spa Treatment

In Ubud (and throughout Bali for that matter), you won’t go short of a spot to enjoy a spa treatment or two. They are on every corner (literally) and won’t break the bank either. Of course, the price is dependent on where you go for a treatment and which treatment you select, but there really will be something to suit all budgets.

For example, you will likely stumble upon more affordable masseurs as you are walking down the street and will pay a bit more in hotels and high-end spas but still affordable nonetheless.

We always opt for a full body massage and I tie in a facial too (its all about that self-care, right?). But, if the rain continues, why not get nails, hair, and a body scrub too!

After all, you have probably been travelling for some time, you deserve it…

If there is one thing we can guarantee, its that you won’t regret this expenditure as you will be fully relaxed and refreshed.

See, there really is no need to be disappointed when the rain hits in destinations such as Ubud. There are still plenty of activities to do while hiding out from the rain.  Plus, nothing beats the excitement of a tropical thunderstorm.

Our favourite thing is to sit back on the balcony at night (under shelter) with lots of snacks and watch the storm pound down. What are you favourite rainy day activities while travelling?

The Best Historical Sights in Vienna, Austria’s Cultural Capital

Vienna is a city full of culture and intriguing historical structures to explore. The baroque streetscapes are laced with beautiful architecture and imperial palaces are plentiful. With our short guide, we show you how to see the best of the city’s culture, which can be achieved in one long weekend.   

The majority of historical sights, grand architecture, art galleries and museums are located in the Museum Quarter, Museumsplatz, which is one of the largest cultural quarters in the world. Here, you will find abundant museums such as the Natural History Museum, the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and not forgetting the stunning Hofburg Palace.

Below, is our short guide on how to soak up the best of the Viennese culture. You can easily explore the top cultural sights within one long weekend while also having time to indulge in the delicious cuisine. We recommend visiting during the Spring for beautiful weather so you can leisurely stroll around this beautiful city.

City Hall

IMG_1392The City Hall is located in the heart of Vienna in the Rathausplatz in the Innere Stadt district. Originally, the building was designed and built by former architect of the Cathedral of Cologne, Friedrich von Schmidt, and was considered the most important secular building in the neo-gothic style in the city between 1872 and 1883. To date, it is arguably one of the most stunning City Halls in Europe.

The Natural History Museum

IMG_1393The Museum of Natural History covers some square footage and comprises an extensive collection of world-famous and unique objects such as enormous dinosaur skeletons and both land and underwater creatures. It even has its own Digital Planetarium that shows full dome films and you can check out latest screenings here. A tour inside to explore the 39 exhibit halls will take you on a journey through the ages.

IMG_4647The National History Museum offers a great way to spend a long afternoon and we recommend allocating around 2-3 hours to cover the entire museum at leisure. Plus, you can take a short break at the café, which serves traditional Viennese coffee specialities, pastries and traditional snacks as well as main dishes during lunch hours.

Hofburg Palace

Stunning Hofburg, The Imperial Palace, was the residence and seat of government of the Habsburg emperors until 1918. Today, it is home to numerous museums with outstanding collections such as the Spanish Riding School, a congress centre, the seat of the Austrian Federal President as well as the historic Heldenplatz.

The Austrian National Library

The Austrian National Library is the countries largest library and central memory institution. As you can see from the photos, the interior is absolutely stunning and you will be amazed by the historical collections of unique artefacts, manuscripts, photographs, maps and globes.

IMG_4686The library is home to over 3.9 million books and besides attracting lots of international visitors, it is a great meeting place for researchers and students.

St Stephen’s Cathedral

IMG_4575

St Stephens Cathedral is a must for every visitor to Vienna. For more than 700 years, the cathedral has been the symbol of Vienna and today, it remains one of the most important and iconic Gothic structures in Austria. Inside, you can climb the 343 steps up the tower and enjoy breathtaking views of the city.

The National Theatre

Us

The Austrian National Theatre, also known as Burgtheater, is one of Europes largest theatres. Located opposite the City Hall, the venue attracts over 400,000 theatre-goers to over 800 performers each year. The stunning white building with marble features is adorned with statues of famous writers such as Goethe and Schiller. Inside, the theatre provides a great atmosphere for cultural events such as Austrian playwrights. It has a world-wide reputation for dramatic art and is proudly one of the first German-speaking theatres in Europe.

Other beautiful buildings around Vienna

IMG_4601It’s not just the wonderful historical buildings that are now home to museums and art galleries that have the most beautiful architecture, the city is laced with it. Almost every corner you turn will present you with a stunning sight, that’s why we recommend visiting in the spring or summer months so you can enjoy a stroll around the inner streets at leisure.

 

Have you visited Vienna before? We’d love to hear about your trips to one of our favourite European cities!

Where to find the best flight deals to anywhere in the world

Who doesn’t love to save money on flights? If you can get the same economy seat for up to half price less, you would be silly not too, right? Fortunately, there are many businesses out there who have made this process easier by being dedicated to searching thousands of websites each day in order to bring you the best cheap flight deals to locations all over the world.

However, it’s up to you to be savvy with your online search. Don’t just settle for the price provided directly from specific airlines such as Emirates or Qatar without exploring your options first. The websites below draw on thousands, if not millions, of travel websites in order to present you with the best flight deals. Saving money on flights has never been easier!

1. Jacks Flight Club

Jacks Flight Club is one of our favourite websites to find cheap flight deals because they always have the cheapest and most convenient flight deals to great locations such as Los Angeles or Hong Kong. The biggest savings tend to be on long-haul trips where members can save over £400 per ticket. However, they also offer short weekend-trips to destinations such as those in Europe from over 50 airports in the UK.  By scanning both long-haul and budget airline websites, you can rest assured knowing you are getting the best deal of the moment when booking with Jacks Flight Club.

This company have been featured in Lonely Planet and major news channels including The Telegraph and The Independent for their ability to find discounts, hidden offers and error fares. Becoming a member of Jacks Flight Club is easy. Simply sign up to their mailing list for free using the link above and you will receive the latest, exclusive deals twice a week straight to your inbox. They also offer a premium membership for those looking to get up to four times more flight deals and perks than free members.

2. Momondo

Momondo is a global travel search site that compares multiple cheap flights as well as hotel, care hire, and package deals. Although it doesn’t sell these directly, it draws on hundreds of websites to provide you with the best available prices so that you can compare and contrast yourself and book the most suitable one for you. This leaves you in total control of your booking and allows you to see whether flying direct would cost you twice as much as changing flights in transit.

Momondo have been featured in many leading media such as Forbes and have won awards for their work including Best Meta Search Engine and Best Airfare Search, which leaves no doubt that you will find great deals through this website. The site is free to use and will always lead you to the company selling the best deal, rather than booking direct through Momondo.

3. Cheap Flights

Cheap Flights is owned by Kayak and although it doesn’t sell flights directly similar to Momondo, it provides a platform that brings together great flight, hotel, and package deals from various travel agents all into one website. You can often find bargains on here including last minute cheap flights. Make sure you sign up to their mailing list to receive offers straight to your inbox to make sure you don’t miss out on the top steals.

4. Air Fare Watch Dog

Air Fare Watch Dog is good at finding airfare errors, that is, when an airline or travel agent accidentally lists a pricing mistake, which leads to them selling the ticket at a significantly lower rate than it’s worth. The mistake fare could be for a number of reasons such as currency conversion mistake, computer glitch, human error, or fuel surcharges. The trick is to find the error before the airline realises its been wrongly advertised.

Air Fare Watch Dog look for the best route including shorter flight times, limited stopovers, and top routes. They do this by searching thousands of routes, airlines, and hotels to find the best available deals at that time. Flight prices always change within minutes or hours, so it’s important to sign up to their mail list to receive instant alerts when they do so. If you see an absolute bargain, be sure to snap it up there and then otherwise you could miss out on the deal of a lifetime, and this goes for all the websites listed here.

5. Kiwi

Kiwi combines the prices from all airlines for your selected route and dates so you can easily compare and contrast the best deals. Because they look at alternative routes, such as indirect flights with multiple airlines, you can often find much cheaper deals than flying with just one specific airline. You can also download their mobile application so its easy to check for cheap flights while on the road.

Using these websites can help save you a fortune in the long run, especially if you are an avid traveller or on a year-long trip around the world. Just think how else you could spend those hundreds of pounds you have saved just by taking a little extra time to conduct more than one flight search…

How to change your hotel booking after ‘late cancellation’

Plans change. People can’t always make it, some get sick, flights get cancelled or delayed, and sometimes we just want to spend a little longer in the paradise we are in before we move on to our next destination. That’s what we call life! Life is unpredictable and especially when traveling, plans can (and sometimes have to) change, but that’s ok!

Unfortunately, when making online hotel bookings it’s not always possible to make changes free of charge after a specific date, particularly when booking via online booking agents such as Booking.com, Kayak, Hotels.com etc. This date can be anything from a few weeks prior up until the night before your anticipated arrival. Often when you try to cancel or modify your booking after this date via the company website, you will be informed that you cannot make changes at this point and in case of a no show (i.e. you don’t turn up) you will be charged the entire hotel fee.

We have found ourselves in this situation many times in various destinations and we are sure you have/will at some point in your lifetime too. Previously, we have taken it as a loss of finances believing that nothing can be done about the situation and the companies involved won’t understand/care or alter their ‘policies’ for one booking. After all, both the hotel and booking agent are running businesses and if the cancellation is too late the hotel likely won’t be able to fill that room meaning it’s either their loss or yours.

Here’s an example. When flying to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, from Bali, Indonesia, our flight was delayed due to volcanic ash clouds so we couldn’t leave the island for another few days. In KL, we had booked a luxury hotel for Brett’s birthday celebrations and already the date had passed for free cancellation. Rather than contacting the hotel and explaining our situation, we just took it as a loss of finances and was charged the full amount for the 4 night stay. This has happened numerous times including recently, which motivated this post as I found myself in this predicament again and was just certain there must be something we can do about it this time.

Recently, my sister and I planned to hike Snowdon at 1am on Summer Solstice to enjoy the sunrise views from atop the 1,000 metre high mountain at around 5.30am. Given that it’s the highest mountain in Wales and would have been my first night time hike, we trained moderately (I would like to say extensively but that would be a lie!), and went on as many walks as we could in the three months prior.

Anyway, one week before our anticipated hike I returned from a week long conference trip to Munich, Germany (you may have seen a few highlights on our Instagram @travellinguru_). I felt fine and hopped back into my daily routine of work, gym, yoga, until three days before the day we were due to hike, I became awfully rundown with flu-like symptoms.

Ever the optimist and not one for being beat by illness, I left it right until the night before we were due to leave for Snowdon until I admitted defeat. How could I hike the highest mountain in Wales when I couldn’t even walk upstairs without feeling breathless? Unfortunately, the date had passed where we could modify our booking free of charge so we were challenged with either paying the full amount or trying our luck to change the booking.

We tried our luck and got lucky! I want to share with you just how we did it because it’s super easy and to be honest, I was so surprised it worked because as I mentioned earlier, we thought policies were policies!

If you find yourself in the same situation, try following these three simple steps to change your hotel booking after the agreed modification date has passed when booked via a booking agent.

1. Contact the hotel

First, you need to contact the hotel and explain your situation. It is often better to contact them via telephone as you are almost guaranteed a response whereas emails can get passed on from employee to employee and often disregarded. For us, we explained how we would kindly like to request to change from a family room accommodating three people to a twin room accommodating two people as one of our group have fallen sick last minute and therefore cannot make the trip. It seemed silly to pay a 1/3 of a £200 per night hotel when I wasn’t even there!

Essentially, the conversation you have here will determine whether you continue to the next step as it really is up to the hotel whether they will honour your request or not. You may wish to express your concerns with the manager as they will have more power over the decision. Often hotels can be more understanding than you might initially think so it is always good to contact them and discuss your options. If the hotel agrees, move to step two.

2. Contact the booking agent

If you have booked your hotel through a third party such as Booking.com, Kayak, or Hotels.com, the hotel will likely inform you that it is your responsibility to arrange with the booking agent to make official changes to the booking. In this case, the booking agent could potentially charge an admin fee, but this will depend on the company policy.

Again, contacting via telephone is best and often the only way to get in contact with these kind of companies. You might be able to use an online chat room on the company website. However, this could delay the process and will likely lead you to phoning an actual human being to clarify the details later on. At this point, make sure you have your booking details to hand including your confirmation number, pin code (if appropriate e.g. on Booking.com), contact details of the person who made the booking (including name, address, email and contact number), and details of the modifications you want to make (e.g. date, room size etc.).

Confirm with the booking agent that the hotel have agreed to alter your booking, however, they requested that the booking agent officially makes these changes and resends the booking confirmation to you and the hotel with the new details. At this stage, any admin fees and change in price will be calculated and should be clearly discussed before confirming the new arrangements.

3. Booking agent confirms with hotel

The booking agent will then contact the hotel to confirm that the hotel have agreed to allow these changes. If you are speaking on the phone to the booking agent, you will likely be put on hold while they contact the hotel. However, if they cannot reach them at that moment, they will send an email with the details to the hotel and you will have to wait for the response via email.

If contact is successful, the booking agent should confirm this and you should be sent a new booking confirmation via email with the modified booking details including change of date/price etc. where applicable.

If contact is unsuccessful and you are still waiting for the email after 24 hours, it might be best to follow the process again and see whether it has been confirmed. It might be that the hotel have disregarded or forgotten about the email so it is best to have the booking agent try again.

Also, make sure you change the booking before you check in because once you’ve checked in, it makes it a lot more difficult to modify your booking, especially if you have paid upon arrival.

Although you might not be successful each time you wish to modify a booking past the agreed date, it’s certainly worth a try given that policies and people are different from once place to the next. If you can potentially save some money while on your travels, it’s certainly worth a shot, right? We will definitely be using this method on our future travels.

How to See the Best of The Lake District in One Long Weekend

Located in North West England, The Lake District National Park is one of the most stunning locations in the UK.  Here, you will find vast lakes, quaint villages and mountainous scenery and with that there are plenty activities and delicious eateries suitable for all the family. Having lived here for over ten years, we were super excited to put this mini guide together which allows you to see the best of the Lakes in one long weekend.

The Lakes is great to visit all year round. With its stunning landscapes, it really is beautiful come snow, rain or sun. However, the best time to visit the Lakes is dependent on the activities you want to take part in. Of course, the sunny weather is never guaranteed and especially in the lakes which is famous for its yearly downpours and floods.

Nevertheless, if you would like to do plenty of outdoor activities without the rain, plan your trip between April and September. If you enjoy the snow, your looking at January to March. Any other cold weather one might wish for, visit between October to December. This year, the weather has begun to look up over the Easter break with the mini heat wave so perhaps this is a great time to plan your future visits earlier on in the year too!

Day 1: Arrive in Ambleside 

There are many great places to stay around the lake district and South Lakes in particular. Ambleside is a great mid point where you can easily reach the main tourist areas including Grasmere, Keswick, Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere. There are many B&Bs, high-end hotels, budget hostels (e.g. YHA), static caravans, holiday homes and AirBnBs. If you fancy something a bit different, you can also find quirky accommodation such as sleeping pods and tipis, which can be a bit more affordable compared to the B&Bs and hotels depending on the time of year you visit.

Once you have settled into your accommodation, it’s time to boost your energy for the afternoon ahead. There are many great eateries around Ambleside including Zefferelis offering quality vegetarian cuisine at affordable prices. On the lunch menu, you can find filled jacket potatoes, goats cheese bruschetta, nut roast salad, sharing platters, sandwiches and a selection of other Mediterranean style dishes. 

If you are not keen on vegetarian food, you can find tasty pub grub at The White Lion. You could even grab a take-out sandwich, salad box or pastry from The Picnic Box or try the best Fish and Chips in town from Walnut Fish and Chip Shop opposite Zeffirelli’s. During the summer time, you can enjoy your take-out food in Rothay Park on Vicarage Road or Boran’s Park on MacIver Lane. Both parks are reachable by foot from Ambleside Town. 

After you have re-fuelled, it’s time for your first taste of the outdoors. From Ambleside town, head to Stockghyll force, which is just behind The Salutation Hotel & Spa, for a short and sweet walk around the waterfalls. The walk is suitable for most abilities and you can enjoy the 70 foot waterfall from the viewpoint. Once you arrive back in Ambleside, there are some lovely shops to explore such as the Rock Shop and Silver Moon on North Road. 

Take a break to refresh at your hotel and get ready for dinner. There are some great spots around Ambleside including The Lily and Lucy’s on a Plate, which are perfect for couples. Ghandi’s Café has a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options and is great for all the family. Zefferelis offer dinner and movie deals, which is worth checking out if you want to make an evening of it. 

The Log House offers fine dining and can be a bit more expensive. Towards the edge of town you will find one of the best spots, Wateredge Inn, offering delicious food from day to night at The Bar and Grill restaurant. Here, you can sit out in the garden which overlooks Lake Windermere, while indulging on locally sourced foods. 

Day 2: Take a Road Trip to Grasmere and Keswick 

From Ambleside you can easily reach Grasmere within 15 minutes. Grasmere is one of Cumbria’s most popular villages due to its link with William Wordsworth who lived in Dove Cottage with his sister Dorothy from 1799-1808. Having lived a stones throw away from the cottage for over five years, we can say it’s very popular with tourists to say the least! Many flock here throughout the year on coach tours to visit the place where Wordsworth composed some of his most famous and  best-loved poems and Dorothy kept her famous Grasmere journals.

Dove cottage dates back to the early 17th century while many other buildings in Grasmere date back to the 19th or early 20th century except for the Church  which is from the 13th century. Nowadays, gift shops and cafés are plentiful and the village provides the perfect location for a leisurely stroll around the shops. Here, you can grab a delicious lunch at Heidi’s Café or enjoy a hearty meal at Tweedies. Afterwards is the perfect time to enjoy a walk around Grasmere Lake.

From Grasmere, you can continue on the A591 to Keswick, which will take around 20 minutes. The drive to Keswick is one of the most stunning where you will be greeted with views of Thirlmere reservoir as you drop down the pass at Dunmail Raise. Before you arrive in the centre of Keswick, take a short detour to the stone circle at Castlerigg. Constructed as a part of the megalithic tradition, which lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages, the stone circle is one of few stone circles in Britain. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful setting, which overlooks Thirlmere Valley with a backdrop of mountains including High Seat and Helvellyn.

Once you arrive in Keswick, you can wander around the quaint town and visit Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, which offers varied collections that feature Keswick’s landscape, history and culture. Located just a 15 minute leisurely stroll from Keswick town centre is Derwent Water, a 3 mile long, 1 mile wide, 72 feet deep water body known as “Keswicks Lake”. Here, you enjoy a scenic walk around the water on flat and easy paths. If you fancy a hike, Cat Bells is within three miles of the town of Keswick and is situated on the western shore of Derwent Water. At 451 metres high, Cat Bells is not for the faint hearted but will reward those who climb it with stunning views at the top. Once back in the village, re-fuel at one of the many eateries in Keswick town such as The Italian Casa Bella or the Wainwright Pub for local pub grub.

Day 3: Visit the Nearby Towns of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere

Windermere is just a short 15 minute drive from Ambleside and is a small town just over a mile from the lake shore. From here, you can reach Bowness-on-Windermere, which is one of the busiest towns along the shoreline where you will find the main jetties for cruise boats. Windermere Lake is 10.5 miles long, one mile wide, 220 feat deep and is the largest natural lake in both the Lake District and in England.

The lake cruises allow you to spend anywhere from 45 minutes to a full day on the water, which is for sure the best way to take in the stunning Lakeland views. The voyage will provide you with views of the mountainous scenery, secluded bays and woodland areas. You can even add on attractions such as the Lakes Aquarium, Steam Train or the Lakeland Motor Museum.

If you are feeling more adventurous, you can even hire your own row or motor boat or try your hand at kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding at Brockhole or Low Wood Bay, which are both located between Ambleside and Windermere. Low Wood Bay also features a café open to all with one of the best views in the Lakes. Alternatively, there are many places to hire a bike where you can explore the woodland areas or take to the road, or simply grab an ice-cream and take a stroll down the bay at Bowness while enjoying the scenery.

After a fun-packed day its time for some food and Windermere and Bowness do not disappoint when it comes to delicious eateries. Located in Windermere town, Bodega offers a lively atmosphere where you can enjoy cocktails and traditional Spanish tapas, which is perfect for couples and groups. Similarly, located in the heart of Windermere in one of the towns most historic buildings, Brown Sugar offers the perfect location for relaxed dining and drinks.

For local seasonal produce down in Bowness, head to The Angel Inn, a restaurant welcoming of all the family including the dog. Enjoy a variety of dishes from steak and lentil chilli to burgers, curry and pizza. Alternatively, The Flying Pig is a traditional pub  situated a stones throw from Lake Windermere where you can enjoy high quality, fresh food at a good price while sipping on local ale. If you fancy a few drinks afterwards, The Fizzy Tarté cocktail bar serves some of the best cocktails in the Lakes.

The heart of the Lake District really does have something for everyone. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or you simply want a weekend of relaxation, you will be sure to find it here in the beautiful Lakes.

 

Southern Thailand Culture in Photos: From Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands

Located in the southern province of Thailand, Phuket is home to many of the world’s finest beaches and is beaming with culture. It is a gateway to the nearby tropical islands including the famous Phi Phi islands and is a must-visit destination in Southern Thailand. 

Phuket is home to the famous Big Buddha statue. Built in 2004, the statue’s whole body is constructed with reinforced concrete and layered with beautiful Burmese white jade marble, which glistens under the hot sun.
The Big Buddha is located on the highest point in Phuket and is a great spot to to enjoy views over Phuket Town, Chalong Bay, Rawai and Andaman Archipelago. The surrounding atmosphere is peaceful and the views are breathtaking.
Nearby, you will find a smaller Buddha statue and although it is gold in colour, it is actually made of brass.
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A great way to explore Phuket’s coastline is by Quad Biking adventure tour with prices starting from 700THB including a 1-2 hour tour and pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.

 

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The tour allows you to ride your own quad bike to various view points, stopping off as you go to take photos and admire the scenery.
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Phuket’s south coast features over 30 stunning beaches including some of the most popular beaches in Thailand such as Patong Bay, Kata, Karon and Kamala.
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The quad bike tours often include a short 20-minute ride through the jungle, which is not for the faint hearted. Don’t forget your sun cream and ensure you have had your vaccinations prior to travel if this is something you would like to do.

 

 

From Phuket, you can easily hop over to the idyllic islands of Koh Phi Phi. The six islands are approximately 46km from Phuket and Krabi and  offer the perfect island retreat to relax and unwind. 

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To reach the Phi Phi islands from Phuket you can take either a ferry or speedboat. The ferry is the cheapest option and takes around 90 minutes from the main departure and arrival port, Rassada Pier, which is located in Phuket Town.
You can buy tickets at Rassada Pier to Tonsai Pier (featured) for around 800THB. Find the ferry schedule here.
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The Phi Phi Islands are famous for its limestone cliffs, emerald green waters, and white powdery beaches. The culture comprises the various recreational activities such as diving in the forested hills, rock climbing, scuba diving and swimming, and dancing around the campfires at night.
Just like any other island escape, the Phi Phi islands offer a wide range of accommodation from local budget stays to more high-end luxury resorts that mostly grace the coastline. Phi Phi Don is the main island and you can find affordable accommodation such as PP Princess Resort, which offers a range of accommodation to suit many budgets.
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Located right on the beach front, this hotel serves a delicious breakfast and a pool with sea view.
There are many spots to grab a bite to eat with sea view such as Charlie Bar located on the beach front ahead of PP Princess Resort.
It’s easy to keep fit and healthy on the island as smoothies and healthy dishes made with local produce are abundant.

 

From Phi Phi Don, you can explore the nearby islands including Phi Phi Leh, which is home to Maya Bay, famous for its feature in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach”. However, Phi Phi Leh is currently closed while its coral reefs are salvaged as they have been damaged by over tourism.
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Still, you can check out Bamboo Island, Khai, and Yao Yai Islands from Phi Phi Don and there are many local tour operators offering a “Phi Phi Island Tour” inclusive of swimming, sightseeing, and snorkelling around the stunning islands.
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After spending a week or so exploring the Phi Phi Islands, you can easily head to Krabi from here for more stunning beach such as Railay Beach.
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Given that the Phi Phi Islands are now a tourist hotspot in Thailand, you will likely get the chance to meet people from all around the world. The locals are often happy to share their stories and provide you with insights into the history and culture of the island and local life now compared to generations before.

 

5 Fun Activities To Do in Dubai

Now the hot-spot of the UAE and beyond, Dubai is a modern, cosmopolitan city that is packed with something for everyone, from shopping and dining at some of the worlds top restaurants to exploring the desert by 4×4.

The city strives to be the world’s first and best in many things, especially in the area of architecture, and the local people are proud of their country and its development to date. Dubai is home to the world renowned structures including the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The city has been built to be explored and the tour companies in the UAE have not failed in offering exhilarating ways for tourists to explore the cities wonders.

Dubai is the perfect location for a long weekend break in between travelling to Asian/Australasian destinations such as Thailand, Bali, and Australia. Flights with Emirates often stop here for layover anyway, so you can always extend your stay for a couple of nights before continuing your journey. Incorporating Dubai into your trip will not increase your trip costs by much as flights tend to be around the same price whether you fly straight to Asia/Australasia or you stay a few nights in Dubai on-route.

To help you experience the best of Dubai in a long weekend, we have put together 5 of our favourite fun activities to have a go at while you are here.

1. Desert Safari

A desert safari is an opportunity to see the wonder that makes up a large part of the country. There are many tour operators such as Me and My Tourism and Arabian Adventures that offer this tour for around the same price (approx. AED230/£48 per person), so all you need to do is check them out and select one that suits you. The tour begins with a bumpy ride through the sandy terrain, bashing the dunes as you go in a 4×4 vehicle. Provisions are also made for tourists to stay overnight at ‘desert camp’ while being treated to local cuisine and enjoying henna tattoos and traditional entertainment. As part of the trip you can enjoy barbecued shawarma, shisha, belly dance entertainment, falcon handling, and a camel ride around the dunes, although these come at an extra cost to the trip so make sure you take some cash with you.

2. Yellow Boat Tour

The Yellow Boat Tour Company offers a great tour in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi in their famous yellow inflatable boats. The tour provides tourists with the opportunity to see how magnificent the city really is when viewed from the waters. The tour is unique in that the boats are designed to cut through the waves at high-speed and the skippers are not afraid to ramp up the mph across the water.

The company offers general and exclusive tours to families, couples, corporate groups and single tourists. The Dubai tour begins at the marina before heading out to the open waters to take in the sights of the Palm Jumeirah where you can see the perfect view of Palm Jumeirah villas, owned by the rich and famous, as well as the royal family of Dubai. You might even get to see the royals pet tigers roaming the beach front garden. During this trip, you will also see the magnificent Burj Al Arab, the prominent Atlantis hotel and the ‘Miami of Dubai’ – the spectacular skyline that makes up the Dubai Marina.

As well as this guided tour, the Yellow boat company also offers fishing trips on the Arabian Gulf, as well as a variety of water sports. Prices start from AED158 (approx. £32) for a 1 hour Yellow Boat Tour and AED945 (approx. £196) for a 3 hour fishing tour.

3. Jet Ski Tour

Jet skiing has again become a thing in Dubai after the authorities eased on the restriction they previously put on the sport. Nowadays, there are many operators such as Sea Ride Dubai and Ride in Dubai that are ready to guide you on a tour around the island taking a similar route to the Yellow boat company mentioned above. This tour is an exciting way to experience the water and see the landmarks of Dubai. Just like the yellow boat tour, you get to see the towering structures from the sea while handling your own jet ski for an hour on the waters. Prices start from AED350 (approx. £72) for 30 minutes and AED600 (approx. £125) for 1 hour.

4. Dinner Cruise

A dinner cruise in a traditional Dhow converted to a floating restaurant has become a tradition in Dubai. You can have a quiet lunch or a merry dinner with traditional entertainment as the Dhow cruises along the creek or the marina waters. These floating restaurants do not only offer traditional arabic food and parties, they let you see the city in a whole new light at night. Check out Xclusive Yachts and Dhow Dinner Cruise Dubai. Prices vary depending on the company and level of service you book and can range from AED141/£30 – AED242/£60 per person.

5. Shop Like Never Before

Let’s not forget the real deal in Dubai – shop until you drop! Dubai is a popular shopping destination that is only growing year on year following the development of countless shopping malls, including the Mall of the Emirates and the biggest mall in the world today – Dubai Mall. There is nothing you won’t find here and you can even experience the indoor Aquarium and Underwater Zoo (prices start from AED141/£30 per person) where you can admire the fascinating underwater world. Here, you can even experience cage snorkelling and shark diving. Virtual Reality (VR) ZOO (approx. AED30/£6) lets you take a trip to the jungles of Africa and Asia to find jungle animals you might never have seen face to face. The Burj Khalifa is also accessible from the Dubai Mall, but be sure to grab your tickets online as they are much more expensive when you purchase from the box office within the mall. Online, prices start from AED141  (approx. £30) per adult and AED106 (approx. £22) for children and you will pay slightly more to access the higher levels. Also, make sure you are plan your trip within the opening hours (8.30-14.30 and then 19.00 until closing).

There are so many fun activities to do in Dubai and here we have listed our top five. As always, we recommend searching around for the best service with a competitive price. Booking online can often save you 10% off the entire booking so its always best to compare a few companies and check the online price before booking with your hotel or direct with a travel agent when you are in the city.

Top 5 Cultural Experiences in Ubud, Bali

Ubud is the heart of Balinese culture.

Located in the foothills of the Gianyar regency among rice paddies, waterfalls, temples, ceremonies and traditional costumes and events, this area attracts visitors from all over the world for its rich arts and crafts. There is so much to do and see here and below we have listed our top five cultural experiences in Ubud where you can really immerse yourself in the Balinese culture.

1. Wander the traditional art markets

The Ubud Art Market is located in central Ubud opposite the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace. Here, locally crafted goods are plentiful including handmade woven bags, purses and baskets, hand crafted and wood-carved buddhas, bowls, and other ornaments, bright clothing, blankets and pillows, all of which you can bargain your way to a good price. The products tend to be made in the neighbouring villages of Tegallalang, Payangan and Peliatan. Taking a drive to the temples will allow you to see the locals hard at work creating their unique handicrafts and souvenirs with skills that have been passed down for centuries.

2. Enjoy Watching a Traditional Balinese Dance 

Balinese dance is an important part of Balinese culture.  Dances can be classed as sacred (Wali), semi-sacred (Bebali), while others are for entertainment or social events (Balih-Balihan). Dancing is both a religious practice and a performing art and before performing a sacred dance, Balinese dancers take part in religious rituals and receive blessings from temple priests. The ‘Legong Dance’ used to only be performed in front of the royal family within closed palace walls, however, nowadays you can watch the dance performed in various open stages and shows throughout Bali, such as the Puri Saren Royal Palance in Ubud.

3. Explore the temples 

There are abundant historic temples in Bali to explore and in Ubud you won’t go short. You can read more on our top 3 Must-see Temples in Bali here, including a couple of our favourites, Gunung Kawi and Goa-Gajah (Elephant Cave) Temple. Additional temples include Gunung Leah Temple, Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three), and Pura Taman Saraswati, more commonly known as Water Palace. The latter was designed by one of Ubud’s best loved architects, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad. Located in the heart of Ubud, the temple is easily accessible. The carvings largely honour the goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswati.

4. Visit the Monkey Forest

Located in central Ubud and open until 6pm daily, the Monkey Forest offers a great way to spend an afternoon after visiting the traditional markets. The locals view the forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation centre for the village of Ubud. The entrance fee costs a minor 30,000IDR for adults and 15,000IDR for children. The monkeys are real characters (all 700 of them!) and are super fun, just make sure you remove anything shiny such as jewellery (especially earrings) because they love glistening objects and won’t hesitate to steal from you.

5. Swim in the waterfalls

Exploring and swimming in natures waterfalls is a must for any traveller and in and around Ubud there are many for you to choose from. A couple of our favourites are Tegenungan waterfall and Nungnung waterfall (35km drive out of Ubud). If you book on a full or half day excursion, you can simply choose a trip that includes a waterfall visit or you can hire a driver to take you straight there and bring you back when you are ready. Although it is located 66km north of Ubud, we recommend Sekumpul waterfall, which is a collection of seven waterfalls (“Sekumpul” meaning “group” in Indonesian) with the tallest waterfall at a staggering 50-metres high.