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!

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!

7 Tips on Travelling as a Couple

Travelling as a couple can be a wonderful thing. You can create so many amazing memories together by exploring new places, taking on new challenges, trying new activities, gaining new skills and meeting new people. It can really make your relationship but it also has the potential to break it if you let it.

Just think, you will be  spending every day together meaning that you will essentially be living out of each others pockets. But fear not, we have been travelling together as a couple for almost seven years now and have got the perfect tips that are guaranteed to make every adventure together as a travelling couple a great one.

The secrets are to have patience and a flexible mindset, try new things and don’t forget to laugh along the way, make decisions as a team and learn how to compromise, beware of tiredness, and make special time for yourselves, for each other and also to make new friends.

1. Have patience and a flexible mindset

While on the road, you will likely find yourselves in many challenging situations, both mentally and physically. People deal with such situations differently and it’s important to know yourself and your partner well enough to understand how you and he/she will react and deal with these situations. By doing so, you will then be able to respond accordingly and allow patience to kick in. Try not to blame your partner for a situation that cannot be changed and remember that things don’t always go to plan and everything always happens for a reason.

For example, Brett and I have missed many a flight over the years. This particular time, we where travelling from Bali to Kuala Lumpur (KL) hours before his 21st birthday when our flight was cancelled for the foreseeable future due to volcanic ash. Naturally, Brett was upset thinking we would have to spend his 21st birthday in Bail airport. Rather than reacting the same or becoming angry at our cancelled flight (after all, volcanic ash is completely out of either our control), I quickly booked an equally luxurious hotel in Bali and arranged our transport so we could settle in ahead of his birthday.

Within an hour we where in our hotel robes ordering room service with big smiles on our faces. Looking back, it is clear that it must of happened for a reason. We obviously weren’t supposed to be on that flight or spend his birthday in KL. By remaining calm, having a flexible mindset and making the most of a bad situation, we were able to have a great time with our alternative plans.

2. Try new things and don’t forget to laugh and have fun along the way 

Travelling is all about new adventures and it’s also a great way to step out of your comfort zone with your partner and have a good laugh together. You could try various water sports or unusual foods, just keep in mind that the main point is you both remaining lighthearted and having fun. Who care’s if you can’t do a particular activity? The joy comes form trying and not taking life too seriously.

For example, when we were in Dubai, Brett and I tried fly boarding for the first time together (FYI, it’s as difficult as it looks!). Neither of us had any skills and could barely get out of the water for the first 15 minutes, but we had so much fun and were crying with laughter at one another while trying. The joy came from not mastering a new skill, but from trying something new and challenging together and creating shared memories that we can look back and laugh about for the rest of our lives. 

3. Make team decisions and learn how to compromise  

When travelling together, you will not only have someone to do new and exciting things with, you will also have someone to share the big decisions. Taking one another’s ideas and opinions into consideration and coming to a mutual decision is one of the great things about travelling as a couple. However, you both won’t always want to do everything the same, which means will have to learn to compromise and come to a mutual decision that suits you both. 

For example, an activity on my bucket list was to learn how to dive, however, Brett had never really considered it. Knowing how much it meant to me, we headed to the Gili islands in Indonesia in July 2018 for our first diving experience. At first, he wasn’t really enjoying it but after day two when he proved to himself what he could do he was so happy. On day three, we were both awarded our PADI Open Water certificate. Now, he can’t wait to get back into the water and continue our diving journey.  

You just never know if you will love or hate an experience until you’ve tried it. So try to be open minded with your partner’s suggestions and compromise where necessary.  Your partner will love you for giving a little bit and trying something for them.   

4. Don’t let tiredness ruin your day 

It’s easy to become over tired when you are travelling. Early morning flights and late nights combined with sleeping in various beds that aren’t your own leads to irregular sleeping patterns. Add to this long days exploring new destinations plus warmer or cooler weather than you are used to back home means you can and will get very tired very quickly while on the road. 

The key thing is to stay light-hearted and remember you are both likely feeling the same way. Tiredness can make a person more emotional and more sensitive than perhaps they tend to be day-to-day, so take this on board and try to treat your partner accordingly. Given that you will likely be a long way from home and from your loved ones, it’s important you come together at tough times and remind each other that you are in this together and you are both feeling the same.

Show them a little love and take a day to do nothing but relax together. You could take a spa day or simply lay by the pool. Sometimes it can be hard to slow down when you’ve been on the go for so long, your mind might be in overdrive. But, it’s important to take at least one day every now and then to simply relax and recharge your batteries. It will make a world of difference to the rest of your journey. 

5. Make friends outside the two of you 

When travelling as a couple, it’s very easy to remain just the two of you, to be hesitant to make friends and share the experience with groups of single individuals or even other couples. It’s natural to behave this way and in order to change it, you’ve really got to recognise it and challenge it. Speaking to people and making friends while travelling can make your trip together so much more enjoyable and memorable and can even open up opportunities you might never have dreamed of possible.

People are fascinating and when travelling, you will meet people from all corners of the world, from various lifestyles and upbringing, it seems a shame not to make the most of getting to know these people. They might share travel tips and expose you to destinations, activities or travel hacks you didn’t think of. You might never have these opportunities again and who knows, you might even make friends for life, or even continue your journey as a couple travelling with your new found friends. 

6. Take time to yourself 

Equally important as making new friends is taking time to yourself. In our previous post, we spoke about how travelling as a couple can test your relationship because you will spend every moment with this person. This can either make or break your relationship but if you’re like us and value your alone time, it’s important to make time for this in order to (potentially) save your relationship and any silly arguments deriving from limited alone time. It’s not that spending too much time together is bad, it’s just that being in solitude is equally important to clear your mind and it has even been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, improved stress management, and less depression.

So, even if you don’t want to split up for safety reasons, you can still have your alone time. For example, one could be taking a swim in the pool while the other relaxes with a book on the loungers. One could be having a cocktail by the bar while the other hits the gym. Don’t take offence if your partner wants some times to his/herself, its only human nature. 

7. Take time together by arranging a weekly date night  

So you have made time for yourselves and you’ve taken time to make friends with other travellers and/or locals, which leads us to making time for each other. Essentially, you will be spending a lot of time together so it’s easy to lose track of the importance of creating special ‘date’ nights to really enjoy each others company. It doesn’t have be for a birthday or another special occasion, its simply just to switch off from the demands of life and travelling and enjoy being with one another.

For example, you could dress up and head to sky bar, enjoy a fancy dinner at a restaurant overlooking the ocean at sunset, take a sunset stroll with your feet in the sand, cook a dinner together, have a cosy night in, enjoy a few cocktails or go out for the night. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s just the two of you and you focus on nothing but each other. Making time for a date night each week can make your relationship much stronger and your travels together much more enjoyable. 

Although there are many challenges of travelling as couple, there are also abundant opportunities and benefits as well! What are your best tips for travelling as a couple?

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.

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.

 

15 Incredible Photos of Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Dubai is the most populous and well known city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Located in the heart of the desert, Dubai is unique with its skyline of architectural marvels and some of the most unique and modern attractions in the Middle East and around the world.  

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Nowadays, the city of Dubai is associated with luxury, cultural experiences, and futuristic designs. Dubai leads the way in cutting-edge design and the city’s latest innovation is a 3D printed office fully equipped with water, electricity, telecommunications and AC that was printed in just 17 days. The skyline boasts some impressive architecture and is best known for the worlds tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.
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The best way to admire the skyline is by taking a traditional Dhow Dinner Cruise from the Marina. Here, you can enjoy local cuisine often served buffet-style while the boat sails slowly around the harbour for two hours, allowing you to take in the view.
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There are many malls in Dubai where you can leisurely stroll around designer boutiques and high-end restaurants. For more budget-friendly shopping, head to the traditional souks where you can uncover hidden gems. For example, The Gold Souk is easily reachable by metro and the stores here offer a wide range of jewellery, gold, and precious stones. But its not just jewellery you will find here, there are many other shops selling traditional ornaments, keyrings, scarfs and accessories so its the perfect place to pick up some gifts.
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Dubai Marina is packed with luxury yachts, which are a staple of the high-life here. Take a wander down the Marina where you will find several restaurants. The heat can be slightly overwhelming to say the least, so we recommend taking a taxi boat in the day and enjoy a leisurely walk in the evening when it’s slightly cooler.
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The Yellow Boats Tours are also a great way to tour the marina by day. Catch the best sights from the water including The Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah, and Burj Al Arab while being informed on Dubai’s history and culture from a local tour guide.
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Take a day or overnight trip from the city into the desert via a desert safari and enjoy activities such as dune bashing in a 4×4, camel rides, sand boarding, quad biking and more. There are many tour operators providing a variety of packages such as Rayna Tours, which is the company we booked with during our last trip.

From Dubai you can take a day excursion to Abu Dhabi, the capital and second most populous city of the UAE. On the city tour you will get the chance to visit a selection of popular attractions including the Heritage Village, the Handicrafts Centre, Ferrari World, Emirates Palace, and the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is Abu Dhabi’s most famous attraction. Millions of visitors from all over the world flock here each year and although it can be busy at times, there always remains a wonderful sense of calm around the majestic grounds.
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In 2017, it was ranked the world’s second-favourite landmark according to TripAdvisor and during the same year, a staggering 3.4 million visitors came here.
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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest and most ornate place of worship in the UAE that took 12 years to complete, costing around $545 million.
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At 22,412 square meters, about the same as four football fields, it is now the third-largest mosque in the world and holds more than 40,000 worshippers.
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It also has three Guinness World Records for the largest handwoven carpet, the biggest chandelier, and the largest dome of its kind in the world.
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Traditional dress for women is required and men are reminded to cover tattoos when visiting the mosque. If you book with a tour operator back in Dubai, traditional dress will be included in the price of the tour. The mosque welcomes visitors from around the world each day and remains closed for worship only on Friday mornings.
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The mosque features imposing structure of marble and gold surrounded by manicured gardens and tiled pools. In total, there are 82 domes and 1,000 marble pillars.
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Islamic designs and elements feature on modern architecture throughout the mosque and city of Abu Dhabi.
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Abu Dhabi is one of the most interesting places in the Middle East that is full of culture, laid-back elegance, and cosmopolitan atmosphere and is well worth a visit while visiting the Middle East.

Although both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are known as luxurious destinations, they can also be visited on a budget too. Hotels are not as expensive as you might think and because they are newly built, even cheaper hotels can feel quite luxurious.

There are many affordable places to grab a bite to eat outside of the main areas so make sure you shop around and do your research before heading out there. You could even ask the team at your hotel for recommendations. If you are heading to the more local areas, be sure to dress and behave accordingly to respect the local people and their culture.

Lastly, to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi on a budget, you might find our other articles useful including How to Fly to Asia on the Cheap and Visit More Destinations,  How to Find the Best Hotel Deals Anywhere in the World, and How to Live the High Life while Travelling on a Budget.

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.

A Photo Journey Sailing Through Ha Long Bay by Boat and Kayak

Vietnam is a land of natural beauty that is increasing in popularity among tourists for its intriguing culture and stunning scenery. Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination in Quang Ninh Province, which is easily reachable from the capital of Hanoi. 

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Located in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border, Ha Long Bay features surrealistic scenery, which has led to the UNESCO site being featured in endless movies.
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The site is easily reachable by car, minibus or bus from Hanoi, which is only 170km away.
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In Hanoi, you can book on an affordable day excursion, which includes return minibus and a boat trip around the bay with lunch included.
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There are more than 1,600 islets in the bay with limestone worn down by 500 million years of tropical downpours.
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The islets are covered by thick jungle growth, which presents a wonderful green landscape.
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Included in the boat trip is a tour of the majestic caves where you can take a hike to the top of the hill to explore inside the hollow islands.
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Take a moment to enjoy the view from the top, which is much different compared with sailing in and out of the small islands.

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When booking on the day excision, you also have the option to take part in an activity at an extra cost such as Kayaking or rafting.
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Taking to the emerald green waters via kayak is an unforgettable experience and lots of fun.

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You can explore the caves at your own leisure under the hot sun.

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You will also get to see the unique fishing village which dates back to the early nineteenth century. These communities are comprised of 400 households with approximately 1,700 people living on the boats and floating wooden houses.
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The communities main livelihood is fishing and agriculture. Each boat represents a separate household where one whole family lives.
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However, the boats are not only a home for the families, they are a a means of transport and a source of income.
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The traditional villages represent a unique feature of Vietnamese culture.
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Back in the vibrant city of Hanoi, there are many affordable things to do such as exploring the old quarter, sampling the street food, strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, and indulging in some relaxation at a top hotel. If you plan on seeing more of Vietnam, check out our post on How to See the Best of Vietnam in Less than 10 Days