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Japan Tour With The Dragon Trip

Ready to discover THE ultimate Japan Tour – experience the best that Japan has to offer, revel in the culture and taste food you never knew existed. Feast your eyes on incredible temples and have a go at activities you would never have thought you would be doing ( like driving through the streets of Tokyo wearing a cartoon character onesie on a go kart!) We spent an incredible 13 days travelling around Japan with The Dragon Trip. Read on to discover why we came back absolutely adoring Japan.

Why Visit Japan?

For years we have wanted to visit Japan, to discover the culture and experience first hand a country that has peaked our interest. All you have to do is browse photographs of the varied landscapes and be amazed, from the wild mountains to the vibrant city scapes. Japan has something for everyone, for single travellers, to couples and families with kids.

When to visit Japan?

We visited in November which was a fantastic time to visit. Although many travel guides will be aimed at focussing on Cherry Blossom season in March-May, we found Autumn with all the trees turning golden and red hues simply fantastic, both for photos and the milder temperatures. The temperature on our trip was between 16-20 degrees which we find is the perfect weather for sightseeing and traveling around.

The summer in Japan gets very hot and humid so if you are one for cooler weather then Autumn could be just the ticket for you. In November there is snow in certain parts of Japan and the temperature is much cooler so its worth checking your must see list and working around your ideal temperatures.

It can be expensive to travel during the Cherry Blossom season so it’s worth pre-booking accommodation etc if you wish to see the pink blossoms. Alternatively, book a space on The Japan Tour with The Dragon Trip and have all of your accommodation included already.

Japan Tour Schedule

We spent 13 days on tour with The Dragon Trip travelling around Japan using Bullet Trains to local buses. Visiting Tokyo, Kamakura, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka. We found this a perfect amount of time to see these locations and you can see below what we got up to at each location. The trip is jam packed with activities so get ready to be inspired (and a little surprised at how much you can actually do on this tour).

Tokyo

 Days 1- 4 

We start the tour in Tokyo, and meet our guide at the hostel in Shinjuku that we stay in for the first 4 nights of the trip. It’s here that we meet the rest of the tour group and get an idea of how the trip will play out. Before long we are out and about exploring the streets of Tokyo.

Tokyo is such a vibrant city with so much to offer.  There are so many different districts to visit with a completely different feel to each of them. Our accommodation was located in Shinjuku a perfect choice for a stay in Tokyo. We stayed in a hostel located down a quiet side street – it was a perfect base. What you may find in a lot of accommodations in Japan are “Handy” phones. These are free mobile phones connected to wifi that you can use to help sightsee and google information during your trip. We had one of these in our room in Tokyo and loved the idea.

Shinjuku is full of neon bright lights, bars and shopping and the perfect base for a Tokyo adventure. Shinjuku’s railway station is the busiest in the world transiting up to 2 million passengers a day and is on the JR Yamanote line – if your looking for accommodation in Tokyo stay close to this subway line. The red light district of Kabukicho takes some great photos too.

shinjuku

Never have we been to a cleaner city! Did you know they don’t have bins on the street so you have to take your rubbish home with you. It’s also been said that this has reduced crime rates drastically!

We spent 4 nights in Tokyo on the tour and another 4 nights either side of the tour by ourselves. We still feel like there is so much more of Tokyo to experience just because we loved it so much, BUT we did put a dent in a majority of the attractions that you would want to see plus some extra stuff I don’t think would ever have done on our own thanks to being on The Dragon Trip Tour.

Day 1 in Tokyo:

Our tour started with a walk past some famous sights including Godzilla above the Toho cinema. Since the original movie was filmed by this company they placed a giant Godzilla head above the building as it looks down on to the city. Blink and you will miss it but it is one of those attractions that is worth walking by. We then passed Memory lane, also known as “Piss Alley”. A narrow lane decorated each season in themes matching the weather lined with tiny bars and restaurants that might only fit about 6 people.

We then visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, offering 360 degree views of the city, this was the perfect place to begin the tour to get our bearings on the city. It is free to come here and they are also open in the evening if you want to see the city lit up. The line can be pretty long to get in but it does move quickly.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tsukiji Outer Market is where it’s at if you want to eat fresh fish, it’s the largest fish market in Asia and they sell Whale meat! There is no stinky fish market smell here since everything gets sold out on the day, it’s that damn tasty. You must try the little octopus on a stick – they are so delicious. Our guide wanted to take us to get fresh tuna that gets blow torched, but they were sold out. He surely knew the best secret spots.

Senso – Ji Temple in Asakusa is an ancient Buddhist Temple. It was here that we had the opportunity to get our fortune. By donating 100 JPY you can then shake a big metal hexagonal box that contains wooden sticks inside. Each stick has characters that correspond to a wooden drawer. Inside your drawer is your fortune, be it The Best, Good or Bad. Care to guess what we got? I got The Best fortune and Phil got a Bad Fortune. We like to think they cancel each other out. 

Senso Ji Temple Entrance

Batting Cage – one of Japan’s surprising favourite sports is Baseball – there have been competitions since the 1920’s but when Japan’s 1934 All-Star team beat the All Star American team featuring legends of the game such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Baseballs popularity in Japan Sky Rocketed!

We visited a batting cage in Shinjuku – you get between 20-25 balls fired at you in either left or right handed cages at various speeds (start with the 80 kph areas). All bats are supplied ready to go along with arcade machines and vending machines. A great experience to enjoy pre-night out or simply for a good laugh with your travel buddies. It is activities like this that made the start of our tour with The Dragon Trip so memorable.

Day 2 in Tokyo:

Sushi Making – if you want to learn how to make sushi, Japan is the place! We joined our chef’s and hosts at their cookery school and under their watchful eye created our very own sushi meal.

From the egg rolls to California rolls we learnt the techniques from the pros. You can pick up the sushi making kits from the markets in most Japanese towns if you want to impress your friends and family. It was such a unique experience, one that we would never have booked for ourselves normally when we travel.

Akihabara and Maid Cafe – Tokyo’s ‘Electric Town’ is a must see for anyone into technology, Manga and Anime (known as the Manga capital of the world). Some of Tokyo’s largest technology shops are in Akiba (the local name for the district) and also a huge range of Anime and Manga shops. It is known as ‘Electric Town’, because after the World War Two depression electric goods were brought into the black market here.

Maid Cafe Ice Cream Sundae

One thing you must try is a Maid Cafe! Our tour took us to ‘Maidreamin’, a chain of maid cafes in Tokyo. We were apprehensive of what to expect but our guide Chipa told us to ‘go with flow’, so we did.

What an experience! Maid cafes sprung up as a sub-genre of Cosplay to cater for ‘Otaku’ which is a person who is into gaming, pop culture, Anime or Manga similar to western geek style. These cafes allow people to socialise and spend time in a fun environment with cosplay maids serving them and performing songs and stage shows. Overall a great fun place to get a great ice-cream sundae and have a good laugh.

Seat charge is 500 yen then they have a wide menu of ice creams and drinks – typically 680 yen for the cutest ice cream sundae you’ll ever see. You cannot take photos inside so there is just the ice cream sundae photo for you. There is no “toilet”, instead it is called a flower garden!

Akiba area has lots of animal cafes with meerkats, hedgehogs, mini pigs, owls, cats, toy poodles and even sheep. Sometimes the animals are on show in the street to entice you to come in.

Mari Car – Starting in Akiba (Akihabara) you zip through the streets of Tokyo in your very own go-kart dressed as a minion, chipmunk or Spiderman! What’s not to like! Our Mari-Car tour started at sun down so we got to experience all the lights of Tokyo’s central districts such as Ginza.

Very easy to drive so suitable for everyone, Tokyo’s streets are very organised and you feel like a celebrity with everyone waving and taking photos as you zoom down the streets. This was a once in a lifetime experience, as an optional extra on the tour, it was one we were so glad we participated in.

Golden Gai + Karaoke – Shinjuku’s Golden Gai’s are a must see! In the 1980’s the owners of these pint sized bars fought the Yakuza to stop them burning the area down to sell as real estate and as such this small area of Tokyo is un changed.

Tiny bars all squeezed in together with seating for approximately 8 clients each have their own theme and style – some bars will say if they are for locals or members only and typically have had the same patrons since the 1990’s, others will be open for visitors. Expect to pay a cover charge in most between 500-1200 Yen, free ones will say on the door.

We visited the Karaoke bar called ‘Champion’, with 500 yen drinks and 100 yen per song, it has a great atmosphere. Choose your song on the iPad, place a 100 yen coin on top and hand it back to the barman to get in the queue. Many expats and foreigners visit this bar for a good old sing song and a plum wine. Our guide Chipa was especially enthusiastic which ended up spreading to the group and I ended up singing Abba in front of a bar full of strangers. When in Japan!

Day 3 in Tokyo:

Tokyo Imperial Palace – Located on a huge stretch of parkland, the Imperial Palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle. It is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. When you look on a train map you will notice that they go around in a loop, this is because the Imperial Palace is in the middle and no trains pass through the area. The gardens are so beautifully manicured with the help of local volunteers. The stark contrast between the old and new is visible here with the big sky scrapers behind the gardens.

Harajuku – Takeshita Street is one of the busiest in Tokyo. The Harajuku district is Tokyo’s self proclaimed street wear and fashion capital. Further towards Omotesando the street wear stores turn to larger fashion icons as well as H&M and UniQlo.

Crepe Harajuku

Lots of cafes here aim at youth culture and also include Cat Cafe Mocha- we visited this cat cafe at the start of Takeshita Street and spent a good half an hour enjoying the cutest kitties we’ve ever  seen in the comfortable lounge set up.

Our guide took us for a traditional ‘Tokyo Style’ Okonomiyaki lunch. These Japanese Pancakes of all flavours are a must try. At our restaurant you receive instructions and cook them yourselves on your table over a hot plate. Careful on the flip!

Meiji Shrine – located in Harajuku this Shinto shrine was first completed in 1920 and rebuilt after World War 2. Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of Modern Japan after the end of Japan’s feudal era.

The main shrine buildings are a 10 min walk from the entrance near Harajuku station through a tranquil forest a million miles away from Tokyo’s busy streets. Under the huge Torii Gate you wind your way through to the main shrine. If you come an hour before closing many Japanese couples have their wedding photos taken here in traditional dress. A great place to purchase Onamori, a Japanese Amulet typically available at Shinto shrines – these Amulets made sacred through Shinto or Buddhist rituals can provide prayers and invocations for safe travel and health among other things.

Shibuya Crossing – rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world anywhere from 2000-3000 people cross at one time during rush hour in a true organised Japanese dance. The best pictures of here can be taken from the Magnet Shopping building on one of it’s corners – the elevated position does cost 600 yen to access though. Free options for pictures include Starbucks and the bridge linking the train buildings.

shibuya crossing

Day 4 in Tokyo:

Edo Tokyo Museum – Our guides favourite museum, the Edo Tokyo Museum is the perfect opportunity to learn about the history of Tokyo. The Edo period (also known at the Tokogawa Period) was between 1603 and 1868, when the country was under the power of the Tokogawa shogunate and 300 Daimyo (Powerful Japanese Feudal lords who ruled most of Japan from their vast land holdings). The museum guides you through Japan’s history including its role in World War 2. We learnt so much information we never knew before, this was a fantastic museum to visit on the tour.

Sumo Experience – I wrestled a real Sumo in Japan! Not many people can say that but I fought (i use the word loosely) Jambo one of our Sumo hosts at our optional lunch with 2 former Sumo Champions.

We learnt about Sumo traditions and matches through demonstrations as well as having the chance to try our hand at being Sumo wrestlers. We had lunch including ‘Chanko’ a Sumo stew and staple meal that accompanies the Sumo’s strict training regime. At the end they answered our many questions on Sumo life and competitions. Including how many pieces of sushi Jambo ate in one sitting? Any guesses? Hint – it’s more than 300.

Samurai Museum – Shinjuku’s Samurai museum has armour and swords on display from Japan’s ancient times and a knowledgeable tour guide took us through the history and design of the Samurai armour as well as weapons. During the tour we got to experience a sword demonstration from 2 sword masters…..with real steel blades! You sit very close so its quite the experience! After the show we had the opportunity to dress up in a Kimono and Samurai outfit.

Robot Show – If you are looking for a crazy Japanese experience then make sure you check out the Robot Show in Shinjuku. A mixture of robots and costume clad dancers, lazer lights and musical instruments make a show like no other. This kitsch show is a must just for the pure crazy atmosphere. It is an optional activity on the tour but an absolute must If you are in Tokyo.

Kamakura

Time in Location: 1 Night

Day 5 in Kamakura

Kamakura is a seaside town just south of Tokyo and a popular spot for people looking to move from the city or go for a surf! 

Our accommodation at the fantastic WeBase in Kamakura had its very own Onsen Bath – we would recommend experiencing an Onsen at least once while you are in Japan. Separated into Male and Female baths Onsens are considered a social place to meet and chat with others. Also its hot water helps with the achy muscles from exploring and jet lag.

At the Kotoku-in Temple you can find the Great Buddha, a 13m-high bronze statue still standing after a tsunami in the 15th-century. You can still spot some of the original gold leaf that covered the buddha on the cheek. There is even the opportunity to go inside the Buddha

Enoshima Island is a great spot in Kamakura to soak up the seaside atmosphere – on the bridge connected island the Enoshima Shrines are dedicated to the goddess of wealth, fortune, music and good knowledge – who doesn’t want some of that? Keep a keen eye out for the local Japanese Racoons that roam the island! 

Hakone

Time in Location: 1 Night

Day 6 in Hakone

Hakone is less than 100km from Tokyo and it is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park – a beautiful wooded valley with Lake Ashinoko. This area feels so tranquil and secluded, famed for its healing hot springs.

Here we stayed in a traditional Ryokan – a type of traditional Japanese Inn. Complete with Yukata to wear in the evenings (a style of pyjamas). It had a fantastic homely feel.

During the day we travelled by bus to an Amazake Chaya – a traditional tea house founded 400 years ago whose Amazake recipe is unchanged since it was opened. Amazake is a sweet alcohol free rice wine made from koji fungi, rice and yeast and was used to fuel and warm travelling Samurai heading to Edo (ancient Tokyo). This sweet hot drink really pops with the addition of fresh ginger for a true winter warmer.

The location of the Amazake Chaya in the hills of Hakone is no coincidence. Hakone was one of the last check points before Tokyo on the ancient Tokaido Road. After we finished our Amazake we headed to a remaining section of this connection to Kyoto.

The Tokaido Road was one of 5 routes that connected Tokyo with the rest of Japan – as you walk on the cobbled route through the forest you can imagine the tales of samurai’s and folk lore surrounding this ancient route. 

The trail led to Lake Ashinoko where you can find the Torii Gates of the Hakone Shrine. A 15 minute walk along the shore of the lake and you will reach this beautiful viewpoint. If you want to take a photo here, you may have to queue for a while with the locals since it is a very popular instagram photo location in Hakone.

Tori Gate Lake Ashi

From here we jumped on to a Pirate Ship that crosses Lake Ashinoko to the Owakudani Volcano. Keep an eye out for Mount Fuji in the distance, it’s a wonderful opportunity to see it in such a beautiful location. 

Once at Owakudani there is a Ropeway (Gondola) that climbs to the top of the Volcano. We came during sunset and it was the most incredible view. The sulphur was particularly thick when we visited so we were unable to go outside the viewing building at the top, but it made the sky incredibly red and hazy in the setting sun.

Once back at the Ryokan we had the opportunity to use their own private Onsen under the stars. I could definitely get used to these.

Wearing our traditional yukatas our guide Chipa arranged some Sake tasting – we tasted a variety from premium to budget to see which we preferred. Apparently those who enjoy a good drink and night out don’t always prefer the premium sake!

Kyoto

Time in Location: 4 Nights

Day 7 in Kyoto

We arrive on our bullet train in Kyoto – once the capital of Japan it was left out of World War bombing efforts due to its cultural significance and removed from a list of options for the dropping of atomic weapons.

Because of this Kyoto retains many old buildings and neighbourhoods unchanged from Japan’s ancient history. This is a great city to experience traditional Japanese buildings and culture. It is considered Japan’s Cultural Capital.

Our first stop was the Kiyomizu Dera Temple or ‘Pure Water Temple’. It is one of Japan’s most respected and celebrated temples – the name relates to the waterfall that the temple was founded on in 780 and is a UNESCO heritage site – the expansive grounds of the temple feature many shrines and statues nestled amongst maple trees and you can get one of the best views of modern Kyoto from the top. Behind the main hall there is Jishu Shrine which is dedicated to Love and Match Making, here you can find two stones, placed 18 metres apart, if you can travel from one to the other with your eyes closed it is believed you will have success finding love, if you need help being guided it is suggested you may need someones help to find your soul mate.

The Ottawa Waterfall from the temples namesake appears below the temple, its stream is divided into 3 separate spouts all with a different meaning, from happy love life, longevity and success, where you can drink from whichever you choose. However, drink from all 3 and it is considered greedy and no effects will be gained.

Kyoto is the home of the Geisha in Japan, when here visiting a traditional Geisha performance is a must and instantly captivating. Our guide took us to a traditional show of the ancient arts which featured a Geisha show and traditional play. A tea ceremony was also performed.

One of our favourite parts of Kyoto was the Gion and Higashiyama Districts around Hanamikoji Street – this is one of the most photographed and popular instagram spots in Kyoto and takes you back to a time when travellers and pilgrims to the shrines would have found lodging and traded in the area. 

Many young Japanese travellers can be found in traditional Kimonos here, find the stunning Yasaka Pagoda for your perfect holiday picture.

Day 8 in Kyoto

Today we travelled to the Hozugawa River – this river was used to transport much of the material used to build Kyoto and Osaka and was later used as the main route for traders to supply food and goods to the areas.

Hozugawa River

We hopped aboard our flat bottom boat and headed off down the river to the start point – this trip is expertly piloted by 3 boatmen through the rapids and stunning valley that the river winds its way through. In Autumn as the leaves on the trees change to red and golden you can get some great pictures. Keep an eye out for Snoopy Rock.

After the 2 hour boat ride we arrived in Arashiyama, a great district in western Kyoto for its natural setting and a popular destination for rich noble lords. Here you can find the Iwatayama Monkey Park after hiking approximately 20 minutes to the summit of the park. 

Home to around 170 Japanese macaque monkeys that have free roam of the area, you can enjoy their funny antics over looking Kyoto. You are able to purchase nuts and bananas for 100 Yen and feed them from inside a safe cage….for humans!

We walked through a beautiful Zen Garden on the way to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest made famous from Instagram. Here is where you want to get your Instagram photos. The bamboo is incredibly tall and a true spectacle. Known as being a great place to escape to during earth quakes since the roots form a large web like structure underground.

You used to be able to walk among the bamboo forest freely however people started carving their names into the bamboo so now there is walk ways to stick to.

In the evening we attended a Calligraphy Class where our expert teachers taught us how to write Kanji characters including our name – luckily they gave us time to practice before attempting our final piece which we could display at home.

The evenings entertainment arranged by our tour guide was Karaoke! A favourite Japanese pastime. A private booth was organised for our group along with all you can drink alcohol which helped everyone get into the spirit. What started as ‘who wants to sing’ turned into ‘give me the mic!’ And there was a few sore heads in the morning – not from singing voices.

Day 9 in Kyoto

Today was our free day to explore Kyoto on our own – after a later than normal start for some after the previous evenings karaoke, we decided to set out to Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. This is where you can find Kyoto’s famed Torii Gates – there are over 1000 of these gates winding their way through the forest and make a perfect picture for your travel album. Bring your walking shoes as the mountain trails have lots of steps and areas to explore. It is based on a mountain side and the hike to the top is long if you fancy it. Once you reach the view point there is a further optional 40 minute round trip hike to view further mountain shrines.

The main shrine is dedicated to Inari the Shinto God of Rice – and is one of the most important shrines dedicated to this god in Japan.

The 1000’s of Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha are a favourite instagram location and they are all donated by companies or people who visit the shrine, small ones cost upwards of 350,000 yen and the large can be upto a million.

After hiking around the Torii Gates we headed for the Hokanji Temple or Yasaka Pagoda in the aforementioned Higashiyama District. We spent a few hours exploring the old neighbourhood and snapped some great pictures.

Hokanji Temple

Day 10 in Kyoto

Today was bike riding day in Kyoto – we set off through the city and diverted to the path along the river which was a great cycle ride. You can spot dozens of blue and white heron’s along the river, quite a rare bird in the UK but not in Kyoto.

cycling kyoto

We cycled about an hour to our Zen mediation class with our buddhist monk teacher at the Daisen-In Temple which is one of the oldest Hojo style Zen-Buddhist temples remaining. We mediated in silence as a group under the watchful eye of our instructor.

If you find your mind wandering or wish to flex a little from your lotus position, the monk will provide 4 well placed strikes with a flat wooden cane, 2 to each shoulder. This is optional of course but most of the group tried it and it works wonders.

Following our relaxing meditation session we joined our guide for a tour of the temple and its original screen door paintings and famous Zen garden. We finished our afternoon at Daisen-in with a matcha tea ceremony – you must try matcha in Japan.

After lunch we cycled to Kinkaku-Ji the Golden Pavilion. This Zen Temple’s upper two floors are covered in gold leaf, its position on a beautiful lake is a true show stopper and allows you to take some stunning photographs. The shogun who retired to this holiday villa certainly had a great eye for design.

We caught the Bullet Train to Hiroshima from Kyoto station in the late afternoon.

Hiroshima

Time in Location: 2 Nights

Day 11 in Hiroshima:

Hiroshima’s modern city was a great surprise. It’s bustling neon light alleys and shopping centres are a far cry from what most people know about Hiroshima.

Our first important stop in Hiroshima is the Memorial Peace Park – this area was the epicentre for the atomic bomb explosion that destroyed Hiroshima during the world war. The park is home to the Memorial Peace Museum which documents the life before and after the dropping of the bomb.

It is a stark reminder of the devastating effects that possessing nuclear weapons can have on the people of the world. It serves as a model for peace as it strives to act as a monument to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Also in the park is the A-Bomb Dome which is the remains of the old Promotions Hall – this building is left as it was after the bomb exploded just above the building as it was one of the only buildings left standing in Hiroshima.

A Bomb Building

After learning the history of the events in Hiroshima we headed to Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay about an hour from the city centre. This island is one of the most scenic spots in Japan and was thought to be an Island of Gods.

Miyajima Island is home to the large floating tori gate which has the effect of floating on the water at high tide. The island has a romantic reputation with many visitors choosing to stay over night in its many ryokan’s. Alternatively you can travel over for the day or afternoon as we did.

Although the island is famous for its over water Itsukushima Shrine, its wild roaming deer get almost the same amount of attention. Wandering the streets and beaches of the islands they are quite accustomed to human visitors.

Osaka

Time in Location: 1 night

Day 12 in Osaka

We caught the bullet train to Osaka for our last day of our tour. Our accommodation here was another Japan must – a capsule or pod hotel. These little accommodations have become a Japanese icon with copies springing up all over the world….we even stayed in one in Canada!

Separated into male and female dorms your little home has everything you need from a tv and pyjamas to toiletries. Perfect for budget travellers.

We visited one of the cities most famous sights, Osaka Castle. One of Japans largest castles of its time and now features a museum and viewing deck at its peak. This historic castle played a major role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century. The original castle was commissioned by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a samurai general and is considered one of Japan’s most famous.

That evening we partook in another favourite Japanese pastime….gaming arcades! We raced each other in Mario Cart challenges and battled it out shooting basketball before heading to Osaka’s famous Dotonburi District for a few refreshments.

The Dotonburi district in Osaka is bright lights and party vibes. It features some of Japan’s last remaining Neon Light signs and more bars and restaurants than you can visit. 

Day 13 in Osaka

This was the last day of the tour and the travel day back to Tokyo. Some people stayed on in Osaka and continued on in their travels around Japan or departed from Osaka airport. The remainder travelled back to Tokyo on the Bullet Train. We stayed in Osaka for the day and spent it at Universal Studios. To read all about our incredible day there click here.

Budget Tips for Japan

Japans famous convenience stores are perfect for travellers who need to watch their spends – the most common store brands of Lawsons, 7-Eleven and Family Mart have something for every taste. Noodles, Sushi, Ramen and Sandwiches along with accompanying salads and sides like Gyoza’s mean the thrifty traveller can piece together a great meal for under 500 Yen.

The staff will heat up the meals for you in the microwaves so you are ready to go quick and easy. It’s also a good spot for breakfast pastries and cakes which range from 100 Yen each.

Accommodation types:

The accommodation on the tour ranged from Hostels, to traditional Ryokans and a Pod Hotel. We upgraded to the private double room option(apart from the 1 night in the Pod Hotel). We thought the accommodation was such a high standard, everything was super clean, comfortable and very well looked after. All of the accommodations had a variety of amenities, especially in the bathrooms including moisturiser for your face and body, face cleansing lotion, make up remover, hair spray, razors, tooth brushes and much more. The sheer amount of products you could use was something that we were not used to. Many places offer slippers and some offered Pajamas. Some of the hostels offered breakfast and most had vending machines where you could get snacks including beer! The locations of the hostels were unparalleled, simply fantastic.

Getting around Japan

IC Card – The IC Card (Pasmo) was something that we used on a daily basis and it can be used all over Japan. We used it for the trains, buses and it can even be used in the vending machines at the stations and in town. We were given one of these at the beginning of the trip and took it everywhere with us as we used it several times on a daily basis. It saves you having to pay cash for each journey making it a super convenient thing to have. All travel is included on The Dragon Trip tour so you hardly even need to think about it.

JR Rail Pass – We used the JR Rail Pass to go on the longer train journeys like the bullet train. But it can also be used for the above land trains all over Japan. It just depends on the train route you are wanting to take as the lines are owned by different companies. The good thing is that they are signposted in English so you can tell if it will be a JR Rail Pass journey or not.

Our Guide – as fantastic as it was having an IC Card and JR Rail Pass, I would say a majority of the trip being so amazing was that we had our guide Chipa showing us around the country. Normally I am the one making the decisions and planning the trip so directions would fall on me. I cannot tell you enough how amazing and stress free it felt to just have to follow our guide. It allowed me to take in the surroundings without having my face buried in a map, I didn’t have to get stressed out trying to figure out where I needed to stand in order to get on the train ( and the correct train). I kid you not at the end of the trip we did get on the wrong train, luckily it didn’t leave the station before we realised. All because Chipa our guide was not with us anymore. There are a lot of English signs in Japan which was more than I had expected but I have to say, if you want to make the most out of your time in Japan where you can see as much as possible AND enjoy it at the same time so you don’t feel stressed and exhausted then I recommend having a tour guide.

Suitability for Vegetarians, Vegans or Gluten Free

We had a couple of vegetarians and Gluten Free travellers on the tour which gave me an insight into how easy it is to get this type of food in Japan. You will find that many places offer vegetarian options, however the Vegan diet is a very new concept in Japan and you will find most places won’t cater for this. If you happen to be Gluten intolerant then you will find even fewer options. Since almost everything contains Soy which contains gluten it is hard to remove it. One meal type that did seem easy to cater for GF travellers was Okonomiyaki. If you can find a place that serves this then it can be made to suit your needs.

Why go on a Group Tour

We absolutely loved our experience with The Dragon Trip. As experienced travellers who book independent travel 90% of the time we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed being a part of a group trip. The friends we made on the tour, the stress free travel days, the included activities and more. Having the ability to upgrade our room to a private double made it more comfortable for us travelling as a couple. We were one of three couples on the trip so didn’t feel out of place. Given that Japan is so culturally different, we felt this was the perfect opportunity to go on a group trip so that we could make the most of the country.

If you want to book your own trip with The Dragon Trip you can use my unique code:everthewanderer/TDT19 and get a 10% discount

Don’t forget to save for later – Pin to Pinterest

Japan Tour With The Dragon Trip

Thank you to The Dragon Trip for hosting us on the Japan Tour. The trip was sponsored, and as always all opinions are our own. We only ever recommend experiences that we absolutely love.

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Are you planning a trip to Tokyo and looking for a hotel to stay in that offers good value and quality. Check out Hotel Tavinos, a brand new Manga themed hotel in the Hamamatsucho ward of Tokyo.

After much research on affordable Tokyo Accommodation, we came across the trendy and funky new Hotel Tavinos in the Hamamatsucho ward of Tokyo. It only opened its doors in August 2019 and is the perfect choice for your trip to Tokyo. We had not heard of the Hamamatsucho area prior to staying here, but it’s ease to travel on the metro and quieter vibe would have us staying here again. It actually was quite surprising how well situated it was and is a fantastic value option if you cannot afford to stay in the popular areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya.

We wanted somewhere on the JR Yamanote Line of the metro system, as this is the line that all the popular sights of Tokyo are located on. From here it was easy to visit our favourite sites like Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara and Shinjuku, all of which will be on your sightseeing check list. This made it super easy to find our way back to our hotel as first time visitors on our days out sightseeing.

The hotel has good access if you are flying into Haneda Airport and is located in a quieter area of Tokyo. We flew into Narita Airport and were able to get here with just one change on the train and a 5 minute walk. The area has great Ramen shops which were recommended to us by the hotel. We ate at Menya Musashi and it had amazing Gyozas and the Ramen was amazing. The place was filled with locals, an easy sign that it’s going to be good.

Ramen Hotel Tavinos
Menya Musashi Ramen Restaurant

Underneath the hotel itself was a large Family Mart – Japan’s well known convenience stores are a perfect spot to refuel for a quick dinner and snacks ( Lawsons and 7/11 are abundant in Tokyo also). They have everything from Ramen, Noodles, Sushi , and Rice Dishes. All theses dishes can be heated up by the staff and make for a great easy introduction to Japan’s quick eats.

Breakfast sweet breads are provided in the morning however we didn’t find these, I think there may be a limited number available and possibly a tour group beat us to it.

The staff at Hotel Tavinos spoke fantastic English and were very welcoming. The electronic check in was breeze to use also and we found ourselves relaxing on our bed within no time.

There is a huge interactive digital “AI concierge” called Tavinoshiori at the hotel that the staff helped us to use. This electronic map board is where you just speak whatever food you are craving and your budget and it shows you live options of all the surrounding eateries and bars in English – great for travellers, I wish more places had this!

We loved the hotels design based on Modern Manga style, it certainly has a very Japanese feel and the artwork is a fantastic welcome to Tokyo. The free tea and coffee in the communal area was a great touch along with the free selection of toiletries from shampoo to body lotion. You can even get pyjamas from downstairs!

We certainly didn’t expect a sea view when visiting Tokyo but our room faced the bay just a stones throw away. Rooms in Japan are smaller than most western travellers are used to, however the clever use of smart storage solutions makes for plenty of space. Our luggage slid underneath the bed so it was all out of the way. There are bedside trays for your beverages and smart charging sockets along with a TV and collapsible table and chairs.

The rooms here are ensuite with great showers and the famed Japanese toilets – heated toilet seat anyone? We heard beds in Japan were very firm but we found them to be super comfy in our room and we had a great nights sleep.

Overall we absolutely loved our stay at Hotel Tavinos and would definitely recommend it to others to stay here given the fantastic nights sleep, comfort, friendly staff and great location. With a huge variety of hotels to choose from in Tokyo, its easy to feel overwhelmed so we hope this review has made the choice a little easier. Book with Booking.com and get 10% back here.

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Thank you Hotel Tavinos for hosting us during our stay in Tokyo. Our stay was complementary but as always, all opinions our own. We truly only recommend places we absolutely love.

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The London Pass

The Best 1 Day London Itinerary with The London Pass

Phil and I enjoyed a wonderful London staycation when we came back from Tokyo. Relishing at the opportunity to visit all of the London sights in the build up to Christmas, we partnered with The London Pass to show you guys an incredible day sightseeing in London using the 1 Day Pass.

The London Pass London Eye

To start off our day of fun in London we made our way to Westminster Pier to enjoy a free Thames River Boat Cruise which is included in The London Pass. You just show your pass in the free app to the ticket booth and away you go.

For 24 hours you can Hop on and Hop off the famous river getting wonderful waterside views. We got on at Westminster Pier, checking out Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament first then passed the iconic London Eye. Sitting on the upper deck we enjoyed live commentary (very comedic at times) as we cruised along to our first stop -Tower Pier. Passing The Globe Theatre and seeing the oldest pub in London where Shakespeare used to get ready before his performances. Cruising under the Millennium Footbridge which was featured in the Harry Potter films and Cleopatras Needle, a 3,500 year old Egyptian Obelisk which was brought to London in 1878. There are so many interesting facts as you cruise along, making this an enjoyable and educational experience that is a world away from the hectic underground. Journeys range from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on which route you take. If travelling in Winter as we did, make sure you wrap up warm as it gets chilly up on deck, where the best uninterrupted views are. If you want to keep warm there is a covered viewing deck downstairs with wide windows for viewing. 

We hopped off at Tower Pier where you are literally just a few steps from the entrance to the Tower of London. Included in The London Pass is access to the world-famous fortress and its tours and exhibitions. 

This was my first time visiting the Tower of London and getting to the view the Crown Jewels (I’ve wanted to see these for years).  They were so much more opulent than i had imagined. There are 20 Billion Pounds worth located here! The crown that Queen Elizabeth wore for her coronation was my favourite. You also get to see the armoury where they have the suit of armour that Henry VIII wore in battle. Discover the towers secrets and how it was a Palace, a Prison and a Zoo (there were once Polar Bears here). There are also 7 resident Ravens and the legend goes that if they ever leave the property then the tower will fall. Catch a free guided tour from one of the uniformed Beefeaters and explore where Queens were executed and imprisoned! You could honestly spend hours and hours here as it is just simply fascinating! 

Top Tip – visit the Crown Jewels first as they are the busiest attraction if you want to avoid the crowds.

You can view Tower Bridge from the top of the Medieval walls. It is located just around the corner from The Tower of London so is placed perfectly for our next stop, which is also included for free in The London Pass.

Tower Bridge

This iconic bridge is a must see when in London. With The London Pass you get skip the line entry to the 42 meter high glass floored walkway. Take photos of the red buses below and see the Shard in the distance. Be sure to take a few steps on the glass floor! 

Tower bridge was built to ease the congestion on London’s other bridges back in the times of horse and carts where some 175,000 people travelled across the bridge daily. It has the ability to raise its bridge to a full 90 degrees but only does so if a member of the royal family is passing by boat underneath….so keep an eye out next time it raises.

After Tower bridge we caught the underground  from London Bridge station to Oxford Street where we took a break to relax and indulge. 

Afternoon Tea 

A true British tradition! No trip to London would be complete without afternoon tea which used to be enjoyed by wealthy families in the 1840’s

There are now many versions of this classic tradition available – we like a champagne afternoon tea like the one hosted at Scoff and Banter in Oxford Street. With choices of hot dishes to start ( we have never experienced an afternoon tea with hot dishes before so this was lovely), flavoured scones, tempting sandwiches and delicious cakes complemented with a loose leaf tea of choice and a glass of Moët and Chandon, we felt like our day in London was complete. 

Following Afternoon Tea we took a walk down Regent Street, lit up at Christmas it is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The magical angels that float down the centre of the street, twinkling in the night sky is something that has to be seen in person. Ideally situated near our next activity.

The London Pass Regent Street

Hop on Hop Off Bus

The day is not over as The London Pass also allows you access on the Hop on Hop off buses for 24 hours. By this point it was sunset so the perfect opportunity to catch the bus and explore London lit up at night time. We pass Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden with live commentary on board. You are able to use a variety of companies including Big Bus, Gray Line and Golden Tours all offering a different selection of routes. We chose Golden Tours and experienced the Blue Route as it took us to our final destination of the day. 

Hopping off at London Bridge you are just a few minutes walk from The Shard. The perfect way to end your day in London. 

The View from The Shard

An iconic building that stands out amongst the London Skyline. The Shard which is an architectural wonder and home to the 5* Shangri-La Hotel. As London’s tallest building it is a wonderful opportunity to get a birds eye view of the city at the viewing platform which is 243m above ground. Enjoy a glass of Champagne and step outside on to the Sky Deck. You can even get floor to ceiling window views from the toilet. Schedule a trip at sunset to experience the day go to night and watch the city light up. There are three viewing floors and you get to experience the views for as long as you like. 

Check out The London Pass to get discounted sightseeing on over 80 attractions for your trip to London. You can get 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 Day Passes.

N.B Afternoon Tea not included in The London Pass.

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Thank you to the London Pass for supplying our complementary 1 Day Passes. As always all of our opinions are our own.

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Tulum

Coba Panoramic

Are you looking for an opportunity to travel responsibly and give back to the local communities when you travel? Do you want to discover the history of an area all whilst leaving the smallest impact on the environment?

During our time in Tulum, a small town in the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean Coastline of Mexico, we wanted to explore the great ancient Mayan ruins, trek through the lush green jungle, swim in the incredible Cenotes that make up part of the largest underground river system in the world, connect with and support the local Mayan communities. We were able to do this all whilst leaving very little environmental impact and help contribute to local Mayan businesses. 

We did this by going on an Eco – Tour. The company that we used is called Mexico Kan Tours – their main goal is to introduce sustainable tourism to tourists visiting the Yucatan Peninsula whilst ensuring you have an incredibly enriching and fun experience. This is something that is so important to us as long term travellers. We want to have as little impact on the environment but still visit incredible tourist destinations. We want to have the opportunity to help local communities instead of putting dollars in the pockets of international businesses. 

Mayan Inland Expedition

So on our first day in Tulum – we embarked on the Mayan Inland Expedition. All I can say is that we were simply blown away by how incredible this tour was. Phil and I are harsh critics when it comes to tours and hotels so when we finished this tour feeling overwhelmed with gratitude, we knew we had made a fantastic decision doing this tour.

To give you an idea of what we found so fantastic here are a few features of what we think it takes to make a successful sustainable tour.

  • Small Group Sizes

These tours are designed to take only small groups (of around 12 people maximum) so your impact on the environment is minimal. We travelled in an air conditioned minivan to our destinations. Not only does this provide a better impact on the environment but you also have a much more personal experience on the tour. There were only 8 of us on our tour and it was amazing being able to get to know everyone on a personal level whilst also being able to hear what our guide Luigi had to say. 

  • Snacks and Beverages provided – in zero waste containers

When we first stepped on board the minivan Luigi, our guide offered us the most delicious homemade flapjacks. Made by a local German family using their secret family recipe, offered in a reusable container. No plastic or waste in sight. They also had bananas for us and stainless steel water bottles for each of us to carry. These were refillable from a giant insulated water container located on the minivan. Every little sustainable detail was thought of. 

  • Supporting local businesses

The entire trip is designed to help support local Mayan communities. We visited some fantastic communities and families in the areas, something that most large generic travel companies would not give you the opportunity to do on such a personal level.

  • Informative guides

Luigi our guide had an incredible wealth of knowledge, but not only that he was so enthusiastic about the concept of sustainable tourism and creating such a fantastic experience for us on the tour. 

  • Unique experiences

By offering you the opportunity to travel in smaller groups it is easier to visit places that are not necessarily on the main tourist route. A majority of the tour we did not see other tourists at all, including the time spent at the local family run Cenote which we had all to ourselves. 

The Ancient Coba Ruins

The Full day tour started at 8am where we were picked up at our hotel. We travelled first 44km Northwest of Tulum to the ancient ruins of Coba. We had the opportunity to cycle through the jungle uncovering the ruins and local residents including the wild Tarantulas. Luigi our guide regaled us with stories of the Mayan communities who lived here AD 600-900. The city of Coba became famous for being the largest network of stone causeways in the Mayan world. One of the main attractions of visiting Coba is that it is one of the few places where you are allowed to climb up the largest Pyramid. The views at the top are incredible, if you are brave enough to climb. 

Coba Pyramid

Punta Laguna

After visiting Coba we drove to the Mayan community of Punta Laguna. They provide eco-tourism activities aimed to help preserve their forest and culture. Here we were greeted with a traditional blessing before being led through the dense jungle. The main attraction here being the wild spider monkeys, our local guide here was particularly talented at spotting them for us. We also had the opportunity to zipline across the lagoon which was great fun, especially after Luigi told us there were alligators in the lagoon below. We then got in a canoe and paddled across the lagoon – always keeping an eye out for those underwater reptiles. 

Nuevo Durango

By this point we had worked up an appetite and visited the nearby village of Nuevo Durango. We stop at a local families house that served us a delicious Mayan meal and allowed us to help make tortillas for it. The house is located in beautiful gardens and is the location for an endangered species project where they are helping reintroduce injured animals back into the wild. By visiting these families and their businesses we are helping support them with our tourism dollars instead of giving it to companies who won’t pass it on.

Making Tortillas

Family run Cenote

To finish off the tour we visited a family run cenote and ended up having it all to ourselves which was so magical. For those that were brave enough they jumped in, and for those like myself who are afraid of heights there were stairs down inside. The water is so blue and clear, it was the perfect way to refresh after a jam packed day.

If you are planning on coming to Tulum we highly recommend this tour, having the opportunity to connect with the local communities, discover ancient ruins and refresh in tropical cenotes was an experience we will never forget.

Thank you to Mexico Kan Tours for hosting us, our tour was gifted and all opinions are our own. We truly only recommend activities that we absolutely love. 

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Philippines

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s and showcase lesser known picture perfect locations ( find out why we DON’T recommend visiting El Nido), explain the myriad of transport options and share where we recommend eating and sleeping, all whilst sticking to a budget.

So lets get started – bookmark this or pin this for later if you are short on time because this post is full to the brim with every ounce of information you will need for your trip!

Where are the Philippines?

The Philippines is a country comprised of over 7000 islands based in South East Asia to the east of Vietnam. Its current population sits around 105 million, a majority are of Malay descent. Due to its close proximity to neighbouring Asian countries, it is a melting pot of different cultures. There are over 120 distinct indigenous Philippine languages although Filipino and English are the most wildly spoken. 

Nacpan

Why Visit the Philippines?

Over 7000 tropical islands, white sand beaches, snorkelling, diving and surfing, it has something for everyone. Its locals are friendly and welcoming and the islands are varied so it will reward the adventurers out there.

Bonus points if you are a karaoke enthusiast at home because we are pretty sure the Philippines may be the worlds capital. The filipino people have a fun and happy go lucky attitude and the children love to wave and say ‘Hello’ to everyone.

It’s unique wildlife and crystal clear waters will have you booking your next trip to explore more of its many islands as soon as your trip ends. 

Fairly new and up and coming on the travellers hit list the Philippines still has a lowkey local vibe on many of its hidden gems. 

Planning your Philippines adventure can be difficult………..there is so much to see!

We guarantee that you will always want more time to visit all the areas and islands that catch your eye so we spent a month travelling through the Philippines and hopefully our highlights will help you when planning your island adventure.

Kawasan Falls

When to visit the Philippines?

The Philippines experiences 3 seasons: The Hot Season being between March and May followed by the Rainy Season from June to November and the Cool Season in December til February.

Peak season for tourists is the hot season between March and May. It is generally avoided during the wet season as the countries islands are located in a typhoon rich area of Asia and experiences between 17-19 typhoons through the wet season. Like many countries in Asia the hot season will be around 30-40 degrees so some travellers will prefer the cooler months.

How Long to stay in the Philippines?

We spent 30 days touring the Philippines and you could spend much longer – there is so much to see and do!

Travellers come to the Philippines for many different types of trips, if you want to travel and explore the country and its islands as we did we would recommend minimum 2 weeks and just choose a few of our highlights.

However if you are coming to experience its world class diving and surfing and perhaps not travelling as much you could do it in less as the main dive islands will have many different dive sights on their doorstep.

Short break getaways generally see visitors located at one of the Philippines hotel and beach resort locations such as the newly developed and rebuilt Boracay.

Take note of how long you are allowed to stay in the Philippines depending on the country you are from. We are from the UK and if we wanted to stay longer than 30 days we would needed to have applied for a visa in advance. Check with your local embassy on the visa requirements for your country first.

Bohol Chocolate Hills

When you ARRIVE in the PhilippinesTOP TIPS

Local Currency in the Philippines

When you arrive in the Philippines make sure you have enough local currency in cash. The currency is Philippines Peso (PHP) and is accepted everywhere. Some of the remote islands do not have working cash machines, even Puerto Princesa Airports cash machines were not working when we arrived. The cash machines can be unreliable and many travellers were struggling to get any cash for their taxis. This is especially important in Palawan if this is your first port of call as many travellers want to head straight to El Nido. If you do not have enough cash before you arrive in El Nido for the duration of your time in Palawan, you are going to struggle to pay for your trip. We recommend calculating the cost of your entire trip in Palawan and ensuring you have enough cash to cover this. 

Local Sim Cards in the Philippines

Make sure you have a Local SIM card, we got ours when we transited in Manila Airport. We found that the wifi on your phone was not as bad as many people make it out to be. We opted for the Globe Travellers sim with 8GB of data valid for 30 days. It was around 1000PHP for the data and the sim card. 

Health Tips for the Philippines

Food Poisoning is a problem in the Philippines for a lot of people, always read reviews on Trip Advisor for the restaurants that you want to visit. Especially if you are travelling to undeveloped areas.

Drink Bottled Water – especially when visiting El Nido. They have an ongoing problem with their water source not being clean. We made sure to brush our teeth with bottled water also, and found many travellers who didn’t were ill.

How to get to the Philippines

The Philippines has 3 main international airports – Manila, Puerto Princesa and Cebu. There are some smaller airports that serve international flights but the ones mentioned above will likely be the most affordable and available.

We opted to fly from Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh) to Puerto Princesa as it landed us on Palawan island which is a great place to begin your Philippines adventure and avoid the big capital of Manila. (Cebu is also a great alternative to avoid Manila)

Getting around the Philippines

There are many transport options available for exploring the Philippines and Island Hopping. We mostly used flights for hopping between major islands and a few ferries for the shorter distances.

Flight prices between islands were reasonable and due to the duration of some ferry trips definitely more comfortable.

Once on your island of choice you are often choosing between tourist minibuses, jeepney’s, local buses, tricycles and taxi’s. During our month long stay in the Philippines we used all of these and some are definitely interesting.

Jeepneys

While taxi’s and minibus transfers are the more comfortable options, travel like a local and you can save some Peso’s for a cocktail on your tropical beach paradise of choice. 

The Jeepney’s are unmistakable…brightly coloured and painted, loud and often pieced together from 3 different vehicles, these are the local workhorses. These will often link local towns and only leave once they are packed with locals, deliveries and even motorbikes. Air conditioning is not an option here but open sided windows do the trick and you get to experience local life while rumbling around for a fraction of the price of other transport options.

Tricycles

If you have travelled in Asia before you will be familiar with the Filipino Tricycles – also known as Tuk Tuk’s in Thailand and Rickshaws in India, these are the most common way to travel short distances. 

Minivans

The minibus or minivan transfers receive a mixed bag of reviews online but are very common on certain islands and generally not too expensive – one popular trip for these companies is Puerto Princessa on Palawan to Port Barton or El Nido. We chose to pre-book with SBE as they received the best reviews (even these were not too good). Often companies (Recaro in particular get very bad reviews) will over pack the minibuses past legal limits and drivers will drive at crazy speeds so it pays to check a few reviews prior.

Ferries

For popular ferry routes such as El Nido to Coron we would advise pre-booking your ferry tickets online. These ferries get full quickly and we opted for the popular Montenegro fast ferry which takes between 3-4 hours rather than the 6 hour normal ferry.

TOP TIP: Grab App – this is similar to Uber and has been operating in the Philippines for the last couple of years. Only readily available in main cities such as Cebu and Manila, we loved using this app. You can choose to pay your driver in cash so no credit card is needed and they will give you a price prior to ordering your ride.

For short distances they have a fixed rate which was always cheaper than normal taxi’s and also there is no hassle from the usual Taxi Meter Scams. We used this to get to the airport in Manila from our hotel and it was much cheaper than any airport transfers from hotels in the area.

What to bring to the Philippines

  • Waterproof Dry Bag – keep your valuables dry and away from sand on those island hopping tours you will surely be enjoying.
  • Reef Shoes – this is for all those occasions when you need to wade in shallow reef covered water to go snorkelling or climb over rocks on your island hopping trips.
  • Suncream – this is not readily available for sale as the locals do not wear it. If you are lucky to find it in a store it is extremely expensive. Make sure you bring plenty as you will need to apply it constantly if you plan on being in the water for a majority of your trip. Try and get a reef friendly option when possible.
  • Waterproof camera case or Go Pro – with so much snorkelling to be had you will want to be able to capture the turtles and tropical fish. Especially if you visit Moalboal to see the Sardine Run – imagine hundreds of thousands of fish!
  • Snorkel Mask – for said snorkelling above
  • Bum Bag – keep all your valuables close by on nights out so you don’t need to bring a big bag with you everywhere you go.
  • First Aid Kit – anything can happen when on holiday – reef cuts, food poisoning, dehydration, insect bites. Make sure you have a go to kit of essentials.

Where to visit in the Philippines?

We have made separate blog posts for each of our favourite destinations – just choose one or all of them below:

Port Barton Blog Post
Nacpan Beach Blog Post
Siquijor Blog Post
Bohol Blog Post

Tourist Traps

**A note on Oslob – yes you can swim with Whale Sharks in Oslob, but should you? This is a top activity in many guide books and on internet guides, however it has come under fire recently from environmental groups and government organisations.

Tourists are led to believe whale sharks live wild in Oslob and the tours there take 100’s of tourists a day to view them in their natural habitat. 

The official conservation status for these whale sharks is vulnerable and declining. Naturally these sharks are migratory and mobile – now picture 100’s of tourists in the water swimming and touching these animals which are fed by locals to keep them in the small bay for the purpose of tourism.

Not quite the life the whale sharks are used to – the unregulated practises here have lead to behavioural changes in the sharks who now rely on feeding by the fisherman while associating the tourist boats with food and will probably never venture into the open ocean. 

According to studies by independent groups up to 95% of the boats and swimmers here fail to abide by the rules that stop close interaction with the species. As thoughtful  travellers we should be aware of these practices and do our best to avoid them or at least until they are properly regulated with the animals wellbeing and sustainability being the priority. There are many travellers who are aware that the practices are not right but might really want to experience it anyway so will put their conscience aside. However there are many other ways to experience the Philippines amazing ocean wildlife in their natural habitat with accredited companies. 

**A note on El Nido – we haven’t included El Nido in our must see sights and here’s why. Although it is often included on many lists as a must do and see, we found the opposite, especially after spending time in Port Barton prior. A friend of ours who lives in the Philippines advised us to avoid it and we didn’t listen due to the overwhelming love for it on Instagram and the internet. This is truly a representation of how the internet (Instagram/Pinterest) does not give a truthful outlook on popular destinations.

Tourism has well and truly hit the small town and we found it overly busy, overpriced and chaotic. It would be a good place to party and many people visit for it’s boat trips similar to Port Barton and Coron, however after our idyllic boat trip in Port Barton we were struggling to pay far more for an overpriced trip in El Nido with 3x the amount of people to a boat. I’m sure the boat trips here have many beautiful sights but after speaking to travellers who have done tours in Coron and Port Barton they all preferred those over El Nido. 

Instead, ever the adventurers we opted to head for Corong Beach in search of a kayak for hire. From here we paddled around the coast to Lapus Lapus and Papaya Beach which are also on the boat tour routes, but we had these perfect beaches to ourselves after the boats left and only paid 500php total for the day. The views here are beautiful and well worth doing if you are a strong paddler. (make sure you get a kayak that stays afloat- ours was almost underwater the entire time haha)

El Nido’s beach by the town is nothing to write home about and I’m sure not the reason people come to visit. We did like Las Cabanas beach, but there was A LOT of construction underway building a huge shopping centre directly on the beach. Not the most peaceful place listening to cement being drilled all day long. Before long this place will become a tourists nightmare and the reason many came to visit will have disappeared.

Las Cabanas

If you want to stay in El Nido – make sure you stay in Nacpan Beach. We stayed in El Nido for 4 nights and seriously regretted it. Accommodation books up early so if you do feel the need to visit El Nido, i would only recommend staying 1 or 2 nights maximum in the town. There are certainly some beautiful and photogenic spots here but the quiet, idyllic charade that the internet portrays will leave you a little disappointed if you weren’t expecting it. Check out the Nacpan Blog Post here.

We have listed some accommodation options for places that you may need to transit in between your main destinations.

Dumaguete

Casa Arrieta Hostel10/10 for value and the accommodation! This was a great find located in Dumaguete town on Negros. Super clean and modern it felt more like a hotel than a hostel. This place is perfect if you need a night to stay somewhere before you catch a ferry to Siquijor.

At check in we were given all the local information we needed along with recommendations and maps to explore the university town of Dumaguete. Also our hosts gave us a slice of Dumeguete’s famous ice cream cake which went down a treat! For dinner or lunch try Lord Byrons Backrib’s just across the street.

Manila

Lub d Makati – we were flying out of Manila so had a few days to explore the city. The Lub d in Makati is in a great location – a popular hostel chain, this place had everything with funky decor, modern facilities, spacious rooms and free popcorn! 

This felt like luxury after a couple of weeks travelling. The malls and shopping are close by and a large movie lounge and bar area is great for catching up on emails.

We booked it through booking.com for the best price, get 10% back when you book through this link.

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Port barton The Ultimate Travel Guide
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Port Barton

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post Extravaganza to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s in Port Barton but also link to our other Must See’s in the Philippines including Siquijor, Moalboal, Bohol, Nacpan and Coron (notice El Nido is not on that list – click here to find out why). The posts are packed to the brim with everything we learnt on our month long trip and include some super helpful time and money saving tips.

Why visit Port Barton

Port Barton is located in Palawan and was our first stop in the Philippines. It is a location that many people we met seemed to not have heard of. Upon landing in Puerto Princesa most travellers rush to get to the far north, to the tourist town of El Nido and bypass Port Barton.

We were attracted to Port Barton once we heard of its local, undeveloped and laid back beach vibes. We hope it stays this way as it was an excellent way to get started in the Philippines. It’s beautiful, quiet, palm lined beach awaited us and we were not disappointed.

Port Barton Beach

What to do in Port Barton

Coconutz Tours Island Hopping

The number one thing to do in Port Barton is an island hopping boat trip. Through some research we decided to contact Bianca of the highly rated Coconutz tours for our island hopping and snorkelling adventure. There are plenty of tour companies on the beach offering similar tours but we believe this company is an absolute must!

Coconutz Tours Port Barton

Coco and Bianca took us on a reverse tour of the islands and snorkelling spots (not following the main ‘clockwise’ route with other boats). This meant we had most spots and beaches to ourselves the whole time, a fantastic fresh seafood and chicken bbq lunch was provided. Our highlight was snorkelling with Turtles away from the crowds. Coco and Bianca pride themselves on offering the best tour in Port Barton by offering something that is tailor made – you travel where ever the other boats are not so you get a very special and unique experience.

Port Barton Turtle
Port Barton Island Hopping Paradise

Another Filipino favourite…Rum was provided which made you feel just like Jack Sparrow sailing the tropical seas. A nice touch which added to the great day out. FYI a bottle of rum in the Philippines is insanely cheap – think a couple of dollars for a litre!

Port Barton Island Hopping Trip

TOP TIP: before arriving we read about boat tour prices and how much to expect to pay. As the Philippines tourism industry is just getting to grips with the increased numbers of travellers sometimes information on these is out of date unless very recent. The tour prices in Port Barton as of March 2019 are now set at 1400php between all companies to help locals and boat tour operators get a fair price and keep competition stable.

Port Barton Beach

One of the reasons that we prefer Port Barton to El Nido is that the beach in the town is beautiful. The chilled sandy lanes that all lead to the beach where you can relax next to beach puppies, grab a chilled beer from one of the beach shacks and shade yourself underneath the palm trees. It is pure paradise and a fantastic place to just unwind. What a welcome to the Philippines!

Port Barton Beach view

Where to stay in Port Barton

Hashtag Tourist Inn – this small family run guesthouse had clean private double rooms set up each with their own patio and garden view. A short walk to the beach in Port Barton this was a perfect stop for our visit. The friendly owners were more than happy to organise scooters or tours if needed.

We pre-booked our accommodation at Hashtag Tourist Inn with booking.com to make it easier when we arrived. Port Barton is a small town so we would recommend this to avoid any disappointment when you arrive if it is busy. Get 10% back when you book through this link.

Where to eat in Port Barton

Mabuti – For a great dinner out try here. We ate here a couple of times during our stay in Port Barton and loved the fresh food and chilled vibes. Try the Shakshuka – it’s delicious and big enough to share. 

Milano Cafe – If you want fantastic coffee – head here. This place is owned by a super friendly Italian couple who import all of their ingredients. The fresh sandwiches are also delicious. 

Gacayan Restaurant – If you are looking for a super cheap place to eat that is no frills and a backpacker hang out then look no further than this joint. The main reason we are mentioning this is because Port Barton is not cheap for food and drink. Coming straight here from Cambodia and Thailand it’s definitely a pricier destination.

Getting to Port Barton

We got here via SBE Minibus from Puerto Princesa Airport (2.5-3 hour journey) which drops you at the towns main transport shack (also where the local Jeepney’s leave from when you depart). From here you can purchase an eco-pass from the small desk which allows you to partake in boat trips. You have to have one of these passes to go on the island hopping tours so make sure you stop to purchase one before rushing off to find your accommodation.

Our SBE experience – we pre booked the SBE bus online for our arrival at Puerto Princesa Airport. To get picked up from the airport it costs a little extra and means that you don’t have to haggle for a tricycle ride to the Bus Depot when you land. All of the minibuses leave from the main Bus Depot so our pick up from the airport was in a car. We are not sure it was supposed to be as we had to email (no one answered the phone) SBE when we arrived as no one was there to collect us. At this point every other company will try and persuade you to travel with them.

Our minibus from Puerto Princesa was not leaving for a couple of hours so SBE offered to drop us off at the local Mall to get some food and relax. After a couple of hours they collected us from outside the mall (for no extra fee). The only downside to this is that you get the last seats on the bus which can be cramped. The main alternative minivan provider is Recaro- we simply did not travel with them based off of their extremely poor reviews.

How long to spend in Port Barton

We stayed for 3 nights in Port Barton but we easily could have stayed longer to unwind in this beautiful place. It was an absolute highlight of our trip to the whole of the Philippines.

Looking to visit more places in the Philippines? Check out our other favourite destination blog posts here:

Nacpan Beach Blog Post
Coron Blog Post
Moalboal Blog Post
Siquijor Blog Post
Bohol Blog Post

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Nacpan Beach

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post Extravaganza to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s in Nacpan but also link to our other Must See’s in the Philippines including Moalboal, Coron, Bohol, Siquijor and Port Barton (notice El Nido is not on that list – click here to find out why). The posts are packed to the brim with everything we learnt on our month long trip and include some super helpful time and money saving tips.

Why visit Nacpan

Nacpan Beach is very much the opposite of what you will find in busy and noisy El Nido. Calm, quiet and tranquil with a 4km stretch of palm tree lined beach to explore and relax on. A nice stroll along the beach will have you enjoying your very own piece of Nacpan Beach paradise all to yourself.

Nacpan Beach, El Nido

What to do in Nacpan

The beach at Nacpan is only one half of the ‘twin beach’ area. If you walk to the southern end of Nacpan beach and across the land where the local fishing village is you will arrive at Calitang Beach. This is the side where we stayed and also the best side for the fantastic sunsets, so kick back and enjoy a cold beer while the sun sets over the ocean. It also happens to be the location for the cheapest beer in Nacpan at Dandal Bay View.

It seemed many staying on Nacpan beach missed the amazing sunset opportunities so it is well worth the short stroll and even enjoy dinner at the Phoenix Bar and Restaurant who serve delicious Thai cuisine on the sand.

Sunset Nacpan Beach, El Nido

You can also take island hopping tours from here to see the same sights you would from El Nido and benefit from staying in a far nicer area. Just keep an eye out for the signs on the beach.

Where to stay in Nacpan Beach

Dandal Bay View – This is where we stayed and is located right on the beach at Dandal Bay (Calitang Beach). This locally run hotel has two parts to the property, the newly built rooms are set on the beach with its own bar and restaurant perfect for soaking up the sunset.

There are also older bamboo style rooms set back from the beach in simple Filipino style. Next time we would prefer to be in the newer block of rooms and pay the extra. This property is ideal if you are on a super budget but if you can afford to pay a little more to upgrade then we recommend it.

There is a popular Mad Monkey Hostel right on the sand at Nacpan beach. The hostel has a large beachfront bar with bean bags and seating that welcomes non-guests for food and drinks and is a lively spot. It is more expensive than other properties but seemed super popular.

We booked our accommodation through booking.com for the best price, get 10% back when you book through this link.

Where to eat in Nacpan

Mad Monkey Hostel– serving up tasty wood fired pizza on a lively wooden deck overlooking the ocean. Lots more on the menu and a great place to just chill and watch the world go by.

Phoenix Bar and Restaurant – one of the most popular restaurants serving up delicious Thai food. The owner- an expat, is super friendly and has found one of the best spots on the island to house a restaurant due to the insane nightly sunsets. This is located on Calitang Beach, just over the sand dunes from Nacpan.

Getting to Nacpan Beach

From El Nido we opted to take a minibus shuttle to Nacpan Beach, the air conditioned transfer costs 350php each way per person or 600php for a return if on the same day. We booked through Discover El Nido, they have a local office in El Nido with air conditioning. You can purchase tickets inside the office when it is open or online. We recommend booking in advance as the shuttles only take about 16 people maximum.

Tricycle drivers will also advertise to take you however the journey is approx 45min and some of the road is still being built so very rough aboard a tricycle. They also charge a lot more for this journey (around 1000php). You can ride a moped here if you don’t mind the bumpy journey and you have to pay a small fee to enter the area when you arrive. 

How long to spend in Nacpan

We spent 2 nights in Nacpan however you could easily spend more time hear just relaxing and island hopping. We met many travellers that had come to El Nido and kept coming back to Nacpan instead.

Looking to visit more places in the Philippines? Check out our other favourite destination blog posts here:

Coron Blog Post
Moalboal Blog Post
Siquijor Blog Post
Bohol Blog Post
Port Barton Blog Post

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Coron

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post Extravaganza to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s in Coron but also link to our other Must See’s in the Philippines including Siquijor, Moalboal, Bohol, Nacpan and Port Barton (notice El Nido is not on that list – click here to find out why). The posts are packed to the brim with everything we learnt on our month long trip and include some super helpful time and money saving tips.

Why Visit Coron

If you are looking for clean turquiose water, cheap boat tours to some of the most spectacular sites, awe inspiring sunsets and some of the best views that the Philippines has to offer then you will want to make sure Coron is on your bucket list. The Lakes on Coron Island have become world renowned, and for good reason and this quickly became one of our favourite places in the Philippines. It is definitely worth the journey to get here and can easily be done on a budget.

CYC Beach, Private Boat Tour

Coron VS El Nido

El Nido has become popular pretty fast and is now one of the most instagrammed places on the web. With that comes tourism that is overwhelming the area. Not to mention increases in prices for the much sought after Island Hopping Tours. Prices in El Nido are far higher than in other parts of the Philippines and we believe it has become some what of a tourist trap. That isn’t to say there are not ways that you can enjoy El Nido but when making the decision between visiting El Nido or Coron we would ultimately suggest Coron.

If you want to learn more on why we don’t suggest El Nido – click here. If you do want to visit El Nido, we suggest staying in Nacpan – read our Blog Post on Nacpan here. An alternative location that offers absolutely incredible island hopping for a much cheaper price with fewer crowds is Port Barton, we absolutely loved it here – read all about it here.

What to do in Coron

Private Coron Island Boat Tour

Although you will base yourself in Coron Town, the boat trips to Coron island and its sites are a Must See and the main thing people visiting will be looking to book. 

That does mean boat trips are busy but luckily we found a great way to avoid the crowds and larger numbers on the usual tourist boats.

We decided on a private boat trip. These private trips can take anywhere from 1 person to 8 people rather than some of the standard tour companies which will have up to 16. Yes they are more expensive but it actually works out cheaper if there are 4 of you to split the cost. 

There were only the 2 of us on our boat as we wanted a private experience and to beat the crowds to the islands sights. The price for our boat, guide and captain for the day was 2500PHP ( compare this to El Nido where 8,000php will get you a private tour). Various popular tour companies will quote 3000-4500php for this, however our guesthouse arranged it for us for what is considered the normal price. Some people have mentioned you can go to the town pier and go directly to the boat drivers for a similar price (always negotiate!)

Group tours will cost between 900-1400php per person so if you can get a whole private boat for between 2500-3500php between a couple of you and beat the crowds then its smiles all round.

On the private tour you can take your own food and drink purchased in the local market on the dock beforehand and your guide and captain will prepare these for you while you are exploring the lakes and reefs. We took left over Pizza for our lunch and a watermelon for a refreshing snack. When we came out from snorkelling we found the watermelon cut up delicately for us. If you purchase fish they will cook this for you and prepare the delicious meal.

If you choose a private tour you want to push for the earliest departure you can get. Usually all boats can only depart after 8am when they have the coastguards go ahead. We wanted to be on the water before the other boats leave at 9am so we could enjoy no crowds at the first few spots. It takes some negotiating to encourage the boatman to leave early so be prepared to hustle. Everyone is on island time so a little persuading can go a long way.

The Best Coron Adventure in the Philippines Video

Kayangan Lake

Our first stop was the famous Kayangan Lake – we wanted to arrive here ahead of all the crowds partly for photos but also to enjoy its crystal clear waters in the peace and stillness of the morning. If you arrive early enough you can swim in the lake without your life jacket as the lifeguard will not have arrived. If they are there you cannot swim in the lake without your lifejacket. This lake is one of the clearest we have ever seen and its turquoise waters didn’t disappoint. Take a dive in from the wooden walk way around the edge and swim to your hearts content. It does get busy so if you want photos without a 100 or so swimmers make this your first spot, this is by far the most popular spot for most tours.

Barracuda Lake

Next we sailed onto the deep vibrant blue and equally as crystal clear Barracuda Lake surrounded by towering limestone cliffs – as we were one of the first boats out of the harbour we arrived here before the groups also. Dive into these insanely blue waters from the small wooden dock and watch the scuba divers below you. Bring your snorkel and mask, camera and GoPro for this one! This is the most blue lake in the area and was our favourite.

Snorkelling Barracuda Lake

Twin Lagoon

After Barracuda Lake we motored onto Twin Lagoon, which will likely be busy with swimmers in orange life jackets where as at the lakes mentioned above you can enjoy them to yourself if you leave early. Jump in off your boat watching out for the Urchins and float or swim through the warm waters. Once it looks like the lagoon is ending, swim under the natural bridge or up and over its staircase into the second half that gives twin lagoon its name. The lagoon is a mixing pot of fresh and salt water, if your snorkel mask seems blurry or the water is unclear it is usually because of the mixing of different water densities which create a strange film like effect. This does mean that it isn’t a great spot for snorkelling.

Twin Lagoon, Coron

CYC Beach

Once we had swam a few lengths of Twin Lagoon it was onto CYC Beach – this tiny island and its slice of white sand and turquoise crystal waters is a great spot for lunch. Lay out and feel like you are stranded on your own desert island. Luckily there is a friendly local boat man who will sell you ice cold beers and snacks too…..perfect! This spot is popular on the group tours and we arrived just as they were leaving so we had the island to ourselves. One of the perks of having a private tour- your own schedule.

Our final stop was for a spot of snorkelling on the protected Sieta Pecados Reef. This was one of the most amazing reef gardens we snorkelled on during our trip and on par with the equally amazing Tubod Reef on Siquijor. 

TOP TIP – some of the main sites of Coron Island do have ‘entrance fees’ which go towards an eco fund to maintain the sites and environment. These are on top of your hire/tour prices. Sometimes on group tours these will be included so check before you go and always take some pesos with you. We found that even including all of the entrance fees it was a far better value experience and thousands of pesos cheaper than doing a tour in El Nido. Budget a couple of hundred pesos per person for each location you want to visit.

Sunset at Mt Tapyas

If you are looking for a work out and a stunning sunset view then make your way to Mt Tapyas. Climb the 721 steps to the top and you will be rewarded with breath taking views of Coron Island and the surrounding hinterlands. Its free to visit and boasts its own version of the Hollywood sign. Take some water with you and something to sit on so you can settle down and enjoy the view. If you walk to the back of the view point you can see the lush green hills in the distance which are a stark contrast to the coastline around the corner. Make your way here around an hour before sunset to make the most out of it.

Mt Tapyas Sunset

Where to eat in Coron

Trattoria Altrove – a Pizza restaurant that serve up very good pizza and offer takeaway.

Brujita – a Vegetarian restaurant and our favourite place to eat in Coron as the food was delicious and reasonably priced. 

No Name Bar – a great happy hour and offers a wide selection of pub style food.

Where to stay in Coron

The Yellow House – this was one of our favourite stays in the Philippines. The super friendly hosts welcome you at their homestay style accommodation. You have use of the kitchen and lounge area and they are on hand to help arrange your Coron Island boat trips and transfers if needed. This makes the whole process a lot easier than chatting to competing companies and the prices are all the same any way.

We had a twin room with shared bathroom that was a short 10min walk through town to the port where the boats depart from. We booked it through booking.com for the best price, get 10% back when you book through this link.

Getting to Coron

By Ferry from El Nido to Coron

There are several ways that you can get to Coron with the most popular being by ferry from El Nido. Montenegro ferry lines offer a fast and slow ferry service and in peak season it can get very busy. We recommend pre booking online prior to travel, even if its a few days prior when you are in El Nido. The fast ferry tickets cost 1760PHP each plus fees when bought online at http://www.biyaheroes.com. (Totalled 2040PHP each)

Be prepared that the internet may not be the best or the website might not be working properly when you are in El Nido (all issues we experienced and upon researching for this blog post the website was not working properly.) There is a Montenegro Ferry Office in El Nido but you can only purchase tickets from there in person 24 hours before the boats departure. 

The ferry departed at 6am which meant that you experienced sunrise over the ocean which is breathtaking. You can sit on the open deck and watch the islands pass by. The journey takes approximately 4 hours.

Flying to Coron

Philippine Airlines fly out from Coron Airport, for a reasonable price to other major destinations. We decided to fly from Coron to Cebu as the alternative route would have taken far too much time out of our schedule (the alternative being – 4 hours ferry back to El Nido, 7 hour minivan drive to Puerto Princesa airport and flight to Cebu with Air Asia) Although the latter would have been a little cheaper in our minds it isn’t worth the money. Also the view from the window leaving Coron was incredible!

Coron from the Air

How long to spend in Coron

We spent 4 nights in Coron but you could easily spend much longer here. Ensure you are aware of how you are planning to leave Coron as this could dictate how long you spend there based on ferry or flight schedules.

Looking to visit more places in the Philippines? Check out our other favourite destination blog posts here:

Moalboal Blog Post
Siquijor Blog Post
Bohol Blog Post
Port Barton Blog Post
Nacpan Beach Blog Post

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Moalboal

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post Extravaganza to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s in Moalboal but also link to our other Must See’s in the Philippines including Siquijor, Coron, Bohol, Nacpan and Port Barton (notice El Nido is not on that list – click here to find out why). The posts are packed to the brim with everything we learnt on our month long trip and include some super helpful time and money saving tips.

Why Visit Moalboal

Moalboal is a cute and chilled beach town on the island of Cebu. Approximately 3 hours drive from Cebu City you will reach Moalboal and have access to two of the most beautiful natural phenomenoms – Moalboal Sardine Run and Kawasan Falls.

What to do in Moalboal

Moalboal Sardine Run

Ever wanted to snorkel with hundreds of thousands of fish? Then look no further than the incredible sardine run in Moalboal. One of the most amazing experiences we have ever had underwater was snorkelling through hundreds of thousands of sardines in their huge shifting shoals parting ways as you head through them. Just 50 meters from the shore you can be snorkelling or diving in no time at all. Unless you look below the surface you would have no idea that this beautiful thing is even happening.

Moalboal Turtle
Moalboal Sardine Run

The best way to find these sardines is to swim out from in front of the Chili Bar to the edge of the reef. As soon as the reef drops off you will find the sardines. We also had our closest turtle encounters in the same area so keep an eye out in the shallows. Check out this video we made of our encounter here:

Moalboal Sardine Run Video

Kawasan Falls

Moalboal is a great base to explore Moalboal’s equally famous Kawasan Falls. Enjoy your scenic 40 minute scooter ride from Moalboal or Badian and reach the much photographed and stunning falls. After you pay the 40php entrance fee and walk a short distance to the main falls you will be swimming in the bright blue fresh waters of this stunning waterfall. It does get crowded fairly fast so we think it’s best to arrive early if you want a more peaceful experience. We arrived at 8am and there were people there, come midday the families arrive with picnics.

Kawasan Falls Bamboo Raft

Once you are done with the main falls make sure you make your way to the jungle trek to the upper falls. On the way you will find other waterfalls and pools and once you arrive at the upper falls a rope swing and natural rock slide and more awesome lake swimming. 

Where to stay in Moalboal

Soul Travellersbased a short scooter ride from Moalboal town, Soul Travellers in Badian was a fantastic quiet get away from the main busy area. Having the use of a kitchen was a bonus and scooter hire from the owners worked out great to explore the sights of Moalboal. 

Jocelyn was a fantastic host and helped organise and plan our stay. We had a huge private double room but they also have bunk style accommodation if the budget is tight. This place really deserves its great reviews and also serves as a base for popular canyoneering trips to Kawasan Falls. They also have the most stunning sunsets here.

We booked it through booking.com for the best price, get 10% back when you book through this link.

Soul Travellers Sunset

Where to eat in Moalboal

Chili Bar – serving oceanside food with reasonable prices this casual bar and restaurant is a great option in Moalboal. They also have pool tables with views overlooking the ocean.

Getting to Moalboal

We caught the Ceres bus from Cebu City South Bus Terminal. They have air con and non air-con options and it costs approximately 150php per person. Make sure you get the bus that says Bato via Barili so you don’t go the wrong direction towards Oslob.

Getting around Moalboal

The easiest way to get around Moalboal is to hire a scooter. We hired a scooter from our Hostel for several hundred Pesos per day. This means it is a lot easier to get to Kawasan Falls by yourselves. There are also tricycles that you can catch a ride with if you want to travel locally and don’t want to ride a scooter.

How long to spend in Moalboal

If you plan on snorkelling with the Sardines and visiting Kawasan Falls we recommend spending at least two nights here.

Looking to visit more places in the Philippines? Check out our other favourite destination blog posts here:

Siquijor Blog Post
Bohol Blog Post
Port Barton Blog Post
Nacpan Beach Blog Post
Coron Blog Post

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Siquijor

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post Extravaganza to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s in Siquijor but also link to our other Must See’s in the Philippines including Moalboal, Coron, Bohol, Nacpan and Port Barton (notice El Nido is not on that list – click here to find out why). The posts are packed to the brim with everything we learnt on our month long trip and include some super helpful time and money saving tips.

Why visit Siquijor

Mystic tales and witchcraft legends surround this small island off the coast of Negros. Waterfalls and snorkelling are the order of the day on this island, the most famous being Cambugahay Falls.

San Juan, Siquijor

What to do in Siquijor

Cambugahay Falls

This waterfall play ground is reachable via a 30-40min scooter ride from the popular towns. Parking fee’s here are 10php and the local kids that ‘own’ the rope swings will show you their skills before diving into its turquoise blue waters.

You are welcome to join in on the swinging action for 50php. There are multiple tiers to the falls complex so have an explore and enjoy the cool waters.

Lugnason Falls

We also visited the smaller and quieter Lugnason Falls. A short ride from San Juan followed by a 10 min walk down to the falls where you will arrive at another jumping and swinging play ground. The water level was quite low when we visited but good enough for swimming and floating in the jungle.

Lugnason Falls

Paliton Beach

Paliton beach (also known as Little Boracay) is often the poster child for Siquijor with it’s powder white sand and warm waters. We found the beach a great place to watch the sunset with an ice cold beer although a little overated. The water is quite shallow with layers of sea grass so it isn’t a great place for a clear ocean swim.

Tubod Marine Sanctuary

The best snorkelling we found on our trip was at the Tubod Marine Sanctuary near San Juan. This hard to find beach is actually in front of the Coco Grove Beach Resort. Near to the resorts entrance there is a small pathway and area to park your scooter with access to the beach.

As this is a Marine Reserve there is a booth with a changing room to collect a 50php fee for each person wishing to snorkel. The coral and fish here were amazing once you snorkel out past the sea grass, it is an underwater paradise. You can also stay on the beach for the whole day if you wish and it was our favourite beach on the island. 

Tubod Beach, Siquijor

We did visit Salagdoong Beach as it’s featured on many instagram accounts and blogs due to the diving boards here. It takes quite some time to get here from San Juan and we didn’t think it lived up to the hype. There is a small beach where you can snorkel, but you can’t use the tables unless you pay for them for the day and they charge to park your scooter.

Where to stay in Siquijor

Aventura Bed & Breakfast – located in San Juan this accommodation had fantastic bamboo huts set amongst their beautiful palm grove garden. There were some fantastic places to eat close by and great access to the beaches and sights of the island. Tubod Marine Sanctuary is just up the road so it’s perfectly located. The easiest way to book this is through their Facebook Page.

Get 10% back when you book through Booking.com here

Where to eat in Siquijor

Roch Cuisine – our favourite place to eat is located on the road side just outside of San Juan heading north and is the perfect sunset spot for a beer and some local fresh street food made by the ladies who live across the street. Arrive early though, (think 5.30pm) when it’s gone, its gone! Do not miss the Mango Cake, it’s so delicious. Just read the reviews to know why you need to visit here.

Rastaman Grill – we enjoyed eating at this road side restaurant who offered great rice dishes on a nightly basis.

Marco Polo – Sit in cute wooden cabanas eating fantastic and great value pizzas overlooking the ocean.

Sunset Siquijor
Sunset by Roch Cuisine in Siquijor

Getting to Siquijor

You can get to Siquijor by ferry from Dumaguete on Negros and Bohol. We caught an Oceanjet ferry from Dumaguete and bought the ticket at the window when we arrived. It costs approx 350 PHP for an air conditioned seat and they charge a port fee of 25 PHP and charge for your luggage which is done by weight. (our bags cost about 80PHP each, we heard that there was a luggage scam where they over charge you but this was the correct amount according to the weight chart.)

How long to spend in Siquijor

We spent 3 nights in Siquijor which was a great amount of time to see everything we needed to see.

Looking to visit more places in the Philippines? Check out our other favourite destination blog posts here:

Bohol Blog Post
Port Barton Blog Post
Nacpan Beach Blog Post
Coron Blog Post
Moalboal Blog Post

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Bohol

If you have been planning on visiting the Philippines for a while now and have finally come around to researching your trip, you will know the internet is saturated with information on this topic.

That’s why my husband Phil and I have created this up to date 2019 Blog Post Extravaganza to help make planning your trip to the Philippines super easy. This comprehensive guide will breakdown the Must See’s in Bohol but also link to our other Must See’s in the Philippines including Moalboal, Coron, Siquijor, Nacpan and Port Barton (notice El Nido is not on that list – click here to find out why). The posts are packed to the brim with everything we learnt on our month long trip and include some super helpful time and money saving tips.

Why visit Bohol

Our main reason for visiting Bohol was to see the Tarsiers. I adore David Attenborough documentaries and one day i saw an episode that showcased these tiny marsupials with huge eyes and 360 degree rotating heads. I was hooked and had to take the chance to see them in the wild. Bohol is also known for the Chocolate Hills and it is quite a spectacular sight. You will also find far more to offer in Bohol including white sandy beaches with turquoise ocean, lush jungles with rivers flowing through them.

A short ferry ride from Cebu City, Siqujior or Dumeguete and you will arrive at Tagbilaran City on Bohol. Most people will jump aboard a Tricycle or Bus at the port and head straight out to neighbouring Panglao Island to begin their adventure.

Alona Beach is the popular tourist town here with its hotels and beach clubs, but we opted to stay a short distance away near White Beach for a quieter experience. Bohol is a great place to explore by scooter, many people take their scooters from Panglao Island to the famous sites of Bohol including the Chocolate Hills and to see our new favourite creatures, the Tarsiers.

The ride on your scooter is a journey in itself and very easy to enjoy aboard 2 wheels. Expect day trips to take several hours, but the views along the way make the journey even more enjoyable.

What to do in Bohol

The main sights are easily located along the way to the The Chocolate Hills, many tourists reasons for coming to Bohol.

White Beach

If you want super clear turquoise water and a white sandy beach that isn’t too crowded then aim to stay near White Beach on Panglao Island. It’s far enough away from the busy Alona beach, but close enough if you want to hop on your moped and grab some dinner from the vast array of restaurants.

White Beach Bohol

Tarsiers

Our first stop on our Bohol Island day trip was the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary located in Corella. Tarsiers are these tiny nocturnal primates ( like sit in the palm of your hand tiny!) with cute bug eyes and the ability to turn their heads over 180 degrees. They are an endangered species and a MUST SEE when in Bohol, if only because they are so darn cute!

Tarsier, Bohol

After a lot of research (as we do when visiting any animals abroad) we learnt that the only official not for profit Sanctuary is the one located in Corella. (Tarsier Sanctuary Rd, Corella, Bohol, Philippines). There are several “Sanctuaries” located in Bohol who run profitable businesses aimed at tourists who are unaware of their unethical practices. Ones where they do not have the Tarsiers welfare at the heart of the business, be it nets keeping them from roaming freely, making noise and using camera flashes, keeping these nocturnal animals awake. Tarsiers are temperamental creatures and can get easily stressed and when they do so they resort to suicide. They require several hectares of space PER Tarsier, quiet surroundings, like to live alone and reproduce poorly in captivity.

At the sanctuary in Corella the Tarsiers are free to roam in the protected area which consists of dense forest. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and only talk in whispers and no camera flashes are allowed. We recommend visiting first thing in the morning – we actually arrived 30 minutes before opening and they allowed us inside. This is perfect timing as the Tarsiers are still awake before the go to sleep for the day. The entrance fee is only 60 Pesos ( that’s under £1).

Loboc

Carrying on from Corella you will pass Loboc, known for the floating restaurants that blast music as you float down the river. Our host in Siquijor advised us against these floating tourist traps due to the effect they are having on the riverbed. The large boats are causing damage to the river banks and are becoming an environmental problem for the area. It is a good place to stop for some quick photos and a bite to eat being half way to the Chocolate Hills from Panglao Island.

Loboc, Bohol

You then travel on to the Bilar Man Made Forest. An amazing stretch of road to travel on your scooter, the shade provided by the 2km long stretch of Mahogany Trees is a welcome addition. Be careful of careless tourists standing in the middle of the road trying to get photos, there are plenty of bends here and it can be a dangerous place.

Chocolate Hills

Your next stop will be Bohol’s famous Chocolate Hills – named because of the colour they turn during the hot season and their contrast to the thick jungle around them. This is a hotspot for bus tours and very busy but there is plenty of room to snap some photos of the geological phenomenons. Although we only spent about 10 minutes admiring the hills at the top after such a long journey, we do think it was worth seeing as they are so unique. 

Bohol Chocolate Hills

Pangas Falls

On our return journey, our guest-house host recommended Pangas Falls, a short hop off the main road back from the Chocolate Hills. This was the perfect way to cool off…..well, I forgot my bikini but Phil took advantage of the cool waters and jumped from the top of the falls into the water below. There is a small entrance fee payable to the locals where they also rent buoyancy aids.

Pangas Falls, Bohol

As you are leaving Pangas falls you will drive past a beautiful wooden bridge that overlooks rice paddies. It is worth stopping if only to take in the nature and capture a couple of photographs.

Here is a Google Map of the route that we took – driving time is 4 hours and over 160km. It is a long day and some like to split the trip up by stopping in Loboc overnight. We wanted to stay by the beach so opted for the longer day.

Map of the route

Where to stay in Bohol

Bohol Garden Homes based on Panglao Island this budget accommodation was simply fantastic. Set in expansive lush tropical gardens near White Beach, Angel the host showed us true hospitality. We took the Bamboo Hut option which was set at the back of the gardens. They have new scooters on site which you can rent for the duration of your stay and offer great sightseeing advice.

We booked it through booking.com for the best price, get 10% back when you book through this link.

Where to eat in Bohol

Shaka Bohola Vegetarian restaurant serving hip and tasty food in the busy Alona Beach area. It’s more on the expensive side for the Philippines, but it’s a nice place to eat and offers tasty grub.

Villagios Pizza – If you stop in Loboc for a break on your way to the Chocolate Hills then visit this cute street side pizzeria for some tasty and affordable Pizza.

How to get to Bohol

We caught the ferry from Larena in Siquijor to Tagbilaran in Bohol. You can easily catch a tricycle to the ferry terminal in Larena and pick up your pre bought online tickets from the ticket booth there. We chose Ocean Jet and the ticket cost 728php per person.

How long to spend in Bohol

We spent 3 nights in Bohol and thought this was the ideal amount of time to spend there.

Looking to visit more places in the Philippines? Check out our other favourite destination blog posts here:

Port Barton Blog Post
Nacpan Beach Blog Post
Coron Blog Post
Moalboal Blog Post
Siquijor Blog Post

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Travel guides to Bangkok on a budget
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Bangkok – Thailand

The Ultimate Guide – Bangkok on a Budget

Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok
When your outfit matches Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok

WHERE IS BANGKOK?

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand located in the Chao Phraya River Delta with a population of approx 8.2 million people – it is served by two of Asia’s busiest international airports and hosts expats from all over the globe.

Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, Bangkok
Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, Bangkok

HOW TO GET THERE?

Bangkok has 2 international airports – the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport and the older Don Mueng Airport (considered to be one of the world’s oldest international airports and Asia’s oldest operating airport…for those travel buffs out there).

Suvarnabhumi Airport is on popular flight routes and stopovers through Asia and is 30km from Bangkok CBD. You can also arrive in Bangkok via popular tourist bus routes from nearby Cambodia. Don Mueng Airport is home to Air Asia who sell some of the cheapest flights around Asia.

Navigating the Taxi’s of Bangkok – Getting a taxi from the airport is a much debated topic across the internet with overpricing scams prevalent – locals say a ride to downtown Bangkok should be approx 300-400thb. While some drivers will regularly charge tourists 900thb+.

It is recommended to avoid any drivers approaching you at the exit of the terminal and instead queue for the ticketed taxi’s – here you take a ticket from a designated booth and your taxi meets you at a allocated space opposite – still here at the official taxi rank drivers will try and quote high prices. Some regular Bangkok visitors recommend insisting the driver turns on the meter before getting in, if they refuse be prepared to get in to a different taxi. 

We paid 500thb for our ride (we arranged this price with the driver when we got in) which although a little over priced was reasonable to us and given we arrived late and we were tired after our flight we were happy to be on our way – there is a toll road and airport surcharge that you are also required to pay which is normal. 

The drive from Suvarnabhumi airport to Bangkok CBD is approx 35-45 minutes depending on traffic.

Airport Bus – The S1 bus offers 60thb tickets for BKK airport to Bangkok city and the A4 bus for DMK airport for 50thb.

Buddha statues, Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok
Buddha statues, Wat Pho Temple

WHY VISIT?

Gleeming Temples, amazing Street Food and Cheap Accommodation are just a few reasons many travellers flock to Bangkok.

Take long tail boat rides to local floating markets and temples, tuk tuk rides to bars and restaurants, enjoy a cheap local massage and beer while watching the bustling city come alive or shop til you drop in its many malls. Bangkok has something for everyone.

It is the starting point for most backpacker and travellers South East Asian adventures but it is much more than just a stop before venturing further a field.

£1.20 for a Pad Thai dinner or Fresh Coconut Ice Cream in a real coconut husk! Bangkok and Thailand in general is also a great place to visit for the budget traveller. This also means for the luxury travellers out there you get more bang for your buck on hotel stays too.

Top Sights

Bangkok’s Temples should be on everybody’s list of must do’s while visiting the city – Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho are the most popular choices.

Wat Pho Temple – Wat Pho is close to the Grand Palace and was our choice for the day, the entrance fee was only 200thb per person. The Lonely Planet guide does need updating with regards to some prices in Bangkok if you are using these as a reference.

Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok
Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok

The 46 metre long Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is the most popular attraction here and one of the largest in Thailand. Be sure to check out the Buddha’s soles, these alone are 3m high and 4.5m long! They are inlaid with stunning mother-of-pearl patterns depicting elephants, tigers, dancers and flowers.

Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok
Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok

Most of the stunning grounds were fairly quiet allowing for plenty of photo opportunities with the fantastically detailed buildings and temples. Bring sun screen and water!

Ladies take something to cover for your shoulders and knees as is customary in all Thai Temples. My husband wore longer board shorts down to his knees (didn’t cover them) and this was ok. I also wore flip flops with no problems.

Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok
Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok
Wat Pho Temple Doorway, Bangkok
Wat Pho Temple Doorway, Bangkok

Getting Here – To get to Wat Pho we took a river boat from Phra Arthit pier (only 15thb!) It is far quicker and cheaper than taking a taxi or an expensive tuk tuk.

TOP TIP – make sure you get off at Wat Arun and swap boats to cross the river (4thb) to Tha Tian pier if you are going this direction. Here you can walk to the temple very easily. It’s also really close to the Grand Palace which is 500thb per person entrance fee but we opted out of this due to our tight budget. There are plenty of other incredible temples that are free or cost very little to visit.

Guardians of the Gate, Wat Arun, Bangkok
Guardians of the Gate, Wat Arun

Khaosan road – busy, loud, touristy and included in most tour books as a must see. It is certainly the centre of Bangkoks backpacker communities and has many bars lining the street, however a short stroll away is the ‘C’ shaped road of Soi Rambuttri. This is a quieter road but still a lively enough alternative to Khaosan Road with many street food vendors and restaurants where the vibe is a little more relaxed. This is actually where we frequented for the cheapest and most delicious Pad Thai street food and enjoyed happy hour beers whilst sitting curb side.

Soi Rambuttri, Bangkok
Soi Rambuttri at night, Bangkok

Most proper sit in restaurants around here (not plastic tables and chairs on the street) offer mains from 150-300thb minimum and large beers for 150thb. For comparison basic street stall bars will sell you a large beer for 90thb or 60thb in the 7-11 Stores.

Massages – you can only walk a few metres between shops before you encounter street side massages being offered on reclining chairs. 150thb for 30 mins or 300thb 1hr. If you walk to the end of Soi Rambuttri away from Khaosan Road they offer them for 100thb for 30 mins and these are a popular and great way to people watch or relax after a long day of walking around the many stunning temples.

Chinatown – at just 1km long the area is packed with vibrant street food stalls and restaurants. Busy and bustling as soon as night falls this is a great place to soak up the atmosphere and try some tasty and cheap cuisine.

Chinatown, Bangkok
Chinatown, Bangkok
Street Food, Chinatown, Bangkok
Street Food, Chinatown, Bangkok

4 delicious freshly cooked Gyoza for only 50thb and 10 chicken satay sticks for just 60thb. They were freshly grilled on the BBQ but they were also very busy and one of mine was still a little raw on the end. I didn’t get sick luckily but just make sure you check before you tuck in. It’s extremely busy so be prepared to queue for the most popular snacks. 

TOP TIP – Getting a taxi back to your hotel from here can be a little bit of work, (as with most of Bangkok) so we walked a short distance away from the busy taxi and tuk tuk area  to flag our driver down because they are known for largely inflated tourist prices right next to the market.

As previously mentioned, taxi drivers in Bangkok are notorious for not wanting to turn on the meter or for using the excuse ‘it is broken’ or cover them up. We managed to get a taxi home on the second attempt – the first one said no to the meter being turned on but the second honest taxi driver said yes. Only 50thb back to Soi Rambuttri. 

*Many people opt to Tip the honest Taxi drivers a little extra – even with the tip it is likely to still be 50% cheaper than the cost of some of the tourist taxi scammers. Don’t feel bad for asking for the meter to be turned on as legally they are required to and just go onto the next taxi if you are not successful.

WHERE TO STAY?

Want a further 10% off already cheap hotel and hostel prices? Click here for your own personalised discount.

We were visiting Asia on a backpackers budget and luckily Bangkok has accommodation to suit every budget from shared dorms to 5 star luxury. Location is always high on our list and is worth researching when visiting Bangkok.

We opted for the well reviewed Khaosan Art Hotel. At just £15 (615thb) per night for a private en suite double with air con it was an absolute bargain. (not a sponsored post we just enjoyed our stay)

There was no lift (common in Asia) and we were on the 5th floor which was quiet enough for us because it was further from the busy street and bars below. If you are staying in a busy area in Bangkok it is worth asking for a high floor so it’s not too noisy. Downstairs had a lively bar with restaurant and provided guests with 20% off their bill. We didn’t eat here as we were busy working our way through Bangkok’s street food delights but it was busy and popular every night.

We pre-booked our stay as we were arriving late and wanted somewhere arranged for a good rate. We ended up extending our trip for an extra two nights for same price at reception with their helpful and friendly staff.

The hotel is right on Soi Rambuttri and is just a few steps away from plenty of street stalls selling Pad Thai for 40-50thb and also budget friendly breakfast options. On the corner of Soi Chana Songkhram and Soi Rambuttri the restaurant sells fruit salad, yoghurt and muesli for 35thb which was perfect for a thrifty traveller and opposite here was my favourite Pad Thai and smoothie vendor.

One thing worth mentioning is the proximity to the bus stop servicing the Airport – the S1 bus stop opposite the hotel serves a bus that offers 60thb tickets for BKK airport and the A4 bus stop for DMK airport for 50thb. This was a big plus for us travelling on a tight budget.

How Long to Stay?

A minimum of 3-4 days for your first time in Bangkok would be enough to tick off the main sights and experience a taste of what the city has to offer. And with more sights and attractions you could fill a few extra.

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Koh Mook, Could this be the best unexplored Island in Thailand? Blog Post Guide
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Koh Mook – Thailand

Koh Mook – Could this be THE BEST unexplored island in Thailand?

Tropical Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand
Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook

When we decided to go island hopping in Thailand we only had a few weeks to fill and with so much choice it can be hard to decide on just a few. There were a few criteria that we wanted our tropical islands to meet – beautiful empty white sandy beaches and no crazy party atmosphere. After visiting Koh Lipe we had a pretty big task to complete because of how much we enjoyed it there. If you haven’t seen our Blog Post on Koh Lipe – check it out here.

After scouring the map to find islands on our journey we came across Koh Mook, found perfect accommodation and after viewing the photos we couldn’t wait to visit.

WHERE IS KOH MOOK? Located in Southern Thailand on the Southern Andaman Coast. Koh Mook is also known as Koh Muk, with Muk in Thai meaning Pearl. So welcome to Pearl Island.

Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand
Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook

HOW TO GET THERE? There are several ways that you can access Koh Mook with the most common being by speedboat or van+ferry combo. 

From the Islands– You can access Koh Mook from another island (we came straight from Koh Lipe) using the speedboat.

From the Mainland– If you travel from the mainland then you can go by ferry from Pakbara Pier with Hat Yai being the closest airport. Often the ferries are combined with vans to make a package – it is much better value and far easier.

Tropical Flowers, Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand
Frangipani on Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand

WHY VISIT? If you are looking for a quiet, undeveloped Thai island experience with a picture perfect beach then look no further.

Pro’s – Koh Mook is so quiet which means you get the relaxed island vibes. We also found food much cheaper here than in Koh Lipe with a great selection of low key restaurants. The local islanders were the friendliest we met which was the cherry on top of our visit.

Tropical Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand
Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook

Con’s – There are few beaches on this island and if you are looking for the perfect white sandy photo there is really only one, where we spent all of our time. Sivalai Beach – if you google Koh Mook this is the poster child for the island.

Top Sights

Sivalai Beach

Technically known as Hao-Laem Beach but because the Sivalai Beach Resort sits on this beautiful peninsula this is the most common name. If you stay at this resort you have direct access to this beach and if you don’t, then its not far at all to get here. Luckily for us we were staying a mere 10 minute walk away. This beach is a big reason we came here, most days there were only a handful of people enjoying it, soft white sand, clear blue ocean, frangipanis and palm trees. It was a tropical island bliss.

Palm trees on Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand
Sivalai Beach perfection, Koh Mook
Frangipani on Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand
Koh Mook, Thailand

Beachside dining at The Perfect Bar & Restaurant

A very highly rated place (just take in the Trip Advisor reviews) because the food is delicious and reasonably priced, it’s located in a wonderful beachside setting BUT most importantly the staff are just insanely nice. Always wearing the biggest smiles which made you feel so welcome. We ate here a few times and loved each occasion.

Cycling around the Island to Charlie Beach

You can easily hire scooters in Koh Mook or grab a free bike like we did from our accommodation. My insta worthy yellow beach cruiser was the perfect companion to explore the island. We cycled through local villages, took a cruise to our moonlit dinner reservations and visited Charlie Beach (also known as Farang Beach) on the other side of the island.

Beach cruiser palm tree grove, Coco lodge, Koh Mook, Thailand
Beach Cruiser at Coco Lodge, Koh Mook, Thailand
Cycling on Koh Mook Island, Thailand
Cycling on Koh Mook, Thailand

Beachcombing

That favourite past time to while away the hours on the beach whilst you search for mermaid treasure (that’s what I like to call the shells I collect – or hoard as my husband would say!) You have come to Koh Mook to relax right? So take in the views, stroll along the beach and see what treasures you can find

Tropical Beach Shells, Koh Mook, Thailand
Cowrie Shells on Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook, Thailand

Emerald Cave

This is actually one activity that we didn’t do when we were there but we heard great things.

WHERE TO STAY? We stayed at Koh Mook Coco Lodge. Offering simple bamboo huts in a palm tree grove located right by the ocean. Only a 10 minute walk from Sivalai Beach and an even shorter walk to the local town where all the restaurants are located this was the perfect place for us.

They offer free bicycles to use, the huts are really clean ( they are also made up everyday for you) and come with free bottles of drinking water. They do have their own restaurant which we had breakfast in but wouldn’t recommend it. There are also a lot of wild dogs here which some may find a bit aggressive but we didn’t mind them. The owners are very friendly but speak little English. All in all it was great value for money.

Thai Bamboo beach huts on Koh Mook, Thailand
Coco Lodge Bamboo Huts, Koh Mook
Koh Mook tropical sunsets Thailand
Beautiful Koh Mook sunset

How Long to Stay? We stayed for 3 nights but you could easily spend longer in Koh Mook. If you are looking for a quiet little paradise then a week wouldn’t be a stretch.

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Koh Lipe – Thailand

Koh Lipe – Your Guide to this Thai Island Paradise

Thai Long Tail Boats on Koh Lipe Island Thailand
Traditional Thai Long Tail Boats, Koh Lipe, Thailand

WHERE IS KOH LIPE? Located near the Malaysian border in the Andaman sea in Thailand, Koh Lipe is one of the furthest islands to visit on the traditional Thai Island hopping route. 

HOW TO GET THERE? There are several ways that you can access Koh Lipe with the most common being by ferry, speedboat or van+ferry combo. 

From the Islands– You can access Koh Lipe from another island (we came straight from Koh Lanta) using the ferry or speedboats.

From the Mainland– If you travel from the mainland then you can go by ferry from Pakbara Pier with Hat Yai being the closest airport.

Swimming on Koh Lipe Island in front of Castaway Resort, Thailand
Swimming on Koh Lipe Island, Thailand

WHY VISIT? If you like white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise ocean, access to dive sites and a bustling town with cool restaurants and bars then Koh Lipe is the perfect fit for you.

Pros – We loved staying on Sunrise Beach as it was one of the best beaches we visited on our trip in Thailand due to the white sand and clear ocean.

Koh Lipe Castaway Resort Beach on Koh Lipe Island Thailand
Castaway Resort Beach, Koh Lipe Island, Thailand

Cons – It is more expensive to stay in Koh Lipe than surrounding islands. Accommodation costs more along with essentials like soft drinks and beer in the local supermarkets being almost twice the price. 

Top Sights

Sunset Beach

Take a walk across the island to visit Sunset Beach. You can snorkel once here and watch the sunset with a cold brew or two.

Diving with Castaway Resort

Located at Castaway Resort they run daily dive activities along with snorkelling tours. You can learn to dive with them and even hire out water sports equipment.

Walking Street

The bustling Walking Street is where all of the restaurants and bars are located. It runs directly between Sunrise Beach and Pattaya Beach. Offering a selection of food for all budgets, our favourite was Banana Roti’s from the street food stalls. You will notice how much they love condensed milk here so a drizzle of that on your Roti is the perfect finishing touch.

Sunrise Beach Walk at Sunrise

Watching the sunrise on the beach is always a favourite pastime of ours and it was made all the easier because we stayed on the beachfront. This time of the morning is always quiet here and perfect for relaxing before a busy day ahead. You could even follow your sunrise walk with Yoga or Sunrise meditation at Castaway Resort.

Palm Trees at Andaman Resort

Palm Trees on the beach at the Andaman Resort on Koh Lipe, Thailand
Andaman Resort Palm Trees Koh Lipe, Thailand.

Walk to the North of Sunrise Beach and you reach the Andaman Resort which is home to a selection of stunning palm trees. The perfect backdrop to your island vacation photos. 

Palm trees on the beach at the Andaman Resort on Koh Lipe Island Thailand
Perfect spot for your holiday photos, Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe.
beach views on Koh Lipe in Thailand
Views from the beach on Koh Lipe, Thailand.

WHERE TO STAY? Sunrise beach is the most beautiful beach on the island and we were lucky enough to stay at Castaway Resort. We stayed in a Beachfront Breezy Bungalow and it was just pure magic.

Castaway Resort Thai beachfront villa on Koh Lipe Island
Our Beachfront Villa at the Castaway Resort on Koh Lipe.

These two floored bungalows overlook the ocean which you can admire from either your hammock on the front deck or from your bedroom balcony (or even your bed if you feel like it). The ground floor is your spacious bathroom with steps leading up to the second floor bedroom. The bed situated in the centre of the room is the main focus and the perfect place to relax and listen to the ocean breeze.

Beachfront hammock and private villa deck
Our very own beachfront deck and hammock, Castaway Resort, Koh Lipe.

With woven beach bags, floor cushions and lockable chests to keep your valuables safe, it’s the little touches that make a big difference. This eco friendly resort does not offer hot showers or air con but we felt neither of these were needed. With the heat of the sun, a cold shower was the perfect way to cool down and the ocean breeze provided sweet relief in the evenings. They also use an initiative called Trash Hero to help keep the island clean from plastic pollution by encouraging you to refill your water bottles (or purchasing one of their refillable bottles) from their filtered water station.

Private Beachfront villa accommodation on Koh Lipe Thailand
Can we just live here forever? Koh Lipe, Thailand

The resort has it’s own dive shop where you can take dive/snorkel trips and even learn to dive. You can take part in yoga classes, treat yourself to a spa treatment and even experience sunrise meditation. With a beautiful alfresco restaurant and bar offering fantastic food and a daily happy hour this resort has everything you need for a trip to Koh Lipe. To find out more about Castaway Resort click here.

tropical happy hour cocktails on Koh like
Cocktails and Happy Hour?! Yes Please!

HOW LONG TO STAY? We found 3 nights is the perfect amount of time to visit Koh Lipe

Thank You to the Castaway Resort for hosting us, our stay was gifted and all opinions are our own. We truly only recommend places that we absolutely love.

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Kamenjak – Croatia

Croatias Best Kept Secret – Kamenjak National Park!

Kamenjak National Park, Croatia. I am pretty sure you have never heard of it. If you have, then I hope you have visited because I’m gonna tell you why it’s a must in this post. When you think of Croatia you probably think of Island hopping off the coast of Split, checking out Kings Landing in Dubrovnik or maybe even checking out Rovinj as it becomes ever more popular thanks to Instagram.

Luckily for us one of our Instragram followers suggested travelling to this amazing location when we got to Croatia. We are so glad they reached out to us because they helped create some of our favourite memories. Kamenjak National Park is on the Southern most tip of the Istrian Peninsula.


Source: Google Maps

You cannot camp in the National Park but you can camp right next to the entrance to the park, so you are within super easy walking distance. There are also plenty of hotels and guest houses you can stay with in Premantura. Booking.com has so many choices (all with really incredible reviews) and if you book through my link you get 10% back on your stay.

It is an absolute nature lovers heaven!! I cannot stress this enough! The water is an incredible crystal clear blue, it is clean as clean can be. There are masses upon masses of wild flowers of all different vibrant colours and varieties coating the coast. The rocky coastline is dotted with idyllic, secluded islands and there are literally hardly any cars around. You can cycle your way around the park (this is what we opted to do on our mountain bikes) or walk and find your own private piece of nature to bask in.

This little piece of Paradise is 100% well worth the visit and detour away from the usual Croatian hot spots.  If you plan on visiting the stunning towns of Rovinj or Pula it’s just a short distance down the coast. You will also be pleasantly surprised with the drive back up on the East Coast. Reminiscent of the coastal roads on the Amalfi Coast past cliff hugging fishing ports. We took a few days out of our schedule to just relax here, riding our bikes along the coast and admiring the views….oh the views! 

We stayed at Arena Stupice Campsite in Premantura, the location of this campsite could not be any better for the views. It’s located next to the sea and you can walk and cycle in to the park from the campsite (if you drive in you have to pay a daily fee). The camping pitches are not the flattest, many are on a slant and it’s very hard to figure out what actually classes as your pitch. But there are plenty to choose from so just take your time scouting out a spot.

HOT TIP: If you camp at Arena Stupice Campsite make sure you pre book your spot online before you arrive. You will get a much better rate and a better site to camp on. We ended up booking online when we were stood in reception as they could not offer the same online rate in person.

Plenty of visitors come here to sail, kayak, fish, hike, cycle and just spend time exploring the coastline. 

We are big cyclists so started our cycling tour on the Dinosaur Trail. Fun Fact – Dinosaurs used to frequent this area in the Cretaceous period. How awesome is that?! Along the path you can explore all of the geological curiosities of Kamenjak.

The path continues around the edge of the peninsula and mainly along the coast. We stumbled upon the quirkiest little beach cafe- in the middle of no where. Imagine turning up to what looks like vegetation on the edge of the cliff with a few wooden structures outside.

You hear the murmuring of voices and make your way into the bushes to find what looks like the Lost Boys camp from Never Never Land. Safari bar is surprisingly busy for somewhere thats completely hidden. Take a visit here just to witness the quirkiness including the giant swing, sea shell dens, roller slide and tiki huts. 

As you walk through the bar to the cliffs edge you reach the most stunning view and cliff jumping hot spot where the water is incredibly clear.

We hopped on our bikes to continue the ride and came across vast empty countryside, empty beaches and incredible views. We stopped to take a dip in one cove we had all to ourselves. It’s that quiet we would turn up to a beach and if there were people there we would just move to the next beach which would inevitably be empty.

A short while later we arrive back at our van in the campsite and settle in to our camping chairs to take in the view. We crack open an Ozujsko Limun, our favourite Croatian tipple and chat about how awesome our day was. All thanks to a fellow traveller recommending Kamenjak National Park. If you plan on visiting Croatia and like nature then make sure you visit here! It’s just incredible.

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Dubrovnik – Croatia

What No One Will Tell You About Visiting Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik is a big hitter when it comes to places to visit in Croatia. As such this means that finding places to park your camper van (if travelling this way like us) for a reasonable price is near impossible. Some campsites charge upwards of 45 Euros per night.

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Using all our resources and after much research we decided to not stay in the main town and booked a campsite in Kupari. You can also find cheaper accommodation like we did by staying outside of the main city. For 15 Euro a night, our campsite was located about 20 minutes down the road. You can access Dubrovnik from here by local bus, but we decided that the more fun way (and also an excuse to make an experience out of it) was to travel by boat.

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Kupari is a really interesting place to stay, it is pretty deserted and this is mainly because the beaches have empty hotels that were used a bases for the army. They were destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence and have not since been inhabited. Covered in graffiti and overgrown with weeds it’s like something out of an apocalypse movie. Imagine sunbathing on the beach as you would in a resort, but turn around and the desolate hotels stare back at you. A little eerie but something really amazing to experience. Unfortunately this was the last year that you would be able to see these hotels like this as the land has been bought by a luxury development company who will be building a Four Seasons hotel in their place. They won’t be in bad company as the 5* Sheraton is located just around the bay, also a 10 minute walk from the campsite.

HOT TIP – If you fancy a dip in their pool, you may just be able to walk through the lobby and downstairs, grab a towel from the pool boy and lay on the sun loungers for a while and take a swim. Just saying……

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We decided to use Adriana Cavtat, the boat transfer company that our campsite suggested. If you travel to Dubrovnik and want to take the same boat, I don’t recommend using this company. The transfer itself is lovely but they are never on time and often get full from the previous stops so you can’t get on the boat that you have been waiting 40 minutes for. It isn’t worth the hassle and there are other providers who seemed more reliable. The views on the journey are awesome, arriving into and departing from Dubrovnik this way is just magical so I highly recommend getting on a boat at some point during your stay.

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Dubrovnik is by far the most busy city that we have visited in Croatia. It is overwhelming how many people visit, and we didn’t visit in peak season. Also bear in mind that we visited in the middle of May and it was 38 degrees! Even the gelato shop manager was pointing out how hot it was for us,  but nothing compared to the temperatures they normally experience – over 40 degrees.

The reason it gets busy it because:

  1. It is an absolutely gorgeous walled city that is so well preserved you cant help but fall in love and tell all your friends about it so they want to come and visit. The views from walking along the wall are just insane.
  2. Since Game of Thrones came out and everyone realised that Croatia is where it is filmed, and Dubrovnik in particular is Kings Landing then the city has really thrived with this tourism. Tours, merchandise, souvenirs you name it.
  3. Cruise Ships – hoards of cruise ship tours come to Dubrovnik to experience this beautiful city so the streets are filled with walking tours.

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To avoid the busy period – come out of season, like really out of season. Find out when the cruise ships are not docked in Dubrovnik so there will be a massive reduction in tourists. This way you stand a chance at experiencing this beautiful place in a little more peace.

The best part of Dubrovnik – walking along the city walls. To be honest, we didn’t do any research on this but knew it was a must do activity. So we were pretty surprised to find out that the entrance to the walls is 20 Euro per person, for us on a very tight budget this was a major splurge. But it was 100% worth it. The journey will take you a good 1 – 2 hours, mainly because the views are just to die for and there are so many nooks and crannys to discover. But also because it is so busy and wide enough for just one person you end up queuing in places.

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My main tip would be to not walk the walls at midday, there is practically no shade and maybe 1 or 2 places to find refreshments along the way.

Once we walked the walls we headed down in to the town to discover what other treasures there were. There are plenty of amazing restaurants, bars and shops interspersed with old churches and museums. Take a walk along the waterfront and admire the views, or even take a boat ride out to sea to visit an island.

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Have you been to Dubrovnik? What are your tips for visiting?

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If the thought of going to Las Vegas has ever crossed your mind-then look no further. This guide to the 10 Top Things To Do In Las Vegas And Not One Is Gamble, is the final nudge and will make you want to take that credit card out of your pocket and head straight to the Travel Agents. Earlier this year we spent 4 amazing nights in a Suite at The Signature at the MGM Grand, one of the only hotels in Las Vegas that does not have a casino inside. For us this was perfect-we don’t gamble, did not have the funds to either but wanted to experience what Las Vegas had to offer. Here are ten reasons why we can’t wait to go back:

  1. I call it adults Disneyland. Imagine a place where you are surrounded by your wildest fantasies. This place is insane, over the top, extravagant, beautiful, luxurious and incredibly likeable. Even the fact that it is in the middle of the desert makes this seem like it has just been plucked out of a movie-wait a minute,it has. If you have seen movies such as The Hangover you will realise that this party destination can bring such eccentricities as drunken weddings, riding a roller coaster on top of a building or even just having the worst hang over of your life. The fact that you can buy meter long slushy margaritas and walk around town all day with them only encourages you to keep bopping along in the holiday spirit.collage town
  2. The BEST place for seeing a variety of shows. Whether you are a die hard Celine Dion fan or want to get back to your childhood roots and see Brittany Spears, Las Vegas is the place to do it. There is an abundance of wildly different shows from Cirque du Soleil to the Blue Man Group and something to everyones tastes.collage shows
  3. Visit Paris, Venice and Greece all in one day. Never thought that was possible, well in Las Vegas anything is possible. Head over to the Paris hotel to be treated to an enormous Eiffel Tower or visit The Venetian to have a punt in real Gondolas whilst you are serenaded by authentic Gondoliers. If that wasn’t enough culture for you pop over to Caesars Palace to experience togas and Grecian statues galore. collage europe
  4. Visit a swanky bar. Las Vegas has some of the most luxurious bars in the world. The place is literally dripping in diamonds and money. You can even visit a bar set inside the worlds largest chandelier-I can’t even think of anything more luxurious than this.
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  5. Watch the world famous Bellagio fountains move to music. The BEST place to witness this is by far the Hyde Bar at the Bellagio Hotel. Visit at sunset or early evening when the fountains look the best and the bar isn’t busy, then sit in the luxurious setting of the Hyde balcony overlooking one of the worlds most famous sights.
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  6. Eat at an all you can eat buffet. These are a must if you come to Las Vegas and has to be done at least once. After much internet research before we went we ended up heading to two. The MGM Grand and Bellagio. For under $30 (approx £17) you can eat as much food and drink as you like, at the MGM they even throw in unlimited champagne-yes unlimited!!! Beware though, you might find yourself rolling out if you try and eat too much, it’s hard to resist everything thats on offer.Screenshot_2014-07-22-17-22-36
  7. Get on the VIP list. If you want to party then get yourself on a VIP list. You don’t have to be rich or famous just savvy and well prepared. Sign up to a free vip list website and you will be able to get your name on a list, get free drinks and free entry to some of Las Vegas hottest night clubs.
  8. Hotel Hop. You can easily spend all day just walking up and down the Strip hopping from one hotel to the other. Each one has so much to offer you will be entertained for hours. Best thing of all-you can do this for free!
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  9. Stay somewhere luxurious. If there was ever a time to push the boat out and stay in a luxurious hotel then this is IT. Las Vegas is one of the most popular destinations on the planet and as such offers the largest variety of luxury accommodation all within one area. As it is a gambling city you are able to stay in the most amazing hotels for a fraction of what it might cost somewhere else. Choose the time of the year wisely and you could have 4 nights in a 5* hotel suite for less than what one night might cost in New York. collage mgm
  10. Get Married. Cliche-yes! But still a very popular wedding destination and with a variety of wedding chapels and reasonable flight prices you can invite your family over and have your hen/stag party, wedding and honeymoon all in one.

Now if that isn’t enough to persuade you, I don’t know what is.

 

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From Corporate to Cloud Nine

“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”

Daydreaming at your desk, screensavers of far away paradises pop up on your computer screen and you can almost hear the beautiful and soothing sun-kissed jams floating past your ears! That is until you are interrupted by the trilling sound of the telephone reminding you exactly where you are-sound familiar?

Meet Tyler Rosolowski- an I.T expert from Auckland in New Zealand.Tyler made the life changing decision to leave the corporate world behind him and travel to cloud nine, Buka to be exact. Buka is an Island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea. The region is also known as Bougainville Province or the North Solomons.

Tyler 1 Tyler has been volunteering as an Information and Communications Technology Network Adviser with the Division of Education in Buka since July 2013. He will complete his assignment in January 2014.

I asked Tyler to be a part of my Corporate to Cloud Nine Blog Post because of his particular situation. Before Tyler set out on his adventure he represented the essence of Corporate. A very successful I.T expert working the 9-5 job, like countless others Tyler had toyed with the idea of giving it all up and travelling. Here is Tyler’s story on how it all started:

“After arriving home from holiday in South Africa with close friends, one of whom was volunteering in a remote village in Africa, I made one of those lifestyle choices. The ones we all dream of in the quiet moments between phone calls and new emails.

On the night of my return I lit one of those big candles on my deck in Parnell. I decided that by the time it burned down, I would leave New Zealand on an IT adventure to volunteer my skills.

I found an excellent volunteer agency in Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA). I feel humble and honoured to follow at least a little in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps and try to help others as he did.

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After many leaving parties, a rather painless short set of flights, and a day in Port Moresby I arrived in Buka. This is where I rested for my first night before going to a less exotic inland location. I was the only white man I saw all day in Papua New Guinea, and soon got used to the locals looking at me, the people are really friendly.

ImageWhen’s the last time you experienced travellers saw a hand written ticket? Computers are not down, they just don’t have computers. Once you pass security there are open windows where you can chat to people in the car park and pass things to. Only in Buka!

I sit here now in the heat on a beach on Buka Island, Bougainville, the breeze on my face and arms, making the layers of dried sweat pleasant again. There is the sound of kids playing and waves gently breaking on the reef.

bukaI’m looking out at the golden sands and crystal clear waters, kids playing in a traditional dugout canoe and cooking smoke from villages lazily drifting up between the plantations and lush green forest. The taste of fresh, sweet pineapple is lingering in my mouth. I regret nothing of my escape, except not putting some rum in my coconut, which I’m told is delicious.”

When I ask Tyler how his life is still treating him volunteering on a tropical Island 5 months on-his response “Amazing!”. We can all make that escape whether it is to volunteer your skills, start a fresh or just travel.Yours, Ever The Wanderer

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A Full Guide

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The art of Bartering was something that was very new to me when I first visited Bali in 2006. It was during my University summer holidays that my friends and I decided to flee the unpredictable English summertime and board a jet plane to Indonesia.

Bali is not only a cheap destination but offers a tropical paradise packed to the rim with culture. With culture there comes new lessons to be learned and the art of bartering is one that you will experience hands on, literally as soon as you land and drag your bags outside the airport to hail your taxi.

Here, at the taxi rank in the sweltering humid heat of Denpasar Airport was where I put in place my bartering technique that I had learned from a fellow University friend who had travelled to these parts in previous summers.

Tip number 1: When the taxi driver asks you if you have been to Bali before-always answer YES, even if this is your first time in the tropical paradise. They use this as a technique to see if you are familiar with their tricks to determine how much they will say it costs.

Tip number 2: Once you have decided which taxi driver to go with out of the swarms that surround you ALWAYS divide what they say is the charge by at least 2 sometimes even 3. I knew from my friends that the typical cost of a taxi from Denpasar Airport to Kuta was at the time 35,000 Rupiah, now when my taxi driver said it would cost 120,000 Rupiah I knew I was being fleeced.

The general rule with bartering is that you can do it with almost anything, even hotel rooms! However this has become a little more difficult in recent years as Bali is becoming a more popular destination since it has recovered from the negative effects of the Bali bombings.

Menu items in restaurants are a set price but if you walk into street shops ( more like a market stall) you are welcomed to barter here. Arranging transport around the island is also a good opportunity to barter as there is much competition between varying establishments. If you walk into Billabong in Kuta there are set prices but if you fancy that shell bracelet that someone has shown you whilst you are sunbathing on the beach you can definitely barter there.

As a general rule it is a customary experience to barter with the locals, it is their culture- so get involved but also don’t let them take too much advantage. It is also easy to get too sucked into the whole experience. Try to remember what it is that you are bartering for and how much that extra 2,000 rupiah means to you (approximately 10 pence or US 20 cents).

Even after I was given advice by my friend I still made mistakes, after buying a bag from a stall I was sure I had bartered correctly and gotten a bargain. £6 for a bag in my opinion was cheap but when I spoke to some friends who had been in Bali a while, they let me know that I could have got it for a third of the price still!

Generally items are pretty cheap, think 20,000-35,000 Rupiah for a pair of sunglasses-even if they have an Oakley label on them. These are fake after all.

My words of wisdom- go with the flow and make mistakes so that you can learn from them but only ever pay what you are comfortable with. If you think it is too expensive then there are always other stalls selling exactly the same thing.

Yours, Ever The Wanderer

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Working Holiday Visas-Tips and Myths

In 2007 I decided to embark on my first working holiday, it is now 2013 and I am living and working in my fourth country-pretty safe to say that I enjoy the lifestyle of working and travelling at the same time.

Fancy living and working somewhere like this? Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Fancy living and working somewhere like this?
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

If you, like me want to enjoy the perks of a working holiday you must first arrange to get a visa. ‘Visa‘ sounds like a scary word, one that involves lots of paperwork and preparation, I am going to tell you that you are wrong. If you follow my guide, with tips and debunked myths you will be able to spend more time planning your trip AND have more money to spend!

My number ONE tip:

When I was in New Zealand working at the Americas Cup race in Auckland, I met a fellow traveller from the UK. The conversation of visas came about and we found that we had organised ours differently. Said friend has purchased her visa through the first company that popped up on Google, it had a professional logo and being the first site she presumed it was the correct one to use. I went through the New Zealand government website and mine cost at least half the price.

Many companies are out there to persuade you they are the best company for arranging your visa-the truth is- the government website for each country offers the most reliable and best priced service.

Tip number TWO:

I am currently living in Canada and when I arrived I discussed how I organised my visa with my work colleague. She had purchased her visa through Bunac, this company offers a package of sorting out your visa, employment and CV advice, help with arranging a bank account and social security number. The cost of this package is £329 not including the visa fee, £100. I went through the Canadian Government website and paid £90 (now £100).

I obviously did not receive any of the other benefits but I was able to do those for free-and easily. A bank account is as easy as just picking one and walking in, hey presto you have a bank card. The social security number is a straightforward online application form. The information you provide to Bunac and other such companies will be the same you provide on your own application via the countries government website, so you really are paying for them to type it into the computer for you. Package deals may seem appealing but consider how much money you will save by knowing how to do it yourself, and trust me it’s very easy.

My Top Picks:

If you fancy the land down under-Australia:

  • Australia was the first country I visited on a working holiday visa, straight out of university I couldn’t wait to fly across to the other side of the world. The visa process is a very straight forward online application via the  Australian Immigration Website
  • Depending on where you come from in the world determines how long it takes for you to receive it but mine came back within 1 hour! Pretty quick and hassle free!

Maybe New Zealand is more to your taste:

  • I lived and worked in New Zealand for 2 amazing years and highly recommend visiting this stunning country. I applied for my visa online via the New Zealand Immigration website and received it within 2 weeks.

Does Canada sound appealing?:

The Canadian visa process is a little more long winded than Australia and New Zealand so I recommend preparing far in advance, the processing times can be 4-8 weeks, they are released in different time slots and are very sought after.The visa is called International Experience Canada and you will find further information on what you need to do in order to apply at the Canadian Government Website

If you would like further advice on working holiday visas or other destinations, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.

Yours, Ever The Wanderer

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Escape The Daily Grind- How To Quit Your Job And Travel The World

“Repeat After Me-I Am Free”

So you are thinking about packing it all in and venturing out there into the great wild world? There is no better time than NOW. As the saying goes- “Repeat after me-I am free”, after all we are the makers of our own destiny. We made the decision to start travelling the world when we were 20 and 7 years later we are still enjoying the cultures and beauty that the world has to offer.

Where do you start? Well that is the easy part, decide where you want to go, do some research and pack your bag; easy as that. There are so many ways you can travel around the world and on all budgets. If you want to backpack across Europe or become and expat in Asia there are travel resources out there to help you do just that, right at your fingertips. The only thing that will ever get in the way of you carrying out your dreams, is you!

Fear of the unknown, fear of quitting your job and not knowing what the outcome might be, or fear that you won’t be successful or have enough money. Trust me these are all fears that have crossed my mind at some point along my past, but all you have to do is know that it is possible and it is so easy to achieve your dreams.

A few months ago someone said to me “You are so lucky”, this struck me as odd as I replied “I am not lucky, I made the conscious decision to travel”. It is a mindset that you have that can make you think it is hard, or it’s about luck when really all you need to do is make a dream and plan it.

Once you start deciding where to you want to travel to, you can research costs and make arrangements for tickets and accommodation etc. Once you book your ticket, the rest will come naturally and the excitement will follow. All those fears you had will disappear and be replaced with excitement for the future and what is to come.

For those of you who have more ties with mortgages, belongings and jobs it too is an easy dream to achieve once you know how to achieve it. There are an abundance of companies out there willing to help you with shipping belongings, putting them into storage or helping you rent out your house or flat. It may seem like a big task to start with but the end reality is what is so important-achieving your dream of travelling the world-doesn’t that sound so exciting.

Ever find yourself daydreaming at your desk with screen savers of far away places, make that dream into a reality and start planning your trip of a lifetime now. If we can do it-you can too.

Yours, Ever The Wanderer

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Universal Studios Japan

We have all heard of Universal Studios but did you know that they have a Universal Studios Japan?! Yes the famed theme park has pride of place in Osaka, and let me tell you. It. Is. Amazing!

Phil and I have both been to Universal Studios in Los Angeles and loved our time there so knew we would enjoy it. To get here we hopped on a train from Namba station and after one change found ourselves at Universal Station strolling through the City Walk.

From the iconic Spinning Globe at the entrance to the famous arches you walk under as you arrive. You feel like you are about to enter somewhere special and won’t be able to keep the excitement in. From first glimpse you can see rollercoasters and hear the screams (of joy or fear?!)

We were soon walking through the streets of Hollywood, San Francisco and New York past characters and festively decorated buildings. After stopping to take a few photos for Instagram and feeling like I’m on a living and breathing movie set we made our way to our first ride:

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D.  With the Express Pass you can choose to skip the line with several of the rides. You can choose between Jurassic Park – The Ride and Spider – Man. We came across Spider – Man first so hopped in the Express Pass line and awaited the adventure. I won’t give anything away but it was amazing – just as the titles suggest. Be sure to keep a look out when you exit as down one of the alleyways you might spot Spider-Man himself!

A short stroll through the park and we arrive at Jurassic Park. The Flying Dinosaur ride literally flies over your heads creating the feeling that you are in fact actually at the real Jurassic Park. The Screams! Oh the Screams. With Beware of the Dinosaur signs surrounding you and the classic music we all know and love playing, its like stepping back in time.

There is so much to explore walking around the park it’s incredible. We had so much fun in-between the rides. We even popped in to see Water World. Having seen this in LA we knew it was a fantastic show and it did not disappoint. The stunts are spectacular and if you want to sit in the front few rows (which are marked as the wet zone) then be prepared to get wet, it’s all part of the fun!

 We finally reached The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! A highlight of the park for us every time.

We were transformed to Hogsmeade and were browsing the window displays of Ollivanders Wand Shop sipping on a Butter Beer from one of the wagons. Stop in at Honeydukes to stock up on Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. Don’t forget to visit Zonkos Joke and Toy Shop.  You can also stop by the Hogwarts Express and meet the Conductor.

Universal Studios Japan Wiseacres

If you have a wand you can cast spells at various locations in Hogsmeade and watch as the magic happens. There are regular performances from class mates from Hogwarts so keep an eye out for these.

With the Universal Studios Japan Express Pass you get given a designated time slot for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – this means that you can skip the line during your time slot and make the most of your time at Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. The ride is so magical and also a little scary at times (hello – Dementors!).

Universal Studios Japan Hogwarts Castle.JPG

You can walk through Hogwarts on a Castle Walk without needing to go on the ride too so that’s perfect if you have little ones. 

If you are a fan of Harry Potter then this is such a magical place, literally making your HP dreams come true. Take note that if the park is particularly busy then you may need to reserve a time slot to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had a time slot but we didn’t need it as it wasn’t too busy. 

Next Up – JAWS! As part of the Express Pass you can choose to skip the line between JAWS, Terminator or Backdraft. We are fans of the JAWS franchise and walking into Amity Village it piqued our interest. The ride is pretty fun, you feel like you are in an actual Movie. Without giving away any secrets, be prepared to get wet!

For our last ride of the day we visited Minion Park. Anytime I think of Minions all I can hear in my head is either “Banana” or “Illumination!”. If you have ever wondered what it might feel like to be in an animation then this is the place. With the Express Pass you have access to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at a specific time slot so you can skip the line and enjoy all the park has to offer. We very much enjoyed walking around Minion Park and seeing all the guests dressed up as Minions, it is clear there is a huge fanbase in Japan. 

In the evening they were offering two different shows – one at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter called Winter in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, from now until February 29th 2020 A magical story takes place this winter! The Hogawrts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is full of Christmas cheer with a magical story unfolding at the Majestic Hogwarts castle.

New this year is the Universal Crystal Christmas and they have a night time show that lights up the Christmas night. Enjoy a moving story of love set in a beautiful and shimmering crystal world with all-new Christmas entertainment! From now until January 13th 2020. 

Universal Studios Japan Crystal Christmas

Final Review:

We love theme parks and we find that Universal Studios Japan is one of the best. Not only is it about visiting for the adrenaline of the rides but the atmosphere. The connection with the movies makes it even more special for me as you are constantly coming across something that is going to leave you in awe. Your senses are in overdrive. We particularly enjoyed having the Express Pass as it gave you more free time to explore the park. If you are planning on visiting Japan, then this will surely be a highlight for you. Get your tickets here.

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Thank you to Universal Studios Japan for having us, our tickets were gifted and as always all opinions are our own.