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Tag: Advice

Learn travel advice and tips from long time travelers and beginners.

How to Save Money While Traveling

How to Save Money While Traveling

Want to hit the road and see the world but scared of the costs for your dream adventure? Unfortunately, most travels come with expenses, but there are many ways for you to save money while traveling and make your trip go even further without missing out.

Save Money with Pre-Planning

As any traveler knows, it’s way too easy to get caught up in the exhilaration of exploring new and exotic places, costing you more money than budgeted. Before you head out on your adventure, get out your guide books and do some pre-planning to get your travels and budget further.

Planning your trip before you leave can save you cash, frustration, and downtime (you only have so many hours on your journey, wouldn’t you rather use them to explore instead of to plan). While every adventure should include some spontaneity; too much flying by the seat of your pants will bust your budget. Before you leave, sit down and plan out your itinerary, so you’re using your holiday time the best way possible with the least amount of costs and travel times.

Make sure to plan activities that are close to one another on the same outing. Pre-booking any flights, buses, or trains in advance will not only save money, but some are only available if you book from your home country. Online travel forums like TripAdvisor are great places for research, tips, and up to the minute reviews about your destination, attractions you want to see or didn’t even know existed. A bit of research will let you decide if the places you want to see are worth it and help find new places to explore that you never thought of before.

Pocket Money

When you’re traveling, it’s always wise to only carry only the money you need. However, debit and credit card fees can be expensive when used abroad (depending on your bank), and some of the smaller locations may not even take cards. By pre-booking travel, accommodation, transfers, tours, etc. before you leave home, you can minimize any possible fees and still get a good exchange rate.

If you’re heading to another country contact your bank and credit card companies before you fly to find out their fees for where you’re going and to see if they have an affiliation with a local bank that you can use (usually at a reduced rate). In general, local ATMs offer the highest exchange rates but be on the lookout for double fees (that’s when both your bank and the local bank charge fees for withdrawals). The exchange kiosks you see everywhere are convenient and take either traveler’s checks or credit cards, but make sure to read the fine print about their fees to avoid any shock. You can also buy prepaid credit cards that are accepted the same as normal credit cards but offer the comfort and safety of protecting your identity as well.

Save Money on Transportation

Getting to and from attractions, accommodations, and those great restaurants from the Travel Channel can quickly drain your budget. While rental cars or taxis are required for some places, using the local public transportation system will save you money in the long run and let you experience the local culture first-hand. Most cities and towns have excellent public transit systems that can be quicker than walking or driving.

Travel Couponing

With the recession came the new trend of extreme couponing, an extraordinary way to save money on everyday items and services. Stop by the information kiosk or concierge desk at your hotel/hostel, and the local tourism office as many businesses offer coupons and special rates for tourists that you won’t find online. Make sure you check them out as soon as you check in so you can reorganize accordingly.

Location Location Location

When booking accommodation, most people automatically go to the cheapest place that still looks clean and safe. It’s not like you’re going to Bangkok to spend quality time in the hotel. Unfortunately, most places that are clean, safe, and inexpensive are also further away from the action. When picking your accommodation, be sure to check the location in relation to:

  1. The distance from the airport, bus, or train station
  2. How far it is from where you’ll want to spend most of your time

You might save a bit of money on your accommodation by staying outside of the main areas, but end up spending more cash and time getting to where you want to go, and you never have enough of either when you’re traveling.

Save Money on Food

Unfortunately, we need to eat to survive, and it’s one of the biggest budget killers when traveling since most hotels make their profits from room service, restaurants, and bars.

After you get settled at your accommodation, go for a walk through the neighborhood to orient yourself and check out where the local grocery store is located. Stock up on necessities like juice, water, cereal, and snacks so you can have breakfast in your room while you’re getting ready for the day and bring your own water and snacks when you’re out on your adventures. You’ll be amazed how much cash you’ll save and have the bonus of being able to eat whenever you want.

If available book accommodation with a free breakfast buffet – it will save you money right out the door and many travelers ‘accidentally’ pocket some fruit or cereal boxes to snack on later in the day.

Find Someone to Travel With

Of course, the cheapest way to travel the world is to have a travel companion. Lots of the costs associated with traveling can be shared with your travel companion, and you’ll have someone to share your travel adventures with too!

How to Spend 48 Hours in Hong Kong

How to Spend 48 Hours in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a big, thriving metropolis and 48 hours will never seem like enough time to fully experience the delights and attractions of its many districts, the cosmopolitan luxury, varied restaurants and fantastic nightlife, and the eclectic mixture of local culture. The incredible skyline and frenzied harbor of Hong Kong, adorned by a sheer greenish backdrop is one of the most spectacular sights in the world! If you can only spend 48 hours in Hong Kong, below are some of the best ways in which you could squeeze in different options such as sightseeing, eating, and reveling in the diverse views of this magnificent metropolis.

Tourist tram at The Peak in Hong Kong, China
Tourist tram at The Peak in Hong Kong, China

 

The First 24 Hours

Take a view from the Peak

Start your vacation on a bright note with a pleasurable trip to Victoria Peak. Traveling via the Tram will offer the most picturesque views. The Tram is an almost vertical funicular railway which has been operating for over a century. Go to the Peak Tower after getting to the top and revel in the stunning 360-degree views, you can also walk along the Harlech and Lugard roads to enjoy the leafy green loop.

Culinary delights in the afternoon

Take the Tram back to Central and enjoy a little bit of local atmosphere along with servings of dim sum at Lin Heung, a traditional and busy tea house operating in the area for more than eight decades. Here, you will also find plentiful lo mai gai.

Continue the fun in Sheung Wan

Continue the tour towards Hollywood Road to check out the incense-filled Man Ho Temple. Built in the mid-1800s, it’s a beautifully intricate structure full of antiques and art dealers. Towards the north are several streets lined with different kinds of stores selling varied items ranging from ginseng, rice, and tea to dried seafood. Cat Street, situated in the vicinity, is where you can check out kitsch and trinkets. Continue south towards Tai Ping Shan Street and get surprised by the drastic change in the scenery. Here, you will find some of the trendiest indie boutiques, galleries, and diners in Hong Kong. Take a break at Teakha and delight your taste buds with osmanthus chiffon cake and lemon-caramel iced tea, while simultaneously surveying the animated surroundings.

Dinner and drinks

Enjoy delicious cocktails at Sevva, a chic lounge with panoramic views located on the Prince’s building’s rooftop. Or head to Lung King Heen, the Cantonese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel and enjoy delicious cuisines with marvelous views of the harbor. Another great option is the Hutong located on the 28th floor at One Peking Road. Reserve a window seat and enjoy the fantastic display of light and sound while digging your teeth into northern Chinese cuisines, especially “Ma La” chili prawns that comes fried with plentiful whole Sichuan chilies.

Partying in the night

Party the night away in Lan Kwai Fong , the place with the best nightclubs. If you’re looking to relax and unwind, opt for a reflexology massage at any one of the spas in Central, most of them are open late.

The Next 24 Hours

Enjoy a quiet, peaceful morning

Head to the southern part of Hong Kong Island to Stanley and enjoy a pleasurable walk along an attractive boardwalk flanked by a tranquil bay, home to multicolored wooden boats and large luxury yachts. You can also check out the market, stroll through the beach, or enjoy a flavorful breakfast at one of the sea-facing cafés.

Chinese lamps at the stalls in Stanley Market in Hong Kong
Chinese lamps at the stalls in Stanley Market in Hong Kong

 Lunch and more

Take the smart green-colored Hong Kong trams to one of the bustling dai pai dongs for a taste of the local cuisine. Dai pai dongs are open-air food stalls, and the best ones are located at Wellington Street as well as at the end of Graham Street near Stanley Street. Delight your taste buds with bountiful servings of noodles in the company of locals and strangers.

Afternoon at wondrous Kowloon

If you’re looking for luxury shopping in Hong Kong, then there is no better place than Tsim Sha Tsui at the end of the Kowloon peninsula. If you’re want to shop for traditional items, or desire a more local shopping experience, then you need to visit the Temple Street Market and the Jade Market situated at Yau Ma Tei. Women may look for bargain buys at the Ladies’ Market. The Goldfish Market at Prince Edward is another great place to shop, or you can head to Salisbury Road and get a bit of culture by visiting the Space Museum, the Cultural Centre, and the Museum of Art.

Dinner and drinks

One Harbor Road at the Grand Hyatt and the Ozone in The Ritz-Carlton are fantastic places for dinner and drinks while taking in the distinctive views of this megacity. Afterward, head to the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade to enjoy scintillating music along with the “Symphony of Lights” a glitzy laser light show.

Been to Hong Kong and have some tips  to share on the best restaurants or sights? Post them in the comments below

Solo Travel Tips to Stay Safe When Travelling Alone

Solo Travel Tips to Stay Safe When Travelling Alone

If we had the choice, most of us would sooner travel with a friend or loved one, but that opportunity does not always present itself. There are just times in life when you are forced to go solo, and that means that a situation may arise when you need to travel alone. Heading to a strange city or a foreign country on your own can be incredibly daunting, and can make you truly start thinking about the whole safety in numbers motto. Rather than staying in your hotel room all day, you can feel safe and secure when travelling solo by making a few smart decisions and following our solo travel tips.

Always Try To Plan Ahead

The internet is a full of fantastic resources that will give you the lay of the land of the place you are going to visit. You can very quickly look up a city and see which areas are safe and which are deemed to be a little high risk. This is absolutely something that should be done before you seek out accommodations in your intended destination. Yes, you may have to pay a little more for a hotel in a nicer part of town, but that little extra is worth it for the peace of mind that you will get.

Before you leave, it is also a good idea to let friends and family know where you are going to be. If traveling for work, there is a good chance that you will have an itinerary and a list of destinations already put together. That is something you should consider doing if traveling for leisure purposes too. Give a few trusted people your list of dates and destination, and set up a time that you will check in with them to let them know that all is well. If that deadline passes, they can then try to contact you to make sure that all is as it should be.

How To Behave In A Strange Place

The key to staying safe when traveling solo is to not do anything that will draw attention to yourself. That means dressing conservatively if need be and leaving all of your expensive jewelry and accessories at home. When you are out and about, carry only the money that you believe you will need for that day. It’s surprising how many people believe that carrying all their spending money is safer than leaving it in a hotel room. If you choose a good hotel, they will have a safe available where you can leave your extra spending money and your travel documents.

You should ask the concierge at the hotel the best way to reach your intended destination, and consider picking up a map when you do. Steer clear of shortcuts or areas that you don’t feel so confident about, no matter how busy or crowded they are. As you can see, traveling alone can be a safe, pleasant experience if you just take the time to do a little bit of forward planning.

Ever done solo travelling? Have any advice for first-timers to stay safe?

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Traveling

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Traveling

If you’re like me and you didn’t grow up in a family that did international travel, you probably didn’t really know what to expect the first time you left the country as an adult. You did know that places are different (that’s why you want to go there in the first place) but there are things that you either don’t think about or assume will be the same as home.

Healthcare

Growing up in Canada, everyone has universal healthcare. Some provinces make you pay a premium dependent on your income but if you show up at a hospital you’re taken care of. Not so in any country when you’re a foreigner. In my first year living abroad, a friend of mine was in a bad car accident. The ambulance wouldn’t take him to the hospital until it was verified that he had health insurance.

Medical drug laws and standards are different everywhere. The medical drug standards in your home country may not be the same as other countries. The first time I had a cold overseas, I spent an hour in the pharmacy trying to locate Nyquil only to find that they didn’t import it. Make sure you have enough prescription medication for your entire trip and a backup prescription in case you run into delays. Also, if you have to use a specific brand name OTC medication, bring it with you as it may not be available where you’re going.

Safety

Most of us are taught when growing up that if you’re ever in trouble to find a police office and they’ll help you. Sadly, that’s not the case in a lot of other countries. In fact, it’s common practice in a lot of places to have to bribe the police to ensure your safety.

As a single woman, I’ve never had a problem traveling alone. Living in a big city has given me the ability to deal with strangers who may be less than friendly. I’ve found that if you exude the confidence of someone who’s aware of her surroundings and able to take care of herself that most people on the street will let you be. I’ve also found that you need to be straightforward and blunt in your intentions as a lot of cultures have different ways of interpreting actions. If someone is pressuring you or invading your personal comfort zone, tell them firmly to stop and leave the situation as quickly as possible.

Insurance

Get insurance, especially if you’re going on a long trip. It’s usually pretty inexpensive and it may end up saving you a lot of cash in the long run. For example, I rented a car for 3 days in Australia. I was super careful and only used the car to do some sightseeing at places that weren’t on any tour. In the parking lot of a restaurant, someone sideswiped the car and it cost me $700AUS to have it fixed because I hadn’t chosen the insurance option for $25AUS. Another example, when the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland in 2010 and European airspace was closed for 6 days. You just never know what may happen.

Culture

The western culture is pretty laid back and personal. You think nothing of cramming onto a bus or train like sardines to get to where you need to go. That’s not always the case in other countries. Be appreciative of other people’s personal space and be careful not to touch others unless they invite you to (such as a pat on the back or looking at their clothing).

Smoking may be a faux pas here in North America but it’s still going strong in a lot of countries. I remember sitting in Barbados Immigration a few years ago and there were ashtrays in the waiting room. Although you may not like it, keep in mind that you’re in another country where it’s still widely accepted. Of course, if you smoke it will make your trip that much more enjoyable!

Be careful about making friends who may have ulterior motives. A lot of people see travelers as wealthy and may wish to use you as a means of getting money or opportunities. You don’t need to be scared of anyone, just be aware of who you’re spending time with.

Be careful with all hand gestures including the thumbs up. It can mean different things in different places and you don’t want to insult someone accidentally. When in doubt, keep your hands by your sides.

Don’t be ethnocentric in believing that your country/culture/language is superior or better than anyone else’s. Not everyone speaks English and not everyone believes in the same things that you do, but everyone deserves the same respect. If everyone in the world was the same, it would be a pretty boring world to explore.

Politics

As a personal rule, I don’t discuss politics with anyone except my family and close friends. When in a foreign country be careful about who you speak to about politics and never say anything negative. In non-democratic countries, many citizens won’t speak about their government due to watchers, and the government may have agents playing tourist to try and cause you to speak out against the government. If you feel that strongly against a government, it might be best not to visit the country.

 Money

When I travel I carry a small amount of US cash (which is generally accepted everywhere), some local currency if available from my local bank, a credit card, and a bank card – although it depends on where you’re traveling to and what the banking system is like there. Most developed countries have pretty good banking systems and will accept credit/debit cards as payment. Many banks now issue pay-as-you-go credit cards that are great for traveling as you can transfer money onto the card as needed and there’s no worry about the card number being stolen.

As a woman, I’m weary of traveling with large amounts of cash or traveler’s cheques and find that I would rather have to look for a bank machine than deal with the anxiety of $1000 in my pocket.

When using your credit/debit card, make sure to check your online statements frequently to ensure the number wasn’t lifted. Also, keep your receipts as a backup and a way to remember where your card may have been skimmed.

Seasoned traveling pro or just starting out, let us know if we missed anything.