Backpacking Route for New Zealand

asia/oceania routes


New Zealand Backpacking Route

by Kayla Kurin

Our New Zealand travel itinerary starts in Christchurch and loops around the South Island for wildlife, camping, glaciers, and activities for adventure junkies. The route then crosses to the North Island for immersive indigenous culture, unique natural hot-spots, and, of course, filming locations from the Lord of the Rings films.


TIME NEEDED – 5 weeks


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1500 | €1700 | US$2000 | 3000 New Zealand Dollars

US$60/day is certainly doable in New Zealand but these figures are fairly rough and depend greatly on how you travel and what kind of trip you want. Hostels are reasonably good value with prices tending to range from US$10-20/night. Renting a car may cost roughly US$150/week + gas so obviously the trip will become more affordable if you’re travelling with other people. Many of the highlights on this route are natural ones and are generally free but if you plan on doing lots of extra trips/tours/activities, you could end up spending more.

This budget doesn’t include the cost of getting to/from New Zealand or any other pre-trip expenses. It is loosely based on November 2017 exchange rates. Read our more detailed Backpacking Budget for New Zealand which includes more typical travel costs in the country.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR COUNTRY

New Zealand has pretty relaxed entry requirements and citizens of visa-waiver countries are eligible to stay for up to 3 months without a visa (6 months if you are British). Working holiday visas are also quite popular and relatively easy to obtain for those aged 18-30 and will allow you to stay for up to a year.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance is advisable. Australian company World Nomads are one option for adventurous trips in this part of the world.


NEW ZEALAND BACKPACKER TOURS

Stray Travel are a Kiwi company that have a number of options for exploring the country with other travellers if you’re not keen on going it alone. They also have hop-on, hop-off bus passes if you’re reluctant to travel by car/public transport but this route is based on travelling independently.


Backpacking route for New Zealand

New Zealand is easy to get around and is set up for backpackers, so you’ll have no problem finding places to camp or hostels to chill out in. Our recommended mode of transportation is by car. While getting around on public transit is possible, you’ll have less flexibility and miss out on that undiscovered lookout point when you stop for lunch. The roads in New Zealand are generally well- maintained and highways connect most of the spots on our itinerary.

This route summarises a typical path travellers in the country take and you could easily do it in reverse, depending on where you want to fly out of.


Christchurch

(2-3 days)

Take a day to get settled – you’ve probably had a long flight in. The next morning take a stroll to the Re: Start Mall – a mall made of shipping containers that was built after the earthquake in 2011. After stocking up on snacks and local crafts, take a stroll through the botanic gardens, and finish off the day with a beer in a container bar like the Retro-Politan.

If you’d like to spend a third day here, hop in your rental car to Akaroa for a day trip and charming seaside town.


Oamaru

(1 day)

The main reason to visit Oamaru is to see the yellow-eyed penguins. They don’t come out until sunset, so it’s worth it to stay the night. If you have time before sunset, check out the ‘Steampunk HQ’ in the centre of town.


Dunedin

Backpacking in New Zealand

(2 days)

Fur seals, sea lions, and more penguins can be found on the beach in Dunedin along one of the many coastal walking trails. Chocolate lovers can enjoy a visit to the Cadbury factory, and history buffs will have time to explore the many museums in Dunedin. This is also one of the few locations you can see the Southern Lights, or, Aurora Australis!


Queenstown

(3-6 days)

On the way to Queenstown, be sure to stop off at Slope Point, the Southernmost point of the South Island. You’re now closer to the South Pole than to the Equator!

In the winter season, you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, or bungy jumping. In the summer, you’ll find hiking trails, white water rafting, skydiving, zip-trekking, or dirt biking. For those not into heart-stopping activities, you can spend a few days ambling around town, enjoying hot chocolate, taking in the scenery, and partying.


Milford Sound

Milford Sound New Zealand

(1 day)

Best done as a day trip from Queenstown, unless you want to hike the Milford Track (3-4 days). The best way to see the sound is to hop on one of the many boat tours. Don’t forget the windbreaker.


Franz Joseph Glacier

(1 day)

Join a glacier hiking tour, or just enjoy the views from the ground. The Franz Joseph glacier is the best glacier park in New Zealand and offers a unique backdrop for your road trip!


Arthur’s pass

(1-2 day)

To make your way back to to the east coast, follow the road north and then cross the country through Arthur’s Pass. Enjoy the scenic views while driving through, or spend a few days camping and hiking in the area. There are hostels and campgrounds available in various parts of the pass.


Kaikoura

Backpacking in New Zealand

(1 day)

A nice place to stop on the way to the North Island. Here you’ll find a colony of baby seals and wildlife lazing on the beach.


Picton & Abel Tasman National Park

(2-3 days)

This seaside town is best known for its ferry connection to Wellington, but don’t miss the chance to spend a couple days here and enjoy the kayaking trails around Picton and Abel Tasman National Park. You can do one-day kayak trips or multi-day adventures.


Wellington

(3-10 days)

You won’t run out of things to enjoy in Wellington. First, there’s the cool cafes, restaurants, and bars that litter the winding streets of the city centre. Then, there’s the harbour where you can catch university students jumping into the ocean on a nice day. History nerds can visit the Te Papa museum to learn more about New Zealand’s history, and Zealandia, an exhibition of New Zealand’s natural history. When you’re tired of the city centre, the hills surrounding Wellington make great day hikes or mountain biking adventures. For wine lovers, the Martinborough region is a days’ drive away from Wellington, and for movie, nerds visit the WETA workshop, famous for creating the creatures in the Lord of the Rings films.


Tongariro Northern Circuit

Backpacking Route for New Zealand

(2-4 days)

Ever wanted to cross an active volcano? A volcano better known as Mount Doom? The Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of New Zealand’s 9 great walks and takes 2-4 days to walk (43km). Hiking huts are available to sleep in but need to be booked in advance. You can also do a through day hike (Tongariro Alpine Crossing).


Waitomo glowworm caves

(1 day)

If you’re into caves and glowy things, splurge on a boat trip through the Waitomo glowworm caves for a unique experience. After the caves, either spend the night in Waitomo, or head to Rotorua for 2 full days there.


Rotorua

(2 days)

Most people come to Rotorua for the thermal pools, but there are a few other reasons to visit. There’s a living Maori village that you can see, and many opportunities to learn more about the Maori culture and history. If all else fails, head to the volcanic hills winery.


Auckland & Around

(2-8 days)

The centre of Auckland may feel a bit dull compared to Wellington, but there is a lot to explore in the area. Stroll around the harbour, and visit some of the many galleries and gardens in Auckland. Waiheke Island is worth at least a day trip – rent some bikes and go on a self-guided wine tasting with stunning views. If you have the time, you can spend a few days on the Bay of Islands to enjoy the scenery and quiet pace of life.

If you haven’t gotten your LOTR/Hobbit fix yet, take a day trip to the Hobbiton Film Set – which is still a working farm. It’s a 2-hour drive from Auckland, which can make for a nice day trip, or you can stay overnight in the nearby town of Matamata.

Hobbiton



Extending your trip

You can extend your trip by staying longer in any of the places on this route. Adventure junkies and nature enthusiasts may wish to spend more time in Queenstown, the home of the Southern Alps, known for its hiking, skiing, bungy jumping, skydiving, white water rafting, and more. Those more interested in culture might wish to extend their stays in Wellington or the Auckland area.

You can also extend your stay in Oceania by linking this New Zealand backpacking route with our Australia route.



Author Bio

Kayla left Canada to go on a round the world trip in 2012 and hasn’t stopped traveling since! She’s visited, lived, and worked in over 40 countries and writes about her travels, social enterprise, and the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. Follow her journey on her website, twitter, and instagram.

 


This article was published in Novermber 2017.


Culture in Sydney on a Budget

Culture in Sydney on a Budget

Culture in Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0

by Alex Johnson

No doubt that even finding cheap flight deals; you just spent around $1500 flying to the great land down under. G’day. Chances are you’ve also flown into Australia’s largest city, the beautiful Sydney but that doesn’t make up for the fact that you just spent almost two grand travelling here, so you’re in no hurry to be spending more than you need to be. Don’t worry, there is plenty to see and do to really experience what Sydney has to offer.


Art Gallery of New South Wales

3 days in Sydney

Art GalleryCC BY-SA 2.0

For those of you that consider yourselves art lovers, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is the perfect place for you, and even better general entry to the gallery is FREE. The Art Gallery of NSW is one of Australia’s largest galleries, and is home to thousands of art works. Even if you’re not a fan of art, the architecture of the building should be enough to entice you to enter!

The gallery is home to an extensive permanent collection which is often overlooked by major exhibitions shown at the gallery. When exploring the permanent collection you’ll get an understanding of Australian history through art, with artefacts from Aboriginal Australians, colonial arts, contemporary art, as well as international art. The gallery also plays host to an array of exhibitions, which can incur a cost to enter.


Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach, CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking to experience the Australian beach lifestyle, then look no further than Bondi Beach in Sydney! Yes, Bondi is Australia’s most famous beach and is flocked by residents and tourists alike however it really encapsulates the beach lifestyle Australia is known for. Head on down there on a hot day and you’ll see people of all walks of life, all ages, friends, family, or by themselves make the pilgrimage down to the sands! Whether they’re there for a game of beach soccer, to surf, or a bake in the sun, everyone is there.

I would recommend taking public transport, as the beach is easily accessible via bus, and street parking is scarce and often expensive. If you’re looking to get to the beach but don’t love the crowds be sure to check out Bronte, Manly, Balmoral, Milk, and Tamarama beaches!


Museum of Contemporary Art

Culture in Sydney on a Budget

Museum of Contemporary ArtCC BY 2.0

As you can probably tell from the name, the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Australia’s most notable contemporary art institutions. Showcasing the best of local and international artists and everything from new artists to veterans, the Museum of Contemporary art is located on the beautiful Circular Quay.

The MCA is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting contemporary art. Like the Art Gallery of New South Wales the MCA has a permanent collection that is free to view, but special events and exhibitions will incur a cost to visit.  Additionally due to its location, there is always something to see and do in Circular Quay once you’ve finished up at the MCA.


Chinatown Night Markets

Markets in Sydney

Chinatown SydneyCC BY-SA 2.0

Sydney’s culture is foundationally based on multicultural diversity, respect, and tolerance. Experience buzzing street stalls similar to what you’d find in South East Asia with Dixon Street in Chinatown’s weekly night markets held every Friday! During Chinatown’s night markets you’ll find stalls selling fad trinkets like fidget spinners, small retail jewellery stores, toys, and balloon animals. On the other side you’ll find the food stalls with everything from Japanese takoyaki and Hong Kong dragon beard candy to Korean BBQ beef.

Be sure to come early as the markets are much loved by locals and tourists alike so it can get very busy. If you find yourself not full enough from the street food, you won’t have to walk far at all until you find a great eat, as both sides of the street are lined with different Asian cuisine restaurants.


Watch an NRL Game

Watching a rugby game in Sydney

National Rugby League action in Sydney, CC BY-ND 2.0

Australians love their sport whether its soccer, AFL, NRL, netball, tennis, or golf, we love it all. However, in Sydney there is a general favouritism towards NRL and when we watch games; we really get into them seeing as 10 out of the 16 clubs are based in New South Wales! As you can see, sport is heavily embedded in our culture, so to really get the experience head down to Allianz Stadium, grab yourself a beer and meat pie, and cheer your heart out! Tickets to each game will set you back around $20 for the cheapest seats, but prices vary depending on seat choice, arena, and match.


Yes Sydney is often voted one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, but it doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to visit! These are just a few places where you can truly see and experience the culture of Sydney, but there are plenty of other current events that pass through the city!

 


Author Bio

Alex is a 23 year old lover of life, interior design & adventure. After moving to Sydney when finishing a journalism degree, he began his blog Inspire A Better Life to positively influence others to get out there and see all life has to offer. Join Alex as he discovers this life one day at a time, documenting his thoughts and other along the way!


This article was published in November 2017.


The rise of the transatlantic budget airline – WOW, Norwegian & Level compared

The rise of the transatlantic budget airline – WOW, Norwegian & Level compared

The cost of travelling from Europe to the United States and Canada (or vice-versa) is going down. The suggestion that budget airlines could start operating transatlantic flights has been around for a while but it’s only in the past year or so that we’ve seen a real breakthrough. Crucially there are now several low-cost airlines operating similar routes which is helping drive prices down, even on the more established airlines and for budget-minded travellers at least, there has never been a better time to take a little trip across the Atlantic.

What are the flights like?

There are differences between the airlines featured below, which are explained in the article but essentially the on-board service they offer is quite similar. If you opt for cheapest ticket option, in terms of legroom, you’re likely to get a little more than you might on a typical budget flight in Europe but it can still feel a bit cramped given the length of the journey. Seats with extra-legroom, like almost everything else can be purchased for a fee and that essentially is where they differ from the more traditional long-haul airlines. Everything from food and drinks to wifi and checked luggage comes at a cost and often a great one!

Budget flights from Europe to the Americas – WOW, Norwegian & Level compared


Norwegian


Who are they?

The rapid recent growth of Norwegian is one of the best things to happen to the aviation industry this century. They’ve established themselves in Europe with low-cost fares and a large network whilst offering a much better all-round experience and more pleasant customer service than a certain Irish budget airline. In the past few years they’ve started adding more destinations further-afield and they are the market leader in terms of low-cost travel from Europe to the United States.

Where do they fly?

Norwegian currently flies from Europe to 12 different airports in the US. If you’re heading the other way, there are many direct options while Norwegian’s extensive European network allows for easy connections for just about anywhere you need to go and it shouldn’t add much to the base cost of your ticket.

The US airports currently served are Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle out West, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida plus New York (JFK & Newark, Newburgh), Boston, Providence and Windsor Locks in the Northeast. The list is growing though with Las Vegas, Chicago and Austin soon to be added while they are also set to start operating direct flights from London to Buenos Aires in 2018.

Costs

At the time of research the cheapest one-way flights booked 1-2 months in advance from London Gatwick to Boston were £135, Fort Lauderdale £140 while somewhat curiously there were cheaper flights to Oakland (30 mins out of San Francisco) at £140 than New York £150.

Flights from Oslo to New York started at €133 while Copenhagen to JFK was €155. These are all just example fares and it’s not that hard to find this kind of value from any of the main Western or Northern European nations.

Fares the other way looked roughly similar with some cracking last-minute deals available such as New York to Belfast for £83, flying the following week. Overall though it’s still advisable to book at least a few weeks in advance.

Baggage & Additional charges

One piece of hand baggage and one personal item (combined weight 10kg) can be carried on-board for free. No checked baggage is included with their ‘LowFares’ and one piece of hold luggage costs £40 for direct flights and a hefty £80 if you are taking an international connecting flight (e.g. Hamburg-Oslo-Los Angeles).

Pre-ordered meals can be added for £25 per person one-way or you can just purchase snacks and meals onboard. Alcoholic drinks are available for £6-13. Even blankets and headsets come at a cost.

Full details of baggage fees and extra charges on Norwegian.

Pros & Cons

One major advantage on the other two is that they don’t just operate out of one base. Norway is their home and they have direct flights to both coasts of the US from Oslo while the East Coast can be reached from Bergen. However they actually have more direct transatlantic flights out of London (Gatwick) while you can also fly direct to the US from Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Barcelona, Paris (CDG), Copenhagen and Stockholm. That helps cut down the connections and the amount of time spent travelling.

The additional fees are hefty though particularly the baggage which can add up-to £160 return for just one piece of checked luggage if you’re flying return and taking a connecting flight. Unless you’re literally going for months, try your utmost to squeeze everything into one backpack and take it on board with you for free.

Norwegian Air reviewed

Norwegian plane via Karendesuyo, CC BY 2.0


WOW air


Who are they?

WOW air are an Icelandic low-cost carrier founded in 2011 and they started flying to the United States in 2015. They now operate many budget flights to North America and Europe from their Reykjavík base. Iceland is just about the only place that is conveniently located as a transit stop between the two continents and they’ve taken advantage of that by offering a free stopover in Iceland, which is a fantastic place to visit in its own right. (Note you have to book a return trip from Europe to North America to be eligible for this, for one-way tickets you can only transfer in the airport).

Where do they fly?

WOW are very different from Norwegian in that all their flights are either to/from Reykjavík’s Keflavík International Airport so it’s impossible to fly direct from mainland Europe or the UK to North America with them. They do though have a more extensive choice of North American destinations. Unlike Norwegian, they fly to Canada, serving Montreal and Toronto. Their US destinations at the time of writing (October 2017) were Boston, New York, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, St Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Their European network isn’t quite as extensive though with flights to Reykjavik from 19 cities including Bristol, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Berlin, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Brussels, Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Warsaw. They also have a service from Iceland to Tel Aviv in Israel.

Costs

WOW it seems are more geared towards targeting Americans wanting to visit Europe than the other way around and they do have some great deals. At the time of research, you could fly the following month from Chicago to Amsterdam and even Tel Aviv for just $149.99 one-way with the WOW Basic fare (ticket + one personal item of hand luggage) although most flights were roughly $50 more. Similar fares were available at relatively short notice for many routes such as New York-Paris and LA-London while flights from Dallas to London, Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin started at $199.99. Some of the cheapest fares seemed to be from Miami (Dublin from $119 for example).

It is worth noting with WOW and other airlines for that matter, that while you can often bag one great deal such as that, finding a convenient return flight for the same price can be more challenging. With WOW, it should be doable for around $350-400 return from North America to Europe or vice-versa for many of their routes if you’re flexible on time but you may need to search around a bit.

Baggage & Additional charges

You can take one personal item on board for free (upto 10kg). This essentially matches what Norwegian offer although the terminology is different and it has to be in one bag. An additional bag can be taken on board at a cost.

Their additional costs vary depending on the route – Check yours here. As a rough guide checking in one 20kg bag costs $59.99 for London Gatwick to Toronto (do it at the time of booking to avoid an even steeper fee). Their food isn’t cheap either – scrambled eggs with tomato salad for $13 anyone? However given the stopover limits the length of each flight, you can probably just hold out and get something nicer and more filling at Keflavík Airport.

Pros & Cons

If it’s the very cheapest fares for flying from USA to Europe or vice-versa than WOW is tough to beat and if you’re not checking in baggage, you can find some incredible deals. The ability to stopover in Iceland is another major draw if time is no barrier to you. It would be pretty easy to spend several days or more there and then continue your journey, effectively getting two trips for the price of one. If you’re considering this, check out our article on the cost of travel in Iceland!

However if that doesn’t appeal or you’re travelling for a specific purpose, the lack of direct flights offered by WOW is a drawback. Timewise it shouldn’t add a great deal of time on as many airlines fly in that direction anyway when they cross the Atlantic but having to transfer is a bit of a hassle.

Using two shorter flights instead of one long one to cross the Atlantic also allows WOW to act more like a short-haul budget airline and thus cut-down on the leg-room and offer no in-flight entertainment (bring your own entertainment if you want to avoid hours of boredom – they do at least have a universal plug socket under each seat). In terms of the in-flight experience and comfort they are the worst of the three airlines featured in this article.

WOW, Norwegian & Level compared

Beautiful Iceland via Giuseppe Milo, CC BY 2.0


Level


Who are they?

Level are the new kids on the block with their first flights taking off only in June 2017. Right now they are very small-time compared to the other two and they only have two airplanes! However given they are owned by IAG, who own both British Airways and Iberia, there is big potential for expansion. The fact they have taken the trouble to start a low-cost transatlantic carrier suggests that this new age of cheap travel across the Atlantic is here to stay.

Where do they fly?

Right now they only fly four routes, all from Barcelona to Los Angeles, Oakland, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and most interestingly Buenos Aires.

Costs

Level made a splash by promising flights from Europe to the United States for under €100 when they first launched and now they are saying you can fly to LA & Oakland (for San Francisco) from €149, Buenos Aires from €269 and Punta Cana from €369.

At the time of research (mid-October 2017) it was pretty easy to find flights to Oakland in the region of €150-200 one-way for the following month but flying back there seemed to be considerably fewer cheap options. The LA flights appeared to be ceasing for the winter.

There was nothing under €500 to Buenos Aires though so the initial excitement about the possibility of finally getting cheap flights from Europe to South America looks a little short-lived although prices should fall when the competition increases and Norwegian starts flying direct to the Argentine capital on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Baggage & Additional charges

Like the other airlines, there are additional charges for just about everything, although the in-flight entertainment on the screen in front of you is free (as is the case with Norwegian). A checked bag when booked online is €40/$44, which although still a bit of a rip-off, compares favourably to the other two airlines. With their cheapest fare option, a hot meal costs a ridiculous €35 but snacks and sandwiches can be purchased on-board by pressing some buttons on your screen at any time for much less. WIFI is available for a fee but again doesn’t come cheap with both hourly and data limits.

Full list of Level Additional Charges

Pros & Cons

The free in-flight entertainment and general comfort level is certainly better than you get on WOW and rivals that of Norwegian. The airline has basically been set up to rival Norwegian who were taking customers of BA and Iberia so it offers a similar service.

However the lack of routes is a major drawback as is the fact you have to get to Barcelona first if you are heading Stateside. It would though be easy to use that as an excuse to have a short break in Barcelona (there are worse places to be stuck for a few days!).

For now at least, the flights to Buenos Aires and Punta Cana don’t really offer any great savings on other airlines so the LA and Oakland routes are the only ones that could seriously be considered budget and given the distance involved, the fares are very reasonable indeed.

cheap flights to San Francisco

San Francisco – A short train ride from Oakland Airport, served by Level.

Have you flown with any of these airlines? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! 


This article was published in October 2017.


 

5 Countries that are cheap to live in and offer a high quality of life!

5 Countries that are cheap to live in and offer a high quality of life!

While everyone’s definition of ‘cheap’ and ‘high quality of life’ may differ, these countries offer an affordable cost of living certainly in comparison to most developed countries whilst still having a huge amount to offer. A budget of US$1000/month (€850, £750) should suffice in all of them if you are savvy while for a little more you can live very comfortably indeed.


Chile

Countries that are cheap to live in and offer a high quality of life

image via Carlos Y, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

While there are cheaper countries in South America, most have major drawbacks in terms of living standards. Chile gets the balance about right. It offers better value than Brazil or Uruguay and probably Argentina whilst it’s generally regarded as one of the safest countries in Latin America.

Even the capital Santiago is free from many of the hassles that other big cities in the region throw-up and it’s location on the edge of the Andes yet still only 100km from the coast is a real draw. In theory you could ski and surf on the same day! The same is true of much of the country given its ridiculously skinny shape and in terms of natural beauty, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Getting around the country can be a challenge given the size of it but transport links are improving and flights are better value than they are in much of South America. Throw into the mix fantastic wines and cultured cities such as Valparaíso and the case for living in Chile is a compelling one.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Valparaiso – $300/month

More on the cost of travel and typical expenses in Chile


Portugal

cost of living in Portugal

Portugal offers Western European living at a fraction of the cost of other countries in the ‘expensive part’ of Europe. It was affected badly by the economic crisis and that has contributed to prices staying low and it’s now cheaper to live in Portugal than some of the more developed Eastern European countries.

For a capital city, Lisbon offers fantastic value, while heading South to the Algarve will allow you to take advantage of a great sunny climate that few parts of Europe can rival. The standard of English is also very high, certainly in comparison to neighbouring Spain or Italy so it’s pretty easy to adapt to life in Portugal.

Everything from eating and drinking out, to renting a flat remains remarkably good value while there are regular train and bus links that connect the whole country, which is of a similar shape to Chile but on a much smaller scale.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Lisbon – $550/month (Rooms in shared flats can easily be found for under $300)

Read more on typical prices and costs in Portugal


Thailand

thailand living

In terms of countries that are cheap to live in but also offer a high quality of life, Thailand is tough to beat. It remains an immensely popular place with foreigners and while tourists and backpackers continue to arrive in their droves, it’s also increasingly becoming a popular place to live.

Almost certainly the cheapest of the five countries on this list, you’ll have more money leftover to spend on trips to other parts of Southeast Asia, whilst eating out practically every night is a realistic option, certainly if you’re a fan of the local cuisine.

There’s also a great choice of possible bases. Sun worshippers may want to head to the islands in the South, while city-lovers will struggle to beat the buzz of 24-7 Bangkok. Perhaps the most popular place to live these days with digital nomads and expats is Chiang Mai, which is ridiculously cheap even by Thai standards and offers a more tranquil pace of life than the capital which has its downsides.

Overall Thailand offers a nice blend of Asian exoticism but with all the comforts of home thrown in, and in terms of healthcare and general infrastructure it’s far superior to neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Chiang Mai – $250/month

More info on the cost of things in Thailand here!


Greece

Living in Greece

image via Nick Fewings, under CC BY 2.0

Greece is another European country hit very hard by the economic crisis and unlike most of the others, its recovery has been a painfully slow process. If you are a freelancer or working from home though it offers an affordable and very pleasant lifestyle.

With an array of different islands and everything from quiet fishing villages to lively cities, there’s plenty of choice when deciding where to live. The Mediterranean climate and diet certainly offers the opportunity to lead a healthy, relaxed life.

Much-like Portugal, it offers life in a developed European country with a rich culture and history, on a budget much lower than you’d need in the UK, France or Germany for example while it also compares favourably to Spain and Italy with rental prices particularly good value.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Athens – $350/month

Read about the cost of travel in Greece


Taiwan

Best countries to live in on a budget

image via Ludovic Lubeigt, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Although Chinese-Taiwanese ties remain a constant talking point, political tensions don’t really have any impact on daily life and moving to Taiwan offers the best of both worlds for anyone looking to get a taste of Oriental culture without some of the frustrations that life in mainland China can bring.

Taiwan is a vibrant island of many different influences and is certainly the most challenging of the countries in this article to adapt to but if it’s an adventure and new experiences you’re after, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The language barrier is certainly an issue but it’s also reassuring to know there’s always teaching English if you’re looking to make a bit of cash. Other benefits, particularly for digital nomad types, is that it has extraordinarily good internet with virtually the whole country seeming to offer a wifi connection. Meanwhile it’s also a very safe place with almost no crime.

Cost of Renting 1 Bedroom Apartment in Taipei – $400/month


There are more ideas for cheap countries to move to here. Meanwhile a few years ago we made this long list of the budget living costs in 125 cities around the world, which you may also want co check out!
Which other countries do you think belong on this list? Use the comments below to let us know 🙂

This article was published in September 2017.


 

Top 10 Most Adventurous Trails in the World

A guest post by Rebecca

If you love going on adventures and hiking, then we have the list for you! These trails listed below are challenging, beautiful and remote, and will definitely fulfil your need for some adventure! Below, we will share with you the top 10 trails we have found.

Top 10 Most Adventurous Trails in the World

Kungsleden

best trekking destinations

Known also as the King’s Trail, this Swedish trail is 275 miles long and will take you right into the wilderness. You will also trek through 4 national parks, as well as a nature reserve! Keep an eye out for reindeer in this area. The trail does go off into 4 different sections, which can take up to a week each to hike.

Haute Route

If you want to take this trail, you will encounter some of the most famous peaks in the world! The trail name translates to “high route” and will let you witness the Mont Blanc peak and the Matterhorn. You will need nearly 2 weeks to hike over 100 miles from France to Switzerland, passing small villages and more along the route. You may want to consider getting a walkie talkie set so if you get separated from your hiking partner, you can stay in communication.

Camino de Santiago

Best hiking destinations

Once known as a route for Christian pilgrimages, it is now primarily a famous hiking trail. You will go from the Pyrenees area of France, through Spain, and it is about 500 miles long. You will come across Fuente de Vino, which is a fountain of wine, along the trail. It does get very crowded in the summer time however. There are several hostels and places to eat along the route, so you won’t have to camp outside if you don’t want to.

Pays Dragon

Located in Africa, this is a hidden area that many people bypass. Going through the African plains, you will pass by the Bandiagara Escarpment. The Escarpment has cliffs as its background as well as granaries, sanctuaries and homes. While continuing on Pays Dragon, you will see more beauty and cliffs as you hike through and you will meet some of the locals who still participate in traditional rituals and ceremonies.

Inca Trail

Most Adventurous Trails in the World

The Inca Trail leads to the ancient Macchu Picchu and can be done as a short or long hike depending on how much time you have. A beautiful train-ride will take you through the snow-capped Andes Mountains to the tropical jungle and all of its lush landscape and scenery. Once you pass through Sun Gate, an area of 2 stones at the mountain by the Lost City, you will be close to Macchu Picchu and can climb the steps to where the ancient Incans once lived.

Routeburn Track

If you love the scenery and the beauty that nature has to offer, then the short but sweet Routeburn Track is the place to hike. This is a roughly 20mile journey that will take you through the Mount Aspiring National Park and the Fiordland National Park. Here, you are going to see not only high mountain peaks, but waterfalls and lakes, plus various breeds of birds! You can also find shelter on the trail by staying at Routeburn Falls or Lake Mackenzie huts.

Annapurna Circuit

Located in the center of Nepal, this trail is known as one of the most beautiful on the planet. You can take the 100 mile route and will be 18,000 feet in the air when you get to the summit called Thorung La, where you will be able to see the peaks of Poon Hill. If you prefer not to rough it the whole time, there are hotels you can stay at for minimal cost.

West Highland Way

best countries for hiking

A 96mile trail of greenery, where you will see the beautiful landscape of Scotland. Here, the weather is a little insane, so you will want to pack for any type of weather, especially rain. You will pass through Glasgow, Rannoch Moore, Glencoe and Loch Leven. Hiking this route will take you through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park as well as the Queen Elizabeth National Park. There is accommodation along the way, where you can eat and rest as you take a break from hiking for the day.

Sentiero Azzurro

Also known as the Blue Trail, this route connects the villages of Cinque Terre and you can hike it in one day because it is only 7.5 miles! You will pass by rocky coastlines as well as vineyards and villages. You will start off in the city of Riomaggiore and end up in Monterosso al Mare, and there is some climbing up and down involved on the Sentiero Azzurro. There is accommodation in most of the villages and you can stop to eat at any café, as the Italian food is amazing in this region.

Snowman Trek

You will want to have a lot of experience if you are going to come to take on the Snowman Trek. This is a high altitude area that is located at the Tibetan and Bhutanese borders. You will go over 11 mountain passes at the height of 14,000 feet. While you are hiking, you will see many Buddhist monasteries that are built into the side of the mountains, along cliffs. There are also many small villages with nice people along the trail, as well as beautiful scenery. You will need just over 3 weeks to finish the Snowman Trek, which crosses the Paro Chhu River Valley, with the best time to hike it being in October. This area is pretty remote, so be sure to be safe, yet take the time to look around!

 


Author Bio

Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favourite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another of her passion is the ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy. She also writes for HikingMastery.com


This article was published in August 2017.


Backpacking Route for Mexico

latin america routes


Mexico Backpacking Route

Our backpacking route for Mexico takes in the best the South of the country has to offer. If you follow it, you’ll travel from the tranquil seas of the Caribbean to the giant waves of the Pacific via a host of a ancient Maya cities, jungle ruins and pleasant mountain towns. The route then cuts through Mexico’s cultural heartland before ending up in the enormous capital city, one of the largest and liveliest on the planet.


TIME NEEDED – 5 weeks

If you’re not that fussed with beaches or not that interested in the Maya ruins, you could probably do this route in a month or less by spending less than the suggested amount of time at some of the destinations. Overall though about 5 weeks would be a suitable time-span.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1000 | €1100 | US$1250 | 23,000 Mexican Pesos

Mexico is really good value on the whole and if you’re heading here from the States, immediately you will appreciate how much more you can get for your money. However heading North from Central America, it may seem slightly more expensive.

This budget doesn’t include the cost of getting to/from Mexico or any other pre-trip expenses. It is based on July 2017 prices and exchange rates. Read our more detailed Backpacking Budget for Mexico, which includes typical travel costs.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR MEXICO

Mexico is pretty chilled when it comes to entry requirements. There’s no long questioning or waits at the border like you often get trying to enter the United States. Visitors from EU countries, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most Latin American countries can get a generous 180 days visa-free. You can use our visa-check tool to confirm whether or not you need a visa.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance is always advisable, not just because of Mexico’s perceived dangers. We recommend World Nomads, who specialise in covering backpacking trips.


Backpacking route for Mexico

Our Mexico travel itinerary is convenient in that it starts in Cancun and ends in Mexico City, which are home to the two busiest airports in the country and the ones with by far the greatest options in terms of international flights. One of the problems with travel in Mexico is that domestic flights can be quite pricey so if you just head off with no real plan, it’s quite possible you’ll end up somewhere quite isolated. That could leave you having to fork out a considerable amount just to fly somewhere with an international airport or alternatively having to backtrack on a long bus journey.

Mexico is deceptively big and to put that into some perspective, a direct flight from Cancun in the South-east to Tijuana in the North-West on the US border takes around 5 hours. Therefore unless you have months to spare, it’s best to base your trip around one or two parts of the country rather than attempting to go everywhere. The Mexico backpacker trail primarily focuses on the South of the country, which is home to most of the more popular travel destinations and is generally considered to be safer than the North.

This route summarises a typical path travellers in the country take and you could easily just do it in reverse and there may be something to be said for ending your trip with some relaxed days on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline.


Cancun

(1 day)

If you’ve had a long flight in then you may wish to book a hotel for a night in Cancun to get some rest but there are nicer places further South, that are generally much more to the liking of backpackers and budget travellers.


Playa del Carmen

(3-4 days)

Playa del Carmen is a fun place to hang out for a few days. Yes it’s touristy but it’s nowhere near as trashy or expensive as Cancun and there are many hostels catering to backpackers. The beaches are great and the nightlife is pumping with many bars and clubs offering excellent drinks deals. The nearby island of Cozumel is also a nice option if you want some additional beach time.


Tulum

Caribbean beach Mexico

image via Pascal under CC BY 2.0

(2-3 days)

There are two main reasons why travellers head to Tulum. The first is its gorgeous beach, which is among the best on the Riviera Maya and that is saying something. It is also home to the well preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan city so you can get a dose of culture and history too before cooling off in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. At night, it’s nowhere near as lively as Playa del Carmen and is a much quieter destination overall, with yoga retreats recently cropping up on its cliffs.


Chichen Itza

(1/2 a day)

One of Mexico’s most famous sites. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan ruins, with the enormous pyramid known as El Castillo, its centrepiece. There are limited budget accommodation options nearby so it’s probably best to just stop here for an afternoon to break up the journey between Tulum and Merida.


Merida

(2-4 days)

The state capital of Yucatán, Merida is one of the biggest cities on this route, but by no means overwhelming with around 750,000 residents. It’s a fascinating cultural destination, founded by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Merida is a city of plazas, palaces, cathedrals and museums. While it may only take a couple of days to discover the city, there’s plenty to see and do around the town with nearby Maya ruins, a wildlife refuge and the famous cenotes.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Hostal La Ermita, Merida

This is a great hostel which ticks pretty much all the boxes. The staff are friendly, the price is reasonable, breakfast is included and there’s a nice pool and patio area to chill in.


Campeche

(1-2 days)

In some respects, Campeche is not dissimilar to Merida. It’s a bit smaller but is another city with Spanish origins and its colonial old town has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The nearest maya ruins are at Edzna, a relatively small site around an hour away.


Palenque

budget travel in Mexico

(1-2 days)

Palenque is a large site that was once home to an ancient Maya city. Its ruins are some of the best preserved in the whole region, largely thanks to the jungle which offers natural shelter. It could take the whole day to explore the site but there’s little to do in the nearby modern-day town itself. You can either stay there or find somewhere on the edge of the national park near the Maya site.


San Cristobal de las Casas

(2 days)

Arguably the prettiest town on the route, San Cristobal de las Casas is full of colourful buildings and cobblestone streets. Its highland location offers a pleasant break from the heat and it can get quite chilly at night. Just strolling around the town is enjoyable enough and if you fancy a longer stay there are volunteering opportunities as well as host of reasonably priced Spanish language schools.


Zipolite & Mazunte

backpackers in Mexico

(3-4 days)

Zipolite and Mazunte are two beach villages on Mexico’s rugged Oaxaca Coast. It takes only about 10 minutes and costs only a few pesos to travel from one to the other in a colectivo so you can choose to base yourself in one and visit the other or spend a couple of days in each.

Zipolite is the livelier of the two although that’s only a relative concept. Both places are very small and although there’s only a limited amount of things to do, it’s about the only place in Mexico where you can still find a cheap bungalow/hut on the beach and fall asleep accompanied by the sounds of Pacific Ocean waves crashing into the shore. Zipolite is also Mexico’s only beach where you can go nude, while Mazunte has a growing reputation for impromptu live music. Like many destinations on this route, the ease of getting marijuana is an appeal to some travellers.


Puerto Escondido

(2-3 days)

A bit further up the coast, you reach the much larger Puerto Escondido, which is popular with both domestic and international travellers. It’s a big surfing destination with some seriously large waves, which make swimming virtually impossible. There’s also a turtle conservation programme and you can assist every day at 5pm when baby turtles are released into the sea.


Oaxaxa

(2-3 days)

The city of Oaxaca is the capital of the state of the same name but it’s slow ride up from Puerto Escondido, which can take as long as 8 hours by road. It’s the state’s main cultural centre with a couple of interesting museums and a walkable city-centre. Nearby Monte Alban is another UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most impressive ruins sites in Latin America. Every Thursday and Saturday, trips run to the nearby village of Teotitlán del Valle by the non-profit Fundacion en Via and it’s a good opportunity to meet locals and make a positive contribution to fighting poverty in the region, whilst also having an interesting experience.


Huautla de Jimenez

(1-3 days)

One of the most curious destinations on the route. Huautla de Jimenez is a remote mountain town that was popular with the hippies in the 1960’s and the extremely strong psilocybe mushrooms that grow here during the wet season still attract some foreigners. Shamanic rituals still take place during this period but visitors also come to explore the stunning mountain range that surrounds the town and it’s a funky little place to hang around for a while.


Puebla

(2-3 days)

Many travellers visit Pubela as a day-trip from the capital but given it’s en-route, it’s well worth stopping off here for a few nights to catch your breath before heading to Mexico City. Puebla is a city of around 1.5million people so it’s a pretty big place with lots of beautiful buildings and interesting landmarks, not to mention lots of tasty and cheap street-food. It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains and volcanoes so it’s also well worth heading out of town and exploring the natural surroundings for a final dose of fresh air before the smog of the capital.


Mexico City & Around

Mexico City on a budget

(3-5 days)

Mexico City is enormous! First-time visitors often find visiting an overwhelming experience and it’s not easy to know where to base yourself or where to begin. Like any large city it has its hassles but the tourist areas are not considered dangerous and there is a heavy police presence in the old city. The giant Zócalo, the city’s main plaza and one of the largest squares in the world is a good starting point and there are many interesting museums and cultural sites nearby that document various periods of Mexican history. For a more modern-day experience take in a football match at the giant Estadio Azteca or get to grips with the entertaining world of lucha libre, a Mexican form of professional wrestling (live shows take place every Friday at 20:30).

There are also a number of day-trips that can be done from Mexico City. A visit to the vast archaeological site at Teotihuacan, Northeast of the city is one of the most popular. Nature and adventure sports lovers would be wise to check out Valle de Bravo and/or the Desert of the Lions National Park. Meanwhile new-age Tepoztlan is reportedly a UFO hotspot with a large number of the town’s residents having reported seeing one!


MFT RECOMMENDS – Mexico City Hostel

Location is key when booking a hostel in Mexico City and it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s in the heart of the old city and although there are no fancy extras, it does the basics well for a good price.



Extending your trip

This Mexico backpacking route only covers the bottom third of the country, where a lot of the travel highlights are located. It could be considered loosely speaking the most typical backpacker trail in Mexico although it’s not rigidly followed by everyone by any means. Perhaps more common these days is for backpackers to head South to Guatemala rather than North. You can easily combine some of this with our backpacking route for Central America, which does just that and carries on all the way down to Panama.

If you want to see more of Mexico then there’s plenty more cool places to go but the best destinations are quite spread out so be prepared for some more long bus journeys or consider forking out for a flight or two. Highlights further North include Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, which are reasonably easy to get to from Mexico City and could quite easily be added onto this route although you’ll most likely have to backtrack to the capital for an onward flight.

Baja California is another popular coastal region, great for surfing and you can even head all the way North to the US-Mexico border and continue your adventure in California. Alternatively you can take Mexico’s most famous train ride and head to the stunning and very remote Copper Canyon, which feels a world away from the tourist resorts of the city or the madness of Mexico City.

Cartagena in Colombia, where our South America backpacking route starts, isn’t a million miles away either so if you’ve got the time, you could certainly do plenty more travelling in the region.


Budget Accommodation in Mexico

Getting budget accommodation in Mexico is pretty straight-forward unless you’re travelling in peak tourist season (exact time varies from place to place) or during a national holiday. In most towns on this route, you can just show up and find a room or bed, with prices negotiable in a lot of cases, especially during low season. In the bigger towns it’s probably still advisable to book something in advance as the hostels and main backpacker options are often spread out across town.


Is Mexico Dangerous?

Mexico gets a lot of bad press and certainly is perceived as a dangerous country by many. However don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear from a certain president. If you’re sensible and avoid a handful of places, mostly in the North, well away from the stops on this route, you should have no trouble. Rates of violent crime are high but this is massively skewed by drug-related violence and rarely effects visitors.

 


This article was published in July 2017.


How to Bargain in Vietnam

How to Bargain in Vietnam

getting a lower price in Vietnam

A guest post by Jim from Asia Marvels

Many travellers in Vietnam are so afraid of paying more than they should that they forget to enjoy their trip. Here is some insight into bargaining in Vietnam to make your time here easier.

The first thing you should know about bargaining in Vietnam is that it is considered perfectly acceptable and even expected to argue with a merchant about the price of their goods or services in this country. To most westerners, it can be annoying, time-consuming and feel like getting ripped off. However, this habit has been around for so long it has become part of the Vietnamese culture, so I suggest that instead of holding on to all the negative feelings, why not loosen up a little bit (you are on a trip anyway) and learn how to bargain like a local.

Below are 7 things you must know about bargaining so you can enjoy your Vietnam trip thoroughly.


1. Know when to Bargain

bargaining in Vietnam

Even in Vietnam, not every price is negotiable. You sure wouldn’t want to make a fool out of yourself trying to talk your waiter into giving you a better price at a restaurant. My advice is that if something has a price tag on it, the cost is non-negotiable. This includes restaurants, where prices are usually listed on menus or signs, cabs with taxi meters etc.

Don’t take “always bargain” too seriously, it once took me and 2 waitresses half an hour to convince an American guy that it was not too much to pay 20,000 VND – just less than a dollar for two Bia hoi (Vietnamese draught beer).


2. Take it easy

Westerners often feel cheated and embarrassed when they find out that they have paid too much. But let me get this straight: At first, you’re going to pay too much. There’s no way around it. And even after you’ve been here for a while, you’re probably still going to pay more than locals, more often than not.

But in the end, this isn’t a battle to get the right price so just relax if you later find out that you have paid a few more bucks than you should have.


3. Learn some Vietnamese

Knowing the local language will help you A LOT with haggling with the local merchant. It shows that you probably have stayed here for a while and know how much something should cost. Of course you don’t have to master the language to be able to get a cheaper beer in Vietnam, here are some super useful phrases you can use:

– Bao nhiêu? (bao new) – How much?

– Đắt quá! (dat wa!) – Too expensive!!

Bớt đi (Bot dy) – Reduce the price

– Không (khom) – No

– Dạ (ya) – Yes

– Được (duoc) – Ok (or you can just say ok, most Vietnamese will understand)

After you show off your masterful Vietnamese skills, these shop owners would be likely to give you a much more reasonable price, and it’s kind of cool too.


4. Do some research

How to bargain in Vietnam

If you are looking for something specific, ask a local what the going rate is before you head to the market. It helps to go into the negotiations with an idea of what you’re supposed to pay. Start haggling by quoting a price that is about 10-20% lower than what you think you should be paying. Work your way up from there.

One more way to find out what is a good price for something in Vietnam is browsing around before starting to bargain. In most markets in Vietnam, there are several stalls selling exactly the same products as the other one. When you find something you like, check out all the other stalls in the market and choose the one with the lowest price. The “I love Ha Noi” T-shirt you like might be 10,000VND cheaper in the stall next door.


5. Act like you don’t want it

The last trick, and most successful strategy, is to act like you are not that interested in what they are selling. The less you want it, the better you can bargain.

No matter how much you want the item, try to act as nonchalantly as you can. If it still doesn’t work, pretend to lose interest and walk away, your vendor is likely to lower the price for you. Be careful though cause this trick can backfire sometimes; if you really want that item and can’t find it in any other shops in the area, you might have to come back with your tail between your legs and pay the price they offer.


6. Know when to quit

Sometimes you’ve just got to accept the price, even though you know that it’s more than what a local has to pay for it. If you’ve haggled, thrown in some sneaky Vietnamese and even walked away like you don’t want it anyway and the price still stays the same. Don’t be angry, go to another shop and try again or just accept that this is how things work around here. And if you still feel uncomfortable, think of how much you had to pay for a Frappuccino or a beer back home. Again, this is not a battle and there is no win or lose.


 7. Practice

Travel tips for Vietnam

Bargaining is a skill and like any other skill, practice makes perfect. Each time you bargain for something, there is a chance to hone your skills, learn from what happened and one day you might be able to buy some things you like for half the price they offer. This skill is also useful in many other Asian countries like Thailand, China, Malaysia and India.

 

That’s all guys, hope that this will help you have a wonderful time in Vietnam.


Author Bio

Asia travel

Hi there, I’m Jim – writer at Asiamarvels.com. I love travelling around Asia and share my stories & guidelines with readers. I’m sure there are so many things the world hasn’t discovered about this mysterious land and you’re eager to know more about it, right?

Alright!!!! let me help you. More guidelines, food tours, tricks and tips for your amazing trip to Asia can be found at Asiamarvels.com.

 


This article was published in May 2017.


5 Things to consider before you teach English in China

5 Things to consider before you teach English in China

Things to consider before you teach English in China

image via Brian Yap, CC BY-NC 2.0

A guest post by Dimitris Vlachos

If you’re interested in teaching English in China, then you’re in for an exciting and rewarding adventure. As a company which specialises in helping people like you teach abroad, we understand what you’re going through. We’ve helped hundreds of people find jobs in China and we hope to do the same for you.

But before you leave for your new country, there are a few important things for you to consider before you teach English in China. Here are a few tips so that you know what to expect before you make the big move!


1. You Have To Live On A Teacher’s Budget

While it is true that teaching salaries are on the rise in China, there is little wiggle room to live a luxurious lifestyle. Many people who teach abroad do so in order to pay back their college loans, save up, or travel. While you can do these things, you can’t do all of them at once in China like you may be able to in other countries where the salaries are higher.

You’re going to need to choose the lifestyle you wish to live before you go. If you’re teaching in China so that you can travel, then put your extra wages toward day and weekend trips, but you won’t be able to save much. If you wish to pay back your student loans, you can, but you won’t be able to travel as much as you might like. Research the average Chinese ESL salary and use a cost of living calculator to help you figure out what you’re likely to make and spend.


2. Get A Job Through A Recruiter

Finding a job in China through a recruiter will simplify the process and have a few added benefits as well. Many schools in China do not advertise for teachers online, so it’s hard to see all of the options available to you. Plus, you may never find out what the place you’ll be living in is like until you arrive. Once you find a recruiter you’ll have increased job opportunities, have a picture in mind of what the school is like, and you can earn better benefits and a higher salary.


3. There’s No Need To Speak Chinese

During your time in China, it’s likely that you’ll want to pick up the language and bring it back home with you. However learning Chinese takes time, so don’t expect to be fluent in the first few months. Start off by going to restaurants which have picture menus and invest in cheap business cards with your address on them.

When you’re ready to learn Chinese, read blog posts about how other’s have learned the language. You can also practice today by using apps like Duolingo. Once you’re there, there are plenty of schools that offer reasonably priced language classes.


4. Understand How To Say ‘No’

Since you’re a tourist, there’s always the fun fact that you’re going to be a target for people looking to make a little extra money. This happens in every country, even the United States. However, you’re likely to stick out as a foreigner and as a result people will try to get you to buy things you don’t need.

Learn how to tell people ‘no’ politely so that you can avoid wasting your money and time. It’s important to not feel pressured or you’ll make a buy just to avoid the awkward situation. It’s okay to say no.


5. What’s Your Skin Colour?

The most awkward thing to consider before your move to China is what your skin colour is. Sadly in Chinese society skin colour still holds weight and if you’re darkly complected, you will occasionally be judged. This is a common problem in many developing nations because some people believe skin colour is associated with social standing.

These situations will always be uncomfortable, but keep in mind that for every bad situation you have, you’ll likely have at least one (or more) heart-warming situation where you’re complemented or cared for. Not everyone judges based on skin colour.

Teaching English in China is going to be one of the highlights of your life. China is a beautiful country with an equally beautiful history and culture that will serve to enrich you for the rest of your life. Knowing these five things will help you to develop a broader understanding of what it’s like to teach and live in China.


Author Bio

Dimitris works as a full stack marketer at Movinhand. Movinhand helps educators get the salary they deserve. We promote teachers around the world and get them the best possible offer within 10 days of signing up.


This article was published in May 2017.


5 Unusual Things to Do on a Budget in Santorini

5 Unusual Things to Do on a Budget in Santorini

Santorini is a Greek island that has long been associated with honeymooning couples, but over the last few years it has become more and more popular with backpackers and explorers who are visiting the island to experience the multicoloured cliffs and natural phenomena created by the local volcanoes. Sound intriguing? Here are just 5 of the best things to experience in Santorini, especially for those on a budget:


1: Cliff Jumping at Amoudi Bay

Cliff jumping in Santorini

Amoudi Bay, with its crystal clear Mediterranean waters and protected by a surrounding cliff tops, is perfect for any cliff jumping thrill-seeker. Situated in Oia, Amoudi Bay might be hard to find, but persistence more than pays off, as once you find the route, the steps will take you up to a boulder from which you can safely jump off into the sea. Keep in mind to bring sensible footwear though, as the route isn’t the easiest and there are plenty of sharp rocks on the way up. Oia itself is full of traditional Greek restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat after your cliff diving adventure, and the church near the Amoudi Bay trail is a favourite amongst tourists for watching the sunset in the evening.


2: Hiking the Fira Trail

Santorini budget travel guide

There is nothing cheaper or more satisfying than a walk exploring the great outdoors, and where better to do it than one of the most beautiful places in the world? The Santorini Fira trail is 10km and will take around 3-4 hours to complete. Starting in Fira, which is the island’s capital, you’ll pass tourist attractions such as the Orthodox Metropolitan Church, the Fira main shopping area and the Catholic Cathedral. As you continue on you’ll pass by the Aegean Sea and see its famous volcano before heading into the village of Firostefani. From here you’ll pass the Monastery of Saint Nicholas and into the village of Imerovigli before hiking up the famous Skaros Rock. The trail then heads further north as you travel by the Church of Prophet Elias and the Church of Agios Antonios, where you will see the beautiful Thirassia island before continuing the trail to the picturesque Oia where the trail comes to an end.


3: Sunbathe on Black Sand Beach

Black Beach in Santorini

Perivolos Beach is lined with black volcanic pebbles and clear blue waters that make for a stunning sight when we are usually so accustomed to golden sand. Generally quiet, the beach is a car or bus drive from Perissa and is close to an array of local pubs and restaurants. Perfect for a day of relaxing and working on your tan! Beware that the black pebbles become very hot in the midday sun so be sure to have appropriate shoes to protect your feet.


4: Visit a Volcano

Volcano in Santorini

Santorini itself has been created and shaped by its many volcanic eruptions over the years. A short boat trip will take you to the caldera at the centre of the basin of Santorini where you will find two small islands made of black lava. Here the hot springs are incredibly popular with tourists who believe the sulphuric laden yellow hot springs have healing properties. A short walk will bring you to the active, smoking craters of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni.


5: Stay in a Traditional Cave House

Santorini accommodation

It’s not just your activities that should be unusual on your trip to Santorini, your accommodation should be unusual too. In Santorini, one of the quirkiest, and most traditional, places you can stay is in a cave house which has been carved into the Santorini cliffs.

 


This article was published in May 2017.


What Only Traveling Alone Can Teach You

What Only Traveling Alone Can Teach You

Traveling is a story that many dream of writing but never pick up the pen to do so. Hopping on a plane, disappearing for days, months, or years… sometimes getting up the courage to embark is the hardest part. Then as you set foot out in the vast world, you realize that this journey is going to teach you things you would never have learned at home. There are some lessons that only traveling alone can teach you.

the art of solo travel

1. You depend purely on yourself

If you have ever been told you are too dependent on others or are completely selfless, then travel will transform you into an independent, invincible person. You will learn not only how to do what is best for you and no one else, you will know what it means to trust your gut feeling and go with it. Furthermore, you will learn responsibility, time management, strategy, and budgeting.

When you are on your own, no one is going to pay your bills for you or hold your hand at the doctor’s office. You have to figure out everything about getting around more or less unassisted. Yes, it can be mortifying, but you will not regret the results.

2. You learn what “tolerance” means

New cultures can be bizarre, mind-boggling, and honestly, frustrating. Culture shock will not be an alien idea to you as you travel. Your first round with it will be the worst. The second and third time will come and go like the sniffles. Traveling means understanding that everyone and every culture has its unique quirks and norms, and you learn to accept those differences instead of fighting them.

3. You figure out your passion

Traveling alone gives you a lot of time to just sit and think about the world and your place in it. You can reflect on your life, who you are, and what you want. Traveling, after all, means following your heart and living as you choose to live, so do not be surprised if you unearth your purpose while traipsing through a jungle or cave spelunking.

4. You learn how to live without luxuries

For those who choose the backpacker’s way of travel, which often deals with jamming the necessities into a hiking pack then couch surfing and jumping from hostel to campground and back again, there is no time for makeup, souvenirs, and bundles of clothing. In fact, you lose interest in anything that will weigh you down. The simple things in life, like walking along a beach as the sun goes down, or freshly brewed tea with new friends, are going to be more valuable than the new iPhone.

what you learn from traveling solo

5. You get skilled in making acquaintances

Traveling alone helps you understand how to entertain yourself and be comfortable in your own company. However, just because you are independent does not mean you will not be meeting new people. As you travel, you will run into other backpackers, and you will share your stories. The art of small talk gets mastered quite easily this way. Also, the locals will be interested in where you are from and your motivation. You will find yourself talking to more people than originally anticipated, it is guaranteed.

Flying to a foreign country is just the first part of an experience filled with marvellous memories and experiences that will be unique to only you. Travel is the greatest teacher, especially when you are alone. With no one beside you, no one to sway you, your mind opens up to possibilities and ideas that you would have never thought possible. That is why these lessons can only be learned abroad. So get ready to pack your bags and open your mind.

A guest post by Charlie Alf – BackPackHack


This article was published in May 2017.