Tag Archives: budget

Travel | How to budget for a gap year and plan your trip

imageOne of the most common messages I receive from readers asks about how to budget for backpacking. I write about saving money and how to plan trips a lot on this site, but one thing I really want to focus on is how you can possibly know how much you will spend on a long-term trip. After all, at home you’ve been living month-to-month rinsing those paycheques dry until you’re watching the days creep by towards pay day. The thought of not having a steady income and relying entirely on your savings can be scary for some – so it’s important to budget correctly and plan realistically if you want to have the best time. I’m all about making the most of your money and every possible experience – I don’t want to miss out on a single trip, meal or massage. BUT, I aways manage to do it on a budget because let’s be honest – I’d rather keep travelling as long as possible than indulge in a week of full luxury.

So how do you budget for a long-term trip?

First of all you need to establish how long you want to travel for and where you plan to go – weighing up the cost of living/travelling in each country. For instance – travelling in Asia is the cheapest travelling I have found and I could easily do a year there on the money I would need for 5-6 months in Australia. But when travelling Australia I have been working along the way and earning a small fortune compared to what I could save at home in the UK. If you’re on a break from work and only have a month – perhaps consider Europe which although expensive is a great way to see a lot of countries in a very short space of time. If you’re looking to travel for six months on a tight budget, Asia is fantastic – you can see so many different countries and the cost of living well is very low. If you’re looking to work abroad and fancy doing a year abroad – why not go for a working holiday visa in Australia, New Zealand or Canada and try a combination of working and travelling?image

What kind of trip?

What are your priorities when you travel – are you looking for a full cultural experience of staying with locals? Are you planning to party your way around the world? Or are you a thrill seeker who wants to try every adventure trip going? You need to factor in the cost of trips/alcohol/food/living costs and be realistic. Always over-compensate – what’s that quote?

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

I couldn’t agree more – take as much money as possible by giving yourself enough time to save and cutting costs wherever you can (check out my top tips here). I worked five jobs for a year before going away the first time – it was worth every miserable second when it meant I saved £10,000, didn’t have to work for nine months and lived like a queen! I personally like a balance of cutting costs, partying a lot and adventure trips so I always think about how I can balance them. Sometimes I will stay in the cheapest accommodation possible and live off instant noodles so that I can justify an amazing road trip or island cruise. Other times I won’t be interested in trips and will spend all my money on cocktails and my own private hut on the beach. When I budget for my trip I take that into account and over budget my living costs. I always try and budget roughly £1,000 a month no matter where I am – then I know that in Asia I will hugely underspend which balances out in Australia when I definitely overspend, likewise with Europe I budgeted more because I knew I was travelling around a lot very quickly which costs more – best way to cut costs when you travel? Stay still for a while in a cheap place and just live simple.

Be realistic

We all have those times when we accidentally splash too much cash, when we shop too much in the markets or take our card on a night out then look at our account the next day with horror. I know I’m definitely guilty of that at home and since I’ve ben travelling – but it’s good to acknowledge it. If you admit you are possibly going to do it, budget for it and give yourself a cushion of cash to keep yourself out of the red.image

Don’t forget

Remember to account for any home costs while you’re away – if you’re still paying rent on a house or phone bills/credit cards you need to make sure you have the money available in the correct accounts at all times. You need to make sure you can afford to do this and don’t end up in more debt as a result of messing up your money or under-budgeting.

Don’t let budgeting put you off

Remember you will never have as much money as you would like. It would be great to live in that dream world where you have a constant supply to keep you going, but it may never happen. Don’t let that stop you from travelling – I know people who have gone away with £1-2000 for a long trip and who have just figured it out along the way. I always think the less money we have, the better we are with it. And always remember – there are so many amazing options for working abroad these days – those working holiday visas I mentioned earlier, see if your own current working company can transfer you abroad, study abroad, teach English around the world, volunteer, work for accommodation. The options are endless and there is always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality. I’ve been both the richest and the poorest I’ve ever been since travelling and I can assure you I’ve lived the dream throughout both. If you’re determined and committed to making it a reality, you will always find a way.

This post was a collaboration with Auto Advance.

Need budget tips for your upcoming trip – leave a comment below with any questions! What are your best budget tips for preparing for a long-term trip?

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Travel | Top tips for keeping your home safe while you travel

imageWhether you’re heading off on that much anticipated two week holiday or you’re heading off on a huge backpacking trip, it’s important not to get so carried away you forget to safeguard your home. So often it is the last thing we think about when we’re going away, but it is actually the time when our homes and our possessions are most vulnerable. With thieves getting smarter and so much of our personal lives being available for the world to see on social media, it only takes one bad egg to take advantage of your trip to line their own pockets. But as ever with travelling, planning is key and can save you a lot of time, hassle and money. So when planning your next trip, why not put some of these suggestions in action and see how much of a difference they make. You can spend as much as you like on a luxurious resort, but if you don’t have peace of mind that your home is safe, there’s almost no point in being there. Treat yourself to full relaxation on your next holiday by making sure you’ve done everything in your power to give yourself a good homecoming.

What can you do to protect your home?

For city breaks/summer holidays:

  • Make friends with your neighbours – they’re the best security watch you can get and they’re totally free (well, perhaps get them a box of chocolates to say thanks for watching the house)
  • Stay off social media. As hard as it can be to not boast pics of you sipping on cocktails in the Maldives, there have been several homes targeted by thieves who knew people were on holiday from social media.
  • Get a house sitter – there are lots of websites where you can get house sitters for any length of time – in exchange for a place to stay people will watch the house and any pets you may have. Or ask a friend/family member to do it.
  • Install a security system – good quality systems are available for all budgets these days and will offer 24/7 monitoring of your home and possessions. Check out this Panasonic Smart Homes System.
  • Make sure the building is secure before you leave – all doors/windows should be locked and make sure expensive items are not on display, you don’t want to tempt any opportunist thieves.
  • Don’t close all curtains and make the building look abandoned – it is very clear when no-one is home and it is most vulnerable. Instead use net curtains/blinds to block views into the downstairs rooms, leaving the main curtains open and making the building appear active.

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For the long-term travellers:

  • See if you can find someone to rent or live in the property while you are away. If you can’t find a renter, consider Air BnB (which will also generate income) or house sitters to make sure there is always someone at the property and that it doesn’t sit abandoned.
  • Ensure the building is secure before you leave – check all exits and entrances, all windows and doors for vulnerable points or anywhere that could be a target for thieves. Replace any weak joints/hinges that could become a problem in six months.
  • Making friends with neighbours or having a friend/family member who can monitor and check up on the building is a good idea whether you have renters or not.
  • Installing a security system can be a good way to instantly alert authorities or family if there is a problem and the property is unattended.
  • Place any expensive items that will not be used (i.e. cars/TV/computer) in secure storage so they are not left in an unattended house.
  • Make sure your house insurance/contents insurance is up-to-date no matter where you are in the world or how far away it all seems. It only takes a burst pipe or an opportunist thief to cause serious damage at your home and you want to be covered for all forms of loss.

Don’t suffer from FOBA (Fear Of Being Away) – get out there and enjoy your travels by doing all you can to protect your home while you’re away. Just as you padlock up your suitcase and buy travel insurance as a back up in case anything goes wrong – make sure you look after what’s waiting for you at home. Also, stay safe abroad by checking out my safety tips for travelling solo.

Have you been a victim of theft while on holiday? What security do you put in place at your home while you travel?

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Bali | Luxury on a budget with Grandma’s Hotels

imageOkay so my travels kind of ran away with me and writing has taken a bit of a back seat lately. The last six weeks since I left home have given me endless reams of adventures to share with you all, but I just haven’t had enough time to sit with my laptop and actually write. It’s frustratingly satisfying when your life is so full that you don’t have time to share it, but I can’t help but miss the process of writing and sharing every step with you guys. So I’m here, I’m back guys, and I bring endless amazing photos, anecdotes and reviews of all the fabulous places I’ve been over the last few weeks. I’m writing this from Sydney Airport, halfway between Cairns and Tasmania, but I want to take you back in time a few weeks to when I first arrived in Bali. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay at Grandma’s Hotels in both Kuta and Seminyak during my first week in Bali and I think it’s about time I shared my experiences with you. I was invited along to review the two hotels and I was excited to check them out – as part of easing myself back into backpacker life it was nice to start out with all the luxuries of a hotel but perfectly aimed at business or budget travellers.image

Grandma’s Plus Hotel, Seminyak

We started off by spending a couple of nights at Grandma’s Plus Hotel in Seminyak and it was a perfect place to kick off my time in Bali. The hotel is perfectly positioned to enjoy all the bars, restaurants and nightlife Seminyak has to offer while also being right next to the beach. Despite being so close to several big clubs, the hotel is very peaceful and you wouldn’t even know that you were just down the road from some of the biggest nights out in the area. As we pulled up in the taxi, we were instantly impressed by the style and design of the hotel, unlike others on the street it looked almost as though it had been reclaimed by nature. The tropical greenery and vines wound through the walls and around the pathways throughout the building, it was such a unique look and I loved the way all of the interiors had been designed to fit with this natural theme. Combining natural jungle paradise vibes with a sleek, modern layout worked really well and set the hotel apart from the rest.

As we walked past the swimming pool and made our way up to our room, I was even more impressed by the high standard of comfort available for those on a budget. We had a twin room with an en suite, but doubles are also available, and my oh my, let me just tell you about the beds. Now beds are a big deal, especially when you’re a budget traveler or backpacker, all too often I end up sleeping on springs or some lumpy mattress! So laying down on this incredible mattress was an absolute dream – I almost didn’t get out of bed the whole time we were there! After spending a month in Bali I now know how often you get promised hot showers and actually find cold water running out of them, so the showers in the hotel were heaven – powerful and with endless hot water. The room was great, it had everything we needed and more, it was compact and well-designed so that it actually had those fun hostel vibes but with the privacy and comfort of a private room.image

Grandma’s Plus Hotel, Legian

After a couple of nights in Seminyak, we moved to the Grandma’s Plus Hotel in Legian, not far away but in a whole other section of the popular stretch of Kuta. Streets lined with shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants awaited us, this section was far busier but proves a big draw for travellers of all ages who want to relax or party on their holidays. This hotel is designed along a similar theme of jungle greens and staff welcome you in to the towering structure through a leafy pergola. This hotel is set around the restaurant where breakfast is served, with huge, high ceilings and trailing vines dangling from the rafters, it’s a beautiful place to start your day with a delicious breakfast included with the room price. You can choose from an Indonesian breakfast to Eggs Benedict and all plates come with fruit and treats from the bakery – a perfect meal to set you up for a day of sunbathing or exploring.

The hotel has the feeling of an oasis after stepping off the chaotic, busy street outside into the cool, calm atmosphere, it’s soothing. Again the rooms are of the usual high standard and came with all the amenities we would need during our stay, and the beds were just as comfortable as the ones I had just left behind at the other hotel. The only thing we did notice with this hotel was that there was a bit of street noise despite us being seven floors up, but understandably we the hotel was in the middle of the busiest part of Bali. I can’t fault the staff at both hotels, they were amazing and so helpful. Everything from moving us into our rooms to organising taxis and even trying to help me fix a SIM card for my phone. They made our stay go from good to excellent with their great attitudes and friendly manner.image

Spa time

While we were staying at the hotels, we were also invited along to try out their spas. At Grandma’s in Seminyak we headed to De Nyuh Spa and Salon for a full body Balinese massage – my first in the country – then at the hotel in Legian we went to Rehat Massage and Reflexology. Both spas were located within the hotel building, so super convenient if you fancy a pamper but aren’t ready to face the outside world yet. Both were beautiful designed and brought instant calm and peace to you as you walked in the door, the soothing music combined with the floral displays and the dark wood kept the spas cool and laced with gentle Balinese aromas. Having now had several Balinese massages, I can say that these two massages were actually two of the best I had while in Bali. If you’re staying at either hotel, I would really recommend visiting the spa for a bit of me-time – you’ll come away feeling like a new person and ready to really embrace your holiday.

Have you stayed at Grandma’s Hotels – how was your experience? What kind of accommodation do you normally go for on holiday? 

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London | Affordable luxe dining at Island Grill

island-grill-copyI’m so excited to share one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a while with you guys. You all know by now that I love to eat out and that food is one of my favourite things about travelling whether in the UK or abroad – I love to try out new restaurants and cuisines. So I was excited to head to Island Grill a few weeks ago to review their take on sustainable and affordable luxury cuisine. Right in the heart of London at the iconic mid-century Lancaster London, this amazing little restaurant overlooks Hyde Park and offers a very European menu that changes with every season as part of their dedication to sustainability. I’m passionate about the environment and have actually cut a lot of meat from my diet in the last year after realising quite how unsustainable it is, so this angle was something I was very interested in. Head Chef Adam Woolven has actually won the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s top Three Star rating with his tireless efforts to create an eco-friendly yet luxurious dining experience.island-grill-barAs we arrived at the restaurant, you can’t help but be wowed by the sleek interiors and the vast floor-to-ceiling windows running along the outside walls overlooking Hyde Park. The seating is arranged so that diners can either enjoy almost private dining alongside the huge windows or they can enjoy a view of the open-plan kitchen where they can see the chefs hard at work, adding another dimension to their gastronomic experience. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, eager to talk to us about the menus and to suggest wines that would go with the food. This made a huge difference, if you’ve read my review from Cottons, you’ll know how disappointing the service was and how much it affected my view of the restaurant. I couldn’t fault the service at Island Grill, it was attentive and they were keen to chat with us and answer any questions, but they also gave us time to just enjoy the food and our evening – the perfect balance.imageWe kicked off the meal with the Pan-Fried Scallops and Crispy Gressingham Duck Salad, both absolutely delicious starters packed full of flavour and the freshest ingredients. The duck was rich and and perfectly complemented by the Asian dressing, pak choi, the orange and the cashews. While the scallops were easily the best ones I have had, normally I find them very overcooked and rubbery but these were just right. It was served with a mixture of vegetables in very different forms from pickled and crisped to pureed. The head chef’s passion for the finest ingredients is clear from the delicious meals available on the menu. While enjoying our starters we shared a bottle of wine recommended by the waitress, and I couldn’t recommend talking to the staff about drinks choices enough. This is a restaurant where the staff really know their wines and cocktails, and they are more than happy to help you choose something special from the fully stocked bar.imageFor our mains, it seemed crazy not to indulge in a steak at what is primarily a grill restaurant. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve completely cut back on the amount of meat I eat over the last year and when I travel I am almost entirely vegetarian now, but I do still eat and enjoy meat. I prefer to save it for when I eat out as a treat now and I feel much healthier and happier as a result. So after not having had much meat for quite a while, I was looking forward to a good-quality steak. And boy oh boy did Island Grill deliver. We both had the 8oz Fillet of Beef and I can officially say it was the best quality and best cooked steak I have had in years, possibly ever. The meat was so unbelievably tender and tasty, and I chose to have mine served with garlic mash and mushroom sauce. It was heaven on a plate. We were both speechless and it was definitely the first time a steak has had that effect. After our mains we were pretty full and didn’t have room for dessert, but accommodating as ever, the staff didn’t want us to miss out and boxed up some of their Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake for us to take home. I ended up saving mine until the next day but I can assure you it was as mouth-watering as it sounds.imageApologies for the lack of good photos of the food, it was a bit dark in the restaurant so my own images haven’t come out as clearly as I hoped. Regardless, if you’re heading to London, or you’re already living there, I can’t recommend Island Grill enough. The service is faultless, the location is fantastic and the food is just out of this world. Plus, as a bonus, it’s extremely affordable! It’s not often you can find food that is this good quality for such a reasonable price, making it perfect for a mid-week treat or even a date night. Find out more and book a table at Island Grill.

Have you been to Island Grill? How was your meal? Where else can you recommend for a good quality steak?

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Australia | My ultimate budget guide for a month on the East Coast

11745765_1147415768609240_7957452483586575087_nThere’s no denying the East Coast is a huge draw for young travellers heading to Australia. With its white sandy beaches, epic party spots and the Great Barrier Reef on your doorstep, it’s become something of a rite of passage for backpackers. For first-time travellers, it’s a perfect place to start out with all the familiarities of home but a damn sight more sunshine and fun trips to do. There’s no better place to make friends in Australia and many of the people I met on the East Coast actually became some of the best friends I have found since travelling. There’s so much fun to be had along the way with Fraser Island being a huge highlight for me, but don’t forget Whitsundays cruises, skydiving, white water rafting, surfing in Byron Bay and all the rest. The list of amazing trips and things to do is endless, and it can become a bit daunting when you first start thinking about planning your East Coast adventure, it doesn’t take long for things to get very expensive! The East Coast will without a doubt be the most expensive part of your time in Australia – why? Because you’re spending weeks partying non-stop and going on incredible trips – don’t worry, it’s worth every penny! But there are lots of ways to cut costs along the way – it just takes careful planning. So how do you go about budgeting for your trip?11224855_10152949576367617_5464624702726152160_n

How long does it take?

First of all, you need to decide how long you’re going to spend on your trip – whether you’re squeezing it in just before a flight home or have endless time to stop off along the way. I took five weeks to complete the trip, starting in Sydney and including one final week in Cairns. This seemed a perfect amount of time to fit in all the trips we wanted while still getting some downtime to relax between the nights out. I’ve had friends do it in two or three weeks, but they all wished they had longer to do it. Likewise, I’ve known a lot of people who, instead of booking a whole trip in one go, have figured it out along the way and stopped off in places to work. After asking a lot of travellers I met along the way, the consensus was that four weeks was the optimum time to take travelling the East Coast. 

It’s important to work out what your budget will allow for, to work out who you’ll be travelling with and how long you want to spend at each stop. Also, think about whether you want to do it during peak season, we did it during winter and still had amazing weather, and met lots of people – but it did make the trip cheaper overall. If you’re travelling with a big group there may be less flexibility on time and costs, but you may also manage to get great group discounts if you all book together. If you’re travelling as a pair, or alone, you get total freedom over every stop and can just decide on the spur of the moment to hitch a lift with anyone you meet along the way which can work out a lot cheaper. Even booking as a pair will wind up being cheaper overall than booking individually as they’ll often throw in extra meals/trips for free or discounted rates. Speak to a travel agent when you’re looking to book and ask for their best offer, then visit three others from different companies and ask for their best offer. Ask them if they can beat the previous offer!11898942_10153005074437617_7025964837598304311_n

Where to stay?

There are lots of different accommodation options from camping and couch surfing, to hostels and hotels, but by far the best option is hostels when you’re on the East Coast. They’re the best place to meet people and get further discounts on food and trips. I saw the very worst and the very best of hostels on the East Coast – from the bed-bug infested and the filthy to the luxurious chalets and en suites. The best way to find the best of the best – ask other travellers you meet along the way for up-to-date reviews and cheap deals.

  • Cheapest hostel: Gilligans Backpackers Hotel & Resort at £14/$25 for 10 bed dorm
  • Most expensive hostel: WakeUp Hostel in Sydney at £22-26/$38-45 a night
  • Favourite hostel: Base Backpackers Airlie Beach Resort at £19/$33 for a six bed dorm
  • Least favourite hostel: BUNK Brisbane at £14/$25 a night for a 20 bed dorm
  • Average bed: £18/$31 a night

TOP TIP: Always ask at the travel desk – often backpackers run it and they’re just as keen to get you the best deal as you are to find it. They’ll often give you huge discounts and throw in extra free meals or the odd night’s free accommodation.

Total: £360/$635

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How to get there?

There are lots of options available, from flying and organised bus trips, to renting a car, hitchhiking and hop-on hop-off Greyhound. On a tight schedule and without much money to spare, I’d recommend the Oz Experience Greyhound pass which costs just £213/$375 to travel a whopping 3150 kilometres at your own pace, it’s actually cheaper now than when I used it, so even better value! It does mean one or two long journeys by bus but it does give you the luxury of sleeping through them rather than having to drive and skip nights out. Before booking I really wanted us to drive the East Coast, but now I’m glad we didn’t, it would have been significantly more expensive and we would have missed out on meeting a lot of people if we had a camper van instead of hostels. Camper van hire starts from around £40/$70 a day but you also have to factor in fuel and insurance costs – it just depends on your budget and the experience you want. Internal flights are available if you’re on a very tight schedule and need to travel quickly between Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns for trips, but I wouldn’t recommend them unless you have only two weeks for the East Coast.

TOP TIP: Always go prepared on Greyhound – take warm and cool clothes as the temperature can be unpredictable and there’s nothing worse than shivering for a whole 12 hour bus journey. Take a packed lunch/dinner, the rest stops can be pretty grim for snacks and this will save you a lot of money. Don’t rely on the wifi on the bus as it’s pretty rare that it will work well for the whole journey.

Total: £213/$375 for Greyhound

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What to do?

The whole of the East Coast is chock-full of amazing trips and things to do, and there is a huge list of once-in-a-lifetime experiences you simply cannot miss out on! During my five weeks I swam with sea turtles, kayaked with dolphins, went whale watching, diving, white water rafting, drove 4WDs around a desert island and saw the Great Barrier Reef with my own eyes. It was incredible and definitely not something you want to scrimp on. Trips you don’t want to miss:

If you can’t fit all these in or just don’t have the money – narrow it down to the main ones (Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays and Diving). There are plenty of other cheap, or even free, experiences to enjoy along the way!

TOP TIPS: Always look for trips that include free meals and shop around, often the travel agent next door will try to undercut the first one you go to. Also, enter competitions! They’re held at every hostel along the way and you can win some amazing trips – we won a Whitsundays cruise and a Kiwi Experience bus pass for New Zealand in one night!

Total: £1,470/$2,590

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What to eat/drink?

Food and drink can quickly blow your budget way out of control – it’s important not to get carried away, but also not to miss out by being too tough on yourself. You’ll meet all kind of travellers along the way – some are living off instant noodles and goon, others are surviving from one budget backpacker deal to the next. You need to work out what is realistic and try to balance your own meals – we flitted between eating out, taking advantage of backpacker hostel deals and cooking our own meals during our five weeks. Something to consider is going veggie, if you’re looking to cut costs this is a great way to do it. Meat is expensive in Australia and I’d much rather spend that money on activities or alcohol, I found it cheap and easy to eat healthy as a vegetarian in Australia. Just make sure to stay healthy – no-one wants to get ill on the East Coast!

  • Cheapest backpacker meal: instant noodles at 30p a pack!
  • Best hostels for budget backpacker meals: Wakeup Hostel in Sydney and Gilligans in Cairns from as little as £2.50/$4.50, or even free if you buy a drink!
  • Cheapest home-cooked meal: veggie pasta £2-3/$3-4
  • Best budget group meals to make: beach BBQs, fajitas, pasta
  • Average cost of goon: £7/$12 (Golden Oak 4l)
  • Cheapest bottle of wine: £2.50/$4.50 (Whispers)
  • Cheapest beer: £3/$5 (Tooeys stubble)

TOP TIP: Head to the backpacker bars and take advantage of the drinks deals, free breakfasts and food deals. Group together in hostels to rustle up a meal and find the costs cut hugely by sharing. Enter competitions and win drinks for you and your mates!

Total:  £200/$350 for food (based on spending £10 a day when not on trips with meals included) For alcohol it totally depends on how much, and what, you drink!11222133_10152951499637617_5982267502697766247_n

So how much will it cost you?

I’ve budgeted generously here and know lots of people who have done it on a lot less, but if you want to go all out and enjoy every amazing trip – you can do it in £2,000/$3,500. With a budget of £2,500/$4,400 you could easily drink every night and squeeze in even more trips along the way – likewise you could cut back even more on trips, food and drink to spend less. It sounds like a lot of money but when you see what you get for it, it quickly becomes clear this is a once in a lifetime trip, and one you want to do well! Nobody wants to regret not going diving on the Great Barrier Reef or not taking the catamaran to Whitsundays. If you’re on a tight budget, just prioritise the things you really want to do and cut out some of the less important trips/stops – you could easily cut this budget down to around £1,800/$3,100 this way. Every backpacker is different, but it’s important to find the right trip for you and to make your experience the best it can be. Talk to travel agents – their job is to make your backpacking dream a reality – and don’t forget the goldmine backpacker Facebook pages that hold a wealth of travelling experience and advice within them. Need any tips? Leave a comment with any questions and I’ll help you plan!11168431_10152928893202617_9101439380460830205_n

What was the highlight of your East Coast trip? How much did you spend along the way? What tips can you give other backpackers?

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Australia | It’s tax back time and I’m celebrating!

imageI write a lot about budget travel – about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that’s what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I’ve been the poorest I’ve ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don’t know how you’ll afford a bed for the night or how you’ll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I’ve worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I’ve given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I’ve worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I’ve ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.

Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don’t just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap – without any control over what was happening. Now I’m not saying all employers are like this in Australia – some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you’re desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don’t like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I’ll talk about that more in a later post, I’ve had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don’t get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we’re over there. I know it’s not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don’t feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.

So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you’re getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia – a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne – I also managed to work a lot. If you’ve worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you’ll understand why I feel like I’ve had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There’s something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself – I’m always proud of the fact that I’ve funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it’s like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let’s face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.image What’s that quote? “If travel was free, you’d never see me again” and how true that is, if it wasn’t for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I’m just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don’t need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don’t have expensive tastes – I’ve spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you’re jetting all over the world. Even if you’re staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you’re talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it’s like some new version of the American Dream – as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who’s to say it wouldn’t, these days money spells freedom and that’s all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.

That’s why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers – because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven’t already applied for your tax rebate – why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I’m getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 – so it’s definitely worth doing. Don’t be put off by the paperwork – it doesn’t take long and it’s more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way – don’t miss out on claiming back your money because you’re lazy – that’s your next travelling fund right there!

What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax – can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?

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Health | The budget spa experience you have to try

13510960_10153587157897617_7263956946886594826_nI’m pretty good at living on a backpacker’s budget now, but sometimes you just fancy a bit of luxury. I’ll never be the kind of girl who wants to spend thousands on an expensive getaway when I could make my money spread a bit further and still treat myself. For me, the real luxury is being able to escape and live well for longer instead of enjoying a short blast of freedom, but not everyone has the option of taking a year out to go backpacking, nor does everyone like the idea of budget travel. Now I’m back in the UK, I don’t plan to stop travelling and until my return to Australia, I’m breaking up my time with trips away. Before I went away, my mum and I used to have regular spa days together, every few months we would head away for a day of complete rest, relaxation and a heavy dose of pampering. Both working stressful jobs, it was lovely to just have a day where we didn’t have to think about work, or anything else other than where our next massage was coming from. I really believe in the importance of looking after your own health and well-being by keeping fit, eating well and allowing time to really relax and recuperate. Visiting a spa is a great way of really giving you a day off from life, a chance to turn your phone off and really get some space.

I’ve posted about this spa experience before but I still can’t believe how many people don’t seem to know about the amazing deals available. Even when you need a day of pure indulgence, there is always a great offer that can help you get the most out of your money. So, what am I on about? I’m talking about Aqua Sana Spa at Centreparcs, now it may not be the first place you think of when you start planning a spa retreat but perhaps it should be. I’m not usually one for chains but in this case I’m happy to make an exception for such an amazing experience, I have yet to find a spa that rivals the quality I’ve found there, and trust me, I’ve done the research. We always go to the Elveden retreat, which is our closest, and I convinced it’s the best one after experiencing the Sherwood spa and finding it a bit lacking. Surrounded by woodland and beautiful countryside, even the drive there is relaxing, and from the second you walk in the door you are being endlessly pampered by the amazing staff there. We always say it must be a wonderful place to work, so relaxing. We always check out the deals available at the time on the website, but usually end up paying around £100 each for a full day in the spa, with breakfast and lunch included, and a luxury treatment.IMG_6553This time, we went for the Brighten and Glow spa day for two, which gave us the chance to try out the Elemis skin brightening facial and luxurious Frangipani hot stones massage – and yes, it is every bit as fabulous as it sounds. I love that the treatment pampers every bit of your body and uses only products not tested on animals and using minimal parabens – it’s much better for the environment and it’s much better for your health. Before our treatment, we were treated to a delicious breakfast in the Vitale cafe where we indulged in pastries and coffees before hitting the spa. We had a few hours before our treatments so we decided to start with a swim in the outdoor heated pool, this is always such a treat when the weather outside is rubbish. We stood with the high pressure jets massaging our necks and floated around the empty pool before heading into the steam rooms. Now this is the bit that sets Aqua Sana apart from all other spas I have experienced, it offers 15 different spa experiences including a range of steam rooms with essential oils and herbs from all over the world and saunas. My favourite rooms are the Japanese Salt Steam room, the Balinese and the Indian steam rooms – I just love the gentle floral aromas and they really feel like they’re doing your skin good. You can rinse off afterwards with one of the multi-sensory showers to rejuvenate your skin and refresh before checking out the meditation room or zen garden.

When you’re taken through to your spa treatment, the ladies give you a completely relaxing experience tailored to your skin type and preferences. They’re extremely attentive and some of the best beauty treatments I’ve had have been at the Aqua Sana, with sensitive skin like mine it’s important to have a therapist who listens. The whole experience is utterly luxurious and you come away feeling like a new woman, my skin felt like a newborn baby’s and my muscles were finally relaxed after two years of hostel beds. After a tasty lunch, it was time for a waterbed nap – always a highlight of the day – especially if you can score one of the bigger outdoor beds which are especially nice when you’re wrapped up in your complimentary robe. Throughout the spa, there are several stations where you ca reapply products throughout the day and test others, sometimes the therapists will also bring round products for you to try which is lovely. Everything is thought of when you are at the spa, you don’t spend a single second thinking because everything is already as special as it could be. There are limited numbers allowed in the spa, which really helps to keep the exclusive feeling as some just come for a morning or afternoon session.IMG_6625One top tip not to miss out on during your visit, the Discovery Sessions are something I had never attended until my most recent visit but are something I wouldn’t miss in future. These short sessions take place periodically throughout the day and led by a beauty therapist, they teach you about the Elemis and Decleor products and how to apply them. As a big beauty product lover, this was a good excuse to try out some of the other amazing products they have to offer. But it also meant we found out about an amazing deal on a Decleor multipack of products – normally selling at over £50, it was reduced down to £19 with further discounts for attending the session. It was an amazing deal, so I treated me and my mum to a pack each – we would never have known about the dramatic price reduction had we not been in the session, so they’re definitely worth attending for discounts on the ranges. All in all, it was a fabulous day, and long overdue as a birthday present to the both of us. If you ask me, you can’t beat a mummy-daughter day spent eating delicious food, being pampered and relaxing on waterbeds. Click here to book your spa experience at Aqua Sana, or to read more about what treatments are available.

Can you recommend any other luxury spa experiences for those on a budget? What’s your favourite spa treatment?

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Travel | My ultimate tips for backpacking on a budget

imageFor months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you’re finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money – all us backpackers say “if travel was free, you’d never see me again” and I can tell you it’s true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We’d rather sleep on someone’s floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you’re starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia – one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world – I think I’ve picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:

PREPARE

  • Before you go, make a short term sacrifice and give up everything to save. I worked five jobs before I went which was bloody hard, but it meant I saved £10,000 for my adventure and went nine months without working.
  • Work in different types of jobs to get experience – I made sure I had recent bar work and nanny work on my CV which scored me instant jobs in Australia.
  • Invest money in getting a good quality backpack – it will save you a lot of money on lots of cheap replacements later on.
  • Don’t waste money on buying “travelling clothes” and accessories, it’s much cheaper to buy them along the way – keep packing practical and useful.
  • Spend money on items that will last you – things like solid shampoo can be a great way to make more space in your bag and will last for ages so you don’t have to constantly buy bottles of shampoo.

TRAVEL

  • As soon as you know when you aim to be flying somewhere, start looking at flights and get an idea of how much they will cost. You can get apps to track the cheapest flights to your destination and Skyscanner is great.
  • Hitchhike – not something I have done but some of my friends travelled the length and width of Australia safely like this and had an amazing experience.
  • Don’t be surprised by visa costs – they can be pricey and you always need to budget for them in advance to avoid being caught short.
  • Be flexible – most backpackers don’t mind what day they travel on, hell they usually don’t know what day of the week it is. This can save you a lot of pennies if you’re happy to delay travel to save money.
  • Don’t pay for expensive buses and trains – often they’re no safer and a lot more boring than travelling with the locals. You haven’t travelled until you’ve been on a bus with goats and chickens!

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STAY

  • Try Couchsurfing or similar options for a chance to stay with the locals for free, you get a more authentic experience and free digs!
  • Work for accommodation – it’s an option available in most hostels and can be a great way to cut costs getting a free bed for just a few hours work.
  • Visit family and friends – no matter how loosely related people are always welcoming to visitors and want to help out. A few nights in a proper bed with  family meal can do a world of good for a backpacker.
  • There are websites that look for house sitters for while homeowners are away – free accommodation, plush homes and potentially even food thrown in.
  • Camp – there are so many amazing locations around the world to camp and get closer to nature, if you pack your own tent you could save a fortune in hostels!

EAT

  • Find a hostel with a free breakfast or free/cheap dinners, it can make a world of difference to your budget if you are getting one free meal a day.
  • Street food – trust me it is the best way to cut costs and it’s easily the tastiest food on offer. Check the stalls for hygiene and don’t eat food that has been sitting out, but most of it is cooked to order in front of you.
  • Save eating out in restaurants as a treat for with friends – having that attitude will make you appreciate it more and will save a lot of money.
  • Prepare your own dinners and live off instant noodles – its an easy way to save a lot of cash if you want to splurge on rock climbing or a boat trip.
  • Go veggie – I barely ate meat when I was in Australia because it is quite expensive and you can’t keep it for long in a hostel. I saved a lot of money and felt really healthy.

DRINK

  • Be prepared to sacrifice your favourite drink. I had to give up wine and cider in Asia and lived off cheap beer and spirits to save money.
  • Scrimp on quality to get drunk – goon is disgusting but it does the trick, so do the $5 bottles of wine in Australia, good for pre-drinking before heading out.
  • Don’t waste money on bottles of water – keep on with you and fill it up at water points – unless you’re in Asia and water bottles are the safest option.
  • Take advantage of backpacker bars and cheap deals, enter competitions and try to win booze – it’s worth embarrassing yourself for a bucket.
  • Skip the lovely coffees and smoothie bars when you’re in the cities – do you really want to waste precious money on a drink that is gone in seconds when you could save it for your next adventure?

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ACTIVITIES

  • Whether you’re in Asia or Australia – trips can quickly add up. It’s important you research and ask around to get the best deals. Don’t be afraid to haggle.
  • Think carefully about what trips you want to do, some trips will often double up on experiences so by not going on one you won’t be missing out.
  • Look for group deals and discounts, often you can save a lot of money by getting a group of mates together and filling up seats on a boat/bus.
  • Go independent – often the trips are expensive because they use specially-chartered boats/buses etc, going it alone by hiring a car with your mates, or paying a fisherman for the day can work out a lot cheaper.
  • Take advantage of free activities – whether you’re in a national park or a city, there’s endless free things to do. Check the newspapers/online for free activities in the cities or ask at your hostel. Or head out into nature and go hiking or exploring waterfalls for the day.
  • Why not check out voucher code sites like DealsDaddy for bargains when shopping – that way you can save your money for other fun activities?

WORK

  • Working along the way can really help keep your money topped up – whether you stop and work a more permanent job in a bar/restaurant, shop or something else.
  • Run an online business – whether you’re a good writer, blogger, coder or social media expert, there’s loads of jobs you can work freelance around your travels and earn good money
  • Teach English, it’s fantastic money in the right job, I have friends working in Dubai and they earn a fortune and have their accommodation paid for.
  • Find a job that helps you travel – whether it’s a career that takes you around the world or just work for a tourist attraction. One of my friends worked on a catamaran that cruises around the Whitsundays for months – her dream job!
  • Woofing can be a great way to support organic farming in the country you are travelling while getting free food and accommodation. If it doesn’t appeal, there are lots of other volunteer organisations that might be able to take you on in exchange for room and board.

Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!

Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring – there’s always the chance you’ll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!

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Australia | Planning our East Coast trip

imageWhen it comes to planning a huge trip like that standard backpacker route up the East Coast of Australia, it can be a pretty daunting task. Taking anywhere between two weeks to six months to complete, and with such a huge range of trips, activities, adventures and sights to take in – where on earth do you begin? There are so many questions to answer – what will we do, where will we stay, how will we get there? And so many options from sailing trips and four wheel driving expeditions, to waterfall tours and white water rafting. It’s no easy task, but one thing I’ve learnt since being in Australia is quite how much it pays off to plan your trip in advance. A complete contrast to Asia where it usually works out cheaper and easier to be spontaneous and just book everything individually as you go along. Here in the land down under its a much better idea to book all your transport, accommodation and trips as a whole to save big time on cash. It’s a shame to take the spontaneity out of backpacking and I’m still not used to it, but booking our trip this way saved us a small fortune.

I didn’t realise at the time, but our booking agent gave us huge discounts which seriously cut back our spending and allowed us to save our money for goon. After meeting and talking to so many other backpackers, many of whom booked things individually, we have now realised how good our deal was. All of our Greyhound buses from Sydney to Cairns, all our accommodation and all of our trips were included in a £1,300 package per person with several free meals thrown in and lots of upgrades. During our trip we stopped off at Byron Bay, Surfer’s Paradise, Noosa, Fraser Island, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays and Magnetic Island before finishing in Cairns. We stayed in fantastic hostels the whole way, met so many amazing people – you all know who you are – who had us laughing the whole way. We had the chance to take part in lots of amazing trips from kayaking with dolphins and surfing in Byron Bay, to driving four wheel drives around Fraser Island and whale watching, to cruising around the Whitsundays on a catamaran and swimming with sea turtles, to cuddling koalas and driving Barbie cars around Magnetic Island, finishing with white water rafting and a trip to the rainforest in Cairns.imageTo say it was amazing is an understatement – with just two months of travelling together, Mark and I wanted to make sure we crammed in as much as possible and really made the most of our time. By heck we did, we were exhausted and broke by the time we finished the East Coast, but had the biggest smiles on our faces and made some amazing friends for life, some we’re still travelling with now almost a month later in Darwin. My best advice? Research and plan everything – think carefully about your money and you can make it go so much further. By reading up about trips and talking to people before you book, you can be sure whether the trips are worth doing, whether they are worth the money, or if you can perhaps get a better deal elsewhere. It’s boring to do, but worth it in the long run when you can party a few extra nights or afford an extra trip somewhere along the way. It’s also worth thinking about whether you want to drive up the East Coast in a camper van or car, or whether you want to take the bus – in the end it often comes down to experience vs. efficiency – we chose efficiency because we wanted to be hungover on the buses and travel on the cheap but we had friends who travelled in a group in a van and had an amazing time.

There are so many choices and options, just be sure to make informed decisions and always shop around when booking! I’ll be posting individually on each place we visited and each trip we took so you can get a better idea of what you might enjoy, but in the meantime I can definitely tell you our absolute highlights were our Fraser Island Trip, Airlie Beach and white water rafting trip – all were amazing and I highly recommend them. Other places we loved included Magnetic Island and Noosa because of the sheer natural beauty of the places, but we also had a blast in Surfer’s Paradise thanks to an awesome hostel and crowd we met there.

Have you travelled the East Coast? What was your favourite trip or memory?

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Accommodation | My Top Hostels | South-East Asia

imageI’ve been waiting a while to share this list with you guys, and I can’t wait to tell you about my favourite hostels. I’ve now finished my Asian adventure, at least for now, and during my six months I stayed in all kinds of accommodation from huge hostels to bungalows on the beach, to family-run guest houses and hotels. I’ve scored well on getting luxury for a serious bargain and sometimes had to suck it up and stay somewhere nasty for a night, but it’s all been part of the journey. I know so many of my readers are planning their own backpacking experience or short break over in South East Asia, so I thought it would be good to share my favourite hostels for various different types of break scattered across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. All of them were fantastic value and were places that hold logs if memories for me, and I hope they will for you as well. So which ones made the cut?

BEST BANGKOK BASE: Suneta Hostel Khaosan, Bangkok

This quickly became one of my favourite hostels in the whole of Asia – a little known gem that I only discovered after finding NapPark was fully booked and spotting it on TripAdvisor’s list for the city. The hostel is amazing, one of the cleanest and most welcoming I have seen, with great facilities and even a free breakfast. But what really sets it apart from the rest is the cabin dorms, sharing a dorm with 15 others can be a bit much but at Suneta you get your own space in a cabin of your own, a big bunk with your own door to close on the rest of the dorm. You have your own light, air conditioning fan, plugs and even a TV to watch a huge range of movies on. Despite you being able to close a door on the rest of the dorm, it was still one of the friendliest and most sociable hostels I stayed in the whole time travelling, and being just a few minutes walk from Khao San Road makes it so convenient. I actually chose to stay there twice over a hotel and would stay there every time I return to Bangkok in future. £12 a night roughly, but worth every penny.

BEST HALF MOON FUN: Baan Tai Backpacker, Koh Phanang, Southern Thailand

I was glad I booked ahead for this one, a great find by some of my friends for our Half Moon Party reunion, because it meant not only did we get a great dorm up but also had a cheeky upgrade to an even nicer dorm. This was a fantastic hostel but purely for those who really want to party and have fun – we were there for just that and had an amazing five days of partying with the hostel owners and everyone who was staying there. We all partied together as a gang and our pre-party for the Half Moon was actually more fun than the festival itself! The dorms had comfy beds and slept about six per dorm with an ensuite bathroom, perfect as no one was ever waiting. Most importantly of all, I left that hostel with a little family and some incredible memories and I would really recommend that any Half Moon ravers stay here for the time of their lives. You’re so close to the festival and get free drop off to the party, plus the after parties are just a short walk from the hostel, and the beach is just metres away. Around £6 a night.

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY: Pak-Up Hostel, Krabi, Southern Thailand

I’ll be honest, there’s not much in Krabi itself but you can do day trips to Railey Beach and Koh Phi Phi from there – when I arrived I had already done these so I was just passing through on my way to Phuket. I had only planned a night there but stayed for three because I just couldn’t tear myself away – it was the most amazing and welcoming hostel you can imagine. I’m talking the sort of place that is welcoming new guests on a daily basis, but the staff all remember your name and want to k ow how your day is going. I’m talking about a p,ace where you have an instantaneous family to eat, drink, sightsee and just hang out with every night and all day long. Also one of the cleanest hostels with the best facilities – definitely comparable with Suneta – and a real treat to stay at for just £6 a night.

BEST FOR INDULGING YOUR INNER CHILD: Pai Circus School, Northern Thailand

The dorms and bungalows are pretty basic and the bathrooms are nothing to write home about, but the fun is endless here in northern Thailand. You soon form close-knit families with those who just can’t seem to bring themselves to leave and before you know it you’ve been there a week longer than planned – I don’t know anyone who stuck to their plans and actually left when they were supposed to. The days are filled with attempting to master circus tricks like fire dancing, slackline, unicycling, juggling and more on the sunkissed lawns, or lounging by the pool overlooking the stunning mountains. The evenings are filled with family meals, drinks by the pool and a late night saunter down to town for those in the party mood. In short, the simple life was a good one and tearing yourself away is a hard job. £4 for a 12-bed dorm, £5 for a 5-bed dorm, or bungalows from £6 a night.

BEST GUEST HOUSE: Matata Garden Guest House, Luang Prabang, Laos

One of the smallest places I stayed in Asia but one of the most homely, with just three small dorms of four the staff all knew our names and welcomed us with open arms. We were constantly offered cups of tea and coffee, played with their dog, Hakuna, who loved the attention, and hung out with the staff. It was a lovely and clean dorm and the perfect size for me and my two friends, we ended up having a dorm to ourselves. The beds were ridiculously comfy and it was the perfect distance from everything in Luang Prabang, just around the corner from the bars which made our walk home a short one. I was unsure what to expect of accommodation in Laos after Thailand, but was really pleasantly surprised and even when we had to stay one night at another guest house around the corner found the standard of guest house far higher than I expected. We were really sad to leave at the end of the few days. Around £7 a night.

BEST BEACH WAKE UP CALL: Blue Wave Beach Bar, Koh Lanta, Southern Thailand

My favourite non-hostel accommodation in the whole of Asia – this was a reggae bar I stumbled across on the beach in just my first few days of travelling. After staying somewhere not so great, I moved to Blue Wave where I found a little slice of paradise and a lovely new home. The perfect start to travelling, I had a little bungalow right on the beach for £12 a night, expensive for Thailand but worth it to wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the shore and reggae music. The guys who ran the bar made my life the happiest it could be, in the day I’d have the beach to myself and cocktails on tap from the boys. In the evenings, we’d listen to jazz, reggae and other amazing music, then dance and sing the night away with any newfound friends who wandered past. I miss it every day.

BEST FOR COMFORT AND EFFICIENCY: Dalat Central Hostel, Vietnam

After staying in a whole mix of places and seeing all kinds of standards of accommodation in Laos and Vietnam, I was so excited to reach Dalat Central Hostel. We were lucky that our bus stopped right outside and after a quick look we were more than impressed by the home comforts on offer. The comfiest beds, each with their own light, sockets and even curtains around the beds for privacy and to block out the lights. The showers were the best I have found and were a welcome relief after canyoning in the freezing rain. It was a warm and cosy hostel which was perfectly positioned in the town – thank goodness considering how unpredictable the weather was there. The people who ran the hostel helped book us on to trips and offered lots of advice about the area, had tea on offer all the time and made us feel so welcome. Also, the wifi was amazing – the best I have found in Asia and that was really helpful for those of us who had blogging/work to catch up on. Around £3-4 a night for a 12-bed dorm.image

Can you recommend any of your favourite hostels from South East Asia? Which ones ho,d the best memories for you, and which ones were the best value for money? 

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