Simple Money Saving Tips and Tricks to Make Your Travel Budget Go Further

I spend the majority of my disposable income on travel, and I’m assuming if you’re reading my blog, at least some of your money goes on it too!

Travel is an amazing thing, and as the saying goes it’s the “only thing you can spend money on that makes you richer” but it can be pricey, especially if you’re looking to go away at least a few times a year like me.

Whilst I’m willing to spend most of my money on travelling, I’m always keen to make my budget stretch as much as possible, so that I can see and do as much as possible.

With some simple tips and tricks, you can make your travel budget go much further. And who doesn’t want to be able to travel more and better?!

Flights

Use Skyscanner

I’m sure that you’re no stranger to Skyscanner but I can’t stress enough how good the site is for finding cheap flights. Particularly if you can be flexible, their search “Everywhere” function is amazing.

 

Check other websites

Skyscanner is great but I’d encourage you to check out other sites as well, comparison is your best friend when you’re looking for cheap flights and accommodation.

STA Travel often has great flight deals, especially if you’re under 26 or a student. Google Flights is great too.

I tend to keep an eye on flight prices for a while before I book, particularly for long haul ones. The prices really do fluctuate and sometimes it’s a good idea to wait for them to drop.

 

Clear your cookies

When it comes to booking flights, you might see that the prices go up once you’ve looked at them a few times. The cookies on your phone or laptop track what you’ve been looking at, and prices go up automatically.

Clear your browsing history/cookies or book on a different machine to avoid inflated prices.

 

Sign up to airline loyalty schemes

Even if you’re not a frequent flier, it’s well worth signing up to airline loyalty schemes. Not only will you collect air miles on flights, you can unlock other benefits and are more likely to be upgraded if you have a loyalty account!

Sometimes you don’t need to save up lots of miles to get free flights, schemes such as Emirates Skywards allow you to use your points to buy flights on budget airlines; in this case on EasyJet. I did so a couple of years ago, getting a return flight to Rome for free.

 

Get an American Express credit card

A credit card through which you can collect air miles is such a great thing to have, even if you don’t fly that frequently. You can either take free (or very cheap flights), or get an upgrade. You can also spend air miles on hotels and a number of other things.

American Express is the best option in the UK, and even though the sign up offers aren’t as good as in the US, there are still some deals to be had.

I’ve got the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card and I love it. It’s free for the first year and £140 thereafter. If you are referred, you’ll receive an extra 22,000 miles if you spend £2,000 in the first three months. That’s enough for a couple of return flights from London to Europe with British Airways! Let me know if you need a referral code and I’ll be happy to help you out.

Another great bonus with the card is that you get two free airport lounge passes per year, and additional passes are just £15 per person for many lounges around the world! An extra treat for a bit of luxury at no extra cost to you.

It’s also worth noting that you earn double points on all flights booked on your card, and you get some great travel insurance protection included too.

 

Sign up to Jack’s Flight Club

Jack’s Flight Club is an amazing concept that can help save you a lot of money on flights. Sign up for free and you’ll get weekly emails to your inbox with some incredible flights deals. There’s a premium version too which gives you even more.

Keep an eye out once you’ve signed up- you never know, you might see a deal to a destination you’re planning to visit!

 

19429982_10158887872695092_5300548367926993960_n

 

Accommodation 

Compare, compare, compare

It’s true what the TV adverts say, look on the internet and you’ll find the same hotel room for a wide range of different prices.

By searching through comparison sites, you’ll be able to find the cheapest deal. Going direct to the accommodation is often best but take your time to check different sites, it’s worth it.

 

Use Booking.com and Expedia 

I use Booking.com and Expedia as they often have the best deals. Plus, if you’re a member, you get access to special prices and extra perks for being a regular user. Expedia even has a loyalty points scheme now where you can collect points to use on future stays.

 

Sign up to hotel loyalty schemes

If you’re planning on staying in a hotel that’s part of a chain, sign up to their loyalty scheme. Again you might get a cheeky upgrade and you can save up points towards future stays.

 

IMG_1157

 

IMG_1176

 

General tips

Collect supermarket loyalty points 

I’m not sure what the situation is other countries but in the UK, collecting supermarket loyalty points is a great way to travel cheaper or even for free.

Nectar (Sainsbury’s, Argos) and Tesco Clubcard both allow you to collect points on your shopping to exchange in to vouchers. Nectar allows you to spend points on Expedia bookings amongst others; Tesco Clubcard has lots of hotel and transport options.

By signing up for these and remembering to use them each time you shop, you can soon rack up enough points for a free train or a big discount on a hotel room.

If you can, I’d recommend giving your parents a secondary card if they’re not particularly bothered about collecting points. My dad has a copy of my Nectar card and Clubcard, so I’m lucky enough to collect lots of extra points without spending a penny.

You can also look out for special events and vouchers that mean you earn double or triple points.

 

Use Top Cashback

I feel that everybody should be making use of Top Cashback.

Essentially, by clicking through their website (barely any extra effort), you can get cash back on things that you were buying anyway.

In terms of travel, the site has some amazing rates for companies such as Booking.com and Expedia. I’ve earnt up to 12% cash back on hotel bookings before, a nice discount; meaning you can either save money or afford to stay somewhere slightly nicer!

You can make particularly big savings on airport parking through Top Cashback- up to 33% in some cases. Check it out for a cheap option to get to and from the airport.

 

Get a credit or debit card with no use abroad fees

A lot of people lose out on money when they exchange money or use their cards abroad. Some banks and credit card providers can add on hefty fees for using your card when you’re abroad.

Avoid this and save money by signing up for a card with no foreign transaction fees. I’d highly recommend Starling Bank for those in the UK but there are plenty of other options which you’ll find with a quick Google search.

 

IMG_2902

 

Travel with hand luggage only 

An obvious one but one that can save you sooo much money. Why spend £30 on a flight to a European city then another £50 for checked baggage? Surely that money is better spent on your trip, or another flight.

Take just hand luggage- even on most budget airlines these days, you can take a small suitcase plus another small bag such as a handbag or rucksack.

There are plenty of packing guides available on Pinterest if you’re an overpacker (like me) and need some help making the most of that pesky hand luggage space.

 

Use toiletries bottles

Travelling a lot can mean that you buy extra toiletries very often- not good for the environment or your bank balance.

Buy some cheap plastic toiletry bottles (under 100ml for your hand luggage only trips!) and decant what you already have at home in to those where you can.

You’ll save plenty of money over a year, especially if you regularly buy mini shampoos and the like.

 

Be flexible

Flexibility can go a long way when you’re planning travel; for example being willing to catch flights at awkward times and visiting countries in their off-peak season.

Keep an open mind and there will be bargains to be had!

 

There are quite a lot of things there but my top tips out of these would be:

  • Invest time in comparing prices for flights and accommodation
  • Get a card with no foreign fees
  • Use Top Cashback
  • Travel with hand luggage where possible

 

Do you already do any of these or have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

A Complete Guide to First Time Solo Travel in China

China is an incredible country, filled with some of the world’s most amazing sights, but it’s not the easiest to travel around and can be a bit of a culture shock.

Despite being so technologically advanced and with an economy growing at an astonishing rate, there can be a surprising number of challenges when travelling in the Middle Kingdom.

Don’t let this put you off though- China has so much to offer and with some planning, it’s not that difficult to navigate your way around. Whilst it may be frustrating at times, it’s well worth it.

In terms of solo travel, it’s a super safe country, even for lone females. I never felt unsafe and was quite relaxed about using my phone when out and about, walking around at night etc. I did quite a lot of research before my trip and didn’t come across any horror stories as can be the case for a lot of Asian countries.

Here’s my list of all the things to consider and prepare for when travelling to China for the first time, with some specific tips for solo travellers.

 

fullsizeoutput_589b

 

Before you go

Buy and download a good VPN

You’ve heard of the Great Wall of China, but have you heard about the Great Firewall? Popular websites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Google and WhatsApp are completely banned, meaning that you’ll be unable to access these when there without a VPN.

If you require access to these, ensure you download a VPN on to all your devices BEFORE YOU ENTER CHINA. Once there, you’ll be unable to download the apps that power VPNs.

I used Express VPN for my trip, as I’d read lots of great reviews online. I agree with these- it’s an affordable option that works well.

I opted for the 1 month subscription and it cost just under £10. Money well spent!

It’s a good idea to take a portable phone charger if you’re going to be using your VPN a lot- I found that it really drained my battery whilst I had it switched on.

 

Download a translation app

Another essential for getting around China. Even in the larger cities, the majority of people do not speak English and so having an translation app will be a big help.

Google translate or iTranslate are both good options.

 

Download an app with offline maps

Even if you plan to get a sim card (more on that later…), having an offline map will be invaluable!

I used maps.me and it worked well, just make sure you’ve downloaded the maps you need before you go or when you have wifi.

 

fullsizeoutput_5884

 

 

Choose trains over planes

China’s flights are regularly delayed; they can randomly change take-off times to allow military planes to fly by.

I had a flight booked from Shenzen to Chengdu and it ended up being delayed by nearly 4 hours! For a flight that was only a couple of hours long, it was very frustrating! With the language barrier, I was given basically no information on the situation and just had to wait it out in the airport until we were called to board.

In comparison, the high-speed trains I took left and arrived exactly on time. They’re also cheaper than flights (although not by much) and are super fast, efficient and clean. I’d recommend taking a train wherever possible.

 

Book train tickets (Trip.com)

Trains do get booked up in advance, so your best bet is probably to buy tickets online before you leave.

Otherwise, you’ll need to queue up to buy a ticket at the station a few days before you intend to travel to ensure that there’s space.

I travelled in second class, which is the cheapest option but it was perfectly fine. Much better than normal class in the UK! You can even fit large suitcases in the luggage rack above you, so don’t need to worry about not being able to keep your things close by.

I booked my tickets on Trip.com and would highly recommend this. It costs slightly more due to a small service fee, but it provides peace of mind and is really convenient.

You order online and get send a confirmation. Take that along to any station in China, along with your passport, and you’ll be able to collect your tickets. It’s really easy and you don’t need to speak Mandarin to do so. Download their app for easy access to your booking confirmation.

The only thing I would say if you’re picking up your tickets on the day of travel is to leave yourself plenty of time, there can be large queues at the ticket office and the stations are pretty big.

 

Research places to eat

One of the things I really struggled with in China is that it’s not really the type of place where you can spot a restaurant that looks nice and just walk in if you’re not with a local.

The language barrier is an issue and as a solo traveller, I didn’t feel comfortable just walking in to somewhere spontaneously as I do in other countries.

You might be braver than me and willing to take a leap of faith but I’d recommend that you find a few places that you’d like to eat beforehand.

Some more tourist-friendly places are listed on Trip Advisor and it’s always a good idea to ask the staff at your hotel/hostel for local recommendations.

fullsizeoutput_5882

 

Whilst you’re there

Get a local sim card

Getting hold of a local sim card is super useful anywhere where roaming is expensive, but I’d say this is the case even more so in China.

As you can’t easily ask for directions etc., it’s helpful to have access to the internet whenever you need, just in case. Especially if you’re a solo female traveller.

I got a sim card from China Unicom, which offers a few pay as you go options for foreigners. I felt like the sim card was actually pretty expensive for the amount of data I got but I just made sure that I used wifi when I could so that I didn’t need to top up again.

I got the sim card from the hostel I stayed in but you can go to a China Unicom store if you need. Ask your hotel/hostel to write down what you require, the language barrier could pose a problem otherwise.

There are other option;  China Mobile is the biggest telecoms provider in the country but I’ve read that it isn’t as foreigner friendly.

As usual, make sure your phone’s unlocked so that the sim card works.

 

Ensure that you’re carrying enough cash

By far the biggest challenge I experienced in China was finding an ATM that would let me withdraw money with a foreign card! It was a bit ridiculous for such a developed country to be honest. I spent more than three hours trying to find a bank where I could draw out cash for my airport taxi on my final day in Beijing!!

The only branches that seemed to accept MasterCard and Visa were Bank of China and ICBC. Also note that some banks on Google Maps are not actually there- since Google is banned in China, I assume they struggle to keep maps completely up to date.

Carry around enough cash to last you for a while and have a plan of when you’ll make it to an ATM that works. Your hostel/hotel should be able to point you in the right direction.

Hardly any shops or restaurants accept card. Chinese people use their version of WhatsApp, We Chat, to pay for pretty much everything. A really cool and convenient concept but not for foreigners- you’d need a Chinese bank account to set yourself up with this.

 

Carry toilet paper and antibacterial gel 

As is the case with a lot of countries in Asia, squat toilets are everywhere when you’re out and about, and there usually isn’t any toilet paper.

Be sure to pack plenty, plus antibacterial hand gel.

 

fullsizeoutput_58a2

 

Use your haggling skills 

Again similar to other Asian countries, when buying from most markets and souvenir shops, you are expected to haggle.

Vendors can start at as much as 5 or 6 times what they’d actually sell for. It feels awkward, especially if you’re talking pennies, but haggling is very much expected.

 

Be prepared to feel like a celebrity!

As a foreigner, you’ll inevitably be stared at in the streets of China, even within the big cities! It’s a bit daunting and weird at first, but you’ll get used to it.

Some people may even ask for a photo of you or if you’ll get in their selfie!

The only thing I really didn’t like was people taking photos of me not so subtly without asking if they could. I started to understand how famous people must feel when they’re just trying to go about their every day life and everyone is getting their phone out taking snaps of them!

Still, most people I came across were friendly along with their curiosity.  The babies and small kids were hilarious- they either loved me and were waving like crazy, or looked completely terrified of me!

 

fullsizeoutput_589f

 

Take care when ordering food if you’re veggie/vegan

China does not do veggie food very well. Everything seems to come with meat, even when you don’t expect it to.

I ordered braised aubergine one evening after seeing a delicious-looking photo in the menu. There was no mention of meat. When the dish arrived, it was filled with rich, minced pork. I’m not vegetarian but at this stage of my trip, I was desperate for some food without meat.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, double check what you’re ordering, just in case. It would probably be a good idea to research some veggie friendly restaurants before you leave.

 

Follow these tips and your trip should be relatively smooth and trouble-free. China isn’t the easiest country to travel to but it really is worth it, you’ll have some amazing experiences!

 

Have you been to China? Would you add any other tips?

 

 

 

 

 

An Ultimate Guide To Spending 3 Days in Budapest

Ah Budapest. The Hungarian capital seems to have become more and popular as a European city break destination over the last few years.

And it’s not difficult to see why. With cheap flights, low prices when you arrive and an abundance of amazing things to see and do, it’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend.

This guide isn’t completely exhaustive but it gives enough of the good stuff in the city to fill three days (or four at a slower pace). I feel like you could spend weeks in Budapest and still not see everything, so as with most cities, you’ll need to prioritise.

Here goes.. Budapest is split in to two parts, with the Danube river down the middle. Buda is to the west and Pest to the east, with Margaret Island in the middle of the river, accessed from both sides of the city.

The city is also split in to a number of different districts on either side, each offering a slightly different vibe, but all worth exploring.

When to visit

Budapest most definitely has seasons; it’s freezing cold in winter and can be sweltering in summer. I’ve visited during both, and loved the city each time. I’d say spring to summer is the best time to visit, as Budapest is a city that does outdoor living so well.

Still, prices are cheaper during the colder months, and it is the perfect time to visit the famous thermal baths in the city!

Getting there and around

Flights from the UK are pretty cheap, and costs when you arrive are so low compared to western Europe that it doesn’t matter too much if you have to pay a little more.

You can take the bus from the airport to the city for just a few Euros, or easily grab a taxi to travel much more quickly.

Once in the city, public transport is great, with a metro, trams and buses. Taxis are also cheap.

I’d recommend walking as much as possible, the city isn’t that huge, so it’s definitely doable. I believe that the best way to see a city is by foot, and Budapest is no different.

Where to stay

Pest is certainly the liveliest side of the city and where most tourists end up staying. It’s better connected by public transport, and has more going for it in terms of places to eat and drink.

You can find good value accommodation in the northern part of Buda if you’re on a budget. I stayed at Belvedere Hotel a few years back, it’s a nice hotel at a reasonable price, with great public transport links to the more central parts of the city.

If you’re looking to stay somewhere a little quieter or more upmarket, the Castle District is the place for you. With pretty cobbled streets and gorgeous hotels, it’s a good base from which to see the city if you don’t want to be in the heart of the action.I stayed here this time around, as I was with my boyfriend and his family. Whilst it wouldn’t be my first choice next time (everything closes super early), it was a charming place to stay and had a really relaxed feel.

Castle District
Things to see and do

Fisherman’s Bastion 

A panoramic terrace with fairytale spires, Fisherman’s Bastion offers amazing views over the city. You can pay extra to climb up to the highest viewing point but the views from the main terrace are good enough.

Head there during the day and at night if you can, both are incredible but there’s just something about the view over the Danube and Parliament building in the dark.

 

fullsizeoutput_5796

 

F Bastion

 

Mathias Church

Right beside Fisherman’s Bastion, Mathias is a beautiful Roman Catholic church with the most incredible tiled roof.

You can visit the church year-round as a non-worshipper except for Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter).

 

fullsizeoutput_5795

 

Mathias-Church.jpg

 

Royal Palace (Buda Castle)

You can’t visit a European city without seeing it’s Royal Palace and Budapest is no different. It’s home to the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum too.

Wander the cobbled streets

The Castle District is so quaint, full of cobbled streets and old, colourful buildings. You can spend a couple of hours just wandering and taking it all in.

 

fullsizeoutput_5793

 

fullsizeoutput_57a9

 

Castle

Places to eat and drink

Food and drink is more expensive in the Castle District than in the rest of the city; the vibe is definitely more upmarket. Most of the restaurants and bars seem to be owned by the same people but there are a couple of great places to check out.

Baltazar Grill

A boutique hotel, Baltazar has a grill restaurant, serving delicious burgers and classic Hungarian dishes.  The inside is cosy and there is plenty of outdoor seating for the warmer months.

Pest Buda

Another boutique hotel, Pest Buda has a gorgeous outdoor bar, perfect for an alfresco drink or three. Right in the centre of the Castle District, it has views of the Mathias Church and is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings.

 

PB

Leopold

Also know as the Inner City, Leopold is what I’d refer to as central Budapest. Situated on the Pest side of the river, this is a lively and bustling places, with some of the main tourist attractions.

Things to see and do

Parliament Building 

You’ll no doubt have seen many pictures of the Parliament Building, it’s synonymous with the city and its landscape. Its the third largest parliament building in the world and really is a striking piece of architecture.

Guided tours are available but be sure to also spend some time admiring it from the outside.

Shoes on the Danube Bank

A touching tribute, the shoes are a memorial to honour the many Jews sadly killed in Budapest during WW2. The victims were ordered to take off their shoes and shot dead, falling in to the Danube river below. It’s an extremely moving monument.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

Also know as Budapest Cathedral, it’s the largest church in Budapest and well worth a visit.

 

fullsizeoutput_57ab

 

fullsizeoutput_57ad

 

Grab a drink by the Basilica

Yes the area around the Basilica is a little touristy and probably a little overpriced but it is such a beautiful place to grab a beer or a coffee.

Find somewhere in or around the square where the Basilica is and just watch the world go by.

Shopping

 Leopold is home to both high street and designer shops, if you fancy doing some shopping on your trip.

Places to eat and drink

La Fabbrica

Budapest has so many Italian restaurants to chose from and La Fabbrica is a great option if you’re looking for tasty pizza or pasta.

Situated across from St. Peter’s Basilica, Fabbrica is a stylish restaurant with a wide menu. Although slightly expensive by Budapest standards, the prices are really reasonable for such great quality food.

Hedon Craft Brewery

We stumbled upon Hedon Craft Brewery when we needed somewhere to shelter from a heavy downpour but it ended up being such a good find!

Hedon is a brewery and bar with a unique twist. To drink at the bar, you top up a card with Forints, grab a glass and fill it using the card at the taps. The balance on the card goes down as you pour the beer.

It’s a really unique concept and means that you can try a selection of different craft beers or cider.They also offer bar snacks; the pizzas are pretty tasty!

Margaret Island (Margitsziget)

Margaret Island is not your usual city park for it’s located in the middle of the Danube river, between Buda and Pest. It can be accessed from both sides of the city, with a bridge connecting to the park.

As well as being a beautiful park to explore, there is so much to see and do in Margaret Island, including; medieval ruins, a small zoo, water fountains, swimming pools, sports facilities and playgrounds.I’d recommend renting an electric bike to explore the whole island and then grabbing a drink at one of the many bars in the park.

 

fullsizeoutput_5797

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter is on the Pest side of the river and it’s what I’d describe as the trendy, hipster part of the city. It has so much character and such a great vibe, it’s definitely my favourite district.

Synagogue

The largest Synagogue in Europe, this beautiful piece of Moorish architecture is well worth checking out.

Check out the street art 

There’s loads of really cool street art scattered around the district, just take a walk and be sure to get some photos as you go!

 

fullsizeoutput_57a4

 

fullsizeoutput_57a5

 

Visit a Ruin Bar 

Ruin bars are a huge part of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter and you need to visit at least one whilst in the city.I wrote a whole post about Szimpla Kert, the original Ruin Bar, here.

 

img_3331

Places to eat and drink

Karavan Street Food 

Karavan is a small outdoor street food market, offering a number of different cuisines and drinks.It’s a really cool place day or night, with cute decorations and a large seating area at the back.Check out more info here.

 

Karavan

 

Most Bistro

This place was recommended to me by a colleague who lived in Budapest for a while and it is such a hidden gem. It was by far my favourite place we visited.

Filled with mainly locals, this stylish bistro offers amazing food at such reasonable prices. Don’t let the extensive menu put you off- we ordered a number of different types of food and all were absolutely delicious.

They offer a super cheap lunch time set menu too. I definitely want to go back here for brunch, I can imagine it’s amazing.

They have a h-uge terrace at the back, perfect for the warmer months!

 

fullsizeoutput_57ae

 

 

fullsizeoutput_57b7

 

 

fullsizeoutput_57b0

 

 

fullsizeoutput_57b1

Other things to see and do

City Park and Heroes Square- a sprawling green space, City Park is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. The entrance to the park is through Heroes Square, home to the impressive Millenary Monument.

Thermal Baths- a trip to Budapest isn’t complete without a trip to one of the famous thermal baths, especially in the colder months. There are many to choose from; Szechenyi and Gellert seem to be the most popular with tourists.

Take a river cruise on the Danube- I’d recommend taking one at night, when the city is lit up and looking its most beautiful!

Useful tips
  • Use the local currency Forints, even though some places accept Euros. You’ll get a much better price/exchange rate.
  • Tipping is expected in restaurants, around 10% for standard services and 15% for when its exceptional. In some places, you won’t be able to get a drink at the bar and it will be table service only, which you’ll be expected to tip for.
  • Don’t expect overly friendly service; whilst local people are polite, I found that they weren’t particularly warm or chatty.
  • Most people in the city can speak English but as always, it’s a good idea to take along a phrasebook or to learn a few phrases in Hungarian.

Have you been to Budapest? Do you have any other tips or recommendations?

Visting Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s Oldest Ruin Bar

The Jewish Quarter in Budapest is home to a number of ruin bars or pubs, known as ‘romkocsma’ in Hungarian. Szimpla Kert is the original, established in 2002. The bar moved to its current location in Kazinczy Street in 2004 and has become somewhat of a tourist attraction for visitors of Budapest.

During World War II, the Jewish Quarter became a Jewish ghetto and the area was left with lots of old, dilapidated buildings. Cut to 2004, and the people behind Szimpla Kert decided to turn a building about to be demolished in to their new, bigger bar and the ruin bar craze begun!

 

 

 

IMG_3702

 

The bar is huge, with many different rooms and nooks over a couple of floors. There’s a courtyard at the back that has a couple of bars and is filled with seating. It’s difficult to describe what it’s like inside, so hopefully my pictures can do the talking!

This is a bar that isn’t just for drinking. Szimpla Kert has plenty going on, and there’s even a farmer’s market on Sunday. When I visited on a Saturday afternoon, there were a number of stalls selling homemade bits. There’s also an art corner where you can leave a piece of your own work to be exhibited on the wall, and they have a packed programme with live music to suit every taste.

They also serve food, and although I didn’t try it, I’ve heard that it’s tasty. The Farmer’s Market breakfast that they run over the weekend looks amazing- I definitely plan on going back to try it when I’m next in Budapest!

 

IMG_3707

 

IMG_3673

 

Drinks-wise, the price are a little more expensive than some places in Budapest but they’re still cheap by UK standards.

Szimpla is definitely the most random bar/pub I’ve ever been to but it’s by far one of the best! It’s so quirky and the courtyard is the perfect place for a cold drink on a hot summer’s day. It’s definitely become a tourist attraction and is really busy (there was a huge queue to get in when we walked past on Saturday evening!) but it’s well worth a visit.

Add it to your Budapest itinerary or bucket list pronto!

 

IMG_3649

 

IMG_3670

 

Once you’ve ticked it off, there are plenty of other ruin bars to visit. Amongst the best of the rest: Anker’t, Ellato Kert and and Grandio.

And there’s much more to the Jewish Quarter too. I’d liken this part of the Hungarian capital to Shoreditch in London- gritty but cool. My favourite district in the city by far!

Other things to see and do in the area:

  • A beautiful Synagogue.
  • Cool street art.
  • Karavan street food court.
  • Klauzál Square.

 

Check out with Simple Kert website here.

 

14 Unique Things to See and Do in Vietnam

Vietnam is easily my favourite country so far, but until recently, had you asked me for the reason, I wouldn’t have been able to put my finger on exactly why.

Yes, it’s beautiful. It has a fascinating history. Some of the best food in the world. And the people are wonderful. But the same can be said of plenty of other countries I’ve visited.

I spent some time thinking about exactly why it is my favourite and I decided that it’s because there are so many unique things to see and do. Each place I visited during my trip had different things to offer and it almost felt like I visited more than one country as I travelled around.

 

Here’s my list of some of the unique things you shouldn’t miss on a trip to Vietnam:

1. Stay on a junk boat in Halong Bay

With thousands of limestone karsts rising up from the water, Halong Bay is one of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam, and it’s not difficult to see why.

Stay for a couple of nights on a traditional junk boat, it’s an experience like no other. Be sure to hike up to the viewpoint on Ti Top island for breathtaking views over the bay and to grab a kayak to steer your own way through the waters.

 

img_0388

 

2. Visit the Imperial City in Hue 

A walled palace within the Citadel, Hue’s Imperial City is stunning. Get a local guide and spend an afternoon wandering around the complex and learning all about the history of Hue and the palace, which was finished being built in 1832.

 

 

fullsizeoutput_53ce

 

3. Stroll around Ngoc Son Lake in Hanoi

Asian cities seem to have plenty of outdoor spaces for exercise and Hanoi is no exception.

Take an early morning stroll around the beautiful Ngoc Son Lake and see scores of elderly people practising tai chi, a Chinese martial art.

 

 

fullsizeoutput_53cb

 

4. Drink a Vietnamese coffee

You probably don’t associate Vietnam with great coffee, but it certainly is the place to be if you’re looking for something different to your usual latte.

Traditional Vietnamese coffee is served with condensed milk and is delicious. Grab an iced version to cool you down.

The other type of coffee drunk is egg coffee, which is also very tasty.

 

5. Get a dress or suit tailored in Hoi An

Now, you can technically do this anywhere in the world but it’ll cost you. Hoi An is renowned for it’s cheap but impressive tailoring.

Do a little research before choosing a shop and embrace the experience, I felt like a real VIP being measured up and having my dress fitted.

I’d recommend Yaly Couture, one of the bigger and more popular operations in town.

 

6. Drive the Hai Van Pass

A mountain pass around 20km long running between Hoi An/Danang and Hue, Hai Van is a beautiful spectacle with amazing views over the coast.

Take an organised motorbike ride for the best views, but be warned that the pass is closed off in adverse weather.

 

7. See a Water Puppet Show

Dating back to the 11th century, be sure to see this unique take on Asian puppet tradition, where puppeteers perform with wooden puppets in a pool, along to Vietnamese music.

Silly, strange but definitely a unique and worthwhile experience. See a show in Hanoi, where it’s most popular, although you can do so in Ho Chi Minh City too.

 

8. Take a cyclo ride

A three wheeled bicycle taxi, a cyclo can be a great way to get around and see the city.Bear in mind that the traffic in Vietnam is crazy, so this isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially if you’re doing so in Ho Chi Minh City.

Join a tour which stops off at some of the city’s highlights rather than jumping in a random one and paying a fare, as you’ll probably be ripped off.

 

 

img_1192-1

 

 

9. Ride on the back of a motorbike

Again something that you can do anywhere but it’s a truly a unique experience on Vietnam’s crazy roads.

Join a tour with a company like Hue Adventure Tours to really experience local life and to make sure you’re in safe hands.

 

10. Enjoy the magic of Hoi An Old Town

There is something about Hoi An that is just magical. Probably something to do with the hundreds of colourful lanterns that adorn the old town.

Take a leisurely stroll around at night but don’t forget to purchase your ticket for the old town at one of the kiosks on the edge it, otherwise you may find yourself in trouble if this is checked.

 

 

IMG_0732

 

thumbnail_img_7069

 

11. Visit a local market

Visting a local market is an interesting, albeit slightly shocking experience. Expect to see the weird, wonderful and upsetting whilst getting a real taste of local life.

 

12. Eat your way around a city on a street food tour

Sorry another one that you can do in most cities but there is definitely no other food in the world like Vietnam. It is so fresh, light and delicious.

Join a Hanoi Street Food Tour to try a number of delicious dishes at street food places that you wouldn’t choose from the look of them alone. You’ll eat different regional specialities.

 

 

thumbnail_img_7104

 

 

13. Crawl through tunnels used in the Vietnam war

A large network of connecting underground tunnels, visiting Cu Chi gives you a tiny taste of what it was like in the Vietnam war. Communist troops Viet Kong built networks of tunnels in order to combat South Vietnamese and American armies that were much better equipped.

Take the opportunity to crawl through one of the cramped tunnels and imagine what it was like for the people living and fighting in these all those years ago.

 

14. Drink the world’s cheapest fresh beer

Bia hoi is a popular fresh draught beer served around northern Vietnam in small bars and on street corners. It costs about 30p and must be the cheapest beer from around the world.

Finish your day of exploring by grabbing a cold one, sitting on a low plastic stool and watching the world go by!