Search

Read.Plan.Pack.Go.

Travel Tip #16

Check travel advice websites about particular countries or areas.

Before we head off to any country or city I do a quick search for advice. I don’t just mean the simple information about currency or language, but also about cultural tips or taboo, common types of crime that affects tourists, necessary or recommended vaccinations, and if there are any risks to that area.

For example:

Cultural tips or taboo – Are there things you shouldn’t do so that you are respectful to the country that you’re visiting? In Vietnam, it is best to avoid public displays of affection. In Japan, you should try to not turn your back to someone when leaving the room.

Crime or Scams – Are there known schemes that target tourists to scam them out of money? When we visited Harbin (China), our hotel said that they would arrange a taxi for us. The price didn’t seem too bad and we were told it would be difficult to find a taxi so we accepted. On the way back we found our own taxi and found that they had charged us about double what we should have paid. A friend of mine was on holiday in Asia and had children begging her to buy milk. When they went to the supermarket it became apparent that the children actually wanted her to buy milk formula which is much more expensive. Fortunately, she was approached by a shop worker who explained that tourists buy the expensive milk formula and after the tourists have left, the children return the formula so that they can have the cash. These are tame examples compared to the scams and crimes that tourists can be targeted with so it is definitely worth searching so that you can be aware and prepared.

Necessary or Recommended Vaccinations – It is worth having a quick check to see if there are any vaccinations that you are recommended or required to have before you depart. Aim to check as early as possible as some vaccinations require multiple doses so that you are fully covered. However, be careful that you aren’t persuaded to have more vaccinations than you actually need. I know someone who went to a well-known pharmacy in the UK and was told to have about 5 different types of expensive vaccinations. Surprised by the extortionate price, he checked whether they were required and they weren’t necessary at all.

Risks – Are there any concerns about natural disasters such as avalanches or volcanic eruptions? For example, on Bali there are active volcanoes which have caused travel disruptions in the last year. It is worth knowing what the current situation is before you travel so that you are prepared.

There are a great variety of websites that can give you this advice. The ones I check regularly are wikitravel.org and the UK government travel advice website https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice 

Advertisements

Travel Tip #15

Be aware of scam websites, especially for visas.

Unfortunately, this happened to someone I know very recently. They went to apply for an ESTA (a type of US visa) and found a website that looked very official and it was first on the search engine’s results, however it was actually a website that *helps* you to apply for the visa at an incredible hike up of the price. Instead of paying $14 per person, they paid $89. It was only a few hours after that they realised it was not the official US government website. Although it actually stated on the website that it wasn’t official, you had to search for that information, which you are unlikely to do if it all seems legitimate. Fortunately, the ESTA that came through was valid but they were so angry because this ‘company’ hadn’t actually done any work but had taken so much more money.

There are many companies that do this to travellers. Their websites look official, provide all the information that you need and you receive what you wanted – but they actually haven’t done any additional work for all the money that they take from you. Be really careful and try to find an official website that provides you the links – such as an embassy or a trustworthy travellers’ website.

For your reference, here is the OFFICIAL ESTA address: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

THIS IS A SCAM SITE, DO NOT USE: www.us-esta-org.com

Travel Tip #14

Check both the prices of flights and hotels before deciding whether you can afford to go.

I have recently spent days deciding where to travel next and I always started by looking at the price of flights because I usually thought that if the price was affordable then the hotels couldn’t be that bad, surely.
Wow. I was wrong.

I found some reasonable flights to paradise islands and found myself getting excited for a week in an idyllic haven, but when I looked at the hotel options I found that even the plain, budget type hotels were far more than I would consider paying. Then, when I looked on AirBnB I found that even private rooms were expensive. Of course I understand that you are paying for the ‘privilage’ to visit somewhere so nice, but I was so glad I hadn’t booked the flights before looking at accommodation because I would have been having a heart attack.

On top of that, make sure you consider the costs for transport, restaurant costs, and visas etc. as it can all add up and you don’t want to find yourself having to put off your next trip or searching for money when you need it because you didn’t consider all the costs.

Housesitting

Housesitting, although not new, is becoming more and more popular. There are many different kinds including sitters paying owners (usually for utilities), owners paying sitters (if there is work involved) or, my favourite kind, free!

There are of course pros and cons to being an owner or a sitter, and as I am actually both I can look at both sides.

Owner

Housesitting is enabling us to go on holiday when we have struggled to have anyone look after our pets and give them the attention they deserve. It also saves us money because we don’t need to pay for boarding fees or pet sitters.
However, it is of course worrying to have someone come and stay in your home and look after your pets. There is a lot of trust involved. It can also be a bit of a slow process. Personally, I won’t book flights until I know the sitter has their flights and visa but this can mean that you watch the prices go up and up while waiting on the sitter. We have also had a sitter pull out on us which, for a while, made us believe we wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas. It was a long stressful time contacting over 200 people in the hopes they would sit for us. We had people say they were interested without actually looking up the flight prices so they later pulled out. It can be tricky.

Sitter

Housesitting can be easy and save you a lot of hotel fees. For some animal lovers who are unable to have their own pets, it enables them to have the best of both worlds. If you have a free schedule or are able to stay for longer durations, then the choices are overwhelming. I have seen homes in paradise, mansions, city apartments, farms, chalets and all kinds of dream like locations looking for housesitters but unfortunately my schedule wouldn’t allow it.
For some sites, depending on how appealing the location is, you can find yourself competing against tens of other applicants and it can be hard to set yourself apart from other candidates. It may be better to try and sit locally first so that you gain reviews before trying more adventurous sits. As a sitter it can be frustrating if you are waiting for replies and not sure whether to book flights or get visas.
It can also be daunting as you need to ensure that you look after the home and/or pets while enjoying yourself and trying not to make the house sit a job while you’re meant to be on holiday.

There are of course horror stories from both sides of the tale but personally I have been able to reap the rewards. There are many forums or facebook pages that can help offer advice.

Coming soon: I will be posting about the many different websites that I have used looking for house sitters (and sits) so that if you are looking, you could take my opinion on board (if you want to, of course).

Travel Tip #13

Make sure you have a basic first aid kit and essential medicines.

For some this might be a bit obvious, for others not so much. Depending on where you’re visiting, the accessibility to medicine might be greatly different to what you’re used to so make sure you have the essentials with you. You never know when something might happen so it’s best to have things at hand rather than having to go find somewhere that you can buy them from. 

Even if you don’t usually get headaches or other such ailments, it’s worth having the necessary items with you so that your holiday isn’t spoiled unnecessarily.

Recommended items to include:

  • Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
  • Plasters/Band-aids
  • Diarrhoea relief
  • Constipation relief
  • Indigestion tablets (if you’re prone to indigestion)

Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland is the newest of the Disney resorts to open in the world. Initially delayed, it had its grand opening in the summer of 2016.

I have actually been to Shanghai Disneyland twice – once in the height of summer and once in winter – and recently purchased a season pass.

Summer

Personally, I would avoid going to Shanghai Disneyland in the summer. It gets very hot and humid in Shanghai and there is not a lot of shade at Shanghai Disney. If schools are out for summer, then you will find that the queues for rides are long. If you’re looking at going on the big rides such Tron or Soaring Over the Horizon then you are looking at between a 2 and 3 hour wait at least. However, if you’re able to stay late then you may be able to jump on a lot of rides in quick succession as families tend to leave after the fireworks. Bear in mind, you will have a long wait for a taxi, I’m talking around an hour, but there are plenty of taxis ready to go nearly anywhere in Shanghai.

Winter

We went on a weekday in November, when it has started becoming colder, and it was a much more enjoyable experience. The queues were much smaller and the walking around kept you warm.

Transport

Taxis are plentiful in Shanghai so you should be able to find one easily. Be mindful that Disney is not said the same in Mandarin as English so bring a back of translation or picture to help communicate with the driver. The taxi drop off is a little walk away from the park so be aware of that. There are security guards around who can point you in the right direction. There are toilets on the way to the park, too. At the end of the day there can be a wait to get a taxi back to your accommodation.
You could get an Uber to and from Disney, but I’ve been told that they drop off and pick up in really inconvenient locations.

There is a metro (subway) line that goes all the way to the actual Disney park, you may just have to swap lines a couple of times. However, the metro is really cheap so would save you money.

Fast Pass

Fast passes are available for some of the rides, especially the more popular ones, but these can often become unavailable quickly. In winter, we arrived at the park around 9.30am and the passes for the whole day had been given out for Soaring Over the Horizon. The fast passes are not next to the ride but in more central locations for the Land that they are in.

If you do decide to head to Disneyland, there is an app you can download which gives you the live wait times for the rides. The wifi in the park is a little unreliable so the app may not work very well.

Rides

I haven’t been able to go on all of the rides yet but I definitely recommend Tron. The riding position is as if you are actually on a lightcycle (motorbike). It doesn’t have any upside down moments so this may not be thrilling enough for adrenaline junkies but I’ve been on it 3 times and have loved it every time.
The river rapids ride is a game of chance. Of the two times I went on, the first time only our shoes got wet. The second time, we were soaked. They don’t sell ponchos in the shops around the ride, however they sell them in the line just before you’re close to getting on. Otherwise, bring your own.
I think the park is lacking in over the top rides but it does have a range of rides suited for a variety of tastes.
There are some rides that are, of course, catered to the young audience with Honey Pots (spinning cups) and a cute Dumbo ride. A couple of rides are okay to take even younger children on, including the Pirates of the Caribbean one, if you can hold them.

Things to Remember

Most importantly… the park is in China. It’s aimed at the Chinese audience so shows are in Mandarin. There are park maps and time guides available in English and many safety announcements are in English too.

Facilities

There is a range of food to eat catering to both western and eastern tastes. There are lots of vendors selling drinks and snacks, however some of the booths didn’t open until the afternoon. If you arrive in the morning it may take you a little longer to find somewhere to grab food from. I didn’t feel that the price was extortionate – definitely more expensive that local shops in China but certainly not bad for a theme park.
Merchandise shops are plentiful and carry nearly anything Disney themed that you would want. There is also one large Disney store before the gates of the park so even if you just head to Disneytown then you have a chance to see the huge range of goods on offer.
The toilets have both the normal squat toilets you would find in China, but further towards the back of the toilets you usually find the western sit down style.
Many of the rides were able to take disabled passengers, including Tron, which I thought was great. I would check on the official website for more information regarding this.

Disneytown

Outside of the actual park itself, is Disneytown which is free to roam around. This area is full of shops including a Lego store, a huge Disney store, restaurants (including a Cheesecake Factory), and some other shops.
This is also where you would go if you were planning on seeing the Lion King. Bear in mind that the Lion King, although it copies the Broadway show, is completely in Mandarin.

There is also a very large park near Disneytown which has a very large lake and lots of green spaces. It also has a good, although far away, view of the castle. When I went in the summer, anyone was free to go in – I’m not sure if that has changed. If you were planning on doing the park, please remember that you will spend around an hour walking all the way around it so take that into account when planning your day.

Well I hope this has been somewhat useful.
Feel free to send any questions this way and I can try and answer them for you.

 

Travel Tip #12

Download a currency conversion app.

When I go to buy a keepsake from another country, I’m always wondering whether it’s a decent price or not. Of course, different currencies have different values (if that makes sense), but I don’t want to end up spending all of my money on one item. So before we go anywhere, we make sure we have a currency conversion app downloaded, especially one that doesn’t require an internet connection.

There are many available, personally I always use XE (available as an online site or an app).

This way you can check how much you’re spending immediately rather than missing out on an item because you’re unsure of the cost OR spending all of your money on that one item because you don’t know the conversion.

Itinerary – Australia

Destinations: Melbourne, Sydney, Uluru, and Cairns.
Length of trip: 17 days
Start of Trip: Mid-January 2016
Group total: 2 persons
N.B – Please note that while I’m not a backpacker, I do try and save money whenever I can so the accommodation will not be luxury.

Safety tip: If you decide to drive in Australia, please be aware of animals crossing the roads. We were warned that it can be dangerous if you accidentally hit kangaroos or wallabies in the dark. Please be cautious.

TripHobo link: TripHobo Plan

Continue reading “Itinerary – Australia”

I’m so sorry for the absence, life has been getting in the way and I’ve busy planning for a mammoth trip – which gave me an idea.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a really thorough planner with holidays. I like to have (nearly) every day accounted for so that I know I’m not wasting any time. I thought that my itineraries may come in useful as inspiration to other traveler’s journeys.

Of course your trip may not be the same length of time or to all of the same places, but hopefully there may be something to help you. I shall post them individually.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑