I had no expectations for this trip. It ended up being a pleasant surprise. I visited only two cities in the North Island. The South Island is suppose to be amazing. I didn’t go because I had just one week in New Zealand.
The New Zealand customs is super strick about what you bring into the country. Don’t think of lying on the customs forms, it’s not worth it. I saw them throughly search people’s luggage and take stuffs to examine.
I arrived late evening and took the Skybus (airport shuttle) to the Airbnb place I would be staying. I was dropped off right in front of the apartment. The apartment was comfortable and super clean. My host is amazing.
Day 2: I had prebooked a 24 hours pass Hop On Hop Off bus. I got to the pick up point around 12noon. I got off at the Mt. Eden and Skytower stop. Mt. Eden has an amazing view of Auckland and offcourse the skytower provides a 360 degree view of the city.
The Hop On Hop Off is very limited during the winter. They operate from 10am to 3pm and run only on hourly basis. You wouldn’t get to see more than 4 places if you start at 10am, making the 24 hours pass not worth it.
I explored Queens Street, lots of name brand stores, restaurants, parks, ice cream/pastry places. Simply so much to see and do.
Day 3: I was suppose to go on a tour with Grayline tour but they had some operational issues so they put me on a tour with Bush and Beach. The tour started in the morning with Auckland City Highlights – we stopped at Mt. Victoria – great view of the city, winter gardens at the Auckland Museum. The café has a lovely ambience.
In the Afternoon, we drove 30 minutes out of Auckland to Waitakere Ranges. We stopped at a bakery for quick lunch. We all got some type of pie (chicken, veggie, beef or fish) because they tour guides recommended it. I had the fish pie and it so good.
We proceeded to the rain forest where we had a great walking tour through the rainforest and saw a waterfall. It was an eventful day overall.
Day 4: I had a 1pm bus to Rotorua so I slept in. It was only a 15 minutes walk from my Airbnb to the bus station but I was too lazy to walk with my luggage so I got uber for NZ$6. The bus (Manabus) was so cheap, they are similar to Mega bus or Bolt bus in the US. There’s also wifi on the bus.
We arrived in Rotorua at 5.30pm, I walked to my hostel – a 20 minutes walk. The hostel – Crash Palace was great. I had a private room J. The toilet and bathroom was extremely clean J. I choose a great hostel J. I had dinner and just chilled. Rotorua was way colder than Auckland. I was okay staying indoors.
Day 5: I slept in. Explored Rotorua a bit and went to Te Puia. I had book the day and night pass here. I arrived very early because I didn’t read the time on the confirmation email L. Te Puia is a Maori cultural centre. The guides are all Maori or of Maori descent. The guided tour started at 4.30pm. We were shown a traditional house, we saw eruption from the geyser and sat on heated stairs. We learned some aspects of the Maori culture and traditions.
At 5.30pm, we were handed over to the guide for the night pass. After checking out the gift shop, we were shown were the dinner was being prepared. They used an underground oven just like in Fiji. We were given a welcoming ceremony (very similar to that in Fiji & Samoa). The ceremony offcourse ended with an Haka performance. The whole cultural performance was insightful and beautiful. I loved it. You can watch the part of the cultural performance here.
The tour ended with Maori story telling outdoor on natural heated stairs with a cup of hot chocolate. The stairs are naturally heated, some with steam gusting out of it. Not sure of the scientific explanation. We were dropped off to our respective accommodation around 8.45pm.
Day 6: My bus back to Auckland was at 11.55am but we didn’t leave until 12.30pm. Arrived in Auckland around 4.30pm and took an uber to my Airbnb. I used a different Airbnb this time around because it was closer to the airport. Big mistake. The Skybus (airport shuttle) doesn’t go to that area. I would have been better off staying in the city center like my first Airbnb. Oh well. Too late now.
Didn’t too anything after I arrived at the Airbnb because it was far away from the city center and I would have to take a taxi or uber.
Day 7: I slept in and decided to check out the Auckland Museum. Glad I did. They had great exhitibition on Maori culture, Polynesian arts among others. I also purchased the cultural performance. Amazing. You can watch a part of the cultural performance here and the Haka here.
After the museum, I walked 20 minutes to the city center. I was craving Mexican food and I remember seeing one by the Skytower. I went there. The tacos were decent. I later got an uber back to my Airbnb. I packed since my flight was at 6.45am.
Day 8: Throughout the night, I got emails and text from the airline. The flight was delayed to 8.20am so I didn’t go to the airport until 6.45am. When I got there, I was told I wouldn’t make my connecting flight so they rebook me on the 6.45am flight for the next day. They also gave me a breakfast vocher, hotel and food vocher for the hotel.
I took the shuttle to Hotel Grande and I took a long nap. I decided to simply chill and do nothing for the day. Relaxing is an understatement.
Day 9: Made it to the airport. Flight went smoothly without delays.
P.S, Kiwi is a nickname for people from New Zealand. The national bird is also a Kiwi – a flightless bird in danger of extinction. I saw one in Te Puia, Rotorua, we were not allowed to take pictures of it.
New Zealnad: 5 Things
- Definitely, if you have time in New Zealand, I’ve heard it is worth checking out the South Islands and other places in North island.
- Although renting a car will give you greater flexibility, you can take the bus. Manabus or Naked Bus have prices as low as $1 if purchased well in advance.
- Learn about the Maori culture. The Auckland museum and Te Puia in Rotorua are some of the places you can go to. Keep in mind that Rotorua has many options to learn about the Maori culture.
- Don’t miss out on Asian food. Varieties of Asian restaurants to choose from. You wouldn’t regret it.
- If you are around when the All Blacks are playing, do not miss it. Kiwis are super proud of their Rudgy team. Even if they are not playing, watch a live rudgy game if you can.
This was another trip that was difficult to plan. There wasn’t much information online. I wanted to stay in the capital – Apia and explore the island from there. However, the review for hotels in my price range were awful and I couldn’t afford the higher priced hotels.
So I settled for a place two hours away from Apia – the capital. The place – Taufua Beach Fales has an amazing reputation and the beaches in the area are great. When I booked this beach fale, I knew I was opening up my mind to try something new and get out of my comfort zone.
Day One: Arrived around 4pm, got a sim card at the airport and went with the airport pick up person sent by the beach fale. We started on the long ride to Taufua. The road were great for the most part. We arrived at the fale just in time for dinner. All meals are provided by the fale at a set time, family style.
I met lot of people at the dinner table from various countries. There was an Argentian young couple doing one year holiday-working visa program in New Zealand. They pick fruits for a few months then travel for a few months. They did one year in Australia before going to New Zealand. Met another couple – guy from USA (Florida) and girl from the Uk. Also doing the same thing but not picking fruits. I drew some inspiration from their stories and stored up a few ideas for future references.
The staffs at Taufau are super amazing!
Jade (I met her in Fiji) messages me about a Rudgy game the next day. I told her sure, everyone at my beach fale was going. She said she would try and get tickets.
Day Two: Met a group of people from New Zealand at breakfast. They asked for my plans for the day, I told them I would be going to town and maybe see the ganme if my friend Jade is able to get ticket. They said they were going to town as well for the game. They offered me a ride since I didn’t rent a car and I was going to take a taxi to town. How nice of them, they saved me USD$58 :).
Around 11am, we head out to town. On own way, we stopped to see the Papapapitan Waterfalls and the Bahia Temple. We also stopped for lunch at a cool rusti place.
We get to the stadium around 2.45pm. We split ways without exchanging contact hahaha (silly). I met up with Jade and we proceeded to our seat. The game started promptly at 3pm with the national athem of the two countries – Samoa and Rep. of Georgia. This was going to be my first Rudgy game and I had no (still don’t) clue about the rules of the game. Still it was exciting. The game ended up in a draw. I decided to go to dinner with Jade since I couldn’t get in touch with the folks I came to town with.
We went to a Chinese place, the food was so much!! I later got a taxi back to my fale. Saturday night at my fale is ‘FiaFia Night’ – which simply means a cultural performance. They peformed cultural dances including the fire dance which was tres impressive! The men performing were shirtless and built. The women in the audience paid 100% attention :). The show ended with a Haka performance. Great way to end the night. You can watch the video on FiaFia Night here and the Fire dance here on my YouTube page .
Day Three: On Friday, I had contacted Polynesia Xplorer for a possible tour on the island (Upolu) I was in. I had assumed the beach fale would have their own organized tour but I was told since most guest at the fale rented a vechicle, there was no need for organizimg a tour. Well on Sat, I confirmed with Beatrice from Polynesian Xplorer for a tour today (Sunday).
She came for me after breakfast. We clicked and it felt like we had known each other for a long time. We started of at Sopoaga Waterfalls where she showed me how they break open coconut and squeeze out the milk with a sponge. After that we went to To Sua Trench (a volcanic eruption I believe). It was beautiful, pictures can not do it justice. To get to the water, you will have to go down this really steep stairs. I was beyond nervous but Beatrice convinced me and encourgaged me all the way down.
The tour proceeded to another watefall –Togitogiga Waterfalls- where you could swim. The tour ended at Fao Fao Beach Fale where we had a late lunch . The tour wasn’t exactly cheap for a solo traveller but it was all worth it.
Day Four: I decided to explore the other island in Samoa called Savaii island. To get there, I had to take an early morning (6am) taxi to town (Apia) then a hour ferry. When I arrived at Savaii, I went straight to Tourist Office which is just a 5 mins walk from the ferry whart. I wanted to get an idea of taxi prices for places I would like to visit. They gave me a price range and I got a taxi to take me to three location and back to the whart for 200 Samoan Talas (USD$78). By the way, you will be hustled by several taxi drivers. Ignore them and walk to the tourist office.
We went to the Lava Field first – it took us about an hour to get there. It used to be a village, there was an eruption and lava slowly took over the village. Most people were able to get out alive. Now, you can walk around and see the damage the lava caused. We went to the Blowholes afterwards, on the other side of town so almost an hour to get there as well. You still had to walk 1 mile or so from the beach car park. I don’t really know the scientific explanation for blowholes, you can read it here. There is a big eruption of water from several holes in the rocks – that’s what the blowholes looked like. Fascinating!
Last we went to a waterfalls, Afu Aau Waterfalls. Also a good walking distance from the car park. You can swim there, the water is pretty cold. After that, I wanted to get lunch before going to the whart. The ferry left 30 minutes late. It took us longer to get to Upolu Island, about 2 hours because the ferry was the slow one. I got back to the Taufau Beach Fale around 7.30pm.
Day Five: The same folks from New Zealand offered me a ride to the airport in Apia because they were going sightseeing in town. We left around 11am. The flight to New Zealand was overbooked and they needed volunteers to give up their seat. I was tempted to take up that offer since they were going to pay for the hotel and give a NZ$500 voucher. I didn’t volunteer L because I was already not spending much time in New Zealand and I didn’t want to shorten my stay any further.
Four Things You Need To Know About Samoa
- Rent a car, it will save you taxi fares especially if you are staying at one of the beach fales away from Apia.
- Most people don’t speak English here (unlike Fiji) so there will be a language barrier.
- Make sure to attend a FiaFia night. You will be impressed.
- Get a sim card and internet data on it. Most hotels or fales will not have wifi
P.S., Talofa means hello in the Samoan language.
I knew I would love Fiji and I was right. While planning my accommodation, I was initially going to stay with a couchsurfer because I felt Fiji might be one of those countries where you need someone from there to show you around in order to have a great time. However as my trip got closer, I didn’t feel like staying with anyone and I was skeptical of the hostels I saw on hostelworld. My thinking was that an hostel can’t be good in Fiji because Fiji is luxurious. Boy, was I wrong.
Anyways my initial plan was to stay at a resort for 2 nights, go on a overnight tour and return to the resort for my last night. I also wanted to explore the Nadi area without navigating public transport, so I searched for an affordable tour online. I found one via TripAdvisor – ToursByLocals, I contacted Ryan and we agreed on a price. I also asked him to pick me up from the airport since his airport transfer rate was cheaper than the resort rate. By the way, I would recommend Ryan of ToursByLocal. As always, agreed on price and what is included in the package beforehand. This prevents misunderstanding.
Day 1: I got picked up from the airport. The distance from the airport in Nadi is not far from Denarau – where the resort is located. Denarau Island is reclaimed land and houses several resorts like Sofitel, Hilton, Best western and so on. A few residential houses are also in Denarau. Since my flight got in pretty late, I went to bed shortly after arriving at my resort.
Day 2: I woke up to amazing view. Breakfast was great. My city tour with Ryan started around 11am. We went to a local village, then the Hindu Temple. The temple is colorful and beautiful. After that, we proceeded to the local market where I got to try Kava for the first time. Kava is a traditional ceremonial drink in Fiji made from root of a herbal plant. It has no sweet taste and your tongue feels numbs afterwards. There is also a process to the Kava ceremony. It is rude to decline the first kava drink given to you by your host. When given to you, you clap once and say ‘Bula’ (warm greetings), you drink it then clap three times and say Vinaka (thank you). You can watch the video of the man preparing the Kava drink here.
After the local market, we went to a botanical garden surrounded by a mountain that looks like a two sleeping giants hence the name of the garden – The Garden of the Sleeping Giant. The garden is beautiful and have a walking trail. If you are not into gardens, you can skip it. The last site for the day was the Mud pool and hot springs. Here, your inner child comes out. You rub mud on your body, let it dry and get into a slightly muddy water to rinse off. You then go into three other pools (hot spring) to rinse off. I opted for a 30mins massage afterwards – it was good. Don’t compared the hot springs to that of Guatemala. You wouldn’t be impressed if you do.
Before returning to the resort, I had a delicious dinner at a local restaurant – Tu’s Place. Most delicious food I ate in Fiji.
Day 3: I was suppose to go on an overnight trip with pick up at 6.45am. Somehow I managed to miss the pick up. I called 10mins after the pick up time but they couldn’t come back. Oh well. I managed to get on a similar tour but not overnight for the following day. I decided to move to one of the hostels (saving money). I choose Bamboo House – the online review was great and locals said it was a better choice for hostel. The view at Bamboo is great. They have a restaurant, swimming pool, tour desk and bar on site. I stayed in a female dorm with bathroom en-suite. I paid USD$15/night. They do have private room available. I think the price is USD$30/night. Affordable!!.
I just chilled at the beach. The hostel is right on the beach.
Day 4: I was picked up at 6.45am for the tour. The tour starts in Namosi near the Navau river which is about 2 hours away from Nadi. We picked up people from various resorts on our way there. Once there, we boarded a boat to the first stop of the tour. The boat ride was about 45 minutes, we finally got to the waterfalls – stunning!. After the waterfalls, we got on a bamboo rafting for a few minutes before continuing the tour to a village at the Namosi highlands.
At the village, we were shown where our lunch was being prepared – underground oven called a lovo! We were led into the village’s community center where a welcoming ceremony was performed. You can watch the ceremony here. After that, we had lunch – tasty! The women of the village have a great varieties of arts & craft. I got some earrings.
Eventful day it was. We made the long ride back to Nadi. At the hostel, I joined some local guys and folks staying at the hostel for Kava and music.
Day 5: Oh, on day 3, I met Jade. She was staying at the hostel and we found out we were both going to Samoa on the same day. I rode with Jade in the afternoon to the airport. The check in line was pretty long.
5 Things I Learned from Fiji:
- I know most picture we see of Fiji smells LUXURY!!!! It doesn’t have to be. There are other types of accommodation such as mid-range and budget resort an hour or so away from Nadi/Denarau, Airbnb and Hostels.
- Renting a car will give you better flexibility to see the country.
- You don’t have to book your tours in advance. Actually, it’s better and might be cheaper not to. Your resort, hotel, Airbnb and hostel all have a travel/tour desk where you have varieties to pick from or create your own. The prices are mostly better than online ones.
- Try the Kava. It wouldn’t kill you.
- You don’t need a lover, spouse, significant other to enjoy Fiji. You can enjoy it as a solo traveler :).
P.s, Bula is a greeting in the Fijian language.
Australia has been a dream destination for me for several years now so last summer, I started planning my epic trip. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap like a budget travel to say South America but I was determined to make it as budget friendly as possible. Planning this trip was overwhelming for me because I got several feedback from people that have visited on what to do.
So in the end, you have to stay true to yourself and figure out what you actually enjoy doing or what activities you don’t mind trying. I planned what cities I was going to visit based on interest and ticket prices. I knew I wasn’t spending ‘enough’ time in some places, my philosophy in traveling is ‘You don’t have to visit all ‘MUST SEEs’ in one trip,’ you can always come back to said country.
Anyways, enjoy my itinerary in Australia.
Sydney: I arrived on June 1st from Jakarta, Indonesia. I had an incredibly horrible immigration experience at the Sydney airport. I was questioned for 2 hours, I answered the same questions AGAIN & AGAIN! They demanded to see my bank account details so I was given a computer to log into my online banking account. He demanded my phone password, went away with my phone, photocopied my driver’s license. I was later collected my the customs officer who seem like a genuinely good person. He asked me if I wanted to know why I was being questioned,I said yes. He said it was suspicious for a solo female traveler to travel like I do. SMH!!! Enough with the immigration experience.
I got to my hostel at around 12.30pm. I planned on relaxing my first day in Sydney but my morning experience pissed me off so I decided to explore. I went to the city center to join a Free Walking Tour. The tour was great, we hit all the major sights around the CBD area. The tour ended at Circula Quay where you could see the Sydney bridge and Opera House.
Day 2: I went on a tour to the Blue Mountains with Sightseeing Tours Australia. With this tour, we went to the Scenic world where you can ride world’s steepest scenic railway (that was fun by the way). We stopped at a beautiful small town – Leura – for lunch. We stopped at several other places as well including a waterfall. The tour guide tried very hard to take us to places where we could spot Kangaroos. We were lucky, we saw a few. Check out the video here or click the link at the end of the blog post. Note, the video is not the best but you can still get excited.
Day 3: I had intended on taking the ferry to Manly for the day, however, it rained non-stop. I stayed in bed most of the day, only getting up for lunch and dinner. Good day in bed it was :).
Day 4: Still raining all day. The local news reported the city was having historic flooding. In an attempt not to stay in bed like the previous day, I tried going to the city centre to catch up with another free walking tour. That didn’t happen y’all, I wasn’t feeling the combination of rain + cold so I decided to go to a nearby Café – Café Hernandez.
Day 5: Departed Sydney for warmer climate (Fiji)
I returned to Australia at the end of June (the 25th). I arrived to this pleasant town called Cairns. Weather was on point :). Immigration experience was a breeze :). I stayed in cool hostel here in Cairns – JJ Backpackers. It’s a small town, I was able to explore the whole downtown area the same day I arrived.
Day 2: I went on a day tour to the Taberlands (mountains) with the Wallaby tour. The tour was amazing mostly because we got to see two waterfalls :). With the tour, we visited the oldest tree in Australia (500 years) and a Volcanic Crater Lake formed by a volcanic eruption. There is also an amazing trail around the lake, beautiful 45 mins walk around the lake. Next we went to Millaa Millaa Waterfalls, Dinners Falls where we saw a tree kangaroo. Apparently they are very difficult to spot so we were extremely lucky to have seen one. How splendid!
Day 3: Slept in. Walked along the main street. Departed Cairns for Melbourne in the late evening
I arrived very late at night, had to wait 45mins for my shuttle to arrive. Got to my hostel a little after midnight. My hostel has a great name by the way – The Nunnery. On getting to my three bed-dorm room, I noticed I was the only girl, the other two were males. Heart skipped a bit (I lie, a lot). They were sleeping so maybe no problem. Went to bed.
Day 2: Asked the ‘Nuns’ to change my room because I wasn’t comfortable with my current. They were great about it, changed me to an all female dorm. I went to the downtown area to explore. Federation square and the Yarra river caught my attention. I later went to dinner with an American girl from my room.
Day 3: Slept in :). I booked a walking tour with Melbourne by Foot – so at noon, I strolled to the meet up point. The tour was great – 3 hours. He showed and schooled us on the history behind the city, we stopped at historic buildings, arcades, laneways, art alleys and the river. The laneways are beautiful – small alleys lined with cafes, bars and restaurants.
I made it to the Eureka Skytower in time to watch the sunset – simply beautiful. The Skydesk is the tallest building in Melbourne. On the 88th floor, you get a 360 view of the city. Don’t miss it. While enjoying the view, I met a sister from Zimbabwe. She didn’t believe I was Nigerian because my name – Kunbi – is a Zimbabwean name. She was visiting with her family from the Uk where they currently leave. We exchanged contact info but I most likely will not keep in touch because she is a world venture person. I call them the Jehovah Witness of Travel.
Day 4: I left for my Great Ocean Road tour at 6.45am with Bunyip tours. Tres early! Sadly, the weather sucked really bad this day. The great ocean road is a curvy road with coastal view – beautiful on a great weather day but misty on rainy days. I slept for the first hour of the ride :). We stopped at a bird place where colorful local bird are plentiful. I admired them from the café in front of the tree. Too cold and raining to be playing with birds. Afterwards we went to a lighthouse where we had lunch. The lighthouse wasn’t really a tall one so climbing the stairs was not stressful. However, once you get to the top, it was VERY windy. Great view though.
We stopped at the 12 apostles. Thankfully, it stopped raining. I opted for the helicopher scenic flight based on recommendation from my friend Colleen. You can read her post here. I was nervous because me and height aren’t great friends. The pilot was super professional and eased my fears. That was my highlight for the day.
We went to Locd Ard George next, it’s 5 minutes drive from the 12 apostles. I was only able to see two out of the three lookout before it started raining HARD. We left and decided not to go to the last stop on the tour because the rain was impossible. We got back to Melbourne around 7.15pm after a 2.5hour drive.
I went straight to bed.
Day 5: Slept in. Decided to join the 2.30pm Free Walking Tour. Glad I did. It was very different from the walking tour I did two days before. Different perspective, different places. I felt I had a better overview of Melbourne after participating on the two walking tours. It was on this tour I was made aware of the different ethnic communities for example, we went to Chinatown and the guide told us there was little Africa, little Italy and so on. I would have loved to visit those neighborhood.
Late evening, I went to Brunswick Street in the Frizroy area – the street is lined up with restaurants and bars. Great nightlife spot. I met up with an old friend and his girlfriend. See, the beautiful part of traveling is meeting up with folks you met while traveling. I met this friend in Panama in December 2009. Amazing, right?
Day 6: Departed Melbourne at 8am which meant early morning :(.
Arrived in Darwin at 12 noon and got to my Airbnb an hour later. It felt glad to be in a private room in a real house. Getting tired of hostels. Walked around. Darwin is a small town. Oh, did I forget, the weather is amazing. A break from the cold Melbourne.
I attempted to book a tour but their website was giving me an error message. Decided that was a sign to just chill in Darwin. No activities.
Day 2: Slept in. Went to the laundry mat to do my laundry. Went to the Waterfront area, read and people watched. Had dinner at a Mexican place – decent.
Day 3: last day in Darwin and Australia. Mixed feelings. Flight is late in the afternoon so I had the morning to visit the waterfront area.
There are several things to do in Darwin such as the croc cove, duckexploring, hop on hop off, walking tour and so on. I choose to do nothing but eat, eat and eat. I still enjoyed my stay.
Overall, glad I made this trip to Australia.
7 Tips for your Trip to Australia
- Melbourne is definitely my favorite city. I love the vibe and I hope to get an opportunity to live in Melbourne in the future. I’ll be working on that.
- Australia is not cheap so you have to plan accordingly. If you are traveling in groups, maybe renting a car will save you some money. I hate driving so renting a car on vacation is never an option for me.
- Taxis from the airport is not cheap in most cities. Use the airport shuttle, they drop you off at your destination.
- The Hop on Hop off bus might be a great way to explore the visit.
- Solo traveler? Don’t be afraid to join organized tours.
- Australia is BLESSED with numerous Asian restaurants. What type of Asian food are you craving? Oz got it all. They taste better than those in the USA or Caribbean.
- Visit an Aboriginal cultural center or go on organized cultural tour to Aboriginal place.
I got into Dar es Salaam after a wonderful introduction to East Africa in Seychelles. My Couchsurf host picked me up from the airport. Another couchsurfer from Japan was staying with him. We chatted and she gave me tips on the other countries I would be visiting. I stayed in Dar (the capital) for 3 days before leaving to Zanzibar. While in Dar, I met up with three other couchsurfers and one of them gave me a tour of the city center. He is a tour guide, speaks great English and very knowledgeable. We had breakfast at the Fish Market and visited a few of Dar’s historical sites.
I also went to the craft market – varieties of things to buy at a very decent price. In my opinion, the craft market in Tanzania is the best in the region in terms of varieties and price.
I took the ferry to Zanzibar, it was a comfortable ride. I was picked up by my AirBnb host, we walked to the place and I was extremely disappointed with the place. I felt uncomfortable and immediately went out in search of another accommodation. Two hours later, I moved to a hotel called Keki’s house. It cost $45/night and only cash payment was accepted. The staff and manager made me feel comfortable. In fact, that night I was invited to a beach party an hour away from StoneTown by the manger. The beach party was at Ngalawa Beach Resort, a beautiful place own by a friendly Canadian couple. The food was delicious and they played mostly Nigerian music :).
I went on a walking city tour with the tour guide from Keki’s house hotel. I also had my hair done by a Massai guy. I watched the sunset from some of Stonetown’s finest rooftop restaurants. I meet some great and not so great people. I had great and some not so great experiences in Zanzibar. Overall, I’m glad I had a chance to visit this historical town.
This East African country stole my heart. Definitely, Kenya is my favorite country in East Africa. It felt like home coming. I was accepted as one of them as soon I landed at the Mombasa airport. I went straight to Diani beach, Diani is about 45mins from Mombasa town, all would have to cross via ferry. Diani was very quiet, I can see why most people would love it there. This is villas, hotels and guesthouse galore. I spent a night there and the next day I went to explore Old Mombasa town. Nothing much here except the Fort Jesus and old neighborhood surrounding it where you can find colonial styled buildings. I took the night bus to Nairobi, something I wouldn’t do again. It was a long bumpy and uncomfortable 10 hours ride to Nairobi. The bus wasn’t at its cleanest, the roads was in very bad shape. No sleep on that bus.
Next morning, I arrived in Nai (short for Nairobi) smelly and tired. I settled into the Airbnb I stayed effortlessly, one would think I’ve lived in Nai before. The house was in a perfect location, the wi-fi at the house was excellent, and various restaurant and bars close by.
Some of the things I did in Nai was going to the Elephant orphanage, Giraffe center, Kenyatta International Conference center and a tour of the city center. The best part was hanging out with folks from Nairobi.
Kenya especially Nairobi felt like home. Nairobi is now on the list of places I would love to live in.
I arrived at Entebbe from Nairobi. Entebbe is about 30minutes to Kampala. People thought I was Kenyan :). I got to my couchsurf house mid-day and was not feeling the vibe I was getting especially from her brother. I usually stay with females living with their family but this host never mentioned a brother living with her. Anyways, the next day I convinced my host to go with me to a site that has this amazing tree. The tree is supposed to have supernatural powers. I’m obsessed with trees so I wanted to see. The tree was pretty big and interesting looking. The guides there sucked pretty bad though.
I left the cousurf place the next day because the brother was really creeping me out. I moved into an Airbnb place that was pretty awesome. I decided to visit Jinja to see the river Nile. I did a sunset cruise and enjoyed the view from the hostel. The view is dope. I returned to Kampala and did the best city tour ever. The tour was with a motorbike, it is safe and all. We stopped at various places including the King’s palace, Gadaffi’s Mosque and the Bahai Temple. I loved the tour!
I was sad to leave Uganda. The food here tasted wayyyyyyy better than that in Tanzania, Kenya or Rwanda. It has flavor.
The last stop on my 11 country trip. I know for most of us, when we think of Rwanda, we automatically think Genocide. But there are many other aspect of Rwanda. I didn’t know what to expect when I took the 10 hours bus ride from Kampala, Uganda. I was picked up by the Airbnb host, I was able to get a sim card before getting to where I would be staying. Compared to the other countries I visited in East Africa, Rwanda is so laid back.
It is also most likely, the cleanest country in Africa. You can eat off the ground, it’s that clean. The country is experiencing an ongoing transition from Franco-phone country to Anglo-phone country so more people speak English now. I met up with two expatriate friends and a couchsurfer. I visited three genocide memorial sites. I saw way too many skeletons. My tour guide took me to two of these sites. He lost his family during the genocide.
I attended part of the film festival as well. I did an overnight trip to Lake Kibuye. The hotel I stayed at had an amazing view! I did an hour boat cruise of the lake – awesome experience. The bus ride was ok, the roads were in great condition. The view in Kigali is a killer especially at night. The city is surrounded by mountains. I would visit again.
- Air fares
Airline tickets – Plan your journey in advance and avail the discounts that you may find on different websites. Though these sites charge you $5 service fee but it is worth it as these websites combine different flight segments from different airlines to give you a great deal.
Round trip tickets – try looking for return tickets as usually one-way tickets are more expensive. Its kind a weird but if you don’t feel like don’t use the return ticket.
Plan your meal – Eat before you go out as one never knows where he or she will be. This is beneficial for two reasons, one for your wallet second for your stomach as u might not find economical restaurants which tastes great.
Cook for yourself – many people think that cooking for oneself is a hectic job, but in my opinion in the process of travel one should at least try to cook for themselves as this is economical, hygienic and quite a experience to judge what kind of cook you can do.
Eat more in lunch then in dinner – fancy lunches are inexpensive then fancy dinners. If you take big breakfast and lunch followed by light dinner, it’s okay, this is also healthier.
- Car rentals
Car rental coverage – Some insurance companies and credit card merchants have rental coverage deals in order to take advantage of those who rent a car. One has to just for a rental car via credit card that might cover you. You can also check RideShareApps for Lyft driver promotions for September 2015 – Get your bonus now.
Size matters – try to get smallest car as possible as, in a case where bigger car is not required, as the little car rent is cheap but also you save on paying for extra on gas that a bigger car needs.
Driving is not bad – Want to take a 1 hour flight? I think driving would be preferable and convenient as, one can save his energy, which is drained when travelling via flight due to the luggage boarding then walking towards the terminals and then those congested seats to be shared with a fellow passenger. You can even take you bag where ever you want with easily while you drive.
Watch that currency – If one does not consider of where he wants to go then just consider the exchange rate when you travel. This sometimes makes the biggest difference.
Currency local websites – As the currency rates change rapidly, try using the local website to book your currency, this will be cheaper.
Duty free shops – Duty free shops are the best, many airports have these shops. One might not get a good deal from these shops but saving tax is itself an achievement and buying becomes a little less expensive.
Tax refunds – Tax refunds are basically, money which you could claim back from the airport. As one make purchases during his stay in the country he pays the local taxes which could be claimed back at the airport by filling some forms and showing proofs. Little taxes might not bring you much but bigger taxes for huge purchases could save you some extra before leaving the country. Few countries provide these facilities for example U.K.
Summary: This article explains tips how to stay in your budget
- How one could save money through booking advance air tickets
- How currency exchange rates save you some amount
- Duty free shops are the best place to make tax free purchases
- How one could claim tax before leaving the country.
**Guest Post by Daniel**
******Guest Blog Post: This post is written by Dan Mitroi******
You’re thinking about getting treatment abroad. You heard about it on your TV, on the internet, from your friends, relatives or acquaintances. Medical tourism is a highly debated topic nowadays and you can find information available everywhere. But how do you know which are the steps to be followed, how does this journey take place and which are the things to keep in mind?
Deciding to go for medical treatment abroad is a big decision for anyone. It involves the patient’s health, money, time and other types of resources. It’s important to know key aspects about the journey you are thinking to make.
First, the international patient starts a detailed research online. A lot of hospitals, medical hubs, clinics, a lot of treatment options, plenty of doctors and many testimonials from other people. Prices are also ranging depending on the destination and the treatment offered. Numerous packages that include accommodation, transportation and other facilities. Which one is the best for you? – you may be asking.
First things first: as a responsible adult, the medical tourist want to be safe during the entire trip. Wants to have plenty of options to choose from. Wants to receive advice from people with experience in this field. And that’s why the patient starts searching for a medical tourism company that offers the services needed by anyone planning this kind of journey. Companies like PlacidWay are able to help people choose among renowned hospitals, treatment options and doctors. They offer packages that include all the facilities that will make this trip facile and comfortable. Of course, the packages can be customized for each and every patient.
After choosing a trustworthy medical tourism company, the patient knows that there is someone there to help during the entire process. After analyzing multiple destinations, clinics, doctors, treatment options, packages and prices, together with the medical tourism consultants, the patient is able to pick the option that best fits his needs. The package that gathers everything, from transportation, accommodation, medical care, consultations, tests to after care and some days extra to visit the new place he’s never been before.
The big day has come. The patient steps into the plane, starting the real part of the journey to a healthier life and to knowing a new, exciting place. The plane is leaving and shortly, the patient arrives at the destination. The transportation to the hotel or hospital is waiting. After checking in, the medical tourist goes for his first evaluation and first lab tests. After the results, he’s ready to go. The procedure or the treatment will start the next day. The patient meets the doctor and the staff, asks questions, and makes sure everything will happen according to the plan.
After undergoing the treatment or the procedure, the patient spends some time at the after-care and, at the end enjoys some extra days visiting a new, exciting place. Healthier, happier and more accomplished.
After getting the doctor’s last recommendations, the patient is ready for departure. He steps in the plane, waiting to get home and talk about this experience he is happy about. The medical tourist lands home. He keeps in touch both with the medical tourism company and the doctor from the hospital abroad, for further updates and recommendations.
The entire time, the international patient keeps in touch with the medical tourism company. The role or organizations like PlacidWay is to assist the patient before, during and after the journey and make sure everything is fine.
As a kid, when we traveled as a family, my mother did all the packing. We would pack everything and anything. My mother’s motto was to pack for all situations. So each person ended up with two luggage and a carry on. Fast forward to 2008, when I took my first solo trip. I went to Guatemala for two months and I had a large suitcase, carry on and backpack. Guess what, I didn’t even wear more than half of what I packed. I also learned that over packing made traveling inconvenient. Since then, I have improved on my packing skills (still not an expert). For instance, when I backpacked across Colombia and Central America for a year, I had only a 60 litre backpack. Since then, I only travel with an 18inches carry on and a small backpack.
So you might wonder, how do I decide what to pack? Mostly, the weather of my destination decides this. I mostly pack a pair of skinny jeans, leggings, a nice dress, one or two dressy tops and a few casual tops and my medications (I have allergies and sensitive tummy). I also pack along a party shoe, scandal, flip flop, good walking shoes, a good book (I exchange it when done for another one), contact lenses and essential toiletries. A pair of sunglasses always come in handy especially when you have contact lenses on. Prescription sunglasses are other alternative for those that prefer not to use contact lenses. However the two things that I ALWAYS pack with me are a sarong and my phone.
Sarong is vital especially for the budget traveler. The differences uses of Sarong:
- I use it as a towel – traveling with a towel takes up space so I opt for a Sarong.
- At the beach – since I don’t travel with a towel, my sarong serves the same purpose at the beach
- As a scarf
- As a covering sheet for chilly nights – I get cold real easy so sometimes when I stay in hostels, I’ve had to use my sarong at night because I was cold.
- Recently, I had to wrap my sarong around myself in order to enter a scared site in Uganda
The best part about the sarong is it weighs nothing hence can fit in your bag. Also when used as a towel, it dries quickly since it is made of light fabric.
My phone (this includes the charger, universal converter and power bank). Typically, I am not a phone person but when traveling, it makes my life easier. How I use my phone abroad:
- I have an unlocked phone so I can get a sim card when I arrive at most countries for equivalent of USD$2. This makes it easier to coordinate with my local contacts and friends.
- I don’t have a camera so my phone serves as my camera.
- My favorite part is the apps (Google Map, AirBnB, Couchsurfing, Currency Converter & WalkLogger).
- Google Map: I struggle with directions so my phone comes to my aid. During my travel in Nairobi, Kenya this July, locals I asked for directions were unable to give me exact directions so I turned to Google Map and Voila, I get directions to where I’m going. I remembered the time a taxi driver in Istanbul tried to take a longer route to get more money off me, Google Map saved the day. I simply turned on the map and politely asked why he wasn’t taking that route. The expression on his face was priceless.
- I recently started using AirBnB on my two months summer trip. I would send a request for a place in Mombasa, Kenya while I was traveling in Zanzibar, Tanzania a while before my trip to Kenya. The app made this possible.
- Currency converter app made it very convenient for me. This summer, I planned to visit 11 countries with varying currencies and exchange rates. It also helped when exchanging money (making sure I wasn’t getting cheated) or when buying something.
Note: using my phone while traveling is convenient for me, first because I use T-Mobile and with its global coverage, I have access to free unlimited texts and data in about 100 countries. For the countries not included in T-Mobile global coverage, I use the data package for the local sim card I purchased.
What are your two must have items when traveling?
I’ve been great at making the most of my layover. When I found out I had layovers in both Abu Dhabi and Seychelles I excitedly email the airline to extend my layover from the original 4 hours to a few days. I extended Abu Dhabi to 48hours and Seychelles to 4 days. They extended it at no charge :).
I landed in Abu Dhabi around 1am, went through the smiley immigration lady and took the free Etihad bus to Dubai. Arrived at the hotel 3 hours later and went straight to bed after booking desert safari tour for later in the day (last minute planning). Woke up a few hours later to admire my hotel – I had a one bedroom apartment to myself :).
Around 4pm, I got picked up for the evening desert safari. We started out slow, visiting a store where they try to sell you everything under the sun. Lol. I bought a scarf and the full caftan dress. Then the fun started, the drive to the desert was scary as hell. I managed not to be scared, maybe because of the really annoying girl who screamed the whole time. Anyways, got to the camp in the desert. Rode a camel for the first time ever! Met a girl from Ukraine, had henna done and enjoyed a yummy dinner at sunset. Great way to spend my first 24 hours in UAE :).
Next day, I was to do a city tour but it was cancelled so I took a taxi to Emirate mall to do the hop off hop on city bus tour. Expensive. $65 for the cheapest rate. Anyways got to see a lot in Dubai like this. At 3pm, took a shared taxi back to Abu Dhabi for $4. Went straight to the airport to check in my bags and left again to see the Grand Mosque. Sadly, by the time I got there, the mosque was closed to tourists as it was time for breaking fast. Went back to the airport and waited for my flight to Seychelles.
This was some expensive layover. In 48hours, I spend close to USD$500 hotel included. However, intriguing experience it was. I want to revisit after Ramadan fasting is over.
This country is great at catering to luxury travelers. The cheapest available place I could find was 88 Euros a night (the most I’ve ever paid for accommodation)! And this is for a basic standard place. Thank God, it was just for one night. I stayed with a couchsurfer for the remaining three nights.
This was also the second time on my summer trip that I would have a sh**y experience at immigration. I was bombarded with several questions. They called my guesthouse to confirm my reservation and escorted me to an ATM to check how much money I had. I think I handled it well (with a slight attitude off course) especially when I was asked why am I traveling alone. My response (in my very Nigerian attitude)–‘because I can plus I have the money to’!
Left the airport to my guesthouse which was about 20mins away uphill. The view at the guesthouse was amazing. The lady in charge gave me a ride to town where I did a bit of sightseeing in Victoria – the capital of Seychelles. I took the bus back – that was the easier part. The painful part was walking up a very steep hill to the guesthouse. Never again!
The next day, I hired the same taxi driver for a tour of Mahe Island for USD$106 (1500 Rupees). Money well spent. The island is amazing, every town has an amazing beach. The most popular are Anse Major, Anse Lilot, Sunset and Beau Vallon beaches. We stopped at the tea factory and a few non-beach attractions. Mahe (the biggest island in Seychelles) is absolutely beautiful. Later in the day, I met up with the couchsurfer I was going to stay with at Beau Vallon. There was a street fair – lots of food, drink and performance.
Following day which was a Thursday, I went to a smaller island – La Digue. I was torn between that and another island Praslin but locals recommended La Digue since I had just a full day to explore. There was no direct boat to La Digue so took the ferry first to Praslin before taking another to La Digue. One special thing about La Digue is that you can ride your bicycle or walk around the island. Since I don’t ride bikes, I walked. I didn’t walk the whole island, only walked half of it (10miles long). I went to the number 1 beach in world (Anse Source d’Argent). I cannot do justice to this beach by describing it. You walk through rocks to get there. Once there, there are lovely rocks at various location making the beach look divine! Oh, before getting to the beach, you pass by a tortoise pen when you see massive tortoise.
After exploring and chilling at the beach, I passed by two other equally beautiful beaches (Anse La Reunion & Anse La Passe) before getting to Anse Severe beach. Concluded my day in La Digue with delicious late lunch at Fish trap restaurant – close to the jetty (ferry back to Praslin-Mahe). You can choose to sit outside on the beach or inside where you still have a beach view. At 4.30, took the ferry back to Praslin then another to Mahe.
My last day in Seychelles, I went to work with my host. She teaches at a Montessori school and I was curious on how things worked at Montessori schools. The kids loved me :), they thought I was their new teacher. Left at noon and pretty much relaxed at Sunset beach until early evening. That night, we partied. First at Eden Island (a manmade island for the rich that is connected to Mahe by a bridge) and ended up at a club in Beau Vallon. We got back home at around 4.30am and I had to wake up at 6.30 for the airport. So no sleep for me.
Note: I was able to experience these two countries only because I made good use of my layover.
My trip continues on to other countries in East Africa. Seychelles was a brilliant introduction to East Africa.
I just completed my first trip across four countries in Europe. See, Europe has not been on my radar hence the delay in visiting. A deal came up on WOW airline to Reykjavik, Iceland from Baltimore, Maryland for only USD$156. No way was I going to pass off the deal. Another deal caught my eye – USD$600 roundtrip ticket from London to Tanzania. That’s two Western European countries booked. I figured I might as well add two more.
I arrived at the airport pretty early. They weigh your bags and make you pay for extra pounds/kilos. Boarded the flight from Baltimore airport. Flight was delayed two hours. The airline is real low cost because they don’t even serve you water! You thirsty, you pay 2 Euros for a bottle water. Arrived safely in Iceland and we booked a bus ticket to town. The bus was supposed to drop us off first since our Airbnb place was not too far from the airport. However, they put us on the wrong bus, dropped off everybody at their hotel, take us back to the main bus terminal before putting us on the right bus. Already getting pissed because we had booked an 11am tour of blue lagoon, so with all, we were wasting time.
We drop off at the spot the Airbnb host told us but we didn’t know what directions – all he gave was the address, no detailed directions. We walked in the wrong direction (in the cold with no gloves), asked someone for directions and started back on the right track. Finally we got to the place, dropped our bags and hurried to a nearby hotel where our 11am tour was leaving from. They never came to pick us or we missed them. Either ways, we had to pay for one way transport to the blue lagoon. We get there and they can’t find our reservation. Thankfully, I had an email confirmation showing prove of payment. Clearly, nothing has happened as planned since our arrival in Iceland. We mentioned this to the lagoon attendant and he gave us a free towel rental & free drink voucher (15 Euros value). That put a smile on our angry & frustrated faces.
Sightseeing in Iceland
Blue Lagoon is great because of its color and temperature. We also did the saunas and little pool inside. We stayed about 2.5hours before leaving. Now, people have asked me if the Blue Lagoon is worth it. I don’t have an answer for that. True it is pricey and much overpriced but it can be an experience of a lifetime.
The next two days, we went on three overpriced tours. The experience was amazing but the price drained my wallet. We did the golden circle, south coast, city and sunlight at midnight tour. I wasn’t adventurous with the food as I refused to try shark and whale. I tried the Lamb stew which was delicious. My favorite was the south coast tour mostly because of waterfalls.
Two highlight from my Iceland trip are 1) the sun never setting: I’ve never experienced this before so it was fascinating to look outside just before going to bed at 1am and it’s not dark. 2) My travel buddy: I carefully select who I travel with because I can’t do drama. So many things did not go as planned on this trip and I love how we both handled the situation.
Iceland was the most expensive country I visited in Western Europe. I spent about $160 a day and I was pretty cheap. For example, I got grocery that way I wouldn’t need to eat out for breakfast and some lunch. We also stayed at an Airbnb on the outskirt of town because it was way cheaper.
Next stop was to the city of love. I was fortunate to stay with a friend I met at a hostel in Cartagena, Colombia way back in 2009. I actually liked Paris. The people were kind to me and helped with directions even though I didn’t speak French. I visited Versailles – this palace is impressive! I walked 9 miles exploring the palace and I skipped several places in the palace. Off course, I went to the Eiffel Tower. I took the elevator (too lazy to climb the stairs) to the top of the tower. Amazing view.
My host took me to a lounge in Chateau Eleysee area. The crowd is mostly North African. It was great seeing North Africans jamming to Nigerian music J. I also got to see them dancing to North African (mostly Algerian) music. The girls’ moves are similar to belly dancing and the guys move mostly upper body and hands. A famous Algerian musician performed as well.
I tried going to Louvre museum. First time going, it closed a few minutes before I got there and second time, the line was way tooooo long. Next time, maybe.
I got the chance to hang out with a friend from Guadaloupe. We met at a conference in Costa Rica in 2011 and stayed in contact. She cooked a typical food from Guadaloupe – Colombo chicken. Yummy. I also got to hang out briefly in a couchsurfer friend from Paris that I met in Lagos over two years ago. Had dinner with him and another couchsurfer. I tried goat cheese for the first time and I think I love it. If you know me, you will know I dislike cheese but goat cheese might change that, who knows.
I had just 3 days in Paris, not enough if you ask me. This is one city I’ll definitely revisit with pleasure.
London, I finally made it to London lol. So a lot of Nigerians have been unimpressed with my travels because I had not visited London. London to some Nigerians represent paradise. I call it colonial mentality. Britain colonized Nigeria until Oct 1st, 1960. Pretty recent.
I stayed with a friend. I met this friend in Guatemala in 2008, we met at a park, went for drinks and parted ways without exchanging contact info. Fast forward to 2012 in Lima, Peru at an event celebrating Afro-Peruvian heritage at the National museum, we meet again J. Small world. This time, we stayed in touch and voila, she hosts me in London.
We went to a film screening – interesting film and conversation. I tried a typical food – the Sunday Roast. Yummy. Forget fish & chips, Sunday Roast is dope. I met up with three other friends. Two of which I met for the first time. We belong to the same travel group. The third, I met in Lagos where we worked on a summer camp project together.
I was a touristJ. I went to London bridge (I had to) – growing up, the song -London bridge is falling down- was a staple lol. Went to Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Big Ben and some more. Given that I had just 4 days in London, I did a lot of sightseeing.
London is expensive!
My last city in Western Europe. Happens to be my favorite city thus far on the European travel. I stayed in great hostel on O’Conell street – close to everything you need in the city center. I stayed in their 6 bed female dorm for 19 Euros. This included breakfast which was quite good – yogurt, boiled eggs, bread, cereal, fruits and juice.
I did the hop on hop off city tour bus from where I explored the Guinness Store house, Kilmainham Goal jail house and others sites. The view on the 7th floor of the Guinness storehouse is amazing. I enjoyed the Kilmainham Goal jail house the best. I love Ireland’s history so for me, it was informative. I also did the tour of Glendalough and Powerscourt Gardens. I enjoyed Glendalough best, the small lake is amazing, sad I wan’t able to see the bigger lake. The tour did not give sufficient time in my opinion.
I met up with a friend that I met while traveling in Quito, Ecuador in 2011. He showed me around Dublin every day after work. I would be coming back to Ireland for sure. But this time around, I want to visit Belfast and other cities. Although I had a sh**y experience with the Irish immigration officer, I’m glad I didn’t let that affect my experience in the city.
This trip was an introduction to Europe for me. I reconnect with amazing folks I met while traveling in Latin America (my favorite region thus far J). See, traveling open doors