Category Archives: Budget Travel

Hidden Gems of Northern Europe

Riga Old Town, Latvia via Snezana Utovka

Home to some of Europe’s most exciting cities and breathtaking landscapes, there is so much to be explored and discovered in Northern Europe.

Encompassing seven countries and six different currencies, an essential part of touring Northern Europe is organizing your finances. There are some great exchange rates to be found online, as well as extensive information on the various currencies accepted throughout the continent.

From the medieval streets of Lithuania’s capital to the beautiful beaches of Bornholm, we take a look at some of Northern Europe’s hidden gems.

Riga Latvia Old Town

 Riga Old Town, Latvia

Amongst the winding, Kafkaesque streets of Riga’s Old Town you’ll find a multitude of historical and cultural treasures. Begin your exploration at the Town Hall in the heart of the city, where you’ll also find a range of historical and architecturally significant buildings such as St Peter’s Church (the oldest in Riga), the House of Blackheads and the Statue of Roland. When night falls, the quaint idyll of the Old Town makes way for revelry and partying, producing an interesting mix of old and new, beauty and glitz.

Cape Kolka Latvia

Cape Kolka, Latvia

Situated in on the north-western tip of Latvia, Cape Kolka is a picturesque spot where the Baltic Sea meets the Gulf of Riga. This remote, unspoiled location has remained relatively untouched by developers, leaving windswept, white sand beaches and a wild coastline to explore in peace and quiet. The nearby village of Kolka sits on the top of the cape and is the perfect spot from which to explore the sandy beaches, Slitere lighthouse and rugged landscape.

 Vilnius Old town

Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania

The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is home to one of the largest medieval towns in Northern Europe. While away the days walking amongst the baroque buildings, intricate spires and meandering lanes, stopping off at one of the quaint cafes or unique shops nestled amid the towns stunning streets. With architecture dating back to the 13th century, a visit to Vilnius provides a fascinating glimpse into Lithuanian life as it was hundreds of years ago.

Bornholm Denmark church

Bornholm, Denmark

Boasting the title of Denmark’s sunniest spot, Bornholm is a pastoral island situated to the east of the mainland. Home to 30km of stunning coastline, the island is popular amongst tourists from Eastern Europe, but remains relatively unknown by those further afield. Whilst the undiscovered beauty of this glorious island is all part of its charm, it would be a shame to miss the dramatic cliffs, picturesque bike rides and dazzling beaches of Bornholm off your itinerary.

10 Things That Make Your Head Spin in Cambodia

Bizarre Sights of Cambodia

Cambodia is often overlooked as a tourist destination in favour of its bigger brothers Thailand and Vietnam. And while most of Asia has its fair share of bizarre sights, those who do take the time to travel to the land of the Khmer are rewarded (and sometimes appalled) with some amazingly head-spinning sights that you just won’t see anywhere else. Like these…

Bizarre Sight #1: Motorbike Shops

Bizarre Sights of Cambodia, Motorcycle overloaded with toys and brooms, Krong Koh Kong, cambodia

These motorbikes, and sometimes bicycles can be seen in most towns in Cambodia. They ply anything from children’s toys to balloons to brooms to baskets. How they manage to weave through traffic is anyone’s guess. Which leaves us with the question – do they accept credit card?

Bizarre Sight #2: Long Loads

Iron beam on a truck, Krong Koh Kong, Cambodia

It’s safe to say you probably wouldn’t see something like this in Kansas. All sorts of engineering feats are accomplished in order to get goods from point A to point B. At least in this case, there is someone securing the beam in addition to the piece of rope strapping it to the back. There’s always that.

Bizarre Sight #3: Babies on Bikes

Baby and groceries on motorcycle, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I suppose at least the driver is wearing a helmet. That’s about the only positive thing I can see here.

Bizarre Sight #4: Street Meat

Pig Roasting, Krong Koh Kong, Cambodia

Cambodians like their meat. And in most cases, they like it displayed right out in the open. this is a one of the common bizarre sights of Cambodia. It’s not hard to find a full animal being roasted on the sidewalk. This chap does have a jaunty chef’s hat though. Wouldn’t want to have the health department breathing down our back now would we?

Bizarre Sight #5: Children Selling Fireworks

Child selling fireworks, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

One of the sadder sides to Cambodia’s rampant poverty is that children often do not get the education they need. In the beach town of Sihanoukville, many start work at a young age to help put food on the table for their families. It’s common to see kids as young as four years old collecting pop cans by day, then selling fireworks by night.

Bizarre Sight #6: Cocks Before the Fight

Caged roosters, Krong Koh Kong, Cambodia

Cockfighting is part of the cultural fabric of Cambodia, and has evolved into a sport featured right across the country. One of the most bizarre sights of Cambodia is to see these colorful creatures getting some fresh air before the fight — outside a bar. Or maybe they’re just eyeing up the competition?

Bizarre Sight #7: Pyjamas in Public

Mix and match pyjamas in public, Krong Koh Kong, Cambodia

Like China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, Cambodian women have embraced the PJ’s in public phenomena. Women here prefer to mix and match their outfits. The down side for visitors is that you’re not sure who’s working or who’s sleepwalking.

Bizarre Sight #8: Monks on the Beach

Monks on a beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Cambodia is XXXXXX % Buddhist, so monks are a fixture in every town and city here. Stereotypes have them praying all day and night in a mountain monastery, but in reality, you will see them everywhere – the supermarket, the bus stop, and in this case – the beach.

Bizarre Sight #9: Garbage, Garbage, Garbage

Garbage on the beach, Krong Koh Kong, Cambodia

Garbage is a huge problem in Cambodia. Trash bins are hard to come by, recycling is unheard of, and most are more than willing to chuck their garbage anywhere they happen to be – in this case, at the beach in Krong Koh Kong. (Yes, there is sand under there somewhere.) It’s a real shame. And that brings us to the last of our Bizarre Sights of Cambodia…

Bizarre Sights of Cambodia #10: Sunsets to Make Your Head Spin

Sunset, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Cambodia is blessed with jaw-droppingly beautiful sunsets. This makes our list of bizarre sights in Cambodia because it was so unexpected – and welcome – especially after our number 9 bizarre sight.

Cambodia has a  lot to offer visitors, and if you’re looking for an adventure on a budget, this country is certainly going to be very hard to beat.  We don’t think anywhere can beat the Bizarre Sights Of Cambodia.

Have you seen any Bizarre Sights of Cambodia?

5 Unique Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Looking for things to do in Chiang Mai?

Look no further. We’ve put together a great list of unique activities to keep you busy while in Thailand’s second largest city. If you are all ‘templed out’ this list will get you rejuvenated to take on the more traditional sites of Thailand.

When you’re done here, don’t forget to check out some other great tips on Things to Do In Bangkok!

Things to do in Chiang Mai: #1

What: Fishing for email.

Where: Best Fish Spa

Location: Chiang Mai Night Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hours of Operation: 09:00-11:30 daily
Phone Number +66 (086) 587 3192

That’s fishing for email, not phishing your email. Billed as the world’s first Fish Spa Internet Cafe, the Best Fish Spa is, well, the best fish spa in town.  Let dozens of little fish peck away at your skin while you peck away at your keyboard. The Best Fish Spa makes our list of things to do in Chiang Mai because it’s so unique. And because it will certainly keep you on your toes while you keep in touch.

Things to do in Chiang Mai: #2

What: Rubdown in lockdown

Where: Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution

Location: 100 Rachvithi Rd. Chiang Mai,Thailand
Hours of operation: 08:30-17:00 daily
Phone number: +66 (053)210 824

There a few options if a prison visit is in your future – commit a crime (not recommended) or do some time in a prison massage parlour. Billed as a way to rehabilitate those that are incarcerated, Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution offers massages from inmates set to be released. It’s a safe and easy way to cage your rage. And you’re helping inmates prepare for a better life on the outside – all the money they receive goes towards building a better life when they flee the coup.  Now that’s a happy ending we can all be proud of. Oh, and do check out the Prison Product Shop on your way out.

Things to do in Chiang Mai: #3

What: Take a Dump

Where: Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders 

Location: 72 Nimmanhemin Road, Soi 13 (midway between Suithep and Huay Kaew roads near Suan Dok Hospital). Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hours of operation: 09:00-17:00 (daily)
Entry: adults 300 baht, children 100 baht
Phone number: +66 (053) 211 891.

Take a dump, or at least take a look at one at with this entry in our list of Things to do in Chiang Mai. The Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders is not for the queasy. There were a few ‘Have the lambs stopped screaming Clarice” moments when this intrepid traveller made his way there earlier this year. Filled with moths, bats, walking stick bugs, beetles, and yes — elephant poo — this museum is a must for unique things to do in Chiang Mai. Leapin’ lizards, this is one pretty cool site! (And yes, they have leaping lizards there too.) Thankfully though, all the insects and creepy crawlies on display here are dead.

Things to do in Chiang Mai: #4

What: Blindly go where no man has gone before

Where: Thai Massage Conservation Club

Location: 99 Ratchamanka Road, around the corner from Wat Chedi Luang. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hours of operation: 08:00-20:00
Phone number: +66 (053) 904 452

If the prison massage doesn’t rub you the right way, how about adding a massage from the blind masseures at the Thai Massage Conservation Club to your list of things to do in in Chiang Mai? You are supporting a great cause by getting one here. Just remember the essential Thai phrases “Jep”, meaning “pain “and “Bao-bao” meaning “softer”.  You will certainly need them. And at prices starting from 150 Baht (about $5 USD), it’s also easy on your Thailand budget.

Things to do in Chiang Mai: #5

What: Sink Your Teeth into Fang

Where: Fang Hot Springs

Location: Fang, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. (163 km north of Chiang Mai city along the Chiang Mai Tha Ton Road (Highway No. 107). Turn left at km 153 for 11 km to Ban Pin.)
Hours of operation: 24 hours
Phone Number: N/A

While technically not located in the city of Chiang Mai, the Fang Hot Springs are located in the province of Chiang Mai. And this natural wonder is a great reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Some fifty hot springs boil continuously in this ten-acre forest setting. Water temperatures here can range from 90° C to 100°, so it’s the perfect activity if you like getting into hot water. The serene atmosphere and relatively few visitors make this an excellent choice for things to do in Chiang Mai.

What other things to do in Chiang Mai have you discovered?

Why Go To Vietnam?

travel globe vietnam soldier

Holidays to Vietnam are something really worth considering as a break from your standard holiday destination choice. Instead of going on your average trip to France or Spain with the family, your partner, or even on your own, why not try something more exciting and exotic?

Perhaps you’ve only seen Vietnam in films about the Vietnam War (most of which use Thailand as a filming location anyway). Maybe you think only of people with conical hats sailing down rivers and of Vietnamese food.

Maybe you need some eye-opening reasons why Vietnam is absolutely fantastic.

Vietnam has Wonderful Trains

The trains in Vietnam are fantastic. Not only do they traverse the length and breadth of the country but you can sleep on them along the way. Passengers can enjoy dinners of instant noodles and crackers on board too, as at the end of most of the carriages you will find a boiling water dispenser. Vietnamese people are very friendly and if you are sharing a sleeping carriage with locals they are likely to share food with you or try to be helpful even if they cannot speak your language.

Hoi An Vietnam at night

Trains stop in all the must see destinations such as Hoi An, the town with coloured lanterns and amazing tailors, and Hue, which sits on the Perfume River.

Vietnam Has a Famous Dead Body You Can Go See

What do you mean the idea of seeing a dead body in real life doesn’t excite you? Where is your morbid sense of curiosity? For those of you who have one, you can go and visit the body of Hồ Chí Minh in Hanoi. He lies underneath a glass case in a tomb based on Lenin’s. You have to arrive at the site early in the morning to get your turn to file around the body, as hundreds of people turn up each day to do exactly that. If you think about it, it’s pretty weird that he died more than 40 years ago yet you are seeing him as he was (although a bit paler and with eyes closed). What used to be Saigon is now Hồ Chí Minh City, named after the man who was president and who was important in forming the DemocraticRepublic of Vietnam as well as leading the Viet Cong, whose army fought the Americans during the Vietnam War.

There Are All Kinds of Interesting Translations

If you take a tour on a bus in a city such as Hồ Chí Minh City, you’re likely to be handed a flyer saying something like ‘Happy Tours’ at the top and filled with generally uplifting sentences that don’t necessarily actually mean anything in relation to the tour you are taking. And outside the place you so faithfully visited with Hồ Chí Minh’s dead body in it, you’ll notice a sign by the cloakroom that reads, ‘take luggage of foreigner, no charge.’

Funny translation on menu in Vietnam

While silly translations are obviously not a sole reason to go to Vietnam, they are sweet and one of those little uplifting elements to your travels.

Sophie Collard (@sophontrack)writes about fascinating places to visit and people she’s met while on her travels. She’s travelled in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia and loves the sense of distance and changing landscapes.

Ditch Bodrum for Istanbul

Istanbul Cistern

It’s really easy to find the cheapest airline tickets to package holiday destinations. Pick one of the ones you know to be overdeveloped and overcrowded; the Costa del Sol, Majorca, Faliraki… you get the picture, and you’ll see just how cheap they are. A lot of people who decide to go a little further afield and go for Turkey, choose one of the coastal resorts such as Bodrum.

Tourists think they’re getting the Turkish experience with tours organised by travel agencies paying a visit to things like the Turkish baths, where the men giving massages to tourists in bikinis sometimes look genuinely ashamed. Tours might take you out on a boat or to a local bar and the guides act as if you are getting the ‘local’ experience. But it certainly doesn’t always feel that way.

Istanbul sunset

While Turkey is a secular country, Islam is the dominant religion. Some of the Turkish people who live and work in the coastal resorts seem caught between dismay at the skimpily clad tourists and a delight in the business those tourists bring in. Covering up may not even help prove your modesty that much. Also, the famous markets in places like Bodrum may be big, but a lot of the things sold there are dodgy (like mouldy tobacco). It’s not necessarily worth spending your money on most of it.

There’s a bit of a lack of beach in places and the sea is a bit devoid of sea-life. If you want to come to visit Turkey, ignore the package deals and book yourself on to a historical tour to less tourist frequented beach destinations and see all the things of archaeological significance. Or visit Istanbul.

In Istanbul you will find the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. These include the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Museum of Islamic Art.  The Blue Mosque has to be the most famous and iconic of the buildings in the city. While there are hundreds of stunning buildings that were built during the many years the powerful Ottoman Empire was ruling, the Blue Mosque is the picture that makes it to your postcard. The interior is covered in thousands of blue tiles that lend themselves to the name of the building itself. There are many domes and minarets and the patterns in the interior are phenomenal. Another resplendent building in the city is Topkapi Palace, home over the years to sultans and consorts. One of the most interesting of all the fabulous things to see here is the Gate of the White Eunuchs. The entrance leads to the Third Court, which was once staffed by White Eunuchs. Also here is the Imperial Treasury, which holds many fascinating objects including the Topkapi Dagger, which has three massive emeralds in the hilt.

Istanbul Topkapi Palace - Middle Gate

Be sure to book yourself into a good restaurant at some time during your stay so you can sample kebabs and koftas as well as spicy tomato-based dishes. Try the yoghurt drink Ayran alongside the spicy dishes and for dessert a delicious baklava.

This is a guest post from John Hutchinson.  John has enjoyed travelling since he was a young boy when his parents first took him to visit family overseas. Since leaving home, John has tracked down family all over the world and regularly jets off to faraway lands to see distant relatives.