Author Archives: James

Plettenberg Bay – the crown jewel of the Garden Route

Cape Town had some serious gravity to it – with all its amazing things to see and do (and a buttload of work to get done), I spent three weeks there to start my time in South Africa. After catching up on projects, sightseeing, and waiting for the aftermath of the vicious Cape Storm to be cleared away, I was free to finally hit the road in SA.

The ranchlands of the Western Cape between Cape Town and the Garden Route

Destination #1: The Garden Route. Not an easy place to visit, as there are numerous places to stay – George, Knysna, Jeffery’s Bay – all these places had a pull to them. Once I typed in ‘Plettenberg Bay’ into Google Images, though, my fate was sealed: I simply had to make this my base in this beautiful region.

Shortly after arriving, I knew I had made the right choice.

I only had time for a quick look about town before retiring for the night. The next day was a wash, giving me a convenient excuse to get further caught up on work. With 20 degrees Celsius and sunshine predicted for the following one, though, I would quickly fall for this beautiful resort town

 

A well-deserved beer after a fun day walking this incredible beach

A well-deserved beer after a fun day walking this incredible beach

Oh, I forgot to mention something – despite it being officially winter at 34 degrees South Latitude on this particular day, the water was 17 degrees Celsius – bearable for hardy swimmers and plenty warm enough for experienced surfers.

Ever been to Plett? Geek out on how awesome this place is in the comments below!

PHOTO: A beautiful day in Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa

I have a habit of travelling to places outside peak season. And so it was with South Africa, as I landed in Cape Town in June. Good timing, eh? Not really. The seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning it was almost winter when I arrived in SA.

As luck would have it, though, it was much warmer than normal when got to my hostel in the neighbourhood of Observatory – 23 degrees Celsius to be exact. Sweet place to stay, by the way – it’s served by the third station from downtown on the Southern Line of Metro Rail, and it is full of indie restaurants and cute shops.

Pleasant weather like the kind depicted on this day is fleeting, though – one week later, and the worst storm in 30 years struck, bringing the winter rains and temperatures to a city dying of thirst. One year on, and Day Zero still looms on the horizon – here’s hoping this winter brings downpour after downpour.

The Mexico trip thus far: dodging winter, tackling my social media habits, and more

Progress (professional, personal, or otherwise) often proceeds incrementally before going exponential.

Unfortunately, it seems I’m stuck in the former phase. Don’t get me wrong – taking a rain cheque on Canada’s never-ending winter of 2018 has been awesome (though, I am starting to get concerned the polar vortex might never leave the Prairies).

Two steps forward, one step back

Photo by qimono on Pixabay

Who knew running a business in paradise would be so hard? — Photo by qimono on Pixabay // CC0

Like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk, I’m making progress, but not as quickly as I could be – this is mainly due to deeply ingrained habits I have yet to shake.

I have had success on some fronts – I have managed to raise rates on some clients, and bring others aboard at higher rates than in the past.

Other battlegrounds have been a slog – specifically, my use (abuse?) of social media. Despite initial efforts to harness them for business purposes four years ago, I have largely been a passive consumer of sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Being continually slammed with work in 2017 reinforced this, as I would retreat into these platforms for relief from the constant 12+ hour workdays which, depressingly, appeared to have no end in sight.

Moving in the right direction

Photo by Mediamodifier on Pixabay // CC0

Won’t be popping FB pills no more  — photo by Mediamodifier on Pixabay // CC0

Thankfully, as mentioned in a previous post, I summoned the courage to cut a high volume client loose late last year. This gave me the space I needed to recover from what had been an unsustainable workload. It also gave me time to reflect on the trajectory of my life and career.

Here’s one epiphany I’ve had lately: social media sites (apart from content created by family, close friends, and top-shelf brands) are little more than a time sink. If not actively managed, it can swallow up hours which could have been used to enrich your life, your career, or your business.

After dissecting my use of social media, I have stopped checking feeds first thing in the morning, I have imposed a 2x daily limit for checking accounts (apart from business use), and have slapped a five-minute time limit on scrolling through my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram feeds.

Some people cut these platforms out of their lives entirely, and I understand why. As someone who makes their living online, though, maintaining a professional presence is a must.

As such, I have committed to re-establishing my presence on this site’s accounts – however, I’ll be doing my best to avoid falling down the social media rabbit hole – wish me luck 🙂

Mexico (and Guatemala) so far

All is quiet in San Cristobal DLC before the arrival of Semana Santa (Holy Week)

All is quiet in San Cristobal DLC before the arrival of Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Enough with the dry, boring stuff: over the past two months, I have been holed up in Mexico. Most of my time has been spent in Playa del Carmen – however, I am presently writing this from the mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas.

I’m on the return leg of a trip which took me to Guatemala. Initially, the journey was also slated to include Nicaragua, but a sudden foot injury ended those dreams. Let’s just say I will never go on a pub crawl in flip-flops again.

In the week ahead, I will be returning to Playa, as the seaweed invasion which engulfed its beaches back in early March has vanished. Stay tuned for posts detailing what I have been up to lately, as well ones telling from my year-long trek through Asia, Africa, and Europe, which went down throughout 2017.

How has the first quarter of 2018 gone for you? Tell me about it in the comments below!

6 Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Hotel Stay in Dubai

When staying at a hotel, you get what you pay for.

Choose lower rates and you may find that the hotel’s provisions are quite limited or lacking in overall quality, resulting in an altogether lackluster and forgettable stay.

On the other hand, when you spend a bit more on your choice of lodging, you are more likely to have access to more impressive facilities and services, and enjoy more comforts and conveniences that will have you looking forward to coming back to the hotel every day.

However, paying big bucks is not necessarily the only way to secure a pleasurable stay at, say, one of the topnotch hotels in Jumeirah, Dubai. The next time you plan to come to the City of Gold, try following these useful tips and discover how to book a room at an upscale hotel in Dubai without paying a fortune, and even saving some money in the process.

  1. Travel during off-peak months

If you really want to save money on your trip to Dubai, schedule your travel during the city’s off-peak months: May to September. These are the hottest months in the UAE and, as such, the country does not receive as many tourists during this period.

During the off-peak months, expect lower hotel rates, so you pay less for a great room. You can also enjoy amazing discounts on airfare and entrance fees on some tourist attractions you want to visit.

  1. Compare hotel rates online

Before booking your accommodation, regularly visit the websites of various hotels in Dubai. Check out different hotel comparison and hotel deal sites as well. But do not immediately a book a room at the first hotel you find offering the lowest rates; spend additional time browsing online until you come up with a sufficient list of different hotels and prices you can choose from.

Make sure you take note of their prices. Aside from using these in making your final decision, you can also use them as negotiating points when you get in touch with hotel booking staff.

  1. Book directly with a hotel

If you plan on booking your accommodation online, consider getting in touch with your shortlisted hotels directly and not through third-party sites. Inquire about their rates and the perks they offer by email or by calling them up.

It is best to call the hotel you are interested in directly since you can ask as many as questions you want. You will also be able to tell the staff or reservation agent about the rates you saw online and ask if they can match this, or even offer something lower. And you do not have to pay a fortune for long distance calls since you can use Skype and other apps to call the hotel in Dubai.

Talking to an actual person offers the great benefit of scoring discounts, a better room, or some additional perks such as a complimentary breakfast or free massage at the hotel spa. Do not be embarrassed to ask; lower rates or no, you can still try to get some freebies. Although you may not get any discounts, you can still get more value for your money.

  1. Make sure you know the total cost before booking or paying in advance

Before booking your room or paying a reservation fee, request a quotation. Go over it carefully and check if the amenities and services you need and want are free or if you have to pay extra for them.

Keep in mind that some hotels charge a resort fee, gym fees, parking fees, etc. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, always ask about everything that is included in the total fee you will be paying. Find out how much you would need to pay for the additional amenities and services you are interested in.

  1. Consider getting a travel package

In case Dubai is your only destination and it is your first time to have a holiday here, look for a deal online that already includes airfare, airport transfers, hotel accommodation, meals and other services.

Many travel agencies offer these packaged deals and often, these can be cheaper than buying the components individually. If you can’t find the appropriate one, consider looking at special packages direct from the hotel themselves.

Again, before choosing your travel package, make sure you read up on various deals before settling on one. Get details about everything included, the kind of room you will get, travel details, etc.

Do not pay for anything until you are satisfied with all the information you get. This is because if you change your mind and you have already paid, you will have a hard time getting a refund and you will not get the full amount you paid.

  1. Join a loyalty club

Lastly, if a particular hotel brand or chain consistently meets your budget and comfort expectations, find out if they have a loyalty club and sign up for it.

Popular chains often have different hotel tiers that range from economy, upscale to luxury or high-end in various cities across the globe. You can, therefore, choose a hotel that meets your budget anywhere you go. Best of all, you may get to enjoy lower costs, free room upgrades, and a variety of other perks which you can only get if you are a member of a hotel’s loyalty club.

With some research and thorough prep work, staying at an amazing hotel in Dubai without spending a fortune, and even saving some money in the process, is truly possible.

How to Experience the Best of Dubai’s Modern and Traditional Allure

Photo by CC user Simon Bierwald on Flickr

Photo by CC user Simon Bierwald on Flickr

Well-traveled folks know that Dubai is the perfect amalgamation of old and new. In this desert city, you will find a main street surrounded by the latest modern designs for infrastructure. Make a turn to the backstreets and you will be surprised to find really old buildings inhabited by traditional locals.

Thanks to this, Dubai is all the more a fascinating place to visit — especially if you are all about combining history and culture with exciting innovations for your trip. It offers a bounty of experiences wherein you will feel as if you have travelled back in time — and yet, after a two-minute walk, you have seemingly managed to travel to the future because of all the modern developments around.

So, what are these “old and new” experiences that Dubai has in store for you? Check out the following six ideas:

1. The Desert Safari Tour

The desert is not that long a drive from the bustling modern urban hubs of Dubai. But once you get here, it will be like you travelled to a place where time stood still — especially if you signed up for a camel ride to take advantage of the different aspects of the classic desert safari tour.

There is nothing more old school than travelling across the desert via camel. However, while you are traversing the dunes, it is not unlikely to spot 4×4 vehicles speeding up and down the deep dips and ascents leading to the safari camp.

And speaking of the safari camp, it offers al fresco dining for tourists, and this includes traditional Dubai fare.

What is the modern element to be found in having dinner at the safari camp? It has got to be all the foreigners taking pictures and getting coaxed into learning parts of the special performance of a dance that is over a century old.

2. A stay at an Arabian-themed hotel

Staying at a beautiful Arabian-themed 4-star hotel in Dubai is sure to set the mood nicely for a splendid vacation. Such a hotel boasts of fine Arabian interior design and furniture, plus spa services that will make you feel like an Arab royal. What’s more, you will find modern facilities like a gym, conference rooms, and really hip restaurants.

If you are looking for accommodations with a harmonious blend of modern and traditional allure, a hotel with charming Arabian palace interiors is certainly highly recommended.

3. A walk around Bastakia Quarter

This heritage site is a must for all tourists because of its traditional architecture and artsy stores and galleries. You will enjoy the maze of wind-towered structures, and then comfortably conclude your exploration at the Arabian Tea House Outdoor Café.

The café serves international cuisine. You can enjoy soups, salads, pasta, yummy pastries, and a vast selection of refreshing tea concoctions.

4. Dinner at the DIFC

Come to the DIFC for dinner because there are plenty of dining establishments here that will introduce you to both traditional fare and the latest Instagram-worthy eats.

You will be sure to find a restaurant here that will take you around the globe with its menu. Choose to dine like a local and eat authentic Emirati dishes that have been around for centuries, or take the worldly gastronomic routes and sample the flavours of Japan, France, Spain, the US, and others.

5. Shopping at Deira Spice Souq

This is definitely old Dubai, but you will see a lot of foreigners here having a blast getting the best deals on exotic herbs and spices. Also, the moment you get here and catch a whiff of the pungent aroma of all the merchandise, you’ll automatically get a feeling of being in olden times (or perhaps the setting of Disney’s “Aladdin”).

In addition to this experience, though, you will know that things have become modernized here because there are “souq ambassadors” taking care of tourists. These personalities create an experience of the spice souq that visitors can really appreciate. They introduce unfamiliar herbs and spices and provide these products’ equivalent in other countries. Plus, they protect tourists from aggressive and assertive merchants.

6. Stroll through Marsa Al Seef

In this cultural hotspot, visitors to Dubai can take a peek at Dubai’s past as well as enjoy the edgy cosmopolitan vibe that the city is also known for. After browsing through local artwork and witnessing examples of traditional occupations such as boat building and pearl diving, guests can then immerse themselves in shopping and relaxing at various retail stores, restaurants, cafes and galleries.

These are just six ways you can experience a blend of old and new Dubai. When you come to the city for a tour and start off with these, there is no doubt that you will find other provisions that highlight its modern and traditional appeal even more.

AUTHOR BIO

Habib Khan is a seasoned Hotelier, currently the CEO of Planet Hospitality and General Manager of Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa. Khan has more than 30 years of diversified international experience in the hospitality industry. He is an expert in developing, transforming, and managing hotels, with an ability to analyze and solve problems in a challenging work environment.

Monkey Beach: your perfect getaway from busier areas of Penang

Penang isn’t viewed as a hotspot for tropical resorts. Spending a few days in the Georgetown area will show you why – a densely populated place featuring urban development right up to the waterfront, you can only imagine what the water is like.

Up and down the east coast, residential, commercial, (and across the strait in Butterworth, industrial) development makes going in the ocean a less than appealing prospect.

The west coast, while much less developed, is also not a great place to go for a swim. This part of the island features mostly mangroves – great if you’re going kayaking, but not so wonderful if you are looking for a paradise beach.

The north coast is the best option for those seeking relaxation on Penang. Yet, peace and quiet is at a premium here as well, as resort areas like Batu Ferringhi are rife with mass tourism developments, and watersports (like jet skiing) is a very popular activity here.

Think you’ll have to board a ferry to Langkawi to find your beach? Hold up just a minute. There is a spot I need to tell you about.

Introducing Monkey Beach

 

I first became acquainted with this hidden gem during my first venture overseas in 2010-2011. After asking the owner of the homestay where I was staying about Penang’s best beaches, she expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for Monkey Beach.

Not everyone was convinced – a young Swedish woman decried the presence of trash on its shores. I wavered on whether or not to go before deciding to see it for myself.

After a few moments of doubt, I decided to go. I’m glad I listened to the locals over the subjective whims of a fellow foreigner – otherwise, I would have never discovered this underrated spot.

Getting to Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach is situated within the bounds of Penang National Park, which protects the flora and fauna found on Penang’s mostly unspoiled northwestern corner.

Whether you are in Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi, you’ll need to hop on Rapid Penang bus #101, as this route terminates at the front gates of the park.

After signing in (admission to the park is free), you’ll have two options.

The easy way

Take a speedboat to the beach. This will take about five minutes, and will cost about 20 RM ($4.90 USD/$6.30 CAD/£3.65GBP/€4.15EUR) each way, though prices may be negotiable.

The sweaty way

Hike through the jungle along the coast. The walk will take about 75 minutes each way, and will take you past a beach where Universiti Sains Malaysia has a dock and a marine biology research post. Keep on the trail past this point – this is not Monkey Beach.

The third way (what I do)

Hike in, cool off at the beach, and then take the boat back. You’ll save money over the easy way, and you’ll earn your swim on the way in!

Monkey Beach: one of the most special places in all of Penang

I’ll be honest: activity at Monkey Beach has picked up over years. There are vendors who never around before, and instead of being able to count other travellers on one hand, I had to use two hands on my most recent visit.

Despite this, Monkey Beach is easily one of the most chill places on Penang.

Go for a swing on a tire, or read a book while relaxing in a hammock. The choice is up to you!

There are plenty of excellent photo ops up and down the beach. Just don’t do I what I did on my first backpacking trip and put your camera in the pocket of your swim trunks. Despite a rice bath back at the homestay, its sea-soaked circuits were fried beyond repair.

As mentioned above, there are plenty of food/drink sellers here now. Don’t expect a deal – you’re paying for convenience here.

Ready to leave? Find a boat captain (who may be having a midday siesta – remember, this beach is quiet most of the time) and strike a deal for a return trip to the front gates of the national park. Do NOT pay more than 20 RM if you can help it.

Ever been to Monkey Beach on Penang? Tell us about it below!

5 Travel Tips for the Young & Broke

Go out and travel while you’re still young. You may not have a lot of money right now; You may even be broke. But travelling at this stage in your life provides a number of benefits.

For one, once you get back, you can choose to re-enter the workforce without any issues. Plus, as compared to older travellers, younger people are more willing to trade inconveniences for the experience. You can get by with staying in hostels and cheap food.

Also, the experience can make you realize that you can still have fun even with limited funds available at your disposal. Gathered here are a number of travel tips for the young and broke from visa consultants based in Dubai.

1. Consider the costs

Before you hop on a plane or make travel arrangements, you need to do your research. There are plenty of areas around the world where you can stay for cheap but you need to know where they are first.

Find out what the costs are for flights, food, accommodations, acquiring the necessary permits and visas and other major expenses. You will also need to consider having a separate fund for smaller expenses such as entertainment and souvenirs.

2. Stay flexible

Having an open itinerary can come to your advantage. Don’t be too rigid when it comes to your travel dates, where you should go and what you want to do during the trip.

Peak travel dates can vary depending on the location. When you choose to travel to Spain, for instance, the date may coincide with the annual running of the bulls. It would be a fun cultural event to watch and experience for yourself but it won’t do your wallet any favours.

Determine when the off-peak dates for travelling are before you book your tickets or accommodation. Airlines and accommodations are more willing to offer deals, discounts and promos to entice more people to travel during these low months.

3. Create a travel fund

After getting the gist of how much the trip will cost, you can use that amount as your goal. Allocate a small part of your paycheck to go into your travel fund. Do this on a regular basis. This way, you can pay for your trip using your money and not rely on credit.

4. Live like the locals do

You may not be staying long in the area but living like a local allows you to live even with limited funds. For instance, you can save more by staying in a person’s home, dormitory or hostel than in a hotel. There are websites that will allow you to get a short-term rental in a room or bed space. Check their distances to where you plan to go.

At times, lodges near a tourist spot may cost more per night but will help you save on transportation costs than staying in a room kilometres away from where you want to go.

When it comes to food, head to the nearest local market. There you can immerse your senses in the different sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures. Local markets are great places to try out the local cuisine without draining your funds.

If you are covering large areas during your trip, use mass transit. Take the train, bus or whatever mode of public transport the locals use to get to your intended destination. By compromising on comfort and convenience, you can get to your destination at a fraction of the cost of a taxi ride.

5. Work overseas

If you plan to stay long in another country or region, you will need to find a way to support yourself financially. You may need to get advice from a consultant to see what types of visas or permits you will need to apply for work.

Depending on where you plan to travel, you can find a job as a farm worker, au pair, bartender or tour guide. The money you earn may not be enough to pay a mortgage but working can help you earn enough money to travel around.

With the number of options available, you don’t need to be rich to be able to travel around. Follow our advice and soon you could be off to a brand new adventure.

AUTHOR BIO

Bevan Berning is an Immigration professional and owner of Pathway Visas, an Immigration Agency dealing mostly with skilled immigration to Canada and Australia. Bevan’s enthusiasm for the industry has kept in the Immigration field for the past seven years. Bevan is South African by birth and has been residing in Dubai for the past eight years.

My life over the past year + what lies ahead

A tall pint of Castle Lager ... the perfect way to end a day in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa in June 2017.

A tall pint of Castle Lager … the perfect way to end a day in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa in June 2017.

Guys!

It’s been a while since my last status update, but since I am back in Nova Scotia, Canada for the holidays, I managed to find the time needed to put my thoughts down on digital paper. Here we go…

What have I been up to?

A digital nomad meetup in a thatch cabana restaurant on a lake near Chiang Mai

A digital nomad meetup in a thatch cabana restaurant on a lake near Chiang Mai

Rewind to this time last year.

I began my latest odyssey the same way I had begun others: by setting foot in Thailand for the umpteenth time.

This time around, I had a number of goals in mind: to tick off two more continents off my list, to meet up with digital nomads in Chiang Mai and expose myself to a variety of disciplines, and to grow my business while travelling at the same time.

I nailed two out of the three. Over the past 13 months, I set foot in Africa (South Africa only – next time, I will notch more countries, I promise!), and Europe (travelling from Turkey to the UK overland).

In the Digital Nomad Capital of the World (TM), I hung out with everyone from drop shippers to graphic designers, broadening my horizons and adding a client in the process.

HOWEVER … I did NOT grow my bottom line. In fact, I elected to take a step back this fall in order to move forward in the long run.

The scariest decisions are often the most important ones

Cool view over downtown Khaosiung, Taiwan. However, when you're facing down an all-nighter to meet a deadline, it kinda sucks the joy out of it...

Cool view over downtown Khaosiung, Taiwan. However, when you’re facing down an all-nighter to meet a deadline, it kinda sucks the joy out of it…

I made the difficult (yet necessary) decision to release a client with whom I had done extensive business over the past four years.

The steady work they provided had made the money part of my life easy, but over the past year, its volume conspired to suck up almost every bit of free time I had.

To allow myself the time needed to grow as an entrepreneur and to restore my sanity, I had no choice but to part ways with them.

Don’t misunderstand me – they were professional, paid me promptly, and most interactions were cordial and pleasant. But, they had come to lean on me so heavily, it was affecting my quality of life, as well as my ability to run and grow my business.

I’ll be honest: this was one of the scariest business decisions I’ve ever made. But it needed to be done, as I had slowly but surely morphed into the overworked employee I once was – only with a nice view of the beach.

Where am I now?

Havre Boucher on a warm autumn day. As I write this, it's colder, wetter, and the leaves peaced out a long time ago.

Havre Boucher on a warm autumn day in 2015. As I write this in November 2017, it’s colder, wetter, and the leaves peaced out a long time ago.

As mentioned in the intro, I am back in Canada for the holidays and most of January. I get two months to enjoy the darkness and silence of my basement bedroom, family moments during Christmas and New Year’s, and a long-awaited college reunion in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Fam: the older your parents, siblings, relatives, and friends get, the more important it is to spend time with them. As such, I am looking forward to the hangouts coming up in the weeks ahead.

So … when are you hitting the trail again?

I foresee more than a few of these in my future...

I foresee more than a few of these in my future…

There are many quotes about travel out there that expound upon the importance of seizing every moment life gives you.

Accordingly, I won’t be lingering in Canada for long. Not long after my college reunion wraps up, I’ll be boarding a flight to Mexico!

I’ll be spending most of my winter in Playa del Carmen, a city on the Yucatan Peninsula. Populated enough to provide every creature comfort a person could need, but without the hectic nightlife of Cancun, it is the perfect hideaway from winter for someone like me.

While I will be mostly staying put to focus more intently on business development, I’ll head over to Nicaragua at some point to chill out for a few weeks on the Corn Islands.

A Caribbean paradise which remains unspoiled by mass tourism, it cast its spell over me last time I was there (2015), so I can’t wait to return.

Additionally, a good friend of mine gets to call this gorgeous place home. During my visit, I am sure there will be more than a few nights where we will get to share some Flor de Cana and cokes in person.

Main mission for 2018: trying out a new home base

Trying out Edmonton as a home base: I lived here once before when I had a 9-5 job. Loved leaving the daily grind, but I did miss this place.

Trying out Edmonton as a home base: I lived here once before when I had a 9-5 job. Loved leaving the daily grind, but I did miss this place.

Once May rolls around, I’ll be hopping on a plane back to Canada, but instead of heading back east, I’ll be Alberta bound – to Edmonton, specifically.

Thought I was setting up a base in Atlantic Canada? That was the plan initially, but as the test period unfolded, Fredericton turned out to be too small for someone who craves access to a wider range of urban delights.

Don’t get me wrong – it has plenty to offer those who love smaller towns (population ~60,000) – culture, tons of microbreweries, festivals, a scenic river, and more.

There are many advantages to settling there, but if you are seeking the advantages of settling in a city of a million people (wider access to services, restaurants, deeper dating pool, etc), you’ll be let down in the long run here.

Edmonton has many of the things that drew me to Fredericton, but with a deeper bench with regards to the latter city’s qualities.

What’s more, it is close by to the Canadian Rockies, a burgeoning food scene is emerging, and taxation is much lower here than in the east.

Because of this, I will be testing out as a home base for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019. Beyond then, I will be making plans to see the sixth continent – Oceania – but that’s too far off in the distance to discuss at length. Next year, things should be much clearer, so stay tuned!

Dear readers: what have you been up to recently? Let’s re-connect in the comments below!

Experiencing the best of Thailand on a budget

Photo by CC user Jonas_Mittag on Pixabay

Photo by CC user Jonas_Mittag on Pixabay

Want to get away from your stressful everyday existence? We all do from time to time, but one glance at our bank balance leads many of us to believe that escape isn’t possible. This is a common misconception, as holiday travel has never been as cheap as it is now.

Below, we’ll show you how you can experience the best of Thailand on a budget – once you get a taste for this intoxicating country, you won’t ever be the same again!

Book a cheap flight

Any trip to Thailand starts with the booking of the flight which will take you, your family, and/or your friends there. Jump online and review all the options available for Mumbai to Bangkok flights, or from wherever you happen to be in the world.

Price will be one of the key considerations, but also be sure to check departure/arrival times, connections, and the amenities available aboard.

Arriving past Midnight may force you to negotiate with Bangkok taxi drivers, some of whom are known to rig their meters or drive hard bargains with tourists unfamiliar with the local going rate for flat fares.

If you get to BKK at a reasonable hour, you can take advantage of the Airport Rail Link, a train which will take you from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the centre of Bangkok in about 20 minutes for 45 baht (₹88/$1.36 USD).

Favour guesthouses and hostels over hotels

Thailand is well-known worldwide for the value it provides visitors. From activities to food, you won’t have to take out a loan to afford a holiday here.

The same applies to lodging, as Bangkok is home to some of the most competitively priced luxury hotel rooms in the world. If you are really minding your money, however, we recommend booking rooms in guesthouses or boutique hostels.

These accommodation types aren’t the fleapits they were a generation ago – a considerable number of them have gone upmarket in recent years. They come with private rooms which have plush mattresses, fresh linens, fridges, cable TV, and other perks.

However, you get to take advantage of the social atmosphere of a hostel, as you will have access to common areas, which often come with bars, comfy seating, high-speed internet, and a slate of planned activities from one day to the next.

With private rooms starting at 600 baht (₹1,170/$18.50 USD), going this route will help you save cash while maintaining a level of comfort befitting of your holiday.

Go north

Many Mumbai to Bangkok flights are packed with visitors eager to head south in pursuit of Thailand’s fabled beaches. However, know that the cities of the north contain worthwhile cultural attractions core to the identity of the Thai people.

Not only will you have a chance to tour uncrowded temple sites in places like Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, you will find that everything from accommodations to meals will be cheaper in the north.

A hostel whose private rooms cost 900 Baht (₹1,760/$27.50 USD) in a place like Koh Samui will sell them for around 500 baht (₹975/$15.25 USD) in Chiang Mai.

While lunch can cost as much as 230 baht (₹430/$7 USD) on the beach at Railay Beach, a healthy Thai lunch in the centre of Chiang Rai can be had for as little as 60 baht (₹120/$1.90 USD).

Travel to unsung islands

Have your heart set on a paradise beach? Of course you do. Instead of traveling to places like Phuket or Koh Samui, though, consider heading to lesser travelled isles like Koh Chang (the one in Eastern Thailand near the Cambodian border) or Koh Lanta in the south.

These places have beaches which boast plenty of room even in high season, idyllic tropical scenes out of your wildest dreams, and reasonable prices.

In a country with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tropical getaways, you lose almost nothing going off the beaten track.

Tips for Buying a Vacation Home in Another Country

Buying a Vacation Home in Another Country needn't be a challenge

Wouldn’t it be great to have a little place in another country that was all your own? Waking up to rolling hills or sandy beaches every day? Plus, many other countries have property values and a cost of living that is far less expensive than it is here in the states. If an international vacation home is something you dream of, keep these important tips in mind when you are ready to buy:

1. Compare several areas

International markets don’t all move up and down at the same time. You will find that the housing market in one country may be seriously inflated at the same time another has excess inventory. Instead of focusing on a country, think about the environment and the amenities you want. For instance, someone who wants a place on the beach may have the best luck looking at places in Mexico, the Philippines and other countries, as well.

2. Consider the places where your dollar goes farthest

One of the great things about traveling internationally is the chance to get more for your money through differences in currency value. If you pick a place where the currency is weaker than the dollar, you can enjoy more house for less.

3. Think of all the amenities and features you’d want

Sometimes it’s easier to narrow down a location by choosing what you want in a home. A garden you can tend during extended stays? Night life in walking distance? A view of hills or water? Make a list of your dream amenities and features before you look.

4. Figure out how you are going to finance your purchase

In many cases, bank financing may not be available. Mortgages like those that are available in the United States are not common in many parts of the world. In areas where bank financing is available, there may be restrictions on foreign buyers.

While a bank loan may not be an option, there are other ways to get the funds together, and budgeting strategies remain largely the same. Borrowing on your first home’s equity may give you the funds that you need for your home abroad. Others choose to use funds out of their retirement accounts. In still other cases, it may be possible to find seller financing in the country were you want to find a vacation home.

5. Learn the real estate processes of the region

In many parts of the world, there is no MLS service. To ensure that you are seeing all the properties that fit your needs, you should probably work with more than one real estate agent. Licensing requirements for real estate agents may be different than in the states; in areas where there is no license or where agents don’t get a lot of training, look online for reviews before settling with an agent

6. Research average housing costs

In an area far from where you live, it can be hard to know what’s a good deal and what prices are inflated. See if there are local sales records available. You should also study listings for awhile and break down the cost per square meter for the sorts of listings you like. This will help you know which prices are in line with the average.

By finding answers to the big questions early, you can be better prepared for the house hunting and buying process. The time you spend preparing can add to the anticipation and the excitement of finding your international vacation home.