The best spot to see the Northern lights

Lapland, Finland

Lapland Is an absolute must for all, I cannot stress this enough. Whether you’re a hard-core backpacker, or a senor citizen after a scenic holiday. The sights are truly unique and not to be missed.


First of all, if you’ve heard it can be rather pricy, you’ve have not been fooled; Scandinavia has a great economy resulting in high prices. However do not loose hope, like most of life’s rules, there are ways around this. First, plan ahead! If you want to get the best deals and make the most of your trip trust me PLAN AHEAD. Prices literally triple in a matter of weeks. For some more tips on how to save check out my ‘How to travel cheap’ page.


So lets get booking

You have 2 options, air or rail. I figure I don’t need to explain how you book a flight, so ill leave that one for you, although I must point out that getting a flight to Rovaniemi can be rather costly. Though as I did you can find reasonable flights to Helsinki and take the train from there, here’s how to do it and why you’ll be glad you opted for this option



Take the scenic route and jump on the Santa clause express from Helsinki to Rovaniemi passing through the magical wilderness of Finland.


It sounds like a line from a children’s fairytale, right? But no, this is an actually train and its just as amazing as it sounds.


So you can either book a seat, this is the cheapest option and for a reason. It is more or less a busy commuter train. The train stops often allowing people on and offs this results a lot of notice, disturbances and constant light. This will set you back around 50 euros, however if this isn’t your cup of tea we have option 2.

You can opt for the eco second-class bunk this accommodates two passengers in a bunk bed style cabin. This is honest the greatest train I have ever been on. Its super modern with everything from free Wi-Fi, power sockets, air conditioning, a toilet and a shower!!! Yep, that right, you have not read this wrong, there is private showers, with hot water and all. They’re nothing better than steeping out of a steamy shower and watching snowy wilderness passing, and if you love to bath in the envy of other, then why not tack advantage of the free Wi-Fi to face-time home and show your jealous friends and family how beautiful Finland is live. (After you’ve gotten dressed from the shower of course, don’t scare them with the image of your naked body, nobody wants to see that, nobody).

This beautiful double deck train will take about 10-11 hours; there is also a restaurant carriage accessible. Remember when I mentioned planning ahead, this is why; you can reserve this amazing journey in for as little as 75-100 euros, however you can be sure that the prices of this will climb significantly with time if not sell out completely. Visit to score your seat NOW. As I personally flew into Helsinki I booked a train that departed Helsinki Airport, this meant I had to board a regular commuter train to Tikkurila and then change for the train to Rovaniemi. I book both these trains as a hole through the link VR website linked above.



Now, you’re in Rovaniemi! But still not in the Arctic Circle, so we need to continue heading north.




Before doing this I recommend spending some time in Rovaniemi there is so many unique activities to do in Lapland you could easily spend a week here and never do the same thing twice. Go hunt for the Northern lights, or go on a snowmobile safari, visit a reindeer farm and a play with Huskies, go ice fishing or Arctic swimming!!! ????


The Santa Clause Village and the Arctic Circle

And once you’re ready to cross the Arctic Circle, spend a day at the official Santa Claus Village. This is a real place where its Christmas 365 days a year. No matter your age you will feel like a kid at Christmas. Upon entering The Santa village find your self in a truly magical place, the Arctic Circle, and its coordinates are printed on the floor so make sure to get a picture as you cross over it. This place is sure to keep you entertained for hours. There is shopping, the snowman village (ice skating and tobogganing), Elves in the toy workshop and of course you get to MEET SANTA CLAUS and MRS CLAUS and take a photo to prove it!


Getting there

To get to this enchanted land visit the Tourist Information store in the town centre of Rovaniemi. They will provide you with all this information you need to catch the bus, such as times, prices and your closest stop. It’s super easy and takes only around 10 to 15 minutes. They will drop you off at the same place it picks you up from, so getting back to Rovaniemi centre is easy.


The Arctic Snow Hotel

If you’ve come this close and if you’ve got the money, DO IT! This place should really be on everyone’s bucket list. You have the option of staying in a private glass roofed Igloo or in the Ice hotel. The Igloos are complete with heating, a heated shower, a glass roof that offers the chance to view the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed, however if your after something really different, I recommend the Ice Hotel. Neither of these are cheap but they’re truly one of a kind, with the ice hotel melting down at the end of the winter season only to be built again from scratch once the weather gets cold enough. As there is only a handful of Igloo’s and the one hotel these book up quick so book early, or you may miss out.



To get here book the $30 shuttle bus through the hotel to pick you up from Rovaniemi. DON’T get a taxi, it is not a short drive (one hour) and can cost you a whopping $80.

We opted for the Ice Hotel, and did not regret it. The entire hotel is Ice, the roof, walls, flooring included. There is also an Ice bar, drinks served in ice cups, and an Ice restaurant with ice seats, and tables, your dessert is even served on ice plates, an ice chapel you can even get married in! And every room is carved differently complete with an ice sculpture.

The hotel is kept at a constant -5ºC, but don’t worry you will be provided with excellent a sub 0ºC sleeping bag and a heated shared bathroom. You are also provided with a locker, in a heated room so your belongings wont freeze. If you worried you will miss the amazing Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) don’t be. You can opt to turn on the Aurora Borealis alarm. If the lights are spotted by ‘The official Northern lights spotter’ (Yes, that a real job) you will be woken, and server hot berry juice will you watch them float by above. Additionally the hotel has a heated lobby and dinning room (with breakfast included), a sauna, and day activities.

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I absolutely loved this trip and have a greater love and appreciation for this country. I really hope this inspires your next trip to Lapland, if so let me know below in the comments.


Happy Travels


Getting Into Russia can feel pretty overwhelming when it comes to getting your hands on the all important and vital VISA. But have no fear it really doesn’t need to be as difficult and many of the websites may make you think.

You can apply for the visa no more than one month is advance. However it is possible to complete in as little 2 weeks. I recommend you give yourself the month; you will save your self a lot of unnecessary stress, if you come across any hiccups. Before any application can begin there are a few documents you will need to have in order.



Number one, needless to say you need a valid passport, with at leased 6 months left on a free page.

Next, you’ll need insurance that covers your entire stay. You should really get this no matter where you decide to go, it’s a no-brainer. There are 101 different travel insurances that you can easily purchase. Make sure to give the company a call and insure they will cover Russia and all the activities you intended on doing.


Now, the invitation letter.

This is a letter from the hotel you are staying at that states you have a booking with them, which dates, and all their details. Technically this is the place in which you are required to stay for the entirety of your stay, however the visa will NOT have this address printed on it, so moving from the hotel, and city is not a problem. You will only need this invitation letter for the Visa (basically the Russian government just wants proof of where you are staying), once that is obtained you can cancel your booking (make sure you make a refundable booking with the hotel or hotel provider), and stay where ever you please. The easiest thing to do is pay a hotel or company to send you this invitation letter, while well aware you have no intention on staying there. I found the cheapest hostel, booked it for the month and cancelled it after I obtained my visa, getting a full refund. (Everyone does this)

Please note there are scams, so do your research. I used Fortuna Travel, and they where great. For €9.99 (single entry) or €14.99 (double Entry) you can have your invitation letter in minutes, I cannot recommend them more. Follow the link and they will walk you through the process with ease.


So you’ve got your invitation letter, now its time to fill out your visa application form at It is a long for but pretty straight forward. You will need to print this and stick a passport-sized photo to it.


It is now time you get all your documents in order, print them off and head to the Russian consulate. This includes: Your passport (and copies) proof of address (either a bank statement or copy of your drivers licence). Your invitation letter, a copy of you hotel booking, your insurance policy stating you are covered for the duration of your stay. The application form signed and with the passport photo pasted on. And off course your payment. The price depends of your country and wether it is a single or double entry visa and the processing time. A single entry with 10 days processing will set you back around €90, some consultants only accept “postal money order”, check the consulates website.

Take all this to the embassy, an appointment should not be necessary, but again check the consultants website. Hand in your documents, make the payment and leave your passport. They will give you a slip of paper, and tell you the date it will be ready, come back on the date with the paper (with this paper, someone else can pick up your passport for you, if you cannot make it on the day) and collect your passport and VISA. Check your Visa, there would be nothing worse than to be knocked back at the border for something as small as spelling.

Now, its time to explore Russia. Check out my Crossing the Border into Russia Page to see exactly what to expect when entering Russia.

Crossing the border into Russia

 Forget anything you think you know about Russia, and GO! Russia is well and truly like no place else. And every town from Moscow to Vladivostok is completely different, and well worth the visit. The Trans-Siberian-Railroad should be on every backpackers bucket list, and I cannot erg you enough to get it ticked off.✓


Lets start from to beginning: How do we get in??

First you’re going to need to visa, for this you have two options.

Option number 1: You can pay (a lot) and get a travel agent to do it for you. If you’re tight on time and have the money to spend, I recommend this option. Getting the visa is a long and somewhat complicated process, so if you can afford it, save yourself the stress and visit a travel agent.

Option 2: So, you’re a tight-ass or too stubborn to ask for help because you’re ‘a real backpacker’. (I am also a ‘tight-ass/real backpacker’ and therefore have all the first hand answers you need, I am essentially your Google, ask me anything).

For this I recommend you check out my ‘how to get a Russian visa’ page. Here I have stet out step by step on how you can obtain a visa all by yourself, because you’re “an independent human, and you don’t need no help from no one”


Now you have the visa, what’s next? …. The train

There are 101 different flights arriving in and out of Russia that are available and easy to arrange, but as we’ve already establisher we’re ‘real back packers’ and therefore we don’t do ‘easy’, right?

So in order for you to truly brag of how you travelled across the entire country of Russia, 9656.064 kilometres, and 11 times zones all by train you need to make sure you actually travel to entire thing by train. There are loads of train roots that lead into Russia, whether it be all the way from London, Victoria, or as close as Latvia, Riga. I personally caught the train from Riga and will explain exactly how I did it.



Riga to St Petersburg by Train

Okay, I know it’s a little scary, like your going to Russia, who does that?

Have no fear, I have crossed the border and lived to tell the tale, disappointingly I had no run-ins with Russian spy’s, the mafia, or AK 47’s, and wasn’t thrown into Prison for twerking (Women were actually arrested for twerking in front of a Russian war Memorial, you have been warned…)

Russia is truly a safe country to travel to, and if you truly are a ‘real backpacker’ then you do your research, hence your reading this so my point made. Know your stuff and keep smart, and you’re going to learn to really love and respect this country and will honestly not regret exploring all the wonders it has to offer.

Back to the train, you can catch a direct train from Riga to St Petersburg; you can book that at, it should only take 7-8 hours, I recommend booking a overnight train and doing this at leased a week in advanced, trains fill up fast, the prices get higher as time passes and you only have a months visa for Russia and you cant afford to looses even a day. This cost between 30-40 Euros.

The Train station at Riga provides Lockers at the station so, if your hostel check out is early and your train is late, go ahead and leave your bags at the station, it should only cost 5-10 euros for the day.

The train can appear to be a little confusing as the train you catch will say Riga to Moscow (Москва), as the train split once you cross the boarder, half the train going to Moscow the other half continuing on to St-Petersburg (Sankt-Peterburg). There are many help counters and desks you can visit, if like me, you feel the need to check that you are going to the right platform and boarding the right train 4 times.

In order to board the train you will need your passport, and printed ticket. After presenting this you are free to board and find your bunk.


1st, 2nd or 3rd Class???

So I’ve tried them all, and each have their pros and cons.

  • 3rd class is obviously the cheapest option. There are open cabins (no door) with two sets of bunks on either sides, and an additional bunk across the isle. Note: the top bunks are cheaper, but require a climb.

People will be walking back and forth through the isle getting to the bathrooms and there beds, so noise and traffic is unavoidable, this also means that if you go to the bathroom, you either have to leave your belongings unattended, or take them with you. I cable tie my luggage to the bed frame and padlocked my bags, however it only takes someone with a pair of scissors to walk past and your stuff is gone. Friendly reminder: Never leave your passport unattended!!! Replacing that is next to impossible.

  • 2nd I will never again take a door for granted, they’re great, and are extremely underrated in the modern world!

2nd class consists of 2 sets of bunks in a mall cabin and a small table in-between. I almost always opted for the top bunk, its cheaper, harder for people to climb up and steel your belongings (I hide them in my pillow case while sleeping) and no one is going to sit on the end of you bed, which is what many commuters do if they are only catching the train for a short distance, and do not require a bed.

  • 1st class is nice but quite frankly unnecessary; here you will be placed in a cabin with either one or two beds. The privacy is great, but in the end you’re still subjected to sitting on the train for hours on end with little to no entertainment, possible delays, bumpy roads and boredom, just like everyone else.


Evidently I recommend 2nd class, it’s more comfortable, you have a door, its reasonable priced, and it’s quieter. Your doing this trip and on this train for the experience, so stop being a pampered privileged kid, get amongst the locals, and share some Vodka and Caviar. However in saying this, you are essentially locked in a cabin with three strangers for an extended period of time. I met another solo traveller that said they prefer to 3rd class as they did not safe feel being locked in.


If like me you have an in-depth fear of starving and require a constant supply of ‘emergency snacks’ then now’s you chance to stock up. There is little no food on most the trains, however you have at your disposal an endless supply of hot water. I am now well educated on the variety of food that can be prepared with nothing more than a little hot water. E.g. noodles, mashed potato, rice, porridge, cous cous, soup, tea, hot chocolate and coffee. I hope these tickle your fancy, as this will become your primary diet over the next few weeks.


You’re on the train. Next stop the Border…

Crossing the boarder is done in two parts. First you will leave Latvia , your passport will be checked and stamped, then about an hour later you will enter Russia. If you have opted for an over night train this process is done in the middle of the night, additionally you are unlikely to find any English speakers to help you, and will more than likely feel very intimidated by the numerous uniformed police, and custom officers, but don’t be fouled this is an act and if you don’t cause any trouble you wont be stuck any.

You will be given two small immigration entry cards to fill out, they will ask general information, such as your name, D.O.B, Russian accommodations, and a visa number. The custom officer will stamp both keeping one for there records and returning one to you. Don’t loose it! You are required to have this on your person for you entire stay in Russia and must present it when exiting the country. Crossing the boarder is a lengthy process and will be sure to give even the calmest of people some serious anxiety.


Sample of the entry card  ↓


You did it! Congratulations your in, now what?

Now get some sleep, you’re soon to arrive in St Petersburg Russia, and the adventure continues!








Getting in Kyiv, Ukraine



We laced up our boots, backed our bags and took to the sky’s, our first Spot Kiev, Ukraine. Ukraine is a complicated country, still struggling in the tug a war between Russia and the European Union, and recovering from the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant disaster of 1986. None the less the City of Kiev is thriving and shows little evidence of the struggles the north of the country is experiencing due to the ongoing war.

Kiev is bustling with unique culture and history and has an abundance of attractions, sure to keep any tourist happy and busy.

Getting in: 

If you’re an Aussie like me, you’ll need a visa, luckily enough you can get one on arrival, unfortunately, this is not quite as simple as it seems. After a delayed flight, I did not arrive in Kiev until 10.30pm. I then lined up at the customs desk where I was asked to present my visa; I explained I had intended on getting one on arrival. I was then told to wait at the back of the room with a few others in my same situation. After 30 minutes when the other passengers from my flight, the ones with Ukrainian or EU passports had all gone through another customs officer again asked for my visa and told him the same thing, he was not happy about this but return after another 30 minutes with another customs officer which then proceeded to process each person and provide them with the visa.

I was required to show proof of my accommodation, fill in a form with various details such as my address, occupation and phone number, have a photo taken and then pay the equivalent of €80, the whole ordeal took around 3 hours.

costomsThe visa processing office closes at 7pm, and then opens up again at 9am the next morning, and it is not uncommon to be told you must wait until morning and sleep on the floor or seats while you wait, I can only recommend you get a flight that lands in-between their opening hour and save your self the possibility of spending an uncomfortable night in the airport.


Although Ukraine’s economy took a rather significant dive due to the ongoing war it is recovering and the market is growing little by little every day. And Kiev being the capital is at the forefront. Yes, it is cheaper many of its neighbours such as Poland and Lithuania and certainty cheaper than Western Europe, but it is slowly catching up.

  • Accommodation, depending on your standard can vary from a dorm in a hostel from €4 -€12, to private rooms in hostels at €10-€20, to 5-star Hotel suits at €300 per night. I found a private room in a hostel for around €15 a night, was perfect for me.
  • A cup of coffee sat at around €2-€3.IMG_4797 2
  • Meals ranged from€3 pizzas to €6 Chicken Kiev (a must try!)
  • Attraction entry rarely climbed above 50 Ukraine Hryvnia (€1.60).

All in all Kiev is a great destination for budget travellers


Yes, Ukraine is at war, but away from the boarded, and in the capital Kiev, it is in my option was very safe. Nights like in most cities became seedy, and thieves and petty crime was evident, however during the day and in the city centre, I felt relativity safe the entire time. The key is to be aware and smart.


Keep in mind English is not Ukraine’s mother-tongue, nor is it commonly spoken, so there’s is going to be a language barrier stronger than most in capital cities as tourism has been slow due to the recent conflicts with the north. But don’t let this deter you, it is surprising how much can be communicated through hand signals. And to make things even easier the 21st century has provided us with a number of incredible apps, that I have now couldn’t travel without including Triposo and Google translate. Check out my Must have Travel Apps post for more apps and details.


By foot. Depending on your accommodation and where you wish to visit, walking from one attraction to the next is relatively easy. Walking provides an arrange of benefits as you are able to see more of the city, save money and find lots of secret gems hidden in back streets and down wrong turns. Although though if you stuck for time, am visiting sites further out or just a lazy person, the metro if just what you need.IMG_4821.JPG

The Metro. For a mere 5 Ukraine Hryvnia (€0.16), you can catch the metro across the city with ease. The ticket operator will be unwilling to attempt communication, and seems so respond for nothing other than money and will only then replying by flicking a blue token at you. Then slip the token into the ticket gate and follow the signs to your platform. There are Metro maps at every station and on the metro, however, it is best to count your stops, as the audio, although in English and Ukrainian is difficult to understand, and the names of each station is not written on the platform, making it difficult to know whether or not you have arrived at your stop.

Option number 3 UBER. Ordering an Uber in Kiev proved to be very quick and easy, with most cars arriving within minutes. Uber provides the safety of knowing exactly who is driving you, where you are, and how much it should cost. There is no need to argue, over price, or worry you are being taken around in circles or worse, kidnapped to be later murdered and left in a ditch. You can also share your trip details with a friend for extra security. Language shouldn’t be too much of an issue as they can see clearly where you wish to be taken. And if you’re needing to transport heavy luggage, this is the easiest option, however, keep in mind Kiev traffic can become an issue around peak hours so give your self-plenty of time, especially when travelling to the airport, again Uber should provide you with an estimation on how long your trip should take. From the city centre to the airport should cost no more than €13.

Now it’s time to


 Explore the amazing sights Kiev has to offer!


Be a tourist and make sure you get a cheesy photo with the “I love Kiev” at the square of independence.

Because after all what’s the point of going to such an odd destination if you can’t brag about it on social media? However keep in mind if you want a picture which out a dozen other tourist posing with selfie-sticks around you, get in early!



Pechersk Lavra . Caves Monastery. This amazing UNESCO world heritage site cannot be missed. First Founded in 1051 by the monks, and said to be the holiest in Ukraine, you’ll surely to want to spend a few hours exploring this amazing place. 50 Ukraine Hryvnia will by you entirety, from there you can pick and chose further Monastrys and museums to by entrance too.

Make sure to climb The Great Lavra Bell Tower, to view the city and Monasteries in all their glory.



From Vilnius to Trakai

Enjoy the hipster town surrounded and by medieval relics



Take a day out of the city only 30 minutes by bus or train to the small town of Trakai with a medieval castle in the middle of an island.

The Trakai castle has been reconstructed into the original gothic-style layout with a museum inside representing the Lithuanian historical lifestyle.



Bus: there are dozzens of busses leaving around every 30 minutes from the Vilnius bus station and only taking 30-40 minutes to arrive in Trakai

The price for the ride is under 2 Euros which you will pay when you get on to the bus – ask the information for the platform where the next bus to trakai will be leaving.






Firstly, although it would be awesome to be spoused by theses apps, I am unfortunately am given no incentive to recommend or promote theses apps, other than my simple love and appreciation for their existence. However having said that, I more than welcome any payments these companies wish to send me. These Apps live permanently on my phone and have time and time again helped make my traveling life easier, whether it be with currencies, language or a finding my way home.

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  •  This is my favorite app of all time, (angry birds excluded) Triposo an excellent offline map app that will make your life 1000 times easier. You simply download the city you wish to travel when wifi is available, then take off exploring from there. You can pinpoint locations such as your hostel, bus stop, favorite cafe ect. The app also includes attractions, restaurants, banks, metro stops and much more all clearly marked on the map. It can show you where you are and follow you with a satellite so you never get lost. This app has saved us from getting ripped of from Taxi drivers, as it is easy to see when your being taken the wrong way or round in circles, it also helps to show you where to get off the metro or bus at and even giveds reviews and information or locations you may pass or may wish to visit. I can not recommend it more, and to make it even better it’s FREE!!! If you havent already downloaded it, do it now! Click here!


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Google translate 

  • Like most Aussies, I am fluent it only two languages, English and bullshit, and unfortunately not everyone can speek these. Quick answer, Google Translate. Again his app can be used offline, making it great for travelers that oftern dont have data. Download your selected language when WiFi is available and off you go. One of the best aspects to this app it the camera mode. Hover your phone over any foreign text, wether it be a menu, street sign, information plank at at museum, or brocher, and the text will change on the screen to in english (or any other desired language). Amazing right!  Click here!

Xe logo

Ex Currency

  • Tracking your spending can gets confusing partially if your changing currencies often. You start forgetting whether you spent 10 pounds, dollar, euros or bitcoins on something. XE is free app that allows you access to a number of different currency’s offline, making it easy to keep on top of your spending and remain within budget.



  • I sure I don’t have to tell you to down load this one , but non the less, keeping in contact with your loved ones is important, and if I couldn’t give home a call every now and then, I know I wouldn’t be able to travel for as long as I can. So call your Mum!

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  • An obvious one, but most the times the obvious answer is the right one. TripAdvisor is making a huge change the travellers lifestyle when eating out, looking for Accommodation and Attractions forever giving you a buttaly honest review from real people. remember that hotel room you booked that had these beautiful pictures of the room and when you arrived there you were greeted by something that only belonged in a horror movie well not you can save people from having that same experience by sharing your story and even adding pictures. Not too metion, there is no better way to get your revenge than from cowering away behind your keyboard and making a negitive anonymous review for that cafe that overchange you for soy and only informed you after they had made it. Click here!