Fish are friends not food! – Bruce (JAW-some Shark in ‘Finding Nemo’, Fish Friend, non conformist)
To travel the globe you need an energized body to go with that healthy mind, This doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your taste-buds to consuming anything with a mother! Because who wants to do that, right? We love mothers !
Due to my major fear of food poisoning and cross contamination I managed to travel across Europe and through Asia without actually considering myself Vegetarian. As most food related illnesses come from meat, poultry and fish I decided that I don’t want any Bali belly or Thai tummy holding me back from my awesome adventure.
For starters, it ain’t easy! This is no walk in the park, as lot of cultures don’t even consider chicken/fish as meat, so when ordering make sure the server understands that you don’t want any animal and don’t freak out but when you ask for something to be customized into vegetarian a lot of the time the waitress will just pick out the meat from your meal, these are something’s you will have to get used to.
On one occasion I said I was vegetarian, and the non-english speaking chinese server pointed to noodles and then various meats and started mooing, making chicken noises, and then went to barking and meowing….so yeah that’s when I just settled with the restaurant next door.
Do expect: “you’re a what”? and then with astonishment ask “so what do you eat”? Grass?
Growing up in nearly all vegetarian/ flex-atarian family I never considered that some people couldn’t even imagine surviving without meat, However it is great to see when traveling how many people are interested in learning and trying to be vegetarian.
It sounds hard but it is still possible ! J Here are some of my best tips on how to plan, prepare and enjoy !
Plan Ahead: As a busy globe trotting traveller you don’t have the time walking the streets to find a meal that will suit your dietary requirements, and as the world has progressed so much when it comes to vegan or vegetarianism more restaurants are adding vege options to their menu, check out any vegetarian apps and websites like Happy Cow which is a popular website for locating vegetarian restaurants. Vegetarian/vegan options are everywhere we just need to know how to find them. By doing this you won’t be stuck and searching for hours then only realizing there was a vegan restaurant down the road.
Change up your meal: Have you ever seen a delicious meal and thought ‘omg that would be great without meat’ if so, just ask the waitor/waitress if you can have the meal with no chicken or meat but the best option I found was to say “just vegetable” because “no meat” can mean no red meat or some meat. Most restaurants will accommodate to this, I’m not saying it will always be purely plant based but its better than eating your right arm for dinner.
SNACKKKS: or ‘snack-a-roo’s’ how a true Aussie says it! Healthy little snacks are your light in the darkness if you simply can’t find any food and have almost given up hope. Especially if you’re taking a long haul bus trip and don’t really have a choice where the driver pit stops for lunch, this tip can truly save your hunger pangs. Note down to stock up on Nuts, dried fruit, muesli bars and corn chips, they are great for nutrition and travel extremely well.
Explore a new taste palate: Do like the locals do! and get yourself immersed into the ethnic cuisines like Indian, Thai, Mexican ect. Because they love their Veggies as much as we do and almost always have a vase range or vege options.
Release your inner chef: let Jamie Oliver flow through you and start cooking up a storm whether you’re staying in an AirBnb or Hostel, utilize the kitchen and save money while doing it ! Even if you are lazy like me and just heat up that frozen meal it’s an easy way to know exactly what you’re eating and remain a lazy (but happy) vegetarian.
Just add water: dehydrated soups, cuppa noodles, instant mash and porridge mixes are your new best friends! This isn’t just handy for your diet but for long haul train and bus trips too!! Feeling like you’re not getting the nutrition you need? Get some vitamin drinks and top up all those great vitamins you need in a drink! Honestly these tips saved me on a 3 day long non-stop train trip through Russia – click here to read my post on traveling across Russia here.
I hope you liked my post, do you have any extra tips? Or a traveling while vegetarian story? Let me know in the comments below.
This is a country I never really expected to visit, and only really did because of its geography; basically it was in the right place at the time. Although having said that, I’m so glad I did. This was the first “Stan” I had visited, but would defiantly not be my last. This diverse country sparked a new fascination, interest and curiosity in this part of the world that I did not posses before my visit.
I flew into Kazakhstan’s capital Astana from Russia, as I had previously read it was relatively easy to get a Mongolian Visa from here. Have a look at my ‘Getting a Mongolian Visa in Astana, Kazakhstan’ post from details on this.
Astana is a large city, as such many of its attraction are rather spaced out, I’d recommend taking advantage of the public transport. Even without speaking the country’s native tongue catching the local buses are relatively easy and super cheap, the standard fare converting to less than 0.30c. There is also the classic ‘Hop on Hop off’ Bus. If you’re tight on time these are a great option, allowing you to view the best parts of the city and its attractions as well as hear about its history all in a matter of hours.
I was eager to get a real feel of the country and escape the mundane of a city, after a few hours of searching Kazakh tours I found myself communicating with a local guide I found through ‘Indy Guide’. Convincing me to take the 12-hour train south to Chimkent was easy after a quick Google image search. The south region of Kazakhstan has absolutely breathtaking natural landscapes that I was eager to get amongst, and boarded a train the next day.
I shared a cabin with a young woman and her two cheeky kids, an hour latter I found my self baby-sitting the 2 and 5-year-old boys while she had took disserved nap. None of us understood each other, however they soon came to refer to me as ‘Apa’, meaning sister. After a bumpy nights sleep I found my self swapping phone numbers and Facebook’s with my cabin buddies and saying good bye, as I jumped off the train and into the dusty hot air of the south.
I spent the day exploring the city and the night in a creepy looking hostel. The next morning the adventure began.
To be entirely honest my guide was rather annoying and never seemed to know when to shut up, but undeniably loved his country and knew where the best place to visit where. On top of that he knew almost every fact, story and spiritual meaning for everything from the many amazing Mausoleum we visited to Carpet, like seriously this guy spent a good part of the afternoon taking me around a caplet factory and explaining the origin of Kazak carpet, the guy could not get enough of it, and confessed that his home was covered in it, floor, walls and roof???? (True story). During my week with him I was taken everywhere from the steps of the desert, to the mouthman’s and even spent a few nights with a local family in a small village with their 7 children, and couple of horses, cows, chickens, sheep and donkeys. Here I was spontaneously brought to the local school of 160 students from 5-18 to teach a lesson of English, as even the English teachers could not speak it, there was also a whole school assembly to show me of as a westerner, with a Q and A season.
In this village I also tried Horses Milk a delicacy of the area and many Kazak sweets as the locals believed that western people loved sweets would offer them to me constantly. I trekked a mountain and had a picnic at its snowy peak, explored ancient ruins, rode a rather grumpy horse, picked fruit from wild apple trees and watched men squat with a baby camel on their back (apparently it’s a traditional sport)
After a crazy, weird and adventures week it was time to move on, and the city of Almaty seamed as good as any. I boarded yet another train and 13hours later I was wondering the streets in search for my hostel. After asking a handful of people if they spoke English, I found a woman with her mother in the park, that not only called the hostel for me, but helped me but walked me to it, and helped carrying my overly packed front-pack.
The city of Almaty has some unique and beautify sights; however just beyond its rim is untouched beauty that deserves to be on everyone’s bucket like. As I was to be spending my birthday in this city, I made a point make my time here memorable and found that to challenge. I organised a tour with some others in my hostel a few of Almaty’s best natural locations, including the famous Kolsi Lake, Charyn canyon and Kaindy Lake all of which are bewildering, exceptional and astonishing there own remarkable way. It took several hours in a craped car, on some of the bumpiest roads I’ve travelled on, with a guide that spoke next to no English, however he did spit out “Kangaroo”, when I told him I was from the land down under.
Before I know it I had spent over a week in Almaty and almost a month in Kazakhstan. And as my visa was due to expire I was to move on, next stop Mongolia. If you’re humming and Harring about visiting Central Asia, I’m hear to assure you. You will not regret exploring this antique part of the globe.
Welcome to a Disneyland like paradise, where the lights only shine brighter when the sun goes down…. Seoul, South Korea
Stepping off the plane and into the airport, and you’ll already know you are somewhere very special and very very….. Different, to say the least.
If like me the first thing you do once you get off a long flight is find the closest restrooms, then prepared to be amazed, South Koreas high tech toilets are about to blow your mind. You will be greeted by systems with a button for everything from playing music, and heating the seat, to an oddly enjoyable water squirt directed certain points of the rear??? So, now you’re sitting there listening to the relaxing waterfall sounds and finish up your ‘duty’ (Pun intended), wave a hand over the sensor and receive a precisely measured amount of toilet paper, once you stand up the toilet flushes automatically and then begins to clean its self with sanitized, as it bids you farewell.
If this isn’t enough to freak you out, then take a casual stroll down the road and checkout the k-pop street performers, the girls dressed as dollish anime characters and the occasional Owl, Raccoon or poop café.
Take a deep breath in and guess what you’ll smell? Korean BBQ of course, what were you thinking off ? That’s right BBQ!
Korean BBQ is a whole new interactive experience! Take a seat at a table witht a giant woke style BBQ at its centre. Let the waiter know what you fancy and a few moments later some raw meat and veggies will be delivered. Don’t go blaming the cheff if you food is over cooked, because now you’re the chef!!
A little nervous? Its okay because even an idiot or a baby could do this, I know because I can sometimes be both. Let the sizzling magic begin with a bottle of typical Korean beer Mekju.
Seoul is one of my favorite cities to date, its not just for the unexpected, strange and futurist sights that make you know you’re a very long way from home, but the culture and people. I found that even though Koreans are always moving forward in technology and business, they have managed to maintain and live by their old traditions creating a buzzard and beautiful balance between the two.
Being a young girl who always finds herself lost in a big city, it’s life saving to have multiple strangers stop and offer help, even when I wasn’t in need of any. On one particular occasion a few Koreans actually caught the train with me just to help me get to my destination.
Koreans are polite and respectful, so much so that even on an empty street and 4am in the morning, they will wait for the little green man to tell them when to cross, or during peak hour on a Monday they will line up to board the subway.
I could write on for pages how beautiful this city is, but really its one to discover on your own.
Take it from two Aussies arriving in Toronto who strongly live by the mentality of ‘death before decaf’. After a painstaking 30hour flight, a strong amount of caffeine was the only thing that could break us through the jet lag. We had heard the rumors and knew the Aussie standard would be hard to come by and therefore opted to ask some local Canadians that confidently directed us to try Canadians famous Tim Horton’s. I don’t even know where to begin in reviewing this beverage, I refuse to call it coffee, unless you can classify dirty bean water, and sugar as coffee. Additionally I made the mistake of ordering some food to company this disaster. And was served a plate (cardboard box) of calories, carbs and what may or may not have been a vegetable, this yet to be determined.
Don’t, go here, just don’t.
However before you subject your taste buds to the torture of repulsive imitations of coffee I have endured over the past few weeks, there is hope found in a handful of cafes. Below are some of our favorite cafes in Toronto that not only supply consistently great coffee, but fun hangout areas you’ll want to stay in all day.
Get yourself downtown into one of the 6 ‘jimmy’s’ cozy cafes and surround yourself with inspiring walls covered by rap legends and Historical figures, the design layout changes from store to store.
Now lets get a little technical and dive into Jimmy’s many coffee blends, you have a few choices from the blend hall of fame, each is named after a famous “jimmy” from jimmy Hendricks to James dean. Combine that with a pretty unique drink list, including such delights as the Purple haze, Goth Latte or JVO (Jimmy’s very own). You’ll find your classic cappuccino a bland beverage in comparison to these awesome specialty mixes. Additionally no one likes coffee that drains your pockets even if its good coffee, and lucky for you, this isn’t as issue. The prices are descent for Toronto standards and leveled by the amount of shots per coffee.
To top it off the staff are very warm, if not a little eccentric and are always up for a chat. You can find one of these little gems everywhere from our local Baldwin Village location as well as Kensington, Gerrard, Queen west, McCall and Ossington.
The dark horse also has 6 cafes within Toronto, with one situated right in the heart of Chinatown and located right next to a funky record store.
This place is cool, everything and everyone in there is super modern with a quirky, rustic edge. It has a awesome contemporary interior with wooden flooring and a large communal table that looks designed precisely for the purpose of whipping out your laptop and Mooching off the hour of free Wi-Fi (it’s okay we all do it). Decoratively vaulted ceilings, exposed old brick and elaborate polished metal, bordering the espresso bar gives this café a unique character and style. Additionally is front is complete with large elongated windows that allow you to watch the chaotic street go by while you relax with a hot cup of chai accompanied by some trendy folk music.
This is a specialty café with beans from Detour and 49th Parallel to give their customers a seasonally diverse and interesting espresso. You will have to expect to pay a little extra for a good cup of coffee here, however if you craving a little afternoon delight, swing up after 3pm and treat yourself with a baked goods at 50% off. These treats looks so gold you could but on a kilo just looking at it, but with 50% off, it’s worth it.
Crafted bean Coffee
Crafted bean is along Dundas West Street, amongst half a dozen private art galleries and opposite the famous Ontario Art Gallery.
This is where I grab purchase my vital morning caffeine dosage after a run. I love the charming staff, atmosphere and the beautiful printed designs that is printed onto each coffee (check out the pictures below). Additionally there is a large range of delicious Tea’s and student discount. This café is never super busy so you would have to wait long for your coffee, and finding a table for you and your laptop is easy.
De mello palheta Coffee Roasters
De Mello Palheta is only a short walk from my house, situated by Young and Eglinton, it was originally recommended to be by a local, however this place is listed at the top of almost every coffee review in Toronto.
It is an absolute hipster haven, and an undisputed crowd pleaser.
The beans are roasted in store and distributed to some fine-dine coffee establishments like Sorry coffee co., Neo Coffee Bar and Toyko smoke.
The masterminds behind this concocted creation are two Melbourne born Aussie brothers (like I said, Aussies know their coffee).
I have even read reviews by Californians who order their beans hear in bulk and have them shipped over.
When walking into De Mello you will be welcome by inviting and fun décor and friendly and attentive staff with excellent customer service. You will find that only after a few visits they will have remembered your name, coffee and ask how your aunt Mary in hospital is doing.
If you’re after a non- douchey or pretentious staff that genuinely make you feel like an extended family member visit De Mello Palheta . Don’t just take my word for it, get off your computer, jump on the TTC and come up to the best part of Toronto; Eglinton (totally not want to be bias, but this is my neighborhood and it’s the best part of the six).
Bicerin Espresso Bar
Bicerin has taken over the coffee scene within Baldwin village offering free wifi, comfortable seating and of course that great coffee. Freshly roasted single origin beans make for great tasting coffee, and if like me you prefer a healthy alternate milk, you have the option of soy, coconut milk and my favorite; almond milk. One of my favorite aspects of this coffee joint is that it feels very personal with close wooden tables that are often shared with 2-3 people, plus friendly staff that make it very easy to strike up convocation.
A chic nook along Dundas west and a new recently opened store in the Financial district. Fall in love with the modern blanc white layout and the smooth coffee taste. There is a huge range of pastries, paninis and salads that makes this a already popular brunch/lunch stop, so don’t expect to get a seat at lunch time unless you’re ready to fight for it. The paninis will cost a steep $10 but they serving sizes are huge and come with a complementary side salad, and for the vegan and gluten-free species out there you have not been forgotten, there is plenty of item on the menu, you’ll be sure to fall in love with. Go ahead while yourself and support a small growing business.
If you know any great cafe’s in Toronto that I haven’t listed please let me know in the comments below 🙂
Mongolia is one of the last truly nomadic countries left on our planet, this absolutely breathtaking expanse entails vast, rugged and fiercely wild wonders that will enlighten the raw nomadic sprit in all. Mongolia’s ancient land delivers experiences, adventure and uncut beauty unobtainable anywhere else. You cannot help but feel a primal, humbling and emotional connection to this awe-inspiring terrain.
So, in order step foot in this remarkable land 9 out of 10 times you’ll be entering through Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, as there’s not much you can do to avoid this. Don’t let this city discourage or cloud your impression of the country, as the real Mongolia and the best of it is yet to come. Try not to spend much more than a day here, and if you have to, take a tour or hire a driver to take you out of the city and to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and The Giant Chinggis Khaan statue. Its well worth a visit.
Keeping it cheap.
If you have looked into flights, accommodation and tours you have probably learnt that this is not going to be a cheap destination and unfortunately your not wrong, however as I have done this exact trip I can offer an insight on how you can experience an amazing trip and save a few bucks here and there. Sorry I can do much in the area of flights and unless you’re coming through China by Bus or Russia by train (both of which, you will need a visa), there’s going to be pretty pricy airfare, as Mongolia only has the one international Airport- Chinggis Khaan International Airport.
However as for accommodation and a Tour of the Gobi desert I have an excellent alternative to the inflated prices listed online.
Where to stay
First off, your going to want to book a room at The H7 Hostel in Ulaanbaatar, this place is basically an apartment so you wont have to worry about walking into a party hostel with 12 beds to a room and the constant fear of being robbed. There are only private rooms so you wont be sharing a room with anyone, additionally there is a kitchen at your disposal, the location is perfect, and it is very clean and modern. Although, even with all this in mind, the best part about the Hostel is the owner; Namjil. He is a super nice guy that goes well out of his way to meet your every demand. Namjil organised an absolutely amazing trip for my sister and I that allowed us to see the best parts of the country and truly get a feel for the real Mongolia. We spoke to him about our desire to explore the Gobi and he devised a tailor made trip, calculating the cost of a driver, fuel, food and accommodation in a different area and Ude each night. This met we knew exactly what we where paying for and that there was no hidden commission.
Najil took us to the bus station the next morning, helped us by tickets to Dalanzadgad, in the south of Mongolia, this cost less than 10 dollars and took around 8-9 hours. The bus is nothing flash but comfortable enough making regular toilet and food breaks. Najil also sent us up with a sim card each with unlimited calls and data for FREE! So with spottily, Netflix and Angry birds the trip was over before we knew it. Once in Dalanzadgad we found a man holding a sign with our names on it; our diver; Baggy. Baggy did not speck English but was very accommodating and went out of our way to make our experience an enjoyable one. He drove us to a local store where in order to keep within budget we purchased 7 days worth of instant porridge, two-minute noodles and plenty of snacks. We were then taken to the Ude we would be spending our first night in. Here our host family greeted us with a home cooked meal of Horse and rice. Yes, you read that right … Horse. The Mongol people love their horses; they provide them with company, transport, milk and meat. As I am always eager to try something new and ‘when in Rome’ I tried my luck with it. It’s a rather tough meat, and the milk; very, very sour. All in all I’m glad I’ve given it ago, but won’t be ordering this from my local butcher or supermarket any day soon. We then retired to our Ude for the night.
An Ude or Ger is a traditional dwelling distinct in Central Asia and have been in use since the Mongols began their nomadic life with animal husbandry 3,000 years ago. It is very portable and assembled and dissembled easily, aiding to their nomadic lifestyle. They consist of a wooden frame and wool cover, usually sheep or camel, with a fire at its centre. However Keep in mind the fire will not burn all night, and depending on season you choose to go in, it can get very, very cold. I found my self there in the heart of winter and found sleeping very difficult. I hid firewood under my bed to feed the fire at night with, and on one particularly cold night (-10°C) lit my toilet role on fire in order to get the fire started again as the wood had frozen solid.
I wont lie, the cold made for a rather uncomfortable sleep, but now its all part of the experience and didn’t come to the Gobi desert for the hotels, so took it all in my stride.
The next morning using a camper stove provided by Baggy we prepared noodles and coffee, packed up our things and Baggy drove us out to Yolyn am to explore the mountains and frozen Ice Rivers among wild horse and marmots.
Then back to the road, or desert rather as I did not see a road once during my stay in the Gobi. We spent most of our time in the car with Baggy but found we were never bored. The desert is constantly changing, we saw many herds of camels, horses, and goats, and even hairs and gazelles. That night we visited a new host family, eat horse and noodle soup and spent another night in an Ude.
This became our new routine; Baggy driving us to a new and interesting location each day, and then to our new host family for the night. We climbed sand dunes in Khongoriin Els, stood on the windy cliffs of Bayanzag, and explored the beautiful colourful rocks of Tsagaansuvarga, rode Horses and camels, and played with their babies (that where taller than us), watched shooting stars and developed a new appreciation for central heating, flushing toilets and showering.
To get back to Ulaanbaatar Baggy aided us in purchasing bus tickets, loaded us on the bus, and Najil was there waiting at the other end.
All in all the cost of my 2 person trip broke down to:
- Driver + Car -$100
- Fuel – $150
- Week of horse dinners (for 3, drivier inc) – $180
- A weeks accommodation in Ude’s (for 3, driver inc) – $ 180
- Activities i.e. horse and camel ridding – $40
Total = $650 for 2 people!
Mongolia isn’t a holiday destination; you won’t be finding the Hilton in the Gobi desert nor a McDonalds or KCF. However if your after a real adventure and okay with outdoor holes for toilets, sleeping in sheets that may have NEVER seen soap, no showering for a week, and the probability of eating horse meat and drinking hose milk, then this is the trip for uou; get booking!
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 https://www.vr.fi/cs/vr/fi/etusivu 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
HOW TO GET THERE:
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.
TRAKAI TOURIST INFORMATION SITE AND MAP – CLICK HERE