Posts tagged ‘Travel Tips’

Taking More Cruises in Asia

vietnam cruiseTo Westerners, the Far East is a place of perceived mysticism, magic and diversity. Travellers can read as much as they want about Asia, but when it comes down to it, there is only one way to experience this marvellous part of the globe – first hand.

There are a wide variety of ways to experience the Far East, but the most comfortable mode of transport is surely aboard a luxury cruise ship. Azamara Cruises specialise in providing travellers with luxurious lodgings, unrivalled service and a wide variety of onboard entertainment whilst en route to exotic port destinations. Some of the cruise operator’s most notable Asian destinations include:

Halong Bay, Vietnam – This enchanting bay offers visitors the opportunity to explore one of the most unique landscapes on the planet. The bay is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the Quảng Ninh Province. The bay’s name translated directly to “Descending Dragon Bay” and features thousands of limestone karsts and spire-like islands.

Kobe, Japan – The sixth largest city in Japan and home to the world famous Kobe beef, this city is an essential stop for travellers discovering the Far East. The city is also well known for its Arima Onsen (hot springs), which allow visitors to experience true Japanese peace and tranquillize without having to travel far from the city.

Phuket, Thailand – There is a reason that this island is such a popular tourist destination. The Andaman coast is known for its breathtaking scenery, world-class diving and rock climbing. However, when visiting Phuket, why not opt for something a little different? The Haad Nai Yang National park is on the north-western side of the island and gives travellers access to 35 square miles of unspoilt tropical rainforest
There really is no better way to experience the Far East than aboard a luxury cruise. Courtesy of Azamara Cruises, you will get to see the world in the lap of luxury.

Staying Comfortable on Long International Flights

long haul flightFor most travelers, booking Viking River Cruises or multi-city land tours is extremely exciting but, for some, the thrill of visiting a far-away destination can be tainted by the thought of the long international flight that is required to get them there. Most travelers agree, being uncomfortable on a long flight can definitely start what should be a pleasant holiday off on the wrong foot, but there are ways to help your necessary travel time be as comfortable as possible.

Reserve a good seat
Even within the same class, some airplane seats are much better than others. Consider an aisle or exit row seat for the most leg room, or a window seat if you want to rest your head to sleep. It’s best to try to avoid seats near the lavatories as other passengers will be accessing these throughout the flight which can be disruptive, particularly if you are trying to sleep. Some travelers opt to sit near the back of the aircraft for long flights. This is good if you don’t mind the noise produced by the engines because certain aircraft (such as the Boeing 747), have a large area behind the last row of seats that gives you plenty of space to stretch.

Be Comfortable

When taking a long flight, it is always wise to wear loose clothes with options for layering if you become cold. Also, if you want to take your shoes off during a flight, slip-on shoes are best since shoes that tie can be difficult to put back on at the end of the flight. Bring a neck pillow to provide firm neck support and keep your head from tilting while napping. There are small neck pillows available that can easily fit into your carry-on luggage and even some inflatable options that are smaller still.

Prevent Boredom
Make sure you bring things to entertain yourself during the flight. Even if you happen to be interested in the in-flight movie, they don’t start right away and the music selection can be quite limited. If you bring an iPod, you will make sure you have the music and movies that you like. If possible, choose an airline that offers AVOD (Audio Video on Demand), which is a TV screen in front of your seat that lets you choose what you want to watch or listen to. Regardless, it’s a good idea to bring your own headphones as the headphones available on the plane (whether for purchase or for free) are generally fairly poor quality. In addition, it’s good to always have a book and magazines with you since unforeseen flight delays could prevent the in-flight entertainment from being available and could cause your iPod to run out of battery before your flight is over.

Stay Hydrated
The air in a plane is very dry and may dehydrate your system so it’s extremely important to stay hydrated during your flight. Although you can request water from the flight attendants, it is a good idea to bring plenty of water on board with you as well. You can purchase bottled water in the airport (once you pass security) or, if you prefer, you can bring an empty stainless steel water bottle to fill from a water fountain. Just remember that you should never drink the water from airplane bathrooms as it may contain bacteria.

Fight Hunger
There’s nothing worse than being hungry on a plane. Since plane food is quite poor on many airlines, you may want to consider bringing your own food on board to make sure that you are not hungry during the long flight. As an alternative to the regular meals, many airlines offer vegetarian, Kosher and other special meals if you order in advance. Because the airlines have to specially prepare your meal, it is always fresher (and usually better) than the standard meal options. Plus, passengers with special meal requests are almost always served first. In addition, take some snacks with you. Protein bars are particularly helpful if on a long flight as airline meals tend to be low in protein.

By following these few tips, you can help make your flight more comfortable which will make it more likely that you will land feeling happy and ready to start your vacation.

The Maldives

maldivesThis is a guest post.

Last year we traveled to the Maldives for our honeymoon and I can honestly say that it is heaven on earth. The Maldives is the smallest country in Asia and it is made up of around 1,190 coral islands, which are surrounded by warm cobalt blue waters. It is just paradise! I would definitely recommend this destination to anyone who wants a luxury holiday or romantic break.

Just imagine waking up in a luxury villa and looking out the window of your room to see translucent waters below you. That is exactly what it is like in many resorts in the Maldives. We stayed in one of the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa’s water villas, which was actually located in the sea. The photographs we had looked at of our villa prior to traveling were nice, but seeing and experiencing it in person is something else. We had breakfast every morning on the beach before soaking up the sun and exploring the coral reefs.

As you can imagine, a holiday in the Maldives is not cheap. You will definitely pay for peace, luxury and exclusivity, and of course the service you receive is faultless. From our experience you are more likely to spend less by booking all-inclusive packages or full board deals, which include flights, transfers, accommodation and catering. However, it is a good idea to shop around as you can still find cheap flights and accommodation by booking them separately online. We flew with British Airways, which is one of the most popular airlines offering direct flights from London Gatwick to Malé International Airport.

A holiday in the Maldives will probably be the most expensive you ever go on, but it is a once in a lifetime experience. Get your money box out and start saving now!

Choosing the Right Travel Insurance

travel insuranceBefore setting off on your long-awaited holiday or business trip, it is important to consider taking out a travel insurance policy to ensure peace of mind during your travels. The tricky part is choosing the right policy based on your needs and your destination. Travel Insurance can protect you financially after unforseen events, such as illness, or if you have personal belongings lost or stolen. This article will aid in determining what to look for in a policy.

Experts recommend choosing a policy which has medical coverage of at least 5 million dollars. Such a policy should also cover personal liability, this is important in case you accidentally injure someone else while aboard. Make sure that your medical cover includes repatriation in the event of a medical emergency, ensuring you will be brought home in the event of severe illness.

Other variables in selecting a travel insurance policy will depend on your individual needs. If you are hiring a car or need cover for expensive equipment that you’re taking with you – most companies offer different levels of cover from comprehensive travel insurance to budget travel insurance.

Budget Travel insurance can be a great way of attaining inexpensive cover and peace of mind during your travels. The best place to start is by doing a travel insurance comparison online at as many providers do not have a bricks-and –mortar storefront, allowing them to bring costs down and provide services at lower costs. If you are renting a car while on holiday here is a tip: most travel insurance policies that cover rental vehicle excess will be much cheaper than what is available through hire companies.

As with any contract, it is important to check the fine print when taking out a travel insurance policy. Make sure everything that you require is covered in the policy, especially if you’re taking part in adventure sports such as rock-climbing or skiing.

It’s worth taking the time to understand what travel insurance policies cover, carefully choosing a policy that is within budget and will meet all travel needs.

An Alternative to Hotels

holiday villa

Instead of booking an expensive hotel for your next holiday, consider saving money and booking a self-catering apartment or villa holiday as an alternative. An excellent rental option for long stays, group bookings and families, holiday apartments and villas are affordable and can help travellers feel at home away from home. Homey furniture, extra living space, privacy, kitchen facilities and private bedrooms make accommodation comfortable and these arrangements are usually cheaper than traditional hotels.

Some private residences come with private pools, recreation facilities and beachfront living. They can be as urban or as secluded as desired. An affordable and popular accommodation option in Europe, self catering apartments and villa options are becoming more and more common in the Caribbean, North Africa, and some parts of the United States.

Listings for apartments and villas are everywhere, from holiday house websites, to worldwide classified websites and even local newspapers for local holiday stays. Rural holidays, such as staying in restored farmhouses remodelled for holiday purposes in rustic areas, called agritourism lodges, are especially popular in Italy.

To make finding and renting apartments and villas even more affordable, Home Exchange allows the exchange of holiday rental property so registrants can swap holiday houses and go on holiday anywhere in the world. The Home Exchange network allows both parties to temporarily rent each other’s home at no cost, and can be a very creative and economical way to get free accommodation. Take precautions and develop a mutual trust relationship first before surrendering any keys.

Discovering Asia

thailandAsia is the largest continent in the world and an ever popular tourist destination. With so many countries to choose from, each with their unique culture, traditions and attractions, it is sometimes difficult to decide where to go. Asia is too massive and diverse to conceptualize as a single digestible travel “destination”. Even defining the borders of this continent is difficult – from the mountains around the Black Sea in the west, to the snow fields of Siberia in the east, there are more people and cities in Asia than outside of it.

Thailand, China, India, Japan…….the list of destinations in Asia goes on. Thailand has its paradise islands, Buddhist temples and beautiful capital Bangkok; China has its architectural wonders such as the Great Wall, as well as sacred buildings and a unique culture; India has its own manmade wonders such as the Taj Mahal, not to mention a rich smell of spices coming from the wonderful restaurants in Delhi, and Japan has its spectacular Mount Fuji and cherry blossom trees.

Checking out the price of airline tickets online is perhaps crucial to the decision-making process. Search and comparison websites allow you to enter in the flight criteria so that you can price airfares for different destinations and book the cheapest you find. Asia’s largest airports by number of intercontinental connections include Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Mumbai and Singapore. For the Middle East, Dubai is by far the largest hub, with Doha and Abu Dhabi also having reasonably good connections.

Cultural Travel

cultural travelThe concept of cultural travel involves immersing yourself in the local way of life and culture for a period of time. You take yourself away from the tourism inspired hotspots and instead focus on experiencing what life is like for the normal inhabitants of the country.

Some people who are into cultural travel prefer to take it to a country that is completely out of their comfort zone. These people like to have to learn a new language in order to survive and experience different beliefs, ethics and general way of doing things. However, you do not have to do it in this way but instead spend time in a country that may be the other side of the world but still shares at least the same language.

When the term cultural travel is used it should be noted that it does not mean you just go to a country and visit a museum or read some books as it is focused on the people themselves. You eat the food in the area not because it is a novelty thing that tourists do but instead you learn to cook it yourself or eat where the locals eat because it is the cuisine they have grown up with.

Cultural travel is not something that can really be achieved in a short space of time. Some may be familiar with the idea of a gap year during education or indeed a gap year after education and before work and this is the timeframe really associated with cultural travel.

With this type of trip you shall find that you do not spend vast amounts of money like normal tourists as you learn about local places which are much cheaper as they do not come with the tourist surcharge. You are spending more time there so you are living at local rates and prices for a number of things. After all you are trying to live like a local as much as you can.

Cultural travel is therefore able to be summarized as spending time living like the locals. You can avoid all of the marketing ploys aimed at tourists and get off the beaten track to experience what day to day life is really like.

The Best Diving Sites in Asia

phuket divingAsia provides some of the best diving sites in the world. In fact, divers seem to have come to some sort of consensus that regards Asia (and the Pacific Southeast specifically) as being the best in the world when it comes to top-rate diving locations. A lot of this consensus has to do with the sheer number of dive sites located in Asia. This also means that the more diving sites to choose from, the harder it is to come up with a list of the best. However, we must try…so here it goes.

Let’s begin with Thailand. The Similan Islands and Burma Banks are located up the coast from Phuket. Although due to Phuket’s popularity the waters can get busy, they seldom disappoint with their clear waters, granite islands, and sandy beaches. What makes it such a great diving spot is the fact that the islands are protected under Thai law, which shields the area from fishing. Diving is easy and navigation is simple, making for comfortable dives. Along the north end are whale shark populations, as well as several species of rays, and the leopard shark.

Papua New Guinea dive sites may be difficult to get to, but they are well worth the effort. Kavieng features current-swept channels, which attract a variety of big fish. You can observe eagle rays, mantas, tuna, barracudas, reef sharks, and oceanic white tip sharks. Kavieng is also home to miles of reef walls which drop away to great depths and are covered in big fans, sponges and beautiful hard corals. This area is also home to several World War II wrecks.

Sipadan in Malaysia is an Asian diving classic. It contains more than most, as it is at the epicenter of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. Groups of greenback and hawksbill turtles, barracuda, big-eyed trevallies, manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks all call this area home. There is also a mysterious turtle tomb hidden beneath the reef in an underwater limestone cave. It contains many skeletal remains of turtles, but is dangerous for humans as well, as divers have died here. So don’t attempt this without cave experience and a first class local guide.

Raja Ampat in Indonesia provides all that could be desired in terms of diversity. The waters are home to more than 1,000 species of fish and the diving offers diverse terrain and marine life. Most dives are drift dives due to strong currents, and large schools of fish populate the region such as sharks, manta rays, mobula rays, dolphins, whales, and turtles. Some sites have huge rocks rising up from the ground and water, surrounded by barracuda and manta rays. Rare animals like the wobbegong shark can also be spotted, as well as the epaulette shark which is only a foot long and is indigenous to the region.

Finally, the tiny nation of Palau is a great dive site for jellyfish. The popular lagoon near the island of Malakal has World War II wrecks and pelagic fish. Palau’s amazing Jellyfish Lake is in the Rock Islands. Visitors can swim with millions of soft jellyfish. These jellyfish have evolved without any stinger as there is no predator in the vicinity.

Asia’s Best Beaches

Mai Khao beachAsia is home to the longest as well as some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Since Asia is such a vast continent that covers many tropical areas, it stands to reason that it would have many beautiful, sandy beaches. There are, in fact, so many beaches to choose from that coming up with a list of the best is quite difficult.

Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Thailand, is one of the few remaining beaches that are quite and almost deserted. It is just 17km of peaceful, beachfront. In fact, it is the longest beach on Phuket, with only one resort. This is the place to go to experience some serenity. April provides some excitement however, due to the hundreds of baby sea turtles that are released into the ocean.

Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi, Malaysia is another secluded and private beach. It is a huge, secluded cove that contains the one of the longest stretches of private beach anywhere. The beach is wide with soft sand and the deep blue water is perfect for swimming. There is also only one resort, making it a perfect romantic getaway, or just a private taste of paradise.

Lombok, off the coast of Bali, Indonesia has pure white-sand beaches with clear aqua-blue water. It is so private that sometimes you may have the beach all to yourself. Considering that Lombok is just a short ride from Bali, it is a wonder that it remains so secluded.

The island of Koh Phangan, Thailand in the Southern Gulf has developed rather rapidly over the past 20 years as it’s become a tourist hotspot. The tiny island has lots to offer: fabulous beach and water perfect for swimming and snorkeling, lots of accommodations to choose from, outdoor activities, and a big party scene. If you would rather be surrounded by fellow beach goers, then this is your perfect destination.

Tioman Island may be small, but it is vast in beauty. With its lush jungles, crystal-clear streams, and dazzling white-sand beaches, you will never want to leave. It is also not as developed as some other beaches in the area, making it a dream destination for those seeking something off the beaten track. Juara Bay is as isolated as you can get – a quiet beach on the east coast, braced by three rivers leading to waterfalls in the jungle.

The beaches in Boracay, Philippines provide a laid-back atmosphere, but still draw crowds nonetheless. The 4km of sparkling sand that makes up White Beach is claimed by some to rival the beaches of the Caribbean. The water is shallow, the sand is like powder, and the shops and services surrounding it cater to every need and budget.

Last but not least, you cannot have a list of best beaches without mentioning the Maldives. The tiny island nation southwest of Sri Lanka contains many beaches that remain undisturbed. The white sand and turquoise waters make it heaven on earth. Plus the government has stress quality over quantity when it comes to its tourism, meaning that the beaches should remain somewhat undisturbed for years to come.

Top Things to Do While Traveling in Asia

angkor watAsia provides a huge array of things to see and do over a vast amount of land and nations. Although it may take several trips to see all of it, Asia contains some awe-inspiring sites and major historical monuments. Its temples, unmistakable cuisine, and beautiful scenery will make you never want to leave. I’ve assembled some of the top things to do while traveling in this fabulous continent.

  • Japan’s Mount Fuji makes the top of everyone’s list and it’s not hard to see why. You could easily spend a weekend exploring the vast dormant volcano and its surrounding Lake Ashi, and Hakone National Park. The views are incredible, and with the proper preparation you can even accent Mount Fuji’s 12,388 feet to the summit to watch the sunset/sunrise. What a memorable experience that would be.
  • The giant Temple kingdom of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a once in a lifetime sight to behold. It is quite possibly the most impressive thing you will ever see in a jungle. This UN World Heritage Site sees thousands of visitors each year. The massive size of it is truly compelling when you think of how old it is and that it is surrounded by water and jungle. Angkor Wat is a true testament to human achievement and is a fascinating place to visit.
  • Ha Long Bay in Northwest Vietnam is simply outstanding as it is flooded with limestone rocks jutting out of the sea. You can take a boat tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that will take you around some of the 2000 islands which protrude out of the water in the Gulf of Tonkin. The area is absolutely breathtaking, and deserves to be experienced.
  • Take a tour of the Singapore Zoo either in the morning or at night depending on the types of animals you wish to see. Singapore Zoo is massive and provides the animals an opportunity to live in the wildest environment possible. During the morning tour, you can breakfast in the wild while exploring the zoo, and then get a closer look at the orangutans in their natural habitat. In the night tour, you weave through the Himalayan foothills at night on a safari tour to spot nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. It’s one of the best things to do in Singapore.
  • What better way to discover a forest than by elephant? At Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, you can enjoy the outdoors, wildlife, and lush forests as well as explore Pakchong Creek by elephant. It provides a truly majestic experience and one that is definitely one of a kind.
  • Stay in a Buddhist Monk temple in Korea. There’s no better way to understand the lives of these modern day monks than by participating in a temple stay program. During the weekend stay, you get to rise before sunrise to serve breakfast, do chores and meditate, all while experiencing firsthand the everyday lifestyle of the Buddhist Monks. You even get to dress up in traditional monk clothes for the duration of your stay.