Top 10 Tips for the Budget Traveler

Many people across the world would love to experience another place, but may be limited by the expenditure a trip entails. But I believe everyone who wants to travel, can. Wherever you are, whatever you do, you can always take the time & budget out to take that trip you’ve wanted to for the longest time. Here are a few simple hacks:

  1. Find the places closest to you

Whichever part of the world you live in, there will be at least one place easily accessible where you can travel to. Whether it is in the same country or a different continent, find that spot where you don’t need to dedicate 18 hours to travel to!

  1. Find the places cheapest to travel to from your country
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Wayanad, Kerala. India, December 2016.

I have learnt that the internet is your best friend while planning a trip. You can search SkyScanner/ Emirates to find a list of places to travel to- All you have to do is enter your dates and say Take Me Anywhere/Inspire Me and voila! You have a list in order of pricing and flight time to help choose your next destination.

  1. Find the places you don’t need a visa for

As an Indian passport holder, traveling for me becomes quite limited as we require a visa to enter most major countries around the world. However, there are a handful of cities which allow Indian citizens to obtain visa on arrival, and last minute planning becomes easier with this list.

  1. Find the countries with a currency equal to or lesser than yours

The one great way to go on a budget trip is to find the countries with currencies have a lower value than the currency you earn in. For example, the Dirham in the UAE (Where I live) – Is stronger than a lot of currencies like India, Phillippines, Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, Hungary. You end up spending much lesser and enjoy more!

  1. Allocate a budget and stick to it

The issue many of us face while traveling is going out of budget and over spending. The easiest way to deal with this is to get a multiple currency card or cash, maxing out at one amount. Leave your credit card behind if you have serious will-power issues- And at the end of the day you will be forced to spend the amount limited to what you have.

  1. Book your flights 5-8 weeks prior to departure

This one is different depending on time of the month, day, year and whether you’re booking local or international flights. Start doing your research in advance and sign up for fare updates on airline compare websites – I use SkyScanner, Kayak and Musafir. Kayak has come up with ‘Hacker Fares’ – Which provide best possible combinations of flights to give you cheap tickets, this usually includes a combination of different flights each way. I have found the sweet spot for ticket bookings is 5-8 weeks before travel – Always check the airline website before making your final booking to ensure the pricing is in-line, and you are aware of the add-ons, cancellation policies and baggage allowances.

  1. Book your hotel rooms way in advance

The minute I start thinking I want to travel, I book ‘pay later, free cancellation’ stays on Booking.com (Usually about 3 months before I’m about to travel). I usually end up getting great deals on mid-range or boutique hotels, maxing out at 140$ per night (For 2 adults) for a good property. Also helps being a Genius Booking.com member due to the number of bookings I’ve made, it usually gives me some additional discount. Once you’ve shortlisted your hotels on a hotel compare website (Booking, Tripadvisor, Trivago) – Check out the actual hotel websites. Most chain hotels run a discount on early bookings through their website and may provide additional benefits like early check in, free breakfast etc.

I tend not to Airbnb or CouchSurf as you can actually end up staying at great mid-range hotels for a few dollars extra if planned in advance. For last minute travels you can try HotelsTonight.com – Not used it to book as yet but seems to provide good deals.

  1. Use multiple websites and travel operators

This is where the effort comes in. I use a minimum of 4 different travel and hotel websites while planning my trip to ensure the best package for myself (and friends). My go to sites have been mentioned above – However if you’re on a time crunch refer to Tripadvisor for hotels, as it usually compares prices from 3 different booking websites, including the hotel website. For flights refer to SkyScanner – It is usually effective and covers most major airlines.

  1. Pack light

Apart from the obvious ease of traveling light, having less baggage has another major benefit – A lot of local cross country flights charge extra for checked in luggage, and the cost associated with the same can substantially reduce if you have only one bag.

10. Look for the free things to do in the city

Most city tourism websites have a list of free things to do – Which range from walking tours to park visits or even free entry into certain attractions including museums! Always check the city’s official tourism website to ensure you have a list of attractions to cover. They sometimes even offer discount tourism cards which reduce the cost of entry to a large number of tourist spots.

Additional Tip:

Use Google Trips to keep a track of your itinerary, tickets, bookings etc. It also provides a free guide to the country/ city which can be helpful!

Hope this helps and have a great time planning your next trip!

 

 

When in Copenhagen

… Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

A beautiful capital with a population of about 700,000 people, Copenhagen, I believe, is a very under-appreciated European city in terms of dining. With 18 michelin stars spread across the city, fine dining is a local language for Copenhagen. Having been home to the World’s Best Restaurant (Noma, which shut doors earlier this year) for 4 years, this Nordic capital is a great destination for culinary enthusiasts. It’s also a short & cheap flight away from Dubai!

Here are my top 5 things to do in Copenhagen:

  1. Take a free walking tour

In almost every European city, you will find a free walking tour. At the end of this tour, you feel free to pay your guide as much as you think the tour was worth.

We tried the Free Walking Tour from the steps of the City Hall which lasted 3 hours and covered all major monuments in Copenhagen. Fun & insightful, this was a great way to discover the city.

  1. Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant
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Copenhagen is one of the finer dining destinations in the world with a whopping 15 michelin starred restaurants. From the 3 starred Geranium to the one starred Relae, there is something for everyone. Mind you, not all of them burn a hole in your pocket so try at least one!

  1. Take a walk in a park
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The city is known for it’s gorgeous parks, and you will get lost through the winding pathways and rows of trees, school-like benches and great weather. Walking around with a cider in hand on one of the rare sunny days in May was a great feeling!

  1. Eat at the street food markets
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Papirøen (Paper Island) and Meatpacking District offer an array of great trucks/ kiosks serving up delicious food. At Papirøen you can grab a beach chair, a cold beer and food from around the converted warehouse and enjoy a great day.

  1. Take a canal cruise
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Copenhagen is inspired greatly from Amsterdam, which reflects in its architecture as well. Rows of colorful brick buildings and a canal running through the center.. A cruise is a great way to see most of the sights. Skip the online bookings and you can go negotiate rates on the spot with the cruise providers at Nyhavn.

Additional tips and places to visit:

  • Some of the tourist destinations I enjoyed visting were Tivoli Gardens, Christianborg palace and Nyhavn.
  • Take a bicycle tour.
  • Take a beer tour at the Carlsberg factory.
  • Shop for souvenirs on Hell street.
  • Most residents speak English and you can manage without having any knowledge of Danish.
  • Plan according to the weather! It can get very cold and rainy, pack heavy.
  • Take a taxi for long distances, in case you don’t have time or would not like to walk. Efficient and affordable.

I had visited Copenhagen to attend the OAD Top 100 European Restaurants announcement and could fit very limited non-dining plans in my 4-day trip, and I cant wait to go back to explore more restaurants and things to do!

Hope this helps and do share your recommendations for this great little city x

What Traveling Does To You

… And why your life will never be the same.

I first got on a plane when I was 40 days old, my mother tells me. I think that may have been where it all started. Or maybe when I first traveled internationally, at the age of 2. Or it may have been the first time I left my family and traveled with friends. I really don’t know where it came from. The want, the NEED to meet new people, find new places, look for that hidden coffee shop in that alleyway or stand and listen to street musicians without the nagging thought of having to be somewhere else… and to just enjoy the little pleasures in life.

Have you ever walked down a street feeling like you knew the place, even though you had never been there before? Have you ever felt like you are looking for something, and traveling just helps you a find a bit of that something every single time? Or does it make you feel like you leave a bit of yourself behind in every place you go to? Whatever it makes you feel like, it is different for the next person. And that difference is what people relate to. That difference is what can keep you talking for hours to a fellow traveler, without getting bored. Because this is what travel does to you: It makes you more accepting. More accepting of situations, of people, of discussions, of experiences and of everything in general.

Here are the top 5 things I’ve learnt from traveling so far (and hope I continue to learn more):

  1. It makes you more tolerant

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

You would have never considered staying a hostel and taking a shower in a shared bathroom after college. But you do. Because in a city packed with tourists, that one bed in a room of 6 people is the only accommodation you could find. And you don’t mind it because it is just a place to crash after a 14-hour day before you head out again.

  1. It changes your outlook on pretty much everything

Walking down the streets of your own city may never be as exhilarating as when walk down the market in a new city. The people of a country will never be how you imagine them to be, or hear about them to be. Interacting with new people and new cultures changes your view on what you may have grown up listening to.

  1. It opens you up to try new experiences

You may not have thought of bungee jumping till you looked up the Macau tower and thought – I have to see how jumping off that feels. Or tried putting your feet in a crate full of grapes to try your hand (or feet!) at making wine. Or it may have been riding a scooter – till that point you would have considered 2 wheel vehicles to be scary!

  1. You tend to experiment more with your meals

You probably would not have considered ox tail served at a restaurant in your own city, but the fact that you are traveling internationally pushes you to be a bit more experimental with what you eat. Whether it is mint-covered cockroaches, ox tail, or something as simple as kangaroo meat or oysters.

  1. It toughens you up, while going through the rough

Pushing your limits is quite common when you’re traveling, at least for a lot of people. Trekking up 5 kilometres is something you try in the mountains in Nepal, and it makes you tougher than ever before. So does walking for 20 kilometres in one day, or getting stuck in a bus or train, or even an airport. Tough situations always provide a learning curve for you as an individual.

A trip may not turn out to be as expected, but it may be much more than you ever imagined. And every new city you go to opens you up to learning more, experiencing more and accepting more as a person… and that can never be a bad thing J Happy travels!

What is life in an oven?

I’m a 20-something living in possibly the hottest (I mean literally, its 50 degrees out here!) city on this planet- Dubai. Born and brought up here, I have spent my not-so-long life somewhat traveling, eating, reading, eating, working, baking, cooking and eating some more. At the beginning of this year I decided to make a resolution, one that I would never break. So eating healthy, walking, gymming, no fried foods, were automatically edited out of the list. Finally, I came to a resolution which would not only be easy to follow, but possibly difficult to break, owing to my love for food. Every week, I decided to eat at a restaurant that I have never tried before.

Which brings me to my blog- a place to write about the food journey I have been on for some 40 weeks now, and going strong. Lifeinanoven combines my 2 loves- food and writing. It has been 10 months since my resolution, 10 months of trying out new cuisines, new places, small cafes, dessert shops and sometimes overstepping into trying out more than thought about. But its been a wonderful journey, and starting this week I will be posting about some of the experiences which made me the happiest, and my personal take on the best meals I have had over the span of this year so far, including ice creams, cakes, sushi, makhani daal among others. I might also occasionally add some recipes I’ve tried out and liked, and hope you will like them too!

I don’t claim to be a connoisseur, but what we probably have in common if you’re reading this is our love for food. And love for food surpasses all others. Of course, my opinions may vary from yours, but so do our taste palates. Feel free to leave feedback for places you think are worth trying out, and if I haven’t already been there, I promise I will this year.. Afterall, I still have about 12 new restaurants left to try over the last quarter of this year.

Happy Eating!