The Best Cities In Scandinavia

Ask somebody what Scandinavia is like and they’ll probably say cold and dark. But that’s not a fair representation of a region that has so much cultural and historical heritage as well as incredible natural landscapes to explore. If you’ve written off Scandinavia in the past because you don’t think that it’s for you, think again. There is so much to see and do, especially in the best cities in Scandinavia.

The Best Cities in Scandinavia 

Reykjavik, Iceland

If you’re put off by the cold then Iceland probably doesn’t sound that appealing to you, the word ice is right there in the name. But if you can get past that, you’re in for a treat if you take a trip to Reykjavik. The first thing to see is definitely the Northern Lights; this incredible natural wonder is visible in other countries but you won’t be able to see it as clearly anywhere else as you will in Iceland. If you don’t want to stay in one place on your trip, you can go on Iceland tours and see some more of the natural landscapes outside of the city as well. The thermal baths are a particularly popular attraction and they’re perfect if you’re getting fed up with the cold. You can also go on volcano tours or try your hand at fishing for salmon and wild trout. The food and drink in Reykjavik are amazing too, but it isn’t always what you might expect. There are some great traditional dishes but the best stuff are things like hot dogs, pizza, and beer.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is a great city to visit because it offers a great combination of rich historical heritage with modern tourist attractions so you’re never left wondering what to do. The architecture in the city is simply incredible, which is why there are not one, but two UNESCO heritage sights in the city. The Royal Palace and the Woodland Cemetery attract millions of tourists every single year. The rest of the city is equally beautiful and you can easily spend a day wandering around the cobbled streets along the canals. While you’re there, make sure to head over to the Old Town area where you’ll find all of the museums and boutiques as well as some great restaurants serving delicious, traditional food.

Andoya, Norway

Norway is a great country with all sorts of great cities to visit but the best place to go for first-time visitors is probably Andoya. One of the things that the area is most famous for is the Andoya Space Centre which you can visit, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As well as the space centre, you’ll find the best wildlife watching spots in the country at Andoya. Whales, in particular, are very prominent in the area which is why tourists flock to Andoya all year round, hoping to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures.

 

These are the best cities in Scandinavia to visit but it’s worth remembering that they can get pretty expensive so if you’re travelling on a budget, you might want to consider going elsewhere.

 

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7 of the World’s Destinations That Are Better By Boat

There is nothing quite like being out on the open water, feeling the wind in your hair, and enjoying everything that the ocean (or a lake) has to offer. You get to enjoy a country or city in a really unique way and enjoy some amazing scenery as you go. But where are some of the best places to enjoy a trip by boat? Here are some destinations to add to your list.

The Grenadines

For a real ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ style of trip, then the ‘spice island’ in the south of the Caribbean is a great destination. The culture, views, and landscape are truly one of a kind, and sailing a yacht around the area is not to be missed.

Catalina Island, California

California isn’t normally somewhere that you would think about for boats. But Catalina Island, just over twenty miles from Los Angeles, is a true boating paradise. It is close to the mainland, but still far enough away that you can feel like you’re properly out at sea. Not only is it great for boats, but diving and watersports are popular in the area too.

Croatia

Croatia has become a destination that has grown and grown with popularity. It has even earned the nickname of the new riviera, so you know that sailing and boating is a must in the area. There are plenty of picture-perfect beaches, green lush areas, and some really cute and charming towns to explore too. So if you’re planning a trip, make sure you look up how to get a yacht charter in Croatia, as it is a place not to be missed, especially when it comes to the sea.

French Polynesia

There are five main islands that make up French Polynesia, with Tahiti being one of them. But with lush waterfalls, stunning lagoons, volcanos, and exotic marine life, it makes sense to see the area by boat. If could be a real-life Moana experience to enjoy and explore.

Venice, Italy

Can we even talk about boat trips and vacations on the water without mentioning the city built on water? Venice is a stunning spot, that is really unique and unlike any other. There are plenty of festivals to enjoy throughout the year there too. Though one of the more expensive places to go in Europe, due to its popularity, it should still be on your bucket list as it is truly wonderful.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

There are over 300 miles of waterways in Fort Lauderdale, so it is easy to see why it has been given the title of the ‘Venice of America’. It hosts an International Boat show, as well as having plenty of canals, rivers, and the Atlantic sea all close by.

 

Menorca, Spain

The smallest Balearic island is a little lesser known, but it still has plenty to offer those looking for water. There are plenty of secluded coves, as well as secluded beaches to explore. You can even get boats that travel to the nearby Balearic islands of Mallorca and Ibiza. So much tradition on the island too, so there are things to see and so on land as well.

Have you been to any of these destinations? And have you ever been on a boat trip?
Let me know in the comments below! 

Why Digital Nomads Are Singing Praises About Singapore…

Singapore has become South East Asia’s commerce capital. Companies from around the world are moving to Singapore to take advantage of its reputation as a networking hub. However, the city isn’t only for office-based business empires – digital nomads are now starting to realise that they can benefit from this city’s buzz too. Here are just a few reasons why digital nomads should give Singapore a go.

All year-round hot weather

Those looking for warm weather will find it all year round in Singapore. Due to its distance from the equator, Singapore has a climate that’s practically tropical. It does rain often, but it’s a warm tropical rain – you’ll never feel cold in Singapore. The constant heat means that when you’re not working, you can take the chance to work on your tan.

Singapore digital nomads

Many apartment complexes and hotels come with pools and there are many public pools to choose from too including water parks and city view pools giving you the chance to cool off. You can even head to Sentosa where there are white sand beaches (all man-made, although you’d never guess it from looking at them).

Luxury accommodation

Accommodation in Singapore can be a little pricey, but you’re guaranteed good quality living conditions for what you pay. Most of the population live in government owned apartments known as HDB flats. These are nothing like the public housing you’ll find in the west – their amenities are luxurious in comparison, they’re safe and secure, plus they’re likely to come with amazing views.

Singapore digital nomads

If you’re moving with family or sharing with someone else you may be able to consider a house for rent– you may even be able to find one with its own swimming pool. Alternatively, you could live out a hotel or hostel as some digital nomads staying short-term do.

Fast internet speed

When it comes to working online on the go, you don’t have to worry about internet connection in Singapore as you may do in many other countries around the world. Singapore has many public internet hotspots that you can use for free – simply look out for the Wireless@SG network when you’re out and about.

Not only is the internet easy to access, it’s also one of the fastest in the world. This makes it perfect for digital nomads – whilst you may find yourself desperately hunting for wi-fi in many countries around the world, you can feel more at ease in Singapore.

No shortage of coffices

If you’re the type of digital nomad that loves to work from a coffee bar, you’ll be happy to know that Singapore has no shortage of ideal ‘coffices’. In fact, there are many coffee bars in the city specifically set up for people to work from. This could allow you to work from a new café every day, giving you the chance to try out new coffee blends and constantly work in a new setting, keeping you always motivated.

On top of the city’s coffices, there are a number of co-working spaces that you can try out for a more work-focused environment. You may have to pay a small fee to rent a desk, but this may be no more than you’d usually spend on coffee.

Good transport links

Singapore also has a good public transport system, which makes it easy to get around and explore. You’re often best buying a Smartcard which can be used on all buses and trains across the city. You can pay a monthly or annual fee – you’ll pay less overall than were you to pay individually for each journey. Driving in Singapore is not recommended unless you really miss the freedom of having a car – there’s very little road to explore and car ownership can be expensive. Almost everywhere in Singapore is accessible via public transport and if you decide to cross the border in Malaysia, you’re generally best off hiring a car here rather than in Singapore as the rates are likely to be cheaper.

High levels of safety

The crime rate in Singapore is very low. There are really no bad areas – you can feel comfortable taking the backstreets in most parts of the city without feeling as if someone’s going to mug you for your laptop. That isn’t to say that Singapore isn’t crime-free at all and as with any city it’s always good to have your wits about you. Singapore has a lot of strict laws, but you won’t feel as if you’re constantly being watched by police as you may do in some cities – they’re there only when they need to be.

Delicious food

Good food is a perk wherever you happen to travel in the world. Singapore’s cuisine is very cosmopolitan, so is likely to appeal to everyone’s tastebuds. There are plenty of traditional Singaporean restaurants and street food stalls where you can enjoy South East Asian noodle dishes and curries.

Singapore digital nomads

There are also a lot of Western style restaurants if you’d like something different. On top of great places to eat, Singapore has great bars for when you want to unwind – the city is known for its cocktails including the iconic Singapore Sling.

The whole of South East Asia is on your doorstep

Singapore’s central location in South East Asia also makes it ideal for exploring neighbouring countries in the region when you’ve got some time off. Cross the border and you can explore Malaysia– it’s an hour’s flight to Kuala Lumpur, or a 6 hour bus ride if you want to do it on the cheap. Here, you can see sights such as the Petronas Towers and Chinatown. Also accessible in Malaysia is the town of Malacca, renowned for its Portuguese colonial architecture and temples. It’s also possible to head south from Singapore to Indonesia. You can take a boat ride to the island of Bintan, which is renowned for its white sands and beach resorts. Bintan is also a great place for trying out various water activities such as scuba diving and paddle-boarding, not to mention visiting an array of temples such as the Lohan temple containing nearly 500 statues.

Singapore Digital Nomads

Want to venture a little further afield? Bangkok is a two hour flight, as is Jakarta and Brunei. This could allow you to take a longer holiday and see a little more of South East Asia whilst still keeping Singapore as your base. Singapore is generally accepted as the most expensive place in South East Asia when it comes to cost of living – you won’t need to bring much spending money with you when exploring its neighbours. Make sure that you purchase a visa when leaving Singapore as many of the countries in South East Asia require one.

And you, have you been to Singapore? Are you considering the digital nomad lifestyle or are you one? Let me know in the comments below! 

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Slovenia: Europe’s best hidden cycling destination

Slovenia best European cycling destination

Why is Slovenia Europe’s best-hidden cycling destination? Well,I didn’t expect it. In fact, I had no expectations at all. I like to explore places without having preconceptions and ideas in mind. But, let me tell you, I’m in love with Slovenia now. While you’ve probably heard of Bled Lake and the capital with the impossible name to spell and pronounce, you are probably in the unknown with the rest of the country as I was a week ago. Keep reading to find out

I just got back from my cycling ambassador experience around Slovenia and I’m ready to share with you some tips and tricks about this little country as well as a great cycling itinerary for my fellow bikers.

Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

DAY 1 – Welcome to Slovenia! Europe’s best-hidden cycling destination!

 Get to know the capital

WHEN WHAT
morning Arrivals to Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana
late morning Explore the city by foot and stop for lunch / late breakfast at Pritličje. One of the best cafes in town (also ideal for digital nomads)
16:00-19:00 Cycling around Ljubljana with the Moustache Tour guides
Dinner Ljubljana Castle
Notes I will publish a dedicated article about Ljubljana since there is loads to see and explore there and I don’t want this article to be too long!
Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

DAY 2 – Dolenjska Region – Explore Novo Mesto, the hometown of Tour of Slovenia Race  

WHEN
10:00 – 11:00 Arrive in Otočec 
11:00 – 11:30 Cycling: Otočec – Novo Mesto (7km)
13:30 – 15:00 Lunch at Don Bobi and tour of the city
15:00 – 17:30 Cycle Novo Mesto – Kostanjevica na Krki (26.5km) 
17:30 – 19:00 Explore the Venice of Slovenia and then relax by SUP-ping down the river along the village
19:30 Dinner
Overnight at Balnea Hotel, Novo Mesto
Notes & more info: https://www.visitdolenjska.eu/en/
https://www.facebook.com/VisitDolenjska

https://instagram.com/visitdolenjska/

Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

DAY 3 – Štajerska Region – North-East of Slovenia 

WHEN WHAT
8:00 Depart from Novo Mesto
10:30 Arrive in Maribor
11:00-15:00 Tour of the town and lunch at the Hotel Maribor
15:00 – 19:00 Afternoon at Pohorje Bike Park
20:00 – 22:00 Dinner at Gostilna pri treh ribnikih
Overnight at Ramšak Chateau Vineyard Glamping Resort*
Notes + Info https://maribor-pohorje.si/best-choice.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/VisitMaribor/

https://www.instagram.com/visitmaribor/

* I will soon publish a dedicated article about the gorgeous Ramšac Chateau – Stay tuned

Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

DAY 4 – Primorska Region – Mediterranean Slovenia – The coast 

WHEN WHAT
7:30 Transfer from Maribor to Piran
10:00 Arrive in Piran and tour of the city
12:00 -12.30 Cycle from Piran to Portoroz (3.3km)
12:30 – 15:00 Lunch at Oštarija Portorož
15:00 Visit to Fonda Fish Farm
19:00 Dinner at Hisa Torkla
Overnight at Stara šola Korte Guesthouse
Notes + Info http://www.portoroz.si/en/

https://www.instagram.com/portorozpiran/

Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

DAY 5 – Kranjska Gora Region – IMMERSE IN GREEN   

A must-try experience for any cycling visitor is the route between Mojstrana and Rateče, which runs along a well-maintained asphalt cycle path past several interesting abandoned railway stations, well worth taking a closer look at.

If for you cycling is synonymous with great exertion, adventure and adrenaline-pumping excitement, you may be the right person to tackle the ascent of the Vršič mountain pass, one of Europe’s most challenging road cycling routes.

You can also choose Bike park. The park offers three different trails – Downhill, Airline and Lunapark – whose names say it all about the styles of riding you can choose from. Featuring a 350-metre vertical drop, several kilometres of trails with varied surfaces, and all kinds of fun obstacles such as bridges, jumps and teeter-totters, the park has something for everyone who can ride a bike.

WHEN WHAT
8:00 Transfer to Kranjska Gora
10:00 Arrive in Kranjska Gora and pick one of the many cycling routes in the region
17:00 Chill by Jasna Lake with a book
Overnight at Hit Alpinea Kranjska Gora (Ramada Hotel&Suites)
Notes + Info https://www.kranjska-gora.si/en

https://www.instagram.com/kranjskagora/

https://www.facebook.com/KranjskaGora

Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

DAY 6 – HIKING or MOUNTAIN BIKING in KRVAVEC 

Timing Activity
9:00 Depart from Kranjska Gora to Krvavec Mountain Resort / Bike Park
10:00 – 13:00 Enjoy and go cycling cray at Krvavec Bike Park
13:00-14:30 Lunch up at Hotel Krvavec
Notes + Info http://www.tourism-cerklje.si/en

https://www.facebook.com/TICcerkljeNaGorenjskem

Slovenia Europe's best hidden cycling destination

photo credits: Nace Production

Slovenia: Europe’s best-hidden cycling destination

This is probably the first of a series of articles I’m going to write about Slovenia (if I’ll ever find the time LOL). There is so much to see and explore in such a small country and Slovenia is Europe’s best-hidden cycling destination. You can find out more in the links above and by checking the official Tourist Board website which is incredibly well-researched and written. Make sure to drop me a line via the contact form if you have any specific questions or enquiries – I’d be happy to help you plan your trip to Slovenia!

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I was invited by the Official Tourist Board of Slovenia as the Italian/British Cycling Ambassador 2018 – all opinions above are mine. A special thank you go to Slovenia TO team, Vesna for planning everything incredibly well, Marusa for making sure everyone was happy in such a pressure-filled week, the filming crew and especially Lea, Sašo and Nace for their ability to make me feel comfortable in front of the camera. 

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3 Ways to Grow and Improve on Your Travels

Many people travel, at least in part, to try and solve their problems — to overcome the hangups and traumas which have been haunting them, and to discover a newfound sense of positivity and purpose in life. This is why I believe you can grow and improve on your travels.

While travel can certainly be an inspirational experience and can give you motivation and insight that can contribute to you making positive changes in your life, travel will not solve your problems and lead to transcendent personal transformation.

To enjoy such a transformational experience, there’s no substitute for doing work on yourself, whether that takes the form of getting a handle on your addictions, sitting in your apartment (or tent) and mapping out your goals for the future, or surveying and addressing any habits that might be detrimental to your overall success and progress.

Travel can be a perfect opportunity to commence this type of deep, introspective work, but it’s going to require focused effort and engagement on your part.

To that end, here are some things you can do while travelling in order to turn your trip from merely an uplifting and inspiring experience, to a life-changing one.

1 – Read

Take a selection of “self-help”, autobiographical, and inspirational books with you on your trip —  read them diligently.

When most people are packing books to take with them on holiday, they tend to focus on paperback romances and similar forms of light entertainment — often bought in the airport moments before catching a flight.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with such forms of light entertainment, the kind of books that are likely to really help you transform your life, are of a slightly different nature.

Despite the bad reputation it has among some people, the self-help industry contains many books by many authors that may help to provide insight on how to deal with your issues. While some of the books you’ll encounter are bound to be scammy and unhelpful, there will be plenty that can offer you useful insights on how to manage your life better.

grow and improve on your travels

These could range from more business-centric books, such as Jack Canfield’s “How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be“, to the more psychological, such as Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos“, or those specifically focused on getting you out of your comfort zone and into a place where optimal growth can occur — such as John C. Maxwell’s “15 Invaluable Laws of Growth”. Find the books you must read at least once in your life here

In addition to self-help books, it can be very useful — when trying to get your life in order — to read the autobiographies of people you admire for one reason or another, as well any books which help to raise your sense of positivity and inspiration in general.

grow and improve on your travels

Often, when we’re in a rut, looking to the examples of other people who have overcome similar problems, and succeeded in achieving things we admire, can be extremely helpful. Books such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — which can help to revive your sense of awe and potential in life — can be no less important for their ability to pick you back up and motivate you to keep moving on.

While growth can stem from many different sources and avenues, books provide one of the greatest resources for self-development.

2 – Write

Journals often get a bit of a bad reputation, as people frequently see them as self-indulgent and childish. In this case, however, I am not talking about a book where every entry starts with “dear diary, you’re not going to BELIEVE what happened today” — but are instead describing journaling as a tool for serious introspection.

grow and improve on your travels

In fact, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional “dear diary, guess what” format, but the key to journaling for self-development is to focus less on petty gossip, idle thoughts, and social happenings, and to orient the journal around questions of mood, meaning, purpose, happiness, and growth.

A successful journal entry, recorded at the end of the day, should address issues such as; how you felt during the day. What thoughts you’ve had about your life in general. Which moments you think you acted properly in, versus those where you felt you acted poorly, and so on.

As the quote attributed to the ancient Oracle at Delphi runs; “Know thyself”. To change your life in a positive way, you need to understand how your mood and behaviour tie together day to day, and take appropriate steps to adjust unproductive or unfulfilling behavioural patterns.

On my little stationery start-up, you will find the perfect travel journal in the next few weeks. Stay tuned and make sure to buy a copy of this very limited edition.

grow and improve on your travels

3 – Make new positive habits

To say that our lives are just the sum total of our habits is likely pretty close to the truth. When all is said and done, it is those things that we do every day that shape the overall arc of our lives, and determine what kind of story we leave behind.

For this reason, introducing positive and empowering habits that bring us closer towards our goals, is not just a crucial method for achieving the kind of life we want — it might be the only reliable method for doing so in the long term.

grow and improve on your travels

The way this plays out, in practice, is that you focus on your daily habits and try to structure these in a way that is most likely to bring about success, rather than focusing too much on particular targets set for a certain point in the future.

An example of how this habit-based systems approach could work, for example, would be for you to focus on doing 20 minutes of exercise every day, rather than setting a goal to “be fit enough to run a 5k race in 6 months”. Since I was on the road, I’ve had this great habit of waking up at sunrise for 10/15 minutes meditation, 30 minutes yoga and then a 5k run. It’s been brilliant not only to keep me in shape, but also to fill my body and mind of positive energy for the rest of the day. 

The issue with setting a specific goal — particularly when travelling — is that much will be left to fate and uncertainty. Your daily habits, on the other hand, are almost entirely under your own control.

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And you? How are you going to grow and improve on your travels?

Let me know in the comments below!
If you are ever in need of some help or tips about travelling for a long time, please use this contact form and let me help you have the best experience of your life!

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4 Attractions For A First Time Visit To Vienna

attractions Vienna

In recent years, Europe has become an incredibly popular tourist destination because there are some great cities there and it’s very cheap to pay for accommodation and food and drink etc. Places like Prague and Budapest are great but they attract a big party crowd so if you’re looking for a romantic, relaxing getaway, you might be a little disappointed. Vienna in Austria, however, is a different story. This beautiful city, with its rich cultural heritage, attracts tourists but it hasn’t been tainted like a lot of other places. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other cities nearby but it’s worth paying the extra for it. These are just some of the amazing things that you can do while you’re there.

Top 4 Attractions in Vienna

Take A River Cruise

Vienna sits on the river Danube which goes through quite a few countries in Europe. Taking a cruise on the river is the perfect way to see the city. You’re also quite close to Budapest in Hungary and Bratislava in Slovakia and you can get to both by river. It’s worth taking a day trip there if you’ve got the time. There are also some great cruises that offer food so you can have a romantic meal on the river in the evenings.

Musical Parks

attractions Vienna

One of the things that Vienna is famous for is its musical parks. If you’re staying fairly centrally at somewhere like the Vienna Marriott Hotel you’ll have good access to most of them. The biggest one is Stadtpark but there are quite a few dotted around the city. Inside the park, you’ll find all sorts of statues and water features that play all sorts of music from traditional classical all the way up to modern. These great parks are a good way to spend a day relaxing in the sun if you got to Vienna during the summer.

Art

attractions Vienna

Vienna is possibly best known for the incredible art that you can find there. There are all sorts of galleries around the city but the 3 main ones are the Leopold Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Kunsthalle Wien. The Leopold is impressive before you even get inside, the building itself is a huge, spectacular limestone cube. Inside you’ll find the biggest collection of art by Egon Schiele, one of Austria’s best loved painters. There’s also a great cafe there where you can stop for a coffee. The Museum of Modern Art is great if you fancy something a little less traditional than the Leopold.

Go To The Beach (Almost)

If you’re missing the beach holiday vibe while you’re in Vienna, don’t worry. You can go to the beach, sort of. While there isn’t a beach there, the banks of the river Danube are the next best thing. There are some great areas where you can relax and do a bit of sunbathing on the bank. Be aware that some areas are nude sunbathing areas so make sure you don’t accidentally wander on to one of those.

Vienna is an amazing city with so much on offer, you won’t be disappointed if you visit. 

attractions Vienna
If you are looking for other travel inspirations, make sure to visit my travel section here

How to grow Instagram engagement – 5 secret tips

grow instagram engagement

How to grow Instagram engagement – We recently discussed how to grow your Instagram audience where I’ve shared tips and tricks I’ve learnt from being an active Instagram user since 2011 and becoming an influencer since 2012. Now it’s time to share with you some trick to increase Instagram engagement, since having a large following, but no engagement is a sign trick of faking it. 

Be calm, you are not the only one who want to grow Instagram engagement – everyone, from my my nephew to my butcher and florist are looking to get something back from their time investment in th popular photography social media.

There are no secret that since the Instagram algorithm was introduced, people have been getting less and less response to their posts, people have tried all sorts of things, from comment pods (will write something about in the near future) to “new post stories” and “turn on notifications” attempts. I’ve heard rumours that Instagram will be releasing a new algorithm soon, but god knows what that will be about, I’ll keep my fingers crossed it won’t be paid-advertising oriented again.

In the meantime, here are some trick that have helped me grow Instagram engagement in the last few months:

#1 Know when is the best time to post

It’s seem obvious, but in a busy life like mine, it’s hard to make time to check and post at the right moment. However, I found out in a recent test that if you do take advantage of that moment, likes and comments can be double or even more.

Posting at the right time, also means scheduling ahead. I’ve tried many services and now I have a couple of favourites (let me know in the comments below if you wish to know which ones I use). Scheduling your photos and captions allows to make sure you’re there when your audience is there too. We discussed how important is to give back to your instagram community in this post, so you already know how important is to also engage with others in order to have the same on your gallery.

#2 Know how frequently you have to post

Exactly like finding your best time to post on Instagram, you also find out how often you should post if you want to grow Instagram engagement.

The upside of the current algorithm is that your photos can appear on someone’s feed even three or four days after you published it. This means that Instagram posts have a longer life span than they used to.


grow Instagram engagement
After some experiments (secret experiment I only revealed to my clients on my one-to-one Instagram coaching), I realised that my best frequency is only when I am absolutely sure that a post is dead (i.e. it’s not getting any more likes or comments). If I do it before, it means that I’m losing engagement on that photo.

One thing is sure: never leave too much time between two posts because the alghoritm will definitely penalise you for that.

# 3 Post more Top Posts

What the hell?

Do you know what your tribe likes? Well, if you don’t, it’s not time to find out. Make a note of your most performing posts and see what they have in common. Then, post more of them.

Personally, I know my most performing pictures are those where you can catch a glimpse of me (I’m camera shy and mostly travel solo so that’s not so frequent!!!), or where I talk and share about my life-changing choices.

grow Instagram engagement

#4 Ask something

Among my experiements, I realised that whenever I ask a question to my community, I get tons more of comments and likes. It’s a little way to show that you care.

By the way, I really do care about each and every of my followers even thought it’s impossible to thank you all individually.

grow Instagram engagement

#5 Use Instagram Stories to create a relationship 

I wasn’t so happy when Instagram launched the instagram stories feature, but I have to say that it’s an easier way to stay connected to my Instagram community when I’m too busy with my life.

I’ve created a few different categories on my Instagram highlighted stories which I think of as different channels for my audience (there is one where I share all my secrets about Instagram by the way), in this way people can actually scan through my content and get to know me quickly and engage with me if they like what they see.

grow instagram engagement

But how do you bring people to see your profile? Well, telling them to do so! For example by adding a note on your caption about something new you added on your stories that day. I can see that this is working extremely well on my profile lately, especially since I’ve been sharing my tips about Instagram with you.

That’s all for today! See you on the next Instagram episode in a couple of weeks! 
SUBSCRIBE NOW IF YOU DON’T WANNA MISS A THING!

PS: Remember that my Insta-coaching one-to-one sessions are still available in June and July and I only have two spots left. Fill in this form if you wish to book now!
My Instagram Course instead will be launched in September.
Stay tuned.

by @the_stortyeller 
Sabrina Andrea Sachs is an Instagram Strategist – among other things – and in the past three years, I’ve helped dozens of brands and people build and grow their Instagram presence. With my 85k (total) followers and over 6 years of Instagram experience, I will be hosting my first Instagram workshop in Italy in September 2018 while my Instagram course will launch the following month. 

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Airbnb vs Hotels: Who’s going to win the war?

Airbnb vs hotels

I’m not a sophisticated traveller.  I’ve stayed at 5 stars hotels as well as the most basic hostels you could imagine. When I travel – which is what I’ve been doing full time since September 2015 – I like my accommodations to cover the basics:  a comfortable bed, preferably a private toiled and wi-fi.  If I can get extras, I like to have an espresso machine, a bike to rent and if I am staying longer a washing machine and a kitchenette. I consider myself a seasoned traveller and that’s why I think I can finally compile an Airbnb vs Hotels pros and cons list. I am not a football fan ( I don’t even know the rules, but I am going to use the same scoring system below). 

To write this article, I was just checking my Airbnb profile and I realised I’ve booked accomodation in 14 countries, including some beautiful properties in Malta, Matera, New York, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne, Mumbai, Dorset (when I was working with Airbnb and I stayed in a converted church!!!) or in Coggee, Sydney where the house came with a surfboard and a Nepresso machine.

Airbnb vs Hotels
Malta
Airbnb vs Hotels
Matera
Airbnb vs Hotels
Melbourne

It was in fact 10 years ago when Airbnb entered the hospitality industry creating a brand new model of sharing economy which was later replicated by Uber, Deliveroo, Boatsetter and my beloved client Spotahome. Yup, 10 years have already passed and I believe, as a full time traveller and digital nomads and having travelled far and wide that I should now share my experiences on the hospitality “battlefield”.

1 SOLO TRAVELLERS: AIRBNB 1 vs HOTELS 0 

As a solo traveller during my long trip around the world, I often opted for airbnb or hostels instead of hotels as they rarely offer you a solo discounted rate. 


Reading this survey, I recently found out that I’m not the only solo traveller and I also realised that 74% of people have chosen to use Airbnb when travelling alone to avoid extra charges. T
he survey also mentioned  that hostels appealed to 35% solo travellers because they liked the communal aspect, whereas 29% chose them solely because they were cheaper than other options. I have been to the best and worst hostels around the world, and I loved and hated them in equal measure. I believe that as you grow up, your tolerance to noise, wild sex above your head and disgusting bathrooms, lowers month by month. For me, for example, I’m done with hostels, it’s either hotels, shared accomodation or housesitting

2 THE LOCAL FEEL:  AIRBNB 1 vs HOTELS 1

When Airbnb was launched back in 2008, it was meant to be a social enterprise, a way for travellers to connect with their hosts and learn about their destination once they got there. Personally, I had various experiences: if on my first Airbnb’s stays I had lovely hosts opening the door for me and telling me everything about the area, sometimes even  while sharing a meal together, the most recent experiences have been different. As Airbnb grows and becomes more and more structured, hosts also have become more structured and organised. Some of them have several properties, cleaners and key boxes. They no longer welcome their guests but they might leave a note, the wifi password and a map of the city. So are we going back to the hotel concierge for gret info? Are we looking at blogs? Where is Airbnb USP gone? Where do we find that human interaction?


My point goes to hotels and my most recent assignment as a writer for Arrivedo for whom I create neighbourhood guides is a proof of that. Hotels now recognise the importance of giving more and above of the standard facilities.  Travellers are seeking unique travel experiences and some hotels are starting picking up on. I had the pleasure to work with Accor Hotels which totally embraced the sharing economy while launching their latest brand Jo & Joe. Hotels chains are stepping into the millennial game, designing venues and hotels to appeals to millennial traveller

3 UNIQUE EXPERIENCES:  AIRBNB 2 vs HOTELS 1 

Elizabeth Lowrey, a principal and the director of interior architecture at Elkus Manfredi Architects, said that “People who choose Airbnb are seeking an intimate, non-manufactured experience. They want to be embedded in the fabric of a community, where they can feel the uniqueness of place”. This was/is Airbnb’s USP and sometimes you still get to meet your host who will take you around and show you the best bits of his/her town. It’s rare, but when it happens, it’s magic. 

4 LOCATION: AIRBNB 3 vs HOTELS  2 

I’ll admit it. Sometimes, I’ve stayed at Airbnb s which looked and were fabolous but where far, far away from the main attractions. It’s common for hotels to be usually positioned in the most sought after areas: business, fashion or entertainement districts are normally filled with hotels rather than private properties, so depending on your preferences you can either chose to stay at a hotel or a airbnb in te various cities.

5 PRICE:   AIRBNB 3 vs HOTELS 2   

Hotels argued that the reason why some people where choosing airbnb vs hotels was the price difference, and I would say that this Schofields analysis is quite accurate. Why would I pay more to stay at a hotel where I have to wake up at a certain time to get breakfast or where wif-fi is only in the lobby, when for a lower price I can normally get a kitchen and fiber optic internet throughout my airbnb? It’s a tough question and sometimes I struggled myself, but I’ve also been extremely lucky to stay and work with some of the best hotels in the world, from Relais & Chateaux, The Leela Palaces, Il Principe di Savoia  and many others which all made me feel very at home. 

6 INNOVATION: AIRBNB 3 – HOTELS 3

“The way this (new) consumers likes to travel is not to spend time in the guest room but to have access to communal spaces,” said Tina Edmundson, global brand officer of luxury and lifestyle brands at Marriott International, which just opened Moxy New Orleans. 

What millenials and digital nomads (like me) are looking for are smart, keyless, innovative, uniquely designed and interenet-connected rooms with plenty of outlets for charging electronic devices. 

CONCLUSIONS AIRBNB vs HOTELS

AIRBNB vs HOTELS: 3- 3 It’s a draw

Of course it is because both Airbnb and hotels are changing and adapting to this very fast-moving environment.

I was an early adopter of Airbnb, in fact I think that the San Francisco-based company combined with the explosion of low-cost airlines is what made me fall in love with travelling over a decade ago and it made it more accessible to me and other people who love travelling as much as I do. I was a host on Airbnb too for a while in London and I loved to share my home with travellers from all over the world. 

As the sharing economy keeps growing around the world and travellers prefer to connect with locals and experience unique adventures on their travels, the hotel industry is taking the battle more seriously.

Times are changing…

The sharing philosophy is disrupting a solid industry as the hospitality one. I believe there is room for both (Airbnb and alike and hotels) to grow and to gain loyal customers. One thing is granted: change and adaption is necessary to stay on top of an everchanging culture and taste.

Airbnb needs to go back to its original purpose of being a point of contact between travellers and local hosts, while hotels need to go above and beyond offering beds and facilities to lure people in. Guests love comforts, but that is no longer enough. They want value for their money and certainly they are no longer willing to pay for basic services like wifi or a kettle in their room. Hotels should always offer those things that are harder to find in most airbnbs (generous breakfasts and SPA services) for free. The Airbnb vs Hotels battle is an interesting one and being a travel blogger I love to see the changes happening in the hospitality industry.

Finally, as I always say, I would never recommend something unless I’ve tried it myself – even when I write sponsored posts, they are 100% genuine and honest since my job is to give you, my beloved readers, the right information and tools to make your own decisions. So, after using Airbnb’s service now for several years, it’s a service I recommend wholeheartedly.

  • If you want to learn how to sign up and use Airbnb for the first time, click here [you get €28 off on your first booking with this link].
  • If you are a hotel, looking to get your own Arrivedo neighbourhood guide, social media strategy or professional photography, please connect with me by filling the form at the bottom of this page

What do you think? Who deserves to win the Airbnb vs Hotels battle? Let me know in the comments below!

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Myanmar itinerary and 10 places you must see

myanmar itinerary

In this (very long) article, you will find my Myanmar itinerary and how to plan your trip to this beautiful county including the 10 places you must visit in Myanmar (at the bottom of the article).

In the end, you will also find a list of practical tips for getting the visa, getting to know the locals, some curious info and more.

A bit of background and history of Myanmar

At first, while exploring Cambodia, I was in a huge moral dilemma regarding Myanmar and a potential visit to a country where freedom was something reserved only for a few lucky ones and where locals (including Aung San Suu Kyi and the Moustache Brothers) were unfairly imprisoned for criticising the government. It was a tough decision, I could have flown to  Bali straight away and chill on their wonderful beaches or I could follow my instinct to explore yet one more country on my 23-month life-changing journey. As I am writing this post, you already know what I decided to do.

Myanmar was calling and I had to go.

I consider myself an ethical traveller, someone who tries to respect other cultures while on the road and surely sustain countries which are trying to develop and open up to the outside world. This is why I had to go to Myanmar and this is also the reason why I hope you will feel like booking a plane to this incredible country once you’ve read my article.

Myanmar itinerary

Myanmar only opened up to tourism in 2012, so relatively recently and this has two implications for your itinerary: first, there are still parts of Myanmar that you cannot visit as a tourist. There are also some parts that you can only visit under the supervision of a guide. Second, infrastructure is still being built: buses can be ancient, old, broken and dangerous (probably the worst I’ve sat my ass on throughout South-East Asia), roads are in the same state as buses with pollution reaching skyrocket level in the major cities.

Books to get ready for your trip to Myanmar

As I believe you should always know a little about the place you are going to visit, I always recommend reading books about the country. Ditch your Lonely Planets, buy a book or read honest blog posts instead. Here are my suggestions:

Burma – A country at the crossroad by Benedict Rogers

Letters from Burma by  Aung San Suu Kyi

[On another note but about books… Did you know I just decided to express my love for books and reading on my Instagram more and more often? If you follow me there too, you might already know that I have recently kicked off a new community Instagram for people like me: who buy far more many books you could possibly read in a lifetime and be happy about it! Share your pictures with #tsundokutogether, I might also create a gallery here on my blog with the best pictures of your books obsession 😃 ]

My Myanmar Itinerary

Now, let’s get started! Choosing a route when visiting a country is crucial for having a great time there. So planning – especially if you have limited time – is going to be an important part of your trip to Myanmar.

I spent 3 weeks in Myanmar, travelling at a leisurely pace and only by land. There are other places I would have liked to have seen in but I didn’t manage to reach for various reasons, but I know I will be back one day to see them.

Choosing a starting and ending point:

After a lot of research, as I was leaving Cambodia I decided to travel in a big circle around Myanmar, flying in and out from Yangon. I could have finished in Mandalay like other travellers, but I would have missed some interesting spots I wanted to see, plus, there is always a hefty charge on booking a one-way ticket, that’s why I chose to travel to and from Yangon. I also believe Yangon is better connected to the other countries than Mandalay. Of course, this loop becomes harder the fewer days you have to travel within Myanmar so it is up to you to choose whether to save some dollars or maybe skip one or two of the highlights below. PS: As mentioned I travelled by land, there are also national airports where you can fly to if you are in a hurry or wish to save time between stops. Personally, I love travelling by land for two reasons: on the buses, you have the unique opportunity to sit down with locals and get a sense of their culture, language, lifestyle. Secondly, I love the slow pace (in Myanmar it can be extremely slow!) and watch the world pass by through my window seat.

How long do you need?

I’ve always been against those who rush through highlights to tick them off of an ambitious to-see list, therefore I always push people to see less but better.For example, I wouldn’t advise you to travel to Myanmar if you only had 7 days (my itinerary below needs at least two weeks) because travel around Myanmar is slow and you would really have to skip some important things. Generally speaking, 10 or (better) 14 days are going to be a great length of time in Myanmar.

STOP 1: Yangon (3 days)

Once I landed in Yangon, there was something in the air. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it smelled like hope. A friend of mine who had been there in 2012 as soon as they opened the borders, told me that the atmosphere was sad and deep, it was like time had stopped and the people were kind of scared and afraid of the future. But when I was there, I could tell there was something different. (Some) people were open to foreigners and it was nice to see how much effort they put into making me feel welcome. 

Things to do in Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda: Watch the gold gleam at  Shwedagon Pagoda at sunrise, one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist sights in Myanmar and in the world. TIP: you can use your ticket to go back in the evening and seeing the Pagoda in the different light of sunset.

Downtown Yangon: Not since I was in India have I seen such crumbling beauty and one of my favourite things to do was simply to wander and get lost in the streets of Yangon: Some buildings are better restored than others, some have a colonial look but most of them tell a tale of a time long gone by.

myanmar itinerary

Bogyoke Market:  If you like people watching and browsing among hundreds of stalls of things you never have seen before, this is the place to be

myanmar itinerary

Circle line train to watch local life in action. I had a very special encounter on this train – as it always happens when you embrace the local life and forget your camera and phone. I met this young student who I chatted to for the entire journey. Not sure how or why, but at some point, as we were talking about life, death and Buddhism, he passed me the book he was reading at an exact page and told me to read:

Everything comes and goes
we don’t need to push it away
and it will go away by itself.

I have no idea why or how, but those words were exactly what I needed at that precise moment of my life. If you read my Fiji post, you know what I am talking about since despite it had been 6 months, I was still in the deep hole of my heartbreak.  (The poem was from the book “A Map of the Journey by Sayādaw U Jokita )

Theingottara Park (People’s Square & Park):  Stroll around some lushly green gardens (and avoid Yangon’s dense traffic). If you get lucky, you can also meet some lovely little nuns dressed in pink strolling around the ark.

Caffeine fix & food in Yangon

Easy Cafe: Probably the best coffee in Myanmar, a bit more expensive than others, but surely worthy for a coffee fix

999 Shan Noodle Shop:  love noodles? Come here! Very cheap, but tasty noodles, probably the best in town! Make sure to go there early as it closes at 7 pm.

Coffee Circles: probably overpriced, but definitely worth a stop for a coffee and a healthy salad – they have wi-fi so you can also get some work done while sipping on your drink. 

Dream + sleep in Yangon

I spent a few nights at Little Monkey Hostel where I met some of my best friends during my travel (hello Percorra!) People who I later caught up again in other parts of the world. The hostel is nothing fancy, but the staff was friendly, it was clean and in a nice part of town.

STOP 2: Ngapali Beach (2 days)

I like to balance my city and cultural exploration with a bit of nature and possibly beach days, so while I was in Myanmar, I took a bus to Ngapali Beach where I took a few days by the ocean to think about my travel, my future and my mind.  I also took the time to fall in love with myself again.

I spent three nights in Ngapali Beach and did little exploring up and down the Ngapali main road and its adjacent beaches during that time. I really needed some rest, reading and just chilling by the ocean.

The one thing you need to know is that Ngapali is mainly a resort type of place and prices are quite high in comparison with the rest of Myanmar and south-east Asia. As I was at the end of my trip,  I visited Ngapali beach on a medium budget and I even added an extra night as I managed to share my room with another girl on my last and third night.

NOTE Ngapali beach doesn’t really open through its monsoon sea:son (typically mid-May to the end of September), and that’s no surprise because the monsoon in Myanmar means constant rain. Additionally, flights are very rare and expensive during the monsoon season. Basically, if you can, plan your trip to Ngapali beach outside the monsoon season.

Dream + sleep in Ngpali Beach

I stayed at Memento Resort during my time on Ngapali beach. It was a simple accommodation on the beach, nothing fancy, a little expensive, but as mentioned above it above average in this region so I can’t really complain.

How to get to Ngpali Beach

There is a bus from Yangon but it cuts through the mountain range making for a long and bumpy journey. The closest airport is Thandwe Airport which is located in the north and just a couple of kilometres to the hotels in the north and less than 10 kilometres from most of the hotels in the main area.

STOP 3: Bagan (3 days)

Once upon a time, Bagan was a temple hub. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, there were over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries in the city. Today, there are around 2,000 of them: all jammed into a 13 by 8 kilometres area that has become the Bagan Archeological Zone. It’s pretty sure you are going to see some temples while in Bagan and that’s one of the main reasons why people come here. Despite being one of the most popular destinations in Myanmar, Began welcomed me with an incredible sense of peace and silence. I guess it was because as always, I was travelling during mid-low seasons which has several advantages (no crowds and lower prices to mention just two) and disadvantages (fewer connections, hot air balloons season was off already). Temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius by 8/9am and although I was used to hot and humid weather after so many months in the region, it was pretty tough to stay out in the central hours of the day (tip to beat the heat in Bagan below).

Things to do in Bagan

Watch the sun rising among the thousands of  Bagan pagodas and come back at sunset for a different show. While I was researching for this article, I read somewhere that today there are only 4/5 temples you can climb to see this incredible natural show while most of them were open last year while I was there. However, since these temples are incredibly old and precious, I think the government has made the right move to protect them from camera and smartphones armed tourists.

Myanmar itinerary

THE STORYTELLER’S TIPS: * For those of you who arrive on a night bus, use your first morning to see the sunrise. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to check into your accommodation before 1/2pm so make the most of your time since you are already awake. Do your research beforehand so you know where you want to go to see the sunrise and you can tell your driver right away. * Another way to get around the temples and Began is to rent an e-Bike. I stayed at Ostello Bello and they had an e-Bike sunrise tour each day for both existing guests and those who just arrived by bus.

Ananda Temple: my Burma’s gang and I took our eBikes for a further exploration one day and went to the Ananda Temple, one of the most incredible temples I’ve seen in my life. I had a shocking moment there as I realised my first tattoo resembles too well the symbol buddhas have on their forehead. And I did not know anything about buddhism when I drawn and got my tattoo 10 years ago!!

Mani Sithu Market: Local markets (like coffee shops, libraries and bookshops) are an obsession of mine when travelling in Asia or  anywhere in the world. It’s where people connect, exchange goods and chat among themselves. It’s also the place where you can feel invisible and just enjoy the full immersion in the culture without worrying about being harassed or asked to buy something. There was only my group and I when we visited, much to the delight of the locals.

myanmar itinerary

MyanmarTreasure Resort: waking up before sunrise and walking around in the scorching heat can be extremely tiring, that’s why with my gang, I decided to spend a chilled afternoon swimming and sipping cocktails at this resort.

Caffeine fix & eat in Bagan

  • 7 Sisters Restaurant
  • The Moon Be Kind to Animals (I  had wonderful veggie food!)

Dream + sleep in Bagan

Ostello Bello

Getting to Bagan

From Ngpali BeachI got a night bus to Inle Lake with JJ Express, one of the VIP buses companies. You can read more about booking buses and air transport at the bottom of this article.

STOP 4: INLE LAKE (2 days)

Tourism has definitely blossomed on Inle Lake. Maybe it was Steve McCurry’s fault or maybe it’s just what happens when a natural beauty gets discovered by the masses. Whatever reason, make sure to add this spot to your itinerary.

The local people (known as Itha, meaning children of the lake) used to live just on the lake’s resources, so tourism blossoming in the area has definitely improved their conditions.

Things to do in Inle Lake

Inle Lake at sunrise: another early rise – it seems Myanmar was the country where I woke up before sunrise the most! – to hit the lake and see the famous fishermen in action. There is a hot debate on the authenticity of this practice. But I personally have seen men using this technique in other places where they were not modelling for the tourists cameras but simply fishing.

Visit the floating gardens: along the lake and canals, there are impressive gardens which are probably as impressive as the  floating houses

Explore the local palafitte shops and step back in time: while industrialisation and globalisation are surely taking place on Inle Lake and the rest of Myanmar, it seemed to me that there was a strong desire to keep their old traditions alive. While on the lake take the time to explore the craft shops including the silversmith, the ‘cheroot’ producer where you’ll have the chance to try rolling your own flavoured cigar/cigarette or meet the lotus weaving women. Lotus weaving is rare because it’s super labour intensive and hard, however in the connecting shop you can find gorgeous scarfs and textiles (which were far beyond my backpacking budget at the time!).

Meet the Padaung ladies: I had been asked if I wanted to see the long neck ladies in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I said no. And I said no again in Myamar as I am against zoos especially human zoos. So, I went off to the local market and there they were. I’ll admit it, I was curious to see if they resembled those women pictured in a postcard which is still hanging in my bedroom at my parents’ house. They did. They were exactly as I had imagined them for over 25 years. Beautiful in their gold neck rings and far, far away from me as something I read about, but could not understand completely.  We shared a glance, a smile and a wave. It was a meaningful moment for me and I’m glad I didn’t book any tours to see them anywhere else.

Myanmar itinerary

Shwe Indein Pagoda: This is still a half hidden gem in Myanmar which I’m almost scared to share here to risk then to see it then every day on Instagram or similar. When I was there, last year,  there weren’t many people around.  This temple complex on the west bank of the lake, has fallen into ruins, pretty much like Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Hopefully, it will remain as it is, unspoiled and off the mass tourist track.

Dream + sleep in Inle Lake

Ostello Bello

How to get to Inle Lake

Clearly, I’m a crazy person since I opted, once again, to take a night bus from Bagan to Inle Lake. Allegedly, it was another “VIP”JJ Express, but we stopped every few hours and we arrived in the middle of the night (this is something pretty common throughout Asia, for reasons I can’t explain).

STOP 5 MANDALAY (2 days)

Bustling alleyways, street markets everywhere, pagodas and monasteries at every corner: Mandalay is this and more. The riverside city is worth stopping at  at least for a day or two. Here are the best things to see and do in Mandalay, the second largest city in the country.

Things to do in Mandalay

U Pein Bridge at Sunset: with its whopping 1.2 kilometers in length, is estimated to be the longest teakwood bridge in the world. It was built in 1850 and is utilized by both locals and tourists alike. It’s great to walk along its length and then stop to have a chat while the sun sets on the horizon. I had one of the best conversations of my life while sitting on the ancient bridge.

Day Trip to Mingun: Once an unknown city, today Mingun has become very popular among travellers, which means that as soon as you arrive, you’ll be bombarded by vendors trying to sell you all sorts of things. The three main things you will want to include are: the Mingun Bell and the Hsinbyume Pagoda. The Mingun Pagoda is essentially a giant pile of bricks. Visitors make the short journey up the stairs to find it housing only one small Buddha relic, and the side stairs were closed as of June 2017. That being said, it is a nice relic to photograph as it stands some 492-feet tall. The Mingun Bell is one of the heaviest bells in the entire world, and it is believed to weigh some 200,000 pounds. Be sure to get into the bell to get a feel for its size. When I was there, there was a guy playing his guitar to a bunch of kids whom were singing along and laughing at some funny songs.

myanmar itinerary

The last sight is the Hsinbyume Pagoda or, as I called it, the wedding cake. This pagoda is a shimmering white structure that visitors can enter and explore. It was built in 1816 and is painted white. The pagoda went under restoration in 1874 after an earthquake shook its structure, but King Mindon did an amazing job restoring the pagoda back to its original state. Today, it is one of the most notable attractions in all of Myanmar.

Myanmar itinerary

Sunset at Mandalay Hill

There is no better way to end your trip to Mandalay than witnessing a sunset up to the Mandalay Hill. You can either walk the mile-long journey or pay a taxi or truck at the bottom of the hill to take you up the hill. If I don’t remember wrong it should cost around 7,000 kyat or so. At the top of Mandalay Hill is Su Taung Pyae Pagoda shimmering with glass-covered and vibrantly colored tiles. From here, you can see the entire Mandalay city and the many pagodas around the area. This is also a great place to connect with the locals and especially the monks. They will come up to you to chat about your home country and to practice their English. It’s a great exchange opportunity: to know more about being a Buddhist monk in Myanmar and to share a bit of your world with the people hosting you.

Caffeine fix & food in Mandalay

Mandalay is filled with cheap, street side restaurants which often lack any sort of signs that indicate the name of the restaurant or what it is they are serving. However, the food is likely to be delicious and very cheap (with 2,000 kyat you can get a full meal). While in Mandalay, make sure to try  some traditional dishes like the bean paste salad, Shan noodles, and tea leaf salad. Special mention goes to Mingalabar Restaurant.

How to get to Mandalay: 

You guessed right. I boarded yet another bus from Inle Lake and for the initial hour, I wish I didn’t. My assigned seat was broken and as it was sliding ahead, my legs got stuck and I could not move. It was the first and last time, I really struggle to endure the journey. In fact, I didn’t. I asked to be moved and a very friendly family let me take one of their reserved seat for the rest of the (8/10 hour journey).

Dream + sleep Mandalay

Ostello Bello was again my choice in Mandalay

 

STOP 6: Yangon (2 days)

I spent another couple of days in Yangon, wandering the streets, taking (thousands) of pictures and working from my hostel and various cafes before taking off to Bali, my next and last stop of my incredible trip.

This is my itinerary and I feel I’ve seen enough for my first time there. I think most countries should be visited at least twice in a lifetime and I hope to go back to Myanmar one day, maybe when new parts of the country will open up to foreigners.

OTHER INTERESTING INFO & FACTS TO PLAN YOUR MYANMAR ITINERARY:

Phone, Internet & Wifi

Not too long ago, mobile phones were basically inexistent and SIM cards could cost $2,000. Basically no now had a phone and the internet did not exist. There was no roaming and no wifi. My friend who visited in 2012 told me that arriving in Myanmar meant disconnecting from the world and in fact I did not hear from him for a month while he was there.

When I landed in Yangon’s airport last year, I must admit I was still a bit worried since being a digital nomad means you gotta always be connected and I had important deadlines to meet and work to do. Throughout my trip I bought a local SIM card in each country I went and I made no exception in Myanmar, where I bought a Ooreedo SIM card with 14GB for 22500Ks(back then). Note: Outside the big cities, you will be either without network or a weak 3G sign will appear every now and then.

Money & ATMs

You can withdraw cash from various ATMs and pay with credit card at several places. Even if we consider this the norm, think that only 6 years ago there were no ATMs and credit cards did not exist, so make sure to appreciate this little advantage.

The Locals

When people ask me about Myanmar, I immediately think about the people of Myanmar.The stories I tell are all about that or the other episode with the locals. In a country where travellers are still like pink flamingos in a big city, you are likely to be photographed, stopped for a chat and more often than not helped with directions or recommendations.

Some of my most memorable in Myanmar are those spent with the children. I remember that time at the Shwedagon Pagoda where an entire family decided to keep me company while I was exploring the stupas, or that time at one of the bus stops where two very little kids where serving alongside their dad, I still remember the day when Aung sat next to me watching sunrise on one of the temple. His smile is for me the smile of Myanmar.

While backpacking through Asia – or anywhere in the world where there is a language barrier – it is easy to end up in groups of other travellers and spend days, weeks, even months  together. Being in a group makes it harder to connect with the local community and that’s why I always like to save time for myself alone.

THE STORYTELLER’S TIP: if you are an open and chatty person,you won’t have any troubles connecting with the locals, always remember that what might be normal in your country can be offensive, weird in another (learn the traditions before going!) . Also, be aware that not all Burmese people speak English, so you might have to speak slowly and repeat several times what you want to say. Also keep a translation app handy at all times. Technology, used wisely, is a great thing.

Food and STREET FOOD in Myanmar:

I ate street food and meals sat on tiny stall for most of my trip. Most of the time, I’m unable to contain my curiosity for local foods as I always want to try new things and flavours. I never had a problem with food except that one time in Chiang Mai… But then again, I’ve believe that my stomach has developed resistance to anything after so many months in India and Asia.

Cost of travel in Myanmar

  • Bad news – Myanmar is a lot more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia because it’s a country that is still being built which means that the infrastructure, as well as accommodations and services, are still a step behind in comparison to its neighbouring countries.
  • Accommodation costs: A dorm bed will set you back around $20-$30 a night. You can get a basic private room with en-suite from around $35 for a single bed.  Popular ‘package tourist’ destinations like Ngapali beach can cost as much as $100 a night for a 2-star hotel (though there are a couple of hostels there too). On the plus side, you usually get a free breakfast (filter coffee and toast) with your accommodation.
    As you might have noticed I stayed at Ostello Bello in most of my stops. It’s a clean, friendly chain that offers good standard dorms and lots of activities and the social scene – I met lots of my now friends at the various Ostello Bello I stayed at.
  • Food costs – street food is most affordable – around $1-$2 for a plate of something basic. Local restaurants costs around $2-$4 a meal. Anything remotely westerns (air-conditioning or featuring something like pizza) and you’re into the $7-$12 bracket.
  • Drinks – bottled water is well priced, under 50 cents a litre. Beer is also cheap at a couple of dollars per bottle.

Time Zone
Myanmar has that weirdest half-hour difference to its time zone so it’s 6 and a half hours ahead of GMT.

Power sockets 

The plug sockets of Myanmar should be the gold standard – you’ll find most sockets have multiple adaptors for European and North American 2-pin plugs as well as my very own British three-pin. I travel with the Apple World Travel adaptor pack, which makes life even easier.

Suitcase or Backpack? 
You’ll be better travel with a backpack than a suitcase – I actually think this wherever you are travelling too since crowded public transports, stairs, delays and all things in between can slow you down a lot. And if you need tips for packing you bag, read this

  

Final comments: 

Like most of my friends who visited Cuba, I feel like telling you what they keep telling me: Go Now. Or using Bernard Shaw’s words  “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad” and this means the big chains, the westernisation of Asia, the 7/11 and McDonalds of the world. Myanmar still feels authentic and genuine, but as I’ve already seen in many other parts of the world, it won’t be long before it changes and adapt to much to the tourists needs and wishes.

So, don’t delay and get to see it before tourism, technology and international chains change the true face of this incredible country!

Top 10 Things to do in Myanmar:

1 – Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

2 – Get lost in the streets of downtown Yangon

3 – Circle line train in Yangon

4- Ngpali Beach

5 – Inle lake

6 –  sunrise in Bagan

7- U Pein Bridge at sunset

8- visit Mingun

9 – Mandalay Hill

10- talk to the locals

And that’s it – my extra-long article with a Myanmar itinerary and 10 top things to do is over. I think I should have wrote an ebook instead or at least split in a few articles. But hey, here it is and I hope you’ll find it helpful.

Have you been to Myanmar? Any extra tips you want to share – let me know in the comments below and share or pin  add links social.

 

Note: there are affiliate links in this Myanmar itinerary post. If you book through them, I get a tiny % of your purchase which I invest to maintain this blog – there is no catch or added cost for you whatsoever.

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5 alternative ways to see the most popular tourist attractions

Why follow the masses to see this, that and the other when exploring the sights of your latest destination? I’ve found that the are always alternative ways to see the most popular tourist attractions and that the perfect view is the one you discover by surprise when you’re least expecting to be blown away. You’re not paying out all this money to holiday with thousands of strangers. Those Insta snaps of the Eiffel Tower or Colosseum will look just as great from a distance, and there won’t be any crowds driving you insane.

Sydney Opera House

Think Australia and sunny beaches might come to mind. Surfer dudes and strong accents are prevalent in the land Down Under, but they’re not the biggest attraction for sightseers. The Sydney Opera House, however, does pull in millions of people every year. Eight million, actually. The performing arts venue, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007, has one of the most-recognised architectural designs ever made. It’s no wonder, then, that everyone wants to see it.

Getting away from the crowds for a good vantage point is easy enough with this one. Mrs Macquarie’s Chair across Port Jackson offers an unrivalled view of the landmark, with the added bonus of Harbour Bridge alongside it. The bench, which in itself is an attraction worth seeing, is easy to reach by bus or train across Sydney. Getting a great vantage point won’t be a hassle.

The Colosseum

Sightseers flock to the Colosseum on a daily basis. The structure was built between 72-80 AD and is now home to over 2000 years of Italian history, much to the delight of every daytripper and holidaymaker out there. This crumbled monument is a wonder to behold, but not from up close. For those looking to get a great shot away from the crowds milling around outside, there are some incredible bars and restaurant in the area. La Terrazza is only three blocks from the landmark and provides panoramic views without the hustle and bustle down by the Colosseum. A bit of distance puts the monument into perspective.

Golden Gate Bridge

how to see popular attractions

An essential landmark for any American adventure is the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s known around the world as a symbol of San Francisco, although it wasn’t originally planned to be the striking attraction that it’s now become. Finding somewhere to admire it without being hassled by traffic is tricky, especially if you want to see the bridge in all its glory. Head to Marin Headlands Vista Point. It’s up on Hawk Hill and is ideal for checking out the landmark while immersing yourself in nature.

Eiffel Tower

how to see popular attractions

You can’t appreciate the beauty of the Eiffel Tower when you’re standing under it or on top of it. No-one wants to spend money on a holiday only to realise the main attraction is a let-down. This Parisian landmark is best observed on a cruise along the Seine. The unobstructed views of Gustav Eiffel’s legendary monument are worth it. Plus, the iron tower appears more majestic from the waterfront anyway.

The benefit of a cruise along the Seine is that you have an hour of sightseeing on your hands. That’s a lot of attractions that you can tick off your list very quickly. Seine river cruises pass by landmarks like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Grand Palais, not all of which you might have made time to see. There’s nowhere better to see the sights of France.

St. Peter’s Basilica

how to see popular attractions
I know I’m biased when it comes to Italy. The country was my home for years, and that dedication to your past never leaves you. I had to bring up Lazio on this list, because it’s where you’ll find some of the most astounding architecture in the world. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world (70% of the world to be precise), with Tuscany alone home to more UNESCO sites than places like South Africa and Australia. The region is filled with attractions like St. Peter’s Basilica and Castle St. Angelo which are engraved with history and stunning to look at from afar. A walk along the Tevere river provides great views of these landmarks that can’t be beaten, day or night.

 

Where in the world are you going to go next? Never be put off travelling somewhere because it’s a tourist hotspot. There are always alternative ways to see the most popular attractions. Know of any good sightseeing spots not included here? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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