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Part time travelers with tips and reviews to help you make the most of your limited vacation time
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Blog Added: May 31, 2016 11:59:26 AM
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Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane is a great place for visitors and families alike and with on average of 283 days of sunshine a year, it has earned its place as the capital of the glorious Sunshine State of Queensland. “Special Guest contributor Janine from Your Local Families Magazine is the authority on Southeast Queensland, so when she suggests […] The post Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia appeared first on La Vida Global...

Brisbane is a great place for visitors and families alike and with on average of 283 days of sunshine a year, it has earned its place as the capital of the glorious Sunshine State of Queensland.

“Special Guest contributor Janine from Your Local Families Magazine is the authority on Southeast Queensland, so when she suggests that Brisbane is a fantastic but often overlooked place for a short stay we listened. And you should too.”

Where is it?

Why would you go?

Brisbane is often overlooked by travellers as it doesn’t have the ‘big ticket’ items like the ‘Sydney Opera House’ or the golden beaches of the Gold Coast, or the reef off the coast of Cairns. And just north of Brisbane is the equally impressive Sunshine Coast… so why stop in Brisbane?

The answer is simply for the opportunity to engage in some genuine Aussie lifestyle that is both slower paced and authentic in its connection to community. From the Cultural Precinct on the South Bank to the skyline views from Mt Coot-tha to the seaside suburbs that boast family picnic areas and playgrounds, Brisbane has been named the ‘liveable city’ for a reason.

It may not have the iconic reputation of some other Australian cities but should you plan a short stay in Brisbane?

How much time do you need there?

If you are travelling as a family with children, you can easily spend a week in Brisbane and not see everything there is to see. If you are independent travellers or travelling with friends or partners, I would suggest that you should add at least 3 full days in Brisbane to see the best this city has to offer. If you have more time, and you like to revel in the slower pace of life, I would suggest more time in Brisbane.

When spending a minimum of three days in Brisbane you can break that down into two days for the Cultural Precinct and South Bank and one day for your choice of one of the many animal parks or wildlife centres.

(Hint: Steve Irwin’s world-famous Australia Zoo is a 1 hour drive north of Brisbane!)

Brisbane nightlife options offer something for everyone

How do you get there?

Most people arrive in Brisbane on their way to somewhere else. As such, there are many roads that lead to Brisbane. You can catch the long distance coach from Sydney in the South, or indeed from Cairns in far north Queensland, and this is the most popular way for the multitude of backpackers that pass through.

Equally you can catch a domestic or international flight into the modern airport.

Brisbane also boasts its own luxury cruise terminal at Portside, Hamilton welcoming ships from P&O and Royal Caribbean (amongst others). There are many ways for visitors to arrive into Brisbane!

Once in Brisbane remember to take a ride on a council ‘CityCat’ – the public transportation along the river, for just a few dollars or the ‘City Hopper’ which run between northern suburb of New Farm and South Bank and is always 100% free!

What are the “highlights”?

The highlights will vary depending on whether you are here with family or friends. Our tips are:

  1. Cultural Precinct

Here you will find the Queensland Museum, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Queensland State Library, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the Sciencentre. The first three are free to enter and beautifully air-conditioned (you’ll know why that is important if you are in Brisbane in summer!) There will be surcharges at times for specific exhibits.

Brisbane is home to some wonderful museums and galleries with something for every member of the family.

  1. South Bank Parklands

Across the road from the Cultural Precinct are the South Bank Parklands. The Parklands have been fully developed into a visitor’s mecca of activities including swimming, sun-bathing, strolling along the boardwalk, listening to music/bands and of course taking a spin on the Brisbane Wheel.  There are pubs, restaurants and markets all suitable for visitors and locals alike. You’ll get a great appreciation for the true Brisbane lifestyle in anyone of these venues.

  1. The City Botanic Gardens

You may think ‘seen one botanic garden, seen them all’…. But these gardens are magical at night! The Brisbane City Council has installed fairy lights on the trees and other fauna across the city and the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens are worth the short walk across the Goodwill Bridge from South Bank Parklands. If you are stopping in Brisbane for even one night, add this installation to your list!

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are magical to experience at night

  1. Visit a Zoo or Wildlife Park

Brisbane has a tonne of larger and smaller zoos and wildlife parks either in the city’s suburbs or just a short drive away.

Larger zoos include:

  • Australia Zoo
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Smaller wildlife parks include:

  • Walkabout Creek Wildlife Centre
  • Daisy Hill Koala Centre (it’s free!)
  • Bribie Island Butterfly Centre

What can you eat?

The other awesome thing about Brisbane’s outdoor lifestyle is our outdoor eating opportunities.

The most iconic place to eat in Brisbane is the Breakfast Creek Hotel in the northern suburb of Hamilton. It is situated on the beautiful Brisbane river so after your meal you can go for a stroll around the boardwalks and head over to roam the grounds of Newstead House. You’ll probably need to ‘walk it off’ after the meal you are served at this hotel!

If you prefer to stay closer to the city try the Eagle Street Pier that is quickly becoming a premium foodie destination. Burgers, pizzas and cuisines from all over the world come together in a mish-mash of tastebud heaven. From super pricey extravagance to budget burgers, you’ll have something to suit your budget.

If you really want to get into some foodie culture in Brisbane, then do check out the Eat Street Markets. The sheer variety of cuisines on offer is staggering. They’re open every weekend and they’re an absolute hive of food, drinks, entertainment and goods from cultures all over the world. It’s truly impossible to accurately describe the ‘Eat Street’ vibe unless you’ve been there – it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s chaotic and it’s amazing.

The food scene in Brisbane is growing and diversifying at a fantastic pace.

Where should you stay?

From backpacker’s hostels for a few dollars a night to extravagant hotels costing hundreds of dollars a night, like most places, Brisbane is spoilt for choice in terms of accommodation.

If you are not staying with friends who live locally, then we suggest that you stay in the CBD or close to it. This is where most of the action is, so it makes sense.

We love Royal on the Park Hotel & Suites for their iconic, true Brisbane vibe and their location close to the Botanic Gardens in the city centre. Their pricing is reasonable, and they have an awesome pool (with a poolside bar) as well as a great breakfast buffet.

Alternatives to the city centre would be South Bank hotels, Airbnb’s and hostels. You can’t really go wrong with the location of the city or South Bank in Brisbane.

Brisbane has a great variety of accommodation at prices well below those of the more famous Australian cities

How is the walkability?

Brisbane is very walkable. The city centre and South Bank are completely flat, and the footpaths well maintained. Being a modern city, there are not cobblestone streets. There are also trails for the blind to follow in the city centre. Out in the suburbs the walkability will vary. Some areas are very hilly and steep, others are flat. The seaside suburbs are mostly flat with lovely walking routes along the beaches.

Brisbane is a city which can easily be explored and enjoyed on foot

It’s just our opinion.

Brisbane is a gorgeous city to visit and to live in. Despite not having the large tourist attractions of other areas in Australia, it is worth pulling up here for a few days and taking time to envelope yourself in its lifestyle. Whether it is the city, the bush, the ocean or the views, Brisbane has it all and if you miss this city from your itinerary, you will miss out on truly knowing a significant part of Australia!

The post Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.



The best beaches in Bali

There beaches of Bali offer so much more than just cheap beer while lounging under an umbrella. Here is a hand picked selection of some of the great options as we show you where to find the best beaches of Bali. The post The best beaches in Bali appeared first on La Vida Global...

Whenever someone mentions anything about a beach in Bali you could be forgiven if you immediately thought of nothing more than a crowded Kuta or Legian, chairs and umbrellas filled with obnoxious Aussies drinking cheap beer and getting their hair braided.

And while many people find enough to like about these beaches that they return time after time, Bali has so much diversity to offer when it comes to coastal attractions. We asked some of our friends that take travel seriously to tell us about their favourite Bali beach and why you should make the effort to visit too.

We have also included a few special places on the nearby islands as well since they are easily accessible as day trips and still considered by any to be Bali.

Where are the beaches in Bali?

Bali beaches you must visit.

Legian Beach by Allison of Flights to Fancy.

Legian beach is sandwiched between its more famous neighbours Seminyak and Kuta but should not be overlooked by visitors to the Island of The Gods. Legian truly has something for everyone and is the focal point for many celebrations such as the Malasti Festival.

The Melasti Festival is one of many reasons to visit Legian Beach

Drag yourself out of bed early, slip on your runners and enjoy a brisk walk close to the water’s edge as the sun rises. A dip in the cooling waters when your exercise is done is all the reward you need for starting the day right. Water sports abound and visitors can enjoy a surfing lesson, parasailing or jet skiing to name a few.

The best places to stay in Legian close to the beach.

While away the day on the sand catching the sun’s rays and watch the little ones play in the gentle waves of the shallows. Pop back at sunset and grab a beanbag at one of the many beach bars for a front row seat to a spectacular sunset. Make sure you order the local brew (Bintang) and ask for it icy cold. When the sun has slipped below the horizon grab dinner at one of Legian’s fabulous restaurants, many of which line the beach path.

Seminyak Beach by Dave from Jones Around the World.

While there are several beaches in the Kuta / Seminyak area of Bali that offer a similar experience, I think that Seminyak Beach is by far the best! In my experience, it tends to be less crowded, and has a much more relaxed yet upscale vibe.

seminyak beach clubs are a great spot for watching the sunset

There are dozens of amazing beach bars and restaurants, and watching the sunset here every night is an absolute must! My favorite place to hang-out in the evening is La Plancha Beach bar, mainly because they’ve got an amazing collection of colorful umbrellas, bean bag chairs, delicious drinks, and a DJ spinning fun music.

Find the perfect place to stay near Seminyak Beach.

It’s one of my favorite things to recommend visitors to Bali to check-out! There’s some really popular day-clubs in the area as well, that are tons of fun! The most popular of these would be “Potato Head”, and while it may be one of the more expensive options in the area – it’s an awesome place to spend a day!

Canggu Beach with Sandy from Tray Tables Away.

Canggu – affectionately known as The Gu, is a little further north along the beach from its much busier neighbour Seminyak and has a much more laid back vibe. Home to all the cool young hipsters, baristas and surfers its Bali’s Byron Bay and changing rapidly.

Canggu beach is not only popular with surfers but hipsters and anyone else looking for a slower pace and great food

A few years ago it was mostly known for its inexpensive seafood BBQs at Echo Beach ( a much cheaper alterative to Jimbaran), budget villas and mid-year waves but now there are many luxury villas, boutique resorts and more vegan/gluten free/paleo places than you will ever need.

Search Hotels Combined for the best deals at Canggu Beach.

Add to that the fairly recent addition of a couple of fantastic beach clubs with Finns and LaBrisa and some of the best sunsets on the island and its no wonder I end up there every time I visit the Island of the Gods.

Jimbaran Beach with Kate from Rolling Along with Kids.

Jimbaran Beach is well known for its seafood restaurants. You select your fresh seafood then the chef’s cook it up for you while you enjoy the sunset with your feet in the sand. This is not all to love about Jimbaran Beach.

Jimbaran beach may be famous for its seafoodrestaurants on the sand but it offers much more

Walking along the beach in the morning when the sun is just rising and the planes are descending into Bali airport just a short distance from the beach, is one of my favourite times of day. The locals are fishing and if you have a strong stomach, a visit to the seafood
market is a sight of the real Bali that you will never forget.

Find your Jimbaran Beach accommodation here.

If you have 5 star tastes you are well looked after on Jimbaran Beach. The Sundara Beach Club at the Four Seasons Resort, comes with its very own infinity pool and you can pay to enjoy their facilities. If you like the simpler things in life, wander down to the beach late afternoon and order yourself a delicious corn cob and Bintang from one of the vendors. Then sit back and relax while you experience another gorgeous Bali sunset.

Padang Padang Beach with Kathy from 50 Shades of Age.

Many years ago I travelled to Bali for my very first time with my daughter, where we stayed in Seminyak for a blissful week. However I must confess I wasn’t that impressed with the nearby beaches around Seminyak, Legian or Kuta. I feel being an Australian living on the Gold Coast it is pretty hard to beat our gorgeous beaches.

It may take over 100 steps down a hill and through a cave to get there but Padang Padang Beach in Bali is worth the effort

A few days into our holiday we hired a driver for the day who took us out to Uluwatu on the Bukit Peninsula to the beautiful Padang-Padang Beach. This magical little beach is accessed down a hundred or so stairs through a cave. The beach itself is only around 100m long, but the aquamarine water and the limestone rock formations make it spectacular.

It is one of Bali’s finest surfing beaches with a steady set of barrels attracting wave riders from all around the world. This is evidenced in the fact that there are a couple of surfboard rental huts right on the beach.

During our visit the surf was pumping out the back and we watched surfer after surfer take off on massive waves. We enjoyed a lovely swim in the clear aqua water – very refreshing!

Lovina Beach with Ariana from World of Travels with Kids.

With striking volcanic black sand beaches Lovina isn’t what you would first expect from Bali. And herein lies the appeal!

Fewer tourists and volcanic black sand beaches make Lovina an interesting choice in Bali

Located about 3 hours drive North of Denpasar Lovina is less touristy than many spots in Southern Bali. The beaches themselves are dramatic and different due the black sand, and many of the bays surrounding Lovina are filled with typical fishing boats. This feels like it might be more like typical Balinese beach life!

The locals are welcoming and things seemed pretty cheap. Lovina is most famous as a spot to take early morning boats to see the Dolphins, but also a great base for other attractions. While based in Lovina we spent a couple days exploring historical Singaraja and also the green, hilly areas around Munduk and Bedugul which are abundant in cultural attractions and waterfalls.

Double Six Beach with Clemens from Travellers Archive.

Double Six (66) beach is located in the bustling heart of Seminyak – an area of Bali, that is filled with bars, restaurants and shops. It’s one of my favourite beaches since it offers relaxation, party and good surf.

Double Six beach is one of the best stretches of sand in the popular Kuta to Seminyak zone of Bali

Come here for a day filled with massages from the ladies working here on the beach, a nice surf session for anyone from beginner to top professional and an ice cold Bintang beer with one of the beach boys that sit here day by day and rent out sunchairs and surfboards. Could you ask for more?

Oh, yes. It has an amazingly picturesque sunset, believe me! If you are more of an active person, you can also go for a nice walk as Double Six has an endless stretch of sand that will get you up until the old airport. Have fun!

Sanur Beach with Sally-Ann from Tips 4 Trips.

Sanur is located on the west coast of Bali only 16km from the Bali International Airport. It first became popular as a tourist destination in the 1960-70’s. In the 1980’s people turned their attention to east and southern coasts.

Restaurants on the sand and a relaxed vibe make Sanur a great alternative to the more popular Bali beaches

Fortunately Sanur has kept its initial charm from those days. There are no boom boxes blaring rock music and the local Balinese accept a polite no thank you as they tout their wares. The vibe in Sanur is chilled and relaxed – this is why I love Sanur.

Does Sanur sound like your kind of place? Find the best accommodations deals now.

Walking along the shaded boardwalk the white sandy beaches stretch as far as you can see. Bikes are available for hire at a minimal cost so you can explore further up and down the coast. Take the time to stop in at the local shops then treat yourself at one of the many beachside Sanur restaurants looking out over the turquoise Bali Sea.

When you’re ready to explore further afield many of the Bali tourist attractions and major shopping complexes are only 30-45 minutes away. Sanur is the perfect place to base yourself for a chilled out vacation yet be close enough to explore all that Bali has to offer.

Jemeluk Beach with Ian and Nicky from Above Us Only Skies.

The black volcanic sand of Jemeluk’s beach in Amed might not be to everyone’s taste. But, under the watchful shadow of Bali’s sacred volcano, Gunung Agung, it boasts one of the most stunning backdrops on the island.

The black sand of Jemeluk Beach may not appeal to everyone but don't let that stop you visiting this amazing place.

And beyond the clean, coarse sand and the rows of fishing boats that line the shore, there’s a truly stunning underwater world that’s accessible right off the beach.

Protected by the bay, the water is calm and clear, the variety of fish is impressive and the coral is in good shape. In fact, locals and conservation teams have installed an underwater gallery of statues which serve as a nursery for fish in an effort to regenerate the underwater eco system.

And then, of course, there’s the sight of Gunung Agung bathed in the warm glow of another famous Bali sunset to cap off a perfect day. It might not be a sunbather’s paradise, but Jemeluk Beach remains right up there as one of our absolute favourites.

Dreamland Beach with Dean and Pauline from La Vida Global Travel.

Down around Uluwatu there are a number of small, secluded beaches made for great surfing and relaxing on golden sand by turquoise waters, and Dreamland is probably the biggest and the best.

Everything you could want for a great day at the beach can be found at Dreamland in Bali.

It may be off the beaten track but Dreamland has everything you could want for a great day at the beach. Trendy beach club, cheap restaurants, lounging chairs under bright umbrellas, and warm water. Did I miss anything?

Having been born and raised just a stone’s throw from one of Australia’s many beautiful surf beaches I understand and respect the power of the ocean. I know how and when to go over, under or through a wave. Many tourists do not have that same level of understanding and the results, while somewhat scary to some of them, can also be quite hilarious to others.

You may find the waves break quite close to the shore here so it is important to time your entry into the water and get out beyond the breaking waves as quickly as possible. Floating over the unbroken waves watching first time beach goers from around the world get bowled over like ten pins can keep you amused for hours!

Great beaches close to Bali.

Gili Nanggu with Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels.

The most beautiful, clearest beach I have ever swum at are the gorgeous beaches on Gili Nanggu in Lombok, which is one of Bali’s neighbouring islands. Getting to Lombok is easy with fast boat transfer options available.

With beaches as stunning as Gili Nanggu Lombok should be part of any Bali holiday

This place is absolute paradise and the water surrounding Gili Nanggu is so clear you can see your feet even when the water is up to your shoulders. The sand is so soft, the water so warm and the fish are colourful and friendly!! We were absolutely surrounded by fish keen to come and say hi! Seriously it was like swimming in an aquarium.

Gili Nanggu is a small island off the mainland and there is only one place small place to stay on the island (Gili Nanggu Cottages), so you don’t have to worry about it being overcrowded.

Tembeleng Beach with Daniele and Elena from Cycloscope.

During our cycling trip in Bali, we made a detour to visit the magic island of Nusa Penida. The landscape in Nusa Penida is totally different from Bali, the island is very dry and there are few trees around.

Just one of the many beautifil attractions of Nusa Penida is Tembeling Beach and Pools.

Among the few jungle areas in Nusa Penida, Tembeling is a stunning place with a holy significance. From the small parking area, there’s a ten-minutes easy hike through a luxurious jungle, past a small temple, before you get to a fresh natural spring just a few meters away from the ocean.

There are three pools, the top one, hidden in a small cave, is a sacred pool, where bathing is not allowed but for ceremonial purposes, the water there is holy and there’s a small shrine.

The second pool is the big one, about 80 square meters and 5 meters in depth. Supposedly, as the local custom, only males are allowed to swim here. But we when we saw a local couple bathing together we went for it too.

The third pool, small and shallow but still inviting, is for the women. Located down by the beach it features a pretty view and a water drop that makes up for a pleasant natural massage.

The beach itself is majestic, surrounded by tall, vertical cliffs and with a limestone pinnacle standing in the middle.

Dream Beach with Dana from Wandering Donut.

As soon as you see Dream Beach it’s not hard to figure out how it got its name. With soft white sands and fluorescent blue waters calling your name from the top of the cliff, it feels like a little slice of paradise.

The perfectly named Dream Beach is a highlight not to be missed on a visit to Nusa Lembongan

The beach is hugged by little hotels and restaurants all making the most of the pristine view. Although it is not technically in Bali, you will find Dream beach on the little island of Nusa Lembongan a 30 minute ferry ride from Sanur.

The Nusa Islands remain relatively untouched by tourism in comparison to the main land so you are very likely to have, or at least almost have, the beach to yourself. However, you may notice from Instagram alone that the Nusas are becoming increasingly popular.

Be warned that once to twice a day you will get busloads of tourists flock to this one small beach as part of group island tours. This may seem annoying to some but it can be extremely entertaining to watch especially if a giant wave crashes into that very large group of tourist as they all try to get their perfect Insta shot.

It also means that staying for a night or more gives you plenty of time to avoid those tourist crowds, and it’s a beautiful place so that’s a bonus.

… and so many more.

We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to discovering amazing parts of the Bali coast and its neighbours. If you would like to know is Bali worth visiting then we have plenty of opinion to help you decide.

If you have a favourite Bali and beyond beach that we have left off this list let us know in the comments. Maybe we will have to make a bigger list next time.

The post The best beaches in Bali appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.



What to do with 3 days in Ubud

Some come to Bali for a lazy beach break while others search for the perfect wave or to connect with the underwater world, while others seek out culture and spiritual awakening. It is this group that most likely will find themselves drawn to Ubud. Considered one of the cheapest and most easily accessed overseas holiday […] The post What to do with 3 days in Ubud appeared first on La Vida Global...

Some come to Bali for a lazy beach break while others search for the perfect wave or to connect with the underwater world, while others seek out culture and spiritual awakening. It is this group that most likely will find themselves drawn to Ubud.

Considered one of the cheapest and most easily accessed overseas holiday destinations for Australians and an exotic and somewhat mysterious destination for travellers from other parts of the world, Bali is a small island choc full of diversity.

About an hour by car from the craziness that is Kuta and Legian, Ubud is a world away as far as attitude and scenic beauty is concerned and perfect for short getaway. Take a look at what to do with 3 days in Ubud.

Where is Ubud?

Ubud can be found in the central hills region of the famous Indonesian tourist island of Bali, which is approximately half way between the northwest coast of Australia and Singapore.

How do you get to Ubud?

The first step is to get to the Bali’s Ngura Rai International Airport at Denpasar. A large number of major International Airlines fly into Bali and also many of the low cost carriers in the region.

To continue on to Ubud you will require transport with a travel time from 60 to 90 minutes. It is only about 40km / 25 miles but don’t expect to get anywhere in Bali very quickly. The roads are narrow and quite busy in many places.

The main options are :

  • Official Taxi from the Airport – you will find the official taxi kiosk in the arrivals hall at the airport just behind the swarm of private drivers waving name cards in the desperate hope of catching the attention of their arriving guests.
    You will also be asked by many random people if you would like a taxi but we recommend you keep with the official taxis and pay the set fare.
  • Public Transport – this will still require getting a taxi but only for the shorter trip to Kuta, where you can catch a bus to Ubud. This is a cheaper option but for the sake of a few dollars we feel it is not worth the extra time and effort.
  • Accommodation Transfers – make an enquiry with your Ubud accommodation as they may be able to arrange a transfer for you. Do check their offered price with other options because they are not always good value for money.
  • Private Driver – as in many Asian countries Bali has many locals who operate their own small tour business and it is a great idea to find one that you like and build a relationship. Word of mouth is a great way to find good drivers and you will find them not only a good source of Airport transport but go a step further and hire them for at least one full day during your visit. It is a very inexpensive way to get a personalised tour for you or your group and if they know you want more than just a single journey they will negotiate better prices.

Wayan Sudira, our favourite Private Guide in UbudWe have now used the same driver during Pauline’s visit to see our daughter and again when we both travelled to Ubud. His name is Wayan (as are many Balinese men) and he can be contacted through Facebook Messaging.

His English is excellent and his local knowledge amazing. We used his services for multiple airport trips and a full day of sightseeing which took us to all of the places we requested plus a few others that Wayan thought we may enjoy. Please feel free to mention us if you get in touch with him.

Who should visit Ubud?

There are many faces of Ubud but it is probably best known as a modern day Hippie hangout, filled with vegan food options, wellness centres and yoga studios. A place where one may go to “find themself” as Elizabeth Gilbert did in what became Eat, Pray, Love.

It is a place which lends itself perfectly to this ideal of inner peace and spirituality. The locals, almost exclusively Hindu, are very religious and you can’t help but be influenced by their calm demeanor, the beauty of the many temples and the tranquility of the surrounding rice fields.

Hidden behind one of Ubud's top restaurants is this magnificent temple and stunning gardens

But do not feel that you should avoid Ubud if you do not fit the mold created in the previous paragraphs, we are neither vegan nor spiritual and still rate Ubud as one of the great small towns of Asia.

If you want to explore the history of Bali and Indonesia, experience the traditional food made for locals by locals or just get a sense of Bali life far from the crowds and singlet wearing, Bintang guzzling tourists in Kuta, surrounded by beautiful scenery then Ubud is a place that will definitely make you feel right at home.

Where should you stay in Ubud?

It’s a pretty simple choice when you are making this decision, you can stay in the centre of town or on the outskirts of the town. By looking at the map you will quickly realise that the CBD, and it can barely be called that while keeping a straight face, is easily navigated on foot and nothing is far away from any of the central accommodation options.

Even when I suggest the outskirts of town as the second option you will find most of these places are still within comfortable walking distance of the centre, even though you will feel like you are in another world.

For me the central area would be anything inside or around the rectangular area between Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman which are clearly marked on the map above. The lower left of this area is the actual Monkey Forest, the top left the Ubud Palace and the tourist markets cover the area between those two roads.

There are many choices when it comes to Ubud accommodation ranging from the usual Hostels to Homestays, from Guesthouse and Hotels to amazing Villas. What you do not find are the global chain Hotels which is a pleasant surprise. We used Hotels Combined to find the perfect place in Ubud.

Hoeymoon Guesthouse in Ubud was the perfect place to stay

For us it was ideal to be staying around the centre of town because we didn’t feel comfortable riding scooters and didn’t want to have to rely on taxis. In the end we chose the Honeymoon Guesthouse and it turned out a great choice for location, facilities and Balinese charm, as you can see on the map.

The package we chose also included a cooking class at the Cooking School operated by the Guesthouse, the Casa Luna Cooking School, which is among the highest rated in Ubud. The rooms were quite large and the grounds and facilities amazing. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

During Pauline’s previous visit she had spent some time with our daughter in the Kakul Villas outside of town and while she raved about the surrounding countryside and the price of the huge and luxurious private pool Villa, the location was too far out of town to suit our needs.

How do you get around in Ubud?

The roads around Ubud are generally in pretty decent condition, traffic gets busy sometimes but never gridlock busy, and the whole town is pretty compact so getting around is not likely to cause you many problems.

Tourradar

These boots are made for walking.

While Ubud is situated in the hills of Bali and more of the local roads have some degree of incline rather than being flat, walking is an easy and cheap way of getting around. You won’t be forced to walk up dizzying slopes and exploring the town on foot should be a comfortable experience for travellers of any fitness level.

The biggest issue with walking around the streets of Ubud comes to light when it is time to cross any of the busier streets. While they do have the occasional pedestrian crossing marked it is more of a suggestion that a rule that drivers will slow or stop for you.

We learned the secret to successfully getting across without risking death like the main character of Frogger and it is to gradually move onto the road holding your hand up in a STOP gesture and continue walking. It takes some time to become confident in your new superpower but it works. Apparently if drivers see you standing on the edge of the road just waiting to cross they think you are waiting for someone else unless you signal your intent.

Hit the road on a Scooter.

The Balinese people love their Scooters and you will undoubtedly be tired of being asked if you would like to rent one after just a few days. It seems every second person owns a spare Scooter or two and hires them out as a business.

Scooter hire is a cheap and readily available way to get around Ubud

They are incredibly cheap to hire by the day, usually not much more than a few dollars, and even cheaper if you are looking at longer rental periods. It looks like a lot of fun but there are a few points for you to consider.

  • Helmets are not mandatory so if you want that extra bit of security make sure you hire from someone that will supply your safety lid as well.
  • Road rules do not apply nearly as strictly as in most Western countries. Learn to ride like the locals and don’t expect them to behave the way drivers do back home.
  • You will need to fill the Scooter with fuel before returning it and may have some trouble finding Petrol Stations. What you will discover are little sidewalk stands filled with recycled bottles containing a distressing looking yellow liquid. It’s not what you may think but in fact the local fuel stop. Buying Petrol in a used Coke bottle is an unuasual experience.
  • Make sure you are insured because there is always a chance of having an accident. Many insurance companies will not cover you for Scooter or motorbike riding unless you have a Rider’s Licence back home, and others may require you to wear a helmet. Check the fine print before you leave home.

Get on the back of Moto-taxis.

It’s a big enough challenge to trust yourself piloting a Scooter on the roads of Bali, weaving through the dozens of others with the same goal and avoiding pedestrians who may simply step out in front of you holding up a hand, making them king of the road and invincible. It is a different challenge to jump on the back of a Scooter with a complete stranger and put your life in their hands.

On the up side you can have an expectation that this person has far more skill and experience riding than you do and understands the traffic flow. It is also a very cheap way to get around and you don’t having to worry about finding a place to park, or finding your Scooter when you come back.

But as mentioned the road rules are pretty loose and you could find yourself rising on the footpath or on the wrong side of the road with traffic heading toward you, but it’s all part of the adventure.

Metered Taxis and Private drivers.

You will also be able to find official taxis driving around the streets of Ubud and also unofficial, or unmetered, taxis. If there is a meter then be sure it is activated when your journey commences, for other taxis be sure to negotiate a price before you get in the car.

Far more common in this area, and a big part of the local economy, are the Private Drivers. I have mentioned these people already and a good Guide can be a very economical and also an entertaining way to get around.

Finding a Driver that you can build a bond with could mean you can agree on a rate for a transport package for your entire stay, everything from airport transfers, getting around while you are in town, guided tours to other parts of the island and even activities. This is a great way to not only help the local economy but also get a more rewarding sense of how the locals live.

You will be surprised how little it costs to have your own driver but remember, do not try to screw them down on price because, while it may feel like a victory to you, the few extra dollars means a lot more to them than it does to you.

What should you do in Ubud?

Day 1

Take some time to get your bearings by heading into the town centre and explore. Don’t worry about getting lost or checking your phone for a map to show where you should go next, just walk and take it all in.

I mentioned previously that the main area of Ubud is a rectangular section in the centre, filled with Warungs tempting you in to enjoy their cheap and flavour packed food, market stalls with the usual souvenirs but also some more unique items that are fun to discover and discuss with the vendors, and an assortment of small businesses like tattoo parlours and day spas.

Check out the Ubud Palace at the top of this area or the magnificent Lotus Garden tucked in behind one of the larger restaurants, or grab a coffee and just watch local life happen before your eyes. Ubud is a great place to experience Balinese life at a realistic pace.

Delicious and cheap food from the Melting Wok Warung in Ubud

Make your way to the Melting Wok Warung on Jalan Gootama for some of the best Balinese curries or Gorengs for lunch. This little restaurant is incredible value for money and the staff are all so nice. It’s the perfect place to recap the morning’s discoveries and plan your afternoon.

You could make your way just a few blocks from lunch to the Monkey Forest, and yes, this is exactly as the name suggests. Officially called the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary this nature reserve is also home to a Hindu Temple complex and the monkeys roam freely throughout the park.

A word of warning though, understand that these are wild animals which makes them unpredictable, although they are quite used to humans do not try to pet them. Also take care of your possessions as the monkeys are great collectors, and are especially fond of hats, sunglasses and phones. And don’t expect to get your gear back if they take it.

We were taking some photos of a mother and baby monkey from a couple of metres away and all was good. The same cannot be said for the young Japanese girl who stepped in front of us to try and capture a face to face selfie only to see her camera / phone heading off up a tree before she knew what had happened. An expensive lesson to learn.

Or maybe you prefer to start your time in Ubud on a more relaxing note and head to one of the many spas. There are many quality establishments offering pampering services around town, most looking very similar to those place inundating local shopping centres back home.

The big difference is the price, and the friendly locals of course. Pauline spent an evening at a spa across the road from our Guesthouse where she thoroughly enjoyed a four hour extravaganza that included mani-pedi with nail painting, a one hour foot massage, stone relaxation massage and more for less than the price most westerners pay just to have their nails done.

As the afternoon draws on maybe it’s time to turn your focus to pre-dinner preparations. You will not have to look very far to find Happy Hour cocktail deals. Now cocktails are relatively cheap anyway but when you get 2 for 1 or three for the price of two then it’s almost cheaper than buying bottled water back home.

Our favourite Happy Hour was spent at OOPS Restaurant and Bar where we had incredible Pineapple Dacquiris and shared a serve of roast duck spring rolls. Four cocktails and an appetiser for under 20 Aussie dollars… yes please.

After dinner take another walk around the Palace area before heading back to your room for an early night (take that to mean whatever you want). Tomorrow will be an active day.

Day 2

An early start today as you head a few hundred metres from the centre of town for a sunrise walk through the rice fields. There are a couple of options here with the most popular arguably the Campuhan Ridge Walk, although we took a path slightly closer to town which loops back around and takes about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace with plenty of photo stops.

There are few places more peaceful than the rice paddies of Ubud at sunrise

Back in time for a quick freshen up and some brekkie before heading off to your cooking class. We stayed at the beautiful Honeymoon Guesthouse which happens to be the home for one of Ubud’s top ranked classes, the Casa Luna Cooking School.

For less than $40 we had an informative and fun half day learning the ingredients behind some of Bali’s best known dishes before cooking and eating our banquet. Our experience started at 8am at the Casa Luna restaurant in town where we met our group and headed off to the local farmer’s market.

A cooking class is great fun in Ubud and they don't come any better than the Casa Luna Cooking School at Honeymoon Guesthouse

We learned about the ceremonial food offerings you will see everywhere in Bali, about the incredible variety of fresh fruit and vegetables available at rock bottom prices and about the foods and eating habits of the local people. It was a great precursor to our cooking class.

Then it was back to the kitchen / classroom for a couple of hours of meal prep under the guidance of Aussie expat and something of a local celebrity, Janet De Neefe. Janet and her team are entertaining and great sources of knowledge about Balinese food traditions and flavours.

We chopped, ground our own curry pastes, tried exotic salad ingredients and then took control of woks that sizzled away over industrial level flames. It is great fun to be this hands on making local food anywhere in the world but equally as entertaining to watch the experts do it. The Balinese ladies are like machines when it came to grinding the pastes on huge volcanic stones, seemingly never tiring while the rest of us have to rotate in shifts of just a few minutes.

Pauline hard at work creating lunch at the Casa Luna Cooking School in Ubud

The final spread of dishes smelled every bit as good as they looked, and the taste was even better still. Too often you see cooking classes priced at over $100 and I always wonder how they justify the price, especially when you can have an experience like this for well under half that money.

After the class take a break, maybe hang out around the pool if you have one, and let your energy levels rise because this afternoon you are out and about again. But this time you will strap on a helmet and cycle your way through the rice fields.

If you are concerned that your level of fitness may not be sufficient to be riding around the countryside of Ubud let me put your mind at ease. eBikes Bali have you covered, with the “e” in eBikes standing for electric. That’s right, these bicycles have a small electric motor you can use to replace personal peddle power whenever you need a rest. Perfect not only for those who need the assistance but great for everyone. After all, who wants to be too exhausted to take in the stunning scenery along the way?

One of the highlights of our Bali trip was riding our eBikes through the rice fields of Ubud

These guys will pick you up anywhere in Ubud and take you to the tour starting point. After signing the standard indemnity waivers and applying sunscreen it’s time to hit the road. The tour lasts about three hours and includes a few stops for photos and finishing with dinner at a local Warung. Great value for money and a brilliant way to see where the locals live and work, not to mention the distant volcanoes beyond the rice fields.

For movie buffs this tour takes you riding along the very path that carried Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. So get ready to recreate your favourite moment among the rice paddies. And then they take you back to your hotel for a well deserved rest, unless you want to squeeze in a few last minute Happy Hour cocktails again.

Day 3

Today is a day to spend with that Private Driver we mentioned earlier which means the possibilities are endless. You can discuss these options with your Guide in advance or see how you feel on the day and go with the flow. However some activities will need advance planning.

Mt Batur in Bali may be a tough hike in the dark but the sunrise is pretty special

If you like the sound of starting your day half way through the night then a hike up the Mt Batur volcano to watch the sunrise is a must. This one will have to be prearranged with both your driver and the company that operate the hikes. Expect to leave your hotel at two or three in the morning.

Dana did this trek and said that the views where amazing when the sun started to throw some light on the situation but she was quite nervous during the hike up in the dark. Loose and uneven surfaces lit only by small flashlights may not be ideal for everyone. That being said you may well end up with some incredible sunrise photos, great memories and a story that your friends will look forward to hearing over and over. (*accuracy of this statement may vary depending on your friends)

There are many beautiful waterfalls to be found during a day trip around Ubud

The benefit of having your own driver take you to this hike is that you can continue seeing the sights of North Bali as soon as you reach the bottom again, whereas those who use the transfers arranged by the hiking company will be taken all the way back to Ubud, and are you really going to want to head halfway back North after that?

While you are slowly making your way back to Ubud have your driver take you to some of the impressive waterfalls, and be sure to have them stop at the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple (or the Temple on the Lake). This Pagoda style Temple is built on one of Bali’s high mountain lakes, about a mile above sea level, and the building and surrounds are peaceful and incredibly scenic.

The Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is one of the most stunning in Bali

We also visited some of the local craftsmen, stone and wood carvers, and master painters who produce beautiful artworks in many styles, and sell them for much less than their skill and time deserves. I felt a little guilty admiring their work and not making a purchase but, being an artist myself in a past life, have no more space on the walls at home to hang anything.

Get your Driver to take you somewhere truly local for lunch, the type of place that you may not go if you were just driving by. This is one of the great treats of travelling with someone that knows the area very well.

On the way back to Ubud we were lucky enough to be invited to Wayan’s home (our guide) and meet his family. He comes from a village of wood carvers and we got to see his work and get a feel for how he lives. Like many Balinese he does not have a house as such, but a family compound with a number of buildings filled with members of the extended family.

Over 100,000 white Herons fill the trees in the Ubud village of Petulu during breeding season

His village is quite beautiful and home to a huge colony of Heron. Every year up to 150,000 of these birds arrive and nest in the trees that line the road through the village. We visited late in the season and so only a few thousand birds remained, but enough to give us an indication of how dramatic it must be in peak breeding season.

You will definitely be needing a bit of a rest when you get back so either grab a nana nap, have a massage or head out for Happy Hour. It’s your last night so hopefully you have enough energy to get out for your final meal in Ubud. Maybe another visit to that favourite Warung or perhaps something special to bring the trip to a close.

What should you eat in Ubud?

As mentioned before, Ubud is a hub for Vegans but don’t start thinking that you will struggle to find anything else because I assure you the food scene doesn’t stop there.

From local Warungs to the usual tourist trap restaurants, authentic cooking classes to once in a lifetime eating experiences, you will never be short on eating options regardless your price range.

Even if you aren’t a budget backpacker, stopping by a local Warung is a great way to get a taste for the local cuisine and culture for a ridiculously low price. Many of them are little more than basic “hole in the wall” type places so don’t go in expecting a 5 star experience, but don’t let that hold you back.

With most set up like a buffet; you go in, choose what bits and piece you want and the total cost is based on the items you choose. Here you will find most of the Balinese classics including: Nasi (rice) or Mie (Noodle) Goreng, Babi Guling (traditional whole roasted pig) and Bebek Betutu (traditional deep fried crispy duck).

Some of the dirty ducks at Ubud's Bebek Bengil Diner

Possibly the most famous place to get the classic Bebek betutu is at Bebek Bengil, better known as the Dirty Duck Diner. The establishment has a really nice story behind it and although it does lean toward being one of those tourist trap restaurants you will still find some amazing food with fantastic views, even if the price is set for tourists.

Duck isn’t for everyone which brings us back to our non meat eating types. My family are definitely not Vegans but were pleasantly surprised by the wide range of truly delicious options available. Possibly the best purely vegan restaurant in Ubud is Kismit. Although a little on the higher side in terms of balinese meal prices, it is certainly worth it for high quality, visually appealing and mouthwatering vegan food. Oh and did I mention cocktails!

Room4Dessert in Ubud proves that you can have a filling meal purely from desserts

If you are after a night of cocktails or looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, you need to add Room4Dessert to your bucketlist right now. Dana took Pauline here as part of her Bali birthday celebrations when she visited and they haven’t stopped raving on about it as one of their best eating experiences to date.

This restaurant offers a 9 course dessert menu which changes each season but not only that, they also offer a 9 course cocktail menu to match. The price may seem high for Bali but is a fraction of the price you would pay in western cities and the quality is every bit as high. In the end what you get it is totally worth it and averages out rather cheap per serve.

Room4Dessert in Ubud proves that you can have a filling meal purely from desserts

The one Ubud food experience Dana continues to rave on about even more than dessert is Melting Wok. So much so that I think she would have disowned us as parents if we didn’t test it out for ourselves on our recent trip and now we know why. This small restaurant packs a big punch with unbeatable prices on a limited but delicious menu of local specialties. And the staff are awesome.

Be sure to try the local Warungs and not limit yourself to the “fancy” looking restaurants. If you do then you are not only paying too much for your food but probably missing out on the best dishes.

The short guide to Ubud.

If you want to bypass the full rundown on how to spend your time in Ubud then we have provided a quick overview of the best and worst parts of the town.

The best of Ubud.

For those of us that travel to experience authentic local culture, to watch the people go about their daily tasks in the same way their families have done for generations, to eat the same food the locals eat at home every day, Ubud is a place you should get to at least once in your lifetime.

If it is the beauty of a place’s natural surroundings that drives you to explore then Ubud will tick all the boxes. And the same can be said if you are seeking a place to “find yourself”, to have that little piece of Paradise where you can find some serenity.

Ubud is home of the cycle path featured in Eat Pray Love and part of the eBikes Bali tour

What did we feel was the best of Ubud? Without a doubt it was the scenic beauty to be found among the rice paddies. Whether it be the small streetside family fields, the vast hilltop areas around the town or the UNESCO listed rice terraces just north of town, it is an amazing experience to explore. And incredibly peaceful.

But it doesn’t end there. So many things in Ubud have contributed to making it our favourite part of Bali. For Pauline the cheap but professional spa treatments are a real winner with all the services you would expect for a tiny fraction of the price you would pay in any western country.

I also loved the fact that everything is so close. From the centre of town you can walk in almost any direction and withing about 15 minutes feel like you are 100 miles from civilisation. Surrounded by nature and not a car in sight, although you will probably still have to dodge the occasional scooter.

 

Ubud should also be on your radar if you are the type of person always on the lookout for good traditional food. Balinese dishes may look simple but to understand and appreciate the work that goes into the preparation of these dishes you should try one of the highly regarded cooking classes on offer.

The worst of Ubud.

There is little not to be liked in Ubud but if I had to find fault with anything it would centre around the tourist markets, but even that is just a victim of tourist demand.

After escaping from the commerce fueled mayhem that is Kuta, with its aggressive stall owners with an annoying habit of putting on exaggerated Aussie accents, I was hoping for a much more laid back attitude in the Ubud markets and a better range of traditional craft rather than a range of different colours for Bintang singlets.

But it seems the growth in tourist numbers has brought in “foreign” Indonesians to Bali and they don’t seem to have the same humble and friendly presence that the locals are famous for. On the bright side, if you have only come to Ubud for the tourist markets then you are probably part of the problem and deserve the treatment you get.

Our highlight of Ubud.

Without a doubt the memory that will stay with us longest and bring smiles to our faces will be our time making our way through the rice fields around town.

Our sunrise walk was incredibly relaxing and we only made contact with a handful of other people during the 90 minutes we were out. Watching the sun come up behind the trees at the far edge of the rice fields was a wonderful experience.

World Heritage listed rice paddies of Ubud

But our bike tour through the rice fields, on the very same path that carried Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love may just top the sunrise experience. Not because of the movie but for the seclusion and the magnificent views all the way to the volcanoes in the distance.

The rice fields are everywhere around Ubud and taking the time to explore some of their locations is a must.

Should you go to Ubud?

To be honest, as I always try to be, Ubud is not for everyone. But then again the same could be said for every place in the world. It is a little sad to see that tourist numbers are starting to swell and it is very possible that in the not too distant future tourism could damage the charm of this interesting place in the hills.

But it’s definitely not too late to seek tranquility, centre your chakras, or see locals going about their days in the same way their families have done for generations. There is still plenty of authentic Bali to be found here, you just need to scratch through the shallow surface of tourism.

So don’t bother with Ubud if you have come to Bali for beer on the beach and to fill your wardrobe with Bintang singlets and sarongs, stick to Kuta and Legian where that type of lifestyle flourishes. There is nothing here for the surf crowd or those chasing the perfect sun tan ( or sunburn more often)

Leave Ubud to the people who will appreciate the beautiful scenery, those who want to escape a busy world and find a little peace and quiet. Leave it to people who really want to delve into the local culture, understand the people and appreciate their traditions. If Ubud is left to those travellers then it will be able to maintain it’s unique identity for a long time to come.

If you are the type of person that likes to immerse yourself in local culture, slow down the pace and experience a place, and appreciate how the locals live without needing to find parts that remind you of home then you should add Ubud to your next Bali itinerary.

It is a place that will live long in your memory for its friendly locals, breathtaking scenery and mellow way of life. We loved it.

The post What to do with 3 days in Ubud appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.



Is Bali worth visiting?

Bali is a place that polarises opinion, especially among Australians. Even in our own home there is debate when we discuss is Bali worth visiting. Pauline had recently made her third trip to the most popular of the Indonesian islands when she went over to spend a week with our daughter, Dana, who was attending […] The post Is Bali worth visiting? appeared first on La Vida Global...

Bali is a place that polarises opinion, especially among Australians. Even in our own home there is debate when we discuss is Bali worth visiting.

Pauline had recently made her third trip to the most popular of the Indonesian islands when she went over to spend a week with our daughter, Dana, who was attending a blogger and influencer retreat for a month in the hills around Ubud.

When they returned home all conversation seemed to be about Bali, and Ubud in particular. They spoke glowingly of the wonderful local people, the cheap but tasty food made from local organic ingredients at a price that seems impossibly low to many visitors.

Stories of stunning scenery, fun activities, and great accommodation for a fraction of the price you would pay in most of the other popular tourist destinations. They made me question my preconceptions. Had I been unfairly judging this place and the type of tourist it attracts?

Who did I think was the average Bali tourist?

In America they are known as rednecks, hillbillies or trailer park trash but in Australia we have a similar group affectionately called Bogans. They wear singlet tops and thongs (flip flops if you prefer, not the skimpy underwear… although don’t rule out the possibility of both!), they live for backyard barbecues and beer, and their preferred overseas holiday destination is Bali.

Why Bali? Well, it is one of Australia’s closest neighbours so a relatively short flight, the flights are often cheaper than many of our own domestic destinations, with accommodation and food at a fraction of the cost at home.

It's easy to spot bogans in Bali when they wear the traditional clothing

For the boganettes it is a land of dreams with cheap hair braiding, sarongs, mani-pedis and foot massages.

But the clincher is the availability of bargain basement Bintang branded singlets and beer cheaper than you can buy bottled water at home. The proverbial Bogan land of milk and honey!

Who really goes to Bali?

Well, to be honest, Bogans do. But they are not the only ones that will find exactly what they are looking for on this diverse island.

Surfers.

Bali has some great surf around the island and at some of the smaller islands nearby which attract surfers from around the world. Great waves and cheap living expenses make it ideal.

Canggu is a hotspot for surfers in Bali

Among the most popular places to take your board and catch some waves are :

  • Uluwatu – the southwest corner of Bali has a number of secluded beaches made for surfers. Some are quite difficult to access but the good news is you will not have to share the water with many swimmers. Look for Padang Padang, Impossibles, Suluban and Bingin Beaches among others.
  • Canggu – north of the airport, above the tourist choked Kuta and Legian, is Canggu, home of the famous Echo Beach. A veritable Mecca for surfers in Bali. The beach is pretty average looking but the surf more than makes up for it. Plenty of bloggers hang out here as well which means the internet is good and living is cheap.
  • Keramas – over on the east coast they have some pretty decent spots as well, but for something a little different this beach offers night surfing. So if you can’t get enough of this world class break while the sun is up then just keep going!
  • Nusa Lembongan – this small island off the southeast of Bali has more than its fair share of great surf spots. Easily accessible by fast ferry several times per day it is a place that deserves a short break, or maybe longer. Try the “Shipwrecks” break, it attracts surfers of all levels but only the better surfers will be able to get the best barrels.

Hippies, Vegans and Yoga lovers.

Don’t expect to find too many of these travellers in and around Kuta, although a number of vegan food places and yoga studios are popping up. If this type of lifestyle is your jam then you will find plenty of kindred spirits around the the town up in the hills, Ubud.

In this part of Bali you can’t swing a yoga mat without hitting a wellness retreat or organic plant matter eating establishment. Don’t get me wrong, Ubud is an amazing place to spend some time and it is also possible to fulfill your carnivourous desires.

It seems every second building in Ubud is a yoga studio

I do have to admit that there are some delicious vegetarian or even vegan meals to be had in Ubud. While I feel Tofu is one of the world’s truly disgusting substances I did discover its sibling, Tempeh, which I prepared and devoured in a curry during a cooking class. And some of the meatless rice and noodle dishes are bursting with flavour.

If you get your kicks contorting your body while balancing on a rubber mat, prefer to chow down on a diet of plant matter, or have a goal of achieving spiritual enlightenment then Ubud is where you should be heading.

It is also considered another of the hotspots for visiting bloggers looking for someplace relatively exotic at a bargain basement price.

The Flop and Drop crowd.

You know the type, hey you may even be part of this group. The tourists that go to fancy Resorts or private Villas and spend their entire vacation huddled in the rarefied atmosphere, loving the familiar western “civilised” feel but allowing them to tell their friends back home that they experienced the exotic culture of a mysterious land.

In reality the closest many of them get to experience the local culture is getting frustrated that the local staff don’t understand English well enough or eating a fancy bowl of Nasi Goreng in the attached 5 star restaurant. Of course the flavours will have been adjusted for the delicate palates of the guests, sometimes so much that the only similarity is the name of the dish and the fact it contains rice.

While Bali is considered a budget friendly destination by most people you would be very much mistaken if you thought that meant no upmarket lodgings. There are some magnificent upscale lodgings in many parts of the island with some of the most notable being…

  • Seminyak – just north of Kuta and Legian, featuring a number of high end Resorts and Beach Clubs. Close, but not too close, to the action and nightlife.
  • Nusa Dua – considered the fancy Resort capital of the south coast of Bali. More local vulture and much nicer beaches than Seminyak.
  • Sanur – the southeast gateway to the beautiful islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Also well known for shopping, snorkeling and luxury accommodation.
  • Ubud – surrounded by magnificent jungle and rice paddies with a strong art and culture vibe. The best place to find that perfect private pool Villa with a view.

Creepy weird guys.

While Thailand has the unfortunate title as top spot for sex vacations Bali has its share of these tourists as well. I experienced how Bali has opened up to this market first hand while wandering alone in Kuta in the days before Pauline arrived to meet up with me. Perhaps that last sentence could have been worded differently.

Walking around I must have given off some of that lonely, creepy, middle aged white guy vibe because at least once on every block I was offered Viagra and even more often was presented with the chance of “sexy” massages, some with added “boom boom” and even one where the young lady would bring her friend for no extra charge.

The sheer number of these offers indicates how large this market must be and it amazes me that so many men must travel purely for cheap sex (and maybe cheap Bintang singlets and beer as a bonus).

Tourradar

Hipsters.

This group is everywhere now, spreading to the four corners of the globe at pandemic speed. In Bali they appear to be taking over Canggu, which was previously surfer territory.

If I had have known this before my quick stop in Canggu I may have worn my glasses and trimmed my beard a little more carefully in the hope of blending in. Unfortunately I am neither surfer (although I grew up right on a great surf beach in Australia) nor a Hipster (although I possess both beard and glasses), and so didn’t feel any real connection with this part of Bali.

If however you are looking for the right place to get your Hipster on then this is it. Trendy cafes, clubs and restaurants are popping up at an alarming rate and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

Instagram Princesses.

Bali is an island packed with plenty of exotic culture and Instagram worthy scenery at a relatively cheap price which, unfortunately, makes it very appealing to those “doing it for the ‘Gram”.

Now we have a decent Instagram presence and, as a keen travel photographer, I am always looking to capture nature at its best. Not to mention the beautiful and quirky places made by the hands of man. What I do not do is impose myself on others looking to admire the same scene.

It's all about getting that perfect Instagram image at Tanah Lot

But there are those who are less considerate and believe their (perceived) online fame gives them the right to be culturally insensitive, rude to other travellers and exempt from any local rules. And Bali has them everywhere.

On this Bali trip I experienced their attitude and bad behaviour on too many occasions but three examples stand out…

  • while waiting to capture the sunset at the stunning location of Tanah Lot Temple two young ladies decided that rules did not apply when you were chasing that great Instagram moment. They climbed over a gate outside one of the temples, a gate which was clearly marked with a sign requesting people stay out as it was closed for renovation.Obviously it was not closed for them.
  • before watching the sun set behind the local Kacek dancers at Uluwatu Temple we were exploring the cliff tops and taking in some amazing coastal views. Now this is a very sacred site, so much so that all guests are asked to cover up, even providing sarongs to both men and women for the purpose. However two Eastern European girls decided the scenery was too nice and their Instagram followers needed to see them stripped down to bikinis beside the temple. No respect for local culture.
  • during our bike tour in Ubud we took a drink stop overlooking the world heritage listed rice terraces. The cafe had built a small swing that made for a pretty impressive photo. Two girls and a guy arrives minutes before our group and decided they need at least 30 photos of each other on the swing. We all just wanted a quick snapshot. A line up of people waiting had no impact on them and even when the girls finally moved away the guy stayed right in the middle of everything and started operating his drone. I eventually suggested that his drone could just as easily be piloted from elsewhere and he finally moved moments before I was to throw his controller over the edge and into the rice paddies. No respect for others.

I wonder how large the following is for these Instagram wannabees and would love to find out that ours is bigger and tell them that gives me priority over them. After all, size matters!

Budget conscious Backpackers.

As mentioned a number of times already Bali is a place where you can find good views, good food, good accommodation at great prices. And the locals are amazing people as a bonus. This makes it an ideal destination for the “how to survive on $5 a day” types.

There are bargains to be found in most parts of the island and you never have to go far to find a filling rice or noodle meal for just a dollar or two. But it is also a place where just another couple of dollars can be the difference between sleeping rough and sleeping quite comfortably. After all, travel is about the best experiences and not a competition to see who can find the cheapest of everything.

People just like us.

We travel to different places for new experiences. Sample the local cuisine, witness local customs and ceremonies, take in amazing new scenery. In a nutshell, we travel to make life interesting.

Balinese barbecue is cheap and tasty with amazing seafood along the coast

Bali is of interest to people like us because it offers everything that we search for. The food appears simple and cheap but the underlying flavours are complex and include plenty of preparation and tradition. From the basic Nasi or Mie Goreng to the famous Bebek Batutu (Balinese roast duck) or the island’s signature dish of Babi Guling, a succulent full roasted pig, Balinese food has something for everyone.

There are a number of traditional ceremonies across Bali throughout the year and we happened to be in Ubud during a rare but momentous occasion. Burial and cremation ceremonies are a big part of life, and death, in Bali and during our stay one such ceremony took place. The cremation of the Balinese King’s mother was a huge event that stopped the town for a day and featured all the spectacle one would expect from a royal event.

Cremation ceremonies are important to the Balinese and when it involves the Royal Family the event is remarkable

There are also plenty of cultural activities designed with tourism in mind but still firmly representing the traditions of the local people. For example the Kacek fire dances that are performed around the island.

And scenery… wow! Bali is blessed when it comes to natural and man made beauty. You can find everything from the stunning secluded beaches of Uluwatu to the world famous rice terraces around Ubud, from the perfect Pagoda Temples to the incredible array of places to catch the sunset.

Don’t be put off Bali because of the types of people mentioned above, embrace it as an option because of what it offers you.

What did we do in Bali?

This was my first trip to Bali and Pauline’s fourth and it began with me having my first overseas solo travel experience ever. Pauline would join me after four days due to work commitments so I had decided the best place to start would be right in the centre of the the action.

Kuta – I came, I saw, I probably will not return.

Kuta is an easy place to walk around. My fitness tracker told me that I did over 40,000 steps in my first two days so it’s fair to say that I did some exploring. Unfortunately I found very little that could ever convince me that Kuta, or Legian, would ever see me again.

Kuta beach is definitely not the prettiest in Bali

It may have had something to do with the fact that I was travelling alone (I am very much an introvert and rely on Pauline’s outgoing nature to help me connect with others) or it may have been how so many of the locals perceive middle aged, single, white guys that influenced this opinion.

I used Hotels Combined to find the best value hotel in Kuta.

My hotel room was small, clean, centrally located and the cheapest place I have ever stayed at about $17 Aussie per night. My complaints about the place aren’t worth mentioning as the Taxa Uma was clearly great value for money overall.

Food choices was also no issue with a vast array of options all within a few minutes walk. My first issue was with a place also within a short stroll of the hotel, Kuta Beach. There are plenty of blogs and info sites that talk up this place, raving about the golden sand of Kuta Beach and even display photographic evidence to support their description.

Good photo editing can easily turn brown to gold, but in real life the beach all the way from Kuta to Seminyak is a rather unappealing brown, making it look permanently dirty and very unappealing. Now I live in the home of truly golden sand beaches so I can spot the difference.

Unfortunately the colour of the sand makes the water looks dirty and the only real attraction of the beach is the chance to sit on a sun lounger under an umbrella and drink cheap beer, get your hair braided and have a massage. I don’t drink beer, have no hair and don’t like massages so it was three strikes and I was out.

The market stalls reminded me a lot of those in Patong Beach, Phuket. Aggressive stall owners trying to drag you in to buy, fake Aussie accents shouting a “G’day mate” to which I usually reply in Spanish that I don’t understand them. It is sad that the Bogans have pushed these usually wonderful locals to this level of artificial behaviour.

It also gets tiring very quickly to be offered a taxi ride, a scooter rental or a cold drink at every stall. Seriously people, you just heard me say no thanks to your two neighbours so do you really thinks my thirst has grown so much in that extra 5 steps that I now do need refreshment?

As I mentioned previously it was also sad and annoying to fit the profile that encouraged the constant offers of “sexy” massages and Viagra. I was supposed to be here for four nights but after three I was defeated, it was time to move on. Actually it was probably at least a day overdue.

In the interest of fairness I asked some friends of ours, Lyn and Steve of A Hole in my Shoe, who travel to Bali often to give their view of Kuta. They have written a great post on Kuta which you should read before writing this part of Bali off completely.

I’m sick of people bagging Kuta (or any place). It is what it is, but if you go there and search for all the negative and focus on it, your trip will be impacted. If you go there with a positive attitude, mix with the locals, take the time to be polite and strike up a conversation, you will likely see similarities with what lies in the other areas of Bali too.

Tanah Lot – a Temple and a sunset.

After everything that is ugly about Bali bombarding me for three days I needed somewhere with a slower pace and some true beauty. After a few hours research I decided on Tanah Lot. It is famous for its Temple and the incredible sunsets. So I packed my bag, called a taxi, checked out early and took off.

Tanah Lot is one of Bali's most iconic sunset spots

Once again Hotels Combined helped me find exactly the right hotel in Tanah Lot.

I decided to go a bit more upmarket with the accommodation for my one night stay here and chose the wonderful Natya Hotel which was a steal at under AUD $55 per night including breakfast and afternoon tea beside the pool. But the best feature was its location inside the Temple grounds and only a 200 metre walk to the highlight spots.

It was early afternoon when I arrived and decided to wander down to see what the Temple was all about and to scout out the best sunset photo spots. The place is quite beautiful and such a glaring contrast to Kuta. Then back for a refreshing swim, with fresh juice and local crepe, before returning to witness the end of the day.

There was quite a bit of cloud on the horizon but it did nothing to detract from what was a stunningly beautiful sunset. In fact I find that clouds actually enhance the colours and give more depth to these photos. I loved it here and within a couple of hours Bali was winning me back.

Ubud – this is why we travel.

After spending a couple of hours in Canggu, just long enough to see that while the waves would appeal to surfers the sand on the beach was what is called black sand which means it amplifies the heat of the sun. After taking about 50 or so steps along the beach I decided my feet were now “well done” and any longer would cause the skin to either start to mely or spontaneously combust. How do those people think it’s a good spot to sunbathe?

One delicious burrito later (if you are in Canggu and feel like some Mexican food head to Lacalita Cantina) and it was time to pick up Pauline from the airport and head to Ubud.

Hidden behind one of Ubud's top restaurants is this magnificent temple and stunning gardens

Three of my favourite towns in the world are Chiang Mai, a slow paced place in the hills of Thailand packed with scenery and culture, and Oaxaca, a slow paced place in the hills of Mexico packed with scenery and culture, and Florence, a slow paced place in the hills of Italy packed with scenery and culture. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I really enjoyed my time in Ubud since it is a slow paced place in the hills of Bali packed with scenery and culture. Are you seeing the theme developing?

Our first night was a chance for Pauline to show me around and help me get my bearings. She had been here for a week a few months earlier to visit our Wandering Donut. An excellent cheap feed and a few cocktails later and it was to our accommodation, the charming Honeymoon Guesthouse.

The Guesthouse is owned by Aussie expat Janet DeNeefe who also operates a bakery and two highly rated restaurants in town. On top of that she has published cook books and runs one of the top cooking classes in Ubud. And this is where we started the next day.

A cooking class is great fun in Ubud and they don't come any better than the Casa Luna Cooking School at Honeymoon Guesthouse

After a visit to the local farmer’s market we were back to the classroom for a rundown on the dishes we would be cooking and eating before getting into the meal prep. The class is great value for money and the food varied and superb. We highly recommend this to anyone who visits Ubud.

The following day it was time to exercise after a day of eating. Not really since we spent the entire previous afternoon exploring the town on foot. But today we would be taking an 18 kilometre bike ride through the rice paddies and streets on the outskirts of town.

We chose to tour with eBikes Bali for 2 reasons. The reviews were really good and the “e” in ebikes meant that they had electric motors that assisted on the hill climbs, or all the time for those too lazy to pedal at all. After signing the relevant waivers we were off, a group of nine from Asia, Australia and Europe.

One of the highlights of our Bali trip was riding our eBikes through the rice fields of Ubud

I would like to note that ebikes are awesome. My fitness levels are not what they used to be but with great effort I probably could have completed the ride under my own power, but who wants to be so exhausted on a tour that you don’t enjoy the scenery? This means than people of all stages of physical fitness can participate.

Another piece of good news is they bring a support vehicle for those who just can’t go on. Simply jump on the giant golf cart with your bike and enjoy a more comfortable seat. It is also for anyone who suffers injury during the tour and, full disclosure, two of our group ended up in that category. Three actually, including me, but I soldiered on.

Find your perfect Ubud accommodation here.

The first injury was when the Malaysian lady in our group, who was immediately behind me, got a bit too close, hit the throttle instead of the brake, and ran into my leg before getting her front wheel locked with my back wheel. I came away with some tyre burns and scrapes on my leg but she ended up on the road with cuts, bruises and a painful shoulder.

The second injury occurred as we left the road and entered the sometimes tricky paths through the rice terraces. We were immediately faced with a rather steep downward slope which was wet toward the bottom. For one young lady a combination of too much speed, aggressive breaking and an inexperienced cyclist was only ever going to end one way, in tears with more scrapes and bruises.

Ubud is home of the cycle path featured in Eat Pray Love and part of the eBikes Bali tour

The ebikes tour was so much fun, the scenery spectacular and our guides funny and informative. Once again we highly recommend these guys if you are in Ubud.

For our final full day in Ubud we got out of the city but not before a sunrise walk through the rice paddies. It is quiet and beautiful at this time of morning with scarcely another soul to be seen except for the occasional local tending their fields.

There are few places more peaceful than the rice paddies of Ubud at sunrise

Pauline had worked with a private driver during her previous stay so we decided to hire him for a full day of exploring beyond the city limits. Wayan is a local with a keen business sense, beautiful family and a passion for showing off his home country.

Number one site on my hit list was the incredibly beautiful Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, high up in the mountains north of Ubud on a lake. Simply one of the most photogenic spots in Bali. And let me tell you, even though the weather was overcast it did not disappoint in the slightest.

The Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is one of the most stunning in Bali

During the rest of the day we also visiting an art workshop and gallery. These local artist have such enormous talent but earn so little for their skills and hours of painstaking labour. We appreciated their work but have no room left in our house for more artwork. After lunch at a restaurant surrounded by rice fields in the middle of nowhere we made our way to the last stop at Tegenungan Waterfall.

We expected the water to be dirty looking from the mud washed down by recent rains and although the pool at the bottom was a little brown, the waterfall itself was stark white. We enjoyed the view from above but declined the chance to descend the hundreds of steps to the bottom. It was hot and the water was too dirty to swim anyway, besides, the view was perfect from above.

Tegenungan waterfall is spectacular from the main viewing platform

Wayan had a wonderful surprise for us before our tour ended, he took us to his home to meet his lovely family. He lives in the sleepy village of Petulu, 10 minutes from the town centre. The road outside his house is lined with trees which in turn are filled with Heron for much of the year.

During mating season up to 150,000 of these birds pack the branches of the trees in this small village. We visited a few months after the peak time but were still greeted with thousands of adults still with babies in the nest. It was a wonderful way to cap off a great day and a great stay in Ubud.

One final word on Ubud before we head to our next destination. There is a small restaurant, or Warung, called the Melting Wok. Dana ate there a few times during her stay and took Pauline with her once. Pauline then took me and I totally understand why. Supurb Indonesian food, great atmosphere, friendly staff and cheap prices. Eat there!

Uluwatu – Not really what I expected.

I don’t know exactly what I was thinking when we decided to spend our last couple of days at Uluwatu. Perhaps I imagined a sleepy little coastal village, the beachfront lined with cool shops and restaurants, full of local flavour and maybe even a bit bit of a surfer vibe. This is not the Uluwatu of reality.

Padang Padang Beach is one of many secluded beaches in Uluwatu

What you will find in and around Uluwatu are some pretty beaches, small and secluded. Sometimes hard to find and even harder to access. You will also find most tourists riding scooters. Why? Well it’s because there is no central area of this place, no cool main street and no beachfront row of shops, so it is the only sensible way to get around.

The best known places around Uluwatu are the Temple, with its traditional Kacek dance show and the Rock Bar which is one of the trendiest sunset bars in Asia. We missed out on the Rock Bar but did experience the Kacek show. The seating was cramped and somewhat uncomfortable but the show was fun and educational with truly skilled performers.

Kacek dance ceremony at Uluwatu Temple

There are narrow and winding roads through the bushland with seemingly random restaurants and the occasional big Resort. It is a strange place in many ways. We stayed at a quite new place called Uluwatu Breeze Village which is a small collection of about a dozen little villas inside a walled compound and a central pool.

The staff were amazing and the rooms more than adequate. And the breakfast was outstanding! The most popular beaches were a kilometre or two away which was within walking distance but difficult and even a little dangerous due to the blind corners on the roads and no sidewalks to be found. It is also hot and humid, ridiculously so.

Search here for the best selection of Uluwatu accommodation.

We did enjoy our couple of nights here and made the 40 minute trip to Jimbaran on our last night for a memorable sunset dinner on the sand. The beach is pretty unappealing with its sticky brown sand but the atmosphere is great and it’s an experience not to be missed.

The beachfront restaurants at Jimbaran make for a special sunset dinner

The beach has a dozen or so seafood barbecue restaurants along the edge of the water with dining set up right on the sand. It is a matter of walking the beach and checking the menu of each place before deciding which has the best offerings for your tastes. Most of them also offer options other than seafood to cater for all diners.

How do we rate Bali?

It is a place that splits opinion in Australia and before the trip my opinion was that it would be a waste of my time and travel funds. Due to time constraints and some other factors it became the best option for a last minute trip and Pauline convinced me it was worth the effort to find out the truth for myself.

Well the truth is that some of it was as bad as I expected but other parts much better than I expected. Like most countries it is impossible to solely love or hate. Bali is a diverse island which really does offer something to everyone. The challenge is to find the part that offers what you want. Don’t get stuck in Kuta if you want culture, but don’t go to Ubud if you want nightlife.

Now after my first trip to Bali I have to say that I am glad I made the effort to visit and form my own opinions. If I had have known then what I know now then my itinerary would have been quite a bit different and my opinion almost certainly higher. Take out my dislike of Kuta and it really does provide a better experience than Thailand mainly due to the close proximity of everything on the island.

What would we have changed?

Better informed I would have bypassed Kuta and Legian altogether, it just has nothing that interests me. In hindsight I think my solo time may have been better spent somewhere like Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida, a place I could spend my time searching for great photo ops rather than being bombarded with unwanted sales offers.

Tanah Lot and Ubud would still make the cut but we would probably change Uluwatu for somewhere a bit better organised, like Nusa Dua or Sanur. A beach break but in a place with better access and organisation. It’s horses for courses but this horse needed a different course.

Would we go back to Bali?

Pauline would go back to Bali for her fifth visit at any chance and while there are definitely places that I would like to experience if the opportunity came up but it is not near the top 10 countries I want to visit.

To be brutally honest I think this trip confirmed to me that I don’t love Asia. There is a lot of positives and it’s close to Australia but for me it doesn’t have the amazing food of Latin America, the history of Europe or the road trip potential of the USA. And that is where my travel priorities are.

It’s easy to see the attraction for many Australians and, as I have demonstrated above, it is quite a diverse place. It’s just not strong in the areas that I look to experience when I travel.

If you are travelling from Europe or North America it’s a very long way to come, and if you are willing to fly that far I feel you have even more reason to do your research and pick the right part of Bali for your vacation goals.

So the chances are that I will not be back to Bali but it is also true that I am glad to have finally been there once to form my own opinion and not just work from hearsay. Although you should never say never.

Should you go to Bali?

Yes you should, just be sure to pick the right part to give you the experience you are looking for. The Balinese people are humble, genuine and friendly and rely heavily on tourism for an income which means they have a very customer focused mentality.

But don’t go just to support the local economy, go because it has many beautiful places, an interesting culture and is a cheap place to experience a high quality trip.

We would love to hear your opinion of Bali, whether you agree with me or think my preconceptions clouded my view.

The post Is Bali worth visiting? appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.



The Best Road Trips of the World – Part 4

There is no better way to explore the world than to have the freedom of moving at your own pace and having the flexibility to change your itinerary as you please. So we asked some experienced travellers to not only come up with the best road trips of the world, but to also let us […] The post The Best Road Trips of the World – Part 4 appeared first on La Vida Global...

There is nothing like the freedom of a road trip. But have you considered these places?
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There is no better way to explore the world than to have the freedom of moving at your own pace and having the flexibility to change your itinerary as you please.

So we asked some experienced travellers to not only come up with the best road trips of the world, but to also let us in on why it should be added to your travel bucket list.

This is the fourth part in our series of posts which will show you some of the most famous road trip locations around the world, the ones you will most likely already have seen or heard about, but some other suggestions are sure to surprise. They sure surprised us.

Now let’s finish packing the car (or Campervan) and get this show on the road. We begin with a road trip in a place better known for huge Resorts but has so much more to offer.

Auto Europe Car Rentals

Riveiera Maya, Mexico with Cristal from Tofu Traveler.

The best thing about a road trip around the Riviera Maya is that it can suit many different travel styles. For those who want a different town every day, there are many unique places and activities to choose from. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation then you can choose two or three spots to live out your tropical paradise fantasies.

Better know for huge Resorts, Mexico's Riviera Maya is also a great place for a road trip

My ultimate 7 day road trip is a great balance of all that the Riviera Maya has to offer. Start in Playa Del Carmen to begin de-stressing with a cocktail, sun lounger and clear skies in one of the beach clubs. Once you’re ready to explore check out the nearby cenotes or hop on the short ferry ride to Cozumel Island. Head further south from here with a quick stop to see the Tulum Ruins, including a swim in the clear waters looking up at the ancient site.

Then on to Laguna Bacalar to experience the Lagoon of 7 Colours, the second largest body of freshwater in Mexico. Bacalar is also one of the only places in the world to see stromatolites, living stones that are considered the oldest form of life on the planet.

From Bacalar, head north and west to Valladolid. Valladolid has a lovely small town feel and you won’t see any big hotels or tour groups here. Take the opportunity to sample some local food, visit the Mayapan Distillery, and this is your chance to spend time in one of the Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza. From Valladolid you’re less than two hours away from Cancun airport so you can head straight back on your last day.

Highlights.

  1. Visit one of the New Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza
  2. Learn about living stones on a boat trip around the Lagoon of 7 Colours
  3. Swim in both the warm Caribbean Sea and cool cenotes along the coast

Croatia with Dani from A Baby Abroad.

Croatia has an amazing geography, which is why the best way to explore it through a road trip. It is also very easy to get around by car as a foreigner.

A Croatia road trip opens up famous locations and stunning scenery

The total distance between Zagreb and Dubrovnik is 687 kilometers – around 11 hours. Start by renting a car at Zagreb airport, and get a SIM card in order to access a GPS.

If you are looking for beach parties, then Novaljia and Zrce Beach is your first stop. Popular for its very wild parties, Zcre beach and the surrounding landscape is spectacular. Skip this and head on to Zadar if you are looking for a more calm atmosphere.

Zadar is 285 kilometers from Zagreb. Once there, you will find a cozy small town, with a small pier, several green and blue water beaches and small local seafood restaurants. 177 kilometers to the south is Split. It has a famous old town filled with stone constructions, beautiful cafés and restaurants, ruins, and of course, amazing beaches.

Getting your car onto a ferry for less than two hours will take you to Hvar, which is unmissable. This island has amazing views and several beaches to explore. It is filled with restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs, and a pier filled with fancy yachts and boats.

A 4 hour drive away – including a short ferry trip – will take you to Dubrovnik, the last stop. Here, you will continue to find amazing landscapes and another old town filled with things to do, see and eat. You can drop your car off at the Dubrovnik airport.

Highlights.

  1. Plitvice Lakes
  2. Game of Thrones filming locations
  3. An amazing coastline

Vietnam with Mike from Live Travel Teach.

If you are looking for an ultimate road trip than look no further than Vietnam. This country is famous for its motorbikes which can be easily bought and sold for $200-$300 and willing mechanics to fix your bike for just a few dollars.

A Vietnam road trip is made for motorbikes but you can still use a car if that's more your speed

This 7 day journey was the highlight of my 6 week adventure driving a motorcycle across Vietnam Top Gear’s also found the Hai Van Pass to be “one of the best coast roads in the world!” Your journey starts on coastal roads before taking you along the Ho Chi Minh Trail into luscious jungle covered mountains.

Bikes can be loaded onto a buses or trains too if you’re in a hurry!

Starting in Hoi An and if you’ve got time, take a day or two to explore the countryside with a scenic drive through the farmland, along the beach or a longer trip to My Son Sanctuary. If you’re on a tight schedule then jump on your bikes and ride for Hue immediately, the drive is only 130km but it could easily take you the whole day because you’re going to want to stop at least once on the Hai Van Pass!

When you get to Hue you’ll have to pick between royal palaces, tombs, beaches and even an abandoned amusement park. Driving into the mountains you’ll soon find the Ho Chi Minh trail and the toughest roads of the journey. The jungles encompass the mountain roads near the Laos border as you approach Khe Sanh Combat Base. Spend the night there then get up early for a long driving day through the mountains to Phong Nha where you can explore some of the world’s largest caves!

Highlights.

  1. Try the national passtime of motorbike riding
  2. Be brave and experience all the incredible food
  3. Feel the history

Finland with Mary from The Lifelong Adventures.

A winter road trip through the Arctic wonderland of Finnish Lapland is an epic adventure suitable for people of all ages. We did this trip in December and enjoyed every minute of it.

A Finland road trip is all about snow, reindeer and ice bars.

The roads are covered with snow and hard-packed ice and the sun rises for only a few hours each day. Start in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland and home to Santa Claus. At Santa’s Village you can mail a postcard home, step across the Arctic Circle, and have your picture taken with Santa Claus.

On Day 2, meet a local representative of the Sami people for a traditional welcome and authentic lunch. Then leave the capital behind and head out into the remote wilderness toward the Russian boarder and Salla (2-3 hours).

Spend your third day at the Salla Reindeer Park on a Reindeer Safari. Board a sled pulled by reindeer and venture into the still, snow-covered forest. Enjoy a picnic lunch and bonfire in a traditional Sami hut.

On Day 4, drive across Lapland toward the resort area of Yllas (4-5 hours). Spend a night under furs in the Ice Hotel and relax with a drink and traditional Finnish dinner at the Ice Bar.
The next morning, drive slightly north to Levi (1-2 hours). Spend your fifth and sixth day engaging in the winter activities like dog sledding, snow shoeing, and skiing. Visit the Snow Village or head further out into the vast expanse surrounding the village to try and see the Northern Lights.

On the seventh day make your way back past frozen lakes to Rovaniemi (3 hours).

Highlights.

  1. Arctic Circle Crossing – Rovaniemi
  2. Reindeer Safari – Salla
  3. Ice Hotel -Yllas

Whisky Tour, Scotland with Amanda from Wandering Spirits Global.

For whisky lovers, a visit to Scotland is almost certainly a bucket list item. There are over 120 active distilleries in Scotland, with the number growing each year as new ones are erected, and old ones resurrected.

A Scotland road trip discovering whisky distilleries is a great theme

There are many regions in Scotland that make for an epic road trip, but with such a high concentration of iconic distilleries in a fairly small but spectacularly beautiful area, my favourite whisky destination is the Isle of Islay. Located just off the west coast of Scotland, Islay is a 2.5 hour drive from Glasgow (or 3.5 hours from Edinburgh), through the magnificent scenery of the Scottish West Highlands to the port of Kennacraig.

The ferry ride from Kennacraig to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig will provide you with stunning views of Jura and her Paps. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins and whales.

You will find the distilleries of Islay conveniently grouped into three areas – the Port Ellen trio of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig; the Port Askaig pair of Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain (soon to be another trio with the opening of Ardnahoe in 2018); and Kilchoman, Bruichladdich and Bowmore. I recommend you attempt no more than two distillery tours in a day. By all means do a tasting at a third, but you will struggle to fit it all in otherwise.

Distillery tours are very popular, especially in the summer months, so make sure you book your tickets well in advance (at least the week before). Hot tip: most distilleries have take-away tasting samples available for the designated driver so make sure you ask for your dram ‘to go’ if you’re the one driving.

Highlights.

  1. 8 active distilleries (soon to be 9!). My favourites are Bruichladdich and Laphroaig for their plentiful tastings, and Bunnahabhain for the spectacular views of Jura. Bruichladdich also has gin tours and tastings (they make the sublime The Botanist gin).
  2. Beautiful beaches, an abundance of wildlife (birds, otters, seals and occasionally dolphins and whales), Mesolithic and Neolithic ruins (stone circles, standing stones, cairns) and Celtic relics (Kildalton High Cross, Kilchoman Cross)
  3. The Isle of Jura is a short ferry ride (5 minutes) across the Sound of Islay from Port Askaig. The Jura Distillery (in Craighouse) adds an additional whisky distillery option, and there is also the Lussa Gin Distillery at the northern end of Jura.

Smoky Mountains, USA with Ashley from A Southern Gypsy.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies on the Eastern side of Tennessee and the Western side of North Carolina and has always and will always be one of my favorite places in the world.

A USA road trip through the Smoky Mountains is a great way to get back to nature

A few years ago I put together a one-week road trip itinerary starting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and traveling to Asheville, North Carolina through the Smoky Mountains before hopping on the Blue Ridge Parkway and heading North to Linville Falls.

Gatlinburg is a great starting point for this road trip because it has a little something for everybody: moonshine distilleries, restaurants, themed attractions, beautiful wildlife, and scenery. I would spend two days here. The first checking out the town of Gatlinburg, the trails near town including the ghost town of Elkmont, Roaring Fork Motor Trail and more. The second day, I would spend exploring Cades Cove. Cades Cove is an 11-mile paved loop where you can drive or bike the loop while making stops along the way and exploring the trails. Here is your best chance of seeing black bears!

There are so many amazing spots between Gatlinburg and Asheville. See the elk in Cataloochee Valley, Maggie Valley, Soco Falls, and many more beautiful spots. Asheville is a lovely city. Don’t miss checking out local breweries, touring Biltmore Estate, the Battery Park Book Exchange, and Champagne Bar.

On the way to Linville Falls, North Carolina, you’ll pretty much be on the Blue Ridge Parkway the entire way. The fog wasn’t on our side at all but it was still a wonderful trip. A few of my favorite spots included Mount Mitchell and Little Switzerland (a small Bavarian-themed town). Once in Linville Falls, the Linville Falls, Gorge, and Caverns are all absolutely breathtaking. Using Linville Falls as a base, take your second day here to explore Grandfather Mountain, Boone, and Blowing Rock.

Highlights.

  1. Cades Cove
  2. Cataloochee Valley
  3. Little Switzerland

Slovakia with Maya from Maya Maceka.

Slovakia is a beautiful country located in the heart of Europe. With unspoiled nature, countless medieval cities and more castles per capita than any other European country, it is a destination not to be missed among travelers.

A Slovakia road trip shows you what life was like behind the Iron Curtain, and has lots of cheap beer

Due to its small size and decent road coverage, Slovakia also happens to be an ideal road trip hotspot! Here’s the perfect itinerary:

Bratislava: Start your Slovak road trip in the capital city of Bratislava, where you can witness some unique Socialist architecture and get a litre of beer for under 1 Euro! Spend at least 2 nights in the city.

Trencin & Zilina: After exploring Bratislava, head north towards the enchanting small town of Trencin. It’s a great place to spend a couple hours. Continue on to Zilina and if possible, spend the night in the nearby Mala Fatra National Park.

High Tatra Mountains: If you like fresh air and sweeping mountain views, you will love the High Tatras in Slovakia. Book a couple of nights in one of the resort towns like Stary Smokovec and enjoy the many activities this region has to offer.

Levoca & Kosice: From the mountains, take a short drive to Levoca, where you can visit the famous castle called Spissky Hrad. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the area. Continue driving East until you reach Kosice, the second-largest city in Slovakia. If you want to live like a Slovak king for the night, book a stay at the Bristol hotel.

Back to Bratislava: The journey back to Bratislava will take anywhere from 6-8 hours, so it’s best to get an early start to the day. Alternatively, you can drive north into Poland or head south to Hungry.

Highlights.

  1. Take a glimpse behind the Iron Curtain
  2. Cheap beer!
  3. Castles and beautiful scenery

South Africa with Cristina from Travel for Wildlife.

South Africa is arguably one of the top countries for road trips. This road trip covers great mountain scenery, game reserves and national parks, and ends right at the Pacific Ocean, so pack your binoculars and your swimming suit.

You never know who you might meet on a South Africa road trip

Leaving Johannesburg, head northeast towards the town of Graskop. From here join the Panorama Route, which is a great road trip on its own, and one of the main attractions in South Africa. Spend the day stopping at Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window, and Bourke’s Luck Pot Holes.

After marveling at the geology of this incredible part of South Africa, head east towards Kruger National Park and enter through the Orpen Gate, which you can reach before the gates close. Spend the next two days watching wildlife while making your way down to Kruger’s South Gate.

After your time at Kruger drive south along the Swaziland border where your next stop is Ithala Game Reserve. Ithala is mountainous and apart from a great variety of wildlife you can see some of the world’s oldest rock formations dating back to 3,000 million years.

Leaving Ithala join the N2 south toward Durban. In this short stretch of road many incredible game reserves and national parks are well worth the visit. uMkhuze Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and Lake St. Lucia, being the last one only a 3h drive from Durban. For a taste of Zulu history stop at one of the many Zulu heritage points, like King Shaka’s Grave or Mgungundlovu.

Highlights.

  1. Blyde River Canyon is quite a sight!
  2. Camping under the stars at the unfenced campsite at Ithala.
  3. Don’t leave Durban without trying a Bunny chow!

Norway with Niels from The Road Trip Guy.

During my 30,000 Km road trip trough 41 European countries, I was most keen on visiting the beautiful country of Norway. Many people had told me that the breathtaking mountains and mesmerizing fjords would offer a great scenery for a road trip.

Explore the fjords at your own pace with a Norway road trip

There are actually two routes going from Oslo to Bergen. Once you start driving you will have to make a decisions at the city of Hol;

Route RV50/E16: Oslo – Hol – Aurland – Flåm – Voss – Bergen, 532 km, 7,5 hours

Route RV7: Oslo – Hol – Hardangervidda – Hardanger – Bergen, 513 km, 1 ferry, 9 hours

I decided to take the first route as it would take me past these standout places.

Highlights.

  1. Borgund Stave Church
    The Borgund Stave Church is a stave church located in the village of Borgund in the municipality of Lærdal. It is exceptionally well preserved and one of the most well known stave churches in Norway. Check out the roof carvings of the dragons’ heads! Spooky is it not?
  2. The longest tunnel in Europe: the Lærdalstunnel
    The Lærdal Tunnel is a 24.51-kilometre long road tunnel connecting Lærdal and Aurland. Construction started in 1995 and the tunnel opened in 2000. Construction cost was 1.082 billion NOK and the tunnel has beautiful blue lighting with yellow lights at the fringes to give an impression of sunrise so you won’t fall a sleep during the 20-minute drive.
  3. City of Bergen
    Bergen is a populair city, which is located on Norway’s southwestern coast. It is know as the city that is surrounded by beautiful fjords, the colourful wooden houses on the wharf, mountains and Norway’s longest and deepest fjord: The Sognefjord.

Loire Valley, France with Wendy from World Wide Wendy.

If you like history, nice scenery, delicious food and lovely wines, you need to go to the Loire region in France. In the 15th century this was a popular area for hunting and the royalty built magnificant castles to spent their holidays.

A France road trip through the Loire is filled with stunning castles

About 140 castles were preserved and therefor the Loire Valley is listed as Unesco World Heritage. I don’t know any other place in the world where you find so many historical sites in such a small area. Everything breathes history over here. As I am a big fan of all the legends and myths that go with these historical buildings, it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

For me, Chenonceau is the most beautiful castle in the Loire. It also has a rich history. The castle is on pillars in the water and in good weather the reflection in the water is beautiful. It is clear that the women ruled over here. You have to visit the gardens too as they are magnificant.

You can start your tour in Saumur  to end in Bourges.   You should spend at least a week in the region, but if you really love castles and mediaval towns, you could stay here for weeks.

You see, this region is the Walhalla for lovers of castles and history. Add a pleasant climate, delicious food, and tasty wines and you have a top holiday destination.

Highlights.

  1. Other amazing castles: Cheverny, Chambord and Villandry
  2. Fontevraud with its giant abbey ‘L’abbaye de Fontevraud’
  3. Vendôme is a medieval town with nice hiking routes

Want more great options for amazing road trips of the world? Have you seen Part One?

The post The Best Road Trips of the World – Part 4 appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.



Perfect Road Trips – Advice from an International Road Trip Veteran

There is no doubt that a road trip is one of the great ways to see the world, giving you the freedom to set your own schedule and discover those places you never knew existed. But working out the best way to plan a road trip also takes time and effort to get right if […] The post Perfect Road Trips – Advice from an International Road Trip Veteran appeared first on La Vida Global...

A road trip can be an amazing experience or an absolute nightmare. This planning guide is here to help make it great.
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There is no doubt that a road trip is one of the great ways to see the world, giving you the freedom to set your own schedule and discover those places you never knew existed. But working out the best way to plan a road trip also takes time and effort to get right if you want to make the most of your limited vacation time.

I have taken my family on road trips across North America, Europe and Oceania over the course of the past 20 years and I am here to give you the benefit of my experience.

A road trip may be as simple as a day trip to somewhere close to home, an extended circuit that begins and ends in your own driveway, or it may be an ambitious epic trip in a  distant and exotic country. Wherever it takes you it is not likely to go well if you just hit the road on a whim.

To make sure the trip is a memorable success and not a Griswald style debacle you should now put a bit of time and effort into some planning. Hopefully you do not see the need for a minute by minute scheduling spreadsheet, but to just leave home in your car with no plan at all is asking for trouble.

So let’s get into working out the who, when, how, why and where behind this holiday and see if we can’t make everything simpler and increase the chances of a truly memorable trip.

Auto Europe Car Rentals

Is too much planning ever enough?

When it comes to travel planning there are those among us that can’t even consider going on vacation without creating a spreadsheet or two.

Not just the basic “which city on which day” type of thing, but sometimes broken up in to fifteen minute blocks to ensure ultimate time efficiency during the trip.

Tip 1 – Remember to scout out petrol/gas stations before setting off. You never know when you might run out of phone data, battery or signal to look them up once on the road!
– from Wanderer of the World

And then there are those who only book the first night’s accommodation, or maybe not even that, and just move as the mood takes them.

I’m not here to tell you which is right or wrong because it depends on many factors such as the individual, the time available, how confident you feel in strange surroundings, whether you are alone or responsible for others and more.

Tip 2 – Don’t forget to check tyres including pressure and wear before you go. As well as the spare tyre! No body really wants to be sitting around waiting for help with a flat tyre and no spare.
– from Traveling Honeybird

What I am going to suggest is that you should consider the amount of planning you do very carefully. Too much planning and you face a very real possibility of having to miss out on an unexpected potential highlight.

While too little can cause unnecessary headaches and varying levels of panic over what to do next during a time when it should all be about being in the moment.

A New Zealand road trip on the South Island
The South Island of New Zealand is regarded one of the world’s top road trip locations. It does not disappoint.

Learning from past road trips.

In my previous role as a Travel Agent in Australia I dealt with clients at every step of the planning spectrum and always asked questions to find out why they have decided on their particular level of planning.

Answers varied but generally by the end of our conversation most were giving more thought to how much planning they really should be doing, which could be more or less than they had previously considered.

We have never traveled at the outer limits of either of these methods but have decided to change things up a little on various trips, and discovered some pros and cons for each.

Tip 3 – A great road trip needs the right people and great music
– from German Backpacker

Reviewing your vacation on return can be very helpful when planning your next trip. Consider the amount of preparation and planning you did beforehand, decide what worked well and what didn’t, and use that information to help you tweak your level of planning when putting together the next adventure.

Chateau du Tennessus is a highlight of a France road trip in the southwest
Taking a road trip through the Southwest of France will bring you face to face with Medieval history.

The problem with over-planning a road trip.

I find that over-planning can leave you feeling that you have just lived through a documentary. When you return from vacation and feel you have experienced very little, have to rely on photos and videos to rekindle any memory of the trip, then chances are pretty good that you over-planned.

Tip 4 – GPS is not always reliable and can send you on to unfriendly roads because they consider them the quickest or shortest route.
– from The Contented Traveller

Too much planning can make you focus on what is next rather than what is now! It also tends to lead to spending more time waiting to travel, or travelling, than enjoying the current location. Who really wants to spend the best part of every vacation day driving along a boring highway just to get to that night’s destination on time?

It has been said many times that the journey can be greater than the destination, but definitely not if the journey involves nothing but sitting in a car or motorhome looking out the window at the other drivers.

Tip 5 – get onto the local radio stations because they actually know the real weather, plus they give an insight into the locals
– from Short Holidays and Getaways

There has to be some time to stop and see your surroundings, meet the locals, take in the culture, history, sounds and smells. If you don’t you may as well spend your travel funds on a comfy lounge chair and giant TV and watch travel documentaries all day.

An Austria road trip must include Salzburg
No European Christmas road trip would be complete without spending some time in Salzburg, Austria.

The problem with loosely planned road trips.

On the other side of the coin, we have wasted hours trying to find a suitable hotel late in the afternoon as we roll into a new town. Especially with children in tow, it is natural for parents to start getting anxious if there is no nest for their young.

The free-wheeling days however, have been some of the best we have had. Finding hidden treasures and venturing away from the Highways. Isn’t it ironic that most tourists stick to the Highways and never take a “Tourist Route” or even further off the beaten track?

Tip 6 – When going on a road trip, make sure to go shopping at a local grocery store to save money on food and drinks on the road
– from Follow Me Away

Usually they are so fixated on getting to that night’s hotel that they don’t see any of the amazing things they are passing by. We originally road tripped in this manner but once we tore up the spreadsheet and stopped watching the clock we developed a true love of traveling by car in any country.

A great France road trip goes well beyond Paris
As well as being an amazing city to visit, Paris is one of Europe’s great starting points for a road trip.

Finding the middle of your road.

We recently took what may well be our last family road trip with Junior coming to the end of her teens and starting to make her own travel plans without us. It was a Christmas extravaganza through Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and France. We had a new plan that gave us the best of both worlds for our circumstances.

We only booked the nights that we needed to know our location. Obviously the first night in Amsterdam because the last thing you feel like doing after 24 hours of flying is hunting for hotels.

We also needed to lock in our Christmas stay in Salzburg to give us the best possible chance of staying in a city that gave us access to the elusive White Christmas, and our New Year’s in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower, but the rest was open to where the road took us.

Tip 7 – Be open to taking a detour. Some of the most amazing sights are those we didn’t plan to see in the beginning
– from The Royal Tour Blog

To avoid the afternoon panic I researched and created a loose plan before we left. Nothing in depth like a minute by minute run sheet, but simply a look at the towns and attractions along our likely route.

I found a couple of hotels that look good enough and had them ready if we decided on that particular town on the day. This method ended up letting us have our cake and eat it too, or our Stollen if you prefer.

As I said earlier, there is no right or wrong level of planning, unless you keep doing the same thing and not enjoying your trips while you are away. That’s the definition of travel insanity!

Tip 8 – Join a Facebook group of the region you’re traveling in to get updates about road and travel conditions
– from My Turn to Travel

Now that we have the basics covered it is time to address some of the big questions as you try to figure out which city is the perfect place to start an epic road trip. So let’s see if we can help you make the right start every time.

There is a great blend of scenery and history on a Wales road trip
A road trip through Wales is the best way to find the true local flavour of traditional country towns like Betswy Coed.

Who is going on your road trip?

This may seem like a stupid and obvious point that doesn’t need planning at all. Of course you know who is going with you so why should you waste your valuable planning time on thinking about it?

The reason is that putting together a family road trip is a much different kettle of fish than just travelling as a couple, and sharing a vehicle with friends has its own unique issues to be considered.

Tip 9 – download an offline map to your phone. You can easily do this with Google Maps. Then you never have to worry about not having WiFi or a paper map
– from The World Pursuit

Here is a short list of some things to consider when deciding what is important for you and your road trip posse.

  1. Are there any personal circumstances that would limit the amount of time you could drive each day?
  2. Is everyone happy with the idea of a road trip? It only takes one unhappy camper to make everyone’s life a misery.
  3. Who has the final decision if any disputes arise along the way?
  4. Who can or will be doing the driving?
  5. Who is the entertainment director or will the duties be shared? It may be great for the kids to listen to the Wiggles for an entire trip but for others there is only so much “Do the Monkey” before things turn ugly.
There is more to the Czech Republic than just Prague and on a road trip you can freely explore gems like Cesky Krumlov.
There is more to the Czech Republic than just Prague and on a road trip you can freely explore gems like Cesky Krumlov.

When should you go on a road trip.

For many of us there is a very simple answer to this… any time! But the reality is that there are certain times of the year that dramatically increase the chance of a road trip in some locations quickly becoming a nightmare on wheels.

Do you really think a road trip in central Australia would be much fun in the height of an Aussie Summer? If you do then I suggest you take an extra trailer filled with water for both stopping dehydration and dunking in to relieve the melting of your skin.

Or imagine the joy of driving through the Rocky Mountains in the middle of a Canadian Winter only to discover that almost every road is closed due to snow and you end up spending your whole trip driving the streets of Vancouver.

Tip 10 – Limit your planning. The best road trips happen when you have maximum freedom
– from Travellers Archive

It’s not a question that needs a lot of consideration but it is still one that can make or break the experience. Find out a little about the weather and anything else that might make you reconsider a particular time of year before you make the final decision.

Road trips give you the freedom to explore at your own pace instead of being rushed by someone else's schedule. Perfect for somewhere like the Pont du Gard.
Road trips give you the freedom to explore at your own pace instead of being rushed by someone else’s schedule. Perfect for somewhere like the Pont du Gard.

Why would you take this vacation as a road trip.

Even those of us who love a road trip and would be happy if every vacation had to be taken in this manner know that there are some places that really doesn’t suit. It may be because of poor infrastructure, dangerous areas along the route or just that the distances with nothing to do would take the joy out of the trip.

Tip 11 – If you are driving in another country get an idea of the road rules. They may be very different to what you are used to
– from Continent Hop

Take a little time to make sure that if you are going to plan an amazing road trip that you intend to choose somewhere that the experience will be heightened by driving and not ruined.

There is so much more to discover outside the city limits that only a road trip gives you unlimited access to. Portland, Oregon is great but the surrounding area adds a whole extra level.
There is so much more to discover outside the city limits that only a road trip gives you unlimited access to. Portland, Oregon is great but the surrounding area adds a whole extra level.

A checklist for choosing where to go on a road trip.

Before you look for the right city to use as a base and starting point there are a few questions that need to be considered.

  1. How much time do you have for your entire trip?

    Remember to take into account how much of this time you plan to have in the start and/or end city of your trip. It is demoralizing to arrive, grab your vehicle and head out and then finish with a return straight to the airport for the trip home only to regret not having spent some time at what you now recognize as an amazing start city.

  2. Will you drive a loop or a one way journey?

    If you decide that you only need to drive in one direction then it is important to consider that you now may want some time in the start and end cities as this will influence the time you have left for driving.

  3. How many of your days do you want to be behind the wheel?

    Now that you have worked out how many days you will spend with a vehicle it is time to consider how many of those days you will be driving. Do you plan on a short drive every day or is your plan to have long driving days with a few nights stay between them? This is a crucial factor in deciding the right place to hit the road and it is important to remember this is a vacation; if you wanted to waste hours in the car every day then you may as well just keep driving to work.

  4. What is the purpose of your trip?

    Are you happy just to explore somewhere new or do you travel with a purpose? Maybe your goal is to experience as much history as possible or to eat your way from town to town, perhaps it’s a National Park discovery adventure or you just love the open road and don’t what you see as long as it is not the inside of your home or you workplace.
    Whatever your inspiration you now need to select some suitable locations.

  5. Narrow down the regions that suit your plan.

    There would be no point deciding to road trip the South Island of New Zealand if you are looking for history or culture, however there are few places better if your goal is to enjoy stunning scenery or take on some of the world’s best adrenaline activities.
    And you will be disappointed if you try to road trip in Australia if you only want to drive a short distance every day. You should have considered Europe where there is so many options within a short distance of every other place.

  6. Make a short list of the possible starting cities in that region.

    Let’s say you have decided on a California / Nevada road trip to explore the coast and the National Parks. It’s a great option but there are a few cities you could use to be your starting point. You could choose LA, San Francisco or Las Vegas. For that matter you may even pick less obvious places like San Diego or Sacramento.
    The goal here is just to list your options.

  7. What do these cities have to offer?

    The final step before making the big decision is to create lists of things you would like to do in each of the selected cities. Now chances are that you plan to visit all of these places during your road trip but it makes sense to select the city that you see yourself spending the most amount of time as your start or end point.
    Why? Well you really don’t need a car to explore the attractions of a city so why pay for a vehicle that is not being used? It makes far more sense to have your city visit and then pick up your vehicle as you are ready to turn out the lights and shut the door behind you, doesn’t it?

The Alsace wine region of France is filled with magical towns like Colmar and the best way to really enjoy them is at your own pace on a road trip.
The Alsace wine region of France is filled with magical towns like Colmar and the best way to really enjoy them is at your own pace on a road trip.

How to building a great road trip itinerary.

By now you have decided on the perfect starting point for a truly memorable road trip. It may be your home or some exotic, far flung place but now the next part of the planning process is to build the frame, so let’s put this puppy in overdive.

Tip 12 – A lot of time will be spent in the car and picking the right companion is key
– from A World to Travel

To get the next part of the planning underway there are a few useful tools at your disposal. Your certainly don’t need to use all of them, in fact it would probably lead to mass confusion if you did. Just look them over and find the ones that you feel can be useful for you.

The most commonly used road trip planning tools.

Most people seem to go straight for Google Maps when it comes to anything remotely related to direction seeking and there is plenty to like about it when it comes to planning your road trip.

Google Maps is a great tool to map out a full road trip plan.

It’s a simple matter of typing in your starting point and the map will zoom in, along with supplying a bunch of useful information about the place without any additional effort needed on your part.

You then can add in the rough outline of your trip by adding more destinations. At this stage just put in the main places and not worry about any details, you are just looking at creating an overview.

The main competitor to Google Maps seems to me Mapquest, which offers a lot of similar features and a group of users that would never consider the competition. While Mapquest has some really interesting features and is definitely worth a look, I do wonder if the staunch advocates are more anti-Google than actual Mapquest fans.

Once you have the (very) basic plan of your trip mapped out then you can start to get deeper into what to do along the way and the places you could be overnighting based on the guidelines you decided earlier.

Tip 13 – By avoiding the motorways, you drive through beautiful towns, villages and landscapes that would have been otherwise missed
– from Travelling Book Junkie

Detail based road trip planning tools.

It seems that every day there are new websites and apps that claim to be the ultimate planning resource but it is rare that these are actually better than some of those that have stood the test of time.

Roadtrippers – the road trip planning tool.

One of the most talked about resources is Roadtrippers. This awesome tools asks you for a departure point and a destination before providing a huge array of possibilities for you to explore along the way.

I suggest putting your destination as a place a little further away than you really want to travel so that you get plenty of options around your most likely overnight spot. The real beauty of a tool like this is that you may discover so many things between A and B that it is worth taking an extra day or two to explore.

Tip 14 – create a playlist and make sure you’ve synced it to your phone in case you go through remote regions where you might lose service
– from Valise Mag

After all, it’s better to go half as far and see twice as much than see lots of highways through the windshield.

Route Perfect and My Scenic Drives.

Another tool that I only discovered while researching this guide is Route Perfect, but it is now firmly in my box of tricks when it’s time to plan my next trip.

Route Perfect lets you adjust many aspects of your plan to get to the best suggested itinerary for your trip.  The Trip Planner section lets you decide the importance of factors like visiting small towns, great food, culture, nature, historic places, and more and the suggested route will change as your choices do.

Another website that has caught my attention is My Scenic Drives which has some great features and will even allow you to download your plans into your GPS. They have a large database of preplanned trips to use as a starting point and then allow you to make the changes to create your own ideal trip.

Important things to consider at the beginning of your road trip planning.

Putting together the perfect road trip takes a lot more than just having a great itinerary on paper and it is easy for it to fall into chaos if other factors have not been considered.

  1. Everybody should be involved in the planning.

    Just because you have come up with a plan that will give you the trip of a lifetime doesn’t mean everyone will see it that way. And one misery guts on the team can quickly ruin for everyone else.
    It doesn’t matter if it’s a family trip, a group of besties or just you and your better half, everyone needs to have some input into the final plan. As I mentioned in a previous post about family travel, but is just as relevant for other groups, we have had great success with getting everyone to come up with a number of “non negotiables”.
    These are things that each person feels they have to do in order to make the trip great for them. The number can depend on how long the trip is but the important thing is everyone has equal billing. These are things that HAVE to be woven into the itinerary.
    So what is the benefit of this?
    Simple, anyone that complains when they are “forced” to do your non negotiable can be easily controlled by reminding them that they have their own choice that not everyone is excited about.
    The wonderful thing about this method is you find hidden gems. Some of the things our daughter has chosen over the years made me cringe until I actually got to the place and ended up loving it. You never know until you try.
    Read this post for more great tips of planning a family road trip.

  2. Make sure the plan includes time apart.

    I don’t care who you are or how much you think you can’t bear to be apart from your travel companions, once you have a few days living in each other’s pockets time apart seems like top of the to do list!
    On family trips try to come up with a way to have some time away from the kids, even an hour or two can boost your flagging spirits. On a friends trip, if you want to remain friends after the trip is over, do some things alone or in smaller groups occasionally.
    Even couples can benefit from a bit of time doing their own thing. Shopping, spa treatments, laying around a pool for hours… Pauline loves it, me, not so much. But wandering aimlessly around the backstreets of a new town is something I can do all day but Pauline only in moderation.
    We never feel bad about a bit of time chasing our own idea of a great vacation.

  3. Take care not to overplan at this stage (or ever).

    I know from experience how easy it is to go crazy and add too many places and activities to the plan. Vacation days are rare and it’s only natural to try and pack the most stuff into that short time, but it’s a mistake.
    You will soon realise that ticking things off a huge list without taking the time to actually enjoy the experience is a hollow exercise and a massive waste of time and money. I quietly laugh at those people who brag about how many countries they have “been to” when they have usually never had any genuine local experiences and, in many cases, seen nothing more than a single city in each of those countries.
    The question to ask yourself is whether you prefer to get a glimpse of many things or truly experience a few.

  4. Find the best accommodation on your road trip.

    Depending on where in the world you are from can heavily influence the image that comes to mind when someone says the term road trip. While some see nothing but cruising the open highways in a motorhome others can only imagine a car or SUV for getting around and hotels or BnB’s every night.
    With this in mind it is important to get a clear understanding of where you will be able to spend the nights during your road trip. Research where you can or, more importantly can’t, park a motorhome overnight.
    Many countries now have laws against parking in certain public places and getting a fine is sure to bring down the mood. Find out the costs of powered sites in camp grounds and be sure to understand the inclusions.
    If you are more inclined to sleep in a real bed each night then it is important to balance the accommodation location with ease and cost of parking. It’s no use finding a great hotel at a bargain price and find out that you have to park 10 blocks away for a huge extra fee.
    It is much more sensible to stay on the edges of town with easy and free parking as long as the public transport is also convenient and cheap. Let’s face it, nobody really wants to waste hours and dollars on driving through a town centre looking for a parking space.

Remember why you would chose a road trip.

Throughout the entire process there is one thought that should stay in your mind… the reason why you decided on taking your vacation as a road trip in the first place. It doesn’t matter if your reason was based on budget, convenience, freedom or whatever else, the overriding factor is that you believe it would be a rewarding experience for everyone.

Tip 15 – Make sure you have all of the essential extras like first aid kit and a roadside emergency kit
– from Maria Beltran

Tip 16 – stock the car with all the necessities needed for a long trip. It’s better to have too much than be caught short
– from Vagabond Stories

And with that thought ruling over the whole process it’s especially important to remember that it will be different for everyone. It should still be fun for the driver even though they may miss some of the scenery, it should still be relaxing, or cultural, or educational, or a party on wheels.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things will go wrong and nothing will go 100% to plan but the quicker you can laugh it off the sooner you are back in vacation mode. And that is the main reason for not overplanning, the more you expect to do or feel you have to do because the plan says so, the more things that can go wrong.

Tip 17 – Consider using a satellite-based GPS or good ‘ol paper maps as a backup. Paper maps never break down
– from Not Without My Passport

Always have time set aside on each day to allow for the unexpected. The worse that can happen is things work out perfectly and you have more time at the day’s destination.

It’s time to hit the road, Jack.

The car is ready, everybody is packed and keen, music and snacks are in plentiful supply and there is nothing ahead of you except the open road. A road trip can be the best vacation you ever have or a nightmare that will haunt you for years to come, but a little planning goes a very long way.

We have plenty of incredible suggestions for places to take a road trip on this site as well as suggested itineraries, interesting places to see along the way more so have a look around and get in touch if you have any road trip related questions.

You can also see plenty more options on the La Vida Global Facebook page or join our Face book Group at Road trips of the World. For some road trip inspiration, including plenty of places you may never have considered, take a look at this list.

Maybe we will bump into each other on the road one day, not literally I hope!

The post Perfect Road Trips – Advice from an International Road Trip Veteran appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.



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