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Day trip from Hong Kong to Macau with the HZMB bus

The new HZMB (HongKong Zhuhai Macau Bridge) connects Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai (China) since Oktober 2018. As we both are not that fond of boat trips we decided we wanted to try this new bridge for our day trip to Macau.

We didn’t find that much (usefully) information online, so that’s why we’ll go in a bit more detail than usual in this post. For all general information and up-to-date pricing, you can consult the official HZMB website

How to get from Hong Kong to Macau?

There are plenty of options to reach the gambling crazy city of Macau. 

  • Plane (normally a connecting flight)
  • Helicopter ($$$$)
  • Taxi ($$$)
  • Ferry or nonstop bus coach ($$)
  • Local bus and the HZMB shuttle bus ($)

You’ll see immediately why we chose the HZMB bus instead of the ferry. Cheap and no seasickness. 

Downtown Hong Kong to immigration

As we were staying in the Kowloon area (Micro hotel; the cheapest downtown Hong Kong hotel we could find with decent reviews) we had to get to the bridge first.

You can take any ‘A’-bus as they’ll all go to the airport, but the easiest is bus A21 or NA20 (night A20) as you won’t have to change busses at terminal 1 or 2 and it’ll take you directly to the migration offices of Hong Kong. 

Price for a one-way ticket: 33 HKD. Returnticket is 50% off if you use an oyster card and return on the same day. 

When you arrive at the ‘Hong Kong bounder crossing facilities’ you’ll have to present your passport and the little paper you got when you entered Hong Kong.

When you pass this checkpoint you can buy your shuttle ticket for 65 HKD (70 HKD between 23:59 and 6:00).

Passport control + buying your ticket won’t take you more than 10 minutes.

You just follow the signs for Macau and you’ll be guided in the right queue. 

The shuttle bus takes 35-40 minutes to cross the bridge. Not only will you not be troubled by seasickness, you’ll also get to enjoy the sea from a different perspective. 

The bridge is 55km of amazing views.

The Macau side of the bridge

The shuttle drops you off just outside the immigration building. Just follow the signage and you’ll end up in a huge hall with over 30 immigration desks. Hand over your passport and you’ll be granted entrance for 90 days. Depending on your home country you might have to get a visa in advance, but most countries have a visa exempt.

Once you’re through immigration you can take any of the following transportation methods:

  • taxi
  • a local bus (bus 101x and 102x stop at the hzmb building)
  • a free casino shuttle bus

Macau has over a hundred different, free shuttle busses. Each and every one of them is sponsored by one of the casino’s, so they’ll drop you off close to their casino. If you need to be somewhere specific, just search for a casino nearby and use google to find out their free shuttle.

At the hzmb building there are 2 main shuttles going to the 2 ferries. Macau outer ferry and the taipa ferry. We took the one to the Macau ferry and walked from there.

We’ll write down what we’ve visited in Macau, but feel free to do whatever you want. If you just want to know the easiest way back you can read that at the end of this post.

Macau city

So we started walking at the Macau ferry and we headed south, past the Legend Palace Hotel and the Lotus Square towards the Grand Lisbon. You can continue visiting the following highlights in a beautifully Portuguese influenced city:

  • Macau Museum
  • Ruins of St. Pauls
  • Senado Square
  • St. Augustine’s Square
  • St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church
  • Mandarin’s House
  • Macau Tower

We went further to the Grand Emperor Hotel where we took the free shuttle to Studio City in the Cotai area.

Cotai area

This is the area in Macau with the most famous, the biggest and the craziest casinos/hotels:

  • Studio City is a palatial cinema-themed high-rise hotel.
  • The Parisien has a ‘small’ version of the famous Eiffel Tower.
  • Inside The Venetian, you can sail in an authentic Italian gondola with a singing gondolier as if you are in Venetia, Italy.

When you are only in Macau for one day, you have to stay until it’s dark. All the lights of the casino’s lit up after sunset en it’s magical!

Of course, you can also stay in Macau, but don’t expect it to be cheap. Want to check the hotels and prices in Macau?

Return to Hong Kong

After spending the day in Macau (without losing too much money in the casino) we returned to our hotel in Hong Kong.

  • Free shuttle from the Parisien to the ferries
  • Free shuttle from the ferries back to the HZMB building
  • Shuttle bus over the HZMB bridge
  • Local bus A21 back to Micro hotel
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Best travel apps and websites in 2019

Phone with apps

Travel agents can be very expensive. And you can basically do the same with a few travel apps on your smartphone or laptop.

The apps with an asterisk (*) are the ones we use ourself most of the time. In the table of contents below, you’ll find an overview of all the apps listed in this post.

Accomodation

Agoda

Agoda is mainly used in Asia. We’re not using Agoda as we get better deals with our genius accounts (you get this after 5 bookings I think) on booking.com.

Airbnb *

We use AirBnB in Europe.

Booking.com *

We have over 100 bookings on booking.com already, it lets us find cheap accomodation with the necessary comfort.

In the app, we use the filter max 20$ per night (2p) and a minimum rating of 8 and then sort on lowest price first. We then pick the first (thus cheapest) accomodation we like.

This link will show you the exact filters we use on booking.com

Expedia

Personally, we only use Expedia when Google Flights tells us they have the best prices.. 😉

Hostels

We aim to book private rooms most of the time, so we never start our search here. If we don’t find anything on booking we check the hostel sites.

Hostelworld

We aim to book private rooms most of the time, so we never start our search here. If we don’t find anything on booking we check the hostel sites.

Hotel tonight

Last minute hotel bookings, often with steep discounts.

Trivago

You can always doublecheck the hotel you’ve found on Trivago as they’ll search for the cheapest price of a given hotel.

Flights

Flio

The app and website provide you with lots of information about various airports around the world. Wifi, lounges, food, transit info…

Google flights *

Our go to website if we have to book a flight. We especially love the desktop site where you can say for example Brussel to Thailand. After that you can just explore the map and see cheap prices for other destinations like Laos or Indonesia.

Hopper

Hopper tracks flight prices and gives you periodic updates on whether you should buy now or wait.

Kayak

Kayak searches across various travel sites for rental cars, hotels, and flights.

Skyscanner

Comparable to Kayak.

Food & drinks

Foursquare *

We mainly use Foursquare in Europe, but we often try in other continents as well.

Google maps *

Sometimes we check the restaurants nearby on the Google reviews as they give a good idea of the quality.

TripAdvisor

We like the restaurant locator in TripAdvisor, but we don’t always agree on the pricing ($-$$$$) they give a certain restaurant as it greatly depends on one person’s opinion.

Yelp

The American version of FourSquare.

Zomato

The Asian version of FourSquare.

Navigation

Google maps *

We mainly use Google maps to check for distances and traffic, as we rely on tuktuks and buses most of the time. It’s also useful to check bus schedules and departures (but always double check on local websites).

iExit

This app tells you exactly what is at the next highway exit. You can add favourites so the app notifies you when you’re getting near one.

Maps.me

Many people use this map because of the offline mode. We stick to Google maps.

Pokémon Go *

You say what? Check out our blog post on how we use pokemon go on vacation.

Planning

Google trips

If you use many Google products you can easily use the Google Trips app as it’ll gather all information from your Google Calendar, gmail and Google Maps and give you suggestions based on what you’ve booked and visited in the past.

Privacy much? 😉

Instagram *

Search for your destination in the search bar and you’ll find many hidden gems!

Ps. https://instagram.com/bettertraveltogether 🙂

Lonely planet

We personally don’t use the lonely planet website (unless we end up there after a Google Search), but the ‘real books’ will never get old.

You can buy the books on Amazon etc.

Pinterest *

Search for destinations and save what you like to your boards. Don’t forget to save this post. 😉

TripAdvisor *

The best thing about TripAdvisor is the huge community behind it. You’ll find many unbiased reviews. Hotels, hostels, attractions, restaurants.. you name it!

Transport

12go.asia *

A very good starting point to get from point A to B. It’ll show you the available busses etc.

You can then still buy the real ticket in an office nearby as that’s easier if you don’t know the closest pick-up point.

Gasbuddy

USA, Canada and Australia

Gasbuddy helps you find a gas station nearby, including the current prices. They’ll also let you know if you should drive a little further if you can save some money.

Google maps *

We mainly use Google maps to check for distances and traffic, as we rely on tuktuks and buses most of the time. It’s also useful to check bus schedules and departures (but always double check on local websites).

Grab *

We use Grab most of the time, untill we find out what the local tuktuk app is.

PassApp *

Hire local car driver, tuk-tuk and motor in Cambodia.

PickMe Sri Lanka *

Hire local car driver, tuk-tuk and motor in Sri Lanka

Uber *

Biggest advantage of Uber (imo) is that you don’t need local currency to pay the driver. Uber is not that widely used in Asia though.

Waze

Community based app. It’ll show you traffic, but also police stops etc.

Fun & language

Aldiko *

Lets you read eBooks in many different formats (pdf, epub…)

Duolingo *

Whether you want to become fluent in a language or learn a few simple words, Duoling will help you with that!

Google Translate *

We both speak 5 languages, but there hasn’t been a single trip when we didn’t have to use Google Translate. Most of the time we use it for ingredients or dishes.

Netflix *

Binge-watching series and films..

Offline games *

Some examples: 2048, candy crush, sudoku, world flags (good to learn whilst abroad)…

YouTube

Did you know you can download YouTube videos to watch them later?

Random apps

Banking app *

At some borders, they’ll ask you to show your bank account to confirm you have enough money to fund your travel in the country.  

Calculator app *

When there’s a language barrier it’s easier to show a certain number than to explain it with words.

Dropbox *

Let’s you save your files safely in the cloud. We’re paying $99 per year for 1TB of storage, but at least we know anything we save on our desktop is safe forever, even if our laptop gets stolen. Also has an offline mode for things like music or passport photocopies.

Google Fit or steps app *

Turn on the app and don’t think of it again. It’ll show you some cool statistics after your travels.

Google Photos *

Just install it and let it sync on wifi. Thank us later. If your phone gets stolen, broken or corrupt you won’t lose your precious pictures like many people do every year again.

Instabridge *

Need wifi? This app will show you public networks nearby andit will show you the password of certain private networks as well (if the owner or someone else shares it).

Lightroom *

Want to edit your travel photos so they stand out even more? Lightroom is free on mobile!

Sim Toolkit (Android) *

Bought a sim card and don’t recall your new number?

Speedtest *

Not sure which Wi-Fi network to use in your ho(s)tel?

Use this app to check what the down and upload speed is and then use the best network around based on those numbers.

The weather channel *

Works in most locations and shows lots of weather related information.

Tunnelbear *

500Mb free VPN per month.

WhatsApp *

Chances are you already installed WhatsApp, but don’t forget you can (video)call your friends and family with WhatsApp as well!

XE Currency *

Best free currency app. Add the currencies you want when you have internet and it’ll still work when you’re offline!

What is your favourite travel app? Let us know in the comment!

The best travel apps
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Why Instagram is getting FAKE

First of all: we don’t want to offend or judge anyone. This post is our personal point of view on Instagram these days. And we’ve experimented with about 90% of the bad stuff explained below.

As most of you know Yentl has his own web design & online marketing company so this post will give you a bit of a marketing insight on the matter as well.

In our opinion Instagram is getting fake, because of the following 4 reasons:

  • Fake followers
  • Fake engagement
  • Fake life
  • Fake pictures

We’ll try to explain for each of these why they occur and how we think they’re affecting Instagram.

But first: how does Instagram work?

To fully understand why Instagram is getting fake, you need to understand how Instagram works. Instagram is mostly based on engagement and interaction (in 2018 at least).

We’ll explain how engagement works on an account with 10k (10 000) followers. Don’t worry, it’s the same for small and big accounts.

Once you post a picture, Instagram will show your picture to about 10% of your followers. This percentage will vary based on the engagement on your previous posts.

Let’s say from those 1000 (10%) followers, 300 like or comment on your picture. That’s a 30% starting engagement.

Based on that starting percentage Instagram will show your picture to 3000 (30%) of your followers in total (2000 more).

The entire algorithm is of course way more complicated than just 1 calculation, but this is the general idea behind it.

Hopefully you do now understand why you’re seeing all those very likeable cat pictures on your Instagram, but never that selfie of your aunt Margaret. Unless she’s incredibly famous and sexy of course.

Fake followers 

Fake followers are as old as Instagram itself. It’s an easy and cheap way to increase your followers. A simple Google search shows that you can buy 5k followers for less than 40 USD.

Why do people buy fake followers?

Let us start by saying:

Don’t buy fake followers on Instagram as they’ll ruin your account

There won’t be any engagement from these accounts, so Instagram won’t show your pictures to your real, organic audience as explained above.

Anyways, it does happen, and here’s why:

  • It gives you a certain social status
  • The current generation is growing up with a need for likes
  • You can only use the swipe-up feature with at least 10k followers. (Guilty of wanting that!)
  • People think that the more followers you have, the more brands want to work with you. That is not true, anymore. As of lately, brands start to check engagement rates too. There’s no point working with someone with 100k followers if they only reach 1000 of them.

Fake Engagement

So here’s what happened next: people got themselves fake followers and noticed they broke their accounts. Whoops.

How do you fix that? With fake likes of course!

Ever noticed those #L4L or #F4F between the hashtags? Well basically you ask people to like your picture and you promise to like one of theirs back, same with the follow for follow.

And yes, you can even buy fake likes.

Same price, different ‘product’, but it gets pricy after a while.

A few years ago, when I just started my online company some clients asked me to do it for them. At first, I did it (at their own risk), because it got them quick and good results.

But after a while, their organic reach died. Literally died. They just had to buy likes to keep up the presence. We ended up creating new accounts and we grew them again, the right way.

Instagram pods

Buying likes is not the only problem. Your real followers see right through it. Well, at least some of them do.

So that’s when people started creating Instagram pods.

An Instagram pod is a group of about 15-20 people who have Instagram accounts in the same niche, in our case ‘travel’. When one of the members posts a new image on IG, they notify the group. Depending on the group rules the other members have to either like or comment on that post.

How do pods work?

At first, people posted the URLs directly to their posts in the pods. Instagram got a hold of it and they started punishing the pods. Then the pods moved to other platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram. Instagram punishments followed. The current trend is that you make some kind of fake conversation in IG direct message groups (for example, you tell the others what you’ve eaten) and then they’ll know you posted something new and will go to your profile and like/comment/save your latest picture.

We’ve been in 3 pods ourselves. It seemed nice to have a few extra likes and especially followers, as we wanted to hit those 10k followers for the swipe up.

It worked out nice, got us some new followers and lots of engagement. But we had to spend at least an hour on the pods per day, per pod.

We know a few fellow Instagrammers who are in 11 or 12 pods. That’s just crazy if you know how much work it is! They are the entire day on their Instagram (about 8 hours a day they told us), and yes it pays off if you look at their followers. But at what price? And how long until Instagram starts punishing these accounts again?

We started using pods at the end of September and in November we decided to stop with it because it was too time-consuming. We saw a drop in engagement, but a huge spike in the joy we have on Instagram again. We’re focussing more on our stories now, and less on those likes. In the end those likes mean nothing anyway.

Money can buy you everything on Instagram

Next in line: personal Instagram assistants. Starting at $10, you can get your own personal Instagram manager.

We’ve never tried them and will never use them as you never really know what they’ll do on your account. They can ruin your account in 2 hours. Easily. But I guess there are some good social media managers you could find there as well.

The idea: they engage with other users for you. They follow accounts, like other pictures, or comment on niche-specific posts.

Basically the stuff you actually have to do yourself to get noticed on Instagram nowadays.

Fake life

Again: no judging here. It’s just what we think of it, and we were heading that way too.

Now that we’re travelling the world full-time, we have a lot of time to think and to look around.

There hasn’t been a day where we have not seen someone posing for a picture. Not a single day.

It’s all for ‘the gram’. Trends like #husbandofinstagram are being created, not because it’s funny, but because it’s true.

I’m one of them. I take a gazillion of pictures, every day. It used to be all for Instagram, but nowadays it’s more for personal memories. They just end up in our Dropbox, instead of online.

The thing we hate the most is seeing those sponsored posts.

People selling their soul for a free watch etc. You can literally count what they have to do: ‘post 3 pictures with the watch visible with these hashtags and 5 Instagram stories telling people why you love our watch’.

We’re not saying sponsored posts are bad. The opposite is true. Influencers are the future of marketing.

When I tell my friends that I really love my OnePlus or Dell XPS, they will look into these devices because they know I’m a geek who’ll only use the best equipment available. That’s what influencers are all about.

And yes, we do are jealous too when we see fellow travel bloggers staying for free in a nice hotel. But only when their only task is to write an honest review. Positive and negative. Just their honest opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

Fake pictures

Anno 2018 it’s hard to scroll on your Instagram feed and spot a picture that has no filter on it. And that’s okay.

People love to look at beautiful pictures, but we kind of liked the early filter-free Instagram too.

Anyways, we’re using Lightroom filters too. Not because of the likes, but because we like our filtered pictures more ourselves 🙂

But then there are the millions of edited photos. Photoshop edited. I’m really good at Photoshop editing, but I would never make myself skinnier on a photo. Agreed, I was too heavy, but still, I wouldn’t do that. Because it’s fake, and that’s not how we want to be.

PS. if you want our Free Lightroom filters (desktop and mobile) just let us know in the comments below and we’ll send them for free 😉

What’s the solution?

There is no easy solution for Instagram, as many people are earning a lot with their accounts. It’s a multimillion-dollar business, and when there’s money involved things are hard to change if that would make people earn less money.

That being said we do think there are a few easy steps you can follow yourself to make Instagram less fake.

  • post more stories as they are more representative of your ‘real life’.
  • only follow accounts you really like and feel connected with. I’ve read somewhere that @bettertraveltogether is a nice example 😉
  • Engage with people because you like their content, not because you think they’ll return the favour.
  • Don’t post fake pictures or heavily edited ones, unless it’s obvious and it’s your kind of thing or USP.
  • Enjoy Instagram. If it’s getting too stressful and time-taking, take a break.

Thank you for reading! Let us know in the comments if you agree with us or not.

Instagram is getting fake
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How to spend 1 day in Kandy with a personal driver

Elephant in Kandy

In Kandy, we stayed in Kandy City House. The owner, Lucky, offered us a day trip with one of his friends. We would go to the elephants in the morning, followed by a visit to the tea factory, spice garden, botanical garden, a big Buddha statue, the temple of the tooth and we’d finish at the Kandy dance. Total price would be 6000 LKR for both of us (which is €33 or $37,5) plus 600 LKR entrance fee to see the Buddha statue.

We doubted a bit because it’d surpass our day budget, but we agreed eventually.

A few minutes after 7 am our personal driver arrived. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? He listened to the name Lala and was super friendly!

His English wasn’t that good, but we understood what he wanted to say. Only while he was driving, it was sometimes a bit too difficult because of the surrounding noize as he was obviously sitting in front of us.

We left at 7:20 as Katrijn still had to finish her freshly brewed coffee. The drive to the elephants should’ve been 1 hour, but we arrived around 8:35 as Lala stopped from time to time to show or explain us something. We saw the railway museum, the highway museum and at a certain moment he stopped on a bridge and pointed to the trees. ‘Bats’. And indeed hundreds, if not thousands of bats were hanging in the trees. Some were even flying around.

The elephant orphanage

Once we arrived at the elephants it was clear to us that we didn’t go to the wild elephants (as Lucky kind of told us), but that we arrived at the orphanage. Before we arrived in Sri Lanka we said that we wouldn’t visit an orphanage because of the elephant riding etc.

Prices of the elephant orphanage

Lala told us that the entrance price was not included in the total price. Great.

Prices at the entrance were:

  • 5000 LKR pp for feeding, washing and riding the elephant.
  • 3000 LKR pp for a medium ride on the elephant
  • 2000 LKR pp for a short ride (20 mins!)
  • 1000 LKR pp to just see the elephants

1000 LKR is €5,5 of $6,25. You do the math… 😊

We told Lala that we didn’t want to go in because we didn’t want to support people who allowed elephant riding for fun. He then drove us to an even bigger orphanage that didn’t allow people to ride on the elephants.

Not riding elephants

At the second orphanage (Pinawalla) there was only one entrance price for foreigners: 2500 LKR. They assured us that you could not ride the elephants so we paid the 5000 (€27 / $31). People from SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) only have to pay 700 LKR.

At that elephant orphanage, they have a daily schedule for the elephants:

  • 8:30 Orphanage opens
  • 9:15 Bottle feeding
  • 10:00 Walk to the river
  • 12:00 Return from the river
  • 13:15 Bottle feeding
  • 14:00 Walk to the river
  • 16:00 Return from the river
  • 17:00 Bottle feeding
  • 18:00 Orphanage closes

When we went in they just started feeding the elephants. That means around 50 elephants were brought in front of the visitors where they could eat some palm leaves. 2 employees were guarding them with a nasty stick, which you can see below and another one was running around with a gun, just in case. We did not like this, at all, but at least they didn’t use them.

Whenever one of the elephants tried to leave the perimeter one of the 2 guards would point his stick toward him/her and he/she would turn around. You could clearly see that they were afraid of them. We were sad that we paid them 5000 rupees, but we kept positive.

Food for thought

One of the older elephants was separated from the group and brought to some kind of ranch with a stage. People gathered around the stage. On the stage were bananas, pineapples and watermelons. You could buy a basket of these fruits for 250 LKR to feed them. Nice, something positive!

The downside is that it is only 1 elephant who got fed. Or I should say who got stuffed. From time to time he turned his head around to give himself a break from people stuffing fruits in his mount whilst taking a picture for their Instagram. We obviously only did the latter 😉

Sunscreen

It was almost time for their bath. Some other elephants came back from the river and were brought to the same ranch. They started taking sand with their trunks and they were throwing it on their back. Apparently, they use mud as sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun rays. Adults will often stand over their calves to cast shade and protect them from the sun.

Bathing time!

The only thing we looked forward to, as the animals could drink and bath. An adult elephant has to drink over 200 litres of water, each day! They drink about 60 litres of water at once. The elephants were lead across the street, through a shopping street, towards the river. All of the shops had to take their stuff inside as there were about a 100 elephants passing.

First one of the employees used a huge hose to blast water over the elephants and afterwards they could stay in the river for about an hour. At least we left with a happy thought.

Not spicy, please. Not spicy!

Lala was waiting for us at the parking and started his tuk-tuk again. When we were driving for 5 minutes he asked Yentl if he wanted to drive the tuk-tuk. Another 2 minutes later Yentl was driving like a real Sri Lankan. Lala’s words: “You good driver, you can work for me.”

After 15 minutes Yentl decided it was enough. Good call as we passed the police 500 meters down the road and we didn’t have our driving license with us.

We arrived at a spice garden. Guides will show you around in exchange for a fee, but we decided to walk around by our own. Lots of herbs and spices to taste and smell and we saw some special fruits too, like red bananas!

Tea for two, please!

Next up was a tea factory. Kadugannawa Tea Factory Garden Centre is the one we’ve visited. A guide will show you around for free and explain you the whole process in English. It’s English they’ve learned by heart and is well understood, but questions are hard as they’re not really good at talking in English. When the tour is finished you get a nice cup of fresh tea, served with Jiggery. Small cubes of honey you have to bite a chunk off and then drink your tea. So tasty even Yentl loved the tea! You can then buy some stuff at their local shop or give them a tip.

Botanical gardens

Another expense we didn’t foresee. The botanical gardens cost 1500 LKR (€8/$10) per person. We walked for 2 and half hours through the gardens and saw lots of beautiful flowers, cactuses and trees. It’s well worth the money. These gardens are free for the Sri Lankans and thus an often used meeting place for young couples. You can see them hugging and kissing their loved ones everywhere.

Did we mention wild monkeys? 

Buddha everywhere

There must be millions of Buddha statues in Sri Lanka, but the big ones are always special. This time it was a huge, white Buddha sitting on top of a building (Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue). Entrance is 250 LKR pp. You can climb the stairs behind Buddha and enjoy the fantastic panoramic view. Don’t forget to cover your legs and shoulders and to take off your shoes.

Temple of the tooth

Normally the next stop would’ve been the famous temple of the tooth which houses 7 teeth of Buddha. Entry is 1500 LKR per person. It’s an amazing building, but you can only see a golden casket in which one of these 7 teeth is placed. As we visited the temple the evening before we skipped this, but you should definitely go to the temple. You don’t have to enter the temple, you can go on the domain for free and not enter the temple. Make sure you’re covering your legs and shoulders. We had to return to the hotel for other pants the evening before… 😊

Kandy dance

The final stop of the day was the famous Kandy Dance. Lala dropped us in the street and told us to go behind a house, where we would find the famous place. A local showed us the way and told us that it was 1000 LKR entrance per person and that we could check out the place first. On the outside, it looked like an abandoned house on the outside, but inside it was a huge hall with lots of chairs and a theatre kind of stage.

We decided we had spent enough money for the day and that we were tired enough of the nightly prayers next to our hotel that we went back to the hotel.

What did it cost?

So instead of the 6 000 LKR we paid 15 000 LKR (6 000 driver + 5 000 elephants + 500 tea tip + 3 000 botanical gardens + 500 buddha). If we would’ve gone to the temple and Kandy dance it would’ve been 20 000 LKR. A whopping €110 or $125.

But it was worth it. It would’ve been nice if we knew the total price in advance, but then again.. welcome to Asia! 🙂

If you want to do the same trip, you can stay at Kandy City House or find a driver in Kandy. 

A day tour in Kandy, Sri Lanka
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6 weeks in India

We had a lot of ‘fear’ and doubts before we went to India, as we’ve heard crazy stories. And before you go on in this itinerary, we have to warn you. India is not for the average traveller. We can best summarize it with the following quote:


India is not a vacation, it’s an experience.

Yentl Geldmeyer

Nevertheless, we’ve enjoyed every moment in this super diverse country. India has so much to offer: beaches, culture, nature, friendly (and less friendly) people, crazy traffic and delicious food!

There were only 2 things we really disliked after a while

  • Cows everywhere. Literally everywhere. Including the huge pies, they leave, everywhere on the streets.
  • People staring or asking for selfies. If you’re tall, have blond hair and/or blue eyes you’re going to be a real celebeity. Imagine being tall and blond with blue eyes… One of the first days in India we had a queue of people wanting selfies. Literally, a queue of more than a dozen Indians waiting for a selfie. 

Kochi / Cochin

Length of stay: 2 days
Where we stayed: Kevin’s Placid Homestay, a very lovely owner who showed us a bit around.
How we got there: Flight from Malé to Cochin airport, then a taxi from the airport to Fort Kochi.

What to do in Kochi Fort:

  • Visit Santa Cruz Basilica, Jawahar Park, Princess street, Vasco Da Gama Square, Chinese fishing nets, Mattancherry Palace, Jew Town, Jewish Synagogue and the spice market of Kochi Fort.
  • Boat cruise through Kerala waterways.
  • Watch music performance @ Kerala Kathakali Centre.

Where to eat in Kochi Fort:

  • Veggie dinner @ Grandma’s Kitchen
  • Roti @ Dal Roti

Resort @ Marari beach

Okay, these 2 days are not really part of our ‘budget’ trip through India. Why did we stay in such an amazing, beautiful (and expensive) resort? We got it as a wedding present from some of our colleagues. Many, many thanks if you guys read this!

Length of stay: 2 days
Where we stayed: A beach symphony, an amazing private resort next to the Marari beach
How we got there: The resort provided taxi service from our previous accommodation, this is the best way to get there since it’s hidden in a small fishers town.

What to do in Marari Beach:

  • Enjoy the pool at your resort
  • Stroll on the beach
  • Visit the city centre with a bike or tuk-tuk
  • Visit the harbour where they have a fish auction
  • Home coconut fibre factories where they make coco rugs

Where to eat in Marari Beach:

  • We ate in our resort since we had a private chef, the food was delicious! #sorrynotsorry

Bangalore / Bengaluru

Length of stay: 4 days
Where we stayed: The little blue window hostel. Hands down the best hostel we’ve ever stayed in. Not because of the quality or the price, but because of the owner. Roshan is a very friendly Indian who helped us a lot to make this 6 weeks India itinerary, he booked some bus tickets (without charging us anything) and we even went for drinks with him and his wife.
How we got there: Flight from Cochin to Bengaluru, from the airport you can take public transport (bus) to The little blue window hostel.

What to do in Bangalore / Bengaluru:

  • State office (Vidhana Soudha)
  • Cubbon Park
  • Government Museum
  • UB city (shopping center)
  • Bangalore Palace
  • National Gallery of Modern Art
  • Commercial Street
  • Ulsoor Lake
  • Chickpet flower market
  • Bangalore Fort
  • Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace
  • Lal Bagh Botanical Garden
  • Gandhi Bazaar
  • Shree Dodda Ganapathi Temple

Bengaluru is a big city where there is a lot to discover!

Where to eat in Bangalore / Bengaluru:

  • Food street: if you like typical Indian street food, this is the place to be.
  • They sell Belgian Waffles everywhere in Bengaluru, we had to try them!
  • Try the Malai Kofta in one of the restaurants close to the hostel, it’s delicious. Roshan will explain to you where it is 😉
  • The Biere club: international or Indian beers combined with good food. (a bit expensive though)
  • Arbor Brewing, great place for a night out, even on Sundays!

Hampi

Yentl’s favourite city in the last 3 months!

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: New Lakshmi Tourist home, basic homestay next to a goat farm! Very close to everything in Hampi.
How we got there: We took a bus from Bengaluru to Hospet and then a tuk-tuk to Hampi (14km).

What to do in Hampi:

  • Bike temple tour
  • Visit rice fields @ hippie lane
  • Visit waterfalls
  • Sunset from Matanga Hill
  • Scooter tour through hippie lane and the rice fields

Where to eat in Hampi:

  • Mango restaurant was our favourite, delicious and freshly made Indian food.
  • At hippie lane, you have a lot of restaurants with western food.

Goa

Length of stay: 5 days
Where we stayed:

We stayed in the wrong parts of Goa as we really did not enjoy the city as much as others told us it was awesome for them.
How we got there: Nightbus from Hampi to Panaji Goa, local bus to Dona Paula and to Colva. It’s easy to travel around in Goa by bus.

What to do in Goa:

  • Enjoy the beaches
  • Dona Paula viewpoint

Where to eat in Goa:

  • Veggie restaurant: Malabar restaurant in Dona Paula
  • Coffee café day in Colva

Mumbai / Bombay

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: Horn Ok Please Hostel, really modern hostel, hidden in the busy streets from Mumbai.
How we got there: We took a flight from Goa to Mumbai, from the airport you can either take a local bus or a tuk-tuk to the hostel. Don’t forget to take a train at least once in Mumbai, just to experience it, you can easily take a train from Bandra station (close to the hostel) to the south of Mumbai (Churchgate Railway).

What to do in Mumbai / Bombay:

  • Visit Elephanta Caves
  • Explore South Mumbai: Gateway of India, Town Hall, Rajabai Clock Tower, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai University, Oval Maidan, Flora Fountain,…
  • Shopping @ Hill Road
  • Watch the sunset at Juhu Beach

Where to eat in Mumbai / Bombay:

  • Lunch @ Samrat Hotel, all you can eat thali! A bit more expensive but really delicious.
  • Veggie restaurant Elco
  • A night out @ Bar Exchange

Udaipur

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: Mewar Avenue
How we got there: We took a night train from Mumbai to Udaipur (16 hours), make sure you reserve your sleeper in time!

What to do in Udaipur:

  • Lake Pichola, you can take a boat trip if you want
  • Musical fountain, from here you can take the cable ride to the mountains
  • Walk through the Rose garden
  • Visit the Jagdish Temple
  • We enjoyed the Ganesh festivities when we were in Udaipur, just go in the streets and you will find them everywhere.
  • Visit the City Palace, it’s really beautiful, you can walk around for a few hours!
  • Just walk around in the city centre, there are beautiful buildings and ghats everywhere.

Where to eat in Udaipur:

  • Go to Café Edelweiss for some good coffee and delicious homemade cake! 😊

Jodhpur

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: Gopal guest house, we do not recommend this one.
How we got there: We took a bus from Udaipur to Jodhpur.

What to do in Jodhpur:

  • Visit Fort Mehrangarh, you get a free audio guide with your (expensive) entrance
  • Walk through the blue city, who is not that blue… When you see it from the Fort it looks amazing though.

Pushkar

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: Shankar Palace, a cosy and quiet guesthouse with a nice garden.
How we got there: We took a bus from Jodhpur to Ajmer, you get dropped off next to the highway so the best option is to order an Uber from there. Don’t take one of the taxis at the bus stop, they are overpriced.

What to do in Pushkar:

  • Walk around the town and enjoy the chill and hippie vibe.
  • Visit the holy Pushkar Lake, watch out for the tourist traps! (See picture below 😊) Go at night for the music and some local dancing.
  • Visit the Gurudwara Sahib, it’s a beautiful white temple.

Where to eat in Pushkar:

  • Funky Monkey Café for good Indian coffee and a healthy breakfast (= yoghurt, fruits, muesli).

Jaipur

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: Chalo Eco Hostel
How we got there: We took a bus from Pushkar to Jaipur.

What to do in Jaipur:

  • Jaipur is the pink city, you must visit the Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and the City Palace.
  • Go shopping in the Johari or Tripolia Bazar.
  • Visit an authentic textile company where everything is handmade.
  • Visit one of the beautiful forts like Ajmer Fort or Jaigarh Fort.

Delhi / New Delhi

Length of stay: 4 days
Where we stayed: Hide-in hostel, this is a good hostel in a great neighbourhood. It’s located close to one of the metro stops, and it is not in the typical backpackers’ neighbourhood.
How we got there: We took a local bus from Jaipur to Delhi, the worst bus ride ever!

What to do in Delhi:

  • Visit the Lotus Temple, Red Fort, Friday mosque, Lodhi garden, India Gate, Connaught place, Memorial park from Gandhi, Mausoleum from Safdarjung,…
  • Discover the beautiful Akshardham, it’s free and easy to reach with the Delhi metro.

Agra

Length of stay: 2 days
Where we stayed: Rhine In hostel, the owner was rude so don’t stay at this place! He was kinda begging for 10/10 reviews…
How we got there: We took a train from Delhi to Agra, which takes about 3 hours.

What to do in Agra:

  • Visit the Taj Mahal, of course! 😊 Try to go as early as possible, they open the gates just before the sunrise. Prepare to wake up early…
  • You can also go to Mehtab Bagh across the Yamuna River to see the Taj Mahal from another perspective.
  • Other things you can discover: Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar’s Mausoleum, Baby Taj.

Varanasi / Benares

Length of stay: 5 days
Where we stayed: We stayed at Moustache hostel, they had dorms for couples!
How we got there: We took a night train from Agra to Varanasi.

What to do in Varanasi / Benares:

  • Go to one of the famous ghat’s to watch a body burning ceremony, be prepared for this one!
  • Do a boat tour on the Ganges with sunrise or sunset, this way you can see the city in a different perspective.
  • Walk through the small streets from Varanasi, experience how the local people live, eat, drink and celebrate.

Where to eat in Varanasi / Benares

  • Brown bread bakery, they have delicious bread, cheese and lasagna!
  • Open hand café (close to Mustache hostel) has delicious food. Make sure you try their wraps!

Kolkata

Length of stay: 1 day
Where we stayed: Backpackers park
How we got there: We took a night train from Varanasi to Kolkata.

What to do in Kolkata:

  • We were only here for one day before our tour to the Sundarbans, that’s why we didn’t see a lot from Kolkata unfortunately. But be sure to take one of the famous yellow cabs!

Sundarbans

Length of stay: 3 days
Where we stayed: Backpackers eco-village
How we got there: We booked a tour with Backpackers eco village. To get to their village we took a minivan, a speedboat, a tuk-tuk, another speedboat and another tuk-tuk! 😊

What to do in the Sundarbans:

  • Best thing to do is book a tour if you want to visit the Sundarbans, we were very happy with our 3 day tour.
  • We slept in a little cute bamboo hut in the eco village.
  • First day we walked through the village, did a mud fight and a night tour with a small boat.
  • Second and third day we did a boat tour through the Sundarbans from 6am until 6pm to visit the different watchtowers and spot animals, unfortunately we didn’t see a Bengal tiger.
  • The organization took care of the pickup and drop off in Kolkata center.
  • They also provided food 3 times a day which was delicious and a huge portion every time!
6 week itinerary india
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How to get from Dhaka to Sylhet by bus

Travel agency Dhaka, Bangladesh

Do you want to go from Dhaka to Sylhet by bus? Find out our experiences below!

Why is it hard to book a bus in Dhaka, Bangladesh?

Bangladesh must be the least touristy country we’ve ever visited. The lack of English or even any Latin script makes it even harder to get from one city to another. Even in their capital. Luckily the people in Bangladesh are really friendly and most of them will try to help you out.

Which bus company to choose from Dhaka to Sylhet?

There are several bus companies in Dhaka and most of them offer the same routes. For example from Dhaka to Sylhet, there are 3 companies each offering the same journey.

  • Ena Transport (Pvt.) Ltd
  • Hanif enterprise
  • Shyamoli NR travels

How do you know which one to take? We used the Shohoz site to check the review scores. We would then buy the tickets from a ticket office nearby. Why didn’t we buy it online? Because we couldn’t figure out the closest bus departure, based on the names of the stops. If you buy a ticket in an office the bus will start at that ticket office.

Where did we buy our ticket from Dhaka to Sylhet?

As we intended to take a train from Dhaka to Sylhet we stayed close to the train station in Hotel Shalimar Int’l. In the 100 meters between our hotel and the train station, there were more than a dozen ticket offices all lined up. As the Shyamoli buses had the best review scores online we entered their office. As you can see in the picture above they don’t even have their company name on their office. Good thing they have pictures…

Ticket price from Dhaka to Sylhet

We paid 940 BDT for 2 non-AC bus tickets from Sylhet to Dhaka. That’s around €5/6USD per person.

Duration

Our bus left at 10 am. The guy who sold us the ticket told us (wrote in Bengali on our ticket as he couldn’t speak English) that we had to be at the ticket office at 9:40 am. The entire trip was 5 or 6 hours, but that will greatly depend on the traffic and your driver.

The bus drivers in Bangladesh

We were ‘lucky’ we had a crazy driver. That means if you want to waste the least amount of time possible on the bus. If you easily get sick on a bus you’re not going to like those bus rides in Bangladesh. Luckily they put foreigners on the first rows of the bus when possible. Perhaps as a nice gesture to the other passengers, as they rarely see white people in Bangladesh. Luckily that also means you won’t see it if they stare at you for 3 hours on end 😉

I think our driver must’ve driven more on the righthand side of the road, than on the left (where he should’ve been). Even the average Indian or Vietnamese driver is a real gentleman compared to our first bus driver.

Other options

There are 2 more options to reach Sylhet from Dhaka. They will both be faster, but more expensive.

Taking a plane from Sylhet to Dhaka.

There are plenty flights from Dhaka to Sylhet every day. Prices average around 75$ but go as low as $40 if you book them early enough.

The flights take a mere 45 minutes, but you’ll also have to be there on time, pass security and wait for your luggage when you arrive so count at least 3-4 hours.

Taking a train from Sylhet to Dhaka

Taking a train in Bangladesh is a real experience. Unfortunately, we were never able to get on any train. Prices for the train ticket range from 80 Taka (2nd class general) to 1099 Taka (AC birth) [1 USD ~ 84 BDT].

Dhaka to Sylhet bus
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Phrases and words you need to know before going to India [Hindi]

Dressed up man Hampi, India

First things first

Hindi or Modern Standard Hindi is a standardised and Sanskritised register of the Hindustani language. Along with the English language, Hindi written in the Devanagari script is the official language of India.

It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the Republic of India. However, it is not the national language of India because no language was given such a status in the Indian constitution.

Hindi is the fourth most-spoken first language in the world, after Mandarin, Spanish and English.
It is the third most-spoken language in the world, after Mandarin and English.

As you can see below, Hindi is written in the Devanagari script. Devanagari consists of 11 vowels and 33 consonants and is written from left to right. Unlike for Sanskrit, Devanagari is not entirely phonetic for Hindi. (source)

hindi india alphabet

Hindi

10 basic words to get you started in Hindi

  • Yes Haan
  • No Nahi
  • Hello Namastey
  • Thank you Dhanyawaad
  • Please Krpya
  • What is your name? Aapka naam kyaa hai
  • My name is… Mera naam hai…
  • Delicious Svaadisht
  • How much? Kitana?
  • (Do you speak) English? (Kyaa aap) English (bolte hain)?

7 Days of the Week in Hindi

  • Monday Somavaar
  • Tuesday Mangalavaar
  • Wednesday Budhavaar
  • Thursday Guroovaar
  • Friday Shukravaar
  • Saturday Shanivaar
  • Sunday Ravivaar

10 extra words in Hindi

  • This or that yah ya vah?
  • (less) spices Thaki (kam)
  • temple  Mandir
  • lake  Jheel
  • hotel Hotal
  • restaurant Khaane kee dukaan
  • food Bhojan
  • tea Chaaj
  • coffee Kofee
  • Water (bottle) Paanee (botal)

20 numbers in Hindi

  • 1 ek
  • 2 dow
  • 3 teen
  • 4 chaar
  • 5 paanch
  • 6 chhey
  • 7 saat
  • 8 aath
  • 9 nao
  • 10 dus/das
  • 20 bees
  • 30 tis
  • 40 chalis
  • 50 pachas
  • 60 saadh
  • 70 sattar
  • 80 assi
  • 90 nabbe
  • 100 ek sau
  • 1000 ek hazaar

27 things you didn’t know about Sri Lanka

Tuk-tuks

Sri Lanka was the first Asian country we’ve ever visited together. Hence we saw a lot of things that were quite uncommon to us. Below is a list of the 27 things we thought were odd enough to be in this list 🙂

1. No is not always no

When someone in Sri Lanka shakes his head from left to right it doesn’t mean he’s not agreeing with you. The same gesture we see as no, means they’re okay with your thoughts. it’s a little wiggle they do, not really left to right.

2. Holy cow!

Most people in Sri Lanka are Buddhistic, hence they see cows as sacred. So sacred that some Sri Lankans keep a cow in their front garden and walk with the animal a few times a day! We haven’t been in the north, but they told us that in the northern part of Sri Lanka there are more cows than cars.

3. Sri Lankans are super friendly

One of the nicknames of Sri Lanka is ‘nation of smiling people’. Says enough, doesn’t it? At least 9 out of 10 people you see on the street will show you their white teeth, surrounded by a big smile!

4. Passing vehicles on the street is a national sport

Honking whilst doing so too. They literally honk every time they pass a bike, motorcycle, tuk-tuk or car and that’s at least six times every minute.

5. Ceylon

Up until 1972, Sri Lanka was called Ceylon. That’s why you’ll see the word Ceylon all over Sri Lanka. Some Sri Lankans still call themselves Ceylonese.

Sorry, we’re 90’s kids and didn’t know it before we arrived.. 🙂

6. Sinhala and Tamil

As much as Sri Lanka is one united country, it’s also divided into different ethnic groups. The 2 largest groups are the Sinhala and Tamil. Sinhala is the largest group, most of them living in the southern part of the country (74.90% of the population in 2011). Tamil 11.15%, closely followed by the Sri Lankan Moors (9.30%).

PS. you can call anyone in Sri Lanka a Sri Lankan, but don’t offend them by saying Tamil if they’re Sinhala and vice versa. 😉

7. Tea for two!

Sri Lankans will have tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’re the 2nd largest producer of tea in the world. Did we mention the amazing train ride between Kandy & Ella where you’ll pass astonishing tea plantations?

8. Prices in the shop are printed on the items

When you go to the supermarket the prices won’t be on the shelves, but on the items themselves. A bottle of coca-cola or a pack of biscuits will cost the same everywhere you go! We’ve bought lots of Marie cookies and they cost 30 LKR (€0,16) every time we bought them… 🙂

9. Smart kiddos

Year on year, the literacy rate among each gender here is always over 90%. You’ll also notice that all kids try to talk to you in English to ‘train their English’, however, the little toddlers mostly only know hello & goodbye. And some of them add an unpleasant “money?”.

10. A hotel is not always a hotel

It’s not because you see ‘hotel’ on a building that it actually is a hotel. A lot of times it is a supermarket or a restaurant. Our favourite ‘hotel’ was Ambaal’s, the vegetarian hotel, where they had delicious food, but not a single bed!

11. Stay local, wherever you are

There are guesthouses all around Sri Lanka. It’s our preferred way of travelling as we really meet the locals. You’re staying in their house and sometimes eat with them. You’ll have a clean and private room, and it’s not another hotel or hostel chain. Another advantage is that you have the wifi all by yourself (and the locals) so you won’t be bothered by other kids eating up all of the data with their youtube videos.

12. Act local, wherever you go

We don’t like going to touristic places as they’ll just serve you a pizza or whatever food from home you want and you’ll have to pay even more than you would at home.

We prefer tasting the real local life. Not only teaches it you a lot about their food culture, it’s also a lot cheaper (and most of the time more delicious).

Same goes for transport. Don’t take a taxi everywhere. Live at the pace of the locals. Use their forms of transportation: a tuk-tuk, a bus, a train,… not only is it an incredible experience, but it’s also once again way cheaper. We paid 1-3€/$ for every bus we took. Some of the bus rides were more than 4 hours!

13. Tuk Tuk Tuk Tuk

Tuk-tuks are amazing vehicles (we want one in Belgium when we go back!). The only two disadvantages are the crazy drivers and the negotiation for the price.

As a rule of thumb, the drivers will ask double the price. So if they ask 1000, you should say half of that price: 500. If you stick to that price you’ll end up somewhere around 600 which would be a fair price.

If you have a local sim card you can use the app ‘Pick Me Sri Lanka’ which has been of great use to us as you can book a tuk-tuk through the app or just use it for reference prices.

14. Personal space is something they might’ve heard off…

But probably not. You won’t have much of a personal bubble if you’re standing or sitting on a bus or train.

Not that we care so much about personal space, but the thing is that in Sri Lanka temperatures of 30-40 degrees are common and thus people sweat. And if there are 2 things I hate about sweat:

  • The smell of sweat.
  • Not knowing if I am the one who smells or my neighbour.

15. Buffers around national parks

The government of Sri Lanka has announced a buffer zone around every national park of 2 kilometres a couple years ago to preserve the nature!

Not only does this forbid new buildings, it also makes it possible for animals to roam around the parks so you can meet them on the streets.

16. Arrack attack!

The national alcoholic drink of Sri Lanka is Arrack. We only tried it once in a cocktail, but it seems a nice drink. We drank lots and lots of water to stay hydrated. 😉

17. Northern provinces

Some blogs state that you cannot visit the northern provinces without some kind of approval letter (like a mini visa). But every local we asked about it, said that you can easily visit the northern provinces.

18. Need a new fridge when you arrive?

When you arrive at Colombo airport (CMB) there are a lot of tax-free shops. Odd thing: almost every shop there sells fridges, microwaves, ovens,…

Not enough checked luggage?

19. Banknotes of all sizes

Just like American dollars, the Sri Lankan rupees should all be of the same size. But when you compare the bills closely, you’ll see that they’re not all the same. The reason: different banks have made the money in the past and they all had different machines. So don’t worry if your 2 rupee bills with the same value are not identical.

20. Hearing ice cream vans in the street?

The first time we heard the ice cream sound on the street we were like “ooooh ice cream”. When we arrived we saw a tuk-tuk driver selling bread.

Jup, whenever you hear the ice cream sound it’ll be a local trying to sell bread, samosa and other delicious food. But no ice cream.

21. It’s a dog life!

There are stray dogs everywhere in Sri Lanka. Literally everywhere.

Other wild animals you’ll see a lot: cats, crows and monkeys. Watch out for the latter, they seem cute, but they’re real thieves.

22. Fishes

Fishing is not only one of the main income streams for a lot of Sri Lankans.

Sri Lankans are also a bit superstitious when it comes to fish. In every railway station, there is a tank with fish inside, which guarantees safe travels.

23. Rice for breakfast

Sri Lankans love breakfast. They have many possibilities like hoppers (Coconut milk, hardened in some kind of a bowl so they end up like bowls and are eaten like pancakes. They top them off with onions, tomato and spices), string hoppers (almost the same, but small pieces with dip sauces), pancakes, but also rice with curry.

Trust us, you need a strong stomach to handle it in the morning…

24. Wade

Another type of food they love is pastry.

Some of our favourites are wade (fried vegetables in the shape of a cookie, sometimes with prawns or dale), samosa (spicy triangle) and roti (a wrap with different fillings: egg, vegetables, chicken,…).

Remember number 20? Jup, that guy sells them all!

25. Cricket

The national sports in Sri Lanka are cricket and volleyball.

We haven’t seen anyone play volleyball, but we’ve seen lots of cricket! We’ve only seen one official match, but when kids are playing around about half of them are practising their cricket skills.

26. Spices

Sri Lanka is famous for their spices.

  • Rice and curry? Check!
  • Cinnamon? About 80% of all cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka.

27. The flag

‘The lion flag’ is considered one of the oldest flags in the world! It also has a unique design, it’s the only flag in the world to recognize different religious groups.

As you could read in 6, there are lots of ethnic groups. In the flag, the Buddhists are symbolized by the yellow border and the Bo Leaves (peepal tree). The green represents the Muslims and the saffron represents the Hindu communities.

How to visit the Maldives on a budget

Sandbank Maldives

During our 1-year-honeymoon we decided to visit the Maldives because we wanted one real honeymoon experience in a hotel, with a white beach and beautiful blue water. But since we are travelling for 1 year, we didn’t want to spend all our money on this one special trip. We went to the Maldives with a tight budget, below you can find 10 tips to do exactly the same. Enjoy!

Cheap flight

Try to visit the Maldives when you are in a country nearby. If we would’ve booked a flight from Belgium, it would be super expensive. We did our trip to the Maldives in between Sri Lanka and India. A flight from Colombo to Malé cost 52 dollars. Without taxes, it was only about 10 dollar per person. About 70% of our ticket price was taxes/fees because MLE is kind of a privately owned airport.

Flying above the maldivian sea

Free visa

If you want to enter the Maldives, it’s free! No expensive VISA here.
On the downside, you do have to pay 8 dollars per person per night tourist tax.

Public ferry to Malé and islands

You can easily take a speedboat in the Maldives, to everywhere you like (starting at $50). However, a cheaper option would be the public ferries ($2).

You can take a ferry from the airport to Malé city (the airport is located on a separate island) and from Malé, you can take a ferry to one of the (local) islands.

Local islands, no resorts

If you think of the Maldives, you probably think about the beautiful resorts. Those manmade islands are way too touristic (and expensive) for us (and most of them are owned by Europeans, Americans and Chinese people). We prefer visiting local islands, like Maafushi and Gulhi. It’s not only way cheaper, but you also get to know the real Maldivians (which are super friendly people).

Want to know where we stayed? You’ll read it at budget hotel/guesthouses.

Drone shot Maafushi

Plan your trip

If you want to go to different local islands in the Maldives, you should definitely plan your trip before you leave. You have to book your flight first, then you look for the islands you would like to visit and last, of course, the timetables from the public ferries. You can easily plan your accommodation with the ferry timetables in mind. That’s why we stayed one night in Malé city as we couldn’t take the public ferry to Maafushi the day we arrived.

Local food

Like we do on any trip, we eat locally. It’s always cheaper and it tastes better!
We always had a continental breakfast included in our hotel so we chose to eat locally for lunch and dinner. The best option is to ask for some tips in your hotel, most of them are local people and they know the best spots.

Buy snacks/drinks at the supermarket

The Maldives is a beach destination, obviously. So when you’re laying at the beach chances are you’ll get hot and sweaty. You will probably be craving for a delicious mocktail (no alcohol allowed on local islands) with a (healthy?) snack.

You could buy them at a beach bar, but it’s way cheaper to go to a local supermarket. They have some great non-alcoholic fruity beers for less than 2 dollars. Instead of the 8-10 dollar mocktails you buy at the beach bars…

Budget hotel/guesthouses

When you are staying at a local island, there are always a few guesthouses or hotels you can choose from (sometimes only three). Try to pick the cheapest accommodation, you’ll only sleep there so you don’t need to stay in that 5-star hotel.

We stayed at:

Choose your activities wisely

There are many activities to choose from on every island. Snorkelling, surfing, diving, jet ski, kayak,…

Always try to book your activity through your hotel, this is way cheaper and they always give you the correct price and information.

We wanted to go kayaking one day, the people on the beach said it was only 10 dollar per kayak and a lot cheaper than in our hotel. So we asked again in our hotel and they offered it for free!

The other thing we did was a half day snorkelling trip. The trip included snorkelling at 2 places, watching the dolphins and lunch on a sandbank. Price: 25$. Swimming with turtles? Priceless!

Snorkelling in the Maldives

Pay in local currency

If you don’t have the correct amount in dollars, try to pay in local currency. They’ll always round. We once had to pay 23,02 dollars and he insisted on receiving 24…

If you pay in MVR however (which is the most beautiful money we’ve ever seen by the way) you’ll pay the correct prices.

Bonus tip

We were on our honeymoon and told the hotels so via booking.com. Some of them give you free upgrades if they have better rooms available, so don’t forget to mention it (even if you’re not on a honeymoon you could try it, but we didn’t say that)

Do you have another tip for us?
Let us know in the comments below!

20 phrases you should know before going to Sri Lanka

Little girl, Sri Lanka

First things first

If you’re only visiting the big cities in Sri Lanka, chances are you won’t need to know Sinhala or Tamil. Most people will speak English fluently. If you go to more rural areas you might need to know a word or 2 to get around.

Secondly, Sri Lanka is an amazing country, with super friendly people. They will almost always greet you, if you’re able to respond in Sinhala or Tamil they’ll show you an ever bigger smile than usual!

Feel free to use our 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary as a guideline throughout this amazing country.

Sinhala and Tamil?

The 2 biggest ethnic groups in Sri Lanka are the Sinhala and the Tamil. They both have their own language and they both don’t like it if they’re mistaken for the other.

How to know who’s Sinhala and who’s Tamil? Not so easy.

The best way: once you get to know the language a bit you’ll see the difference in the words on buildings.

The easiest way, but not always correct. Most people in Sri Lanka are Sinhala (about 75%). There are 2 main regions for the Tamil (the other 25%), being the Northern provinces and the Eastern provinces. So depending on your location you could guess what to say.

Some people say there is a difference in skin colour, but that’s not correct.

Sinhala

Sinhala is the most used language in Sri Lanka. For 75% of the Sri Lankans, it’s their mother tong. According to the people we’ve met, 90% should be able to understand you.

10 basic phrases and words in Sinhala

  • Yes Ow
  • No Naa
  • Hello / goodbye Ayubowan
  • Thank you (very much) (Bohoma) isthuthi
  • Please Karunakerara
  • What is your name? Nama mokakda?
  • My name is…. Mage nama….
  • Delicious Hari rasai / rasavat
  • How much? keeyada?
  • English? Ingirisi?

7 Days of the Week in Sinhala

  • Monday Sanduda
  • Tuesday Angaharuwada
  • Wednesday Badada
  • Thursday Brahaspathinda
  • Friday Sikurada
  • Saturday Senesurada
  • Sunday Irida

10 extra words in Sinhala

  • this/that meke/eeka
  • (no) spices (naa) kulubadu
  • temple pansala
  • lake weva
  • hotel hotela
  • restaurant apana sala
  • food kaama
  • tea tey
  • coffee kopi
  • water watura

20 numbers in Sinhala

  • 1 eka
  • 2 deka
  • 3 tuna
  • 4 hatara
  • 5 paha
  • 6 haya
  • 7 hata
  • 8 ata
  • 9 namaya
  • 10 daaha
  • 20 vissa
  • 30 tiha
  • 40 hataliha
  • 50 panaha
  • 60 heta
  • 70 heddawa
  • 80 assuwa
  • 90 annuwa
  • 100 seeiye
  • 1000 daha

Tamil

The language mostly used in North and East Sri Lanka.

10 basic phrases and words in Tamil

  • Yes Amam
  • No Illai
  • Hello/Goodbye Vanakkam/Poyvituvarukiren
  • Thank you Nandri
  • Please Tuyavu ceytu
  • What is your name? Ungal peyar yenna?
  • My name is…. Yen peyar….
  • Delicious Ruciyana
  • How much? evvalavu?
  • English? Ankilam?

10 extra words in Tamil

  • this/that idu/adu
  • (no) spices (illai) macala
  • temple kovil
  • lake eri
  • hotel vituti
  • restaurant unavakam
  • food unavu
  • tea ti
  • coffee kapi
  • water Tunnier

7 days of the week in Tamil

  • Monday Tingal
  • Tuesday Cevvay
  • Wednesday Putam
  • Thursday Viyazhan
  • Friday Velli
  • Saturday Ceni
  • Sunday Nayiri

20 numbers in Tamil

  • 1 onru
  • 2 irandu
  • 3 munru
  • 4 nanku
  • 5 aindu
  • 6 aru
  • 7 yezhu
  • 8 yettu
  • 9 onpadu
  • 10 pattu
  • 20 irupadu
  • 30 muppadu
  • 40 rarpadu
  • 50 aimpadu
  • 60 arupadu
  • 70 alupadu
  • 80 yenpadu
  • 90 tonnuru
  • 100 nuru
  • 1000 ayiram
Must know Sinhala and Tamil words in Sri Lanka
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