Category Archives: Travel Tips & Advice

Alan’s Notes on Kuta, Bali

As you've probably figured, I'm travelling with my significant other/boyfriend/partner-in-crime, Alan. He feels compelled to share some of his stories and thoughts on the road on my humble blog - I didn't force him, promise! This may become a regular feature, if Alan retains the writing bug. His first post is about Kuta, Bali. You can read my post on our time in Kuta here.


Up until this moment Christie has carefully drafted and completed all of the blogs on the Butterfly Editions. It was her goal to create and establish a blog that people would find insightful and entertaining whilst also providing some detailed information to our extended friends and family as to what we have been up to, and for our own memories.

Whilst I’m generally lying on the bed next to her reading her kindle and providing little to no help, after six weeks of travelling I have decided that it is time to give this blog thing a crack and maybe provide a slightly different point of view to our travelling adventures.

I'm writing this in my budget room on Coral Beach on the Perhentian Islands off the east coast of Malaysia. Pretty sweet huh? Except that it’s uncomfortably hot (30+deg) and due to the looming monsoon season and the lack of tourists the place we are staying in only runs power from 7pm to 7am, so I can’t even turn on the fan!

So what to write about? Christie writes about all the places we’ve been to and what we get up to so I’m not going to repeat that. I can’t specifically recall any funny stories, so I think I’ll write a series of blogs that give some insight to my specific highlights of my month in Indonesia, and hopefully throw in a few good tips!

Kuta - It’s Pretty Cool

I’d never been to Bali before and I guess in my mind I had this image of a tropical paradise, the pristine white sand, crystal clear blue water, palm trees swaying in the cool ocean breeze. Kuta is kind of that but not really. The beaches are ok, I mean they’re nice, there’s a little bit of trash but not too bad, but if you’re travelling on a budget you’ll probably see and experience a side of kuta that you weren’t quite expecting. Yes, there’s the luxury resorts with the fancy swimming pools and nice restaurants right on the oceanfront, but if you’re like me and only want to spend NZD$20 a night on accommodation, you’ll end up a few streets back having fun in the economy section.

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Here’s where the fun begins. Now you have to negotiate the narrow one lane streets plagued with the never ending hoard of scooters that beep at you. Its kind if like playing a game of dodgeball except you’re dodging moving scooters. Not to mention that there is no footpath, so once you've managed to safely cross now you have to meander along the side of the road side stepping down a narrow path on the edge of danger not wanting to fall into the abyss that is oncoming traffic.

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Once you’ve figured out crossing the street, you have to find your way around. You can stick to the ‘main’ streets which will add an extra 15 minutes and 1 litre of sweat to your journey, or you can cut through the narrow labyrinth of alley ways. Back in New Zealand these would be for pedestrians only as they can just fit two people walking side by side, but in Bali these are still considered roads. Now when a scooter comes your way you literally have to twist sideways and reverse hug the wall, not put your foot in the open drain and look out for squished rats (yes I saw two of them). You don’t want your jandalled foot going anywhere near that stuff.

Yay! Now you’ve made it to Legian St. This is the main drag in Kuta, this is where you can get your fake Oakleys and Ray Ban sunnies, don’t pay anymore than 50,000 rupiah though (NZD$5) even then your probably getting ripped off. Maybe you’ll find a sweet Rolex or some new Nikes, remember to bargain hard and be prepared to walk away if you aren't getting a good deal. Don’t worry about missing out, there will literally be a exact replica of that shop and merchandise probably right next door. Seriously it’s like deja vu all over Indonesia, they all sell the same crap!

Kuta Beach

Once you’ve wandered past the shops, said 'no thank you ' a dozen times to the pushy salesmen, had a squizz at the bars and restaurants and made a mental note to come back for happy hour, you going to want to find the beach. Just follow some dude with his surfboard perilously attached to his scooter and you’ll find it. You can’t really miss it.

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You’ll have to agree that the beach is pretty nice, there’ll be a whole array of different sights wandering up and down the beach so don’t forget to bring your sunnies for a good discreet look. Make sure you head north up the beach (turn right when you’re looking at the water) and head up to Legian and Seminyak. There's some nice restaurants up that way where you can grab a bite, can definitely recommend a mango smoothie if its not Bintang o’clock yet.

Kuta Beach

Thats pretty much it for Kuta, you’ll probably spend the day people watching at the beach intertwined with a paddle in the surf. If you’re there for a for a party it won’t be hard to find.

Overall I thought Kuta was pretty cool but I guess it depends on what your intentions are.

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Tips/Advice for Kuta, Bali

Large Bintang should cost around 30,000 Rupiah (about NZD$3), just ask for two glasses if you want to share. Cheaper than buying two small beers for 20,000 each.

You don’t need a scooter in Kuta unless you plan on traveling a fair distance, plus it’ll take a while to build up enough confidence to tackle driving in the crazy traffic. If you do get one, make sure you get a helmet (we saw one bad crash).

Sunscreen. I know you want to get a tan, but the number of red tomatoes I saw walking around was enough to convince me to lather myself in the stuff. Don’t ruin your trip by getting sunburnt on the first day. Trust me, the tan will come.

And a helpful tip regarding ATMs in Indonesia...

There a two types of ATMs in Indonesia:

  • One will give 50,000 Rupiah notes with a max of 1,250,000
  • One will give 100,000 Rupiah notes with a max of 2,500,000 (sometimes less)

We wanted to save on withdrawal fees, so we always used atms with the max limit. The Mandiri ones generally had the highest limit.


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How to Budget When You Travel: Trail Wallet

Please note this post is my own personal opinion and is not compensated. Trail Wallet is simply an app I have discovered and love!

Travelling for a year is a scary prospect, especially when you have worked so hard to save up so much money and all of a sudden you are going to be blowing just about all of it, albeit on the travel experience of a lifetime!

To make our hard-earned money go as far as we can on our travels, we need to be tight on our budget and manage our money wisely.

We have set ourselves a maximum budget of NZD $50 per day each (essentially $100 a day for the both of us). Having done plenty of research we know this is a feasible number to base our spending on, especially considering our travel plans are primarily within Asia, which is known to be significantly cheaper than Europe for backpackers (in most cases, anyway!).

Philippines Beach Travel

We know that some days we are going to splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and other days we are going to get by on the bare minimum. Sometimes all we will need to pay for is a bed and something to eat, other days we will be paying for buses, trains, planes and expensive activities. Its all a balancing act!

The question in my mind was: how on earth are we going to track our spending to ensure that we are staying within our budget? I couldn’t think of anything worse than returning home early with my tail between my legs, having run out of money because we were too lazy to track our spending.

Well, thankfully we found an app that we have been using since the beginning of our backpacking adventure (three weeks now!) that is making this seriously easy for us.

Enter: Trail Wallet.

Trail Wallet is amazing, efficient, and very simple to use.

You start by creating ‘trips’, so we are creating a trip for each of the countries we go to. You simply enter in the dates you are going to be there, and your daily budget. We create our trips as we go.

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From there, you simply enter in any expenses you have during the day. We have the app on Alan’s iPhone 5 (because apparently I live in the dark ages with my iPhone 4!), which comes with us just about everywhere so we usually enter it on the spot, however others may prefer to jot down notes of what they have spent during the day and enter it in each evening - up to you. It only takes about 5 seconds!

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There are many great things about Trail Wallet:

  • You can select the currencies you wish to use, for example our Indonesia trip was set up for NZ Dollar and Indonesian Rupiah. That way we can see every day exactly how much we are spending both in the local currency and our home currency!
  • When you enter your expenses you allocate it into a category, e.g. food, accommodation, transport, entertainment, etc. You can add categories as you wish, for example we have set up extra categories for Laundry, Massage and Visas. It is interesting to see the breakdown of your spend! Trail Wallet shows you a pie graph of your expenses so you can see what proportion of your spending are going where. Ours is a constant battle between food and accommodation.
  • You can spread expenses across multiple days, or input them in for a future (or past) date. For example, with accommodation you can split a total across three nights and it will automatically split it for you, or for renting a scooter you can split it across the amount of days you are renting for. When we book transport, we usually put it in for the day we are travelling itself, rather than they day we booked.
  • You do not need an internet connection to enter any of your spending data. The only thing you need the internet for is to initially download the app itself, occasionally check and update the exchange rates or if you want to share any of your data (you can send yourself a CSV file of it, share on Twitter or Facebook).

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With Trail Wallet you can see right in front of you what you have spent for the day, the last few days, the last month, or your entire trip. It can help hold you back on unnecessary spending because you know you have overspent for the day, or perhaps if you know you haven't spent much that day you could indulge yourself in a massage!

I will be using our Trail Wallet data to divulge what we spent in each country with a bit of a breakdown of our costs, look out for Indonesia in the next couple of weeks! So far, I am pleased to say with Trail Wallet holding us accountable we are coming in well under our overall budget.

Trail Wallet is SO easy to use and SO helpful to track your spending on the road. I would recommend this to any traveller without a doubt!

How do you manage your budget on the road?


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How To Save Money For Travel: My 5 Top Tips

There are plenty of posts similar to this out there on the interwebs, just about every travel blogger has a post dedicated to the best tips and tricks of how to save money for travel.

I'm not going to lie, the way I have saved for travel is nothing new.

Here's my tips and tricks as to how I have saved enough money to travel for an entire year on a NZD $50 a day budget (you do the math!). While I've been saving I've also managed to fund a 10-day road-trip around New Zealand's South Island and a two week holiday in Costa Rica. For the record, I have a fairly entry-level marketing position i.e. I am certainly not raking in the big bucks.

Can't wait for views like this again!

Can't wait for views like this again!

1. I stopped spending money on unnecessary items. Yup, super basic. I stopped buying new clothes, new makeup, buying my lunch, basically anything that wasn't essential I have completely cut back on. I work in a department store, so this hasn't been easy! However, over the course of the year so far I'm surprised that I no longer feel any desire to buy anything new whatsoever. While I am now totally unfashionable and have no idea what the latest trends are, I'm pleased to not actually care at all which is a very freeing feeling!

2. Kind of an extension of #1, I started relating any spending to what I could buy when I was travelling with that amount of money. For example, why would I spend $4 on a coffee, when I could buy 10 pad thais on Bangkok's Khao San Road for the same amount? It really starts to put the expense of things into perspective. Why buy a $6 sandwich from the bakery when that could pay for an entire nights (or even two!) accommodation in Laos?

3. Selling all of our belongings. We (Alan, if I'm going to be honest) have been selling our belongings on TradeMe for weeks now (for non-New Zealand readers, TradeMe is NZ's equivalent of eBay). I'm honestly surprised as to how much we have been able to sell! Even if only for a few dollars, when you are thinking on terms like Tip #2, just a few more bucks can add an extra day or more to your trip! Xbox and games, Nintendo and games, random toys, old clothes, a box of timezone tickets (!?) all sold for a profit on TradeMe. We are also selling our "big" stuff (washing machine, fridge, etc), and are in the process of selling our cars. We plan to leave barely anything behind - which is a thought that I am very scared and nervous about but also extremely excited about the freedom that will come with it!

4. I made a budget and stuck to it. I planned out exactly where every dollar from my pay check would go each week (rent, supermarket, gym, petrol, power) and how much I could expect to save each week. Usually some sort of unexpected expense would arise however it definitely worked to give me a good gauge go where my money was going, and it definitely stopped any frivolous spending pretty quickly! I definitely think that the closer you are to your money makes you want to continue to keep it close and not spend it.

5. I got used to instant coffee instead of fancy, cafe coffee. In my office we have a morning tea break together each day, and I was stuck in the bad habit of buying a coffee as we sat in the cafe for our daily catch ups. Thats $4 per coffee, 5 days a week, every single week. It sure adds up! I simply brought a reusable takeaway cup from home and started making my own coffee in the staffroom instead (coffee = free). Yup, I'm the awkward person who brings their own coffee to a cafe and sits there with my muesli bar, but as long as I'm saving money I don't mind if I look silly!

One of the unexpected expenses - a last minute invite to watch the Crusaders play rugby on a beautiful evening

One of the unexpected expenses - a last minute invite to watch the Crusaders play rugby on a beautiful evening

With about six weeks to go before we head off, we still have plenty more belongings to sell,  a few more pay cheques to bank and a few more lunches to pack from home for work, we are on the homeward straight now!

What are your top tips for saving money?


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8 Tips for Sleeping on an Overnight Bus in Vietnam

At the end of 2012 I spent three weeks travelling through Vietnam from Hanoi right down to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. Just like many other backpackers my primary mode of transport was by overnight bus.

Overnight buses are a win-win because they are so cheap yet also double as accommodation for the night so the price of a bus ticket covers it all!

However, they have a reputation - and for very valid reason - of being uncomfortable, noisy and not particularly conducive for sleeping. I'm not going to make any promises that you will get a solid 8-hours sleep, but these tips might just make the trip a little bit more bearable - you will certainly come out feeling fresher on the other side!

9 Tips for Sleeping on an Overnight Bus in Vietnam

1. Eat a good meal before you board - best to avoid the beers before the overnight bus though! Take a couple of snacks and a big bottle of water.

2. But don't drink too much water! Some overnight busses don't have toilets so you just have to hold on and wait until then next stop. You never know how many (or how few) stops there are going to be. Sometimes they are a couple of hours apart, other times they are very few and far between. Don't take any chances - there is nothing worse than waking up and needing to go! Try to get off at every stop even if just to stretch your legs.

3. Take a sleep sack/sleeping bag liner, and an extra warm layer (like a sweater). It may get cold in the wee hours of the night and there is nothing worse than trying to sleep when you are an icicle! Snuggle up in your little cocoon, it will help you to sleep so much better.

Vietnam Overnight Bus

4. Don't take unidentified sleeping pills! My friend and I took our chances buying sleeping pills from a pharmacy and they came out rather secretively in an unidentified black bag - not entirely sure they were sleeping pills as I was wired all night and got no sleep whatsoever! If you think you are going to need sleeping pills, bring them from home or buy them from somewhere legit (i.e. not a Vietnamese roadside pharmacy!).

5. Make sure your iPod is fully charged and has some relaxing/chilled out music that you can listen to all night. I've never felt more relaxed than I have taking in the Vietnamese view out the window in the early evening with my favourite music in my ears.

6. Don't expect to get a good nights sleep. Let's face it, you're unlikely to get a good nights sleep - you'll spend hours looking at the Vietnamese travellers lying in the aisle peacefully snoring away, oblivious to the hooting, dangerous swerving of the bus and all of the potholes you seem to bounce over in the road. Unfortunately, sleeping in conditions like this just does not seem to be part of our genetic makeup! If you board with the expectation that you probably won't get an amazing sleep, any sleep you do get will be a bonus!

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7. Take a scarf - for three reasons! 1. To put over the pillow provided to protect your head from potential bedbugs/other nasties! 2. To wrap around your head to try and dull out the honking that carries on all night! And 3. To wrap around yourself as another layer if you get cold!

8. If you can, get a bed on the side. An overnight bus in Vietnam is three rows wide, so the row of bunks in the middle has an aisle on either side. The sides are a preference, as not only do you get your own window, but you can sort of huddle up against the wall to feel secure. In the aisle row you have to hold on a bit more to save rolling from side to side (or falling off the bunk altogether!). That said, I had a bed in the middle row once and came out unscathed - just had a bit less sleep is all.

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Yep, the horn will be hooting all night and at times it will be like being on a roller coaster. Its all part of the journey! We paid a measly NZ$45 for a 5-stop bus ticket from Hanoi to Saigon. Three overnight buses and a four hour bus to travel down the entire country of Vietnam - cheap as chips!

Dare I say it but with the beauty of hindsight, overnight bus journeys are actually quite fun - and I will certainly do it again!

Do you have any more tips for overnight bus journeys?


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