Hair – Perth 22 Aug to 1 Sept 2019

Finally, it’s been re-staged in Australia

Hair 4

If this talented cast is any measure of Australia’s musical theatre industry then it’s in great shape. All of you deserve a star studded future.

Loved the courage shown with the ending!! Very thought provoking.

Thanks for a terrific Perth show and the memories.

Hair 3

Putting Together a Travel Budget

Happy birthday free birthday happy clip art free clipart images 2So, you’ve arrived home from somewhere fabulous, you’ve been living the dream, you’re euphoric, thrilled to be sharing what you’ve seen and done with friends and family, then your credit card statement arrives; is it really possible to explain in words the sinking feeling when you realise that the holiday that was “cheap” turned out to be anything but?

How do you avoid such a nasty comedown and eating toast every meal for the next 6 months to repay the debt and losing that post holiday glow faster than snapping your fingers? How about some simple budgeting strategies?

In previous blogs I shared how to decide on a travel destination and types of travel.   Where do you want to go?                                                                                                                   What’s your travel style? Independent travel means freedom                                                     What’s your travel style? Guided or Escorted Travel                                                                   What’s your travel style? Cruising can be fabulous for a number of reasons.

This time I’m sharing how I put together a travel budget. I have been told that mine resemble a military operation but there’s a method in my madness, which is:

  • I seldom arrive home having overspent
  • I often see more than I thought I would for my money, and
  • I am generally in “credit” on what I allowed, leaving a handy starting kitty for my next holiday. What more could I want?

This is my checklist:                                                                                                                   Decide are you travelling independently or going to do a guided tour/cruise? Regardless of your choice most of the costs listed below will be relevant.

Related imageStart with an idea of how much your airfares are going to be. Are you able to slash costs by using loyalty points? After sussing out the costs myself, I then touch base with my travel agent. I know that this isn’t that fashionable these days but a good travel agent will know their stuff; they can save you costly mistakes; like what’s included in the fine print (yes, they all have fine print, which can cost you dearly if you don’t understand it, even with travel insurance). They should be able to break down an airfare, point out the pitfalls and find you the best deal.  I use Deborah Baptista. deborah.baptista@cruiseabout.com.au

If you’re intending to join a guided tour, how much does the basic tour cost for the time of year you want to travel? Does the price fit in with your idea of what you want to pay? If not, are you able to be flexible? Sometimes (not always) a few weeks either side can make a difference to the cost.

If you’ve chosen to join a tour group, do you need to pay a single supplement or are you prepared to share with someone? If you do want a room of your own, then include this figure. Some companies are very user friendly and will include their single supplement price on their websites; others you have to actually request a price. Some tours don’t allow solo travellers to have a room to themselves, regardless if you’re prepared to pay for it or not.

Image result for free clip art hotels

If you’re travelling independently how much do you want to pay for accommodation? What sort of room? Is it refundable if you cancel? Prerequisites for me are  accommodation that is refundable and with good close by transport links. My other option is to stay somewhere that is central to the bulk of what I want to see. Personally, if I’m booking my own accommodation I prefer to book through booking.com. I’ve always found them easy to use, they list their booking conditions clearly, much of their accommodation can be cancelled without penalty (check your conditions first before booking) and the photos they have on their site reflect what is available. The reviews and ratings are helpful too, as is the ability to convert the local currency to your currency (remember that this is subject to currency rate fluctuations) so you have an idea what the overall cost will be.

Does the tour price include gratuities; tipping for tour leaders and coach drivers? Depending on the company these can be discretionary but generally they are not and a guide amount will be suggested. Even if you’re not group touring the chances of the expectation of a tip for services rendered will arise in many parts of the world.

Do you want to hire a car? What’s involved in that? Are there special rules?

How much is included in the tour price? Will you have to pay extra for sightseeing? Sometimes on tours, optional excursions can cost half what you’ve paid for your basic tour, particularly of the tour cost is on the low side. Consider if it is possible for you to visit these sights under your own steam during your free time. That said, sometimes its not worth the effort and its easier to take a tour.

Hotel clipart chef cooking #817

How many meals will you need to buy? Food can easily run away with a good portion of your budget. Remember that a meal that’s Euro 50, could cost you anywhere from half as much again or more depending on the exchange rate.  If you’ve opted to join a tour then many will include breakfast and a few evening meals, with you providing your own lunch and the top up meals. What to eat and where, can be a bit of a mine field. Due to past experience I avoid “tourist menus” because they don’t always work out cheaper and sometimes the food isn’t as nice as a la carte. Supermarkets, bars, taverns and cafes or eating your main meal at lunch are ways to reduce expense.

Do you need to budget for special equipment or clothes? Hiking boots were my best investment for my Egypt holiday; especially for the Mount Sinai hike and they have travelled the world with me since.

Does the country you are travelling to require visas or particular immunizations? These are some of the small print questions worth asking about.

Travel insurance is something you shouldn’t leave home without, so put that on the list too.

One small point: Credit card transaction fees can quickly eat your money. Its worth asking if there are charges and how much it will be. Sometimes converting from one currency to another attracts a fee too.

Don’t forget your spending money………….

Image result for free clip artImage result for free clip arttravel

 

 

 

 

 

Now go and have some fun exploring this wonderful world of ours.

From a personal point of view because I’m over the top, my spreadsheet also includes my itinerary, contacts for embassies, accommodation and the places I’m visiting.            As a frequent solo traveller it reduces the stress for my family.

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

Images:                                                                                            Balloons: http://clipartbarn.com/happy-birthday-clip-art_20828/                                      Plane: fotalia.com                                                                                                                         Hotel: https://clipartion.com/free-clipart-17807/ Chef: http://moziru.com/explore/Hotel%20clipart%20chef%20cooking/#go_post_6247_hotel-clipart-chef-cooking                                                                                                                           Suitcase: http://clipartsign.com/image/39072/                                                                                   Travel ticket and passport: http://clipartsign.com/716/travel-clip-art/

 

 

 

Making Batik

While visiting Bali in 2008 and Penang in 2010, I was lucky enough to watch traditional batik being made.  Traditional batik is a method of dying that uses hot wax to outline a design, so when it’s dyed, the wax creates a barrier resistant to the dye. When the wax is removed it reveals the pattern.

2008 Jan Bali 47 Batik Wax

To watch a batik artist at work is fascinating, they start with the article or piece of fabric that is to be wax stencilled, (sometimes the designs have been traced onto the fabric beforehand, see below), they dip a small stylus with a reservoir on the top into a pot of hot wax and freehand draw the design. This is a precise and time consuming exercise not to mention dangerous one, it doesn’t bear thinking how many severe burns happen.

2008 Jan Bali 50 Applying Batik Pattern

Batik can also be created using a wood block cut out dipped in wax to stencil the pattern. This form of batik is quicker than using a stylus but also the chance of error is greater because the pattern must align perfectly. This form is often used for much creating larger pieces of fabric.

Regardless of the method employed to create batik, the batik becomes worthless if wax has been dropped where it shouldn’t be as the wax is pretty much impossible to remove once it’s on the fabric. Talk about the need for steady hands!!!!

This is why traditional hand painted batik is expensive to buy. Personally, I think that the price reflects the skill and time of the artisan and the quality of the base materials used. Firstly, the fabric needs to be a very tight weave and the wax a particular blend depending on the design being created.

Much of what we think of as batik isn’t, really it’s just machine dyed fabric with a batik style pattern.

With continued support and interest, this traditional form of artisan craft will survive into the future.

Visited January 2008

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

Images: Copyright KL Capelli

Pura Puseh Temple at Batuan, Bali

When I visited Bali January 2008, I got lucky because there were a number of Hindu festivals either happening or about to happen and this gave me a unique insight into Hindu rituals. At Pura Puseh, everything was in readiness for the upcoming festival, stacks of cloth were neatly folded, new matting rolled up and sacred items covered.

Like most religious sites visitors are welcome but there are a few rules to follow. Before you enter the temple you should be fitted with a traditional sarong, this is a mark of respect; see the temple caretakers across the road from the temple entrance, near the parking lot. This open sided structure used to be a meeting hall. Although visiting the temple and the borrowing of sarongs is free, tourists are encouraged to make a donation for the upkeep and maintenance of the temple, which is a small price to be able to visit something so old and well cared for.

The original buildings are believed to have been built in the 10th century, since then there have been further buildings added and rejuvenation on the site.  Pura Puseh is one of the oldest temples on Bali and is a place of worship for the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, evident by the slender 3 tiered buildings called meru on site. The gods represent creation, maintenance/preservation and destruction respectively.

Pura Puseh is renowned for its amazing and intricate carving on many of the buildings, particularly the entrance gate, the Kori Agung. The gate is flanked by a number of carved guardian statues, and has a richly carved roof. In the centre are 2 doors, these are for the entry and exit of the gods, mere mortals use an alternate entry.

2008 Jan Bali 96 Front of Pura Puseh Batuan Kori Agung gate

The tall building in the centre of the complex is Bale Kulkul which houses a drum made from 3 very large pieces of bamboo. The base of the bale is richly carved with mythical protection beings, while the rafters that hold the roof up are decorated with black, white and red arrows.

2008 Jan Bali 98 Pura Puseh Batuan Bale Kulkul - Bell Tower

I’m not sure what the arrows signify but the colours are for evil/darkness, good/light and the human spirit respectively.  Bale kulkuls tend to be an integral part of Balinese temple architecture, when they are beaten they serve as a communication call to villagers, or in the past it was useful as an alarm advising of danger.

2008 Jan Bali 99 Pura Puseh Batuan Bale Kulkul Bell

Also at the complex is a long building called Bale Agung, which is used as an offering pavilion during festivals. It is richly decorated and has statues at intervals around its perimeter. Here everything is in readiness for the upcoming new year festival.

2008 Jan Bali 100 Pura Puseh Bale Agung everything ready for Hindu New Year

The temple complex roofing material is varied, some of the building’s roofs are thatched with a black coloured coconut fibre like the meru (shrine to the Hindu trinity), others are made from rice stalks and still others from small wooden shingles, all are beautifully maintained.

I hope you enjoy your visit here as much as I did.

Quirky fact: The roofs of Hindu temples are always uneven numbered, they believe this discourages evil spirits.

Visited January 2008

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

Images: Copyright KL Capelli

Bali Overview

Bali is an easy 3 and a half hour flight from Perth and with the opportunity of very reasonable air fares (some of them ridiculously cheap) and an enormous array of accommodation its hardly surprising that Bali is so familiar to West Australians. Many of us we have seen more of this tropical island than we have of our own state; it’s our slice of paradise.

2008 Jan Bali 4 Map

  • Check out Rome2Rio or any number of other websites for which companies fly there and how often.
  • You can book your own airfare online or do what I do………
  • I know travel agents have gone out of fashion but a good agent will be able to help with information that may not be general knowledge and smooth the way. I book all my flights with Deborah Baptista from Cruiseabout in Mt Hawthorn.                      (08) 9289 9700. Deborah.Baptista@cruiseabout.com.au

 

 

 

When is the best time to travel to Bali?

  • Bali’s a tropical climate, so its warm and humid all year round, although it does have a wet and dry season.
  • Typically, the dry season lasts from April to September (with some variations year to year). I visited in January and although it was hot and humid and there were downpours, they didn’t last long and didn’t stop me seeing or doing the things what I wanted.

So, you’ve decided to go to Bali,

  • Do you need vaccines? Check with your doctor but when I travel, as a minimum I make sure my tetanus shot is up to date.
  • What about entry and visa requirements? It’s worth checking for up to date information as requirements change.

Transport

Here are some of the plethora of transport options in Bali. These are the most common.

Taxi:

  • The driver’s ID and registration number should be clearly on display.
  • Use a metered one and make sure the meter is on.
  • If all else fails negotiate a price BEFORE getting in.

Shuttle Buses

  • Some hotels will offer shuttle buses that take you to the centre of town or the airport.
  • Often these are free, check with your accommodation.

Tourist driver/guides

  • For those interested a private guide, using this option can add a whole other layer of history, culture and recommendations that as a regular tourist you wouldn’t be aware of.
  • Negotiate a price BEFORE getting in. Is the price just transport? Does it include refreshments for the journey? Does it include the entrance fees for sightseeing. Some private operators will include all the above. I believe that all people have the right to earn a fair living and the payment amount should benefit all parties.
  • Vehicles registered to carry tourist passengers have an “S” as the last letter of the number plate. Private tour guides in Bali are registered, their number plates have a small silver plate attached to the number plate. Sometimes the guide will carry this disk as they sometimes are stolen, leaving the guides out of pocket.
  • Check that your driver has insurance.
  • For ease, I use a guide when I’m in Bali, my family (including extended) has used Nyomen Wiski for many years and have been very happy with his service. Nyomen is flexible, punctual, polite and speaks very good English and he is a gold mine of information. wiskibali@yahoo.com

2008 Jan Bali 38 Nyomen n Car

Finally, just in case its needed;

  • Have your accommodation address written in English and Bahasa.
  • Also, carry smaller notes in case you are confronted with the “I don’t have change” line.

 

Where do you stay?

  • With accommodation scattered across the island, accommodation and hotel facilities come in all guises; luxurious, high rise, resort living, guest houses, villas, houses, the list is endless, the southern part has the greatest concentration and provides a dizzying selection of lodgings. If you’re looking for a slower paced holiday try Ubud, Lovina or Singaraja. Somewhere on the island there will be something to suit every budget and wish list.
  • Prices aren’t necessarily reflected as wet or dry season but rather high and quieter times.
  • Bali doesn’t really have a low season as such. People visit all year round.

Foodies

Traditional Balinese food has so much flavour because of the many condiments used in its preparation. The recipes are a reflection of the blended cultural heritage of traditional Balinese, Javanese, Indian, Chinese and Dutch.

Below is a tiny selection of what’s available food wise in Bali.

  • Rice is a staple and comes in many forms. NImage result for nasi gorengasi goreng Indonesian fried rice with meat and or vegetables is one you probably recognise. Rice often accompanies other dishes.
  • Satay/Sate in many varieties.Image result for pepes
  • Pepes are banana leaf wrapped morsels filled with fish, meat or vegetables
  • Rijstaffel which translates to rice table is a form of dining that has its roots with Dutch Colonialism. The meal is a selection of rice, meat, seafood or Image result for pisang gorengfish, vegetables and condiments.  Generally this style of dining is designed for more than one.
  • Pisang goreng – fried banana – often found in markets. Cheap snack.
  • Jimbaran Bay has many seafood restaurants right on the beach, some of them even have tables that are outside on the sand, a bit like “Shirley Valentine”, (now I’m showing my age). Quiet a number of the restaurants allow you to choose your seafood from the tanks. It’s so easy to get carried away and order enough food for a number of meals.
  • Sambal, is a  hot spicy condiment or sauce that accompanies many dishes, if your taste buds are sensitive ask if they can leave it out.
  • If you enjoy a tipple, its worth remembering to avoid the local water, including ice in drinks. Buy bottled water, which is cheap. I even use it to clean my teeth. For those of you concerned with the plastic content, know that recycling is a whole industry in Bali and so long as you put your bottles in a bin, they will be recycled by someone.
  • Dining options include warungs which are small eateries, night markets and restaurants.
  • Bali belly is common among travellers but with a bit of common sense like washing or sanitising your hands before eating can help. Ask for recommendations of where to eat.
  • Finally, the worst meal I had in Bali was at the lookout restaurant for Kintamani, the food here was mushy, horrible tourist food. Its a place to avoid at all cost.

Culture Vultures

Bali doesn’t have to be all about beaches, pools, bars and shopping, it offers a lot of culture for those interested.

Its still possible to see traditional batik being painted, visit incredible temples, watch colourful traditional barong and kecak dance performances, and follow the Punch and Judy like antics via the wayang shadow puppet theatres. These art forms all tell Hindu mythological moral stories, but in different ways.  If you take in a wayang show be prepared for the simplicity of the surroundings. The one I visited had plastic fold up chairs and hessian walls with a canvas roof, the smell of kerosene and naked flame everywhere!!!! While I really enjoyed the show, it certainly wasn’t the safest environment I’ve ever been in. If you can get past a need for things to be just right, Bali offers some enlightening experiences so different from our day to day life.

Visiting Bali during one of the festivals or temple anniversaries, you’ll see life and religion intertwined and on display; loud and proud. The music from the band is a cacophony of sound, visually, it’s wonderful to observe, combined its sensory overload. Everyone is turned out in their best dress, the white tops are very white, including the children (which I think is incredible given that kids will be kids), the lace tops the ladies wear with their long skirts look very modest and the colours are like a rainbow. Often men will wear a skirt of black and white check symbolising good, evil and renewal. They also wear a head wrap which is knotted in a particular manner, this shows they are Balinese, the Javanese men wear a different headdress.

2008 Jan Bali 132 Temple anniversary parade

When you see a parade like this its a real celebration of their faith and spirituality, which is humbling to witness. The Balinese live their religion; its everywhere, it fills their lives and sometimes people like me get lucky and are able to glimpse into their world.

Bali has so much to offer depending on the type of traveller you are. Dare to be different.

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

Images: Bali Map; Lonely Planet. Food; foodfornet.com, sbs.com.au, indoindians.com. All other images copyright of KL Capelli.

Distrykt Coffee – Beldon, West Australia

Located in a small suburban shopping centre, this is my favourite local café. Its tiny, only seating about 10. Inside there’s a couple of small tables and long high bench; outside there are a few tables and chairs. This area is ok early morning but can be hot in summer once the sun comes over because there’s no shade provided. The outside area also has a small kid’s zone as well as a dog watering station so your furry friend can join you too.

They offer a selection of beverages and within the display cases and glass domes are a selection of yummy cakes, slices, muffins and toasties. Their signage says cater for gluten and diary free and vegetarians. Takeaway seems a popular option, as a steady stream of people come and go. Many are regulars as the staff greet them and confirm their order.

While it might not have the pizzazz of some trendy coffee shops, it does have very friendly staff and a loyalty system; purchase nine coffees and receive the tenth free.

  • Parking right on the doorstep.

Address          Beldon Shopping Centre, Gunter Grove, Beldon

Open                Monday to Friday 6.30am to 2.30pm and Saturday 7.00am to 2.00pm

Last visit October 2017.

All images are copyright of KL Capelli

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

Sayers – Leederville, West Australia

Sayers 1

Some friends said “Let’s do breakfast at Sayers”, prior to being seated and scanning Sayers breakfast menu I had no inkling of what to expect. While some items on the menu are standard breakfast inclusions, others like my choice of smoked salmon kedgeree pilaf, accompanied with green papaya salad & poached eggs ($20.50) turned out to be a tasty, interesting option. A friend ordered the potato roti stack with onion jam, poached eggs, bacon and lemon scented wilted spinach ($19.50) while our companion ordered spicy Italian sausage, scrambled eggs, wilted spinach on ciabatta bread ($19.50) both enjoyed their meal.

Food is ordered at the front counter and delivered by pleasant, efficient waitstaff. Our meals were nicely presented and the portion size more than sufficient. In my enthusiasm to tuck in I realised way too late, after I’d eaten half my meal, that I had forgotten to photograph its presentation…. sorry about that.

Sayers also offer lunch, covering perennial favourites, which are presented with a twist. For those who might enjoy a bevvie during lunch there is also a BYO wine option (corkage charge applies).

If you’re not looking for a meal, there’s always coffee or tea with a selection of tempting cakes.

While their menu offers gluten free and allergy options, is also states “Unfortunately, no changes can be made to the menu during peak periods”, so I’m not sure how this affects those who have allergies…….

The décor is a bit of this and a bit of that, creating an eclectic mix which works. There are bench seats, stools and near the counter, which is on a raised platform, are fancy high backed winged chairs. Taking my seat in one made me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland but they do afford some dining privacy from those who are placing orders.

Sayers inside

I’m not sure if you would consider Sayers small, cosy or tight? Inside they have used every square centimetre of space, making it a bit cramped for my liking. For those with a pram or wheelchair, I think access could be difficult in the main café. They do have an attached outside seating area which is a bit roomier, but this area is probably more suited to dry, warm days. The outside seating area is also the thoroughfare to the other offices at the address.

Sayers side

 

 

Would I visit again? I’m not sure because I’m torn between comfort and food……..

  • Street or paid parking is nearby.
  • A short walk from Leederville train station.
  • Open daily for breakfast, lunch, cake and coffee.

Visited Nov 2017

Address 224 Carr Place, Leederville

All images copyright of KL Capelli.

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

Wishes

As a novice blogger I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to read my posts this year.

In 2018 I’m looking forward to sharing the places I’ve visited and useful/useless  (depending on how you see it) information I’ve learned via my travels, and maybe even inspire you along the way.

Come join me……..

 

Wishing everyone a peaceful, joy filled festive season filled with love, laughter and shared happy times

and

an abundance of blessings during 2018.

What’s your travel style? Independent travel means freedom

Unless you have a travel concierge, independent travel won’t give you airport transfers, someone to lug your bags, show you which train to catch or take you to the sights but it will give you great flexibility, more choice and greater responsibility. Travelling this way allows you to pick and choose the places you really want to see, spend as much time as you want at each destination and change your itinerary as your fancy takes you. It also allows you to vet your transport, sightseeing, accommodation and food requirements to fit with your budget and expectations. For all the above reasons and more, one of which is the opportunity for personal growth, I love independent travel.

As a person who doesn’t want to waste a minute of my precious holiday time, I find that it does mean that to get the most out of my holiday requires more planning on my part. I can’t do, after a long haul flight, arriving at a destination and then spending hours sorting out my sleeping arrangements. With every independent trip I have done, I’ve found that it’s been worth every second trawling online for the quirky village or little visited museum that turns out to be a treasure trove, or staying at that “different” accommodation.

Independent travel can work out cheaper than guided tours but not always. The reality is that the big tour companies because of their buying power have it down pat with costing. I’ve been known to spend hours comparing what a guided tour offers against what I want to do. In some cases, I’ve opted for the guided tour because it’s been more cost effective and ticked the boxes. Other times even though the guided tour is cheaper, I’ve stuck to my original plan and gone independent because I can tailor what I want to do and see.

The beauty about independent travel is choosing the accommodation that suits you. There are a number of sites on line offering a plethora of options. I tend to book with booking.com because I find they have a good selection and they’re easy to use. Unless you’ve booked a non-refundable room, you can change/cancel your booking easily and in most cases you don’t need to pay until your stay, granted this does leave you at the mercy of the exchange rate gods.

I love visiting less known sites, or quirky places I’ve found or someone has told me about. By planning my own sightseeing, I can do this, and what’s more, do it at my pace. Yes, sometimes it requires getting my head around another country’s transport system or getting lost in a city because I’ve taken a wrong turn (I’m remembering The Silk Museum in Como here) but I’ve seldom been disappointed with what I’ve discovered.

If planning all your own sightseeing doesn’t appeal, there are a multitude of group and private tours available through various agencies that you can book on line or when you arrive at your destination. I rather like the one’s offered by Viator Tours (which are through a third party) because

  • I’ve always found that they cover in their tour what they say they will in their blurb,
  • They are reasonably priced (sometimes I’ve found the supplier on line but it’s been no cheaper to book direct),
  • Generally (unless it’s a new tour) there are reviews which give an idea of what you’re buying and if it will be right for you,
  • Their terms and conditions clearly lay out the information that’s important to you, like is it possible to cancel and how much notice you need to give.
  • Tours like this are great for destinations which only allow guided access to parts of a venue or where you are time poor.
  • Sometimes the cost involved to do a group tour is no more than you would pay to organise it yourself.

One point worth making here is that although increasingly throughout the world there are Latin alphabet translations for street, hotel and sightseeing signs, it is not a given. There are parts of the world where the script will be what is used for the local language and the only thing you are likely to recognise will be the Coca Cola or McDonald’s emblems, in this case, unless you can read another script, getting around could be a bit tricky without a guide but not impossible, depending on how adventurous you are. It’s also worth mentioning that smaller village museums, often label their artefacts in the local language not English. While it can make deciphering the information time consuming, don’t discount these places altogether, because sometimes they will give you an insight into local culture that you won’t find elsewhere. If the labels are written in Latin script but another language a travel dictionary may help you get the gist of what’s in front of you. For many people the reason they travel is to interact with different cultures, and part of that interaction can be seeing and experiencing different things; just because it’s not like it is at home or done the way we do it, doesn’t mean that it won’t give you unique experiences. Embrace the difference!!

For me and also friends I have talked to about this; one of the big pluses of independent travel is you can sight see until you drop and then either pick up something along the way to eat, or drop into a restaurant on the way back to your digs, thereby negating the need to go back to the hotel, get changed and go out again.  Self catering is a winner from that point of view.

Jump online and check out the country you intend to visit visa requirements, don’t forget that as a traveller, visas are your responsibility. If a visa is required and you arrive without one then you won’t be going anywhere until that’s sorted out, worst still it might be the shortest holiday you’ve ever had.

This might seem odd but as an independent traveller, my personal safety is my responsibility therefore I always have my country’s embassy contact details on me, just in case. Passports and documentation need to be kept in a safe place, don’t forget to have extra copies of these with you.

Hopefully the info here has made this another tick, enjoy your travels.

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.

What’s your travel style? Guided or Escorted Travel

So, you’ve found the holiday destination you think is right for you….tick.

Now you need to decide what type of holiday you want, here are some thoughts to help you decide. I’ve used guided/escorted tours, cruising and independent DIY travel, I don’t have a favourite travel style but tend to mix and match depending on what type of holiday I’m looking to enjoy.

Guided or escorted group tours transport you and your luggage along a set itinerary. These will have stops along the way and the number of days or time you spend at each stop can vary. The mode of transport can be anything from hiking, biking, public bus or train, mini bus or smaller buses to large coaches. Guided group tours have a tour leader that will explain the history, points of interest and will help you navigate any problems you might have while you are in their care. I’ve found this type of travel beneficial for places that I would find it difficult or might be uncomfortable traveling independently (for me, Egypt was an example). These tours cover all levels from grassroots to luxurious.

It’s probably fair to say that the overall cost of the tour will determine the included standard of accommodation and where it is situated. Depending on the type of tour this could be homestay (where you stay in people’s homes), hostel, tourist (3, 3.5 or 4 star hotels) through to luxury (5-6 stars). At this point it is worth mentioning that standards in hotels will vary in different parts of the world and may not reflect the standard you are used to in your home country. Some countries don’t have a governing body that regulates the star rating system, in others the rating scale can be so convoluted that it would make your head spin. This is what makes travel interesting, not the head spinning stuff but the “good” unexpected surprises. While most guided group tours will accommodate centrally, not all do and this is often reflected in the price. You may find yourself some distance from the centre of town, for just this reason I like to google where I’m staying because I don’t want to be kilometres from anywhere with very few food, sightseeing, entertainment or transport options for my free time.

Unless otherwise noted, most pricing is on a twin share basis. Meaning two people sharing a room. Some travel companies will pair you with a fellow traveller of the same gender, others will not, in which case you either need to convince a friend to share your adventure or pay an extra cost called a single supplement. Single supplements can be a little or a lot more than the twin share price. Some companies allow three people travelling together to share a room and generally offer a slight discount on the twin share price.

Are your excursions included in the price? I’ve looked at tours that look fabulous and good value on a quick skim but when I’ve broken down the itinerary of what is and isn’t included and accounted for optional extra excursions (ones you pay for) or non included entrance fees, permits and in some cases, transport, the cost has been more than opting for a different tour that initially seemed more expensive but in fact was cheaper…..confused? If you have free time, how comfortable are you sightseeing by yourself or would you be happier paying for a group guided visit to a venue? This choice could make a substantial difference to your basic tour price.

Something worth mentioning here is you may think that because a site or venue is mentioned in the spiel that you will be able to go inside, this is not always the case, it seems increasingly that “seeing” a tourist attraction is quite literally that; seeing it from the outside. The words, “see”, “view” and “visit” have very different meanings within the travel industry. “See” is to look at it from the outside, “view” can mean anything from “that’s it across the road”, “it’s that tiny speck over there” or viewing it from the coach window while zipping past as the tour guide mumbles something about it. Whereas “visit” should mean that you actually get to go inside and have a good gander. This is one of the buyer beware rules on guided tours (this rule also applies to walking tours and cruise shore excursions).

The greater portion of guided/escorted tours will have some meals included but don’t take it as a given. Meals that are included can vary from really yummy food to very average food with harassed waitstaff. I’ve experienced both and prefer the first. If your tour doesn’t include all meals, you will need to allow extra for these. Depending on where your accommodation is, your selection could range from limited to extensive…..I always hope for the second option. Don’t forget if you have dietary requirements to let the company know when you book.

Often one of the bonuses of guided/escorted tours is that transfers from the airport to your hotel are included and so is porterage. But there can be some caveats on these: Porterage will often have a weight and bag limit and transfers can prove non existent if your flight arrives at an odd hour. In which case its worth checking at the time of booking what arrangements are in place if the standard ones won’t work for you and what the solution/s may be.

Gratuities are a part of escorted travel. These are the tip you pay your tour manager, guide or driver. Many companies will have a suggested amount, some will allow you to pay up front before you leave home. Gratuities aren’t compulsory but a way of saying thank you for good service.

Will you visit a shopping outlet as part of your tour? These can be a great or terrible experience. I’ve been to some which are like huge warehouses filled with tourist type souvenirs (terrible), then again I’ve been to others where I’ve seen the products that I would later buy being made, so the bond I have with that item is greater. Watching someone hand weave a rug gives a greater appreciation of the work that goes into that article and why it costs what it does, aside from it being a cultural lesson. The reality is that often your guide will receive a commission for each sale, hey, everyone needs to earn a living and the choice to buy or not is yours.

Almost there: Visas. Do you need a visa to enter your chosen destination? These are really important because without one you won’t be able to enter the country. Obtaining a visa is always the traveller’s responsibility. Depending on where you are travelling to, sometimes you can purchase one on arrival, sometimes you have to obtained one before you leave home. In my experience I have found it is rare that the company providing the tour will organise these, occasionally they do, but not often. Sometimes travel agents can help with the required paperwork, otherwise you are on your own. A good starting point is the terms and conditions of the tour company or your destination’s government website.

Lastly, does the tour you are looking at have internal flights? Are these included in the overall tour price or something you need to pay for separately? The answer is worth considering because if it’s an extra, it will bump the tour price up, maybe making that bargain a distant memory.

Disclaimer: As this is a personal view, no recourse held for the information published.