Camel Safari in Jaisalmer

By Telma | 22 April 2017 | India | Adventure Travel 

While travelling in India, we knew we wanted to go on a Camel Safari Jaisalmer. Always up for adventure, we wondered what it would be like to ride a camel and spend the night in the desert. Overwhelmed with the offer, it wasn’t an easy decision. We knew we didn’t want to join a big tour group, having a camel each was pretty much an agreement and the welfare of the animals was our main concern.

In the end, we decided to go on a private tour so we would have the camels for ourselves and get to know our guide a little bit more. The people from the desert fascinate me, they seem so mysterious and always have endless tales to tell.
In the end, we were very happy with our guide, we got a recommendation from the guests that were staying at the same hostel. But not all tours are great and fantastic experiences, I think we were genuinely very lucky with our camel safari. The day after our return we met two girls who hated theirs because it wasn’t what they had imagined. They had to share the guide with another 8 people, there wasn’t as many breaks as they wished they had (riding a camel is sooo painful!), the food wasn’t great and everyone slept inside tents. Now, that to me isn’t an adventure. It’s simply riding a camel to the desert. But each to their own.

Although our experience was incredible, the start of our day wasn’t as great. I guess having travelled for over a year and always being very careful with scams and touts, which we did pretty well considering some circumstances, we ended up being persuaded to join a sightseeing tour before the safari; all “part of the package”. Yes, it was a mistake. But as we as were making a video we thought it would look great to add some more footage about Jaisalmer. Unfortunately, it was terrible and it was not worth it at all. So I would not recommend adding any sightseeing to a Camel Safari Jaisalmer.

a camel safari in india



Camel Safari Jaisalmer

Sightseeing Tour

At first we were really excited about the sightseeing tour. Adding more footage to our video of the famous sites in Jaisalmer seemed perfect. What we didn’t know is that our Guide spoke broken English, would spent half the time on the phone and whatever question asked, he would reply “Oh, yes, it’s a very old fort/temple/village”. I mean…really?! Obviously we weren’t happy at all. Maybe some people are happy to be driven around and that’s it. But we like to know the history, the secrets, the tales. We were in Rajasthan!! Surely there must be some story tales about princes, and princesses, forts, tombs, conquests, battles and invasions…. Nope! Our “guide” didn’t have anything to say.

Disappointed to the point we cut the “tour” short and asked to be taken to meet the camel safari guide. Obviously at this stage we both did not look happy at all. Beautiful sites and we left knowing as much as we knew before the tour, nothing! What a waste of a morning!

The Sightseeing Tour and Camel Safari had been organised by the Guesthouse where we were staying and we had to go back the next day to pick up our backpacks. So instead of trying to explain to this man, who could barely speak English, that he was indeed useless and should at least learn the basics of each site so the clients would be happy with his knowledge, we took a deep breath. Hoping the Camel Safari would at least make up for it.

things to see on a tour rajasthan Not impressed with our “Sightseeing Tour”

Riding a Camel in the Thar Desert

The night before our host sat with us and talked through about the Thar Desert. He said: “Please bear in mind 3 things: Thar Desert is not the Sahara Desert; it’s not isolated as you will see villages, animals and people; and it’s not all Sand Dunes”. I guess that gave us a hint: Do not compare it to Sahara Desert and it’s India, even in the Desert we will find people wandering around!
That surely didn’t matter or made us concerned, we were thrilled to be spending a night in the Desert, riding a camel and be the closest we will ever be (most probably) to Pakistan.

jaisalmer tourArriving at the Desert just before meeting our Camel Safari Guide, Salim.

Real Desert Man Camel Safari Jaisalmer

Salim, our Camel Safari Guide, was already packing up and getting the camels when we arrived. I had ridden a horse before when I was 7-8 years old, my brother used to ride quite a lot before, so I was not so nervous on coming face-to-face with Camels. Thomas, not so much. I could see he was very stiff, and once I told him that animals could smell our fear, he relaxed.

We had only male camels, amongst the three of us. Apparently, females are not suitable for riding, and during the mating season the males become quite aggressive. Interesting, right? I asked Salim: “So when is the mating season?”, Salim replied: “Now. You will see them trying to bite each other, because they are a little desperate”. We laughed nervously. The last thing we wanted was to fall from the camels and hurt ourselves! Luckily everything went well.

jaisalmer camel safariSalim and his three Camels: Johnny, Rock & Raj

Our Camel Safari in pictures:

desert man camel safariSalim is a Real Desert Man

the real desert manOur first meal and a special guest, Mister Goat! 

rajasthan camel safari tourCamels are HUGE!

couple private tour camel safariDesert Selfie!

best camel safari indiaThat time I stopped riding the camel because the pain was unbearable!

camel safari indiaStopping for dinner. Erm… Telma a little obsessed with that particular Camel hahaha

spending the night camel safariSalim preparing our dinner

Best Camel Safari in Jaisalmer

When looking out for a Camel Safari Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, people should consider these:

  • Don’t book the camel safari online, once in Jaisalmer ask the hostel where you are staying. If still not sure, approach tourists in town. Nothing better than word of mouth from fellow travellers.
  • We would strongly recommend people to go on a private tour, although it is a little pricier than a group tour, but you know the camels are well treated and fed. Also, you will get all the time for yourself with the camels and the guide. Salim, our Guide was a real desert man, it was incredible chatting to him for hours about his life in the desert and getting to know a little more about camels.
  • Best tours are the one where the guide cooks all your meals over an open fire. Always choose the vegetarian option and make sure the food is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients and vegetables. Water bottles must be unlimited.
  • More likely, if you chose a private tour, the guide will provide plenty of blankets and a mattress. Appreciate the small things in life, this is no luxury. For us, it was all about the experience.
  • It’s more fun having a camel to yourself. Sharing not only is boring, but also because it more weight for the camel to carry.

watching sunset jaisalmerSunset in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan

Camel Safari Travel Tips

Price – Don’t pay more than Rs2000 for a Guided Tour and Rs4000 for a Private Tour
Be adventurous – Stay for the night, without a tent
Pack light – All you need to bring is a warm jacket and socks (we took the thermal top & bottoms we wore when trekking to Everest Base Camp), headlamp, baby wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, power bank, spare batteries.
Don’t forget the desert sun is HOT – bring a hat/scarf to protect you from the sun and apply sunscreen often.
Master those photographic skills – We really wished we had a better camera or perhaps a better knowledge of photography. Sleeping in the desert without a tent, looking at the sky, the moon moving through the night, witnessing the night, the sunrise and the early dawn was such a magical moment.




Jaisalmer Accommodation

There are so many rooms available in Jaisalmer that sometimes is hard to make a decision. We strongly recommend the hostel we stayed at. The hosts are lovely and surely gave us an unforgettable, yet unique experience. Make sure you ask for Salim as the Camel Safari Guide. Our Camel Safari Jaisalmer was without doubt the highlight of our time in India.

When booking your room, before making the payment, there is a “coupon” tab (highlighted in green, above the total charge), use our discount code and get $25/£30 off your own booking. Our room was booked through Airbnb and the hostel can be found here.

With Thanks to India Someday for the sponsored train journeys during our time in Rajasthan.

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We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.

Getting the Indian Visa in Kathmandu

By Telma | 30 December 2016 | India | Travel Advice

Getting the Indian Visa in Kathmandu wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. We had envisaged long queues, communication breakdown, answered questions, filling the form wrongly, stress, etc. But everything ran smoothly.
Perhaps it helped that we were staying in Nepal for three months, so we did go to the Embassy to enquire about the process beforehand. Once we left with all the answers, we knew that getting the Indian tourist visa in Kathmandu was going to be fairly easy.
There is no way around it, unless you are a Bhutan or Nepali national, all other nationalities MUST obtain a visa before arriving in India.
Things change – prices go up and new requirements are implemented. At the time of writing (December 2016), this was the process for obtaining the Indian Visa in Kathmandu.

Please note: Not to be confused with the eTourist Visa (eTV), which the citizen of 113 countries are entitled to apply for a visa prior their arrival, for visits not exceeding 30 days. For more information, please click here.



Directions to the India Embassy in Kathmandu

From Thamel is about fifteen minutes walk heading north just off Lazimpath.

Address:
Embassy of India
,
336 Kapurdhara Marg,
Kathmandu, Nepal

Application hours are from Monday to Friday between 9.30am-12pm.

location of indian embassy

What you need to know before applying for the Indian tourist visa in Kathmandu (VT):

  • Allow 8-10 days as a minimum
  • Don’t apply for the tourist visa during the festivals or holidays in India (Either the office will be closed or the waiting time can take up to 1 month)
  • Bring the right amount of money  to pay for the visa in Nepalese Rupees
  • Apply in person at the India Embassy. Paying an agency will cost you twice as much
  • Don’t waste money on getting new passport pictures if these do not match the official requirements
  • Buying flights/bus tickets to India doesn’t necessary mean that you will obtain a visa nor will it speed up the process
  • Your passport MUST be valid for a period of six months or more before entering India
  • The visa starts from the date of issue, not from the date of arrival in India. So do not apply for the visa once you arrive in Nepal as that will be a waste of days from the visa itself

indian embassy

It requires 3 visits to obtain the Indian Tourist Visa. Let us tell you how we got ours:

Because we had time to spare in Kathmandu we chose to apply for the visa in person and visited the India Embassy nearly one month before applying for the visa as we wanted to know the official requirements, the waiting time and the costs. We couldn’t believe how much Thomas had to pay for his visa, a whopping Rs17,500/USD$155/GBP£125. Whereas I had to pay Rs4,850/USD$40/GBP£35 because I have a Portuguese Passport. 
Paying an agency was never an option, but we did pay for some help on filling out the form. During our first and second visit four people got their application rejected due to some errors. As we didn’t want that to happen to us, we opted on getting some guidance from the shop next to the embassy.
The staff are helpful and very quick; they have been doing it for years and know exactly the correct way of filling out the form. Getting some guidance and paying a small fee for it was better than having the visa process rejected. It saved us time and stress.
Showing that you have purchased a ticket to India before getting the Visa does not help you obtaining the Visa and it can still be rejected. Actually, they suggest only booking the tickets after the Visa is issued. This can be an expensive decision as the Visa starts on the day of issue. You must buy an outward ticket from Nepal within a few days or weeks after receiving it from the embassy.

indian visa in kathmandu




How to apply for the Indian Visa in Kathmandu:

  • Knowing the hostel/guesthouse address in India is an advantage
  • “No Religion” it’s not an option! 
  • “Unemployed” it’s also not an option! You must provide your Employer’s Address, but if like us, you don’t have a job back home, the last employer will suffice. I guess it’s a reassurance you make ends meet to travel.

Next door, at the shop, they will:

  • Download and fill in the form for you – Cost: NPR500
  • Take 2 passport pictures (Size 2-inch x 2-inch, 51mm x 51mm/white background) – Cost: NPR250
  • Make a copy of your passport front page and the Nepali visa

At the Embassy

Simple steps for obtaining the Indian Visa and Documents needed:

  • Application Form
  • 1 picture, 2×2 white background
  • Passport
  • Copy of Passport (first page)
  • Copy of Nepali Visa and/or last Indian Visa

There are 3 visits: 1st day, 5th working day and 6th working day

On the 1st day, after getting everything ready next door, we waited for our turn. Once they called our number, we handed in our application forms, paid and got a receipt with a stamp date, for the second visit, on the 5th working day. (First visit from 9.30am-12.30pm only)

On the 5th day, the lady told us the Visas got approved. We left our Passports at the Embassy and received the same receipt as day 1, with a second stamp date, for the 6th working day.
(Second visit from 9.30am-12.30pm only)

On the 6th day, we collected our Passports with our Visas! (Third visit from 5.00 pm-5.30pm only)

That’s it…We both got our 3 months India Visa!

For more information, check the India Visa online website.

application for the indian visa

Further reading: Lonely Planet India (Travel Guide) is a complete and all-inclusive guide for those wanting to experience and explore India. We strongly recommend reading this guide as it helped us planning our own trip.

Happy Travels!

Have you ever applied for the Indian Visa before?

applying for the india visa in kathmandu

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We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.

5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong

By Telma and Thomas | 5 September 2016 | Hong Kong | Travel Guides

Creating a 5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong was easy as we knew that staying longer would give us the opportunity to explore Hong Kong better. Majority of Hong Kong city guides suggests the most touristic parts of the city, leaving a lot of beautiful and interesting places out.
I (Telma) was lucky to have suggestions and advices of my two good friends, Jacky and Kit. Jacky is Hong Kong Chinese, having moved to London for over 18 years ago, Kit is a “BBC”, British Born Chinese, and visits Hong Kong regularly for work. So I knew I was in good hands! 
Their guidance helped us a lot because Hong Kong is a very big city, and not wanting to waste any time during our nine days’ stay, we wanted to make the most of it.
If you would like to know how to get started, read our Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget.
English is widely spoken, but we didn’t expect everyone to speak. There were times we had to rely solely on body language, sign language, miming and pointing. And Thomas is very good at it. It actually amazes me how well he can communicate when we are surrounded by people that do not speak our language! That’s just amazing, right? Oh the perks of knowing Sign Language!
So, we had an itinerary, a map, a local SIM card and we were ready to rock and roll!

Hong Kong Itinerary

The best way to explore Hong Kong is dividing the city in four areas. This way you can focus in each area on different days, and also spend quality time roaming around, take pictures, observe, and enjoy what this fantastic city has to offer. The four areas are:
Kowloon PeninsulaHong Kong IslandLantau IslandNew Territories

Our 5 Day Itinerary is about the best of Hong Kong by areas, how to get around and some useful tips.

things to do Hong Kong



What to See and Do in Hong Kong

Day 1 – Lantau Island

  • Ngong Ping Cable Car
  • Ngong Ping Village & Piazza
  • Po Lin Monastery
  • Big Buddha
  • Tai O Fishing Village

Visit the temple street market in Yau Ma Tei (Temple street market – only open at night – any night)

How to get there: In order to get to Lantau Island, you need to get the train to Tung Chung. Get the cable car to Ngong Ping. Make sure you arrive early to avoid the crowd and huge queues. Once you have visited all the places mentioned above, get the bus 21 down to Tai O Fishing Village. The ticket costs HKD$6/USD$0.70/GBP£0.50 and you can use the Octopus Card. At Tai O get on those little boats for HKD$25/USD$3/GBP£2, and enjoy the scenery, the houses above water and the sunset.
From Tai O, get the bus back to Tung Chung station directly and take the train to Yau Ma Tei for the temple street market. The local food includes ‘hot pot rice’, and deep fried oyster cake. Worth trying!

hong kong islands
lantau island buddha
things to do in hong kong
lantau island monastery

Day 2 – New Territories

How to get there: Start early in the morning. Get off at Sha Tin station and walk to Sha Tin Wai. We did this walk by mistake and got to see the locals dancing and exercise. Plus, the walk is very nice.
Go up the Monastery and be prepared for 430 steps in a concrete path uphill. Come back down the hill and make your way to Che Kung Temple, the museum is very close to the Temple.
Make sure you get to Diamond Hill station in plenty of time, The Nunnery closes at 4.30pm.

monastery hong kong

Day 3 – Northeast New Territories

  • Tai Mei Tuk
  • Sam Mun Tsai
  • Sam Kung Temple

How to get there: Make sure you have the morning and afternoon free for this. Get the train early morning to Tai Po Market. When you arrive get the 20C mini-bus and your last stop should be Tai Mei Tuk. Hire a bike from the village; this should cost around HKD$70/USD$9/GBP£7 for around 3-4 hours. Cycle and enjoy the scenery, the local villages, have lunch with the locals and visit the temples. Your cycling itinerary for the day should be Tai Mei Tuk – Sam Mun Tsai – Tai Mei Tuk.

outside hong kong

Day 4 – Hong Kong Island

  • Tsim Sha Tsui
  • Peak Tram
  • Victoria Peak
  • Mid-Levels Escalator
  • Lan Kwai Fong (Soho)
  • Tsim Sha Tsui – Symphony of Lights (at night)

How to get there: In the morning stop at Tsim Sha Tsui for pictures of the iconic buildings at Hong Kong Island. Here you can find Chungking Mansions, but don’t be fooled by the name. It’s just cheap accommodation, from Hostels to Guesthouses, aiming at the budget travellers.
 Get to Central Station and queue for the Peak Tram. Have lunch at The Peak. The scenery is amazing!
 Get the bus down town and experience that crazy ride going downhill.
Visit the Mid-Levels Escalators. Have a coffee or tea around Lan Kwai Fong.
Finish your day going back to Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront (be there by 8pm for the Laser show.
 Experience the nightlife at Lan Kwai Fong (next to the mid-level escalator).

the view from Victoria Peak

Day 5 – Kowloon

  • Mong Kok
  • Sham Shui Po for Apliu Street

Tip: Spend the day exploring this area. You will find cheap markets, all sort of electronic stuff, shopping centres, street food. Walk around at night to experience the colourful billboards in every street.

famous hong kong



Hong Kong Day Trips

From the original plan, we missed out on Sai Kung Country Park and Ping Shan Heritage Trail. These places require two full days, which we didn’t have. The jet lag was an awful experience and the first two days was really hard for us. We kept postponing a few plans for the following days and ended up not having time for everything.

  • Sai Kung Country Park
  • Ping Shan Heritage Trail

How to get there: The trail is right at the edge of Hong Kong with the border of China, it will take an hour and a half to get there. People usually spend 4-5 hours hiking. A bottle of water and wearing comfortable walking/hiking footwear are a must. The area is very traditional Chinese and has the “old” Hong Kong look.

Suggestions on how to plan an itinerary for Hong Kong:

  • Plan extra time for the arrival and departure days, traffic to/from the airport can be an issue
  • Most probably you will suffer from jet lag, so don’t be hard on yourself, take a morning/afternoon off
  • Book your accommodation around Kowloon area, it’s close to everything you need and it is much cheaper than other areas in town. We always book our rooms through Airbnb. Get $25/£30 discount on your booking using our code.
    Book an extra day or two and fit the above itinerary in between
  • Visit Macau
  • Read our Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget

Special Thanks:

Our trip in Hong Kong would have not been possible without the suggestions, advice & tips from Jacky Cheung and Kit Lee.

Further reading: Lonely Planet Hong Kong (Travel Guide) is a complete and all-inclusive guide for those wanting to experience and explore Hong Kong. We strongly recommend reading this guide as it helped us planning our own trip.

Happy Travels!

Have we forgotten anything? Are you planning on visiting Hong Kong?

the best of hong kong itinerary

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Thank-You for Readingfiji islands travel blog

We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.

Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget

By Telma and Thomas | 4 September 2016 | Hong Kong | Travel Guides

Hong Kong was a city we had long wanted to visit, so we were happy it was on our itinerary. Luckily we had a help of two friends during the planning stage and although there is a lot of information online about it, we were concerned on how much visiting Hong Kong would cost and what to visit while out there. Our itinerary was divided into four areas, not only this is the absolute best way to explore the city, but also because we wanted to have enough time to enjoy it fully and take lots of pictures! Hong Kong was the first destination when we left London, back in November 2015.
This travel guide has useful tips for people wanting to visit, and it shows that Hong Kong can be done on a budget. A very useful resource was Discover Hong Kong website, which helped us a lot on putting some ideas forward before arriving.

Against all suggestions and itineraries online, we spent nine amazing days exploring this incredible city and some hidden gems in the neighbourhoods. From dirty hallways at the Chungking Mansions, navigating through the MTR, cycling in the countryside, spending the day discovering villages outside the city, taking the ferry to see the glorious skyline, to shopping in Mong Kong’ street markets. During our stay we had enough time to get over the jet lag, get some rest, edit pictures/videos and do a little research about the next destination.
Looking back, we would have liked to have stayed two weeks instead, because Hong Kong is just amazing and we couldn’t get enough of this hectic city!

travel tips hong kong



Hong Kong Travel Guide

Hong Kong must be one of the most fascinating cites in the world. The city welcomes with the best food you have ever tasted, an iconic skyline and breathtaking harbour, one of the world’s easiest transport system, mountainous country parks and diverse landscapes where a combination of rural and urban life comes to life.
Hong Kong is captivating; this city just has it all.

Minimum stay: 5 days. We stayed 9 days – which included 2 half days and a day trip to Macau.

Best time to go to Hong Kong: During the cooler, dry season, from October to January. Avoid travelling on Public Holidays, China’s major holidays: Lunar New Year, the first week of May and the first week of October. All tourist attractions will be crowed at these times.

How to explore Hong Kong: The best way to explore Hong Kong is to divide the city into four areas. This way you can focus in each area on different days.
Kowloon Peninsula – Hong Kong Island – Lantau Island – New Territories

Read our 5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong for more information on how to explore this amazing city.

hong kong travel guide

How to get started

Buy a SIM Card:
At the airport go to the CSL kiosk (small yellow shop) and buy an 8-day SIM card for HKD$118/USD$15/GBP£11. You will be surprised how much internet you really need in this hectic city!

Buy an Octopus Card:
Public transport in Hong Kong is excellent! Frequent ferries between the islands, a huge bus network, a great tram system and an excellent underground railway, known as the MTR.
The Octopus card requires a HKD$50 deposit (USD$6/GBP£4), which is refundable at the end of your stay. For 8 days we topped up ours with HKD$200/USD$25/GBP£18 each. The Octopus card is rechargeable, valid on the MTR, most forms of public transport, some restaurants and convenience stores.
It is very simple to get around and the Octopus Card is without a doubt the cheapest way.

Transportation to/from the Airport:
There are 3 ways to get to Kowloon Peninsula from the Airport.
Airport Express (HKD$90/USD$11/GBP£8), which is the fastest way but also the most expensive. Get a Taxi (HKD$300/USD$35/GBP£25). Or by Bus (Bus number A21) (HKD$33/USD$4/GBP£3), which takes approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on the traffic. But is the best way to start your stay in Hong Kong and you will most probably meet fellow backpackers on the way to the city.

bus hong kong

Stay within your budget in Hong Kong

Accommodation:
• Stay at Chungking Mansions (at Tsim Sha Tsui) or Sincere House (at Mong Kok), there are plenty of Guesthouses & Hostels to choose from
We really recommend booking through Airbnb. Get $25/£30 discount on your booking using our code. You can get great deals for a private room or the entire flat, if you prefer
Avoid staying at Hong Kong Island; it is expensive compared to the other areas

Food:
• Look out for local restaurants, meals can cost HKD$25/USD$3/GBP£2 around Kowloon Peninsula
• During lunch times, many restaurants offer great deals
• Enjoy the street food as much as you can, it is filling and cheap

Free things to do in Hong Kong

There are a lot of free things to do in Hong Kong, so you can give your daily budget (and your wallet) a break. Here are some of the places that are free of charge which we visited:

• Visit the Top Three Museums for free (Wednesdays only) – Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Space Museum, Hong Kong Science Museum
• Visit the local markets, as these offer the cheapest clothes, electronics and all those “fake” brands & gadgets
Victoria Harbour
Symphony of Lights – Laser Show, everyday at 8pm
The Peak Galleria (even though you must pay to get there, either by bus or by tram, it will not cost you a thing to walk around the Peak)
10,000 Buddha’s Monastery
Mid-Levels Escalator

If you would like to know more on what to see and do while in Hong Kong read our 5 Day Itinerary for Hong Kong for more information.

what to see in hong kong

Further reading: Lonely Planet Hong Kong (Travel Guide) is a complete and all-inclusive guide for those wanting to experience and explore Hong Kong. We strongly recommend reading this guide as it helped us planning our own trip.

Happy Travels!

Have we missed out on anything?

what to see and do in hong kong

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Thank-You for Readingfiji islands travel blog

We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

Let us inspire you to explore the world through the sharing of our experiences, stories, videos and useful tips. Click here to know more about our journey.

How to Road Trip the South Island – New Zealand

By Telma and Thomas | 1 September 2016 | New Zealand | Travel Guides

New Zealand has everything your adventurous soul can only dream about. Never short of options, people can drive through spectacular scenery, hike a glacier, swim with dolphins, go trekking, star gazing, sea kayaking, join some exhilarating activities, witness gorgeous sunsets and sunrises… really this country has it all.

Like many people who visit New Zealand, we wanted to see as much as we could, but once there we soon realised that all we needed was extra time. Or perhaps, fewer plans!

Not only because the distances between towns are huge, but also because there is so much to do and see. If we go back and I hope we will, we will definitely focus on some specific areas rather than trying to see everything at once. Our South Island road trip was amazing, we did have some wonderful experiences, but we definitely planned way too much and ended up being burnt out at the end of it. But NO regrets! Because we enjoyed every minute of it!

renting a car and driving the south island



Road Trip the South Island – New Zealand 

We spent 15 days driving from Christchurch to Picton, clockwise, and tried to see as much as possible. During the planning stage of the road trip we realised that it would be impossible to do it all. The Island has so many wonderful places, that we would need months to really explore it fully.

The truth is, we didn’t follow the original itinerary because we just couldn’t fit in everything that we had written down. We thought we could, but the weather, the roads, our mood, or sometimes just spending a few hours looking at the scenery around us, made us take it slow and appreciate it more.

Planning is difficult when you haven’t actually experienced the reality of it. Factoring in the amount of time to spend somewhere is just a fantasy as it will always change if you want to explore further or love somewhere so much you just have to spend more time there. Soon we realised that driving for more than eight hours a day wasn’t something that we were looking forward to do.

Our New Zealand itinerary is designed for people who choose to self-drive as this is the absolute best way to see and experience what New Zealand has to offer.

new-zealand-south-island-map

Photo credit: 100% Pure New Zealand

Trip Highlights: 1 – Christchurch; 2 – Lake Tekapo & Lake Pukaki; 3 – Oamaru; 4- Moeraki; 5 – Baldwin Street; 6 – Sandly Beach; 7 – Otago Peninsula; 8 – Tunnel Beach; 9 – Te Anau; 10 – Milford Sound; 11- Queenstown; 12 – Glenorchy; 13 – Wanaka; 14 – Fox Glacier; 15 – Hokitika; 16 – Punakaiki; 17 – Lake Rotoiti; 18 – Thorpe (staying in a Yurt); 19 – Motueka (Sea Kayaking); 20 – Picton (Ferry to Wellington)

South Island Two Week Itinerary

On the 29th February 2016 we landed at Christchurch International Airport in the morning. We picked up our rental car and got settled in.
Below is the exact South Island driving itinerary that we followed and the highlights of two weeks. Hopefully this travel guide will give other travellers an idea of what to do and see in the South Island.

Christchurch – Afternoon

  • Christchurch Cathedral
  • Cuba Street

1st night – Christchurch

Aoraki / Mount Cook

  • Lake Tekapo
  • Lake Pukaki
  • Mount Cook

2nd night – Oamaru – public car park

Oamaru

  • Town & Harbour

On route to Otago Peninsula

  • Moeraki Boulders (make sure it’s low tide)
  • Baldwin Street, the steepest residential street in the world
  • Sandfly Beach

3rd night – Dunedin – public car park

Dunedin

On route to Te Anau

  • The Arch at Tunnel Beach 
  • Southern Scenic Route

4th night – Lumsden – public car park

Milford Sound

  • Te Anau
  • Milford Highway – Mountains & waterfalls cascades
  • Mirror Lakes 

5th night – Frankton (Queenstown) – public car park

Queenstown

6th night – Arrowtown

what to see in the south island new zealand Top – Left to Right: Lake Tekapo; Church of the Good Shepherd | Bottom – Left to Right: Albatross Colony; Tunnel Beach

things to see in new zealand Left to Right: Moeraki Boulders; Glenorchy

Queenstown

  • Glenorchy

7th night – Arrowtown

Lake Wanaka

  • Puzzle World
  • Lake Wanaka
  • Lake Hawea
  • Lake Paringa (Through Mt Aspiring National Park)

8th night – Lake Paringa – Paid car park

Fox Glacier 

  • Fox River
  • Gillespies Beach

9th night – Gillespies Beach (Fox Glacier)

Fox Glacier

On route to Hokitika

  • Hokitika Town

10th night – Hokitika – public car park

Greymouth (Heavy rain through the whole day so we stayed in MacDonald’s, for free Wi-Fi and editing pictures & videos)

11th night – Greymouth Car Park

Punakaiki

  • Pancake Rocks & Blowholes

On route to Nelson

  • Lake Rotoiti – Jetty

12th night – Alpine Hostel, St Arnauld

our itinerary road trip in new zealand Top – Left to Right: Lake Wanaka; Mt Aspiring National Park | Bottom – Left to Right: Fox Glacier; Pancake Rocks

Day 13

Thorpe

13th Night – We spent the night on a Yurt 

Thorpe

Abel Tasman National Park

14th Night – We spent the night on a Yurt

Picton

15th night – Alexander Holiday Park



South Island Road Trip Recommendations:

The best suggestion I could give to a fellow traveller is to have their own transportation. Like us, we wanted flexibility, so going at our own pace was the best decision.

For the solo traveler, hitchhiking in New Zealand is very popular, we actually offered countless car rides. Oh and of course, make sure you have a camera and spare batteries to capture those unforgettable moments, because everywhere is “postcard perfect”.

Once we left, we understood why New Zealand is on many people’s bucket list and as much as you plan, one trip will never be enough!

  • Get a Free NZ Map at the airport – The best one is YHA Hostel Guide (Google Maps will not always work due to bad reception)
  • When planning your itinerary DO add a few extra hours per day for: Lunch/Dinner, stretching your legs, pictures/videos, looking for free car parks/accommodation
  • Try not to drive more than 6 -7 hours per day. It’s not worth it.
  • There are two long drives:
    – Te Anau to Milford Sound – up to 2 hours one way
    – Wanaka to Fox Glacier/ Franz Josef – up to 4.5 hours.
    (Add some extra time, there are some beautiful spots on route. Make sure you fill up the tank before both trips).
  • Bring insect repellent, at dusk sand flies are unbearable.
  • Buy a USB car adapter so you can charge two devices at the same time.
  • Stock up with bin bags. You will not find a bin that easily in some parts of the country side.
  • We booked all our accommodation through Airbnb (use our code and get $25/£30 discount on your booking). It was the best way to get some beautiful houses, like the Yurt we stayed in Thorpe (picture below), meet the locals and enjoy the relaxed pace of life. If you are looking for accommodation in New Zealand, join Airbnb.

our yurt room in the south island new zealand

How much does a Road Trip in the South Island Cost?

Below is a breakdown of our costs:

Christchurch 1 night – NZ$57
Queenstown 2 nights – NZ$170
St Arnauld 1 night – NZ$69
Thorpe 2 nights – NZ$110
Camping Sites 9 nights – NZ$200

Total Cost for 15 nights: NZ$606/USD$440/GBP£335
Per night:
NZ$40/USD$30/GBP£22

Total Cost for 15 days: NZ$430/USD$315/GBP£240
Per Day: NZ$28/USD$21/GBP£16
Queenstown Skyline – NZ$64/USD$46/GBP£35
Heli Hike – NZD$798/USD$580/GBP£445
Sea Kayaking – Cost: NZ$150/USD$108/GBP£83

Total Cost: NZ$1,012/USD$734/GBP£563

Car Hire (Car + full cover zero excess) – NZ$675/USD$490/GBP£375
Petrol – NZ$370/USD$265/GBP£200
Ferry from Picton to Wellington – NZ$138/USD$100/GBP£75

Total Cost for 15 days: NZ$1,183/USD$855/GBP£650

Total

The total for 15 days in the South Island was NZ$3,231/USD$2,344/GBP£1,788
Per day: NZ$215/USD$156/GBP£119 – For two people

New Zealand is an expensive country, and there is nothing we could do about it.
We slept inside the car for 9 nights in car parks to save money but gave in a few times for a bed, the car hire was the cheapest we could find, and petrol is just ridiculously expensive, We only chose 3 activities and all our food (apart from the Fergburger in Queenstown and a meal at the hostel in St Arnauld) was from the supermarkets.
So looking at it, we did pretty well! We just can’t see where we could have saved more money. Ok, the Heli Hike! But that was something that we really wanted to do.

Overall we are very happy with the outcome, and hopefully it will give people an idea of how much money they will need to travel the South Island.

Further reading: Lonely Planet New Zealand (Travel Guide) is a complete and all-inclusive guide for those wanting to experience and explore New Zealand. We strongly recommend reading this guide as it helped us planning our own trip.

Happy Travels!

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We are Thomas and Telma – the writers, photographers, videographers and founders of Blank Canvas Voyage.

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