The Spiritual Capital of India – Varanasi

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By Telma | 24 January 2017 | India | Travel Guides

“Brace yourself. You’re about to enter one of the most blindingly colourful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth.”

~ Lonely Planet

If there is a city that inspires love and hate at the same time, that will be Varanasi.
In India, where some of the most important religions were founded, Varanasi is one of the most sacred in the world. Known as “the spiritual capital of India” it is regarded as one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities. Hindu pilgrims believe that visiting this holy city and bathing in the Ganges River’s sacred waters will purify their souls. Everyday men in underpants, women in saris, children and the elderly go to these Ghats (stone-paved cremation platforms with steps leading down to the water) and bathe in the holy water to wash away their sins or to attend cremation ceremonies. From dawn to dusk spiritual practices take place in public, in devotion of their Goddess – Ganga. Thousands chanting Mantras, bathing into the icy-cold water, every day, every hour as they “free themselves from the cycle of death and rebirth”. These rituals, the river, smells, cows, goats, dogs and people, all at once around the Ghats can be overwhelming, to say the least!
But Varanasi isn’t only one of the oldest and most religious cities in the world, it is without doubt a city that captivates you, that leaves you speechless. Varanasi is an experience.

things to do varanasi

varanasi everyday

ganges river varanasi

sadhu varanasi

About Varanasi

Arriving in Varanasi and looking around, our first impression wasn’t great, in all honesty. Is this a “Holy city” or a “Chaotic mess”? We have seen dirt, experienced crowded places and unpleasant smells lingering around but Varanasi it’s on another level. This is real!
From the first step outside the Guesthouse to returning back, it was a constant struggle with things, animals, people! Touts following us trying to sell anything and everything to the point they would grab our arms to get our attention. Sadhus (Holy Man) trying to shake our hands and touch our heads, shouting in the end because they were actually demanding money. Rickshaw and Tuk Tuk drivers wouldn’t leave us alone and literally followed us everywhere. Children begging for money, no I am not talking about one child at a time, I mean 8-10 children surrounding us at once. The stray dogs it’s heartbreaking! We lost count how many there are roaming around; broken legs or legless, covered in wounds, skinny, starving…So sad to a westerner’s thinking.
And last but not least…let’s talk about the cows. They are everywhere! Ok, it’s fine, they are cute and harmless. But there were roads that it was impossible NOT to step on cow’s dung. I mean seriously? No, I am not exaggerating. Perhaps I can show a few pictures…

holy cow varanasi

cows everywhere varanasi

india sacred cows

Besides all the madness Varanasi has its good points: interesting people, great vegetarian/vegan food, amazing history sites and a relaxed pace of life. No wonder there are so many westerners. After all, Varanasi might be the place to be.

Top Things To Do in Varanasi

Walking around the Old City

Ditch Google Maps. Get lost and enjoy the experience! Yummy street food, some of the coolest, trendiest cafés in town, vegetable markets, street vendors, hidden temples, thousands of people, rickshaws, cows, goats, chickens, dogs… the list goes on.

people streets of varanasi

what to do varanasi

travel guide varanasi

Visit the River Ganges Ghats

There are 80+ Ghats bordering the river and most were built 1700 AD. Yes Varanasi is an old city, dating back 3000 years ago. So how can anyone not feel the goose bumps while there?!
Anyway a good start would be from Assi Ghat all the way down to Manikarnika Ghat. Some are busier than others, due to its religious practices and number of attendees.

varanasi people at the river

Here are the most important Ghats in Varanasi:

Assi Ghat – A place of worshiping Lord Shiva, pilgrims bathe here before any rituals take place. As its location is at the far extreme south of the river, the area is less crowded.
Chet Singh Ghat – The old Fort represents more of a historical symbol than a cremation site itself. Maharaja Chet Singh built the fort during the 18th century battle with the British.
Darbhanga Ghat – The Royal family of Bihar built the palace early 1900s. The Ghat is amongst the favourites in Varanasi due to its architecture.
Scindhia Ghat – There is a partially submerged Shiva Temple at the water’s edge. Some cremations happen here during the day.
Dasaswamedh Ghat – This is the main Ghat and ultimately the oldest and holiest of all. It’s where the Ganga Aarti ceremony takes place every evening.
Manikarnika Ghat – Here is where it all happens! The busiest Ghat in Varanasi. According to one of the locals “up to 100 bodies are cremated here every day”.

assi ghat

chet singh ghat

ghat to visit varanasi

varanasi ceremony ghat

cremations varanasi

things to do varanasi

Boat Tour on the Ganges River

Hold your breath! You will be haggling a lot for this boat ride! Be smart, if you have time (and patience), ask around first and see what these men have on offer. Some might be knowledgeable of the Ghats, others not so much. And that is why time is needed here, so you can get a glimpse of what they know. Our boat ride, along with our friend Peter, was at Rs100/USD1.50/GBP1.20 each.
Now, were we 100% satisfied with the service? Not bad, but could have been better because we agreed one hour and only made it to Dasaswamedh Ghat within 45 minutes. Also, the man refused to carry on, saying he had to row back and it would take time. At the end he demanded a tip… me being me, I laughed and walked off. Obviously!

boat ganges river

Attend the Aarti Ceremony

Every day, regardless of the weather, the Aarti Ceremony takes place at sunset (7pm in the summer, 6pm in the winter) at Dasaswamedh Ghat. The flow of pilgrims, Sadhus, Priests, beggars, homeless and flower sellers, is enchanting. Oh, and the cows, of course!
It is a spectacular, must-see ceremony with a lot of meaning in a spiritual context and for non-Hindus it is still a fascinating ritual to be able to witness.
The ceremony is a devotion for the Goddess Ganges, Lord Shiva and symbolizes the five elements: Akash (Space); Vayu (Wind); Agni (Fire); Jal (Water); Prithvi (Earth). A group of young pandits (Hindu Priests) perform the highly-choreographed ceremony using fire, water, incense, and many other elements. During the ritual, there is music and dancing in circular movements that represent the presence of the Gods in everyone’s life.
The ceremony lasts for one hour and cannot be missed!

evening ceremony varanasi

evening ceremony varanasi

Travel Tips for Varanasi

  • Don’t be fooled, man will try and get you on a rickshaw for twice the money or will convince you to hire him as a Guide for the day. Always ask the host at the hostel/guesthouse for recommendations.
  • Don’t lose your appetite. For us, the street food in Varanasi wasn’t very appealing to say the least, but don’t worry there are some options. Check the list of Restaurants in Varanasi. Aum Café located in Assi Ghat was our favourite!
  • Say NO more often. People will grab your hands, arms and chase you. It’s exhausting. Be prepared for the odd man shouting back because you ignored him. Don’t be embarrassed ad walk away.
  • Observe the everyday life and immerse yourself in Varanasi!

varanasi cremation ghats

boat at varanasi

varanasi itinerary

varanasi ghats and people

holy man of varanasi

varanasi people

So after all, you must be thinking “I would have left straight away!” But you know, this is it, this is part of India. This is why there is no other place like Varanasi; its uniqueness makes it one of a kind. Thousands come for “soul searching”, for its spiritual practices, a “once in a lifetime experience”. Although we both don’t share the spiritual connection, we did “enjoy” the chaos.
There is a love-hate relationship towards Varanasi amongst travellers, and I don’t blame people for it. In all honesty isn’t the most pleasant place to be. And one massive piece of advice, for people that are planning a visit to India, DO NOT start in Varanasi. I feel not many will be able to cope with it.
After all, who said people come to India for a holiday? You don’t see India, you experience India.

Thanks to our friend Peter we had delicious meals in Varanasi! His recommendations were spot on! While in Varanasi we spent a lot of time together. And it was such a pleasure to be surrounded by good energy. We met him in Kathmandu, a few weeks after coming back from Everest Base Camp. And by the look of it, we will meet many times more in India. Cheers buddy!

Is Varanasi on your travel list? Let us know in the comments below.

india varanasi

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Agra Travel Guide – Beyond the Taj Mahal

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By Telma | 10 January 2017 | India | Travel Guides

Visiting Agra is like stepping down from a time machine. The city located on the banks of the river Yamuna has many splendid Mughal-era buildings, dating back the 15th and 16th century. Early morning, a very slow start: vendors setting up their shops, dogs and cows hunting for the first meal of the day, rickshaw drivers gather and the streets start filling up with people and cars. Just another day in Agra.
Understanding the lifestyle and the everyday life is not easy for a westerner; life here is different, but its people are proud of their roots. Even though for us, it is like living hundreds of years back in time.
Once in Agra, the most visited city in India, we already knew that one of Agra’s points of interest was the Taj Mahal, but surely there was more to explore. The city has amazing sites; a splendid fort, fascinating tombs, beautiful gardens, the bustling of the local vendors and its people, make it a very exciting city to explore and worth spending a few days wandering around. Agra, as many other Indian tourist destinations, must be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s busy, loud, not so clean, too many rickshaws, everyone wants to take a picture with you and the constant pestering of children offering to be a guide for the day or insisting that you visit their uncle’ shop! All of this is a huge culture shock and can be tiring and stressful if you are not prepared for it. But not enough to forget the magical attractions of the city.

agra travel guide

The obsession of visiting the Taj Mahal draws people from all over the world and regardless of all the hype, the monument really does live it up to its fame. People often visit for the day, coming from Delhi on a tourist bus. After being here, we cannot believe that people chose a day-trip. Not only is it a very rushed visit but also because by the time they arrive at the 
Taj Mahal it’s nearly impossible to take good pictures, appreciate it and make the most of it. As early at 10 am, there are already endless queues. If you can, extend your trip.

However, there is a world beyond the Taj Mahal. Let us convince you to to stay longer with our Agra Travel Guide.

agra points of interest

people of agra

everyday india

Agra Travel Guide: Why Agra is not only about the Taj Mahal

Things To Do in Agra

The history of Agra is complex, it’s easy to shut your eyes and imagine the emperors, the battles, the palaces, its princes and princesses; it’s a fairy-tale city. Not wanting to waste any time, we started exploring this little gem.

Beyond the Taj Mahal located in the city-center are Itimad-ud-Daulah and Agra Fort (UNESCO World Heritage site). To the west Akbar’s Mausoleum and a little further, on the other side of the river, Mehtab Bagh.

Itimad-ud-Daulah

baby taj mahal

agra baby taj mahal

day trip baby taj mahal

baby taj looks like

places to visit agra

what to visit agra

Also known as Baby Taj, is considered the first Mughal structure in India built out of white marble. Apparently, it was built as a draft for the construction of the Taj Mahal.
The mausoleum was commissioned by Nur Jahan for her father who was honored with the title of Itmau-ud-Daula (Pillar of the state). It’s quite a small site to visit, but worth it for its architecture.
Entry Fee: Rs200/USD$3/£2.50

Agra Fort

places of interest agra

agra tourism

inside the red fort

Located on the banks of the river Yamuna was built in the 15th Century by Emperor Akbar and was the main residence of many emperors of the Mughal Dynasty. Also, known as the Red Fort, beyond its walls are palaces, both in red sandstone and white marble, all added by the Emperor’s grandson, Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal). Due to its structure the fort is described as a walled palatial city as it had later become a palace. It’s an impressive site to visit!
Entry Fee: Rs500/USD$7/£5

Inside the fort, these are a few places that caught our eye:

agra palaces

Khas Mahal – white marble palace

red fort palace

Diwan-i-Aam – used as communications ground between the public and the aristocracy

places to visit agra

Musamman Burj – octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal (where Shah Jahan spent his last 8 years imprisoned looking at the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife)

Akbar’s Mausoleum is the tomb of Akbar, The Great Emperor of the Mughal Dynasty. Built by himself while still alive, Akbar could not complete the entire work, leaving his son with the responsibility to make it the final resting place for the greatest emperor of the Mughal rule. The red sandstone mausoleum is a beautifully carved four-tiered building and its upper chamber is made of white marble. The three-storey minarets at each corner are also built of red sandstone with white-marble geometric patterns.
A curiosity regarding the tomb, is that contrary to other Muslim structures, the mausoleum is turned towards the rising sun and not towards Mecca.
Entry Fee: Rs200/USD$3/£2.50

interesting places agra

visiting agra palaces

places to visit agra

interesting places to visit india

Mehtab Bagh or “moonlit garden” is situated to the north of the Taj Mahal across the river Yamuna. The garden was an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex comprising of the mausoleum (Taj Mahal) set in a charbagh (a Persian-style garden layout). The aim of the garden was to provide a tranquil and magical setting to view the Taj Mahal in moonlight across the river. We decided to go only because we had seen beautiful pictures of the Taj Mahal across the river, but this is just an ordinary garden. Worth it if you are into photography.
Entry Fee: Rs200/USD$3/£2.50

beyond taj mahal

Last but not least…

Visiting the Taj Mahal

Of course, once in Agra, we could not ignore a visit to the famous Taj Mahal.
Built stone by stone with a story of eternal love, the Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. People from all the world visit the mausoleum of white-ivory-marble, built between 1631 and 1648. And the truth is, the monument simply captivates you. Taj Mahal, one of its kind in the world is a monumental labour of love from the Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child. This enchanting mausoleum took 22 years to complete with the help of an estimated 20,000 workers. Taj Mahal is “the jewel of Muslim art in India’, as per UNESCO and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage. The details of the structure are enough to leave you speechless.
Entry Fee: RS1000/USD$14/£11

taj mahal agra

Best Time to Visit the Taj Mahal

We were intrigued by its beauty but the weather in Northern India in December is not at its best and at 8am the fog partially covered the monument. And by that time, the site was crowded. Not a good start! But there was nothing we could have done. Arriving at the opening time of 6am, would have been a waste of time because the fog is dense and sometimes impossible to see anything as far as 50 metres. We walked around taking as many pictures as we could, filmed our Christmas Message video, appreciated the architecture and wondered around the mausoleum for a few hours. By 11am, it was “impossible” to walk around due to the number of people.
The best time would be October-November (after the monsoon) and just before it gets really hot, February-March.

taj mahal best pictures

best tips for taj mahal

taj mahal visit tips

best time to visit taj mahal

Agra has a rich heritage, culturally and architecturally. But, as any other Indian city, it has its downside. Often seen by the western world as the “not-so-nice-India. Poverty, litter, dust and smells are real, and enough for anyone to hate the city. No road signs, cows, monkeys, goats, rickshaws, cars, buses, children begging….it’s chaos. But all runs smoothly, for them!! Don’t be too hasty, beyond the negatives it is really a fascinating city. The only way to enjoy is to see beyond the dirt, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural side of the city.
Coming to Agra is to understand and accept that people live differently, they have their own ways. We are there for a mere few days or in many situations just for a few hours. While there we made the most of it: walked around, talked to people, took pictures, slowed down and observed the daily life. The results were fascinating, we got amazing pictures out of it.
The monuments, the palaces and the strong religious influence in Agra is enough to leave you with a taste of what the Indian life was like a few centuries ago.

people of india

Special Thanks:

We would like to thank my dear friend Rahul Jain and his wife Priya for driving us to Agra and organising some of the sightseeing. Thank-You brother for being a great friend and welcoming us in your family home.

Is the Taj Mahal on your bucket list?

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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.

Exploring The Yasawa Islands on a Budget

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By Telma and Thomas | 24 August 2016 | Fiji | Travel Guides

Gone are the days that visiting the Yasawa Islands on a budget or knowing which Yasawa Islands to visit was nearly impossible, why? Because nowadays there are resorts across the islands to suit everyone’s budget, from basic backpacking style to luxurious resorts. To be honest pretty much all of them have stunning locations, so people will be saved from disappointment.

But if you really want those “picture perfect” beaches, then make your way up to the northern islands to the famous Blue Lagoon. This is the most popular backpacker’s route on the Yasawa Islands, starting south and finishing north at a beautiful resort next to some pristine waters.

The Yasawa Islands are one of the most stunning regions in Fiji. Consisting of a chain of 20 ancient volcanic islands, four of these have dramatic elevations with summits of 600 meters above sea level.
If you love white-sand isolated beaches, crystal-clear waters, palm-fringed islands, cliffs, bays and reefs, then this is the right place for you!

fiji yasawa islands look like

A Travel Guide to the Yasawa Islands

Our suggestion is to research thoroughly, decide what suits your budget, what do you want to do and see. The Yasawa Islands offer a variety of activities, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, great hiking trails, kayaking, sunset cruises, caving, fishing and, what we chose, snorkeling with manta rays (seasonal) and reef sharks.

Another way to find out more is to read reviews on Tripadvisor for each resort. Well, take in those reviews with “a pinch of salt”, because some are just really petty to take into consideration, but majority are spot on and very useful when it comes helping out on making a decision.

Visiting the Yasawa Islands can be done on a budget, if like us, people choose to stay a few nights only and visit specific islands. The further north you go, the most expensive it becomes.

enjoying fiji time

How to get to the Yasawa Islands

From Port Denarau (Nadi) and Lautoka by Catamarans
Water Taxis
Seaplane from Nadi
Tip: From Nadi get on the yellow One Dollar bus to Port Denarau
Cost: FJD$1/ USD$0.45/GBP£0.35

What did we choose

We decided not to buy the Bula Pass from Awesome Adventures, as we only wanted to visit two islands, but if travellers are planning on visiting the islands for several days, we suggest looking at their website, as it will work out much cheaper. Also we went during Low Season (May), so the resorts were not crowed. Actually one night we had a 6-bed dorm to ourselves.

Kuata – 2 nights
Snorkelling with reef sharks
Drawaqa (Barefoot Manta) – 2 nights
Swimming with manta rays (seasonal, from May to October only)

Be aware that Awesome Adventures offers “coconut grading accommodation”, which they identify three levels of accommodation. But from what we saw, Coconut 1 and Coconut 2 are not much different apart from ‘appearance’ of the facilities – old vs new.
Both are very clean and nice looking. So it’s not worth paying FJD$30/ USD$15/GBP£10 more just for “looks”. Unless you are on a romantic getaway, or want your own space,  then you should definitely upgrade to Coconut 3, where you get your own bure.

backpacking fiji

Things you need to know before booking your trip to the Yasawa Islands

  • The meal plan is compulsory
  • It’s more likely that you will be hungry between meals, so bring snacks
  • Buy water, minimum 6 liters
  • Avoid buying toiletries on the islands, it’s very expensive
  • When booking your trip:
    Add up the activities
    Make sure the meal plan IS included on your Package
  • It’s pretty much “cash only” policy, so withdraw money at Port Denarau
  • Do not book your return date to Port Denarau on the evening of a flight! Expect delays.

Personal Note
While these islands are indeed beautiful and one of the main reasons people visit Fiji, it’s not a reflection of what life in the mainland is about. People’s perception, and ours before arriving, is that Fiji is all about relaxing on a hammock and swimming in flawless turquoise waters.
But this is far from reality.
The area is made up for tourists, therefore all you have is western prices and tourists. The only Fijians that you see are the workers, majority of them from the neighbourhood islands where the real village life is.
If you are planning on visiting Fiji, we would strongly recommend you to not be so hasty in getting the Catamaran to the paradisiac islands but to stay a few days in the mainland and visit other areas (Suva), where you get to experience the real Fijian life and culture. And if you do have time, you should not rule out a trip to Taveuni.

yasawa islands travel

How much Travelling to the Yasawa Islands Cost? – Prices shown below are per person

Awesome Adventures Catamaran

Port Denarau – Kuata – FJD$147/USD$70/GBP£55
Kuata – Barefoot Manta – FJD$95/USD$45/GBP£35
Barefoot Manta – Port Denarau – $168 FJD$168/ USD$80/GBP£60

Total: FJD$410/USD$195/GBP£150

Per night – FJD$51/USD$25/GBP£15 x4 nights
Meal Plan (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) – FJD$85/USD$40/GBP£30 x5 days

Total: FJD$544/USD$260/GBP£195

Swimming with Manta Rays – FJD$65/USD$30/GBP£25
Snorkeling with reef sharks – FJD$65/USD$30/GBP£25

Total: FJD$130/USD$60/GBP£45

Total

The total cost for 5 days/4 nights at the Yasawa Islands was FJD$1,084/USD$520/GBP£395 per person

fiji hiking

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Tasmania Road Trip Itinerary

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By Telma and Thomas | 11 August 2016 | Australia | Travel Guides

Our road trip itinerary guide to Tasmania is filled with tips and advice on things to do, see and how to travel Tasmania on a budget. This itinerary is aimed at people thinking about self-driving the East Coast.

Often forgotten by travellers, Tasmania, abbreviated as Tas or called “Tassie”, is located 240 km/150miles to the south of the Australia mainland. Its history, stunning sights, unspoiled natural environments, heritage sites and beautiful landscapes, makes Tasmania one of the world’s most picturesque islands and without a doubt the ultimate traveller’s dream, attracting mostly hikers and bush-walkers. If, like us, you like to explore and reflect on Australian’s colonial past, Tasmania is definitely the place to visit. There is so much of its history and convict past that is left intact, it is impossible to avoid contact with it during your visit. The presence of Tasmania’s convict heritage is strong, so prepare yourself for some harsh reality.

tasmanian road trip

Tasmania Self Drive Itinerary 

Tasmania is incredibly beautiful and the scenery is breathtaking. Every turn featured another amazing spot, which made us stop several times along the way. We found ourselves taking double the estimated time to arrive at our original destinations because of that. At the end of the four days, we were exhausted trying to squeeze as many experiences in as we could. That alone was a hard task, because there was so much to see. But it was all worth it!
We spent four days driving around Tasmania, starting and finishing at Hobart. The plan was to make a big loop around the island but soon we figured out that driving 1500 km (932 miles) would be too exhausting. So we drove 1100 km (683 miles) instead and surely enjoyed much more.

Tasmania was not in our original itinerary that we had planned for travelling around Australia, but once we were settled in Melbourne for 5 weeks, visiting Tasmania was a dream come true and we were delighted. It was such a stunning destination that we hope to go back one day to explore it fully.

tourist attractions tasmania

“The great thing about Tasmania is that the journey is just as beautiful as the destination.”

Interesting facts about Tasmania:

  • Tasmania was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803
  • 51% of Tasmanians are female
  • Hobart was the first Australian capital city to have an electric tram
  • Over 42% of Tasmania is World Heritage areas, national parks or forest reserves
  • Tasmania has the cleanest air in the world
  • Don’t be fooled by its size, Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland and Sri Lanka
  • Tasmania has the largest lavender farm in the world
  • Tasmanians descendants are English, Irish, Scottish and German

Tasmania Road Trip Itinerary

Four days / three nights
Richmond
Richmond Bridge – The oldest bridge still in use in Australia, opened in 1825. Also, a lasting symbol of Tasmania’s convict heritage.

Port Arthur
Port Arthur Historic Site was established in the 1830s as a penal settlement. A World Heritage-listed, the historic site is Australia’s most intact convict site.

Eaglehawk Neck
•  Tasman Blowhole
•  Tasman Arch
•  Devils Kitchen

Tasman National Park
•  Pirates Bay
•  Tessellated Pavement

Swansea
Stay for the night

Freycinet National Park
Due to our “time restrictions” in Tasmania, we skipped the hiking trail. But for people who visit the island and have enough time, aim to spend the whole day exploring and hiking the area.

•  Wineglass Bay
•  Richardson’s beach
•  Cape Tourville

Campbell Town
The Red Bridge – Built in 1838 using penal labour, is the oldest surviving brick arch bridge in Australia.

Convict Brick Trail – Commemorates some of the nearly 200.000 convicts who were transported to Australia between 1788 and 1868. Each brick details a convict’s name, their crimes and subsequent punishment.

St Helens
Stay for the night

a road trip in tasmania Top: Left to Right – Port Arthur Historic Site; Tessellated Pavement | Bottom: Left to Right – Cape Tourville; Convict Brick Trail

St Helens
•  Bay of Fires
•  Binalong Bay

Nabowla
Bridestowe Lavender Farm – Make sure you choose the right time to go, around the beginning of December to mid-January, depending on weather; otherwise all you will get is a green field. We visited outside the flowering season, mid-February and even though we didn’t get to see the rows of purple heads, we still had a fantastic time walking around, eating lavender scones and drinking lavender tea.

Launceston
•  Cataract Gorge
•  Alexandra Suspension Bridge
•  Old Umbrella Store
•  The Town Clock

Hobart
Stayed for the night

Hobart
Mount Wellington was originally referred by the original Tasmanian nations as Kunanyi to the indigenous people of Tasmania. The 21-kilometre drive to the summit passes though rainforest and glacial rock formations, to panoramic views of Hobart, Bruny Island, South Arm and the Tasman Peninsula. Mt Wellington is 1270 meters above sea level.

Tip: Take a jacket, and if possible gloves. Regardless the time of the year that you visit you will be cold, no exceptions. Be ready to struggle to open the car doors against the winds and be ready for the icy air.

tasmania tourist attractions Top: Left to Right – Bay of Fires; Bridestowe Lavender Farm | Bottom: Left to Right – Mount Wellington; Launceston

How much does travelling Tasmania cost?

The plan was to cover much more of Tasmania than what we did, but it was impossible due to the distances involved. The Island is so beautiful and there are so many amazing things to see, that we soon realised driving from one town to another would take us twice as long, instead we decided to take it slow and enjoy more.

Regarding costs, it wasn’t much different from Australia mainland, although the car rental and accommodation were slightly more expensive. Tasmania deserves some time; four days was definitely not enough. If we go back one day, we will definitely stay for at least one week.

Below is a breakdown of our costs:

1st night – The first night we slept inside the car. We arrived at Swansea at 11pm, and it was impossible to find a place to stay. Booking accommodation in advance was never an option, because we didn’t want to have a schedule
2nd night – Spent at St Helens Inn. This was a lovely kind of Motel and we definitely recommend it. The cost per night was AUD$80/USD$60/GBP£45
3rd & 4th night – At Hobart, we nearly slept in the car again because we underestimated the driving time from Launceston to Hobart. We arrived at 9.30pm, and were lucky to find Navarra Backpackers! Mo, the Manager, was very friendly and helpful and even gave us some food as we hadn’t had dinner by then. That night cost AUD$80/USD$60/GBP£45

Total: AUD$160/USD$122/GBP£93

Car Rental: 4 days. Pick-up & Drop-off: Hobart Airport – AUD$40/USD$30/GBP£23 per day
Full Cover Zero Excess: AUD$10/USD$8/GBP£6 per day
Petrol Cost: AUD$96/USD$73/GBP£55 – 1100 km/683 miles
Flights: AUD$274/USD$205/GBP£155 – Melbourne – Hobart – Melbourne

Total: AUD$570/USD$430/GBP£330

Port Arthur: Port Arthur Historic Sites – AUD$40/USD$30/GBP£23
Hobart: Bus Tour of Hobart – AUD$50/USD$35/GBP£28
Launceston: Launceston Cataract Gorge – Chairlift – AUD$24/USD$18/GBP£13

Total: AUD$114/USD$85/GBP£66

Grocery, two restaurant meals and afternoon tea

Total: AUD$200/USD$155/GBP£120

Total

The total for 4 days/ 3 nights in Tasmania was AUD$1,044/USD$795/GBP£600
Per day: AUD$261/USD$198.75/GBP£150 – For two people (including flights)

Special Thanks:

We would to thank Nezy Bryan from the Deaf Community for meeting us in Hobart.

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Honiara Travel Guide

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By Telma and Thomas | 29 July 2016 | Solomon Islands | Travel Guides

This Honiara travel guide will show you the things to do and see and an itinerary to follow so you get the best of what Honiara has to offer. If you are wondering about safety, please read our post Is It Safe to Travel to Honiara?

Honiara is busy and crowded at times and it’s not a pretty city either. More often than not you will feel exhausted of having to walk around the dirt and ditches that are everywhere in town. But the smiley children and the real Solomon Islanders will make up for it.
It is really a place like no other and having friends over there made such a big difference, because we were just relaxed, enjoying every moment of it.

We met so many wonderful people in Honiara, people that really touched our hearts and changed the way we look at life.
If you are looking into visiting the Solomon Islands, please go! Go and experience the daily life of a Solomon Islander, respect their culture, their ideas/views and be open-minded. Because you will see things that you will not agree with nor will like it. And that is why travelling is the best way of learning and respecting other cultures.

General information about Honiara

Solomon Islands Cyclone Season

The tropical cyclone season runs from November to May, so we would not recommend this time of the year. Cyclones bring heavy rain and local flooding.
It’s hot and humid year-round and you are going to sweat! The climate is extremely humid through the year, with temperatures of 26.5 C (79.7F).

At Honiara Airport

After cleared from Customs, you will see an Exchange Money Kiosk, wait in the queue, show your Boarding Pass and the person behind the counter will give a Vodafone SIM card free of charge.
Internet is expensive, for SBD$100/USD$12/GBP£9/ you get 750 MB of internet only for 7 days. For 1 month you get 15 GB and it cost SBD$800/USD$100/GBP£77.

Honiara is about eight kilometers (4.97 miles) from the airport. The bus to town should cost you around SBD$2-$3/USD$0.25/GBP£0.20

Things to Do and See in Honiara

By taxi is your best shot! Hire one for a few hours and visit Honiara historic monuments. Through a local connection we hired a taxi for nearly 3 hours at SBD$200/USD$25/GBP£19. Usually they charge SBD$100/USD$12/GBP£9 per hour. Not only this way is the cheapest way to travel around Honiara, but you also get to know the locals. If you join a tour, expect prices up to SBD$500/USD$64/GBP£48 per person.

honiara itinerary

Morning

  • Honiara Central Market – free
  • National Museum – donations welcome
  • National Art Gallery – free

Stop for lunch at Fire & Spice at NPF Plaza (Mendana Avenue) – Fish & Chips at SBD$25/USD$3/GBP£2

things to do and see in honiara

Afternoon

Hail a taxi and negotiate on prices. Ideally between 1-4pm, so you avoid the rush-hour.

  • Guadalcanal American Memorial (Skyline Ridge) – free
  • SI Scouts & Coastwatcher’s Monument – free
  • ANZAC & Kawaguchi Memorial – free
  • Henderson Airfield & Memorial Garden – free
  • Japanese Peace Memorial (Mt. Austen) – SBD$30/USD$4/GBP£3

day out in honiara

honiara attractions

As any other capital city, Honiara is buzzing with people and the best time to walk around is in the morning where you can find fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.
The Central Market is often described the best introduction to the sights, sounds and smells of Honiara. It’s also a great place to meet local hardworking women and man.

Our best advice is to keep an open mind when arriving in Honiara. Most probably you will not stay for more than a few days, but while there make the most of it. Don’t pay too much attention to what is written in the Media, and enjoy the Solomon Islands.

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Any questions about Honiara, please comment below.

the best of honiara solomon islands

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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.