Getting the Indian Visa in Kathmandu

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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

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

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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
  • 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.

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

the best of hong kong itinerary

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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.

Hong Kong Travel Guide on a Budget

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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
• Book through Airbnb and 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

Have we missed out on anything?

what to see and do in hong kong

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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.

How to Road Trip the South Island – New Zealand

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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

New Zealand South Island Road Trip

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 – Airbnb

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 – Airbnb

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 – Airbnb 

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 – Airbnb 

Thorpe

Abel Tasman National Park

14th Night – We spent the night on a Yurt – Airbnb 

Picton

15th night – Alexander Holiday Park

our yurt room in the south island new zealand

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!

Road Trip Recommendations:

  •  Download CamperMate APP for free campsites, public toilets, free Wi-Fi
  • 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).
  • Don’t book accommodation in advance, your itinerary WILL change. You can easily find a place to stay for the night (please bear in mind we travelled in March)
  • 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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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