Unless you don’t mind shelling out thousands of dollars if (when?) you get in an accident while travelling, having international travel insurance is definitely a good idea.
Most people purchase cheap travel insurance (without knowing exactly what’s covered), or end up not purchasing any due to how difficult it can be to understand insurance policies…why do they make them so confusing?!
Choosing international travel insurance is a bit of a daunting task. In this article, I’ll try to simplify things so you get a better idea of which insurance company covers what. Plus I’ll answer many of your frequently asked questions, and give you some ideas of what to look for when purchasing travel medical insurance. And, I’ll share my top 4 international travel insurance picks.
Planning on scuba diving? Make sure you’re covered.
*Note: It’s very important that you read YOUR policy to see what is covered — and what isn’t. Each traveller’s circumstances and coverage will be different. Always do your due diligence before purchasing travel insurance.
Is International Travel Insurance Worth It?
Short answer? Yes, absolutely.
To be completely honest, in the past we’ve only purchased travel insurance sporadically. We figured, hey, we’re in Mexico and it’s cheap to visit the hospital, so there’s no need to buy travel insurance. But, once we spoke to people who have had horrible accidents abroad, we started to realize just how stupid we were.
Sure, visiting a doctor in Mexico and getting medication will only cost around $20-$50, and we paid about $200 in Thailand, but that’s not the only reason to have travel medical insurance. The main reason is for more serious accidents and events that can happen abroad – especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Acupuncture? Covered by Allianz expat insurance plan
Not to mention, in some countries, international travel insurance is mandatory. Cuba, Qatar and Ecuador are a few countries that require you to show proof of travel insurance before entering the country.
A good travel insurance policy will cover you for emergency evacuation and flights to a hospital that’s able to handle your medical condition. There’s accidental death benefits (ie: money paid to your estate or whoever you direct in your will), crisis response, political evacuation, natural disasters and much more.
Many policies cost around $2 – $4 per day.
If you can afford to travel, you can afford $2 – $4 a day. So, there’s really no excuse!
What Does International Travel Insurance Cover?
You really want to make sure you read the fine print of your travel insurance policy. All policies are different and while you may be covered for something with one company, you might not be with the next. It also depends on the actual type of policy you decide to purchase.
Different companies cover different things, so make sure you read your policy to ensure you’re insured for all your needs.
In general, you should be looking for a travel insurance policy that covers the following:
Hospital room and board
Adventure activities – ensure that you’re covered for exactly what you plan to do. Some policies have exclusions to depths you can scuba dive, and altitudes you can trek, for example.
Outpatient care (physiotherapy, chiropractor, etc.)
Emergency dental care
Crisis response – ransom, kidnapping, etc.
Accidental death benefits
Return of your remains
As a bonus, some international travel insurance providers cover things that aren’t medical related, such as:
Rental car damage protection
We’ve personally made claims for visits to massage, chiropractor, acupuncture and hospitals abroad. And, since we had a plan with $0 deductible, we received our money back. On the flipside, since we had $0 deductible plans, our monthly insurance costs were higher.
You’ll also want to make sure that your policy includes global assistance, 24/7.
Which Travel Insurance Is Right For Me?
Are you planning on trekking at high altitudes, scuba diving or doing any extreme sports? If so, you’ll want to ensure that you’re covered for any accidents that might occur during those activities. World Nomads has a reputation for being the best for adventurous travellers, as they cover pretty much every adrenaline-inducing activity you can think of. If you’re from the UK and Europe, True Travellers is another excellent insurance option for backpackers.
Something else to consider is whether or not you’ll be riding a motorbike / scooter during your trip. For most people to Southeast Asia, this will be your primary mode of transportation and is a fun way to see the countries you’ll visit. However, not all policies cover motorbike and scooter accidents. World Nomads does (if you have the proper driving licenses).
Trekking through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan? Make sure you have travel insurance
If you’re not a resident of your home country anymore (most digital nomads aren’t), and are looking for an affordable plan, Safety Wing is a great option. They even cover you when you’re visiting your home country.
If you’re a Canadian citizen and you purchase expat travel insurance with Allianz, you’re not actually covered when you return to Canada for a visit / holiday! (I’m not sure about citizens from other parts of the world, so make sure you ask).
We only realized this just a few months ago, which is part of what inspired me to write this post. We bought this insurance specifically for our trip to Canada and the USA. Turns out, we wouldn’t have been covered at all during our one month visit to Canada.
Read the fine print and choose an international travel insurance policy that covers everything you need.
How Much Does International Travel Insurance Cost?
What you’ll pay for travel insurance depends on a few factors, with the main ones being your age, your place of residence, where in the world you’ll be travelling, the length of the trip and the company you purchase with.
Here’s an example of how varied your travel insurance can be. I’ll compare 3 companies using this information:
*Note, True Traveller only insures residents of the UK and Europe.*
If you’re 67 years old, you can’t be covered (only up to 65).
If you’re 35 years old, you’ll pay $124.28.
Click here for a free quote if you’re from the UK or Europe.
As you can see, how much you’ll pay really depends on your age and the insurance company you choose. Some policies don’t cover people who are residents of certain places, or are a certain age. Prices often vary due to the amount of coverage you have (ie: $250K vs. $1M), and whether or not you have a deductible.
If you’re from Quebec, Canada, World Nomads won’t cover you. If you’re from the United Kingdom, you must be under 65 years old in order to qualify for travel insurance.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, which is why it’s so important to get a number of quotes and read the policies before choosing an insurance company.
How Do I Buy Travel Insurance?
Purchasing travel insurance is simple. You can start by contacting a few insurance companies to get a quote, and when you decide on the company you want to go with, you provide your travel details and provide payment. Within an hour, you’ll have your insurance policy in your email inbox.
Many companies allow for changes to your policy before the effective date. Allianz allows changes for 10 days before the insurance policy starts.
With some companies, you can purchase the policy while you’re already travelling and can extend while you’re on the road. You’ll want to make sure your company allows this, as with some insurance policies, you must return to your home country first.
Important Questions To Ask Before Buying
When we first purchased international travel insurance, we didn’t even think to contact the company and ask any further questions. We just read (some of) the small print and went ahead and booked. Having been on the road now for over 10 years and tried out a few different travel insurance providers, we now know there are some questions you should definitely have answered before buying:
1. Will this insurance cover me while visiting my home country?
2. If I’m in the Amazon (or any other remote area) and fall and break my back and have to get airlifted to hospital. Will this insurance cover me for ALL expenses?
3. Will this insurance cover the cost of transporting me back to my home country if I suffer a serious injury or illness? – or just to the nearest hospital?
4. What happens when I need medical treatment? Can I go to any hospital or doctor or only those approved by the insurance company?
7. Does this insurance cover me for adventure activities? Are there any exclusions?
8. What happens if the company goes out of business? Will I still be insured?
9. Is the deductible per claim, or per trip?
Travel insurance companies want your business, don’t be afraid to ask them any and all questions you may have.
Taking a helicopter ride? Make sure you’re covered
Which International Travel Insurance Is the Best?
There are numerous travel insurance providers out there, and it’s important that you find one that suits your needs and the type of trip you’re embarking on.
If you’re a digital nomad and / or long-term traveller, Safety Wing is a great option.
If you’re into adventure activities and are heading off for a few months, World Nomads is a good bet.
If you want all around great coverage, with a well-known brand (at a higher premium), then Allianz might be right for you.
If you’re into adventure activities and are from only the UK or Europe, True Traveller is a good option.
Here’s a breakdown of these four travel insurance companies. Of course, you’ll need to ensure you read the policies yourself, but here are some of the main pros and cons:
This is a relatively new player and is one of the best international travel insurance for digital nomads, freelancers and long-term travellers. If you don’t have residency and healthcare in your home country anywhere, Safety Wing is a good bet. If you’re between 18 and 39 years old, this is the cheapest policy you’ll find.
Pros of Safety Wing:
You don’t need to be a resident of your home country. This is great for digital nomads who don’t have a permanent home.
Costs are low. At $37 / month for those aged 18-39 it really is an economical price.
The cost is the same whether you purchase 1 month or 1 year of coverage.
Rather than having to pay one large lump sum up front, you pay monthly.
They offer auto-renewal. It’s like a subscription service, which is great because you can cancel at anytime and don’t need to set an end date (unless you want to).
The insurance is underwritten by Lloyd’s in partnership with Tokio Marine HCC. Reputable insurance companies are important.
The policy and website are easy to read and understand.
Private doctors and hospitals are covered.
Coverage in your home country is provided. If you’re a resident of the USA, you’ll be covered for 15 days out of every 90 days you’re on the insurance policy. Outside of the USA, you’ll allowed 30 days in your home country.
In addition to medical coverage, you’ll receive travel benefits, including trip interruption, travel delays, lost checked luggage, natural disaster and political evacuation.
Most claims aren’t susceptible to the $250 deductible.
Cons of Safety Wing:
If you travel to the USA, you need to add on $1.10 – $4.40 extra per day depending on your age.
There’s a deductible of $250 per policy.
Maximum coverage of $250,000. Soon they will offer a one million dollar coverage option.
Many activities aren’t included. In particular, trekking above 4,500m, kite-surfing, ice hockey, American football, soccer (football), and scuba diving past 10m.
If you’re an adventurous traveller, this isn’t the best insurance policy.
Motorbikes and scooters are covered in the policy but you must hold a proper license.
Click here to learn more about Safety Wing and to get a free quote.
World Nomads Travel Insurance
If you are a Lonely Planet guidebook fan, you’ll know that this is the company that they frequently recommend. We went with World Nomads in the past and were able to easily make a claim, and extend our coverage while we were on the road. If you’re a backpacker or adventure seeker, this is the company you’ll want to choose.
Pros of World Nomads Travel Insurance:
While they don’t offer the cheapest plans out there, they definitely aren’t the most expensive.
You can obtain and extend your policy while on the road – no need to return home.
Many adventurous activities and sports are covered (make sure you get the right plan).
In addition to medical, you’re covered for baggage delays, trip cancellation or interruption, stolen baggage, assault, stolen electronics while under your supervision and more.
The policy and website is easy to navigate and understand.
A popular and highly recommended travel insurance company.
Cons of World Nomads Travel Insurance
You need to have health care in your home country. This is a huge con for us as we aren’t residents of Canada anymore and therefore don’t have provincial healthcare. We can no longer use World Nomads Insurance.
They have two different plans: Standard and Explorer. I feel some of the items on the Explorer package (which costs quite a bit more), should be covered under the standard, such as scuba diving and snorkelling.
Motorcycle and scooter accidents aren’t covered unless you hold a valid motorbike licence from your home country and one from the local country (in most cases).
There’s not one standard underwriting company for World Nomads. Which company you are insured with (including inclusions and exclusions to policies) depends on which country you’re a resident of.
You’re only covered for 1 trip home during your travel insurance policy.
To get a discount, you’ll need to book and pay for your insurance in advance.
Age restrictions on coverage.
Click here to get a free quote with World Nomads Insurance.
Click here to read the full policy (for US residents).
Or, simply enter your information here for a quick and easy quote:
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance!
No matter where in the world you are planning to travel, make sure to have insurance before you set off on your adventure – it’s the one thing you should always pack. World Nomads..
Thailand is one of the most popular countries in the world to travel to, and for good reason. The Kingdom of Smiles has bustling cities, awe-inspiring landscapes, a vibrant culture, and of course, idyllic islands. Thailand is a travel destination that truly has it all.
Those looking for an island getaway without the crowds that come along with Phuket may want to set their sights on Koh Lanta. You’ll find more Birkenstocks than billionaires on this laid-back Thai island. It’s the kind of place where you set up shop in a hammock while sipping on a fresh coconut and just laze the day away.
If that sounds good to you, read on for a list of the top things to do in Koh Lanta. We’ll explore the island’s beaches, mangrove forests, national park, and so much more.
1. Beach Bumming
Nobody knows for sure what the name Koh Lanta means, but its old Malay name Pulau Satak translates as “Long Beach Island.” It’s a fitting name, as this 30km-long island is home to quite a few long, white sand beaches.
For most visitors, some quality beach bumming is high atop the list of things to do in Koh Lanta. As such, we’re going to dedicate a good chunk of this guide to exploring the many beaches of Koh Lanta.
Big Four Beaches
From north to south, the four big beaches of Koh Lanta are: Klong Dao, Pra Ae (Long Beach), Klong Khong, and Klong Nin. In addition, the island boasts several more secluded beaches where you’ll find more local fishermen than tourists.
Of the main beaches, Klong Dao is the most developed and thus is usually the most crowded. Don’t worry, though — a “crowded” beach on Koh Lanta is nothing compared to other islands in Krabi such as Koh Phi Phi. Klong Dao is a popular place for families and those looking for more diverse options for eating out and shopping.
Next up is the aptly named Pra Ae (Long Beach). This 4km-long stretch of sand is indeed the longest beach on the island. There are lots of choices when it comes to accommodation here, from budget backpacker spots up to luxury resorts.
Continuing south, you arrive at Klong Khong. This area is a favourite of backpackers looking to let loose, as it’s home to quite a few beach bars that put on nightly fire shows and parties. If you’re travelling with kids, you probably don’t want to stay on this beach.
The last of the big four beaches is Klong Nin. This beach is an excellent happy medium. You can still find quite a few places to stay and eat here, but it’s far quieter and more peaceful than the others.
Other Beaches in Koh Lanta
In between these larger beaches as well as further south, you can find a handful of nearly deserted beaches. Some of the other beaches you can visit in the far south of the island include Bakantiang, Nui Bay, Klong Chak, and Bamboo Beach.
With a few days in Koh Lanta and a scooter, you can easily hit every single beach on the island and choose your favourite.
2. Go Scuba Diving
While scuba diving might be one of the top things to do in Koh Tao, Koh Lanta is still an excellent scuba diving destination. There aren’t any dive sites on the island, but some of the best in Thailand are located just a short boat trip away.
Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock) boast over 200 hard corals and 100 types of reef fish between the two of them. The former actually has the deepest drop off in all of Thailand, going down to 50 meters. Thanks to the strong currents, these dive sites are only recommended for more advanced divers.
Beginners can head instead to Koh Haa (Five Islands). This area is highlighted by some amazing coral and a cavern called “the cathedral.” While diving around Koh Lanta, you might see manta rays, barracuda, turtles, and even whale sharks. Swimming with whale sharks has got to be one of the coolest things to do in Koh Lanta.
There are several different dive shops on Koh Lanta offering everything from half-day beginner lessons, to full PADI certification courses, to week-long liveaboard trips. Reputable shops include Blue Planet and Go Dive. Day trips with two dives range from 3,000-4,000 Baht ($95-$127) depending on the location.
3. Explore Mu Koh Lanta National Park
When you’re not relaxing on the beach or out diving, be sure to take the time to visit Mu Koh Lanta National Park. The park actually stretches far out into the Andaman Sea and contains several nearby islands, including the aforementioned Ko Haa.
On the actual island of Koh Lanta, you can access the national park by heading to the far southern point. When you enter the park, you’ll follow a 2km-long trail through the jungle. Chances are you’ll spot some cheeky monkeys along the way who are looking for something tasty.
You’re advised not to feed the monkeys, and also to be careful as they may try to search in your bag for a snack without invitation.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the park’s twin beaches on either side of a cliff. Climb to the top to reach the old lighthouse and enjoy some incredible panoramic views. Don’t forget to bring your camera for this one!
Entrance to the Koh Lanta National Park costs 200 Baht ($6.35) for adults and 100 for children. It’s open daily from 8:30AM-5PM. You can even camp here (250 Baht/$8per night) or stay in some basic bungalows (1,000 Baht/$31.85) if you’re really looking to escape from it all.
4. Walk Around Lanta Old Town
While the west coast of the island is dominated by beaches and tourism, the east coast is home to Lanta Old Town. Here you’ll find an interesting mix of cultures. The town was originally founded by sea gypsies, who still live here to this day.
Lanta Old Town was once an important stop on the merchant route between Phuket and Penang, which drew many Chinese merchants. There’s still a Thai-Chinese population here, as evidenced by the red lanterns and active shrines.
On a day-trip to Lanta Old Town, you can walk around to admire the teak houses on stilts over the ocean. Some of them are even guesthouses where you can stay and fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean below.
While you’re here, you might as well enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants and shop for local products like hammocks and batik art. Spending a few hours walking around Old Town is definitely one of the top things to do in Koh Lanta.
5. Visit the Lanta Animal Welfare Centre
If you’re looking to make a positive difference while you travel to the island, I highly recommend stopping by the Lanta Animal Welfare Centre. This great non-profit organization helps stray dogs and cats by providing sterilization, rabies vaccinations, and more.
Since the centre was founded in 2005, they have helped over 15,000 animals! There are many was you can help out, such as becoming a volunteer or sponsoring one of the animals in need.
Even just visiting the centre helps them out greatly. You can drop into their “Kitty City” to cuddle some cute felines, go for a walk with one of the dogs, or just sit down for a snack and drink in the Kitty Cafe, where all proceeds go towards helping the animals.
The animal welfare centre is located at 629 Moo 2, Haad Phra Ae. It’s open every day of the year from 9AM-5PM. Tours of the centre operate between the hours of 10-4.
6. Take a Snorkeling Tour
Diving isn’t the only way to spot marine life around here. Going on a snorkeling tour is also high on the list of the best things to do in Koh Lanta. Every single travel agent on the island can help you get set up on a snorkeling tour, and there are quite a few to choose from.
The twin islands of Koh Rok are a very popular place to go snorkeling from Koh Lanta. There’s some excellent snorkeling out here, and your tour should also include lunch and some time to chill out on the picturesque white-sand beaches.
Remember those Five Islands I mentioned in the section about diving? They are also a solid choice for a snorkeling tour. If you’ve got both divers and non-divers in your group, this is probably your best choice.
The cost of snorkeling tours depends on the method of transportation (longtail, slow, or speed boat) and the distance traveled. On the budget end, you can expect to pay around 1,000 Baht ($32) per person, while speed-boat tours go for around 1,800 ($57).
Without a doubt, the best way to explore Koh Lanta is with your own two wheels. The island really is quite long, so having a motorbike makes it much easier to skip between the various beaches and experience all the cool things to do in Koh Lanta.
Even if you’re not a pro on a motorbike, this is a pretty easy place to ride one. There’s really only one main road that goes around the island, and it’s mostly flat and paved. There are a few potholes and steep bits down south and on the side roads connecting the coasts, though, so be aware.
Renting a scooter costs around 200 Baht per day, but you can definitely bargain if renting for a week or a month. Little shops all over the island sell petrol out of old whiskey bottles for just 35-40 Baht, and a full tank will last you a couple of days.
If you’re going to be riding a motorbike around some remote island in the south of Thailand, make sure you’ve got adequate travel insurance. And, if you’re looking for a really epic motorbike trip, check out the Mae Hong Son Loop!
8. Practice Yoga
Yogis everywhere, rejoice — Koh Lanta is one of the top yoga destinations in all of Thailand. Whether you’re looking to just drop in for a calming yoga class on the beach or you want to sign up for a multi-day yoga retreat, Koh Lanta has you covered.
One place that comes highly recommended is Oasis Yoga. They have a variety of classes every day except Sunday, including Flow, Yin, and Ashtanga. They even do a sunset stretch in the evenings and free meditation classes in the morning a few days a week. Check their current schedule here.
Oasis Yoga is located at 215 Moo 3, Saladan next to the Cha-Ba Bungalows. Classes range from 400 Baht ($12.75) for a drop-in up to 4,500 ($143) for an unlimited month-long pass.
9. Feast on Seafood
On a Thai island full of fishermen, it should come as no surprise that the seafood here is top-notch. Many restaurants display the day’s catch, so take your pick from crab, lobster, oysters, squid, and more.
While you can find fresh seafood all over the island, your best bet is to head to the town of Baan Saladan. Just north of the ferry pier, there are several excellent restaurants cooking up tasty seafood at prices much lower than you’ll find in the beach side restaurants further south.
When I first moved abroad to teach English in China, my dad told me to always follow the locals to eat. It’s solid advice no matter where you are on the planet! In Koh Lanta, that means joining the crowds at Laanta Seafood, which has some spicy salads and curries in addition to all the grilled seafood.
Nothing says “I’m on vacation” like sipping a fruity cocktail while you watch sunset on a tropical island. As such, sundowners on the beach easily make our list of the best things to do in Koh Lanta.
The entire west coast of the island is perfect for watching the sun dip below the horizon. Grab a few beers from a local mini-market and plop down in the sand, or take a seat in one of the many bars and restaurants that line the big beaches.
Some of the most popular places to take in the sunset in Koh Lanta include Pangea Beach Bar, Majestic, and the aptly named Sunset Beach Bar. Best of all, most places run their Happy Hour around sunset, so you can have a couple of drinks without spending too much.
11. 4 Island Tour to the Emerald Cave
One of the most popular things to do in Koh Lanta is taking the four island tour. These tours visit Koh Chuak, Koh Mook, Koh Kradan, and Koh Ngai. They include plenty of snorkeling and swimming, as well as a visit to the stunning Emerald Cave on Koh Mook.
Swim through the pitch-black 80m-long passageway with the help of a flashlight and your tour guide. Once you make it through, you’re greeted by a secret lagoon and towering limestone cliffs. This is a travel experience you’ll be talking about for years to come!
Full-day tours of the islands and the cave cost around 1,200 Baht ($38) for adults or 600 for children. The tours include transfer to Old Town from anywhere on the island as well as a buffet lunch in addition to all the activities.
While you can book a tour with just about anybody once you’re on the island, the folks at the Four Islands come highly recommended.
A great way to give back to the island and leave a positive impact is becoming a Trash Hero for a day. This non-profit has chapters all over the world and it does some amazing work bringing communities together to clean and reduce waste.
The Koh Lanta Trash Heroes meet every Sunday at 4PM at the Long Beach Park. They provide cleaning materials, gloves, and refreshments. There’s no cost to get involved and you don’t even have to sign up in advance, just show up!
You can also help their cause and help protect the environment of this beautiful island by buying one of their refillable metal water bottles. Not only does this help reduce the plastic waste on the island, but the proceeds also go towards keeping this group going.
If you want to find out more about Trash Hero Koh Lanta, be sure to follow their Facebook page.
13. Hike to Khlong Chak Waterfall
If you’re the type who prefers a little bit of adventure to lounging in a hammock, never fear – there are still plenty of things to do in Koh Lanta that aren’t beach related. One solid option is taking the 2km hike through the jungle to arrive at Khlong Chak Waterfall.
One thing to keep in mind is that there really isn’t much of a waterfall in the dry season (December to April), which is when most people choose to visit Koh Lanta. Even though the waterfall itself isn’t too impressive at this time of year, it’s still worth it just to take the short jungle hike.
Along the way, you may see some macaques swinging up in the trees. You can also take a brief detour to explore a real life bat cave. Along the way, you’ll surely see groups riding elephants to reach the falls. It’s advised to skip out on the elephant riding in Thailand, and anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Khlong Chak is located in the middle of the southern part of the island. Just follow the signs to get there. There is no entrance fee to visit the waterfalls, but you’ll have to pay 20 Baht to park your motorbike outside of the trail.
14. Attend a Local Festival
There are several traditional festivals in Koh Lanta throughout the year. Taking part in one of these festivals is an awesome travel experience, so be sure to check the calendar to see what’s going on.
The biggest local festival is the Laanta Lanta Festival. That’s not a typo – laanta is translated as “eye-dazzling,” and that’s precisely what this festival is! There are musical performances, folk games, sport competitions, and of course plenty of delicious Southern Thai food.
This festival takes place over three days in March in Lanta Old Town, so be sure to add it to your itinerary if you’ll be in Koh Lanta in March.
15. Water Sports
As I’ve already mentioned, diving and snorkeling are two of the most popular things to do in Koh Lanta. That’s not all there is to do in the water on this Thai island, though. You’ve got several other options for water sports when you travel to Koh Lanta.
On all of the four main beaches in Koh Lanta, you can take part in a wide variety of water sports. The water is mostly calm here, so it’s a great place to do a bit of SUPing (stand up paddle-boarding, for those not in the know).
There’s some wind from time to time, meaning you can try a bit of windsurfing. You can sign up for lessons for around 1,000 Baht if you’ve never tried it. Koh Lanta gets a surf break once in a while, and there are both surf and boogie boards available for rent along the beaches.
If you love Thai food, why not learn how to cook it while you’re there? Bringing home some classic Thai recipes and the know-how to whip them up in the kitchen is probably the best souvenir ever!
There are a few different options for cooking classes in Koh Lanta. The original is Time for Lime, which just so happened to be started by the owner of the Animal Welfare Centre. All proceeds from their cooking classes go right back into taking care of the animals, so you’re supporting a great cause by signing up here.
Time for Lime is located at 72/2 Moo 3, Saladan. Their classes last from 4-9:30PM and cost 2,000 Baht ($64) per person. Additionally, they run special family courses as well as a cooking & cocktail experience for partners or friends.
17. Explore the Mangrove Forest
In the northeast corner of Koh Lanta, you’ll find the Thung Yee Pheng Mangrove Forest. Visiting this scenic area is a must when travelling to the island. With a few hours here, you can take in the beautiful landscape and probably encounter some monkeys and maybe even monitor lizards.
You’ve got a few options for exploring the mangrove forest. First up, you can just hoof it and walk along the wooden walkway. Kayaks are also available for rent if you’d rather paddle yourself around the rivers. Finally, you can just jump in a longtail boat and go for a leisurely cruise.
It’s possible to sign up for a kayaking tour of the mangroves for around 800-1,000 Baht ($25-$32) per person, which includes round-trip transportation. If you get yourself there, you’ll pay a 20 Baht entrance fee and can then rent kayaks for three hours for 500.
Those really looking to get away from it all may want to book a stay at the lovely Koh Lanta Mangrove Floating Homestay. Sleep on a floating house, explore the mangroves by day, and dine on fresh seafood at night.
Japan is a wonderland. Food, culture, nature, history — there’s nothing that this mystical archipelago doesn’t do well. Living in Japan as a digital nomad is going to put all that within easy reach of you at any time.
Begin your day with a walk to your local Shinto shrine, head to a slick co-working space or a cafe, grab some sushi for lunch, and then spend the afternoon exploring the city. Heading anywhere from a yakitori restaurant to a teppanyaki place for dinner is par for the course.
Practice your Japanese phrases, save up those pennies, and prepare yourself for having the best of Japan’s sights and natural wonders on your doorstep. Living in Japan is a lot of fun.
In this article I’ll share what it’s like to live in Japan as a digital nomad. Read on for my top tips and advice.
Living in Japan is far from the norm you’re used to. Ok, so it may be a modern, developed nation, but things work differently here. Knowing some of the basics when it comes to blending in and being respectful is going to go a long way.
Bowing: This is a real thing in Japan. From big bows on first meetings to nods of acknowledgment when your food is delivered to your table, you’ll be doing this a lot.
Shoes off: Yes, it’s true, you don’t wear shoes in Japanese homes. Even in some restaurants and in centuries-old castles, you should remove them. It makes sense; just think about what you tread in from outside!
Eating in public: Looking around, you’ll notice people don’t really walk along when they’re eating, or even stand around and eat on the street. There are designated spots for eating, and chowing down just outside a food stall is fine as well — just make sure you’re not walking and eating.
Littering: No way. Japan is very clean, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. And the cleanliness is due to people tidying up after themselves. When you do throw out your garbage, make sure you use the right bins.
Being loud: Even in busy streets, you’ll notice the lack of noise from crowds of Japanese people. Especially in trains, it’s the norm that people keep their voices down and barely use phones. You should follow suit.
Where To Live in Japan As a Digital Nomad
Japan is bigger than you might think. All the way from frozen Hokkaido in the north to subtropical Okinawa in the south, there are numerous places across the 378,000 square kilometers of this nation that you can base yourself in.
Whether you’re looking for traditional culture, gleaming skyscrapers or outdoor activities, there’ll be a place in Japan for you. But not everywhere is exactly geared up towards digital nomads living in Japan; often, you’ll find yourself simply working in a cafe with wi-fi, rather than a co-working space, no matter where you are in the country.
The iconic capital has a whole lot to offer for digital nomads living in Japan. It is absolutely huge and one of the biggest metropolises in the world, with a population that rockets well above 13 million people. If you want to get stuck into 24-hour city life, this is the place to come.
In fact, Tokyo itself is made up of many different city centers (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza), and many more. There’s a lot to explore.
Life in Tokyo is more expensive than living in Japan’s other prefectures, without a doubt. The accommodation, though still cheaper than some European cities like London and Paris, will eat a sizeable chunk of your money.
Ah… the food capital of Japan. The centrally located city is 500 kilometers west of Tokyo and is far more out there. This is where to come if you like eating and drinking. Here, you can get to grips with Osaka ‘soul food,’ such as takoyaki, yakisoba, and, of course, okonomiyaki.
Osaka also happens to be another sprawling city complete with malls, endless underground shopping streets, and a buzzing nightlife. It’s also considerably cheaper than Tokyo.
The old imperial capital of Japan is a stone’s throw from Osaka. This is where you should live in Japan if you want to wander quiet traditional backstreets and have world heritage, UNESCO status, centuries-old temples on your doorstep. There are numerous fun things to do in Kyoto to keep you busy.
And while it sounds perfect, the downside of Kyoto are the tourists, which are mighty plentiful during high season. Accommodation is also rather expensive in this city.
The Nishiki Market is a bustling place with fantastic food in Kyoto
Famous not only for beef, Kobe is also the sixth largest city in Japan and one of the most multicultural cities in the country. It was one of the first cities in Japan to be opened up to foreigners. Because of this, there’s plenty of foreign food (i.e. food from home) to enjoy and a community of westerners to socialize with. There’s a historical area here with many Western residences, as well as a rather large Chinatown to explore.
Japan’s burgeoning start-up city is a great option for digital nomads who like life by the sea. Set on Kyushu, the third largest of the Japanese ‘home islands’, Fukuoka boasts sandy beaches, funky malls, and a vibrant tech scene.
Life here is good — so good that it’s often ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world, helped by its mild winters and balmy summers. There are also easy ferry connections to South Korea if you want more adventures.
Aside from the big cities, there are dozens of smaller cities scattered across the islands where you could make a home for yourself living in Japan as a digital nomad.
They range from Matsue on the Sea of Japan, Kochi on the south coast of Shikoku, and Nagoya (which is actually pretty big). And we haven’t even mentioned Hiroshima or Nagasaki, let alone Sapporo, the icy capital of Hokkaido, or the other chilly towns of the Tohoku region like Niigata, Aomori, and Sendai.
Living in Japan isn’t all about cities. If you want a taste of the authentic, everyday lives of Japanese people, the countryside (or inaka) is where it’s at. Even some ‘cities’ in Japan are often just made up of small towns and villages, e.g. Bizen in Okayama prefecture and Ise in Mie prefecture.
Life in these places is ruled by nature and a lack of amenities. People here are hardworking and friendly. This is definitely a good option if you want to enjoy a more simple side to Japanese life. But be warned, you will definitely stand out as a foreigner!
Types of Accommodation in Japan
There are numerous accommodation options in Japan. Just keep in mind that most won’t offer a large living space, which you might be accustomed to.
Japan’s hostels are amazing. Especially in cities, these places are well geared up for digital nomads living in Japan. They usually come with common areas with strong wi-fi and tables for people to work at. That said, living long-term in a Japanese hostel could get pricey even in a dorm — not to mention, cramped.
A good option for when you first arrive in Japan, hotels are all over the place and usually pretty well located next to train stations and top sights. However, the rooms are pretty compact and the rates get quite high, especially in tourist seasons. Naturally, hotels are cheaper in towns that aren’t tourist hotspots, but aren’t the best choice for long-term living in Japan.
Hotels in Japan might be nice, but aren’t idea for long-term stays
Airbnb used to be a godsend for a digital nomad living in Japan; it was unregulated and cheap with a myriad of options all over the country, even in the most off-the-beaten-track locations.
Since the government made it more difficult for people to become Airbnb hosts in 2017, there are now fewer Airbnbs to choose from in Japan. But they’re still a solid option for digital nomads and bargains can be found. It’s a great way to feel like you’re actually living in a city and in many cases, you’ll become friends with your host. Airbnbs often come with pocket wi-fi too.
If you’re looking to base yourself in a city for a few months, then living in Japan can’t get much easier or cheaper than staying in a shared house.
The shared houses consist of your own furnished room with communal facilities. Wi-fi and bills are usually included in the price and, even though the location might not be in the middle of the city, the houses are usually near a train station and shops.
Rent a place
If you have, at the very least, a one year Working Holiday Visa, you may be able to rent your very own apartment to get the most out of living in Japan.
Even in Tokyo, the apartments for rent are surprisingly affordable, but usually come unfurnished and with no wi-fi. Be ready for an adventure and immerse yourself in a truly Japanese process, with all the paperwork to go with it. Some basic Japanese language knowledge would be helpful in this instance.
Being utterly chock-a-bloc with amenities makes living in Japan hassle free. There are libraries everywhere, parks on every corner, a crazy amount of convenience stores, video game arcades, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, post offices in every town (even the smallest village), numerous hairdressers and shopping opportunities galore.
And, of course, more restaurants and cafes than you could ever imagine. Unless you choose to live somewhere very remote, you’ll be very well catered for in Japan.
Japan’s railway network is world-famous and there’s a reason for that — it’s amazing. You can get pretty much anywhere thanks to a very comprehensive train network. This includes charming local trains that chug through lush valleys as much as it does the gleaming shinkansen and their white-gloved attendants.
Then there are the metros, monorails, and trams of Japan’s cities. Fairly inexpensive (much cheaper than London’s tube, for example), using inner-city railways is part of living in Japan. They’re really clean and efficient, just try not to travel in rush hour, especially with luggage, and don’t talk too loudly, or eat. By doing so, you will stand out, and not in a good way.
Long distance buses are cheap compared to shinkansen and can really help you stick to a budget. The night buses are even cheaper and pretty comfortable too. There’s a new online booking system which is easy and means you can book in advance, rock up, and just show an e-ticket on your phone. There are also local bus networks in towns and cities that connect to places that the trains don’t reach.
You’ll find taxis in cities, often outside train stations. Not exactly a budget option, they’re handy if you need to get to your accommodation with heavy bags or have missed the last train home. Uber is also an option, though actually more expensive than taxis.
Renting a car is a nice idea if you want to travel around whilst you’re living in Japan. Cars can be expensive and there’s things like tolls to pay. Parking in cities can be pricey too. But there are some beautiful coastal routes and winding mountain roads to drive along.
Cycling in Japan is big. Getting around the cities on two wheels is easy and safe. There’s even designated underground bicycle parking and most people ride on the pavement.
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Wi-Fi and Sim Cards in Japan
For all of Japan’s technological accomplishments, getting online isn’t as easy as you might think. Strange, I know. While big train stations, malls, and convenience stores have wi-fi, cafes don’t always, and if they do, they might not have power sockets!
For a digital nomad living in Japan, finding the right chain of cafe is going to be key to getting some work done. Caffe Veloce, Starbucks, and some branches of Doutor come equipped with wi-fi and sockets, as does McDonald’s and, my favorite cheap family restaurant, Cafe Gusto.
Finding a co-working space isn’t too tricky in cities like Tokyo. Search online for your nearest one. Some offer free trials and are good places to meet other people.
Another option is to rent pocket wi-fi and use it as a hot-spot; this turns every cafe into your friend. But it can be somewhat expensive option — these range from upwards of 1000¥ ($9) per day.
You can also order a sim card packed full of data before you arrive and pick it up the airport. Places such as BIC Camera also sell sim cards, which you can pick up easily once you’re living in Japan. Usually, if you are a tourist, you can’t get a voice sim, which can be frustrating. But if getting online is all you need, you should be fine.
Apps make living in Japan so much easier. That’s not to say you can’t live without them, but simple things like using a washing machine can be a minefield if you can’t read Japanese. Luckily there’s good old Google Translate with its very handy camera feature to help you out. Hold the camera over the text and hopefully, it will make some sense.
Google Translate is also amazing for shopping and knowing what to order in restaurants. I’ve even used it to check into hotels with the speech function.
A great way to keep on top of your everyday expenses as a digital nomad in Japan is by using Xe. Most likely you won’t be paid in yen, and the straightforward app shows an up to the minute exchange rate. It’s great for keeping you from going wild and spending too much at the shops or on transport.
Using Google Maps is almost essential when it comes to travelling around in Japan, it makes commuting on public transport stress-free and will even show you the cheapest option. Downloading Maps.me is always a good idea, especially if you don’t have internet on your phone and you find yourself lost.
Then there’s that other aspect of living in Japan — earthquakes. If you’re in Japan long enough, you’ll most likely feel the small wobble of an earthquake. It’s important to know what to do in the case of a big earthquake and keep up-to-date with things like tsunami warnings or landslides. These are real risks, so having emergency apps is a good idea.
I have three such apps: Safety Tips, which comes with weather warnings and local advice; Japan Shelter, which informs you of your nearest emergency shelter; and Quakefeed, which alerts you to nearby quakes.
Things To Do in Japan
There are just so many things to do in Japan, especially outdoors. You can go snorkeling in the subtropical south; you can go skiing anywhere from Nagano to Niseko; you can hike one of Japan’s many pilgrimage routes — including Shikoku’s 88 Temples; and you can cycle the Shimanami Kaido. And then there’s climbing iconic Mount Fuji.
Eating is a massive pastime when you’re living in Japan. You’ll never get bored if you’re a fan of food. There’s so much more to Japan’s food than sushi and you can simply spend your free time eating — like many Japanese people do!
Eating is a favourite pastime in Japan
The music scene is vibrant and gigs are going on all the time, from punk to classical and techno. The gaming arcades also are a big deal in Japan; there are loads, and if you’re into gaming, you’re going to love living in Japan.
Shopping is also a really fun thing to do. From high-end fashion and flea markets to 100-yen stores, Japan is full of opportunities to shop until you drop — ‘till late, too.
Another tip: never pass by a temple or shrine in Japan without having a look. You never know what ceremony is going on. Walk around and be enthralled.
Pros & Cons of Living in Japan As a Digital Nomad
There are many good points to living in Japan as a digital nomad, but it’s not so easy sometimes. So here’s my breakdown:
Pros to Living in Japan
Rich and interesting culture
Not as expensive as you might think
Cool co-working spaces
Four seasons to enjoy
Cons to Living in Japan
Can be pricey and not for shoestring budgets
Language barrier makes things very hard
Not always easy to get online
You’ll stand out as a foreigner
Big cities can feel isolating
Threat of natural disasters (including typhoons)
For digital nomads, living in Japan isn’t always easy, and it’s far from perfect. As a digital nomad, it can be difficult at times and you’ll need to prepare for some obstacles. Learning some of the language, especially reading (it’s not that difficult), knowing the customs and meeting locals will help you immerse yourself in the community.
Living in Japan means being able to really experience the culture of this incredibly beautiful country. Japanese people are amazingly kind and a lot of fun to hangout with — especially at the izakayas (pubs). If you want to experience unique culture and tasty food after a day of work, instead of just lazing around on a beach, then living in Japan is an excellent option for you.
There are few cities on Earth that offer as much as Beijing. The Chinese capital has a history going back thousands of years and is full of significant landmarks such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. If you want to dive into Chinese history and culture, then Beijing is the place to do so.
In addition to its storied past, Beijing is also catapulting into the future at breakneck speed. Futuristic skyscrapers dominate the landscape of the city’s Central Business District, standing in stark contrast to the traditional courtyard homes tucked away in the city’s hutong (alleyways).
Indeed, Beijing is a city that appears to have one foot firmly planted in the past and another in the future, making the present a very interesting place.
There are so many amazing things to do in Beijing that one could spend a lifetime in the city and not do it all. I should know, having spent over five years calling the Chinese capital home. As a part-time English teacher and avid explorer, I was fortunate enough to have plenty of time to experience all that this fascinating city has to offer.
After spending so much time in Beijing and doing so much there, I know it better than my own hometown.
In this guide, I’ll take you on a tour of the best things to do in Beijing. I’ll also make sure to include plenty of tips to help you make the most out of your visit and not get stuck at tourist traps. So get your chopstick skills up to par, lace up your walking shoes, and let’s do this.
1. Visit Tiananmen Square
When it comes to the top things to do in Beijing, our journey has to begin in Tiananmen Square. This is the heart of the country, as it’s the place where Mao Zedong founded the modern-day People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
For Chinese people, there’s no place more important than this. Many Chinese dream of one day making it to Beijing to visit Tiananmen Square, just as many Americans hope to see the White House at some point in their life. Every day of the year, the square is packed full of tourists, both domestic and international, who come to see the sights in and around the square.
The heart of China. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
If you’re up for it, I recommend getting up before sunrise to make it to Tiananmen Square for the daily flag raising ceremony. Once it’s over, you can grab some breakfast and coffee outside of the square and then head back in to take it all in. Important landmarks here include the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, and the Great Hall of the People.
In case you were wondering, the name of the square actually means “The Gate of Heavenly Peace.” This refers to the gate that’s actually right across the street from the square, which you’ll pass on your way into the Forbidden City. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that later on in our last of the best things to do in Beijing.
Tiananmen Square is free to visit and is open every day of the week from 5AM-10PM. The best way to get here is by taking Subway Line 1 to either Tiananmen station.
2. Get Lost in the Hutong
Beijing is a city that is struggling to retain its traditional identity while modernizing at the same time. Many of the city’s old neighborhoods are being bulldozed to make way for high-rises and shopping malls. As such, it’s getting harder and harder to find what locals refer to as “lao Beijing” (old Beijing) with each passing day.
If you want to step into a time machine on your visit to Beijing, then I suggest getting lost in the city’s hutong (alleyways). These narrow alleys – with their traditional courtyard homes and shops – are not only the residences but also the social centre of life for many Beijingers.
Enjoying a walk in the hutong. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
Take a walk down a Beijing hutong, and you’ll see old men playing chess (often in their pajamas), women hanging up laundry, and children playing in the streets. Stop by a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for a bowl of noodles before continuing on your journey through old Beijing. Get deep enough in the hutong, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re back in the early 1900s.
Not surprisingly, modernization and gentrification have moved into the hutong as well. Several hutong have been given a face-lift and are now full of trendy shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. One known as NLGX (short for Nanluoguxiang) is a bit of a tourist zoo these days, but it’s still fun to check out. I also recommend taking a stroll up Wudaoying, as it’s a bit more laid back.
3. Feast on Peking Duck (one of the best things to do in Beijing!)
Without a doubt, one of the tastiest things to do in Beijing is feasting on the Imperial Bird – Peking roast duck. This is far and away the most famous dish from the capital, and for good reason. A good Peking duck dinner is a culinary experience like no other.
A feast fit for an emperor! | Photo by Sasha Savinov
There are plenty of restaurants cooking up the famous fowl, but my personal recommendation goes to Da Dong. You might have to wait in line for a table here, but they pour free boxed wine for you while you wait. Score! You also get to watch the masters at work as they prepare the ducks.
Order up a whole duck and a few side dishes, and then watch as they carve it up right by your table. Your waiter will school you on the proper way to eat it as well. It really is an amazing experience and a real treat for your taste buds.
Da Dong has many locations, so check the listing to see which is closest to you. I always went to the one located at 1-2/F, Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, Dongcheng District.
Once upon a time, the Forbidden City was home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This massive complex served as the official residence of the emperor and it was also the political centre of China for nearly 500 years.
It’s not forbidden these days, with around 15 million people visiting annually. Upon entering the Forbidden City, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by its size. After all, the place covers nearly 180 acres and has about 8,000 different rooms!
Inside the Forbidden City. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
A walk through the Forbidden City is high atop the list of things to do in Beijing for just about every visitor. It takes a good couple of hours to really see the whole place, so take your time. Walking through the giant courtyards, I always like to imagine what it must have been like to have this entire place to yourself with thousands of servants. Must have been nice to be the emperor!
The Forbidden City is located at 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng District. The best way to get there is by Subway Line 1 via either Tiananmen station. It’s open from 8:30-5PM from April to October, and it closes half an hour earlier the rest of the year. The ticket price is also different – it’s 60 RMB ($8.90) during the warmer months and 40 ($5.95) between October and April.
5. Explore the 798 Art District
For a completely different, more modern look at Beijing, head to the 798 Art District. Housed among decommissioned military factories, this funky art zone provides a fascinating contrast between the city’s past and present.
After the factories went into decline in the 80s, they just sat there abandoned. Eventually, artists began moving in and opening studios. In an ode to the area’s past, many of the Mao-era slogans that were meant to encourage workers were kept in place.
There are always new galleries and exhibits coming to 798, so it’s a place you can return to again and again. When I lived in Beijing, it was one of my favourite places to hang out. You’ll find plenty of nice cafes and bars here as well, so make a day of it and take your time exploring.
The 798 Art District is located at 2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang District. Your best bet is to just take a cab there, as it’s not very close to any subway stations and the bus system is confusing unless you can read the Chinese language.
6. Cruise Around the Lakes
Right in the middle of Beijing, there are three man-made lakes that are collectively known as Shichahai. Long ago, these lakes served as a playground for the royal family. These days, they’re popular with young Chinese locals, tourists, and expats.
To move around the three lakes, you have a few options. Of course, you can just walk and go at your own pace. You can also find bicycles for rent if you prefer to move a bit quicker and get some exercise. Finally, you can pay a rickshaw driver to take you on a tour of the lakes and the surrounding hutong. Just be prepared to bargain, as they’ll likely give you a ridiculous price if you’re a foreign tourist.
Beautiful scenery on Beijing’s lakes. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
The best way to enjoy the lakes, though, is by renting a boat and leisurely cruising around. Buy a bag full of Yanjing beers and some snacks, and you’ve got yourself a fun afternoon out in Beijing. Stick around for sunset and then get out of dodge before all the bars start blasting offensively loud music. Head instead around the corner to my friends’ restaurant and bar called 4corners. It’s an awesome place for dinner, drinks, and live music.
4corners: 27 Dashibei Hutong, ShiChaHai, Xicheng District
7. Climb the Great Wall
One of the most popular things to do in Beijing is visiting the Great Wall of China. Climbing atop one of the Seven Wonders of the World is sure to be a major highlight of your trip. A word of warning, however – not all sections of the wall are actually great.
Originally built to keep out Mongolian invaders, the Great Wall is now the most famous tourist attraction in all of China. You won’t find any Mongolian soldiers these days, but you will find an abundance of selfie-stick waving tourists on many sections.
Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances visit the Badaling section of the wall. This Disney-fied version of the Great Wall is basically a giant tourist trap, and I recommend avoiding it and visiting another part instead.
For a relatively hassle-free and enjoyable Great Wall experience, I recommend the Mutianyu section. If you’re looking for a bit more adventure and want to hike the rugged wall, you can head instead to the Jinshanling, Simatai, or Gubeikou sections of the wall. We actually went camping on the Great Wall at Gubeikou, and it remains one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
8. Experience Chinese Culture in Local Parks
If you want to soak up a bit of the local culture and not feel trapped in a tourist bubble, I recommend checking out a few local parks during your trip to Beijing. Although the city gets a bad rap for its air pollution (it really is pretty awful), it’s actually home to several green spaces.
Since most people in Beijing live in massive concrete high-rises, they like to congregate in parks for social activities. Take a stroll in a Beijing park, and you’re sure to see people practicing tai chi, playing chess, doing a bit of water calligraphy, or just busting a move in a group dance.
There are tons of different parks to choose from, but if you’re only going to visit one I suggest Chaoyang Park. What Central Park is to New York, Chaoyang Park is to Beijing. It’s a great escape from the never-ending traffic, noise, and construction on the city streets.
There’s plenty to do in Chaoyang Park to keep you busy. Bring a picnic, rent a boat, hit the rides in the amusement park, or get 10 fellow travellers together and jump on the epic Party Bike. It’s definitely one of the most fun things to do in Beijing!
Chaoyang Park is located at 1 Chao Yang Gong Yuan Nan Lu, Chaoyang District. It only costs 5RMB to enter and is open from 6AM-9 or 10PM depending on the season. You can get here on Subway Line 14 via the Chaoyang Park station.
Just to the north of the Forbidden City, you’ll find Jingshan Park. This was once a private imperial garden attached to the palace and is now a public park that is highly popular with locals.
On a clear day, head to the top of the hill for one of the best views in the entire city. I took my wife here on her first day in Beijing and she was absolutely awe-struck when she saw the view off to the side of the Forbidden City. If there’s a rare blue sky on your visit to Beijing, be sure to head here.
The view from the top. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
Even on a nasty, smoggy day, you’re sure to have a better day in the park than the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Chongzhen fled to Jingshan and hanged himself from a tree to avoid capture by the newly proclaimed Shun Dynasty. You can even see the tree where he did it when you visit the park.
The best way to access Jingshan Park is after you visit the Forbidden City, as it’s right across from the north entrance. It costs a mere 2RMB to enter the park.
10. Go Temple Hopping
Beijing is home to several famous temples, so you’ll want to visit a few of them on your trip. Let’s start out with the granddaddy of them all – the Temple of Heaven. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the emperor would come here to pray for a good harvest. He would also make animal sacrifices to appease the gods.
Thankfully, you won’t find any animal sacrifices going on at the temple these days. Instead, you’ll find a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s surrounded by a nice park.
The Temple of Heaven | Photo by Sasha Savinov
Another temple that’s well worth a visit is the Lama Temple. The Chinese name actually translates as “Palace of Peace and Harmony,” but the English name comes from the fact that it remains an active lamasery. Here you’ll find a massive Buddha statue carved from a single piece of sandalwood.
The Temple of Heaven is located at 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng District. A combo ticket to see everything inside costs 34RMB ($5) from April-October and 28 ($4.15) the rest of the year. The hours are 8AM-5PM or 5:30 depending on the season. Take Subway Line 5 to the Tiantong Dongmen (Temple of Heaven East Gate) station.
The Lama Temple is located at 12 Yonghegong St, Dongcheng District. Entrance tickets cost 25RMB ($3.70) year-round, and the hours are 9AM-4PM or 4:30. You can get here via either Line 2 or Line 5 at the Yonghegong (Lama Temple) station.
11. Shop til you Drop in the Silk Market
Let me preface this by saying I absolutely loathe shopping. That being said, I absolutely love going to the massive markets in Beijing. It’s just so much fun haggling with the vendors, laughing at all the hilarious Chinglish t-shirts, and scoring counterfeit threads for super cheap.
When it comes to shopping in Beijing, the most fun place to visit is definitely the massive Silk Market. Here are some stats on this place: 35,000 square meters, 1,700 vendors, 3,000 salespeople, and over 50,000 visitors on the weekends. All of that in one 5-story building in Beijing!
Before you go to the Silk Market, just be aware of two things: 1. This place exists solely for tourists and 2. Many products here are knock-offs.
Even so, it’s a fun place to explore for a bit. I would advise against buying things like electronics here, but it’s not a bad spot to pick up some souvenirs or some new clothes. Nobody at home has to know that’s not really a Gucci shirt you’re wearing…
The Silk Market is located at 8 Xiushui E St, JianWai DaJie, Chaoyang District. You can get there by taking Subway Line 1 to the Yonganli Station.
12. Visit the Summer Palace
If you’re wondering what to do in Beijing in the autumn, this is a good bet. Perhaps the most beautiful place in the city, the Summer Palace should be high atop your list of things to do in Beijing. It was built back in 1750 to serve as a place for the emperor and his family to get some R&R during the stifling hot summer months. It’s got pagodas, gardens, palaces, and even a huge man-made lake.
While the English name makes perfect sense due to its original purpose, the Chinese name is so much more poetic. It translates as “The Garden of Tranquil Harmony.” In a city full of constant car horns, traffic jams, and pushy crowds of people, the Summer Palace really is one of the few places to find some tranquil harmony.
The beautiful Summer Palace. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
You can enjoy a visit to the Summer Palace any time of year, but my favorite time is fall when the leaves are all changing colors. Be sure to dedicate at least half a day to fully explore the beautiful grounds. You’ll quickly see why it received UNESCO status for being “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.”
The Summer Palace is located at 19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian District. It’s open from 6:30 AM to 6 PM between April and October and 7AM-5PM the rest of the year. A ticket is 20 RMB ($3) in the fall/winter months and 30 ($4.45) in the spring/summer.
Our ultimate goal in 2018 was to slow down (travel less) and spend a bit more time with our baby (this blog). While we love travelling from place to place every few days and enjoying the road like we did when we were backpackers, when trying to run an online business along the way, it’s not as easy.
The thing is, we love this blog. We love spending time working on it, we love watching it grow and we still stand in awe of what it’s become since we started it in 2012.
We don’t mind pausing our travelling lives to work a bit more on it. In fact, we don’t even like to call it “work” because that comes with a negative connotation of something we must do in order to live.
We have two passions that pretty much equal each other: travelling and running / growing an online business.
2017 was the first year since we started this blog that our traffic actually went down. While our income hovered around the same level, our traffic went from 124,459 users per month in January 2017, to 91,281 in December 2017.
We blame that mostly on the fact that we travelled more in 2017 than any other year since we started the blog. We decided not to take our regular 6 month house sitting gig in the Caribbean, which meant that instead we were exploring the globe, rather than putting in time on our laptops.
We did have a lot of fun travelling in 2017 though…
I would estimate that we only worked around 10 hours per week on average in 2017, which is great, but this lack of input reflected poorly on our traffic. It turns out that six months of staying put and house sitting all those prior years was when we really grew our blog, and without it in 2017 we saw some noticeable decreases.
So what did we do?
We decided to take our business more seriously in 2018 and rented a place in Grenada for the entire year. We still travelled from here, with a one-week paid press trip to Chicago, a month travelling around Canada, a week in Barbados and a couple of weekends away here on the island. But we really spent most of our time focusing on our business.
I’m not saying that we worked 12 hour shifts on the computers! Our blog has always been a means to support and enhance our lifestyle, so we don’t believe in spending more than 15 – 20 hours per week looking at computer screens. In order to grow our business while not working crazy hours, we had to focus our energy in the right places.
Where was that focus?
SEO, for those of you who don’t know (or aren’t marketing geeks like us), stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of optimizing your website and blog posts so that they show up in Google and drive more traffic to your site.
We decided at the end of 2017, when our traffic was down 27%, that we needed to make huge changes to our blog in order to get more visitors. These days every blog needs to have SEO and it was something our blog was lacking. Every other blogger, even new bloggers, were working hard on SEO and while we knew a lot about it, we weren’t properly implementing it on Goats On The Road.
So we hired an SEO team out of the UK. They aren’t cheap and they cost the business between $750 to $1,100 per month, every month. But they’re a big part of the reason we’ve had success in 2018. Their work on the site, coupled with our new focus on SEO content and our narrowing our niche of remote work, travel and living abroad, meant that we were able to nearly triple our traffic and double the blog’s revenue.
How did we do it?
There’s a lot of things we had to do. The SEO team made us clean up the backend of our website, we had to work on load speed, building backlinks, properly interlinking posts and we had to write content that Google would like, as well as our readers.
It wasn’t a simple task.
In this article, I’m going to break down the basics of what we did in order to nearly triple our traffic in less than a year. I hope that if you have a blog or website, you’ll be able to use this information to explode your traffic as well —without having to hire a $750 per month SEO team!
Plus I’m giving away a super-useful free gift at the end…
Pro Tip: When you’re first starting out, I wouldn’t recommend hiring an SEO team. They’re simply too expensive and if you find one for cheap, it means that they’re likely spamming and breaking rules in order to get you quick, short-lived gains in traffic. Instead, do your research online. Read posts like this one and learn the most impactful SEO strategies that you can employ on your business, then, when that traffic starts generating income, you can reinvest it into SEO. Learning this skill is invaluable for any type of business owner who has an online presence.
SEO = traffic.
Traffic = money and a vehicle to help more people.
Those are the only reasons we want to spend more time on SEO. It would help us to grow our audience which would allow us to help more people to quit their jobs and live a freer life, and through that traffic, we’d be able to generate more revenue for the blog.
If you look on this site, you’ll see a few ads on the pages. I don’t think they’re too distracting, but they help us earn an income from our site. As our blog has a lot of other monetization strategies, our Ads only make up about 15% of our overall income, but they still do quite well.
Once a blog reaches 25,000 users per month (which is entirely possible to achieve quickly when you properly use SEO), you can flick a switch and turn on MediaVine Ads. MediaVine is a company that displays ads on hundreds of thousands of websites and those website owners get a cut of the ad revenue for placing them. The best part is that it’s 100% passive.
We turned on MediaVine ads just over a year ago and it brings in around $3,000 per month for the blog. Of course, we have a lot of traffic, so we do earn a bit more, but we also don’t have very many ads. If we were to fully max out our ads (like many of our blogging colleagues) we could be earning more than double that amount.
If a person were to grow their website traffic to 25,000 users per month (the MediaVine minimum) and turn on all of the ads available, that traffic would be worth around $400 – $750 / month. Pretty easy money!
Pro Tip: Every entrepreneur needs goals. Make 25,000 users per month your traffic goal so that you can easily turn on MediaVine and make up to $750 / month in passive income. That pays for a lot of travel! I know of bloggers who have used proper SEO and reached this number in less than 6 months, while others surpassed 100,000 users in a little over a year (potentially worth $3,000 / month in ad revenue). If you already have more than 25,000 users, then make your goal to grow 25,000 more to easily add an extra $400 – $750 / month in ad revenue.
This is what the SEO Team worked hard on for us and it was a lot of work. We had to go back to “Thin” posts on our site and add value to them. We also had to create a proper HTML site map, and start using Google Search Console and Google Analytics properly to track our success and gather useful SEO data.
We also spent some time speeding up our site, compressing images and trying to make Goats On The Road load faster. Google penalizes websites (particularly on mobile devices) if they don’t load fast enough, so we had to make sure that we weren’t making our new readers wait to see our content.
We also had to go back into old pages and make sure they were properly interlinked with other relevant posts and add more posts to the thinner categories in order to create a super-useful online resource for every topic on our blog (more on this below).
The backend clean-up was a bunch of nerdy stuff that I won’t get into here, but it had a massive impact on the overall SEO health of our site and we learned a lot in the process. I really think that thanks to our SEO team and the work they did in the backend of the site, Google now gives our blog more authority and that’s a big part of the reason we’re now able to rank for terms and show up in search results more quickly.
Pro Tip: If you have a WordPress blog, download the “Admin Columns Plugin“. Then go into “All Posts” in your WordPress Dashboard and use the Admin Columns Plugin to add a column for “word count”. Then scroll through all of your current content and look for posts and pages that have less than 1,000 words. Go into each of those posts and add more value. Make them better for your readers and interlink them with other relevant posts. Google will love you for it.
This is something we that knew how to do for a long time, but hadn’t ever properly implemented it before 2018. Keyword Research is when you figure out what phrases are most commonly searched in Google, and then try to write great articles based on those keywords.
We’ve always tried to write the best content that we possibly can on this site, but we weren’t always thinking about what people actually wanted to read or what they searched in Google. In 2018 we started using KeySearch to plan our articles and it made a MASSIVE difference.
Around 50% of our current traffic is coming from blog posts we wrote in 2018 that now rank on page one of Google search results for popular key phrases that we found in KeySearch. I credit this success completely to two products, KeySearch and Yoast SEO (more on the latter below).
KeySearch is a paid product, but it’s worth every penny and in our case, it completely paid for itself. It helps you not only find great topics to write about, but it tells you how hard they will be to rank in Google for, who else is ranking, how many links they’ve built, how many words all of the top ranking articles have and much, much more.
I was so happy with KeySearch that I contacted the sales manager of the company and asked if I could get an affiliate link and a discount for Goats On The Road readers. He agreed to give our readers 20% off which is great. All you have to do is use this link and the coupon code “GOAT20” at check-out.
The Priceless Data Found In The Main Keyword Research Tab of KeySearch
We slowly figured out how to understand difficulty, authority and search volume, search trends, how to maximize sales through pinpointing the buyers journey in search results, how to use the competitive analysis, competitor metrics and page analyzer tools in KeySearch and how to properly read and benefit from the data in the main keyword research tab.
I believe that we “mastered” KeySearch in 2018. We already knew quite a bit about the product, but now we know every single feature it has and how to utilize them properly in order to get quick rankings in Google. This alone has probably had the largest impact on our traffic overall and it’s great to learn a new skill that you can see working right away.
Pro Tip: It can save a lot of time if you use the keyword filter feature in KeySearch. Add filters to ensure that the difficulty is never higher than 40 and the volume isn’t less than 200 searches per month and you should get a list of around 20 – 50 keywords that meet that criteria. You can then export that list of keywords and use each one in your SEO article at least once to rank for many keywords.
Writing Killer SEO Content
Now that we cracked the code of finding high-volume keywords that we can rank for, it was time to start writing great content around those keywords / key phrases. This is where Yoast comes in. We’ve used this plugin for years, but never to its full potential. Yoast is a free WordPress plugin that helps you optimize your blog posts and pages for on-page SEO.
But Yoast is actually quite vague. What gave us the biggest boost in traffic was understanding exactly how Yoast works and how to take Yoast’s data and make it work for our blog in particular. This was a big learning curve but just as we have with KeySearch, I feel like Dariece and I managed to crack the code to Yoast as well.
These days we’re able to pick a key phrase in KeySearch, write a post using Yoast around that key phrase, and sometimes rank on page one of Google within 3 weeks… which is unheard of.
This has led to a snowball effect on our traffic with new, useful SEO posts going up each week and ranking in Google shortly thereafter.
Pro Tip: A post is never complete. Always try to add value to your posts as much as possible. Before you hit publish, go back over your post and see if you can help people more by adding more to the post. How much does each item cost. How do you get there? Which companies should you book with? Where is the best places to go? What are the best places to stay? Add more value and Google will reward you with traffic.
Internal Linking Structures
We’ve always interlinked all of our posts. Not only is it good for Google, but it’s good for the user experience. People love when they’re reading a post and can click to another post to learn more about a specific topic.
Little did we know that there’s a particular way to interlink all of your content so that Google thinks of it as a “content cluster” or online resource and sends the entire cluster more traffic. We learned this from our friend Justin Carmack over at ArtOfScubaDiving.com, and our SEO team helped us perfect the art.
By creating the most useful group of posts possible and linking them together in the right way, we were able to send massive amounts of traffic to those newly built content clusters. Again, it was a formula that we were able to implement that had quick success on our site.
It’s another reason why we love SEO. Search Engines these days are sophisticated and their main goal is to always deliver the end-user with the most in-depth and useful content possible.
As we started to focus on SEO, it meant focusing on writing even better content for our readers. We tried to cover every aspect of travel, remote work and travel jobs so that we could become a major online resource on these topics.
Pro Tip 1: Whatever your topic is, Google wants you to create the best possible content around that topic. This has led to some amazing resources being created online and it’s changed the landscape of the internet completely. People are no longer trying to game the system and spam posts with keywords and backlinks. Google is too smart. These days it’s all about writing the best content possible so that Google will send you traffic.
Pro Tip 2: Whenever you write a new post on your blog, go back into all of the other posts within that category, and any relevant posts on your site and add internal links that point to the new article you’ve written. Better yet, use the keyword you want the new article to rank for (and variations of it) as the anchor text when linking to it.
Marketing & Backlinking
We’ve always been proud of our marketing abilities with Goats On The Road, so there was nothing new that we learned here, we just learned how to maximize its effect on our site. We created a schedule to market, backlink and guest post for each of our main SEO posts and this helped to drive traffic and send us new readers.
For new blogs starting out, guest posting and getting featured on large websites is marketing 101 and it’s the best way to get new readers to your site. But as our blog grew we kind of forgot about how important it was. So with our new internal link structures and great SEO posts written on high-volume topics, we started marketing them across our social platforms, to our email list and on guest posts and backlinks. This helped to drive even more traffic.
The best part is that when new readers came to our site, they were somewhere within one of the content clusters that we had created, meaning that they had plenty of places to go. They could learn so much about whatever topic they were on our site for, that they would stay on the blog for a long time and eventually sign-up for our email newsletter because they found the site so in-depth. It’s a win-win!
Pro Tip: Never over-optimize anchor text from external domains. If you’re writing a lot of guest posts on other websites and linking them back to your SEO content on your blog, always vary the anchor text. One or two might have the exact anchor text of the keyword you want to rank for, 5 – 10 will have variations of that keyword, and the rest should be branded or soft anchor (ie: yourblogname.com / click here).
Reading The Metrics
As our traffic started to grow, it was important that we doubled down on what was working, and abandoned what wasn’t. That’s where Google Search Console, KeySearch Tracking and Google Analytics came in.
We worked closely with our SEO Team to learn exactly what data was the most important in all of these tools and how to utilize the metrics to amplify our growth. It was another massive learning curve, but we soon realized that while these tools are wildly complex, there are only a few pages / features that you really need to know in order to track and grow traffic quickly.
We realized that by finding out what was working on our site, we could go back into those posts, make them better and ultimately drive even more traffic to them. By finding crawl errors and pages on our site that had high impressions in search results, but low CTR (Click Through Rate), we were able to massively increase our traffic to posts that we’d already published and marketed.
This was a huge success for our traffic and it was another win-win situation because while we were making the content better for SEO, we were also making it better for our readers and making our site easier to navigate overall.
Google Search Console, Google Analytics and KeySearch seem overwhelming at first, but once you understand the basics of them you can distill them down to the parts that matter most and all of a sudden the three tools seem more approachable.
Together, these three tools (two of which are totally free), form the trifecta from which our blog traffic would ultimately owe its success to.
Pro Tip: Use Google Search Console to locate which posts on your site have a lot of impressions in searches, but aren’t being clicked. Then change the meta description and SEO title to make them more appealing...
Although its name translates as “Hidden Port,” Mexico’s Puerto Escondido is no secret and has long been a favourite among surfers and backpackers. That being said, this chilled out beach town in Oaxaca State still manages to fly under the radar of most travellers.
Perhaps that’s due to the lack of international direct flights and cookie-cutter resorts that bring so many tourists to places like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. If you’re willing to put in the legwork to get here, you’ll be rewarded greatly with stunning beaches, friendly locals, and mouth-watering cuisine.
Puerto Escondido is definitely one of the best places to visit in Mexico. Plan your trip to this awesome Mexican beach town with the assistance of this comprehensive guide. We’ll go into detail about the top things to do, where to stay, and some of the best places to eat and drink. Vamos, amigos!
An Introduction to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Puerto Escondido is located on Mexico’s Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca. You may be wondering where the name comes from. Well, there’s an interesting story behind it…
As the legend goes, pirates once kidnapped a young woman here. While they were docked in the bay, the woman managed to escape. They referred to her as “La Escondida” (The Hidden One) and looked for her every time they returned, to no avail. The name stuck, and it eventually became known as Bahía de la Escondida (Bay of the Hidden One).
The port was established around 1900 to ship coffee. There was no settlement here at that time due to a lack of potable water, which came in the 1930s, and with it the foundation of a new town. In the ensuing decades, an airport and the coastal Highway 200 helped connect Puerto Escondido to the rest of Mexico.
Eventually, tourists began to discover the beautiful beaches of Puerto Escondido. Simple hotels sprang up, as did restaurants housed in palapas where local fishermen prepared the day’s catch.
The development of tourism here increased greatly when surfers discovered the epic waves of Zicatela Beach (Playa Zicatela). These days, Puerto Escondido attracts a mix of surfers, backpackers, Mexican families, and even some digital nomads as the infrastructure develops.
One interesting thing about Puerto Escondido is that it’s actually split between two municipalities – Santa María Colotepec and San Pedro Mixtepec.
The border remains a contentious issue, causing some business owners here to actually pay taxes to both of them. Tensions flare up on a regular basis, including one incident last year where a mayor was actually taken prisoner. Let’s hope they resolve it soon!
Now that you know a bit more about the town, let’s dive in and take a look at the best things to do in Puerto Escondido:
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, Puerto Escondido is a great place to ride the waves. After all, it was surfers who originally put this town on the tourist map. Surfers from all over the world come here to ride the legendary waves off the Mexican coast.
Where you decide to go surfing all depends on your skill level. Zicatela is world-famous for its massive beach break, which is referred to as the “Mexican Pipeline” in the surfing community. These waves are better left to advanced surfers, as they can be quite unforgiving.
Even if you can’t handle the waves at Zicatela, it’s worth it to head there to grab some lunch and maybe a cold one on the beach as you watch from a comfortable distance. They even host big surfing competitions here from time to time, so be sure to check and see if one is going on.
Beginners can head instead to La Punta or Carrizalillo. You’ll find much smaller waves at both beaches that are ideal for learning how to surf. There are plenty of instructors around and boards for hire. You can expect to pay around 500 pesos ($25) per hour, including board rental.
Leave the surfing to the pros…
Hit the Beach
If you’re like me and fail at all boards (skate, snow, surf, ironing), never fear – there are plenty of beaches in Puerto Escondido that are just fine for chilling out. The aforementioned Playa Carrizalillo is a fine beach to visit even without a surfboard. You’ll have to walk down 167 steps to access the beach (and then back up again), but this stunning cove is worth it.
Heading down the coast, you’ll find two bays sitting right next to each other – Puerto Angelito and Playa Manzanillo. Both are nice for relaxing and swimming, and are very popular with locals and domestic tourists on the weekends. You can find several restaurants here, many of which have beach loungers you can use so long as you’re ordering something.
If you’ve got your own wheels or don’t mind springing for a taxi, you can continue south along the coast towards the resort town of Huatulco. There are plenty of gorgeous beaches along the way, so go ahead and make a day of it. If you’d prefer to enjoy the beach in your birthday suit, you can hit Playa del Amor (the Beach of Love), which is clothing optional.
If you can bring yourself away from your beach chair, there’s plenty more to do in the waters around Puerto Escondido. One of the most popular activities here is taking a boat trip in search of sea turtles, dolphins, or whales depending on the season.
Every tour operator in town can set you up for a day of wildlife spotting, snorkeling, and maybe even some fishing. A half-day boat trip usually goes for around 450 pesos ($23) per person.
*Note: going on a whale watching tour is one of the top things to do in Cabo San Lucas, if you find yourself in that part of Mexico, don’t miss it!
See the Bioluminescent Lagoon
One of the coolest things to do in Puerto Escondido is swimming in the glowing bioluminescence of the Manialtepec Lagoon. This lagoon is home to plankton that lights up at night. The darker it is, the more you’ll see. As such, the best time to visit is around the new moon.
Most travel agents in town can set you up on a trip out to the lagoon. Tours typically cost between 250-350 pesos ($13-18) per person. This includes round-trip transportation from town as well as the boat trip to see the glowing plankton. This experience is definitely one of the best things to do in all of Mexico.
Experience a Baby Turtle Release
Another popular activity in Puerto Escondido is releasing baby sea turtles back into the water. If there was a hatching that morning, you can go and release some of the adorable baby turtles in the evening.
The sea turtles only lay eggs between late October and May. Many hotels in Puerto Escondido organize their own baby turtle releases, so ask around when you get to town. Alternatively, you can just go to the baby turtle release centre on Bacocho Beach.
Seeing baby turtles be released into the wild is something you won’t forget
Chill Out at a Beach Club
Speaking of Bacocho Beach, that’s where you’ll find the awesome Club de Playa Villasol. This beach club has two pools, a swim-up bar, and a great restaurant. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing day in Puerto Escondido.
You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to enjoy their beach club. Just spend a minimum of 200 pesos ($10.50) on food and drink for adults or 100 for children and you’re good to go. They even show movies on Wednesday nights – a cinema right on the beach!
Adrenaline junkies will be happy to hear that skydiving is on offer in Puerto Escondido. Fly above the breath-taking Mexican coast as you jump from nearly 4,000 meters. It’s an exhilarating experience that you’re sure to be talking about for years to come!
Skydiving only goes on in Puerto Escondido in the high season, usually around Christmas-New Year’s Eve or Easter. Be sure to check the website of Skydive Puerto Escondido to see when they’re operating. A tandem jump costs 2,900 pesos (about $150).
Take Part in a Local Festival
Originally attracting visitors during the low season, the Fiestas de Noviembre has grown into a month-long celebration with tons of different events. There’s a fishing tournament, surfing competitions, beauty pageants, concerts, a food festival and so much more.
Travelling to Puerto Escondido in November is the perfect way to avoid the larger crowds (and higher prices) that start arriving the next month. The festivities go on all month, so you’ll never be bored if you travel there in November.
While it’s not quite as widespread as it is in bigger cities like Mexico City or Guadalajara, there is an emerging street art scene in Puerto Escondido. Read our informative guide to street art in Mexico before you go, and then hit the streets with your camera to snap some photos of the cool murals you stumble upon.
How to Get to Puerto Escondido Oaxaca
One thing that helps keep this place the “Hidden Port” is the lack of direct flights from the Puerto Escondido airport to the US or Canada.
While there are direct flights from Mexico’s North American neighbors to the nearby resort town of Huatulco, that’s still a 90-minute drive away. To get from there to Puerto Escondido, your options range from a $3 bus up to a $90 pre-arranged taxi.
Many people choose to arrive in Puerto Escondido by connecting in Mexico City. Flights from the capital take about 70 minutes and can be found for as little as $40. If you have to connect there anyways, I recommend spending at least a couple of days to take advantage of all the awesome things to do in Mexico City.
There are also flights from Oaxaca City, but you’ll need to book directly with the only airline that runs them. Check AeroTucan’s website for times and prices. It seems as if 2,550 ($133) pesos is the going rate for a one-way flight. Other travellers have recommended calling the airline, as their website often has issues with bookings.
Those AeroTucan flights tend to sell out well in advance. Another option is flying AeroVega. Captain Don Vega regularly flies the route in his 6-seat Cessna and comes highly recommended by other travellers. You can contact him at email@example.com or +1 044 954 588 0062 to reserve a spot on one of his flights.
If you’d prefer to save money rather than time, you can catch a bus from Oaxaca along the windy mountain roads to Puerto Escondido. The bigger, more comfortable buses cost around 250-350 pesos ($13 – $18) and take 10 hours or so. Many backpackers choose to take the overnight bus to save money on accommodation, although sleeping might not be that easy on this journey.
You can also hitch a ride in a mini-bus, which might be a little cramped but only takes 6-7 hours for a cost of around 200 pesos ($10.5). Just be prepared for motion sickness as it’s quite the bumpy ride!
Finally, some people choose to just rent a car in Oaxaca City and drive themselves to Puerto Escondido. Just make sure the rental insurance agreement is clear so as to avoid any surprise charges. It’s also best to tackle this drive during the day as some of those hairpin turns can sneak up on you.
To get around Puerto Escondido, you’ll likely use a combination of taxis and local public transportation. Getting a taxi from the airport to town should cost around 40-50 pesos ($2-2.50), or about 70 ($3.50) if headed to Punta Zicatela. Taxi rides within town only cost 30-35 pesos ($1.50-2).
For public transportation in Puerto Escondido, you can choose between colectivos (shared taxi vans), local buses, and camionetas (pick-up trucks). These all run from sunrise till around 8:30 PM and only cost 8 pesos (less than $0.50) each.
To visit points further outside of town, you can try to hire a driver for the day or just rent a car.
Despite being a small town, Puerto Escondido is home to hundreds of places to eat and drink. It being a fishing town, seafood is obviously the top choice here. The state of Oaxaca also grows some pretty amazing coffee beans, so it’s not hard finding a good cup of coffee here. Here are a few of the best places to eat and drink in town:
Cafecito (Boulevard Benito Juárez 1, Seccion C, Local 11, Rinconada): This Puerto Escondido staple has two locations – one in town and one on Zicatela. It’s a very popular place to go for breakfast, so don’t be surprised to find a line if you arrive in the morning.
Benito Juarez Market: The local market is the best place to go shop for fresh fruit and veggies. You can also sit down to a cheap lunch at one of the many vendors there.
Brad’s Split Coconut (Av. Del Morro, Playa Zicatela): Set right on the beach among palm trees, this is a fun spot to go for dinner and drinks. They’re always cooking up some delicious BBQ here, and the place is usually rocking with some live music.
El Espadin (Camino Carrizalillo No 125, Carrizalillo): Head to Playa Carrizalillo around sunset to enjoy a meal at this fantastic restaurant. Order the catch of the day or whatever other seafood you fancy.
Cayuco (Av. Del Morro 4, Playa Zicatela): Another beachfront restaurant, Cayuco cooks up classic Oaxacan dishes in unique ways. They’ve also got an excellent selection of mezcal here.
Almoraduz (Benito Juárez 12, Rinconada): For fine dining Puerto Escondido style, head to this amazing restaurant. The chefs here whip up traditional Oaxacan cuisine with a twist. They also make some killer drinks, like a hibiscus margarita with mezcal.
Congo Bar (Alfonso Pérez Gasga 605): Live music, cheap drinks, and a raging party are what you’ll find here.
Bar Fly (Av. Del Morro, Playa Zicatela): If you’re looking to dance into the wee hours of the morning, this is the place to do it.
seafood tacos for the win!
Eating and drinking your way around Puerto Escondido is definitely a highlight of visiting this chilled out beach town. If you have any other recommendations for great places to grab a bite or a drink, please leave them in the comments below!
Accommodation in Puerto Escondido ranges from simple backpacker-style hostels up to luxury beachfront resorts. As such, there’s something for all tastes and budgets here.
Those focused on surfing will probably want to book a room on Playa Zicatela to have easy access to the best waves in Puerto Escondido. If you head a little further south on the beach to the area known as La Punta, it’s a little bit more laid-back and less focused on surfing.
Families and couples looking to stay away from the party might want to seek out accommodation up at Playa Bacocho, where there are plenty of options.
When seeking out accommodation in Puerto Escondido, it’s important to consider the time of year you’ll be travelling there. Places fill up fast over Christmas, New Year’s, and Semana Santa (Holy Week). To avoid disappointment, you’ll want to book well in advance if travelling there during these busy times.
For the most part, Puerto Escondido is a very safe place to travel. That being said, incidents do occur here, especially robberies. It’s best to avoid walking on the beach at night. Wherever you are, it’s advised to stay in a group. Don’t carry too much cash or valuables on you so as to avoid drawing attention to yourself.
Perhaps the biggest danger in Puerto Escondido is the water. Life guards here rescue hundreds of people every year, so be sure to take those red flag warnings seriously and stay out of the water when advised to do so.
The biggest safety issue in Puerto Escondido is probably the rough seas
When travelling to or from Puerto Escondido, it’s recommended to skip out on the overnight buses to Mexico City. These pass through the state of Guerrero, which is one of the most dangerous areas in Mexico. There are many reports of armed robberies on these buses, so you’re much better off springing for a flight with a budget airline instead.
In a popular tourist beach town in Mexico, it should come as no surprise that drugs are not hard to find. I’m not going to tell you what to do or not to do on your vacation, but just be aware that cops here like to stop gringos at night for random inspections to see if they can find anything.
Spending some time in a Mexican jail and/or dishing out a huge bribe are surefire ways to ruin your trip.
Pack Your Bags For Puerto Escondido!
Well there you have it, amigos. As I’m sure you can see by now, Puerto Escondido has a lot to offer travellers who put forth the effort to make it to this little slice of paradise in Oaxaca.
From surfing some of the most epic waves in the world, to free-falling above the ocean and mountains on a skydiving trip, to dining on fresh seafood with sunset views, this is a fantastic choice for your next vacation.
On February 2nd, we’ll be trading in our tropical island paradise for rugged mountain landscapes, ancient ruins, lush rainforests, and Spanish colonial cities. That’s right, we’re heading to South America for the second time. This trip we’ll be travelling around for 3 months while checking new countries off our travel list: Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
We couldn’t be more excited!
2018 was the first year we didn’t add any new stamps to our passports, so we’re really looking forward to packing our backpacks, lacing up our hiking boots and hitting the road.
Living in Grenada for this past year was exactly what we needed — for business, health and relationships. But having said that, the travel itch is starting to become unbearable. We love the house we’re renting, our friends we’ve made and what the island has to offer, but things are starting to feel a little too normal and we’re ready for our next adventure.
We’re travellers at heart, and I think we always will be.
Trading in the beach for mountains!
Click here to read about our previous trip to South America, which included Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
We’ve purchased a one-way ticket. But, we both know that we’re returning to Grenada at the end of our South American adventure. This feeling of wanting to “return” is new for us. Except for 2018, we’ve mostly been moving on to new destinations.
Our home will be waiting for us when we return, as will the extra things we’ve accumulated while we’ve been here. Normally, we’d have to give away any excess items we had acquired during our temporary stays. This time around, our friends will store our (few) things we have and it’ll be nice to not shove everything we own into a 40L backpack.
We’re just bringing the necessities!
A New Way of Travelling
This 3 month trip will be somewhat different from ones we’ve done in the past.
We’re Different People
We’re not the same people we were 11 years ago when we set off on our first backpacking trip, and we’ve changed since our last trip to South America in 2016. We’re constantly growing and evolving. Our circumstances have changed, our preferences have changed and quite simply, we’ve changed. We’re older, (somewhat) wiser and our interests are different.
We’ll be travelling with backpacks, but not staying in backpacker accommodation, or sticking to a backpacker budget. Rather than partying all night with fellow travellers, we’re interested in interacting with local people.
One thing that has remained the same, however, is that we’ve planned everything ourselves and will sort out transportation, food and activities as we go. We’ve even planned the Galapagos Islands independently!
We can’t wait to get back to South America! (photo taken in Colombia)
A Focus On Responsible Travel
These days, it’s more important than ever to be a responsible traveller. Not that we haven’t been in the past, but this time around, we’re really going to focus on that aspect of travel.
We’ll be bringing our Steripen to reduce the use of plastic bottles, and the soaps and shampoo we have are all natural, and package free. We’ll shop at markets and support small vendors where possible.
When it comes to tour companies and accommodation, we’ve been doing a lot of research on which ones are eco-conscious and give back to the communities they are a part of. It took a lot of researching for Machu Picchu, but we feel we’ve found an excellent company that focuses on sustainability, fair wages and social economics.
Many of the accommodations we’ve booked have a strong focus on the environment, with some hosts requesting we only use natural insect repellents and sunscreens. Plus, many of them offer homemade foods baked by local neighbours and organic gardens in the yard.
Paying Our Own Way
We won’t be working with any hotels, tour companies or airlines…by choice.
Our website traffic has tripled over this past year (thank you for reading!), with 350,000 people visiting this website each month. This is an accomplishment that we’re very proud of, and we’re so happy to be able to share our message with more people.
Because of our high website traffic, there’s the potential to create some great partnerships with brands in Ecuador and Peru. But we want this trip to be all about enjoying travel — without working with any companies. We’re looking forward to not having the pressure and stress of creating content on a deadline, and can’t wait to simply travel again.
We might not be writing review articles or creating brand specific posts, but we’ll definitely be writing about our trip! We’re excited to share our stories, photos and must-dos with you. Stay tuned for must-eat’s, must-see’s and destination guides to Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Don’t get me wrong, receiving free travel is one of the great perks of becoming a travel blogger, and many influencers base their business plan around press trips and brand campaigns. This is great if that’s the route you want to take, as there is money to be made and incredible experiences to be had.
We’re grateful for all of the press trips and campaigns we’ve been a part of in the past, and we’re not against them for the future. But, we’re looking forward to this particular trip being about travel, without a side of business.
Travelling in Argentina’s Lake District was amazing, but we did work with many companies
If you’ve been following our journey for a while now, you’ll know that we’re usually fairly spontaneous when it comes to travel. We’ll arrive somewhere and move on when we feel like it.
Over the past 2 years, we’ve become more indecisive for some reason and planning where to go next has been a challenge. Plus, we don’t really like to plan since we never know what the future is going to bring.
Rather than spend our upcoming trip trying to figure out our route, the cities we want to visit, the excursions we want to do and where we want to stay, we’ve booked many things ahead of time — for the first time ever.
I think it’ll be nice to not “waste” any precious travel time while we’re on a trip with a deadline (even though it’s a one-way ticket, we have a date that we plan to return to Grenada).
Of course, not everything is set in stone, but we did book accommodation and flights and we needed to book Machu Picchu ahead of time. We’ll figure out transport, excursions and food while we’re in-country.
During our past travels, we’ve mostly stayed in hostels, guest houses, hotels and apartments. This time around, we’re staying in some incredible, one-of-a-kind places that we’ve found through Airbnb.
We’ve been recommending this accommodation platform on our website and in our newsletter. We use it, and we love it. When you sign up for Airbnb, you receive $25-$40 off your first stay, and we receive $15 off our stay. Over time, we’ve accumulated some credit and are putting it towards unique homes in South America.
While planning, we searched on Booking.com, Hostel World and Airbnb for places to stay. What stood out the most was the value for money on Airbnb. For us, it simply didn’t make sense to overspend on a basic hostel or a hotel room when we could enjoy an eco-friendly cloud forest home, a cabin in the mountains or a cottage next to a river.
Of course, these stunning properties cost a bit more than a hostel, but we think it’s worth it for the character and location of the places.
We love the platform because we’ve been able to make friends with the hosts, or at the very least we’ve been given some excellent local advice on off-track things to see, do and eat.
One of the perks of staying in Airbnbs is that sometimes you’ll befriend the hosts!
In Buenos Aires, we went to a restaurant/bar with our hosts, one we never would’ve heard of otherwise. The night out was great and we learned a lot about the city, and Argentina as a whole. In Manzanillo, we enjoyed dinner parties, fun events and many conversations with our hosts, who soon became great friends!
For us it’s all about interacting with the local people and learning about their culture and customs. We’re really looking forward to this aspect of our South American trip.
I think we’ve finally accepted the fact that we like to travel slower than most people.
If a blog or guidebook suggests 3 days in a town, we’ll stay at least 5. The best part of travel is exploring at a slower pace, finding places that aren’t on the well-trodden trail, and of course, having time to spend with people we meet along the way.
For most of the destinations we plan to see, we’re staying 5 – 7 nights, with 2 weeks spent just in Cusco and The Sacred Valley. I actually think it might be hard to leave the natural surrounds of some of the places we’ve booked.
It’s going to be hard to leave this place! Photo Credit: Airbnb
Highlights We’re Looking Forward To
Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia are very diverse countries and offer travellers history, culture and adventure. From the Amazon and Andes to the coast and desert, there’s something for everyone.
For us, we’re especially looking forward to all of the ancient Inca ruins and our trek to Machu Picchu. Many people opt to take the new train that leads up to the site, but we’re going to hike for 5 days on the Inca Trail, before reaching the famous ruins.
The trekking and adventure aspect of this trip is going to be incredible. These countries are known for their numerous waterfalls, mountain bike trails, hiking trails and multi-day excursions. Bring it on!
Not only will the history, culture, and adventure be a highlight, but so will the wildlife. The cloud forest town of Mindo in Ecuador is known for its 400+ species of birds. Not that we’re birders, but seeing (and hearing) toucans and other vibrant birds from our balcony with coffee in hand is going to be pretty amazing.
When it comes to wildlife spotting, nowhere is going to compete with the Galapagos Islands. We’re visiting Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands, with some day trips planned. We’re looking forward to spotting giant tortoises, land iguanas, blue footed boobies, hammerhead sharks, turtles, sea lions and more.
Oh, and I’m sure we’ll spot many llamas in the region!
For those of you who have been to Miami, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, we’d love to hear from you. Either send us an email, or leave a comment on this article about the must-do activities, must-see sites, your favourite towns and your top restaurants and bars. This is going to be one epic adventure! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see photos and stories from our trip in real-time.
Most travellers to Thailand dedicate a good portion of their trip to exploring the country’s many islands. When it comes to the Thai islands, Phuket is most certainly a juggernaut. Not only is Phuket the largest island in Thailand, but it’s also visited by around one-third of all international visitors to the country.
It’s also the only island in Thailand to be connected to the mainland by not one, but two bridges. Sarasin (which is used for pedestrian traffic) and Thepkasattri, which is used for motor vehicles.
On such a large and popular island, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of fun things to do in Phuket. Whether you’re looking for some R&R, adventure, or just to let your hair down and party, you’ll find it in Phuket. There’s so much going on here that you could max out your tourist visa just exploring this one island.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys lounging on gorgeous beaches, partaking in a variety of water sports, or indulging in culinary and nightlife scenes, you’ll love a trip to Phuket Island. It’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Thailand.
With so much going on, planning a trip to Phuket can be a little intimidating. Never fear – we’ve compiled a solid list of the 21 best things to do in Phuket for you to make life easier!
1. Beach Bumming
Before we get into all the exciting things to do in Phuket, let’s start out with a classic island vacation activity – beach bumming! On this huge island, you’ve got tons of choices for dipping your toes in the sand. But first, you’ll want to make sure you know which beaches come recommended and which ones are best avoided.
With the explosive development of Phuket’s coastline in recent decades, many beaches are well past their glory days. In my opinion, Patong Beach in particular should be avoided. Unless you like being bombarded with touts and almost run over by jet skis, I’d advise you give Patong a hard pass.
Now that we’ve gotten the bad news out-of-the-way, let’s move on to the good! Despite its popularity, Phuket is still home to several pristine, hidden beaches. With a little bit of effort, you’re rewarded with postcard-worthy beaches that are devoid of chain hotels and pushy vendors.
We could put together a whole guide on the beaches of Phuket – and maybe we will – but for now, here’s a quick list of some of the best beaches which feature more scenic beauty and less crowds: Ya Nui, Laem Singh, Pleumsuk, Nai Harn Beach, Karon Beach, and Nai Yang Beach are all excellent choices.
2. Visit the Big Buddha
One of the most revered landmarks in Phuket is the Big Buddha. This 45-metre tall Buddha is made of white marble and it can be seen from many points on the island. As it’s located atop the highest peak of Nakkerd Hills, you can enjoy some incredible panoramic views from here as well.
The Big Buddha is a very popular attraction, drawing over 1,500 visitors a day. If you really want to see the place bustling with activity, time your visit on one of the many Buddhist holidays that are celebrated in Thailand.
It’s free to visit the Big Buddha, but many people choose to make a donation to receive a small white tile that you can write a message on. You can get yourself here on a motorbike if you’re an experienced rider. The road up is windy and steep, so you may just want to get a taxi or sign up for a tour. Try to get here early in the morning or around sunset to beat the heat and crowds.
3. Diving or Snorkeling
When it comes to the best things to do in Phuket for couples, families or solo travellers, it’s all about getting in the water. There are some excellent opportunities for both scuba divers and snorkelers alike here. On many of the beaches in Phuket, you can simply rent a mask, snorkel, and fins to DIY. Alternatively, you can sign up for a tour to hit a few different spots and enjoy a day out at sea.
There are several dive shops in Phuket where you can sign up for a course if you’re not already certified. Once you’re ready to go, there are tons of world-class dive sites at your fingertips. With clear blue waters and an abundance of marine life, Phuket is one of the best places on the globe to go diving.
If you really want a top-notch snorkeling/diving experience, consider tacking on a trip out to the Similan Islands. Liveaboard trips depart from Phuket regularly to this incredible national park, which is considered to be the best dive site in all of Thailand.
After diving in Phuket for a while, why not check out the underwater scene on the other side of the country? Koh Tao is another world-famous diving destination, so be sure to add it to your Thailand itinerary as well.
4. Wander Around Night Markets
Back on land, there are still plenty of great things to do in Phuket. The island boasts several fantastic night markets that make for the perfect place to spend a casual evening out and about.
One of the coolest choices is definitely the Chillva Market, which makes use of colourful shipping containers as store fronts. Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs or just looking to dig in to some tasty Thai street food, you’ll enjoy a stroll around. Checking out the markets is one of the top things to do in Phuket at Night.
Chillva Market: 141/2 Yaowarat Road, Phuket Town; open from 4-11PM Thursday-Saturday. Click here for directions.
5. Tour a Rum Distillery
While Chang beer is great and all, once in a while you’ve just got to drink something different in Thailand. That’s where a trip to the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery comes in. Distilled from 100% pure sugarcane, this tasty white rum is just what you need when you get sick of watered down beer.
Tours of the distillery run every day on the hour from 2-6PM. The cost is 450 Baht ($14.20) and includes a tasting plus a yummy mojito at the end. They also run an awesome cocktail workshop on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday where you learn how to make three different drinks in addition to the guided visit of the distillery. This is actually one of the great things to do in Phuket when it rains!
Chalong Bay Distillery: 14/2 Moo 2, Palai soi 2, Tambon Chalong, Amphur Muang Phuket; open from 11AM-11PM daily
6. Day Trip to Phang Nga Bay
When travelling in Phuket, a day trip out to Phang Nga Bay is an absolute must. These stunning limestone cliffs that jut out of the sea are well worth the time and effort to reach.
If they look familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen them in the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun.” Thanks to its starring role in the 007 film, one of the rock formations has even been dubbed James Bond Island. The bay also appeared in “Star Wars: Episode III” as the backdrop for the planet Kashyyyk. How cool is that?
Most people visit Phang Nga Bay on a tour out of Phuket. Tours usually include stops at a few islands as well as a bit of snorkeling and kayaking. There are tons of options for tours depending on your budget and tastes. You can even book your own private yacht to tour the bay if you really want to live it up!
7. Visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
There’s no doubt that Thailand has a major problem with animal tourism, especially when it comes to the country’s national animal. Elephants all across the country have been terribly abused for tourism and logging purposes over the years, but thankfully things are starting to change. Best of all, you can be a part of it here in Phuket!
Paying a visit to one of the elephant sanctuaries is definitely one of the most rewarding things to do in Phuket. Here you can interact with the peaceful pachyderms in an ethical way as you learn more about them. There is absolutely no elephant riding going on here, and that’s a good thing.
While there are a few such places to visit on the island, one that comes highly recommended is the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. They run two tours a day for 3,000 Baht per person, and you can even volunteer for several days if you’re interested. Taking care of elephants is also one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
Once in a while, you’ve got to get out of your beach chair and go do something cultural. One great option for a dose of Thai culture is a day of temple hopping. As is the case all across Thailand, Phuket is home to several different Buddhist temples.
The most important and most stunning Buddhist temple on the island is definitely Wat Chalong. There’s a lot to see in this massive complex, with the highlight being the glittering Grand Pagoda. It’s said that the pagoda houses a splinter from a bone of Buddha himself.
Wat Chalong is located about 8km from Phuket Town and is easy to find. It’s open from 7AM-5PM every day. Just be sure to wear modest attire when visiting this and any other Buddhist temple in Thailand. Save those neon singlets for the Full Moon Party, kids.
To truly admire the beauty of Phuket, you’ll want to head to one of the island’s many viewpoints. On this rather hilly island, there are plenty of places where you can enjoy some incredible panoramic views.
In addition to the aforementioned Big Buddha, some of the best places to get an elevated perspective on Phuket include Promthep Cape at the southern tip of the island, the Karon viewpoint near the beach of the same name, and Rang Hill in Phuket Town. Be sure to come hungry if you visit the latter so you can stick around to dine at the Tunk-Ka Cafe.
10. Learn How to Cook Thai Food
One of the best things to do in Phuket – or anywhere in Thailand, for that matter – is indulge in the country’s mouth-watering cuisine. While you’re here, why not try your hand at making it yourself? There are tons of excellent cooking classes you can sign up for in Phuket so you can bring that tasty Thai food home with you!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a longing for Thai food in places where it’s just impossible to find. By learning how to cook a few dishes yourself, you’ll never have to go without it again. You can also impress your friends by throwing a sweet dinner party and blowing their minds with your new skills.
There are plenty of great choices for cooking schools in Phuket. One that comes highly recommended is the Organic Thai Cooking School. They have several options, including vegetarian menus. Their half-day courses run 1,450 Baht per person and are well worth it.
If you like to party, then you’ve come to the right place! Phuket has some pretty epic nightlife regardless of what night of the week it is. From classy cocktail lounges, to chilled out reggae bars, to pulsating discos, you can find it all on this Thai island.
Most of the action after dark goes on in Patong on Bangla Road. This place is like Khao San Road in Bangkok on steroids. It can be a little intense (and definitely seedy), but it’s worth checking out at least once.
Those looking for a more laid-back experience can head to other parts of the island. Grab a drink and take in the views at the Quip Rooftop Bar in Phuket Town. Another solid choice is Ska Bar at the southern end of the gorgeous Kata Yai Beach.
Quip Bar: 5th Floor, Quip Bed & Breakfast, next to the corner of Phuket and Rasada Roads
Just because you’re already on an island doesn’t mean you can’t go see a few more! Heading out on a speedboat for a day of island hopping is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Phuket.
In addition to the aforementioned Phang Nga Bay tours, you can also embark on tours of the nearby Phi Phi Islands. Actually, the options are pretty much endless. There are tons of smaller islands surrounding Phuket, many of which are completely deserted. If you have a group and hire your own boat, you can choose your own adventure and make it up as you go along.
Obviously, tours vary in price depending on a lot of factors. It’s possible to get on a half-day tour that visits another island or two for $50 or less, but you can expect to pay closer to $100 or more if it’s a full day affair visiting several different islands. Island hopping is definitely one of the top things to do in Thailand – don’t miss out.
Toh Sae Hill in Phuket Town is also known as Monkey Hill, and for good reason. Around 400 macaques live in groups around the hill, and you’re sure to spot several of them.
There’s a viewpoint at the top of the hill, but you’ll actually get better views along the way if you walk up. There’s an exercise park about halfway up the hill that’s popular with locals. They even close the road to traffic at 5PM to allow people to enjoy the area free from exhaust fumes.
Join in the fun and get a good workout as you wait for a gorgeous Phuket sunset. Just keep an eye on your belongings, as the monkeys are known to snatch things like sunglasses or phones from time to time. If it happens, you’ll have to bribe them with fruit to get your stuff back!
Often overlooked by travellers who make a beeline for the beach, there are many things to do in Phuket Town if you take the time to visit. The Chinatown here alone is worth the trip. The town was once the centre of a mining boom on the island, which attracted many Chinese immigrants who left their mark on the town via their architecture and cuisine.
There’s more to see here than Chinatown. Here you’ll find the Phuket Cultural Centre and Butterfly Farm, as well as several museums, temples, and markets. You can sign up for a tour that will hit many of the highlights, or just get yourself there and pick up a copy of the free Phuket Town Treasure Map to create your own.
If you’re trying to visit Phuket on a budget – something that’s getting increasingly harder to do – you might even want to consider staying in town. Accommodation and food are much cheaper here, and you’re close to several of the island’s main attractions and plenty of beaches.
15. Water Sports Galore
Water sports are huge in Phuket, which should come as no surprise on a huge tropical island. In addition to the excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities that abound here, you’ve also got kayaking, SUPing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, sailing, fishing, surfing – the list goes on and on.
You can enjoy many water sports in Phuket right on the beach. There are plenty of vendors who rent out equipment like snorkels, kayaks, and jet skis. Of course, there are also tons of tours that will take you out for a fun day in the water. The possibilities are endless when it comes to water sports in Phuket.
Believe it or not, there are even options for water sports inland. That’s thanks to places like the Phuket Wave Park, which pulls wake boarders around a lake on a cable system. It’s suitable for all levels and is actually a great place to learn, as it’s much easier without having to deal with the wake from a boat.
One of the most entertaining things to do in Phuket, the Simon Cabaret show is an incredible performance that you’ll just have to see to believe. Billed as “Thailand’s most famous ladyboy show,” it is quite the spectacle.
This hour-long performance features extravagant costumes, incredibly talented performers, elaborate sets, and a ridiculously good light and sound system. They put a lot of time and effort into this show, which leaves well over a thousand attendees satisfied every night.
Shows take place every night at 6, 7:30, and 9PM. Tickets cost around $25 for a regular seat or $30 for a VIP seat. You can book directly through their website or with just about any tour operator on the island.
While there are tons of fun things to do in Phuket, once in a while you just have to treat yourself to a relaxing day at the spa. Thankfully, your options are basically endless here for spa treatments.
In the popular tourist areas of Phuket, you can’t walk more than a few feet without being offered a massage. There seem to be spas on just about every corner here. You can even get a Thai massage right from your beach chair!
Many higher-end hotels and resorts have their own spas, but there are also tons of great local spots at a fraction of the price.
One place that comes highly recommended is Oasis. They currently have five locations around the island, so they must be doing something right. They have a variety of treatments from 30-minute aromatherapy baths (650 Baht / $20 ++) all the way up to their amazing 5-hour “Seaside Sensation” package (7,500 Baht / $235++).
Without a doubt, the most popular sport in Thailand is the traditional Muay Thai kickboxing. While you’ll see ads for Muay Thai fights all over the island, many of them are simply put on for tourists. If you want the real deal, you’ll have to head to the Patong Boxing Stadium.
Fights take place on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday night, and the place is always packed with locals and tourists alike. Regular tickets cost 1,300 Baht ($41), while ringside goes for 1,500 ($47).
If you want to get into the ring yourself, they even offer Muay Thai training. Even if you have no interest in actually fighting, training in Muay Thai is a great way to whip yourself into shape. After all that Pad Thai and all those Chang beers, maybe that’s not such a bad idea!
There’s no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Phuket to suit all budgets and tastes. For a truly unique dining experience, sit down to a meal in one of the island’s amazing floating restaurants.
To get to the floating restaurants, you’ll need to head to the Laem Hin Pier on the eastern side of the island. From here, it’s a short (and free) longtail boat ride out to the cluster of dining establishments.
Of course, seafood is the top choice when eating here. Feast on stir-fried crab meat with yellow curry, huge oysters with garlic, chili, and lime, and much, much more. If you time your visit right, you’ll be able to enjoy a boat ride back under the stars with a full and very satisfied belly.
These days, there are numerous online teaching companies cropping up all over the internet. With so many scammy schools, it can be a challenge to know who to trust. We taught English in China for a year, and many of our friends have well-paying online English teaching jobs – which they highly recommend due to the flexible, remote schedule.
We’ve written about some of the top companies to teach for if you’re from the USA and Canada, but today we have a company that both our US and UK friends can sign up with…and it’s about time!
Teach English with EF Online, which is one of the leaders in education with over 580 schools globally.
If you’re looking to teach ESL to eager Chinese students, you can do so with EF Education First, from the comfort of home. This is one of the many perks of remote work.
Here’s a breakdown of EF Online, including the salary, requirements, benefits, sign-up process, and the pros & cons of working with EF. Ready to teach ESL? Let’s get started!
NOTE – make sure to turn off your VPN when applying for the teaching position. If you are connected anywhere but the USA or the UK, you won’t see the correct website, which should look like one of these 2 images:
What the main page should look like if you’re applying in the US
What the main screen should look like when you’re applying from the UK
What is EF Education First?
EF Education First was founded in 1965 and is a major (established) player in the ESL world – with offices, schools and projects worldwide. Their mission is to open the world through education and they offer numerous programs to achieve that goal.
Even though EF offers jobs around the world, this article is all about teaching online, rather than in person.
EF Education First is the main company, with EF Online and EF English First being two of their many divisions. EF Teach Online was launched in 1997. For over 20 years they’ve been successfully running their online programs and schools, which is a more convenient way to teach English!
We’ve yet to come across an online teaching school that accepts all native English-speaking countries. It seems as though most want teachers from the USA or Canada, which is largely due to the banking process of many of the online teaching companies. Plus, they think the North American accent is easier for a non-English speaker to understand.
Sorry to our friends in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but EF Education First Online is only for UK and American citizens.
If you’re from the USA or the UK, and are looking to change the lives of others, while making an income from home, then working with Education First is for you.
You get to create your own schedule, and have more time to spend doing the things you love. Classes are finished early in the morning or late at night, giving you the rest of the day to either work at a second job, spend time with your family, go golfing, head to the gym, visit with friends or simply relax.
Working online with EF Education First gives you an incredible amount of flexibility.
What Are The Qualifications For Becoming an EF Online Teacher?
As I said above, you must be from the USA or the UK, but there are some other qualifications that teachers applying to EF English First must meet.
Be a native English speaker living in the USA or the UK.
Hold a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in any field. (If you’re in the process of obtaining your degree, you’ll need to wait until it’s complete in order to apply to EF).
By the start of your contract, you must have completed a 40 hour TEFL (or higher). Click here to quickly obtain your TEFL – without breaking the bank.
Agree to an online background check (the fee for this will be covered by Education First).
Have a reliable headset, computer and mic for teaching.
Be available to work during set hours.
Have a solid wi-fi connection.
Be passionate about teaching, and have a positive attitude. You’ll be teaching children aged 6-10, so keeping them engaged is important.
If you meet the above qualifications, great! You can submit your email address and apply to teach with EF Education First Online.
If you’re from the USA, you might struggle a bit with the class times. You’ll need to become more of a morning person – have some coffee on hand!
For American teachers, these are the time slots:
Monday – Friday: 4:00am EST to 8:30am EST
Weekends: Friday night 8:00pm EST to Saturday morning 8:00am EST. And from Saturday night at 8:00pm EST to Sunday morning 8:00am EST.
For UK teachers, these are the time slots:
Monday – Friday: 9:00am GMT to 1:30pm GMT
Weekends: Classes as early as 6:00am GMT, based on your availability
All classes are 25 minutes each.
What sets EF Education First Online apart from other companies is that they encourage repeat classes. So you’ll find that you’re teaching the same student, at the same time, on the same day each week. Basically, if you and your student are working well together, then the parents will choose to book you for up to 6 months in advance (which is great for you as it means you’ll have a reliable income).
What Are The Classes Like?
I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but when it comes to teaching Chinese students (either in-country, or virtually), it’s all about the parents. They are the ones that you need to impress and are the ones who will decide if you will continue to teach their child or not.
When we taught in China we would have to do live classroom presentations every couple of months to our students’ parents (about 15 of them) – talk about pressure!
With EF Education First Online, at the end of each class you will need to provide a brief summary of the lesson you just taught (in English). But apart from that, you won’t be interacting with the parents.
However, since they are the ones who create the schedule for their children, you’ll want to ensure that you have a good rapport with your students, and be approachable to the parents.
What’s interesting is that these kids are already in actual in EF classrooms in China, and are supplementing their learning with online classes. So, they are used to the style of lesson already, you are just adding your flare and teaching style.
Once you’re contracted with EF Online, you’ll go through an introductory class (which is just a few hours) and will learn how the platform works. As I said above, classes are 25 minutes in length, and the lesson material is uploaded into the system for you to have a look at before the class starts.
How Much Do Teachers at EF Education First Earn? What About Taxes?
As an English teacher with EF online, you’ll start at $13 per hour if you’re in the US, and £8.50 if you’re in the UK. There’s the opportunity to earn more based on qualifications, bonuses for repeat bookings, and completion of lessons during the weekday “peak” times.
Online teachers at EF have the possibility of earning up to $19 / £12.50 an hour.
Regarding payment of taxes, this differs depending if you’re a US or UK teacher.
US teachers are considered independent contractors (meaning you have to deal with paying your own taxes), while UK teachers are employees and benefit from company pension and paid training.
Further, for UK teachers, you will be on a 12-month contract (as opposed to 6 months for US teachers) with opportunities to renew. As your employer, EF Education First are responsible for your taxes, NI, and your pension contributions.
Salaries are direct deposited to your bank account.
Pros and Cons of Becoming An EF Education First Online Teacher
There are numerous benefits to this job! Here are a few of the things you can look forward to:
Work from home
Create your own schedule based on when you’re available
Earn up to $19 / £12.50 an hour
$30 payment for the introduction / training of EF classes (for US teachers)
Funds are easily deposited to your bank account
Schedule times early in the morning or late at night, keeping your usual job and routine
Teach the same students
1 on 1 classes
Lesson materials are available for you
Work on a user-friendly platform
No props are needed
24/7 troubleshooting support
You don’t need to be able to speak Mandarin or Cantonese
Make a difference in a child’s life
As with any job, there are also some cons to working with EF Education First Online:
The time change can be a bit difficult if you’re not a morning person, or if you prefer to not work at night
As you can see, there are many more benefits than there are downsides to working as an online teacher with EF.
Ready To Start Earning a Flexible Income?
Teaching Chinese children really is a great way to not only make money on the side, but to learn about another culture, while impacting the lives of others. This truly is a rewarding job! Apply for the job today and start enjoying the benefits of online teaching.
If you’re planning an epic trip through Thailand and are looking for something to do in between the coasts, Khao Sok National Park is the perfect choice. In between diving in Koh Tao and rock climbing in Krabi, take a few days to explore one of Thailand’s best national parks.
This is one of the top places to visit in Thailand, and for good reason. With an abundance of hiking trails, tons of wildlife, and floating bungalows, this is a fantastic travel destination. Swap the hordes of tourists for elephants, gibbons, and wild boars. Stop for a few days at Khao Sok National Park and enjoy a trip full of adventures in nature.
Plan your trip to Khao Sok National Park with the help of this guide. Read on for more information about getting to the park, where to stay, the best activities on offer, and much more.
An Introduction to Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is located in southern Thailand in Surat Thani province. This massive national park is 739 square kilometers, including the stunning Cheow Lan Lake. Dating back 160 million years, this is one of the oldest rainforests in the world.
In addition to the lake, Khao Sok National Park is famed for its majestic karst mountain peaks. These were carved over the years by heavy monsoon rains coming from both coasts. Khao Sok National Park is also home to plenty of waterfalls and caves, which you can access via the park’s extensive trail system.
Welcome to Khao Sok NP! | Photo by Sasha Savinov
Khao Sok was established as a national park in 1980. The park is actually in two different areas – Khlong Sok town and Cheow Lan Lake. It’s about 65 km between the two, so you’ll need to factor that in when planning your trip.
Now that you know a bit about the Khao Sok National Park, let’s take a look at some of the best things to do here.
Things to Do in Khao Sok National Park
With a few days in Khao Sok National Park, you can enjoy hiking, canoeing, wildlife spotting, rock climbing, tubing, swimming in waterfalls, exploring caves, and so much more. With a few days here, you can do a little bit of everything!
Independent travellers will be happy to hear that you can easily plan a DIY trip to Khao Sok. There are quite a few well-marked trails from the visitor’s centre that are easy enough to follow on your own.
On the other hand, it’s not a bad idea to enlist the services of a guide. Not only will you be supporting the local community, but they’ll be able to point out interesting flora and fauna that you might miss if you go hiking by yourself.
Plus, you’re actually not supposed to go more than 3 km into the park without the assistance of a guide. There are plenty of local guides that are ready and willing to take you into the jungle. Ask your accommodation for recommendations, or visit the main street in Khao Sok to find numerous guides selling tours. Trips range from 1/2 day up to 10 days of trekking and camping.
For a very unique experience, you can sign up for a night safari. Your guide will take you on a 2-hour journey into the jungle, which really comes alive at night.
With waterfalls, a river, and the lake, there are of course plenty of water-based activities as well. Some of the most popular things to do in Khao Sok National Park include canoeing or bamboo rafting down the river. If you’d prefer a more laid-back afternoon, you could just go tubing.
Khao Sok National Park is an incredibly bio-diverse place full of unique flora and fauna. See if you can find the Rafflesia flower, which is one of the largest (and most smelly) in the world. The park is also home to around 50 mammal species, over 300 species of birds, and countless reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
While exploring Khao Sok National Park, you might see Malaysian sun bears, swinging gibbons, barking deer, white-crowned hornbills, and monitor lizards, for starters. Channel your inner David Attenborough and shoot your own homemade “Planet Earth” videos here.
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There’s plenty to do around the town to keep you busy for your whole trip, but you’ll definitely want to carve out at least a day for visiting the lake. It’s easy to get signed up on a day trip there, or you can choose to stay a night or two in one of the amazing floating bungalows – a highly recommended experience. You’ll be surrounded by forest and mountains while enjoying your floating bungalow, which sits atop 40 meters of clear, fresh water.
You can join tours which include a night’s stay in a floating bungalow, hiking, 3 meals, caving, and wildlife spotting. Again, ask around in town for prices and recommended companies, or check reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor.
In addition to admiring the stunning karst mountains, you can enjoy some fishing, rock climbing, or even zip-lining through the trees. After an adrenaline-filled day of adventures, retreat to your bungalow on the lake and enjoy the beautiful views.
**Planning to visit other areas of Thailand? Check out our articles of the best things to do:
If you’re travelling by air or riding the rails, the closest place to Khao Sok is Surat Thani. You can get flights or trains here from several places in Thailand. From Surat Thani, it’s about a 2-hour bus ride to the park. You can also catch a minibus from Krabi, Phuket or Khao Lak.
Those who are stopping at Khao Sok in between the coasts will likely take a combination of ferries and buses. Just about every travel agent in popular areas like Koh Samui or Phuket can help arrange your transportation to and from the park.
Where to Stay at Khao Sok National Park
To make the most of your visit to Khao Sok, it’s best to stay at least a night or two. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for accommodation to suit all budgets and styles. You can stay in the jungle, on the banks of the river, or even floating on the Cheow Larn Lake! The majority of accommodations are available near the visitor’s center, with prices to suit all budgets.
Those who prefer being out in nature can try camping in the park. You can bring your own tent or rent one that’s already set up and ready to go. A step up from camping are the rustic cabins you can find at several locations. These are basically just a bed with a mosquito net, but at least you’ll have a place to lock your stuff and a bit more shelter from the elements.
A simple jungle hut. | Photo by Sasha Savinov
If you’ve got a little more cash to burn and prefer some comfort with your adventure, there are a few places with super nice bungalows, or tree houses. A few places out here even have swimming pools.
Many travellers who visit Khao Sok come to stay in the famous floating bungalows on the lake. These vary in terms of amenities and price, so you should be able to find one that fits your needs. Click here to have a look at the available accommodations in Khao Sok National Park on Booking.com.
You know that old saying “when it rains, it pours”? Well that’s certainly true here at Khao Sok National Park. The rainy season lasts all the way from late April until December. The most rainfall occurs between June and September.
During the peak of the rainy season, the trails can get very slippery and difficult to navigate. This is also peak leech season, with the pesky blood-sucking creatures coming out in full force. On the bright side, at least the waterfalls are really raging!
With such a long rainy season, there’s a short window of pleasant weather between January and mid-April. While this is considered the “dry season,” there’s still a fair amount of rain. Just be prepared with a raincoat, some good hiking boots, and long sleeves to keep the leeches at bay.
Even if you get rained on during your trip to Khao Sok, you should be glad. Without the constant rainfall throughout the year, this place would not exist as it is. When other parts of Thailand experience drought, it still rains in Khao Sok National Park. That allows the rainforest to sustain itself and the wildlife that calls it home.
An entrance ticket to Khao Sok National Park for foreigners costs 300 Baht ($9.35). Students get a sweet discount, with tickets going for only $3 (100 Baht). Most tours will include the entrance ticket, so you’ll only need to buy one if you’re visiting independently.
Speaking of tours, I highly recommend signing up for one. When we spent one month backpacking Thailand, we were all about doing things ourselves and sticking to a budget. We booked our own bus tickets, paid the entrance fee, and found a room in a basic jungle hut.
It was easy enough following the trails from the visitor’s centre, but we had no idea what we were looking at along the way and saw very little wildlife. Worst of all, we didn’t even make it to the lake. In hindsight, I wish we had just shelled out the money for a solid 2-3 day tour that included a bit of trekking around the village as well as a night out on the lake in a floating bungalow.
Learn from our mistakes and just sign up for a tour. When backpacking Thailand, sometimes it’s better to swallow your pride and just let someone else do the grunt work for you! Khao Sok is definitely a place where the benefits of a tour far outweigh the savings of doing it on your own.
Even though we could have done it better, we still had a great time visiting Khao Sok, and I’m sure you will too. It’s a fascinating, beautiful place that you’ll just have to see to believe. With its stunning scenery, unique flora, and diverse population of wildlife, it’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Thailand.