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Hosting on Airbnb is an amazing way to grow your travel funds and provide meaningful local experiences to travellers. If you haven't tried it out, we tell you exactly how to get started in our guide. But just as traveller reviews impact hotel choices when trip planning, so too does Airbnb's “Superhost” label sway the minds of would-be guests. In fact, Superhosts receive upwards of 22% more bookings than hosts without this title. But why do guests seek out Superhosts, and what makes them so super?

Superhosts make holidays remarkably smoother for travellers. By adhering to set criteria, including making no cancellations and having quick response times, guests avoid inconveniences. Superhosts receive perks as well, including a $100 travel credit, increased bookings, higher host referral payouts, and increased exposure of one's property in the Airbnb homepage, newsletters, and more.

Intrigued? You should be. Reaching Superhost status is a great way to wow your guests, and increase your bookings, all whilst growing your travel funds. In this post, we'll explain how to becoming a Superhost quickly and easily!

What is an Airbnb Superhost?

An Airbnb Superhost is someone who provides exceptional guest experiences for Airbnb users. This label is granted by meeting a set list of criteria from Airbnb (discussed further below). When these measures are followed, Superhost status is awarded automatically (i.e. hosts needn't apply).

Why should I care about being an Airbnb Superhost?

There are three big advantages to becoming a superhost:

  1. Increased earnings
  2. Improved visibility of your listing
  3. Bigger payouts from Airbnb host referrals

From a traveller's perspective, Superhosts are restricted from cancelling bookings, so the reassurance of no cancellation can be persuasive enough alone to book with a Superhost. This is especially true for those travelling in a popular or high-density area with limited availability, as it alleviates travellers' concerns about hosts cancelling or being unresponsive.

One last important perk that is accessible only to Superhosts is the improved visibility of one's listing. Superhost properties can be featured by Airbnb via their newsletters, e-mails, and on the main website. Additionally, users can also filter their Airbnb searches to look for Superhosts only, as illustrated in the image above. This exclusive featuring is a major advantage to getting more eyes on your property.

Airbnb Superhost Criteria

As mentioned, a set of criteria must be met in order to gain Superhost status. These measures include:

  • Have had at least 10 booked guest trips OR successfully completed 3 long term reservations that total at least 100 nights
  • Maintained a 50% review rate or higher
  • Maintained a 90% response rate or higher
  • Zero cancellations, except for situations that fall under Airbnb's Extenuating Circumstances policy
  • Maintain an overall 4.8/5 rating

To view your Superhost status, simply open your Airbnb host dashboard. Superhost assessments are done four times a year on January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. The assessment reviews your performance over the 365 days leading up to that date. If granted Superhost status, it can take a couple of days for the badge to display on your profile. For Airbnb's full Superhost terms and conditions, read here.

How to become an Airbnb Superhost in 5 simple steps: Step 1. Make NO cancellations (i.e. manage your calendar!)

Making zero cancellations – except under Airbnb's extenuating circumstances – is one of the key requirements to being a Superhost. This can be done by ensuring your booking calendar is always up to date. Whether your home is available on sporadic weekends or most months of the year, you must only list dates where you can accept reservations.

When in doubt (i.e. if you do not know your availability in coming months), work in reverse and block out all upcoming dates, only opening days up as your availability becomes known. This prevents you from mistakenly leaving dates open months ahead, only to have a guest make a booking that you must cancel.

Step 2. Maintain a 90% response rate or higher

Any traveller can relate to the convenience that is having a host who promptly responds to queries. Superhosts must reply to at least 90% of messages received within 24 hours. One simple way to achieve this is by having the Airbnb app on your phone. If you are unable to respond to a message due to being busy or away on vacation yourself, you can use a service like Smartbnb to manage your messages, or a site like TaskRabbit () to have someone completely manage your bookings, check-in, and so on.

Step 3. Maintain an overall rating of 4.8 or higher

Keeping a property rating of 4.8/5 may seem a feat, but this can readily be done if you consider the factors that guests must rank. Below are the 6 aspects for review after a booking, followed by tips to encourage a raving appraisal for each:

1. Accuracy
  • Ensure property matches listing descriptions
  • Be upfront about downfalls, which can be counter balanced with positives – e.g. your space may be tiny but it's “cozy!” or may be near a highway but is “convenient for driving!” If your place is a bit older, try to highlight its “retro” charm!
  • Do not be deceitful. Dishonesty or exaggeration will only harm your guest reviews
  • If you're still having trouble, there are experienced freelancers offering professional Airbnb listing services that you can consider.
2. Communication
  • Be clear and timely with guest interactions
  • Consider a service like Smartbnb to automate messaging, or hire someone to manage your messaging on Taskrabbit ().
  • Be polite and friendly in all communication
  • Encourage your guests to message if they need anything
3. Cleanliness
  • Ensure property is well cleaned on checkout
  • Avoid common slip ups like stained linens, improperly cleaned dishes, dust and scum on floors or appliances, and improperly stocked toiletries like shampoo or toilet paper
  • Consider hiring a professional cleaner via a third party services like Handy or Taskrabbit ()

4. Location
  • Be accurate in your description – e.g. do not write “convenient city pad” if your apartment is in fact 45 minutes from the city centre
  • Look at listings in your area for ideas on what the selling features of your neighbourhood may be, such as amazing local eats, markets, or festivals
5. Check-in
  • Make clear any check-in instructions to your guests well before their arrival
  • Add check-in info by going to “Guest resources” and selecting regular or self-check in. Instructions can be input here
  • Be reasonable with check-in and check-out times to provide an optimal guest experience
  • Consider investing in a key lockbox or smartlock to allow guests to self check-in
6. Value
  • Be informed with an accurate price analysis of your property. Airbnb provides this based on demand, reviews, and similar properties in your area
  • Charging a fair rate is likely to land you more bookings & satisfied guests and in turn, better reviews
Step 4. Have an active host account

A Superhost must sustain their activity on Airbnb. Specifically, this means having had at least 10 short-term guest trips or 3 long term guest reservations totalling 100 nights or more.

Step 5. Maintain a 50% review rate

Superhosts must have at least half of their guests review their property. Some ways to encourage guests to leave a host review include:

  • Promptly leaving a review of your guest after their visit
  • Leaving a gentle request to leave a review in a welcome package/instructions. This can be done via Airbnb or in a printed booklet at the property (e.g. “Thank you for your stay, we hope you've enjoyed yourself. If you enjoyed your visit, would you kindly leave a review to inform other travellers”). If you want to go the extra mile, consider leaving a locally-inspired gift such as local chocolates, tea, coffee, or a souvenir.
  • Messaging guests after their visit to thank them for their stay and kindly request a review (do not do this more than once so as to avoid annoying guests)
The Thrifty Gist
  • Airbnb Superhost status is achieved by adhering to Airbnbs set criteria that is reviewed quarterly and applied automatically to your account
  • Superhosts enjoy exclusive perks including increase bonus host referrals, higher rates of booking, better earnings, and increased opportunities to have their property featured by Airbnb
  • Maintaining a high response rate, a review of 4.8 or higher, being active on Airbnb, and making zero cancellations are all essential to gaining and keeping Superhost status
  • Consider third party services to improve your overall process such as a professionally written listing, maintaining communications with Smartbnb, using a cleaning service like Handy, or outsourcing the start to end booking & comms with Taskrabbit ().
  • Consider investing in a key lockbox or smartlock to allow guests to self check-in
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Thrifty Nomads by Nathan James Thomas - 3M ago

Spain’s biggest tourist draw for a reason, Barcelona appeals equally to the staggering stag-doers and the art aficionados. As the capital of Spain’s linguistically distinct Catalonia region, a visit to Barcelona is a stark contrast to the more measured capital, Madrid. Whether you’re hitting the city for a wild weekend, a leisurely stroll through history, a Gaudi/Picasso pilgrimage, or a romantic getaway, here are 11 epic things to do in Barcelona:

La Sagrada Familia

Construction began on this Roman Catholic Church in 1882, and they still haven’t finished it! But don’t let the fact that the building is incomplete put you off – an icon of the city created by famed Catalan architect Gaudi, this Basilica is worth admiring both from the outside and from within. A Fast-Track ticket (available on Viator as a mobile ticket with immediate confirmation, or included in the iVenture Card) can help you skip the queue, which can be frustratingly long during peak season. Don’t worry, once you get inside you’ll understand why, even unfinished, this temple has drawn visitors for over 100 years.

Park Güell

While we’re talking Gaudi, this World Heritage Site should be near the top of your list (and we’re assuming it is, since it’s near the top of this one!). An artistic park within a natural park, Gaudi’s delightful Baroque inspired structures are designed to engage in a dialogue with the surrounding gardens, blurring the line between the art of nature and the art of man. But don’t think too much, just wander and soak up the wonderful feeling of the place. Tickets available in advance on GetYourGuide, the official website, or included in the iVenture Card.

Casa Batlló

Yes, we’re still on Gaudi! Standing in the center of Barcelona, Casa Batlló is enchanting, bewitching, garish, distracting, brilliant, fabulous… but beautiful? Well, that depends on your tastes. If you try and spot a straight line, you’ll get dizzy. You need a ticket to enter (skip-the-line ticket available on Viator or included in the iVenture Card), but it’s worth it to experience this modernist masterpiece from the inside. Technology enhances the experience, the audio guide actually works, and visitors are armed with iPhones that show media of how the house used to look in grander days. Love it even more than you expected? The casa is taking bookings from private events, so you can even get married here!

Casa Milà

The final private building Gaudi designed, and his final appearance on this list, is possibly the most iconic creation of a man who seemed only to create icons. Referred to by locals as “the stone quarry” due to its rough and rocky appearance, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was built for wealthy colonist Roser Segimon, and is replete with subtle catholic symbols reflecting the architect’s faith. Skip-the-line mobile/printed tickets with audio guide are available on GetYourGuide or as a discount in the Barcelona Card.

Picasso Museum

Now you’ve had your fill of Gaudi, you can move on to an even more widely know Spanish creative genius. The Picasso Museum houses a whopping 4251 pieces of the artist’s work, including earlier, perhaps more accessible, pieces that may appeal to those for who whom cubism is as impenetrable as quantum physics. Tickets available on the official site, or as part of the iVenture Card and the Barcelona Card, which also give unlimited transit access and entry to many other attractions.

Montjuïc Cable Car Ride

Visit the classic Montjuïc neighborhood in style on this 750 meter long funicular ride that takes you high about Barcelona. When you arrive a top at this 180 meter high hill and begin exploring the neighborhood, you’ll discover more than enough to while away packed day, including a visit to Catalonia’s National Art Museum, a stroll through the open-air museum Poble Espanyol, exploring a 17th century castle, and, to top it off, a glorious evening light show at the Magic Fountain! Tickets are available with immediate confirmation at GetYourGuide.

Barri Gotic

This ancient, atmospheric neighborhood in the heart of old Barcelona contains almost too much history for one person to absorb on a single visit. A short walk through the Gothic Quarter will take you past the remains of a Roman Temple, Medieval Walls, dozens of Neo Gothic structures, Barcelona Cathedral, and two palaces (Pignatelli and Aguilar). If you get bored in this district, then you have achieved the impossible!

Las Ramblas

Let the momentum from your wandering in Bari Gotic carry you to this 1.2 kilometer stretch that joins Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona’s largest public square, with the Christopher Columbus Monument. With a slightly unfair reputation for seediness at night, by day this tree lined street is an attraction in its own right. The paving stones are said to ripple like water – just don’t let your eyes stay on the ground for too long, this street can get crowded and many of the souvenir kiosks are worth a second glance (if not a reach into your wallet!).

La Barceloneta

Miles of golden sand illuminated by the sun, the lapping waves of the Mediterranean sea, and a boardwalk boasting rowdy nightclubs and fine restaurants – this neighborhood in Barcelona metro line 4 will make an ideal break from the crowded, touristic center. Bring a book,pack a picnic if you’re feeling frugal, and unwind amidst the sand, sun and fiercely proud locals – the 15,000 residents of this district even boast their own flag!

Santa Caterina Market
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Just as Europe has its famous Eurail Pass, so too does Japan have its own version: the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Now, you don't need a pass in order to ride JR trains around Japan, but many foreigners enjoy the convenience of an all-you-can-ride pass to easily travel the country. But does the JR Pass actually save you money when travelling Japan?

Need a breakdown of all the JR passes available? Check out Japan Rail (JR) Passes: The Ultimate Guide.

Will a Japan Rail Pass Save You Money?

JR pass must be used on consecutive days within its allotted timeframe. That means a 7-day pass must be used in 7 days – after that, it will no longer be valid.

Considering this, you should divide a JR pass cost by the # of travel days to get a daily average. A 7-day JR pass costs ¥29,110 (~$265 USD), or ~¥4,158 (~$37 USD) per day. Compare this against what you'd spend on transit per day in 7 days (there's lots of options!), and you will determine if the pass is cheaper to use. Hint: it's probably not. Here's why.

1. The JR pass only works on JR lines

A JR pass may get you from one city to the next, but will not work on anything else. Local buses, subways, and non-JR trains must be paid for out of pocket and you should factor in those additional costs. Trying to stick to just JR trains within a city will require a lot of co-ordination, and in some places like Osaka and Kyoto, the JR trains are limited. Meanwhile, there are other ways to cover such costs and get around Japan – with and without JR trains – which leads me to my next point…

2. There are cheaper, more flexible tourist passes throughout the country

Throughout Japan, regional passes can be used on inter-city and public transit. This is the case for the Kansai area, arguably Japan's most popular region after Tokyo, as it includes Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Hyogo, Wakayama and Shiga. A multi-day Kansai Thru Pass (price breakdown below) can be used in and between all of these cities – some of which are hours apart. Better yet, it includes unlimited use of inter-city trains, subways, and buses and can be used on non-consecutive days. Finally, you also get discounted entry to multiple attractions. How thrifty is that?!

Mt. Fuji, another popular area of Japan, has the Mt. Fuji Pass. Not only do you get unlimited bus and train access within the area, but it also gives you free or discounted access to many attractions. As most of the attractions here are only accessible by car or bus, a JR pass would only save you on the train trip to Fuji from Tokyo (about ¥2,770 / ~25.20 USD, still cheaper than the average daily cost of ~¥4,158 / ~$37 USD for a JR pass).

Going to Hakone? Check out the Hakone Free Pass. If you will only be spending time in a few areas, JR also has regional versions of their passes as well. We break these down in Japan Rail (JR) Passes: The Ultimate Guide.

Overall, regional passes tend to allow more flexible planning. Get an idea of where you want to go and start searching your city names on Klook.com, which sells most of the regional passes (and you'll get cashback points on each purchase). Unlike the JR pass, many regional passes can also be purchased at Tourist Information Centres, which are common in airports and rail or bus stations. 

Non-JR trains are abundant throughout the country and can be cheaper. Sometimes they are the only option for transit in certain regions.

3. It’s often cheaper to buy train tickets as you go

Simple as it seems to flash a JR pass every time you board a train, it’s really not that hard nor is it expensive to buy train tickets as you go. This is especially true on short distance routes, including some of the most popular tourist destinations, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Kyoto to Osaka for example, costs just ¥410 (~$3.60 USD) and takes a little over an hour by regular train (JR takes just as long). Needless to say, the average ¥4,158 ($37 USD) daily cost of a 7-day JR pass would not pay itself off for that day's trip!

If you want to work out whether buying tickets as you go will be cheaper, put in your desired destinations on Google Maps and crunch the numbers. Put in your start and end destinations, hit search, select transit, and the options, costs, and time will be visible, including for JR and non-JR trains.

The JR pass truly shows its value over long distances. Nothing beats the speed and convenience of the Shinkansen bullet train. For example, the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka is currently ¥14,250 (~$129.63 USD). This is just under half the price of a 7-day JR pass. However, if you need to return to Tokyo (e.g. for your flight home), or if you want to go another long distance such as Hiroshima, then buying individual bullet train tickets costs the same or more than a JR pass. Remember, you can also buy slower local train tickets for much cheaper, but your travel time will be much longer.

4. Budget buses are plentiful and efficient

While Japan is famous for its high speed bullet trains, sometimes routes by bus can take nearly the same amount of time, or less. Most of the time they're the cheapest method too!

Willer Express is Japan's biggest budget bus company. It sells 3, 5, and 7-day Japan Bus Pass passes and offers 20+ routes around Japan. Best of all, the 3-7 days allotted in the passes can be used anytime, non-consecutively within 2 months. If you want to be really thrifty, you can even use the bus pass on overnight routes to save on a night's accommodation.

A great example of its cost effectiveness is the fact that you could visit 5 major cities across the country (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima) with a 3-day or 5-day pass for one third to half the cost of the JR pass (see further below). Bus passes and reservations can be made on the Willer Express website. 

Even without a pass, individual buses are affordable and plentiful. An easy-to-use English website where you can browse for bus tickets is Kosokubus.com. Many buses also allow you to simply display your ticket from your smartphone.

5. JR Trains are NOT everywhere

Japan is well-connected by roads – sometimes better than rail lines! (Photo taken in Shimanami Kaido)

It’s easy to assume that the JR pass would take you to just about any city in Japan, however, this is not the case – nor is it always the fastest or cheapest, either.

Most recently we discovered a lack of JR coverage when looking to do the Koyasan temple pilgrimage trail, a ~3-hour journey from Osaka. This would be included in our Kansai Thru Pass via a train and bus combo, yet the JR trains do not even run there, rendering a JR pass useless in this scenario. Be sure to consider any journeys not covered by JR that you'd need to cover out of pocket, even within major cities like Tokyo and Osaka.

Japan Travel Options: A Quick Look

If you're still not sure whether the JR pass is right for you, consider these options and how they may work in your itinerary. Remember, you can always buy transit as you go, or do so in combination of that with any of these options.

JR 7-day Pass
  • Cost:
    • Standard pass: ¥29,110 (~$265 USD) for 7 days, ¥46,390 (~$424 USD) for 14 days, ¥29,110 (~$542 USD) for 21 days
    • Green pass (first class): ¥38,880 (~$355 USD) for 7 days, ¥62,950 (~$575 USD) for 14 days, ¥81,870 (~$747 USD) for 21 days
  • Benefits: Works nationwide. Grants unlimited access to the insanely fast bullet trains. Ideal for limited, fast-paced travel.
  • Downfalls: Only works on JR lines – does not work on local transit or non-JR trains. Some destinations not reached by JR. Not the cheapest option. Must be bought before arrival in Japan.
  • Must be used consecutive days? Yes – must use back-to-back within the 7 days of purchase for 7-day pass, 14 days for 14-day pass, etc.
  • Where to buy: Online at jrailpass.com (ships worldwide within 2 business days) Must be bought before arrival in Japan.
Willer Express 3, 5, or 7-day Pass
  • Cost:
    • Monday to Thursday pass: ¥10,000 (~$90 USD) for 3-day pass, ¥12,500 (~$113 USD) for 5-day pass, ¥15,000 for 7-day pass (~$136 USD)
    • All day pass: ¥12,500 (~$113 USD) for 3-day pass, ¥15,000 (~$136 USD) for 5-day pass
  • Benefits: The cheapest option, nationwide coverage, 20+ routes including most popularly visited cities. Overnight bus routes can save $ on accommodation. Can be bought on arrival in Japan. Can be used on any individual days you want across 2 months. Ideal for longer trips and strict budgets.
  • Downfalls: Often slower, somewhat less comfort compared to train travel.
  • Must be used consecutive days? No. a 3-day or 5-day pass can be used any days in a 2-month window.
  • Where to buy: Online on Willer Express website.
Kansai Thru-Pass
  • Cost: ¥4000 (~$36 USD) for 2 days, ¥5200 (~$47 USD) for 3 days
  • Benefits: Affordably covers the popular Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Wakayama, Shiga, Hyogo). Works on public and intercity transit. Can be picked up on arrival in Japan, pre-purchased at Klook.com (earn points), or purchased in person.
  • Downfalls: Only works in Kansai region.
  • Must be used consecutive days? No.
  • Where to buy: Buy online at Klook.com, then show your mobile or printed voucher in exchange for the pass at the Osaka airport or the Osaka City Air Terminal at JR Namba Station. Earn cashback points, which you can redeem for other attractions in Japan like the Osaka Aquarium, Tokyo Disney, or the Robot Restaurant. If you prefer to buy in person, check the website for a list of sales locations.
Mt. Fuji Pass
  • Cost: ¥5,346 (~$48 USD) for 1 day, ¥7,776 (~$70 USD) for 2 days, ¥9,720 (~88 USD) for 3 days. (These are discounted prices available at Klook.com)
  • Benefits: Unlimited bus and train rides in the Mt. Fuji area. Free or discounted access to many attractions including amusement parks, museums, and cableways (details here). Pre-purchase at Klook.com at a discount (and earn points) then picked up in Japan, or purchased in person (more expensive).
  • Downfalls: Only works in Fuji area, only worth it if you are interested in the attractions.
  • Must be used consecutive days? Yes.
  • Where to buy: Pre-purchase at a discount online at Klook.com, then show your mobile or printed voucher in exchange for the pass at a number of locations listed on the site. Earn cashback points, which you can redeem for other attractions in Japan like the Osaka Aquarium, Tokyo Disney, or the Robot Restaurant. If you prefer to buy in person, check the website for a list of sales locations.

Note: Japan's budget airlines Vanilla AirPeach Air, and Jetstar (Australian) offer competitive prices which at times can be cheaper than trains or buses, so is worth considering for long distances. However, arriving early and traveling to and from the airport will still take longer than a bullet train.

So, is the JR pass worth the cost?

Yes, the JR pass could be worth it if…

  • You are on a short trip (~7-10 days) and want to move as fast as possible.
  • You are travelling long distances and/or many destinations. For example, Tokyo, Osaka/Kyoto, and Hiroshima are all spread apart, so a JR pass could save both money and time, especially if you also need a return trip (e.g. for your return flight home). Buses on these routes are still cheaper, but much slower.
  • You aren't on a backpacker's budget (since buses are almost always cheaper, and overnight buses save on accommodation).

In these cases, the JR pass might be the best solution for you. You'll need to purchase ahead of time, and the website with the best prices is jrailpass.com. They'll have your pass mailed to you worldwide within 2 business days, even if you need it shipped to your accommodation in Japan.

The JR pass might not be worth it if…

  • You are backpacking or have a lot of time in Japan (10+ days), as the JR pass must be used on consecutive days. You can choose any 3 to 7 individual days within 2 whole months with a Willer Express bus pass, or just buy individual tickets at Kosokubus.com.
  • Your main areas of travel include only Tokyo, Fuji, and/or Osaka/Kyoto/Nara. Regional passes like the Kansai Thru Pass (Osaka/Kyoto/Nara) and the Mt. Fuji Pass give transit access as well as discounts on attractions at a much better value.

If you have time to see Japan more thoroughly, we find it cheaper to alternate between buying bus and train tickets as we go (including JR lines), and/or using regional passes (especially the Kansai Thru Pass for the most popular areas around Osaka and Kyoto). The pay-as-you-go approach seems the best way to stretch travel dollars and explore at a reasonable pace!

More Thrifty Tips for Japan
  • For a full guide to all the JR passes available, check out  Japan Rail (JR) Passes: The Ultimate Guide.
  • Need some itinerary ideas? We have a guide on Japan itineraries for 7, 10, and 14 day trips.
  • Find the cheapest accommodation in each city with HotelsCombined, which compares both hostels and hotels across many different booking sites. Don't forget to check Airbnb too.
  • For regional passes or for any other attractions, try browsing Klook.com. They have a cashback points program, so you'll earn on every booking. Plus, their prices are often cheaper than buying in-person, and you can usually redeem your voucher just from your phone.
  • Find the cheapest flights into Japan and around the country with Skyscanner. Search by “entire month” to see the cheapest date to fly.
  • Check out our other guides: “6 Tips to Travel Japan on the Cheap” and “How to be a Frugal Foodie in Japan

Have you used the Japan Rail (JR) pass? Did you find it cheaper or convenient for your trip? Share your experience below!

The post The Japan Rail Pass: Is It Worth The Cost? (Updated 2019) appeared first on Thrifty Nomads.

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If you find yourself in the Northern Hemisphere as you read this, then you know it’s winter. In an attempt to be a good Canadian and a proud former Montrealer, I've rounded up our favourite affordable ways to keep happily distracted when the air is hurting your face. So bundle up and get cozy: here’s 10 activities to embrace Montreal winter affordably!

1. Eat Maple Taffy

Cost: ~$3 CAD (street stalls), $20+ CAD at Cabane a Sucre (includes meal)
Where & when: any Cabane à Sucre (outside city – here's a list of 5 great ones). In Old Montréal you can find a small wooden stand that sells smoothies in summer & maple taffy in winter. The stand is located on Place Jacques Cartier, between Rue Le Royer East and Rue Notre Dame (before the Montreal City Hall).

In winter, Old Montréal has a wonderful wintery set-up complete with a Cabane à Sucre (sugar shack) which serves maple taffy. This delectably sticky creation is made by pouring hot maple syrup over fresh snow, which then stiffens and is rolled on a popsicle stick. Prepare for an instant maple-y party in your mouth.

Want a truly immersive Canadian winter experience? Why not try an ice wine tour which includes a maple taffy tasting.

2. Have coffee with a cat

Cost: ~$2-$4 CAD per drink
WhereCafe Chat L'Heureux
When: Tues-Thurs & Sun 11AM-8PM, Fri-Sat 10AM-10PM (Closed Monday)

What are two things to cozy up with on an icy cold day? Coffee. And cats.

Montréal's Cafe Chat L'Heureux is as it sounds, a café where kitties (adopted from the SPCA) can roam freely, be patted, and hop on your table as you sip your latte. The idea originates from Japan, and has been a hit in Montréal.

3. Go walking in a winter wonderland

Cost: Free!
Where: Mont Royal Park
When: 6AM-12AM, seven days a week

If you're in Montréal when it gets a good dumping of snow, make a beeline for Mont Royal. Right in the downtown area, this tree-filled, enormous slope offers a top notch lookout of the city. On snowy weekends, locals snowshoe, sled, and cross country ski to the top for postcard perfect views.

Other city parks are nearly just as enticing. Just add snow and a willingness to brave the cool temps, and you won't regret stepping out the door.

4. Explore the epic Notre-Dame Basilica

Cost: $5 CAD entry only, $10 CAD with guided tour
Where: Notre Dame Basilica, 110 Rue Notre-Dame West
When: Mon-Fri 8AM-4:30PM, Sat 8-4PM, Sun 12:30-4PM

Montréal is colourful in its culture, array of people, and majestic architectural sights. Do not miss the delicately crafted Notre-Dame Basilica. Its jewel-toned colours and ornate fixtures will make you feel as though you're somewhere far away in Europe, in spite of the chilly Canadian air ushering you in. 

Keen to explore the city's other main attractions? The Montreal Attraction Pass is a good bargain if you're planning on visiting many attractions. Entry includes the Biôdome, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, the Planetarium, and more (take..

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One thing people often don't know about South America is that despite its overall cheapness, flights are surprisingly expensive here. Low-cost carriers do exist, as do inter-country air passes, but don't expect RyanAir or AirAsia prices when flying from one country to the next. Error fares are possible, but are typically from the USA only.

If you want to cover a lot of ground quickly, group tours can be cost-wise as they include flights, activities, and accomodation. A single group tour as opposed to a series of cross-continental flights can at times be less pricey, since budget flights aren't really “budget” here.

Still, reasonable flights in South America can be found if you know where to look for them. Here's how!

Psst: planning a visit to Machu Picchu? Check our ultimate Machu Picchu travel guide, plus our article how to buy entrance tickets. Want to check out Uyuni's jaw-dropping salt flats? Check our other guide here.

How to find cheap flights in South America: 1. Identify the low-cost airlines of your destination(s)

Hopefully our list below of budget airlines by country will prove useful, as knowing these and where to find them is important! In terms of flying into South America, the major global airlines include LANTAME, and Avianca. Some low-cost carriers that do international flights into South America include Spirit Airlines (to/from U.S.), Viva Colombia (to/from U.S.), Surinam Airways (flies to Europe), and Santa Barbara Airlines (to/from U.S.).

2. Look for flights on a broad search engine

Skyscanner is what we personally use and recommend for wide-scale searches on flights. Skyscanner now includes budget airlines, so this should be a comprehensive search. Our other flight-booking hacks can be found here.

3. Identify the cheapest dates to fly

Work your itinerary around the cheapest flight dates, as these can vary wildly even within a single month. In Skyscanner this can be done by selecting “Entire month” under the date box, revealing the prices for each day that month (this can also help you stumble on error fares).

4. Sign up for a credit card with a huge points bonus for South America

Signing up for a travel rewards credit card is one of the easiest ways to pay for most or even all of your flight. Credit card issuers are constantly offering massive points bonuses simply for signing up and hitting the minimum spend, and you can redeem your points for flights with many airlines servicing South America.

For example, the American Express Gold card offers a 25,000 welcome bonus after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account, simply by making everyday purchases with the card (read more). You can convert these points to a choice of 18 airline partners, many of which service South America such as JetBlue, Aeromexico, and Delta. You also enjoy no foreign transaction fees (often up to 3% of the purchase), $100 credit for flight incidentals such as luggage and meals, 4x the points at U.S. restaurants, 3x the points booked with airlines or on amextravel.com, and more. Terms apply. (Compare this card to other travel rewards cards)

The annual fee is worth it when you're strategic with the points, but another option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, offering a 50,000 points sign-up bonus worth $625, and waiving the annual fee for the first year. You can then convert these points to a partner airline that flies to South America like United, or book directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. With no foreign transaction fees and 2x points on travel and dining worldwide, it's a great all around travel card to have.

5. Keep in the know-how of airline sales

You can do this by following budget airlines of your intended destination(s) on social media or e-newsletters, then plan accordingly as sales arise.

6. Consider getting a South America air pass

Airline passes are another way to snag affordable flights within South America. The major downfall is that they are few and far between. We list & explore all of the air passes below, which tend to be geographically limited. Take note that South American air passes often require you to fly into the continent or country on particular airlines. Be sure to consider this when booking your inbound flight!

Basically, you should first consider if an air pass works out to be cheaper for your itinerary. Often air passes in South America do not equate to savings (but if you have several flights, it potentially can). Details on how to determine the cost-effectiveness of this are explored at the final part of this article.

Budget airlines in South America (by country)

We've updated this list as of 2019, but the most comprehensive way to identify current budget airlines is to conduct a search on Skyscanner. That being said, some of the smaller charter airlines may require booking via phone, and thus may not be listed. It's good to do a broad search first, then cross-check and see if any airlines were missed in the search. Here are the most current airlines to date:

Argentina

Budget airlines in Argentina are basically nil. If heading down to Patagonia, LADE has great prices, but a limited schedule. This small airline operated by the military, though English is limited with booking (you may wish to use a Spanish speaker such as your accommodation reception to help you out).

Bolivia

Bolivia's airlines aren't advertised as low-cost carriers per se, but prices here tend to be some of the lowest on the continent. In fact, particular routes are only serviced by the lower-cost carriers. This is the case for the 45-minute flight between La Paz and Uyuni (where the salt flats are), which is only accessible via Amaszonas and BOA. Here are Bolivia's low-cost airlines:

Brazil

Budget airlines in Brazil are fairly unique in that several of them offer airline passes within the country. The catch is that you typically have to fly into South America on particular airlines. Prices start around $299 USD for roughly 4 flights, but check individual airlines for specific costs and requirements.

Chile

Budget airlines in Chile are limited but its best one, Sky Airline, does a number of affordable routes in this stretched-out country. Discounted fares tend to book up quickly during sales, so it's advised to monitor deals via stalking their site or social media like Facebook.

  • AeroCardal (does private/charter flights including to Robinson Crusoe Island)
  • Aervius DAP (operates charter and scheduled flights in Patagonia, Antarctica, and more)
  • Jetsmart (operates flights around Chile, Argentina and Peru)
  • LATAM (domestic and international flights – partner airline of OneWorld pass described later)
  • Latin American Wings (LAW)
  • Sky Airline
Colombia

Colombia has a couple of budget airlines. By South American standards, flights within the country are quite reasonable.

Ecuador

Ecuador does not have any official budget airlines. If flying to Galapagos, it's advised to book ahead for cheap flights. Guayaquil and Quito are the two mainland airports to fly from (we've got other cheap Galapagos tips here).

  • Avianca (domestic and international)
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Soft, snow-white sand. Belching sea lions at your feet. Radiantly coloured fish swimming before you. These are the things that come to mind when one daydreams of a visit to the Galapagos Islands.

For many, that is all the Galapagos ever is – a mere daydream. It's often dismissed as unfeasible to visit due to its exorbitant costs.

But what if you could travel the Galapagos on a first class, all-inclusive cruise with a personal guide for up to a third of the retail cost? What if you could dine and sleep on <$60 a day in one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations? I’m happy to tell you that you that this is not a dream, but a feasible reality that we ourselves have done.

Intrigued? Here's our ultimate guide on how to see Galapagos on the cheap!

Galapagos 101: What you need to know

First off, yes, you can visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour. This is the most important myth to dispel, as there are four islands that tourists can reside on without being on any sort of tour. These islands are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), Isabela, and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta). The islands are serviced by ferries.

You can fly into the Galapagos yourself and stay on any of these islands. Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the busiest, most populated islands and have the most to offer in terms of tours, restaurants, and accommodation. However, all of the islands have beaches, sights, and activities which can be explored for cheap or free on your own. For tips on that, read our post here!

South Plaza Island

How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?

This depends on how you want to explore the Galapagos, and the flexibility of your trip. If you want to do a pre-booked multi-night cruise, this is the most expensive option. A midpoint alternative would be booking a last minute cruise after arrival. The cheapest approach is to stay on an island and do day tours. In this post we'll compare all of these options!

NOTE: By using the right credit card, you can save hundreds of dollars on your trip. For example, foreign transaction fees on most credit and debit cards are up to 3%, which add up quickly over a trip. You should use a no foreign transaction fee card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve to avoid these fees, earn travel points on every purchase, and get a massive sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (worth $625). Alternatively, if paying for your tour in USD on Viator/GetYourGuide, the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards both offer a $150 sign-up bonus after spending $500, plus 1%-1.5% cashback. So if your first purchase was a $500 tour, you’d get $157.50 back – that’s 31.5% off! Check out our full guide on getting free travel with credit cards here.

Land based, day tours only

Concept: Stay on an island (and/or island hop), do land or sea-based day tours and visit local sites
Pros: Cheaper, flexible option & easy-going pace
Cons: Cannot access many islands by day tour
Average cost: $500-$800 USD for 5-nights with activities & food (breakdown below)
Book through: Viator

Last minute cruise

Concept: Stay on an island & attempt to book a last minute discounted cruise
Pros: Significant savings, able to visit more distant islands
Cons: No guarantee of finding a cruise, requires flexibility
Average cost: $800-$1800+ USD for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below)

Pre-booked cruise

Concept: Book a cruise in advance
Pros: Security of knowing you have the cruise, route, and class you want
Cons: Expensive!
Average cost: $2500+ USD for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below)
Book through: Viator, Intrepid Travel, G Adventures

Land-based, day tours only: Cost breakdown

Bartolome Island

Basing yourself on an island and taking day tours is the most affordable way to see the Galapagos. Take note once more, there are only four islands in the Galapagos that tourists can stay over on without a tour: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

Detailed cost breakdown:

  • Accommodation: prices start at $25+ USD/night for single, budget private room. A basic budget double room is ~$40 USD/night on average. HotelsCombined.com is comprehensive for Galapagos and includes hostels. AirBNB has comparable listings too.
  • Food: $5-$15+ USD per meal out (cheaper to eat outside of tourist zone!)
  • Tours and activities: $50-$200 USD per tour (land tours cheapest, diving tours most expensive)

GRAND TOTAL: $550-$800+ USD for 5 nights (varies depending on accommodation, # of tours taken, and where you dine e.g. such as local or DIY meals vs tourist restaurants)

Booking a last minute cruise: Cost breakdown

Photo from our last minute, first class cruise in 2013

This approach works for those who are flexible with their trip duration and are okay with the possibility of not finding a last minute cruise. If you don't find a last minute cruise, you can simply do land-based day tours/island hopping.

Here is a cost breakdown of finding a last minute cruise:

  • 5-night cruise: $800-$1700+ USD total (varies by cruise class, duration, route). This is inclusive of accommodation costs.
  • Food: included
  • Tours and activities: included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits could be extra)

GRAND TOTAL: $800-$1700+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise.

Pre-booked cruise: Cost breakdown

A pre-booked cruise is the most costly way to see the Galapagos. This is why people envision The Galapagos as an expensive place. Prices vary by company, class, and route, but you will pay a premium to have a secured spot on a particular ship in advance. There are endless company options, but Viator, Intrepid Tours, and G Adventures are popular and have accessible reviews.

  • 5-night cruise: $2500-$5000+ USD (varies by class, ship, route, etc.). Accommodation costs included.
  • Food: included
  • Tours and activities: included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits for diving could be extra)

GRAND TOTAL: $2500+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise. Prices vary hugely by company, class, boat size, route, and more.

Why last minute cruises exist

Cruise ships charge outrageous prices in advance for their tickets, preying on holiday-goers who have a fixed annual vacation slot to fill. In reality, these seats do not always sell out and as a departure date approaches, remaining tickets are hugely slashed in price to fill the spots. In both the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil), there are businesses that operate entirely on selling last minute cruise tickets.

Now, one can never guarantee a booking within a set timeframe, but there's usually at least some options within a few days window. The worst case scenario is that you don't book a multi-night cruise and do a land-based approach instead. This is arguably not a bad alternative, given the abundance of wildlife and world-class beaches that can be seen for free or via day tours. We've done this on our second trip to Galapagos, and it worked out great.

At the bottom of this article is a map marked with important reference points. It includes where to book last minute tours and cheap/free activities. 

How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos

As the name implies, “last minute” cruises must be booked on short notice – typically a few days before departure. Last minute cruises are booked in person, usually at tour shops that specialize in selling vacant cruise spots.

Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise

Guayaquil, Quito, and the Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristobal specifically) all have shops that sell discounted tours. Below is a list of shops offering last minute tours.

Personally we've only booked on arrival to Galapagos (in Santa Cruz), which is usually the cheapest option. Mainland tourist shops find cruises the exact same way as Galapagos-based companies; that is, by making a phone call to contacts in the islands. However, cruises sold on the mainland often involve increased pressure to book and (false) claims that you definitely won't find cruises on arrival.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Moonrise Tour Agency

About: This is a family run business that mainly specializes in last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book several day trips and were pleased with their service and the tours themselves.
Address: Avenida Charles Darwin near the corner of Charles Binford (See map)
Websitewww.galapagosmoonrise.com
Phone: 05/2526-589

Joybe Tours

About: This is another family run business that sells day tours and last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book our multi-night last minute cruise and were hugely impressed with our first-class cruise!
Address: See map
Website: N/A
Phone: N/A

Quito & Guayaquil Ecoventura

About: Based in Quito and Guayaquil, this company occasionally posts last minute deals on their website, otherwise visit in-person in Quito. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them).
Address: Quito – Almagro N31-80, Edificio Venecia. Guayaquil – in the Edificio Samborondon Business Center, Torre A Piso 3.
Website: www.ecoventura.com
Phone: Quito – 02/2907-396, Quayquil – 04/2839-390

Quasar Expeditions

About: One of the bigger cruise operators and also has an office in Puerto Ayora. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them).
Address: Quito – Almagro Plaza, Ponce Carrasco E8-06 y Av. Diego de Almagro,
Oficinas 1101-1106
Website: www.quasarex.com
Phone: USA – 1.866.481.7790, UK – 0.800.883.0827, Australia – 1.800.463.266

Zenith Ecuador Travel

About: Has access to ~100 boats and can reach contacts to try and find a last-minute deal. Simply provide your dates and requirements and ask to speak to eh owner, Marcos Endara (tell him you are a Frommer's reader). Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them).
Address: Quito – Juan León Mera 453 and Roca
Website: www.zenithecuador.com
Phone: 02/2529-993

Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts Choosing a route, boat, and company Routes & itineraries

Whatever you do, don't book a last minute tour blindly. Research your preferences ahead of time, including which islands you want to see. Each island and cruise route offers unique wildlife and scenery. Some itineraries focus more on landscapes, while others feature diving or wildlife.

There are more “typical” cruise ship routes which include visiting islands that you can see independently on day tours (e.g. Floreana, Bartolome, etc.). These routes tend to be cheaper since they are closer to the main islands, whereas those going to more remote islands are more costly.

Companies & boat types

When choosing a boat and a company, try to look up reviews in advance. Where possible, find out who will be the naturist guide, as this is the wildlife narrator of your entire trip! Trip Advisor is a good place to get trip reports on companies, boats, and tour guides. It can also be a useful place for determining the going rate for full price and last-minute bargains for ships, routes, and classes.

As you research, make a shortlist of boats and routes that meet your approval (we've got a handy list below). It will be hard to remember this on the spot, so we really do advise..

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With the arrival of the new year comes the question on every wanderluster's mind – where to next? For the savvy traveller, a place where their dollar will stretch far is a likely contender. Once again we've done the research for you in our annual round-up. We've considered factors like currency drops, new budget airline routes, value for money, and more. Here are the 10 best budget travel destinations for 2019!

Thrifty tip: Although these destinations are cheap, flights are usually the biggest expense of any trip. Cut your costs by signing up for a travel rewards credit card with a massive points bonus (as much as $625 in points towards your flight), keep your eyes peeled for error and mistake fares, and use a broad flight search engine like Skyscanner. Check out all our top tips for booking cheap flights here!

1. Sri Lanka

This island nation is packed with surprises, from wildlife safaris and mountain climbing, to glistening beaches and eclectically coloured temples. Don't leave here without sampling the country's budget eats, including crunchy samosas and tongue-tingling curries. While not as cheap as neighbouring India, your dollars will still stretch remarkably far here, with far less tourists too. For more in-depth planning, check out our travel guide, written by a Sri Lankan native.

Food: Street eats $1.50+, beer $2-$3
Accommodation: Hostels $10+USD, hotels $20+ USD. Check Airbnb and HotelsCombined to see your options across all major booking sites.
Getting around: Bus and train are the two easiest ways to get around the country. Tuk tuks and local driving apps like Uber and PickMe are efficient for urban transport.
Top attractions: The towering Lion's Rock is a famous sight to behold. Lesser known is the abundant wildlife viewing & safaris across the country (Kumana National Park and Gal Oya National Park are both great options for this). Some of the world's best kitesurfing can also be had at Kalpitiya Peninsula and Mannar.
Getting there: Most flights from the U.S. require a layover before arriving in Colombo (CMB), and are served by airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways. Search Skyscanner and choose “entire month” for your dates to see the cheapest days for flying.

2. Iceland

Though not cheap by default, if there ever were a year to visit Iceland, 2019 seems to be it. The Icelandic Krona has dropped 6% against the Euro and continues to descend. Besides being one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, Iceland has volcanoes, glaciers, and long, open roads to be explored. The Icelandic budget Airline WOW Air continues to offer staggeringly low flights, with rates as low as $109 USD round-trip from the U.S.

Thrifty tip: Is a Euro trip on your bucket list? Flying to Iceland from North America is also a cost-effective way to enter Europe, since flights can be had from $99USD each way between the U.S. and Iceland and then $50USD from Iceland to London (a major gateway to Europe).

Food: Budget meals start from $10 USD (check this list for great ideas). Dining out here in general is pricey, bringing your own packaged food and cooking can help.
Accommodation: Hostels $50+ USD, hotels $120+ USD. Check Airbnb and HotelsCombined to see your options across all major booking sites. Consider renting a campervan  – starting around $110USD/day – as this combines transport & accommodation.
Getting around: Your own set of wheels is ideal (go with a friend to slash costs!). Group tours are common and can be cheaper and safer (especially if travelling during rainier/snowy seasons).
Top attractions: The milky turquoise Blue Lagoon geothermal baths, the rushing Skógafoss waterfall, Skogar Church, seeing a show at the majestic Harpa Concert and Conference Centre. If your budget allows, take a tour and explore the brilliantly blue ice caves or walk atop a glacier.
Getting there: The Keflavik International Airport (KEF) in Reykjavik is the major point of entry to Iceland. The discount airline WOW Air has made flights cheaper than ever from the U.S., Canada, and across Europe, making a one-way flight as cheap as $99 USD from the U.S. or 29.99 GBP from London. Search Skyscanner and select “entire month” for your dates to see the cheapest time to fly from your city.

3. Egypt

Towering pyramids, larger-than-life sphinxes, and ancient tombs abound – Egypt is the stuff of globetrotters' dreams. Better yet, many of its spectacular historic sites cost just a few dollars for entry. Whether you fancy watching a neon sunset over the pyramids, or bobbing peacefully down the nile in the afternoon heat, this thrifty hotspot is sure to please.

Food: $4 for street food, $8+ for simple meal. Beer $2+.
Accommodation: Hostels $15+ USD/night, hotels $36+/night. AirBNB offers competitive pricing and good value for clean, well-located accommodation. Compare all hotel and hostel options with HotelsCombined.
Getting around: Within cities there are taxis and buses. Between cities there are bus and train connections (VIP class recommended).
Top attractions: Be sure to visit Luxor, Cairo, cruise down the Nile River, and of course explore the spectacular pyramids (Giza, Saqqara and Dashur). Add in a visit to one of Egypt's oldest flea markets, Khan El Khalili in Cairo.
Getting there: Cairo is the most popular airport to fly into. Most involve a layover, though EgyptAir offers direct flights from New York City. Search Skyscanner and choose “entire month” for your dates to see the cheapest days to fly from your city.

4. Argentina

From the rugged landscapes of Patagonia to the rainbow shades of Buenos Aires' architecture, Argentina scratches nearly every travel itch. Its cities offer an eclectic European vibe, without the exorbitant price tag. Besides urban landscapes, the natural scenery here is some of the most impressive on earth. Neon blue glaciers, endless snow-capped mountains, and staggeringly barren landscapes all await.

Thrifty tip: If your travel plans are open-ended, Argentina (specifically Ushuaia) is one of the cheapest launch points for cruises to Antarctica, where you can book at last minute rates.

Food: Simple meal $4-$6 USD, beer $1.50
Accommodation: Hostels $17+USD/night, AirBNB offers great value here. Compare hotel and hostel options with HotelsCombined.
Getting around: Public transport exists in major cities, though taxis can also be used. Inter-city travel can be done by bus and sometimes plane.
Top attractions: El Calafate glacier, restaurant & bar hopping in Buenos Aires (don't miss the colourful neighbourhood of La Boca), visit the lakes district of Bariloche, and hike in Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Getting there: Argentina's main airport is the Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). If visiting Patagonia, you can then take a domestic flight (or a very long bus ride) to the city of your choice. Hop on Skyscanner and choose “entire month” for your dates to find the cheapest day to fly.

5. Nepal
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Words do it no justice. The seventh natural wonder of the world. The largest coral reef on Earth: 344,400 square kilometres of fish of all colors, playful sea turtles, giant clams, swaying anemones, darting eels, sea snarks and reef sharks.

You don’t need to be a pro diver to experience the reef. I’ve visited twice. The first time in 2010, I drifted in my snorkel and fins and watched from a safe distance as a giant sea turtle feasted serenely on a transparent jellyfish. Holding the hand of an instructor, I tentatively attempted a night dive, and swam shoulder to shoulder with dozens of sleek white sharks in the eerie darkness.

Seven years later on my second visit, the reef seemed to have changed. Perhaps it was just reality failing to live up to memory, but I had read extensively about changes in sea temperature caused by climate change leading to massive death of coral. The so-called ‘coral bleaching’ wrecks the entire ecosystem, as each creature depends on the others for survival.

Still, the reef is exquisite beyond. But if you want to see it, do see responsibly, and do so soon!

How Much Does a Trip to the Great Barrier Reef Cost?

The reef proper lies a long way from the shore. To do it justice, you’ll need to go out on a boat. Costs for this vary greatly depending on the length of time, the level of comfort, and the amount of activities you plan to participate in. You can browse tour options along with reviews on GetYourGuide and Viator.

Staying in a mid-range boat for a two-night “Liveaboard” trip will set you back around $400AUD per person including (basic) meals. The ‘raw budget’ experience of a one day trip out to the reef and back, with no extras and providing your own equipment, can be done for around $100AUD.

You’ll also have to factor in accomodation in Cairns or another gateway city (search HotelsCombined and Airbnb to cover all your options of hotels, hostels, and homes), as reef tours tend to leave at the crack of dawn. Search Skyscanner by “entire month” to find the cheapest dates to fly from your origin. Not including flights, I would say a realistic budget to enjoy the reef and the Cairns experience starts at $600AUD, though it is possible to spend a lot more!

How to Choose a Great Barrier Reef Tour

With so many tour companies competing in such a popular region, it can be hard to know which company to go with. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Destination: The outer reefs are typically more colorful and less damaged than the closer reefs, which suffer from coral bleaching due to overtourism.
  • Vehicle: Catamarans, sailboats, and even helicopters are all some of the options for visiting the reef. Many boats have glass bottoms, so you can look at the sealife below without ever getting wet.
  • Activities: You'll most likely want your tour to include snorkeling, but scuba diving tours are also an option.

We recommend browsing the tours on GetYourGuide and Viator, which let you compare tours, read real reviews from travellers who have booked them, and book any tour with immediate confirmation. Most offer 24 hour free cancellation and allow you to show confirmation on your mobile device, no printer required.

Look beyond the rating and read a few of the actual reviews. These can also be useful to give you an idea of the type of person on each tour – for example if you’re a young group of friends, you’re probably looking for a different atmosphere than a couple traveling on their 50th wedding anniversary! More reviews are available on TripAdvisor too. With many tour companies seeming to offer more or less than same thing at the same rates from first glance, a little extra time in planning and research can help you make the most of your time and budget.

Here are a few of the top-rated tour options:

From Cairns: Premium Great Barrier Reef Catamaran Cruise ($169 AUD)

Goes to 2 outer reef locations, chef-prepared lunch, luxury catamaran, and options to snorkel, swim, or dive.

Green Island Day Trip From Cairns ($97 AUD)

Goes to Green Island, catamaran tour, glass bottomed boats, upgrade options for lunch and semi-submarine tours.

Cairns: Green Island & Reef Full-Day Sailing Cruise ($195 AUD)

Goes to Green Island, travel by sail boat, max 25 ppl, onboard lunch, pastries, tea/coffee.

Beyond the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is normally accessed from Cairns, a vibrant tourist city on the far north tip of Queensland. The reef is the biggest draw, but there’s so much else that makes this region worth visiting in its own rights. Crocodiles, rainforests, aboriginal culture, and pioneering cuisine blend together with a wild nightlife and a youthful vibe.

As we explore the highlights below, we’ll look beyond the reef itself to the neighbouring attractions and activities that will add value to your trip.

Far North Queensland Highlights

Cairns at nightfall

Cairns

The “capital” of the far North, Cairns is a dynamic tourist town. Walk down the esplanade during sunset and listen to the bats in the thick trees above you. You’re closer to Papua New Guinea or Indonesia than you are to Sydney, and things are different here. A thumping nightlife and eclectic dining scene contrasts with the general wildness of the town – it’s worth a couple of days. Your cheapest accommodation option is likely Airbnb, but you can compare hostels and hotels on HotelsCombined too.

Townsville

Often overlooked, Townsville is Cairn’s quieter cousin. If you’re averse to tour groups, it can make a cheaper and gentler waypoint to the reef, and there’s plenty of good snorkelling around. The Reef HQ aquarium and Museum of Tropical Queensland make good educational antidotes to the hedonism of nearby Cairns (by Australian standards!).

The Daintree Rainforest

Want to experience an unspoilt tropical rainforest, or prefer to relax with a cocktail on the beach? At the Daintree, you can have both. The terrifying, ancient Cassowary birds still stalk the bushes, and in the water you’re taught to be weary of crocodiles, jellyfish and venomous seashells, but the natural beauty more than compensates for the danger. Tours leave from Cairns, as well the most developed rainforest town, Port Arthur.

The Whitsundays

74 unspoilt islands lie between the mainland of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Mostly uninhabited, you don’t go there for the bar scene or fine dining. Instead, white sand beaches lead you to never ending horizons and blood red sunsets. Leave only footprints along bush hiking trails, and feel yourself part of vast wilderness of the Reef. A variety of cruises, sails, snorkelling trips, and more can be booked on GetYourGuide and Viator for as little as $59 AUD.

Kuranda Village, Skyrail Cable Car, and Kuranda Scenic Railway

A gorgeous small town with friendly locals and comfortable hospitality, this popular day trip from Cairns has charming shops, restaurants, and markets to explore. But it is perhaps best known for the connecting Skyrail Cable Car and the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The cable car ride is 7.5 kilometers long, offering a bird’s eye view of the dense, green rainforest as you sail gently over the tops of the trees. The railway was built over 120 years ago, winding through mountains and offering spectacular views of waterfalls and the Barron Gorge. It's a must-do when visiting Cairns!

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Gone are the days of fighting the 6AM belligerent battlefields of Walmart to bag a Black Friday bargain. Now with the ability to book travel deals in the comfort of your Batman PJs, it's safe to say some serious upgrades have occurred.

For the past four years, we've aggregated ALL of the best Black Friday & Cyber Monday travel deals into a single post. We've done the HOURS of digital combing to put together one of THE most comprehensive Black Friday & Cyber Monday travel deal lists on the Internet. Enjoy!

Bonus! Want to also earn the chance for a $200 Skyscanner flight credit? Enter our contest below – you can even gain extra entries by sharing this post and referring your friends.

Thrifty Nomads Black Friday 2018 Giveaway

The BEST Black Friday Travel Deals: Flights

Skyscanner: Flight deals master list

Skyscanner has put together a roundup of the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday flight deals for 2018. Find flight sales, coupon codes, and unadvertised deals across all major airlines. Check back Monday as more deals get added!

Expedia: $100 off flights

Expedia is providing a select number of vouchers for $100 off flight bookings. Offer available while supplies last during Friday November 23, 2018.

Cheapoair: Up to $40 off with promo code

Cheapoair is offering up to $40 off bookings with promo code BFRIDAY40. Expires November 27, 2018.

STA Travel: Up to $100 off student flights

STA Travel is offering a plethora of discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, including:

Aer Lingus: Up to $100 off round-trip flights to Ireland

Aer Lingus is offering $50 – $100 off roundtrip flights to Ireland from major U.S. cities. Travel January 8 to March 22, 2019.
Book by 6:59 PM ET on November 28, 2018.

Air Canada: Worldwide seat sale

Air Canada is offering discounted fares to destinations around the world, departing from both the U.S. and Canada. Book by November 25, 2018.

Air New Zealand: London to LA £175 round-trip and more

Air New Zealand is has some super hot fares including London⇔L.A. for just £175, and more to come throughout the day. Sale ends November 26, 2018.

Cathay Pacific: Up to 60% off economy fares, up to $1000 off business class

Cathay Pacific has reduced economy fares by up to 60% and premium and business class tickets by up to $1000. Simply use the coupon code HOLIDAY to apply the discount. Book by November 27, 2018.

Delta: Discounted fares to Europe and Australia

Delta Airlines is offering discounted fares to Europe and Australia, as well as discounted frequent-flyer offers. Offer ends November 25, 2018.

Emirates: Discounted fares on international flights

Emirates is holding a Black Friday sale with discounted fares starting at $449 to destinations around the world. Book by November 24, 2018.

Iberia: Discounted fares to Tel Aviv, Barcelona, and Madrid

Iberia is offering fares starting at $343 return from major U.S. cities to Tel Aviv, Barcelona, and Madrid. Offer available until November 26, 2018.

Norwegian: 15% off fares between USA and Europe

Norwegian Air is offering up to 15% off fares between USA and more than 50 destinations in Europe, like London, Paris, Madrid, and Rome, just to name a few. Travel from December 3, 2018, to March 31, 2019, except for a blackout period of December 17, 2018 to January 6, 2019. Sale ends November 26th.

Ryanair: Cyber WEEK daily deals incl. £30 off return flights

Ryan Air is offering a Cyber Week Sale in which they release a new flight deal each day starting November 19 and ending on Cyber Monday (November 26). They've kicked off with a savings of £30 off return flights, with new deals appearing daily.

Singapore Airlines: Discounted international flights

Reduced round-trip airfare for travel to Asia from Houston (IAH),..

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Think of discovering a new beach and having all of it to yourself as you ride a scooter or hop on a coastal bus. Imagine endless jungles with cascades and icy cold water. Envision ancient temples, stupas, quirky mountain hamlets, and abundant wildlife – all of this in one tiny island. Sri Lanka, the “pearl of the Indian Ocean” sits below its giant neighbour, India. It’s also where I call home.

I grew up in Kandy, the country’s hill capital. In the last three years, I've decided to explore the tiny corners of my island. I’ve peeped my head out of train windows uncountable times, solved riddles of an 8-year-old in a small mountain village in Nanu Oya, and have befriended dogs who have guided me to mountain tops. And now, I’m putting all of my “local knowledge” into this ultimate travel guide to Sri Lanka.

How much does a trip to Sri Lanka cost?

Let me cut to the chase. It depends on your traveling style. If you are the kind of traveler who wants to sip Ceylon tea while being pampered in a vintage tea bungalow in Nuwara Eliya (which we apparently named Little England) on a dime, then Sri Lanka is not the ultimate budget destination for you.

While Sri Lanka is comparatively a “cheaper” destination to travel to, it’s not as cheap as neighboring India, Nepal, Tibet, or Southeast Asia.

If you are the kind of traveler who stays in homestays, hostels, mingles with locals, uses public transport and eats local food, then it’s absolutely possible to travel in Sri Lanka with $30 a day. However, adding a bit more comfort (using taxis often and having your coffee fix at mid-range cafes) plus activity entrance prices, then a budget of $50 a day would be more realistic.

Nuwara Eliya

Highlights Historical Sites and Temples

The cultural triangle – made of the three major historical cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy – are often frequented by history buffs. However, inside the triangle, there lies a plethora of lesser-known historical sites deserving of a visit.

Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya is named as the 8th World Wonder, though the entrance fee of $30 USD is putting many budget travellers off. Lion’s Rock is an architectural masterpiece, and if you are a history buff, you can't miss this place. Nearby Pidurangala Rock has become Instagram-famous over the years. Pidurangala offers stunning views with Lion’s Rock as the backdrop, and the 1-hour hike to the top is totally worth it. A three-hour drive from Dambulla is Yapahuwa, the 4th kingdom of Sri Lanka. The citadel is built on a granite rock, rising about 100 meters from the surrounding lowlands in Kurunegala District. While rock inscriptions of Ritigala Monastery are quintessential storytellers of the bygone era, Jathika Namal Uyana is Sri Lanka’s largest ironwood forest and pink quartz mountain in Asia. The rosy tones of the quartz are slowly fading away with time, so now is the time to go.

Ambekke, Lankatilake, and Gadaladeniya temples close to Kandy are slowly opening up to tourists. The gigantic Buddha statue of Aukana and Buduruwagala in Wellawaya are fascinating sites to behold. Easily reached by nearby towns of Dikwella and Tangalle, Mulkirigala is another ancient rock temple which has become popular over the years.

The island is also home to a few world-famous Hindu temples. Devotees from all around the world flock to Seetha Amman Temple in Nuwara Eliya and Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in Jaffna when Hindu festivals and ceremonies are taking place.

Wildlife Safaris

If seeing wildlife is on your list of things to do in Sri Lanka, avoid visiting unethical wildlife “conservation” centers such as Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and unauthorized turtle hatcheries. Instead, consider visiting a national park to see wild animals in their natural habitats. Yala, Udawalawe, and Kaudulla have become insanely crowded over the years. But don’t lose hope – Sri Lanka has 26 national parks to explore.

Kumana National Park, located south of Arugam Bay, offers an amazing safari experience. The park is home to elephants, wild boars, foxes, peacocks and many other species of birds. In Gal Oya National Park, you can go on a boat safari to spot wild elephants hang out in Senanayaka Samudraya, the largest tank in Sri Lanka. For an unforgettable marine life viewing experience, head to Pigeon Island in Trincomalee. Be warned though, during peak season (April – August), it does get crowded. While Bundala is a paradise for birdwatchers, Maduru Ganga National Park is one of the lesser-known wildlife destinations in Sri Lanka. The jungle-clad lowlands here offer stunning landscapes and a quieter place to see elephants in their natural habitats.  

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Beaches

Being an island nation, there are countless beautiful beaches to choose from, many of which you'll never find in a guidebook. Here are some top choices from a local:

South Coast
  • Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna Hikkaduwa: Immensely popular beaches, but very crowded, especially during the peak tourist season.
  • Hiriketiya, Thalalla, Dikwella, Tangalle: Secluded beach villages. Check out Goyambokka, Rekawa, and Gurupokuna beach.
North Coast

Aptly named..

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