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Well of course, the answer to this question really, is how long is a piece of string?

Because, depending how long you travel for, where you travel to, how far you travel, what style of travel you like and what type of vehicle and set-up up you’ve got, the costs are going to vary wildly on your Australian road trip!

And I know that, because I’ve done it!

Yes almost 1 year travelling from Sydney to Perth, working along the way, I’ve definitely road tripped a lot of the land Down Under and seen how wildly different peoples’ way of doing this are.

But let’s be clear, I made this journey when I was poor – very poor already and even poorer after kitting out a Land Rover for the adventure – so my Australian road trip style was about as budget as you can get!

And that’s still not as budget as I would have liked because Australia is expensive and there’s no way of getting around this.

Perhaps this article should have been called “how cheaply can you really road trip Australia?” because I tried, I really tried to keep it low.

So here’s the full breakdown to give you some benchmark around the minimum you can expect your Australian road trip cost to be…

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The Australian Road Trip

Although I had previously travelled in and around Australia a lot, for the sake of this post, I’m going to be talking about the Aussie road trip adventure I undertook when I packed up my life on the East coast, quit my job and the rental lease I had and embarked on, with my partner at the time, a big 4wd budget road trip.

We travelled in an old Land Rover, which we’d fitted with a roof rack and a rooftop tent among a whole heap of other modifications. We kept the backseats of the vehicle in place, and all our possessions, as well as our camp kitchen, were placed in the trunk / boot / backdoor area which we fitted with drawers and shelves.

The aim was to keep costs down by being able to sleep in / on the vehicle as well as being able to travel anywhere as a self-compact unit, without having to worry about towing things or going off road / off-grid.

This huge, mammoth journey began in Sydney, and took us up the coast of New South Wales, into Queensland, up to Cape York, across to Darwin, down to Alice Springs / Uluru, back up to Broome and then down the West Coast, actually as far as Albany in south WA, before we backtracked and settled in the most awesome place we’d encountered on the way – Fremantle – taking us up to an estimated total of 21,230km.

By this point, we had largely run out of money and were tired of living in a 4wd after almost a year of doing so.

During this year, we had paused our journey and worked along the way numerous times, with the biggest stop being in Magnetic Island for 3 months, where we managed a guesthouse.

When we weren’t stopped and working, we moved fast, travelling great distances and driving at least a bit most days as we tried to stay ahead of the weather. In an average week we drove 817km!

By this I mean, we desperately wanted to catch the cooler, dry season up north, which runs largely from May to September and then get out of there before cyclone season began in November.

Once you hit the tropics in Queensland – largely by the time you get to Rockhampton / Yeppoon – you actually realise that it’s a heck of a long distance to cover until you are spat out the other end of the tropics between Carnarvon and Exmouth… and you better get your foot down!

If you want to see a lot as we did too, then you’ve got to cover the distance in Australia because, as you probably know, and especially up north, there can be a whole of nothing in between!

We also picked up other travellers at various points (a reason we left the backseats in, rather than give ourselves more space) to split fuel costs with them, which helped stretch our budget a little bit more.

So that’s the trip – a big 4wd extravaganza roughly from Sydney to Perth – and here’s how much it cost…

The Overall Budget

The budget I kept when trying to calculate how much an Australian road trip costs was based on 2 people, trying to do everything as cheaply as possible (include eating… or not!) and living full time out of a Land Rover fitted with a rooftop tent so we could free camp as much as possible.

Prices are given in Australian Dollars and costs accounted for in the budget include:

  • Fuel
  • Groceries & Food
  • Camping Fees & Accommodation Costs
  • Insurance & Vehicle Registration
  • Coffee & Drinks
  • Equipment
  • Tours, Activities & Entertainment
  • National Park Permits & Attraction Entrance Fees
  • Laundry
  • Car Ferries
  • Vehicle Parts / Hardware and Repairs / Services

This budget doesn’t include the amount it cost us to buy or set up the Land Rover, which it must be said was considerable, even though we fitted it ourselves and bought many things on sale or second hand on Gumtree.

It also doesn’t include the fact that we left for our road trip well stocked with gear, cleaning products, clothes, equipment, supplies, tools and spares. The cost of buying all this in advance definitely saved us money on the road, but again were part of a significant initial outlay I’ve not included here.

However, the budget does include some of the repair work we had to do along the way, as I think this is quite typical of long, Australian road trips.

The budget also doesn’t include the months we were stopped in one place working, it only includes the time we were actually on the road, which was 26 weeks – exactly 6 months.

During this time, as I mentioned, we moved quite fast, trying to beat the weather largely.

Obviously if you stay in places for a long period of time your costs are likely to be lower – mostly because you won’t be outlaying on the fuel – but it will take you longer to get around Australia, making your road trip costs greater in total too – it just depends how you balance it out.

So the total cost for 2 people, road tripping Australia for 26 weeks in NSW, QLD, NT and WA was… $21,513 AUD.

That’s just under $1 per km.. not bad!

This is obviously shared between 2 people, but it’s worth remembering that even if you are travelling alone, the big budget items of fuel and vehicle repairs / parts / services will be the same.

You can see the full breakdown of costs at the end of this article…

Your Australia Road Trip Budget

As I said at the start of this article, this is the absolute minimum I think you should set aside, as I honestly don’t think we could have done it cheaper!

We free camped a heck of a lot, we picked up other travellers to keep costs low, we never ate or drunk out in cafes and restaurants (cooking for ourselves and stocking up cheaply in major towns) and we took hardly any fancy tours or visited expensive attractions, preferring to hike, swim, relax in nature and spend time in national parks away from towns where we could.

The blog also began growing during this trip and I started getting some free accommodation and excursions, which aren’t included in the budget either.

What all of this means is that you should probably budget more!

Depending on your travel style, eating / drinking out, staying in caravan parks, enjoying guided excursions and paying entrance fees to attractions will drastically hike your budget.

Even if you plan to do it as cheaply as possible like us, remember that you will want to spend some nights in caravan parks – even if it is to charge your batteries (both metaphorically and literally) and you will want some nights out for entertainment and fun.

Factor these in!

If you don’t have an old vehicle like us, or you have lady luck on your side, the area you may spend less than we did is in vehicle parts, repairs and services… but more about this later!

5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA

#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!

#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national parks! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strolling, I love mine.

#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together.

#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!

#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.

Fuel

Fuel was our third biggest single cost, amounting to roughly $4,350 AUD across 26 weeks at an average of 817 km/week.

Obviously, this cost will fluctuate largely based on the distance you will travel, where you travel, the weight of your vehicle and what you may / may not be towing, the vehicle’s fuel consumption rate, whether you use unleaded or diesel and the state of the roads as well as the humidity and weather in general.

Our laden-down diesel TD5 Land Rover was certainly not the most economical or environmentally efficient vehicle. It guzzled more juice in the humidity of the tropics and the remote parts of Australia we travelled did not lend themselves to cheap fuel prices!

We did save money however by using the Coles / Woolworths discount coupons wherever we could and by picking up other travellers to help us with fuel costs too.

You could save money on fuel by carrying less weight onboard, having a more efficient vehicle, travelling less distance, driving on sealed roads in more populated areas of Australia where fuel is cheaper due to greater concentration and therefore competition among service stations.

Groceries and Food

Groceries and food was our second biggest single expense, coming in at $5,491 AUD for 2 people over 6 months.

As I mentioned before this was all grocery shopping – we never ate out during our road trip and I wasn’t drinking during the trip either, so there’s barely any alcohol costs here .

I was a vegan during the trip, so there are no meat / fish / dairy / egg costs for 1 person here either.

That said, we were / are both fanatical about healthy eating and so we never bought the cheapest packaged food available – instead opting for lots of fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, whole grains, organic pulses and health foods such as tahini and organic peanut butter.

This means our grocery budget wasn’t as cheap if you live off white sliced bread, baked beans and processed cheese, compared to avocados, sourdough and vine-ripened tomatoes!

Not drinking alcohol however saved us a lot of money.

So did cooking for ourselves, largely facilitated by the fact we had a fridge and gas cookers onboard with us.

To save money, we would normally shop for a whole week when we visited a large town with a decent supermarket and then not go to the shop again for 7 days to avoid the temptation to unnecessarily squander our budget.

We designed the fit-out of our Land Rover with this in mind, allowing a lot of place for dry and fresh food storage! We had a huge 75l fridge, which we bought second hand for $500 AUD and was the best decision ever!

I honestly don’t think we could have spent less on food short of eating less (not possible for us!) and buying poorer quality food (also not possible!)

Camping Fees and Accommodation

This was the fourth biggest expense at $1,965 AUD.

Over 6 months for 2 people, that’s nothing! Compare that to the price of your rent or mortgage!

Of course the cost of the rooftop tent, which came in at around $6000 if you include the roof rack and awning (which we got at a bulk price on sale) is not included in this price, but still, this initial outlay saved as a lot of money.

We were determined to free camp as much as we could to keep costs down on our Australian road trip, as we figured we couldn’t lower the fuel prices or the food costs more than we did, but we could opt to rough it more and spend less on accommodation.

Using the Wikicamps app (which cost a bargain amount of $8 AUD), we found many great free camps, especially in the Northern Territory and saved a ton of cash this away.

We could do this, of course, because we were totally self-sufficient in terms of our vehicle and set up – we even had a solar-panel and inverter on board to charge up our electrical devices.

Obviously, as we travelled the more crowded east coast and then again the more populated areas of the west coast, the amount of free camps reduced and the price of caravan parks went up.

This is also true if you travel the north in high season (June – Sept) when the caravan parks are full and quoting premium rates!

Travelling in low or shoulder season, travelling in more remote parts and free camping as much as possible will help you keep your accommodation and camping fees low.

Do remember that in some places like Broome or Uluru or Darwin, for example, there aren’t any free camps for miles around and you will have to fork out for a caravan park at the least.

It’s also worth remembering that at least once a week, you might also want to splash out on a stay in caravan park, if only to use the laundry facilities, the wifi, the pool and the power!

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Insurance and Vehicle Registration

We got our insurance through RACQ and also bought their top Ultra Care Roadside Assistance package, which is a one-off annual subscription.

Given the value of what we were carrying on aboard (our whole lives!) we saw this as a good investment… and it was!

When we broke down in the Territory or needed spare parts shipped to us, the Ultra Care Roadside Assistance package paid its way and more!

Customer service was excellent and I couldn’t fault them.

If have insurance with RACQ, you can get a discount on the Roadside Assistance too.

Overall, we spent $1219 AUD on insurance and vehicle registration over the course of a year.

Other Costs

Our other costs, which included coffee and drinks, equipment we needed to buy, tours, activities & entertainment, national park permits and attraction fees as well as laundry and some car ferries we needed to take, were low for us.

I’ve explained why in the sections above, but basically we didn’t spend much on these items, limiting them where we could, and the total for all of them over 26 weeks was $1714 AUD.

Vehicle Parts / Hardware and Repairs / Services

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Oh Africa, the most amazing continent to travel in my opinion!

Lands of epic wildlife, stunning coastline, insane historical sights and rich culture await you here.

From the souks of Morocco and the pyramids of Egypt, through to the rich rainforests of Uganda, the beautiful beaches of Mozambique and the wild deserts of Namibia, there’s just so much diversity and splendour out there it’s hard to believe.

And so, for me at least, it’s hard to believe that more people don’t travel in Africa, but that’s the reality.

Many travellers feel anxious about hitting up this continent and I know many solo female travellers do too, so to go some way to allaying your fears and helping you prepare for your adventure, here’s my ultimate female packing list for Africa.

Covering what you need for every destination I’ve visited in this continent, right from cosmopolitan Cape Town up to chaotic Cairo and every land in between, here’s my full and complete guide to everything you need to take with you.

And if you want to take the list away with you, then sign up to download a copy at the bottom of this article…

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Footwear 1x Pair Sandals

Sandals, like birkenstocksbirkenstocks, are great for travel in Africa as they can quickly be thrown on and off.

They provide excellent support for those uneven, dirt roads and won’t break in a flash easily either.

I would literally wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere without mine now.

1x Pair Runners

Great for hiking or any other vaguely active adventures you may want to do, I love my New Balance runners, which have great grip and tread for all sorts of terrains.

From hiking in Malawi to strolling Cape Town’s Seafront, I wouldn’t be without them!

  1x Waterproof Hiking Boots 

Essential if you’re going to be trekking to the gorillas or visiting anywhere at altitude like South Africa’s Drakensburg.

Not only will waterproof hiking boots help with the cold, but it really can rain just about any time of the year in certain part of Africa and as such places quickly become muddy as hell!

Save your runners and your feet and sling on a pair of boots instead.

I took mine on a totally whim the first I travelled overland in Africa, but ended up wearing them almost every day in the highlands of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

LOOKING FOR A BUDGET TOUR IN AFRICA?

If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in Africa, with guides you can trust, then email me at steph@bigworldsmallpockets.com with some ideas about where you want to go and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!

Clothes 1x Waterproof Jacket

It has never rained at all during my trips in Southern Africa, but sometimes, in East Africa, I’ve found it barely stopped!

As such, I am always beyond glad to have my thin, lightweight North Face Venture 2 waterproof coat with me because, honestly, you just don’t know when that rains gonna come, and when it does… oh boy!

Not only for the rain, but in the highlands of East Africa and Ethiopia, as well as during those freezing early morning game drives in the Serengeti, the windproof qualities of this jacket really came into its own!

2x Thick Sweater / Fleece

I splashed out before my first overland Africa trip and bought a merino fleece sweater, which ended up being so useful for those cold nights camping in altitude at Tanzania or during morning safari drives in Zimbabwe.

Again in East Africa I was glad to have 2 sweaters due to the rain – ensuring at least one was always dry at any given time!

2x Thin Long Sleeved Tops

Perfect to go under your thermal fleece if it’s really cold and you’re camping at night, thin long sleeved tops are awesome for cold nights and windy early morning safaris.

In the evening, when it’s stinking hot in places like Zanzibar, thin long sleeved tops offer great mosquito protection during the evenings.

And in north African countries such as Morocco or Sudan, thin long sleeved tops are great to wear even during the day when, ladies, arms need to be covered.

Try to choose a natural fabric like cotton or merino if you can as this will stop you sweating as much.

 

7x Singlets / T-Shirts

Singlets are good for hot days, T-shirts are good for when you need to protect your shoulders from the hot African sun or want to dress fairly moderately in countries such as Egypt or Ethiopia.

Bring a mix of both (perhaps making one or 2 of them quick-dri) and enough to last you a week without washing.

2/3x Pair Long Thin Trousers

Having some long pants to protect you against evening mosquitos is essential for your time in sub-Saharan Africa, ladies.

Long trousers are also useful for places like Stone Town in Zanzibar and Ethiopia where is it advised you dress conservatively.

In countries such as Sudan they are required due to sharia law.

Again, I always bat for natural fabrics like linen or cotton first. These ones are ideal.

2x Pair Leggings

As well as trousers, I’d also suggest putting a couple of pairs of leggings on your Africa packing list too.

Leggings are great to wear under trousers on cold game drives and to wear in bed on cold nights – saving you space on nightwear!

Personally I’m a massive fan of these natural bamboo fibre ones right now!

Leggings also double as great hiking / yoga / active wear if you want to do any fitness whilst you’re on the road and can be paired under a shorter dress if you want something a bit different in evenings.

2/3x Pair Shorts

No female Africa packing list would be complete without some shorts for all those beautiful sunny / beach days.

I normally take 2 pairs of denim shorts with me, as well as a pair of Nike Quick-Dri shorts to0, but you could get away with just 2 pairs if pushed.

1/2x Beach Dress / Jump Suits 

Just what you’ll want in places like Zanzibar, South Africa or the Kenyan coast!

1x Sports Bra

Required for those bouncing and rough safari / bus rides, trust me!

1x Set Nightwear

Optional if you’re tight on space!

3x Pair Socks

Take a mix of ankle and long, thick hiking socks like these would be my recommendation.

8x Pair Underwear & 2x Bras

Enough so you don’t have to do any washing for a week.

1x Bikini

I love my Ripcurl bikini sooo much!

1x Woolly Hat

A godsend when I was up at altitude in the Ngorongoro Crater and Iringa in Tanzania, Eldoret and Nairobi in Kenya and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

1x Sun Hat / Cap

Essential for safaris when they pop the roof and you’re without shade for hours at a time.

Also great for beach days in East Africa, summer in Southern Africa and all that ruin spotting / temple trotting you’ll do in North Africa.

I think this one from Hello Sunshine is super cute.

3x Sarong / Scarf

Great for beach day blankets, face protection on dusty safari rides, shoulder-covering on scorching hot hikes, as a second towel, a sheet, a dress, a headscarf or a bus blanket the uses for sarongs go on and on.

Check out my 20 reasons you should always travel with a sarong if you’re looking for any more ideas about the ways this amazing travel item can be used!

I’d mix up a sarong or 2 with a regular scarf or 2, as these will come in super handy in more conservative countries (normally more north Africa), especially when you’ll need to cover shoulders or even your head ladies.

Finally, why not also consider a travel scarf? These great packing items are ideal for travel days, hiking or on safari, when the hidden security pocket can be used to store your valuables close to your body.

1x Pair Sunglasses

Essential!

Get UV rated ones with anti-scratch and polarised lenses. Worth the investment!

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR AFRICA

I would never think of travelling to Africa without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used throughout my time in this continent and beyond.

I love their great coverage of adventure activities – crucial for travel in Africa – as well as their excellent customer service and ability to claim online, which is very handy if you’re travelling in remote places for a long time.

Electricals 1x Laptop / Tablet

Download Netflix stuff before you leave home and enjoy some relaxing watching during your African evenings.

1x Mirrorless Camera

I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless camera which is lightweight, compact and study – perfect for Africa travel.

I’ve used mine across the continent and love it!

2/3x Camera Lens

My Sony A6000 mirrorless camera came with a 16-50mm optical lens, but it’s definitely worth putting a good zoom lens on your Africa packing list too, especially for any safaris.

My 65-210mm lens was perfect for this and not too expensive either!

2/3x 64GB Fast SD Memory Cards

Get large 64GB SD memory cards as you do not want to run out of photo space when in Africa and these sorts of things can be hard to come by!

I’d also recommend splashing out a bit and getting some fast processing memory cards – just what you need to snap that cheetah!

Depending on how long your trip is, I’d take 2-3x SD memory cards.

1x Spare Camera Battery

You never want to run out of battery when there is a leopard in front of you… trust me!

 

Battery Charging Unit / Cables / Leads

Take spare micro USB leads as they always get lost / broken!

Adapter Plugs

I took a South African adapter (for South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland / eSwatini & Botswana) a British Adapter (for Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda & Kenya) and a European adapter (for Ethiopia, Rwanda, Morocco, Sudan & Egypt).

They all add up but are definitely needed!

Alternatively, check out the Skross selection of world adapters to cover all bases.

Smartphone & Headphones

It’s amazing but almost all the campsites / hostels I’ve we stayed at in Africa have wifi, so taking your smartphone to stay in touch with those at home and to upload some pics is a great idea.

Also good to know that in most Africa countries, SIM cards are cheap and easy to get hold of!

I’d highly recommend downloading some audiobooks and music onto your phone before you leave home – a great idea for longer journey days.

Amazon Audible and Spotify Premium are my go-to services for these purposes.

Portable Power Pack

Portable power packs are great when travelling in countries without solidly reliable charging sources, like in most of Africa!

I recommend the Anker PowerCore which has 2 output sources, meaning I could charge my phone and my camera at the same time at lightning speed – BOOM!

Toiletries 1x Thin Toiletries Bag

To hook or not to hook, that is the question!

Either way, just make sure it is light and thin.

This one is a great, cheap option

Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

AmazonLush have the best supply and they last for ages!

Say goodbye to mid-travel spillages and bulky bottles people, this is the plastic-free future!

Anti-Bacterial Soap

Great for life in those sweaty, humid climates, trust me!

Deodorant 

I love natural crystal deodorants – no nasty chemicals and they last FOR AGES!

Face & Body Moisturiser Razor & Spare Blades Tweezers Cotton Buds & Balls Nail Scissors, Nail File, Nail Varnish, Nail Varnish Remover Hair Bands Glasses / Contact Lenses if you..
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If, like me, you’re wanting to travel overland cheaply and efficiently from Bangkok to Siem Reap, then listen up!

I’ve just made this journey and it could not have been more straightforward or simple… if you know a few bits of key information!

So read on to get the latest and complete lowdown about how to do this in the best possible way from someone whose been there, done that…

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All information contained within this post is based on my own personal experience as a British citizen, written in good faith and correct at the time of publication. I cannot be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of this information.

This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.

Cambodia Visa

Before you do anything in terms of travelling to Cambodia, you need to make sure you have a visa.

As a Brit, I was eligible for a Cambodia eVisa, which I organised quickly online here.

Technically you are meant to allow a few working days for the visa to come through, but mine was granted almost immediately.

To apply for an eVisa online you have to have an electronic copy of your passport you can upload, as well as some suitable passport photos you can upload too, but with this all at my fingertips, it was easy.

You also need to know your dates of travel to Cambodia and at which border you’ll enter, so it pays to do a bit of travel prep and research in advance.

FYI: If you’re going to cross from Bangkok to Siem Reap using the method I outline in this post, the border you’ll cross at is Poipet.

Once you get the eVisa approved, you will need to print off 2 copies of the paperwork emailed to you – 1 to be submitted on entry and the other when you exit.

You pay for the Cambodia eVisa online and there is a small handling fee, but honestly you’ll likely pay this amount at the border (or more)  as a “processing cost” anyway, so I do advise saving yourself time and hassle and just coughing up in advance.

I paid £27.72 for my Cambodia eVisa, plus a non-GBP transaction fee of £0.82 charged by my bank.

If you complete the eVisa process you can also avoid getting a whole page visa sticker in your passport (crucial if you’re short on pages like I was) and just get an entry stamp for Cambodia instead.

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Booking a Bus

So first up is finding a reliable bus company that are actually going to deliver you from Bangkok to Siem Reap and not just leave you at the border!

After reading several horror stories of this nature online, I decided to put my trust in Giant Ibis and am really glad I did – they were excellent… but more about this later.

Because I was staying in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok and didn’t have the time, or the inclination in the crazy humidity, to walk to their office just of the Khao San Road, I decided to spend the extra dollar (which I would have spent on public transport anyway) and book my Giant Ibis bus ticket online.

I did this through a great website I’ve found called 12Go, who operate across Southeast Asia and are a great portal for booking loads of long distance bus services in the region online.

The website was secure and issued me with an e-ticket I could use without having to print anything off.

I was actually glad I booked online, because when I did go to the Giant Ibis office in Bangkok several days later, as well as on the morning of my departure, it was closed… but more about this later!

To book your Bangkok to Siem Reap bus with 12Go, click here!

My ticket cost £25.32.

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR SOUTH EAST ASIA

I wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere in South East Asia without coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads, which I’ve used during my time in Thailand, Cambodia and beyond.

I love this company’s easy online claims process, as well as their great customer support and the fact that you can buy or extend your travel insurance with them even if you’re enjoying your travels already.

Finding the Giant Ibis Bus

So the key information to know once you have bought your ticket through 12Go is that the departure point details are a little hazy – in fact they gave me 2 options and didn’t seem to be able to clarify which point of departure was correct – hence why I found myself at the Giant Ibis office at 229 Phra Sumen Road trying to get some answers some days later!

But as I said, it was closed – cue mild heart attack on my part!

To save you the trouble and confusion I went through – which involved several emails to 12Go – the best thing is to call Giant Ibis, once you’ve booked your ticket, to find out the departure information from them direct.

They will probably tell you to just go the Giant Ibis office, on the morning of the departure, which you should do at least half an hour before your bus is scheduled to leave.

But if, like me, you still find the office closed (cue 2nd heart attack) simply call them again and they will promptly come and collect you from the office and take you to the bus – which is parked a few streets away on Thanon Bowon Niwet.

You could of course head straight here on the morning of departure, but as I don’t know when you’re going to be reading this post and if / when the information and bus departure point might change – I’d honestly just advise calling them to be sure.

The number I used to get hold of Giant Ibis was +66 92 193 9333.

This number is also printed on your 12Go eTicket.

5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR SOUTH EAST ASIA

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Southeast Asia Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this part of the world with lots of top tip and helpful information.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in both Bangkok and Siem Reap, so I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which are perfect for city strolling.

#3 European & British Power Adapters – Thailand and Cambodia use a mix of power outlets, but generally opt for a mix of European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing this crazy and beautiful part of the world.

#5 Travel Scarf – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables and offer sun protection while you explore these countries best sights, a travel scarf is especially great when visiting Southeast Asia’s temples where shoulders must be covered.

Onboard Giant Ibis

When I got onboard the Giant Ibis bus, I suddenly knew all the panic was worthwhile, because this luxury liner was epic!

With wifi, reclining seats, tons of legroom, leather seats, aircon, onboard toilets, free water, snacks and even lunch –  it was about as comfortable as a bus can get I reckon!

Along with the driver, who drove very safely I’m delighted to add, there was a perfect-English speaker guide on the bus, who helped us through every step of the border process – so simple it was a delight!

Leaving Thailand

My scheduled departure from Bangkok to Siem Reap was at 7:45am.

We actually left the bus parking area at 8am and then drove around to pick up a few extra passengers before departing Bangkok and setting off to the border.

It took a few hours, but we stopped for toilet breaks and snacks!

When we got to the Bangkok border, the great English-speaking guide talked us through the whole process and even walked through the border with us.

There were no queues and the process was very easy.

REMEMBER: You will require the white exit slip you received when you entered Thailand to leave, otherwise you will have to “pay” for a new one.

You have to take all your carry-on luggage with you when you exit Thailand as you’ll walk across the border and meet a different Giant Ibis bus on the Cambodia side.

But brilliantly, the staff deal with all your big bags – which are stored underneath… high five Giant Ibis!

Entering Cambodia

Once you’ve walked across the Thai – Cambodia border with the guide, you’ll present your eVisa documentation (remember the paper you had to print out) to the Cambodian immigration official, who will simply stamp your passport and staple an exit form into it – no one page sticker.

As a Brit I got a 30 day, single-entry tourist visa for Cambodia this way.

Once this was done, we got onto the new Giant Ibis bus, got lunch given to us and waited for our big bags to arrive.

Once this was complete we set off to Siem Reap.

FYI: The Giant Ibis staff do a side-hussle on SIM cards, so I actually got my Cambodian SIM up and running within minutes of having crossed the border – stellar service! I got a Metafone SIM off the guide for 25 Baht which included $150 USD worth of data!

Arriving into Siem Reap

We eventually arrived into Siem Reap at 5pm after a very smooth drive.

As you start motoring through Cambodia, the level of development compared to the Thai side is quite evident.

Once you arrive at the Giant Ibis office in Siem Reap – which is a little way from the centre – there will be tuk-tuk drivers, who speak great English, waiting to take you to your hotel.

My hotel ride cost $3 USD and my helpful tuk-tuk driver even waited for me to use ATM on the way so I could get some Cambodian Riels out.

TOP TIP: Check out this post for my tip on the best place to stay in Siem Reap.

It’s worth noting that Cambodian Riels (KHR) and USD are used interchangeably in Cambodia and both can be withdrawn from ATM machines. The exchange rate at the time of publication was 4000 KHR to $1 USD.

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And there you have it, my complete lowdown on crossing Bangkok to Siem Reap overland.

Have you made this trip lately?

Do you have any updated info to add?

Please help other travellers out by posting any news in the comments box below…

The post Bangkok to Siem Reap : How to Do it By Bus appeared first on Big World Small Pockets.

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Coastal Kent and Sussex were England’s most vulnerable counties to attack from those overseas for hundreds of years, so it’s probably no surprise for you to hear that both counties have more than their fair share of castles and fortresses.

Whether they were built during the Norman Conquest of the 11th century or the relatively recent World War II conflict, these castles have stood the test of time.

Also having stood the test of time are many of the forts built in this part of England to house members of royalty, as well as the rich and the famous of the time, which are still as spectacular today as they were hundreds of years ago.

So to celebrate the best ones, here is my short guide to the best forts and castles of Kent and Sussex that you can visit on a trip to this beautiful part of the UK.

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#1 Dover Castle

Dominating a hilltop high above the town of Dover with views across the English Channel, Dover Castle has protected the country for nearly 2,000 years against invasion.

The castle was certainly built to last with features that include impenetrable walls, huge towers and a network of tunnels and rooms that honeycomb the hill below.

As a visitor, you can investigate the once-secret wartime warrens and an underground (former) hospital, which provide a brilliant air of mystery to this great castle.

There have been fortifications at Dover Castle’s strategic location since the Romans, followed by William the Conqueror, and later Henry II.

The first of the largescale walls were built in the 13th century and put to the test during a series of fierce sieges. 

Most of the fortifications that can be seen today were then added during the Napoleonic Wars of the 18th century and World War II.

The castle last saw extensive military activity during the mid-20th century during the Cold War through which Dover Castle was used by the government as a strategical backdrop for nuclear attack survival drills.

Nowadays Dover Castle is managed by English Heritage.

For visitors, there are two types of tour that you could embark on – a self-guided one, and the partially self-guided Operation Dynamo tour.

On both tours you will encounter actors that are dressed in period-appropriate dress to help evoke the past glories at the castle.

You can also embark on a fully guided tour of the underground hospital which also houses permanent and touring exhibitions showcasing artefacts from the fort’s history.

If you are planning to take a day trip to Dover Castle there are two cafes onsite and a restaurant in the old NAAFI. 

If you have small children in tow, there are over 80 acres of grounds to explore and play within, as well as a few play areas and an adventure playground.

During the summer, you can sit on one of the lawns and enjoy an ice cream from the parlour.

For more information on tours, opening times and entry prices visit Dover Castle’s website.

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE!

I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere these days without coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads, which I’ve used time and time again on my travels.

I love this company’s easy online claims process, as well as their great customer support and the fact that you can buy or extend your travel insurance with them even if you’re enjoying your travels already.

#2 Hever Castle

Hever Castle is the former home of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn: second wife of Henry VIII and the mother of Elizabeth I.

Henry is known to have courted Anne here after meeting her under the gnarly yew tree at Ankerwycke near Windsor.

The ivy-gilded castle is a romantic old place and still stirs hearts as a visitor attraction to this day.

Artefacts on display at the castle include Henry VIII’s fabled lock, with which he used to lock himself into rooms wherever he slept for protection – guessing he had some issues!

The castle was home to the Boleyn family between 1462 and 1539, afterwards it was inherited by the royals and then given to Anne of Cleves (Henry’s fourth wife) as part settlement for the dissolution of their marriage.

In the 20th century, it was restored by William Waldorf Astor who went about adding an Italianate garden.

Today’s visitors can explore two mazes – the first of which is a 100-year-old yew tree maze, the second is a fabulously elaborate water maze and both are brilliant fun!

Hever Castle’s grounds are great for family day trips too, with a playground, boating lake and places to enjoy a picnic.

Throughout the year, the current owners of Hever Castle host a series of events for the public including Christmas fairs, jousting tournaments, and archery displays, all of which make particularly great times to take a trip there.

For more information on tours, opening times and entry prices visit Hever Castle’s website.

5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR KENT & SUSSEX

#1 Camera – Kent & Sussex are 2 of the most quintessential English places and travelling here with a good camera will help you preserve the memories. I highly recommend the mirrorless Sony A6000. Light, compact and robust, it’s the perfect travel companion.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s going to be a lot of walking around all these castles, so good day shoes are a must. I love my New Balance trainers, which are town-friendly, good for short distances and super comfy.

#3 England Lonely Planet – A great travel aide to this country with tons of historical info, the England Lonely Planet will help you get the best from your time amongst the castles of this country.

#4 Waterproof Coat – Being England it can rain anytime and having my North Face lightweight, windproof and waterproof jacket when I visit Kent & Sussex therefore saved my life!

#5 Amazon Audible – Travelling down to Kent & Sussex often involves train travel, so having something to listen to while you enjoy the scenery rushing past is a must! I love Amazon Audible, which is the best audiobook service around.

#3 Leeds Castle

You’ll never forget the impact your first sight of Leeds Castle makes!

As you approach it down a driveway with thick tree cover, the woodlands open out suddenly to reveal the moated spectacle of this most graceful of follies.

With its honey-coloured stone and classical veneer this 900-year-old castle has aged beautifully.

Commanding lovely views of the surrounding parkland, Leeds Castle is truly one of England’s most handsome buildings.

Like Hever Castle, it was once home to one of Henry VIII’s unfortunate wives – his first, Catherine of Aragon – and has been a royal palace for five other queens of England since.

Parts of the castle date back to the early 12th century and have gone through many incarnations and many different owners.

Today, you can take a self-guided tour (and a great audio tour narrated from a servant’s point of view) as you visit fascinating displays of over 100 rare and unusual collars spanning five centuries on your way around… who doesn’t love a collar after all!

Set in the gatehouse, you will also find an interesting set of exhibitions that relate to the Battle of the Skies and another which showcases artefacts stored or found at Leeds Castle over the years.

On your visit, you can also witness a series of entertainment events like falconry displays or punting on the moat, as well as amble through some beautiful gardens including the Culpeper Gardens, the Wood Garden and The Lady Baillie Mediterranean Garden Terrace.

For more information on tours, opening times and entry prices visit Leeds Castle’s website.

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#4 Stay in Your Own Castle

An English man and woman’s homes are their castles, so would could be more perfect for getting into this spirit of this country than by staying at one of the Sussex or Kent cottages offered by Bramley & Teal during your tour of the region?

With a location less than 2 hours from London, the coastal South East is a great place to explore and a great destination for those that want an escape to the sea, beaches and countryside.

And what better to experience it in all its quintessential glory than by a stay in a beautiful cottage?

Sure to make your time here more than memorable, this is one of those unique travel opps you just can’t pass up!

And here my other top picks when it comes to other castles in Kent and Sussex you can explore…

And there you have it, the unmissable English castles of Kent and Sussex.

Have you visited this gorgeous part of the UK?

Let me know what you got up to there in the comments below…

The post The Unmissable English Castles of Kent & Sussex appeared first on Big World Small Pockets.

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So you need a visa to visit Mozambique, but you’ve already left your country and while you’ve heard you can get them on the border, you’re either a) traveling with an overland tour that require you to get it in advance or b) not happy about risking it until the last minute!

Sound familiar?

I’m hearing ya peeps!

Yes I was in this exact position just a few months again and had to go through the process of trying to get my Mozambique visa in Cape Town.

Not easy, but I managed it and here’s the full lowdown on exactly how…

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The following advice refers to my personal experience as a British citizen. I cannot take any responsibility for individual circumstances or changes in visa regulations.

So the first thing you should know is I’m a British citizen and the following process to get my Mozambique visa in Cape Town took place in February 2019.

I’ve decided to write a blog post about it all to help fellow travellers out, but please, please check your individual circumstances linked to the type of passport you hold and the time of travel, as I can’t speak for, or advise you on, your personal situation.

It’s also worth pointing out that this information was correct at the time of going to press, but please, please check online for any changes in Mozambique immigration policy.

And with that out the way… here goes!

Me Loving Mozambique!

Check If You Need a Tourist Visa

Unless you’re from a handful of countries worldwide, the chances are you will need a tourist visa to visit Mozambique, but do confirm this.

You’ll also want to confirm if you’re eligible for a visa on arrival (as many European passport holders are). Rest assured these are available for both land and air arrivals.

However, queues can be long, corruption can be high and if you don’t want to risk being refused, then it’s good to know you can obtain a visa in advance from a Mozambique embassy / consulate.

Also worth knowing that if you are travelling as part of an overland tour, getting your Mozambique visa in advance maybe a requirement.

Generally, Mozambique like you to obtain your tourist visa in your county of residence, but for some of us who are already on the move, this just isn’t possible, and so I found myself googling how I could get a visa in Cape Town… and not finding all that much!

Which is why I’ve written this post.

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Mozambique Consulate Location in Cape Town

So the good news is that you can get your Mozambique visa in Cape Town and it takes a minimum of 3 working days!

Applications must be lodged at the consulate between 8am and 12pm and collected 3 days later from the same place between 2pm and 4pm.

The consulate is located on the third floor of a huge building at 1 Thibault Square, which is at the end of Long Street in Cape Town’s CBD.

I suggest getting there early so you have time to navigate any queues or extras you may need to provide.

To get to the consulate you have to sign in at the main reception (giving your name, phone number and having your photo taken) before receiving a temporary pass-card.

Head through the barriers by swiping your pass-card and going round to the lifts.

You’ll need to access the third floor, which is only available at a certain number of lifts, so don’t stand at the wrong ones like lemon as I did for a while!

Instead press the button for level 3, see the letter you’re shown and then go and stand at the corresponding lettered lift.

Simple when you know how!

Ha!

Turn right out of the lifts on the 3rd floor and the Consulate is in front of you.

6 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR MOZAMBIQUE TRAVEL

#1 Swimwear and Sarong One World Sarongs are always my go to.

#2 Bradt Guidebook – Their Mozambique edition is excellent and very helpful.

#3 Insect Repellent and Anti-Malarials – I recommend a 30% DEET spray.

#4 European and South African Power Adapters – They mix and match in Mozam so best to have a World Adapter to cover all bases.

#5 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, but a GoPro would also be great for the underwater action in this country.

#6 Good Sandals – You’ll live in sandals on the coast in Mozambique and I would never travel anywhere now without my trusty pair of Birkenstocks!

Required Documents for Mozambique Visa

Despite what you may read elsewhere, I needed the following documents to obtain my Mozambique visa in Cape Town.

Also do make sure you have them all, because one mistake and the beauty of bureaucracy kicks in and you’ll be sent away to come with EXACTLY the right documents the following day!

  • 2x Recent Passport Photos
  • Photocopy of your Passport Page
  • Photocopy of your South Africa Visa or Entry Stamp
  • Proof of a Return Bus or Airline Ticket
  • Proof of Confirmed Hotel Reservation in Mozambique
  • South African Mobile Number
  • 1000 Rand Cash

As I was travelling with an overland company during my time in Mozambique and didn’t have either a hotel reservation or a return bus / airline ticket – I had to email the tour company for the relevant documents, which they dutifully provided for me.

Proof of my place on the tour and the tour itinerary, as well as details of a hotel place we would be staying in seemed to suffice… eventually!

The one mistake I did make when I finally got this all together however, was folding the paperwork in half so that it fitted in my bag.

This was cause for a denial of accepting the documents, so do not, I repeat DO NOT, fold any prints-out, papers or photocopies!

You’ll also need 1000 Rand in cash to pay for the visa.

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR MOZAMBIQUE

I would never think of travelling to Mozambique without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used during my time in this country and throughout Africa.

I love their great coverage of underwater activities – crucial for travel in a country like Mozambique – as well as their excellent customer service and ability to claim online, which is very handy if you’re travelling in remote places for a long time.

Visa Payment

The visa payment needs to be made at the FNB Bank on Adderley Street – about a 10 minute walk from the Mozambique Consulate.

You make the payment after you’ve handed in the visa required documents and the embassy worker has given you details of the relevant account to deposit the money into.

Once you have this, walk to the bank (it’s big building so you can’t miss it) go to the tellers and hand over the instructions and 1000 Rand in cash.

They’ll likely know what you need and will grant you a receipt without you having to ask, but do request one if they don’t.

After you’ve paid for your visa, head back to the Mozambique Consulate (go through the same sign in process at the ground floor reception desk) submit the payment receipt and get another receipt from them showing proof of visa submission – KEEP THIS!

This is when you’ll have to let them know your South African mobile phone number – so have it to hand!

Best Budget Accommodation In Mozambique

Tofo: Pariango Beach

Vilanculos: Baobab Beach Lodge & Backpackers

Maputo: The Base

Visa Collection at Mozambique Consulate in Cape Town

The Consulate employee will then tell you when to come back and collect your passport with the visa sticker in it.

If you’re lucky, they may throw in the kind disclaimer that you won’t be entitled to a refund if you’re visa is denied – cheers!

My collection time was 3 days after submission (and luckily the day before I was leaving Cape Town!)

Arrive at the Consulate at 2pm on the given day to collect your visa, with your receipt document, and be prepared to wait.

It’s just how it is!

LOOKING FOR A BUDGET TOUR IN MOZAMBIQUE?

If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in Mozambique with guides you can trust, then email me at steph@bigworldsmallpockets.com and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!

So there you have it, my full guide on how I got my Mozambique visa in Cape Town.

Have you been through this process too?

What was your experience like?

Please share the traveller wisdom in the comments box below…

The post How to Get Your Mozambique Visa in Cape Town appeared first on Big World Small Pockets.

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Fast-paced, fiery and furious, brash Bangkok isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!

And I can understand that.

Landing here, to take in your first experience of Southeast Asia like many people do, can be something of a baptism of fire.

But hang in there, because despite its rough exterior, Bangkok is unapologetically real and unremorsefully brazen – a city that won’t allow itself to be judged and won’t judge in return.

And once you accept this fact, and take everything as it is, without comment or question, Bangkok’s confronting style gets right under your skin.

As does it’s pollution! Ha!

So here it is people, the best things to do in Bangkok in 3 days.

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My stay at the Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 and tour with TakeMeTour were kindly sponsored, but, as always, all views are my own.

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Best Things to Do in Bangkok : Day 1

Let’s call day 1 in Bangkok temple day, or tourist day, whichever you prefer (ha!) because this is the day to tick off all those amazing religious and spiritual sights in Bangkok.

Start your day early to avoid the heat and the crowds (before the tour bus herds arrive) and to ensure you can cram in as much of the following as possible!

And on that motivating note, I suggest you begin at Wat Mahathat, one of the oldest temples in the city and an important site of monastic study even today. Next door is Bangkok’s largest amulet market. Held every Sunday, it’s worth checking out if you have time.

After that, continue south onto the biggest complex of your temple day – The Grand Palace. This spot also has the biggest price tag to match at 500 THB, but really is quite spectacular.

Despite the tourist numbers, you can easily pass a few hours in this huge site, which includes the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha – the most sacred temple in Thailand.

After this, stroll out to snap the icon Giant Swing, built in 1784, before hitting up another classic temple landmark in Bangkok – that of Wat Pho (entrance 200 THB) to see the giant reclining Buddha, and when I say giant, I mean giant!

Next, it’s time to head directly across the river to see my favourite temple of them all – Wat Arun (entrance 50 THB) – before taking a river taxi down the water to China Town.

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the historic markets on foot in this part of Bangkok, as well as one last temple (in the form of the Golden Buddha Temple, 40 THB entrance) if you can stomach anymore!

Finish your day with sunset from the Golden Mountain Temple or alternatively hit the Khao San Road, if you truly want to see the worst of what Bangkok has to offer!

TOP TIP: Rules for visiting the temples include both males and females having their shoulders and knees covered but, despite what many guidebooks say, flip flops / sandals are ok, as are long shorts that come to the knee and T-shirts that cover shoulders but not the whole arm.

WANT A GREAT PLACE TO STAY IN BANGKOK?

As opposed to staying on or near the Khao San Road, which is honestly one of the worst places I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending a full 3 minutes before I turned on my heels and fled, can I suggest you stay in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok instead.

Very tourist-friendly with excellent transport links across the city, this place is full of great restaurants, bars, cafés, malls, massages, amenities and services.

Having stayed there myself as a solo female, I can definitely say I felt a lot safer there walking around at night by myself than anywhere else, and there’s an excellent choice of accommodation in this bustling part of the city too.

And when it comes to my recommendations, especially if you want to treat yourself, then look no further than the Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11.

Ideally located, with huge, clean and comfortable rooms (some of which include a bath!) and some of the most helpful staff I’ve ever encountered, this place is an absolute haven amongst the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

The gorgeous pool and daybeds are a dream when you need to relax away from the sweat and urban chaos of the city, and the bar and several restaurants onsite here will make your stay easy, convenient and stress-free.

Honestly, I absolutely loved my stay here and would return in an instant, which is why I can’t recommend the Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 enough if you’re looking to enjoy this city in chilled style!

Best Things to Do in Bangkok : Day 2

And if you are staying at the Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11, day 2 of the best things to do in Bangkok is going to be perfect for you, because it’s based around being able to move easily via the BTS Skytrain & MRT Subway, access to which is just a short walk away from this hotel.

Start your day by heading to the Ari stop on the BTS Sukhumvit Line for your morning coffee.

The burgeoning hipster area of the city, there’ s tons of funky cafes and fun food stalls around here to sample. My favourite has to be LaLiart, which is open daily from 9am until 6:30pm.

After Ari, catch the BTS Sukhumvit Line to Ratchathewi station, from where you can easily walk to the historic Jim Thompson House Museum.

The former residence of entrepreneurial American, Jim Thompson, a wealthy silk merchant who lived and built his empire business from Bangkok, this is a great heritage attraction.

Tours of his home run every 20 minutes and cost 150 THB.

After this, jump back on the BTS Sukhumvit Line to Siam station and then change onto the MRT Subway and ride to Si Lom station.

From here, get out to stroll, relax, pedalo, cycle and enjoy the great wonder that is Lumphini Park, one of Bangkok’s most welcoming green spaces for the afternoon.

On the way back take an iconic tuk-tuk ride (no time in Bangkok would be complete without one!) and hit the malls for some good shopping and eating options.

6 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR BANGKOK

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Bangkok Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this city with lots of top tips and good practical information.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in Bangkok especially as the traffic here can be so bad. As such, I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which are perfect for city strolling.

#3 European & British Power Adapters – Bangkok has a mix of power outlets, but generally opts for a combination of the European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing this crazy capital at its best.

#5 Travel Scarf – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables and cover your shoulders while you explore Bangkok’s temples.

#6 Good Travel Insurance – I wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere in Southeast Asia without coverage and highly recommend travel insurance from World Nomads, which I’ve used during my time in Thailand and beyond.

Best Things to Do in Bangkok : Day 3

On day 3 of this itinerary of the best things to do in Bangkok, it’s time to get out of the city to enjoy some of the great market and local life around.

Highly recommended are one the many tours offered by TakeMeTour, who specialise in local market, temples, cycling and cooking trips within and around Bangkok.

Essentially operating as a huge independent marketplace, this great online resource connects local tour providers with tourists in a safe, sophisticated and professional way.

With a huge range of tours on offer, each making its itinerary clear, catering for dietary requirements and setting a fair price, this is a great forum for providing value and security for travellers, whilst also helping local independent operators.

My tour to see the beautiful Bangkok floating markets and Maeklong Railway Market with TakeMeTour was absolutely brilliant, with my fabulous guide (who spoke English perfectly and couldn’t do enough to help me) imparting tons of information that I never would have been able to learn otherwise.

I was picked up for the tour early from outside the Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 and dropped back there in the afternoon, which made the whole experience incredibly stress-free and easy – just what jetlagged me needed!

The tour also included lunch at a traditional restaurant, as well as some great photo opps and the chance to enjoy a real sense of local life – honestly, it was brilliant!

Then, after 3 busy days seeing all the best things to do in Bangkok, it’s time to relax, and what better way than with an amazing Thai massage.

Personally, I highly recommend Healthlands Resort and Spa.

Situated right near the BTS Asok station in Sukhumvit, the 2 hour incredible traditional massage I received here cost just 600 THB and is, without question, one of the best things I’ve ever spent money on in my travel career!

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And With an Extra Day in Bangkok…

And if you can possible wrangle 4 days for your Bangkok itinerary, then I highly recommend booking a TakeMeTour to the former capital and nearby city of Ayutthaya.

Dating back to 1350, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and just 80km from Bangkok, a day trip to Ayutthaya is a must see if you like history, photography and impressive temples … or all of the above!

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And there you have it, my complete guide to the best things to do in Bangkok in 3 days.

Have you visited the Thai capital?

What was your favourite thing to do in this city?

Do tell me all in the comments box below…

The post The Best Things to Do in Bangkok in 3 Days appeared first on Big World Small Pockets.

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Ain’t no secret that Ho Chi Minh is, without question, my favourite Southeast Asian city to date.

Its unrelenting energy, coupled with its earthy authenticity, meant I was quickly charmed by this huge metropolis, which seems to have far fewer of the tacky, soulless tourist trappings many other cities in Southeast Asia are blighted by.

While the chaos of the traffic here and the action out on the main streets will please those of you craving a sensory overload, stepping just off almost any major road into one of the thousands of tiny back alleys that make up this city, will suddenly transport you to a different world.

Doors of homes are flung open, kids play on old bicycles in the street and incense burns at statue-laden altars as life between the domestic and public spheres merge.

Alongside, crowds of plastic chairs huddle on every corner, filled with chatting locals, as some of the best street food in the world is served, steaming into small bowls, by hardworking women from simple carts.

There’s the French influence to account for too, the sky bars, the sensational coffee scene, the green parks and the historical, cultural and spiritual attractions, all of which blend together to make Ho Chi Minh one of the most rewarding cities to travel in my opinion.

It is, without question, 100% Vietnamese, 100% authentic and 100% brilliant.

A global city, with a distinctly local feel, here’s my list of the best 17 things to do in Ho Chi Minh that will make the perfect beginning or ending to your Vietnam adventure.

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My trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels was kindly sponsored by TakeMeTour but, as always, all views are my own.

#1 Pay Witness at the War Remnants Museum

In my mind, there’s perhaps no better place to begin your sightseeing list in Ho Chi Minh than with a trip to the War Remnants Museum.

While it definitely doesn’t make for a cheery or uplifting couple of hours – this is an important documentation of the devastating war that blighted this country for decades.

Visiting the War Remnants Museum will give you a greater understanding of just what Vietnam has endured and continues to endure today.

Entrance tickets cost 40,000 Vietnamese Dong (d), which is a bargain at around $2 USD.

#2 Marvel at the Reunification Palace

From the War Remnants Museum, it’s then an easy walk around the corner to visit my next entry on this list of Ho Chi Minh : the best things to do, namely the Reunification Palace.

A huge, imposing structure, which lies at the end of a wide, tree-lined (and very French-looking) avenue, walking inside the hallways here imparts a sense of time having stood still.

Entrance costs 40,000 Vietnamese Dong (d), but the place closes at lunchtime, so avoid visiting then if you do want to head inside.

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#3 Drink Coffee… by the Gallon

Ok, so this is definitely one of the best things to do in Vietnam full stop, but given that Ho Chi Minh was my first destination in this country and therefore my first real experience of Vietnamese coffee, it’s seared its way into my heart.

For those not in the know, the Vietnamese are coffee mad (just one reason I feel we got on!) and from egg coffee to coconut coffee, evaporated milk coffee and just some good old hardcore, drip stuff, they drink it all strong af and by the gallon!

You’ll soon realise, wandering the streets of Ho Chi Minh, that there’s almost as many coffee shops here as there are people and scooters, which is really saying something!

Finding a traditional cafe, where you can sit down with the locals and get buzzed up is definitely on my list of Ho Chi Minh’s greatest things to do and my recommended top spot is the atmospheric Saigon Café Rococo situated at 140 Nguyen Tieu La in District 10.

#4 Eat, Eat & Eat Some More

And sticking with the theme, another one of Ho Chi Minh’s best things to do is eat!

Yup welcome to the culinary paradise that is Vietnam, where food is fresh, cheap, varied and unbelievably delicious!

If you’re a veggie like me, hunt out the Chay restaurants, which are meat and fish free – hoorah! One of my favourites was Phuong Mai Vegetarian Restaurant along Tan Dinh in District 1.

Otherwise, pull up a plastic chair at one of the thousands of busy street vendors or find a local restaurant, be adventurous and tuck in!

5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR VIETNAM

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Vietnam Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this country with lots of top tip and recommended places to eat.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in Vietnam especially around those temples and cities! As such, I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which were perfect for my time here.

#3 European & British Power Adapters – Vietnam has a mix of power outlets, but generally opts for a mix of the European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing the colour, chaos and cuisine and charm of Vietnam.

#5 Travel Scarf – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables and cover your shoulders while you explore many of Vietnam’s top sights, I love my travel scarf.

#5 Snap Notre Dame Cathedral

But back to the sightseeing, snapping the picturesque Notre Dame Cathedral in central Ho Chi Minh city is definitely one of the best things to do in this city.

Now that the one in Paris is sadly no longer in its complete original form, take a trip to Vietnam to see the spin-off – a strong remnant of the long French colonial rule here.

#6 Wander into the Post Office

And just opposite the Notre Dame Cathedral is another French colonial relic – the Saigon post office!

No longer a functioning post office inside it seems – and certainly more of a tourist trap – the exterior facade and interior vaulted architecture  of this building is nevertheless beautiful and worth checking out.

#7 See a Show at the Opera House

Located in the upmarket district of Dong Khoi and surrounded by swanky designer stores, heading to the Opera House is another of Ho Chi Minh’s great things to do.

If your budget can handle it, why not see a performance here, otherwise marvelling at the colonial architecture and the upmarket location of this performance space (which shows quite another side to this city) is an experience in itself.

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR VIETNAM

I’d never even consider travelling to Vietnam without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used throughout my time in this country and beyond.

I love that they cover a wide range of adventure activities – which is definitely needed for a country like Vietnam – as well as their great customer service and the fact that you can easily claim or extend your coverage while you’re still abroad, online.

#8 Stroll Along the Nguyen Walking Street

And carrying on, just around the corner from the Opera House, is Ho Chi Minh’s famous Nguyen Walking Street.

Take a welcome respite from the traffic here and enjoy ambling this long pedestrian-friendly strip complete with water fountains, local families and skyscraper views.

#9 Tour the Mekong Delta

My next entry on this list of the top Ho Chi Minh things to do is actually outside of the city and will see you heading to explore some of the amazing country around.

The Mekong Delta is the area of Vietnam that bulges out below Ho Chi Minh towards the Cambodia border and is, unsurprisingly, dominated by the many tributaries of the highly important Mekong River.

Day tours from Saigon to the Mekong are popular and tend to focus around the Ben Tre area, where you can see local crafts and food production.

However if you really want to travel deeper into this region, experience some of the famous floating markets and learn more about the locals’ way of life, an overnight trip, which generally includes a homestay and takes you further to around Can Tho, is highly recommended.

Check out this great Mekong Delta tour option from TakeMeTour, who support local independent guides and authentic tourist experiences.

GETTING FROM CAMBODIA TO HO CHI MINH CITY

You can easily use the excellent Giant Ibis Service to smoothly cross from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.

I’ve used this great bus company many times in South East Asia, including when I crossed the border from Bangkok to Siem Reap and can’t fault their service or how easy they make border journeys.

You can book Giant Ibis tickets from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh online via the secure website 12Go eTicket, otherwise, learn more about how I crossed the border from Kampot in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh here.

#10 Scale Bitexco Financial Tower

This one is a bit of splurge, but once you see the view from the top, you’ll have no question why I’m putting scaling the Bitexco Financial Tower on my list of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh.

With a steep entrance price of 200,000 Dong, this is nothing compared to the steep ascent you’ll make from the ground floor of this tower up to the incredible Sky Deck where stunning city skyline views await you. (FYI your ears will pop in the lift!)

Heading here at sunset to catch the awesome light is definitely recommended and your ticket then gives you 10% off drinks at the restaurants on both the 50th & 51st floors too – perfect if you want to really enjoy a sundowner in style!

#11 Haggle at Ben Thanh Market

And back on the ground with a reality thud, wandering the aisles of one of Ho Chi Minh’s most famous markets is sure to bring you down from the clouds to life on the street here with a sensory impact!

Bargain hard and you can definitely find some deals.

#12 Grab a Grab

And talking of local vibes, grabbing a Grab Bike in Ho Chi Minh, is probably the most fun you can have on a budget… just about anywhere… ever… in the world!

Operating like Uber, Grab is a ride-sharing app prevalent across Southeast Asia, but it doesn’t stop at cars and food delivery like Uber, you can also use it for motorbike taxis!

This is by far the cheapest, most fun, quickest and easiest way to get around Ho Chi Minh and really is a whole bag of jokes!

THE BEST HOSTEL IN HO CHI MINH

I absolutely loved my time in the excellent DaBlend Hostel, which I’d happily recommend as the best budget accommodation in Ho Chi Minh.

Choose from one of their aircon dorms – each bed also comes with its own privacy curtain, personal light and charging point – or one of their huge private rooms and then relax at either their rooftop bar, separate roof terrace, lounge or reception common area… I know so many to choose from!

There’s a guest kitchen here, fast wifi, free breakfast, the place is spotlessly clean and honestly, the staff can’t do enough to help you… and no, my stay was not sponsored!

But perhaps, best of all, is DaBlend’s location – situated in District 10 – this is the place to stay if you want to experience an incredibly authentic Ho Chi Minh, away from tourists, and in the heart of a very local, safe and superb suburb.

#13 Party in the Backpacker Area

But if you do want to meet other tourists then the best place to head is the backpacker area clustered around Bui Vien street.

This is where most of the city’s hostels are and the place where the party goes off.

If you want the best of both worlds, stay amongst the local vibes at DaBlend and drink with the tourists!

#14 Day Trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels

Another great way to meet people if you’re a solo traveller in Vietnam is to enjoy a day tour and my trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels with TakeMeTour was excellent for this.

It was also excellent for helping me to learn more about the American war, the north /south political divide and how incredibly hardcore and resilient the Vietnamese guerrilla fighters were.

This trip was also great for teaching me more about local Vietnamese food, culture and coffee.

With a guide who spoke impeccable English and was very knowledgeable, I’d highly recommend this tour to anyone, where the experience of crawling through the infamous tunnels will stay with you for a long time.

Check out the exact tour I took here.

#15 Be Dazzled by the Pink Church

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I started getting into my wines when I lived in Australia.

I mean I’d always been a drinker of the stuff, just never really a connoisseur; yet in my life prior to travel blogging (when I managed restaurants around the world to fund my adventures) it became increasingly important that I learnt what I was talking about!

This was especially in Australia, where they produce some beauties and are culturally pretty hot on the stuff.

Returning to Europe then, I kept up my knowledge and now learning about wine and occasionally trying a glass of 2 is a great thing I love to do during my travels whenever I can.

From South Africa to Argentina, Italy to Romania, there’s loads of places where viticulture tourism is now huge and growing and so is my love for it.

Which leads me on perfectly to talk about this amazing wine-lovers spot I’ve just discovered – Vivanco in Spain.

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This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.

This post has been written in collaboration with Vivianco.

La Rioja

Located in La Rioja, there’s no prizes for guessing the sort of winemaking these guys are into.

This northern region of the country has long had the traditions of grape-growing at its heart and with a huge diversity of landscapes, has cultured a wide and exquisite variety of grapes over the centuries.

Set in an area comprised of a large valley, protected by 2 surrounding mountains ranges, this region framed by some seriously stunning natural scenery, ancient monasteries and historic Medieval towns.

But while Vivanco taps into the legacy of landscape, this is certainly a vineyard taking the skill of winemaking into the modern world.

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A New Way to Feel the Culture of Wine

From winery and museum tours to its onsite restaurant, courses, events and of course, tastings, Vivanco are dedicated to making the art of wine growing in this region something for the whole family – accessible, enjoyable and educational.

Indeed Vivanco is much more than just wine.

A winery where wine is understood from a demanding, dynamic, contemporary perspective, here the ancient art of viticulture is a project, a passion and a true expression of a multi-generational dream.

Bringing together all the finest elements of its surrounding landscape, history and ambience, and thrusting them to the fore, Vivanco has at its heart a desire to share a different and unique experience with a different and unique collection of wines.

BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR SPAIN

Wherever in the world I’m heading I always make sure I’m well covered and highly recommend travel insurance from World Nomads, which I’ve used during my time in Europe and beyond, due to their easy claims process and excellent policy coverage.

The Vivanco Museum

At the forefront of the Vivanco experience is their stunning and state of the art museum, which is a part of the company’s excellent foundation – an organisation established with the single goal to educate, teach, and raise awareness of the relationship between man and wine for over 8,000 years.

4,000 sqm in size, covering 6 rooms and with 5 permanent exhibitions, this is a highly innovative space that is now revered as one of the top cultural icons dedicated to wine worldwide.

It’s a huge project, driven the passion of owner, Rafael Vivanco Saenz, who continues his grandfather and father’s legacy in developing this project.

Outside, the Garden of Bacchus is home to a collection of over 220 grape varieties and is a peaceful space in which the beauty of this part of Spain in palpable.

You can visit the museum independently or with the helpful an informative audio guide – either way it’s easy to lose yourself here for a few hours in this interactive space.

Winery Tours

As well as museum tours, Vivanco also run tours of their fabulous winery – this is where you can really feel the force of the wines taking centre stage and learn that viticulture is at the centre of everything that happens here.

Reliving the deep and sensitive process that goes into growing the grapes and producing the wine here, you will see how all the grapes are hand-picked and placed delicately into small containers to prevent their skins breaking.

You’ll visit the cold room, where the grapes are kept for 24 hours to reduce their temperature to 3 degrees in order that the best colour and aroma be extracted in all its perfection; a process known as cold maceration.

Then there’s the sorting tables, the gravity-fed vatting process and the French oak used in the barrels and finally the malolactic fermentation process.

Through all these exquisite details, what really shines through is the Vivanco family commitment to “giving back to wine what wine has given us”.

Family Affair

For Vivanco is very much a family affair, a personal calling, where wine is a way of life and its vineyard the child of dedication to joining the modern, innovative methods of viticulture with more traditional techniques that have existed for centuries in this aged landscape.

And it’s paid off, their incredible winery has been named one of the best in the world in the prestigious list Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the Year for 2015.

Current owner, Rafael Vivanco Saenz, who studied agricultural engineering in Pamplona, followed by time at Faculty of Oenology in Bordeaux, returned to run the family business in Briones in 2001 and it is his vision that makes this place a leading wine tourist destination in not only all the Rioja region and Spain, but the world.

4 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR SPAIN

#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop during your time in Spain and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous part of the world justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!

#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Spain, it’s as simple as that! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish city strolling as much as monastery mounting, I love mine.

#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Spain Edition is well put together. Able to save you a lot of money if you want to learn about the history of this part of the world, but not continually pay for a guide, getting the eBook is a great way to keep your luggage weight down too!

#4 Good Backpack – And to carry your camera and guidebook, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you walk and sightsee. In my opinion you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets.

But Vivanco is More Than Just Experiences

… it is also a place for the senses; a meeting point between knowledge and the enjoyment of wine.

Take their superb restaurant for example, where wine is not only paired perfectly with the cuisine on offer, but also incorporated into it.

Then there’s the Gastrobar, which allows for more casual tapas dining, their Wine Corner which is the perfect tasting spot and the creative workshops they even run for children.

For Vivanco is a place where wine is truly an art of living, a space where an innovative, energy-filled perspective offers a unique and exclusive experience in the culture of wine.

A Place to Learn

But is perhaps the ability to try wine tastings in the company of experts that is the icing on the cake in Vivanco’s leading destination, it’s the reason you really can’t miss a trip here.

So make your reservation here and ensure your chance to savour the recognised quality of the Vivanco wines amidst a region already known and admired by wine lovers across the globe.

The post Vivanco: The Place That’s Rocking La Rioja appeared first on Big World Small Pockets.

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The word is out.

In fact, the word is well and truly out.

Angkor Wat – the enormous, ancient, UNESCO-listed temple complex in Cambodia – is incredible and quickly shooting to the top of many a traveller’s bucket list.

And so it should.

For it is, truly incredible.

Located in the middle of the jungle and fearlessly guarded however, you can’t stay in or really even near Angkor Wat, so the closest place to rest your head, especially if you want to be up early for those sunrise pics, is the nearby city of Siem Reap.

The second biggest city in Cambodia, I spent 5 days here trying out a range of accommodation and can happily confirm I have now found the best place to stay in Siem Reap if you want to visit Angkor Wat.

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My stay at the Ibis Styles Siem Reap was kindly sponsored but, as always, all views are my own.

This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.

IBIS Styles Siem Reap

Enter the Ibis Styles Siem Reap!

A new and modern small hotel right in the heart of Siem Resp, this place is as functional and convenient as it is quiet, peaceful, relaxing and comfortable.

And this perfect blend is exactly the reason I’m calling the Ibis Styles the best place to stay in Siem Reap.

With a choice of suite or standard rooms, it’s also perfect for every budget and for every traveller – be it business, backpacker, family or couple holidaymakers.

Staff are incredibly friendly and with 24hr reception, a bar, restaurant and swimming pool onsite, there is honestly everything you need here – perfect when you come back from those temples utterly exhausted and can’t make it too much further!

The international brand of the hotel also means you can trust the quality and standards here, as well your safety and security.

Generous buffet breakfasts are included in your room rate and everyone will be delighted to know the wifi here is lightning fast too!

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Location

So as I briefly mentioned above, the location of the Ibis Styles is excellent and certainly one of the top reasons I’m naming it as the best place to stay in Siem Reap.

However, it’s so perfect, that I really do think it deserves a bit more explanation.

Spread out along a river, Siem Reap is a sprawling city, although the tourist centre, unlike Phnom Penh, is quite concentrated.

Ibis Styles combines the best of Siem Reap by being located on the edge of the tourist centre (making it quiet) along the river (giving it nice views)  and next to the night market (giving you loads of food and people-watching options).

Everything you could possibly need is within easy walking distance, and even alone as a solo female at night, I felt very safe strolling around by myself after dark.

Just being able to take a amble through the thronging streets, enjoy an al-fresco drink, or grab some food along the water’s edge meant I really enjoyed the location of the Ibis Styles Siem Reap.

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR CAMBODIA

I’d never even consider travelling to Cambodia without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used throughout my time in this country and beyond.

Comfort and Design

I also liked how spotlessly clean the Ibis Styles Siem Reap was, as well as its modern, contemporary design.

Simple and sophisticated with an urban cross Asian influence, the decor perfectly lent itself to the feel of the hotel’s home city.

Swinging colourful wicker pods in the lobby were a lovely touch and accompanied some intersting art pieces and wall paintings around the hotel.

My large, double bed was incredibly comfortable and shower superbly hot with excellent pressure.

An in-room safety deposit box was large enough to fit my laptop in and the desk in my room was a welcome addition when I needed to do some work!

The rooftop swimming pool was a delight to enjoy after a long, hot sweaty day exploring temples and the sunbeds meant I could even catch some late afternoon rays too!

Best of all was the way you could gaze out over the people on the streets below from the refreshing waters of the pool!

5 CAMBODIA PACKING ESSENTIALS

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Cambodia Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this country with lots of top tips and recommended places to eat.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in Siem Reap especially around those temples at Angkor Wat. As such, I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which are perfect for strolling and climbing the big steps.

#3 European & British Power Adapters – Cambodia has a mix of power outlets, but generally opts for a mix of European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing the amazing temples of Angkor Wat.

#5 Travel Scarf – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables and cover your shoulders while you explore Cambodia’s temples.

Facilities

So from lightning fast wifi to excellent service, buffet breakfast to clean, modern design, friendly staff to comfortable beds, there’s no doubt the Ibis Styles ticked all the boxes for me as the best place to stay in Siem Reap.

And with a very reasonable price tag to match, this certainly makes a great choice if you want to visit Angkor Wat too.

Tuk-tuks can easily be picked up outside the door at any time of the day – meaning getting to the temples for sunrise or sunset couldn’t be easier.

And then, when you’re hot sweaty, exhausted and templed-out, you can easily return to the peaceful and quiet Ibis Styles to enjoy a refreshing swim and reset before you venture out for a delicious dinner in one of Cambodia’s best tourist destinations.

So what’s my recommendation for the best place to stay in Siem Reap?

The Ibis Styles of course!

When you are going to stay?

The post Best Place to Stay in Siem Reap if You Want to Visit Angkor Wat appeared first on Big World Small Pockets.

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