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Orlando Florida is a well known travel destination for adventurers world wide seeking new experiences at one of its many theme parks. However, if you're not up for the busy and loud theme parks (or simply can't spend that much money), and hanging out by your pool aren't what you've got in mind, it's important to consider other alternatives. Here are some great options of things to do sure to keep you going and enjoying your vacation time in Orlando!
13 Things to do in Orlando besides theme parks
1. Top Golf
There's no need to be an avid golfer in order to enjoy sipping on some drinks or snacking on great food from 1 the 100+ hitting bays over 3 levels at Top Golf in Orlando! The golf balls are equipped with tracking technology so you can watch the replays of every shot on HDTV in your bay. You can opt to play a specific game through the system or stick to a simple driving range approach and the system will keep the scores for everyone in your groups! Top Golf Orlando makes for a perfect group activity for a couple hours, and you can even keep on top of things during your great time through the free Wi-Fi.
Tip: Save money by going in on Tuesdays for half price game play, which is charged by the bay and not by person. ( It doesn't apply to the 5$ per person lifetime membership fee for Top Golf.)
While not cost friendly (unless you specialize in the art of window shopping), there are great deals that can be found in Orlando. Orlando International Premium Outlets and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets are two outlet malls where amazing deals can be found (check out our tips for saving money while shopping in outlet malls). There are also various malls and other stores offering a variety of products to shoppers.
3. Winter Park
Locatednear Orlando, this area is visited for its charming cobble stoned lanes offering various bistros, lovely stores and a lovely farmer's market. Visitors, snowbirds and locals alike enjoy taking a stroll down Park Avenue, as well as the surrounding area with gorgeous homes, vibrant nature and vast outdoor space. If you prefer to have a seat, consider taking a tour on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Ride. All-in-all, Winter Park makes for a wonderful free destination, where you can simply stroll around to take in the fountains and charming decor, or enjoy some shopping and fine cuisine.
There are many excellent sports teams for which Orlando represents their home, so why not take in a game that's not available in your home town? From the exciting NBA team's Orlando Magic basketball games, to MLS' Orlando City Soccer Club, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Campus, NWSL's Orlando Pride women soccer or ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears ice hockey games, there's something for everyone. Whether you're an die-hard sports enthusiast or have never seen a game, take a leap and head out to a game!
5. Miniature Golf
Orlando seems to have attracted a multitude of mini golf courses, which makes this such an easy and fun outing for all. No need to be a master golfer to enjoy the extravagant set ups of these popular gems. There are varying themes such as Hollywood Drive-In Golf, Orlando Putting Edge or Congo River Golf, and each of these have their own additional activities available on site (such as Congo River Golf's offering of feeding live alligators, or Hollywood Drive-in Golf which offers two 18 hole courses for twice the fun).
Tip: Most of the mini golf experiences offer various discounts, such as for online purchases of the passes.
6. Dinner Theatre
From mystery dinner theatres to rock, treasure tavern, pirates or magic shows, there is a long list of available diverse diner theatres available in Orlando. Decide what interests would best suit your group and have a quick search, you're bound to find something for everyone.
7. Disney Springs
While Disney Springs (previously known as Downtown Disney) are technically part of Walt Disney World Resort, it made this list as a great free and less crowded alternative to the theme parks. Built around a lake and comprised of 4 districts (Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side), this complex offers over 100 shopping options, over 60 dining choices along with multiple entertainment possibilities. It's a great place to do some shopping (including Disney store merchandise), grab a bit to eat or simply walk around and take in the sights and sounds. The Rainforest Café, for example, has a "volcano eruption" every 30 minutes, while there are water taxis in the shape of cars "driving" folks around on the water.
8. The Crayola Experience
Looking to get your creative juices flowing? Check out the Crayola Experience, an activity for children and adults alike where you can participate in 26 hands-on experiences involving art and technology while discovering colors through a whole new light. This location offers 2 levels and 70 000 square feet of creative fun.
Cocoa Beach, Florida
9. Beach Day
Florida boasts a multitude of breathtaking beaches, with some of them within driving distance from Orlando! One of the closest options is to head to the East Coast and explore Cocoa Beach, which is approximately a 1 hour drive. Alternatively, you can also choose to head to the West Coast where you can check out many beaches including the popular Clearwater Beach (which is approximately a 2 hour drive). Either way, grab your towel and sunscreen, put on your bathing suit and get ready to dig your toes in the sand and while swimming away any stress!
10. Escape Room
This immersive role-playing game requires you to be mentally and physically involved in the specific adventure of the room in which you're playing in order to solve puzzles and riddles, combine hints and clues with a proper strategy as your team is "locked" in one or multiple rooms with a limited time to solve the room's mystery. From alien or cowboy mysteries to murders that require solving, there's a variety of themes waiting for you and your group to discover.
Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida
11. Nature Park
If you've had enough with buildings and crowds and are instead seeking an escape from this business, consider heading into nature. There are gorgeous parks (including State Parks ) within driving distance from Orlando, including very popular Kelly Park (where you can go tubing down a river in 70-degree spring water), Blue Springs State Park or Crystal River ( which is known for its many manatees).
Ever wanted to experience a ride on an airboat while trying to spot some natural wildlife? You're in luck! Multiple companies offer airboat tours in the surrounding areas of Orlando. These flat bottomed boats propelled by big fans make their way across large bodies of water in the hopes of catching a glimpse of anything from an alligator to turtles or wild hogs. Tours vary in duration and pricing, so do your research ahead of time to ensure you book the one that's best suited to your specific needs and you'll certainly experience an amazing memorable adventure!
St. Augustine, Florida
13. Day Trip
If you want to expand your experience of Florida, why not check out some of the great experiences awaiting you outside of Orlando? Popular day trips include St Augustine which is known as one of the oldest cities in the US and boasts gorgeous cobblestone streets, as well as Devil's Den where you can swim up to 33 million year old fossils. Other alternate destinations include previously mentioned Clearwater Beach or Daytona Beach (home of Daytona 500), Gainsville, Kennedy Space Center or Miami.
With so many options to chose from, Orlando has activities for every traveler!
When you're planning a trip to Vietnam, there is so many beautiful places and things to do to choose from it's hard to decide exactly where to visit. We did a little bit of everything and we can tell you that if a relaxing beach side setting is what you're looking for, you will want to make one of your stops on Phu Quoc Island.
Our first stop in Vietnam was a complete success, we fully enjoyed our time on Phu Quoc taking advantage of all the activities in the area. Keep reading for a list of all the things to do on Phu Quoc island!
Things to do in Phu Quoc - Vietnam Travel Guide
Before we get into the Things to do, here is a little bit of info on the logistics of traveling to Phu Quoc.
How to get to Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc is a small island located on the southern tip of Vietnam, and is actually closer to the Cambodia border. The island has an international airport, so the easiest way to get here is by plane. Reserve your flights in advance and you will find the prices more than reasonable. For a one way flight from Ho Chi Minh City, we paid a measly $25 CAD!
You can also take a ferry from mainland Vietnam or Cambodia, although not as easily accessible. Since the prices of flights are so affordable, we don't recommend this option unless you're already in southern Cambodia or Vietnam visiting that part of the country.
Where to Stay in Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc is small but there are still different regions in which you could stay. We recommend avoiding the city center of Duong Dong and staying close to the beaches either north or south of the town. The city is busy and loud due to the constant honking of cars and mopeds, but being close to here makes it easy to get around the entire island.
For a medium budget hotel, we recommend trying the lovely Praha Hotel. It's near the beach, has a pool, the staff is lovely and the rooms are spacious and clean.
It's a lovely balcony view at the Praha Hotel Phu Quoc!
Things to do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Visit Phu Quoc Bee Farms
A lot of attention has been given to bees in recent years due to their depleting numbers and their essentialness to the survival of our food supplies. Any chance we have of supporting bee farmers, we will take advantage of it.
There are two bee farms on Phu Quoc and you can visit the farms to learn all about the honey bees. Make sure to stop by the café to try a few honey products.
The Sim Garden where you can see the myrtle tree where the fruit from which Sim Wine is made
Sim wine is made on Phu Quoc using the fruit from the myrtle tree. A surprisingly good liquor, this strong wine has a lovely sweet herbal smell and a fruity taste. Some are stronger than others, it's a good idea to stop by the tasting station before buying yourself a bottle to see which you like best!
Don't skip the lovely garden area either where you will find the myrtle tree from which the Sim Wine is made, amongst other beautiful trees and flowers.
Get a Mud Bath
Visit the Galina Phu Quoc Mud Bath and Spa to enjoy some truly energizing treatments. A popular place to stop by on the island, your hotel can easily organize transport for you to get there. If you're wanting for a spa day with mud baths, you'd be hard pressed to find better prices than is offered in Southeast Asia. It was over our Dime Travelers budget for this time around, but a reasonable cost regardless. A spa day is something everyone can get onboard with!
The beautiful Ho Quoc Pagoda on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Visit Ho Quoc Pagoda
Asia is well known to have temples, pagodas and ancient worshiping sites almost everywhere, but what made the Ho Quoc Pagoda one special was the incredible view from atop of its hill. If you have enough energy left in you to climb up all the way to the pagoda, make sure you turn around towards the sea and take in the view. Or better yet, come here early in the morning to witness the rising sun.
The pagoda itself is also very beautiful. In the typical intricately detailed style, it stands proudly overlooking the ocean. Trees and ornaments decorate the area and it's well worth a look whether you are there to worship or to admire
Remember to always be respectful in places of worshiping - loud music, for example can be disruptive to people who are there for more than just sight seeing. Take off your shoes when entering rooms and dress appropriately.
Visit a Pearl Farm
We are mentioning it because you will no doubt be offered a tour of this pearl farm for super cheap by your taxi driver, your hotel reception or even random people on the street. However, it's not necessarily something we recommend you to add to the list.
We decided to go check it out because of all the commotion about it, and we had already hired a car for the day. In reality though, it's only a jewelry store with a few aquariums and signs explaining the creation process of pearls. Unless you're looking to buy something, you should probably skip it. The information is very minimal and the salesperson are quite aggressive.
A private boat tour is the best way to snorkel around Phu Quoc
When you go to Phu Quoc, you absolutely cannot miss out on the opportunity to snorkel. We headed out on a slightly cloudy day and as soon as we hit the water, the sun peaked out and shined its light down below the surface. If you have some choice in the matter, definitely try to head out when the sun is shining and there are no clouds, it truly illuminates the underwater world!
We opted for a private snorkel tour as we didn't want to have to wait around for others and it was a perfect time! We stopped at quiet places around Finger Island, Dam Ngang Island and May Rut Island. Note that even if you have never snorkelled before, don't worry, it's a very easy sport to catch on. If you're not a comfortable swimmer, you can always wear a life vest!
Getting massages in Vietnam can be intimidating. We've all heard of those red light district stories, and they do happen all the time, even to people who are not looking for those "happy endings". But the affordable cost makes it ever so enticing. It's for this reason we decided to experience our massages on a beach, in broad daylight. The prices were on par to other places we had seen and the open air made us feel much more comfortable that no funny business would occur!
It can seem weird at first that anyone can just look at you, especially for those who are used to receiving massages in dark rooms, with that little tranquil music playing. However, once their experienced hands start rubbing your feet like they've never been before, that's quickly forgotten. And if you're still uncomfortable at the idea of getting a full body massage in front of other people, you can always opt for a simple, though no less amazing, foot massage.
Here are a couple of tips if you decide to go: bring your own beach towel to lay on during the massage, unfortunately it seemed to us that they reuse the same ones. Also, the earlier in the morning you go the better it will be, I found that (understandably) they were getting tired by the afternoon and didn't make as much as an effort.
Phu Quoc is the perfect place to try renting a scooter in Vietnam
Ride a Scooter
Phu Quoc has some of the best and quietest roads we witnessed in Vietnam which makes it a great place to try riding a scooter of moped if it's your first time. If you're inexperienced, as we were, definitely try your hand on a side road to start. The city centre is probably not where you want to be when you're learning to break and speed up!
The scooters are available for rent at most hotels, as well as independent shops around the island. No need to book in advance, there is usually always lots of choice. Remember, whenever you are driving in a foreign country, to get to know the local laws and driving requirements for foreign visitors beforehand.
Vietnam War Prison Memorial
Visiting war memorials or other such monuments are definitely not our favorite kind of things to do, but we think it's important to acknowledge actions from the past in order to make better, informed decisions in the future. The Vietnam war prison memorial was sad, eye-opening, and not for the faint hearted.
As you walk in, the statues of the prison guards are so eerie I thought they were real for a moment. Torture methods are described and statues of prisoners are erected in some of the long but small cabins in which hundreds were detained at a time. Although a sad site to visit, it made us feel thankful for our privileged upbringing and empathy and understanding for the Vietnamese people.
Sao Beach is a must see on Phu Quoc Island!
Beaches of Phu Quoc
As mentioned before, Phu Quoc is the relaxing beach destination of Vietnam. So evidently, one of the musts on this list is the beach! Being an island, Phu Quoc has no shortage of beaches, and you will run into one pretty quickly as soon as you get away from the city center.
You can fin some beaches right around the town of Duong Dong. Towards the South, the beach here is called Bà Kèo, but the waters can be quite rough - be careful of the rip tide! It's more of a suntanning place to hang out. North of Duong Dong, there are some calmer beaches where locals often hang out.
Our favorite by far though was the must see Sao Beach. Although totally a tourist location, the white sand and the warm crystal clear waters are completely worth it! You will likely need a taxi to get here as it is located on the Southeast side of the island, near An Thoi. The beach is big enough for you to find a quiet place to lay your towel even if it's full of tourists, and it has a few adrenaline inducing activity options such as parasailing or kite surfing. There is also a restaurant and a few beachy shops if you've forgotten anything.
Make sure you bring reef safe sunscreen or UV blocking clothing as there is not much shade on the beaches!
Go on the World's Longest Oversea Cable Car
The longest oversea cable car in the world is located in Phu Quoc! Leaving from the southern tip of the island in An Thoi, it crosses over a few smaller islands and lands again on the second largest island of the district, Hon Thom, also known as Pineapple Island.
The ride is about 15 minutes from one end to the other, and once on Pineapple Island, you can enjoy the beach, snorkel and enjoy the Hon Thom Nature Park. Tickets to ride the cable car are currently just under $30 CAD (500,000 VND).
The Phu Quoc Night Market has so many different sea food to try or simply look at
Shop at the Night Market
The night market in Duong Dong is a good place to try some different delicacies and get some souvenirs as well. Grab a taxi from your hotel and it's a quick ride up into town.
You can expect lots of seafood, souvenirs and entertainment keeping the tourists very busy. You will also find that there is a premium on prices due to the fact that this is a tourist market. Come for the experience and try other local markets for cheaper prices.
There are a handful of beautiful waterfalls on Phu Quoc island where you can hike, swim, have lunch and hang out. Check out the Phu Quoc Island Guide website here for more information on exactly where they are. It's recommended to visit the waterfalls in the Fall during wet season for fuller streams.
It's important to note that the government of Phu Quoc is working on educating the inhabitants that trash should not be left behind, however, this is a long standing habit through generations that will not be remedied over night. Don't place judgement on the uneducated, rather be responsible yourself and make sure to leave no trace behind. And while you're at it, why not grab an empty bag and pick up a few extra pieces of trash to drop in a bin.
Halong Bay is your typical postcard view, and one of the first image to come to mind when people think of Vietnam. Huge limestone rock formations jutting out of the saturated blue waters, it's definitely a must-see destination and one of the top things to do for anyone traveling to Vietnam!
Unfortunately, Halong Bay tends to be more of a luxury activity and often takes up a good chunk of a travelers' budget. Now, if you've been following The Dime Travelers for any length of time, you know that we like to save money anywhere we can. Halong Bay was no exception and we found the best way to do so by staying in the lovely fishing village of Cat Ba!
Want to have a cheaper Halong Bay experience too? Here's how!
How to Visit Ha Long Bay on a Budget - Vietnam Travel Guide
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Most Halong Bay tours depart from the capital city of Hanoi and last 2 to 3 days. These tours typically include a bus or van (which they call limousine) to Dinh Vu Portwhere you will then board a boat that will have you on your way to the impressive limestone cliffs of Halong Bay. You will find that these boats range from luxury yacht-like private rooms, to rickety wood things where you may share a dorm with a few strangers. Regardless of which option you go with though, they are all somewhat expensive to very expensive. Especially when comparing that to the low costs typical in the rest of Vietnam.
In other words, you either pay a load of money for a cramped tour with a bunch of party-goers or you pay three times that and get a nice luxury 2-day tour. If you can afford it, then it's definitely a great option! However, we were aiming to stay under 600 CAD per week and this did not work for us.
We couldn't afford the latter's higher price tag, and the first option was not the experience we were looking for. So, this is how we ended up in Cat Ba! A quiet little island, only accessible by ferry, this was the perfect solution. We took a bus to Cat Ba, spent two nights and two days there, and on one of those days we set out on a magical Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay boat tour. Here how you can do it too!
How to get to Cat Ba
The first step is getting there. There is no airport on Cat Ba island, so the only way to get there is either by bus or shuttle, then hopping onto a ferry and finally taking another bus or shuttle to town which is located on the opposite side of the island.
Don't worry, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. The lovely tour companies of Hanoi and Cat Ba have already done the leg work for you and arranged for both buses and the ferry so all you need to do is follow the group.
The length of the trip is approximately 3.5 hours when you include the pick-ups, ferry and drop-offs.
Frog Island in Ha Long Bay - named so for the shape similar to that of a frog
Where to stay in Cat Ba
There are not hundreds of hotel and accommodation options in Cat Ba to choose from since it's quite a small town. We stayed at the Sea Dragon Hotel but would not recommend it because of the rude staff and the fact that it was very noisy at night. Instead, you might want to try the Ireland Hotel which is very well rated on TripAdvisor.
There are a few different companies offering Ha Long Bay tours with a departure from Cat Ba. You will find that the prices are generally much more affordable because you can select a daytrip versus the multi-day trips leaving from Hanoi. The Cat Ba tours also pass through the very similar, while not as grand, Lan Ha Bay on your way to the UNESCO site - so you get two for one!
Most hotels will offer to book for you, but you can also check the companies’ websites directly (if they have one…) to see if you might be able to save on a markup by booking directly. If you like to talk to people directly, you can also take a walk to the center of town, in front of the pier, where you will always find a few representatives selling tours. If you choose the latter option, make sure it’s legit by asking lots of questions, and if possible checking reviews of their tours on sites such as TripAdvisor.
We opted for the tours from Cat Ba Express, the same company as the bus that we chose to take us to Cat Ba. Although it was slightly more expensive than the other offers (23 USD vs. about 20 USD) we found that the reviews were generally better than the competition.
Now for a tour company, their choice of guide is often the make or break factor that will determine their guest's satisfaction. We always recommend checking a tour company's recent reviews before booking anything with them as it will say a lot on the current crew.
Grey skies weren't going to ruin our day! Time to get on the boat!
What to Expect on a Ha Long Bay Tour or cruise
Most tour companies have the same type of itinerary when it comes to the Ha Long Bay tours, though not necessarily at the same time or the same order.
On your Halong Bay tour from Cat Ba, you can expect a shuttle to pick you up from your hotel within the city and bring you to the port. Once on the boat, the captain will head towards the smaller Lan Ha Bay and you will quickly see the limestone formations jutting out of the sea all around you! Floating villages and fishing boats will be on either side, with the boats departing or arriving from their work day. Ha Long Bay will be the next views in sight as you inch closer to the UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are always a few activities offered from tour companies such as kayaking, SUP, swimming, hiking, and swimming with bioluminescent plankton, depending on your choice of company, tour and time of departure.
With Cat Ba Express, after sailing for a bit we started with a pit stop on a Floating house where we saw the "Lucky Fish" which made me quite sad (although I'll keep this for another day, I don't think this fish considered himself very lucky at all with being trapped in a net and gawked at by humans his entire life…). But once the Lucky Fish's story was told, we hopped on some kayaks and headed out with our guide to see these rocks from up close!
Beginner kayakers should beware on rough sea days. After the previous day's storm, our kayak experience was something we'll never forget! We dealt with hand blisters and sore arms for a few days afterwards from having had to paddle like crazy in order to make our way back to the boat! If you're not a confident swimmer, you might be better to stay on the boat and avoid being roughed around by the waves in these conditions.
Nevertheless, after this adventure we were starved, and the dinner served did not disappoint! Our boat captain's wife must had been cooking all morning before we headed out because a feast appeared in front of us in no time. A buffet style meal, we had authentic Vietnamese cuisine including fish, beef, chicken, pork, rice and spring rolls. We should have taken a picture, but we couldn't wait to dive in!
Our captain later anchored the boat, so we could go for a swim, but again the previous day's storm meant it was chilly and most people stayed on the boat. No big deal for The Dime Travelers though! We are Canadian and used to cold waters! We ended up being the only two to jump in the surprisingly warm waters of Ha Long Bay!
The rooftop deck of the boat always has the best views!
How to get around on Cat Ba island
Once you get on Cat Ba island, the easiest way to get around is to rent (hire) a motorbike. Since the roads are much quieter than much of the rest of the country, it’s also a perfect place to start if you have never before.
It was raining and stormy during our stay (as you can tell by our mostly grey pictures!) so we decided to stay close to town and walked everywhere we wanted to. You can also hire a taxi to take you around, they even have very affordable rates for all-day hires which is especially convenient if you’re a small group (we did this in Phu Quoc!)
What to do on Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba is a place to enjoy the quieter side of Vietnam. Being the small island, you find a refuge from all the noisiness of the mainland. Here’s a few things to do during your stay on the island
Cat Ba National Park covers a large portion of the island and is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. You can take a self-guided hike to Ngu Lam Peak or hire a guide if you prefer to venture off-trail (always follow a guide when venturing off-trail in Vietnam, a lot of the rural areas are still contaminated with unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War).
Beach it up! Being on a small island means you are never far from the beach. Some are even walking distance from Cat Ba town.
Visit Monkey Island, a famous island where you are pretty much guaranteed to see monkeys. But make sure you bring comfortable footwear because best of all on this island, is the view of Lan Ha Bay!
Rock climbing, cave exploration, snorkelling and kayaking are also activities you can take up during your stay here.
Where to eat in Cat Ba
The restaurants that you will find in Cat Ba town are for the most part catering to tourists. If you’re looking for good fries you won’t have to look for very long. But on the flip side, if you’re looking for authentic tastes, you might be disappointed.
We spent quite some time at the Oasis Bar having some iced coffee and drinks. We were quite happy with what we found there to eat, sometimes a little taste of home can be good no!?
Although we didn’t try it since we had limited time on the island, we were told that you can find very good authentic restaurants by getting out of town, direction north.
Planning your itinerary to Vietnam can be a big task. The country is geographically long and narrow, making each destination unique as well as far from each other. If you’re anything like us, you want to see it all! Unfortunately for the majority, seeing it all is simply impossible! So to help, we have put together the top places to stay in Vietnam.
Where to Stay in Vietnam - Travel Guide
Cong Vien Thong Nhat Park in central Hanoi - a little oasis in the midst of a busy city
The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi, in the northern part of the country. Another hub often chosen by travelers, Hanoi offers a variety of day trips easily organized through the many tour companies operating in the city. You will find cheap beer, delicious food markets and a mixture of Oriental and French architecture. Hanoi is overall the hub of northern Vietnam.
How to get here: Hanoi International Airport is the easiest way to come here, but you can also take a bus or train from any major city in Vietnam.
Don’t miss: Take a bicycle or taxi tour through the old quarters to see the old French quarters and hear about the history of Hanoi and of Vietnam. The architecture stands out in the cultural setting and is an important part of Vietnam’s history. Make sure to try some of the street food as well, some of the best Pho we had was from a little street cart!
The Halong Bay UNESCO World Heritage Site - an easy boat ride from the fishing village of Cat Ba
Travelers often skip Cat Ba, but we highly recommend it if you want to visit the popular UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay. The gigantic limestone rock formations is probably the most recognisable landscape of Vietnam! But it is also a very expensive sight to see when done from Hanoi. Cat Ba is a lovely fishing village on an island in the northeastern region of Vietnam with good food, great nightlife and a quiet atmosphere. Once here, you can arrange for an inexpensive day tour in the bay, enjoying the same sights as the expensive tours, but at a fraction of the price! It’s also a good place to rent scooters or motorbikes as the roads aren’t busy, and in rather decent condition.
How to get here: To make your way to Cat Ba, you will have to take a bus from Hanoi. It’s quite cheap (we paid about 15$ CAD each) and takes about three hours. The fee includes a bus that will take you to a short pedestrian ferry ride and another bus that will be waiting on the other side to take you into the village.
Don’t miss: Halong Bay of course! Although staying in Cat Ba is enjoyable, the real treat is the fantastic views of Halong Bay.
Take a guided hiking tour of Sapa Valley for views like this!
Sapa is located in the northern part of Vietnam. A mountain retreat with endless fields of rice, you will get so many perfect picture opportunities you might come home with thousands of pictures! In all seriousness though, Sapa is a calm, quiet getaway from the overwhelming sensory overload of the busy cities. Popular for hiking, cooking classes and homestays, Sapa is great for travelers who enjoy nature, culture and good food.
How to get here: There is no airport close to Sapa so the only way to get here is either by bus or by train. There are many buses to choose from but do your research as some are not very well rated, with dangerous driving and dirty seats quoted by travelers. The overnight train takes you to nearby Lao Cai, from which you then need to take a taxi or a shuttle about 30km to Sapa. Same as the bus, make sure to do some research prior to booking as only a limited selection are recommended by other travelers. TripAdvisor is a good tool for honest feedback and recommendations for this.
Don’t miss: Take a one to three day hike in the mountains of Sapa to see incredible views of the rice fields. Tour guides are inexpensive, they will guide you to the best paths and can even organize for you a delicious homecooked lunch in a homestay.
The views in Ninh Binh will take your breath away!
One of our favourite places to visit in Vietnam was Ninh Binh. Halong bay on land, exploring caves on row boats and enchanting hiking trails are what awaits you here. Best of all, when compared to other destinations in Vietnam Ninh Binh is unspoilt by tourism.
How to get here: There is no airport nearby so the best way to come here is by bus or train which are available from most major cities in Vietnam.
Don’t miss: Trang An Grottoes are must see caves when you visit Ninh Binh.
My Son is another UNESCO Work Heritage Site of Vietnam, and an easy day-trip from Da Nang
Centrally located, we decided to stay in Da Nang because of its cheap hotel prices and its location by the airport. A coastal resort destination, Da Nang has a beautiful large white sand beach popular for sunbathing and surfing. The waves are quite rough, so it is not recommended for swimming, however, other beaches better suited for swimming are easily accessible north of the city. New crowds are headed to this city now to experience the Golden Bridge, a 150-foot long pedestrian bridge that appears like it is supported by immense stone hands.
How to get here: The easiest way is to fly to Da Nang Airport, but you can also take a bus or a train from any other major cities in Vietnam.
Don’t miss: The Golden Bridge is the new attraction of the area, and although it is attracting tons of tourists, it’s well worth battling your way through for the views! You can also find nearby the Hindu temples of My Son, another of Vietnam’s beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site with temples dating from the 4thto the 14thcentury. Pro tip: come here early in the morning to avoid the crowds!
Hoi An at night time is a must to truly appreciate the colours of the thousands of lanterns decorating the city
This UNESCO World Heritage site is also known as the city of lanterns. You cannot come to Vietnam and skip this city. Take a walking tour to learn the history, enjoy an authentic Vietnamese cooking class and take in the old architecture, pebbled street and colorful sights of the lanterns. This is where anyone can come to have all kinds of clothes tailor-made. From dresses to suits and even swimsuits and purses, the skilful hands of the Vietnamese tailors will make all your fashion dreams come true. A budget tip: go out of the old city for cheaper prices! Hoi An is also a big hub for night life, as soon as the sun starts going down you will find many tourists making their way to the centre of town for a good night out.
How to get here: The closest airport is the airport of nearby Da Nang. From here you will need to take a taxi or a shuttle to make your way south for approximately 30km. You can also take a bus or train from almost any city in Vietnam. As Hoi An is a central location and a popular destination, it makes it easy and inexpensive to make your way here.
Don’t miss: Even if you’re not up for a party, make sure to make your way into the old city at night time to see the thousands of lanterns lit up in the dark of the night!
Ho Chi Minh City's busy streets on a night out
Ho Chi Minh City
As the largest city of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a popular home base for travelers. A busy city with plenty of restaurants, night life and shopping, it’s often the starting point of many traveler’s trip to Vietnam. A common starting point for day trips, Ho Chi Minh City offers a lot of options for tours like the popular Mekong Delta tour.
How to get here: Ho Chi Minh City International Airport is the best method to make your way here, but when coming from elsewhere in Vietnam, you can also take the train or bus.
Don’t miss: Make your way to one of the rooftop bars for a drink with a view, or better yet, book yourself a night in a hotel that has a rooftop pool! As Canadians, our Dollar was advantageous against the Vietnamese Dong so it allowed us to enjoy some luxury while still remaining in line with our budget. If you’re going to do luxury, might as well do it where it will not break the bank, right?!
Sao Beach on Phu Quoc island is a gorgeous white sand, clear water beach you won't want to miss!
A little island paradise, Phu Quoc is located South West of Vietnam, close to the Cambodia border. If you’re looking for beach time, relaxing and water activities, you will want to make sure Phu Quoc is on your itinerary. Try some snorkeling, explore the white sand beaches and get relaxing massages on the beach for the ultimate spa experience. You will also find the world’s longest cable car on the southern tip of Phu Quoc, taking you over multiple small islands for incredible ocean views as you make your way to Pineapple Island. Phu Quoc is also a great place to practice your motorbike or scooter skills as the roads are some of the better maintained we saw in Vietnam and traffic is manageable.
How to get here: Phu Quoc is accessible either by plane or by ferry, but unless you are already staying in the very southern region of the country, I highly recommend taking the plane as it is much faster and cheaper than making your way down to the ferry port. Simply book in advance for a cheap flight, we only paid about 25$ CAD per person from Ho Chi Minh City!
Don’t miss: Make your way down to An Thoi port on the southernmost tip of the island, and hire a private boat to take you snorkeling around the best snorkel spots! It’s a great experience at any age and rather inexpensive if you bring a few friends.
Traveling requires some level of planning. Many of these are common knowledge, such as planning your trip, packing the essentials (like socks and comfortable sneakers), however some items are not as known. Check out our favorite 19 must have items that we can't travel without, and share yours in the comments below!
1 - Foldable bags
Heading to the beach but no space for a beach bag? Perhaps heading out for some shopping or groceries and don't want to accumulate plastic bags? Bring along a couple of lightweight bags that fold into their own little pocket. These are compact and extremely handy, even giving you a quick solution when you need more space than your bag allows while traveling.
2 - Luggage locks TFSA approved
Have some valuables in your bag that you'd rather make sure don't go missing? Why not lock up your backpack with a TFSA approved luggage lock? Not only will it keep your belongings safe while utilizing transportation but it can also keep bad intentions out if you're walking in crowds or leaving it in your room while you're out. (If you have one with a bit extra space, you can sometimes even attach it to something, to make sure no one can walk away with your bag!)
Don't over-pack while traveling or else...
3 - Backpack with wheels and handle
While traveling for 6 months we use a 60L bag from MEC and absolutely loved it! It is easy to roll it along when in airports or areas where this is possible, and when face with difficult terrain simply unzip the back to find backpack straps! This bag is certainly not meant for long backpacking journeys, however for those who don't want to have to wear their backpack at all times this is the perfect alternative!
While looking stylish during your travels is important, it is vital that all your necessary belongings (credit and debit cards, passports, etc) be safe. Don't risk becoming yet another tourist who falls victim of purse snatchers or fraud through your cards' tap abilities. Get a purse that isn't too big (won't hurt your back or neck if you carry it all day long), that is waterproof (in case of excessive rain), theft proof and RFID proof.
Keep your belongings safe and dry while having fun!
5 - Waterproof bathroom hanging bag
Counter space in accommodations often leave to be desired, and the pressure of airplanes is sometimes sufficient to result in leaking liquids. Outsmart both these common issues by traveling with a waterproof bathroom hanging bag! Not only will it keep any liquids that may leak away from the rest of your belongings in your backpack, but it will also allow you to see everything that's in it by hanging it even in the smallest of bathrooms. It's a win-win!
6 - Travel sized liquid containers
Instead of bringing full sized containers from home, or worst, buying expensive travel sized products from the store, simply take the products you have at home in order to fill reusable travel sized leak proof containers. This is a blessing, especially if traveling for less than a month, as you will save significant space and weight.
7 - Lightweight quick dry towel or turkish towel
Every experienced traveler knows that not all budget accommodations come with bath towels, while beach and pool towels are even more evasive. However, there's no need to air dry after each shower if you bring along a lightweight, quick dry, good quality towel. Another popular alternative to traditional bulky and heavy towels are turkish towels which can be light weight and quick dry while sporting beautiful designs.
Heading somewhere with a warmer climate and don't want to bring a full rain jacket? Simply bring along a rain poncho. These are typically compact, weight very little and come in extra handy if you get caught in torrential downpours!
9 - Small sewing kit
Nothing fancy, just a needle and a few strings can come in handy in unexpected ways while traveling! Sew on a button, fix a hole or perhaps even fix a bag - you never know what else you might need this for during your travels.
Planning on hand-washing clothes while traveling?
10 - Universal sink plug
Traveling lightly means having to do laundry on the road, and nothing is worst than when you get to your accommodations only to realize there's no sink plug anywhere. You can thankfully easily avoid this by bringing your own universal sink plug with you during your travels.
11 - Biodegradable condensed laundry and dishwashing detergent
In order to wash those clothes and dishes properly, you will be needing a good washing detergent. By utilizing a biodegradable condensed detergent, not only will you be friendly to the environment of the country you're visiting, but you will also require smaller amounts of detergent to get the same results as the typical water-deluded detergents, using up less space and weighing less in your backpack, leaving you more space for additional souvenirs!
12 - Clothes drying line
If you're planning on hand washing those clothes, you'll also need a place to dry them! Buying a light, compact clothes drying line will quickly come in handy when staying in those accommodations without any opportunities to dry clothes anywhere else.
13 - Reusable folding water bottle (and uv filter)
If you're going to be traveling in a country where the tap water isn't safe to drink, consider bringing along a reusable folding water bottle to save on space and avoid unnecessary plastic waste of traditional bottles. With this bottle you will be able to fill up on water when you find safe sources of clean water along your travels, saving you money as well! For additional benefits, consider bringing a water purifying system.
14 - Travel or camping containers for food
Have allergies and worried about having difficulty finding safe food? Perhaps never able to finish your plate, and not wanting to waste delicious meal leftovers? Or simply want to reduce waste while traveling? Why not bring along some compact, light weight and easy to clean containers! You can also use them to bring snacks on day trips, or to store small items while you're traveling.
Vietnamese food feast anyone?
15 - Reusable utensils
Reusable utensils are not only a great option in order to reduce waste while traveling, but they also give you a great (clean) alternative if you ever find yourself eating in locations with questionable cleanliness standards. They can also come in handy if you decide to have a picnic!
16 - Door Stopper
We do bring a small door stopper with us in case we need to keep a door open (fresh air perhaps?) or want to make sure a door stays closed (for security reasons at times).
17 - Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones
This one is obvious for those of us who have spent entire sleepless nights listening to the loud noises outside (or sometimes even inside) our hotel rooms, and countless hours on flights with loud passengers unable to get some shut eye. Earplugs are the cheaper, smaller of the two alternatives while noise cancelling headphones tend to be more costly, either of these are a must on your trip in order to ensure you get all the sleep needed to explore to world!
18 - Travel pillows
While these don't make it on the list of some travelers, they can especially come in handy if you're going to be spending hours in transportation or staying in budget accommodations (where we're had uncomfortable pillows and some covered in mold or other unmentionable substances). From inflatable travel neck pillows to compressible pillows, the options are limitless and bound to meet your preferred travel pillow style.
Not all accommodations are as they appear while traveling...
19 - wide lens for cell phone pictures
While it's impossible to take pictures that truly reflect the impossible beauty of the wonders of our world, they can be slightly improved with a widening lens. You'll be able to have more of your environment in the picture, making your travel memories improved.
There you have it, 19 items that we don't dare travel without! From unexpected water or noise to practical bags and safe locks, make sure to remember these on your next big travel adventures!
Hopefully you had a the chance to arrive in Porto last night and get a good night's sleep. Today, you're going to start by exploring the beautiful city of Porto. If it's open, consider checking out the market for some fresh eats to fuel up for the day.
Start by visiting the train station to take in its beauty in the details of this magnificent building. Once you're done, head across the street to see the Monument a Dom Pedro IV. Here you can catch various themed free walking tours starting throughout the day - just make sure to sign up ahead of time, especially if you're visiting during busy tourist times, as they do fill up days ahead.
If you choose to continue on your own, head down to the Clerigos Tower and then make your way to R das Flores from where you'll hop onto R de Mouzinha da Silveira in order to head towards the waterfront. Down there you can visit the Palacio da Bolsa before heading down for a casual stroll by the waterfront where you can embrace the relaxed feeling of this part of the city.
Once you get near the Ponte Luis I (bridge), head up so you can take in the castle and it's cathedral prior to going down Av Vimara Peres which will bring you to the top bridge in order to cross the river towards the multitude of wonderful wine cellars. Don't let the excitment of the nearby delicious wine experience distract you from the breathtaking views of Porto on your way over!
Once you reach the other side of the bridge, you can take a side detour and go up the hill to Garden of Morro for more gorgeous views of Porto before making your way towards the wine cellars. Over the new few hours, enjoy some tours, tastings and make sure to stop for a late lunch to balance out the busy day and all the drinking!
If you have a few hours left to the daytime once you've fully enjoyed the wine cellars, consider heading for a nap or walk back to Porto for a casual stroll wandering down it's adorable cobblestone winding roads.
In the evening, head towards the place to be known as the 'Galleries of Paris', which includes 3 streets (R. da Galeria de Paris, R. de Candidodos Reis and R. Conde de Vizela). These streets come to life at night with booming restaurants, bars and music. Finish off the night here before heading back to your bed for some much deserved sleep.
It's nice to start off a vacation day with a relaxed, calm tea or coffee (or simply water) while observing the locals going about their daily lives. Head out to a nearby coffee shop, or go to our favorite spot called Base. Here you can enjoy a coffee or opt for an alcoholic drink while having a seat on their relaxed terrace. (Hint: This space turns into a lovely bar at night with light and great music, well worth a visit if you have the chance!)
Once you're done here, head across the street to the Lello Library (Livrario Lello) renowned for being frequented by J.K. Rowling when she lived in Porto and is said to have inspired the Hogwarts Library in the popular Harry Potter series. Take in the detailed architecture and the interesting books available at this location, but be warned that admission does cost 4 Euros/person (which taken off the cost of a book should you purchase one while visiting). This spot also attracts quite a crowd, so wait times can quickly escalate, sometimes making it best to return in the evening prior to closing.
When you're ready to get going again, head down to the waterfront to the beginning of the tram #1. Enjoy the ride along the Douro River or sit on the other side of the tram to take in the scenery of buildings and locals going about their day. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the end of the line, where you must exit the tram. Walk 5 more minutes in that same direction along the waterfront and you will reach the 1st fort which is located at the beginning of the beach area.
You can opt to walk along the water or bring your swimming suit and towel for a relaxed day of laying on the beach. The beach is also lined with various cafes and restaurants for refueling with food, or cooling off with gelato or a cold drink. Once you're done, head back to the city with the same tram line.
Prior to the sunset, make sure to head to the top part of the bridge for a not-to-be-missed view of Port as the sun sets behind the city. Once the sun is down, you can take in some of the night life by heading down to the waterfront on either side of the river to walk around, take in some live music and perhaps indulge in a meal and some delicious Port wine. (Keep in mind that Fado is a local specialty, however it might take a toll on your budget so be mindful of your finances!)
*If you don't have any interest in seeing the beach, a great backup option would be to start off your stay with one of the free walking tours offered in the city (which can take up to 3 hours, and should be booked ahead of time especially during busy tourist times of the year) and then taking in the remaining attractions on the second day.
Please keep in mind that this city boasts a long list of great activities and sights for all budgets and interests which would require much more than 2 days to embrace, so this is simply a budget friendly way to explore the area if your travels only allow you two quick days to sample what the city is all about.
Years come and go, but our travel experiences stay with us forever. No matter how many destination you visit, there's always new experiences sights and activities awaiting. We wrapped up our year's favourites and are counting down our best travel destinations and experiences.
Our Top Travel Destinations of the Year
It's hard to believe that we are already beginning a new year. It seems like 2018 has come and gone so quickly we barely had time to see it! We did however manage to pack a ton of travels in there, visiting a combined amount of over 14 countries! And as always, we do all of this on a modest budget.
Some destinations in this list are definitely more expensive than others, but we like to think that almost any travel can be done on a budget if you are creative!
So to inspire your next travels, here's our top destinations of the year!
Vang Vieng, Laos
Though this destination is recognized as a party town, we opted instead to explore the beauty of its surrounding nature, saving us money and headaches I'm sure! With all the walking, hiking, biking, cave exploring, bamboo ladders climbing, boating or river tubing, Vang Vieng easily earned its spot as one of our favourite destinations.
Don't miss: Do make sure to rent a bike and explore outside of the tourist filled center to nearby towns.
Definitely not a budget location, but this popular vacation destination from the Swiss Alps left us in awe from the breathtaking scenery and so we just had to include it to this list. To make this work on a budget, get shared accommodations, avoid eating out and find some free activities to fill up your days. From the train ride up the mountains stopping in nearby villages to Arosa's quaint small town feel, you will see very quickly why we fell in love with it. Don't miss: Save money by getting yourself a free map of the hiking trails from the Information Center, and explore whatever hike meets your physical abilities. Our favourite was the Lakes filled one by far!
Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Known as "Halong Bay on Land", we were unexpectedly amazed by its gorgeous landscape. From hiking up mountains for the view of surrounding areas to rowing small boats through caves, Ninh Binhs is a must see for visitors in Vietnam! Don't miss: Trang An Grottoes were definitely a highlight for us in Ninh Binh, make sure you don't miss it!
Situated in Italy's Tuscan area, this Italian city is most known for its old city walls surrounding the historic city center. As vehicles are prohibited in certain areas, most visitors opt to walk or bike on the cobblesonte streets, as well as the wide path located on the top of the walls.
Don't miss: Make sure to check out the adorable Piazza Dell' Anfiteatro for a drink or meal at one of its many restaurants. For tighter budgets, try doing some people watching and wander off exploring the nearby street instead.
We opted to spend most of our time in Cambodia in the smaller village of Kampot to try and avoid the tourist filled party zones. Located on a river with nearby mountains and salt and pepper farms, we much enjoyed the laid back nature of this town along with the friendly locals and helpful expats. Don't miss: Head out to a pepper farm and make sure to bring back some world famous Cambodian pepper home!
Cat Ba, Vietnam
The popular UNESCO site of Halong Bay is a beauty to be seen, but unfortunately, it doesn't always fit in the budget. That's why Cat Ba has made its way to our list. We came here for a budget version of the typical Halong Bay tours and were not disappointed with the lovely sea side village!
Don't Miss: Take a day-long tour of Halong Bay from Cat Ba to enjoy the best of the site. Try to book on a clear day to truly experience the blue tones of the bay!
Just north of the Austria-Germany border, this town is renowned for its gothic cathedral, along with nearby Tegelberg mountain with its cable car and amazing views, Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle. Don't miss: You won't want to miss a fairytale visit of the Neuschwanstein Castle. If your budget doesn't allow for the price of the tickets, you can visit the grounds of the castle free of charge, and I assure you, that is where the best views are!
Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada
Located on Canada's East Coast, in the Nova Scotia Valley, this area boasts spectacularly high tidal ranges in the Bay of Fundy, beautiful beaches and picturesque towns. This areas also offers many outdoors adventures including hiking, various u-picks and campgrounds. An often forgotten side of Canada, the East Coast is a perfect option for budget travelers.
Don't miss: If you enjoy wine tastings, make sure to drop into some of the many vineyards some of which conveniently located within walking distance of each other. There are also a few locally made cider tastings available for those who prefer this option!
Sitting in southern France, this city offers a vibrant street life combined with old world charm from its seaside location. It's old town is perfect for getting lost exploring it's many cobblestone roads. Don't miss: Try to catch one of the open-air markets available in this city, you'll be enthralled by the scents and sights and you won't even have to spend a dime!
This Eastern European city offers tourists a great opportunity to explore the city by foot which makes it easy on the budget. You may opt to take a stroll along the river, venture onto Margaret Island, discover the Buda Castle or take advantage of the many other amazing options this city has to offer its visitors! Don't miss: Check out Great Market Hall for some fresh meats, delicious Goulash or perfect Hungarian paprika to take home.
This small country is a great option for a day trip from nearby France or Italy. From the Monte Carlo Casino to it's expensive yatch filled waterfront, this destination is perfect for a day long exploration! Don't miss: If, like us, your budget doesn't allow for the more expensive options in this costly country, it's best to opt for a walk around the city, taking in the sights and perhaps enjoying a coffee while people watching.
Koh Lanta, Thailand
Pristine white sand with turquoise clear waters for miles await on this Thai island. Late night meals in restaurants located on the beach accompanied by light shows and a truly relaxed island environment await - need we say more?
Don't miss: Bring your bathing suit and an umbrella and head out to one of the many beautiful beaches for some swimming, snorkelling and perhaps even a nice nap!
Ban Dung, Thailand
Located in North East Thailand, approximately 2 hours east of the nearest city Udon Thani, this small Thai village has much to offer including welcoming locals, and an authentic experience. It's an amazing day trip opportunities without the usual crowd of western tourists which often overtakes many of Thailand's popular destinations. Don't miss: Head out to the nearby salt fields which are within walking distance of the town, and enjoy a spa treatment with the fresh salt including delicious snacks.
Hoi An, Vietnam
This famous Vietnamese tourist destination came with such high recommendations that we were worried it might not live up to the hype. We were happily surprised with this town and quickly fell in love with it. Between the nearby beaches, the great beach restaurants, an impressive variety of cuisine in the many restaurants in town, delicious street food, amazing custom made clothing options, there is something to love for every traveler! There are even nearby rice fields, endless streets to discover in the old town including the lantern displays at night, and multiple cooking schools where you can learn to make your own Pho. Don't miss: As Hoi An is recognized mostly as the spot to get good quality tailored clothing for less, make sure to visit the many tailoring shops that line the streets. Head outside of the Old Town for cheaper prices and better bargaining power.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Located in Northern Cambodia, this city has a strong tourist presence with a lively Pub Street and nearby Angkor Night Market. The many bars, restaurants and markets aimed for tourists is also balanced by nearby street food and local areas.
Don't miss: Though it is costly, make sure to check out the sunrise and various impressive relics at nearby Angkor Wat for a once in a lifetime mesmerizing experience. Worth every penny!
Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
A less expensive alternative to Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans is a popular day trip from the city but it also makes for a great home base while traveling the Netherlands. Windmills are lined along the canals and transportation to and from Amsterdam is easy and fast.
Don't miss: Rent bicycles and ride along the Zaan river to see the best of the sceneries.
Traveling during winter season can get pretty expensive (unless you utilize some tips and tricks to score cheap flights from Eastern Canada). It does however get costly as most tourist attractions that are open during the winter have admission fees that are sure to hurt your getaway budget. It is however the perfect time of the year to take in the glistening snow and explore less frequented tourist attractions! Just make sure to be extra cautious with slippery (often ice covered) streets and sidewalks, and dress warmly as it gets very cold in Halifax, especially on the waterfront with the cold wind coming from the water! Here are 11 free things to do in Halifax during the winter months, that are sure to bring you and your budget happy joyful times and warmth.
GUIDE TO HALIFAX: 11 FREE THINGS TO DO DURING WINTER IN HALIFAX
1. Take a stroll at the Public Gardens
Starting winter 2017/2018, the Public Gardens are now open during the winter months! This is the ideal escape from the bustling city street, exchanging them for a lovely snowy stroll. Take in the sight of the sparkling snowflakes freely falling onto the various trees inside the gardens and enjoy this great getaway from the noise of the city. The Public Gardens are free, easily accessible through it’s different entrances, and is located downtown, on Spring Garden Road.
2. Go skating for free at the Emera Oval
Fresh air, wonderful background music and the possibility of sparkling snowflakes on ice all await you at this great free exercise opportunity! Located on the Halifax North Common, this large outdoor refrigerated ice skating surface offers people of all ages a chance to enjoy the outdoors (weather permitting, of course). Exchange your government ID for free rentals of hockey, figure or speed skates, helmets, sledges or even snowshoes! All children 12 and under are required to wear a helmet, and you are also allowed to bring your own equipment if you have some. Make sure to check out their schedule before heading over! Parking is available on nearby streets and the building offers a warming room along with indoor bathrooms, and there are food vendors on site that open at certain times. However, keep in mind that there are no lockers, so people typically end up leaving their shoes and other belongings under the benches.
3. Go sledding down Citadel Hill
In the spirits of an all time winter favorite, grab a sled from home (or get one at the dollar store) and head out to the hill from a fun free thrill! Citadel Hill (on the side towards the High School) is a popular spot to enjoy some laughter filled times (just be careful not to hit into the parked cars at the bottom of the hill or to end up on the street with traffic!), but there are many other hills in the area!
4. Go for a walk at Point Pleasant Park or on the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
You can head to the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk or the general downtown area and take in the magic of the fresh snow in this historical area. Otherwise, you could also walking on trails inside parks such as Point Pleasant Park or Shubbie Park. Those trails are well used during winter time by people walking their dogs (taking advantage of dogs off leash areas), snowshoeing and skiing.
5. Visit an art gallery for free
Some of the universities in the area, including Dalhousie University and Mount Saint Vincent University, feature various exhibits from amazing local artists, and many of these exhibits are free to the public.
6. Take in the Halifax Seaport Market
There are a few markets in the area, of which the Halifax Seaport Market is the biggest and best attended. This market makes for a great place to warm up while walking around, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of local produce and merchandise.
7. Meditate at the Shambhala Centre
This centre offers free meditation sessions to the public, and given the multitude of proven health benefits of meditation, it would be a shame to miss out on this awesome free activity! Check out their websitefor up to date schedule information.
8. Visit the Nova Scotia Spots Hall of Fame
Hidden inside the Scotiabank Centre (downtown Halifax), this free attraction is sure to appeal the sports enthusiasts as well as those interested in learning about the province’s athletes. Come on in, warm up and learn something new!
This is a great option is you wish to gain some knowledge about the province’s political history while warming up inside.
10. Attend a free event
From the public libraries to Lion and Bright Cafe and The Good Robot, there are an endless erray of free events available in the city to meet various interests. Have a quick search, pick something that peaks your curiosity and go deepen your knowledge on a passionate subject, or explore a new-to-you interest.
11. Participate in free Holiday events
If you happen to be looking for ideas prior to the Holidays, check out some of the Christmas Markets as some of them offer free admissions (such as the one at Historic Properties), and for New Year’s Eve and Day consider attending one of the many free events held around the city.
Whichever free adventure you choose to partake in, ensure that you check the weather before heading out, dress accordingly, and heed the warnings of parking bans (or risk receiving expensive parking tickets, and getting snowed in on the streets by the plow)! Regardless of these conditions, these great indoor and outdoor free activities for the winter time in Halifax are sure to interest both tourists and locals alike, so grab your winter jacket and mittens, and venture off your couch into some new free adventures!
On our last weekend getaway in Quebec City, we wanted to do something a little different. Having been there multiple times over the years, it's nice to try something new and get to know this beautiful city better. So as big fans of craft beer, my SO and I decided we would go exploring the craft breweries in the area with a craft beer tour.
Quebec City Brewery Tour
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Self Guided Quebec city Walking Tour
Keeping in mind our pretty limited budget, Quebec City was the perfect place to make our very own, DIY style, walking tour of craft breweries. Walkability is always a pro for budget conscious travelers and this tour was able to be done completely on foot over a linear distance of just about 3km.
Although much more fun in the summer, this is also completely doable over the winter months by simply layering on clothing! The distance between breweries is not too far with walking times of under fifteen minutes each. If you've ever been to Quebec City in the Winter, you know this is important! Don't forget your toque, mittens and warm comfy boots, once inside the beer and appetizers will warm you up! Each of the breweries we visited are open late, but their opening hours vary. Make sure to keep that in mind before you head out and find yourself at a pub that isn't yet open!
Craft Breweries in Quebec City
There's quite a few bars in Quebec City that offers craft beer, but we were looking for original beers that we would be trying for the first time. We found four brew pubs that fit the deal:
- Brasserie Griendel - Korrigane - Le Projet - Bar L'Inox
We also decided to stop by Les 3 Brasseurs (3 Brewers) - although they are a chain restaurant (and happen to be a regular spot of ours in Ottawa) they are still a craft brewery and their beer and food is delicious!
La Souche is another brewery we wish we could have added to this list. Unfortunately it is too far of a distance to be part of a walking tour, but they deserve an honourable mention! If you have a car or have the budget for a cab, head over to their location at 801 chemin de la Canardière.
Our first stop of the day was Brasserie Griendel. They offer a selection of small plates and sharing appetizers with a few main items. The appetizers are well priced but seeing as it was our first stop we both decided to opt for only a flight of beer to start off. Food would wait until the next brew pub!
Our flights had each four choices of beer that we were able to pick from their large billboard of options. It was a perfect way to try a few different kinds such as the bitter beers or heavier stouts that always intimidate me, without the commitment of a full pint!
Address: 195 rue Saint-Vallier Opening hours: Brasserie Griendel opens at 1pm on weekends and 3pm on weekdays. If you want to start your tour earlier than that, we recommend starting at the bottom of this list and making your way up as the others are open much earlier.
Next was the Korrigane Brewery, a short 10 minute walk away. By then we were starting to get hungry so we immediately ordered the crispy cheese bites and the poutine to share. You can't go to Quebec without having the national dish of course! For those who don't know, poutine is a dish of french fries served with warm gravy and cheese curds. It might sound weird to the untrained ear but I promise you it is worth every penny! Both of these dishes here were delicious, but I especially loved the crispy cheese bites!
Our beer flights consisted of a choice of 5 craft beers from their board which they put in tasting order for us. The Mary Morgan was my favourite here!
Address: 380 rue Dorchester Opening hours: Korrigane opens much earlier at 11:30am daily. No need to worry about timing here unless you're an early bird!
Le Projet Craft Brewery
Another little walk, approximately 12 minutes, takes you to our next craft brew pub Le Projet. Located across from the beautiful St Jean Baptiste church of Quebec City - you might want to make a pit stop here - this brewery has an extensive list of craft beers for you to choose from!
Since we were on a flight roll, we each chose a selection of four beers to keep that ball rolling. a mix of fruity, light and amber beer made our time here quite tasty! Although we didn't have any food here, they offer a good selection of food which pairs well with the beer.
Address: 399 rue Saint-Jean Opening hours: Le Projet opens daily at 11:30am.
Bar L'Inox Craft Beer
Heading over to the fourth stop will take you about 12 more minutes on foot. Bar L'Inox has a wonderful patio for the summer season, but it gets quite busy in the evenings so keep that in mind.
After having had three flights of beer over at the previous breweries, we decided to take our time sipping on a pint here and enjoying the patio. They also offer a selection of food which are well priced for the region, so we shared a nacho with extra cheese.
Address: 655 Grande Allée Opening hours: Bar L'Inox opens at 11 am daily so you can start your tour here quite early.
Les 3 Brasseurs Brewery
You will find the final stop of the night right across the street, literally one minute walking distance. Les 3 Brasseurs is nothing new to us, we go quite regularly in Ottawa. The brewery in Quebec City though is quite something. Nestled in the lower level of an old building, the brick walls and detailed ceiling adds to the atmosphere of this Quebec brewery.
Again, we had enough of the flights and opted to sip on a single pint instead. Do try the raspberry wheat beer or the poutine here.
Address: 650 Grande Allée Opening hours: Les 3 Brasseurs are open at 11am every day.
And there it is, a do-it-yourself craft beer walking tour taking you on to 5 breweries in one day! The best part of this? You're on your own time! Keeping in mind opening hours, you can start as early or as late as you want, and spend as much time as you want in each bar.
We recommend taking a cab (such as Uber) to your first stop as by the end of the tour you will not be sober enough to drive. If your lucky enough to have scored accommodation nearby, make your way on foot to save some cash. Finding parking at each of the destinations on this list will be difficult so it is not recommended to do it by car even if you do have a designated driver. But whatever you decide to do, don't drink and drive!
Make it your own, do some window shopping in between, or end your day exploring the Old City. Easy on the budget and good for the soul, this is a perfect activity for a couple or even a group of friends!
Iceland can be expensive, there is no way around that. But there are many options available to you for keeping your costs low, especially when budgeting for food and drinks. Although you should definitely try some traditional Icelandic food as part of your travel experience, it would be expensive to do that every day of your trip. Fear not, We'll tell you where you can find some cheap eats to keep the budget in check.
Most people are familiar with the happy hour concept where for a few hours a day, bars offer drinks at a deal. In Reykjavik though, they take it to the next level! Beer is a relatively new thing in Iceland, with its prohibition ending only in the 1980s. To be precise, the ban was lifted on 1st of March 1989, resulting in Beer Day being celebrated every 1st of March since then. I'd say that's a great time to visit, wouldn't you?! Although now legal, alcohol is highly taxed in Iceland and therefore making it expensive. You will find costs sitting at around 1500 Krona for a pint, that's about $18 Canadian. Ouch! However, Icelandic happy hour saves the day! Obviously, it will vary by establishment, but I found happy hour deals to generally cut restaurant beer prices in half. My favourite Reykjavik restaurant that you need to check out was Saeta Svinid Gastropub on Vesturgata street. Look for a sign with a pig on it and make sure to stop by!
Although these will differ depending on where you stay, generally each hostel or hotel will have some specials food and drink. I stayed at Hlemmur Square Hostel which had a few options to help cut costs. Of course there was the famous happy hour, where beer was 750 krona or $9 CAD for a draft beer. But what I like most about this hostel was ‘The Square Meal’ - which happened to be reasonably priced and tasty - a traditional Icelandic meal served with lamb. It was delicious and a good way to get that off your Iceland bucket list without paying high tourist prices. Take these kinds of saving options into consideration when making your bookings. Oh yeah, this hostel also has free coffee - a life saver for those who live on this type of fuel!
If you’ve had your fill of traditional Icelandic food and are just looking to save, start with Noodle Station. In an area where restaurants are heavily priced, this no frills location stands out. Prices are reasonable and servings are large enough to share if you’re really looking to save.
You'll need a good meal to hike out to see this waterfall!
Get your Hot dogs!
Strangely enough, Reykjavik is known for its hot dogs! You’ll be able to locate many vendors while strolling through the city, but only one has consistently been considered the best. Baejarins Beztu Plysur is a must stop to get your cheap food fix! At about 450 Krona or 5.50 CAD, these hot dogs are a pretty cheap option to keep you going.
Not only will they save you precious dollars, but they are delicious and the the celebrity list of patrons doesn’t lie. The stand has been visited by the late Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations), Bill Clinton (former president of the USA) and James Hetfield (from Metallica).
For the Vegan Foodies
Maybe hot dogs aren’t your thing... or meat in general. It can be difficult to find affordable food to eat in Iceland when you have dietary restrictions. If you're looking for good vegan food, you have to check out Kaffi Vinyl. Although more expensive than the others on this list, this spot has many vegan options at relatively good prices and coolest of all a huge vinyl collection. Make sure to check it out.
Baked Goods are a Must
This place is too cool not to mention. The spray painting facade of the Broad & Co bakery means you’ll be able to find it with no problem! Although it doesn't offer complete meals, it's perfect for breakfast as it has all the goodies necessary to keep you going on your tour of the city: coffee, muffins, cinnamon buns, scones, etc. All delicious looking and relatively cheap. I had a simple muffin and coffee and it was very tasty!
Take note though that this spot is popular so make sure to get there early (opens at 6 am everyday) as later in the morning there will be a lineup and potentially less selection.
Delicious vegan sandwich at Kaffi Vinyl
Grocery Stores are Your Friends
It’s obvious that food from a grocery store will be cheaper than eating at a restaurant, but there are some additional ways to save when it comes to Iceland’s grocery stores. It is essentially a must to shop for food and supplies from a discount grocery store. There are a few budget grocery store chains, Bonus and Kronan for example. Bonus is easy to spot with its giant pig symbol. I seem to be easily swayed to shop at places which have pigs as mascots apparently!
I landed in Reykjavik early on a Sunday and my food shopping options were limited before heading out for a Landmannalaugar hike. Unfortunately, I had to pick up some food from a convenience store which I found out costs double or triple the amount for the same items at a grocery store. With a little bit of planning, getting the majority of your supplies at a discount grocery store will ensure that you stay in budget. My favourite find at the grocery store was the Skyr yogurt - make sure to try it!
It’s a big budget bust to buy beer at a grocery store. Although the price doesn't differ much from beer at a proper liquor store, quality and alcohol content does. The offerings in the grocery stores and gas stations are almost non-alcoholic. Icelandic alcohol laws state that drinks not sold in state run liquor stores or bars have to be less than 2.25% alcohol content. So unless non-alcoholic beverages are your thing, get your booze at one of Iceland’s liquor stores. Vinbudin stores are found throughout Reykjavik and offer a great selection.
Iceland is expensive because the government has taxes on many goods, especially alcohol and tobacco. Take advantage of duty free at the airport and stock up. I some cases you can save up to 50% shopping at the airport. There are limits for each person, make sure to ask sales staff what you are allowed to take with you.
Look out for the graffiti facade for the best bakery in Reykjavik!
Come here for the best hot dogs!
Icelandic water is some of the best water you will ever taste in your life. Nothing beats the pure taste of glacier water, and in Iceland it comes right through the tap! I can't stress enough the importance to bring a refillable water bottle - it will save you loads of money and keep a few more plastic bottles out of landfills!
A lot of places around the world, and especially in North America, tipping at drinks and food establishments have become the norm. Mostly to supplement the terrible wages restaurant owners are allowed to give their employees. However, this is not the case in Iceland. Restaurant employees are generally paid a good wage and Icelandic prices actually already include taxes and any applicable gratuities! Tipping is not a part of their culture, however, no one will say no to free money. But at the end of the day don't feel obligated to tip, it's not considered rude in any way.
HOWEVER, though not food related, I should mention that there are occasions where you should provide a tip. For instance, many free walking tours are offered. These tour guides are doing this as their work and though they offer the tour free of charge, it is expected that you will contribute a tip at the end of the tour to show your appreciation. You may also want to tip your tour bus drivers and other guides as you see fit.
Overall, Iceland is definitely not a cheap place to travel. For the budget conscious traveler, it's important to establish a realistic budget and stick to it, especially when it comes to food. Restaurant and grocery expenses always seem to go into a black hole until you get the final tally at the end of the month. What you eat is important but don't let it make you go broke! Be sure to use these food saving tips to save money on your upcoming Iceland trip!