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From snow-capped peaks towering high above ancient watch towers to vineyards, canyons and vibrant cities. Georgia, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has something to offer for everyone! During my recent Georgia backpacking trip, I kept track of all expenses and Georgia turned out to be a very affordable backpacking destination! So, how much does it cost to backpack Georgia? Find out below!

This article is part of the Money Matters series in which travelers keep their travel costs and expenses for Bunch of Backpackers. Real travelers, real expenses.  

How much does it cost to backpack Georgia?  Total costs 14-day Georgia backpacking trip: 378,00 euro (440 USD) Daily travel expenses Georgia*: 27,00 euro (31,52 USD)

*These daily travel expenses are per one person per day. Including all tours, souvenirs, lodging, food, drinks, transportation, entrance fees, tips etc. Excluding international flights.

Ushguli, Georgia. The highest permanently inhabited village in Europe. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. EXAMPLES OF PRICES IN GEORGIA

These prices are per person unless stated otherwise.

Standard Georgia expenses
  • One night in a hostel dormitory: 7,7 euro (9,00 USD)
  • A double room in a guesthouse: 10,30 euro (12 USD)
  • A short 10-minute taxi ride: 1,75 euro (2,03 USD)
  • A bottle of water (0,5L) at the store: 0,35 euro (0,40 USD)
  • Lunch in a restaurant: 4,20 euro (4,90 USD) 
  • Dinner at a local restaurant: 5,7 euro (6,6 USD)
Notable Georgia expenses 
  • Hostel airport pick-up in Kutaisi: 12,20 euro (14,30 USD)
  • Sim card including 4 GB and calls: 6,30 euro (7,33 USD) 
  • Marshrutka Kutaisi-Mestia: 8,74 euro (10,18 USD)
  • Ski lift day pass Mestia: 3,5 euro (4 USD)
  • Private taxi Mestia to Mazeri: 12,3 euro (14,3 USD)
  • Shared private taxi Mestia-Zugdidi (per person): 7 euro (8 USD)
  • Night train second class Zugdidi-Tbilisi: 5,95 euro (6,9 USD)
  • Entrance National Museum of Georgia: 2,45 euro (2,85 USD)
  • Metro ride Tbilisi: 0,17 euro (0,20 USD)
  • Taxi ride within Tbilisi: 1,75-3,5 euro (2-7 USD)
  • Davit Gareja day tour: 8,75 euro (10,20 USD)
  • Marshrutka with stops along the Georgian Military Highway from Tbilisi to Kazbegi: 5,3 euro (6,11 USD)
  • Camping Kazbegi: 3,5 euro (4 USD)
  • Marshrutka Sighnagi: 2,1 euro (2,45 USD)
  • Small bottle of wine: 1,4 euro (1,6 USD)
Tbilisi, Georgia’s vibrant capital. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. ABOUT THIS BACKPACKING TRIP

About the backpacker: Manouk, the Netherlands, 32 years
Destination and travel period: Georgia in June 2018 for 14 days
Visited places: Kutaisi, Mestia (Svaneti region), Tbilisi, Kazbegi, Davit Gareja, Sighnagi
Type of trip: Solo, independently
Accommodation*: budget (mainly camping, hostels and guesthouses)
Transportation*: budget (cheapest available mode of transportation) 
Food*: budget (local restaurants)
Currency rate July 2018: 1 euro = 2,85 Georgian Lari

*4 options: basic, budget, standard and luxury

–> Like this article :)? Book your Georgia accommodation through Hostelworld.com or Booking.com! Booking through these links won’t cost you anything extra, but it will get me a small commission to keep this website up and running! ~ Thanks! Manouk

Colorful rocks around Davit Gareja in Georgia. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. GEORGIA BUDGET TIPS
  • Bring a tent. Especially the Caucasus offers some excellent camping!
  • If you have one, bring your student card!
  • Preferably arrange your hotel room on the spot. Prices are often negotiable.
  • Team up! It can be necessary to hire a private car to get to certain places. Obviously, it’s better to share these costs!

SAVE ON PINTEREST – How much does it cost to backpack Georgia? 

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The post Money Matters: How much does it cost to backpack Georgia? appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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The search for the best lightweight sleeping bag for backpacking and hiking

Have you ever been cold while camping in the mountains? I have! I did a few hikes in the mountains of Central Asia with only my MacPac 150 summer sleeping bag, of course, it was absolutely freezing at night.

So, for this years hiking and backpacking trip to the Caucasus, I was clearly in need for a sleeping bag designed for winter temperatures. This new sleeping bag also had to be: extreme lightweight, compact and affordable. These days I bring my own camping equipment (tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag) on all my backpacking travel adventures. Therefore, it was really important that the new sleeping bag easily fits in my backpack and that it can be used in different types of climates.

After comparing about ten different sleeping bags, I finally opted for the Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag and used it during my 2-week backpacking trip in Georgia. Is this Nomad sleeping bag truly the best lightweight sleeping bag for backpacking and hiking? Or should I continue my search?

Left: camping in Kazbegi with a view on Gergeti church, Georgia Right: hiking to Gergeti glacier (3250 meters), Georgia. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers About the Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag

I brought my Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag on a 2-week backpacking and hiking trip to the Caucasus in Georgia. The Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag is extreme lightweight, has a Down insulation and comes with a compression stuff sack.

Some details of the Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag
Pack size: 27×15 cm
Weight: 810 grams (!) (27 oz)
Comfort temperature: 1 degrees Women, -4 degrees men
Insulation: 3D-Polardown
Max body length: 195 cm
Size in cm: 215 x 80 cm
Fabric shell: 20 Superlight polyester ripstop, breathable, water-repellent finish
Inner pocket: Yes
When temperature drops: hoodie with draw strings
When temperature goes up: open the zipper at the bottom
Costs: 230 euro

Review Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag What I love:
    • Strong material
    • The sleeping bag felt super comfortable, soft and fresh (slept like a baby every night!)
    • The hoodie provided much extra warmth
    • Extreme lightweight
    • Affordable (especially compared to similar sleeping bags of other companies)
    • It’s easy and quick to pack
    • it comes with a mesh storage bag, which is great for storage at home
    • Suitable for different temperatures as you can adjust the hoodie or the zipper
Left: View from my tent Right: Camping at Kuraldi Lakes in Georgia. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers If I was the boss of Nomad, I would improve:
  • Although it is still very small in the compression stuff sack, I couldn’t get it to the promised 27×15 cm.
  • As a small woman of 1.60, the sleeping bag is fairly large! Maybe it’s an idea to also offer the sleeping bag in a slightly smaller size.
Instead of the Nomad Pegasus 450 sleeping bag, these are some other good candidates for the Best Lightweight Sleeping Bag for Backpackers’ title:
  • Lowland Serai 1 sleeping bag: 895 gram down sleeping bag with a comfort temperature of 0 degree for men and a pack size of 28×20 cm’s. Costs 229,95 euro
  • Mountain Equipment Helium 600 sleeping bag: 1070 gram down sleeping bag with a comfort temperature of -1 degree for men and a pack size of 26x23x20 cm. Costs 329 euro.
  • Fjallraven Singi 3-season sleeping bag: 1120 gram down sleeping bag with a comfort temperature of -2 degrees for women and a pack size of 20×34 cm.
Bunch of Backpackers final verdict. Is it truly the best lightweight sleeping bag?

I’m very satisfied with the sleeping bag! It’s perfect for both hiking and backpacking trips as it’s ultra light and does not take up too much space in my backpack. It’s also comfortable and soft. Furthermore, the Nomad Pegasus 450 is probably one of the best value for money lightweight sleeping bags out there. 

View during the Mestia-Ushguli hike in Georgia. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. 

Do you bring a sleeping bag on your hiking and backpack trips? What type of sleeping bag do you have?

Disclaimer: The Pegasus 450 sleeping bag was provided by the Dutch company Nomad. Views and opinions are as always my own.Find out what I bring on my trips in my ultimate packing list
Review of the Nordisk Telemark 1 LW tent 

The post Is this the best lightweight sleeping bag for backpacking? A Nomad Pegasus 450 Review appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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On a Thursday in the spring of 1986, I took an 8560-kilometer journey that would change my life forever.

It was a confusion of sights, sounds and smells. I slept a lot and cried a lot, as the world whirled past my car window, then an airplane window, then another airplane window. It felt like a journey that would never end (and in a way, it never has).

There’s only one problem with the above account: it’s completely made-up. I can’t remember any of it. At the age of just three months old, I travelled from Seoul, Korea to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Just a tiny scrap of life in a white blanket going on a life-changing adventure, heading to a new life in a new country with a new family. It’s funny how journeys can be life-changing, even though you’re not even aware of it at the time.

Little did I know, that this journey also marked the start of a life of travel, a way of living rather than an interruption from it – and each single journey has shaped me into the person I am today.

Growing up in a stable, supportive and caring home came with a life of opportunities. In 2002, my parents took me on a trip to Thailand. It was my first trip to a non-western country. From the moment I stepped out of Bangkok airport and felt that intense, tropical heat, Thailand held me under her spell. The chaos, the carnival of unfamiliar smells, sounds and colors, the temples and shrines… I was completely captivated. We traveled throughout the country visiting the tropical beaches in the south, the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, and the night markets in Chiang Mai. We even visited a remote Karen ‘long neck’ village in the Mae Hong Son province. We tried all sorts of fascinating (spicy!) food, learned how to bargain and had a traditional Thai massage.

This is the point where I fell in love with travel. Simple every-day events in life are often treated as throwaway. They are forgotten. It’s the things that we are super-aware of, that we fall in love with. During this journey, I absorbed every little detail. No single day was the same. Travel made me feel alive. It excited me, gave me a feeling of adventure and every day I learned new things. Travel gave me the chance to get to know the world a bit better.

*

From that moment on, travel became my passion. I read travel guides, looked at maps and dreamed about new trips. I started to collect free travel brochures from travel agencies and I could talk about travel for hours without getting bored (although my conversation partner may have been).

And of course, I traveled (a lot!). I did a 4-week homestay in remote Innermongolia in China, spent two weeks as a volunteer in Tokyo to dig a pond in their bird park, boarded the Transmongolian Express, traveled along the ancient Silk Road, backpacked all throughout Southeast Asia (twice), hiked to Machu Picchu and explored Eastern and Southern Africa. I became experienced in hitchhiking, border runs, bucket showers, camel rides, hole in the ground toilets, food poisoning (unfortunately) and lenghty bus rides. I even went back to where it all began -back to my roots- and visited Korea a few times.

*

Every single journey challenged my intellect, changed perspectives and broadened my mind. I won’t say that all these journeys transformed me into a completely different person. And I’ve never been on a trip to ‘find myself’ or whatever that means. Let’s just say, travel contributed little (positive) bits and things to the person I am today.

Here is how:

  • I became more independent, self-sufficient and confident. Years of solo travel learned me how to cope with difficult, unexpected situations and ‘to get sh*t done’ on my own.
  • I became grateful for freedom of speech, democracy, education, medical care etc. and realized that these things should not be taken for granted.
  • I learned about culture, history, religion, geography by ‘experiencing it’. I smelt the fumes of an active volcano in Ethiopia, joined a group of pelgrims in their prayers in underground mosques in Kazakhstan, learned about the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and marveled at the pyramids in Egypt and Sudan.
  • I became more compassionate, understanding and tolerant by seeing and meeting so many different types of lives in the world.
  • I learned that -despite different cultures, skin color, language- that we are all not so different. We are all humans. There are jokes and laughter everywhere in the world. We all experience sorrow and grief. And we all have have the same dreams of being happy, being safe, being successful or exploring the globe.
  • I learned humans are inherently good. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the place, I would always meet kindness and hospitality on the road.

The journey has never ended, and sometimes I still feel like that tiny baby in that white blanket, struggling to understand what’s flying past my window as I head towards somewhere new. I wish I could remember more of those early days – but we get what we’re given, and I’m grateful.

Journeys have played a crucial role in my life and I hope this continues to be so. Travel makes me a better person. So I think I’ll keep going for a while longer – just to see what’s at the end of that next plane ride.

***

The journey from Korea to the Netherlands. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers The journey from Korea to the Netherlands. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers The journey from Korea to the Netherlands. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers Learning about the ‘Xhosa’ culture in South Africa Traveling along the Silk Road: Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. At the salt flats of the Afar region in Ethiopia. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers.

For this article Bunch of Backpackers teamed up with ‘The Journey’, an original podcast from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Meet the extraordinary people of The Journey Podcast, whose lives are transformed by travel here. My favorite is episode no. 2 :)

The post It’s all about the journeys appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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The lack of a subjective overview of hostels in Rotterdam, prompted to me to go on a few ‘microadventures’ in my own city. For a few nights, I exchanged the comforts of my Rotterdam apartment, for a night in a Rotterdam hostel. This way, I could truly experience the hostel’s atmosphere.

It was a lot of fun! I met a beautiful long-haired hostel cat named Suzy, enjoyed a cool live music performance, slept in a Cube House, celebrated a hostels’ four year anniversary and much more!

There only 6 hostels in Rotterdam (random order):

  • Hostel ROOM
  • Stayokay Cube Houses
  • Ani & Haakien Hostel
  • Hostel de Mafkees
  • King Kong Hostel
  • Sparks Hostel

Each hostel had their own atmosphere and target audience. Generally, the quality of the hostels was high. All visited Rotterdam hostels had:

  • a cool interior design
  • a social atmosphere
  • friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff
  • clean and spacious rooms and facilities.
  • a great, central location
  • reasonable (cheap) prices for Rotterdam accommodation standards

I enjoyed exploring my beloved Rotterdam in a different way. There are so many places you walk by every day, but you somehow never visit! It was a cool article to write and I hope that this personal and extensive overview of hostels in Rotterdam, helps you to select a Rotterdam hostel that fits you best!

Hostels in Rotterdam  Hostel ROOM

Hostel ROOM is a long-time backpackers favorite in Rotterdam. Twelve years ago, travel friends Monique and Mirjam, transformed a 1923 ‘National Heritage’ Art Deco building into their dream hostel. Together with local art students, they designed 17 beautiful theme rooms. These days, the building still breathes history and stories. From my atmospheric clock tower room, I move to the lively bar downstairs for a beer (happy hour!) and live music. Room hostel often hosts music nights, which is a great way to meet people from Rotterdam. The next morning, the bar is changed back into a relaxed, homey living room with a leather couch, different types of rugs and colorful chairs. It’s the small details, that makes this hostel so likable, such as a book exchange, ‘How to speak Dutch card’ and free lemonade throughout the day. The friendly hostel crew also organizes regular walking tours, game nights, pasta nights, Dutch snack nights and excursions (e.g. Kinderdijk). Enough to keep you busy! Monique, Mirjam and crew want their guests to leave with the best possible memories of Rotterdam and they succeed in this!

Crowd: Backpackers, city trippers
Available rooms and price per bed: double bedroom with private bathroom (70 euro per room), 4-bed dorm (24,25 euro), 6-bed dorm (23,27 euro), 8-bed dorm (22,32 euro), 12-bed dorm (20,43 euro) and 14-bed dorm (17,57 euro)
Included: Breakfast, wifi, bed linen, locker and city map
Location: City centre. Near Central Station/Museum area.
Number of beds: about 110
–> Book now through the Hostel ROOM website (preferred) or Hostelworld.

“I want my guests to leave with the best possible memories of Rotterdam!” – Monique, Owner Room Hostel

Dormitory Room Hostel – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Music night Room Hostel! – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Stayokay Rotterdam 

Stayokay is housed in one of the most iconic buildings in Rotterdam, the yellow Cube Houses, designed by architect Piet Blom. We are welcomed in the hostel by Rotterdam local Michael. After putting my bag in one of their spacious dormitories (yups, with slanted walls), I go down to the hostel bar for a beer with Michael. Stayokay is one of the oldest hostels in Rotterdam, but is only since 2012 based in the Cube Houses. These days, the hostel attracts a mix of people: mostly groups, but also families, city trippers and solo backpackers. The atmosphere in the hostel is informal, easy-going and free. People can do their own thing. This summer, Stayokay will open an outside terrace. This is something I look forward to visit, as it will be a great way to mix with travelers. The next morning, I wake up with a view on the famous ‘Markthal’ and enjoy a delicious breakfast at their extensive breakfast buffet. If you’re looking for a relaxed and comfortable stay in an eye-catching environment, Stayokay is the place for you!

Crowd: Groups, city trippers, backpackers
Available rooms and price per bed: 2p bedroom with private bathroom (53 euro per room), 4-8p bed dorm (20-25 euro). Prices vary, so this is just an indication of price.
Included: Breakfast, wifi, bed linen, locker and city map.
Location: City Centre. Rotterdam Blaak.
Number of beds: about 250
–> Book now through the Stayokay Rotterdam website (preferred) or Hostelworld.

“The Stayokay hostel is easy-going, informal and allows guests to do their own thing” – Michael, Senior Reception Manager, Stay Okay Hostel Rotterdam

Entrance hall Stay Okay hostel. – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Dormitory Stay Okay hostel with slanted walls and Markthal views. – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Ani & Haakien

Tucked away in a residential area near the Central Station, you find the brainchild of creative birds Daniëlle Linscheer and Joyce Brouwer: the Ani & Haakien hostel. After traveling around the world, Daniëlle and Joyce decided to create their own hostel in Rotterdam, a hostel where you immediately feel at home. As I walk into the hostel, I’m greeted by their beautiful long-haired cat Suzy, who has her own little house in the cosy common area. The common area is made up of a quirky mix of comfy secondhand chairs and couches, a big communal kitchen and a shaded garden with tulips in spring. The community vibe of the hostel is strengthened by the possibility to join city tours and hostel activities. Because it is a Thursday evening, I join in for ‘Pasta Night’, which is a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers and the fun hostel volunteer crew. It’s all very cool, laid-back and ‘gezellig’ (dutch term for ‘cosy/social’). It’s the type of hostel, where you can have breakfast in your pyjamas in the morning and feel completely at home.

Crowd: Backpackers, city trippers
Available rooms and price per bed: double bedroom with shared bathroom (50 euro per room), 6-bed dorm (24.50 euro), 8-bed dorm (23,50 euro), 10-bed dorm (22 euro) and 12-bed dorm (21,50 euro).
Included: Breakfast, wifi, bed linen, locker and city map
Location: City centre. Next to Central Station.
Number of beds: about 50
–> Book now through the Ani & Haakien website (preferred) or Hostelworld.

“We want our hostel to be a home for travelers!” – Joyce, owner Ani & Haakien hostel

Living room Ani & Haakien Hostel. – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Dining table and kitchen Ani & Haakien Hostel. – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers.  Hostel de Mafkees

Another well-known Rotterdam hostel is ‘Hostel de Mafkees’. The hostel is located next to the old Hofbogen viaduct. The neighborhood is industrial and raw and reminds me a bit of Berlin. Manager Fieke, who recently started in Hostel de Mafkees shows me around. The hostel is very spacious. It has a seating area with a ping pong table and table football, a guest kitchen and three big dormitories of about 30-40 beds. Next door to the hostel is a bike repair and rental shop and in the same hall is the ‘Jong foundation’, which helps Rotterdam youth with housing, school, work etc. The Jong foundation also helps young tourists to find their way in Rotterdam. With Hostel de Mafkees under enthusiast new management, the hostel continues its development. In the future, they plan to organise more activities for travelers and Fieke is currently collecting musical instruments for a hostel music night. Hostel de Mafkees is a typical Rotterdam no-nonsense hostel perfect for young budget travelers.

Crowd: Young travelers (18-25), international students
Available rooms and price per bed: 30p bed dorm (12 euro excluding bed linen which is an additional 5 euro).
Included: Breakfast, wifi, city map
Location: City Centre. Hofbogen.
Number of beds: about 120
–> Book now through Hostelworld.

“Hostel de Mafkees is the perfect place to stay for young budget travelers and students!” – Fieke, Manager Hostel de Mafkees

Hostel de Mafkees entrance. – Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Living room / dining area Hostel de Mafkees. Best Hostels in Rotterdam. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. King Kong Hostel

Former notorious residents of the building in which King Kong Hostel currently resides include a tattoo shop, an illegal casino and a sex club. However, these days the casino tables, ink and needles are gone and made place for a popular cafe, 130 comfy beds and cool, hip Rotterdam design. King Kong is considered one of best luxury hostels of the world. A few years ago, I was present during their opening night. This time, I’m present for their 4th anniversary party and the launch of their own coffee brand: ‘Rainforest Coffee’. Rainforest Coffee contributes to the preservation of the rainforests in Sumatra. Manager Alisa explains that this is the direction King Kong wants to go: a social, responsible hostel experience where guests can leave something positive behind for this earth. Besides the cafe, King Kong hostel has a movie room, a (guest) kitchen and they also run regular walking tours for their guests. According to Alisa, King Kong Hostel is great for those who are adventurous and creative with a love for culture, art & design. Is this you?

Crowd: Backpackers, city trippers, groups
Available rooms and price per bed: private bedroom with private bathroom (from 70 euro per room), 4-bed dorm (29.50 euro), 6-bed dorm (25,50 euro), 6-bed luxury dorm (29.50 euro) and 16-bed dorm (22,50 euro).
Included: wifi, coffee and tea in the morning (08.00-11.00)
Location: City Centre. Witte de With street.
Number of beds: about 130
–> Book now through the King Kong Hostel website (preferred) or Hostelworld.

King Kong hostel is for those who are adventurous and creative and appreciate culture, art & design – Alisa, manager King Kong hostel

Sparks Hostel

The youngest of the Rotterdam hostel family! Sparks was opened as recently as 2017, but it is already a steady member getting excellent online reviews. It’s centrally located and has cool custom-made bunk beds.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to visit Sparks this time.

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As a travel blogger and an experienced traveler, I offer ‘expert travel advice‘. This is clearly stated on my website. However, those who followed my Mexico Instagram stories, know that my short 2-week Mexico trip was messy. Very messy.

Feb 1st – Missing my flight to Mexico! 

I usually arrive two hours prior to departure for long-distance flights. My flight was at 14.00, so I arrived at 12.00 sharp. Perfect, right? But, I could not find my flight on the Schiphol Departure Board. Weird.

And then, it finally hit me. Shit, my flight was at 12.00! My flight probably took off, when I arrived at the airport. How, could I have missed this?

I was quite bummed out and already prepared myself to buy an expensive new plane ticket. I send a text message to my friends who were on a different flight to tell them about my delay.

Fortunately (and to my surprise), I was re-routed for free by the friendly lady at the Air Canada desk. This new route would take 12 hours longer and included a long lay-over in Toronto. However, Air Canada even provided me with a fancy hotel during the lay-over and food coupons. So, in the end it all worked out reasonably, despite my stupid mistake.

One day later, I had some bad luck.

Feb 2nd: No/delayed luggage in Mexico

I was one of the first at the luggage belt, but unfortunately also the last person. After seeing all other passengers leave with their luggage, I still missed my red backpack. Now, the luggage belt was completely empty and I knew something was wrong.

Shit. I went to the Air Canada office and here I was given a lost luggage form. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fill out my address in Mexico, because we hadn’t booked anything yet (backpacker style). However, they would give me a call later that day with more info.

That day, they did not call and the next day there was also no call. We tried to call Air Canada instead, but the Mexican numbers could not be reached, weren’t picked up or we got an unclear voicemail. The Canadian number was not helpful at all. It was not very promising they did not call as promised and could not be reached by telephone. This got me worried and a bit stressed! At day 2, the Mexican number finally picked up the phone and I got my backpack that same day! Looking back, it would have been better to relax, sit and wait. It would probably saved me a lot of stress.

The end of my Mexican holiday, I had another case of bad luck/bad preparation.

Feb 11th: ESTA refused

A few weeks prior to my Mexico trip, I applied online for my ESTA as I flew back from Mexico through Houston to Amsterdam and filled out all the required questions.

‘Do you seek to engage or have your ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage or genocide?’.

‘Uhm, no. If I would have, I probably would not have told you’.

‘Have you traveled to, or been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011.

‘Uhh, yes, Sudan and Iran’ I answered.

‘And probably Somalia and Iraqi Kurdistan in the near future’ I thought.

Just a few days before I flew back to Amsterdam, I suddenly realized I hadn’t heard anything about my ESTA anymore. No email, nothing. So, I checked my status online and there it was: REJECTED. Indeed, a quick search online learned that I can’t use an ESTA after visiting Sudan and Iran. Unable to transfer in Houston, I had to buy a new one-way flight (costs 350 euro’s!!). I mostly blamed the USA and Trump, which was not completely fair I suppose. Could I have known beforehand? Sure! However, I don’t spent my time researching every single move of my travels anymore and I just did not expect problems for a simple one-hour transfer.

Did I lose my (self-attributed) ‘expert traveler’ status? 

I hope not. You decide ;) Despite being -what some would call- a fairly happy-go-lucky daredevil traveler, my travels have always gone smoothly, even in faraway lands and remote places. I think that these things could happen to anyone, including a reasonably seasoned traveler like me. Travel isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes, things go wrong. And sometimes, you simply mess up.

Also read about my interesting new years eve in Khartoum, which marked the start of my travel misadventures of 2018.

Yucatan, Mexico travel information:
Coming soon. You can read this post by my friend David about costs to travel in Mexico.

Did you ever miss your flight? Or had your luggage delayed? Let me know! I’m curious to hear your stories, just to reassure I’m not the only one ;)

The post Three Mexican Misadventures appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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Introductie Ardennen

Wie denkt dat je ver moet reizen voor een actieve en unieke vakantie, is vast nog nooit in de Ardennen geweest. Het bosrijke Belgische laaggebergte, net over de grens bij Maastricht, is een waar paradijs voor de liefhebber van outdoor-activiteiten, natuurschoon en overnachten in de buitenlucht. Ontdek, ervaar en verleg je grenzen om vervolgens in één van de spa’s helemaal tot rust te komen en alle stress van thuis van je af te laten glijden. Vergeet voor je reis niet je backpack goed af te stellen, zorg ervoor dat je voldoende water bij je hebt en ga vooral niet te zwaarbepakt op pad. Vind hier alvast enkele nuttige tips hoe je je backpack kan inpakken.

Geschreven door gastauteur: Stijn 

Uitdagende routes, wonderlijke vergezichten

Speciaal voor wandelliefhebbers zijn in de Ardennen diverse, uitdagende routes uitgestippeld. Of je nu een echte kilometervreter bent of samen met je partner een romantisch onderonsje wilt beleven; elke backpacker komt aan z’n trekken. Klim en klauter vanuit het plaatsje Malmedy naar de waterval van de Bayehon en geniet van prachtige vergezichten, ga op ontdekkingstocht in de vele historische dorpjes als Dinant, Limbourg en Wéris en ervaar waarom vele kunstenaars als een blok gevallen zijn voor dit schitterende stukje België. Daal je af in de grotten van Han, dan is dat ondanks de aanwezigheid van een ervaren gids een hele beproeving.

Klimmen en kanoën: actief in de ardennen

Naast een overdaad aan wandelroutes, zijn de Ardennen ook voor de fan van sportieve uitdagingen de ideale bestemming. Zo kun je een mountainbike huren om de omgeving te verkennen en begrijp je al fietsend op je racefiets waarom België de bakermat van het wielrennen wordt genoemd. De heuvelachtige fietsroutes zijn een test voor je kuiten, maar wat je ogen voorgespiegeld krijgen maakt deze inspanning de moeite waard. En dan hebben we het nog niet eens gehad over rotsklimmen, abseilen, raften en kanoën! Bij dit soort activiteiten is het overigens handig om ingedekt te zijn bij eventuele ongelukken.

Overnachten op stand of in het boerenland

Na een drukke, enerverende dag wil je niets liever dan ’s avonds je wandelschoenen uittrekken en met een goed glas wijn alle ervaringen rustig laten bezinken. Dan is het goed om te weten dat je in de Ardennen volop keuze hebt uit overnachtingsmogelijkheden. Kleine campings, idyllische B&B’s, landelijke logeerboerderijen, luxe hotels; voor een goede nachtrust kun je overal terecht.

Wil je echt één worden met de natuur en vanaf je luchtbed naar de sterrenhemel turen? Dan kun je ook wildkamperen. Ideaal voor avontuurlijke backpackers! Officieel is dit niet toegestaan, maar als je een plaatselijke boer om toestemming vraagt vinden zij dit vaak geen enkel probleem. Lees hier onze kampeertips (in het Engels).

Bunch of Backpackers teamed up with Hema voor dit artikel.

Lees ook: 
Inpaklijst voor 6 maanden backpacken
Tips and tricks voor het inpakken van jouw backpack!

The post Actief in de Ardennen appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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About my Nomad Tours Africa – Best of Namibia adventure! 

During my backpacking trip in Southern Africa, I heard from fellow backpackers that independent travel in Namibia is extremely challenging because of the desert and the lack of public transportation. Therefore, I decided to opt for an overlanding tour. After comparing different overlanding companies, I booked with ‘Nomad Tours Africa’ because of the price and itinerary. The tour was called Best of Namibia and it took me from Capetown (South Africa) to Windhoek (Namibia) in 12 days and 11 nights.

Group size Nomad Tours Africa: Max 24 international passengers (in our group we had 9 persons)
Visited places: Cederberg, Namqualand, Orange River, Fish River Canyon, Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Etosha, Windhoek.
Food included: 11 breakfast, 11 lunch, 9 dinner
Accommodation: Camping
Crew: 2 (one driver, one cook)
Packing capacity: 35 Ltr
Price 2018: r15550 (1297 USD) (I participated in their tour in 2016)

A true epic adventure: seeing Deadvlei in Namibia. – Bunch of Backpackers Review Nomad Tours Africa – Best of Namibia What I loved:
  • The itinerary and all the places we were able to visit with our truck were absolutely amazing!
  • We had just enough ‘free time’ and drives were never too long.
  • Our group was small (only 9 people, but this might have been lucky)
  • The accommodation was comfortable and well-arranged (both camping places and the guesthouses)
  • The truck is great! Comfortable seats, big lockers for your backpack etc.
  • I was able to book last-minute in Capetown, only one night before departure
  • Participants come and go, so group composition differs weekly
  • The food was good during the tour.
  • The price. Prior to the trip, I calculated how much it would have approximately cost me if I did it independently (with separate tours to Etosha and the dunes from Windhoek) and it was pretty much the same price. I felt it was a good value for money. The prices of the optional activities were also fair.
Lunch during the overlanding trip with Nomad Tours. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. If I was the boss of Nomad Tours, I would improve:
  • The quality of the tents and poles. The first day, we really had to search for suitable tents and poles. It was a bit of mess and some were broken. However, once we all found a complete and working set, it was fine.
  • Our guides were fine, but not great. They were friendly, knowledgeable and experienced. However, with both guides I missed the enthusiasm to make the trip truly unforgettable. As a guide, it’s important to contribute to the atmosphere of the trip and this was just so-so. I can’t say, we truly had a fun trip together. They were also making jokes about 1 person in the group and I felt this was completely inappropriate.
  • (I had no real connection with the people in my group. This is difficult to improve for Nomad Tours obviously. It might have been me, it might have been bad luck or it might also be the lack of atmosphere in general… In Windhoek, I met the people from the accommodated group (I was the camping group) for one night and funnily enough I immediately clicked with them. With some of them, I’m actually still in touch! They also seemed to be much closer with their guides. So, I can imagine this differs from trip to trip)
  • Minor thing: At the end of the trip, we were asked to review the tour and tour guides, but we had to hand in the forms directly to the tour guides. I think an online form would have been better.
Himba tribe during the overlanding trip with Nomad Tours Namibia Africa. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Instead of the Nomad Tours Africa – Best of Namibia, you can also opt for:
  • One of the other overlanding companies such as Dragoman, Absolute Africa or Oasis Overlanding.
  • I met an Absolute Africa group in Zimbabwe and they seemed to have a lot of fun together. They were mostly young people. But again, this may differ from group to group.
  • If you’re interested in West Africa there is a company called Overlanding West Africa. I follow this company on Facebook and they offer some pretty cool, adventurous trips.
Bunch of Backpackers final verdict about Nomad Tours:

In terms of price and itinerary and visited places, I’m very satisfied! However, I was less enthusiast about the atmosphere during the trip, but obviously many factors influence this.

Giraffe at Etosha during the overlanding trip with Nomad Tours Namibia Africa. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Fish River Canyon. Nomad Tours Africa – Best of Namibia review Dunes. Nomad Tours Africa – Best of Namibia review

Disclaimer: I was a regular customer on this Nomads Tour. I did not receive any discounts.

As you may know, I always backpack (mostly solo). I still prefer to travel independently, wherever it is possible. However, group tours like this are also pretty cool. This was my first experience with an overlanding company and my first-ever traditional group tour! Would you go an overlanding adventure?

Here are 10 reasons to convince you why you should go overlanding! I especially agree with number 1.

Read more about my Southern Africa backpacking adventure here! 

The post Review: Overlanding with Nomad Tours Africa – Best of Namibia appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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You should never have too many regrets in life, but I truly wish I had discovered scuba diving sooner. I traveled past so many dive spots, without realizing I missed out on a beautiful underwater world. So, let me explain to you why scuba diving is fun and how it made my latest backpacking trips even more unforgettable.

Warning: You may also want to get your dive certificate after reading this!

Why scuba diving is fun & how it enriched my travels 1. You explore new parts of the world

As an ‘explorer’, I am forever grateful that I discovered scuba diving. You truly explore a whole different part of our world.

2. You learn a new skill

Learning new things gives you positive energy. During scuba diving you learn about physics and equipment, but also about underwater life, environmental protection and more. Each dive you also continue to improve your own skills!

Getting ready to get into the water at Aliwal Shoal, South Africa. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. 3. You quickly become part of the scuba diving family. 

Scuba divers are generally relaxed and fun-loving people. If you join a dive school for a course or just a few dives, you quickly meet fellow divers and the dive school crew.

4. You unwind and relax

Another reason why scuba diving enriched my travels is because it gives you a ‘zen’ moment. During scuba diving you focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale, slowly exhale. It’s also very peaceful under water. There are no phone calls or emails. It’s silent. This makes a dive pretty zen!

5. It’s the ultimate adventure

Being 30 meters below the water, that is a pretty intense adventure! You explore areas, which are difficult to visit and relatively few people come.

Cenote diving in Dos Ojos, Mexico. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers 6. It’s active

I’m not a beach bum. I love to do active things. By discovering water activities such as surfing and diving, I can still go the most beautiful beaches in the world, but at least I have also something to keep me busy.

7. You can move in every direction (compared to snorkeling)

Snorkeling is great, but it only allows you to view one ‘layer’ of the water. Scuba diving allows you to move freely under water.

8. Each dive is different!

Any ideas why scuba divers often go to the same dive spot over and over again. Because, each dive is different! You will always encounter different wildlife and different circumstances under water.

9. Wonderful and plentiful wildlife

Have you ever been on a safari in Africa? Diving is quite similar! During a dive you will meet al kinds of wildlife, from turtles and sharks to stingrays and sea horses!

Learning about wildlife during your diving adventures. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. How much does scuba diving cost? 

For backpackers, diving can take up quite a bit of the travel budget. Courses are generally 200-500 USD’s. A single guided dive (including equipment) costs around 35-75 USD’s. The prices vary highly between schools and destinations. I found diving in Egypt and Sri Lanka relatively affordable, but diving in Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa was quite expensive. However, for me, it was all worth it!

Which dive school should you pick?

I’m a budget traveler and I usually try to save as much money as I can (in order to travel longer and more). However, when it comes to selecting a dive school, I don’t mind spending a bit of money. Diving is easy and safe, but it also comes with certain risks. When I dive, I prefer to dive with a school which is highly professional with the best teachers and the best equipment. Of course, it is also important to select a school with a good and fun atmosphere. I would advice you to do the same.

For the ladies: I really enjoy being a member of the Girls that Scuba facebook group. This group is full of fanatic scuba divers with excellent advice!

Diving equipment. Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. How to become a scuba diver? 

So far, I’ve been taking the scuba diving courses of PADI. Generally, the ‘PADI curriculum’ looks something like this:

  1. Discover Scuba Diver
  2. Open Water Diver
  3. Advanced Open Water Diver (my level!)
  4. Rescue Diver
  5. Amateur: Master Scuba Diver or Pro: Dive Master / Instructor
My scuba dive and travel history 

I have an Advanced Open Water certificate and I had the opportunity to dive in some of the most beautiful places in the world.

  • Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. One of my favorite diving spots. Open Water certification.
  • Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Pretty great diving as well.
  • Aliwal Shoal, South Africa. World famous diving. Surrounded by countless black tip reef sharks. This was a baited dive, which is controversial. Read more about ethical travel dilemmas like ‘doing a baited dive’ here.
  • Nusa Penida, Indonesia. Surrounded by countless huge manta rays and turtles.
  • Dahab, Egypt. One of the best dive sites in the world. Amazing coral and wildlife. You can also dive the famous Blue Hole. It’s a long-time favorite among backpackers in Egypt! I took my Advanced Open Water course here.
  • Tulum, Mexico. Cenote diving in the Pit (30 meters) and Dos Ojos (cavern)
  • Cozumel, Mexico. Some cool boat dives.

Just a quick shout-out to my dive school in Dahab, Egypt: the Sea Dancer Dive Center. It’s the best school I’ve dived with so far! The dive crew is highly professional and experienced, and they also provide a fun, easy-going environment. Thanks to these guys, I became even more enthusiast about diving. Now, I hope to further improve my dive skills (next up: rescue diver) and to incorporate more dives during my backpacking journeys. I can’t wait to go back into the water again!

Got my Advanced Open Water certificate!! Copyright Bunch of Backpackers. Aliwal Shoal diving video clip. 

Terrible clip (and not sure why I wanted to wave to the camera) and there were many more sharks, but at least it gives an impression ;)

Aliwal Shoal Shark Diving - YouTube

Do you dive during your travels? Any recommendations for dive destinations? And what do you think of baited diving?

The post 9 reasons why scuba diving is fun and how it enriched my travels! appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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Best hostels for solo travelers in Asia 

Solo travel is fun, but can be lonely at times. Hostels are the perfect place to make new friends. For me, the difference between a good hostel and great hostel is the atmosphere. This overview of ‘Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia’ selected all hostels on basis of atmosphere: e.g. social, fun and friendly. They often have a busy common room, group tours, evening activities and parties or a bar. Staying in one of these hostels, guarantees you will have the time of your life.

Discover my 10 favorite party hostels in Asia. 

Begadang Backpackers, Gili Air – Indonesia

Gili Air is one of those paradisiac islands where people come to chill and enjoy island life. If you couple this with a hostel like Begadang Backpackers, then you have a winning combination. Begadang Backpackers is perhaps the best hostel I have ever stayed in, and I have stayed in quite a few. The location is just perfect, in the north west of the island, a few minutes walk from the beach and ideal for enjoying the sunset. The hostel consists of a few bamboo huts (a mixture of small dorms and private ones) arranged around a toadstool-shaped pool. Just think about this for one moment. A toadstool swimming pool! Can it get any cooler than that?

Right by the pool is an open bamboo canopy that acts as a common room, where everyone hangs out. It’s an extremely social hostel – after all Begadang in Indonesian means to stay up late or all night, but there is a no noisy policy after midnight so you can still get a good sleep. But aside from all this, what I really liked about it is that it supports the neighbouring local businesses. The hostel is very clear about not providing any shopping or eating services, so guests go out to the neighbouring shops and restaurants and support the local economy.

–> View & Book Begadang Backpackers now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – Begadang Backpackers was visited and reviewed by Brogan Abroad.

Begadang Backpackers. Copyright Brogan Abroad. Reggae Mansion – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Reggae Mansion in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is a great hostel to stay at, as it is very sociable and has an excellent atmosphere. It is located in Chinatown and there are various sized rooms, but there is also a memorable 24 bed dorm. Now this may sound cramped, but it is actually a massive room, that has plenty of space, is clean and each bed is in a “pod”, so you have your own privacy, locker to place items, bed light etc.

The are many other facilities on site, which are a great way to meet other people, from communal dinners to a cinema room, to a comfy lounge and an out door terraced area. However, the main attraction of the hostel is that it has a great rooftop bar, that not only has some of the cheapest alcohol in Kuala Lumpur, but also an amazing view of the city skyline including the Petronas Towers and KL Tower. Up at the rooftop bar, it is very easy to meet and socialize with fellow travellers, to then arrange activities for the next day around Kuala Lumpur.

This is what makes it one the most memorable and best hostels in Asia in my opinion. So if you’re in Kuala Lumpur, travelling solo, then make sure you stay at Reggae Mansion!

–> View and Book Reggae Mansion now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – Reggae Mansion was visited and reviewed by Craig Russell of No Real Plan

Reggae Mansion. Copyrigh No Real Plan. Mad Monkey – Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Why should prime beach side locations be the exclusive province of the luxury traveler?

Well, backpackers can rejoice at the amazing Mad Monkey hostel in Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia. More like a “backpacker resort,” this hostel has a private beach and secluded location that can only be accessed via long tail boat. That isolation gives the hostel a unique community vibe perfect for making friends, as you and the other guests have only each other to interact with!

But, don’t worry, you won’t be at a loss for things to do here, By day, the hostel organizes group fishing and snorkeling trips around the island. You’ll be back in time to watch fire-dancers and sip a sundowner on the hostel’s beach. By night, the expansive deck turns into a dance floor where you can party the night away. If you want to sleep, though, worry not because the hostel’s open-air rooms are buried deep in the jungle.

Hostels are almost always a great bet for the solo traveler, but you’ll be especially impressed at the unique setting and community feel of Mad Monkey Koh Rong Samloem!

–> View & Book Mad Monkey now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – Mad Monkey was visited and reviewed by Nathaniel Hake of Travel Lemming.

The Mad Monkey Hostel in Cambodia. Photo courtesy of the Mad Monkey Hostels. Hangover Hostels – Sri Lanka 

Hangover Hostels are a hostel chain in Sri Lanka with quirky, modern backpack hostels. They currently have four hostels near the Katunayake Airport, in Colombo, Ella and Mirissa. They have a fun-loving, party vibe with large communal areas. Hangover Mirissa also has a little cafe where even outside guests come, chill and have a fabulous time. Their Suicide Burgers are a popular option among many travelers who come to Mirissa.

The Colombo hostel organizes activities for their guests including pub crawls, street food nights, Halloween parties etc. Recently, they organized Sunset Sessions in their Airport hostel which was a weekend event with music and good food. Me and my partner were recently at their Ella hostel and on our last day, it was a movie night at the hostel. They also organize night tours to nearby cafes and restaurants in Ella. The hostels are clean, safe and have comfortable dorm beds with large lockers. So even if you are an introvert, they are a good place to be, and you would have all the privacy you need.

–> View and Book Hangover Hostels now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia  – The Hangover Hostels were visited and reviewed by Nathan and Zinara of NatNZin

Hangover Hostel! Copyright NatNZin Ostello Bello Hostel – Myanmar

Ostello Bello Hostel in Myanmar was a game changer for my travel experience throughout the beautiful country. They have three hostels throughout Myanmar, in Bagan, Inle, and Mandalay. All popular destinations for backpackers so I continuously bumped into the people and formed really valuable friendships with a lot of the travelers on my circuit. In the end, it felt like I’d cultivated a small family of like-minded travelers.

The hostel offers many tours and excursions at a great price and which benefit the local community’s small businesses. Some of the tours are free, such as the history tour through Bagan’s temples. Others are about $10 such as the cooking class I did with a local Burmese woman who took me to a local market and then taught me how to make the most delicious Burmese meals. It is one of my most memorable cultural experiences.

They also help you with local services such as laundry, scooter rental, taxis, and bus reservations; all at reasonable prices! In addition to these local services, the hostel has wonderful common spaces where travelers can connect, hang out, drink, and play games. Every day the hostel hosts an entertain event/theme to get travelers to come together and have fun. If you’re tired of dorms, they also offer private rooms which I signed up in Mandalay for during the end of my tour and it felt like a luxury hotel! I strongly recommend this the Ostello Bello Hostel in Myanmar during your travels!

–> View & Book Ostello Bello hostel now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – The Ostello Bello Hostel was visited and reviewed by G. Isabella of Dominicana Abroad.

Ostello Bello Hostel food in Myanmar. Copyright Dominica Abroad
Ringo’s Foyer – Melaka, Malaysia

I have insider information on what makes Ringo’s Foyer in Melaka one of the best hostels for solo travelers in Asia, because I was a volunteer there for two months. Perhaps best proof of the hostel’s popularity is that at check-out time staff are juggling beds and bookings because so many guests choose to extend their stay! Beds in the dormitory are in capsule-like pods for privacy but for socializing there is a large roof terrace as well as a cosy and quirky TV room.

The owner goes out of his way to encourage a friendly and inclusive atmosphere. When new guests arrive they are shown around and introduced to as many people as possible whilst off-duty volunteers regularly ‘round-up’ travellers at lunch or dinner time and show them the best spots to eat.

Evenings will often find people chatting on the terrace – maybe with a barbecue or playing games and often later in the night everybody will take off to one of the cool bars on the river. Best of all are the regular group cycle rides which also encourage solo travellers to meet others. The cycle tours may take in the floating mosque, Chinese Hill or a local food market and often end up with everybody taking dinner together…and extending their stay at the hostel.

–> View & Book Ringo’s Foyer now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – Ringo’s Foyer was visited and reviewed by Jane Clements who explains ‘How NOT to behave in a hostel’ 

Bike Tour in Melaka, Malaysia. Copyright Scarlet Jones Travels The Slumber Party Hostel – Ao Nang, Thailand

Looking for the perfect hostel in Krabi Province, Thailand? Then Slumber Party Hostel in Ao Nang is your answer. Slumber Party is a chain of hostels that be found throughout Asia and they pride themselves on building a community and hospitality. Yes, they are a party hostel, but a trip to Thailand would not be complete without at least one-party night, right?

Each night the hostel has some type of activity to bring the guests together. Three nights a week they host a bar crawl that starts at the hostel and they take you to 3 bars in downtown Ao Nang. On the other nights they have Free Vodka Night, a Beer Pong Tournament, and Game Night. They also organize day trips to go rock climbing at Railay Beach.

Even if you do not drink, the staff is there to make sure you have an awesome time. They introduce guests to each other and everyone feels welcome. If you are looking to make friends in Southern Thailand then this is the place to do it!

–> View and Book The Slumber Party Hostel now! 

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – Slumber Party Hostel was visited and reviewed by Gina of Jet Set and Forget.

Slumber Party bar crawl. Copyright Jet Set and Forget. Bali Green Hostel – Seminyak, Indonesia

Located in the heart of Seminyak, the Bali Green Hostel is the perfect spot for everyone looking for a local, authentic and fun experience in Bali. Founded by a bunch of Indonesian surf dudes, who have all been working at the big surf schools in Bali, they offer a truly awesome combination of sleeping, chilling and, of course, surfing. Every morning all guests and the guys come together to discuss waves, swell and conditions.

Decide for yourself, whether you want to join the group or simply want to hang out. Even if you stay at the hostel for the whole day, you’ll be able to watch daily life go by in the rice field right next to the hostel. Not in the surf mood? Ask the guys for advice or simply walk down to the beach, which is in walking distance to Bali Green. The weekends here are filled with music played by the guys and some true crew love.

–> View & Book The Bali Green Hostel now

Best Hostels for Solo Travelers in Asia – This hostel was visited and reviewed by Clemens Sehi of Travellers Archive, who also wrote this Indonesia travel guide. 

Ready to surf at the Bali Green Hostel. Copyright Travellers Archive.
Time Capsule Hostel – Penang, Malaysia 

One of our favorite hostels in Asia we..

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As a travel blogger and an experienced traveler, I offer ‘expert travel advice‘. This is clearly stated on my website. However, those who followed my Mexico Instagram stories, know that my short 2-week Mexico trip was messy. Very messy. I will tell you what happened in just a few minutes.

However, first I would like to share my weird new years eve in Khartoum, which marked the start of my travel misadventures of 2018.

So yes, the new year started interesting.

Dec 31st/Jan 1st: Teargas attack in Khartoum, Sudan

It seemed a good plan. Me and my travel friends would go to the fireworks at the Green Yard park in Khartoum. Upon arrival, I saw hundreds (thousands?) of people standing in the dark outside the gates of the park, mostly young men. We were the only ‘foreigners’.

Slowly, we made our way through the mass towards the entrance of the park, also passing by groups of military and policemen. Some had raised bats in their hands to keep the crowds at distance. We felt the atmosphere was tense. Groups of men were running around shouting, some with bandana’s covering their face. There was broken glass everywhere.

Unfortunately, the park was already full and we were not allowed to enter any more. I peeked through the gates: it looked fun and well-organized. We decided to head back the same way. This time, a large group of around fifty men came running towards us. Soldiers gestured that we really had to leave now. Unsure where to go and what to do, and with a slight hint of panic, we started running as well and we lost each other.

Suddenly, I felt my eyes burning and tearing and my breathing felt different. What is happening? Shit, tear gas. The army had used tear gas. That’s why some of the guys wore bandana’s. Fortunately, we quickly found each other again. Only five minutes later, it was 12 o’clock and we decided to stay and watch the fireworks (from a reasonably safe distance). After that, we returned home and had a chai at one of the Syrian café’s.

We agreed, it was a potentially risky situation. These things can quickly get out of hand. As a foreigner, who only visited Sudan for a short time, I can’t really say what exactly was going on. It might have been political (a few days later there would be protests throughout the country against increasing bread prices), it might have been young boys from the suburbs looking to rebel or something else.

I hope this does not scare anyone. Like mentioned before, Sudan is perfectly safe for travelers (read more about this here). Obviously, we expected to go into the Green Yard and we did not predict a situation like this. Anyway, it was a new years eve to remember.

Then, it was time for travel blunder number 1.

Feb 1st – Missing my flight to Mexico! 

I usually arrive two hours prior to departure for long-distance flights. My flight was at 14.00, so I arrived at 12.00 sharp. Perfect, right? But, I could not find my flight on the Schiphol Departure Board. Weird. And then, it finally hit me. Shit, my flight was at 12.00! My flight probably took off, when I arrived at the airport. How, could I have missed this?

I was quite bummed out and already prepared myself to buy an expensive new plane ticket. I send a text message to my friends who were on a different flight to tell them about my delay. Fortunately (and to my surprise), I was re-routed for free by the friendly lady at the Air Canada desk. This new route would take 12 hours longer and included a long lay-over in Toronto. However, Air Canada even provided me with a fancy hotel during the lay-over and food coupons. So, in the end it all worked out reasonably, despite my stupid mistake.

One day later, I had some bad luck.

Feb 2nd: No/delayed luggage in Mexico

I was one of the first at the luggage belt, but unfortunately also the last person. After seeing all other passengers leave with their luggage, I still missed my red backpack. Now, the luggage belt was completely empty and I knew something was wrong. Shit. I went to the Air Canada office and here I was given a lost luggage form. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fill out my address in Mexico, because we hadn’t booked anything yet (backpacker style). However, they would give me a call later that day with more info.

That day of course, they did not call and the next day there was also no call. We tried the call Air Canada instead, but the Mexican numbers could not be reached or weren’t picked up or we got an unclear voicemail. The Canadian number was not helpful at all. It was not very promising they did not call as promised and could not be reached by telephone. This got me worried and a bit stressed! At day 2, the Mexican number finally picked up the phone and I got my backpack that same day! Looking back, it would have been better to relax, sit and wait. It would probably saved me a lot of stress.

The end of my Mexican holiday, I had another case of bad luck/bad preparation.

Feb 11th: ESTA refused

A few weeks prior to my Mexico trip, I applied online for my ESTA as I flew back from Mexico through Houston to Amsterdam and filled out all the required questions.

‘Do you seek to engage or have your ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage or genocide?’.

‘Uhm, no. If I would have, I probably would not have told you’.

‘Have you traveled to, or been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011.

‘Uhh, yes, Sudan and Iran’ I answered.

‘And probably Somalia and Iraqi Kurdistan in the near future’ I thought.

Just a few days before I flew back to Amsterdam, I suddenly realized I hadn’t heard anything about my ESTA anymore. No email, nothing. So, I checked my status online and there it was: REJECTED. Indeed, a quick search online learned that I can’t use an ESTA after visiting Sudan and Iran. Unable to transfer in Houston, I had to buy a new one-way flight (costs 350 euro’s!!). I mostly blamed the USA and Trump, which was not completely fair I suppose. Could I have known beforehand? Sure! However, I don’t spent my time researching every single move of my travels anymore and I just did not expect problems for a simple one-hour transfer.

Did I lose my (self-attributed) ‘expert traveler’ status? 

I hope not. You decide ;) Despite being -what some would call- a fairly happy-go-lucky daredevil traveler, my travels have always gone smoothly, even in faraway lands and remote places. I think that these things could happen to anyone, including a reasonably seasoned traveler like me. Travel isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes, things go wrong. And sometimes, you simply mess up.

Did you ever miss your flight? Or had your luggage delayed? Let me know! I’m curious to hear your stories, just to reassure I’m not the only one ;)

Sudan travel information:
My Ultimate Sudan Travel guide
Two-week Sudan backpacking itinerary
What to do in Khartoum? 

Yucatan, Mexico travel information:
Coming soon. You can read this post by my friend David about costs to travel in Mexico.

The post How my new year started with a tear gas attack and 3 more travel misadventures. appeared first on Bunch of Backpackers.

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