Now that the year is coming to its end again, this is a good moment to think back on our travel year. This year, we have explored three different continents and lived in three countries. That’s why the picture challenge of Muuttolintu blog came in a perfect time and we also wanted to participate in it.
Our year 2018 started on the other side of the world in New Zealand. After working hard in Auckland, we traveled the best nature destinations of New Zealand and lived almost two months in a car. After that, we returned to Asia for a couple of weeks and visited our favorite destinations; Busan in South Korea and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. On our way home, we also had time to visit our previous home city Krakow.
After all traveling, we were entitled to spend four months enjoying the nature and the long, hot summer in Finland (and this time the Finnish summer wasn’t a joke). Going back to Finland after almost 5 years awakened many thoughts and was a lovely thing overall.
As soon as the autumn arrived, we heard new adventures call us. As a result, we ended up in Prague, the gem of Central Europe. We have so many memories from this year, but let’s start with these ten highlights!
1. Favorite pic of the year
While on South Island in New Zealand, we stayed at a free campsite near Lake Pukaki. One morning Jarkko woke up before sunrise, took the camera and went out to explore.
The landscape was totally worth getting up early. As a memory, we have this magical picture as well as many other nice shots. And meanwhile, Johanna was sleeping tightly in the car…
2. Everyday luxury
One of the perks of our camping life was definitely that we could stop anywhere, find a parking spot with a pretty view, grab our travel cooker from the trunk and cook lunch without a hurry.
In this picture, we are enjoying our typical meal with beans and noodles in the mountainous landscapes of Queenstown.
3. Summer picture
This moment summarizes the happy feeling when we got to enjoy the long-awaited Finnish summer, visit our friends’ summer house, and go to the sauna and fishing in the midnight sun. This and many other summer moments will remain in our memories for a long time!
4. Lovely accommodation
Even though this accommodation cost less than 5 euros, this cosy hostel in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City has been especially memorable. The clean and air-conditioned rooms had spacious private capsules, and the lovely rooftop terrace offered gorgeous views over the roofs of Saigon.
The hostel street was full of coffee shops, street food and fruit markets. We will definitely stay here again on our next trip to Ho Chi Minh!
5. Funny memory
We spend a memorable week in New Zealand doing volunteering for a local lady who lived in a countryside house. We spent our mornings doing gardening in a pretty seaside landscape.
We were accompanied by eager assistants; four cute hens that were digging the ground at least as much as we did.
6. Delicious moment
Vietnamese street food was one of the highlights on our trip to Asia – both for the taste and for the price. Here we are enjoying rice noodles, juicy char-grilled pork and peanuts at a street food stall.
7. That not-so-glorious memory
Traveling New Zealand by car is something we will never forget but it also wasn’t much of luxury.
In one stormy night, we were sitting in the dark car and having our evening snack as usually. Just when we were about to go to sleep, we heard a weird rustle from the trunk. We had to empty the whole trunk, and this was followed by a desperate mouse hunt that lasted all night long.
When the night went on, it turned out that it wasn’t just one mouse in the car but three of them! Jarkko was sitting with an admirable patience on the backseat in his hunting position. He eventually caught two mice with his bare hands. We never found the third one but ever since, this buddy we named Tarmo has been living in our memories. Every time we hear rustling noises, we note to each other: “Oh, Tarmo is back”.
8. In beloved company
The biggest highlight of our summer in Finland was our countryside wedding that we celebrated with the most important people in the middle of the forest. The wedding pictures taken by Kuvamiehet will remind us of this lovely weekend for the rest of our lives.
9. Favorite picture of us
In this picture, you can read the excitement and hunger for adventures from our faces. This shot was taken after we left our jobs in Auckland behind and started traveling by our dear Scarface car. One of our first stops was Hobbiton hobbit village that is a dream destination for every LOTR fan.
10. Unforgettable landscape
From all the hundreds of New Zealand pictures, it’s hard to choose just one gorgeous landscape picture, as there was a new breathtaking view almost behind every corner.
Anyway, we found maybe the best landscapes by Lake Pukaki when the snow had covered the mountains and the lake was shining in bright turquoise shades.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE PICTURES CHALLENGE:
What kind of year have you had? Tell it with pictures! You pictures don’t need to be from your travels as long as they fit into the given topics. Please link Muuttolintu blog as a source, copy these instructions at the end of your article and link our article to the comments of Muuttolintu blog if you want!
Are you going to travel to Prague before the Christmas? Christmas markets with mulled wine, decorative lights and yummy foods are one of the biggest attractions in December besides Christmas shopping. And not only in Germany but in whole Central Europe. In Prague, even the last Christmas markets opened their doors on 1st of December and will entertain the folks until the beginning of January. We started to explore the Christmas market selection in Prague and soon noticed that there are actually so many Christmas markets in the city! Thus, we’ll introduce our favourites here.
There is not only one big Christmas market in Prague but you can find several spots across the city. Even though Prague old town introduces the biggest and most imposing Christmas markets, you can also find cheaper and more local markets within a short metro ride from the city centre.
Here in Prague, the Christmas markets are a social event where locals regularly gather after work for a hot drink and snacks. There is a lot going on at the markets even during the weekdays and not only at weekends.
For us, the best part of visiting Christmas markets is wandering among the ambient stalls while drinking mulled wine. And of course, exploring, smelling, and tasting different delicacies. The most popular Czech Christmas market dishes are freshly baked trdelnik a.k.a. chimney cake, as well as sausages, cheese, and cabbage dishes. You can buy mulled wine as a white or red version. Also give a try to punch and hot apple drink. They will warm up your body and mind even on the coldest days!
The prices at Prague Christmas markets varies a lot depending on how touristic the market is. After visiting a few markets, we made an observation that the prices of mulled wine and other hot drinks remained almost the same (ca. 40 to 60 korunas). Then again, the food prices are clearly higher at the old town markets.
Here are the Christmas markets in Prague we have already visited and recommend you to visit too.
The old town Christmas market in Staroměstské náměstí square
Let’s start with the biggest and most famous Christmas market that surely every tourist visits on their trip to Prague. The Christmas market in the old town square is surrounded by beautiful old buildings and the gorgeous Týn church. The market is finely decorated and presents events on the stage almost daily.
Anyhow, the cons of this market are the occasional huge crowds and touristic prices especially at some of the stands. If you order food, be cautious that some stalls state the price per 100 G so the total meal price might come you as a shock.
If you want to enjoy the Christmas spirit with less crowds, keep reading and explore the other option in Prague.
Ambient Christmas market in Náměstí Míru
Náměstí Míru is located only 3 metro stops away from the old town. This Prague Christmas market is clearly more spacious and local than the ones in the old town. And yet, there is a nice selection of beautifully decorated stalls. Therefore, Náměstí Míru is probably our favourite of all Christmas markets in Prague. The market is built by the St. Ludmila church that already itself is worth to see.
We definitely recommend taking the quick metro ride to Náměstí Míru. Also, make sure to explore Vinohrady district that is filled with cosy cafes and restaurants. Just by the Christmas market, you will find Beer Museum restaurant where you get Czech food and 30 different draft beers for a reasonable price!
Anděl Christmas market in Smichov
If you happen to explore Prague on the west side of the river, you can stop by to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere at Anděl metro station. This Christmas market is quite small in size but the stalls still offer a nice selection of delicacies, hot drinks and souvenirs. Above the stalls, you can find a small terrace where you can sit down and observe the passing crowds.
If you didn’t fill your stomach with market food, go and have a meal in crazy cheap self-service restaurant Marjanka nearby. In this eatery, you can grab a big portion of food for less than 100 korunas as wells a good dose of Czech atmosphere. If you are into metal music, enjoy a dessert beer in Hells Bells rock pub across the street where they often play Finnish heavy metal.
Žižkov Christmas market in Jiřího z Poděbrad square
Why are almost all Christmas markets organized next to a church? Anyway, if you have time, we definitely recommend visiting Prague 3 area and especially Žižkov district. You can find a small and cosy Christmas market in Jiřího z Poděbrad square. In the same square, there is also a daily farmer’s market so something is going at any time of the day.
Christmas market in Náměstí Republiky square
We found this Christmas market a bit bland compared to the other ones as the stalls were not very well lit or decorated. Anyhow, we visited the market right after its opening so the situation might have got better. Náměstí Republiky square is surrounded by several other sights though, so why not to stop by for a mulled wine on the way.
Christmas market in Prague castle inner yard
Prague castle is naturally a must-see destination for all travellers in Prague. Before Christmas, you also get to enjoy the Christmas spirit in the inner yard of the castle. The stalls full of Christmas lights look fantastic in front of St. Vitus Cathedral. If you are lucky, you might also hear live music at the market. You can visit the inner yard of Prague castle for free by passing the security control. The prices at the market are, as you might guess, on a touristic level, but hot wine is still reasonably priced like everywhere in Prague.
Other Christmas markets in Prague
Besides the above-mentioned markets, there are also several other Christmas markets in Prague. The best way to find them is to walk around and explore. The second big Christmas market in Prague old town is organized in gorgeous Wenceslas square. Additionally, you can find drink and food stalls in the small squares around the old town.
If you want to experience something else that traditional red-stalled Christmas markets, check out Manifesto Winter Market event. This market has a modern and hip atmosphere. In the area, there are 20 restaurants, Czech design products and decorated igloos where you can book a spot. We haven’t visited this place yet but are planning to do that soon.
Last week we ended up in a neighbourhood wine bar to grab a glass of wine. As we were sipping from our glasses, we happened to notice a pile of brochures with the text “Nordic Film Festival” on the table. Of course, we had a closer look at the ad and saw several Finnish movies in the program among other Nordic titles. Interesting!
We soon drifted into a conversation with locals in this very compact bar and forgot the brochure on the table. But only half an hour later, a Czech couple entered the place. It turned out soon they were actually the organizers of the Nordic film festival in Prague that we just found out about. This was a clear sign that we definitely need to see at least one Finnish movie! It has been a couple of years from our previous cinema visit anyway so this was a good chance to check out a Czech cinema.
On a Saturday afternoon, we headed to Kino Lucerna, a cinema located in the heart of Prague. We were going to watch an ice hockey themed movie called 95. This film definitely got into the core of the Finnish culture – the 1995 ice hockey world championship is just legendary.
Lucerna is a multi-floor entertainment centre. Besides the cinema, it also includes a nightclub. Johanna was actually partying with 90’s music downstairs the night before… Anyway, this time we walked upstairs and headed to Cafe Lucerna that is located together with the cinema.
An old-fashioned cinema atmosphere got a hold of us immediately when we opened the green velvet curtains and stepped in. The cafe was decorated with an elaborate old school style. It looked exactly like a place where big artists sit, drink absinthe and look for inspiration for their next artwork.
We continued upstairs towards the cinema hall – that turned out to be even more gorgeous than the cafe. Being over 100 years old, Kino Lucerna is one of the oldest cinemas in Europa and in the whole world. The roof and walls of the cinema hall are decorated with detailed carvings, dim wall lamps glow ambiently, and the brown velvet benches tell a story of the past century. This cinema is an attraction itself, even if you are not into watching a movie. We recommend to at least have a drink in Cafe Lucerna.
We returned already next day as we decided to see another Finnish movie. We have to admit that a drama movie called Absolution was just depressing from the beginning to the end and didn’t leave us too happy feeling. We might have got enough of Finnish movies for a while now.
Kino Lucerna mostly presents alternative, non-mainstream movies and organizes several film festivals every year. This year there is still an Asian and French festival coming at least. The ticket prices vary from 100 to 140 korunas (about €4-6) so watching a movie won’t break your wallet. You can book the tickets on the Kino Lucerna website.
Let’s get our Prague recommendations started with Highland Restaurant, a steakhouse that has already climbed on our list of favorites. We have to admit that we haven’t even tried other steak restaurants in Prague. But still, we dare to claim that it’s hard to beat the value that this restaurant offers for such low prices! Or what do you think about a quality steak and a glass of Portuguese wine for less than 10 euros? We just love it.
There surely are tons of good steak restaurants in Prague but the prices in the fanciest places might raise quite high. We rarely go for three-course dinners or Michelin restaurants so we are always glad to find good quality on a cheap.
Highland Restaurant is a small and laid-back steakhouse in Žižkov district. After passing the place several times, we couldn’t avoid noticing that the place was packed with people regardless of the weekday. On the previous weekend, we finally got to actually try the food. And we liked it so much that we had to go back the next weekend.
Where is the steak? Good things come to those who wait…
The small restaurant has less than 10 tables so getting a table at a dinner time without a reservation might be tricky or impossible. We went there once at the lunchtime and once in the afternoon before 5 PM and there was some free space for us. The restaurant seems to be very local but you can still get service and the menu in English.
Like the restaurant name states, most steaks are made from Highland beef (as Johanna said, “the hairy cows”) that is known especially as good steak meat. We actually forgot to ask where the meat comes from but as there is Australia and Uruguay mentioned with some other meat dishes, we assume that the Highland meat is Czech.
So how about the food itself? Well, the steaks in Highland restaurant just melt in your mouth! The menu offers 200, 300 and 500-gram Highland sirloin steaks with different sauces and toppings. A 200-gram steak costs 149 korunas (€5.70 :D) and a 300-gram steak 199 korunas (€7.65). Additionally, the restaurant serves slightly more expensive (but still extremely affordable) tenderloin steaks as well as chicken, pork, fish and salads.
You have to order the potatoes and vegetable sides separately and they set you back about 1 to 2 euros. A glass of Portuguese house wine costs 38 korunas (€1.46) and a big pilsner 43 korunas. So if you are not super hungry, you can fit even a glass of wine or a beer in a 10 euro budget! Even though we are no wine experts, we found the red wine very nice for our taste. No wonder this restaurant is so popular as a dinner place!
On both times we ate here, we chose sirloin steaks with home-made fries and wedges. For the sauces, you can choose for example pepper or red wine sauce or a topping with blue cheese and thyme or smoked cheese. Everything else has been top-notch except the red wine sauce that was too sweet for us. We ordered our steaks as medium but you can also choose a different doneness level. The meat was very tender and juicy, and the food in general very simple yet tasty.
When we look at this pic we just want to have a steak right now.
There is also a lunch offer during the weekdays: a burger with fries for 99 korunas. We haven’t tested the burgers yet but will definitely report later how they are.
Highland Restaurant is a great choice for everyone who wants to have a good steak meal for a reasonable price and in a cosy atmosphere. As the place is located in the heart of Žižkov, you can continue to explore the numerous cafes or pubs in this area later on. We will be back with more Žižkov tips later – we have already been hyping this area so much haha.
Note that the restaurant accepts only cash. We recommend making a reservation if you want to have dinner or just go at a specific time.
In the last weeks, Prague has shown us a totally different side than what we have seen on our previous trips to Prague. On our first days here, we spent some time in the old town that is fully crowded with tourists. But after that, we have mainly hanged out in Žižkov are in Prague 3 district. This area has totally impressed us with its diversity and cosiness in a short time.
Stacked with rainbow-coloured buildings, the streets of Žižkov are calm and easygoing, unlike Prague’s old town that is busy on all times of the day. And still, Žižkov is full of extremely interesting spots that are waiting to be discovered.
While walking the streets, it’s guaranteed that you will see locals with their dogs, atmospheric wine bars, original cafes and pub restaurants in a traditional Czech style. The 5-square-kilometre area fits many more or less surprising things inside it. In the center of everything, the enormous and grey TV tower reaches up to the sky – this is the tallest, but definitely not the prettiest, building in Prague.
This week we have discovered plenty of cools things on these streets, like possibly the best steak restaurant in the city, a Vietnamese pho place bustling with people, a bohemian absinth bar/cafe that has so special atmosphere that we can barely describe it. We have ordered a two euro meal in a Czech pub with the intention to have a small beer snack, but the portion turned out to be a huge plate of potatoes and sausage. We have also found a mind-blowingly delicious special beer and tried a perfect vegan beetroot latte.
You can also discover Žižkov from a different perspective by climbing up the hills of Parukarka or Vitkov parks. While staring at the red-roof houses of Prague, you just have to admit that Prague is a goddam pretty city.
We have already found numerous favourite places in this area that we definitely want to recommend to all Prague visitors. It will make more sense to share them in a separate post though. So let’s just concentrate on taking in the atmosphere via pictures this time. According to our first impression, we must say that Prague is a very diverse city that offers endlessly many dimensions depending on the area!
The first week in Prague has passed with a crazy speed! Besides strolling around the city and getting to know the country, we have spent time looking for apartments and even visited a few of them. We still haven’t found the Right One but let’s keep the thumbs up that we’ll be lucky next week and we can finally move from the hostel to our own home.
Our first impressions of Prague have been more than positive – it is a damn lovely city indeed! For its size, Prague feels like a proper city but the central area is still walkable. The people seem friendly and the general atmosphere is good. So it looks like our decision to go to Prague was correct. We have spent this week indulging all kinds of foods, being tourists and trying different beers as well as enjoying the summer weather. Next week, we’ll need to get back to everyday life and work.
So what kind of things have we noticed about Prague and the Czech Republic so far?
Beautiful architecture. While walking the streets here, you need to hold your breath every now and then because everything around you is just so beautiful. Every building is full of detailed decorations and almost behind every corner, there is some kind of church, palace or another landmark.
Bohemian atmosphere. We have spent a few days in Zizkov area in Prague 3 and have fallen completely in love with this district because of its bohemian atmosphere. The area is full of art gallerias, cafes and small cellar bars and we can so imagine ourselves living here. Let’s hope that there will be a nice flat available for us around here! In general, the Czech people seem to be laid-back and like to spend time sitting in restaurants and pubs.
The Czech language is similar to Polish. As we used to live in Poland before, it makes it much easier for us to get used to the Czech Republic, especially when it comes to the languages. Both languages namely have a lot of similarities. We can understand surprisingly much when we read the signs and it’s easy to memorize the numbers and basic words. Czech also seems to be easier to pronounce than Polish so our motivation to learn the language is quite high at the moment.
Lots of dogs. When you walk on the street here, it’s hard not to notice that like every third person is walking a dog. You can see lots of dogs in here and they often run loose even in the city center. Well, they are adorable and we have even laughed and we are almost getting a dog fever even though we have never even thought about getting a dog (never say never).
Cheap Asian food. The cheapest way to eat outside here are the Asian restaurants. We were quite surprised how many of them there actually are here. You can find Vietnamese and Chinese places in almost every block and you eat a big portion of good food for 3-4 euros. We cannot really complain about this! But we have also had time to try some Czech specialities from soups to meat dishes and Trdelnik cimney cakes.
Affordable and good beer selection. Well, we already knew this before but as friends of beer, it’s a nice plus to get a pint of good stuff for about 1 euro. We will definitely visit different breweries at weekends and check out locals pubs – and will, of course, share our beer tips here!
Bun Bo Nam Bo and a flashback to the streets of Vietnam.
Ribs, potato dumblings and a Czech meat platter with lots of different kinds.
The last months have been pretty quiet when it comes to traveling and there hasn’t been a lot to write about our quiet lifestyle in the countryside. We have to admit that we have made almost zero trips this summer, even inside Finland, as we have just lived in our own happy countryside bubble and enjoyed our long summer vacation. Anyhow, as the autumn has been approaching, we have started thinking more and more that we have to continue the journey somewhere else soon.
We would love to go backpacking long-term again, but after two years of traveling and working unregularly, our bank accounts don’t really agree on this. At this point, saving money sounds much more actual than traveling open-ended. So it has been clear that we have to start working somewhere and pretty soon. But where?
Staying in Finland didn’t seem a very attractive option for us but on the other hand, we also didn’t want to go too far away so soon again. Thus, staying inside the European borders sounded like the best option.
For some reason, both of us have had a dream for a few years to go to Romania long-term – a country that we fell in love with while traveling there. When we heard about Finnish language jobs there, we were almost certain that Romania would be our next destination.
But well, it’s quite common for us that we change our minds and plans about every two minutes. While browsing jobs one morning at the kitchen table, Jarkko suddenly suggested that maybe we should actually go to Portugal. Seaside landscapes, cheap wine and small alleys of Lisbon – that didn’t sound bad at all, even though neither of us has ever visited Portugal.
We can reveal right away that we had to give up our dream about Portugal quite soon as it turned out that the salary level is quite low there. It doesn’t make much sense for us to move to a country where the payment is less than 1000 euros per month but the price level is higher than in many countries in Central or Eastern Europe. S we continued looking for jobs a bit everywhere. At this point, we started to feel more and more excited about all this. It was a full mystery where in the world we would find us in a month.
We were gonna make the final decision about our new home with the attitude that we are ready to go to almost any country where we happen to find an interesting job. Soon Jarkko got invited to two interviews, and especially one of the jobs sounded very attractive. After the interview with the HR agency he had another interview with the company next day. Already on the same afternoon Jarkko’s phone started to ring when we were picking mushrooms in the forest: “When can you start?” That was it then. We are gonna move to Prague!
Czech Republic wasn’t definitely the first country on our minds when we started thinking about moving abroad. We have been to Prague only a few times but don’t have anything bad to say about the city or the country. Beautiful architecture, affordable price level and a chilled atmosphere – oh, and maybe the best beer selection in the world… For Jarkko one benefit is also that floorball is popular in Czech Republic. It was quite a challenge to find a team for his level as he has been playing this sports for a long time.
Prague is literally in the middle of Europe so it’s a great base for weekend trips to nearby countries. This was the reason why we also liked to live in Krakow before. You can take a bus to neighbour countries for just 10 euros and the distances are not that big neither.
So we heard on Tuesday that Jarkko will start working in Prague in less than two weeks (and it was less than one week before this when we first got the idea about going to the Czech Republic). One day later we had the flights booked and on Monday morning, we will head to the airport. Even though we have been mentally prepared to leave already for a while, all this happened so quickly.
Our current life situation luckily allows us to simply pack our bags and go as we don’t have an apartment, furniture or other things to slow us down. Some people have been shocked by how someone can just move abroad just like that with a few days notice be we find it completely normal for us. And anyway, moving inside Europe is relatively easy because we don’t need to think i.e. about visa issues.
All this naturally means that there will be plenty of stuff related to Prague and the Czech Republic on the blog in the near future. We feel that our decision is good and right and we are both extremely excited. Only two nights to go! Now we only need to handle some small details like find an apartment but we will surely sort it out somehow once we are there.
Our first days in Prague will probably include wandering around and getting familiar with the places. It will be a shock to jump directly into a big city from the quiet countryside where we have been living off the grid and where the closest neighbour is over 3 kilometres away. But it all just about getting used to new things! We like to think that you can always return if you want but you will definitely regret if you don’t make your dreams come true.
Are there other people who live or have live in Prague? And most importantly, what kind of things would you like to read here about Prague?
New Zealand is an amazingly beautiful country with its unique landscapes that belong to the best nature destinations in the world. Many travelers dream of a road trip around New Zealand but for many, this dream might also feel very distant and expensive. After living and traveling in New Zealand for 8 months, we have good news though; you can travel on a reasonable budget even in this high-cost country and still experience the best sides of it. That’s why we gathered together the most relevant budget tips to New Zealand. With these tips, you can explore the country with a reasonable travel budget!
We recently uncovered our New Zealand travel budget after finishing our two-month road trip. We managed to travel with about 20 euros per day each which was a surprise even for us! Traveling in New Zealand doesn’t really need to be that expensive.
So how to travel cheap in New Zealand? With these tips you will succeed:
Buy a car instead of renting
This tip is relevant especially for those who plan to stay a bit longer in New Zealand, i.e. with a Working holiday visa. Buying and selling a car is not really worth the hassle on a one-week or two-week holiday. Anyway, the fact is that when you rent a car, you will never see that money again. If you buy and sell a car instead, you can get your own part back if everything goes well.
On the other hand, buying a car also has its own risks like paying for the possible repairs all alone. We think that everyone should personally consider whether buying a car makes sense in their situation. You can read more information about buying a car in New Zealand on Backpackerboard.
In our case, Jarkko bought the car for his work when we lived in Auckland so it was kind of easy to start the road trip with the same car. Sleeping in a regular passenger car was – well, quite a unique experience. But at least a small car saved us a lot on the fuel costs. We paid 1400 NZD for our dear Nissan named Scarface, and also managed to sell it for the same price.
If you end up buying your own car, remember to leave enough time to sell it. We saved about two weeks for that at the end of our trip. You should also take into account that the travel season in New Zealand ends around April or May. This is when most travelers leave the country, trying to sell their cars at the same time. You can imagine that it’s not the easiest task to sell a campervan around this period. Our advantage was that we had a regular passenger car so we finally sold it to a local guy who wanted to use it as his work car.
Sleep in the car
Road tripping is definitely the best way to see the nature in New Zealand and travel in a flexible way at your own pace. When you use your car not only as a vehicle but also for sleeping, you will save a lot on accommodation costs. New Zealand has a good selection of free and cheap campsites where you can stay with both self-contained vehicles and regular cars. Camping in a tent is also possible in many places.
Buy the camping gear second-hand and sell it forward
Many who travel to New Zealand buy a full set of camping equipment only for a short trip, from sleeping bags to kitchen stuff and camping chairs. But where does all this stuff end up after the trip?
There are plenty of different backpacker groups and city-related groups on Facebook where you can sell and buy used stuff. Buying the camping gear second-hand is not only cheap but also ecological. Sometimes you can even get the things for free if someone is just about to leave the country and wants to get rid of their belongings. You can sell your own camping gear accordingly at the end of the trip and earn a few extra dollars. We sold the whole camping set away for 50 dollars after our road trip. For us, it was a relief to get rid of everything and the buyer got a nice set of camping stuff on a good price, from a gas stove to cooking pans and sleeping bags.
If you cannot find everything you need second-hand, we recommend doing the shopping in The Warehouse and Kmart. Those are both cheap department stores.
Cook your own food
We have told already several times about our camping life in New Zealand and how cooking outside on a gas stove has its own charm. If you dine in restaurants in New Zealand, this will eat up your travel budget very quickly. You can stretch your travel budget significantly by cooking your own food. And in any case, there are many remote places on South Island that don’t offer any services. We always traveled with a good supply of dry food and drinking water. If our car had broken in the middle of nowhere or a storm had caught us (which is not impossible in New Zealand), we would have survived many days on our own.
Besides cooking, we also made our own coffee with instant coffee powder, except when we went to cafes to chase a wifi. If you are a coffee addict like us, you should definitely buy a thermos flask and make some extra coffee in the morning for the car trip. This will also save you from a grumpy travel company and headaches when there are no cafes in the sight… Other very useful cooking tools for us were a can opener (we basically lived on canned food) and a peeler that we used to peel veggies and i.e. slice carrot to thin slices that cooked fast.
If you want to eat in restaurant cheaply, go for Asian restaurants, food courts and pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut. You can easily get a meal for 10 dollars (6 euros) or under. Take away sushi is surprisingly cheap and super delicious! Many sushi places sell pieces of sushi for 1 dollar each. Six or seven pieces are already enough to fill your stomach.
Buy discounted tours and favour free activities
New Zealand is a promised land of extreme sports and there are endlessly many activities for every taste. If you have always dreamed of a bungee jump or a blue whale tour, you should definitely go for it on your New Zealand trip! Anyhow, many activities are quite heavy for a budget traveler’s wallet and calculating your travel budget might make you sweat.
We recommend to pick the activities that you really want to do and count them into your travel budget. Before paying for any tour, scroll through Bookme.co.nz website that offers discounted prices for many activities. You can find good deals, especially on the last minute basis. This means that if there are cancellations for a next day’s tour, you might get it even for half a price.
We were prepared to pay more for the Hobbiton tour, hot springs of Rotorua and Abel Tasman water taxi. Apart from these activities, we favoured free things to do which basically means all those gorgeous hikes, scenic routes and paradise beaches of New Zealand.
Take advantage of libraries
According to our own experiences, the libraries in New Zealand are almost always cosy places. We were more than happy to spend time in libraries on rainy days or when we got enough of sitting in the car. It’s quite hard to find a working wifi in New Zealand but most libraries offered a free internet that worked at least decently. Finding a wifi was such luxury every time.
When we were in Palmerston North, we found a couple of exceptionally cool libraries. One of them offered hot showers for one dollar and in the other one, we were served free coffee and cake. What else could a budget traveler wish!
Use Campermate app
Campermate phone app is a saviour for every New Zealand traveler as it shows all the important places from toilets to showers, drinking water taps and campsites. Oh, and the libraries. It’s easy to compare the prices with this app when you look for a campsite or something else and reading other travelers’ feedback gives a good insight into the places. Thanks to Campermate, we could easily find the cheapest hot shower in every town instead of going for an expensive, dirty and cold shower. In our campsite guide, you can also find a tip about another useful app where you can find free campsites in New Zealand.
We have talked a lot about volunteering and why we like it so much. Volunteering has simply given us many unforgettable travel memories and showed us local ways of living. Volunteering has also made it possible for us to travel for a long time with a low budget.
Doing volunteering is especially popular in New Zealand so there are also many places to choose from. If you want to take a break from traveling, you can easily find a volunteering place for example on Workaway. There are many options available from sheep care to babysitting or working in a hostel. What could give you a more authentic Kiwi experience than working in the countryside and getting to know the locals? During our time in New Zealand, we did gardening, general house maintenance and took care of hens. In exchange, we got delicious food, a nice place to sleep and gorgeous countryside and seaside landscapes.
Eventually, budget traveling in New Zealand takes a bit more effort than traveling in cheap countries, but it’s not a mission impossible. Even with a small travel budget, you can still fit in some extra luxury like wine tasting in wineries, trying local quality beers and sightseeing.
Do you have more budget tips to New Zealand? Leave your comment below or link your own article so we can add it here!
As the autumn is knocking at the door, we got inspired to think back to our snowy Hooker Valley Hike in New Zealand back in April. Visiting Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook was our last mission before returning to Christchurch where the circle would close and our one-month roadtrip around South Island would end. Mount Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand with its 3724 meters and it’s surrounded by Aoraki National Park and some seriously amazing landscapes. So it goes without saying that this destination was a must-see place on our roadtrip.
As we were in the southern hemisphere, the autumn surprised us also back in April on our last travel days. The weather got colder and colder every day and then one morning, we woke up in the car totally numb from cold and were surrounded by snowy mountains. The first snow was there.
We had delayed the Hooker Valley hike and the visit to Mount Cook already for days because the weather forecast promised only clouds, coldness and snow. Eventually, we just couldn’t wait anymore so we decided to give a try to the hike, come hell or high water.
When we arrived at Peter’s Lookout by Lake Pukaki, we were slightly disappointed – we couldn’t see even a glimpse of Mount Cook on the horizon. Apart from that, the view was amazing though, and the snowy mountains looked beautiful against the bright-blue lake. We decided to continue toward Hooker Valley and see if the weather allows us to do the hike.
While driving to Hooker Valley, the landscape turned snowier and snowier all the time. First, we could see snow only high on the slopes but soon there was snow even on the roadsides. There is no such thing as winter tires in New Zealand so driving became quite interesting. Well, we couldn’t do anything but continue driving slowly and try to keep the car under control on the slippery road.
We parked at the beginning of the hiking trail and dressed up all the clothes we had with us. We decided to at least walk a little while and turn back if we needed to. Anyhow, it soon turned out that the whole hike was not as challenging as we had imagined. It was more like a very easy landscape route full of tourists that lead through the flat valley. At this point, the surprise was only positive as we got a little travel fatigue besides the coldness.
Touristic or not, we found Hooker Valley totally worth visiting. Besides all the snow, we saw the mountain river flowing in the valley, some lakes and bright-blue glaciers on the slopes of the mountains.
Even a Finn can get excited by the first snow!
Before we even noticed, we had walked through the whole trail. We even had to take off some clothing layers even though the temperature was only a few degrees above zero. Seeing the peak of Mount Cook from close was our last mission on this New Zealand trip but the weather still looked annoyingly cloudy. We sat down to have some snacks and kept waiting as we still felt a bit hopeful. We heard a group discussing next to us that the peak is visible only every 10th day on average. What a diva this mountain is!
The peak is hiding somewhere there.
Just when we were about to give up and turn back, the wind suddenly cracked the clouds and revealed the mighty mountain peak. There the diva was! Mission accomplished.
The peak of Mount Cook a.k.a. Aoraki.
We did it!
On the way back, the clouds started to fade even more and when we looked back, we eventually saw the whole mountain. We felt quite lucky, especially that the weather forecast promised something totally else. We also got the chance to admire the clear view once more at Peter’s Lookout before we continued to drive to Lake Tekapo.
The Hooker Valley hike took only about two hours overall and didn’t contain any ascents or descents so we can say that it was a very easy hike. After this, we swore anyway that we got enough from hiking and sightseeing for a while. New Zealand had given us everything and the last two weeks would be just about chilling and relaxing. Overall, hiking in different places in New Zealand was an amazing experience and we got to see for example the impressive volcanos of Tongariro and the beaches of sunny Abel Tasman.
Let’s quickly get back to our trip to Saigon back in May. We stayed in such a lovely hostel in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City that we want to share this hostel tip with other budget travelers too. The best things in Vy Da Backpackers Hostel were the capsule beds that offered plenty of privacy, air-conditioned rooms and a cool rooftop terrace – all this for just 6 euros a night! (The price might vary though.)
As budget travelers, the price is normally our number one criteria when we look for accommodation. But if we can also get some extra comfort besides the affordable price, this is, of course, a plus. While traveling, we have noticed that the quality of the accommodations in the same price range can vary a lot. That’s why comparing and looking for recommendations is definitely not irrelevant if you want to get as much value for your money as possible.
We like to stay in hostels not only because they are cheap, but also because of their social side. When you travel together as a couple for a long time, you just don’t always feel like watching the other person’s face in the hotel room but rather meet other people too. Hostels are a great choice for this, and sleeping in dorms has never disturbed us anyway.
This is why our definition of a nice hostel includes not only cleanliness and safety but also a friendly and social atmosphere. Luckily you can get all these features for just a few euros per night, especially when we talk about Southeast Asia and Vietnam.
It was a pure coincidence that we found Vy Da Hostel. One night we met a Korean guy in our regular street bar in Bui Vien and he recommended the hostel to us. At that point, we had stayed two nights in another hostel that was alright but had a pretty boring atmosphere as there was almost no one there besides us. As soon as the guy told us about the beautiful rooftop terrace and air-conditioned rooms, we were sold to Vy Da, especially that the price was the same as in our current hostel.
We booked one night via Booking.com* and decided to prolong the reservation if we like the place. Well, after seeing the room and the rooftop terrace we walked straight back to the reception and booked beds for the whole week. The place definitely filled and exceeded all our expectations!
Dorms with privacy
Unlike in normal hostels, Vy Da Hostel has capsule style beds that are built in wooden squares. There is also a blind that you can pull down and it makes the hostel bed like a separate small capsule room. The beds are sumptuously wide unlike in most hostels and they are equipped with electricity plugs and a light. For us, these small things were almost luxury and we could have stayed in the hostel even for a longer time. You can keep your stuff safely in the lockers where you can fit even a big backpack.
Many hostels have the problem that the whole place has only one or two bathrooms. Queueing to the toilet or shower is annoying (and sometimes even painful) but we never had this problem here. The hostel has six floors and there were several bathrooms on each floor.
A beautiful rooftop terrace
The rooftop terrace on the 7th floor offers a beautiful view of the colourful houses of Saigon. It was a pleasure to sip ice coffee on the terrace and just watch the hustle and bustle on the street. When a thunderstorm hit the city one night, we sat there and watched the lightning as the roads were flooding and we couldn’t leave the hostel. The rooftop is also a perfect place to enjoy some cold Saigon beer in the evening and chat with other hostel guests.
A location that is central but local
The hostel is located within a 10-minute walk from touristic Bui Vien street but the surroundings are still very local and authentic. When you step out of the door, there are plenty of street cafes, local eateries and fruit stalls. Only a few hundred meters away, there is Co Giang street that is full of local and cheap street food. Right around the corner, there is also a restaurant called Kieu Bao Bun Thit Nuong that serves best rice noodle pork spring roll meals ever for just 1 euro!
Rooftop – the best place to stalk the life on the street
The employees at the hostel were nice and greeted us cheerfully every time we passed the reception. The rooms were cleaned regularly and there was nothing to complain about the cleanliness. The atmosphere in the hostel was very calm but you can still meet other travelers if you want to.
When we stayed in Saigon, one night in the hostel cost about 5 euros but didn’t include a breakfast. Anyhow, now there is a breakfast included in the price according to Booking.com so this must have changed after May. Anyway, we really recommend Vy Da Hostel if you want to stay in a cheap but comfortable place in the heart of Saigon! You can book the hostel via Booking.com*.
Notice that the same branch also owns another hostel named Vy Da Backpackers Hostel. We only have experience in the hostel that is located on Co Bac street.