ON THE ROAD: to Bangkok

One night in Bangkok and the world is your Oyster…. Right? According to Murray Hill,  Yep! Annually Bangkok has more visitors than it does locals, but it still manages to keep its authentic Thai charm, so you’ll definitely feel like you’re immersed in the authentic culture. A few tips to keep on hand from the experts to make your Thailand experience unforgettable:

AIRPORT INFO

Bangkok has two airports: BKK (Suvarnabhumi) or DMK (Don Mueang International). Both are extremely tourist friendly! (DO pass through customs and DO collect your passport stamp!)  

Before leaving the airport: 
-Visit an information kiosk located just beyond customs and ask for the WiFi info. Connect to the internet before you leave the airport, grab that screenshot of your destinations address in English AND in Thai (this will make it easier if you need help)!  
-Visit an ATM and grab some local currency “baht” (secret: the exchange rate on ATMs is usually much better than currency exchanges)

TRANSPORT FROM THE AIRPORT

Follow signs for public transport and pick your poison, but we recommend a taxi for only $10 USD in paper money, but a trillion dollars in good choices after a long journey to Bangkok.

 TAXI - In order to grab a taxi, you’ll need to grab a ticket from the kiosk and find the taxi waiting at the numbered row coordinating with your ticket. Tell your driver to use the meter and be firm! Politely ask and ask again before suggesting you’re going to take your business elsewhere, they will usually accept your request.

WHERE TO STAY

1. BUDGET FRIENDLY & QUIET: Our favorite place to stay is Soi Rambuttri. It's a quiet, yet lively “alley” that’s very walk able and has some of the bet night markets and shopping stalls in the city. The biggest perks: It's within walking distance to some of the best Bangkok attractions like Khao San road and attractions such as Wat Phra Kaew the Grand Palace.

Budget: You can get a basic room in a guesthouse on Rambuttri for $10-15/night, or at Rambuttri Village Inn (that has a great rooftop pool) for $20+

 2. HIGHER END WITH CREATURE COMFORTS: If you want to be in the center of some of Bangkok's finest restaurants, shopping, and nightlife, you should head to Sukhumvit. One of the perks is how many incredible hotel infinity pools there are (you know, to the keep the gram and snap feeds looking their best).  

Budget: Most of the nice rooms are going to be $75+ but there are plenty of hostels scattered throughout as well.  

3. ALWAYS A PARTY & BACKPACKER FRIENDLY: Around the corner from Rambutrri, Khao San Road is a backpackers paradise. At night the street comes alive as shops and stalls sprawl out into the streets. Think Vegas meets Amsterdam and they had a baby in Thailand. Grab yourself a cold Chang (beer), sit down for a foot rub, and take it all in. And don't forget to grab some delicious food from a food cart on your walk home!

Budget: Most places on Khao San will be anywhere from $10-20/night. There are some nicer accommodations like D&D Inn (which also has a bomb rooftop pool) if you want to stay in the action but want a little room upgrade.

Khao San Road 

HOW TO GET AROUND

 Like any other metropolitan city, you can:

1. Take the metro lines: Skytrain (BTS) or Subway (MRT)

2. Public buses: Cost 9-19 baht and are google maps friendly (put your destination into google maps and select bus routes and you will be golden)

3. Taxis: Easy to get, but drivers don't always want to travel to certain areas of the city, and ALWAYS make sure they run the meter

4. Uber: Very affordable

5. Tuk tuks: Local to Thai culture and great for those who like to negotiate because you should never accept the first price (also beware of drivers trying to convince you to stop at jewelry stores or tailor shops, be firm and stick to your guns about where you want to go and when)

WHAT TO DO

 1. Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. If you’re interested in beautiful Thai architecture and history about Thailand and its' “Ramas” aka Kings, this place is incredible. No cameras are allowed inside Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), but photos are welcome pretty much everywhere else. And always remember, be respectful with your photos! (Bums inside pants, where they belong)
Cost: 500 baht ($15 USD) 

 
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2. Head to MBK shopping center. Give yourself a few hours for the seven floors of this major shopping center. From handmade Thai goods, to knock-offs, to brand name items, they have almost anything you could need here. Don’t forget to come hungry, the food options are endless!

 
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3. Visit Khao San Road and play wristband roulette! If you're on the street after 7 p.m. it won't take long for you to spot Thai people walking around with boards of the most vulgar bracelets you've ever seen. Close your eyes and run your finger down the board of handmade bracelets to pick your handmade souvenir for the rest of your trip- just don’t show your mom.

 4. Get a Thai massage! This ancient deep tissue massage incorporates assisted yoga and chiropractic techniques to stretch and crack you into a new person. It can be a little jarring for a first timer, but you feel so fantastic at the end. 

5. Other goodies to indulge in Bangkok: Inexpensive salon services (hair cuts, nails, waxing, facials) and cheap custom tailoring (suits, dresses, coats).

WHAT TO EAT

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First rule of street food, TRY EVERYTHING:

Some of our favorites are:
•Pad Thai
•Various Noodle Soups
•Mango Sticky Rice
•Thai pancakes with Nutella
•Spring Rolls

Your stomach will thank you and your palette will be forever searching for Thai food.

For the more brave stomachs, check out the carts of crispy fried insects, yes insects, fried scorpion sticks and questionable drunk decisions made of squid jerky. I mean when in Thailand right?

WHAT TO DRINK

BEER: Chang! Brew of Thailand and #1 initiator to the “Chang-over” club

OTHER BEER: Singha, Tiger, and Leo! 

BUCKETS: The ever classy Bucket-o-liquor. Quite literally a child's sand pail filled with ice, a mickey of liquor and your choice of mixers. They will throw you back about $6-10 USD, but the memories will be priceless, make sure there’s enough straws to share!

THE FINAL TIP

Get lost in this amazing city!! You will find the best hidden gems and secrets to the city if you’re wandering around and taking in the sights. Don’t be afraid you won’t make it back to your accommodation because you have a screenshot of the the directions on your phone you snagged at the airport right? ;)  

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Witty Banter in the form of this blog post brought to you by Samantha Visone of The Foreign Local Traveler

 

 

 

The Truth About Hostels and How They Can Change Your Travels Forever

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There is a huge misunderstanding out there. Thanks in large part to a gory 2005 Quentin Tarantino horror film, conveniently titled, "Hostel". Going to see that movie (reluctantly, I might add) was one of the first times I ever heard the word hostel. In between scenes of torture, I whispered to my friend, "I guess we'll never be staying in one of those places!" Then I was reintroduced when I got around to watching the movie, Eurotrip. Again, not the best first impression.

Then everything changed when I actually stayed in one! Hostels are an integral part of budget traveling and allow you to travel for longer periods of time, to places that otherwise would be out of your budget. And the best part is that within the hostel community, you can make connections with travelers from ALL OVER THE WORLD!

For those of you new to hostels, here's the idea: Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex and can range from 3 to 20+ bed occupancy. Private rooms may also be available.

For those of us who know and use the hostel network around the world, we find it surprising the kind of reputation hostels have among those who've never utilized them! I literally cannot understand why people are so turned off by hostels!!! We're writing today to crush these misconceptions, because staying in them can completely change the way you travel. 

Ready to learn the truth about hostels?

A hostel we stayed at in hanoi, vietnam

A hostel we stayed at in hanoi, vietnam

1. THE PRICE IS ALWAYS RIGHT

Using hostels as your main form of accommodation can allow you to travel for longer periods of time and spend your budget doing amazing activities as opposed to paying for a room you'll only be sleeping and showering in. If you're anything like us, we don't need many amenities to be happy. Hostels at their most basic provide a clean bed and a shower for a sliver of the cost of a traditional hotel. It's not at all a stretch to say that you can find a hostel bed pretty much anywhere in the world for under $40-50 a night. 

2. DORMS AREN'T THE ONLY OPTION

Most hostels offer private rooms. The most common arrangements will include one full bed or two single beds. Sometimes the private rooms still require the guest to use a shared bathroom, but it does give you more privacy at night!

As a couple, we usually book private rooms (private double) at hostels because they tend to cost the same as two single beds in a dorm. If you're traveling solo, that kicks the price up to go private room on your own. But if you can split it as a couple or if you're traveling with a friend, you can get some privacy and pay the same as what you'd pay for a dorm bed!

And if you do choose to stay in a dorm, chances are the people you're rooming with won't stay strangers for long. There is always great conversation to be had, and it's not hard to create fast friends to share new experiences with. 

3. THE LOBBY/LOUNGE IS AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL EVENT CENTER

You will never find a more bustling, unique space while traveling than a hostel lobby/lounge. The best hostels equip this area for travelers to relax, play games, connect to wi-fi, or share a beer with friends from all over the world. It's one of the best places to chat with fellow travelers and learn more about where they're from and where they're headed. 

As compared to a hotel, where guests rarely communicate to one another, hostels promote a sense of community and it's almost impossible not to end up meeting at least a few fellow travelers. In our experiences, even the hostel staff also tend to be more open and helpful. 

Many hostels will hold special events like free breakfasts, karaoke, happy hours, and dance parties to further connect their guests. We've been gifted with stand up comedy, international sporting events, and some of the most fun trivia nights we've ever been a part of! A hostel in a small village in Northern Vietnam even woke up at 6 a.m. to make us spicy chicken wings, serve us beer, and let us connect our laptop to stream Superbowl XLIX!

4. A SHARED BATHROOM DOES NOT MEAN IT'S DIRTY

Most humans use public bathrooms every single day. It's just something that is a part of life. Shared bathrooms, in my experience, are not much different from private bathrooms. Someone else used them at some point. Hostels are just like hotels and clean daily. If it's a concern of yours, ask your hostel what time the cleaning crew comes through, and schedule your shower around that! And always bring a pair of basic flip flops to throw on in the shower!

5. YOU WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE STAYING

Hostels are the best place to find the coolest things to do in the city you're staying in. Major hotels tend to partner with specific tour companies, restaurants and experiences; limiting your suggested itineraries to over-priced tours that may not even be the kind of adventure you're looking for. Some hostels will offer their own tours, but they will also help to recommend the tours with the best experience and value. They can also clue you in to the best local haunts and best kept secrets of their hometown!!!

The entrance to one of our favorite hostels in the world: Deejai Backpackers in Chinag Mai, Thailand

The entrance to one of our favorite hostels in the world: Deejai Backpackers in Chinag Mai, Thailand

6. YOUR STUFF IS NOT JUST LYING AROUND

Before I stayed in hostels, I never understood how anyone could feel comfortable sharing a room: "what about all of your stuff!?" Common misconception. Every guest has a locker! It's well known in backpacking that you bring a high quality lock so you can keep your stuff locked up when you're out exploring. If you forget one, most hostels will sell them or can point you to a store where you can purchase one!

7. GENDER-SPECIFIC DORMS CAN EASE YOU INTO THE EXPERIENCE

If the idea of mixed-sex dorm rooms still makes you a bit uncomfortable, many hostels offer gender specific dorms as well. This format is especially appealing to female travelers; adding that extra layer of security and comfort. That being said, many people forget how some guys can feel about the situation as well. My husband has admitted a few times about feeling uncomfortable with females in the room, wondering if they're cautious of his presence. If it's a point of discomfort, try these out before jumping into a fully mixed dorm!

8. MOST TRAVELERS HAVE MANNERS

Despite any stories you've heard, we can assure you that most travelers just want a bed to sleep in and a bathroom to freshen up in. Of course some hostels cater to different crowds, but as a general assessment, most travelers will do everything in their power to be respectful in shared rooms. When lights are out, using a flashlight or headlamp is customary. If you're coming in late or leaving early to catch a bus or otherwise, it's a general rule to keep voices down and have as much prepared as possible the night before. That being said, as a person who enjoys sleep, I know it's my responsibility to use ear plugs and a sleep mask (they are truly amazing at blocking out pretty much everything). 

Before we wrap this up, we'll say that although we are huge hostel advocates, just like hotels, not all hostels are created equal. We cannot stress enough that you should RELY ON CUSTOMER REVIEWS to make booking decisions. They are EVERYTHING! They are the best way to find out what it's really like to stay there.

We highly recommend Hostelworld (and it's app) for booking hostels. There are no booking fees and the rating system keeps us assured we're choosing hostels that we'll be happy with!!!

Travelers, any points we missed? What do you love most about hostels? :) 

 

3 Ways to Use Your Tax Return to Travel This Year

For those of you lucky enough to be receiving a tax return this year, we implore you to try something new with that money you're getting back! There are a number of ways that your tax return can get you on the road, or at least can get you in the position that you can start saving for that trip you keep dreaming of!

Sometimes the financial road blocks to travel seem overwhelming. But making the right decisions, especially financially, can be the key to getting what you want (and that goes for life in general as well). Here are three ways to utilize your tax return to kick start your travel savings:

  1. Pay Off Debt: Releasing yourself from debt can be one of the quickest ways to freedom. Without having payments to credit cards, cars, loans, etc. you will be able to schedule a trip without having to worry about paying for things at home while you're away. Not to mention, the amount of money you will save in the long run on high interest accounts. All of that wasted money will be better spent on a coconut drink on the beach.
  2. Start a Savings Account: There is no better feeling than seeing a savings account with some cash in it. And knowing that growing that cash is your ticket (literally and figuratively) to a great time is even more motivating. Sometimes a little boost can be the catalyst to kick start your savings mentality. Before you do your taxes, open a savings account with a credit union or somewhere you don't have easy access to. Have your return deposited directly into the account and voila! Instant motivation!
  3. Purchase Travel Outright: Sometimes when the situation arises to pay for something in cash, you've got to jump on it! Although there are many travel credit cards that give you fantastic rewards, sometimes paying cash can help you avoid all of the fees and interest that so easily creep up on you! Buying your plane tickets or laying down a deposit with your tax return can be the first step to you seeing the world! 

If you're looking to get away soon, check out our April Costa Rican Adventure trip! We are making our FINAL BOARDING CALL as we will be closing the booking on Sunday, March 12th! We have a few more spots! Put down your $200 deposit and you could be ziplining, trekking rainforests & volcanoes, and enjoying beach life in just over a month: