The ultimate destination for nature lovers who want to disconnect from technology and immerse themselves in one of the most unique natural surroundings in the world. You’ll feel like you traveled back through time as you experience one of the most majestic national parks in Thailand
A few months ago, we mentioned that jungle trekking in Indonesia and coming face-to-face with orangutans in the wild, was THE most unforgettable experience we’ve had. Now we can add another to the list: witnessing the otherworldly beauty of Khao Sok and hiking through a water cave. Read on to find out how you can experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure for yourself.
Why Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand’s most beautiful national parks and a magical hidden gem destination. The locals often compare its landscapes to Guilin in China and Halong Bay in Vietnam, but for those like us who love our fantasy movies, it is better known for its Jurassic Park/Avatar-like scenery. And the cherry on top? A fraction of the tourists compared to Guilin and Halong Bay and for most nationalities, you don’t need a tourist visa to visit Thailand. That means no more photos with tourists holding giant iPads in your photo’s background, and no queuing for tourists visas at the airport. Now that’s what we call a win-win situation.
Top attractions of Khao Sok National Park
How to get to Khao Sok National Park
We recently shared a post on the cheapest way to get around Thailand using public transport, but Khao Sok is so infrequently visited that even 12Go Asia only has expensive taxi or minivan options to get from Phuket to Khao Sok. This could easily cost more than €100 per way and is probably the main reason why travelers don’t end up discovering this hidden gem. But don’t despair, we’ve got you! The trick is to use the real public bus, not the privately operated ones. This should cost a fraction of the price at around ฿220 per person or €6.50. Here’s how:
Getting from Phuket to Khao Sok
Khao Sok Lake Tour: Overnight tour vs Day tour
We highly recommend staying over for at least one night to make the most out of this unique experience. That way, your tours won’t be as rushed, you have a higher chance at spotting wildlife and you can enjoy kayaking or swimming in the lake with many toothless fish. We actually opted to stay over for an extra night (2 nights, 3 days) so we could have an entire day to ourselves, kayaking from island to island, swimming in the lake and have time to appreciate the lake and the beautiful surroundings.
If you’re short on time, then a day tour is better than nothing. If you're arriving by bus from Phuket, stay the night in Khao Sok village and book your day tour for the following day. Find out how much it costs and what it includes below:
Price of Khao Sok Lake Day Tour
฿1500 (€42) per person and ฿750 (€21) for children under 120cm tall.
What does the Khao Sok Lake Day Tour include
Price of Khao Sok Lake Overnight Tour
฿2500 (€70) per person and ฿1250 (€35) for children under 120cm tall - this is for 1 night and 2 days and includes the lake bungalows accommodation and all meals. The kayaks and tubes are free to use. Sounds like a great deal but don't be fooled by these innocent boats. They can end friendships and relationships...
If you want to extend your stay by an extra night like we did, it costs an extra ฿1500 per person and included all meals for the extra day.
What does the Khao Sok Lak Overnight Tour include
Where to stay at Khao Sok Lake
Make sure to ask which accommodation it is if not having your own bathroom is a no-go for you. The bamboo bungalows look very pretty and romantic, but none of them have their own bathrooms, so you may need your own torch to get to the loo at night.
If you don’t want to hike to the bathroom (ok, maybe “hike” is over exaggerating) then make sure your tour operator books you to stay at Smiley Bungalows. The accommodation is also very basic, but each bungalow has its own bathroom attached to each unit.
Khao Sok Lake Accommodation Review
This part is more for managing expectations rather than a review. The accommodation on the lake is very basic. You’re on a lake after all, surrounded by one of the most ancient rainforests in the world. At least you don’t need to set up your own camp and dig a hole to handle your business right?
At Smiley Bungalows, each unit can sleep up to 3-4 people but the minimum is 2 in each unit. So you may be paired with someone if you’re traveling alone. There is no A/C, but there is a fan in the room. The shower is cold to lukewarm at best. We found the accommodation to be more than sufficient. The only thing that can be improved is cleanliness. The bed sheets and pillow cases are not changed on a daily basis even though new people arrive every day (we're only slightly OCD...)
If you’re addicted to the internet, you going to have to detox here as there is no cellphone signal or wi-fi. As internet addicts ourselves, we can tell you that it wasn’t so bad and was actually quite liberating. To conserve electricity, the rooms only have electricity between 6PM and 6AM, but you can charge your phones and cameras at the dining/bar area anytime of the day.
What to bring for the Khao Sok Lake Tour
We would recommend you pack everything into your dry bag and leave the rest of your luggage at your accommodation’s reception or storage area. Some tour operators will even store your luggage for you. It is important that you only take what you need. We recommend getting the Ocean Pack 25 litre dry bag, as it is the most versatile. If you love adventure, particularly ones that involve water, this bag will come very handy for all your future trips. In Khao Sok town, they cost around ฿400 (€11) but you can also buy it on Amazon. There are cheaper dry bags, but the quality is not great and won’t last as long as Ocean Pack. We’ve had ours for 6 years and it’s still in perfect condition.
What shoes to wear for the Khao Sok Lake Tour
If you don’t want to ruin your trainers, you can rent rubber shoes for the jungle trek for ฿50 (€1.40) at Smiley Bungalows. They will give you more grip than trainers, so we would recommend you rent these rather than wear your trainers. We wore our usual Mares Dive Booties for the entire hike. They are meant for diving, but we use them for all our water sport activities and even hike with them when the terrain is muddy and slippery. We absolutely love that they are super lightweight, versatile and very resilient. We’ve have had ours for over 6 years and besides a small hole in the front, they work perfectly and are easy to clean.
Things to do at Cheow Lan Lake (Ratchaprapha Dam)
1. Hiking through Ta La Kum Cave (Khao Sok Water Cave)
This was no doubt the highlight of the trip and one that shouldn’t be missed. Your tour operator will take you for a short long tail boat ride to the start of the hiking trail through the rainforest, to get to the entrance of the cave. It’s a short 3km walk to the entrance of the cave, which was not difficult at all and mostly flat.
When you get to the cave, that’s when the real adventure and fun begins. It was our first experience hiking through a pitch black cave, with only our headlamps to guide us, amongst bats, frogs, spiders and who knows what else (eeek!). And to add to the adventure, the water in some parts of the cave are over 2 meters deep, which means we had to muster all the doggy paddling skills we had to maneuver ourselves through some very narrow sections of the cave. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences we’ve had to date and we would do it again in a heartbeat!
2. Morning Jungle Safari Tour in Khao Sok
Early morning wake up at 5:30AM to start your morning safari around the lake. If you’re lucky and the sky is clear, you’ll get to see the most magnificent sunrise, peeking out between the majestic limestone cliffs. Thereafter, it’s a 90 minute lake safari tour with the chance of spotting some wildlife. We saw monkeys, a large monitor lizard, a variety of birds and a family of river otters. If you’re lucky, you’ll see gibbons, elephants and cobras that often hang in the tree branches.
3. Pra Kay Petch Cave Hike in Khao Sok
A small cave you will visit on your way back to the Ratchaprapha Marina. This cave is dry and much easier to navigate through than Ta La Kum Cave, but also less exciting. The highlight of this cave is seeing coral rocks that are thousands of years old, spotting snake eggs and even a live snake! Don't worry, they'll be long gone by the time your brain figures out what you just saw.
Where to book the Khao Sok Lake Tour
The price of the tour is pretty much standardised but what you get will differ. Some tour operators are only able to book the bamboo hut bungalows, which has a communal bathroom to share amongst all the units. Other tour operators will be able to book you into bungalows like Smiley’s where you can have a bit more privacy with your own bathroom. With or without bathroom, both tour packages will cost exactly the same. So take your pick based on your personal preference.
We booked our tour at the Montania Lifestyle Hotel (renamed from Khao Sok Royal Cliff Resort and Spa), where we were staying and they packed toiletries and extra toilet paper for us to take with so we wouldn’t need to buy. The hotel also kept our luggage safe in their storage room while we were on the Lake Tour so we didn’t have to pay for accommodation we wouldn’t use.
It was honestly so refreshing to meet and befriend him. Someone who wants travelers to come and enjoy every moment in his home country, rather than just trying to make a quick buck off tourists. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have enjoyed Khao Sok as much as we did and be able to share all these travel tips with you.
How many days should you stay in Khao Sok
If you’re traveling alone or looking for a more budget friendly option, check out Khao Sok Jungle Hostel. It’s very affordable and you get great value for money.
Is there malaria in Khao Sok National Park
No but there are mosquitoes, so make sure you get some bug spray. But don't worry, you'll get a good night's rest at the lakeside accommodation as there are no mosquitoes there.
Is the Khao Sok lake tour safe for children
Best time of year to visit Khao Sok National Park
The best time of the year to visit Khao Sok is outside the rainy season, between November and April. But with that being said, it may rain even in the dry season since the province receives some of the highest rainfall in Thailand. You’ll need some luck with the weather because some of the activities are weather dependent, like hiking through Ta La Kum Cave (water cave). If it looks like it will rain or is raining, then that leg of the trip will either have to be cancelled or postponed. No one wants a repeat of the Thai soccer team cave rescue mission (unless you want to sign a deal with Netflix).
Thailand’s Ultimate Hidden Gem
We loved every moment in Khao Sok, from its friendly people to its unique, mystical natural scenery. Have you been to Thailand and what are your favourite places in Thailand?
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Tips on how to easily get around Thailand on the cheap and discover more of beautiful Thailand
Travelling to a new destination is exciting. Experiencing new cultures, indulging in local cuisine and exploring foreign places, are some of the experiences we most look forward to when we travel. But more times than often, we seldom explore further than the boundaries of our resort, village, city or island simply because we just don't know how to use transport systems abroad.
This blog will cover how you can make use of Thailand's well developed road, rail and sea transport networks to easily and confidently explore this beautiful paradise.
The fastest transport to get around Thailand
It's important to bear in mind that not all places in Thailand are accessible by plane. Some unique and remote places are only accessible by road, rail or sea so it's a great idea to consider other transport options if you'd like to discover hidden gems.
What is the best way to get around Thailand?
The best option depends on where and how far your destination is. Most routes between popular destinations in Thailand have already been defined with regular and direct transport services available on a daily basis from major towns and cities (Bangkok, Surat Thani, Phuket, etc.). These routes are usually displayed on timetables at local travel agencies, bus stops and online (12Go Asia). Certain defined routes may include a combination of two or more modes of transport.
Public Transport in Thailand
Buses in Thailand: Private vs Public operated buses
The main difference between a privately- and a publicly-operated transport service is simply price, speed and comfort. Often there are a number of privately operated services competing with each other, but departing at different times. So pick one that matches your time schedule.
Lomprayah High Speed Operator
We used a private operator called Lomprayah from Krabi to Koh Phangan and we found that the costs were similar to other privately run operators. Lomprayah cost 100 Baht more (which is less than €3), but we got what we paid for. The cabin was air-conditioned, the route was direct (non-stop) and the ferry was faster (by at least an hour). The staff also spoke relatively good English, which is great if you don't speak any Thai.
This is how we did it:
Getting from Krabi to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao
Total Cost (to Koh Phangan): 700 baht (we opted for the fast ferry which arrived an hour earlier). The slower ferry is 600 baht.
Total Travel Time: 7 hours
Our journey involved bus, minibus and ferry, but it was effortless to say the least.
If your desired route is not available, relax! Don't despair. You just have to be creative and combine two or more defined routes to reach your destination. Very easy!
Travel tips for taking a ferry in Thailand
Try to get on the ferry as soon as possible. Your ticket reserves a spot but does not specify a seat number. If you're one of the last comers on the ferry, you may have to sit in the uncovered sections. This is fine if the weather is great, but if it's raining.... (you get the point).
Also, bring water and snacks for the trip. You can buy at the bus or ferry stations, but it will be sold at a premium compared to 7 Eleven.
Public buses in Thailand: The real deal
The cabin was air-conditioned but stopped working half way through the journey. The commute took significantly longer because the bus was visually older and stopped every few kilometres at the request of commuters wishing to disembark.
Their staff didn’t speak much English (understandable, since we're in their country) so we had to rely on a mix of Google Maps, Google Translate and hand gestures to explain where we were getting off. And the toilet was pretty much out of service, unless you were willing to hold yourself still in a moving bus with one hand, while pinning down your cell phone under your chin (for light), and simultaneously handling your junk with the other hand (TMI?).
It wasn’t our finest moment, but we would totally do it again if time is not a factor. After all, why would you pay 5 times the price when you can bake in a bus for 7 hours (not being sarcastic at all, it’s just our inner "thriftiness" coming out).
How to buy cheap bus, train and ferry tickets in Thailand?
There are only three options: street-side agents, online agents or directly from the operator. You can buy bus, rail and ferry tickets with ease and on the cheap using any of these three ways. Prices are fixed so either way is just as easy and cheap. One advantage of buying from a street-side agent is that they'll arrange for you to be picked up from your hotel and taken to the terminal, station or pier at an additional small fee (no need to carry those heavy bags around) or at no extra charge if your hotel is within a certain zone. Fares are usually displayed on boards or on request, so just shop around first to make sure you're not paying more than you have to.
Is public transport safe in Thailand?
We've all imagined an overcrowded bus with livestock and baggage tied to its roof. Maybe that's just us considering that's what you can expect from public transport in Africa. But that's not the case in Thailand. Having asked locals about getting around in Thailand, many of them recommended we use the public bus, train or ferry. They themselves rely on it and, frankly, if it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for us too.
We've personally taken the public bus various times and beside it taking a little longer because of the countless stops along the route dropping off and picking up passengers, it's 100% safe. Some of them are so nice that you can even charge your phone and watch TV (if you have a VHS tape...). In fact, on some occasions, government officials carried out safety inspections on our bus before departure to ensure that it was roadworthy. If that's not piece of mind then not even The Avengers can reassure you!
Discover Hidden Gems in Thailand
Getting around Thailand easily and on the cheap is absolutely possible. We're living proof. We were pleasantly surprised at how affordable, efficient and extensive Thailand's transport system is. Learning how to get around and how to buy tickets in Thailand really gave us confidence to discover more of Thailand's hidden gems. Some of which, include our recent discovery of the beautiful beaches Koh Phangan and Khao Sok National Park. Next time you're in Thailand, jump on train, bus or ferry and travel like we did, and you too can discover hidden gems in Thailand.
Let us know if you have any questions about how to get around Thailand or if you'd like us to write a post about how to get around another country you're planning to visit.
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If you’re looking for a quiet paradise, where the only items on your itinerary are exploring the island by motorbike and discovering heavenly beaches along the way, Koh Phangan is the perfect travel destination for you
Koh Phangan | Quiet Islands in Thailand
Thailand is a highly popular travel destination for good reason. The country has some of the most beautiful beaches and islands in the world and is also affordable to visit. The only downside to this, is that these places tend to become too commercial and overcrowded, which can dampen your experience there. If you understand exactly what we’re talking about and are looking for that quiet paradise in Thailand, then Koh Phangan is the place to visit.
In this post, we list our top 10 beaches in Koh Phangan based on the type of experience you may be looking for.
Best place to snorkel in Koh Phangan
Koh Ma Island, Koh Phangan
There are many tour operators that will take you snorkelling around Koh Phangan. But if you want to avoid the crowds and be able to snorkel right off the beach, then Koh Ma will be your best choice. The best snorkelling spot is on the side of the island where the hut is (left on the image). It is best to snorkel during high tide as visibility tends to be the best and you're less likely to brush against the corals.
This beach tends to be busier than others around Koh Phangan, but never feels crowded because it connects to a longer beach called Mae Haad Beach.
Most pristine beaches in Koh Phangan
Bottle Beach, Koh Phangan
Bottle Beach is our #1 favourite beach in Koh Phangan. The soft, white sand and crystal clear waters are some of the most pristine on the island. No rocks, dead corals or broken shells to "exfoliate" those feet. The perfect beach paradise for the ultimate beach bum experience. It is also very isolated and there are never many people on the beach. You can easily chill in the sea hammock all day until you're nice and toasty.
If you want to get the most out of your 300 baht round trip, consider staying overnight at Bottle Beach Bungalows or Bottle Beach Resort, which are both relatively affordable accommodation options. That way you can have the beach all to yourself, when other day trip guests have to leave at 5PM to catch the last taxi boat.
Malibu Beach, Koh Phangan
If a taxi boat isn't for you, then Malibu Beach will be the next best option. This beach also has soft white sand and turquoise waters, but is not as quiet as Bottle Beach. There are plenty of palm trees for shade and even a couple of beach swings too.
This beach is perfect if you have young children. There is a shallow side on the one end of the beach, as well as a deeper side for adults.
There are a few boats docked here, but nothing too invasive.
Salad Beach, Koh Phangan
Most vibey beaches in Koh Phangan
Haad Yao Beach, Koh Phangan
Haad Rin Beach (Full Moon Party Beach), Koh Phangan
Best sunsets in Koh Phangan
Secret Beach, Koh Phangan
Secret Beach is not that "secret" compared to other quieter beaches we visited, but it was definitely very romantic and beautiful. There were some dead corals on the beach, but the sand was still soft.
The sunsets here were the best we experienced in Koh Phangan. Although Malibu and Bottle Beach is better for its crystal clear waters, you can not watch the sun setting on the horizon on either of those beaches.
You can take amazing sunset pictures at Secret Beach and even take a few on the huge swing close to Koh Raham restaurant.
The Quietest Beaches in Koh Phangan
Haad Khom Beach, Koh Phangan
Zen Beach, Koh Phangan
West Coast Beach, Koh Phangan
The best beaches in Thailand
So now you have it, a guide to finding the best beach for you in Koh Phangan. If a motorbike isn't for you then consider staying on different parts of the island so you can explore its many beaches. There are a few beaches on the east coast such as Thong Nai Pan Yai Beach and Haad Than Sadet Beach that is only accessible by boat too. In that case it may be better to stay there for a few nights to maximise your boat transfer. Zoom out on the map below for different hotel options and pricing too.
What is your favourite activity when you're at the beach and which one of the above is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.
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“A short but useful guide on traveling in Hong Kong on a budget whilst getting the ultimate cultural experience.”
There are many reasons to visit the bustling and energetic city of Hong Kong. Many airlines offer affordable flights to this major hub, it is a popular visa-free destination for many nationalities and you can often get cheaper flights to South East Asia transiting through Hong Kong. Although shopping in Hong Kong is generally more affordable compared to other major cities like New York, London, Tokyo and San Francisco due to no import taxes or VAT (yes, it's true!), it can quickly become an expensive travel destination if you don’t know where to eat, which public transport to take or which grocery stores offer the best bang for your buck. In this guide, we share our 6 top budget travel tips that will not only help you save money, but help you get the most authentic cultural experience in Hong Kong.
1. How to save money booking accommodation in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is notorious for expensive property prices and high rent, therefore accommodation will be the most expensive component of traveling to Hong Kong. The upside is that there are thousands of accommodation options in the city ranging from affordable hostels to luxury hotels. In general, accommodation on Hong Kong Island (close to Central, Causeway Bay, Admiralty) will generally be more expensive because these areas are popular for business travel. Tsim Sha Tsui is also likely to be expensive due to its prime location next to Victoria Harbour. Your best option is to use websites such as Booking.com or Agoda to find accommodation within your budget outside of these two expensive nodes. Public transport is very extensive in Hong Kong, so as long as your accommodation is close to public transport, it should be easy to get around.
2. Cheapest public transport in Hong Kong
Public transport is extensive and easy to use in Hong Kong. Depending on the length of your stay it may be more cost effective and time efficient to purchase an Octopus card instead of individual tickets. The Octopus card works like the Oyster card does in London, except the Octopus card is even more convenient as you can even make purchases with it at convenient stores such as 7 Eleven or coffee shops such as Starbucks. It works on a cost per trip basis and the costs are slightly cheaper than single ticket trips. When you leave Hong Kong, you can either give the card back to get your deposit, or keep the card as a souvenir.
When topping up or purchasing tickets, it is important to have cash on hand as the machines as well as the teller does not accept credit or debit cards. You can also only top up your Octopus card in HKD$50 increments.
In general, taking the public bus and red mini-bus will be more affordable than taking the subway. The best way to manage transport costs is to check the cost of your trip on apps like CityMapper because there have been occasions where the bus and train option cost similar, but the train ride was faster.
3. Eating out on a budget in Hong Kong
The best way to find the tastiest street food is to go where the crowds are. Most of the signs will be in Chinese so just take a leap of faith and point at what you would like to try. We recommend the curry fish balls and the bubble waffle. “Yum Cha” (traditional Cantonese dim sum) is also a must-try, but will likely be more expensive compared to street stalls.
If you’re absolutely missing western food, then going to a franchise will be the most affordable option.
4. Where to buy cheaper food in Hong Kong
Instead of eating every meal out, you can also save some cash buying some snacks and sandwiches from grocery stores. For fruit and fresh vegetables, we recommend going to a local wet market. You can easily find one by googling for the closest wet market near you. Not only will the fresh produce be more affordable, you will also get an authentic cultural experience shopping like a local Hong Konger at a wet market. However, if you’re vegetarian, vegan or very sensitive to smells and seeing chopped fish and meat, this experience is probably not for you. Instead, you can go to a more western adapted grocery store like Welcome, Taste and Park n Shop, which are the more affordable options.
5. How to have a night out in Hong Kong on a budget
A visit to Hong Kong is incomplete without visiting the infamous pub district of Lan Kwai Fong. It is an amazing and fun experience but can quickly become a very expensive night out. Our recommendation is to start the night early and make use of happy hour. The other option is to buy drinks from the 7 Eleven in Lan Kwai Fong and enjoy a few drinks in the street. Don’t worry, it is legal (only in the district of Lan Kwai Fong). Lots of expats and locals do it so it is a nice way to meet people.
6. How to save money on foreign currency when traveling
The most useful benefit for us is that we are able to buy and hold up to 23 currencies on the card. The game changer is that we are able to buy or sell these currencies at the real exchange rate (i.e. the googled exchange rate) without any commission. What makes this even better is that Revolut gives you free cash withdrawals up to £200 (if you registered in the UK) every month. These small savings add up if you love to travel.
You can use Revolut card anywhere where they accept Mastercard or VISA, but you can currently only register if you're a UK, European or Australian citizen/permanent resident. Downloading the app and registering is free. They offer different account options. The basic account is free, but you will need to pay £5.95 to order a physical card. For a free card, use our link and you will get a physical card for FREE and we will get £5 for the referral.
This is our top money saving tip for any travel destination.
Where to next?
We are heading to Thailand next and are super excited! If you've seen our Instagram posts, you'll know that we literally had 10 months of winter as we spent winter in South Africa and left to Germany just as their autumn and winter season started. If you found our money saving travel tips useful, let us know in the comments below. For more money saving tips, let us know which travel destination you would like money saving tips for.
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Our personal account on how much German we could speak and understand after using Duolingo for 4 months for at least 30 minutes everyday (+60 hours )
Why we started learning German with Duolingo
You may have read from our last post that we recently relocated to Berlin. We've been loving the change in environment and embracing all the new experiences of this dynamic city, including learning German. Yes, we know what some of you are thinking... Berlin is probably the worst city to learn German in, given that it has a huge expat community and the fact that most locals here can speak English. Nonetheless, we decided to learn the language anyway since Berlin has become our new home.
Is it difficult to learn German as an English native speaker on Duolingo?
How to use Duolingo to learn German
How much German could we speak and understand after four months of Duolingo
After geeking Duolingo for 4 months, we were super excited to come test our newly acquired skills in Berlin. We were quite thrilled when we could decipher some written signs and adverts we saw around the city. However, when it came to listening to announcements on the train or an attempt at eavesdropping on the bus, we realised we couldn't understand anything except for a few words here and there. We were able to ask short questions or order coffee at a restaurant or cafe, but could not understand when the person responded to us in German. It was then that we realised that we knew a lot of vocabulary, but that we couldn't string together a sentence or understand the German spoken language.
As true adventurers, we didn't give up of course. Instead, we did some research on German schools and decided to sign up for classes to see whether that would help improve our German. Upon signing up, we had to do an online placement test to see which class we should start at. Michael was assigned to class A1.2 and I was assigned to class A2.1 (can't beat an Asian). That was when we realised that maybe Duolingo's claim that 34 hours of learning a language on Duolingo equates to a semester course may be true to some extent.
Now that we've experienced both Duolingo and attending German language school, we are able to share its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Duolingo
Disadvantages of Duolingo
Special and FREE features on Duolingo
Obviously being able to attend German language school would be ideal, but we completely understand that it is a big investment and not everyone will be able to afford to attend classes. We have therefore compiled a few tips and tricks you can use to help improve the Duolingo learning experience. You may not be aware of these features if you've only used Duolingo on your phone.
Basically you listen to a short story narration and answer some questions as you progress through the story. We love it because you can easily see the English translation by hovering over the word. It also helps bridge the gap between the written and spoken language. This is a great tool and we hope it becomes a permanent teaching tool.
Grammatical explanations on Duolingo
Skipping lessons on Duolingo
Is Duolingo Plus worth it?
Duolingo vs Language School
If you're finding German difficult to learn, don't be discouraged. Even locals admit the language is tricky. Just keep going at it and eventually you'll start getting a feel for the language. If all else fails and you need some German language humour, look up some of Mark Twain's quotes on the German language. That should bring a smile to your face.
Have you tried to learn a language on Duolingo? We would love to know your experience! Leave us a comment below.
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A paperwork-less guide on how to open a bank account in Germany without an "Anmeldung".
We recently relocated to Berlin and one of the challenges we faced was opening a local bank account and gathering all the necessary paperwork it required. This guide covers how to effortlessly open a bank account without all the fuss that comes along with the paperwork.
Moving to Berlin
After wandering between the UK and Germany, we finally decided to call Berlin our home. Not only is Berlin in the centre of Europe, it was also recently voted the second most innovative city in the world. The energy from the city feeds our creativity and we're looking forward to using the city as a base as we continue to explore the European continent and the rest of the world.
Relocating isn't as simple as pointing your finger on a map and getting on a plane. It requires a lot of planning, sometimes months in advance. There are also various things to consider such as opening a bank account when arriving in your new home. A local bank account is essential if you need to pay expenses, receive international transfers and get paid.
Traditional Bank Accounts in Germany
What is a Mobile Bank?
A mobile bank or a direct bank as it is commonly referred to, is a bank that offers its services remotely such as via an app on your mobile device. In other words, it doesn't have any branches where you can walk into to ask for assistance. Everything is done in-app which means they can significantly reduce their costs and offer their clients the same benefits of having a bank account but with zero fees.
We first discovered this method of banking when we arrived in Europe. It is now our preferred way of banking, and N26 is one of the mobile banks we use on a regular basis.
Banking with N26
N26 is one of the first mobile banks to launch in Europe and offers a free basic current account with a debit Mastercard. They have various other premium subscription based accounts that offer fancier looking cards and add-ons such as travel benefits, insurance and priority customer support. We settled for the free basic option which was more than sufficient, but you can always upgrade your account at a later stage. Bare in mind that the N26 card is not accepted as an "EC" card. We don't believe it is necessary to get an "EC" card as most service providers accept a regular debit or credit card. But it is always a good idea to carry cash in case they insist on an "EC" card.
What do I need to open an N26 account?
Opening an account is simple and you don't need an "Anmeldung" to do so. All you have to do is download the N26 app, follow the instructions and you should receive your N26 bank card in the post within a couple of weeks if you don't opt for express delivery. Here's what you'll need:
• 8 Minutes (we did it in 5)
• Your Best Selfie Pose
• Residential Address (for delivery of your debit card)
• NO ANMELDUNG REQUIRED!
Bank cards can be delivered to a relative's or friend's address if you don't already have your own place of residence. Just ask for their permission before ordering your N26 card. If you live in Germany, don't forget to put their name and surname on the delivery instruction as apartments have names instead of numbers on the doors.
The registration process is straightforward, but N26 take security very seriously. If you are verified via video call, they may request you to make a few declarations such as stating that you are not acting in someone else's capacity.
Is my money safe with N26?
Absolutely! Every N26 bank account is guaranteed up to €100,000.00 by the Compensation Scheme of German Banks. So don't worry, your money is protected.
Now you too can bank like a pro
So there you have it, a guide on how to open a bank account without an "Anmeldung". Ultimately, you'll eventually require an "Anmeldung" for various essential things such as renting an apartment, setting up a utilities account, getting internet access for your home, and accessing consular services. But don't despair. We'll cover how to effortlessly get an "Anmeldung" in another blog post in the near future.
Are you relocating to Germany? If you are and have come across other issues you need help with, let us know by leaving a comment below and we will try our best to help you.
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Searching for a slice of heaven on earth? Look no further than Zanzibar Island, one of Africa’s most mesmerizing gems.
Zanzibar Island is one of our favourite tropical destinations. It has all the ingredients for paradise: long stretches of soft, white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and beautiful sunny rays. But where should you stay if you want to experience the best slice of paradise? This blog will help you decide and tell you why Zanzibar North, and in particular, Nungwi Beach is our favourite.
Accommodation options in Zanzibar
In Zanzibar north, you can find accommodation to suit every budget and they are all within walking distance from each other. This is great if you prefer to be more flexible with accommodation and want the option to change hotels. It is also a great area to stay in if you don't want to opt for an all-inclusive package (includes all meals and beverages) at your hotel. This will allow you to try some local cuisine at bars and restaurants, and also save you money.
We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort Zanzibar in Nungwi which we absolutely loved. You can read our review on Tripadvisor and compare prices for hotels in the area here.
Things to do in Zanzibar: Bars, shops and restaurants
Besides food and drinks, you'll also have more price options to pick from when booking excursions. There's a number of local operators that can take you to surrounding islands like Tumbatu, Mafia and Mnemba island for snorkeling, scuba diving or even fishing. Booking with a local operator will often be more affordable than booking at the hotel and you will also help by directly supporting the local community.
Best scuba diving spots in Zanzibar
If you're scuba divers like us, then staying in Zanzibar north will be your best option. Not only do you have a number of dive shops to choose from, but you'll also be located much closer to some of the best dive spots around Zanzibar. That means less time on the boat and more time underwater. In the north, you will be able to scuba dive around Tumbatu, Mafia and Mnemba island. Our favourite dive spot was Magic Reef. If you want to get a glimpse of diving in Zanzibar north, check out our video.
We dived with Spanish Divers. They are PADI accredited and based on our research, offered the best value for money. They are one of the few operators that transport you to Mnemba island with a speed boat instead of a traditional dhow boat. Although we love sailing on dhow boats, the journey to Mnemba island can take 1-2 hours instead of 40 minutes via a speed boat. A much better option if you're sensitive to motion sickness. You can read our detailed review on Spanish Divers here.
Best beach in Zanzibar: Where the tide does not recede too far
This may seem like a weird topic, but if you want to maximize your time swimming in the ocean then it is an important factor to consider. The tide on the northern tip and west coast of Zanzibar island does not recede as far as the east coast. We discovered this on one of our long walks on the beach. The tide on the east coast can recede up to a kilometer or more at times, in comparison to a few hundred meters on the north and west coast. Although a kilometer isn't far, it can get quite uncomfortable when you're walking under a blazing sun and when you finally do reach the water, its feel more like a bath than the ocean. If you do want to stay on the east coast though, just check the tide schedule for that area before you book your accommodation, so you are not limited to only swimming during high tide.
Getting around Zanzibar Island
Is it safe for solo female travelers in Zanzibar?
Yes, absolutely! We never felt unsafe at all during our stay in Zanzibar. Locals are very friendly and helpful. Just make sure to dress appropriately when you leave the hotel and beaches. Make sure to cover yourself by wearing a T-shirt and covering your knees. A sarong is a great option for both men and women and the locals sell exquisite sarongs that are not only practical, but beautiful too. It is a predominantly Muslim island so it is important to dress appropriately and respect their culture and religion.
Best time of the year to go to Zanzibar
Most beautiful beach in Africa
Zanzibar has a special place in our hearts because the beach is not only one of the most beautiful we have experienced through our travels, but also very accessible. This is what makes it so different from other beautiful beaches we visited in the South East Asia region, which were also beautiful but generally required a boat trip to get to. We don't usually go to the same place twice as our travel list is long, but we would return to Zanzibar again for another glimpse of Paradise.
Do you like beach holidays? Tell us your favourite beach destinations in the comments below.
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Road trips are the perfect way for friends and family to enjoy the journey as much as the destination itself.
Road trips are a popular option for travellers looking to explore Mozambique, as public transport in the country is extremely limited. In this travel guide, we will cover everything from essential items you need in the vehicle, what driving style to adopt to crossing the Mozambican border, so you can have a pleasant road trip experience in Mozambique.
What are the mandatory road trip items I need to drive to Mozambique?
There are certain things you are required by law to carry in your vehicle when driving in Mozambique. Traffic officers usually conduct random checks on foreign vehicles so it’s a good idea to ensure that you have every item on the list below to avoid a run-in with the law.
Checklist for Mozambique Road Trip
Red warning triangles, yellow reflective vests, towing triangles and ZA stickers are available from Outdoor Warehouse stores or AA outlets in South Africa.
Based on our personal experience, we recommend that you include the following useful but not mandatory items in your vehicle:
What paperwork do I need for my vehicle to drive to Mozambique?
Paperwork always seems to be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Authorities in Mozambique just need to prove ownership of the vehicle you’re driving so it’s quite a simple process once you know what documents you require. Simply put, you will require vehicle registration certificates to take your vehicle (including trailers and caravans) into Mozambique. These documents need to be presented along with the relevant temporary vehicle import forms which are available at the border post.
If the vehicle is owned by a third party (financed through a bank or loaned), you need a letter from the bank or the owner authorizing you to take the vehicle across the border. It would then be sufficient to produce copies of vehicle registration certificates along with authorisation letter, as original vehicle registration certificates are usually kept by the bank or the owner. Car rental companies usually provide a cross border letter (at a fee) which is essentially an authorisation letter, along with a copy of the vehicle registration certificate.
Do I need Car Insurance in Mozambique?
Yes. Comprehensive car insurance is necessary, but you also need 3rd party insurance.
What is comprehensive vehicle insurance and do I really need it in Mozambique?
Comprehensive vehicle insurance is important because it covers your vehicle in the event of an accident, may provide roadside assistance and may also cover the cost of towing your vehicle back to your country of residence. This is the reason foreign vehicles entering Mozambique are required to have comprehensive vehicle insurance. A letter from your insurance company or insurance policy document confirming that the vehicle is insured in Mozambique is sufficient. Certain car rental companies self-insure their vehicles, so they will usually issue you with a letter confirming that their vehicle is insured whilst in Mozambique. This letter may be separate from the cross border letter or it may be one in the same. Just don’t forget to notify the car rental company that you plan to take their vehicle across the border.
What is compulsory 3rd party insurance and where can I buy it?
3rd party insurance protects you against damages incurred by a 3rd party in Mozambique. Simply put, it covers death or bodily injury to any 3rd party who is not a family member or employee of the insured and damage to 3rd party property in the event of an accident. You can purchase 3rd party insurance at most border posts, but it is usually a good idea to purchase it advance from the DriveMoz portal, Outdoor Warehouse stores or AA outlets in South Africa to avoid any mishaps such as insurance agencies being closed at the time of crossing. If you are renting a vehicle and cannot purchase 3rd party insurance in advance, ensure that you cross the border at a reasonable time as certain border posts operate 24 hours a day during peak season but not necessarily their insurance agencies. It is a finable offence to drive a foreign vehicle in Mozambique without 3rd party insurance so be sure to get it. Companies such as the Hollard Group have agencies at various border posts on the Mozambican side. You can find their updated 3rd Party Insurance options here.
What type of vehicle should I hire to drive to Mozambique?
Another option to consider is hiring a van (minibus). These vehicles are generally not fuel efficient, but they can accommodate more individuals (up to 10 people) which will no doubt make your road trip experience much more fun and cheaper too. If you’re hiring a vehicle in South Africa, Thrifty.com is usually a good options as it has a large variety of vehicles at competitive rates.
Crossing the Mozambican Border
Mozambique has various ports of entry located at various points along its boundary shared with Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Crossing the Mozambican border is relatively straight forward. Border operating times can vary between border posts, so it's a good idea to lookup their operating hours before departing. If you are entering Mozambique from South Africa, you can find border post operating hours here.
How to avoid queues at Mozambican border?
Major border posts operate 24 hours a day during peak holiday seasons to cater for the influx of travellers. Although we do not recommend driving at night, crossing the border at early hours of the morning (between 2am and 6am) may help you avoid queues which can sometimes add several hours to your journey. If you find yourself in traffic which is backed up several kilometers, do not try to jump the line by driving ahead. Mozambican border posts are notorious for being chaotic especially during peak holiday seasons (usually in April around Easter and in December around Christmas). The best approach is to be patient and wait in line as traffic officers will not think twice when issuing traffic fines and send you to the back of the queue.
Do I need immigration assistance at Mozambican border?
It is not unusual to find “freelancers” offering unsolicited assistance to travellers at the border post. Their services include jumping ahead of traffic queues, acquiring 3rd party insurance and fast-tracking the immigration process (having your passport stamped on your behalf). Our advice is to decline any offer at all costs. Although we promote supporting locals and their businesses, we feel that these individuals’ actions contribute towards the delays and chaos experienced at border posts. These freelancers are not agents of the Mozambican Immigration Authority and therefore act in their own capacity. There have been many instances where passports, driver’s licenses and vehicle documents have been held until payment for their services has been settled in full. Documents should always be in your possession and only handed to immigration officials if requested to do so (for inspection and stamping). The Mozambican immigration process is very straightforward and any traveller will be more than capable of entering the country without requiring any assistance from “freelancers”. Patience is the only requirement. And if you’re not sure which form to fill in or which line to stand in, politely ask an immigration official inside the immigration office and they will gladly assist you.
How should I manage travel time when driving in Mozambique?
In more developed countries, we would normally budget covering a distance of around 100km (62 miles) per hour of driving. You will need to budget around 30% more time to cover the same distance in Mozambique as the national highway is a two lane road - one lane in each direction. You may therefore need to slow down quite frequently for trucks or other slow vehicles in order to find an opportunity to overtake in the oncoming lane.
Besides trucks, you will also need to slow down frequently when approaching small towns or villages. Make sure to abide to the speed limits by slowing down, as these are the spots where traffic officers frequent. The added benefit of slowing down is that you get to see the fresh produce the locals are selling. Usually they sell everything from a fresh variety of tropical fruits, nuts (roasted cashew nuts are very popular and tasty), fresh coconuts to gasoline and homemade chilli oil. We love purchasing items from the locals - it’s a great way to support the local community and tasting some of Mozambique’s best produce.
What driving style should I adopt in Mozambique?
If you come from the United States, Latin America or Europe and drive on the right side of the road, you will need some adjustment when driving in Mozambique. Similar to South Africa, motorists are required to drive on the left side of the road in Mozambique. That’s relatively simple once you get the hang of it. More importantly, you need to drive more defensively than you would at home. That means that you should drive with an extra dose of caution as you can not assume that other drivers will stop at red traffic lights or even a stop sign. This is particularly true when you are driving in busy cities in Mozambique like Maputo. Driving can be quite stressful in the city centres as there are a lot of cars and drivers may not necessarily adhere to traffic rules. That doesn’t mean you should do the same though as the local traffic officers are renowned for being strict with tourists. Being aware of this beforehand will help you to expect it and make your road trip more pleasant. It is very different driving in Mozambique in comparison to any developed country (or even South Africa), but it’s all part of the adventure so just be patient, try your best to squeeze in when there are gaps (otherwise you won’t get anywhere) and enjoy the new experience.
What are the speed limits in Mozambique?
Speed limits vary depending on whether you are driving in the city or on the highway. There are usually signs along the road indicating the maximum kilometres per hour (km/h) you may drive at. This generally varies between 60km/h in the city centre to 100km/h on the highways. Make sure to adhere to the indicated speed limits at all times as it is very common for there to be speed cameras and traffic officers waiting to stop you. Sometimes you may see cars in the oncoming lane flashing their lights as they drive past you. That’s usually a friendly driver’s way of indicating that there are speed traps ahead, so watch out for these signals when driving.
How to deal with Traffic Officers in Mozambique?
It is true that Mozambican traffic offers are notorious for soliciting bribes and making up violations so they can issue you with a fine. Government has been working hard to clamp down on corruption but they cannot do it alone. If you are guilty, pay the fine (not a bribe for a lesser amount) and ask for a receipt. But if you feel that you have been unfairly issued a fine or the amount does not match the violation, ask for a receipt, note the officers details and dispute the fine at the nearest police station. You should always receive all your documents back if the officer requests to see them. But if they hold onto them, you should also make a complaint with the commander (chief) at the police station.
Are there filling stations along the highway in Mozambique?
Yes, there are but not at frequent intervals. The best option is to make sure you have data on your phone so you can check when the next filling station is coming up. Always start looking for the next filling station when your tank has at least a quarter of gas left as the next filling station may be several kilometres away. The brand of the filling station does not really matter, as the prices are similar. However, the price of gas does become more expensive, the further north you travel. Something to bear in mind if you going for an extensive road trip.
Where to park your vehicle in Mozambique?
Whether you’re driving through a city or a rustic seaside village, parking in Mozambique can be quite challenging. Applying common sense on where to park will ensure that you have an incident free travel experience.
The general rule, like rules in most countries, is that vehicles should only be parked in demarcated areas. If there isn’t suitable parking in the vicinity, then it may be safer to park further away and walk to your desired destination. It is common to see locals park on pavements or on solid white road lines especially after dark. But as a foreigner, you should avoid this at all costs. Vehicles with foreign registration plates are inspected more frequently and as a result unknowing culprits become easy targets for traffic officers. Unless it is an emergency, always park in designated parking areas.
It is common for seaside villages to have narrow, unpaved roads. Even though there may not be any traffic officers monitoring these roads, taking great care to park in an un-obstructive manner will avoid road congestion and the risk of having your vehicle damaged by other passing vehicles.
Getting assistance from Car Guards
“Car Guarding” is a common occupation in African countries, as it is a source of vital income. Wherever you are; city, town or village, finding a car guard is inevitable. If you’re really unsure about where to park, just roll down your window and ask for assistance. Car guards will always ensure that you park your vehicle out of harm’s way. They man specific areas so don’t be suspicious if they request you to park in an area that wouldn’t otherwise seem suitable. Your potential tip incentives them to ensure that your vehicle is safe until you return. Be polite and don’t forget to tip when you collect your vehicle. A couple of coins is usually sufficient and will go a long way in ensuring they can provide for themselves and their family.
Is it safe to drive in Mozambique?
Yes, it absolutely is. We’ve done it more than 3 times and driven more than 5000km in total. The only precautions we would advise is to not drive at night. There are no street lights along the highway so you only have your car lights to guide you. It can get quite dangerous at night when animals or children cross the road. Other than that, it’s the usual be careful while overtaking and dodging potholes.
One thing we do recommend is joining the DriveMoz group on Facebook. It is a community of experienced and new travellers that advise, warn, assist and provide information to fellow visitors travelling to Mozambique. It’s also a great way to keep abreast of border delays, road closures and ask for help in the event of unforeseen circumstances. DriveMoz also has a wealth of information so be sure to check out their website and purchase your DriveMoz sticker so you can spot fellow DriveMoz travellers on the road.
Boa Viagem (Bon Voyage in Portuguese)
It seems as if there are quite a lot of things to consider while road tripping in Mozambique, but we feel that this only adds more excitement to the experience and we have no doubt that you and your friends and family will have a fun and memorable time in Mozambique.
Planning to visit Mozambique soon? Let us know if you have any other questions regarding Mozambique in the comments below, and we will try our best to help you.
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The Ultimate Experience for those who love the outdoors, hiking and most importantly, animal lovers who want to help keep these beautiful creatures safe, yet free and wild in their natural habitat
We often get asked what our most unforgettable adventure has been, and this experience tops our list! Jungle trekking through the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park and coming face-to-face with orangutans in their wild habitat, is an experience we will never forget. Here, we will cover everything from costs, what to wear, hiking difficulty level to suitability for children and whether it is truly ecotourism at its best, in short, easy to read sections. If you're not a reader, check out our short, cinematic video!
Where is the Gunung Leuser National Park?
Orangutans are listed as a critically endangered species because of the devastating impact of deforestation. To make things worse, orangutans are also illegally traded as exotic pets and are often mistreated. This national park is therefore also a home for rehabilitated orangutans that are able to survive independently.
Is there malaria in Bukit Lawang?
No, there isn't. When we went to the travel clinic we were told to take malaria tablets just in case. But when we arrived and asked other travellers, our hotel, tour guides, etc. everyone confirmed that there is no malaria in Bukit Lawang. So don't worry. Of course, this doesn't mean there aren't mosquitoes, so bring mosquito repellant especially if you're like me, and mosquitoes love to feast on you.
Where to book and how much to budget in Bukit Lawang?
We booked the trip with Hotel Orangutan, the accommodation where we stayed at for the 4 days that we were in Bukit Lawang. We could have probably bargained for lower prices with other vendors, but we decided to go with our hotel because of their mission and values. Hotel Orangutan is an eco-friendly hotel that aims to raise awareness while protecting its environment, wildlife and local community. We whole-heartedly support their cause and also wanted to make sure we were going with guides that had the same respect for the environment. The prices vary on the number of individuals and how many days you plan to trek. For the two of us, it was €100 per person for the 2 day trek. To reduce the price per person to €90, you need to go as a group of 5-6 individuals. For the full price list, click here.
Accommodation is really affordable in Bukit Lawang. The cheapest we found was for less than €3/night. We decided to go a little more luxury as it was our honeymoon. Here are other affordable accommodation options in Bukit Lawang.
What are the Bukit Lawang jungle trekking prices?
Although €100 per person seems steep, this price is inclusive of everything. We had 2 local guides just to ourselves and a third individual (the cook and tube "driver") who went ahead to set up and prepare our meals at base camp. That means we were personally taken care of by 3 individuals for 2 full days. The only thing we had to bring was water to drink during the hike, mosquito repellant, swim wear, flip flops and dry clothes.
What is included in the jungle trekking price?
All your meals are also included and there is more than enough to eat. On the first day, it included a mid-morning snack which consisted of a delicious array of fresh fruit. There were mandarins, watermelons, granadillas and mangosteens, which we tasted for the first time.
For lunch, we had the most amazing nasi goreng (Indonesian egg fried rice with vegetables). Ours was served with fried chicken, probably one of the best we've tasted. The meal was ecologically wrapped in banana leaves and absolutely delicious. There is a vegetarian option as well but you should let them know when you book the trip.
Dinner is served a few hours later and it was lovely sharing the meal with our guides and getting to know them better. The meal was warm, freshly prepared and consisted of a variety of local Indonesian dishes.
How was the accommodation on the Sumatra Jungle Trekking tour?
What else do you see besides orangutans in Bukit Lawang jungle?
Although the main attraction is seeing orangutans on the jungle trek, there is other wildlife that inhabit the rainforest. On our trek, we saw adorable black gibbons, huge monitor lizards, lemon ants and a variety of birds. If you're lucky and hike further into the forest, you may even see Asian rhinos, elephants or tigers. The guides mentioned that you usually have to trek more than 2 days to see the bigger mammals as they live deeper in the jungle.
Besides wildlife, another key feature is seeing the biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. We were unfortunately not in the right season to see it so if you're want to see this, make sure to come when it's in season.
What should I wear for the jungle trekking tour in Bukit Lawang?
For footwear, we wore our normal trainers, but you should wear hiking shoes if you have. Otherwise, the best alternative is to buy these cheap rubber shoes from the local market in Bukit Lawang (what the guide is wearing in the photo). We would have bought these shoes if we had known prior to the hike as they are less slippery when trekking through muddy terrain. Another benefit is that they are really easy to clean with water. Our trainers were filthy after the trek and it was a mission to clean after.
How difficult was the jungle trekking tour in Bukit Lawang?
The difficulty level depends on the terrain and the weather, but the guides will usually adapt to your fitness level. As long as you are able to walk at a leisurely pace for a few hours, you should be fine. We saw some elderly individuals as well as children on the hike so it isn't too strenuous if you have the correct footwear.
How many days should I jungle trek for in the Bukit Lawang jungle?
Hotel Orangutan provides guided jungle trekking for up to 7 days, but we've heard that you can go for longer than that if you wish. You just need to arrange it with the vendor. If you hike for longer and deeper in the forest, you will increase your chances of seeing the bigger mammals such as the Asian rhinos, elephants and tigers.
Is it absolutely necessary to have guides for the jungle trek in Bukit Lawang? Can I trek alone?
We always try our best to save money where we can, but trust us when we say that having a guide is imperative. We would even go as far as to say that the guide made our experience. We were privileged enough to have Euriel and Balu guiding us, they could both speak fairly good English and were extremely knowledgable about the forest. Besides showing us orangutans, they were knowledgable about plants and fauna, and were great company to be around.
What other activities are there besides trekking in Bukit Lawang?
On the last day of our jungle trekking expedition, our guides took us to a small waterfall to relax and get our faces painted. Face painting is optional but being the adventurers that we are, of course we wanted our faces painted! The "paint" used comes from grinding the different coloured clay stones on rock, creating a paste that is then used as paint on your face. It is completely organic, natural and good for our skin. We both have sensitive skin and we did not experience any negative reaction from the clay.
Is tubing safe in Bukit Lawang?
Tubing back to Bukit Lawang was SOOOOO much fun and absolutely safe if you're with experienced guides. Tubing is the fastest (and most fun) mode of transport to get back to the village without hiking back. It is included in the price of our tour, but you can choose to opt out for €10 less per person. Don't worry about your things getting wet, the guides are very prepared and have bags for you to put your valuables in.
Is the jungle trekking tour in Bukit Lawang suitable for children?
We don't currently have children, but if we did, this is an experience we would take them on. It is safe and will teach them the importance of protecting wildlife and our environment. We would recommend confirming with the vendor of your choice whether they have an age restriction. We didn't see any in the guidelines but in our opinion, if your children are older than 14 years of age and are patient and disciplined enough to hike with you, then it is an incredible experience to take them on. Just be mindful to not let them wander into the Bohorok river unattended. The current is quite strong and can sweep an adult away if you are not careful.
How close can you get to the orangutans in Bukit Lawang?
With a bit of luck, you can get really close to the orangutans. We were really lucky and got within 3 meters of the alpha of the jungle. Always remember to listen to your guides' instructions and do not tease and taunt the animals.
Another important issue we would like to address is please don't touch the orangutans. We've seen videos and pictures of people touching the orangutans and it breaks our hearts. As humans, we could unintentionally pass on our germs and illnesses to the orangutans via physical contact or by giving them our food. Admire and enjoy their presence, but please do not touch them under any circumstances.
Is the jungle trekking tour truly eco-friendly?
We can only comment on the tour we went on with Hotel Orangutan, and yes, we do believe it was a truly eco-friendly tour experience. We could tell from our interaction with the guides that they genuinely love and respect the rainforest beyond its monetary benefit. They understand the importance of being ambassadors of the jungle and it was easy to see the pride they have for the home they share with the wildlife. We particularly loved the fact that no guns or knives were taken with us for the hike, only a bunch of bananas in the unlikely event an orangutan grabs us by the arm.
If you would like to read up more on ecotourism in Bukit Lawang and how you can help preserve and protect our beautiful wildlife, check out the Sumatran Orangutan Society.
The best adventure tour we have been on
We hope you enjoyed our first blog post! It is very detailed and long, but we've tried our best to break it up into easy-to-read nuggets for you. If you want to see a snippet of our adventure, check out our cinematic video!
Do you love animals too? We would love to hear what your favourite wild encounter was and where. Leave us a comment below.
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We're Michael & Chloe!
An adventure travel couple from South Africa. We've hiked up mountains, dived the depths of the ocean, free-fell through the sky and finally walked down the aisle together. Here to share our travel experiences so you can get the most out of your next adventure!