How to prepare and plan your backpacking trip

I realized a lot of people struggeling to prepare or even plan a trip. It’s actually really simple.

Most people plan 1-2 week holiday trips all the time and are fine with it. The difference between a 2 week trip and for example a 3 month trip is that you are longer away, you can see more countries and you most likely need more money and you might have to apply for visa’s in certain countries.

If you are like me you dream about a trip for a while or even for years before you are actually doing it…

I think the most concern why people are not travelling for longer is because they don’t know how to fund a trip and how much money they actually need. Of course it always depends for how long you want to go away and where you want to go. You obviously need less money in 3rd world countries than in others but if you do a little bit of research you find out what the cost of an average day will be.

To fund your trip you have a few options:

  • Saving up money is probably the most common one – working at home and minimize your expenses to save up as much as you can till you can afford a trip
  • Work & travel is another option – finding jobs in bars/restaurants or maybe you are into diving and you can work in different diving schools as a dive master or instructor (don’t forget you still need starting money for flight/travel insurance etc)
  • Or you become a digital nomad and take your work with you while you travel.

The second concern especially for women is the question how safe is the country I will travel at.

Every time I plan a trip I do a google search and check how secure the country is. You will find these information very easily. Most important thing is to always always use your common sense and try avoid dodgy situations. Don’t do things you wouldn’t do at home either, e.g. walking in very dark alley ways.

What I suggest to be prepared for your trip – do a lot of research. Read a lot of blogs of travelers who have been in the country before, get tips and ideas from them. Do as much as you can to feel comfortable to travel this country. Make plans what you want to see plan a route. You will meet people along the way too and if you are up for it and you don’t have to stick to your plan you might change them and travel along with your newly met friends – who knows?!

Okay, so you decided where to go,  you know how to fund your trip and you have some money saved up to pay for your first flights – now it’s time to actually get going.

Plan at least 6 month in advance, that give you enough time to get a few things sorted, e.g. book flights, vaccinations, travel insurance, prepare family & friends, give up job/car/apartment etc.

My suggested timeline to give you an idea:

6 month in advance:

  • check flights and flight to your first destination – if you have limited time book a return ticket (of course there might be last minute offers but you are better off to book in advance with good prices)
  • check visa regulations of each country you’d like to visit
  • prepare family and friends
  • check you passport if it is valid long enough

4-3 month in advance:

  • check/book travel insurance
  • check with a travel clinic & online what vaccination you need, start vaccination process, some vaccination need 2-3 jabs
  • plan your route roughly – book more flights if needed (don’t book too many – you might have to change them – book a few along the way) Some country request a proof that you will leave the country keep that in mind and check before you book
  • get a new passport if needed
  • get a backpack/suitcase if you haven’t got one

2-1 month in advance

  • tell work, resign early enough
  • sell your car as soon as possible
  • hand in notice for your apartment/room if necessary
  • start applying for Visa if necessary (some countries have eVisas)
  • start booking accommodation for your first stop and for the first couple of nights (I recommend that especially during high season – low budget places are often booked out very quick). I always feel better and it’s less stress when you arrive somewhere for the first time. Rest of your accommodation you can book along the way

Use booking.com for hotel/hostel bookings, using this link you and I will get £10 voucher for our next booking 🙂

https://www.booking.com/s/6188ae87#reward-for-friends-£10-cash

1 week before

  • start to get excited
  • check all travel documents
  • check insurance
  • have some leaving drinks/party with your friends

2-1 day in advance

  • start packing – I know it is early but that way you will know if you need something last minute

day of the travel

  • get more excited
  • don’t cry
  • be on time at the airport
  • board plane &

have the best time of your life 🙂

Riga – my top 5 restaurants

My friend and I decided last year that we should spend every year a weekend away together. Traditionally from our last trip it’s March. This year we decided to go somewhere warm and nice. After consideration which countries/cities we haven’t visited yet and where it could be nice and especially warm we came up with Dubrovnik or Riga. We know that both cities aren’t particular warm in March but neither of us really thought about that by the time we were booking our trip.

We booked a weekend in Riga; the capital of Latvia and based on the Baltic Sea.

Riga is a lovely city with a lot of diverse history. From the first arrival of German merchants, World War 1 & 2 and the time with the Russians and its socialism, it became a quite unique little city. Riga’s old town belongs to one of the World Heritage Sites in Europe.

We didn’t exactly know what to expect in Riga and were a bit worried about food too. But my friend is always better prepared than I am and she did some research before we arrived.

Here are the best places we have been to:

1. Folkklub Ala Pagrabs

This gem is a basement restaurant/pub/bar in a side street of old town. When we walked down the stairs we both thought oh my god what is this place it looked cold and wet but the further we walked the better it got. It is an old cellar vault and it has live music every night which gives you a feeling you are in an Irish pub! It is very busy since it’s popular for locals and tourist at the same time. That’s why we were a bit worried about the food because our experience told us touristy places are often not as good but we got pleasantly surprised; the food was delicious. It is very traditional and very meaty but my vegetarian friend could find something nice on the menu too. We enjoyed our meal to the fullest and the prices are compared to other places cheap but the food and atmosphere doesn’t justify it.  We definitely come back.

2. Black Monk

We were strolling around a little bit in old town and weren’t sure what we actually fancy. Till we found Black Monk it looked very welcome with heaters/ flambeau outside. The menu looked modern and international with vegetarian dishes on it too. The atmosphere was nice and the food was perfect. We had little traditional potato pancakes and mussels as a starter, our main was baked Avocado. Surprisingly the Avocado didn’t turn mushy or grey.  The restaurant was a bit pricier than the others but worth a try.

3. Bar Garaza

We had this little gem on our list from the beginning. Not for the food but for it cocktails. It’s an old garage converted into a trendy cocktail bar/restaurant. Once there we went in and everybody was eating so we decided to give it a try too. The menu reminds more of pub food which makes you a bit unsure how good it will be. Nothing wrong with good down to earth food but living in England showed me that not every pub serves good food. When the food arrived we were astonished by the lovely presentation and the amazing taste of the pasta and the filled mushrooms we ordered. The prices were standard Riga pub prices.

4. The Good Father

We found the Good Father on our way to Garaza. The Good Father is a Pizza place in a tiny little side alley. We just seen it because there were people walking down that alley into the restaurant and we are very nosy so we wanted to know what it is. Not only is this place in a small alley it’s also a small little restaurant with the tables in placed at the winter garden. The pizza was perfectly made with a thin crust and a good amount of quality toppings. We had a nice little bottle of wine with it and I have to say we enjoyed both a lot. The prices were justified and we happily paid for this wonderful pizza.

5. Galarija Istaba

Last but not least we went to Galarija Istaba this time for lunch. This place is something else it is a little art gallery with a shop at the ground floor and on the top floor they have this tiny restaurant with view into the art gallery. They offer just one selected menu a day; on the day we have been there they served some kind of tapas. We had a starter with different dips and bread and our main was different vegetables with some couscous and rice – that was the vegetarian version otherwise they would have served it with some chicken. If you are a fussy eater it could become a bit difficult to eat here otherwise it is very yummy and worth a try. What I liked here most is the idea of having a restaurant on top of an art gallery.

A little photo collection of our food:

 

 

I hope you like my little list of my top 5 restaurants in Riga. Let me know which one you liked the most? I’d love to hear from you.

2 week Costa Rica itinerary – Caribbean coast

It’s a few month back but better late than never.

I went in February this year for a two week trip to Costa Rica. Like most of my holidays it was a 5 min decision back in November. Best decision I could make. Since I just had 2 weeks it had to be either the Pacific coast or the Caribbean. After a lot of research, which is new to me, I decided to go to the Caribbean coast.

I want to go back now to see the Pacific beaches too. Not only this but also much more of this beautiful country.

Costa Rica what I have seen so far is a lovely, amazing and very green country. It’s incredible how many rain forest/ national parks they have got and how beautiful everything is. The wildlife is amazing, it’s bird heaven, sloth heaven, monkey heaven and many more in one.

My decision to visit the Caribbean coast was easily made, I wanted to get a little more of the chilled out vibe from the Caribbean and was hoping for less tourists, which doesn’t work in Costa Rica. It’s a tourist heaven and so easy to travel.

Of course when you go to Costa Rica you have to visit at least one of it’s rain forest and volcanoes. The most famous volcano is Arenal which is an active volcano and it erupted a few years back.

My itinerary at the end looked like:

  • La Fortuna (which is actually not even close to any of the coasts but it’s near the volcano called Arenal) (3 nights)
  • Tortuguero (2 night)
  • Cahuita (3 nights)
  • Puerto Viejo (4 nights)

I arrived very late at Costa Rica’s San Jose airport, so I spent a night in Alajuela at Maleku Hostel and out of convenience on my last night too.

Malku is a small hostel next to the bus stop in Alajuela which was very convenient for my travel the next day. They offer free airport transfer (hostel to airport) and as far as I know also storage facilities. The staff is very friendly and help with everything. http://www.malekuhostel.com

La Fortuna

I took the bus to my first stop La Fortuna. The bus ride was roughly 5 hours and I was standing most of the time. I gave my seat up for a mum with her two kids. The bus ride was exhausting but I loved the views all the way up to La Fortuna. The whole way I thought that it would be brilliant to have my own car to stop here and there, if you have a chance and your budget allows it, hire a car!

After arriving in La Fortuna and finding my hostel. I was very exhausted and the weather wasn’t very good either. So I relaxed at my hostel which felt like being in a nice hotel resort. It has a pool and a bar! 🙂

Check it out it’s Arenal Hostel Resort

https://www.booking.com/hotel/cr/arenal-hostel-resort.en-gb.html?aid=304142;label=gen173nr-1FCAEoggJCAlhYSDNiBW5vcmVmaFCIAQGYAS64AQbIAQ7YAQHoAQH4AQuSAgF5qAID;sid=a6f096dd06467f029f4654f9db0d5bc1

It’s maybe a bit pricey but it was well worth it.

There are many activities you can book while in La Fortuna, from zip lining to hiking or just relaxing in one of the natural hot springs. I decided to book an extreme 2 volcano hike.

What can I say it was extreme but would recommend it to everyone who is going. It was very rainy on that day and we were basically knee deep in mud. Everything was slippery and the climb up and down very steep too. After we managed this hike we went to see some waterfalls, monkeys and crossed a hanging bridge. The highlight of it was the hot natural river at the end of a long day with some cocktails. Since I had mud literally everywhere I jumped in fully clothed. It was so good. If you ever go to La Fortuna book this trip or go and have a look for the hot spring river it’s free!

Some photos of this very crazy but beautiful hike:

 

On my second day, my muscles were so sore that I had to take it a bit slowly. But eventually I went for a little walk and just 20 min away from the hostel is a river with a little waterfall and a Tarzan swing where I spent the rest of the day. It was a very refreshing and fun way to spend my last day in La Fortuna and the best it was free too.

 

Tortugero

To get to Tortugero my second stop I took a shuttle bus (6 hours) to a pier and then a boat for 1 hour. You can get the public bus to the pier but the journey takes about 12 hours with a lot of stops and changes. It’s via San Jose too which would have been a nice 1 night stop over but I just haven’t had enough time to do it.

Tortugero is a  National Park and a protected wilderness area on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. It’s a nice little village, very quiet and really not much to do except enjoying the National Park and it’s nature. People normally go there to see the Turtle nestling. Of course I wasn’t there to the right time and could unfortunately not see it. Definitely check it out before you book to see if you are in the right season.

I spend 2 nights in Tortugero at a very lovely and small hostel called Aracari Garden. http://www.aracarigarden.com/home-1.html

I booked a canoe trip with the hostel for the first day and the owner is doing the tour with you. Almost every hostel/hotel is offering the tour and most of the people are doing it. Don’t book this tour with a motorboat. The noise of the motor will scare all the animals away. You will see much more on a normal canoe. The tour starts early in the morning after you paid the fee for the national park entrance you head out on the canal to spot, birds, caimans, lizards, monkeys and many more. The canal and it’s surroundings are part of the National Park and the entrance fee allows you to come back later to have a stroll around the park by yourself too.

In the National Park I finally was lucky and spotted my first sloth and of course monkeys. I do love sloths, they are the cutest ever!

They also have Jaguar’s in Tortugero, obviously you hardly ever see one but maybe you are one of the lucky ones to see one.

 

Cahuita

My next stop was Cahuita and to get there from Tortugero you take a boat for 4 hours and then a taxi/bus to Cahuita.

 

I shared my taxi with 3 people so it was cheaper and more comfortable. Cahuita got recommended to me and I spent 3 days at Hakuna Matata hostel (wasn’t my favourite hostel but they had a pool and it was an okay stay).

Here the link to the hostel: https://www.booking.com/hotel/cr/hakuna-matata-hostel.en-gb.html?label=gen173nr-1DCAEoggJCAlhYSDNiBW5vcmVmaFCIAQGYAS64AQbIAQ7YAQPoAQGSAgF5qAID;sid=a6f096dd06467f029f4654f9db0d5bc1

I think 2 nights would have been enough in Cahuita.

I got here not only to see the National Park, which is beautiful right next to the beach but to go snorkeling too. I’m an certified diver and wanted to enjoy at least a little bit of the underwater world in Costa Rica. I found diving pretty expensive in Costa Rica that’s why I decided to just go snorkeling. Due to weather conditions and bad current I couldn’t go at the end. I spoke to a tour guide and there was no way to get to the reeve which is around 200 m away from the beach.

Cahuita is pretty small but they have bars/restaurants and they get very busy during night, I didn’t try the nightlife but I got told by other travelers. The beach best to swim is in the middle of their National Park and it’s a beautiful surrounding with the trees in the back and the blue sea in the front. It takes you a day to wander through the National Park and you will see a lot of wildlife.

My stay in Cahuita was very quiet, I spent a day in the National Park and on my second day I was chilling in a hammock due to warm rain most of the day. I enjoyed doing nothing and relaxed a little bit.

 

One evening I was lucky and saw a lovely sloth mum with her little baby – I spotted her climbing along the electricity wires in front of the hostel.

 

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo was my last stop and the craziest one too. This little beach town is full of backpackers and it has a bit of a hippie vibe you feel like you finally reached the Caribbean.

I spend 4 days at Kinkaju hostel and really enjoyed it. It’s a small hostel and probably the most expensive one in my 2 weeks travel in Costa Rica but also the most homey one. My bed was so comfy 🙂 Check it out here: http://www.hostelkinkaju.com/

I can really recommend it! It’s on a side road which means it is quiet during the night but within a 2 min walk you are on the main road with all you need.

In my 4 days in Puerto Viejo I rented a bike and discovered the surrounding areas. Next to it’s big surfer beach “Playa Cocles” they have many little beaches. To discover them I cycled all the way to Manzanillo with stops at Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita and Playa Punta Uva. You can also walk to Playa Cocles from Puerto Viejo it’ll take about 10-15 min.

I had one day where I just relaxed at Playa Chiquita and Playa Punta Uva but I also enjoyed the nightlife and partied hard to the next morning at one of the nights.

Puerto Viejo has a lot to offer for foodies too, local cuisine, international food, very nice vegan/vegetarian restaurants and coffee/bakeries. I had very good seafood here and my mouth is still watering when I think about it. Of course you can book different tours too, just have a look around and see what they offer 🙂 I didn’t do a lot of tours to save some money but next time I definitely will do more too.

 

After all I can’t recommend Costa Rica enough for a holiday. I definitely want to come back and see more of this beautiful and easy to travel country. Just keep in mind, Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America, next to Panama. Save a bit more money to experience it to the fullest.

What were the odds

This morning something strange happened. I’m still in the process of what the damn happened here.

I went out last night for leaving drinks and I had a few glasses of wine. Not only that there was this weird request from the bar I’ve been too, no this morning went completely wrong.

About the bar last night: Lovely place but at around 9 pm we were in the beer garden because of the gorgeous weather in London, one of the staff members approached and asked us to sit down because we weren’t allowed to stand in the garden after 9 pm in the evening. Never heard such strange request before and definitely had some question-marks on my face but why argue – Instead I sat down and ordered another wine… 

This morning: After 4 glasses of white wine and the odd encounter with a McDonald meal last night, I woke up with a hungover and wasn’t anyway ready to face this day. When I finally found my way to the bus stop it happened. At the bus stop, which is a very busy bus stop. Two buses stopped (nothing uncommon I know) I looked up from my phone and saw that none of the buses is mine and looked back down. A minute later I looked up again the two buses were just about to drive away and there it was my bus, right there in front of the red signal and also in front of these two buses! HOW? How can it happen that a minute ago I couldn’t even see it and now it’s in front of these two other buses. In my still dazed head I tried to figure out how it could actually happened. I still can’t. I mean, I was there at the stop waiting for this bloody bus to get me into work and then this bus somehow appeared kind out of nowhere in front of these two other buses. After a long time of consideration how I could in any possible way miss this bus I came the conclusion this stupid bus didn’t stop and just drove past the bus stop.

I still can’t believe this happened to me but it did!

Conclusion of this morning:

Don’t trust London bus drivers to ever stop or stop drinking on a school night!

I’m starting new

Okay here it is, I never considered writing a blog and yet now I’m doing it. I’m still thinking German or English, German or English. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter too much as long as you like my blog 🙂

Yes I’m starting new, what does it mean and how come that I decided to start new? Not sure if it is a real new start and still it feels for me like it. I try to start at the beginning – don’t worry not when I was born but when I fell in love with travelling.

I have been in Australia in 2012, yes that’s actually when it all started. My journey to Australia changed my life once, I was about to turn 31 and needed change in my life, so I thought why not going to OZ for a year with the last chance for a working holiday visa so I did it. I had a great time, man I even wish sometimes today I would have done that while I was a bit younger to had the chance to experience it a bit longer but I didn’t. I did it in my own time and it was great. My year in OZ went quicker by as I thought and I ended up travelling a month in Thailand and then back home in Heidelberg/Germany. Heidelberg, my beloved hometown, with my family and friends but it didn’t feel like it anymore, I wanted more….

I always wanted to live in London. So that’s what I did, found a job and moved to London. London I love you and still 4 years later I love you but I miss so much. I miss my family, I miss travelling and all in all I feel like I need to move on to do something different. The thing is I had a rough time at the end of last year/beginning of this year and I just wanted to run away just leave everything behind, nobody know but I felt lost and I still feel lost not fulfilled and especially I don’t feel settled anymore.  I turned 36. this year, maybe that’s why.. When I was younger I thought I would be married by now and have 2 kids. As you can imagine none of this exist, not even a boyfriend. I think I’m single for 4 years now – again me against the world. I just don’t have luck with man, that’s what I keep thinking and that’s why I want to run! Run away from everything and just enjoy the beauty of the world. Does it make sense – no it doesn’t but it does for me. In my head I think a man can fulfil me or make me happy but that does travel too and if I can’t have the one I have the other. Okay okay if I could have both that would be the best thing in the world but it is not the case. So I start new. A new life and new me. I’m trying at least.

First of all I don’t need a man to fulfil me, I can do this by myself. I can create happiness by myself and I do all the time – I don’t need anyone for that they can just top it up 🙂

So what’s new? First, I decided to go travelling for 3 month and then I decided I combine it with a move back to Germany. So here I am now. 3 month in the line before I finally moving back and 3.5 before I go to SE Asia. I can’t bloody wait, well at least for the travelling – I know for 110% that this is what I want to do –  I would love to do it forever but moving back home? Was this just a knee jerk reaction because I was a mess and I missed my family? Why do I suddenly questioning myself? I was so sure about my decision. I think I’m just scared to move back home but I’m actually really looking forward to it. There is no way back anyway, I will pack my stuff and move, go travelling and see what life has in it’s pockets for me 🙂