If you find that your sleep quality decreases while traveling, you’re not alone. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that most adults prefer the comfort and calm of their own bedrooms over a hotel room—even a luxurious one. And don’t even get people started on the perils of trying to catch some shut-eye on a cheap flight.
Short of bringing their bed with them wherever they go, what’s a weary traveler to do? Whether you’re trying to catch some ZZZs on an airplane, in a hotel, or in a train or car, here’s how to get better sleep while on the road.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep next to two other people in the backseat of a moving vehicle, you’ll know that this can be easier said than done. But sleep will come faster if you do what you can to make yourself comfortable. Try to wear loose-fitting clothing, take off your shoes, and cuddle up under breathable fabrics for the best chance at decent sleep. If you’re in a plane, train, or car, an inflatable or travel-sized pillow will also help.
Studies routinely show that people sleep best in spaces that are quiet, unlit, and cooled to less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. While you may not be able to control the temperature wherever you’re trying to sleep (except in a car or hotel room), you can keep things quiet by packing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones or (at hotels) asking for a room that’s located away from the elevator, stairwell, vending machines, and pool (Also don’t forget to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door). Limit your exposure to light by closing a hotel room’s curtains or packing an eye mask for flights.
Consistency is key to getting good sleep, so do what you can to mimic your own bedroom environment wherever you are. Bring along your favorite pair of pajamas, a picture of your family or pet, and any other small items that will help you feel at home. Also be sure to stick to your normal bedtime routines, such as drinking a cup of tea, reading a book, listening to music, or practicing breathing exercises before closing your eyes.
Caffeine, alcohol, and exposure to “blue light” (aka the glow emitted from electronic devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones) can all make it harder to catch some shut-eye. Try not to drink coffee in the afternoon or evening; don’t drink alcohol within a few hours of heading to bed; and turn off all electronics at least an hour before hitting the sheets. Avoiding these stimulants will help your body wind down so you can fall asleep faster.
Reading reviews of hotels online prior to booking will help alert you to whether a hotel is known for having raucous guests or promoting quality slumber. Some hotels have even started investing in amenities to help guests get better sleep.
For example, the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, Va. offers guests a “Dream Menu,” or a collection of services and products designed to help guests get better sleep (think hot water bottles, Snore-no-More pillows, and a Bed Wedge that elevates your upper torso). At the Fairmont San Francisco, guests can take advantage of a sleep kit complete with sleep machine, earplugs, eye mask, and slippers. Crowne Plaza hotels offer a “Sleep Advantage” program that lets guests elect to stay in quiet zones sans room attendant, housekeeping, or engineering activities from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. And Hampton hotels offer a “Clean and Fresh Bed” designed to provide guests with optimum comfort in the form of streamlined covers, four pillows per bed, and high-thread-count sheets.
Most importantly? Even if you find yourself tossing and turning, don’t lose hope. Fretting over lost sleep will only make you anxious, so try not to stress too much if you wanted to snooze through an entire eight-hour flight and only managed to catch an hour or two of ZZZs. A little bit of sleep is better than none. And if all else fails, never forget the power of a cat nap.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on November 15th.
Namhae Island is located in the very south of South Korea. It's the perfect break from the polluted hustle and neon bustle that most Korean cities tend to have. Best known for its golden beaches and glorious weather it's surprisingly also a place not too many people know anything about it.
Namhae Island is strangely connected to the mainland of Korea by a Golden Gate Bridge imitation, constructed in 1973. From Seoul it takes about 6 hours, by car. The island itself is home to some of the most stunning scenery in Korea. The jagged cliffs cut and wind in unison with the highway and you will find it hard not to be impressed by the contrasting landscape and beaches beneath them.
The island has been left mainly untouched and employment on the island is primarily a result of its large agricultural and fishing community. During the wet seasons it is common to see rice paddies carving into the cliff side with cows plowing fields in favour of machinery. The dry season sees the rice replaced by garlic, with the majority of garlic in Korea coming from right here.
Car Rental The cheapest rental companies are located closest to the airports. For almost four days rental expect to pay $180-250 depending on how well you research. Use a few price comparison search engines as there are certainly deals to be had.
Make sure you ask for an English GPS well in advance. Google Maps navigation doesn’t work well in Korea. The Korean map applications are also infuriatingly incompetent. If you can't read or type in Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) you will need a sat nav system. Without a GPS it can be expected that you’ll miss turn offs and probably find yourself stuck on incorrect, never-ending, toll roads for long periods of time. Some signs are in English but directions are not particularly accurate. However, it is do-able -- if you are up for a challenge.
Bus + Car Rental Alternatively you could hop on a bus from Seoul to Namhae Island and rent a car by the Namhae bus terminal once you arrive. This would prove to be much cheaper in terms of gas/petrol and probably less hassle. The price of car rental is still going to be the same when you arrive.
Bus + Taxi You cannot rely on public bus services on Namhae Island so should have a plan for either private car hire or taxi. A ride right across Namhae Island (300km) in a taxi would cost about $90, but you probably won't be going that far.
Here is the bus timetable courtesy of the Seoul Tourism Board.
Seoul ←→ Namhae Express Bus Schedule
08:30, 09:50, 11:30, 13:30, 15:10, 16:40, 18:00, 19:00
07:30, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00, 18:30
Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal: Subway Line 3, Nambu Bus Terminal, Exit 5 / +82-2-521-8550 (Korean)
Namhae Bus Terminal: +82-055-864-7101 (Korean)
There are numerous unpopulated beaches that are all equipped with camping facilities. Get there early to claim a spot. If you don’t fancy camping then don’t worry as motels are plentiful, just stay on the main roads until you see one. Expect to pay $40 a night. Camping is free.
This is the main beach on Namhae Island. Expect clean facilities, plenty of restaurants, karaoke rooms, fireworks, large families and overcrowding. Don’t expect camping courtesy or etiquette. If you have a spot with a good view it’s only a matter of time before someone squeezes into it, to pitch a monster of a tent. A lot of drunken Korean fathers stumble about the tents with flashlights on their heads. Think 28 days later with head-torches when it's dark.
This is the sister beach to Sangju. Fewer people flock here but camping is still busy with many late comers opting to camp in a run down orchard/car-park near the back. Expect another nice golden beach that boasts less people than Sangju as well as a couple of supermart-style convenience stores. Don't expect much else. Head east on Highway 19 until you see signs for it.
This is not visited by many people. Head west on Highway 19 and follow signs towards the Hilton Hotel until the road 1024 forks. Pay close attention to the signs as it is very easy to miss. It's a couple of coves below the Hilton and is towards the South West of Namhae. Expect peace and tranquility but limited facilities and only a couple of snack shops. Excellent for private camping. Don’t expect people or any places to eat.
Other Beaches Take a look on a map and explore. There are plenty of little coves and beaches all over Namhae Island that many people miss. Just be a bit adventurous. And make sure to assess how far the tide comes in before pitching your tent ;)
Sea kayaking around the sea caves in Namhae Island is an excellent way to spend the day. Fish can be seen darting about below the kayak and sea insects are plentiful. It is extremely tranquil. Gliding along the calm ocean allows you to really take in the beauty of the area.
Kayaking for 3 hours will cost about $25. Paddle boarding is also available. If you get there after 1pm expect large tour groups and lengthy booking waits so get there early.
Even if you're not camping here, you can enjoy Sangju beach for the day. The end of the beach has some relatively powerless quad bike rentals so is partitioned off most of the time.
Around Sangju you can find only a handful of affordable restaurants. There are a few fresh clam and sashimi restaurants if you are feeling flush. Prices are heavily inflated due to tourism, but wandering the busy side streets you can find some decent grub, although you may have to wait a while.
One benefit of having a car and not being in a tour group is the freedom you gain. So head towards Namhae town and find some shops, restaurants and convenience stores. Everything here is much more affordable and much less crowded.
Aim to wind down here and watch the remnants of the day disappear along with the sunset. Driving down towards the beach you pass through a few rice paddies, which, if holding water will reflect the beach and its surroundings superbly. The road is extremely thin and windy, so be extra careful not to destroy the serenity of the area by plowing your compact Hyundai straight into a field of rice. There are a couple of convenience stores here that stock very little other than snacks and beer. But what else do you need?
Located near the summit of Geumsan Mat Buntain sits Boriam Temple. Watching the sunrise from here is relatively popular among the local hikers. Wake up early enough and leave enough time to drive here. Some tour buses also offer the chance to visit. There are a several trails which lead to the temple and can take a number of hours to hike. Alternatively, you can drive your car and park 900m from the temple, walking the rest in 10 minutes. The choice is yours.
Listening to the monotonous chanting of the monks whilst watching the sunrise is both hypnotic and calming. The only sound aside from the chanting is the occasional shutter sound from a nearby DSLR camera that is capturing the moment.
Stroll back down and share a smile with the disappointed folk who have all missed the sunrise as they race past desperately trying to witness something they’ve clearly missed.
Driving around the cliffs on Namhae Island you can see the glistening waters of the sea contrasting with the golden beaches and it makes for a truly remarkable drive. Oversized coaches do tend to block the roads in the afternoons so expect some traffic. If you get good weather then driving around the island might actually be your favourite part of the trip.
During the 1960’s 10,000 Korean nurses headed to Germany to seek work in exchange for cheap credit with the government. The German Village is for those who returned. All the materials that went into building the houses came from Germany and over the past 10 years the area has become a settlement/hamlet for 35 families, 90% of which are Korean-German.
Unfortunately, in exchange for the family loyalty, the village has been turned into a tourist hot spot whereby tens of thousands of people flock here, creating congestion that goes on for miles. The tourists disrespectfully take photographs posing next to the residents homes, trample through their gardens and even wander into their living rooms. Engelfried (82) is a German local and told a newspaper that “It’s treated like a museum village.” It is promoted by Seoul Tourism board and they have placed a huge car park only a short walk from the village. Avoid.
The most recently constructed but not so popular cousin of the abov. The placard reads “designed to be the last settling place for Korean-Americans who have dreamt of returning to and retiring in their homeland.” Walking up and down is relatively surreal with cheesy western inanimate objects glued to the walls, such as, surfboards and American driving plates.
Heading back towards your city whether it’s Seoul, Busan or elsewhere, you can expect heavy traffic when approaching if it’s a holiday weekend. Add at least an extra hour to your return journey.
There are as many reasons to see Ireland as there are people who travel to the Emerald Isle. History, geology, pub culture, folklore, and breathtaking views are all par for the course for travelers to the island.
If you have a few days to spare, you can soak up nearly all that Ireland has to offer while rolling through the southwestern half of the country. Here’s a road trip itinerary guaranteed to make you “ooh,” “ahh,” and promise to come back.
After flying into Dublin and spending the night in Ireland’s capital city, prepare for a cross-country adventure full of historical sites and breathtaking views. Rent a car and set off on a short drive (approximately two hours) to the artsy town of Kilkenny.
Check in at the quaint Kilkenny House Hotel before heading to Kilkenny Castle, which was built in the 1100s. Then venture on to Dunmore Cave, which features some of the finest calcite formations in Ireland. Once you’ve had your fill of history and geology, return to Kilkenny to explore its many arts and crafts shops and downtown restaurants.
Buckle up for a day of striking scenery. There are so many sights to choose from on this leg of the journey that you can’t go wrong. If you aren’t off-put by crowds, then don’t miss visiting the popular Blarney Castle or driving part of the gorgeous Ring of Kerry. For a (slightly) less traveled path, stop by King John’s Castle, the historic Swiss Cottage, or the Muckross Friary and traditional grounds.
Arrive in Killarney and check into the quirky and contemporary Ross Hotel. Since you’ll no doubt be tired from the long day’s drive, enjoy food and drink at the hotel’s restaurant before tumbling into bed.
Explore Irish history on the way to the small town of Ennis by stopping by Bunratty Castle, the geologically marvelous Burren, and/or Craggaunowen – The Living Past, where you’ll learn how the Celts lived, farmed, and hunted in Ireland. Enjoy dinner in Ennis before retiring to the upscale Ashford Court Boutique Hotel.
Travel to the western edge of the country in order to take in one of the most gorgeous views around at the stunning and popular Cliffs of Moher (Fun fact: These are the so-called “Cliffs of Insanity” from the film The Princess Bride). If you’re still in an adventurous spirit after visiting the cliffs, head to Aillwee Cave, which was formed by glacial melt waters and is situated close to Galway.
Finish the drive to Galway and check in at the luxurious Jury’s Inn, located near the historic Spanish Arch, the Galway City Museum, and Eyre Square (If you’re feeling budget-conscious, consider staying in the friendly Galway City Guesthouse instead). After dumping your luggage, enjoy dinner and drinks at any of Galway’s many restaurants and pubs.
Spend the morning exploring the sites of Galway before hopping back in the car for the three-to-four-hour ride to Dublin. If you fancy some detours on the way back to the capital city, stop at medieval Athenry Castle, the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise, or Trim Castle, where Braveheart was filmed.
Upon returning to Dublin, settle in at the supremely well located Blooms Hotel before enjoying dinner and drinks out on the town. Whether you retire early or partake of the Temple Bar neighborhood’s pubs all night, be sure to contemplate what a wonderful trip it’s been.
This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 25th.
Some cities are always going to be expensive, but if you think ahead and buy a Federal Recreation Pass, you can enter federally-funded recreation areas throughout the United States for free. This includes places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park. You can even have some friends tag along!
If you’re driving across the country, a cooler with lunch meats, soda and condiments can come in handy at rest stops. Even when you’re staying at a hotel, it’s best to have food stored in the refrigerator. Save eating out for those special restaurants that you just have to try.
Even if you don’t pay for a pass to see national landmarks, there are countless sites you can visit for free. From the National History Museum in D.C. to the French Quarter — which also has low cost hotels in New Orleans like Historic Streetcar Inn — there are definite stopping points that can be accessed on a shoestring budget.
If you’ve opted to see the country via automobile, one of the best ways to stay within your budget is to bring friends along. Not only will you get a better value on your Federal Recreation Pass, but you’ll also be able to split the cost of fuel and your lodging. Just imagine, for instance, how much more affordable a trip to The Big Apple would be if you weren’t footing the bill for New York hotels and taxis alone.
Online travel sites have become a popular way of saving money. Using travel aggregation sites Google Flights, which seek out the lowest prices from all the top travel sites, is an ideal way to save money on traveling.
Imagine if you knew which gas stations along your route had the lowest-priced fuel. Just think of how much you could save! That’s exactly what GasBuddy does. You can check out their website or download the app, and never overpay for gas again!
When you do opt to buy food from a restaurant, it’s best to place your order to go. This will minimize the necessity of tipping. Even if you find a cheap hotel in cities ranging from Chicago to El Paso, tipping can quickly wipe out the money you’re saving on a low-cost hotel.
Traveling across the country doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. There are now many methods for saving on cross-country trips. Fortunately, this means great travels without breaking the bank.
This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 11th.
Few forms of travel involve more excitement, unpredictability, and opportunities to connect with the locals than road trips. Whether in a car, motorcycle, RV, or even a converted school bus (yes, I've done it!), nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip! This summer, why not hit the road on one of these epic routes and see what you find:
One of Southeast Asia's most popular motorcycle routes is the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail that runs north to south through this elongated nation. I spent three months in Vietnam in 2014 and this was one of the highlights of my time there. The countryside of Vietnam is gorgeous and most of the roads were smooth sailing.
Along the way there are tons of small villages to stop at and meet locals, as well as plenty of sights to see that are off the main tourist trails. One example is the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, home to over 300 caves, including the largest one in the world, Sơn Đoòng Cave. Back in 2003 the park earned itself a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List and although tourism has been slowly increasing ever since, most visitors to the park are Vietnamese.
Back in 2010, I spent six months on a 32-state United States road trip and had an unforgettable experience. We went from California to Washington, D.C., and then back to California. It was amazing to see the way the terrain, roads, people, and food varied state to state.
Most people always assume that life in the United States is the same throughout the country; however, nothing could be further from the truth. But the only way to experience this is to travel cross-country for yourself!
If that's too grand of a road trip for this summer, check out the 7 Best American Road Trips for Last Minute Getaways.
flickr // auspices
Iceland is a majestic and beautiful country, and one of the best ways to experience it is to spend a couple of weeks circling the entire island in a rented car. As my friend Liz of Young Adventuress describes it, Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is "830 miles of adventure and surprises." Just be sure to read all the do's and don'ts of an Iceland road trip before you go!
India's diversity cannot be understated. From the deserts of the west to the lush and rainy mountain hills in the far east, the climate, flora, and fauna change as dramatically across the country as do the people and the food. While some of this is seen when traveling the country by bus or train, only when you navigate the roads yourself does this become clear.
Earlier this year I traveled 3,000 kilometres from the far west of India to the far east ... by rickshaw! With a top of only 55 km/hr (around 35 mph) it took us two weeks, but was absolutely incredible. Highly recommended — and possible for you to do. Learn more here.
Indonesia is an amazingly vast and impressive country. When I first arrived here I thought one month would be enough. HA! How wrong I was. Six months later and I am still exploring this diverse country. Doing almost all of it by motorcycle, as well.
Many Westerns are scared or worried about navigating the wild and unpredictable streets of Indonesia -- or any nation in Southeast Asia for that matter. Audrey of That Backpacker wrote a post about it several months back that further reinforced peoples' fears. However I'm here to tell you it's not as bad as you might think.
For starters there are many upsides to renting a motorcycle while abroad. It is really inexpensive. Ridiculously cheap, in fact. Throughout most of Indonesia prices are $5/day, $20-25/week, or $60-100/month. That's an absolute bargain. Fuel costs even less than that.
For example, I traveled 400km from Jogja to Surabaya in 7hrs using less than $5 worth of fuel. By contrast a train ticket would have cost me $20 and taken only a mere two hours less -- but then I wouldn't have met any cool locals along the way.
Beyond the financial issue there is also the added bonus of being able to set your own schedule and go where you want, when you want. Renting a motorcycle allows you to avoid a multitude of things such as tour groups, waiting on buses/trains, and being stuck with crowds of foreign tourists. This is especially beneficial when your hotel or hostel tries to get you to join a group to see those stereotypical tourist attractions, like Borobudur or Mount Ijen. "Tidak perlu, saya punya motor." ("No need, I have a motorcycle.") But hey, if you want to travel halfway around the world just to hang out with foreigners, that's your choice. However I must at least try and encourage you to interact with locals more, to live the local way of life. It's much more educational and rewarding. Plus when (or if) you ever return home then you will have a lot more to be thankful for.
In Indonesia the larger vehicle is always responsible and must pay damages (e.g. if a car hits a motorcyclist, its the car's fault; if a motorcyclist hits a pedestrian, it is the motorcyclist's fault). As such, you'll find that vehicles on the road here usually tend to be very careful to avoid hitting anyone on two wheels. I've done dangerous and some might even argue stupid stuff on the roads here but because of this I always scrap through unscathed.
That having been said, there are a few downsides to traveling by motorcycle in Indonesia. First there is obviously the traffic in the big cities and of course the condition of some of the roads, which are not quite the smooth and orderly roads we find in North America and Europe. Potholes, sinkholes and unexpected bumps in the pavement do occur, especially in places like Sumatra where the roads are notoriously dangerous for those very reasons.
There is also a general state of madness on the roads in southeast Asia, at least from a Western standpoint. As one of my local Indonesian friends put it: "I thought roads here are normal. But after two years at university in UK, wow, can see why bule [caucasians] are shocked." However they are not as bad as other countries like the Philippines where: "Here everyone drives crazy. So you just have to drive crazier!"
From cars suddenly stopping in the middle of highways to people crossing the street to motorcycles zigging and zagging around seemingly everywhere at once, the roads in this corner of the world are far from what Westerns would call "organized." There is however an organized chaos to it all and if you go into it with an open mind -- and a few heads-up pointers -- then you'll see that you really have nothing to be afraid of. Well, almost nothing. Here are a few pointers to help reduce your learning curve:
This may be a bad piece of advice to start with but its the truth. Anyone can rent a bike in Indonesia, even those who have never driven one before. Of course this is both a good thing and a bad thing. One of the things I mentioned frequently on the road was "I'm not afraid of the locals -- I'm afraid of the tourist who just learned how to drive five minutes ago in the parking lot."
What about the police, you may ask. Not a problem. During my first extended two month road-trip I hit everywhere in Java, circled Bali, and circled Lombok. Not once was I ever pulled over or questioned by the police. However, when taking a motorcycle onto a ferry you do have to show your proof of insurance, which comes with all rental bikes. In Padangbai, a city in east Bali, the police officer at the port also asked to see my International Drivers License. "Oops, I forgot it." The officer rolled his eyes at me, stuck out his hand and said "Limapuluh ribu," which means 50,000 IDR. That's less than $5USD. And simple as that I was on the ferry.
Often times at night you'll see locals driving around without their lights. I've done the same thing myself several times after having a few beers. The easiest way to avoid this is -- no, not to skip the beer with dinner -- is rather to turn your headlights on when you first get the bike and never turn them off. They shut off automatically when the motorcycle is off so don't worry about draining the battery.
Always remember to use your turn signals as well. When bikes are weaving in and out of each other and people are driving every which way, that turn signal is the only way people around you know what you are thinking and where you plan on going. Proper driving etiquette here in SEA is to pay attention to everyone around you. The locals will assume that you are also doing the same to them.
In other parts of the world honking your horn at another driver is disrespectful. Not here in Indonesia. It is actually quite the opposite. It's considered courteous and respective to do so, especially if you think the other driver might not see you. Use it when passing cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, becaks, even people walking alongside the road. Just as a warning, so they know you are coming. You also want to do it when approaching any free-for-all intersections or running red lights. That brings me to my next item...
This includes running red lights, driving down sidewalks or the wrong way down a one-way street, even making illegal u-turns. All of this is standard driving practice in Indonesia and will make it look like you have been in the country a lot longer than you have. With the exception of the southern part of Bali (Kuta, Sanur, Uluwatu) the police do not care the slightest about any of these tactics. In Indonesia it is first come, first serve. Even at convenience stores, where locals frequently skip the queue and just cut in front of others, especially foreigners.
Also, if you start to notice that many other motorcyclists around you have their raincovers on already despite the fact that it has yet to start raining, you might want to pull over and put yours on real fast. Chances are that the rain is only a few minutes away.
Most of these are bumpy, especially the railroad tracks. Large gaps several centimeters across in between the pavement and the rail are commonplace. Combine that with the lumps in the pavement and it's easy to go flying. One time I hit a railroad crossing at 100km/h and I literally flew out of my seat, completely lifted up into the air. Luckily my front tire was pointed straight forward and I had a tight grip on the handlebars.
Bridges are not as bad. Some of these are quite smooth actually. But many have a rough bump and the beginning and ending, where the bridge meets the roadway. Just to be on the safe side you want to slow down for these as well, especially if you see the other drivers around you doing the same thing.
These occasionally occur in the big cities but are more frequent on the long stretches of road in between cities. For the most part Java is not that bad. Other islands like Sumatra are a completely different story. Just keep your eyes focused ahead and you'll be fine. If you're really worried then just drive a little bit slower.
This occurs both during the daytime and the nighttime. At night fast-moving cars will often flash their brights as they are coming up from behind to inform you that they are about to pass. However as cars frequently drive on the wrong side of the road when passing slow-moving trucks or buses, you will also see oncoming cars do this as well. In this case you want to move as far to the left as possible, to give them room to pass.
During the daytime it's a little different. If you see an oncoming car flashing their brights at you it usually means "you'd better get out of the way because I cannot!" In this situation it is wise to slow down as well as scoot as far to the left shoulder as possible.
Being pulled over for going to fast or too slow in this corner of the world is a fear you do not need have. I regularly hit triple digits in quiet neighborhoods and places where the signs say 30 or 40 but the police don't even bat an eye at me. However, if you are going to drive really fast, be sure to keep an eye out for people trying to cross the street and cars or motorcycles entering the roadway.
In Indonesia the idea of stopping when you reach an intersection and looking before you turn just doesn't exist. People just pull out and hug the shoulder, rather than swinging out into the center of the lane, but they never look. They count on the ones already driving down the road to be on the lookout for them. Remember that. This is also one reason I advocate driving on the right side of the road, nearer to the center lane -- except when traffic is trying to pass, of course.
These will become priceless whether driving in city or through the countryside. After all GPS in SEA is not quite as reliable -- or up to date -- as it is in the Western world. Knowing a few words like kiri (left), kanan (right), and terus (straight / keep going) will become invaluable. Other good words to know are dimana (where) and bensin (gasoline). "Dimana bensin?"
These are very helpful when driving into the rising or setting sun as even closing your eyes for a few seconds can be disastrous. They also help keep you from being blinded by oncoming lights when driving at night. Some of the vehicles here in Indonesia have crazy bright lights. In additional many of the trucks and buses have colored lights hanging on the edges, so that others drivers (particularly motorcyclists) can avoid them...often by mere centimeters.
If you are like me and have been riding motorcycles for years then you know there is nothing more enjoyable then feeling the breeze through your hair. But if the police see anyone without a helmet in the big cities, even locals, they will pull them over and issue them a ticket. This is very true for tourists, especially in Bali. However once you get outside of the city and are driving through countryside and small villages feel free to take your helmet off and enjoy the wind.
You don't need GPS or smart phone maps to travel long distances in Indonesia -- I spent my first two months essentially driving blind, only following the green road signs. They will list the upcoming cities and point you left right or straight. Just keep driving straight until you see the next one and have no fear.
Many locals initially cautioned me against driving at night, warning that I might be stopped and robbed by some unscrupulous individuals. However in six months that has yet to happen. In fact I found night driving to be more enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Not only is there less traffic on the road but also less surprises, such as people crossing the street or unexpectedly slamming on their brakes.
I would suggest however that you not drive over 100km/hr at night. That way you still have enough time to see and avoid any potholes in the road.
The national gasoline chain in Indonesia is Pertamina. They are located everywhere in the big metropolises and at key locations in between smaller cities. Even in the middle of nowhere there is usually a Pertamina every 75-100/km, at least on Java; However they are less sporadic on Sumatra and Sulawesi. Once your gas tank gets down to 1/4 full I recommend stopping at the next Pertamina you see and topping up.
Not all Pertaminas are open 24 hours a day, especially in the more remote areas. If driving long distances at night then I recommend filling up your tank whenever it gets down to the halfway mark.
Throughout Indonesia there are small family-owned shops that sell bensin. You will recognize these places because they always have the gasoline stored in glass bottles and displayed near the roadside in wooden shelves. They charge a tiny bit more than Pertamina (7-8,000IDR/liter versus 6,000IDR) but come in handy when your fuel is running low and there is not a Pertamina in sight.
In Bali, especially the southern, more touristy parts of the island like Kuta and Sanur, do not trust these vendors. They water down their gasoline so much that you can literally watch your gas gauge dropping as you drive. They also charge 10,000IDR a liter, nearly twice the normal price. Do not purchase gasoline from them unless you have already run out and are pushing your bike.
When traveling long distances through unfamiliar areas it is a good idea to follow the person in front of you. The locals know where the bumps and dips in the road are and they tend to follow the smoothest path. Follow behind them and you will have an easier ride.
Indomaret and Alfamart are the two competing convenience store chains in the country. Although most of their prices are the same, anytime they weren't it was always Indomaret that was less expensive. They also will let you use the restroom if you need it. The few times I asked the Alfamart staff to use their bathroom I was always denied.
Well, that about sums it up. These are the most important tips and tricks I've learned from my time on the road here. Hopefully they help make your motorcycle experience in Indonesia a smooth and enjoyable one!
This article was originally published on the HoliDaze blog titled How To Motorcycle Indonesia: What, Where, How, Why + Tips
Having spent the last 2 years working with no break, we decided it was high time for a bit of R'n'R! So we packed up a suit case and headed for Hurghada, a lovely town situated on the Red Sea just a 4-hour drive from Luxor.
You can fly there but I find it more fun to take a car as the roads along the way are something special :)
We left Luxor at sunrise bleary-eyed with two very excited children in tow! As we made our way out of Luxor we saw the hot air balloons taking off from their launch site on the West Bank. It is amazing how many balloons there are now...I remember the days when we only had one or two!
As we headed down towards Qena it amazed me how much the landscape changed from the stretches of Lush green running along the River Nile to the desert wastelands that we found ourselves heading towards.
We passed through the city of Qena, home to Dendara Temple and was stunded at the difference between Luxor and Qena.
Here the street seemed cleaner with roads just for the public cars. Once outside Qena we continued are journey on towards Hurghada.
Half way through our journey the landscape changed again with the mountains closing in around us the rock faces all jaggered with an almost menacing look about them it was like being in a different world completely with what I can only describe as desolate beauty.
The feeling as you travel through here is the sense that there is still so much to be discovered hidden in the mountainous rock that surrounds you as you drive through.
It amazed me to see the Bedouin people still living within these mountains people walking along the roads seemingly on the road to no ware! We passed a Bedouin woman carrying water on her head while leading her donkey, with her thick black clothing and a long head scarf made of the same material. I couldn't understand it as there I was sweating in a light cotton shirt and trousers in an air conditioned car, while outside it must have been 42°C and she was dressed like it was winter!! I guess there is method in this madness.
What was just as amazing about her was when the wind got up you could make out the amazing colours of another dress beneath the black very different in deed from the woman of Luxor.
As we came out of the desert we sighted our first glims of the beautiful Red Sea in Safaga we knew then we only had 45 minutes before we reached our destination!
As we entered in to Hurghada you can see all round the amazing hotel complexes lining the beaches, it was only then we realized we had no idea where are hotel was or how to get there!!
After asking 6 taxi drivers and made 20 wrong turns the pyramid entrance of our hotel came in to view and at last our holiday (even if only for 4 days!) could begin.
Are hotel was the Sonesta Pharaohs Hotel 5* All Inclusive and from the onset it looking impressive.
Once we checked in we made our way to our chalet and as we walked wondered why they had golf carts taking people around it was only once we found are chalet that we realised why!
When we booked the hotel they describe them selves has having everything within walking distance which is true to a point. You have to not mind a 10 minute walk from the main building to your room bearing in mind that the main building houses all the restaurants and entertainment! The beach was another 5 minute walk from our room but if you where staying in the main building you would defiantly need the golf cart!
Not to be deflated as lets face it we are still on holiday we quickly changed and headed to the beach.
One of the many things I love about Egypt is the Red Sea it is stunning and you don't have to go on the trips to see the wild life, all you need is a good pair of goggles!
Unfortunately to get in the Sea you needed to walk down a pier so the children couldn't go in the water by themselves, but we didn't mind as the sea was amazing with roped off coral areas that if you had your google you could see the amazing aquatic life swimming about.
In all the years I have lived in Egypt I have never caught the sun so decided on a low factor as didn't see the point in anything higher!
Never ever EVER underestimate the power of the Egyptian sun yes you have guessed it I was just a little sun burnt after only 2 hours in the sun!! Be warned all you sun worshipers out there if you are intending to come and stay on the Red Sea make sure you pack SPF-50!!!
Yes that is lotion to stop the burning!!
In the evening time we saw to my injuries!! and headed up to dinner. This was lovely plenty of choice for all. The house wine is not bad either and it is great that the children can go and help themselves. We didn't get to watch the show that night as after the travelling we decided on bed.
The next day we stayed half the day by the pool and the rest down on the beach. Now for an all inclusive hotel they sure do like to try and sell you something which started to get on my nerves.
There was no fresh juice unless you paid for it and in the afternoon went around with trays of ice cream for the children which when we said oh yes please ended up saying no thank you as it wasn't for free!
The cleaning staff did an amazing job and left this on our bed which of course Saffy found wonderful! ;)
The worst came that night, it was advertised Mexcian night and the cocktail of the evening was mohito I love them so thought we would have one after dinner. The barman told me to sit down and he would bring the drinks over, on their arrival the drinks looked nothing like what I ordered plus he put down the bill!!! it was at this point i spat the dummy! and called for the manager.
Please if any hotel owners are reading this remember if you are going to advertise all inclusive make sure your hotel is all inclusive as for the rest of our stay I was so stressed out I didn't know what to ask for and what not to just in case in cost something!!
The animation team worked very hard and my two loved the Micheal Jackson night they put on I can't remember to much as was taking red wine for medicinal purposes !
On the last day we spent it by the sea me covered from head to toe to keep the sun off! with camera at the ready below are just some of the amazing bits of wild life that we found on our trip.
Until I went to Hurghada I never really appreciated the phrase swimming with the jellies! but these guys are every where it is a little disturbing at first as being taught from a young age that jelly fish sting I was amazed that these didn't I am sure they do have a sting but was touched by loads of them and came out fine!
The fish amazed me he/she was swimming close to surface of the water making it a great picture moment ! I have no idea what it is but it is beautiful.
We found lots of star fish to under the pier.
On our way home we came across a shopping mall with a proper supermarket!! I know amazing !! you have to live in Luxor to understand the importance of a real super market! lol
We stocked up on provisions and made our way home.
Even though our hotel choice was all wrong and they need to take it from a 5* to (at the most 4*) we had an amazing time in Hurghada and will be back again next time I going to go swimming with the dolphins!
It is so totally different from the hustle and bustle of Luxor all you have is the sea and sun you can go out if you wish or stay in your resort the choice is yours.
On our return journey home we watched the sun go down over the Theban Mountains making me appreciate how wonderful my home really is.
After windy Surat Bay, I drove along the coast to Te Anau. Where famous sounds where. You know...the Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Te Anau was a really beautiful place with a beautiful lake and the refreshing background noise make it even more beautiful. It is a little town, mostly popular in summer but now, in the winter, it was almost desserted. No worries though -- without the tourists it was even more beautiful :-)
The next day I headed to Milford Sound. 120km to the Sound and 120km back. The highway to Milford sound dates back to the 1930's but I was happy it gave me the opportunity to go there. I also wanted to go to Doubtful Sound but that was almost impossible....unless you have lots of money ;)
Milford Sound is New Zealand's most famous tourist destination and tends to be crowded.
I was warned about the big buses headed to Milford Sound and told me to avoid the mornings and late afternoons. But of course I didn't listen. In Te Anau it was pretty much desserted, so Milford Sound would be the same, right? I was totally wrong!! Lots of big buses, especially Chinese. Yeah, Chinese tourists are pretty much everywhere nowadays. But in the end, I did a pretty good job of avoiding them. Cheers for me. :-)
And it was a pretty amazing view. I didn't do a boat trip to see the sounds up close but the drive was well worh it. Alrighty and now back to Te Anau. Another 120km's and after that heading to the party and ski town called: QUEENSTOWN!
Before I left Mt. Cook, I took one last look at the amazing view. Staying longer was no option, because there was so much more to see in the South. Early in the morning, when my carwindows were still frozen, I decided to drive more south, towards Oamaru. I drove along a few beautiful lakes that New Zealand has to offer: Lake Aviemore, Lake Benmore and Lake Waitiki.
Around noon I arrived in Oamaru. Best described as a sweet, little town. I rang the doorbell at the hostel, that was situated just off the main street. A woman in nightgown opened the door: "Love, come on in! It's a bit of a mess (you might say that!) but I decided last minute to go to London, to see the Olympics and my son, who lives in London." She decided to close the hostel for two weeks. "Oh, and you have to take this." She gave me a list of all the backpackers that made reservation in this hostel but were going to the Empire Hotel Backpackers.
Before she send me off for my mission, she gave me some tips about what I should definitely should see here in Oamaru: "You have to go see the penguins tonight, just after sundown, just follow the smell, oh and don't forget to go the farmersmarket, oh and you have to see this en that....." A lovely women but a minor case of ADHD.
I drove with my list to the Empire Hotel Backpackers where I also was staying. It took me quit a while to find the hostel. You wouldn't think it would be so hard because it was on the main street. When I arrived, I was one of the few in the hostel, but that didn't matter. It was a beautiful old building from 1867 with a lot of history and I enjoyed the little town and the nice weather. At night, I went to look for some penguins. I smelled the smell, but sadly saw no penguins....
This morning I looked out of the window. It was mostly grey, but on the bright side....it didn't rain. Yeah, just another day in the fall. Falls here in the Netherlands are mostly like that. You are lucky when it doesn't rain and really, really lucky when you see some sunshine. But the weather doesn't get me down, or at least i'm trying, but this make me also realise that I was really lucky in New Zealand.
Even in the winter I got lots of sun. On the westcoast it was raining, buy hey...when doesn't it not rain on the westcoast, right? But it's not only the sun that made me have a fantastic time. It's also the amazing people i've met during my 9 month stay in New Zealand, but what are now the most awesome things about New Zealand:
Relaxed lifestyle: That's not only the best thing in New Zealand, but the best thing when you travel. The only thing is what you think about is what are you going to do today and where are you going to sleep tonight. That's most awesome feeling in the world and that's why I love travelling so much. No worries about money or things that you have to do. Just living your life and enjoy :-)
The charm of the traffic: Ok New Zealand isn't most biggest country and certaintly doesn't have the biggest roads, but that doesn't matter. It makes people more nice, they are taking an effort. It's normal for trucks to stop along the road to pass you by. Everyone actually stops when you want to cross a road. Yeah, I know! Unbelievable, right?
The stunning scenery: I travelled quit a bit in Asia (8 months) and in Australia (4 months) and off course Europe, where I'm from, but there's nothing like the scenery in New Zealand. It's the most amazing scenery I've ever seen. Lakes, Mountains, Forrest and you gotta love all the desserted beaches. Can also be quit anoying, though. You have to stop like every 10 minutes, because of the change of landscape and the amazing view, but it's all worth it.
Pub and cafe culture: New Zealand has just like Australia a big pub and cafe culture. A good barista isn't hard to find. So do you have a business meeting or just meeting a friend. The barrista is bet place to go and on friday everyone heads to the pub. Have one of the most amazing wines of New Zealand or one of the different beers New Zealand has to offer. Always a good way socialize with your colleagues or your best mates! :-D
Toilets everywhere: Oke, so if the last 4 reasons didn't convince you. This one definetly will. You probably know the feeling, you're in the middle of nowhere and have to pee. No worries, even at the most desserted places there's a toilet and always super clean and free of charge. One time I was doing one of the great walks, the Abel Tasman track. I found myself on a totally desserted beach. Just me and the birds. I almost felt like Robinson Crusoe totally on a desserted island. There was literally nothing there except a toilet hidden in the bush. What more do you want, right? ;-)