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.

how to get better sleep while on the road

1. Get comfortable.

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.

2. Keep the environment cool, quiet, and dark.

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.

3. Stick to your routines.

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.

Random hotel room bed waiting for you

4. Avoid stimulants.

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.

5. Head to sleep-friendly hotels.

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.

Published in Travel Tips

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 Bridge in South Korea is a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge

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.

Transportation There & Back

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

Departure

Arrival

Departure Time

Ride

Fare

Seoul

Namhae

08:30, 09:50, 11:30, 13:30, 15:10, 16:40, 18:00, 19:00

4.5 hrs

22,200 won

Namhae

Seoul

07:30, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00, 18:30

4.5 hrs

22,200 won

  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)

Where To Camp On Namhae Island

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.

Sangju Beach   (상주은모래비치)

Sangju Beach on Namhae Island, South Korea

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.

Songjeong Solbaram Beach   (송정 솔바람해변)

Songjeong Solbaram Beach in Namhae Island, South Korea

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.

Sachon Beach   (사촌해수육장)

Sachon Beach in Namhae Island, South Korea

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 ;)

Activities On Namhae Island

Sea Kayaking

Kayaking the sea caves around Dumo, Namhae Island, South Korea

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.

Kayaking the sea caves around Dumo, Namhae Island, South Korea
Jessica and myself sea kayaking

Sangju Beach   (FREE)

Sangju Beach on Namhae Island, South Korea

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.

Where To Eat On Namhae Island

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.

Sachon Beach (FREE)

Sunset at Sachon Beach in Namhae Island, South Korea

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?

Geumsan Boriam Temple (FREE)

Decorations at Boriam Temple in Namhae Island, South Korea

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.

Sunrise at Boriam Temple in Namhae Island, South Korea

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 Namhae Island

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.

The German Village

The super-touristy German Village of Namhae Island, South Korea. Avoid.

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 American Village

The American Village of Namhae Island, South Korea

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.

Published in South Korea

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.

Day 1: Dublin to Kilkenny

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.

Day 2: Kilkenny to Killarney

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.

Day 3: Killarney to Ennis

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.

Day 4: Ennis to Galway

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.

Day 5: Galway to Dublin

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.

Published in Ireland

If you’re going to try to see the countless amazing sites across America, you’ll need to get started now. And if you’re hoping to remain within a budget, you should definitely follow these tips.

Invest in a Federal Recreation Pass

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!

Bring Your Own Groceries

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.

Check out Free Sites

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.

Bring Friends Along

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.

Utilize Travel Aggregation Sites

Online travel sites have become a popular way of saving money. Using travel aggregation sites like Hipmunk, which seek out the lowest prices from all the top travel sites, is an ideal way to save money on traveling.

Use Technology for Cheap Gas

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!

Avoid Dining In When Eating Out

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.

Published in United States

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:

Motorcycle the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam

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.

Traveling the Ho Chi Minh Trail by motorcycle, I accidently stumbled upon the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in Phong Nha, Vietnam

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.

Take a Cross-Country USA Road Trip

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.

The Grand Canyon, United States of America
The Grand Canyon

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.

Travel Iceland's Ring Road

Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is  perfect for road trips
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!

Experience the Real India: By Road!

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.

The Rickshaw Run, an extreme and unforgettable 3,000 km road trip across India
This is Meghalaya, a beautiful state in the northeast of India...with nice, new highways!

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.

What other road trips would you suggest?

Published in Travel Inspiration

It was my first time in San Diego, or actually my first time out to the West coast so we wanted to make the best out of our short trip. What a memorable adventure this was. From listening to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, to standing in awe of the Grand Canyon and sliding down the sand dunes in Brawley, this was a trip to remember for a lifetime! A lot of this letter was a reflection of this trip, where in hindsight I should’ve just took more time off to enjoy.

We flew into San Diego where Carl’s parents live and set off to our first stop, Las Vegas. This trip was more for sightseeing and not so much the nightlife so we stayed at a Holiday Inn off the strip (which was still nice and cheaper). We only spent a full day in Vegas so we did some shopping at the Premium Outlet, had a delicious buffet dinner at the Bellagio and toured the hotels at night. Most stores on the Vegas strip stays open till midnight so Carl and I did some damage.

Our next stop was the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, which was only a 50 minute drive away. This area consists of Lake Mead with smaller lakes like Lake Mohave – reservoirs on the river created by Hoover Dam and Davis Dam surrounded by desert terrain and wilderness. On the drive up, you get to see the depth of the reservoirs and the different shades in the rocks. This portion of the trip took around 2 hours just to get out of the car and take some pictures.

Then we were off to check off one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world from our Bucket List, the majestic Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon defined by the Colorado River with nearly 2 billion years of geological history. Also something to keep in mind, we went on this trip in May, and considering the fact that it was more desert areas we only packed shorts with us – this was a mistake! At 7,000 feet above sea level, even in May, the weather was quite chilly. We spent the next day here and stayed at the Grand Canyon national Park Lodges. If this is where you’d like to stay, you must book months in advance!

After a 2 hour drive, we got to my favourite place on this trip, but also a place where my naive 22 year old self I didn’t spend enough time appreciating (instead, we visited a random but decent outlet mall!). Up until this trip, I had never seen naturally coloured red rocks before. As Sedona’s main attraction, the famous red rocks are formed by a layer of rock known as the Schnebly Hill Formation. The Schnebly Hill Formation is a thick layer of red to orange-colored sandstone found only in the Sedona vicinity (wiki). That night, we drove into a small parking area off the main road turned off the car and gazed out in the sky. To this day, I can still remember how clear the night sky was. Given the opportunity, I would definitely go back.

From the red rocks of Sedona, we made our last stop to the Imperial Sand Dunes Cahuilla Ranger Station. The Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest sand dunes open to off-highway vehicle use in the United States. The dunes begin 10 miles southeast of Niland and stretch all the way into Mexico, over 40 miles away (ISDRA Sand Dune Guide). Standing on top of the sand dunes, it felt like the endless Arabian desert minus the heat. The sand was cool to touch and fine to sand on. There is the opportunity to rent an ATV, unfortunately for Carl, it was closed by the time we got there but what we did get to see was the incredible sunset with layers of vibrant colours. This night was also a special night to remember, Carl tried his first heart-attack-Double-Down from KFC.

And this concluded our 7 day road trip to some of the coolest places by the West Coast. We’re quite proud to conclude that on this trip, we drove more than 1,200 miles (that’s almost 2,000 kms) and more than 20 hours of total driving time – talk about a road trip!

Share your road trip route in the comment section below!

Published in United States

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.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Karanganya
Karanganya, home to several temples that foreigners never visit.

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.

  Accident Liability
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.

Traffic In Jakarta
Jakarta one evening. Please pardon the rough quality of the photo. It was taken by phone while driving my motorcycle one-handed through -- yes, you guessed it -- traffic!

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:

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Just a normal road in Jogja
Just an ordinary day on the road in Jogja

International Drivers License is NOT required

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.

Drive with your lights on 24/hrs a day and ALWAYS use your turn signals

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.

Don't be afraid to use your horn

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...

Drive as the locals do

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.

Indonesia by motorcycle. Get used to traffic.
Just an ordinary day on two wheels in Indonesia

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.

Slow down before bridges and railroad crossings

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.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Lots of railroad crossings on the island of Java
This railroad crossing isn't bad but some of the others are more holes than pavement

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.

Be aware of potholes, sinkholes, and gaps in the pavement

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.

Be observant when others flash their brights at you

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.

There are no official speed limits in Indonesia, only "suggested" speed limits

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.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Another traffic jam
Why are there no official speed limits in Indonesia? Because of traffic.

Learn basic directions in bahasa

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?"

Indonesia By Motorcycle: No Helmet Needed!
Took and tweeted this selfie
while driving at 80km/hr

Get a helmet with a tinted visor

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.

Helmets are only necessary in the big cities

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.

Long Distance Motorcycle Travel Tips

Pay attention to the green road signs

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.

Don't be afraid to drive at night

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.

Keep your gas tank full

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.

Purchasing roadside gasoline

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.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Roadside gasoline vendors
Pertamina can often have long lines, especially in the evenings. As such sometimes its worth paying 1,000IDR ($0.10USD) extra a litre just for the sheer convenience of roadside gasoline.

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.

Follow the person in front of you

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.

Trust Indomaret, not Alfamart

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!

Have Any Questions Or Additional Suggestions?

Or did this information scare you into not wanting to motorcycle while in Indonesia?

  This article was originally published on the HoliDaze blog titled How To Motorcycle Indonesia: What, Where, How, Why + Tips

  The Ultimate Unique & Off The Beaten Path Indonesia Travel Guide     Indonesia Archives

Published in Indonesia

This morning I looked out off 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. So there was like nothing there, accept a toilet hidden in the bush. What more do you want, right? ;-)

Published in New Zealand

We turn away from the airport onto a quiet, winding road. Tiny towns are scattered across the desolate landscape, each one filled with partially constructed buildings that seem to have been abandoned as hastily as they have been built. The structures look new and untouched, as if the owners might return any moment to re-inhabit them.

Bedouin camps dot the landscape between the ghost towns. The makeshift structures are made of tin, cardboard, scraps of cloth, and bits of goat hair; in sharp contrast to their concrete counterparts these portable homes are bustling with life. Children play, goats graze on tiny patches of grass, and women hang clothes on the line. Everything and everyone is covered in dust.

Bedouins ride their camels on the side of the road, and, as the signs predict, goats appear out of nowhere, seemingly unaware of the cars speeding by. We stop and wait while children cross the street on tiny, exhausted donkeys with patchy fur. They tow wooden sleds loaded with brush and scraps. It is startling to see the children working in the hot sun, and we realize yet again that we are a long way from home.

The landscape changes as we turn onto the road for the Dead Sea. There are still Bedouins with camels, but they stand on the side of the road offering rides to tourists. Ramshackle food stands with giant umbrellas are scattered along the beach, accompanied by Coca-Cola signs and plastic chairs. The strange scene reflects the paradox of Jordan; a country steeped in culture and tradition, both blessed and cursed by the natural resources and tourism it attracts.

The road to Madaba brings us back to reality. There are no signs of life, except for a few lost goats that casually cross the road in front of our car. We see a military checkpoint up ahead, and wonder if we should turn around, but it is too late. The guard comes out to meet us, sees that we are tourists, and breaks into a warm smile. He greets us with the usual Jordanian questions. “Where are you from? Are you married? Do you have children? Are you pregnant? Do you like Jordan?” Jordanian hospitality comes second only to their obsession with family. “Insha’Allah,” we reply. He smiles and points the way to Madaba.

Jordan road trip

We follow the 3,000-year-old King’s Highway for nearly two hours, passing through town after town on an endless stretch of highway. Locals stand on the side of the road warming their hands over makeshift heaters, and most offer a friendly wave as we pass through. Every town looks the same; a small mosque in the center, roving bands of dogs crossing the road near vacant lots, and women going about their daily business of shopping and child rearing.

The King’s Highway leads us to Wadi Mujib, proudly referred to by our guide in Amman as “The Grand Canyon of Jordan.” We follow the highway along hairpin turns, stopping occasionally to gawk at the crater below. We agree that this is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the moon, if the moon were inhabited by shaggy goats and laughing Bedouins.

Published in Jordan

To cover the entire Gujarat one require more than 10 days by road. The roads are good but distance to be covered is greater than that. Oh and just a heads-up, the best time to visit Gujarat is from November to Mid March. Anyway, on our road-trip we opted for the southern part of Gujarat and decided on the following locations:

  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Dwarka
  3. Somnath
  4. Gir
  5. Diu (near but not in Gujarat, a union territory)
  6. Lothal

Once I moved in Gujarat, the roads made me more comfortable and the journey of 2000kms became more pleasurable. The roads were good atmosphere was ok (too hot in days but being a Rajasthani, we were used to this) specially near the beach.

Coastline view from Gujarat, India

Wind turbine in Gujarat, India

Ahmedabad, a growing city is near to Gandhinagar the capital of Gujarat state (province). we remained in the outer area called Sarkhej, dotted by various five star hotels and malls it remain overall a good experience. But if you are in Ahmedabad, you cannot miss two things for sure, One is there food and another their ice-cream parlors. Gujaratis are found of food and have various variety to offer specially in the snacks category. Just walking in any store and you have endless option. My favorite is Phaphada with Papaya and the world famous Khaman-Dhokla.

Road trip through Gujarat, India

Our next stay was at Dwarka, A religious city where Lord Krishna had ruled. It was his kingdom which sunk at the time of his death. The temple is old and is counted in the four DHAMS spread over the country and is also included in seven gracious temples of ancient. Anyways, It good to be there if you are religious and follower of Hinduism, otherwise the city can be dropped out as there is not much to do and not much to see either.

Road trip through Gujarat, India

The next destination thereafter was Porbandar, the city where Mahatma Gandhi was born. His house is still intact and now has been converted into museum. Well we just stayed there for lunch and did not explored the city so not much to say about the city.

Road trip through Gujarat, India

From there we moved to Somnath, again a religious city (Lord Shiva) and the best part of the journey was the coastal highway and trust me it gave us some amazing views.

Road trip through Gujarat, India

Somnath Temple in Gujarat, India

Somnath has a long history of being looted and rebuilt. Many rulers specially Islamic rulers have come and ruined the temple and after some decades it was rebuilt by the kings ruling the area. The temple is good and is located on the shore. a peaceful and relaxing place. The history of the temple can be known by visiting the light and sound show organized at the backyard of the temple every evening. The best place to stay in this city was the VIP guest house of the temple which is built by Kokila Ben Trust (Reliance Group) and is run by the temple authority.

Somnath Temple in Gujarat, India

Next day we moved to Gir Forest National Park – the home of the Asiatic Lion. While crossing the countryside we cam across various mango farms and were very lucky to find mangoes on the trees. We halted at one of those garden and ate the raw mangoes. The mango in this area is known for sweetness and is being exported to various countries. They were really amazing.

Exploring Gir Forest National Park while on our road trip through Gujarat, India

Gir Forest National Park is always a fantastic wildlife destination known as the only place in the world where you can find Asiatic Lions freely roaming in the jungles.   Show Me More!

After Gir we moved to Diu (a union territory not in Gujarat) and relaxed, enjoying the pleasant sunset there. We also entertained ourselves with a few water sports. And debated never returning back home.

Watersports off the coast of Diu Beach near Gujarat, India

Watersports off the coast of Diu Beach near Gujarat, India

After this we returned to Ahmedabad and completed our Loop. On the way we also visited Lothal, one of the ancient cities still rich in culture. The overall experience of Gujarat was good but not great. The goverment is doing well in advertising but still needs to work on the development and execution of increased tourism.

Watersports off the coast of Diu Beach near Gujarat, India

  See More Gujarat  

Why every tourist in India should visit Gujarat

Published in India
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