Tag Archives: Asia

REVIEW: MapsWithMe Travel App

Travel is getting tech savvy and the mobile devices boom has enabled the traveller to carry the world in his/her pocket. Now your mobile device helps you call, stay connected socially and help you find your way on the move. I love twitter and I happened to come across the MapsWithMe service during one of those fun events like #ttot.  I’m always curious about new technology and I was drawn into checking out their website. Two words, offline maps & no-grey-screen maps came out glaringly.  I downloaded the app and I was seriously impressed, so I decided to get in touch with them and review their product. MapsWithMe have been very kind to have offered me their Pro version.  Here’s what I liked about the product.Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-05-44

So, when you download the app and launch it for the first time, it does a small download to get the world map in place. Once that’s done you are ready to kick off.  The user interface is very intuitive. You can get your way around all its features very easily and usually within a tap of a button.  When you selected the region you want to explore or plan to travel to, just download the detailed map of that place.
This is great for those who love to research and know about their destination well in advance and it also lets the whimsical people find places that fit their fancy.  I love to plan my trips, even to the exact minute if possible and I really would find this handy. The biggest positive in all of this is that it is completely offline. Once you’ve downloaded the detailed map for a region/country you can search for a little food stall right at the corner of a street offline!

Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-06-20 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-12-41 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-11-28 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-11-46 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-07-37 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-07-18
The maps are rich in details. You can search for food joints, shops, hotels, sights, entertainment, atms, and even transportation individually or see them simply overlaid on to the map. The GPS constantly gives you the correct direction and the distance from your marked destination.  Another helpful feature in the app is the note tool. You can pin down locations that you want to visit and add a note to it. It’s a handy tool especially when you are unsure of how you plan to spend your day while travelling.

The biggest pro of this app is that it works offline.  MapsWithMe gives a great viewing experience to the user as it doesn’t get those grey patches you typically see when you zoom into a map online. I downloaded the detailed map for India and I was impressed by the quality of information that the maps gave.  I’d surely recommend this app for digital nomads and frequent travellers.

You can check out the features and download the app for your iOS/Android device by clicking on this link: http://mapswith.me/en/home

Do leave your thoughts on this review in the comments below!


TC Original: Tips for Travel in Russia

Russia is huge and I mean massively huge. It’s half of Europe going all the way to Alaska in North America. I recently travelled to Russia visiting the cities of Moscow & Kazan. Both these cities are beautiful and have their own unique charm. It’s got the European charm that everybody loves and at the same time it has something unique that sets it apart from rest of Europe.  Elements of the ‘Mysterious Russian Soul’ are there in the air and you can feel it when you interact with the people.  Below are some tips which I gathered from my trip.

Visa & visa registration:
Now the Russian tourist visa has a bit of red tape, at least in India. You can get a tourist visa of 30 days maximum and you ought to have proof of hotel reservations for your duration of stay. You need to have an official ‘Invite’ from a tourist agency. They usually charge you anything between 20$ – 30$ for the ‘Invitation’ and a little more if the Russian embassy in your city requires a hard copy.
Once you’re in Russia, ensure that you register your visa with the local post office or immigration office. If you stay in a hotel/hostel, they will do it for you as it’s their lawful obligation.

Internal Travel:
Internal travel in Russia is as modern as it gets. The preferred mode of transport between major cities is by train. Long haul journeys can be fun. It’s recommend trying the Trans- Siberian line. Moscow to Vladivostok is an interesting journey you can try! It would surely be value for money.  In Moscow the metro is great for internal transportation. Places which are further away from metro stations are easily connected with buses.  Kazan on the other hand is much smaller. I’d surely recommend visiting the stunning new Metro Stations.
Kazan Metro

(Kazan Metro)

People & Culture:

Hollywood movies have demonised the Russian and created a negative image of Russians all around the world. Well, the fact is that they are as human as anybody else. The women are drop dead gorgeous and the men are thorough gentlemen (most of them at least).  The culture of Russia is welcoming. There is a huge diversity with people having different ethnicities like Marie, Chuvash, Slavic, Tatar and many more. It’s amazing to see how the communist rule unified all these different ethnicities under one banner. People is Russia love to have a good time, enjoy life  and after all that is done, work hard. Every town in Russia will have a ‘Banya’ a community pool and you are sure to find a ‘Piva’ (Beer) Store next to it.  It’s not advisable to visit them, but if you’re adventurous by all means go for it.

The official language is Russian, however there a many dialects and sub-languages within the country. Almost like India, the language changes after every 30-50 kms.  Russian is easy to gather and understand if you are attentive.  You can try learning some of these words:

Pri-ve-yt – Hello
Zd-rast-we-tya – Formall Hello
Da – Yes
Neyt – No

Baton – Bread
Vada – Water
Kuri-tsa – Chicken
Spa-ci-bo – Thank you
Bye – Pokah


The Russians use the Rouble as their currency. Thankfully it trades at 2 INR to 1 RU.  Things are generally expensive in Russia. Sadly the simple jobs don’t pay so well but all the prices are of European standard.  If you eat simple and local you can easily survive in 400 roubles a day for food.

Did you find this helpful? Do leave your comments below, I’d love to chat up!

Backpacking India Part-II: A Parallel Journey by Kusum Sanu on Scrapbook.

From my previous backpacking trip (Part-I) I have learnt one thing! When traveling not to have a dictating plan … have complete flexibility. No restrictions of booked train reservations, flights or hotels. Take the available public transport to get to the next destination. Moving forward from one town to another, passing through the forests and deserts, carrying a load-full of bitter-sweet memories, lingering taste of local food, lessons learnt from the past mistakes, knowledge gained from the strangers and a 40L backpack with bare necessities.
What does travel mean? Moving from one place to another for few days, stay in a hotel, eat in restaurants and collecting pictures? Different people have different definitions for travel, different reasons to travel … I too have my own reason! I have an intense inner compulsion to travel! It doesn’t matter where I am heading to, I should be on the move looking forward to something! Where will this search for unknown things end? I have no idea.
With the backpacking trip in the state of Madhya Pradesh- The heart of Incredible India they say, I pushed myself to the edge … Since then, in unknown places I find myself wiser than before! Not to pre-judge anything or anybody, understand more of a situation, have more sympathy and compassion, at the same time know how to differentiate fake from the reality. I have realized people in India are more interested in personal information. At times, I cook up a story instead of telling truth. I find people are interested  in  stories more than reality, otherwise Bollywood wouldn’t be such a huge industry 🙂 And also, I got used to hop over the disgusting spit and cross the roads without loosing my life or limbs.
Travelling in India is a very different experience, the country is so diverse. Physically it is one single journey. And then, also is a cocktail (journey) of religious, spiritual, adventurous, cultural and heritage all combined. I call my trip was a Parallel journey… Visiting and exploring new places had  unexpected opportunities of pilgrimage. Along with the adventure of traveling I was enjoying the knowledge of legends associated with the places. From my childhood I have been listening to the stories of Hindu mythology from my very religious Mother. And I was thrilled to visit those places which stand as proof of those stories.
I visited the cities of IndoreBhopal and Jabalpur, followed the call of the wild toChambalKanhaPench and Bandhavgarh National Parks, tried to read the history on the stones of ManduMaheshwarBhojpurVidishaGyaraspurUdaypurChanderiKhajuraho andOrchha, got soaked in the beauty of the forests and waterfalls of Pachmarhi, admired the valor of Rani Lakshmibai in Jhansi, Shivapuri and Gwalior, followed holy River Narmada from her birth place Amarkantak to her confluence with River Kaveri in Omkareshwar, had Ram Darshan in Chitrakoot, wandered on the streets of sacred city- Ujjain, got lost on off beaten paths to VidishaGyaraspurUadaypur and Bhojpur, and visited the principal center of Buddhism-Sanchi. The list of destinations and monuments apart, the experiences along the journey to them were life changing.
I took buses and trains for transport. I took a train from Gwalior to Bhopal, my 2-AC ticket was still in waiting list #1 even after the chart was prepared. I hardly knew anything of general compartments in trains, I never knew ladies compartment existed! I was nervous and excited at the same time! The travel had brought an opportunity to experience something which I had never done before! I purchased the ticket and waited for the train to arrive. When the train arrived there was a deluge of people and I was shocked to sense that! Before I could react I was helplessly pulled away by the crowd. There was no chance of getting out of that mass of people. And then without even realising I was inside … there was no place to sit or to keep my backpack. A kind women told me to get on the upper berth pointing at a little space and I obeyed her. Then she told me I would be comfortable there otherwise me and my luggage wouldn’t survive! Few others asked me why was I in this compartment. Why shouldn’t I? I asked. According to them foreigners have a lot of money to spend and hence shouldn’t crowd the general bogie and be in reservation compartments instead! I was not comfortable with that kind of hostility. I sat there for 5 hours wondering why people of Madhya Pradesh thought I was a foreigner! Couldn’t get an answer!! My wild guess would be my hair and my backpack!

Getting off the train was another adventure all together! A flood of people was trying to get off the train and another flood was trying to enter through those narrow doors! After 2 minutes the siren blared! People went frantic … So I got off the train on the other side of the platform, yes that is on the tracks, only to realize the siren blaring was from another train!! Ha ha … what a mess?! Now, after walking on the tracks I tried to get on to the high platform. A kind grown-up boy pulled me up along with my backpack! I feel in those 5 mins of “disembarking drama” I might have lost a KG of weight because of anxiety! I was worried that if I missed the station I might have to take another train back and travel in general compartment!!! I would never forget my 40-days backpacking trip to Madhya Pradesh and the journey in (ladies) general compartment. Even saved the journey ticket as a souvenir 🙂

Look for me to report on individual destinations and many interesting things about Madhya Pradesh in coming weeks 🙂

PS: The picture of a male- Marsh Harrier (?) was taken at Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary,Karnataka.
—Leave a comment to tell me about your dramatic experience 🙂

You might also want to read other posts in Backpacking India series … Click HERE for list of links.Credit – This AWESOME article is on Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

5 Misconceptions About Staying in Hostels by Liz & Josh on peanutsorpretzels.com

Great place to stay in downtown at Sweet Pea Hostel in Asheville, NC

Being the frequent travelers that we are, one of the questions that we get asked a lot is how we can afford to travel so often.  And while Josh and I thoroughly enjoy living the good life in luxury hotels and spas, the fact is we wouldn’t be able to travel as often if we spent all our money on luxury accommodation. So we often choose to stay in lower budget accommodations, such as bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels.  But when we are really looking to save money, we stay in hostels.

When we tell people that we stay in hostels, their reaction says it all; people don’t really understand what a hostel is or how much they vary in quality and amenities.  While some generalizations about hostels could be true, in many cases they are not.  So we decided to devote a post purely to dispel some of the common misconceptions about hostels.

Hostels Then vs. Now

Hostels originated in Germany back around the early 1900’s.  They were specifically developed for the city youth so that they could get out of the city and explore the outdoors.  To keep prices down, kids typically helped with chores and basically ran it themselves.

Nowadays, that original model is more of the exception rather than the norm.  In fact, more and more hostels are starting to look like boutique hotels, and they are adding amenities such as swimming pools and saunas!  However, the rule “you get what you pay for” definitely applies for hostels.  So if you are looking for more amenities, then you will likely pay higher prices.

BackHome Hostel: Clean, Modern and Cool Elevated Walkways with Greenery – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The reason we like hostels is that it puts the power back in the hands of the traveler; choosing what matters to you, and how much you are willing to pay for it.  There is such a variety of hostel properties out there now, all at different price points.  So in the end, it all comes down to tradeoffs and personal preferences of the traveler.


1. Hostels are only for young travelers

While some hostels originally had an age requirement (and some still do), many do not.   Josh and I are in our 30’s, and we stay in hostels quite often.  But we’ve seen many older people staying in hostels as well, even up into their 60’s!  The saying “age is nothing but a number” applies here because all hostel-goers have one thing in common…a sense of adventure!

2. Hostels are only for backpackers or solo travelers

While many hostel guests are backpackers looking for cheap accommodation, we’ve seen many other types of people staying there.  We’ve seen married couples, families with kids, and even people on business staying in hostels.  In fact, this last weekend we met someone in Asheville staying at our hostel who was a lawyer!  So you don’t have to fit into a certain stereotype to stay in a hostel.

Enjoying the view before our adventure at Plus Florence Hostel – Florence, Italy

3. Hostels only provide dormitory accommodations

Yes hostels tend to have dormitory environments, but many hostels now offer additional options to appeal to a wider variety of travelers.  Typically, these room options are at varying price points.

We’ve stayed in dorm rooms where there were 12 bunks, and in other places, we’ve stayed in a room with only 4 bunks.  We’ve also seen unique “pods” that are similar to bunks, but offer more space and privacy with walls on three sides and a sliding curtain to block out light and noise.  And many hostels even have private rooms, yes private rooms!

Private Room at BackHome Hostel – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bathrooms are another item that you should take into consideration because hostels vary.  Some rooms (dorm or privates) will have an ensuite bathroom, while others will just have bathrooms on the floor that you share.  Personally, if we are in a large dorm we prefer a shared bathroom outside the room because it is less disturbing to our bunkmates.  But if you splurge on a private room with an ensuite bathroom, then its just the same as being in a typical hotel room.  Every property is different and personal preferences are different, so be sure to check in advance & pick what is best for you.

4. Hostels offer no amenities

With regard to amenities, again it depends on what matters to you and how much you are willing to pay.  Many hostels will provide coffee and tea, and others may offer a basic breakfast too.  Some have a restaurant or bar, but most of them will at least have a kitchen area that you can use.

Open kitchen makes it fun to meet fellow travelers over a cup of coffee at Sweet Pea Hostel – Asheville, NC

We recently stayed at a hostel in Seattle that provided us with all the ingredients for breakfast (eggs, bread, and pre-made pancake batter) so that we could make our own breakfast when we woke up!  Kitchens are a great amenity if you are staying in an area for an extended amount of time because it can be expensive to dine out for every meal.  Plus, we actually love going to local markets and buying food, so having a kitchen is super convenient!

Cooking in the common kitchen at The Green Tortoise Hostel – Seattle, Washington

Other amenities we have run across through our hostel stays include: swimming pools (indoor and out), hot tubs, saunas, rooftop terraces, nightclubs (in the basement), free bicycles, free movies, free walking tours, free dinners (taco night or spaghetti night), games, book exchanges, group activities/events, and of course wi-fi.  Overall, not a bad deal, right?!?!

Great place to come back to after a full day of trekking – The Siem Reap Hostel in Cambodia

5. Hostels are only in Europe

This is a very common misconception.  While hostels originated in Europe, they have quickly expanded around the world.  We’ve stayed in some very nice hostels in Asia and even the United States.  Yes, there are hostels in the US; this is a shock to most people!  Most hostels in the US are limited to the big cities, or at least areas that have a lot of tourism.  We’ve stayed in hostels in Asheville, Seattle, and will be staying in one on Miami’s SouthBeach next month!

Additional Benefits to Hostels

Besides price, hostels offer a number of other benefits that you don’t get in most hotels.  First, hostels are known for having a communal and homey atmosphere. They have common areas where travelers get together to visit and share travel tips.  This is a great way to learn about sights to see (or avoid) during your trip. I’ve gotten some of the best tips from fellow travelers over the years.

Inviting common living room at the Sweet Peas Hostel. Great place to drink your morning coffee and relax by the windows. Asheville NC

Another perk to staying in a hostel is that they are typically centrally located near all the best sights and tend to be close to public transportation.  The last thing you want when you travel is to go halfway around the world to be staying on the outskirts of town.  If you are anything like us, you want to be able to step out your door and be in the middle of it all!

Sometimes it all about location and practicality. Historic Dublin District – Barnacles Hostel Dublin

Words of Warning

Now, while we are preaching the benefits of staying in hostels we must say that they are not for everyone.  There is no daily maid service, things aren’t always perfect, and sometimes guests are asked to help out (such as making your bed and removing your bedding when you leave).  Some hostels may not provide towels, or will ask that you bring your own lock to keep your items secure.  So if you can’t deal with these quirks, then a hostel probably isn’t for you.

Every single hostel is different.  So our best piece of advice is to review the amenities carefully and decide what matters most to you.  We also highly recommend that you read the reviews and the ratings of the hostels.  Not all hostels are created equal, so hearing what other travelers have said about the hostel is very important and can help set your expectations.

How / Where to Book

You typically won’t find hostels mainstream booking engines.  The best place to go is onto a hostel specific site (below):

Our Top Hostel Stays – Check Them Out!

Credit – This lovely article is by Liz & Josh on peanutsorpretzels.com. I absolutely urge you to visit their post by clicking here

Top Tips for Hong Kong by Will Joce

Hong Kong is a fantastic city that gets nowhere near as much attention from the global tourist trade as it deserves. Favourable comparisons can be made with other global metropolises such as London or New York although, crucially, Hong Kong has a much more individual character than both of those. The following is a list of some tip tips for those lucky visitors that have made it to ‘the Pearl of the Orient’.

Would-be visitors should know that between June and September Hong Kong is often struck by ferocious cyclone storms which are sure to ruin any holiday. The city basically shuts down when these strike as anyone out on the streets is in serious danger. Visitors are advised to avoid this time of year for their visit and maybe instead aim for October to December as this has mild temperatures and below average rainfall. Chinese New Year is a fascinating time to visit although the weather is usually pretty miserable.

China’s Hong Kong International Airport or Chek Lap Kok has been consistently voted the best airport in the world since it opened in 1998. Visitors passing through can take a few moments to appreciate this before boarding their flight. Any British visitors going to or from Heathrow Airport will find this highly educational. The airport’s connections to Hong Kong are also fast, efficient and affordable.

Visitors are advised to get themselves an Octopus Card soon after arrival as this is a quick and easy way of paying for the public transport system as well as various other convenience goods in shops across the city. There are various deals available that will be of varying benefit depending on how much travelling you are planning on doing while in the city. Check out the useful website before you arrive to get the best deal for you.

One of the most breathtaking sights of Hong Kong is the skyline, especially at night. However, visitors soon realise that this is something that you cannot see in a satisfactory way from the city itself. A good idea is to take a boat ride in the harbour as this gives you a fantastic view looking up at the imposing skyscrapers all around you. Alternatively, look down on the city from Victoria Peak which is easy to access and allows visitors to walk through a relaxing wooded hillside. This can be a welcome break after the mania of the city streets.

In 2005, Disneyland came to Hong Kong. Depending on your personal feelings and the size and age of your family this tip will take two forms. For those whom the magic is little more than a cynical marketing ploy: Disneyland is located on Lantau Island relatively close to the airport, making it quite easy to avoid. For those whom the magic is real and a serious addition to the charms of Hong Kong, Disneyland is located on Lantau Island relatively close to the airport, making it very easy to get to.

Ramada Hong Kong Hotel RoomRamada Hong Kong Hotel
Average Price:€ 40
Average Rating: 8.2

Cosmopolitan Hotel Room Hong Kong Cosmopolitan Hotel
Average Price:€ 56
Average Rating: 7.5

Cosmo Hotel Hong Kong RoomCosmo Hotel Hong Kong
Average Price:€ 56
Average Rating: 7.4

Credit – This article is by Will Joce

5 Places to Eat Thai Street Food in Bangkok – CAZ on ytravelblog.com

Eating Thai street food is one of our favourite things to do in Bangkok.

It’s hard not to find a street corner with a row of carts lined up dishing up meals like noodle soup, BBQ pork, fish cakes and delicious curries.

Is your mouth watering as much as mine?

The good news is that eating street food has many benefits to you as a traveller  – it’s generally safe (you can see what’s being cooked and it’s fresh), you get to interact with the locals, It’s authentic, delicious and the best way to give back to the local economy.

Eating Thai street food in Bangkok is incredibly cheap, as is the street food in all of Thailand. A bag of fish cakes will set you back 20 baht (less than a $1) and a noodle soup around 60 baht ($2).

How do you know where to eat street food in Bangkok?

Craig and I really believe the best place to eat street food is the street you are on. Go to the areas that are thriving with locals—always a sign that the food rocks.

Just know a few of your fave dishes in Thai, so you can order the right thing. Have it written down in Thai language if you can. If all else fails use your eyes to choose and then point and smile.

I know most of you are eager to really eat at the BEST places for street food in Bangkok. There has to be a list somewhere right?

Well according to our guide Tim, from Absolutely Fantastic Holidays, there is. Tim is a Bangkok local and shared with us what is widely considered throughout the Bangkok community to be the

5 Places to Eat Street Food in Bangkok

1. Chinatown

OMG, if you love authentic street food you will love visiting Chinatown in Bangkok. There are hundreds of street stalls, markets, carts and restaurants. Night time is when Yaowarat, as Chinatown is also known as, will rock your taste buds.

We can really understand why this comes in at Number 1. According to Jim Thompson, who took us on a walking tour of Yaowarat last year, Chinatown is the place where street food first began in Thailand over 200 years ago when Bangkok was the major trading hub of South East Asia.


Just look for the ad hoc stalls, the plastic tables and chairs, feast out on delicious food and wash it all down with a Singa beer.

We lived a short walk from the outskirts of Chinatown and loved wandering down for our evening meal of Thai noodles with gravy. At 20 baht how can you say no?


2. Silom Road

This is the only area on the list we have not experienced recently, although we did venture to this area of Bangkok whilst living in the city in 2002.

Being the central business district of Bangkok there are a lot of people, hungry people wanting a quick meal in between office hours. That means you’ll find a lot of street food options.

Soi Convent and Soi 20 is where you probably most want to go to gorge on cheap Thai food.

3. Soi Rambuttri

This is one of our favourite streets in Bangkok. It is one of the few places you can escape the madness of Bangkok. When we lived in Bangkok this street was known as Dog Shit Alley, because of the number of dogs that paraded up and down the rat infested street. We loved eating and drinking here. It was cool before it was the hipster-cool it is now. It has had a major uplift and is now a pretty Bangkok oasis.

credit: zealous

We were surprised Soi Rambuttri made the list as it seems such a small area, but Tim assures us the food there is known to be first class. It’s also really cheap.  We didn’t eat there this time, except for Kalyra who gorged herself on a cheap banana pancake with chocolate – one of our fave 2am treats after a night in the Alley.

4. Banglamphu

When we explained why we didn’t understand how Soi Rambutri and Banglamphu were both on the list – as Dog Shit Alley is in Banglampoo – Tim explained that the street food is a little different.

Banglamphu is the area around the river, near the Golden Palace that comprises the backpacking travel area of Khao San Road and So Rambutrri.

If you want the really great street food, then walk to the end of Khao San Road, turn right past the police station opposite the Wat and Soi Rambuttri and lining the streets will be many many street stalls and carts. Also the streets adjacent to Khao San.

credit: amsfrank

We can absolutely affirm that this is a great place to eat street food in Bangkok. This was where we ate dinner most nights when we lived in Bangkok, we loved to feast on fish cakes and noodle soup.

credit: amsfrank

5. Soi 38 Sukumvhit

We don’t feel we had the normal Soi 38 street food experience. We were excited to feast on this street as we had heard so much about it, but only felt disappointed upon arrival.

There were only a few carts lining the street, we envisioned much more, and the selection didn’t seem all that great. Mind you, we did have a very whiny 5 year old at the time so probably were not really focused. We ended up jumping in a small stall just to have some peace.

credit: faithmonsoon

The Tom Yum Goong we ordered was one of the worst we have ever had. Maybe because we are so used to Bangkok street food, we weren’t that wowed by Soi 38. Many people are though, so I would go and see for yourself.


Where do you think is the best place to eat street food in Bangkok?

Credit: This delicious article is by  CAZ here: http://www.ytravelblog.com/thai-street-food/

Have a one-of-a-kind Laos experience by Robert Schrader

Before I traveled to Laos, my Aussie friend Dan told me that it was without a doubt his favorite country in Southeast Asia, citing its laid-back atmosphere and the abundance of outdoor activities one finds there. Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, a characteristic which may turn off beach-inclined Southeast Asia travelers.

I’m a bit on the fence about Laos, to be honest. Although I didn’t wish for even one of the moments I spent exploring its hilly, lush terrain that I was near a beach, Laos is far from a well-kept secret among backpackers. In fact, I encountered significantly more foreign tourists than locals in most spots.

It is nonetheless my hope that you unconditionally love Laos, and I hope my Laos travel guide helps you in that pursuit.

Places to Travel in Laos

Travelers in Laos usually stick to a handful of backpacker hotspots. This is because Laos has a reputation as the world’s most-bombed country, and its countryside is still literally inundated with UXOs — unexploded objects.

The hub of northern Laos is the city of Luangbrabang, situated along the banks of the mighty Mekong. Luangprabang is charming, and hosts a lively market on its main road every night, but I didn’t find my visit to the city particularly memorable.

Further south sits Vangvieng, a river town located amid the lush karsts of central Laos. Vangvieng has gained infamy as a destination for river tubing, among other reasons. For many a Laos traveler, drinking and doing illegal drugs are also high on the list for Vangvieng travel.

Laos’s capital Vientiane is probably my least favorite city in Southeast Asia. Not only is the city significantly less grand than its French-col0nial heritage would suggest, but its sits on a flat plain that is quite boring compared to the rolling green hills that dominate much of the rest of Laos. Vientiane is where you can take an international train to Thailand.

Cost of Travel in Laos

Laos, like most of the rest of Southeast Asia, is an extremely cheap place to travel. Its currency, the kip, usually goes for around 8,000 to a dollar, and you shouldn’t have to spend much more than 250,000 kip (that’s about $30) for backpacker accommodation, three good meals — and I mean really good, thanks to the French-inflected food stalls that dominate Laos — and transport each day.

Transportation in Laos

Aside from its ominously named national Highway 13, Laos has poorly-developed infrastructure. Although a limited network of public buses does serve the country, most Laos travelers end up booking seats in private minibuses, which are comparatively convenient enough to justify the slightly higher premium riding in one of them necessitates.

Overland Travel to Laos from Vietnam

Traveling to Laos from Vietnam? I know the feeling. Click here to read a detailed account about how to travel to Laos from Vietnam overland, the cheap way. You know, how locals do it.

Laos Visas

You must obtain a visa prior to visiting Laos, even if you only plan to travel in Laos short-term. Visas can be obtained at certain border crossings and at both of Laos’ international airports. If you are entering Laos by land but aren’t sure which border crossing you’ll use, obtain a Lao visa in advance from the Lao embassies in Hanoi or Bangkok. You’ll likewise need to consult your nearest Lao embassy if you plan to work or study in Laos.

Credit: This awesome article is by Robert Schrader on http://leaveyourdailyhell.com