budget

Europe, Iceland, Travel

How To Do A 10-Day Icelandic Road Trip With A $1000 Budget


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Now that the aurora season is coming to an end in the Northern Hemisphere, it may be good news for another group of adventure seekers to experience the midnight sun in Iceland. Personally, I like shoulder seasons such as October and April where I can get a combination of both aurora hunting and day activities. Ever since my last post on my Icelandic itinerary, I have got more than an average number of adventurers asking me about the budget breakdown for my trip. For the benefit of those and potentially more, I decided to come up with a budget guide to traveling Iceland. Take a look at my photography entry of Iceland.

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Accommodation

Personally, I find the Airbnb options out of Reykjavik pretty limited but they provide very good value for money if you manage to book a reasonably priced apartment. Out of the 10 nights I had in Iceland, 9/10 of those were in Airbnb (the 1/10 was due to overbooking). And out of these 9 nights, 8 of those were private apartments. Be prepared to fork out about USD110 to USD150 per night for the whole apartment (triple sharing basis). Book well ahead for South Iceland towns such as Hofn and Vik because they are priced much steeper due to their distance from Reykjavik. They are well within reach for people just doing the Golden Circle route, hence tends to be more touristy. Even though my most expensive Airbnb booking costing USD210 per night was actually for a guesthouse at Vik, it was a very good experience with a fantastic Icelandic breakfast provided. For first time users of Airbnb, you can click on my link to get USD33 off your first booking, more if you start hosting others (I get USD33 too if you sign up via this link).

  • 10 nights at USD1300 for 3 pax, comes to about USD40 a day for each person.

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Aurora display right outside my Airbnb apartment!

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These three cottages are listed on Airbnb at Egilsstaðir where I caught my first ever aurora sighting.

Car Rental

The key to having an enjoyable and fruitful Icelandic road trip is to engage a good car rental company. Personally, I would recommend Blue Car Rental because this was the only one I used and found it to be perfect for my trip. It comes with unlimited mileage, CDW, TP, GP, SCDW insurance and taxes. Consider adding Sand And Ash Protection (SAAP) if you are traveling in seasons with high winds forecast. However, this can add up the cost of car rental significantly. I did not opt for it and simply took extra precautions while traveling. Sand storms are common in South Iceland and do not attempt to drive through it, turn back instead. The majority of parking spots in Iceland are free except in parts of cities and Þingvellir National Park at the time of writing.

  • 10 days rental at USD850 and total cost of diesel at USD200 for about 2,500km miles driven, comes to about USD35 a day for each person.

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A reliable car can make a difference to your Icelandic trip

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Food

I cooked most of my meals at Airbnb apartments and spent a few nights eating out at Icelandic restaurants to try out their local dishes. The cost of food is definitely not on the cheap side in Iceland, so trips to the supermarket can greatly help to budget your spending. Refer to my previous post for information on groceries. Notice how the expenses for two meals eating out can be more than the rest of the food expenses for the whole trip.

  • USD210 for groceries expenses and USD270 for two dinner at Icelandic restaurants, comes to about USD16 a day for each person.

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The famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (best hotdog in the world and probably the most expensive too)

Miscellaneous

Icelandic sim card Síminn can be obtained for about USD26 at the airport. Factor in additional budget for Blue Lagoon/Myvatn Nature Baths and other touristy activities such as whale watch. The good news is that national parks and aurora watching are free (which is why most people travel to Iceland in the first place). You can choose to take out accommodation by renting campervan or motorhomes.

Final breakdown based on triple sharing

Car: USD 850 (ISK96,500)

Gas for 2500 km: USD 200

Parking: USD 4.5

Airbnb and guesthouse for 10 nights: USD 1,300

Data plan: USD 26

Food: USD 480

Myvatn Nature Baths: USD 81

Total: USD 2,941.50

The average total cost per person comes to about USD98 each day. This excludes the price of air ticket to get to Iceland, depending on which country you are flying from and also travel insurance which I always advise fellow travellers to purchase. Read about the comparison for travel insurance, specifically if you are from the US. I know of people who spend more or less, much to their own traveling preference. For such a fantastic experience and trip of a lifetime, it is definitely worth it.

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Travel, Vietnam

Top 5 Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh City Without Breaking The Bank


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Ever consider paying Ho Chi Minh City a visit but stuck with a budget? Firstly, air tickets are going to be cheap when flying in and out of Tan Soon Nhat International Airport because it is one of the busiest airport in Asia. This means that prices are competitive among airlines and it is easy to get great deals if you have an eye for airlines promotions. Even if you are traveling overland by bus into Ho Chi Minh City, the prices are very affordable. In fact traveling by land is the cheapest in Southeast Asia. On top of that, the cost of living is cheap in Vietnam which why it is one of the budget travelers’ favorite destinations. Here’s 5 wonderful things to do there to keep your budget in check.

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1) Cu Chi Tunnels

A major tourist attraction of Ho Chi Minh City, you can’t miss the Cu Chi Tunnels. A half day trip with a guide and transport provided is going to cost at most USD 10. It is a fantastic place to start learning about the Vietnam war history. The trip is going to leave you wondering how do they even build those complex tunnel networks during those times. A very money worthy option in my opinion.

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2) Checking out Vietnamese coffee

The Vietnamese coffee is a must-try when you are in the country. Coffee is a big thing in Vietnam, which is also one of the country top exports. I find the coffees in Vietnam really different from the usual ones. They are really strong in taste and have almost 50% more caffeine than the Arabica ones. Vietnam grows the Robusta bean which tastes more bitter than its counterpart. You can get a cup of coffee for USD 1 at the right places, unless you are going for the fanciful options like Latte or Cappuccino.

3) Notre Dame Cathedral & Saigon Central Post Office

It is free to visit both of these places. The Notre Dame Cathedral is built between 1863 and 1880. It has some pretty French architecture design and it is worth checking out. There are wedding couples taking pictures there every now and then, which means even locals like that place well. Located right across the street is the Saigon Central Post Office, it looks like some European building from the outside. But when you step in the entrance,  the first thing you notice is the large portrait of Ho Chi Minh himself and the unique design of the hall. It is a fully functional post office. Many travelers like to send some post cards from here to their family and friends.

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4) Street foods

You can spend your time tasting the wide variety of local food in Ho Chi Minh City, they can be found at every corner of the city. Vietnamese food is famous throughout world. My favorites are Pho and the spring rolls. Here in Vietnam, you get it cheap for a couple of dollars as compared to jacked up prices elsewhere. What’s more, it’s indeed authentic Vietnamese. I’m sure you will be feel gastronomically Vietnamese when you are done.

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5) War Remnants Museum

Entrance fee is at USD 1. There are many old military places and tanks left over from the Vietnam war here. Most of them are American ones and you can have a look at what kind of stuff they used during the war. Some of the displays in the museum are gruesome which shows the negative images of war. We can also see the propaganda and history during the war periods. The museum is a good place to find how the events that happened during the war.

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You can probably complete the above in 2 days, and remember that these places are wallet-friendly. Of course, there are much more to Ho Chi Minh other than the above mentioned. Overall, Ho Chi Minh is relatively affordable as compared to western standards.

Taiwan, Travel

20 Days In Taiwan With $1000


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Ever since my last post on traveling Taiwan, there have been numerous people asking me about the affordability of the country and how to travel Taiwan on a budget. To be a good Samaritan to the curious travelers out there, I will share with you guys how I did it on a budget. Or rather my budget of SGD 1000 in 21 days. Before I went on my trip, I gave myself a daily budget of SGD 50 for autonomous expenses. This includes accommodations, transport, food and probably one or two booze every night. I did a clockwise tour of Taiwan, down the east coast and back to Taipei via the west. Some of the major places I traveled to include Taipei, Hualien, Taitung, Kenting, Kaoshiung, Tainan, Taichung, Alishan and Cingjing.

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Flights

Singapore has one of the best flying hub in the world, which means there are a lot of airline options making prices really competitive. For people doing transits, check out your flight combinations involving a stop in Singapore. Singapore – Taipei route offers one of the best price for the distance covered. There are numerous budget airlines such as Scoot, Tigerair, AirAsia and Jetstar. I booked my return tickets with Scoot at an outrageous discounted price; return tickets Singapore-Taipei at SGD 82.67. I snatched the deal when it was on promotion, the price was inclusive of the yellow seat selection which provided extra leg room. My 6 feet frame needed that very much.

  • Scoot Return Flights SGD 82.67

Travel Insurance

Always travel with insurance, you wouldn’t want to spoil your vacation by paying more because of unexpected adverse circumstances. I always ask myself this defining question; “Do I want to pay the insurance premium or risk paying at least ten times more if I don’t buy insurance”. The answer is obvious. So do it, buy travel insurance! I got mine from MSIG on a 25% discount, which comes to SGD 58.12. It came with a complimentary Adidas travel pouch. My advice for you is to compare between different travel insurance agents and get the best deal for similar coverage. Always read the wordings so you know what to do when claims arise.

  • MSIG Insurance SGD 58.12

Accommodation

Here’s the important part of your budget if you really want to do it cheap. When I was in Taipei, hotels prices were pretty crazy, even hostels. I got my hostel near Zhongxiao Dunhua Station which was the perfect location in terms of accessibility. But when you travel out of Taipei, hotel prices drops dramatically. At some cities, I stayed in hotels provided they are of equal cost, if not slightly higher than hostel. I was able to do this because I was traveling with a friend which makes private accommodation more cost efficient. Try to factor the cost of breakfast because some accommodations provide free breakfast. If breakfast is included, that’s a plus. Some of my hostels provided free bikes to explore the surrounding areas, a good extra service I say. Well these things matter when you are on a budget. On the average, I spent a total of SGD 421.59 on accommodation which comes to around SGD 21 per day. It is a large percentage of my budget if you have realized.

  • Accommodation SGD 421.59

Transport

Transportation in Taiwan is pretty straight forward. I travel either by trains and buses. I took a taxi twice, the first one was because I had no other choice; I was at some night market and buses were not running anymore. The second time was from Kaoshiung to Kenting, it was a car-pool so the price was the same if I had taken a bus. The best bet to saving transportation cost is to stay away from taxis unless you have friends or you are car-pooling. Travel like a local and you will experience more. I walked a lot because I want to see more, you will miss out some things if you don’t travel by foot. My total spent on transportation was SGD 202.51, which is roughly SGD 12 per day.

  • Transport SGD 202.51

Food

This is the reason most people are traveling to Taiwan for. Even though you are on budget, but remember you might also be on vacation. The food is cheap in Taiwan, A normal meal will cost a couple of dollars; a plate of beef fried rice for example will set you back SGD 3. I ate mainly from street stores and night markets. I spent a total of SGD 214.39 on food, average of SGD 11 per day.

  • Food SGD 214.39

Laundry

I had two laundry runs over the period of 21 days. Yes, laundry because I traveled light and I can’t stand dirty clothes. Self explanatory.

  • Coin Laundry SGD 4

Entertainment

I hit some clubs twice in Taipei and once in Kaoshiung. I spend an average of SGD 20 per visit, including free flows of beers and selected alcohols; I know this is sick. If Las Vegas got anything like that, their business would have been folded.

  • Clubs Entry SGD 60

 

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Summary

My grand total comes to SGD 1043.28, this means I was spending SGD 52.16 per day. This is inclusive of flights and insurance. If you have notice, I wasn’t really on budget. I stayed in hotels for some nights and I went partying. Because throughout this trip, I reminded myself that I’m on vacation and the most important thing was to enjoy myself.

Improvements?

The only major improvement I can do to reduce the budget further is to Couchsurf. I never tried it in Taiwan because I was traveling with a friend. At the same time, we were traveling without fixed plans, and we are willing to pay for the flexibility; hostels in this case.

That’s all I have. What do you think of my trip?

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