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  1. 6 Tips on Traveling as a Couple and How to Avoid Fights

    April 14, 2015 by IFOTC

    Couple at Machu Picchu, Peru

    “Does this view make me look fat?”

    There are many advantages to traveling with your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. Saving money is a major one. Having two brains also helps significantly. But don’t think that everything will be peachy all the time. You are going to fight — hopefully not fist fight. One of you may go a little crazy for a short period of time, and may want to throw the other one down the steps of Angkor Wat. This is not a good idea and should be avoided at all costs. Killing your partner will only make the vacation more difficult (what with the funeral arrangements and the awkward phone call to their parents). Here are my tips to avoid a relationship meltdown while travelling abroad.

    Communication

    What’s the point of being with someone if you can’t be yourself? This includes being open with your feelings and wants. Be honest about what you want to do and how you want to do it. You won’t always agree but if both of you have an opinion it will be easier to come up with a compromise. Also, never answer a question with “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”. Whether it’s, “What do you want to do today?” or “What should we have for dinner?” always think about it and make a suggestion. And don’t ask those questions if you already have an idea of what you want. Just suggest it. That being said, remember to…

    Be open minded

    If your guy/gal wants to try something that you are a bit afraid of, why not try it once? If you hate it, at least you’ll know. Relationships are all about helping each other to become better people. If she suggests going to an opera and it sounds like the worst thing ever to you, do it anyway – you may like it, and you’ll make her happy. Remember the reason you travel: new experiences. Having someone there to suggest things that you wouldn’t normally do, breeds new experience like a Catholic in a Monty Python sketch breeds babies.

    Sharing is caring

    When Sara and I travel we share everything. We split meals, which allows us to try more things (instead of exchanging plates, exchange seats; this will give you a whole new backdrop to look at). We divide up jobs – you pick out a place to stay and I’ll figure out the best way to get there. We take turns sitting next to the window. We even trade pillows from night to night if one is clearly better than the other. Keeping things nice and equal makes everyone happy and stops resentment from building up. It’ll also help to make your vacation run more smoothly. You’ll discover that one person is better at doing some job or maybe they’ll enjoy doing something you hate. If the task is torturous for all, then make sure you split that torture up evenly.

    Find time apart

    No matter how much you love your better half, being around them all day for four months can be tiresome. Look for moments in the day to escape and get some alone time. This can be going for a walk, running an errand, or doing entirely separate activities – you go to the museum, I’m going to the bar for a beer. I find going for a shave is the perfect activity to help me relax. It allows me to hang around in a masculine environment, and gives Sara some time to write in her diary about her period (or whatever women do when they’re alone). A little time away and you may discover that you weren’t sick of your spouse, you just missed being alone.

    Don’t forget to date

    A vacation is not a date, especially if it’s long-term travel. Make time to go out on real dates where some romance can blossom. Take your sweetheart out to dinner at a fancier place every once in a while. Splurge on a nice hotel. An activity you have already planned to do can be turned into a date with a little surprise, a cordial invitation, and your cleanest shirt.

    High-five a lot

    There is something about a high-five that makes me happy. I think it brings me back to my childhood when I actually thought it was a cool thing to do. Now, it’s more out of irony but it’s a great way to feel like a team. Alternatives to high-fives: Fist pounds, secret handshakes, chest bumps, hands together and lift with a “Whoa Bundy!” (or your own surname if you share one).

    I’m not a couples counselor, but I’m pretty sure that if you follow these tips, you’ll never ever ever fight agai–

    “Ryan, what do you want for dinner?.”

    “Stop interrupting me while I’m writing this article!!”

    “I hope you get your head caught in a box crusher.”

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!


  2. Pulau Pangkor to Penang, Malaysia: Taxis, boats, and buses.

    April 13, 2015 by IFOTC

    the ferry from Palau Pangkor, Malaysia

    When we were planning our trip to Malaysia we originally had planned a stop or two between the island of Pangkor and the state of Penang. Knowing that we’d have to take 2 boat trips and a bus, we thought it would be too much in one day. Of course, plans change when you’re traveling, and we ended up having to go all the way to Penang in one, fairly easy, fairly short day. Here’s the best way to get from Pulau Pangkor to Penang (and also the cheapest).
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  3. VIDEO: Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay | Exploring Vietnam

    April 12, 2015 by IFOTC

    Ask anyone what the highlight of their Vietnam trip was and the majority of the time you’ll get the answer “Halong Bay” — gorgeous limestone karsts jetting up from picture perfect grottos. It’s hard not to love it. But of course, an attraction like that comes at a cost. The tours can be expensive (as far as Vietnam goes), and of course they’re filled with our greatest rivals, tourists. To save money and add adventure, we recommend seeing Ha Long Bay via Cat Ba Island, the UNESCO Heritage island that’s filled with beauty and attractions. To read about how you can do it visit: Cat Ba Island: An Alternate Route to Halong Bay, and to see what you are missing/what’s in your future, watch the video below.


  4. VIDEO: The Perfect Day in Hanoi

    April 6, 2015 by IFOTC

    The best day we had in Hanoi, Vietnam didn’t involve museums and tourist attractions. Hanoi is the perfect city for eating, drinking, and people watching.

    For details about the places visited in this video, including a map, a breakdown of costs, and other tips, please check out our: Budget Guide to Hanoi.

    The Perfect Day in Hanoi

    Planning to backpack through Vietnam? Check out our collection of guides: How you can travel Vietnam for $20/day!


  5. Ipoh, Malaysia: Seriously Bad Ass.

    April 3, 2015 by IFOTC

    It’s easy to take a bus from Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands (4.5 hours), or Penang (about 4 hours) buzzing right past Ipoh like it was a solicitor on a sidewalk, but don’t underestimate the 4th largest city in Malaysia. I know, the name Ipoh looks like it’s an acronym for something boring — International Party of Humdrum or something, but it actually gets its name from a tree. Yes, trees are boring too, but this particular tree, the Pokok Ipoh, is notorious for killing people. It’s sap is highly poisonous and was used by indigenous people to coat the tips of their darts for general killing purposes. The Chinese have a saying about the tree that translates to: “Seven up, eight down, nine no life”. It means that if someone is poisoned by it they’ll only be able to take seven steps uphill, eight steps downhill, or nine steps on level ground before falling to their death. Yeah man, Ipoh is bad-ass.
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  6. Best way to get to and from Kuala Lumpur’s Airport

    March 31, 2015 by IFOTC

    When I first arrived in Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I headed straight to the KLIA Ekspres train. The 28 minute non-stop train to KL Sentral. I bought my ticket — 35 MYR (about $10). It’s not a bad price considering it’s a non-stop ride on a nice train, but this is a budget travel site. Also, when I got off the train at KL Sentral, I realized that for the area I wanted to go to, around Pettaling Street, I’d have to take another train plus walk for 10 minutes, or to grab a taxi. There had to be a better way. Of course, there was.

    Star Shuttle bus Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaStar Shuttle has been offering buses to and from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport since 2007. They run about 42 trips per day. That’s pretty much a bus every half hour (no services between midnight and 3AM). You can check out the schedule here. The cost of the trip is 12 MYR ($3.23 USD). The best part is, they drop you off outside of Puduraya station, about a 5 minute walk to Pettaling Street and my budget hotel of choice in Kuala Lumpur Mayview Glory Hotel. The total time on the bus is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but it’s a nice easy ride and the buses are rarely full.

    If you are coming from the airport, you can buy your ticket at KLIA or KLIA2 (see location of ticket offices here), or you can buy the tickets online.

    If you are heading to the airport (either KLIA or KLIA2), it’s possible to buy the tickets at the location where the bus picks you up. The bus stop is across the road from the McDonald’s in Chinatown at 55 Jalan Silang. You’ll see a couple of guys sitting at a table.

    Star Shuttle bus stop to KLIA

    A convenient location and an extremely fair price. Skip the KLIA Ekspres train and hop on the Star Shuttle bus.


  7. Getting a Vietnamese Visa in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    February 24, 2015 by IFOTC

    The best advice I have about getting your Vietnam visa in Kuala Lumpur is: don’t do it if you don’t have to. Vietnam now permits visas on arrival if you are flying into Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Danang via an international flight. You simply find an agent to get you a letter of approval (Google ‘Vietnam visa on arrival’ and you’ll find a bunch of companies to choose from), print out the letter, and bring it (along with the visa fee in USD cash, your passport, a completed copy of the Entry and Exit form, and one passport size photo) to the “Landing Visa” counter when you arrive in Vietnam. The cost depends on what type of visa you get – $45 for a one month or 3 month single entry visa, $65 for a less than 30 day multi-entry, $95 for a 30 day or more multi-entry. On top of that you’ll have to pay the visa agent… usually about $10. The only downside is, there may be a long wait at the airport. Some people get through in 15 minutes, for others it takes an hour. It all depends on how many people are doing it, and what airport you go to (HCMC is busier and will take longer).

    So far, this article has been a little off-topic. If you need to get your Vietnamese visa in Kuala Lumpur it costs more, and requires a couple trips to the Vietnamese embassy, but here’s how to do it:
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  8. The Best Travel Insurance for Backpackers

    February 4, 2015 by IFOTC

    “No Mom. I’m invincible. I don’t need travel insurance.” *Mom smacks me in the head and makes me cry.

    For the longest time, I was against travel insurance. I rarely get sick. I don’t have accidents (including the ones that happen in your pants). I’m generally a pretty safe guy. What I didn’t think about was the different lifestyle that I’d be adopting while traveling the world. First off, there’s a lot more unknown variables. You can’t predict things like you can in your hometown. Secondly, you take more risks while traveling. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t matter as much if you fail — you’ll be in another town tomorrow. Or perhaps, it’s the adrenaline that comes with new and exciting things. I’m not sure. But trust me, people do crazy things while on vacation. Speaking of crazy things, there are all kinds of vacation activities that you would never do in normal everyday life: bungee-jumping, river-rafting, surfing, rock climbing, driving a scooter around Vietnam. These are things that your normal insurance company wouldn’t necessarily cover. You need a souped-up, pimped-out, bad-mofo of an insurance company. World Nomads is that company. They’re the best travel insurance for backpackers. They cover extreme sports like the ones mentioned above, plus a whole lot more (check out their list of 200 adventure activities). And, since you’re young and connected, you’ll probably be traveling with your laptop, tablet, and camera. World Nomads covers that too.

    My favourite thing about World Nomads’ insurance is the fact that you can order online, from anywhere, at anytime. If your plans change, you can change your insurance plan. If something happens and you need to make a claim, you can do it online, nice and simple. If you’ve ever had to make an insurance claim before, you know how bloody awful it can be — going into a stuffy office with a bunch of white collared business dorks who are friendly in the fakest way possible. World Nomads actually cares about their customers. They offer travel tips, safety tips, and they encourage travellers to make a difference and give back to the country they are visiting. They even have a program that offers travel scholarships in photography, writing, film making, food, and language. Other insurance companies be like: blah, blah, blah, give me money, blah, blah, that’s not covered.
    I never thought I’d be hawking travel insurance, but I never knew there was a company like World Nomads. If you want to read more, please check out their site. If you want to get a quote, it’s real simple. Fill out this form:

    I’m finally insured. You can rest easy, Mom.


  9. The Best Way to Visit Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s Largest National Park

    February 3, 2015 by IFOTC

    Conservation in Vietnam started at Cuc Phuong National Park. It was consecrated by Ho Chi Minh in 1962, right in the middle of the Vietnam War. The bombs dropped and the defoliants used during the war, destroyed much of Vietnam’s forests and fauna. Ho Chi Minh told the people that protecting the environment is protecting their future. Since then, 29 other national parks have been created in Vietnam, but Cuc Phuong remains the largest.

    Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam

    Cuc Phuong National Park on a hazy/smokey morning.

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  10. Hanging out in Hanoi

    January 25, 2015 by IFOTC

    Hanoi Vietnam old quarters.

    The old quarters in Hanoi, Vietnam

    In total, we were in Hanoi for about 7 days. Three on the first days of our vacation, and 4 on the last days. We didn’t get bored once. Considering we didn’t really go to any tourist attractions, I think that says a lot for the city.
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