Useful Things You Need To Know Before Travelling In Vietnam

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Vietnam was a country that had been on my bucket list forever so when I decided to add in as part of my backpacking South East Asia Itinerary I couldn’t be more excited. I knew very little about the country or the culture when I turned up in Hanoi as part of my first solo backpacking trip.  Perhaps this was a little naive but I was just so damn excited to get out there and explore I didn’t really leave time for planning.

As a solo female backpacker I found Vietnam to be a safe, sociable and relatively easy country to travel in and the food was out of this world good. My biggest concern was the traffic- Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are an absolute nightmare to even cross the road!

If you’ve got the time then I’d say don’t overly plan an itinerary for Vietnam as its much better to take each day as it comes. ( A typhoon in Central Vietnam totally changed my plans forcing me to fly from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City then back up later on).

Either way if you are planning on travelling to Vietnam here are a few things to bear in mind first. 

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The visa situation

Ok so first of all if you are visiting longer than 15 days then you need a visa. You need to pre-book your visa before you’ve arrived. There’s a lot of conflicting information online about what you need and how much you need to pay. Basically the thing you’re after is an approval letter. If you book an e visa, it’s the same, just a letter.

I went with http://www.evisa.com.vn which is recommended by Lonely Planet. They are legitimate and can process and email you your letter in 1-2 working days for 20 USD or 30 USD if you need it urgently, which is what I did the last-minute. You can apply from home or in another country if you’re somewhere else before. I applied while in Thailand. To apply you just need to send a photo of your passport and a photo of a passport size photo of yourself. If you’re backpacking in Asia you should always have passport photos on you.

If time is short and you’re only staying 15 days and you’re from one of the eligible countries like the UK, you do not need to get an e-visa. However YOU NEED PROOF OF ONWARD TRAVEL. A lot of backpackers heading to another country after will not have a flight booked out of Vietnam. You will not be able to get on your flight without this. They will make you book one at the airport and this can be expensive.

Now we’re over the visa hassle, the rest is a lot more straightforward.IMG_2347

Choosing where to stay: hostels or hotels? 

I’m not a fan of the whole, arrive in a place, have no idea where you’re staying and walk around for hours with your backpack trying to find somewhere. It is A: Either going to be very hot or B-Going to be raining,  so save yourself hassle and prebook the night before. Always book just one night at first, incase the place is awful. It’s also often cheaper to extend a night in person rather than booking it all at once online.

In Asia but specifically Vietnam, you get a lot for your money accommodation wise. If you’re up for hostels, you’re looking at no more than £6 a night. I always book mine on Booking.com and now get special discounts because of it. Always filter by distance from city centre, ( You want to be in the city centre. 4.7 k outside anywhere is annoying), best reviewed, lowest price and free breakfast. With the amount of value hostels competing, there is no need to ever pay for breakfast, saving you money.IMG_2354

Getting around

Vietnam is a massive country. Loads of people go on epic motorbiking adventures and they will tell you there is no point going to Vietnam unless you have one. There is.

The easiest way to get around in Vietnam are sleeper buses. These two-story buses pretty much have routes across the whole country and are much cheaper than the train. They have vertical beds in them and you can actually sleep, so long journeys are actually quite bearable. Do not book these online. The prices will be in US dollars and that is expensive. You can book in person but it’s best to do it via your hostel or a travel agent. They do add a small commission fee but it is  usually worth saving the hassle of negotiating with a Vietnamese ticket seller. Pre book your bus at least a day in advance.

For any journeys over 10 hours, I would advise you fly if possible. If you are near a main airport then this is cheap. For example Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Danang (Hoi An) to Ho Chi Minh is a good example. It’s a 17 hour sleeper bus or a one hour flight costing just £20. You can book via a travel agent but it’s usually easier and just as cheap on Skyscanner.

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Money

The money situation is very confusion. Inflation in Vietnam is ridiculous. £1 GBP is 30,000 dong so 300,000 = 10 GBP and 3000,000 is around 100 GBP. This is always good as a base to work from. Download the free XE currency converter app. It works without wi-fi and will be a lifesaver while you get to grips with the currency. Always double-check your change, it’s common to be shortchanged and organise your money in chronological order in your purse. There are no coins in Vietnam so your purse can get pretty full.

You can get Vietnamese dong outside of the country but the exchange rate is much better if you change your money once you get there.  US dollars are always good to bring as these are widely changed.  There are caps on how much you can withdraw so don’t freak out if the first ATM won’t let you. Some banks, generally bigger ones, let you draw out 5 million, others only 2. There is always a high fee for withdrawing. This is unfortunately unavoidable.

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Amazing vegetarian Cao Lau (A Hoi An speciality)

 

Eating and drinking

Vietnamese food is unsung hero of Asian cuisine. Everything in Vietnam tastes amazing and it should never have to cost you more than 100 thousand dong (£3.30). As per usual, eat from street vendors for cheap food, restaurants for a little more.  Try the regional specialties in each area. Northern, Central and Southern food varies a lot. Try Bun Cha up North, White Rose dumplings in the middle and Ban Mi in the South.

The thing that surprised me most in Vietnam is their coffee culture. You can spend 50 thousand dong on a coffee in fancy places but generally the best places are little cafes on street corners without menus that the locals frequent. Here you can usually get an iced milk coffee, served with free green tea for 15 thousand dong.

Read more about this here if you’re interested: How To Order Coffee In Vietnam
Alcoholic drinks are cheaper than at home but not cheap in comparison to Vietnamese prices. Beer will only set you back 30 thousand, (1 GBP), but apart from that, the less alcohol  you drink, the less you spend. In most cities, the authorities crack down on nightlife after midnight so most bars shut or go ‘underground’ anyway.

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I hope you found this post useful. Any more questions about backpacking in Vietnam? I’d love to help

Why Hoi An Is My Favourite Place Ever

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When I was planning my Vietnam trip, Hoi An was the place I was looking forward to most. Everyone that had ever been to Vietnam had said it was their favourite city and I couldn’t wait to walk around the dreamy, lantern filled streets. Sadly,  I didn’t account for the typhoon that hit central Vietnam while I was there, which meant I had to go straight from North to South of the country.  A week later I heard Hoi An had cleared up and although it meant going completely out of my way, flying from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An, so that I could then fly back to Ho Chi Minh to go to Cambodia a week later, I decided that I couldn’t miss it.

It’s sunset when I eventually arrive in Hoi An and the sky is a beautiful shade of pink. When I get to the waterfront Hoi An takes my breath away.

Lanterns everywhere light up this little city. Their colours reflect in the river that runs through this Unesco world heritage site and in the background someone’s playing the guitar. I feel like I’ve walked straight onto a movie set. On the river are little long tail boats taking people down the water, on which little coloured lanterns lit by candle are floating. In the centre street vendors are selling sweet banana crepes at the night market and high-end restaurants and low-key bars are filling up with people.

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IMG_2350.JPG Hoi An’s old town is a Unesco world heritage site. It’s free to explore but if you want to visit the museums and five ancient houses then you need to buy an entrance ticket costing 120,000 VND.IMG_2354IMG_2355.JPG

There’s nothing that symbolises Hoi An better than Lanterns. originally the locals, started to hang them as they believed that they bring happiness, health and good luck if they have them outside of the house. Now lanterns have become an iconic landmark for tourists and the crowds pile into the night market every evening to take photos and to watch them being hand-made.

Even the bigger ones fold up pretty compactly, making them easy to transport back home. Or fancy trying your hand at making your own? Try one of the many popular lantern making classes.

 

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One of the best things to do in Hoi An is people watch, and there’s no shortage of places to do that from. The centre of the city is car free meaning it’s the easiest of places to wander around. Hoi An boasts many museums that paint an interesting depiction of life in the city, back in the past. As well as being fascinating in themselves, most of these museums offer great views over the city streets from their balcony’s and windows.

 

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Although distinctively Vietnamese, Hoi An’s strong foreign influence can be easily spotted throughout the city. If visiting the city it’s impossible to miss the beautiful and ornate Japanese covered bridge as well as it’s many Chinese temples such as Cam Pho and Quan Cong.

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Hoi An’s location in Vietnam and it’s proximity to the river mean that it’s prone to flooding. However the water clears up pretty quickly when this happens. Hoi An was flood free when I visited until the day that I left. I got down to near the waterfront and couldn’t understand why everything suddenly felt different and I felt complete lost with where abouts I was.

When I walked down a little, I realised what had been one of the central streets was now the waterfront and the front two streets had been engulfed by water. The locals are pretty resilient when it comes to dealing with this, and boats take the places of bicycle’s on the streets. Still, the economic cost of loss of trade can be massive for the cafes and restaurants on the river front.

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Hoi An has countless places to eat, from fancy restaurants and wine bars, to cheap dishes at The Central Market and snacks from street vendors. More than anything, Hoi An is a place to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Spending some time in one of the many cafes and dessert eateries and bakeries is a must do.

Make sure to try the vegan coconut milk coffee at one of the Hoi An Roastery cafes and a raw pressed juice at Cocobox when you need to detox from the sugar.  The ‘Watermelon Men’ one is so refreshing. You also have to visit the Cargo Club to try their infamous desserts. The mango cheesecake is insane. It goes without saying that visiting Vietnam without trying a banana crepe topped with condensed milk at the night market is a crime. They make the perfect post cocktail snack.

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Hoi An fun fact number one: There are over 100,000 bicycles on the roads in the city. So although you don’t need to watch out for cars in the old town, take care not to get run over by bicycles while snapping your pics.

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If you’ve got the time then why not take one of the boat rides down the river once the sun goes down? There’s plenty of people offering these and they won’t set you back much money for a half an hour or so.

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If you walk around Hoi An at night, you may see local people burning fires outside of their houses. Many families burn ghost money made from paper and other paper items in vats, believing that it will pass to deceased relatives and be deposited for themselves in the afterlife. In Hoi An this act has a romantic and dreamy connotation to it.

 

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Hoi An’s Central Market is the best place to grab something to eat, with most meals costing just 30,000 VND. The local specialities that you must try are; Cao Lau, chewy noodles in a flavoursome sauce, usually served with pork and fresh greens and White Rose shrimp dumplings which are delicate, light and flavoursome.

You also can’t visit Vietnam without trying a Banh Mi, and Hoi An is the perfect place to have one. A tribute to Vietnam’s French influence, these soft baguettes are sliced open and filled with delicious fillings like pork or pate, and then topped with fresh herbs, veg and sauces. They can be picked up from a street vendor at any hour of the day. Opinions are divided between where the best Banh Mi is: Banh Mi Phuong or Madam Khanh. So I guess you just have to try both.

 

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Hoi An translates as ‘peaceful meeting place’ and it’s fair to say that it would be hard to come to the city and feel stressed. If you’re feeling inspired to visit, (how can you not?), then the best way to get there is by flight into Danang city airport and then by bus or taxi from the airport to Hoi An’s centre. The journey takes around 40 minutes. Wondering where to go next? Head North to the imperial city of Hue or South to the beaches of Nha Trang.

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Life on a desert island: The ultimate Halong Bay experience

IMG_1271IMG_1017IMG_2765IMG_2125IMG_1024 IMG_1022.PNG I’m still half asleep as I blink open my eyes in the morning. It still feels like night but the sun is starting to rise and daylight is streaming in through the window.
I check my watch. It’s 5:30, the time our guide said to wake up if we wanted to witness the most spectacular sunrise. Considering we’d all been sat around a campfire just hours before, I hadn’t thought that a possibility. I peer around the room at the only other 15 people on this island but I am the only one awake: perks of the window side bed. Within minutes the sky has gone from grey to bright pink, and I watch the sunrise in solitude from the comfort of my bed.

I booked this tour a couple of days ago, unsure of anything apart  from the fact it would take us by boat to Lan Ha island, “the new halong bay.” Identical in every sense, apart from the tourist numbers.

The travel agent explained, ‘you get what you pay for’ when I booked my trip, so considering what I paid, it’s safe to say I was a little dubious. However within a few minutes of sailing from the port, we’re already in the depths of some postcard worthy islands and chatting away over lunch. I’d seen pictures of these islands but nothing could prepare me for the sheer beauty of them as we sailed through.

Our first stop was kayaking, off a little cluster of wooden boards nailed together in the centre of the ocean but called a ‘fishing village’. We were given no instructions apart from to follow our guide, before we were pushed off into kayaks within a matter of minutes and set off sailing into the heart of these islands.

The islands are immense and block out the sun as we sail though and the two of us in the kayak can’t help but stop rowing and just sit for a moment. Of course, no suprise, we’re back of the group. We come to a rock, no higher than my head, and seeing the last of our groups kayaks glide underneath, we follow. Inside this cave it is eerie, yet beautiful and the sun at the end of this cave, that seems to go on for ever, gives the impression of moonlight on the water. When we emerge the scene is even more beautiful, and remote than the last.

I don’t think any of us had given much thought to where we were spending the night. Our guide said we were staying on Cat Ong, a private island situated opposite popular Cat Ba Island, a watersports hub. Like I said, I was forever sceptical.

The sun was already almost down when we arrived at the island. To my suprise, it really was a private island. There was a little stretch of sand, with small bungalows and a larger main building to eat in. Apart from that it was free of infrastructure, wifi and phone signal.  It’s fair to say we all felt like we were in a adventure movie.

After a late evening chatting and drinking a lot of beers around be campfire, watching sunrise the next morning and then falling sleep again, it was breakfast of banana pancakes and condensed milk coffee.

Key, our guide said that we could either sunbathe or choose to go on a short and easy hike to the viewpoint.
I chose the latter. About an hour later, after literally climbing up semi vertical rocks as sharp as knifes and walking through some very questionable looking paths, we finally arrive at the viewpoint. When I got my breathe back, the view was spectacular. From this point we could see all across the island and over the sea on to Cat Ba Island. With its tall hotels and it’s infrastructure, it looked like a world away from our little sanctuary, hidden from civilisation.

Want your own desert island experience? Book this trip with Ocean tours, Vietnam. Prices start from 99 USD.

My Homestay In Sapa, Vietnam

IMG_1170Thick strong Vietnamese coffee with sweet condensed milk is the first thing to welcome me to sapa. I’ve arrived on a gruelling and sleepless overnight bus journey from Hanoi up to this region of northern Vietnam, bordering China. It’s freezing up here when I arrive at 5 in the morning, and I’m left waiting outside for an hour waiting for my pick up to the hotel. When I eventually get there this coffee is a life saver.

IMG_1125IMG_1117I’m sat in reception when my guide walks in. Tanned and much shorter than me, she looks out of place in her traditional costume on contrast to hotel. Lin, my guide tells me we will begin out trek from the hotel, walking 20k today to our homestay where we’ll spend the night, and then finishing off tomorrow. We’re joined by four other people then we head out into the town, past the hotels and the sports shops, down a little road and suddenly we’re in the valley.

The air feels fresh and healthy but as we walk, I’m forced to peel off most my layers. As we walk, we’re joined by a few more women from the indiginohs villages, wearing there traditional clothing. Most speak little to no English but they hold our hands when the hike suddenly becomes drastically slippy. IMG_2335.JPG

Lin tells us there are many different tribes all across the valleys in sapa and that each speaks a different language. However they are taught Vietnamese in school and communicate that way. Most of the tribe people still wear there traditional  clothing and it’s not just for show, it’s a form of identity.

We walk past waterfalls and water buffalo’s before we reach the first little village. More interesting than anything are the children. In their traditional clothing, they’re cheeky and cute chewing on sugar cane and are interested in everything.

After a quick lunch of chicken and noodles at the village, Lin takes us to a shop to show us how the beautiful fabrics they wear are made. We see how the flowers are pressed and made into a blue dye they leaves a silky metallic shine on the costumes.

I’m a good walker but hiking in Sapa is not for the faint hearted. When we arrive in the homestay village, my legs have gone to jelly. Homestays in Sapa are the norm but sadly these are becoming more and more like hostels than guest houses. At first, I’m disappointed that I’m not in an actual ‘homestay ‘ but then Lin says if we fancy another hours walk to the next village, we could visit  her parents house.IMG_1103The walk to the next village is uphill the entire way but Lin, in her jumper and her many layers, doesn’t even break a sweat. Lins village is much quieter than the one we are staying in. We arrive at her parents house, where she and her seven siblings grew up and it’s like stepping back in time.

Outside there are pens of chickens, pigs and a new litter of puppies are running about. Inside there is no electricity and the floors are stone but there’s a little hole in the middle of the floor with a wood fire burning.

Lin’s parents don’t speak English but they shake our hands and welcome us into their home. Immediately they heat up a little pot of green tea and serve it to us in thimble size glasses and I’m struck by the generosity of these people who have so little, but invite us into their home and offer so much.

Before we leave we follow the smell of smoke into a small room. Lins father is in a small dark room, tending to a fire.
The last of the days sun is shining in though little slits in the wall and as the light mixes with the smoke, the effect is magical.

IMG_1106The next morning we walk though rice paddies, though bamboo forests, over bridges and stop to rest at waterfalls and again, I feel like I’m in a dream. When we make it to the last village for lunch, before our pick up back to town.  We’re exhausted and it’s an emotional experience. Happy to not be walking anymore, we’re all so sad that this experience has ended. Over two days we’ve covered a lot of distance, physically but mentally also.

As we leave Lin scribbles something down on a peice of paper: her mobile phone number. Despite them still living a relatively traditional life, things are changing in Sapa. By us being here, the modern world is rapidly starting to encroach, and phones are just the start. The lure of city life and all its possibilities mean many of these young children will not stay in the villages. Everyone wants an education, the chance for a better job and money in one of the cities but in many ways they have so much more here  already. Selfishly I hope they stay this way forever. In reality, I think Sapa has already started to change.

Quit your job and go to Hanoi

IMG_1762IMG_1380IMG_1372 First morning in Vietnam and I’m up way before my alarm. I’m exhausted from my late flight in the night before but my excitement to see a country I’ve been desperate to visit is far greater than my need for sleep.

My hostel is calm and peaceful. I’m one of the first ones up and I enjoy a quiet breakfast and coffee and then I head out just after 7:30 with no idea what awaits me out in Hanoi.

From the moment I step outside, Hanoi has captivated me. It’s frantic, chaotic, mesmerising, and above all it smells so good that it makes me regret eating my breakfast at the hostel.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a labyrinth of winding roads and narrow paths and straight away I’m lost. Crossing the road is ordeal in itself with hundreds of scooters beeping and coming towards me in all directions but when I eventually realise they’ll never stop and take a step out, I’m reassured by how they navigate past me quite swiftly. Think I’m getting the hang of this.

Locals and tourists mix here very freely. In fact tourists themselves are hard to spot, and I didn’t notice any until I started looking. Little street cafes are dotted all over the place with people perched on the roadside enjoying stealing hot piles of Pho noodles and other enticing foods. People selling fruit and other snacks walk in front of me, effortless dragging their carts amongst the crazy traffic and all I can think is, ‘wow, they actually wear those hats?!’

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IMG_1376First stop on my self guided tour of the city is Hoan Kiem Lake. The waterfront is peaceful and serene here and makes a nice break from the intensity of the chaos.

I can’t help but hunt out a Lonely Planet recommendation: Cafe Pho Co, famous for its Vietnamese egg coffee. I’m walking around in circles to find it until I consult my book again and read that the entrance is hidden and accessed through a silk shop. Sure enough, I find the shop and outside there is a tiny sign with the cafe’s name on. “Coffee?” I ask the shop owner pointing through, she looks at me and just nods.
This takes me to a little alleyway and suddenly I emerge into the quaintest little coffee shop I’ve ever been in. The waitress hands me a menu and I go with the recommendation: caphe trung da for one. I head up the multiple spiral staircases to the top floor which culminates in a spectacular view of the lake. My egg coffee arrives. It’s sweet, with a consistency of a sticky meringue, unlike anything I have ever had before and it’s absolutely delicious.

On the way back to meet a friend for lunch I loop around past the Don Xuan Market. It’s a struggle to stay aware of the traffic as this place is a sensory overload. Narrow alleyways of cheap Vietnamese eats and beer are starting to fill up for lunch. Sellers have their merchandise sprawled out on the streets from flowers to snakes, buckets of live eels and crabs and there’s hardly a tourist in sight.IMG_1379

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Back at the hostel, me and my friend ask for a recommendation on where to eat. Reception said I had to go to the little place directly opposite for their bun cha. I hadn’t even noticed the place. It was unassuming, looked a little bit of a dive with plastic tables and limited seating but we followed the advice and headed over. We were hustled in and before I’d even uttered a word, dishes of herbs and noodles were being placed in front of us.

A local girl opposite told us that, bun cha, the only dish on the menu was Hanoi’s speciality. The main dish, a steaming bowl of barbecued pork served in a deep bowl with an oyster sauce broth is the main component. She showed us how we take a couple of bunches of vermicelli noodles from the plate, drop them in, add in a couple of chilli’s and spring rolls, then for the bean spouts and herbs. Voila a perfect bowl of bun cha and I’m only £1.50 out of pocket.

Feeling very full we head off to the famous puppet theatre. A little gem of Hanoi, the traditional water puppet theatre is an hour long story of Vietnamese history told by handmade puppets and with a live orchestra. It’s so quaint that it can’t be missed.

I collapse at the end of the day, exhausted but complete enchanted by Hanoi. My brain hurts from trying to get to grips with the incompressible currency, my eyes hurt from being so alert for so many hours and my legs are killing from walking but I’d be ready to head back out again in a second.
Hanoi feels different. It’s exotic and crazy, it’s fun and intriguing, it’s chaotic yet in places very serene and it’s complete impossible not to fall in love with.

 

Where to stay: I stayed in Hanoi Centre Hostel which was really good. It’s around £4 a night and is only a few months old. Very central and clean with an amazing free breakfast. I booked all my tours though them and they’ll look after your luggage for you while you’re on trips.

Eating and drinking: Really the best places to eat and grab a local beer are the really unassuming looking places with little tables and chairs on the pavements. These are everywhere, just be adventurous and dive in. If you’re looking for more of a sit down restaraunt away from the hustle and bustle try Quan Bia Minh. It has good views from the balcony and  a varied Vietnamese menu at good prices. Cafe pho co is a must for egg coffee and try an iced tea or a Vietnamese condensed milk coffee at Nola cafe, a quirky place and a little sanctuary of calm in the craziness of the city.

 

Cuba: Country of colours

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IMG_8579IMG_9029Cuba has got a lot of problems. One of the last truly communist countries left, it deals with poverty, crime and dictatorship but despite all that, it’s a country more vibrant and alive than I’ve ever seen.

Walking in Havana, between crumbling walls and decaying buildings are vibrant bursts of colour. A turquoise vintage car: still in use as new car imports were until recently, banned,  a stall selling homegrown fruit, a mural painted on the wall. However despite its oppression, the vibrancy of colour in the city shows that Cubans are getting their message out in other ways.

The winding paths connecting the most popular cities, Havana and Trinidad are run down beyond repair but this journey is still shrouded in colours. When we’re away from the vividness of the blue Caribbean sea, we’re by Cuba’s forest which is lush and tropical. On the road we pass vintage car after vintage car in exotic colours. By the road are fruit sellers with banana bunches and guavas in baskets to be sold by those driving by.

Arriving in Trinidad, we’re struck by the boldness of this place. Street after street of multi-coloured one floor houses make up this town. It’s a popular tourist destination yet under the intense heat, it’s empty.  With horses and carts going past us, Trinidad feels like we’ve stepped back in time in to an American Western film, except this scene definitely isn’t in black and white.

A need for money has meant Cuba is increasingly welcoming in more and more tourists with direct flights now coming in from the US. However the country still has a lot of problems to solve. Despite its recent openness, Cubans are still not allowed to leave the country freely. Our guide tells us that he dreams of going to Paris, London and New York but instead he’s forced to drive between Cuba’s’ cities. News of the world outside is closely monitored and regulated. Our driver tells us he was once a lecturer at university but communist ideals mean that everyone is on an equal wage, where even doctors and gardeners earn the same.   “It’s better working as a driver then a professor, because I get tips”, he tells us.

You can still clearly see evidence of US sanctions.  Food is limited and can be tedious. We enter a market with an aisle full of biscuits, all the same brand, the next aisle juice, all the same brand.  Although what it lacks in food, it makes up with its liquor. True to the stereotype, Cubans are a race of rum drinkers. It’s where Bacardi  rum originated from  back in the 1800s, and now most drinks centre around the liquor or Havana club rum.  The most popular drink being the Cuba Libre: Rum and Coke.

In Havana we are enticed into a bar by jazz music, while sheltering from a rain shower. We find a low-key bar, easily missed if it wasn’t for the music. Inside we had the strongest Mojitos. The bar is jammed full of locals and tourists united, captivated by the mellow music of the jazz band.

Inside this packed bar,  as we all shelter from the raging storm outside, there’s a feeling that change is coming to the country. Despite all of its problems: the rations and poverty, Cuba’s future is bright.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Cuba or any other destination. I’ll be happy to help. Click here for more inspiration for Central America and the Caribbean.

Why you should take a nano break (and where you should go)

You know that feeling when you’re sat at home and it’s pouring it down, your next holiday is really far away and you just feel so blah?

Well there’s no better cure than travel, and that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank or cause you to take time off work. Becoming increasingly popular are nano-breaks. These are essentially short holidays, lasting just a day or two. Just enough time to relax, have a break from the monotony of life, and take enough photos that you can consistently post them on social media for the next two weeks and pretend that you’re still away. With England’s proximity to Europe and with low-cost airlines, there’s plenty of options for a nano-break. I’ve put together a list of some of my favourites.

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Barcelona

With plenty of daily flights and a flight time of just 2 hours, Barcelona is a popular day trip destination. What better cure for the rainy day blues than a day spent at the beach and a nice tapas lunch? Return flights can be found on Skyscanner for as little as £30

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Amsterdam

Even closer, Amsterdam in The Netherlands is just an hours flight away from England. Although not much better for the weather, there’s plenty do in the city. From walking along canals, visiting the Anne Frank House, eating in kitsch coffee shops and visiting the cheese museum. Amsterdam comes alive at night, with hidden cocktail bars, (try hiding in plain sight, featured above) and the red light district and, its proximity means that you don’t need to catch a flight back until late in the evening. Returns can also be found for £30 on Skyscanner

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Paris

Especially easy if you’re in London, thanks to the Eurostar, Paris is just a train ride away. After a couple of hours by train you could find yourself dunking croissants into thick hot chocolate at cafe de Flore, loosing yourself in Shakespeare and Company bookshop or having a slap up lunch at Brassiere Boffinger. It’s also a great excuse to stock up on good bread, pastries, chocolate, wine and perfume.

Book early for cheap Eurostar tickets or look on sky scanner for flights. Flights tend to be around £50 return and takes just over an hour.

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Bologna

Another foodie destination but I can think of anything more extravagant than flying to Bologna for the day to eat proper tagliatelle Bolognese. It’s lesser known than other Italian cities but Bologna is a thriving city for foodies with numerous bars, markets and restaurants. Flight time is two hours and returns cost around £50.

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Milan

Also a good day trip choice, Milan in Northern Italy is a shopping lovers heaven. Go with an empty suitcase and spend hours in the high-end shops in this city before sitting down to a plate of pasta. Return flights can be found for just £30 and flight time is also two hours.