Authors Posts by BoB

BoB

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Meet 'travel mastermind' Manouk: a 29-year-old sassy girl from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. With BoB she inspires you to explore the world, meet the unexpected and follow your dreams. Happy travels!

Stumbled upon some photos of my 2015 Sri Lanka trip! Our Sri Lanka trip was a crazy, beautiful roller-coaster ride full of highs and fortunately no single low. We were surprised by the diversity of Sri Lanka. In our mere 12 days we saw pristine temples, hiked through seemingly endless tea fields in misty mountains, boarded one of the most beautiful train rides ever, beheld elephants, crocodiles and a leopard on safari, enjoyed stunning white-sand beaches, saw whales and a turtle hatching on the beach, learned about the tumultuous history, went scuba diving and surfing, ate many a mouth-watering curry and celebrated the New Year with our new Sri Lankan friends. Check out the snap shots and who knows, maybe you’ll be booking your ticket to Sri Lanka soon?

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The Kandy Lake, created in the 1800s by the last ruler of the Kingdom of Kandy. Nearby you will find the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The lake is a nice place for a stroll!
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View on lush green tea fields from the train to Ella, one of the most famous train rides in the world. The views are stunning!
Ella Rock
Ella is a great place for hiking. For example, you can walk to Ella rock, where you’
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Family on top of Ella Rock
Sri Lankan kids on top of Ella Rock
Sri Lankan kids on top of Ella Rock
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We absolutely loved our safari time in Yala National Park
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Spotting elephants in Yala National Park! In Yala we also caught a glimpse of a leopard and observed countless crocodiles, monkeys and buffaloes!
Sunset Tangalle
Dinner and Sunset Tangalle beach (the most beautiful beach we’ve been to)!
Monk entering a temple, Sri Lanka
Monk entering a temple, Sri Lanka
Temple of Tooth, Kandy
Burning candles at the Temple of Tooth, Kandy
Stilt fishermen near Mirissa
Stilt fishermen near Mirissa
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Beach life! One of our favorite beaches was Hikkaduwa. A great place for surfers and backpackers. Hikkaduwa also houses the impressive tsunami photo museum. Entrance to the museum is by donation.
Rice and curry (every day)!
Rice and curry (every day)! Sri Lanka is a heaven for foodies, with beautifully spiced dishes!
Surfing near Galle
Surfing near Galle! As you can see these waves were perfect for a beginner like me!
Diving in Hikkaduwa
Thumbs up! Diving in Hikkaduwa!

Happy to answer any questions you may have about backpacking in Sri Lanka! Simply send me an email or leave a comment below :)

Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions

You can hike. You can snowshoe. You can go mountaineering, you can kayak, you can even camp out under the stars. There are plenty of ways that you can explore the stark beauty of Antarctica – the rugged landscapes, the drifting icebergs, the determined wildlife that includes lots and lots of penguins. The question about Antarctica trips isn’t why you should go, but how do you get there?

Written by Daniel Fox. 

Choosing an Antartic cruise

Antarctica is a vast place. Different cruises hit different hotspots (so to speak) around the continent, so make sure when you sign up that you’re choosing the cruise that visits the spots you most want to see. For example, some cruises in the Antarctic region are designed to take you to the various remote islands like St. Helena (the island where Napoleon was exiled) in either the Pacific or the Atlantic as you make your way south. These islands are all fascinating places to check out, but if you want to jump right to penguin-related action then you should definitely narrow down the types of cruises in your search. Other factors you might want to watch out for is if a cruise will take you to historic spots (like Shackleton’s hut or old whaling posts), if they’re designed around wildlife (bird-watching trips or crossing known whale migration routes), or if they include the types of activities you want to participate in (camping, diving, photography courses, and so on).

Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Visa

No country actually owns Antarctica, so you shouldn’t need a visa to set foot on our southern-most continent. However you do need permission from your home-country if your country signed the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environment Protection. Most of the time your tour operator will handle this for you – make sure to ask!
The reason for all of this protection for the continent is that Antarctica, being one of the most pristine places left on the planet, is an important source of information for scientists regarding our impact on the planet’s environment as a whole. So it’s understandable then that governments would want to minimize direct impact as much as possible.
Also keep in mind that you will be visiting a foreign country (probably Chile or Argentina) as your embarkation point. So as part of your preparation check in to see what your own country and those embarkation countries require of you in order for you to pay them a visit. Again, if you’re working through a tour operator they should hopefully be able to get all this info for you. If not, see if your government as a travel advisory website.

Here are a few government sites to get you started:
Australia: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au
Canada: http://www.voyage.gc.ca
New Zealand: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz
UK: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en
US: http://travel.state.gov
Netherlands: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/reisadviezen/inhoud

Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Off to explore! ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Travel insurance

Travel insurance is always a good idea. Some cruise lines won’t let you travel if you don’t show up with travel insurance documents in hand. At the very least we’d suggest that you get yourself covered for medical expenses and emergency medical repatriation (the costs of getting you back to your home country for sustained medical care).

Under the “better safe than sorry” heading you might also consider covering yourself for loss of luggage, loss of personal effects, curtailment (if your trip gets cut short), cancellation, and personal liability.

Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions
View from the boat ©Oceanwide Expeditions
The best time to travel to Antartica

Your cruise line is most likely going to visit the South Pole region somewhere between mid-November and early March (Antarctica’s summer). During the rest of the year large sections of the continent are unreachable because of the sea being covered over with ice. It’s also the best time of the year to see wildlife since for most species these months cover the mating season.

Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Humpback whales Antartica ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Antartic temperatures

During the Antarctic summer you can expect temperatures along the coasts to hover around the freezing mark, ranging from about -2°C to +5 °C. It can be considerably colder out in the Ross Sea, with temperatures dipping down to -20°C.

Packing clothes for Antartica

There are two main things you should keep in mind when packing your suitcase – layers and waterproofing.
Most cruise lines zip you from their main ship to the shore aboard a boat called a Zodiac. Zodiacs have low sides which mean that chances are good that you will get splashed a bit. Also, you may have to jump out into shallow water to step from the Zodiac to the shore, so it’s a good idea to have high-topped rubber boots with good gripping soles (some cruise lines will provide these for you).
As for layers, you’re going to want to be doing a lot of temperature regulation depending on what kind of activity you’re involved in. Layers also add more warmth bang for your buck by trapping air between the layers. This air gets warmed by your body and acts as a sort of further insulation.

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Antartic activities 

What you do once you arrive in Antarctica depends on your cruise. Some cruises will require you to pay for individual activities separately, while other cruise lines offer “basecamp cruises” that offer a wide variety of activities covered under one cost.

There’s:

• Hikes of varying difficulty and length.
• Snowshoeing.
• Mountaineering.
• Trekking (skiing across a portion of the continent pulling supplies with a sled).
• Visiting scientific stations.
• Visiting historic sites.
• Kayaking.
• Zodiac rides.
• Photography.
• Checking out the wildlife.
• Diving. (Usually for experienced divers only because of the shifting ice overhead.)
• Being checked out by curious penguins.
• Camping out.
• Seeing the Southern Lights (the Aurora Australis).
• Birdwatching.
• Whale-spotting.

Antartica cruises ©Oceanwide Expeditions
Saying hello to Gentoo penguins ©Oceanwide Expeditions

For this article, Bunch of Backpackers teamed up with Oceanwide Expeditions! Can’t wait to explore Antartica one day myself!

Most people who visit Kyrgyzstan head straight to its most famous sights such as Lake Song-Kul and Lake Issyk-Kul. However, if you go ‘off-the-beaten’ track, you will discover some of Kyrgyzstan’s lesser known sights and find that those are just as spectacular. I ended up spending most of my time in these relatively little visited places and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were often none or just a few travelers around, giving me the opportunity to fully enjoy the stunning and peaceful surroundings. It may take a few hours on bumpy roads to get to these spots, but I promise it’s absolutely worth it.

Kyrgyzstan was part of my solo Silk Road backpacking adventure. Read more about this trip here.

Kol-Tor 

It only takes a short marshrutka ride from Bishkek, a bit of hitchhiking and a good half day’s hike through a lush green valley to reach spectacular Kol-Tor. The lake’s color was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. You can stay the night at the lake and hike to some huge glaciers the next day. Although the local Trekkers Union of Kyrgyzstan organizes monthly trips, the lake is still relatively unknown. There is big chance you will have the lake and glaciers all to yourself (like we had!).

To get there: take the 09.30 bus to Kegeti from Bishkek East terminal. Follow the directions on Stephen’s website Monk Bought Lunch. Just let the other people in the bus know that you’d like to go to the gorge. Stay right from the TUK guesthouse and then remain left of the river. When the river stops, cross the river to the right and then make your way on the path again to the left. Stay in the valley on the path, cross three or four hills and you’re there! 

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Hiking to the glacier from Kol-Tor. ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Camping at stunning Kol-Tor lake. We had the lake to ourselves! ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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The crazy turquoise-whitish color of Kol-Tor lake ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Sary-Chelek

Surrounded by green mountains, Sary-Chelek is quite difficult to reach, which is probably the reason why many travelers give it a miss. However, the lakes are gorgeous! You can stay in a homestay in Arkyt village and walk or hire a car to reach the main lake. Make sure to bring enough supplies as there are only two (very) basic shops in town. I hiked for a few hours to the smaller lakes, which was lots of fun! There is path starting on the right side of the house.

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Enjoying the view over Sary-Chelek, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Pretty Sary-Chelek lake, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Hiking around Sary-Chelek lake, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Sary-Mogol

The adventurers who enter Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan, will pass through Sary-Tash. However, nearby Sary-Mogol is much more interesting. Sary-Mogol is the gateway to reach the mountains from where you can have a glimpse of 7000+ meter Peak Lenin, one of the easiest 7000+ meter peaks in the world for mountain climbers. To get there, you could rent a car from Sary-Mogol (or a horse) and ask if they can drive you to beautiful Turpak-Kol (3500 meter) where you could set camp. From Turpak-Kol, you can do an easy day trekking to the ‘view point’.

Going camping? Check this article with general camping tips! 

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On our way to see Peak Lenin, Kyrygyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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A horse around Turpak-Kol, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Turpan-Kol before nightfall, Kyrygzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Arslanbob

Once upon a time, a local gardener received seed-nuts from Prophet Mohammed. He was given the task to find ‘paradise on earth’. The gardener planted the seeds in a beautiful green piece of land, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. This place is now called Arslanbob and holds the largest walnut grove in the world. Arslanbob is more touristy than the other places mentioned in this article. However, the big advantage is that the local CBT is experienced and well-organized. It was the combination of a cute (Uzbek) village, a huge lonely forest to wander in and a great homestay that made me stay there for five nights!

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Arslanbob surroundings are full of small villages, Kyrygzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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The famous Arslanbob waterfall, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Praying near the Arslanbob waterfall, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Kol-Ukok

The long green valley to Kol-Ukok is full of small turquoise lakes, wild flower fields and free roaming horses. We rode a horse all the way to the lake, accompanied by a guide and an energetic dog running up and down the hills. It takes about 4 hours to reach the lake at around 3000 meters. After a good night in your yurt/ger, I would advice to get up early the next morning and hike to the small, but incredibly pretty Kol-Tor glacial lake. Kol-Ukok is like Arslansbob, relatively more popular with backpackers than the other places mentioned in this article. Still, I only encountered a handful of people on the way.

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On my horse to Kol-Ukok, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Entering our yurts/gers at Kol-Ukok, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
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Gorgeous glacier lake Kol-Tor even has a small beach, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.
Family Kol-Ukok
My favorite Kyrgyzstan homestay family, Kol-Ukok, Kyrgyzstan 2016 ©Bunch of Backpackers.

Do you have any questions about backpacking in Kyrgyzstan? Let me know!

Esfahan, Iran Costs Copyright Bunch of Backpackers

Iran is incredibly easy on the wallet since the costs of food, accommodation and transportation are low. The only thing that is (relatively) expensive are entrance fees. Iran is an amazing country to visit and at this moment, still fairly off-the-beaten path. It has majestic mountains, endless deserts, superb mosque’s and incredibly welcoming people! All you need for a beautiful travel adventure! So, how much does it cost to travel in Iran? Find my expenses and costs of backpacking in Iran below!

This article is part of the Money Matters series in which we ask travelers to keep their expenses for Bunch of Backpackers. Real travelers, real expenses.  

COSTS 24-DAY IRAN TRIP*: 525 EURO (592 USD)
DAILY TRAVEL EXPENSES IRAN: 21,90 EURO (24,70 USD)

*These daily travel expenses are per one person per day. Including all tours, domestic flights, souvenirs, lodging, food, drinks, entrance fees, tips etc. Excluding international flights and visa costs.

Newly weds in traditional clothing! Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers
Newly weds in traditional clothing! Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers

EXAMPLES OF PRICES IN IRAN:

These prices are per person unless stated otherwise.

Standard Iran expenses

One night in a hostel dormitory: 8,8 – 13,3 euro (10 – 15 USD)
A short 10-minute taxi ride: 1,3 euro (1,5 USD)
Lunch / dinner in a cafe or restaurant: 5 euro (5,6 USD)
Entrance fees: often around 5 euro (5,6 USD)
Small water: 0,13 euro (0,15 USD)
Return metro ticket Tehran: 0,28 euro (0,31 USD)

Notable Iran expenses

VIP bus Tehran – Esfahan (6 hours): 5,4 euro (6,0 USD)
6-hour tour around Yazd with private taxi: 12 euro (13,6 USD) per person
National Museum of Iran: 8,5 euro (9,5 USD)
Train Yazd – Kashan (3h): 7,4 euro (8,3 USD)

 

Traveling Iran was part of my Silk Road adventure! Read more about this trip here!

Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers

Costs of my hostels and guesthouses in Iran

Pars Hotel in Tabriz (single): 300.000 rial or 7,7 euro (8,7 USD)
Mehman Pazir Kenareh in Rasht (single): 450.000 rial or 11,5 euro (13 USD)
Khaksar Hotel in Qazvin (single): 600.000 rial or 15,4 euro (17,4 USD)
Koorsaran Hotel in Gazor Khan/Alamut (dorm): 300.000 rial or 7.7 euro (8.7 USD)
Khazar Sea Hotel in Tehran (single): 300.000 rial or 7.7 euro (8.7 USD)
Amir Kabir Hostel in Esfahan (single): 500.00 rial or 12,8 euro (14,4 USD)
Amir Kabir Hostel in Esfahan (dorm): 300.00 rial or 7,7 euro (8,7 USD)
Tak-Taku Guesthouse in Toudeshk (single): 800.000 rial (inc meals) or 22,7 euro (25,6 USD)
Orient Hotel in Yazd (single): 750.000 rial or 21,2 euro (24 USD)
Orient Hotel in Yazd (roof): 350.000 rial or 9,9 euro (11 USD)
Eshan Hotel in Kashan (dorm): 500.000 rial or 12,8 euro (14,4 USD)
Morvarid Hotel in Qom (single): 600.000 rial or 15,4 euro (17,4 USD)
Firouzeh Hotel in Tehran (single): 680.000 or 19,3 euro (21,7 USD)

Most have shared bathroom/toilet. In some cases, breakfast was included. I also slept a few nights for free at people’s houses or outside!

Check out the article with all my favorite IRAN hostels! 

The big toman/rial confusion!

This is important to know before going to Iran! The official currency of Iran is in rial. However, prices are usually quoted in toman. So, when a taxi driver says 7… He means 70.000 toman or 700.000 rial. It’s very easy, and I promise you’ll get the hang of it on the first day! In hostels/guesthouses, the rates are sometimes quoted in USD. Always ask the price in rial as well.

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1000-year-old Kharanaq village. Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers
Bring plenty of cash!

Unfortunately, at this moment it’s still pretty much impossible to get money in Iran. This means no bank transfer and no ATM to use. Therefore, it’s important to bring enough travel money plus some emergency money. The exchange rate in Iran is much better than the international exchange rates quoted on for example xe.com Thus, change euro’s in rials when you’re there!

If you do get into problems and you run out of money in Iran, then these are your options:

  • Borrow money from other travelers (you’ll need VPN to transfer the money though… so download a VPN app like Vypr before you go)
  • Buy a carpet and ask for extra cash money (20% commission. so hardly a solution)
  • Visit all banks. An Italian couple somehow managed to get cash with their credit card, so there may be some possibilities.
  • Try the reception desk at the Firouzeh Hotel in Tehran (more likely to help you when you’re actually staying there).

In this post I used the current exhange rate in Iran: 1 euro: 39.000 rial (june 2016)
Not included: the 700 USD that was stolen from my backpack :(

Some details on this trip

About the backpacker: Manouk, the Netherlands, 30 years
Destination and travel period: Iran in June 2016
Visited places: Tabriz, Rasht/Masuleh, Qazvin, Gazor Khan/Alamut, Tehran, Esfahan, Yazd, Toudeshk, Golshan (family stay), Kashan en Qom.
Type of trip: Solo, independently
Accommodation*: budget (mainly hostels and guesthouses)
Transportation*: budget (cheapest available mode of transportation)
Food*: superbudget (local restaurants/markets, I traveled during the Ramazan, so often bought simple food at a market or was invited to eat at a family)
Currency rate: 1 euro = 39.000 rial (unofficial currency rate)

*4 options: basic, budget, standard and luxury

Nomadic girl from the Zagros mountains in her most beautiful clothes. Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers
Nomadic girl from the Zagros mountains in her most beautiful clothes. Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers
Esfahan bridge. Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers
Esfahan bridge. Iran 2016. Photo by Bunch of Backpackers
Alamut, Iran 2016. By Bunch of Backpackers.
Alamut, Iran 2016. By Bunch of Backpackers.
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Iran 2016. By Bunch of Backpackers.

Have you been to Iran? Can you relate to these travel costs?

Bo Kaap Capetown Bunch of Backpackers

South Africa offers something for everyone: a beautiful, diverse landscape, many different cultures, wicked wildlife-watching opportunities, friendly people, vibrant cities, the best beaches and of course a wide range of adventure activities for thrill-seekers. South African hostels rank among the best in the world with amazing facilities and great vibes thereby making South Africa an absolute backpackers mecca.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, below are 10 extra reasons to go backpacking in South Africa! Will you let me know, whether you ‘ticked’ all experiences?

1. Drink traditional African beer in a ‘shebeen’

A shebeen is a small, formally illegal type of tavern, which served during the Apartheid period as an important place in the townships. The beer was brewed by local women, who became known as ‘Shebeen queens’. Order a beer, sit back and cheers!

Drinking beer in a 'shebeen' in Soweto, South Africa.
Drinking beer in a ‘shebeen’ in Soweto, South Africa.

2. Learn about South Africa’s history

South Africa’s history is incredibly interesting. Find out more about the San people via their rock-paintings, behold the British and Dutch influence which are still present in everyday life (e.g. street names, food) and learn all about Apartheid in one of the powerful museums (e.g. the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto and the District 6 museum in Capetown. Also, make sure to read Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela and to visit famous Robben island.

Are you allowed to use the entrances for 'whites'? At the impressive Apartheidsmuseum in Capetown. Bunch of Backpackers
Are you allowed to use the entrances for ‘whites’? At the impressive Apartheidsmuseum in Capetown.

3. Enjoy South Africa’s extremely sociable and fun hostels

South Africa has some of the best hostels in the world! They understand what backpackers need. All hostels have great facilities (swimming pool, pool table, book exchange etc.), superb locations, awesome dorm accommodation (from sleeping in a tree house to a cottage right on the beach) and cool, affordable tours and activities. Most hostels also offer family dinners and game nights, which are a great way to meet other people.

Favorite hostels: Curiocity Hostel in Johannesburg, Bulungula Lodge in Bulungula, Coffee Shack in the Wild Coast & Amphitheatre in Drakensbergen.

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The beautiful Amphiteatre in Drakensbergen.

4. Witness the greenest mountains in Drakensbergen

Breathe in fresh mountain air, enjoy an ice-cold beer in the highest pub of Africa and do spectacular hike at ‘the Berg’. The Drakensbergen range is truly one of the most magical places in South Africa with its jagged, green peaks in the clouds.

Drakensbergen, South Africa
Drakensbergen, South Africa

5. Spot the big five during a safari

An obvious must-do! Go for a multiple-day safari at the famous Kruger National Park or visit one of the smaller parks, such as Addo (which I visited). Some safari companies offer discounts for backpackers, so make sure to ask around.

Spot the big five in South Africa!
Spot the big five in South Africa!

6. Make numerous friends on the Baz Bus!

After considering traveling by car or public transportation, I eventually decided to travel South Africa with a ‘Johannesburg-Capetown Baz Bus pass’. This turned out to be a great choice! It was a great way to meet new travel buddies (especially when traveling solo). Most people travel either in the direction of Capetown or in the direction of Johannesburg. This means you keep bumping into the same people in the bus and you may even end up traveling together for a few days. The Baz Bus also literally picks you up and drops you off at your hostels doorstep, thereby making sure you arrive safely at your destination and you don’t need to wait at the bus station at night. I would highly recommend traveling by Baz Bus!

Baz Bus Cape Peninsula Tour! Loads of fun!
Baz Bus Cape Peninsula Tour! Loads of fun!

7. Explore Capetown’s beautiful surroundings!

You can easily spent weeks exploring The Mother City and her surroundings. Visit one of the nearby beaches (e.g. Muizenberg or Camp’s Bay), go for some wine-tasting in Stellenbosch and see beautiful Cape Peninsula! A fun, easy and ‘quick’ way to ‘do’ Cape Peninsula is via a Baz Bus Cape Peninsula day tour. During this tour you will visit Hout Bay, Duiker Island with the Cape Fur Seal colony, Boulders Beach famous for its penguins, the Cape Point Nature Reserve and the most South-Western point of Africa!

Pinguins on the beach!
Pinguins on the beach!

8. Learn to surf at Coffee Bay or Jeffreys Bay

Coffee Bay offers the cheapest surf lessons in the world, Jeffreys Bay is the ultimate surfer paradise and there are plenty of other good surf spots along the coast: all excellent places to ride your very first waves! After your surf lessons, go for a braai with your friends, relax at the beach or go shopping in one of the Billabong outlet stores (Jeffreys Bay).

South Africa is fun place to try you're first surf moves on the waves!
South Africa is fun place to try you’re first surf moves on the waves!

9. Braai and party with locals and your travel buddies

Don’t leave South Africa without having done a braai. Simply find some friends and buy some meat, vegetables and beer at the local shop. Still got energy left? Explore Capetown’s and Johannesburg’s vibrant local nightlife. South Africans definitely know how to party! Go crazy at Long Street in Capetown, which is famous for massive parties and comparable to Khao San Road in Thailand. If you have more time, you might want to look into one of the many music festivals that are organized during summer!

A must do in South Africa: braai!
A must do in South Africa: braai!

10. Learn about local culture at one of the community-focused hostels

One of those hostels is Bulungula, situated on the absolutely stunning Wild Coast and ran by the local Xhosa community. Here you can try your first words of the Xhosa language, wander for hours in the pastoral landscape and learn more of their daily lives. Although Bulungula is not a party place, it’s very sociable. It’s one of those places that you should not miss!

Learn about local culture (such as the Xhosa culture)!
Learn about local culture (such as the Xhosa culture)!

What are you waiting for? Book your backpack trip to South Africa now!!

Disclaimer: Baz Bus provided me a Baz Bus ticket. However, views and opinions are as always my own. I was not obliged to mention them in this article. 

South Africa was part of my RTW trip ‘BoB’s Epic Adventure’. Read all the articles here! 

Do you have South Africa tips for fellow backpackers? Leave them in the comments!

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beste hostels in iran

Iran heeft relatief weinig backpacker hostels en ‘guesthouses’. Echter, nu het toerisme in het land langzaam toeneemt door de simpelere visa procedure, neemt ook het aantal low-budget slaapplekken toe! Ik ben net terug van een 4 weken backpacken door dit bijzondere land (Iran was onderdeel van mijn Zijderoute avontuur) en dit is mijn persoonlijke selectie van de beste hostels in Iran!

Je kan de uitgebreide Engelstalige versie van dit artikel hier vinden!

Orient Hotel in Yazd

Supergezellig en een van de beste plekken om backpackers te ontmoeten. De medewerkers zijn vriendelijk en het dakrestaurant serveert uitstekend en betaalbaar eten. Dit was misschien wel mijn favorite ‘ hostel’ in Iran! Als je naar het Orient Hotel gaat, zeg dan even ‘hallo’ tegen de leuke schilpadden!

  • Schoon: Redelijk
  • Wifi: Snel
  • Lokatie: Centraal
  • Prijs: Dak 10 usd (gedeelde badkamer), dorm 15 usd (gedeelde badkamer), 1-p kamer 25 usd (eigen badkamer). Met ontbijt!
Beste Hostels Orient Hotel in Yazd, Iran
Chilling bij het Orient Hotel in Yazd, Iran.
Amir Kabir Hostel in Esfahan

Amir Kabir hostel was een van de eerste hostels in Iran. Na een aantal negatieve ervaringen van andere gasten een paar jaar geleden, is dit hostel nu weer helemaal terug! Ze hebben geluisterd naar de klachten en en hun faciliteiten flink verbeterd. De binnenplaats is een goede plek om andere backpackers te ontmoeten! Toen ik er was, was het altijd druk. Sowieso, een van de beste hostels in Iran!

  • Schoon: goed
  • Wifi: Snel, alleen op de binnenplaats
  • Lokatie: Centraal, dichtbij de bazaaar
  • Prijzen: Dorm 300.00 rial (gedeelde badkamer). Single 500.000 rial (gedeelde badkamer). Met ontbijt.
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Esfahan
Koorsaran Guesthouse in Gazor Khan (Alamut Vallei)

Dit kleine guesthouse heeft maar twee kamers: een kamer is op de begane grond waar je op de grond slaapt (wordt met name gebruikt voor families) en een slaapzaal met vijf bedden op de tweede verdieping. Vanaf de slaapzaal op de tweede verdieping kan je over het dorpsplein uitkijken. De dorpsbewoners zijn verschrikkelijk gastvrij en gecombineerd met de bijzondere mooie omgeving, werd dit een van mijn favoriete plekken van mijn reis! Het guesthouse is een goede plek om andere reizigers te ontmoeten en (evt. samen) wandelingen in de prachtige omgeving te maken!

  • Schoon: redelijk
  • Wifi: Nee
  • Lokatie: Perfect voor Alamut
  • Prijs: Dorm 300.00 rial (gedeelde badkamer). Geen ontbijt.
Best hostels Iran View from the Khoorsaran Guesthouse in Gazor Khan, Alamut
Uitzicht vanaf het Koorsaran Guesthouse in Gazor Khan, Alamut
Firouzeh Hotel in Tehran

Het is een relatief duur hotel, voor wat je krijgt aan voorzieningen, maar het is betrouwbaar en schoon. Verder is de receptionist van het hotel een soort legende onder de reizigers door zijn kennis en behulpzaamheid. Een aanrader voor Tehran!

  • Schoon: Ja
  • Wifi: goed, maar 30.000 rial extra
  • Lokatie: Centraal, maar in drukke, ongezellige straat
  • Prijzen: Single 650.000 (gedeelde badkamer). Met ontbijt.
  • Website Firouzeh Hotel
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Metro Tehran
Ehsan Hotel in Kashan

Ehsan Hotel is een prachtig, sjiek hotel met een zonnige binnenplaats en uitgebreid ontbijt. Gelukkig voor ons backpackers, hebben ze ook een betaalbare slaapzaal!

  • Schoon: Ja
  • Wifi: Slechtste wifi in Iran
  • Lokatie: Centraal
  • Prijzen: Dorm 15 USD (gedeelde badkamer). Single 50 USD (prive badkamer). Met ontbijt.
  • Website Ehsan Hotel
Best hostels Iran Ehsan
Slaapzaal Ehsan in Iran.

Andere goede slaapopties voor backpackers zijn: 

Pars Hotel in Tabriz

Goede low-budget optie. Ondanks dat het Pars Hotel niet in de reisgidsen staat, is het drukbezocht door backpackers. Het hotel is gelegen in de straat waar alle mosaferkaneh’s zijn. Zeer vriendelijke werknemers! Ik betaalde 300.000 rial voor een 1-persoonskamer.

Morvarid Hotel in Qom

Een andere goede optie in Qom. Het ligt in een kleine straat tegenover de moskee. Ik betaalde 600.000 rial voor een 1-persoonskamer.

Reminder! 

Een van de beste manier om Iran te beleven is via een homestay. Je zou hiervoor Couchsurfing kunnen gebruiken. Couchsurfing is enorm populair in Iran en kent duizenden hosts. Echter, de kans is groot dat je diverse keren spontaan wordt uitgenodigd voor eten of slapen bij een familie. Als dit gebeurd en het voelt goed, twijfel dan niet en pak het aanbod aan! De tijd die ik met Iraanse families heb doorgebracht was onvergetelijk :)

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Mijn Iraanse familie nam me mee naar de Zagros bergen om nomaden families te bezoeken.

Er komen spoedig meer artikelen over Iran! 

Best hostels in Iran

Iran only has a relatively small number of hostels and backpacker guesthouses. However, as tourism increases, more hostels are expected to open. If you travel on a budget, you’ll most likely end up staying in mosaferkhaneh’s, the odd backpacker hostel and guesthouses. I traveled 4 weeks in Iran in May 2016 (as part of my Silk  Road adventure) and this is a personal selection of favorite guesthouses and best hostels in Iran!

Article in Dutch: Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van dit artikel! 

Orient Hotel in Yazd

Highly sociable and one of the best places to meet other backpackers! I had an amazing time here. Most people who stayed in the nearby Silk Road hotel, came to the Orient hotel to hang out. The staff is friendly and the rooftop restaurant serves excellent, affordable food. I opted for a beautiful single room around the sunny courtyard, as the dorms are quite noisy and in the basement. I also slept on the roof for two nights, enjoying the starry desert sky! If you go there, please say hello to their tortoises! They were my favorites!

  • Cleanliness: ok
  • Wifi: Fast
  • Location: Central
  • Prices: Roof 10 usd (shared bathroom), dorm 15 usd (shared bathroom), single 25 usd (own bathroom). Breakfast included.
Best Hostels Orient Hotel in Yazd, Iran
Chilling at the Orient Hotel in Yazd, Iran.
Amir Kabir Hostel in Esfahan

Amir Kabir hostel is a long-running backpacker place in Esfahan. After some negative reviews a couple of years back, the management listened and improved their facilities. The first night I stayed in a single room, but despite the air-con it was too hot! The dorm was much cooler fortunately. The staff of Amir Kabir is a bit quirky, but friendly. The courtyard is a good place to meet other travelers! Definitely one of the best hostels in Iran!

  • Cleanliness: ok
  • Wifi: Fast, only around the courtyard
  • Location: Central, close to the bazar
  • Prices: Dorm 300.00 rial (shared bathroom). Single 500.000 rial (shared bathroom). Breakfast included.
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Esfahan
Koorsaran Guesthouse in Gazor Khan (Alamut Valley)

This small guesthouse only has two rooms: one room downstairs where you sleep on the floor (often used for families and couples) and one 5 person dorm on the roof! The roof dorm is actually pretty cool, as you look out over the busy village square and mountains. Since a couple of years, the guesthouse is managed by the mother (her husband died) and she only speaks a little bit of English. The guesthouse is an excellent place to meet fellow adventurous souls and to go hitchhiking and hiking together in the stunning Alamut mountains. In the dorm, there are guestbooks filled with great tips from other travelers (e.g. hiking routes)

  • Cleanliness: ok
  • Wifi: No
  • Location: Perfect for Alamut
  • Prices: Dorm 300.00 rial (shared bathroom). Breakfast not included.
Best hostels Iran View from the Khoorsaran Guesthouse in Gazor Khan, Alamut
View from the Koorsaran Guesthouse in Gazor Khan, Alamut
Firouzeh Hotel in Tehran

It does not provide the best value for money, as rooms are basic and the air-con is only on at night. However, it’s a reliable, clean option and the receptionist/manager is indeed (as described in the Lonely Planet) super helpful! Even when I was not staying there. I went there a few times for tips! The receptionist also helped me to file a police report when my money got stolen. He is honest and understands the needs of backpackers. He also knows much about the ‘Silk Road’ and visa stuff.

  • Cleanliness: ok
  • Wifi: Wifi ok (30.000 rial extra)
  • Location: Central
  • Prices: Single 650.000 (shared bathroom). Breakfast included.
  • Website Firouzeh Hotel
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Subway Tehran
Ehsan Hotel in Kashan

Ehsan Hotel is a beautiful hotel with a sunny courtyard and excellent breakfast! Although the private rooms are not suitable for backpacker budgets, the dormitory provides good value for money. It’s cool and spacious. It’s a good place to meet other travelers, although the overall vibe was not as good as in Orient. The staff is friendly and speak good English. Another great place to stay while in Iran!

  • Cleanliness: ok
  • Wifi: Worst wifi in Iran
  • Location: Central
  • Prices: Dorm 15 USD (shared bathroom). Single 50 USD (private bathroom). Breakfast included.
  • Website Ehsan Hotel
Best hostels Iran Ehsan
Dormitory Ehsan in Iran.

Other good accommodation options for backpackers worth mentioning in this article :) 

Pars Hotel in Tabriz

Good budget option. This hotel is not in the guidebooks. It’s in the same street where many other mosaferkhaneh’s are located. When I was there, quite a few other backpackers where staying there! I paid 300.000 rial for a single.

Morvarid Hotel in Qom

Another option which is not in the guidebooks. It’s located in the small street right across the entrance of the big mosque. I paid 600.000 rial for a single.

Don’t forget!

Another great way to experience Iran is a homestay! To arrange a homestay you could use Couchsurfing. It’s very popular and there are literally thousands of hosts in Iran. However, there is also a big chance you will spontaneously be invited to someones home! If you feel comfortable with this person, don’t hesitate and take the offer. The time I spent with Iranian families was probably the best time of my entire trip! You will never forget it :)

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My ‘Iranian family’ took me to the Zagros Mountains to visit some nomad families!

More posts about Iran will come up soon! 

samarkandregistansquare

Only a few people know this, but when I was in Africa I considered to cancel my ticket to Turkey (and thus the entire Silk Road). I had such a good time and there were so many other interesting countries nearby: Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania… However, three good friends from the Netherlands would visit me in Turkey and I couldn’t let them down. So, I went to Turkey anyway.  And after that, the rest of the Silk Road.

Of course, it turned out to be absolutely amazing!!

If you have been following Bunch of Backpackers through Instagram and Facebook, you already know that I’ve been enthusiast about every single country. In a certain way, the second leg of my trip was even more adventurous than Southern Africa. The Silk Road was more off-the-beaten track, a completely new culture and there were times I was pretty much the only tourist in a region. I loved it. Now after more than 6 months of traveling, I’m back home in Rotterdam, but hopefully you will re-live the Silk Road journey with this post :)

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Homestay Sadat in Tajikistan

Overview Backpacking The Silk Road

Countries visited: Turkey, Greece (day trip), Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,  Kyrgyzstan and China.

Full Silk Road itinerary: Full itinerary (based on sleeping spots): TURKEY – Istanbul – Selchuk – Pamukkale – Fethiye – Faralya – Butterfly Valley – Kabak – Saklikent Gorge – Kas – Ocagiz – Olympos – Goreme – Ankara – Trabzon – Ankara – Kars/Ani – IRAN – Tabriz – Rasht – Qazvin – Gazor Khan/Alamut Valley – Tehran – Esfahan – Tak-Taku- Golshan – Yazd – Kashan – Qom – Tehran – KAZAKHSTAN – Aktau – Beket Ata – UZBEKISTAN – Nukus – Khiva – Bukhara – Samarkand – TAJIKISTAN – Dushanbe – Iskander Kul – Allaudin Lake – Kulikalon Bowl – Seven Lakes – Dushanbe – Khorog – Jizeu (Bartang Valley) – Khorog – Darshai – Hisor – Alichur – Murghab – KYRGYZSTAN – Sary Mogol – Turpol Lake – Osh – CHINA – Kashgar – KYRGYZSTAN – Osh – Arslanbob – Sary-Chelek – Bishkek – Kol-Tor/Kegeti – Kochkor – Kol-Ukok – Bishkek

Number of days: 130

Number of photos taken: 2386

Used modes of transportation: Dolmus (Turkish minibuses), hot air balloon, Iran VIP buses with carpet, shared taxi’s, paraglider, big trucks, old Sovjet cars (Lada Niva’s), 4×4’s, motorbikes, electric scooter, kayak, canoe, boat and a horse.

Favorite road trip: 6 days with a 4×4 through the Wakhan Valley and the Pamirs (inc. a 4600m pass) with 4 other girls!

Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan.
Stunning Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan.

Favorite hostels/guesthouses: 1. Orient Hotel, Yazd, Iran 2. Green House Hostel, Dushanbe, Tajikistan 3. Bayrams, Olympos,  Turkey

Favorite camping spots: 1. Allaudin Lake in Tajikistan, where the water changed to a different color every hour. 2. Kol-Tor Lake in Kyrgyzstan, no one else and the most beautiful intense color I’ve ever seen 3. Butterfly Valley in Turkey, you can’t go wrong with camping on a secluded beach (only accessible by boat or very steep hike)

Number of different camping spots: 7

Amount of money spent: 6631 euro (inc. the 700 USD that got stolen)

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Camping at the Kol-Tor Lake in Kyrgyzstan.

Moments of loss: 700 USD got stolen from my bag in Iran. This sucked big time, but it was only money and I did have a very ‘interesting’ afternoon at the Tehran police station (read 6 hours with police car drives with blaring sirens, formal investigations, seeing prisoners etc.)

Number of times sick: 0 (haven’t been really sick, although there were a few times I wasn’t feeling 100%)

Number of times I felt unsafe: I had a few incidents of sexual harassment in Turkey, Iran and Kyrgyzstan. I never felt really unsafe, let’s call them just incredibly annoying and sad.

Most religious experiences: 1. Visiting and spending a night with a group of pelgrims in the underground mosque’s of Beket-Ata in Kazakhstan 2. Joining the evening prayer and iftar with thousands of muslims in the mosque of Qom during the holy month of ramazan in Iran

Coolest active days (exc. hikes): 1. Rock climbing in Olympos, Turkey 2. Horse riding for 2 days in Kol-Ukok, Kyrgyzstan 3. Kayaking over the Sunken City in Kekova, Turkey

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New friends in Iran

Favorite meals: 1. Breakfast in the family-run Lykya Guesthouse in Ocagiz, Turkey 2. Food at the night market in Kashgar, China 3. ALL the (fresh) breads in Central Asia

Least favorite meal: The dry, white, gigantic baguettes in Iran.

Moments of frustration: Visa stuff! My Iran authorization code took twice as long as usual and my Turkmenistan visa got rejected all together. Some border crossings were also tiring (especially China-Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan-Tajikistan)

Favorite markets: 1. The Afghan cross-border market in Khorog 2. Animal markets in Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and Kashgar (China) 3. The bazar in Tabriz, Iran

Favorite historical places: 1. Ani in Turkey. 2. Samarkand in Uzbekistan 3. Ephesus in Turkey.

Craziest-looking landscapes: 1. Cappadocia, Turkey 2. Pamukkale, Turkey 3. The canyons around Beket-Ata in Kazakhstan

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Afghans at the cross-border market in Khorog, Tajikistan.

Moments of shock: Thinking someone offers you a chocolate toffee ball in the bus, but it turns out to be ‘Kurut’, a Kyrgyz salty yoghurt ball!!

Best hikes: 1. 3D/2N hike Allaudin Pass in Tajikistan 2. 3D/2N hike Kegeti-Kol-Tor Lake in Kyrgyzstan 3. Parts of the Lycian Way with Turkish (new) friends.

Favorite new hobbies: 1. Trekking. I did my first treks with full equipment (e.g. carrying all my camping gear, food etc.) and LOVED it. It’s physically challenging (and therefore fun) and you go where no cars can go! 2. Tavla! In Turkey I finally learned how to play (the Turkish version of) backgammon 3. Thriller books. I’m more into cult books, fantasy and classic literature, but during this trip I tried my very first ‘thriller books’ and quite liked them!

Classic adventure moments: Hitchhiking, rooftop sleeping, sunset viewing, visiting nomads in Iran and Kyrgyzstan, wild camping, dancing in cars, star gazing, joining pelgrims, kayaking over Sunken Cities, getting lost, trekking 3800+ meter passes & being alone in the wilderness.

Number of books read: 8

Pamukkale in Turkey
Pamukkale in Turkey

Random moments of kindness: Getting offered countless cups of tea’s, food (inc. ice cream!), rides and places to stay.

Moving experiences: 1. Visiting the MSF women clinic in Tehran (drug abuse, prostitution) 2. Meeting Syrian refugees in Turkey 3. Visiting the ‘fishermen town’ of Moynak and learn about the Aral Sea disaster in Uzbekistan.

Unusual accommodations: 1. Staying with Mohammed (receptionist hostel) and his beautiful family 2. Tree house in Saklikent Gorge, Turkey 3. Cave in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Best gifts: 1. A plastic flower pen from a fellow bus passenger 2. A wooden walking stick (made on the spot) from a family in Jizeu, Bartang Valley 3. A cup from a fellow couch surfing member.

Most interesting cultural experiences: 1. Hanging out with new friends in Iran 2. Visiting a horse festival in Kyrygzstan 3. Visiting nomads in the Zagros Mountains in Iran.

Typical for the entire Silk Road: (Sometimes overwhelming) hospitality.

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Homestay in Kol-Ukok, Kyrgyzstan

Stuff that I didn’t miss during my travels: 1. A computer! I think I spent <10 hours behind a computer (in internet cafe’s) in the last 4 months. 2. Whatsapp. I deleted my Whatsapp App on the first day of my trip and it was lovely quiet. 3. Light pollution at night ;) The ‘Milky Way’ was even better visible in Central Asia!

Blog achievements: Even though I didn’t ‘blog’ during my travels and only gave updates through Instagram and Facebook, Bunch of Backpackers did quite well! I was mentioned on the famous Matador Network as Female Instagrammers Who Keep It Real and I reached more than 10k followers on Instagram.

New things on my ‘travel wish list’: walking the Lycian Way, cycling the Silk Road, glacier hiking, climbing peak Lenin, rafting in Nepal, visiting Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan

New things on my general ‘wish list’: A Lada Niva 4×4 car!

Best things of coming home: Seeing family and friends, city cycling, Sony head phones, re-discovering my house and clothes, doing sports again & chocolate sprinkles.

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Khiva, Uzbekistan
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For Pinterest!

Like Southern Africa, the ‘Silk Road’ is one of those destinations that is less popular with backpackers, but so worth visiting. I hope that, after reading this overview, you consider one of the ‘Silk Road’ countries as your next destination? Or if you have a bit more time, maybe even all countries ;)?

Also check out the first half of BoB’s Epic Adventure: The Southern Africa overview

I’m back in Rotterdam, busy with work, sports and seeing friends and family again! However, more posts are coming up soon (favorite photos, costs, tips, itineraries)!! I hope you enjoyed ‘BoBs Epic Adventure‘! 

One of Africa’s absolute icons: Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunyac (The Smoke That Thunders). Victoria Falls is considered one of the Natural Wonders of the World with about 500.000 liters of water / per second, falling down 108 meters, over a 1.7 km edge. Pretty impressive stats! I visited Victoria Falls a few weeks ago during my Southern Africa backpacking trip and decided to compile this list of tips to make most out of your visit to Victoria Falls!

1. Don’t ruin your camera or other electronic equipment (like I did).

I had my DSLR under my poncho, but didn’t realise all water was still coming in. I wasn’t the only one though and I met several people who got their camera or phone ruined. If you do bring electronic equipment, please waterproof this 100% (eg plastic bags / dry bags). You will get completely soaked.

Visiting Victoria Falls
Somewhere here things went horribly wrong…

2. View Victoria Falls from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side.

The Zimbabwean side has the best views on the falls, but the Zambian side has Boiling Pot (huge natural whirlpool), an awesome footbridge, a relax spot at the top of the falls and Livingstone Island / Devil’s pool. You can stay overnight or just visit for the day with a special one-day-visa.

3. Have a milkshake at the Look Out cafe.

On the Zimbabwean side you will see the Look Out cafe signposted on your way to Victoria Falls. This cafe has splendid milkshakes and a great view on the railway bridge and gorge. It’s also the place for gorge swings and ziplining.

4. Stay at the Jollyboys Backpackers hostel in Livingstone.

A beautiful, well-run, responsible and sociable hostel with camping, dorms and private rooms. They also have amazing massages in their beauty salon. I had the best time there!

5. Book your activities on the Zimbabwean side.

Although I ended up doing none of the activities, I did enquire. At the Zimbabwean side there was room for negotiation and there were offers/discounts, while on the Zambian side prices were fixed.

6. Walk over the railway bridge for free.

This bridge is in the border area, but you should be able to go here, by showing your passport. The bridge offers nice views on the river and it’s also busy with the coming and going of locals with fruits / baskets etc.

Visiting Victoria Falls
Rainbows everywhere!

7. Visit Victoria Falls in the morning and afternoon.

I actually got this tip from a fellow backpacker. The best time to visit the falls is supposedly around 11AM. However, if you come back at 4 PM (and the sun is out) there will be rainbows everywhere! Pretty cool experience! You can only enter once, so we just waited at the Shearwater cafe.

8. Have dinner at the Cafe Zambezi in Livingstone!

Great atmosphere and affordable local food! Try the catarpillars or croc ribs!

9. In Livingstone, visit the Livingstone Museum.

It’s a bit pricey, but has good info on different tribes, daily life and on David Livingstone himself!

10. If possible try to visit Vic Falls in the dry season (jul-oct) as it offers the best views.

I was there during the rainy seasons and there was loads of mist/smoke. However, I did witness the falls at full force!

Visiting Victoria Falls

Let me know if you have questions about your visit to Victoria Falls!