Cost and Other Useful Information – Maldives

Think the Maldives is all 5 star resorts, water bungalows and butlers on demand, think again. Real people live here too, the Maldives has an estimated population of 300,00 and is made up of 1,196 tiny islands.

Until 2010 it was illegal for foreign tourists to visit locally owned islands which is why, when we think of the Maldives we think of the privately owned fancy resorts in glossy magazines. These only actually make up for around 100 of the islands.

I was completely unaware that the Maldives could actually be a perfect location for budget travel until I read an article on Pinterest. Since the law changed in 2010, more and more BnB’s have been opening on the local islands, making the Maldives a perfect place to budget travellers and backpackers.

We stayed in on 3 islands, each one completely different to the last.

Dress Code: When visiting a local island it is illegal for women to sunbathe in a bikini in the Maldives unless you are on a designated ‘bikini beach’.

Getting Around: travel by boat is an absolute must if your in the Maldives, local boats work in the same way as busses, with timetables and reticular stops, they are also really cheap.

Accommodation: We were in the Maldives for 10 nights and spent an average of £37.20/night staying in basic B&B’s. I booked everything on AirBnB.com.

Visa: UK Passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter the Maldives.

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (Sept 2017) there are no vaccinations required.

Money: The currency in the Maldives is the Maldivian rufiyaa. Exchange rates in July 2017 below:

£1 (GBP) = Rf19.85 (MVR)

$1 (USD) = Rf15.45 (MVR)

€1 (EUR) = Rf17.30 (MVR)

Most islands only have 1 ATM, but they are so small that your never more than a 10 minute walk away. If your staying on an island that’s very far from the beaten path then it’s best to check they have an ATM with your guest house before you arrive. ATM’s were really easy to find on the bigger islands of Male and Hulmale.

Tissamaharama (Tissa) and Yala National Park – Sri Lanka

Tissamaharama (Tissa)

Most people who visit Sri Lanka will visit Yala National Park, but not many will spend time in the nearby town of Tissamaharama (or Tissa for short), which is a shame because it's a really nice place to spend a night or two. So rather than rushing through and only seeing the bus station, why don't you spend a night or two to take in the sights and recover from that 4:30am Safari trip. 

The town itself is small, there aren't many places for dinner so we ate at the hotel, more on that below. There are however plenty of small bakery's along the Main Street, our favourite was Hambantota, we stocked up on Gull buns for our safari trip and then the 3 hour bus to Ella the next day. 

Tissa has its fair share of Buddhist temples just like any other town in Sri Lanka, the best one is Yatala Wehera, if you keep walking a few minutes along Tissamaharama road you will come to Galkanumandiya, I don't really know how to describe this place other than "ruins", it's absolutely incredible and kind of similar to Stonehenge in the UK. 

The countryside surrounding Tissa is mostly rice farms and wilderness. We were woken up on our second morning by approximately 30 monkeys crossing over our hotel roof, it was such good fun, the best type of wake up alarm ever. 

Yala National Park

Tissa is the perfect base for anybody visiting the Yala National Park, it's only a 30 minute drive (the closest town to Yala) and there are dozens of different tour companies based in Tissa. Your hotel will help you arrange your tour, we paid $44/pp for a 5 hour private tour, there is also the option to share your vehicle with another couple and the price drops to $31/pp. 

We were lucky enough to see a small family of elephants in the park, as well as lots and lots of other creatures, including crocodiles, wild pigs, buffalo etc. 

Where To Stay:

The Nature Resort was absolutely perfect, the rooms were clean and the hotel manager was very helpful. The food was fantastic but the restaurant is very small so you will need to place your order at least a few hours in advance to give the chef time to go and buy all the ingredients etc. The traditional Sri Lankan dinner was beautiful (and cheap). 

Getting There:

It's really easy to get there from  Matara by bus, there are frequent direct buses every day. If you have a driver, ask them to stop at the blow hole at Tangalle, it costs Rs250/pp to enter, and it's. it in a very nice area so a passing visit is more than enough.


Unawatuna – Sri Lanka

Located on the south west coast of Sri Lanka, close to Galle, Unawatuna was once voted the best beach in the world. Naturally we had to go and see what all the fuss is about.

It's quite a built up area and very "touristy", though still beautiful.

Things to do in Unawatuna:

The Beaches:

The main beach in Unawatuna is a crescent of golden sand, with cafes and bars built right onto the sand. Most rent sun beds for free as long as you buy something. We went during low season and it was peaceful with just a few other tourists, but it gets really busy during high season.

To escape the masses for a while, take a short hike (about 45 minutes) to the hidden jungle beach, also named the secret beach although not much of a secret anymore. If you don't fancy the walk then you can take a tuk-tuk the majority of the way there. Even though you can no longer guarantee the beach to yourself, it's still incredibly peaceful and the sea is a lot calmer.

Dalawella beach has the Instagram famous rope swing, and not much else, it's about 20 minutes walk from Unawatuna and another perfect getaway from the crowd. If your lucky you might even see a few of Sri Lanka's famous stilt fishermen. Sadly the sea was to rough for them on the day that we visited.

Buddhist Temples:

The Japanese peace pagoda is the perfect detour on the jungle beach walk, they do ask that you have shoulders and knees covered at this one, and like all the others, you will need to remove shoes. It's free to visit but there are donation boxes scattered around.

The Unawatuna Devol Devalaya is right at the tip of Unawatuna beach. You don't need to be too covered up but swimming costumes are a no no. You will likely be shown around by a local who is happy to take photos for you and will expect a small tip for his time.

Visit Galle:

Less than a 20 minute drive away, Galle is the perfect day trip, either take a tuk-tuk or one of the many busses heading that way from the main road. See my post on Galle by clicking here.

Night Life and Dining:

Being a more developed tourist destination means more choices when eating out, our favourites were:

Bedspace Kitchen, number 1 on TripAdvisor for good reason!

Coconut Style, for traditional rice and curry at really low prices.

Marcos, hidden down a narrow side street and authentic Italian food (the owner is from Italy)

There is also quite a good nightlife (more so in high season) in the many bars along the beachfront. Alcohol is quite expensive in Sri Lanka, about the same as you would pay in the UK.

Look After Yourself:

The gym was only Rs300/day, and we both got massages from the many different spas on the main street, we also spent a lot of our time on the balcony with a book.

Yoga was advised in a few different places every morning from 7am, but I never got out of bed on time 🙂

Where To Stay:

Sadly for the second time in Sri Lanka (and luckily the last) the hotel was not worth recommending.

How To Get There:

Unawatuna has its own train station but service isn't very regular, you may need to go to Galle first then take a bus (headed toward Matara) or tuk-tuk to Unawatuna. From Galle is less than 20 minutes.

How to Haggle

Haggling or bargaining is expected in most countries, I’ve got abit of a head start being a professional buyer means that I’ve had my fair share of practice but it can be daunting if you’re not used to it. I’ve listed a few tips below that will help you along the way if you’re completely new to haggling. 

  1. It will be expected that you will try to haggle the price, because of this, the first price offered is almost always inflated. Never accept the first price. 
  2. A little bit of local knowledge goes a long way. Knowing what something should cost, gives you a good starting point. A quick google search can give you an estimate of taxi prices per KM etc. You can save a fortune by just spending 10 minutes online before your fly.
  3. If you are taking a taxi, always agree the price before you get in, it’s to late too try and haggle after the event. 
  4. Don’t be afraid to walk away, if the vendor is being uncooperative then the chances are you will find another one who is willing just around the corner. Never feel pressured into paying to much.
  5. Most importantly, remember to be realistic and ethical, sure you can buy this £2 sunglasses for £1 if you try hard enough, but is it really worth it? Remember that the vendors all have families to feed and bills to pay. There’s nothing wrong with expecting to pay a fair price, but make sure it’s fair for both sides.

Some people will argue that if you can afford to travel to a foreign country then you are instantly richer than the majority of its population and therefore should be willing to pay over the odds to help the local economy. However by paying to much you can have a negative effect by inflating prices for the local people and pricing them out of the market.

Let me know if you found this useful.

Ashleigh xxx

Cost and Useful Info – Berlin

Getting There: The flight from Newcastle (UK) is around 1 hour and 35 minutes, EasyJet fly regularly from loads of different cities in the UK. Our flights only cost £55/pp.

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Where To Stay: Arcadia Hotel Berlin, (only £40/night) right next to the Berlin Frankfurter Allee train station where you can take the S9 direct to the airport and opposite the underground, where the U5 is a short 7 minute journey to Alexanderplatz station in the city centre. The Arcadia is located in the Friedrichshain area which is quite and safe with a few nice restaurants and bars close by.

Getting Around: The main airport is SFX, about a 30-45 minute train ride from the city centre depending where you’re staying. A single ticket costs €3.40 or a day ticket which includes all the trams, busses and underground is €7.70. A single ticket for the underground is €2.80 and lasts 90 minutes, you can go as far as you want and change train as many times as you need to, all on the same ticket. They run regularly, cover the whole city and most lines are 24 hours.

Tours etc.: There are lots of ‘Free’ tours in Berlin, a quick google search will bring up a few different companies. I used http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com to book the classic Berlin tour and the alternative Berlin tour. The tours are free but the guides rely on tips to make a living, so be generous. See our ‘Berlin 3 day Itinerary’ for more details on the tours. Click HERE to read.

The river Spree is lined with dozens of boats trying to sell you a 1 hour tip, we chose the one which departed every 30 minutes from Moltkebrucke for €13/pp, but I got the impression that they were all similar prices and all follow the exact same route.

Food & Drink: The first thing I noticed is that water is expensive here, ranging from €1.80 to €3.00 for a normal size bottle. Food on the other hand is quite reasonable, for breakfast there were hundreds of bakeries selling croissants for less than €2.00. For lunch, there is a currywurst stall spread all over the city and you can buy one for less than €5. For dinner, a 2 course Italian meal for 2 people with wine cost us €40.



Visa: UK Passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter Germany.

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (June 2017) there are no vaccinations required.

Currency: The currency in Germany is Euro. It was really easy to find a cashpoint (ATM) and MasterCard is accepted in most places, even at underground (subway) stations.

£1 (GBP) = €1.14 (EUR)

£1 (USD) = €0.93 (EUR)

If you still have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below:
Thanks for reading

Ashleigh xx