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The Philippines has been on the top of our must-visit list for as long as we can remember. The beautiful and pristine clear tropical waters were enough to hold our interest. That’s why the moment we planned an extended trip to South East Asia, we knew this country needed to be one of our first stops. We can now confidently say the Philippines is one of the best vacation spots in the world.

Despite all this country has to offer, it is quite remote and isn’t your typical tourist destination. All busyness is replaced with ‘island time’ where everything is a lot more relaxed and leisurely. If you’re like we were, you may not know what to expect travelling in the Philippines. We’ve made this list to get you more prepared on what to expect in the Philippines.

We’ve made a list of 10 must know facts we were surprised to learn on our trip through this country.

1. The Philippines is very eco friendly

If you are anything like us, you are always looking for ways to go green and make your travel vacation more sustainable. While in Canada we are just starting to take notice of the harsh effects of plastic straws, in the Philippines there is not a plastic straw in sight. Everywhere you look you will find paper straws being your only option.

Plastic cutlery is replaced with compostable wood and you have to ask if you want a plastic bag, they aren’t just handed over.

photo of a pontoon boat with crystal clear water in El Nido, Philippines
Crystal clear water by El Nido, Philippines

While it is not safe to drink tap water, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of water bottles. In the Philippines, you will find water refill stations just about everywhere you turn.

From big jugs found in hotels everywhere that are FREE to a cheap refill station located on the streets, you have tons of options. Lots of restaurants offer either free or affordable filtered water that typically is served in reusable glass bottles.

As their tourism is on the rise, you can expect to pay many “eco fees” when travelling around.

Eco fees work to clean and protect both the beaches and the ocean where you are travelling. While these are often around 200 – 500 Philippines Pesos ($5 – $12 CAD) the money does seem to really work to keep the land and waters clean making it worth every single penny.

2. Stray dogs in the Philippines are usually friendly

As with a lot of areas in Asia, stray dogs and cats are a real problem in the Philippines. As heartbreaking as this is, especially to animal lovers such as ourselves, there is a slight light at the end of the tunnel. Animals in the Philippines seem to be better treated with this country where the dogs and cats seem to be a bit better treated as a whole.

Stray dogs in the Philippines are less fearful of humans. You will see the dogs playing all over the streets, a sight you simply do not see in other parts of Asia.

Where normally dogs in this area are in a survivalist “dog eat dog” world – literally – and are much more similar to coyotes than to household pets, this doesn’t ring as true in the Philippines. It is a small breath of fresh air to see dogs acting like, well, dogs.

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3. More islands are constantly getting found

The Philippines consists of over 7,600 islands… and counting. Some islands are so small that they disappear completely in high tides. There are Philippines islands that hold large bustling cities while others show no signs of human civilization.

With so many dots on a map, it is easy to understand how you can lose track of which islands have been discovered and which have yet to have a human ever step foot on them. Combine this with the rough waters of the open ocean and you will see how some islands have never been found.

In our modern world, how crazy is it to think that there are some areas of this world that are so remote that they have had absolutely no human influence.

4. The Philippines is vegetarian and vegan friendly

Whether you’re living a dedicated vegan lifestyle or simply looking for healthier plant-based options, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many options you have in the Philippines.

We always expect a bit of a challenge finding vegetarian and plant-based meals but we didn’t struggle at all here. From smoothie bowls, vegan burgers, veggie kebabs and pasta we always had our choice of tasty cuisine. We found that many restaurants offered up more veggie options than meat options, which surprised us.

5. English is widely spoken in The Philippines

For not being a huge tourist destination, we expected more of a struggle to communicate with locals. We were incredibly surprised to learn that almost all of the locals here, even those not in the tourist industry, speak English well.

As the Philippines is so spread out with many islands, there are multiple different dialects spoken so as a way to communicate easier everyone simply speaks English. This was really great for us as it means we could communicate with locals more readily.

Speaking of communicating, we were so humbled by how friendly the locals are in the Philippines. It seemed everyone we encountered was ready to chat with us, help us and have real connections.

Getting to know the locals as we travel is one of our favourite things to do and we are always so honoured to get the chance to spend quality time learning about other cultures.

6. The remote location comes with a cost

If you compare the costs of the Philippines to other areas of Asia you will be quite surprised. We found food and especially accommodation prices to be quite high in comparison to places like Thailand and Bali. Still, a bargain compared to American and European prices, but much more than other Asian backpacking countries.

When considering lodging, we found it worth the cost to stay in a resort when visiting these islands as we found the cheap hotels to be full of bed bugs and cockroaches. While these prices may not be the lowest we have seen, it is still a great cheap beach vacation that is sure to provide memories of a lifetime.

We also found that while we spent a bit more on accommodation prices, what we got really was worth it!

7. ATMs are not easily accessible

When you are travelling through Asia you will likely not want to travel with excess valuables. The more you travel with, the bigger the target you are. While this is true in most places, the Philippines is not one of them.

There are many cities, and even islands, that do not have ATM machines in the Philippines.

If you do find an ATM machine, it will commonly undergo power outages or other service issues that limit your ability to access your money. This can be quite dangerous at times.

We recommend always having extra money with you at all times when visiting the Philippines.

8. The internet in the Philippines isn’t reliable

The internet in the Philippines is more of a fond notion rather than something that actually works. No restaurants or fast food chains offer wifi, something that I have only found in this country. Hotels and airports in this country typically have wifi but not one that actually works.

This is not necessarily a bad thing – just something to know before you go.

There is so much to see and do in the Philippines that you will have no trouble busying yourself for some precious days unplugged from the world. While no signal can be a great recharge for the soul, it is lethal for a digital nomad. We were able to get no work done the whole time in the country, we couldn’t even check a social media handle – a very foreign concept to us.

Luckily we were kept very busy swimming through some of the clearest and most beautiful turquoise waters in the world. We thought the Caribbean was blessed with amazing waters until we went here and experienced this beauty.

9. Blackouts are common in the remote areas of the Philippines

If you were hoping for a cool night’s sleep in the air-conditioned room you paid for, think again. Blackouts happen but in the Philippines, they happen OFTEN. We never experienced a single day in the Philippines that didn’t have at least 2 blackouts. Some lasted a few seconds, some much longer.

This further limits your ability to find any wifi but also cuts out fans, air conditioning, TVs, etc. For this reason, we kept our room colder than we normally would so it could stay cool even when we lost power.

10. Travelling between cities and islands in the Philippines can be hard

This is by far the biggest struggle we encountered in the Philippines. This becomes even harder when you are travelling in the rainy (ie, monsoon) season, as we did. There are very few airports in the country making it so the primary way of getting from island to island is by boat. The seas are CHOPPY and dangerous which makes motion sickness a real thing.

This is by far the biggest struggle we encountered in the Philippines. This becomes even harder when you are travelling in the rainy (ie, monsoon) season, as we did. There are very few airports in the country making it so the primary way of getting from island to island is by boat. The seas are CHOPPY and dangerous which makes motion sickness a real thing.

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We heard stories of people getting stuck on an island for more than 2 weeks because of treacherous waves.

It is not uncommon for boats to go down in bad weather, so they stop all boat traffic when rough waters are present. This can leave you stuck in an area with little control over when you can leave.

Friends we met who were travelling here for 3 weeks ended up getting stuck on an island. They missed their flight out of the country and overstayed their 30-day visitor visa. Luckily, I think, this is quite common as the officials were understanding of the overstayed visa.

When you are travelling on an island, there are many different transportation methods you can use. Our favourite is always renting a scooter. But if you are too nervous about this you can always get by using taxis or tricycles (the Philippines version of a Tuk Tuk).

Have you ever travelled to the Philippines? What surprised you most about this remote country?

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Vietnam is one of those amazing countries that never disappoint. It was easily one of my favourite places I’ve been. The history, lush greenery, friendly people, lazy beaches, delicious food, stunning landscapes, affordable price…. Ah! There is so much to love about this stunning south-east Asian country.

Not knowing what to expect from the country was likely a big part of the reason I loved it. You will need to set aside at least 2 weeks to travel through this country. As a Canadian, you will need to get a visa on arrival which will allow you a 1 month’s stay in the country. I stayed the whole month and could have easily stayed longer.

Vietnam is a long and skinny country which makes it an easy spot for traveling. Most of the significant sites are situated along the country’s coastline making this a very scenic country to travel to. For traveling purposes, you will want to note that there is a significant city in the north: Hanoi, and another in the south: Ho Chi Minh City. We highly recommend utilizing both cities for their international airports and booking a flight into one city and out of the other. This will allow you to travel through the entire country and efficiently hit all the major spots on your travels. For the purposes of this post, I list the cities in order from south to north.

The weather is HOT so packing light is easy. Lots of bathing suits, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes are a great start. Tourists will enjoy that English is widely spoken here so you will have no trouble communicating. As with most other countries in the area, costs are incredibly affordable here.

When traveling from city to city, I highly recommend taking overnight buses that will get you from city to city. These are comfortable as they have a full bed that allows you to fall asleep and wake up in a new city. They are affordable and easy to book making them perfect for almost every traveller.

Without further ado, the best cities in Vietnam to travel to:

1. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

As the largest city in the country, it has two different names that are both frequently used throughout the country. Ho Chi Minh City is the official name of the city while Saigon was the name pre-1975. Ho Chi Minh was a leader in the north of the country. Following the north’s success in the civil war in 1975, the north flexed its power over the south, forcibly changing the name from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City is a history buff’s dream. If you aren’t familiar, Vietnam has had a very turbulent history with a long presence of war up until 1975 with lingering effects of the war still seen throughout the country. With the war being largely between the north and south of the country, there were a few notable outside players such as France and the USA.

The city is full of museums that will give you insight into the history of the country. A great one worth visiting is the War Remnants Museum. This will give you a good overview of the history of the country and equip you with a better appreciation of what to expect from your trip.

In Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to take a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. This is an incredible way to take in history as you get to literally immerse yourself in it. The tunnels that the Vietnamese people carved out during wartime to hide through are still accessible today. Some of these tunnels have even been expanded making them “American sized” and allowing tourists to crawl through them. If that’s not enough, you can fire off an M30 gun to get the full magnitude of the battles throughout the war.

Tunnel, Vietnam, History, War, Saigon
A hidden entrance to the Cu Chi tunnels
Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, History
Shooting a clip from an M30 at the Cu Chi Tunnels

If you are going to visit any of the historical monuments in the south, I recommend prioritizing a visit to museums in Hanoi, as well. The differences seen in the way the history is represented from north to south is very interesting and show a very real change in perspective. A civil upset between the north and the south, while not being actively fought, is still felt throughout the country.

If history isn’t your thing, the city still offers so much to do. You can’t go here without enjoying some local cuisine. Pho, iced coffee and salad rolls are all must-tries when visiting. The food in the city is all amazing, in fact, I even had the best sushi of my life in this city!

There are many large markets and street shopping to be done in this walkable city. With a largely Buddhist population, you will find pagodas and temples throughout the city that are well worth a visit.

History, Cu Chi Tunnel, Vietnam, War, Ho Chi Minh
A view of inside the “American-sized” tunnels

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City

Mia Saigon Boutique Hotel is the place to go if you’re looking for luxury. The staff is so friendly and makes this beautiful hotel that much more appealing. The massive pool will make you forget you’re in the city. If you’d rather have luxury in more of a traditional Vietnamese style, The Reverie Saigon is a great hotel. The decor here is stunning, the staff is friendly, and the food on site is unbeatable.

If you’re looking for a stunningly quirky urban mid-range hotel, Fusion Original Saigon Centre is a must-see. The location of this hotel is perfect and its rooftop pool will give you insane city views.

If sticking to a budget is important to you, Sunrise City Central By Dhome is a great hotel. The rooms are clean and bright and there’s even a rooftop pool. If you don’t need a pool and are looking for a beautiful place on an even tighter budget, the Woody House Saigon is one of the best budget hotels in Ho Chi Minh City.

2. Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is located a few hours south of Ho Chi Minh City making it seem very out of the way. While this might detour you, it really is worth the visit.

If you are looking for a simple trip, there are lots of tours you can book leaving from Ho Chi Minh City that may be for you. If you’re looking for more adventure, you can take a bus or plane here to take in the beautiful sights.

You can expect large lush agricultural lands and a fairly dense population in this area. Rivers, swamps, and islands dot the area which is all easily accessible by boat. In fact, boats are actually the primary means of transportation in this area.

The soil is so nutrient-rich that you will find rice paddies, vast orchards, tall coconut palms, and sugar cane growing everywhere in this area. The Mekong Delta is full of life and is one stop you will not want to miss.

If you’re staying in Ho Chi Minh City and are looking for a day tour, this full day tour on the Upper Mekong River is a great trip to book. The 10 hour tour costs $35.10 CAD ($25 USD) and includes round trip transportation from Ho Chi Minh City.

Where to stay in the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Lodge Resort is a beautiful mid-range hotel for those looking for a luxurious jungle inspired experience. The resort has so much greenery, the rooms are amazing, and the pool is clean and beautiful.

The Ben Tre Riverside Resort is an excellent budget friendly hotel option. The rooms are clean and bright and the views from the large pool area are unbeatable.

3. Mũi Né

Sticking to the south-north route plan, Mũi Né (pronounced moo-ee-nay) is a coastal city located 4 hours northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re looking for a lazy beach vibe, this is the city for you. A top vacation spot in the area, the stunning white sandy beaches of this gorgeous seaside vacation town are sure to impress. Not really a city as much as a picturesque beach town, this is one area where you can happily sit on the beach with a good book and some tasty iced coffee.

If you prefer to be in the water than looking at it, this is a great spot to try your hand at sailing or windsurfing. The windy coastline brings in some great waves which make this a dream spot for many water sports enthusiasts.

For adventurers, there are two sand dunes in the area that are both worth a visit. The red dunes are the closest to town while the white sand dunes are much larger in size and therefore much more popular amongst tourists. Both make for an incredible day trip.

Get here early and enjoy the serenity of the sunrise glistening on the sand. Throughout the rest of the day, the peacefulness of the dunes is disturbed by a mass of tourists and loud quads so coming first thing in the morning will give you a good alternative look.

Renting a quad to explore these dunes is a great way to explore and will save you a ton of energy. The dunes may look small as you don’t have a lot of references but the hills are high and the sand is hot.

Vietnam, beach, summer, vacation, ocean

Mui Ne, Vietnam, Resort, Beach, Pool

Where to stay in Mũi Né

If you are looking for luxury, there are two great hotels I highly recommend in the area.

  • The first is the Anantara Mui Ne Resort which is an absolutely stunning boho style hotel with a jungle meets beach vibe. There are multiple pools to choose from, the food is delicious and the greenery makes it feel so luxurious.
  • Similarly, the Sailing Club Resort is another great option with similar jungle-beach vibes that just scream relaxing luxury.

Centara Mirage Resort is a great hotel option for those looking for a lavish mid range option. Located right on the water, you will enjoy stunning rooms with your choice of multiple pools offered at the resort. This is a great family friendly hotel with lots of amenities including playgrounds, water parks, bowling, karaoke, and more!

If you are looking for budget friendly accommodations but don’t want to compromise on luxury, I highly suggest the Gia An Hung Guest House. The rooms are clean, the staff is incredibly friendly and the rooms are bright and clean. The location is ideal with a lot of restaurants and markets nearby.

4. Nha Trang

A 4-hour drive north up the coastline of the country you will find the bigger coastal city of Nha Trang. This area is a beach bum/water enthusiast’s paradise. Not far from the coast, there are many different islands that you can sail to that offer scuba diving and snorkelling tours.

Overfishing in the area unfortunately means the waters are not as densely populated with marine life as they once were. Still, the crystal clear tropical waters are worth exploring, specifically when entering the water from a boat.

Vietnam, ocean, boat, fishing, holiday

Interested in scuba diving? Read about what to expect getting scuba certified in Thailand.

One popular island in the area is called Monkey Island. As the name suggests, the island is home to a ton of primates who freely roam around. A tourist island, there is a surprising amount of family-friendly activities to do on this island.

If you’d prefer to spend your day in freshwater, this area has a lot of nearby waterfalls that are worth exploring. A light trek through the jungle will take you to some impressive waterfalls, the most popular being the Fairy Springs and the Ba Ho waterfalls. Yang Bay is another great, far less touristy, area to go in search of impressive waterfalls.

For those more interested in exploring dry land, you are sure to enjoy the many markets, malls and street vendors in the area. Lots of cafes and stunning ocean side restaurants are offered in the area. This is a great spot to enjoy a relaxing massage right on the beach. For a truly relaxing experience, head to Thap Ba Hot Springs where you can dip in both cold and hot mineral pools. The mud in this area is known to be packed with minerals that offer an array of healing properties. Mud baths here are a great way to soak in wellness.

Where to stay in Nha Trang

It doesn’t get much more luxurious than Vinpearl Luxury Nha Trang. This is a great secluded resort style accommodation for those looking to live a stunning island life. If you’d rather stay on the mainland, Mia Resort Nha Trang is another great hotel on the mainland. The villas are amazing with stunning ocean views and the staff here are incredibly friendly.

Nevada Beach Hotel is a great mid-range hotel for those looking to blend luxury and affordability. Spending your days looking out on the water from the rooftop pool will not disappoint.

Azura Gold Hotel & Apartments is a great budget friendly hotel with the best location in the city. You will not know you’re on a budget with the luxury treatment you get at this hotel. The rooftop pool has stunning views of the ocean making this hotel one of the best in the area.

5. Hoi An

Hoi An, Vietnam, history, architecture, boats, water

A long 9-hour drive north from Nha Trang will take you to the beautiful coastal town of Hoi An. To get here, an overnight bus is a great option and will save you both travel time and hotel accommodation price.

This colourful town is full of rustic charm and looks like it’s right out of a fairytale. One of my favourite places I’ve visited, this is a must-see area for those that visit Vietnam. In fact, the old town, the area along the river, is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is due to its impeccable preservation from its time as a trading port.

This is a great area to rent a pedal bike as the geography is fairly flat and the ideal size. While you can see the sights walking, renting a bicycle will help you to get around faster and allow you to take in more areas. With a river in the center of the city, bars, restaurants and shops line the sides giving you a very unique vibe.

One of the best things to do in this city is eat! Every restaurant we went to seemed better than the last until you’re in a full food coma. I ate the best Indian food I’ve ever had in this city. If you want to stick with the tropical vibe, the beaches are not far from the city center in this area. One of the best beaches in the area that is often less crowded is An Bang beach.

Culture, japan, vietnam, buddhism, history
Inside the Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An

Where to stay in Hoi an

Ann Retreat Resort & Spa is a great hotel to choose if you’re looking for a slice of luxury in this beautiful city. The pool alone is absolutely gorgeous but combine that with the spacious rooms and delicious food and you are set for a perfect vacation.

The Silkian Hoian Hotel & Spa is a great mid range hotel with a great location. The swimming pool is unbelievable and there are bikes you can use free of charge. The Hoi An Golden Holiday Hotel & Spa is another great hotel close to the city center and the beach.

For those on a budget, you can’t get better than Hoi An Heart Lodge. The cozy hotel has a great location, friendly staff, and a fun vibe. Le Charme de Joi An Villa is another great budget hotel with a stunning pool. The location is great being about a 20 minute walk from Old Town.

6. Da Nang

Vietnam, beach, vacation, holiday, summer

A short 1-hour trip north will transport you into the hustle and bustle of city life found in Da Nang. This city is most known on Instagram for its stunning golden bridge nestled into the Bà Nà hills. Iconic for the large sculptured hands that look as though they are holding the bridge up, this is a must-see travel site. To get to this bridge, you must first take a cable car from Sun World. Head there in the early morning (the first cable car is at 7 am) to beat the crowds.

Da Nang is one of those areas where you will definitely want to rent a scooter. Travelling inland you will find many lush hillsides just waiting to be explored. The street food in this city is an absolute must as it offers a wide variety of delicious cuisine. Da Nang beaches are some of the nicest in all of Vietnam.

The nightlife is also worth a note in the area. This city is booming with growth which you can easily see in the many new resorts lining the beaches and big cosmopolitan towers being constructed in the downtown core. We recommend heading downtown at least once to soak up some of the buzzing downtown scenes.

Ocean, Summer, Beach, Vacation, Tropical, Vietnam

Where to stay in Danang

A great luxury hotel is Sel de mer Hotels & Suites. You will feel like a VIP with the large rooms, the incredible pool that overlooks the beach, and the on site spa. Louis Mo Apartment is another great space with a stunning pool and friendly staff. If you’re looking to stay on the water, Le Sands Oceanfront Hotel is a great mid-range hotel. This is an especially great hotel for families traveling with kids.

Daisy Boutique Hotel is an absolutely gorgeous budget friendly hotel. Full of greenery and a gorgeous pool in the center of the hotel, this is a beautiful place to stay. Similarly VernalHome Boutique is another great budget conscious hotel with lots of greenery and a beautiful pool.

7. Hue

Vietnam, Water, Hue, History, vacation

Two hours up the coast of Vietnam gets you to the old smaller town of Hue. This is a great place to visit because it’s located in the middle of Vietnam. A top site in the area is the Đại Nội Citadel. This was built in the 19th century and has a moat completely surrounding it. Thick stone walls encompass the grounds and is currently one of the top sights to visit in the area. Renting a bicycle to tour through this area will allow you to see and get more from this place.

Taking a day trip to the demilitarized zone not far from Hue is another great experience you shouldn’t miss. This is home to the border between the North and South and is marked by the 17th parallel. There is a great walk-through history tour and you will spend the day looking through tunnels and old military bases.

When in this area I walked into a backpackers hostel for some lunch and had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage. Getting a tour of the facility and spending the morning playing with the kids and building awareness through donations are so important and incredibly valuable. Be sure to take part in some of these opportunities as they come your way.

Where to stay in Hue

If you want to make Hue a destination in itself and are looking for a stunning resort to spend all your time in, the Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa is a destination in itself. You will stay on the water in a slice of paradise as you enjoy a full royal treatment.

If you’re looking for pure luxury with a mid-range price point, look no further than Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa. You will feel like you’re in the jungle with all the greenery, huge beautiful pool, and cozy boho vibes.

Jade Scene Hotel is a great hotel for travelers looking for clean comfortable rooms, a nice pool, and a great price tag.

8. Hanoi

Vietnam’s capital city is more than 12 hour’s drive north of Hue making this the longest leg of travel you will do. This northern city is home to a large international airport that we recommend using as your port of exit from this trip. There is lots to see and do in this city, although it should not be your last stop – trust me Sapa and Halong Bay are worth their own visit!

The downtown area is centred around a massive lake, Hoan Kiem Lake. According to Vietnamese legend, this lake is home to a mythical ancient turtle. This is the main hub where you will see many locals exercising around throughout all hours of the day. One of the best places to take in the sights of the city is from the 65th floor of the Lotte Tower Observation Deck. Grabbing a drink at the building’s rooftop bar is a must!

Hanoi offers a rich history from both the civil war and international wars with France and the USA. If you took the time to explore the history in the south, you will want to compare that with what you learned in the north. Walking the halls of the famous Hoa Lo Prison is an experience that will stick with you. This capital city is one that is very walkable and loaded with history. A trip to the city’s Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, will give you another great look into the country’s rich history.

The far northern location of this city makes it easy to see the heavy external influences at play. With a large French and Chinese influence, the old architecture is a sight to behold. The French Quarter in Hanoi is also one of the best places to stay in Hanoi. The old quarter is very budget-friendly and therefore popular amongst backpackers.

From Hanoi, you have two remaining must-see destinations: Sapa and Halong Bay. Hanoi is nestled in the center of the two cities (Sapa being inland west and Halong Bay being a coastal town to the capital east) it is up to you which you’d prefer to explore first.

Where to stay in Hanoi

Looking for luxury in the big city? Look no further than La Sinfonia del Rey Hotel & Spa. The stunning dark decor throughout is sure to impress but if that’s not enough the rooftop bar sure will. The Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel is another great luxurious hotel option with a stunning pool, great location and amazing staff.

The Golden Rooster Hotel is a great mid-range hotel with an amazing location in the city. The rooms are clean and spacious and the beds are comfortable.

If you’re on a budget, Hanoi La Cacada House & Travel is a budget friendly hotel with a nice location.

9. Sapa

Veering inland, a long 5-hour bus drive west, or take an overnight train, will take you from the country’s capital to the mountain town of Sapa. This area is a popular destination among tourists – and for good reason. The lush green mountainous landscape is hard to get through in a short period of time. In these hills, you will find different tribes of people living throughout the paddies. They offer guided overnight tours through the paddies, some of which are overnight explorations that will allow you to sleep with the locals in the villages. These Sapa trekking tours are one of the best things to do in Sapa.

Don’t Forget: Be sure to bring along a good pair of trekking shoes as this requires a decent amount of hill climbing through muddy landscapes.

If you don’t want to commit to an overnight stay in this area, it is still a great place to go hiking. With many waterfalls, a favourite being Silver Waterfalls, there is so much to see and do. The cooler weather in this inland town will welcome change-making hiking much more accessible.

If you aren’t thrilled about the idea of hiking through Sapa, consider renting a motorbike and driving through the nearby streets. Many of them are not paved so you will need to be comfortable on a motorbike before taking to these rugged streets. There are a lot of other small villages that you will come across when exploring. A noteworthy one is Cat Cat Village which is just as cute as the name suggests.

The shopping in this area is unique in that most of the items are handmade by locals. You can expect to see everything from beautiful jewelry, clothing, and trinkets that line the streets. If you take a trek or stay in a homestay, you can often buy some of these trinkets straight from the locals in their village.

Hiking, Sapa, Vietnam, Adventure, Hill tribe, rice,

If you’re staying in Hanoi but are looking to get a taste of the beautiful hills in Sapa, this 2 day 1 night Sapa hiking tour is a must! The price varies based on the size of your group but is $137.50 CAD ($98 USD) for 2 people including transportation from Hanoi.

If you’d prefer to stay a bit longer and explore some of the city, this 3 day 2 night trekking tour is a great option. You will spend some nights in the city and one night in a hotel in the city.

Both of these tours will have you spending your days hiking through the terraced fields and small villages and staying overnight in a bungalow in a local hill tribe village. These tours are all inclusive and include a guide, all transportation, and even your meals along the way.

Where to stay in Sapa

Luxury in the mountains can be found at the 5 star Silk Path Grand Resort & Spa. This whole hotel is Instagram worthy from the restaurants, the rooms, and the pool! The KK Sapa Hotel is another hotel built for luxury with stunning views of the mountains. The rooms are bright and spacious and absolutely gorgeous.

If you’re wanting luxury but a more affordable price tag, Sapa Relax Hotel & Spa will give you just that. A great location, bright beautiful rooms, and friendly staff combine to make this hotel amazing. Pao’s Sapa Leisure Hotel is another great hotel in the area with a spacious, upbeat, and quirky vibe with stunning views of the area.

If you’re wanting to stay on a budget, the Sapa Mountain Queen House is a great hotel with big beautiful rooms with authentic decor. The location is ideal and the staff is friendly. Cat Cat Galerie d’Art is another great hotel with clean and large rooms.

10. Halong Bay

Perhaps the most photographed part of the country, Halong Bay is located 2.5 hours west of Hanoi. All those picturesque limestone rock formations you see in Vietnam lie within this one magical northern mecca. It’s a true sight to behold.

The most popular way for seeing this area is, of course, to get out on the water and stand amongst these stunning rock formations. Sure to give you a fresh perspective of the country, these boat tours are incredibly popular amongst tourists.

The limestone rocks are topped with jungle paradises. Overnight cruises are referred to as ‘junk boat cruises’ and are a great way to weave through these islands. If you are feeling more adventurous, rent a sea kayak and tour yourself through some of the 2000 islands. Or you could take a Halong bay cruise through the area for a different perspective of this area.

The beauty in this area goes far beyond the limestone cliffs and stretches into the underwater world. Halong Bay is one of the best places to scuba dive in Vietnam. There are a ton of snorkelling trips that you can do in these emerald green waters.

The rock formations found here naturally house some impressive caves that can be fun to explore. Some popular ones are Hang Sung Sot Caves and Me Cung Caves which are well worth a visit.

As you can imagine, these large limestone rocks are also popular amongst rock climbers and really act as an outdoor playground for adventurers. A great place for hiking is through Cat Ba National Park

Where to stay in Ha Long Bay

If you’re looking to stay overnight, this all inclusive 2 day 1 night cruise is one of the best experiences you can have. The price for the tour varies based on the type of room you’re wanting but luxury is guaranteed.

If you’d rather just spend the day on the water, this Ha Long Bay Day Cruise is an action packed day you’ll never forget. You can expect to spend your time kayaking, swimming, and exploring caves with this experience.

Since the beauty of the area is the water, why not stay on it with this luxurious 5 star Elite of the Seas. If you are looking to splurge, staying aboard this stunning yacht is the way to do it!

If you’d rather stay on dry land and instead do day tours you have lots of options! A great budget friendly hotel is Ha Long Essence Hotel. The rooms are bright and spacious and a great value for your money.

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Have you ever visited Vietnam? What was your favourite city?

These last few months have been well spent. You may have read our recent post about why we decided to settle down for a bit. As much as our soles need to explore, our bodies needed to catch up. Myles was able to devote the time he needed to rehab his body while we escaped winter. With our heart’s longing for more, our brains knew how important this time was for us.

vanlife, camping, Europe, van life, backpacking, travel, road trip, roadtrip

As the days grow warmer we are spending more and more time outside. We are surprising ourselves at how much we missed living 100% of our life outside. It’s not just us, our dogs feel it too. Despite their daily walks and endless love, they are BORED! We are moving into our van in a couple of days and Myles said to me “I can’t believe how much better I feel, I can’t wait to start actually living again.”

Just like that, I knew we made the right decision. Staying still wasn’t lavish but I am so grateful that our admittedly hectic life gives us enough flexibility to move (or stay) how we need to. As hard as it was to give up our life of mobility, I am so thankful that we were in tune with our bodies enough to know what it is we needed.

Europe, vanlife, van life, spain, travel, backpacking, back pack

As our bodies began to regain their strength we found ourselves turning our talks and dreams into a reality. Lying in bed one night we started with a simple “wouldn’t it be cool to do this extended Euro trip, where we jump from the beaches in Sicily to the islands in Greece?

We can sip wine in Nice and get in a massive food fight in Barcelona (it’s a real thing and we couldn’t be more excited for it!)”. Somehow, this transformed into an overwhelming “holy shit we are moving in less than 2 months.”

I can’t confidently tell you how in less than a month we went from an idea to plane tickets and dog vaccinations. But I can confidently tell you one thing: Always marry someone as crazy as you are. Or don’t and save A LOT of money ;).

I am going to be honest here, Europe has never been at the top of my list of places to explore. I know, the history is amazing. The architecture, the food, the castles, the cobblestone streets… the list is endless. I have travelled to Rome and the Netherlands before and loved both trips.

The vastly different day-to-day life experienced in other parts of the world has always been appealing to me. Asia, Central and South America have always been the areas on my radar. Recently, my wanderlust has skyrocketed and you’d be hard-pressed to find a country I don’t want to visit.

There are 195 countries in the world and I want to explore all of them

The beauty of Europe is the range you can see in a shorter time. On our Canadian road trips, we drive for 6 hours and are still in the same province. In Europe, we could be in 3 different countries. Not ready to give up our time in the mountains and forests quite yet, we will be devoting our next two months to nightly campfires and getting lost in the woods (hopefully not literally FRECKLES). Mid-June we will be ON A PLANE TO… well, who knows.

This is how we see our next few months shaping up. Our plan as of today (keep in mind this changes HOURLY):

  • Throw our pups on a plane
  • Land in EUROPE – we’re thinking London or Amsterdam.
  • Hunt through the streets for a van #vanlife FOREVER
  • Spend the summer driving anywhere and everywhere throughout Europe

*DID YOU KNOW that Sweden has a “Freedom to roam” act. This allows you to camp on ANY land that is not privately owned!! That’s right the stunning mountains, coastlines and archipelagos are all fair game! GO SWEDEN! 🙂

  • Find an apartment in Barcelona for the winter to act as our home base.

*Their winter months average around 16 degrees, we can live with that!

Any advice could not be more welcomed!!!!

From a mundane life working 9-5 Monday – Friday and only living for the weekends, we overhauled our lives to that of adventure. No more strict work schedules, no more bosses telling us hen we could eat or go to the bathroom.

We completely transformed our life to a point where we travel full time.

This way of life is against everything we have been taught. From minimalism to stepping away from the corporate ladder and opting out of indulging in climbing housing prices it isn’t easy. That is why we have created a list of tips to take your travel experience to the next level.

From saving money, making money and finding the most affordable ways to travel we have listed them all here.

We found through our travels that many hotels don’t like when you book through Agoda.com because they receive less of a profit. In an effort to practice sustainable tourism where we help local destinations to flourish as well we looked for the most reputable way to book your hotel (and car and flight) while keeping to a tight budget and helping local businesses.

When you travel full time you need gear that can keep up with you. We’re not talking a 5 year old cell phone that can takes blurry photos and has a battery that lasts less time than a cup of coffee.

No, you need gear that is waterproof and can stand up to some dings and dents. Your bag needs to have enough space to hold your gear but can still be light enough that it doesn’t put strain on your body.

When we first started vanlife 4 years ago, our plan was to try to escape from modern world as much as possible. This meant no phone plan, no internet connection, no wifi and no phones. It didn’t take long for reality to set in that we weren’t simply living an off grid retro lifestyle but instead an ultra modern digital nomad existence. Our search for an escape from technology turned into a quest to find the best of the best. Slowly we upgraded our computers, phones, tablets and cameras so that we now have the best of the best. These upgrades, while coming at a significant cost, made it so that we can work from anywhere, take high resolution photos to record our travels and stay in touch with loved ones from wherever we are in the world.