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Living on $500 a month, How to Plan Your Vietnam Travel Budget

Vietnam is a really great place to travel if you’re on a budget. It allows you live like a king, while not having to worry about your expenses. In general, you can confidently walk into any bar or restaurant and know that you’ll be able to afford a great dinner. Fresh fruit smoothie or sandwich from a street vendor, that’ll set you back about $1.50. All of this is why Vietnam is one of the coolest places to travel in Asia, and one of the cheapest too. Let’s take a look at what you can do on a Vietnam travel budget of $500 a month.

Eating Out at Restaurants

Restaurants are everywhere in Vietnam. At my hostel in Hanoi, for example, there were 20 some restaurants within a five minute walk. Vietnamese food is awesome, and you’ll be able to eat a great dinner at most places for less than $5. In fact, if you want to keep it really simple, you can get a filling dinner for about $2. It’s going to be fresh and delicious as well!

Street food is also very popular in Vietnam. We don’t have this in America, and it took some getting used to, seeing these mini “restaurants” on the sidewalk. But I’ve come to find out that they’re really an awesome way to eat cheap. For example, today with my Vietnamese friends, four of us ate till we were full and I don’t think that we paid more than $10. Obviously Vietnam is a cheap travel destination, especially since food can be big a expense in other places.

Going out to the Bar

Drinking in Vietnam is easy. That is, if you like beer. There are a couple of major beer labels, including Tiger beer and Saigon beer. If you buy it from the store, it’s about .$75 for a bottle, and the price usually only goes up to about $1 if you buy it at the bar. In fact, the other night I was aghast when I ordered a beer from the Sailing Club in Nha Trang and they charged me $4! I’ve clearly been spoiled by just how cheap it is to drink in Asia.

I can’t say much about other drink prices, as I rarely stray far from the beer. I’m sure that the prices are all comparable though. In fact, the hostel that I’m staying at right now even has a happy hour. As much free beer as you can drink in an hour. Needless to say, while this has been great, it’s also proven to be the downfall of more than one hostel-goer.

Living in Hostels

If you’re going to travel to Vietnam you can expect to pay somewhere from $5 to $7 a night for a hostel. Typically the dorms are mixed, so if you’re a girl and don’t like the idea of living with guys, you’ll usually need to pay more to get a single room. When you’re planning your travel budget, there’s really no reason to allot more than about $200 a month. The hostel I’m at now (which is probably the coolest hostel I’ve ever stayed at in my life) only charges $6 or so a night.

Getting Around

If you’ve never been to Asia before than you probably aren’t familiar with the motorbikes. These wonderful little things are the chief means of transportation in Vietnam. One of the things that makes Vietnam one of the cheapest travel destinations is that you can take one of these motorbikes almost anywhere in the city for about $2.50. Well, at least that’s what I paid in Hanoi. It didn’t usually seem to matter how far I went, the price remained the same.

Of course, if you plan to travel Asia cheap, and you are really feeling adventurous, you can also buy your own motorbike. This will only set you back about $250, and if you plan to stay in Vietnam for a while, it might be a good investment. Odds are you’ll be able to drive it around and then sell it for the same price that you bought it for.

You’re putting your life into your hands if you do this though. The traffic in Vietnam is nothing short of jaw dropping, and the driving style is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere in America. It makes New York City drivers look like a bunch of grandmothers off to church.

When you need to go between cities it’s also easy to travel cheap in Vietnam because the train is inexpensive. You can go from Hanoi, all the way to Saigon (a 1,700 km journey) and I don’t think you’ll end up paying more than $80. You have to be careful about where you buy your tickets though. I’ve found the best website to be Baolau.com Alternatively, you can also just go to the train station and buy your tickets in person.

Your Travel Budget for Vietnam

The cheap food, inexpensive drinks, low cost hostels, and easy on the wallet train tickets all mean that you can plan on spending little in Asia. I think with $500 you can easily live a great life here. That’s about what I spend and I think that my own travels have been stellar so far. So if you want to travel Asia cheap, I think that Vietnam is a great country to visit. Of course, I also think that Vietnam is a wonderful country, and the cheap prices are a just a cherry on top. As I continue down into Cambodia and Vietnam, I’ll report further on what I find, and on what kind of travel budget you’ll need.

5 Awesome Things to do in Kiev

I think that everyone should visit Kiev! It’s a beautiful city with a great history, and if you have Euros or Dollars, it’s all very affordable. One of the nicest perks of Kiev is that it’s a fairly centralized city. All of the things I’m about to list are within walking distance. Or if you prefer to hitch a ride, a taxi should never cost more than a couple of bucks. Finally, I love travelling in Ukraine, and I have lots of cool Kiev photos (Odessa and Lviv too) that I definitely think you’ll like. Alright though, let’s get to it!

1. Rodina Mat

Rodina Mat in KievIf you’re going to travel to Ukraine, this massive statue is a must see! At 102 meters, Rodina Mat is truly impressive, especially as she holds up her sword and shield to the river. In Russian, Родина Мать, is bit awkward to translate, but it comes out as something like “Mother of the Country” or “Mother of the Homeland”.

Under the base of the statue is a comprehensive World War II museum that’s filled with interesting relics from the war. You’ll also find some items from the significantly more modern struggle in Donbass. On top of helmets and pictures, there’s also a captured Russian tank. It’s parked out right out front and has been painted in Ukraine’s national colors (blue and yellow).

It’s also worth noting that if you take the metro to Rodina Mat, you’ll get off at Arsenalna Station, which is the deepest metro station in the world. Getting from the Metro car, up to the entrance of the station, takes more time then trying to pick a movie to watch on Netflix! If you visit Kiev, you can’t pass up this opportunity.

2. Maidan

Maidan in KievIf there was an award for most transformed public space, Maidan would surely take first place. This telling photograph illustrates how bad things got, and how nice it looks now. Maidan is one of Kiev’s main attractions, and the whole area is a wonderful place to hang out. The protesters are long gone, order has been returned, and there’s only hints of what took place there in 2013.

One of my favorite things to do in Kiev is take the metro to Maidan, then “гулять”. This is a Russian verb which doesn’t have a definite English translation. Strolling comes close, but it sounds a little bit too whimsical.

Regardless, at Maidan you can “stroll” around and discover a large, underground shopping mall or one of the many restaurants nearby. If you’re not sure where to go, I suggest Park Shevchenko, which is a 15 minute walk away, and directly next to Kiev’s elite National University (which happens to be painted bright red).

3. St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andre's Church in KievWhen it comes to Kiev sightseeing, you have to check out St. Andrew’s Church! I say that for two reasons. First, the church itself is beautiful. A magnificent work of art. The blue spires give way to gold, which is all complimented by the beautiful white body of the church. You can stand next to it and see far off into the distance (Kiev is a very hilly city).

The second reason that you’ll want to check out St. Andrew’s is the area. All around it is a large park which will offer you various opportunities to find some tranquility, or get your picture taken with a great background of the city. Those will be some some Kiev photos that you’re happy to have later on.

4. Kiev Opera

Another one of the Kiev’s attractions is the opera house. Situated less than ten minutes from Maidan, it’s right downtown. The building is old and it has a visually imposing appearance. It sits in a large, open square which defies the traffic and buildings all around it. The opera in Kiev is also nice because it’s affordable. Tickets can run somewhere around $15, although you will need to buy them in advance (and in person, I’ve heard their online system is nearly useless).

5. Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Chilling at the Fiji LoungeThankfully, you don’t have to be able to pronounce the name of this street to find it. You can do a quick Google Maps search and find out right where it is. This street makes the list of top 5 awesome things to do in Kiev because it’s jammed with some of the best bars and restaurants in Kiev. There’s the Fiji Lounge Bar, which may be my favorite place in all of Kiev to hang out with friends. They have great food, cheap drinks, hookah, and there is a hidden club in the basement that can get crazy on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another good spot to check out is the Shooters in Kiev. They’re located a minute or two from the Fiji Lounge Bar, and it’s a popular place for tourists to visit. Good drink specials and lots of local party goers means that everyone ends up having fun. Regardless of your tastes, you’ll definitely find something interesting on Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Where to Stay in Kiev

If you’re going to travel in Ukraine, you’ll want to find a good place to stay. As far as I can tell, there are four major hostels in Kiev, and I’ve stayed at three of them. The hostel that I always recommend to friends is The DREAM House hostel. This place is freaking sweet! It’s only a year or two old, they have a cafe / bar directly built in, the beds are super comfortable, there’s a big common area, the staff are nice, it’s only two minutes from Petra Sahaidachnoho St.

Some people prefer Kiev Central Station though. This hostel has a totally different feel. Staying here, I frequently felt like I was living in a college apartment. It’s laid back, it’s on a quite street, and there is a fridge full of beer in the common room. Whichever hostel you choose though, you’ll still only end up paying about $8 a night. Kiev is a very affordable destination, and one that I recommend everyone check out. To learn more about Ukraine, and see video reviews of the two hostels that I mentioned, be sure check out my YouTube page.

4 Reasons I Fell in Love With Dubai

Mosque in DubaiDubai was amazing, it’s a must hit for any person who has some time to travel. The city is a marvelous blend of old and new. Everywhere you look the ancient Arab culture mixes seamlessly with the new Western influence. You know those crazy cities in Star Wars? That’s what Dubai felt like to me. I’ll begin this post by listing all the reasons that I loved the city, and then I’ll give you a few resources that you can use if you’re planning a trip. If you just want to see some pictures from the city, check out my photo gallery.

1. The Food is Awesome

Three minutes from my hostel I found a restaurant that didn’t serve anything made without eggs. Every morning I ate at a vegetarian place called Swades. Close to the metro I got to experience some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. The list goes on. The cool thing about Dubai is that there are so many restaurants serving so many different ethnic foods that you’re bound to find something you love.

2. Most People aren’t From Dubai

According to Wikipedia, only 10 to 15% of Dubai’s population are native Arabs. That means that 85 to 90% of the population is from somewhere else. Most people are from Asia, but there’s enough Western expats that you don’t stand out. Why is this cool? Because you don’t get treated like a tourist. Dubai’s incredible diversity means that you canblend in and be taken for a local on your first day there.

3. Everyone Speaks English

I never had a problem communicating with anyone in Dubai. While most shop signs are written in Arababic, as soon as you go inside you’ll find out that you can easily communicate with all cashiers and waiters. The flip side of this is that if you speak another language (Russian, French, Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, and so on) you’ll almost definitely be able to find someone to chat with. I never would have guessed that I’d use my Russian in Dubai, but I ended up speaking every day.

4. The Attractions are Breathtaking

Sky View of the Dubai FountainsI came to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa and ended up being more impressed by the Mall. Most of The Mall is four stories, although some places are only two or three. There is a shark tank, an ice rink, a theater (where I watched Sicario), and more shops than you could possibly visit in a day. The most fascinating part of The Mall is the way it changes shape and character. Some areas are plush and luxurious, other areas have a strong Arabic influence, and a couple of places are dark and modern. It felt like walking between different continents.

Another interesting feature Dubai has to offer is The Palm. This man made “island” is unnecessarily large, and yet totally awesome. Unfortunately, The Palm is best accessed by car. I was lucky enough to meet Konrad who had a rental car. However, if you happen to be in Dubai you can rent a super car for the day (if you’re over 25), which would be a great way to see this stunning island.

Planning Your Trip to Dubai

At the Base of the Burj KhalifaI spent four days in Dubai and I think I spent about $200. For that I got four nights at a hostel, fantastic food every day, a t-shirt from the Dubai Mall, a ticket to the top of the Burj Khalifa, at ticket to the Dubai Mall Cinema, several gallons of bottled water, a cab ride in Lexus from the airport to my hostel, and about half a dozen metro tickets. Not a bad deal altogether.

As for accommodations, I stayed at the BackPacker Hostel and I enjoyed it. It’s close to the metro, there are tons of restaurants around, the room was comfortable, and the girl running it was from Belarus so I got to practice my Russian. A hint though, if you want to book this hostel do it through Airbnb. On their website they advertise a bed for $32 a night when in reality I only paid $20 a night.

Standing next to a green Rolls Royce in DubaiYou’ll also want to buy your ticket to the Burj Khalifa in advance. I bought my ticket 10 days in advance and paid $35. Later on, I took several women from Moldova to buy a ticket (acting as their translator) and the cheapest option was $120 per person. You can buy your ticket in advance here.

Other people have suggested dune bashing which does sound awesome. Unfortunately I ran out of time and wasn’t able to do it. That, along with checking out the Dubai Marina, will be for next time. I had so much fun that I’d really like to go back again for a week or two. Definitely during the cooler months though. It was 90 degrees every day which is fine as long as you pound the water. 115 degrees in the summer though, forget it!

5 Great Places To Live For $1,000 a Month

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If you work online you know how awesome it is to travel while still earning a weekly paycheck. However, when you’re just starting out you probably won’t be making lots of money, which is why I’ve put together this list of cities. You can have a great life in any of them for less than $1,000 a month, I’m going to Phnom Penh and Bangkok myself this winter. Have a look at the list below, and if you want to start earning money on the internet, check out my article: How to Make Money Online.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A beautiful statue of a flying angel in Argentina

This is a no brainer, especially if you live in Canada or the United States. Buenos Aires is one of the cheapest cities in Latin America. It’s a hub for festivals and one of the most attractive places in the entire continent. You can expect great bargains on rent, delicious food, awesome wine, and lots of opportunities to set up a businesses.

Becoming a legal national of Argentina may prove to be somewhat a challenge, but if you overstay your visa the fine will only be around $40, regardless of how long your offense is for. However, you should be aware that Argentina has very strict import rules, and the country is in a deep economical crisis. It could collapse at any moment so plan accordingly.

Guanajuato, Mexico

The city of Guanajuato is packed all year around, especially during the festival season. It’s an optimal place to live due to its geographical landscape. The highland keeps the climate pleasant all year round, so you’ll never have to worry about air conditioning or central heating. Apart from the cheap cost of living here, the Spanish inspired cuisine is respected around the world due to its spicy taste and economical price. 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A large group of monks sitting together in orange robesCambodia is a great place to live because it’s secluded and cheap. Phnom Penh, as well as the whole of Cambodia, offers a business visa that runs as low as $280 per year. When that expires you may renew it without leaving the country. If you want to live downtown you’ll only need to fork out about $500 in rent a month. If you’re earning $1,000 a month, you’ll have a cool $500 left over every month to spend on whatever you want. If you take a trip to the coast, you can find hostels directly on the ocean. Working online has never been so awesome! Check out HostelWorld and you can find hostels for less than $5 a night in Phnom Penh. 

Bangkok, Thailand

Getting into Thailand is somewhat a challenge due to restriction laws on visa, but once you get there, this is really the place to be. Bangkok has a reputation for exotic Asian cuisine and economical prices. The cost of living is lower than other developed cities and you can easily afford your monthly rent in Bangkok for less than $400. The transportation, food, health care costs are all very reasonable. $1,000 a month and you can live whatever kind of life you want.

Kiev, Ukraine

A large statue in Kiev, Ukraine that shows two men holding up an emblemKiev is my second home in Europe for a good reason. It’s cheap, the people are fantastic, and there are about a billion cool things to do. Including getting your head lit on fire, which is not something you can find in just any city. You can stay in an awesome hostel here for $7 a night and you can buy at beer at almost any bar for $1. If you want to stay for a while you can easily rent an apartment downtown for less than $400 a month.

Coming to Ukraine is painless. If you have an American or EU passport you can stay for 90 days without a visa. Getting an official Visa for longer is difficult, but it’s Eastern Europe and there are always ways to bend the law with some well placed currency. The biggest drawback is the general lack of English. On the the other hand, it’s a cool chance to learn a bit of Russian.

How to Meet People When Travelling

Travelling alone is awesome and there are lots of cool benefits. However, the major drawback is that you usually don’t know anyone when you go to a brand new city. It can be especially difficult if you’re travelling in Europe, so many languages! That’s why I used to worry about meeting new people to hang out with. However, I’ve come to realize that 90% of the time it’s really not that hard at all. Here’s how I make new friends in every city that I go to.

1. Stay at a Popular Hostel

If you’ve traveled before than you already know that this is the easiest way to meet people. Hostels are awesome social hubs where friendship is easy to come by. You’ll probably never see any given person again in your life, but you never know.

Staying at a popular hostel is also awesome because it’s so, so easy to score an invitation to hang out. All you have to do is say hi to the people in your room and ask them what they’re up to that night. 75% of the time they’ll tell you and then invite you to hang out with them. If you’re staying in a smaller room or you don’t like your roommates, go to the common area.

2. Take a Guided Tour

In general I’m against all things that label me as tourist. However, an occasional guided tour is a good way to meet some new people. After the tour is over you can always see if someone wants to get a beer or some dinner at a nearby cafe.  These tours are also nice because if you take one in English then you know that everyone else there will speak English as well.

3. Ask Your Friends on Facebook for Hook Ups

A Friend in VietnamThis can be totally hit or miss. It really comes down to your friend group. If all your Facebook friends are from your hometown then this won’t work. However, if you’ve done some travelling before then you’re in the perfect position to do this. Create a Facebook post and ask for people to tell you about one of their friends in the city you’re going to. You may be surprised at how well this works. Not to mention that if you meetup with this new person you’ll instantly have something to talk about.

4. Use InterPals

InterPals is a website that has people from across the world. Ostensibly it’s for practicing languages. It works great in that regard, but lots of people also use it to meet friends in new cities. You should plan ahead though. If you know where you’re going, write some people a week before you get there. If all you want to do is hang out you should be upfront about it. Some people are only there for language practice and you don’t want to waste their time or yours.

5. Go to Couchsurfing Events

Me with MaxSave the best for last. Going to Couchsurfing events is by far the best way to meet people in any given city. The events are free, they’re usually in a cool local pub, bar or park, and the people are usually friendly and welcoming. I’ve been to dozens of Couchsurfing events in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and Dresden. On average I’ve enjoyed myself 4 out 5 times. That’s a good percentage in my book!

Even if the event ends up being a bust, you’re still guaranteed to meet a few people. Exchange numbers and offer to hang out the next day. Just like that you have a new contact in a city where you didn’t know anyone before.

Do you have any other ideas about how to meet people while travelling? Post them below, I’d love to hear about them!