3 Must-See Places in Southeast Asia

With its affordability, incredibly delicious food and sublime landscapes, South Africans are veering more and more towards exploring the beauty that is Southeast Asia.

Whether you’re going for two weeks or two months, you’ll learn a lot about the people, the culture, and about yourself. We’ve narrowed down three remarkable countries within Southeast Asia to add to your travel bucket list!

Cambodia

An often-overlooked destination is Cambodia – a land of quivering red sunsets peeking through the dramatic silhouettes of its ancient temples. This country’s beauty lies in its unapologetic simplicity.

cambodia angkor wat

Cambodia’s history is embedded in its people and its landscapes, and is a truly fascinating country. If you’re considering visiting the two major cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, start south and leave Siem Reap for last. While Phnom Penh is the capital, the city is very raw and unrefined, making for a very humbling experience. The city is a real backpacker’s hub. You can find just about anything you like at the colourful markets scattered around town. For an introspective look at the country’s war-torn past, tours of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison are a must. Be prepared for an emotional experience that will leave you feeling quite overwhelmed.

cambodia koh rong

The best beaches in Cambodia are on the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Kong, and along the fringes of Sihanoukville. Stretch out along the white sandy beaches, where we hear the scuba diving is pretty amazing!

Siem Reap is, hands down, one of our favourite cities. Very different from its southern counterpart, life is a lot more easygoing and the locals are extremely friendly. By day, you can hire a bicycle for just $2 and explore the streets and temples at your own pace. Crack open an Angkor beer along the way as you take in the scenery. The famous Angkor Wat Temple is really why you’re here, so make the most of your day and start early. Nothing quite beats watching the sun rise above the majestic temples – it’s an awesome sight beyond words. A day pass will cost you $37 and you can aim to see the three main complexes of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Do take a guide if it’s your first time through the temples, and dress respectably. You’ll be exhausted after a day of temple-trekking, so we suggest a relaxing foot massage before heading off to explore the evening markets along Pub Street. For the best street food, wander around the Old Market.

cambodia pub street

image: pamelamondaca

Recommended Eateries: The Blue Pumpkin, The Red Piano Restaurant.

Flights to Cambodia are more affordable between May and October. South African passport holders can get a visa on arrival for US$35, valid for 30 days.

Travel Tips in Cambodia:

  • Carry a map of where you need to go, as many tuk-tuk drivers appear ‘lost’. They’ll take you on a roundabout way to your destination, undoubtedly overcharging you.
  • Do a little research before you go to understand its past and history.
  • Don’t give money to street children, no matter how desperate they look – you’ll just be supporting their life on the streets.

 

Vietnam

Vietnam is the quintessential place where modern times meet ancient traditions. Keep an open mind, check your expectations at the door, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the humble charm and distinct character of this country.

Head up to Hanoi to experience the old, colonial architecture, resembling the country’s heavy French and Chinese influences. The Old Quarter bristles with excitement as you make your way through the winding alleyways, following scents of traditional cooking. Haggle your way through the street stalls. Pick up exquisite silks along Hàng Gai street, and grab a warm banh mi as you dodge the traffic. Don’t mind the frenetic pace to which everything flows – this is daily life and you’re a part of it.

old quarter hanoi

image: camilolopez.v

Learn about the history of the Vietnamese War. Pay a visit to the interesting Women’s Museum, explore the underground bunkers at the Imperial Citadel, and see “Uncle Ho” himself at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. After a day of sightseeing, make your way up to Tay Ho for a refreshing coconut coffee or mango smoothie along the lake, as you watch the sun set. While there are many amazing places to eat Vietnamese food, don’t be shy to pull up a plastic chair at any bia hoi, where you can tuck into some local favourites over a local draft.

hanoi food

Recommended Eateries: Lantern Lounge, Quan An Ngon & New Day.

And then there is Sapa – a quilted landscapee of emerald rice fields that are any photographer’s dream. Take a train from Hanoi (be sure to book in first class) and you’ll soon arrive in this mountainous town, home to the highest peak in Indochina – Fansipan. Do a guided trek through the rice fields and sleep overnight at a homestay, where your host family will lay out a tasty feast of local specialties and you can wonder through the ethnic villages.

Whether you’re flying or biking your way through Vietnam, the Central region is a magical place to stop and spend a few days. While most locals flock to the beaches in Da Nang, we recommend jumping in a taxi as soon as you arrive, making your way to the quaint town of Hoi An. You will fall in love with Hoi An in a matter of minutes. By day, we recommend you do a tour of the countryside. Climb on a bicycle and explore the pottery villages and hidden trails with Mr Trung’s Traditional Village Tours. By night, the city streets of the ancient town come to life with glittering lanterns and the humming of tourists. Do not leave Hoi An without getting something handmade at one of the many tailors around town.

vietnam hoi an

Recommended Eateries: Ba Le Well, Morning Glory, Cocobox & Bahn My Phuong.

If you have an extra day, one night in Hue will give you a chance to explore the Imperial City. Just the drive there alone is absolutely breathtaking. History buffs shouldn’t miss a day trip to the DMZ – the official historical border line between North and South, where undetonated landmines still litter the fields. Walk through the Vinh Moc tunnels and discover how the resilient Vietnamese lived out the War.

vinh moc tunnels dmz vietnam

image: fin_nomads

A little further north, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a wonderland of caves and underground rivers – zipline your way into the caves and be greeted by exfoliating mud baths. A treat for any thrill-seeker!

phong nha ke bang vietnam

These are just a few points of interest in Vietnam – there is so much more to explore further south, if you have the time. With so many things to do in Vietnam and a real sense of discovery, you’ll find yourself longing to go back. Vietnam’s visa requirements are very straightforward. You can get a visa on arrival at US$25 for single entry or US$50 for multiple entry (1 or 3 months). Alternatively, you can also apply for your visa online.

The best time to visit is during the cooler seasons of spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November), when flights to Vietnam are considerably cheaper.

Travel Tips in Vietnam:

  • Do not hire a scooter if you’re not comfortable driving – traffic is hazardous.
  • The best way to cross the street is to just start walking – be bold.
  • You dictate the price – rule of thumb is cut it down to half and work up from there.
  • Insect repellent and wet wipes will be your best friends.
  • Avoid organized day tours if possible – rather hire a private car/ bike and go your own way.

 

Thailand

This tourist hub has so much more to offer than just a party scene and tropical beaches.

thailand

Bangkok will most likely be your entry point. Home to many temples and The Grand Palace, popular attractions in Bangkok include river cruises along the canals and the bustling night markets along Khao San Road where you can shop to your heart’s content. From Bangkok, you can either bus or fly your way up north or to the southern islands. Krabi is a paradise of secret lakes and cascading waterfalls. Better yet, imagine waking up to the call of gibbons while kayaks gently paddle across a vast, turquoise lake. For a tranquil retreat that is good for the soul, spend a few nights in the floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park.

khao sok national park

If you’re after an easygoing island retreat with all the trimmings, Koh Samui is just the place. Lined with beach resorts, you can easily forget about the world while you’re having a luxurious massage right on the beach. Rent a scooter for the day (start early) and make your way around the island by sunset. The Fisherman’s Village along Bophut Beach is bristling with eclectic shops and beach bars. By sunset you can sip on two-for-one cocktails on the beach, while checking out what’s for dinner on the beachside barbecues.

Recommended Eateries: Had Bang Po, Tree Tops and definitely the street food!

koh samui thailand

Travelling through Thailand is an adventure all on its own, and is a great place to end off your travels.  Flights to Thailand are generally much cheaper during the low season, between May and October. South Africans can explore Thailand visa-free for up to 30 days!

Travel Tips in Thailand:

  • Take the time to learn basic phrases like “hello” and “thank you”
  • Avoid Western food – try as many different local dishes as you can.
  • Do not ride the elephants or take photos with exotic animals – this fuels animal abuse in the tourism trade.
  • You’ll want to remember this trip, so don’t indulge in too many buckets.
  • Try a ‘special’ coconut – with rum!

 

So, whether you’re a curious traveller keen to explore the cultures and traditions of the East, or are searching for the ultimate island experience, Southeast Asia is a magical part of the world where you can do both. See Travelstart’s great deals on these Southeast Asian getaways!

The post 3 Must-See Places in Southeast Asia appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

48 Hours In Knysna


Despite the fires along the Garden Route earlier this year, spring has arrived and Knysna is ready for visitors. There’s much to do during a 48-hour visit, you may have to extend your trip.

Photographs by Iga Motylska @eagerjourneys

Day 1

07:00

Arise with the sun and make your way to the water’s edge as the mist gently awakens. The Turbine Water Club will have kayaks waiting for you to paddle through the calm canals of Thesen Island and along the Knysna Estuary, as marine birds fly overhead and swoop before you. Try spot the resident Knysna Seahorses bobbing about in the water with their tails curled around the meshing of the canal walls. These endangered aquatic animals are only found in three southern Cape estuaries: the Knysna, Swartvlei and Keurbooms estuaries, so you’ll be lucky to see them.

08:30

Image courtesy of the Turbine Hotel

Once you’ve expended all that energy, a guilt-free breakfast awaits at The Turbine Hotel’s Island Café. Indulge in their breakfast buffet spread or pick something to your fancy from the a la carte menu – eggs benedict top recommendations as do the salmon potato and feta cakes, and the blueberry crumpets. Get a feel of the hotel’s former life as a power station by sitting between the original turbines.

Find amazing flights to George here.

10:00

Follow the written pages of renowned author Dalene Matthee’s books as you make your way along the Kringe in die Bos (The Circles in the Forest) walking trail, named after one of her most well received books. The trail starts at Matthee’s memorial, where she used to write. It wends its way into the depths of the Milllwood part of the Knysna Forest past moss-covered Yellow Woods and Stinkwoods that have observed wild elephant herds moving between them for hundreds of years. Today, only a few illusive elephants remain. The three-kilometre walk should take no longer than one and a half hours, though if you have the time do the longer nine-kilometre walk that takes you up and down slopes, across wooden bridges and frog-filled streams, past mushroom colonies and beneath trees bent over the foot path that are overgrown with old man’s beard. The canopy of green will keep you cool during this three-hour route through the country’s largest natural forest. The woodcutters of Matthhee’s books, who made the fortunes from the timber trade, come to life with each step.

13:30

Lunch at the shabby chic Totties Farm Kitchen, along Rheenendal Road, which has an ambiance of days gone by with its bric and brac, mementoes and photographs of the 1920s when Florence Eleanor van Reenen first opened a general dealer store, that still stands next door, near her husband’s sawmill.

The Sunday lunch buffet menu is infused with farm-style goodness from home-made bread and soup, to gourmet salads, pies and a pot roast. On any other day, ask for the hearty a la carte menu. The best seat is on the wooden deck in the garden overlooking the koi pond.

15:00

Then book yourself into The Amani African Spa, back at the Turbine Boutique Hotel, for some R&R. It has single and double treatments rooms with a range of body, facial and beauty treatments for both him and her, as well as a rasul chamber.

17:00

Keep in the spirit of the chilled mood by embarking on a sunset bubbly cruise with the Turbine Water Club on one of their two motorised pontoon barges that can seat up to 10 people. Pop the bubbles, indulge in a gourmet platter of finger foods and keep one eye on the placid water in search of the resident seal and marine life.

19:30

Have a relaxed dinner at the Turbine Hotel’s Gastro Pub with its comfortable atmosphere and simple menu of pub grub that’s complemented with a selection of gourmet flat breads and an extensive variety of local craft beers served from the large mahogany bar. Dine al fresco on the sun deck or sink into one of the comfortable armchairs. The restaurant is built around the hotel’s fifth turbine.

Day 2

06:30

Take a leisurely sunrise stroll along the crescent-shaped beach at Buffalo Bay to the soundtrack of squawking seagulls. The sun emerges from the water and turns it to gold, as fishermen launch their boats into the ocean to head off for a day of casting and reeling for dinner.

07:45

On the way back to Knysna, visit the Rustic Tracks Diner located at Elalini Backpackers for the best pancake breakfast in town. Not only do they serve a scrumptious menu of sweet and savoury gourmet pancakes, but they also serve a delectable choice of award-winning cheesecakes. It surpassed all my expectations and the homely vibe will probably want to make you stay longer, so consider swaying in the hammock from the elevated wooden deck overlooking the mountainous vistas.

09:30

Then it’s time to embark on a whale watching expedition with Ocean Odyssey. From July to November, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of southern Africa are home to Southern Right and Humpback whales that leave Antarctica behind to mate and calve in these warmer waters. Without a doubt, Knysna is one of the country’s best whale watching spots and Ocean Odyssey adheres to sustainable whale watching practices, so as not to unnecessarily stress the animals.

We scan the water between the boat and horizon for blows, dorsal fins and flapping tails. Though sightings can never be guaranteed, we saw Humpback whales and dolphins as well as Southern Right Whales. Outside of whale watching season, Ocean Odyssey also does marine eco tours.

12:30

Share your whale sightings stories over a delectable lunch at Ile de Pain, in the centre of Thesen Island, at the walk-in bakery or sit-down café. The rustic decor is complemented by the carefully crafted menu of locally-sourced and fresh produce. Their pizzas and burgers are unrivalled as is their lively atmosphere and friendly service. Stock up on some sweet treats on your way out.

14:30
Take some down time or if you’re feeling energetic walk to the Knysna Waterfront Quays, shop at the many boutiques and shops on Thesen Island or order a cocktail on the Turbine Hotel’s canal-facing wooden deck.

16:30

Rent a bicycle from Turbine Water Club and cycle to the end of Coney Glen Road or up the Eastern Knysna Head for sunset. The eastern and western Knysna Heads stand guard at the entrance to the Knysna estuary, where the lagoon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. And though it may seem calm, this is actually the world’s second most dangerous water channel.

19:00

Knysna is renowned for the annual Knysna Oyster Festival. Though these days the oysters are brought in from Port Elizabeth, mostly for environmental purposes to help conserve the Knysna Seahorse. The two are inextricably linked and hundreds pilgrimage to the town each June-July.

Dig your feet into the sea sand as you crank back your head at Freshline Fisheries, where they are served with sundried tomatoes. Order SASSI green-listed fish from the surrounding waters, such as the Geelbek as its made to perfection on the braai.

Where to stay in Knysna (Luxury):

Image courtesy of the Turbine Hotel

Image courtesy of the Turbine Hotel

The funkiest – and most colourful – place to stay on Thesen Island, and arguably in Knysna, is the five-star Turbine Hotel and Spa. This former turbine-driven power station used to light up the surrounding region all the way to Plettenberg Bay, until it was laid to rest in 2001 and later brought back to life with new purpose. Various elements of the power station are seamlessly introduced into the elegant décor. This boutique hotel is like a live-in art gallery, and all the pieces are for sale. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls in the Island Café look out onto the narrow canals that flow through the Knysna Estuary. Book a room with a view over Thesen Island.

Book at the Turbine Hotel here.

Image courtesy of the Turbine Hotel

Where to stay in Knysna (affordable):


Elalini Backpackers, only a few minutes’ drive from Knysna and Buffalo Bay, looks out onto beautiful mountainous vistas from its elevated communal kitchen and lounge.

Elalini means ‘in the village’ in Xhosa and that’s exactly what this laid-back, rustic accommodation epitomises, as the five farmer-style homesteads are located in a circle at the former Goukamma Station. The homesteads range from dorm rooms to double rooms and family rooms.

Relaxation is the mantra here, whether you keep an eye out for the resident Knysna Loeries from a hammock or choose to read in the forested garden, though Elalini also organises a number of activities. And you can choose to cook or eat at their Rustic Tracks Diner, which is famed for its pancakes and cheesecake. I even took a take-away slice when I checked out.

Knysna is so much more than simply knys! 

The post 48 Hours In Knysna appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Top 12 things to do in Cape Town under R60!

With the warmer spring weather coming up and good moods all around, why not take advantage of it all and explore the city in a way that will keep you and your wallet happy? We’ve rounded up some of our favourite affordable activities for you to do, so put on a comfortable pair of shoes, grab some friends and let’s enjoy Cape Town on a budget!

Free city walking tour (free)

You never really know a place until you’ve walked in its streets, and with the free walking tours in the Cape Town city centre, you’ll be guaranteed a wealth of knowledge. Tours are conducted every day of the year, and with a friendly guide, you’ll be shown around the city’s main attractions at no price at all! Choose between the Bo Kaap, City Centre or District Six tours for a wonderful walk around Cape Town.

Image courtesy of @capetownfreewalkingtours via Instagram

 

Iziko Museums (Range between free and R40)

South Africa has the most fascinating history, from the South African National Gallery’s dinosaur fossils to the former home of high-ranking VOC official at the Iziko Rust & Vreugd Museum. Muse around the various museums and pick up some interest facts for a full day out across the city.

Image courtesy of @sneakaheadcapetown via Instagram

Ice cream stroll along Sea Point promenade (R25 for an ice-cream, stroll – free)

Lazy summer afternoon’s in summer are spent in one spot – the Sea Point Promenade. Here you’ll find young and old, chilled and active, pet and owner and everyone else, enjoying the scenery of the Atlantic Ocean. This popular walking/cycling/skating location is fantastic any day of the week really, and there are affordable snack options such as ice-cream, crepes, coffees and other little tasty bits along the way.

Image courtesy of @laurenmiapearce via Instagram

 

Take a dip in the tidal pools along the coast (free)

The best things in life are free, and that’s most certainly the case when it comes to the tidal pools across the city’s peninsula. Two of its most famous, the Camps Bay and St. James tidal pools, may be at opposite end of the city but are great spots to take a dip when the weather heats up. There about 14 tidal pools around the Cape Town coast, so make sure to check them out.

Image courtesy of @degoedeeva via Instagram

 

Green Point Park (free)

A beautiful escape for the whole family, Green Point Park is the perfect picnic and chill spot. Bring comfy shoes (or no shoes at all on hot days, if you please!) and make your way around the various areas of the park. Green Point Park is home to more than 300 different plant species.

Image courtesy of @neverathomesa via Instagram

 

Summer concerts at De Waal Park (free)

Friends, a killer selection of top SA artists, a great atmosphere and your own packed picnic basket make for a great summer afternoon out! Concert in the Park happens at the De Waal Park just outside of the city CBD and it’s here that you’ll be ‘jolling’ the evening away, for free! Concerts take place every fortnight Sunday from December through till March annually.

Image courtesy of @teresamcgregor via Instagram

 

Zeitz Mocca Museum (free on Wednesdays)

See some of the most jaw-dropping and contemporary African art all in one place, at the Zeitz Mocca Museum. This highly stylish décor-meets-funk museum has some of the most unique and astounding pieces to view, and a view to kill in the Silo District at the V&A Waterfront. Free on Wednesdays to all of us Africans and under 18s too.

Image courtesy of @zeitzmocca via Instagram

Fish and Chips in Kalk Bay (R55 for hake and chips – A classic!)

Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes are taken care of when you’re in Kalk Bay as there’s only one meal worth having, and that’s definitely a parcel of fish & chips! Whereas there are many restaurant options, we recommend that you try the chilled-back Kalky’s for an authentic Cape Town experience.

Image courtesy of @carletjie via Instagram

 

Weekend markets across the city (free entrance, pay for treats)

On trend with the rest of the world, Cape Town has some of the most wonderful weekend markets that you could ever find. Entrance to the markets are free but be warned that you may want to spend more than a few Rands as you taste and sample your way around the freshest produce, tastiest bites and locally-crafted designs. Our favourites include Oranjezicht City Farm Market, Bay Harbour Market, Old Biscuit Mill, Milnerton Arts and Crafts, Muizenberg Flea Market and Route 44 in Stellenbosch.

Image courtesy of @shortjuliaemma via Instagram

 

Hike up Lion’s Head (free, but consider buying a bottle of water)

You cannot say that you’ve been to (or live in!) Cape Town if you’ve never been up Lion’s Head. This easy-medium levelled hike is all worth the effort, and of course, you know that when you get to the top you’ll be greeted with a 360-degree view of the Mother City – perfect for that #LionsHead selfie or group photo!

Image courtesy of @liljaynyc via Instagram

 

Catch a movie at the Labia, Orange Street (R50)

The Labia is the oldest independent film house in South Africa and specializes in art-scene movies with stories that leave you pondering long after you’ve left. This film house offers an old-feel cinema experience and allows patrons a glass of wine into the theatre to compliment your cinema experience!

Image courtesy of @peyperlife via Instagram

 

Sub marine tour in Simons Town (free entrance, R40 for tour)

Visitors from all over the world can’t help but be intrigued by Assegaai submarine, located at at the South African Navy’s base in Simon’s Town. Though tours of the submarine are currently on hold, visitors can still enjoy the interesting artefacts and pieces at the museum, such as a life-sized Ship’s Bridge, naval guns, torpedoes and so much more.

Image courtesy of @dream_images28 via Instagram

The post Top 12 things to do in Cape Town under R60! appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Great Ocean Road Accommodation for a Romantic Getaway

Nothing really prepares you for the sheer beauty along Australia’s famous Great Ocean Road, a perfect road trip to take with the one you love. Experience one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives on a memorable adventure to beachside villages, natural wonders like the famous 12 Apostles and kilometres of unblemished coastline along the Bass Strait.

With over 300 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve listed the top-rated hotels along the Great Ocean Road where couples can enjoy a romantic getaway. Boasting spacious living spaces, on-site restaurants and easy access to the area’s coastal attractions, these Great Ocean Road accommodation options are the perfect place to recharge before another day on the open road.

Glencoe Cottages

Glenoe Cottages

A 2.5-hour drive from Melbourne, Glencoe Cottages offers three luxurious one-bedroom cottages in the hills overlooking the small fishing port of Apollo Bay. Set amongst 70 hectares of natural landscapes, the cottages feature self-contained kitchens, wood fireplaces, king-sized beds and large bay windows for soaking up beautiful coastal views.

Located two kilometres from Apollo Bay, it offers the best of both worlds with quiet rural surroundings and easy access to fine-dining restaurants like Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant, a decades-old icon that serves contemporary Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Take a day trip to Great Otway National Park, only 20 minutes’ drive away, which provides spectacular cliff-top views along the Great Ocean Walk.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$572 – A$600
Guest Rating: 10
Address: 235 Tuxion Road, Apollo Bay, Australia

Anchors Port Campbell

Anchors Port Campbell

A rural luxury retreat with easy access to the 12 Apostles, Anchors Port Campbell is located in a small fishing village renowned for its southern rock lobster. The three secluded unites are set on 12 hectares of private land and deliver open-plan layouts, spa baths, 1,100-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and outdoor barbecues.

The hotel’s array of personalised touches ensure a memorable stay, such as the complimentary GORGE chocolates on arrival and a tour of the farm to meet “Bonnie” the miniature Irish donkey. Head to the pier to cast a line and watch local surfers or take a short drive to the coastline of Port Campbell National Park, where you can explore the famous Gibson Steps and Loch Ard Gorge.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$333 – A$499
Guest Rating: 9.9
Address: 2549 Cobden-Port Campbell Road, Port Campbell, Australia

Beeches by the Sea Villas Apollo Bay

Beeches by the Sea Villas Apollo Bay

Located 250 metres from the beach in Apollo Bay, Beeches by the Sea Villas Apollo Bay sits at the start of the Great Ocean Walk. The luxury accommodation boasts two self-contained villas with private patios and lovely garden views, with shaded grassy areas perfect for barbecuing.

The resort boasts an understated elegance, as its beautiful natural surroundings provide a tranquil ambience for quaint two-bedroom villas featuring queen-sized beds, modern kitchens, large timber windows and secluded gardens. Make this your home base for outdoor adventures like hang gliding, kite surfing and fishing tours. You can also go zip lining at Otway Fly or walk along the Maits Rest rainforest trail in the Otway Ranges.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$236 – A$262
Guest Rating: 9.9
Address: 7-9 Cawood Street, Apollo Bay, Australia

QDOS Arts Treehouses

QDOS Arts Treehouses

A perfect location for art enthusiasts, QDOS Arts Treehouses boasts an on-site art gallery that showcases rotating pieces by local artists. Boasting five unique Japanese-inspired rooms with authentic decor, such as Japanese tatami mats, shoji screens and polished timbers, this hotel transports you to the exotic East.

Soak up the sunshine on your private sundeck before finding your zen at the hotel’s peaceful garden area. Visit the on-site cafe for cuisine made from organic produce grown in their garden, meander down to Lorne Beach or take a five-minute drive to the coastal viewing platform at Teddy’s Lookout. To see one of the most popular falls in the Otways, drive nine kilometres to discover the cascading beauty of Erskine Falls.

Star Rating: 3*
Price: A$310 – A$325
Guest Rating: 9.5
Address: 35 Allenvale Road, Lorne, Australia

Southern Anchorage Retreat

Southern Anchorage Retreat

One of the most beautiful Great Ocean Road accommodation options, couples can book the Marie Gabrielle Cottage to enjoy its rustic interior, private Jacuzzi and spacious deck for spotting kangaroos, kookaburras and native parrots.

Refuel with hearty steak and pasta dishes at Lavers Hill Roadhouse, just 15 minutes away, before taking a day trip to Gabie’s Lookout, Moonlight Head Lookout and Wreck Beach for scenic walks. If you’re looking for a unique holiday experience, visit nearby Melba Gully to walk the rainforest track and see the fascinating world of glow worms.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$145 – A$209
Guest Rating: 9.5
Address: 50 Parkers Access, Wattle Hill, Australia

Captain’s At The Bay

Captain's At The Bay

Nestled in the heart of Apollo Bay, Captain’s At The Bay is a contemporary bed and breakfast that caters to couples. Couples looking for luxury should book The Bridge, an elevated room that features a queen-sized bed and large bath. Enjoy your own private verandah to soak in views over Apollo Bay or the Otway Ranges.

Couples on HotelsCombined rave about the stunning views at this hotel, in addition to the convenient location and excellent dining options. Outdoor adventurers will find this location ideal for embarking on a journey along the deserted beaches on the Great Ocean Walk, before returning to the hotel to relax with a glass of wine by the fire.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$88 – A$518
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: 21 Pascoe Street, Apollo Bay, Australia

Cumberland Lorne Resort

Cumberland Lorne Resort

A beachfront property across from Louttit Bay, Cumberland Lorne Resort is the perfect destination for a romantic seaside holiday. There are one and two-bedroom penthouse apartments available that combine privacy and luxury. Large open-plan living and private balconies with ocean views meet modern kitchens, spa baths and fold out sofa beds in the opulent apartments.

The resort offers plenty of recreational opportunities, from a heated indoor pool to a sauna, games room and tennis court. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to nearby Swing Bridge Cafe to sit at the mouth of the Erskine River and dine on fresh artisanal produce. Alternatively, indulge in hearty Italian cuisine at the nearby Nino restaurant.

Star Rating: 4.5*
Price: A$146 – A$421
Guest Rating: 9
Address: 150 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne, Australia

Hotel Location

!function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement(“script”);a.async=1,a.id=s,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

Southern Ocean Villas

Southern Ocean Villas

Nestled in a tranquil, landscaped setting on the edge of Port Campbell National Park, Southern Ocean Villas is a five-minute walk from the Port Campbell town centre and beach. Each villa is self-contained with microwaves, dishwashers and full-sized refrigerators, while also featuring open-plan kitchens and separate lounge and dining areas.

Relax on your comfortable suede couches or cook up a barbecue on the outdoor deck, as the 20 two and three-bedroom architect-designed villas will feel like a home away from home. Southern Ocean Villas is an ideal base for day trips and scenic adventures, placing you a short drive from the 12 Apostles, Loch and Gorge, and The Bay of Islands.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$210 – A$343
Guest Rating: 8.8
Address: 2 McCue Street, Port Campbell, Australia

Split Point Cottages

Split Point Cottages

Boasting four individual freestanding cottages, Split Point Cottages is just a 10-minute walk from Sunnymead Beach. Enjoy self-contained living in these cosy abodes, where you’ll find full kitchens, fireplaces, separate living areas and private patios. Nestled on a hectare of landscaped native gardens, they also have access to a shared tennis court, outdoor spa and barbecue area.

The convenient location, stunning views and array of shopping options nearby make this a firm favourite with HotelsCombined visitors. You can explore the picturesque area on two wheels, go horseback riding on the beach or take a romantic coastal walk. Surf enthusiasts can tackle the waves at the famous Bells Beach, just 20 minutes’ drive away.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$149 – A$202
Guest Rating: 8.8
Address: 40 Hopkins Street, Aireys Inlet, Australia

Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas

Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas

Set high in the Otways overlooking the Bass Strait, Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas is considered a mecca for gourmet travellers. It boasts elevated villas perched high above Skenes Creek with incredible views of the ocean. You can choose from a variety of self-contained apartments that feature contemporary decor and modern fittings and marvel at the surrounding sights through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Find respite in the King Studios, where leather couches, kitchenettes and king-sized beds provide a romantic haven. Visit Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant next door, an icon of Great Ocean Road, to watch a sunset illuminate Apollo Bay as you dine on the world-famous menu of freshly caught seafood and speciality Greek dishes.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$247 – A$279
Guest Rating: 8.7
Address: 280 Skenes Creek Rd, Skenes Creek, Australia

Wyndham Resort Torquay

Wyndham Resort Torquay

Showcasing panoramic ocean views on Victoria’s Surf Coast, Wyndham Resort Torquay is tucked along the pristine shores of Zeally Bay Beach. Discover stylish guest rooms and spacious one-bedroom apartments, most featuring patios and private balconies. Catch up on business at the work desk, make a cup of tea and recline on your couch and watch a movie on the flat-screen TV.

Take a break with a refreshing dip in the resort’s lagoon-style swimming pool, rejuvenate your mind and body with a spa treatment at Breathe Day Spa or take a romantic coastal walk. Just five minutes from the world-famous Bells Beach, the resort is located at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, while nearby Zeally Bay Beach offers a great shoreline for an afternoon of swimming, surfing and water sports.

Star Rating: 4.5*
Price: A$148 – A$424
Guest Rating: 8.5
Address: 100 The Esplanade, Torquay, Australia

Beacon Point Ocean View Villas

Beacon Point Ocean View Villas

With the rainforests and valleys of the Otway Ranges at its back, Beacon Point Ocean View Villas boasts spectacular views of the Southern Ocean. One and two-bedroom villas feature private decks, while the freestanding Sheoak villa is perfect for couples with its spacious living area, wood fire and secluded ambience.

Laundry facilities and a full kitchen are standard in all villas, while those looking to dine out can head to Apollo Bay or sample a range of local produce on the 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail. Less than a 10-minute drive from Skenes Creek Beach, the villas are also just 30 minutes from the waterfall vistas and picnic spots in the Great Otway National Park.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$254 – A$433
Guest Rating: 8.1
Address: 270 Skenes Creek Road, Skenes Creek, Australia

Mantra Lorne

Mantra Lorne

A combination of modern style and rich history, Mantra Lorne is the only Great Ocean Road accommodation that has direct beach access. Couples can choose from a range of heritage hotel rooms and apartments, including the one-bedroom apartment to enjoy a queen-sized bed, spa bath and full kitchen in addition to a premier ocean view.

You’ll find year-round swimming with the Great Ocean Road just 10 metres from the property, while the resort also features a tennis court and luxurious day spa. Head to the on-site The Larder restaurant to indulge in rustic Italian cuisine or pack up for a day trip to the bushwalking tracks in the mountainous Otway Ranges or the coastal views at Teddy’s Lookout.

Star Rating: 4.5*
Price: A$97 – A$1,103
Guest Rating: 8
Address: Mountjoy Parade, Lorne, Australia

Sea Foam Villas

Sea Foam Villas

Located just metres from the beach in Port Campbell, Sea Foam Villas offers superb self-contained apartment accommodation options. There are a variety of rooms to choose from, each bright and airy with queen-sized beds, modern furnishings and double-glazed windows to maintain the quiet natural surroundings. You’ll have a fully-equipped kitchen to cook your own meals, in addition to a cosy living area with a sofa and flat-screen TV.

Shop for souvenirs at the town’s main shopping area on Lord Street, less than a five-minute walk away, or simply relax on your private balcony or deck while soaking up the beautiful Port Campbell Bay views. Take a 15-minute drive to the 12 Apostles or discover the stunning coastal vistas at popular landmarks, such as London Bridge, Bay of Islands and The Grotto.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: A$141 – A$424
Guest Rating: 7.7
Address: 14 Lord Street, Port Campbell, Australia

Hotel Location

!function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement(“script”);a.async=1,a.id=s,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”//e.infogram.com/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

A Romantic Road Trip for Two

A drive on Australia’s Great Ocean Road unlocks access to the craggy limestone spires of the 12 Apostles, iconic surf breaks and pristine rainforest landscapes. There’s an array of outdoor activities to choose from, so take the journey with the one you love to make the adventure that much sweeter. HotelsCombined visitors have revealed that the most popular accommodation for couples along the Great Ocean Road boast luxury spa facilities, stunning coastal views and a chance to sample local cuisine.

Where will you stay on your road trip along the Great Ocean Road? Let us know in the comments.

The post Great Ocean Road Accommodation for a Romantic Getaway appeared first on HotelsCombined Blog.

5 Tips for Taking Your Money With You When You Travel

So you’ve planned your holiday, booked your tickets, and you’re counting down the days to your dream vacay. But how are you going to take your moolah with you? Gone are the days of travellers cheques and strapping wads of cash against your body. New banking innovations offer savvy travellers new ways to bring their money with them when they travel.

Here are five tips to help you make spending your money overseas easy, safe, and cost-effective….

Bring a card that will work wherever you go

light card

As long as your debit or credit card has a Visa™ or Mastercard™ logo on it, it will work everywhere from Accra to Zhengzhou. Packing plastic is much simpler than pre-buying cash in a foreign currency, and with a bit of extra planning, you can make sure you still get a great exchange rate.

In some countries (especially in Europe), many stores require you to have a chip and pin card: that’s a card with a gold chip that you insert vertically into a card machine. If you have a slightly older card that doesn’t have a chip in it, make sure you order a new card before you leave, just to be safe.

Savvy budget-conscious travellers bring a new card that’s not linked to the everyday bank card they use at home. This makes sure that you don’t overspend your travel budget and come back home to bounced debit orders and unpaid bills.

Specialised cards designed for international travel let you convert your money into foreign currency before you leave or during your trip and then use it by swiping the card just like you’d do back home. This saves you money and hassle.

Get a better exchange rate

There’s no such thing as a ‘real’ exchange rate: you will get a different price for your dollars, pounds, euros or baht depending on who you ask, so shop around to find a good exchange rate. Usually, buying forex at the airport is going to be one of the more expensive ways to do it.

The South African Reserve Bank allows every person to buy R1-million worth of foreign currency every year. Sometimes you will need to show your ticket and passport.

There are two big advantages to buying your foreign currency before you travel:

  1. If the value of the rand suddenly falls, just as you’re about to leave, you could suddenly find that your holiday budget isn’t going to stretch as far as you’d planned. Pre-buying your foreign currency insulates you from this.
  2. If you exchange your money before you go, or at the start of your trip, it’s easier to work out what things cost as you travel, because you’re always converting them at the same rate. 

Don’t get tripped up on unexpected fees

You want to spend your hard-earned holiday budget on gifts and adventures, not on bank fees. So make sure that you’re not paying any hidden fees when you swipe a normal bank card, on things like foreign ATM withdrawals. Ask your bank for a fee schedule before you go, because you might be able to save money by withdrawing money less often, or by taking out a specialised foreign travel card with no additional fees.

Wherever possible, try to spend in the local currency rather than in rands. Sometimes, if you swipe your card at a shop, they might ask you to select whether you want to spend in rands or the local currency. Always choose the local currency.

Here’s an extra tip for the pros: if your trip includes a shopping spree (especially when you’re buying high-value items like the latest gadgets), you can sometimes claim back VAT when you leave that country. Ask at the store whether tax-free shopping is available, and show your forms and receipts to customs when you’re leaving the foreign country.

Don’t get stranded without access to your money

There’s no worse feeling than being stranded on the opposite side of the world with no access to your money. Make sure that you call your bank before you leave and tell them you’ll be travelling, so they don’t block your card when they pick up a foreign transaction (most banks do this by default, to protect you from fraud). But sometimes this isn’t enough, so make sure you know how to get in touch with your bank if you have a problem. Bear in mind that time differences might complicate this. If your bank requires a one-time-pin to use internet banking, you might need to consider activating international roaming on your phone.

Criminals often target tourists, so be extra vigilant about scams, fraud and theft. Carry the phone number to block a stolen card on you at all times. The most modern banks will allow you to block (and even put a temporary pause on) your cards from their apps.

The best specialist travel cards offer 24/7 support lines that you can access from anywhere in the world. This is one of the most important features to look for when you’re comparing your options.

Always travel with a money back-up plan. This could be an alternative bank card stashed away in a different piece of luggage, a small amount of cash in a common international currency (like US Dollars), or the phone number of a helpful and generous relative who lives in the country you’re visiting.

Get a card that makes all this simple, perfect for world travellers

Lightcard is a pre-funded travel card that you can load with foreign currency and spend anywhere in the world. Backed by Mastercard and designed for people who live a global lifestyle, Lightcard makes it easy to exchange, top-up, and track your expenses on their iOS and Android apps.

Lightcard offers competitive foreign exchange rates, and it’s super-easy to see exactly what you’re paying. Buy your foreign currency up to 60 days before you travel to protect yourself against an unstable rand. Contact them 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

Lightcard are launching their innovative travel card soon. Head over to the lightcard website to sign up for the waiting list…

The post 5 Tips for Taking Your Money With You When You Travel appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Cool Ways To Celebrate Heritage Month

September is Heritage month and we’ve rounded up wonderful ways to celebrate SA’s rich and diverse culture. Join Travelstart as we explore Xhosa mythology, outrageous art, Namaqualand daisies and where to find the tastiest kotas.

First up be sure to check out the incredible Zeitz MOCAA

Courtesy of @tonio__a via Instagram

Fresh from its glamorous opening weekend, this 500 million rand contemporary art museum is just as interesting on the inside as its exterior suggests. Designed by the celebrated UK architect commissioned to build Google’s new offices the architecture is mesmerising with dramatic spiral staircases and echoes of the Sagrada Familia. Nicholas Hlobo’s giant dragon sculpture iimpundulu zonke ziyandilenda is the pièce de résistance in this astonishing museum of over 80 gallery spaces which include works by Nandipha Mntambo, Kenyan artist Cyrus Karibu and William Kentridge among many others. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is to Cape Town what the Centre Pompidou is to Paris.

Chief curator and director, Mark Coetzee, told the Guardian the museum is ‘geographically situated in Cape Town but has a dialogue with all 54 African states’.

Free entry for all kids under 18, plus free entry for African citizens every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm.

There is also a half price special available on every first Friday of the month from 4pm to 9pm.

R180 for adults, R250 a year and R185 a year for pensioners.

V&A Waterfront, Silo District.

Courtesy of @nomfyartist via Instagram

Courtesy of @ZeitzMOCAA via Facebook

Courtesy of @ZeitzMOCAA via Facebook

Courtesy of @ZeitzMOCAA via Facebook

Courtesy of @fazilamanjoo via Instagram

Courtesy of @coltranes_naima via Instagram

Flower Power, take a roadtrip to charming Darling

Courtesy of @sashiehammond via Instagram

Every spring the west coast countryside erupts in a riot of Namaqualand daisies. Take a roadtrip a few hours up the coast to revel in the spring-time festivities.

Make it your mission to find the best Kota in Joburg

Courtesy of @just_calme_delish via Instagram

Soweto just hosted its first ever Kota Festival, if you missed out on the festival’s tasty take on this township favourite be sure to celebrate South African heritage by tracking down your favourite kota. To the uninitiated the kota is a cousin of Durban’s favourite bunny chow. It consists of a hollowed-out half loaf of white bread (kota) filled with slap chips, cheese, egg atchar, polony and Russian sausage.

Start your Kota quest at a spaza shop near you, or at Kota Republic Braamfontein.
Average price of a Kota: R11 – R22
Braamfontein Centre, Corner of Jorrisen & Bertha Street, Braamfontein, Inner City, Johannesburg

Explore KZN’s natural beauty when you visit KwaNogqaza

Courtesy of @mommy_and_baby_approved via Instagram

KwaNogqaza or ‘Place of the tall one’ is the 111m high waterfall which is one of Howick’s iconic attractions.
Cost to visit: free

Honour South Africa’s heritage by visiting the Mandela Capture Site

Courtesy of @mommy_and_baby_approved via Instagram

This memorial is an important reminder of the liberation struggle.
Find it on the R103.
There is also a temporary exhibition held in a converted shed, plans for a museum are in progress.
The Exhibition and Sculpture is open from Monday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm.
Call: 033 330 8195

Take a free tour of Kirstenbosch and look out for spotted Eagle owls!

Courtesy of @desertburger via Instagram

These magnificent national gardens offer free guided tours of the garden everyday from Monday to Saturday.
The tours leave from the Visitors’ Centre (Gate 1) at 10am, 11am and 2pm Monday to Friday and at 10am on Saturdays. Free guided tours also leave from the Garden Centre (Gate 2) at 11am from Monday to Friday and at 10am on Saturdays.

All tours are 90 minutes long.
While you’re there:

  • Be sure to check out the Boomslang Canopy tree walkway. This low-environmental-impact steel and timber walkway offers a sculptural path along the treetops with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • If you’re lucky you’ll spot a shy Eagle owl in the trees.
  • Also check out the impressive dinosaur garden with enormous metal dinosaur sculptures.
  • On the left at the Entrance to Gate 1 is a delightful conservatory with an enormous baobab as its centre-piece and fascinating desert plants and plant fossils.

Adults: R65
SA Students (with card): R35
Children (6 – 17 years): R15
Under 6 years: Free
BOTSOC members: Free
SA Senior Citizens (with ID): Free on Tuesdays except on public holidays

Courtesy of @evanswildlifephotography via Instagram

Take a drive to the edge of the continent

Courtesy of @mommy_and_baby_approved via Instagram

The Southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, marks the spot where the two mighty oceans meet. 150 km east of the Cape of Good Hope, it was here that early seafarers christened this tip Cabo das Agulhas, Cape of Needles. They were referring to the compass needle which shows no difference between true north and magnetic north in this magical spot.

We’d love to hear your favourite things to do to celebrate SA’s rich cultural heritage in the comments below.

The post Cool Ways To Celebrate Heritage Month appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

Delectable Food & Wine in NSW’s Northern Rivers & Coastal Region

When it comes to dining in NSW’s Northern Rivers & Coastal Region, the only problem you’ll have is trying all the delicious local produce. What’s the secret behind this unforgettable foodie paradise? It’s a mixture of farm-to-table cuisine, scenic settings and welcoming small towns. Here is our pick of the best Northern Rivers restaurants, cafes and markets.

The Farm/Three Blue Ducks – Byron Bay

Three Blue Ducks
Credit: Destination NSW

Three Blue Ducks is one of Byron Bay’s most recognisable restaurants, known for its fresh farm-sourced food, ethical and sustainable practices and genuine hospitality. Kick back on the outdoor terrace, which has a double spit and wood fire pizza oven, before sampling Australian craft beers and wines at the bar.

Eltham Valley Pantry – Lismore

Eltham Valley Pantry
Credit: Destination NSW

Located near Lismore, Eltham Valley Pantry exudes hinterland charm with its locally-sourced ingredients and outdoor eating areas. The breakfast and lunch menus cater to a range of diets, including dairy and gluten-free, while the gourmet coffee is roasted daily. Don’t miss out on a slice of pecan pie, made from pecans grown at the on-site orchard.

Harvest Restaurant – Bangalow

The menu at Harvest Restaurant is inspired by regional produce and seasonal flavours, offering an ever-changing line-up of sumptuous Australian fare. Housed in a 1900s cottage, the restaurant lures you in with its rustic charm and welcoming staff. You can dine inside before strolling through the Harvest Garden where the restaurant sources its organic ingredients.

Mavis’s Kitchen & Cottages – Uki

Mavis’s Kitchen & Cottages
Credit: Destination NSW

Surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Wollumbin National Park and towering Mount Warning, Mavis’s Kitchen & Cottages is set in a tranquil environment. The former dairy farm complements its charming location with seasonal menus comprising produce from local businesses and the on-site organic garden. Wash it down with award-winning Australian wine or locally-brewed beer.

Potager: A Kitchen Garden – The Tweed Area

Potager: A Kitchen Garden is a multi-award-winning restaurant with an innovative menu that incorporates quality meats and seafood. Australian and New Zealand wines on the menu are perfectly paired with its fine food and delightful setting among native trees and gardens. You can expect a different specialty item or two on the menu each week, from roasted goat to Peruvian fish stew.

Tropical Fruit World – The Tweed Area

Tropical Fruit World
Credit: Destination NSW

A unique farm in Duranbah, Tropical Fruit World treats you to a variety of fresh local and exotic fruits along with an array of exciting wildlife experiences. Start with a plantation tour where you can pick fruit straight from the tree and taste it. Dine on fruit parfaits and other desserts at Plantation Cafe before meeting Australian farm animals at Fauna Park.

Flock Espresso & Eats – Lismore

Flock Espresso & Eats
Credit: Destination NSW

The vintage-inspired Flock Espresso and Eats is filled with interesting antiques and artwork, where you can treat your taste buds to banana smoothies, homemade desserts and gourmet burgers. Funky tables and bright decor create a welcoming atmosphere, while the staff provide attentive and friendly service. Be sure to try the house blend chai tea and ginger beer float.

Bangalow Market

Held on the fourth Sunday of every month, the Bangalow Market features a melting pot of artists, farmers, artisans, musicians and viticulturists. These talented and passionate locals invite you to browse stalls selling handmade jewellery, farm-grown produce, plants, paintings, clothing and other unique treasures. Indulge in delicious local food while enjoying live music under the shady trees.

Nimbin Markets

Nimbin Markets
Credit: Destination NSW

Head to Nimbin on the fourth or fifth Sunday of the month to experience the truly unique Nimbin Markets. The entire town becomes a marketplace, showcasing talented musicians, multicultural cuisine, artisan wares and naturopathy goods. You can participate in workshops and listen to informative talks, before enjoying a restorative massage.

Ballina Market

Browse through an assortment of artisan goods, vibrant fashion accessories and garments, innovative food and hand-woven gifts at the Ballina Market, held on the third Sunday of every month. Live music by the Ballina Shire Concert Band creates a peaceful vibe while you chat with friendly Ballina locals, eat well and sip on fresh coffee.

Lismore Organic Market

Lismore Organic Market

Lismore Organic Market has been running since 1999 and has become one of the most popular community events in the Northern Rivers, known for its commitment to environmentally sustainable practices. Local producers not only sell some of the region’s freshest vegetables, but also offer invaluable growing tips as you shop.

Mullum Farmers Market

Held every Friday morning, Mullum Farmers Market is one of the best places to pick up fresh local produce while enjoying the community-focused meeting place. Garden supplies, fresh fruit, seasonal vegetables, seeds and artisan products are all available. Kids can also enjoy an entertaining play space, while live musicians entertain the entire family.

Casino Riverside Market

Don’t miss Casino and its renowned Casino Riverside Market, which sits beside the tranquil Richmond River. The market features local and imported handicrafts, live performances and an array of enticing food vendors. Browse the stalls to find artwork, clothing and other goods from locals around the Northern Rivers.

The post Delectable Food & Wine in NSW’s Northern Rivers & Coastal Region appeared first on HotelsCombined Blog.

23 Popular 5-Star Sydney Hotels with Unbridled Luxury

Boasting some of Australia’s most famous sights, biggest sporting teams and internationally recognised cultural entertainment, it’s no surprise Sydney is often the first city on everyone’s Australia holiday bucket list. This cosmopolitan metropolis treats you to a range of luxurious experiences, from Michelin-starred restaurants to upscale shopping.

 

With over 300 million visitors to HotelsCombined each year, we’ve found the top-rated 5-star Sydney hotels to give you an unforgettable holiday. From renowned hotel chains to chic self-contained apartments, these extravagant abodes deliver gourmet restaurants, enticing pools and opulent guest rooms within one of Australia’s most exciting cities.

 

Top 5-Star Sydney Hotels in the CBD

Westin Sydney

 

Rising high above Sydney’s cityscape, Westin Sydney provides two types of 5-star accommodation: the heritage-laden General Post Office rooms and the contemporary Tower rooms. Both of these deliver signature Westin Heavenly Beds and in-room spa treatments, along with access to modern Australian cuisine at the on-site Mosaic restaurant. Need an evening cocktail? Duck into The Bar, which also serves a delectable afternoon tea.

 

Stay active during your Sydney holiday, thanks to Westin Sydney’s fitness gear hire, inner-city running routes and complimentary access to Good Life Health Club. If you’re seeking unadulterated luxury, book the Heritage Long Suite, which has a circa-1874 writing desk, full-size fridge, marble fireplaces and Bose sound system. You’re minutes from George Street’s best shopping and dining, as well as The Escape Hunt Experience Sydney.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$147 – A$699
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: 1 Martin Place, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

QT Sydney

 

Housed within the historic Gowings and State Theatre buildings, QT Sydney embraces the city’s heritage side while carefully crafting modern rooms with a boutique decor. Gothic, Art Deco and Italianate architecture blend effortlessly, transporting you into a world of fine dining, pampering spa dates and stately suites. HotelsCombined visitors rate this hotel as one of Sydney’s best for shopping, thanks to its location near the boutiques and malls along Market Street, George Street and Pitt Street.

 

Each room is draped in luxurious furnishings, along with complimentary Wi-Fi, separate workspaces and plush beds. Stay in the QT Executive King for a luxe king-sized bed and rain shower or the QT Corner Suite for city views, deep-soaking bath and atmospheric traditional windows. Looking to relax? Book a treatment at the on-site spaQ, which offers signature packages.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$202 – A$1,488
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 49 Market Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour

 

Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour caters to both leisure and business travellers with a range of high-tech meeting rooms, exquisite dining and drinking establishments and self-contained suites. The suites cater to solos, couples and families, with one and two-bedroom options. Choose between Royal Botanic Gardens or Sydney Harbour views while enjoying a fully-equipped kitchen, in-room spa bath, king-sized bed and separate lounge room.

 

Nestled on the edge of East Circular Quay, this hotel keeps some of Sydney’s best restaurants at your fingertips but also invites you to dine on site at Q Dining and Hacienda Sydney. The latter features a Cuban-inspired menu and uninterrupted Sydney Harbour vistas. A perfect base for sightseeing, this hotel is within walking distance from Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and The Rocks.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$292 – A$963
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 61 Macquarie Street East Circular Quay, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Primus Hotel Sydney

 

Since opening at the end of 2015, Primus Hotel Sydney has astounded Sydney holidaymakers with its iconic 1930s facade, 172 lavish and spacious rooms and an unprecedented level of grandeur. The luxury hotel experience begins at the Art Deco Lobby Bar, serving up high tea and craft cocktails, and peaks at the rooftop pool, which has cushioned loungers and refreshing cocktail popsicles at the poolside Level Seven bar.

 

You can also work out in a state-of-the-art gym and indulge your taste buds at the on-site The Wilmot, renowned for its evolving menu and vintage wines. Expect modern comforts in the rooms and suites, from brand-name toiletries to Nespresso coffee machines. The Executive Room features a deep-soaking bath and soft bathrobes, while the Presidential Suite boasts a walk-in wardrobe, 10-seater dining table and ornate chandeliers.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$181 – A$650
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 339 Pitt Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Sheraton on the Park Sydney

 

It’s easy to play during your stay at Sheraton on the Park Sydney, thanks to its prime location near Hyde Park, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and Australian Museum, the country’s oldest museum. The rooms deliver that revered Sheraton experience with city and park views, generous floor space, rich furnishings and little touches of luxury. The latter is apparent in the Terrace Spa Suite, which boasts a marble spa bath, private terrace, butler service and black-out curtains.

 

Indulge in a fresh seafood buffet at the hotel’s Feast Restaurant, traditional high tea at The Gallery and award-winning spirits at Conservatory Bar. Treat yourself to a rejuvenating massage at the on-site On The Park Rejuvenation Day Spa, which also has a rooftop pool and Jacuzzi, fitness centre, sauna, steam room and terrace.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$180 – A$1,246
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 161 Elizabeth Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney

 

Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney exudes European grandeur with its Italianate architecture and heritage sandstone facade. Inside, you’ll discover a true 5-star experience throughout the 364 boutique rooms, all of which offer a pillow menu, free Wi-Fi, minibar and plush bathrobes. Couples will love the extra opulence of the Studio Spa Suite, which boasts a spa bath, separate sitting area and heavenly bed.

 

Travelling for business? Book the Business Class Room for complimentary breakfast, evening drinks and garment press. If you’re feeling hungry, reserve a table at the award-winning Bentley Restaurant & Bar, which serves upscale meals and an extensive wine menu. The on-site Fax Bar is perfect for a morning coffee or pre-dinner cocktail, while the Tanatcha Spa offers rejuvenating body treatments.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$182 – A$858
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 27 O’Connell Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

InterContinental Sydney

 

 

Bordered by the Royal Botanic Gardens and historic Customs House, InterContinental Sydney offers exceptional sightseeing opportunities. Housed within the restored 19th-century Treasury Building, this hotel provides world-renowned sophistication starting with the award-winning Club InterContinental. This extravagant lounge, available as a room upgrade, has 270-degree harbour views, all-day refreshments and a deluxe buffet breakfast.

 

InterContinental Sydney offers gourmet dining, from a fresh seafood buffet at Cafe Opera and high tea at The Cortile to seasonal produce at 117 Dining and the 32nd-floor Supper Club champagne bar. Burn off your meal by swimming laps in the 15-metre infinity pool or relaxing in the sauna. Each guest room and suite blend opulence with comfort, featuring a work area, chaise lounges and city vistas. The State Suite also has a galley kitchen, marble spa bath and baby grand piano.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$211 – A$896
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 117 Macquarie Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Sir Stamford at Circular Quay Hotel Sydney

 

HotelsCombined visitors can’t get enough of the on-site bar and restaurants at Sir Stamford at Circular Quay Hotel Sydney. You’ll quickly realise why when you indulge in the fine Australian cuisine at The Dining Room or delectable wine and liquor at The Bar. Opt for the royal treatment with a private dining experience in the Governor’s Room.

 

The 105 generously-sized rooms range from Super and Deluxe to the Executive Suite and Presidential Suite, most of which have king-sized beds and Juliet balconies. The Presidential Suite oozes extravagance with its maple dining table, butler’s pantry, antique fireplace, mahogany writing desk and grand piano. Looking for recreation? Take advantage of fully-equipped gym and sauna, before chilling out in a sun lounger by the outdoor pool.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$164 – A$1,083
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 93 Macquarie Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney

 

Enjoy a convenient location 10 minutes from Circular Quay at Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney, along with contemporary lodgings that feature blackout drapes, city vistas and smart TVs. Booking a Jamison Club room or suite comes with the added bonus of Jamison Club access, where you’ll find complimentary evening drinks and a buffet breakfast. The Jamison Club Executive Suites also have chaise lounges, panoramic Darling Harbour views and separate living rooms.

 

Need a break from sightseeing? Unwind in the hotel’s Amora Spa with therapeutic pampering from head to toe. If you prefer to indulge your taste buds, grab breakfast at Gallery Restaurant or grilled streak at CHARR Restaurant & Grill. Recharge in the sauna, Jacuzzi or indoor swimming pool, before venturing outside to the nearby Wynyard Park and King Street Wharf.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$150 – A$998
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 11 Jamison Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Swissotel Sydney

 

Swissotel Sydney is surrounded by Queen Victoria Building and Westfield Sydney, making it the perfect hotel for a shopping holiday. It also accommodates active and leisure travellers with its Spa and Sports facility, which includes massage packages, heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi and fully-equipped gym. You can also replenish your energy with an Alpine-inspired breakfast and local produce at JBP Restaurant.

 

If you’re looking for true Sydney extravagance, book the Signature Skyline Balcony Room, which has a private balcony, walk-in wardrobe, rain shower and king-sized bed. For more space, go with the Executive Suite, where you can also enjoy a Nespresso coffee machine, separate living room and interactive in-room entertainment. Don’t forget to grab a drink during happy hour at the on-site Crossroads Bar.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$169 – A$718
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 68 Market Street, Sydney CBD, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Top 5-Star Sydney Hotels in Darlinghurst

 

Medusa Boutique Hotel

 

Medusa Boutique Hotel is a truly unique holiday haven that pairs the peace and comfort of an actual home with exclusive 5-star facilities. The Victorian-era facade reveals 18 exclusive rooms with rich timber finishes, cosy beds, kitchenettes and minibars. Many Deluxe Rooms open onto a leafy courtyard, while Grand Rooms have soaring ceilings and Premium Deluxe Rooms feature chaise lounges.

 

Converted terraces provide sunny sitting areas with views of Sydney’s city high-rises. There’s also a private pool area with landscaped gardens and poolside chairs. Scattered around the hotel are many of Sydney’s best neighbourhoods for dining out, along with the Oxford Art Factory, Hyde Park and Australian Museum.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$201 – A$308
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 267 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

 

Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

 

Located across the street from Hyde Park, Pullman Sydney Hyde Park places you within easy walking distance from many of Sydney’s top theatres, restaurants, shops and bars. However, you’ll find plenty of reasons to stay at the hotel, particularly the wide variety of delicious cocktails at Bar Rendezvous. There’s also a versatile lunch menu at Cafe36, which offers a selection for both vegetarians and children.

 

Business travellers can take advantage of 10 on-site meeting rooms, while all guests will enjoy the elegant and contemporary rooms at Pullman Sydney Hyde Park. Each room has marble bathrooms, work desks, mini fridges and flat-screen TVs. However, if you’re looking for unparalleled luxury, you can’t go wrong with the Matt Blatt Suite, which boasts complimentary Netflix, a Nespresso coffee maker and king-sized bed.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$176 – A$535
Guest Rating: 8.7
Address: 36 College Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

Top 5-Star Sydney Hotels in Surry Hills

Adge Apartment Hotel

 

Adge Apartment Hotel has become a favourite among HotelsCombined visitors for its spectacular on-site dining options. The renowned Baccomatto Osteria is known for its delicious Italian food and wine, while the award-winning Raita Noda serves up a 10-course degustation menu handpicked by the executive chef. Nestled in Surry Hills, this hotel is also surrounded by art galleries and lush parklands, such as the Australian Centre for Photography and Harmony Park.

This all-suite hotel offers completely self-contained residences for a convenient and comfortable stay. These range from two-bedroom suites with city views, private balconies and in-room entertainment to the opulent penthouse suites with deep baths, oversized balconies and leather furnishings. Each suite also includes a complimentary smartphone with unlimited calls and internet to use during your stay.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$280 – A$479
Guest Rating: 9.9
Address: 222 Riley Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Bounce Sydney

 

Previously voted Australia’s best hostel, Bounce Sydney brings a new level of luxury to hostel accommodation that rivals hotels around the country. A great option for budget-savvy travellers looking for opulent facilities, Bounce Sydney features cost-effective shared dorms with lockable storage, air conditioning and quality bunk beds. These are paired with private rooms, which have ensuites, cosy beds and flat-screen TVs.

Chill out at the hostel’s award-winning facilities, which include a gourmet kitchen complemented by a stylish rooftop terrace and barbecue area. Here you can admire Sydney city views while relaxing in hammocks and sun loungers or dining on barbecued meats on special themed nights. There’s also the on-site Tipple Bar and Bistro for light meals and cocktails, along with a tour desk offering discounted travel packages around Australia.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$33 – A$194
Guest Rating: 9
Address: 28 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Top 5-Star Sydney Hotels in Pyrmont

 

The Darling

 

Sydney’s first and only hotel to be awarded the Forbes five-star rating, The Darling boasts a level of service and luxury rarely seen around the world. The on-site Darling Spa is reason enough to visit, featuring body wraps, pregnancy treatments and the luxe Moroccan Hammam Ritual. You’ll also find one of Sydney’s leading entertainment precincts, The Star, which has over 20 restaurants and bars, a casino, retail arcade and two live music and theatre venues.

 

The hotel’s custom-built pool has a poolside bar and food service, while the gym and complimentary running maps accommodate active travellers. The hotel’s rooms are utterly indulgent with unique artwork, floor-to-ceiling windows and plush furnishings. Stay in the Stellar Suite for a separate living area, marble bathrooms and butler services.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$239 – A$1,063
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour

 

Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour occupies a great position near Darling Harbour’s restaurants, bars and attractions, including the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney Lyric Theatre and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. The rooms cater to a range of travellers, from solos in the no-fuss and cosy Shoebox to couples in the King Deluxe and large groups in the split-level Shaken room. If you’re seeking ultimate luxury, the Stirred room should be your go-to with its panoramic city views, rooftop patio, cellar fridge and rain shower.

 

The hotel, housed in a historic converted wool store, also features an on-site lounge bar, called Lo Lounge, which has 24-hour dining and free-flowing wine, beer and canapes during Happy Hour. Visiting Sydney for business? Enjoy a fully-licensed and state-of-the-art meeting space at the hotel.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$184 – A$617
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 139 Murray Street, Pyrmont, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Astral Tower & Residences at The Star

 

One of the many revered hotels at The Star Sydney, Austral Tower & Residences at The Star delivers exclusive accommodation and leisure facilities. The hotel has multiple room options, including the Superior King Room, which has a marble bathroom and goose down comforter, and the Royal Suite, which boasts a kitchen and drawing room. You can also stay in the Penthouse to enjoy a sauna, spa bath and butler.

 

Take a break at the Astral Pool and Turbines Health Club, which has a sun-drenched pool, fully-equipped gym, Jacuzzi and sauna. Grab a beer at the on-site 24/7 Sports Bar, dance to live DJs at Cherry and eat Japanese cuisine at Sokyo, which are just some of the on-site dining and drinking establishments available. Test your luck at one of many table games at The Star’s casino, before shopping at Gucci, Moda Emporio and other designer stores located on site.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$173 – A$2,603
Guest Rating: 8.9
Address: 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Top 5-Star Sydney Hotels in The Rocks

Quay West Suites Sydney

 

Overlooking Sydney Harbour and the Opera House, Quay West Suites Sydney offers picturesque views while delivering an incredible holiday haven. You can enjoy the Sydney city outlook from the hotel’s recreation deck, which features a swimming pool, spa, gym, sauna and private sun deck. Casual dining with a flamboyant edge takes place at Harrington Restaurants, which also has an adjoining bar.

 

Every one and two-bedroom suite at Quay West Suites Sydney has a full kitchen, laundry facilities and separate lounge and dining area. Choose between Sydney Harbour and city skyline views, seen through large windows encircling the living spaces. Upgrade to the penthouse suite to find a sitting library and in-room spa bath.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$236 – A$1,173
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 98 Gloucester Street, The Rocks, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

 

It’s hard to beat the location of Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, with First Fleet Park, The Rocks Discovery Museum and Sydney Observatory all within walking distance. You’re also near Circular Quay Wharf and ferries to Manly, Mosman Bay and other exciting nearby destinations. When you need a break from sightseeing, relax at the hotel’s Endota Spa with all-Australian treatments, including billabong footbaths and organic facials.

 

You can also take advantage of the hotel’s outdoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, gym and steam room for exercising or kicking back. Discover international and local whiskies at the on-site Grain Bar, before dining on contemporary Australian cuisine at Mode Kitchen & Bar. All rooms and suites boast rich furnishings, but for added luxury, opt for the Full Harbour Junior Suite or Royal Suite.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$227 – A$1,000
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 199 George Street, The Rocks, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Park Hyatt Sydney

 

Park Hyatt Sydney was recently voted the best hotel in Australia and New Zealand by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. It’s easy to see why when stepping inside this iconic hotel, which has a rooftop swimming pool, outdoor spa, cabanas and plush loungers. The Spa at Park Hyatt Sydney offers personalised treatments, while The Dining Room serves up European cuisine and front-row Sydney Harbour views.

 

Free Wi-Fi, king-sized beds, Bose music systems, butler services and Nespresso coffee makers are included in every room. The Deluxe room has two balconies and a rain shower, while the Rooftop Suite has an al fresco dining area and egg-shaped bath. However, it’s hard to pass up the Sydney Suite, which exudes style with its 360-degree city views, gas fireplace and professional-grade kitchen.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$790 – A$2,248
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 7 Hickson Road, The Rocks, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Shangri-La Hotel Sydney

 

Shangri-La Hotel Sydney lives up to its name, which is known around the world for uncompromising service and limitless opulence. The rooms and suites showcase both with exquisite decor, waterfront views, signature bed linens, pillow menus and soundproof windows. The suites also offer the added convenience of self-catered accommodation, thanks to kitchenettes and separate dining areas.

 

If you don’t feel like cooking, take advantage of the on-site Altitude Restaurant or Café Mix, both of which offer gourmet Australian and international dining. After dinner, enjoy wine, cocktails and liqueurs at the New York-inspired Blu Bar on 36. Rejuvenate your body and mind at the on-site pool, Jacuzzi and gym, before visiting the nearby Roslyn Packer Theatre and Barangaroo Reserve.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$206 – A$1,230
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Sydney Harbour YHA

 

One of Sydney’s few 5-star hostels, Sydney Harbour YHA offers award-winning accommodation in the heart of Sydney. You’re within walking distance from popular bars, clubs and shops, along with cultural attractions and the scenic waterfront. The hostel sleeps up to 354 guests in a mixture of shared dorms, private room, ensuite rooms and family rooms, all of which are air conditioned.

 

Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, a well-equipped communal kitchen and an on-site food store during your stay. You can also soak up the sunshine and harbour views from a rooftop terrace with barbecue facilities and loungers. Head to the tour desk for discounted tours, including historic pub crawls and guided beach walks.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$31 – A$211
Guest Rating: 9
Address: 110 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

 

Top 5-Star Sydney Hotels in Mascot

 

Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport

 

Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport offers the perfect 5-star accommodation for short holidays and overnight stays before or after your flight. The hassle-free Park and Fly package takes the stress out of travel, while the Argentinian High Tea at the on-site La Boca Bar and Grill is a delectable treat. You can also enjoy burgers, pizzas and Australian beers at AV8 Bar and Cafe.

 

The recreation facilities at Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport range from a gym and dedicated Pilates area to an outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Unwind in true comfort in the elegant rooms, such as the Raffles Suite, which has city views, LCD TVs, a mini bar and large baths.

 

Star Rating: 5*
Price: A$106 – A$794
Guest Rating: 8.6
Address: Corner O’Riordan and Robey Streets, Mascot, Sydney, Australia

Check rates | Official Site

Embrace Sydney’s Extravagant Lifestyle

Luxury in Sydney is as reliable as the rising sun, treating you to some of the best hotels and hostels Australia has to offer. HotelsCombined visitors have revealed that the most popular 5-star accommodations boast ample on-site facilities, from award-winning restaurants and rooftop pools to pampering day spas and sometimes even waterfront views.

How do you want to spend a 5-star weekend in Sydney? Let us know your ideal hotel, experiences and restaurants in the comments below.

The post 23 Popular 5-Star Sydney Hotels with Unbridled Luxury appeared first on HotelsCombined Blog.

Which African country do you secretly want to explore?

A wise woman once said, “It is said that when you are born in Africa, Africa is also born in you and so the love affair with your homeland begins.” And oh, how true this is.

What makes you African is not the city you come from or the language you speak – It is that thing inside of you that applauds when somebody from Africa wins gold in the Olympics or does a TEDx talk. It is that fierce pride and passion that can be found in people living on the gold coast of KwaZulu-Natal to people living on the sticky streets of Cameroon.

Africa is a place that bristles with soul and sings of hope and beauty, and to be African is truly special. And we know you feel it too.

Have you always been drawn to the fiery Afro-jazz rhythms and peri-peri tang of Mozambique? Do you want to lose yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes and sweet embrace of solitude in Botswana? Does your soul crave the romance and mystique of Morocco? Are you intrigued by the vivacious energy of Kenya and rustic beat of The Gambia? Or perhaps you want to chase the thrill of wild nights in the heart of Nigeria?

Well that’s because you’re obviously hiding a secret desire to explore the untamed landscapes of Mama Africa. And we bet we can guess which country it is.

Take the quiz!

The post Which African country do you secretly want to explore? appeared first on Travelstart Blog.

How to Become a Travel Blogger

In this digital age, we are all faced with the same reality at one point or another. That reality being, our reliance of having an online presence. Whether our online presence is used for fun, business, communication, research or reviews, we have all realised the many benefits the internet has to offer.

The internet has also paved the way for the modern-day writer, the “Blogger”.

A blogger is defined as a person who keeps a Web log “blog” who publishes a regular record of their thoughts, opinions, or experiences which is shared on the internet for people to read.

The rise in the popularity of blogs comes from the credibility one gets from reading personal and relatable accounts of events, occurrences and fads resulting in a wealth of information relevant to the reader. Readers are now looking to blogs to stay on top of the latest tech updates, hippest new restaurants, trendiest fashion tips and so much more. Although one of the most rewarding investments one can make, making travel related decisions, can be rather stressful. This has been eliminated by the presence of Travel Bloggers who give a first-hand recollection of their travel tips, experiences, downfalls and adventures along their journey. The Travel Blogger is here to inspire and educate readers.

 

Share Your Story. Start A Travel Blog.

 

We asked some of South Africa’s Top Travel Bloggers to give us some advice on How to Become a Travel Blogger, these are some of their top tips on getting started:

 

Di Brown – The Roaming Giraffe

Be prepared to work really hard for very little reward in the beginning. It takes time and effort to build a brand and an audience. Focus on what you are good at and learn new skills if required. Invest your time, money and effort into your blog if you are serious about it.

Ryan Enslin – My Lime Boots

Above and beyond absolutely everything, I say authenticity, authenticity, authenticity. You have to write stories that mean something to you, on one level or another. I try and infuse a sense of who I am into each and every story I write. If a place has special meaning to you, write about it and cover it. Share the things that touch your heart, because in turn they will touch a reader’s heart.

Heather Mason – 2 Summers

If you want to start a travel blog, you need to love more than just traveling. You must also love writing and photography, and be willing to work hard to craft highly visual, beautifully written posts. Quality words and images are what set the top bloggers apart from the rest.

Anje Rautenbach– Going Somewhere Slowly

Start a blog because you’re passionate about something, not because you want to make money from it, monetizing your blog is one endless long road. Passion trumps money. Find your own unique voice and be honest. Post regularly.

Dawn Jorgensen – The Incidental Tourist

Just do it, think of a name, register a domain and put up that profile pic and first post. Don’t be put off by the notion that you need to be travelling to exotic places and spending lots of money in order to have something valuable to contribute, we should all be tourists in our own backyards, sharing recommendations to our favourite attractions, beaches and restaurants, and that would make a good foundation for a travel blog even before you take that road trip.

Sara Essop – In Africa and Beyond

I’ve always been passionate about travelling and writing. In 2013, I decided to combine both my passions and start a travel blog. Which brings me to my first point – you have to be passionate about travel blogging before starting a travel blog. Don’t just do it for the rewards because although they do exist, it takes time to build a good reputation before you can reap the rewards.

Lauren Manuel McShane – The Travel Manuel

While content is king, instead of posting every day or even 3 times a week, rather post twice a week but ensure that the quality of your writing (grammar and storytelling) plus images are strong. People will stay longer on your site and keep coming back for helpful resources and strong posts.

Feeling inspired? Find the hottest tips to help you get started on your journey to becoming a fully fledged Travel Blogger.

INFOGRAPHIC: How to Become a Travel Blogger

Share this Image On Your Site

Happy Blogging!

The post How to Become a Travel Blogger appeared first on Travelstart Blog.