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Updated on June 15th, 2020

Please note this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from any purchase, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise anything I wouldn’t use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers. Thank you for supporting me!

You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about Ghent, as it seems to fly under the radar of lots of Belgium’s tourists. I skipped it on my first trip to Belgium in favour of bustling Brussels, super cute Bruges and the hipster hangout of Antwerp, but I’m stoked that I gave Flanders’ second-largest city a chance during week #3 of my 52 in 52 adventure. Turns out there are loads of quirky things to do in Ghent, not to mention a vibrant food scene and one of Europe’s biggest cultural festivals!

Ghent is an easy day or overnight trip from Brussels or Bruges, but there are more than enough things to do in this charming city to warrant a long weekend trip too. Here’s a bunch of interesting things to see, do and eat in Ghent.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: All the FAQs about my 52 in 52 adventure

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Ghent buildings lit up at night

Ghent travel basics

Is it Ghent or Gent? Ghent is the English name of the city and Gent is the Flemish name.
Currency: 
Euro (€)
How to pay for things: Card is accepted in most places, and there are ATMs all over the city
Language: The official language of the Flanders region, where Ghent is, is Flemish, but most people speak English too (especially anyone working in hospitality)
Weather: Mild year-round, rain is common
Best time to go: The city hold a huge music and theatre festival, Gentse Festeen, in mid to late-July, which is an epic time to experience Ghent

Ghent buildings and people at restaurants next to the canal

15 epic things to do in Ghent

  • Experience the festivities of the annual Gentse Festeen, with music, art, theatre, comedy and fashion shows all through the city
  • Take a canal tour to hear about the city’s history from the water
  • Visit the 800+ year old St Bavo’s Cathedral, an 89 metre tall Gothic church
  • Wander down Werregarenstraatje, an alleyway covered in graffiti
  • Search for the city’s best street art. There’s incredible graffiti all through the city that you’ll discover as you’re going about your day, but you can see a more detailed street art guide here.
  • Add to your vinyl collection with a special purchase from one of the many independent record stores, like Music Mania, Vinylkitchen or Vynilla
  • Visit Kouter flower market on a Sunday morning for the perfect start to the day
Ghent graffiti street
Werregarenstraatje graffiti alleyway
  • Climb the Belfry Tower for an incredible view of the city
  • Learn all about 12th century Ghent at the Castle of the Counts
  • And nearby, watch the Ai Nati Oggi street lights flash each time a baby is born in Ghent
  • Hang out at Korenmarkt, one of the city’s beautiful main squares
  • Design geeks can’t miss the Design Museum
  • Find some of the best city’s restaurants and bars in the Medieval Patershol neighbourhood
  • See the view up and down some of the main canals from St Michael’s Bridge
  • Eat at wallet-friendly food trucks and search for flea market bargains at Vrijdagmarkt on Fridays
  • Pay a visit to MSK, the Museum of Fine Arts in Citadelpark, to see a huge collection of Flemish and other European masterpieces
Gravensteen Castle of the Counts in Ghent from the canal boat
The Castle of the Counts view from a canal boat tour

15 of the best things to eat in Ghent

From traditional Belgian favourites like frites and waffles to local delicacies you won’t find anywhere else, Ghent is a real culinary hidden gem. Here’s some of my suggestions for the best food in Ghent that you just can’t miss.

  • The classic Ghent dish of waterzooi, a creamy stew traditionally made with fish but now often made with chicken. ‘t Klokhuys and ‘t Vosken are known for their waterzooi.
  • Take a quick break at the Kouter flower market for a klapke (a glass of white wine with an oyster)
  • The best pizza in town from Otomat, complete with expert beer pairings
  • Soup from one of the cheapest eateries in the city, Soup’r
  • DIY pasta dishes from Bavet
  • Delish burgers from Paul’s Boutique
  • The most Instagrammable drinks in the city, the freakshakes from In Choc (warning: you will definitely fall into a food coma)
Ghent freakshakes from In Choc
Yes, I bought two for the ‘gram, and yes, I drank both of them
  • Choc fiends, this one’s for you. Charlie Tours runs a chocolate walking tour that takes you to seven of the best sweet shops in the city!
  • Organic tea and vegetarian dishes at Lokaal
  • Waffles from Brasserie Agrea
  • Kroakemandels, a local dish of salted peas deep fried in oil, available during the Ghent festivities
  • Cuberdons, a traditional Ghent candy with a soft raspberry centre
  • Fries with loads of different sauce options from De Frietketel
  • A Michelin-starred meal from the ultra-trendy Publiek, run by two local Flemish foodies
  • A traditional Belgian fruit beer, ask your waiter for recommendations when eating at a restaurant and you won’t be disappointed
Pizza and iced tea at restaurant in Ghent, Belgium
Delicious pizza and homemade iced tea from Otomat

How to get to Ghent

Ghent is a 35-40 minute train from Brussels, and a one way ticket will set you back €9.


How to get to Brussels

The easiest way to get from London to Brussels is by train. The Eurostar will take you from London to Brussels, then you can easily get a ticket from Brussels to Ghent, Bruges or any other Belgian city or town.

Book your London to Brussels train on Klook and save 5% using the promocode ALEXXH05

If you book early enough and travel in the low season you can find London to Brussels train tickets from only £29 one way, or if you’re booking at a busier time expect to spend between £45 and £60 each way. The Eurostar trip takes about two hours.

If you’re coming to Belgium from other European cities, check out your train options here or search cheap flights to Brussels on Skyscanner.


TRAVEL TIP:

I find all my flights using Skyscanner! You’ll get the best deal if you’re flexible on where to go. Just put in your origin, your departure date (or month) and type ‘everywhere’ into the destination bar to see the cheapest locations to fly to on your next holiday.


Bridge in Ghent at night
An evening boat tour is a beautiful way to see the city

Looking for somewhere to stay in Ghent? Check out all the hotels and apartments right here, and don’t forget to sort by ‘review score and price’ to see the best value options first.

Are you thinking of adding Ghent onto your Belgium trip? Let me know in the comments below.

Like this blog? Pin it!

Read more about my 52 in 52 adventure here, see all of my blog posts from the trip here, or check out my Instagram @findingalexx to see all of my travel photos.


All the basic details from my big trip:

How do you find your flights? Skyscanner! I use the Everywhere tool to find the cheapest place to fly to each Tuesday
Do you fly every week? Not every week no, once I have the destination I check trains and buses to see if there’s any other transport options aside from flying. If so, I usually book these using the Trainline app.
How do you book your accommodation? I book all my hotels, hostels and apartments on either booking.com or Hostelworld.
Do you have travel insurance? YES, I always travel with travel insurance and you should too. I’m insured for an annual policy with Worldcare NZ.
Do you offset your carbon credits? I sure do! I always offset when I book if the airline gives me the option (Ryanair does), and I also offset all my flights using Co2nsensus.com.
What luggage do you travel with? I travel with a 75cm Samsonite Cosmolite suitcase, a matching Samsonite Cosmolite 55cm cabin luggage hardcase, and a cheap laptop backpack.
What camera do you use? You can see the full list of what’s in my camera bag right here.
What laptop do you use? I have a super powerful ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo and I LOVE it. It’s got an extra half-screen for maximum productivity and more than enough space and memory for intense video editing. Win win!
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.


Huge thanks to Visit Ghent for providing me with two nights’ accommodation on this trip. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

Updated on June 12th, 2020

Please note this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from any purchase, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise anything I wouldn’t use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers. Thank you for supporting me!

Here’s a big call: I think Bruges is one of my all-time favourite weekend trips from London. My first visit was earlier this year in the second week of January, when it was bitterly cold and half the city was shut after the busy Christmas season, and I still loved it. So when I got the chance to spend 48 hours in Bruges on week #3 of my 52 countries in 52 weeks adventure, I was stoked to be able to see this beautiful city in the summertime.

If you’re considering a short break from London to Bruges then I’d absolutely recommend it, and I’ve pulled together an ultimate Bruges travel guide to help you plan where to stay, what to eat and the best things to see in this super cute city.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: All the FAQs about my 52 in 52 adventure

Or skip straight to:

Bruges walking tour around the city

Bruges travel basics

Is it Bruges or Brugge? Bruges is the English/French name of the city, Brugge is the Flemish name. So both!
Currency: 
Euro (€)
How to pay for things: Everywhere I stayed, ate and shopped at accepted card, markets are more likely to be cash only
Language: The official language of the Flemish region, where Bruges is, is Flemish, but a lot of people (especially in hotels, restaurants and shops) speak English too
Weather: I’ve experienced Bruges at both weather extremes – the freezing cold of early January and the very unusual heat wave of 40°C in July. June to August are the summer months and normally are a mild warm, but this year Europe was hit by crazy temperatures. November to March can be wet and cold so be sure to bring appropriate wet weather gear.
Best time to go: Bruges can be enjoyed year-round, as long as you’ve packed the right clothing! I would say avoid January just because a lot of shops and restaurants take a much needed holiday after the craziness of Christmas markets. December is a great time to see some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, but expect to spend more on accommodation than other months. And aside from the intense temperatures I experienced (which was totally abnormal for Belgium) summer in Bruges is stunning.


How to get from London to Bruges

The easiest way to get from London to Bruges is by train. The Eurostar will take you from London to Brussels, then you can easily get a ticket from Brussels to Bruges on the Trainline app or from Brussels train station when you arrive.

Book your London to Brussels train on Klook and save 5% using the promocode ALEXXH05

If you book early enough and travel in the low season you can find London to Brussels train tickets from only £29 one way, or if you’re booking at a busier time expect to spend between £45 and £60 each way. The Eurostar trip takes about two hours.

Then you’ll need to buy a train ticket from Brussels to Bruges. If you’re travelling after 7pm on a Friday and returning to Brussels on the Sunday, you can get a weekend return for €15.20. If you’re travelling outside of these days, you’ll pay €14.10 each way. The train from Brussels to Bruges takes around an hour, and they run every half hour.

Bruges gothic architecture with girl walking in front

How to get to Bruges from other European cities

Brussels, like many European cities, is a Ryanair hub, so it’s super easy to find cheap flights from other major destinations around the continent. I flew from Bilbao in Spain for £27 one way with Brussels Airlines, and flew out to Warsaw for only £12.90 on Ryanair! Adding luggage onto my Ryanair flight cost more than twice the price of the ticket itself.

If you fly into the main Brussels airport, Zavantem or the code ‘BRU’ on your ticket, you’ll need to jump on an 18 minute train to Brussels Central station for €12.70, where you can then switch trains to one going to Bruges.

But if you’re flying with Ryanair, WizzAir or another low-cost carrier, you’re probably flying into Charleroi, or airport code ‘CRL’. Charleroi is further from the city but you can catch an easy one-hour bus for €14.20 from Exit 4 at the airport.

If you’re keen to get to the city centre quickly and comfortably, you could look into a private airport transfer. If you’ve got a full car or van of people then they can sometimes end up being cheaper than everyone getting bus or train tickets anyway! Check out the transfers available here and you’ll save 5% if you use the promocode ALEXXH05.


TRAVEL TIP:

I find all my flights using Skyscanner! You’ll get the best deal if you’re flexible on where to go. Just put in your origin, your departure date (or month) and type ‘everywhere’ into the destination bar to see the cheapest locations to fly to on your next holiday.


Colourful houses in Bruges

How to get around Bruges

Bruges is really small and compact, so once you’re in the city there’s no need to drive or use public transport.

The train station is a 20 minute walk from the city centre, but if you’re travelling with luggage you can jump on bus #12 from bus stop #1 right out the front of the station, tickets are €3 each. I’d recommend walking around the city, and jumping on a boat for a canal tour if you can afford it (they’re around €10).

If you want to get around quicker, or to explore outside of the main city centre, you could rent a bike for €4 an hour or €13 a day from Bruges Bike Rental.

Bruges boat tour
See the city from the canals with a boat tour

Where to stay in Bruges

Please note that the prices here are based on example dates mid-week in shoulder season, check booking.com for prices and availability for the best Bruges hotels on your travel dates.

Best budget hostels in Bruges

On my first trip to Bruges I stayed at St Christopher’s Inn at the Bauhaus. St Christopher’s is a hostel chain found in major cities all around Europe, and they’re particularly known for their social atmosphere and on-site bars. If you’re looking to party, this place is probably perfect for you!

They offer a range of room options, from 16-bed dorms starting at about €15 per night all the way to private twin rooms with private bathrooms from around €64 per night. Breakfast is available for a charge but note that there’s no kitchen on-site, just a microwave, a vending machine and a bar with the usual bar snacks, pizzas etc. You can check your travel dates here.

If I was going to Bruges again and looking for a hostel, I’d personally book a room at Snuffel Hostel. They have 6-bed and 4-bed mixed or female dorms starting from around €20, or private rooms from €55. Their prices also include breakfast, plus there’s a full kitchen available so you can save money cooking your own food. See more about Snuffel Hostel and search your travel dates right here.


TRAVEL TIP:

When I look for hostels, I always try and find somewhere with a full kitchen, so I’m not forced to spend money on restaurant meals. If you use booking.com then you can tick ‘self-catering facilities’ in the search filters, or if you use Hostelworld just check the facilities available at the bottom of the page.


Bruges Burg square

Best mid-range accommodation in Bruges

Bruges has a fantastic range of B&Bs and decent hotels for less than €80 a night. I spent my second trip to Bruges staying at the quaint little Hotel Bla Bla, located right in the centre of the Old Town. It’s basic but the bed is comfy, the breakfast is good and the location is unbeatable! Prices start from around €75 for a small double room.

Two cute B&Bs I found online that I would book myself are B&B ‘t Walleke and B&B Eliantho, both with great reviews, shared kitchens and prices around €75-€80 for a double room.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: How I can afford to stay at world-class hotels without blowing my budget

Best luxury hotels in Bruges

If you’re looking for an elegant European city break, Bruges is the perfect place, with fancy hotels that are much cheaper than you’d find in other major tourist destinations around the continent.

The city’s only five-star hotel, the Hotel Dukes’ Palace, is absolutely one to consider for a special occasion in Bruges. With opulent decor, marble bathrooms, a spa and wellness centre, and high tea on the terrace in the summer months, it’s the perfect place if you’re looking to treat yourself. And if you travel outside of high season, you can score double rooms from only €150 a night!

Another option for a luxury hotel in Bruges, and the current holder of the best-rated hotel in the city on both booking.com and TripAdvisor, is the gorgeous Hotel van Cleef. Located right in the historic centre and backing onto a canal, this family-owned hotel is famous for incredible service, stunning interior design and beautiful shared facilities, like a tea room, a canal-side terrace and an on-site masseuse.

Oh, and they’ve also got a library decked out with palm tree wallpaper, green couches, funky knick knacks and loads of coffee table books, basically made for Instagram. This is where I’m staying next time I come to Bruges!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: My ultimate Paris travel guide

Best waffles in bruges
Straight out of your waffle dreams

How much to budget for Bruges

Belgium is not a cheap country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it cheaply, so here’s a bit of info for anyone visiting Bruges on a budget.

As you’ve read above, you can score a dorm bed from about €15 per night, or €20 per night if you want a full kitchen (which I’d recommend). If you’re travelling as a couple, a decent but budget private room will set you back at least €50.

There’s no transport costs in Bruges apart from getting there from Brussels or bike rental, so no need for an expensive daily transport pass like in other European cities.

Attractions can set you back quite a bit, depending on what you’re into. Canal boat tours are about €8, the Belfry costs €12 to climb to the top, Groeninge Museum entry is €12 and the famous chocolate museum is €8 to enter.

A free walking tour is a must-do in Bruges for anyone on a budget, and Legends are the people to do it with. They’ve got a day tour, a night tour and a food tour, all tip-based so you pay what you want at the end of it. In Europe I generally tip €10 for a free walking tour, a bit more if the guide was particularly fantastic.

If you’re cooking your own meals, you could get away with less than €10 a day for ingredients to make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a cheap breakfast out you’re looking at €4-€5 for a coffee and a pastry, a cheap takeaway lunch will set you back €5-€10 and a sit down dinner somewhere outside of the historical centre will probably be around €15.

If you’re eating at any of the restaurants around the Markt square, expect to spend upwards of €20-€25 for a meal. A pint of beer at a restaurant or bar starts at €3, going up to €8 for fancy craft beers.

Bruges things to do

15 of the best things to do in Bruges

From historical buildings to funky neighbourhoods, a thriving cuisine scene to local boutiques and designers, and art galleries and museums galore, Bruges is overflowing with things to see and do. Here are some of my favourite Bruges activities and experiences.

  • Wander around Markt, the main square in the city centre, famous for the rows of colourful buildings that border it
  • Take a boat tour down the canals, the best way to see the city
  • Climb 366 stairs to the top of the Belfry, a 15th century bell tower and UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the view over Markt and the rest of the city
  • See Rozenhoedkaai, the intersection of two of the main canals and possibly the best photo spot in the city
  • Visit Groeningemuseum, a must-do for art lovers and home to a vast collection of Flemish art
  • See the super creepy Basilica of the Holy Blood, a Gothic church that houses a relic of (supposedly) Jesus Christ’s blood
Basilica of the Holy Blood Bruges
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
  • Take a break from exploring and chill out at Minnewater Park
  • Into a bit of dark tourism? Don’t miss the Torture Museum, a collection of pain-inducing tools housed in one of Europe’s oldest prisons
  • Stroll the streets of Hoogstraat and Langestraat, searching for the best vintage stores, independent art galleries and funky little cafes
  • See the incredible City Hall, an exquisite (and huge!) Gothic building from 1421 on the main square
  • Escape the city for a quick walk up to Sint-Janshuis Mill, a working windmill that was built way back in 1770
  • Visit the Church of Our Lady and catch a glimpse of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, amongst other famous works of art
  • Get cultured at Concertgebouw, a cultural centre packed with exhibitions of contemporary art, dance performances, photography galleries, orchestra concerts and loads more
  • Learn about medical history from the past 800 years at St John’s Hospital
  • Do some sustainable shopping! Some of my faves are Juttu who have a monthly local pop-up in-store, Leeloo who sell super trendy 100% vegan clothing, and Think Twice, a vintage store that repurposes old clothes

15 of the best things to eat in Bruges

The gastronomy scene in Bruges is next level, with renowned chefs, traditional cuisine and specialised eateries sitting side-by-side. Like many of you, one of my favourite things about travelling is the food, so here’s a definitive list of the best things to eat in Bruges.

Best breakfast in Bruges Sanseveria Bagelsalon
The best bagel of my liiiiife
Cute Bruges restaurant with outdoor seating

Looking for somewhere to stay in Bruges? Check out all the hotels and apartments right here, and don’t forget to sort by ‘review score and price’ to see the best value options first.

I hope this Bruges travel guide was helpful if you’re planning your trip! Did you have any other questions, or do you have something to add to the guide? Let me know in the comments below.

Like this blog? Pin it!

Read more about my 52 in 52 adventure here, see all of my blog posts from the trip here, or check out my Instagram @findingalexx to see all of my travel photos.


All the basic details from my big trip:

How do you find your flights? Skyscanner! I use the Everywhere tool to find the cheapest place to fly to each Tuesday
Do you fly every week? Not every week no, once I have the destination I check trains and buses to see if there’s any other transport options aside from flying. If so, I usually book these using the Trainline app.
How do you book your accommodation? I book all my hotels, hostels and apartments on either booking.com or Hostelworld.
Do you have travel insurance? YES, I always travel with travel insurance and you should too. I’m insured for an annual policy with Worldcare NZ.
Do you offset your carbon credits? I sure do! I always offset when I book if the airline gives me the option (Ryanair does), and I also offset all my flights using Co2nsensus.com.
What luggage do you travel with? I travel with a 75cm Samsonite Cosmolite suitcase, a matching Samsonite Cosmolite 55cm cabin luggage hardcase, and a cheap laptop backpack.
What camera do you use? You can see the full list of what’s in my camera bag right here.
What laptop do you use? I have a super powerful ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo and I LOVE it. It’s got an extra half-screen for maximum productivity and more than enough space and memory for intense video editing. Win win!
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.


Huge thanks to Visit Bruges for providing me with two nights’ accommodation at Hotel Bla Bla on this trip. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

Updated on June 12th, 2020

Please note this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from any purchase, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise anything I wouldn’t use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers. Thank you for supporting me!

For me, San Sebastian is one of those cities that I had never even heard of and then suddenly a couple of years ago it was everywhere. It’s been on my bucket list the whole time I was living in London and I never made it, so I was stoked to be able to include three days in San Sebastian during week #2 of my 52 countries in 52 weeks adventure. Here’s a detailed San Sebastian travel guide, as well as what the best things to see, do and eat in San Sebastian.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: All the FAQs about my 52 in 52 adventure

Or skip straight to:

San Sebastian La Concha beach
The main beach, La Concha

San Sebastian basics

Currency: Euro (€)
How to pay for things: Major shops and restaurants will accept credit card, but most pintxos bars will be cash only
Language: Basque, which is totally different to Spanish. Fun fact, Basque is a language isolate, which means there’s no other living languages that are related to it.
Weather: San Sebastian has mild weather all year. Summer temperatures are generally between 15° and 25°C (59° to 77°F) and winter days are usually between 6° and 12°C (43° and 54°F). August has the warmest seas, and due to it being a coastal city it rains all through the year.
Best time to go: I would suggest to avoid the high season of European summer holidays, from late June to late August. I was there mid-July and while the weather was beautiful, the beaches and pintxos bars were jam-packed. I’d recommend visiting just before summer (late April to early June) or once the summer crowds have dispersed (September to October).


How to get to San Sebastian

I made my way to San Sebastian by train, after spending a couple of nights exploring the stunning and underrated city of Zaragoza to kick off my second week of my year-long adventure. My train ticket cost €21 one way and it took three and a half hours.

If you’re flying to San Sebastian, you have a couple of options. San Sebastian has an airport that’s only 30 minutes from the city centre by bus, and the bus costs €2.45, but flights are notoriously expensive. Expect to pay at least £70 return in the off season from London, and likely at least £150-£250 return in summer.

One cheaper option is to fly into Biarritz Airport across the French border, and then catch the 45 minute bus to San Sebastian for €7 each way. You can easily find Ryanair flights for as low as £25 in the low season, or around £65 in high season, so a significant saving.

Your other budget-friendly option is to fly in and out of Bilbao, another Ryanair hub. Return flights in low season are from only £20 and you can fly in high season from £55, but the bus to San Sebastian costs €17 each way and takes about an hour and 15 minutes.


TRAVEL TIP:

I find all my flights using Skyscanner! You’ll get the best deal if you’re flexible on where to go. Just put in your origin, your departure date (or month) and type ‘everywhere’ into the destination bar to see the cheapest locations to fly to on your next holiday.


San Sebastian at night town hall
The Town Hall

How to get around San Sebastian

San Sebastian is easily explored by foot or bike. There’s not much parking available, and the parking that is available is pricey, so it’s not a great place to rent a car.

The city centre is small and most of the key things to do and see are within walking distance, plus it’s a great way to get in some exercise for all the delicious food you’ll be eating! If you’re heading out to the beaches on the outskirts of the city you could rent a bike or e-bike and use the fantastic bike lanes the city’s set up.

Or if it’s wet and you want an easy transport option, there’s a decent bus network and it’s €1.70 per ride.

San Sebastian bike rental
Always wear a helmet, kids!

Where to stay in San Sebastian

Please note that the prices here are based on example dates mid-week in shoulder season, check booking.com for prices and availability on your San Sebastian travel dates. San Sebastian is notoriously expensive for accommodation, especially in summer, so I’d definitely recommend travelling outside of peak season to get the best bang for your buck.

Best budget accommodation in San Sebastian

One of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in, and I’ve stayed in many, is A Room in the City in San Sebastian. It’s just a couple of minutes from the beach so the perfect location, and it’s housed in a renovated convent, complete with a huge chill out lounge, a nightclub, a rooftop terrace and a restaurant, bar and patio.

I only stayed for two nights but I would happily spend a week in San Sebastian staying at this hostel. The rooms are super spacious and clean, and each bed has a privacy curtain and its own plug, light, shelf and hooks, the ideal set up for a backpacker. There’s lockers under each bed, and the locker key (and hostel key) is a waterproof bracelet so you don’t have to worry about it getting stolen while you’re out surfing or swimming. Hostels in San Sebastian aren’t allowed to have full kitchens as it stops travellers from spending money on local food, but they do have a decent kitchen with microwaves and two large fridges.

The hostel bar/café had cheap sangria, plus delish breakfasts like avo and tomato or peanut butter and banana on toast. What a treat! I’d recommend this as my best place to stay in San Sebastian for sure, and they have private rooms too if you’re not looking for dorm life. Prices start at about €26 for a dorm bed or €60 for a twin private with a shared bathroom, and you can check your travel dates here.

A Room in the City hostel courtyard San Sebastian

Best mid-range accommodation in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is one of the most expensive to visit in Spain, even more so than Barcelona and Madrid, so mid-range here means very basic double rooms without any extra facilities.

Two decent options are Pensión Old City House which starts at around €68 for a double with a shared bathroom, or Pensión T5 Donostia, where you can get a double room with a private bathroom from €87.

Best luxury accommodation in San Sebastian

If you’re heading to San Sebastian for a treat yourself trip, there’s plenty of nicer options if you can afford to splurge. Here’s three of my best finds!

This apartment is brand new and right next to Old Town, with a full kitchen, washing machine and space for four people (one double bed and one sofa bed). Shoulder season prices start from about €300 a night.

For an ultra-fancy hotel in the city, the Maria Cristina 5* hotel is the winner. This is where movie stars and Spanish royalty stay when they’re in town! A double room will set you back about €250-280 in low season, closer to €350 in shoulder season and probably €550-€650 in summer.

And finally, for a coastal getaway from your dreams, the Akelarre is a couple of kms from the city and is very, very high up on my must-stay list. There’s a three Michelin-starred restaurant, a wellbeing and spa centre and even wine tasting on-site. Double rooms start at about €300 for shoulder season, or you can get a suite with a private pool from €550. One day!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: My ultimate Paris travel guide


How much to budget for San Sebastian

If you thought that visiting this small coastal city would be cheaper than Spain’s main tourist spots, you’re going to be disappointed. San Sebastian is one of the most expensive places to visit in the whole country.

But on the plus side, outside of accommodation and food, you probably don’t have too much to worry about.

Swimming is free (obviously!) and if you’re going to surf then you’ll spend from €30 to rent a board per day, at least €20 per day for a wetsuit, and lessons will cost around €90 for a private lesson or €50 per person for a grouo of four or more.

I didn’t spend any money on transport at all because I walked everywhere, but if you think you might use a bus it’s €1.70 per ride or you can rent a bike for €5 for one hour, €10 for three or €20 for 24 hours.

Food is probably going to be your main expense, but if you were ever going to splurge on food, San Sebastian is the place to do it. You’ll be able to find a cheap breakfast (juice, coffee and a pastry or sandwich) from €5, a healthy takeaway salad for lunch from €8 and a sit-down meal from €15. If you’re going for evening pintxos you’ll be paying from €1.50 to €4 per pintxo at most places, and a nice restaurant for dinner will probably cost at least €20 for a main meal.

Drinks are from €5 for a house wine or beer, and you can find fancy cocktails from between €8 and €10.

San Sebastian things to do
The gardens in front of the Town Hall

The best things to do in San Sebastian

1. A walking tour

If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a huge proponent for walking tours to get your bearings! Plus in Europe there are so many free options where you just tip as you please afterwards.

The best free walking tour in San Sebastian is run by the legends at Go Local, a fully local team who know basically everything about the city, from places to eat and drink to the best gift shops to secret sunset views and photo spots. They also pride themselves on their sustainability practices like limiting group sizes, taking their tours to less-visited places and using locally-owned and run restaurants on their food tours.

If you want to explore slightly further afield or get some exercise in, Go Local also offers hiking tours, e-bike tours and bike rental.

Bike tours in San Sebastian

2. Hit the surf

Zurriola Beach, just northeast of the Old Town, is the beach of choice for anyone looking to get active. The surf is ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers, and this golden stretch of sand is home to a number of championships throughout the year. Check out Zurriola Surf Eskola if you’re looking for board rental or lessons.

3. Treat yourself to a spa day

La Perla Spa is a health and beauty centre that’s fit for royals… And it was even the spa of choice for Queen Maria Cristina in the early 20th century. When the queen started spending time in the city over a century ago, the city transformed from a quaint beach town to a hub for Spain’s rich and famous. These days the fanciness is still real, with glitzy hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and spas dotted along the seaside.

Despite its high class clientele, La Perla is still affordable for normal travellers looking for a bit of luxury, with hydromassage baths starting at only €20.

San Sebastian best beaches

4. Shop up a storm

Let’s be real, most European shopping streets look like the exact same mix of Zara, Bershka, Mango and probably a five-storey H&M. And yes, sometimes we’re looking for that polkadot maxi dress that every other girl on the continent seems to have.

But if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind outfits, beach threads to squeeze into your backpack, or locally-designed jewellery for a souvenir, San Sebastian delivers.

Head to the Gros district for surf shops and antique stores, visit Apartamento 14 to stock up on the funkiest local boutique goods, and see the team at Joyería Munoa in the Old Town for jewellery inspired by La Concha Bay and other San Sebastian hot spots.

5. Get dressed up for San Sebastian International Film Festival

San Sebastian’s annual Zinemaldia is one of Europe’s biggest film festivals, held every year in late-September. The city is packed to the brim with upcoming movie stars and famous directors, and although hotel prices skyrocket, it’s a buzzing time to visit. If you’re thinking of going during the festival then I’d definitely recommend booking early and staying at A Room in the City hostel to lock in a bed without breaking the bank.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 20 things to do in Zaragoza


The best things to see in San Sebastian

1. The view from Mount Igueldo

This is the classic panoramic shot of San Sebastian, but it’s well worth seeing it in person. Catch the funicular up to the viewpoint (and amusement park) for €2.30 one way or €3.75 return, or you can walk up steep stairs for about half an hour to reach the top.

Other San Sebastian views worth mentioning are Mount Ulia on the other side of the city, and Mount Urgull in between La Concha and Zurriola beaches.

Mount Igueldo viewpoint best view in San Sebastian
The gorgeous view over the city from Mount Igueldo

2. Santa Clara Island

Sitting right in the middle of Concha Bay, Santa Clara is easily accessible by swimming, kayaking or ferry. Once you’re there you can float the day away in the quiet little bays, trek to the top of the island or grab a refreshment at the island cafe.

The swim is just over 400m from Ondaretta Beach, at the bottom of Mount Igueldo, or 1.1km from the middle of La Concha beach. There are floating jetties on the way if you need to take a breather. Kayaks can be hired from multiple spots along La Concha, and the ferry costs €5.50.

3. Sunrise and sunset

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, head to the beach or mountains for either sunrise or sunset and you’re guaranteed to witness some incredible colours in the sky.

Mount Urgull is a local favourite to watch the sun set over the Bay of Biscay, or grab a gelato from Old Town and wander down to Zurriola Beach to watch the sky change colour.

For the early risers, Mount Igueldo is the perfect spot to see the sun come up, or pay a visit to La Concha to get in a dip before the rest of the city wakes up.

Girl leaning on railing in front of La Concha beach in San Sebastian
This photo was taken at 7.30am, hardly anyone else around except for two drunk people sleeping on the beach!

4. Tabakalera, the International Center for Contemporary Culture

In a huge building that was a tobacco factory for 90 years, the International Center for Contemporary Culture was opened in Tabakalera in 2015, in preparation for San Sebastian being 2016’s European City of Culture. These days it’s a cultural institution of the city, home to artists, schools, foundations, small businesses and loads more, who are all involved in keeping the Basque culture thriving through art and leisure.

The exhibitions change often and it’s hard to describe what to expect, so you should go and experience it for yourself to get an insight into Basque history, art and culture.

5. The mix of modern art and Basque history at San Telmo Museum

San Telmo Museum, known locally as STM, is a newly-renovated museum with an incredible range of exhibitions, from ancient archaeological discoveries from Basque Country to fine art to robotic showcases from Basque engineers.

Cityscape of San Sebastian

The best things to eat in San Sebastian

Before I start this part of the list, let me just say that the best things to eat in San Sebastian would be EVERYTHING. The city is bursting with world-class eateries, with more Michelin stars per square metre than any other city on the planet. My top two suggestions for foodies in San Sebastian would be 1) do a food tour at the start of your trip to learn about some of the local secrets, and 2) do a full day food crawl through Gros or the Old Town to try lots of small bites at loads of different pintxos bars.

BUT if I have to choose some San Sebastian must-eats (and one drink), these would be them.

1. Pintxo-pote Thursdays for cheap pintxos

Okay, this is a cop out because it’s not an actual meal itself, so sue me. Pintxo-pote is a weekly event, where every Thursday a bunch of pinxto bars have a pintxo and a pote (a drink, like a house wine, beer or soft drink) for CHEAP. And by cheap I mean €1 or €1.50 in Amara Viejo district or €2 in the vibrant Gros district.

Head to either of the suburbs armed with stretchy trousers and loads of small change, and you’re guaranteed to have the best night of your foodie life.

Best pintxos in San Sebastian
Some bite-size goodies from Pintxo-pote

2. A Michelin-starred meal

There’s no better place on the planet to try your first Michelin-starred meal than San Sebastian, with over 18 Michelin stars in the 25km radius from the city.

Arzak is a three-star favourite, famous for stunning food presentation and mind-blowing gourmet flavours. Adventurous eaters will love two-star Mugaritz, where you can choose a 24-course degustation menu or alternatively trust the chefs to custom-make dishes to your preference and palate. Then to get a taste of traditional Basque cuisine with a world-class twist, Alameda is a one Michelin star with reasonable prices, perfect for someone wanting a fancy experience without splurging the week’s food money.

3. Cheesecake at La Viña

This creamy goodness is the best dessert in the city, hands down. La Viña gets busy in the evenings but it’s worth the wait, this traditional Basque dish is probably the best cheesecake you’ll ever have in your life.

4. Coffee and brunch at Sakona

Unlike seemingly every human in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the US, Spaniards just aren’t fussed about brunch. In a city that’s famous for award-winning gastronomy, the pre-midday offerings are pretty scarce. That is, except for Sakona.

Sakona is one of the only spots in San Sebastian to get a classic eggs, bacon, avo, salmon etc. breakfast, as well as a really legit coffee. It’s the perfect place for a brew and an eggs benny after a morning stroll along the river.

5. Get amongst good vibes at Dabadaba

One of the most raved-about nightlife spots in the city, Dabadaba is the place to see upcoming artists, groups and DJs. Their events range massively from punk rock to EDM to indie bands, and they’re known for their top notch craft beer selection.

San Sebastian boardwalk along the beach

Looking for somewhere to stay in San Sebastian? Check out all the hotels and apartments right here, and don’t forget to sort by ‘review score and price’ to see the best value options first.

Are you a fellow foodie that’s dreamed of going to San Sebastian? If you’ve already visited and have some more tips to share, let me know in the comments below!

Like this blog? Pin it!

Read more about my 52 in 52 adventure here, see all of my blog posts from the trip here, or check out my Instagram @findingalexx to see all of my travel photos.


All the basic details from my big trip:

How do you find your flights? Skyscanner! I use the Everywhere tool to find the cheapest place to fly to each Tuesday
Do you fly every week? Not every week no, once I have the destination I check trains and buses to see if there’s any other transport options aside from flying. If so, I usually book these using the Trainline app.
How do you book your accommodation? I book all my hotels, hostels and apartments on either booking.com or Hostelworld.
Do you have travel insurance? YES, I always travel with travel insurance and you should too. I’m insured for an annual policy with Worldcare NZ.
Do you offset your carbon credits? I sure do! I always offset when I book if the airline gives me the option (Ryanair does), and I also offset all my flights using Co2nsensus.com.
What luggage do you travel with? I travel with a 75cm Samsonite Cosmolite suitcase, a matching Samsonite Cosmolite 55cm cabin luggage hardcase, and a cheap laptop backpack.
What camera do you use? You can see the full list of what’s in my camera bag right here.
What laptop do you use? I have a super powerful ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo and I LOVE it. It’s got an extra half-screen for maximum productivity and more than enough space and memory for intense video editing. Win win!
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.


Huge thanks to San Sebastian Tourism for providing a free bike tour with Go Local on this trip. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

Updated on June 12th, 2020

Please note this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from any purchase, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise anything I wouldn’t use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers. Thank you for supporting me!

In these days of Instagram, where each adventure abroad is prepped for with hours of online research (guilty!), it’s a special thing to be actually surprised by a destination. Zaragoza, Spain’s fifth-largest city and capital of Aragon, was one of those rare places, and it’s the perfect cheap Europe getaway. Here’s a Zaragoza travel guide with all you need to know about the city, as well as 20 things to do in Zaragoza, from visiting exquisite cathedrals and historical palaces through to eating your way around the city.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: All the FAQs about my 52 in 52 adventure

Or skip straight to:

Girl standing on Stone Bridge over Ebro River in Zaragoza
The view of the Basilica del Pilar from the Stone Bridges

Zaragoza basics

Currency: Euro (€)
How to pay for things: Hotels, chain retail stores and sit down restaurants mostly accept credit card, smaller local shops and tapas bars may be cash only, but there are ATMs in all the tourist areas of the city
Language: Spanish
Weather: June to August is hot, sunny and dry, with some days reaching the early 30s Celcius. In winter expect highs of around 10° and lows of 3°. April and May are known for being the rainiest months in Zaragoza.
Best time to go: The city gets quiet in summer because the residents take their own summer holidays, which means less people but also shops and restaurants may be closed. The months just after summer (September to October) are a great time to visit, when the humidity and temperature drops a bit. The city holds a Catholic festival in October, Las Fiestas del Pilar, for seven days around October 12 to celebrate the Virgin of the Pilar, which would be an amazing time to experience the best of Zaragoza.


How to get to Zaragoza

My 52 in 52 adventure is taking me to a new country every single week based on the cheapest flight, and one of the best things about this style of travel is that I’m at the mercy of where Skyscanner tells me to go every Tuesday, no matter how random the destination is. From my first week in Paris, the cheapest flight out was £18 to Zaragoza flying Ryanair (plus £20.63 for adding on a checked bag, priority boarding with two cabin bags, and carbon offset).

Zaragoza is on the flight map for some of the major low cost airlines, including Ryanair and Volotea, so you can get there for cheap from London, Milan, Brussels, Paris and loads more. Right now there’s flights from London from only £13 one way and £30 return!


TRAVEL TIP:

I find all my flights using Skyscanner! You’ll get the best deal if you’re flexible on where to go. Just put in your origin, your departure date (or month) and type ‘everywhere’ into the destination bar to see the cheapest locations to fly to on your next holiday.


It’s also easily accessible by train from any of Spain’s major cities (1.5 hours from Barcelona or Madrid, 3-3.5 hours from San Sebastian) or by car if you’re road tripping around this beaut country.

View of Zaragoza city from Basilica del Pilar tower

How to get into the city from Zaragoza Airport

You can get a taxi from Zaragoza Airport into the city for about €25 for a 20 minute ride, or catch a 30 minute-ish public bus for €1.70 each way.


How to get around Zaragoza

Zaragoza is super easy to get around by foot, bike, e-scooter or public transport. If you’re staying near the Old Town then it’s easy to walk to the museums, cathedrals, up to the palace and through the foodie streets, but if you want to venture further out you can jump on a bus or a tram, rent a bike or rent a Lime scooter (but be sure to ride on the streets or bike lanes, scooters on footpaths are not allowed).

For getting out to the gorgeous gardens of Parque Jose Antonio Labordeta or the activities and art installations around Parque del Agua, there’s a hop-on hop-off tourist bus for only €8 for a day pass.

Aljafiera Palace best things to do inin Zaragoza
One of the gardens at Aljafería Palace

Where to stay in Zaragoza

Please note that the prices here are based on example dates mid-week in shoulder season, check booking.com for prices and availability for the best Zaragoza hotels on your travel dates.

Luxury

I was hosted by the beautiful people at Zaragoza Tourism, and they put me up in a stunning room at super stylish Hotel Alfonso, located just between the Old Town and the central business district. It’s a 4* with a rooftop pool and buffet breakfast, and prices start at only €80 a night for a double room, about half the price of similar hotels in other Spanish cities! If you’re looking for a cheap luxe getaway, this is your answer.

Hotel Alfonso Zaragoza places to stay
A BATHTUB in my hotel room, what a dream

Mid-range

There are countless apartments available in Zaragoza, which means full kitchens so you can save money by cooking. Some of my favourite finds are El Balcón de Espoz y Mina I, Apartamentos Sabinas Don Jaime and Fantastica Buhardilla Plaza Pilar, with prices starting from €60-€90 for two to four people.

Budget

Zaragoza only has one hostel that I could find, Albergue Hostel, but there are quite a few cheap pensións (budget basic hotel rooms with shared bathrooms) to choose from. Check out Pensión Corona or Pensión Fuenterrabía, both have double rooms starting at €25-28.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: My ultimate Paris travel guide


How much to budget for Zaragoza

Zaragoza is significantly cheaper than the busier cities in Spain, and it got me into a false sense of financial security before I got to super pricey San Sebastian!

As mentioned you can get a double room from about €25 (or cheaper if you’re okay to stay somewhere ultra-basic), an apartment from €60, or a fancy hotel from €80.

If you explore mainly by foot, bike, scooter or public transport you probably won’t spend any more than €4-€6 a day, and most of the activities or things to see are less than €10.

In terms of food, your budget will totally depend on what type of meals you’ll be having. If you buy fresh fruit and veges from the market and stock up on supermarket staples to cook in an apartment, you’ll be able to easily eat for less than €15 per day, and if you want to eat out then expect to spend anywhere from €5 for a couple of tapas to €15-€20 for a nice sit-down meal.

Zaragoza cathedral roof
The incredible tiled ceiling of the cathedral

20 things to do, see and eat in Zaragoza

This gorgeous underrated city really blew me away with the amount of things to do, see and eat, so here’s a quick hit list of all my favourite Zaragoza activities and experiences.

1. Jump on a free walking tour

The best way to see any city, especially one with historical, cultural and art significant, is a free walking tour with a local, where you tip what you want at the end. They’ll take you to the key spots, give you some insider tips for the best times to visit certain places, help you decide on where to eat, and give you a basic understanding of the city’s history.

Bonus tip: Do one when you first arrive and ask your guide about any basic phrases you should know in the local language, so you’re never caught without being able to say thank you.

Zaragoza walking tour
The walking tour I did was the best way to get a basic understanding of the city

2. Visit the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

This gigantic cathedral is the most famous building in the city, and it’s exquisite both inside and out. You’ll find the Cathedral in the middle of Plaza del Pilar, backing onto the Ebro River. It was the second cathedral in Zaragoza (La Seo is the other one), and the current building was mostly built between 1681 and 1872. The cathedral has huge significance to the Catholic church, and it’s said to be the site of the first ever church dedicated to Mary, way back in 40AD.

I’m not usually one to listen intently to religious stories, but the history behind this cathedral was honestly mind-blowing. It involves the only recorded apparition of Mary, a regrown amputated leg miracle, an un-detonated bomb, and a half-finished interior. SO interesting.

3. Go up the Basilica del Pilar tower

For only €3 you can get the lift up 60 metres high in one of the towers, and then walk up stairs to 80 metres. You’ll get an amazing view of the Plaza del Pilar, across the Ebro River, and of the stunning blue, green and yellow tiles on the cathedral’s roof.

Zaragoza Basilica del Pilar tower view

4. Wander around the Plaza del Pilar

The main square in Zaragoza’s Old Town is bordered by cathedrals, museums and art installations on all sides. It’s one of the largest squares in Europe, and probably one of the quietest too! Don’t miss the waterfall at one end, dedicated to Latin America, and the Goya Statue at the other.

5. Visit La Seo Cathedral

The first cathedral in Zaragoza is just a couple hundred metres from Basilica del Pilar, it’s much smaller but still boasts beautiful architecture and artwork. It’s also home to a tapestry museum which is worth a visit!

La Seo cathedral Zaragoza
La Seo Cathedral on a rainy day

6. See an exhibit at La Lonja

Once a merchant market back in the 16th century, La Lonja is now an exhibition hall home to a variety of art and photography galleries throughout the year. When I visited there was an amazing (and free!) photography exhibit showcasing photojournalists from the Aragon region and the neighbouring Catalonia, Navarre and Basque Country.

7. Explore Aljafería Palace

This 11th century palace has a crazy cross-religious history, originally being an Islamic medieval palace, then home to Christian kings, then Catholic monarchs, then a military base and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as housing the Aragon parliament.

Entry is €5 and I’d really recommend jumping on a guided tour to get a full history lesson.

Aljafiera Palace arches Zaragoza things to do
Aljafiera Palace

8. Check out Museo Goya

Much to my mother’s dismay, I’m not a huge fan of art museums, or even really art or museums in general. It’s not my fault, I guess I just prefer doing things or eating things or photographing things rather than reading about things. Sorry Mum! So in full transparency, the Muso Goya is absolutely a Zaragoza must-do, but I didn’t actually do it myself.

Museo Goya is probably Zaragoza’s most famous museum, home to a massive collection of Aragon-born Francisco de Goya’s works of art, along with loads of other paintings from the 15th to 20th century. It’s €4 to enter and again, totally worth getting the audio-guide.

9. Pedal around the city

Zaragoza is a fantastic city for cycling, with great bike lanes for safe riding. There are some bike rentals available via app, or pop into one La Cicleria, Bizi or Ciclos Richi to rent a bike for a longer period of time.

10. Hop on and hop off around the main sights

A hop-on hop-off bus tour is a fantastic way to see any city, especially one like Zaragoza which has a couple of key areas for things to do and see. The bus is only €8 for a day and it means you can tick off the Parque Jose Antonio Labordeta, the Old Town, and the Expo area easily without splurging on taxis or having to walk miles and miles.

Zaragoza fountain in the main square
Plaza del Pilar Latin America statue and waterfall

11. Parque Jose Antonio Labordeta

And on that note, let’s talk about the park! This is the green lung of the city, a huge space filled with fountains, trees and perfectly manicured gardens. It’s also home to the highest point in the city, so it’s a beautiful place to watch the colours of the sky change as the sun goes down.

12. See the cathedral from the Stone Bridge

Cross the Stone Bridge for a fantastic view of the Basilica of Our Lady the Pillar, and a great photo spot too.

Zaragoza travel guide Stone Bridge
The Basilica from the Stone Bridge

13. Explore the Expo area

Northwest of the Old Town, if you cross the river, you’ll reach the Expo Zone, opened in 2008 when it was home to a three month exhibition for sustainable development. It’s packed with ultra-modern buildings, bridges and art installations, as well as an aquarium. It’s a crazy contrast with the rest of the city so absolutely worth a visit.

14. Chow down on croquettes at Taberna Dona Casta

And the moment all you foodies have been waiting for, a definitive list of my favourite eats in Zaragoza!

Let’s kick off with the best croquettes in town, Taberna Dona Casta. With loads of croquettes to choose from, I’d recommend picking three or four to try, leaving a bit of room to get another one of your winning flavour combo. I can vouch for the mushroom and goats cheese, the ham, gorgonzola and nuts, and the apple and blue cheese. YUM.

And the moment all you foodies have been waiting for, a definitive list of my favourite eats in Zaragoza!

Let’s kick off with the best croquettes in town, Taberna Dona Casta. With loads of croquettes to choose from, I’d recommend picking three or four to try, leaving a bit of room to get another one of your winning flavour combo. I can vouch for the mushroom and goats cheese, the ham, gorgonzola and nuts, and the apple and blue cheese. YUM.

Best croquettes in Zaragoza Taberna dona casta
Insanely delicious croquette flavours at Taberna Dona Casta

15. Try the patatas sherry at La Ternasca

I’m a foodie through and through, and I’m constantly searching for the best things to eat in each place I visit. So with that in mind, I don’t say this lightly… The patatas sherry at La Ternasca was one of my favourite meals I’ve ever had in my life.

The dish is made up of freshly cooked thinly-sliced potatoes covered in scrambled eggs, pulled lamb and truffle oil, and, along with other lamb dishes, it’s one of La Ternasca’s specialties. It’s just basic ingredients but the flavours are deliciously intense, and the lamb is super tender. SO GOOD, please do yourself a favour and try it!

Patatas sherry La Ternasca best food in Zaragoza
I’ll admit the photo doesn’t do it justice, but you just have to try the patatas sherry at La Ternasca

16. Treat yourself at Casa Lac

Spain’s oldest restaurant, opened in 1825, is the ideal spot if you’re looking to get fancy for an afternoon or evening. Casa Lac is famous for making vegetables the hero of all their dishes, and they’ve got set menus, a la carte, and tapas available.

If you can’t stretch the budget for a full meal, pop in for dessert and order the traditional bread pudding. Divine.

Best dessert Zaragoza travel tips
Delicious traditional dessert

17. Do a chocolate crawl

Zaragoza’s chocolate scene is on fire, with choccy shops down basically every street. For €9 you can pick up a chocopass from any of the tourism offices in the city, and that gives you chocolate treats from five chocolate establishments of your choice out of a list of 21. It’s a fun way to see the city, not to mention gives you a much-needed afternoon sugar boost in the middle of a day of exploring!

18. Get an ice cold refreshment from Heladeria Tortosa

Heladeria Tortosa is the best gelateria in the city for sure, with a line out the door at peak ice cream times. They’ve got loads of flavours to choose from but they’re particularly famous for their meringue milk gelato.

Best gelato in Zaragoza

19. Eat your way down El Tubo

El Tubo is one of the main alleys in Old Town, and it’s completely packed with tapas bars and nightlife hot spots. Head there after a siesta and get ready to eat your weight’s worth of tapas for the next few hours.

If you’re travelling with a friend or a group, why not do a food crawl? It’s my favourite way to get amongst the gastronomic scene of a new place! Share a small meal or tapas at one place, then move onto the next and do the same, and repeat as many times as you can until you roll back to your hotel room.

El Tubo is one of the main alleys in Old Town, and it’s completely packed with tapas bars and nightlife hot spots. Head there after a siesta and get ready to eat your weight’s worth of tapas for the next few hours.

If you’re travelling with a friend or a group, why not do a food crawl? It’s my favourite way to get amongst the gastronomic scene of a new place! Share a small meal or tapas at one place, then move onto the next and do the same, and repeat as many times as you can until you roll back to your hotel room.

20. €2 tapas and a drink for Juepinchos at La Magdalena

Budget travellers, this one’s for you! If you’re in Zaragoza on a Thursday, you can’t miss Juepinchos at La Magdalena, a suburb slightly to the east of the Old Town. On Thursday evenings the bars in La Magdalena offer a drink (normally a house wine or beer) with a tapa for just €2!

It gets busy, obviously, and the tapas sit on the bar without English translations or a menu, but it’s an incredible way to experience local delicacies without breaking the bank.

Zaragoza travel guide
Stone Bridge and the Basilica

Zaragoza, you were a foodie’s dream! There’s so much to do in this little city and it’s still off the beaten track, which means lower prices and less tourists. Get in for a sweet weekend getaway before everyone else cottons on!

Looking for somewhere to stay in Zaragoza? Check out all the hotels and apartments right here, and don’t forget to sort by ‘review score and price’ to see the best value options first.

Have you heard of Zaragoza before, or is it on your bucket list? Tell me in the comments below.

Like this blog? Pin it!

Read more about my 52 in 52 adventure here, see all of my blog posts from the trip here, or check out my Instagram @findingalexx to see all of my travel photos.

Huge thanks to Zaragoza Tourism for hosting me on this trip to Zaragoza! As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

Updated on June 15th, 2020

Please note this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from any purchase, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise anything I wouldn’t use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers. Thank you for supporting me!

Ahhh Paris, one of my favourite cities in the entire world, and the perfect place to kick off my 52 in 52 adventure. I’ve visited four times so far and have seen the city in a completely different way each time, so I’ve got lots of Paris travel tips and tricks to share in my ultimate guide to Paris!

Read on for the low down on where to stay in Paris, the best places to eat, the most Instagrammable spots and experiences you just can’t miss.

Skip straight to what you’re looking for:

Girl walking in front of Malabar Cafe in Paris
A classic Parisian corner café

Paris basics

Currency: Euro (€)
How to pay for things: Anything touristy (restaurants, hotels and hostels etc.) will accept credit cards. Outside of tourist areas or at small shops and cafes you will likely need cash, but there’s ATMs all around the city.
Language: French, obviously
Weather: It can get really hot and stuffy in July and August, as well as incredibly busy. The colder months are November to February, and you’ll likely get some snow around that time.
Best time to go: I always like visiting the big European cities in shoulder season, when it’s not school holidays and not too hot but not wet and cold either. Paris is particularly beautiful in spring and autumn, where flowers and trees change colour. Consider travelling between March and June, or September and November, if you’re looking for mild weather and affordable prices. Of course summer in Paris brings loads of free events, plus Bastille Day celebrations, and winter brings gorgeous snowy photos and Christmas markets, so it just depends on what you’re looking for!

Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg sunset

Things to know before you go to Paris

  • The city is broken up into arrondissements numbered 1-16, that represent areas. Then there’s suburbs which are smaller than arrondissements.
  • Parisians are notriously intolerant to people who speak English right off the bat (and I don’t blame them!), so it’s always good to have a few local phrases up your sleeve. Bonjour means hello, bonsoir means good evening, s’il vous plait means please and merci means thank you. If I need to ask a question or have a conversation in English, I always start with ‘Parlez-vous anglais?’ which means ‘Do you speak English?’ and this seems to always be appreciated! I’m not going to type out pronunciation on here because with my Kiwi accent it’d probably be wrong for most of you reading anyway haha.
  • There are a lot of pickpockets in Paris so always wear a cross-body bag and leave valuables (like passports) locked at your accommodation instead of on you.
  • As of July 2019 there are currently a lot of political activity going on in Paris, so avoid any areas with organised protests.
  • If you’re a freelancer or a ~digital nomad~, there are five stunning WeWork offices (with loads more being opened soon) where you can rent hot desks. I visited four of them and I’m obsessed! Find out more info about WeWork here.
  • If you are looking for a café where you can use your laptop, there are loads of co-working cafés that offer a table for an hourly rate.
Eiffel Tower with girl walking in front
The Eiffel Tower from Pont de Bir-Hakeim

How to get cheap flights to Paris

I started planning my 52 countries in 52 weeks adventure by looking at the cheapest flight available from Dubrovnik, after my epic week island hopping through Croatia.

Using Skyscanner’s Everywhere search tool, it showed me that the cheapest place to fly was Paris Orly airport, for only £26 (plus seat selection and 20kg luggage, so total of £55) flying with Transavia, a French budget airline. BARGAIN!

Paris is a transport hub with loads of low cost carriers flying in and out, so if you’re flexible with your travel dates then you should be able to find a good deal. Note that low cost carriers often use secondary airports rather than the main one, so there might be additional costs or time involved with airport transport.


TRAVEL TIP:

I find all my flights using Skyscanner! You’ll get the best deal if you’re flexible on where to go. Just put in your origin, your departure date (or month) and type ‘everywhere’ into the destination bar to see the cheapest locations to fly to on your next holiday.


If you’re coming from London, you can find good deals on the Eurostar (as low as £59 return!) if you book early. Consider leaving work early on a Friday if you want to avoid the weekend rush.


How to get from Orly Airport to Paris

My flight arrived at Orly airport, which is 25km south of Paris and is actually closer than the main airport, Charles de Gaulle, which is 40km northeast. To get from Paris Orly to Paris there’s a bus for €12, which comes every 15 to 20 minutes.

Because I was staying in Montparnasse, in the southern part of Paris, flying into Orly was actually perfect and meant I didn’t have to deal with any crazy train stations or mid-city bus traffic. The bus took 30 minutes for me to get from Orly Airport to Montparnasse, and then it was a 10 minute walk to my hostel.

Paris travel tips flight photo
The view from my flight, probably over the Alps in Switzerland or Italy

Where to stay in Paris

Because travelling to a new country each week isn’t busy enough for me, I decided to test out three different places to stay in Paris during this week… Why do I do this to myself?!

Sometimes due to budget, availability or content partnerships (where I do some photos for a hotel or hostel), I have to move to new accommodation in the same destination.

The upside of dragging my suitcase through crowded train stations and on local buses a few times a week is that I get to experience multiple different neighbourhoods in one city, which means more Paris travel tips to share with you guys. Glass half-full and all that!

The three places I stayed during my week in Paris were Enjoy Hostel in Petit-Montrouge, LAZ’ Hotel & Spa in the 9th arrondissement, and St Christopher’s Hostel near Gare du Nord.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: My full LAZ’ Hotel review

My first hostel in Paris was Enjoy Hostel, which cost me £128 for four nights in an 8-bed dorm with a private bathroom (which was actually two adjoining 4-bed dorms, each with a private bathroom).

This hostel was smack-bang in the middle of the 14th arrondissement, in a suburb called Petit-Montrouge, just a short walk from Gare Montparnasse train station.

Enjoy Hostel was fine for what I paid based on normal Paris prices. The location is in a more residential area but there were easy transport options (a bus stop right outside meant I could get to any of the main tourist spots in less than half an hour, and a couple of Metro stations were within 8 minutes’ walk).

The dorm rooms were small but bearable, and the beds were comfy which is always a plus. There was no lift and I was on the 3rd floor (with a 25kg suitcase, ughhh) but that’s often the case in European hostels. This place was nothing special but was adequate for a cheap stay in Paris if that’s what you’re looking for.

Check your travel dates and book your stay at Enjoy Hostel right here.

A quick rundown on my stay at Enjoy Hostel
Price: £32 per night in JulyBunks or beds: BunksDorm size: 8 bed
Check in: 2pmCheck out: 12pmPlugs in room: Yes, by each bed
Private bathroom: YesBed curtains: NoLinen provided: Yes
Towel provided: No, €2Lift: No, and 4 floorsKitchen: Yes, full kitchen
Breakfast: Yes, bread with spreadsCleanliness: Clean enoughLocation: 14th Arr.
Staff: Super friendlyVibe: Quiet, chilled outLuggage storage: Yes
Air con: YesOrganised events: NoWiFi: Yes, worked perfectly
Lockers: YesLaundry facilities: NoPublic transport: Bus stop outside

On my fifth night of my year-long trip I probably reached the peak… When I got to stay at the stunning LAZ’ Hotel & Spa Urbain for one night!

Luxury Paris hotel
The stunning penthouse at LAZ’ Hotel

I’ve got a full review right here if you’re interested, but let’s just say it involves a penthouse upgrade, a bath tub with a view of the Sacre Coeur, watching the Bastille Day military flyover from my terrace, and a treat yo’self moment with a room service cheeseboard. Dreamy.

Located in the swanky 9th arrondissement, this place is incredible, and because it’s reasonably new the prices are nowhere near what you’d expect! The legends at LAZ’ hosted me for one night but rooms are on average around €150 per night, which is cheap for any decent double room in Paris, let alone a fancy 4-star with a pool. I’d absolutely recommend checking out LAZ’ Hotel if it’s within your budget.

A quick rundown on my stay at LAZ’ Hotel
Price: From €130-€170 per nightLift: YesBreakfast: Not always included
Check in: 3pmCheck out: 12pmLuggage storage: Yes
Location: Ideal, 9th arr.Staff: Super friendlyVibe: Ultra-stylish
Air con: YesFridge: YesWiFi: Yes
Pool: YesFitness room: YesLaundry facilities: No

My final night in Paris was at St Christopher’s Gare du Nord, just a short walk from one of Paris’s major train stations, unsurprisingly called Gare du Nord.

St Christopher’s is a huge chain with hostels all through Europe, and this is one of two in Paris (the other is near St Martin’s Canal, about 15 minutes’ walk from this one). I paid £23 for a bed for one night in a female 8-bed dorm with a shared bathroom.

The hostel was fine but is very obviously a chain, with loads of people coming and going, huge tour groups checking in when I got there, and a bar/restaurant connected to it (with a 10% discount on food and drinks for hostel guests).

I generally prefer staying at smaller hostels with a more chilled vibe but this place would be perfect if you’re looking to party with other travellers.

Because of the restaurant there’s no full kitchen, only a fridge and a microwave, so not ideal if you’re hoping to save money on making your own meals. They also don’t have free luggage storage after check out, it’s about €5 to store a large suitcase. These are the types of things that can add up quickly when you travel so always good to check for these facilities when you book.

St Christopher’s is a classic choice for first-time travellers because it’s the contracted hostel for some tour companies (like Contiki and Topdeck) as well as travel agencies, so the average age is a bit younger than other places I’ve stayed. 

A quick rundown on my stay at St Christopher’s Gare du Nord
Price: I paid £23 for one night in JulyBunks or beds: BunksDorm size: 8 bed female-only
Check in: 2pmCheck out: 11amPlugs in room: Yes, for each bunk
Private bathroom: NoBed curtains: YesLinen provided: Yes
Towel provided: TBCLift: YesKitchen: Fridge and microwave only
Breakfast: €5Cleanliness: Very cleanLocation: Next to Gare du Nord
Staff: Other travellers, very helpfulVibe: Social, quite youngLuggage storage: €5 for a large locker
Air con: NoOrganised events: Pub crawlsWiFi: Yes
Lockers: YesLaundry facilities: NoPublic transport: Train station right outside

Looking for a hotel in Paris? Check out all the best Paris hotels on booking.com, and make sure to sort the results by ‘review score and price’ to see where you’ll get the best bang for your buck.

If you’re keen to find a cheap hostel in Paris instead, search your travel dates on Hostelworld.


How to get around Paris

There are plenty of ways to explore Paris depending on where you’re going and how much time you have.

Paris is a beautiful city to discover by foot, because there’s super cute cafes, fancy restaurants, gorgeous views and boutique shops around every corner. I’ll be writing an Ultimate Paris Walking Tour guide soon with an accompanying map, and I’ll link it here!

If you need to get somewhere in a hurry or just want to get home, there’s the RER, the Metro, and the bus system. The RER is the train that services some key Paris stations as well as regional France; the Metro is the underground system all throughout the city, and buses are self-explanatory!

I usually prefer buses or trams to any underground system just because I like looking where we’re driving in case I spot somewhere I’d like to go back to, but obviously the Metro is faster in most cases.

You can choose from a travel pass with unlimited public transport use (one day passes start at €7.50), buying single tickets (€1.90 per ticket, or €2 if you pay on the bus) or buying a pack of 10 tickets for €14.90. Note that you can use one ticket to move between the Metro and RER on one journey, but can’t transfer them to a bus.

Paris also has Uber, as well as e-bikes (Jump is the main one, download the app here) and e-scooters available for hire (you’ll see Lime, Dott and Bird scooters all over the city).

Please note that e-scooters in Paris can only be used on the road and bike lanes, and if you get caught on the footpath you will get fined up to €135! Helmets are not compulsory but please be careful when riding on the road.

How to get around Paris
The Métropolitain is Paris’ underground system

How much to budget for Paris

Paris is a magnificent city, but it’s definitely not cheap.

Dorm rooms at hostels are usually between €25 and €45, a 3-star hotel will set you back between €75 and €110 per night and a 4-star from about €140-€150 per night, and splurging on a 5-star will likely cost at least €200 per night all the way up to over €1000.

Supermarkets are reasonably priced so cooking your own food or having picnic meals will help you to stay within a budget, and you’ll find classic Parisian breakfasts (a juice, a coffee and a pastry) for between €6 and €10 depending on the area you’re in, but adding anything hot will cost you extra.

For lunches and dinners, certain parts of the city have streets of restaurants that offer menu deals. The Latin Quarter is one of the best spots for cheap eats, where you can score a three-course meal for as low as €15!

You can’t skip dessert in a country like France so expect to pay between €4 and €6 for a banana and Nutella crepe.

While the prices are high, Parisian food on a whole is fantastic, so at least it’s worth the money.

Paris food budgeting tips
The perfect Parisian picnic

Do you need a visa for France?

I’m on a Kiwi passport and we don’t need a visa for France if our stay in the Schengen Zone is less than 90 days in a 180 day period. If you’re on a different passport, check your visa requirements with the French embassy, or see visa guides for Canadian, Australian, US and other citizens here.


Paris travel tips for foodies

This is an impossible question to answer succinctly, so I’m just going to hit you with some bullet points about the best food to eat in Paris.

  • You’ll find authentic Parisian breakfasts at almost every corner cafe, but I can recommend Le Square Trousseau in the Quinze-Vingts area, and Carette near Trocadero has the best croissants in Paris hands down
  • For a less-authentic but still delicious breakfast (and fantastic coffee!), check out Holybelly 19. It’s an Aussie-inspired cafe with small sharing plates and is one of my favourite places in the city. I can vouch for the mini doughnuts with dulce de leche, the Brillat-Savarin cheese with elderflower jelly, and the soft-boiled egg with dark toast. They’ve also got a sister cafe, Holybelly 5, down the same road that offers classic breakfast meals like eggs, pancakes, and even Vegemite on toast for homesick Aussies!
  • You’ll find macarons all around the city but my favourites are from Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.
  • For a cheap lunchtime deal, check out L’As du Fallafel in the Marais neighbourhood for the best falafel sandwich of your life for only €8
  • Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free or anything-free, there’s bound to be something in Paris for you
  • For a good value, hearty dinner, Sacrée Fleur in Montmartre is one of the best steak restaurants in the city
  • Angelina is a world-famous cafe that offers one of the most decadent hot chocolates I’ve ever had
  • Or if you want to try some local delicacies without smashing the credit card, Chartier is a 100+ year old French restaurant serving up classic French fare for cheap, with mains priced between €8.50 and €13.50
  • One of my top Paris travel tips is to have a DIY picnic somewhere with a view! Pop into a fromagerie (cheese shop) and get a couple of options, grab a fresh baguette or two, and take a bottle of wine to a spot in the Champs de Mars or Jardin du Luxembourg.

Top tip: To avoid using plastic glasses for your picnic wine, consider getting a Dopper bottle, a drink bottle that has a cap than can double as a wine glass!

Best breakfast in Paris
Some delicious breakfast plates at Holybelly 19

How to explore Paris on a budget

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, DIY picnic! It’s an authentic way to eat, you can enjoy Eiffel Tower sunset views or gorgeous squares at lunch time, and you’ll pay far less than eating out
  • Loads of restaurants have fixed menus where you can get two or three courses for cheap. The best areas for this are the Latin Quarter, Republique and the Marais if you look hard enough
  • If you’re staying at a hostel or an apartment with a kitchen, stock up on fresh food from a Carrefour or a weekend market and cook at home
  • Walk everywhere! It’s a reasonably small city so no need to spend money on taxis unless you’re heading somewhere with your suitcases, and public transport is cheap if you need to travel a decent distance
  • If you want to treat yourself to a bit of luxury without hurting your credit card, go somewhere fancy for a hot chocolate or dessert. You’ll get a five star experience without having to eat microwave pasta for the rest of your trip.
  • Take it easy on the drinking. Alcoholic bevvies in Paris are expeeeensive! You might be able to score a €6 house wine in areas like the Latin Quarter and Montmartre, but a spirit and mixer will set you back a minimum of €8, likely more.
  • If you do want to drink then consider getting a bottle from the supermarket and heading to Champs de Mars or the banks of the Seine, or try the neighbourhoods of Oberkampf or Belleville for budget-friendly nightlife.
  • If you’re travelling to Paris in summer, there are loads of free events put on around the city. From open air cinemas and free music festivals to Pride and the insane Bastille Day fireworks, there’s plenty to do without having to spend money.
  • On the first Sunday of every month, some of the most famous museums in Paris are free! That includes the Louvre, Musée Picasso and Musée Rodin.
Best fireworks in paris
The best fireworks display I have EVER seen hands down, Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower

The best things to do in Paris

For a full list of epic things to do in Paris I’ll publish a new blog post soon, but here are some of my favourites.

  • See the Eiffel Tower, obviously! My favourite view is from Trocadero.
  • Wander around the Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Take a spin on the Roue de Paris if you’re there during summer
  • Grab a coffee and a pastry and people-watch from a sidewalk table
  • Stroll down the banks of the Seine
  • Get a caricature done in Montmartre
  • See a cabaret show
  • Visit one of the many museums
  • Have a picnic at the Champs de Mars
  • Go shopping at classy boutiques in the Marais neighbourhood
Cheap cabaret in Paris
La Nouvelle Eve is an incredible (and affordable) cabaret show

The best day trips from Paris

  • Disneyland Paris for anyone young-at-heart!
  • The Palace of Versailles
  • The castles of the Loire Valley
  • Monet’s Garden in Giverny
  • You can get a cheap train from Paris to Brussels in only 1.5 hours
  • Luxembourg is less than 2.5 hours away by train

The best Paris photo spots

  • Palais Royal
  • Pigalle basketball court
  • Pont Alexandre III
  • Pont de Bir-Hakeim
  • Malabar Cafe
  • The sinking house of Montmartre
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Place des Vosges
  • Petit Palais
Paris Instagram spots Palais Royal
The stunning black and white column display at Palais Royal

My ultimate Paris recommendations

This blog is looong, so I don’t blame you if you skipped all the way to the bottom. As promised, here’s a definitive list of my ultimate Paris travel tips, with must-sees, must-eats and must-dos.

Must-see view: The panoramic view from the Arc de Triomphe, €12 to go up

Must-eat: Broken record but a DIY bread and cheese picnic with a bottle of vino

Most beautiful interior: The department store Galeries Lafayette for sure

Best sunrise spot: Looking over to the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

Best dessert: Pierre Hermé macarons

Best suburb to visit: The Marais is definitely my favourite neighbourhood. Stylish boutiques, classy cafés, funky gift shops and good looking people everywhere!

An event you shouldn’t miss: Bastille Day on July 14. I know this sounds dramatic (classic me!) but standing under the Eiffel Tower watching the crazy Bastille Day fireworks display was honestly one of my favourite ever travel memories. It’s set to some sweet tunes, the pyrotechnics and light show are absolutely insane, and you’re surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people all in awe just like you. So special.

Best free experience: Wander through the stunning gardens all over the city. My favourites are Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Tuileries

Best way to see the city: On foot, for free! Just wander up and down random streets and I guarantee you’ll find cafés, boutiques and views that you’ll fall in love with.

Best splurge-worthy activity: See a cabaret show. We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to pay €100+ for Moulin Rouge, but we found a smaller cabaret just around the corner called La Nouvelle Eve and LOVED it. We paid €59 each and that included half a bottle of champagne each. A super fun night, very entertaining from start to end, well worth the money.

Best nearby adventure: I’m a child at heart so I’ve got to say Disneyland Paris!

Paris travel tips and guide
Just another gorgeous corner café

I could write LOADS of blogs from my week in Paris but I’d love to know what you want to hear about! More Paris travel tips? Cheap eats? Photo spots? A neighbourhood guide? Tell me in the comments below.

Like this blog? Pin it!

Read more about my 52 in 52 adventure here, see all of my blog posts from the trip here, or check out my Instagram @findingalexx to see all of my travel photos.

WeWork Champs Elysees view

Thanks to the legends at LAZ’ Hotel & Spa for hosting me for one night, and to WeWork for partnering with me throughout my 52 in 52 adventure. As always, all opinions are my own and are completely based on my personal experience.

Updated on June 11th, 2020

52 countries, 52 weeks, mostly solo, sharing all my adventures and misadventures with the whole world! Exciting? Yes. Crazy? Also yes. I started planning this insane trip back in January 2019, booked my first flights in April, and officially set off on July 9 to Paris for my first stop.

I’ve got LOADS of messages and comments from people wanting to know more about why I’m doing it, how I’m planning it, where I’m going and how I can afford it, so I wanted to put all the FAQs in one easy place. Read on to learn all about my 52 in 52 travel project!

If you want to learn more about me and my previous trips, check out my personal FAQ here.

Skip straight to what you want to know:

Mljet National Park aerial view in Croatia

What is 52 in 52?

I’m visiting a new country every week for a year (almost), with the route based entirely off the cheapest flight available each week.

I used Skyscanner’s Everywhere search tool to check for the cheapest flight each Tuesday, then chose the first country that came up, booked a flight (or a train or bus if they were better), and repeated that over and over again!

As of writing this blog, I’m three weeks in to the year-long trip. Hello from Warsaw, Poland!

Why did you decide to do this trip?

This is a long one! In June 2019 my UK working holiday visa was expiring, so in early 2019 I started thinking about my next move. I definitely wasn’t ready to settle back in NZ just yet, and after an extended period in an unhappy job situation I felt sick at the thought of sitting in an office in another country, so long-term travel was the obvious option. But that was the easy part!

With no travel buddy, not a huge amount of savings and no financial security, and on the other hand literally endless opportunities of where to go and what to do, this was going to be a crazy trip to bring to life.

My previous full-time job of encouraging other young people to get out and see the world definitely grew into a personal mission, and I knew that I wanted to do some type of trip that helped break down the barriers that get in the way of people booking their next adventure. The two biggest ones? Time and money.

I know that the vast majority of people who follow me or read this blog don’t have the freedom to take months off work, or the budget to explore Europe for weeks at a time.

There are plenty of incredible travel bloggers out there who share epic experiences of extended South America backpacking trips, or spending six months months in Asia, or road tripping across the entire globe (massive shout out to Expedition Earth!), but I wanted my trip to showcase adventures that any young traveller could replicate.

To tackle the time barrier, I decided to do a trip made up of 52 one-week adventures, showing how I make the most of seven days in each of the 52 destinations. I don’t expect anyone else to try and visit 52 countries in a year (not sure if anyone else is that crazy haha) BUT I do hope my trip inspires someone to spend a week in Spain’s Basque Country, or Turkey, or Tel Aviv, or any of the 52 places I’m visiting.

Oh, and budget? I’m just going where the cheapest flight tells me to go each week, which means no forking out because I need to be in a specific place on a specific date. Flexibility is key to getting cheap travel deals, and the route is taking me to loads of places I probably never would’ve added on to a world trip if I was planning it myself.

How cheap are your flights?

So. Cheap. I’ve booked the first 26 weeks so far, and the weekly transport (mostly flights, two trains, not including Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to Singapore because I’m on a tour) has come to a total of £1750. That’s 26 countries, all through Europe, the Middle East, Asia and down to NZ, for less than £2000! That also includes luggage, so if you were travelling hand luggage only (good luck to you haha) the price would be less than £800.

The second half of the trip will be more expensive as flying in Australasia, Asia and the Americas is pricier than Europe, but the total for the year should be between £4000 and £5000.

How do you find cheap flights?

The best way to find cheap flights is to be flexible on where and/or when you go. If you want to visit Disneyland in the school holidays then obviously you’re going to be paying the highest prices, but if you can travel mid-week or in the shoulder season, and if you can consider visiting somewhere that’s not necessarily a tourist hot spot, you’re far more likely to get a good deal.

Of course, being flexible with time isn’t always an option depending on your job or study situation. If there are specific dates you want to travel, I’d really recommend putting them in to Skyscanner’s Everywhere tool to see all the cheap flight options for your dates.

You might not visit somewhere that’s been on your bucket list forever, but you might find a hidden gem and you’ll have loads more money to spend while you’re there too. It’s a win-win.

Is this trip sponsored by Skyscanner?

I wish! I do work with some travel partners but Skyscanner is not a sponsor of this trip, yet… I really, really love Skyscanner and I find all my flights through them, so I’d obviously love for them to come on board. If you try out the Everywhere tool or use Skyscanner because I’ve mentioned it, please let me know, and I can use that as a testimonial for when I finally speak to Skyscanner’s marketing team 😉

What about your carbon footprint?

Sustainable travel is a really important topic, and something I want to talk about throughout my trip. I’m offsetting all of my carbon emissions throughout the year, either at the time of purchase (if the airline offers that) or in bulk on myclimate.org.

While this trip entails a lot of flying, the majority of my flights are short-haul, and on low cost carriers who have higher occupancy and (generally) newer and more eco-friendly fleets than legacy carriers.

For the first 26 weeks, my carbon emissions come to the exact same amount as a single return flight from Auckland to London via Dubai in economy class, or a return flight from Auckland to LAX direct in business class, so the number of flights doesn’t necessarily mean it’s far worse than one long-haul trip.

My carbon offset for the first six months comes to around £150 total. It’s not as much as you’d expect, and I’d recommend everyone to consider offsetting their flights next time you travel somewhere.

I’m also taking trains between routes where that’s a logical option (like Amsterdam and Zurich) but because a lot of the destinations aren’t capitals and major hubs or aren’t next to each other, unfortunately there aren’t as many train options as you’d expect.

In terms of sustainability outside of flying, here are some other things I’m doing to try minimise my impact:

  • Cutting down any single-use plastic
  • Travelling with a filtered drink bottle to avoid buying bottled water
  • Using Ethique shampoo, conditioner, body wash and other toiletries, a zero-waste Kiwi company
  • Walking as much as possible throughout the week, or using public transport where possible instead of taxis or Uber
  • Decreasing my meat consumption, and I have Huel at least once if not twice a day, which is vegan and sustainably-sourced
  • Trying to find accommodation with strong sustainability policies

Always keen to hear new tips on how to be more sustainable!

How much will the whole trip cost, including accommodation and everything else?

It’s impossible to know, because I don’t even have all the destinations confirmed yet. My weekly spend changes drastically depending on where I am (Warsaw is shaping up to be incredibly cheap, but my bank account was nooot happy in Paris!). I’ll be sharing exactly how much I spend in each place on my weekly wrap up blogs.

Are you just booking on the fly each week or planning in advance?

I’ve got the first six months booked so far, because I need to be able to plan ahead for visas, accommodation etc. I’ll be booking the second half of the trip in the next few weeks.

How can you afford to travel so much?

Unsurprisingly, this is what I get asked the most! To clear up any immediate assumptions, I do not have a rich boyfriend, my parents do not pay, and I’m not in some high flying job. Dammit!

I did have some savings back home that I’m using over the year (about $12,000 NZD/£6500), I had about £3000 from my final pay and savings from the last few months in London, and I will be doing a small amount of freelance work over the year (probably worth about £700 per month).

I also want to say that travel does not cost as much as you think. My flights so far have cost less than £80 on average (some as low as £30 including luggage), my hostel dorms are between £10 and £25 per night depending on the destination, and I’m mostly making my own food so not spending loads on eating out.

I’m being totally serious when I say that the majority of weeks are going to cost me significantly less than what I spent each week in London over the past two years.

The budget side is something I’m definitely winging (with confidence, I like to think haha) so I’ll continue being transparent about it throughout the year, and you can all learn from my inevitable mistakes.

What do you do for work?

I’m a freelance travel content creator, which is something that hardly existed five years ago. My job can mean loads of different things depending on the partner, but essentially I write travel blogs and articles, take photos and video, and share my experiences with different products, destinations or suppliers on social media.

My freelance activity, e.g. writing for huge companies like Hostelworld and STA Travel, is paid, but a lot of the content work I do for hotels, tour companies and so on is just in return for freebies or discounted rates. Ideally I’ll get to a stage where this type of activity actually gives me an income, but getting to that point takes time.

I don’t make any money off this blog yet but again, that will change as my audience grows.

Please note that any brand partnerships will never get in the way of me telling the truth. I will always be 100% honest and transparent in my content, so if I’m gifted something or sponsored by a company I wouldn’t use or don’t like myself, I’ll tell you.

Are you travelling solo?

Mostly, yep! I do have some friends and family coming to hang out with me at various points of the trip, but 95% of the time I’ll be by myself.

Do you get lonely travelling solo?

Ask me again in a year and I might have a different answer, but I haven’t felt lonely yet! I speak to my mum most days (probably incredibly annoying for her haha), I’m always in contact with my closest friends, I meet people in hostels and I am constantly chatting to new people through my Instagram or on travel Facebook groups.

I always thought of myself as an extrovert but after a few weeks solo I actually feel really comfortable being by myself in a random country. Because this trip isn’t all fun and games, it’s a lot of work around shooting, writing, editing and so on, it’s been amazing to be able to split my days between exploring the destination, doing some work and having down time, without needing to consider anyone else.

In saying that though, for the first six months I’ve got someone coming out to see me once a month for a quick visit, which will be amazing!

Who takes your photos?

Me, myself, and I! When I travel solo all my photos are taken with this tripod, aka my best buddy for the foreseeable future.

I use self-timer or WiFi on my camera to set it up to my phone, or if I’m shooting with my phone I’ll use the app Manual Camera where you can set an intermittent timer to take a photo every second for ten seconds. Then I just walk around and pose, and voila!

Taking photos with a tripod is tough when there’s people around so most of my shoots are super early in the morning, before anyone else is up and about.

I never really ask strangers to take a photo of me, but if I need to then I’ll keep an eye out for a family with kids taking a selfie, and offer to take one of all of them first. Then I’ll ask them to return the favour, and they probably won’t steal my phone because no one with a pram will be able to out-run me anyway!

Are you going back to countries you’ve already been to?

I’m visiting countries that I’ve visited before the start of the 52 in 52 trip, but once I’ve been to a country during the year then I can’t go back.

The only exception to this is that I’ve got two weeks in NZ for a family wedding, two weeks in Australia to be able to showcase two different states, and two weeks in the USA to showcase two different states as well.

Where did you start from?

I started the trip from Croatia, after a couple of weeks of relaxation and island hopping before kicking off a crazy year. The first flight I booked was the cheapest flight from Dubrovnik airport on Tuesday 9 July, which was to Paris for £26 one way (£55 including luggage).

What’s the itinerary?

My itinerary so far is:

July 9-16: Paris
July 16-23: Zaragoza/San Sebastian/Bilbao
July 23-30: Brussels/Bruges/Ghent
July 30-Aug 6: Warsaw
Aug 6-13: Vienna
Aug 13-20: Milan
Aug 20-24: Budapest
Aug 24-Sept 2: Jordan
Sept 2-10: Cyprus
Sept 10-17: Crete
Sept 17-24: Sofia
Sept 24-Oct 1: Hamburg/Munich for Oktoberfest
Oct 1-Oct 9: Porto
Oct 9-15: Zurich and the Swiss Alps
Oct 15-22: Amsterdam
Oct 22-29: Dublin/Killarney/Galway
Oct 29-Nov 5: Bucharest (Transylvania for Halloween!)
Nov 5-12: Israel
Nov 12-19: Turkey
Nov 19-26: Azerbaijan
Nov 26-Dec 3: Dubai/Abu Dhabi
Dec 3-10: New Delhi
Dec 10-15: Bangkok
Dec 15-28: Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore on a tour
Dec 28-30: Singapore
Dec 30-Jan 7: Bali
Jan 7-21: Home for a family wedding
Jan 21 onwards: No idea yet!

What if the cheapest flight is to somewhere unsafe?

I’m not going anywhere with an “avoid non-essential travel” rating of safetravel.govt.nz, not just because of my own personal safety concerns but also because travel insurance may not cover high risk destinations. Most high risk countries don’t have cheap flights going there anyway so this hasn’t come up yet.

Do you have travel insurance?

YES! I always travel with travel insurance, and you should too. Not only does it cover you for lost luggage, but it can cover damaged or lost belongings on your trip, sickness or accidents, cancellation if something unexpected stops you from going (like an injury or death of a loved one), flight delays and LOADS more.

I have a long-term policy with Worldcare, which covers me for every single part of my trip until I am back in NZ in January, when I’ll get a second policy to cover the second half of my trip.

Always look at the policy wording when you buy insurance, as policies can differ quite significantly. I always go for policies with gadget cover, the ability to add high value items (like my drone), decent activities cover (like hot air ballooning, skiing, PADI diving etc.), a 24/7 contact number, and rental vehicle excess.

Sometimes if you book with a credit card, your credit card insurance will automatically cover you, but just be aware that this may not include comprehensive medical or luggage cover and you may be left out of pocket if you need to make a claim.

What about visas?

I’m travelling on a Kiwi passport, which comes in at 9th equal for strongest passport in the world, so I’m really lucky to get visa-free entry to loads of countries.

There are some places that require visas on arrival and a couple of e-visas, but anywhere that would need me to send my passport away (like Russia or China) are a no-go on this trip unfortunately as I can’t be without my passport. They’re on the list for a future trip for sure!

This website is a great resource for checking visa requirements for various passports.

Won’t you get burnt out going to a new place each week?

Another one to ask me again in a year! One week doesn’t seem like that long in each place, but as a Kiwi most of my international trips have been whirlwind, because you need to squeeze as much of a continent as you can into two or three weeks of leave. Living in London wasn’t too different either, except I’d have a monthly three or four day trip to somewhere in Europe.

Some of my stops include visiting more than one city so these will be busy for sure, but a lot of the weeks I’ll spend in a single city.

Most of the journeys are short-haul so only a couple of hours in the air, and aside from travel days I’ll have six full days in each destination, which I think is actually quite a decent amount of time.

My normal lifestyle in both London and Auckland was incredibly fast-paced, with a high stress job, a bustling social life, a gym routine and doing my blog on the side, so while I’ve added in the complication of constantly moving, I don’t need to worry about a job, social life or sticking to a gym routine! Woohoo!

How will you stay fit and healthy on the road?

This one is a work in progress. To stay healthy physically and mentally, I think the most important things are diet, exercise and sleep.

For exercise, I haven’t quite locked in a routine but ideally I’d be doing a short work out of some sort each day. I’m going to try out Les Mills on Demand, the app version of NZ’s best gym and the creator of gym classes found all around the world. If you’ve been to Virgin Active or FitnessFirst in the UK, you’ve probably done a Les Mills class!

LMOD is available on your computer or an app, and you can choose from hundreds of different work out classes, from deep stretching to combat to HIIT, and everything in between. As of July 2019 a monthly subscription is £11.95 for the UK or $29.99 for NZ. I’ll let you know how I find it once I get my A into G and try it out!

In terms of sleep, I have a terrible sleeping pattern that I am desperate to change. I can’t get to sleep until between 1am and 2am! This was a huge problem when I had an office job with a start time because I was constantly sleep-deprived, but being funemployed (well, self-employed kinda) I can sleep until 9am and not get in trouble.

I’m a super night owl so my best hours of productivity are from 8pm to 1am, but that means it’s hard to switch my brain off when it’s time to sleep. A work in progress!

To make sure I fall asleep and stay asleep while in hostels, I use these cheap silicon earplugs which are comfortable and completely silencing, and this eye mask if the room is light.

What do you eat when you’re travelling?

I have some weird dietary requirements after a complicated gallbladder surgery back in my late-teens, which can make eating while travelling really difficult. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as cutting a specific food group out, as a random variety of foods seem to mess with me and give me serious abdominal pain. Think of the stitch, but about a hundred times worse. It sucks!

The best way to avoid this is for me to eat a consistent diet, which is impossible when I’m flitting between cuisines on a weekly basis! Enter Huel, my lifesaver.

Huel is a powdered nutritionally-complete meal, just add water and it’s got the entire make up of carbs, protein, iron, and all other vitamins and minerals you need in a meal. It sounds and looks like a protein shake but it’s dietitian-approved as an actual meal, and it’s mainly used by busy people who would otherwise choose unhealthy food.

I find it perfect for travel because all I need is water, it’s got all the goodness I need, and it brings some consistency to my meal plan each week. I usually have it for breakfast each day and sometimes lunch too, if I’m travelling somewhere where food is expensive.

Huel is super cheap (less than £1.40 for a 500 calorie meal), vegan, there’s a gluten-free version and loads of flavour boosts to choose from, plus it’s sustainably-sourced and zero waste! Win, win, win.

If you want to try out Huel for yourself, click here to get £10 off your order

For dinners I try and stay at hostels or apartments with kitchens, and will do a supermarket shop when I get to a new destination. Food wastage can be an issue when you’re moving every week so normally I stick to basic meals, like pesto pasta with veges, wraps, or a stir fry.

What apps do you use when you’re travelling?

This question probably deserves a full blog so I’ll add that to my to do list, but here is a quick guide of apps to get before your trip:

  • Citymapper, for making sure you know how to get from A to B on public transport in major cities all around the world
  • Google or Apple Maps for obvious reasons
  • Uber (or local equivalent, like Grab in Southeast Asia, OlaCabs in India and Takkun in Japan)
  • Hostelworld and Booking.com for booking and managing accommodation
  • Google Photos to back up all my phone photos online
  • Google MyMaps, where you can create bespoke maps and pin important places. I have one for every destination I visit where I pin my accommodation, food suggestions, photo spots, shops to visit and loads more.
  • Snapseed and Lightroom mobile for photo editing
  • Lime, Bird, Dott or whatever the local equivalent is for e-scooter rental
  • Netflix and Amazon Prime
  • Google Translate
  • Life360, a tracking app that’s perfect if you’re travelling solo and want your family to be able to see where you are
  • Klook for booking activities and experiences
  • Audible for audiobooks
  • Skyscanner for booking flights
  • Transferwise for cheap currency exchange
  • Curve for managing all your different cards and currencies, with no overseas fees!

How do you deal with foreign exchange and always using different currencies?

I have a couple of different ways to manage my money on the road.

First of all, I swear by Monzo! (UK only, sorry Kiwis and Aussies.) Monzo is an app-based bank and is probably the best thing to happen to money since credit cards were invented. The app has a fantastic budgeting section, automatically categorises all of your spending, they offer super quick 24/7 service and you can freeze your card at the tap of a button.

You can also split bills and pay other Monzo users just by standing next to them and tapping their name, there’s no overseas fees and you get up to £200 a month free ATM withdrawals while travelling. Literally the bank of the future.

I use Transferwise for any currency exchanges I do, and I also have a Transferwise Borderless account for euros. THEN I have another UK bank, an NZ credit card and an NZ debit card. Travelling with this many cards can be super frustrating, so I was stoked when I heard about Curve!

Curve is a payment card, not a bank, where you can connect multiple bank cards in different currencies and manage them all through an app. I’ve connected all of my cards to it and then switch which card I want to use on my phone!

Curve also charges your cards in their local currency so you never have to pay foreign exchange fees, gives you 1% cashback at select retailers, and you can even go back in time and switch a payment to another card up to 14 days after purchase.

There’s a free version available with up to £200 fee-free overseas ATM withdrawals, or you can upgrade to Black for £9.99 a month or metal for £14.99 a month for £400 and £600 respectively, plus on the paid plans you get worldwide travel insurance and gadget insurance.

Definitely something that’s worth looking into if you’ve got multiple cards with different currencies.

Will you be staying in hostels, hotels or Airbnbs mostly?

I’ll be staying at hostels the majority of the time, with some hotels a few times a month and maybe Airbnbs when I’ve got friends coming out to see me.

How do you choose a hostel?

I’m obsessed with getting the best bang for your buck, so the number one thing I think about when choosing a place to stay is value for money. I don’t search for the cheapest option but I don’t search for the fanciest option either, I look for the best-rated option based on cost.

On Hostelworld I’ll filter by free WiFi, luggage storage and self-catering facilities, then show hostels rated only 8 and above, and then sort by price.

Let me say this once: Review scores are gospel. I always try and stay somewhere rated 9 or above, and will do an 8 if I have to due to price and availability, but it’d have to be tough times for me to consider anything in the 7s.

Reviews are written by travellers like us, so if other people haven’t been impressed then it’s likely you won’t either. In saying that though I’ll always check the review breakdown into categories (location, staff, comfort etc.) and what people have written, because then you can consider what (if anything) you’re okay to compromise on.

If they’ve mentioned security issues, hygiene concerns or *gasp* bed bugs, it should be a definite no. But if somewhere has an 8.3 rating because some people didn’t like their roommates, the WiFi was spotty or they had to wait ten minutes at the front desk to check in, then you’re probably fine.

And how do you choose a hotel?

Booking.com makes it super easy to search for the best value option, you just need to sort your search by “price and review score”. This shows you the cheap highly-rated options first, then the prices increase and ratings decrease.

If you’re on a budget (obviously I am haha) then adjust the maximum price on the sidebar, so it cuts out the five star hotels that are so expensive you’ll cry.

I really love staying at places with character, so I never go for business-y chain hotels (which are usually overpriced anyway). I’ll always aim to stay somewhere with super funky design, breakfast included, and a fridge so I can have a small amount of my own food.

How much luggage are you taking?

I’m travelling with one 75cm wheeled check in bag, a matching (of course) 55cm wheeled cabin luggage bag, and a laptop backpack.

Both of my suitcases are Samsonite Cosmolites, and they are absolute game changers. Packing for a year-long trip is tough, as you’d imagine, so I was desperate to find hard-case bags that were sturdy without being too heavy.

Samsonite UK kindly gifted me these two beauties for the trip, and they are basically straight out of my dreams!

 

The big one is 2.6kg and the small one is 1.7kg, both around half the weight of your average suitcase. Lightweight luggage is a lifesaver, and means I’ve got an extra couple of kgs for my stuff.

My laptop bag is just a cheap one from Amazon, but it can fit my 15.6″ laptop, notebook, my tech organiser with my camera gear, chargers etc.

Please note that I was gifted these bags by Samsonite, but I would never promote something I don’t truly love myself! All opinions on this blog are my own and are from my personal experience.

What clothes did you pack?

I have a confession to make: I’m a chronic over-packer. It all comes back to my analysis paralysis, I always feel like I need to have the perfect outfit for each potential situation! I’ll do a full blog on what I packed at some stage but just know that it’s probably way too much.

Because my destinations are ranging from European heatwave to Dublin in November to conservative countries in the Middle East, I had to take a massive variety of outfit options, and then also needed to think about comfort, weight and what would look good in photos. Not an easy task haha.

I did try to go for a ‘capsule wardrobe’ though, where each item has to match multiple other items to maximise the amount of potential outfits I could wear. This means mostly classic, basic pieces in neutral colours with a small amount of stand-out items that are coloured or patterned.

What’s in your camera bag?

A LOT. I normally shoot with a Lumix GX85 mirrorless camera, but I also take a lot of photos with my Pixel 3XL phone and Moment wide angle lens, my Mavic 2 Pro drone, an Insta360 360-degree camera, a GoPro Hero 7 Black and a DJI Osmo Pocket. Phew! For a full list of my tech, head on over to this blog.

Do you need a travel buddy?

Always looking for travel buddies! If your trip matches up with any destinations on my itinerary, or if you live somewhere I’m visiting and want to meet up, flick me a message on Instagram @findingalexx ????

How do I do something like this?

Just do it! You do need a bit of money (not as much as you’d think) and obviously a decent amount of time, but if you’re fine on those fronts then you can absolutely do this too. It’s scary, it takes a lot of planning, and it’s a tiny bit crazy, but I guarantee it’ll be the best thing you ever do.

If you have any other questions that I haven’t answered then comment below or flick me a message on Instagram @findingalexx, and I’ll add it to this list!

Like this blog? Pin it!

Check out all of my 52 in 52 blogs right here, and see all of my adventures and misadventures on Instagram @findingalexx

Please note this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from any purchase, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise anything I wouldn’t use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers. Thank you for supporting me!

After publishing my blog workflow a few months ago, I’ve had loads of questions about my photography and photo editing workflow too.

The photography process from start to end is a huge beast (I promise I’ll get onto it soon!) but for now I wanted to share my photo editing process, from backing up my images to post-processing to exporting, plus some helpful tips, tricks and tools that will speed up your photo editing workflow.

Table of contents

rectangular brown wooden table
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why do you need a photo editing workflow?

Taking photos, processing them and publishing them takes so much work, and a proper photo editing workflow will speed up your photography process you and save you a load of time.

Every photographer will have a different workflow, and it’s imperative that you find one that suits your tools and your working style. There’s no point in following someone else’s workflow from start to finish if it doesn’t align with the way you normally work.

Finding a photo editing workflow that is natural to you, includes all the important steps you need to keep your photos safe, and allows you to spend more time on monetising your photography and blog, is a huge win for any creator.

blog workflow

Tools that will speed up your photo editing workflow

Make sure you’ve got tools (both physical and digital) that aid your productivity. If you’re finding a specific barrier in your process that’s slowing you down, consider if there’s anything you can invest in that will help you break through that barrier.

  • To start off with, I find it helpful to have an actual checklist (either on paper or using an online tool, I use Airtable) to go through and make sure I’m not skipping any part of my photo editing process
  • Get hard drives that are big enough and fast enough to back up your files. I’m a huge fan of LaCie Rugged drives, I’ve got a 4TB one for storage from past trips and a smaller/lighter 1TB one that goes everywhere I go so I can back up while on the road.
  • A laptop that’s good enough for what you need to do. Your requirements will depend on the amount of editing you’re doing, how much storage you need, if you’re editing videos too, and if you need something lightweight to travel with. I use an ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo which is a beast for editing, it’s got 1TB of storage, 32GB RAM, an NVIDIA RTX 2060 graphics card and a dual screen for optimum productivity. Ideal for any heavy-duty editing!
  • A Bluetooth keyboard and palm rest to keep your hands and wrists supported and minimise the risk of RSI, and a Bluetooth mouse that’s comfortable to use and is accurate enough for editing (read more about the Logitech keyboard and mouse I use below)
  • An office space that is comfy, minimises distractions and maximises productivity. Natural light, a comfortable office chair, big screen or laptop stand can all help you get shit done.
  • A playlist of music that keeps you focused. I love the Brain Food playlist on Spotify.
  • Apps or extensions to stop you from going on Facebook, playing games or getting into the endless scroll of doom.
crop woman lounging with laptop and cup of coffee on bed at home
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

My photo editing workflow

Step one: Capturing the content

This one deserves its own blog and I promise I’ll write one soon, but there’s two important things to know here.

The first is to always capture more than you think you’ll need. Take photos from different angles, in different light conditions, both landscape and portrait, and in different outfits if you think you might need them.

You can’t fix up everything in post-processing, but if you have good quality originals then it’ll make your editing process much easier.

And secondly, always shoot in RAW if that’s an option. RAW files are an uncompressed digital image file with a huge amount of information, meaning when you edit them you can pull much more detail out of the image.

Most cameras have a RAW option and these days many smartphones do too. Note that you won’t be able to upload RAW files to apps or blogs as they are, they require editing and exporting before you can use them as a normal image.

Girl standing on rocks at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Iceland

Step two: Backing up the content

Back it up, back it up, you got it, you got it (sung in a Gwen Stefani voice).

Backing up your content is an essential part of the process, and I’d recommend you do it after every trip, or even every day if you’re travelling for a while.

When I’m on a trip I’ll back up each memory card each day onto my LaCie hard drive, under Trip/Destination Name > Camera Type > Raws. For example on my recent Tekapo trip, one of my folders look like this: Tekapo > Lumix GX85 > Raws.

The reason why I back up into folders based on camera is because then after importing in Lightroom I can edit all photos from my camera first, then phone, then drone etc.

Images from different cameras will vary in terms of the adjustments they require so that way I can copy and paste edit settings from one camera photo to another one in similar lighting, instead of going from a camera photo to a phone photo to a drone photo which all need very different edits.

You might prefer to back up based on date so just find a way that works best for you.

top view photo of laptop near camera
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Step three: Importing and organising the content

If you use Lightroom you can import your photos into your LR catalogue with a single click.

There’s a bunch of options here like renaming images, adding metadata like copyright info and applying presets upon import, but I don’t personally use any of these.

This blog has a really thorough explanation of organising photos in Lightroom if you’re keen to learn more.

Once your photos are in Lightroom, you’ll need to rate them so you know which ones to edit. You don’t want to edit every single photo, it’ll be an absolute waste of time!

I scroll through the photos and rate the ones that I want to edit five stars (you can do this by just tapping ‘5’) and then that cuts down the amount of editing I have to do.

Step four: Editing the content

Once you’ve edited your photos, filter them to show only the ones rated five stars, and begin your adjustments.

Firstly I’ll test out the presets I have to find one that works, then I’ll edit basic adjustments like exposure, temp and shadows/highlights, then I’ll make my way through the Lightroom adjustments panel.

In terms of presets I’ve got some of my own that I use, as well as a couple of packs I’ve bought. The best preset pack I have purchased is Jord Hammond’s Master Collection, he has some really natural presets that make photos pop while keeping them true to colour.

I have found that a lot of presets I’ve tried in the past (Travel in Her Shoes, Gypsea Lust, Jacob and Salty Luxe to name a few popular ones) are super unnatural in their tones, the blues are far too teal and skin far too orange for my liking. Each to their own but just keep in mind that presets often drastically change colours.

I keep my edits to a minimum compared to many travel photographers, my goal is to accentuate the beauty of a place, make the colours pop but overall keep it looking the same as what you’d see in real life.

If you’re wanting to create composite images (like change the sky, add in birds) or make any major edits like removing buildings or anything like that, it’s best to use Photoshop.

You can select the image in Lightroom, right-click and select Edit in Photoshop, make your changes in Photoshop, save the image and then it’ll save the edited image into your Lightroom catalogue for further edits.

Step five: Exporting the content

The first step for exporting is to export all the images at full quality and size to a MASTER folder. This way you’ve got a backed up version of all your high res edits just in case anything happens to your Lightroom catalogue and you lose those edited photos.

I rename my images to something like Destination-MMYY, like Tekapo-1220.

After creating a MASTER folder, create a set of folders based on the type of exports you need. I have separate folders for Instagram images, blog images, blog feature images, photos for clients, prints and wallpapers.

I use the colour tagging system to help me sort my exports.

For example, there’s no point in me exporting all of my photos as Instagram images when I won’t post them all. I’ll go through all of my edited photos, tag the ones I want to post on Insta as red (by tapping ‘6’), then filter to only show red photos. Then I can edit each of these to work perfectly on Instagram, with 4×5 ratio, make any final edits, remove distractions like rubbish on the ground, and export them as size 1080×1350 into my Instagram folder.

The settings I use for editing/exporting the different types of photos are:

  • Master: Full quality and maximum size
  • Instagram: 4×5 ratio, 1080×1350
  • Blog: Under 100kb
  • Photos for clients: Depends on the contract but generally under 2MB so it’s easier to send
  • Prints: 300dpi and the correct colour settings for my printer
  • Wallpapers: 1080×1920 for Instagram Stories
Things to do during self-isolation

Step six: Publishing the content

Woohoo, you’ve edited your photos!

The final step is to get your content out there for people to see.

If you’re going to be posting things on Instagram then I’d suggest finding an Instagram planning app to plan your feed and schedule your posts. I use UNUM to plan my feed (they have a grid shift tool and swapping tool to allow you to swap between potential next photos super easily, seeing which one looks best) and then Later to plan posts and write captions.

If you use Pinterest then you might import your photos to Canva or Tailwind Create to create your pins.

For blogging you’ll need to upload your blog images to WordPress or whatever platform you use. Make sure to fill in the alt text when you’re uploading them so Google can read what your image is about for SEO purposes, and to make your blog accessible to screen readers and text-to-speech apps for the visually impaired.


How Logitech’s MX Series can speed up your workflow

I’ve got the MX Keys keyboard and MX Master 3 mouse from Logitech’s MX Series, designed for creators and engineered for coders, and they’ve been absolute game changers for my productivity in terms of editing and writing.

Both the keyboard and mouse are USB-C and the charge lasts for aaages (70 days for the mouse, up to five months without backlight for the keyboard). I’ve been using the keyboard with the backlight for over a month, switching it off at night, and I’m only just needing to charge it now.

The MX Series also has this magical ability to copy and paste between devices. That means if you’re using a tablet and a laptop and need to get some photos, files or text from one to the other, you can simply copy them from one, switch devices with a click of a button, and paste to the other. Actual magic.

While I do love using the keyboard, I’ll be honest and say that the mouse truly has my heart. This thing is a productivity beast.

As well as the usual left and right buttons + scroll wheel, the MX Master 3 comes with an additional middle button, a thumb scroll wheel, two thumb buttons underneath the thumb wheel and a Gesture button right under your thumb too.

And best of all, you can completely customise each of these buttons with the Logitech Options app, and even set them to perform different actions for different programmes and apps.

In terms of photo editing in Lightroom, I’ve set up the customisations like this:

  • Middle button (between left and right buttons) shows the original unedited photo
  • Thumb scroll scrolls between images left to right
  • Thumb buttons to copy and paste editing settings for each photo (and have also used them as undo/redo)
  • Gesture button takes me to task view

For Photoshop you can set the buttons to do things like create a new layer, switch to a specific tool, change brush size, and loads more. It takes a bit of time to figure out what tools you use the most and therefore what actions you want to set to each button, but once you’ve figured it out it’ll save you so much time.

Aside from technical specs, the MX Keys and MX Master 3 are both just so satisfying to use. If you’re a nerd (like me) you’ll appreciate fluid keystrokes, a super smooth scroll wheel, ergonomic design and the matte black look. I’m obsessed!

You can buy the Logitech MX Master 3 mouse right here and the MX Keys keyboard here.



I hope this blog has helped you create your own photo editing workflow and shown you ways to speed up your photography process. If you have any questions just let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Logitech, who sent me the MX Keys and MX Master 3 to test out. As always all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience with the product.

Congratulations for making the decision to do a South Island road trip, this is going to be one of the best trips of your life!

New Zealand’s South Island is a sublime and striking part of the planet, where you’ll find glacial lakes, lush native forest, cloud-piercing mountains and golden beaches within a few hours from each other.

lady bowen falls milford sound

Throw in some buzzing cities, plenty of character-filled towns, moody national parks and abundant wildlife on land, underwater and in the air, and you’ve got the makings for a seriously impressive adventure.

After coming home in March 2020 due to it-that-must-not-be-named, I immediately started planning a New Zealand campervan road trip.

We kicked off our six weeks in the Marlborough Sounds and made our way down the West Coast, through Central Otago, Fiordland National Park, Stewart Island, along the Otago Coast and through Canterbury.

We had a few mishaps along the way (like self-isolating after lockdown levels increased + a smashed window, ugh!) which messed with our itinerary BUT this blog is the perfect South Island road trip itinerary that we had hoped for.

Scroll down to find out more about how to travel the South Island, how long to road trip for, the best time to visit the South Island, then dig in to all the best places to visit in the South Island plus things to do while you’re there and where to stay.

Happy planning!


How long should I spend doing my South Island road trip?

How long is a piece of string?

If you want to see a decent chunk of the island I’d suggest visiting for at least two weeks. But if you’re happy to stick to one city, like Queenstown for example, then five days will still give you enough time to experience the city plus add on a day trip or two.

If you’re lucky enough to have longer to spend in the South Island, you could easily fill a two month itinerary. On my South Island road trip in winter of 2020 I spend six weeks exploring and there were still places we missed or didn’t spend enough time in.

So basically, if you have a week or less stick to one place, two weeks and you can do a whirlwind tour of the main spots, and a month or more gives you much more time to see the island in-depth.

Under each destination I’ve listed how long I’d recommend staying as a minimum to get the best experience in each place. If you have longer or if you’re particularly interested in somewhere then by all means add extra days!

How do I get around the South Island?

If you’re travelling with a partner or friend, the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around the South Island is by driving. New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is limited so you can’t rely on inter-city buses and trains the same way you would in other countries.

Driving yourself gives you the freedom to plan as you go, change your itinerary to fit in with weather and events, and gives you access to places you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

You can rent a car or a campervan from most major cities but Queenstown and Christchurch have the most rental outlets.

Renting a car in the South Island

Tossing up between a car and a campervan? Cars are cheaper to rent but you’ll need to include costs for accommodation, which can be pricey in New Zealand. Motels are common throughout the country, even in small towns, but the quality of cheap accommodation isn’t always great.

If you’re not comfortable driving a large vehicle, prefer modern luxuries and having a decent amount of space, or just don’t mind spending a bit more on accommodation as you travel, then a car is probably best for you.

Renting a campervan in the South Island

With a campervan you’ll have more freedom on where you can stay, with a huge range of campgrounds as well as designated freedom camping spots found all over the South Island.

There’s a range of campervan options to choose from based on your travel style. Jucy Campervans have cheap and cheerful self-contained green machines with portable cassette toilets and kitchenettes.

If you want space and modern amenities, check out the range available through Sunrise Holidays. We spend most of our trip in a Sunrise Holidays 6.3m four berth campervan called Judy, with loads of space, a full kitchen including oven and microwave, toilet, shower, gas heating and a big enough battery to let us freedom camp for two or three days.

For something in between cheap and luxury, search online with Camper Rentals NZ and see all campervan options in NZ.

What if I don’t want to drive?

If you don’t want to hit the road yourself, consider a group tour like this South Island Off-Grid Contiki tour or South Island Encompassed G Adventures tour.

Another option for getting around is Kiwi Experience’s hop-on hop-off bus passes, but these guys are currently mothballed and hope to reopen by October 2021.

When is the best time to visit the South Island?

It totally depends on what you’re into. Our trip in August/September South Island road trip was filled with hot pools, ski days, snowy evenings, great stargazing and less crowds, but if you prefer bikinis over beanies then summertime might be best for you.

The South Island can get cold in winter and snow is common so be prepared for chilly weather. In summer the temperatures are warmer obviously but New Zealand’s climate can be temperamental so heavy rain is not uncommon at any time of the year, particularly on the West Coast.

If you want to avoid the biggest crowds then don’t travel in December and January if you can help it, February onwards things start getting quieter and prices come down slightly.

Where do I start my South Island road trip?

The easiest places to start if you’re flying in would be Christchurch and Queenstown, which both have major airports and rental depots.

If you’re tacking the South Island onto a North Island road trip, or if you’re driving down from the north, you’ll need to get the Interislander or Bluebridge ferry from Wellington to Picton. The ferry trip takes about three and a half hours and you can drive your car/campervan onboard.

We began our trip in Picton after spending a month in the North Island so that’s where this itinerary starts, but you can start the circuit in Queenstown or Christchurch too.

Nugget Point in the Catlins

The Ultimate South Island Road Trip

Picton & Marlborough Sounds

How to get there: The Interislander and Bluebridge ferries arrive in Picton from Wellington

How long to stay: 1-2 days

Picton is a sunny port town, and it’s the gateway to the stunning Marlborough Sounds and Blenheim’s wine country. It’s often missed off whirlwind road trips but is well worth a visit for a few reasons, particularly for the chance to swim with dolphins!

Things to do in Picton & Marlborough Sounds

  • E-Ko Tours are a local operator who run wildlife tours and dolphin swimming, which was one of the absolute highlights of my South Island trip. The E-Ko team are extremely knowledgeable about these majestic creatures, working closely with DOC to ensure their tours don’t harm the sealife. This should be at the very top of your New Zealand bucket list.
  • The Queen Charlotte Track is a 71km hiking trail that will take 3-5 days to complete, however you can do day walks (this day hike package includes a cruise to and from Picton) or mountain biking trips. One end of the trail is a gorgeous little inlet beach called Anakiwa, which is also my favourite freedom camping spot in the area.
  • Deliver mail to remote Marlborough Sounds residents and keep your eye out for dolphins and fur seals with the iconic Mail Boat Cruise
  • Do a self-guided winery bike tour around Blenheim’s vineyards

Where to stay in Picton

Camping: Anakiwa has designated freedom camping spots in a secluded beachfront setting, or Picton Campervan Park and Picton TOP 10 both have great reviews

Budget: Anchor Down B&B has cosy rooms with comfy beds and excellent breakfast

Mid-range: Sennen House is a boutique 1886 homestead with beautifully manicured gardens

Luxury: Oxley’s Waterfront Apartment is a fancy apartment right on Picton’s main street with a view over the harbour, or the Nineteenth is a stunning two-bedroom home nestled between a golf course and a vineyard near Blenheim

Anakiwa freedom camping spot

Nelson

Driving time from Picton: 1.5-2 hours, 140km

Where to stop on the way

  • Cullen Point lookout for views over the Pelorus Sound
  • Havelock for lunch, it’s the green-lipped mussel capital
  • Pelorus Bridge & River, where the barrel scene of the Hobbit was filmed

How long to stay in Nelson: 1 day was enough for us

Nelson is often rated as one of the best cities to live in in New Zealand, with long stretches of beach plus a bustling town, thriving arts scene and some brilliant eateries. There’s not so much to do in Nelson to require a long stay but it’s a beautiful place to explore for a day on your way to Abel Tasman NP.

Things to do in Nelson

  • The World of WearableArt is Nelson’s main attraction but unfortunately they are currently closed due to COVID
  • Find a souvenir from a local artist in one of the many galleries or gift shops
  • Go behind the scenes at Pic’s Peanut Butter World, then treat yourself to a PB-focused brunch afterwards

Where to stay in Nelson

Camping: Tahuna Beach Holiday Park has decent facilities, on-site mini golf and is a short walk from the ocean

Mid-range: Tuscany Gardens Motor Lodge has brilliant reviews, they offer self-contained suites with free WiFi

Glamping: Pepin Island is a private island/working farm 20 minutes from Nelson, and they’ve got three secluded glamping huts available for rent. We stayed at the Passage Hut and LOVED it, there’s an outdoor bath, panoramic views and it’s totally off the grid.


Abel Tasman National Park

Driving time from Nelson: 30 minutes from Nelson to Motueka

How long to stay in Abel Tasman National Park: 2-4 days

With golden beaches, clear water and an endless selection of adventure activities, Abel Tasman is an epic addition to any South Island road trip itinerary.

Unfortunately our stop here was hampered by a rare storm so we didn’t get to tick any of the Abel Tasman must-dos off our list, but that’s just a good excuse for another visit!

The start of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Things to do in Abel Tasman National Park

  • Eat loaded donuts at the Smoking Barrel in Motueka
  • Jump down waterfalls and abseil rock faces with Abel Tasman Canyoning
  • Rent a kayak with Kahu Kayaks and explore the national park from the water
  • Soak up the most incredible views with a thrilling skydive

Where to stay in Abel Tasman National Park

Camping: The Barn at Marahau is ideally located by the entrance to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, or Motueka TOP 10 is near Motueka township with fantastic facilities, hot tubs and a playground

Budget: Abel Tasman Haven offer basic but comfortable studios with kitchenettes

Mid-range: Abel Tasman Lodge has been rated NZ’s best small hotel two years running, and they have charming rooms from only $170 a night, but they require a two-night minimum stay. If you’re only staying one night then consider the Kimi Ora Eco Resort for a mid-range place to stay.

Luxury: The Kite on Pemako Farm in Marahau is an ultra-stylish minimalist Airbnb with an outdoor bath

Glamping: Spend a night sleeping in a stylish yurt in an eco-village, just 15 minutes away from Motueka


West Coast

Driving time from Abel Tasman National Park: Just over four hours from Motueka to Hokitika, 330km

Where to stop on the way

  • Nelson Lakes National Park for some short hikes/glacial lake swims
  • Cape Foulwind/Tauranga Bay for a seal colony
  • Punakaiki for the famous Pancake Rocks

How long to stay on the West Coast: 1-4 days

Though the West Coast officially runs from Karamea in the north to Haast in the south, I’ve separated Franz Josef + Fox Glacier as their own section below so this is mainly talking about the northern half of the coast.

Rugged, wild and wonderful, there’s plenty to see and do on this side of the South Island. Spend your days hiking along icy rivers, visit the lesser known Paparoa National Park, and marvel at fiery sunsets.

Things to do on the West Coast

  • Spot some glowworms on an eco-tour through Paparoa National Park’s cave systems
  • Get up close and personal with some New Zealand icons at the National Kiwi Centre
  • Do the short walk at Hokitika Gorge (free, 2hr return) or get the best views on the new West Coast Treetop Walk ($32, book online here)
  • Carve your own pounamu (greenstone) piece at Bonz’n’Stonz
  • Have a mind-blowing brunch at the Gatherer in Hokitika

Where to stay on the West Coast

Camping: The Ross Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park was one of the best we stayed at, right on the beach with modern facilities

Budget: Amberlea B&B has a 9.6 rating on booking.com and offers cheap rooms with either shared or private bathrooms

Mid-range: Awatuna Sunset Lodge has a 9.8 rating on booking.com and has comfy rooms with sea views and excellent breakfast included

Luxury: Stay in a stylish newly-converted fire station apartment in Hokitika with a perfect 5/5 rating on Airbnb

Unique: Out the Bay in Tauranga Bay has two off-grid tiny houses with stylish furnishings, sea views and a well-equipped kitchen. Our stay here has totally converted me into a tiny house obsessive!


Franz Josef Glacier

Driving time from Hokitika: 1h 40m, 135km

Where to stop on the way

  • Lake Mahinapua for mountain reflections on a calm day
  • Okarito, a small town with a kayak-able lagoon that has epic mountain views

How long to stay in Franz Josef: 1-2 days

If you’re based in Aotearoa while borders are closed, I highly recommend you add Franz Josef to your New Zealand bucket list, because it’ll never be this quiet again.

Remotely located behind the Southern Alps, only access via mountain passes above and below it (or by helicopter if you’re super fancy!), Franz Josef Glacier and neighbouring Fox Glacier are adventure hubs with insane experiences and unbeatable views.

Things to do in Franz Josef Glacier

  • See the glacier! We opted for an expensive but well worth it helihike. Stepping foot on a glacier and wandering through narrow ice corridors is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ll get sweet views on your ride up there too.
  • If you’re not comfortable with walking on ice with crampons then consider a scenic heli flight instead. This one does both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier and includes a snow landing from $360, this one does just Franz Josef and is a bit cheaper at $280 each
  • And if you’re travelling on a budget, you can walk to the glacier lookout point in 1h 30m for free, or take a guided tour that includes transport and a local guide who can teach you about the area
  • Go kayaking in front of a backdrop of mountains in Okarito or on Lake Mapourika
  • Soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, who have recently reopened after being closed for most of the year due to COVID
  • Quad biking to get your thrills without having to book a flight

Where to stay in Franz Josef Glacier

Camping: Rainforest Retreat is 400m from the main township and offers powered sites + decent facilities amongst lush rainforest

Budget: Rainforest Retreat also has budget-friendly double rooms available for less than $100 per night and dorms from $30 a night

Midrange: With cosy timber cabins offering peace and quiet away from the township’s tourist activity, Kahere Retreat is a good option for mid-range accommodation

Luxury: Te Waonui Forest Retreat is a world-class five star hotel with luxurious rooms, a pillow menu (!!!) and an on-site restaurant that serves up delicious meals made from local produce

Unique: Rainforest Retreat’s deluxe tree lodge is a two-bedroom tree house nestled in native bush with fancy furnishings and a full kitchen

Rainforest Treehouse

Wanaka

Driving time from Franz Josef Glacier: 3h 45m, 285km

Where to stop on the way

  • Fox Glacier just south of Franz Josef
  • Lake Matheson for a lake walk and Aoraki reflections
  • Thunder Creek Falls, Blue Pools and Fantail Falls along the Haast Pass
  • The Haast Pass itself is magical, we stopped so many times for photos! Be careful driving as the windy roads can get dangerous in wet conditions, and only pull over in safe spots where you’re completely off the road

How long to stay in Wanaka: 1-4 days depending on your interests

Wanaka is the quieter, more relaxed, less commercial little brother of Queenstown, and is often preferred by frequent travellers to the area who want to avoid the craziness of NZ’s tourism capital.

Lake Wanaka is an excellent hub for active adventures, with bigger houses and apartments available at cheaper prices than in Queenstown but still offering stunning views and great food.

Things to do in Wanaka

  • Cable climb up a waterfall with Wildwire Wanaka (one of my favourite adventures from our South Island road trip)
  • Hit the mountains! Cardrona and Treble Cone are the closest ski resorts to Wanaka
  • See the city in a different way with a trike tour through Wanaka Trike Tours
  • Need a rainy day activity? See a movie at Cinema Paradiso, they’ve got funky seating (like beanbags and old cars) and have cooked meals available in intermission, or head to Puzzling World to test your brain with games and optical illusions
  • Hike up Roy’s Peak, it’s six hours return and offers the most incredible views over the lake. If you are short on time and don’t mind spending money then you can catch a helicopter up to Coromandel Peak, just below Roy’s Peak, for equally impressive views without getting sweaty!
  • Catch a cruise across the lake and explore Mou Waho Island

Where to stay in Wanaka

Camping: Our campsite at Glendhu Bay Motor Camp was one of the most amazing places to wake up to. Facilities are basic but the view is to die for.

Budget: Altamont Lodge is 2km from town and has double rooms with shared bathrooms from $110, which is incredibly cheap for this area

Midrange: Goodstays Wanaka has a huge range of rental apartments and homes to fit any budget and group size. We stayed at this three bedroom house just out of town, brand new, beautifully furnished and the ideal spot to relax at after a day on the slopes.

Luxury: Lakeside Apartments have well-equipped self-contained apartments with private balconies, lake views and access to a swimming pool and spa pool

Glamping: The Camp at Lake Hawea has lakefront safari tents and domes available just 15 minutes from Wanaka, or Wanaka Glamping Dome is in a rural, remote area with insane views after a 15 minute steep hike


Queenstown

Driving time from Wanaka: Just over an hour/68km via the Crown Range, or 1h 30m via Cromwell

Where to stop on the way

  • Cardrona Hotel for mulled wine and garlic bread if you’re heading the Crown Range way
  • Wineries near Cromwell if you go the other way (Misha’s Vineyard, Gibbston Valley and Rockburn Wines all have brilliant reviews)

How long to stay in Queenstown: 2-5 days

Queenstown probably takes the top spot on New Zealand bucket lists around the country and around the globe, for good reason.

You already know about the skiing, skydiving, jetboating and nightlife, but there’s actually plenty to do beyond the obvious attractions.

Things to do in Queenstown

  • The usual! Ski or snowboard, skydive, bungy jump, Shotover Jet, Onsen Hot Pools, hitting the town etc.
  • Ziplining with Ziptrek was an awesome adventure activity with crazy views. We chose the 6-line three hour trip and had a fantastic time learning about Queenstown’s history, the flora and fauna, and ending with the world’s steepest tree-to-tree zipline!
  • I’m not a fan of freefalling so skydiving/bungy jumping aren’t for me, but paragliding gives you those sky high views without having to throw yourself out of a plane! Paragliding in Queenstown was my second time floating through the sky (my first was in Switzerland) and it was absolutely incredible, highly recommend the team at Coronet Peak Tandems if you want to try it.
  • Eat your way around the city. I recommend Bespoke, Yonder or Vudu for brunch, Fergburger for an iconic lunch, Balls and Bangles for gourmet donuts and Eichardt’s Grill, Rata or the Nest for a classy dinner
  • Explore Skipper’s Canyon and drive along NZ’s most dangerous road with an epic 4WD safari with Nomad Safaris. If you’re an LOTR fan then these guys also run legendary LOTR tours around Queenstown and Glenorchy taking you to filming locations from the movies.
  • Get off-road with a quad bike trip through the mountains
  • Take a day trip to Arrowtown or Glenorchy
  • Keen to visit Milford Sound but don’t have time for the long drive? See Fiordland from the sky with a scenic flight + cruise from Queenstown

Where to stay in Queenstown

Camping: You can freedom camp at the DOC site at Moke Lake for $15pp

Budget: Nomads Backpackers is right in town and has dorm rooms plus private rooms, probably the best value in the city

Mid-range: Goodstays Queenstown has loads of houses and self-contained apartments, ideal for families, groups or independent travellers who want their own facilities. We stayed at this funky townhouse just a short walk from town with lake views, garage parking and huge rooms.

Luxury: Kamana Lakehouse is a newly-renovated boutique hotel with panoramic views over Lake Wakatipu. Their rooms are comfy and modern, the on-site restaurant (the Nest) offers fine dining for a great price, and they have exclusive hot tubs for guest use at an additional cost so you don’t need to book Onsen weeks in advance. Ideal!

Ultra-luxe: Happy to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime accommodation experience? Treat yourself and a loved one to a luxury package at the Gibbston Valley Lodge private villas. Absolute bliss.

Glamping: Sleep in a secluded lotus belle tent at Remarkables Glamping


Te Anau

Driving time from Queenstown: 2h, 170km

How long to stay in Te Anau: 1-2 days

Often overlooked as being just a stopover on the way to Milford Sound, Te Anau is a peaceful lakeside town and is the commercial hub of Fiordland. Stop for at least a night here to experience the town’s friendly local vibes, nearby Great Walks or lake adventures.

Things to do in Te Anau

Where to stay in Te Anau

Camping: Te Anau TOP 10 Holiday Park has excellent facilities, with a huge kitchen, decent bathrooms, a lounge with a fire and a hot tub available for guests to book

Mid-range: Anchorage Motel is a sustainability-focused motel with self-contained studio apartments as well as comfy one/two-bedroom options

Luxury: You can’t go past Fiordland Lodge if you’re looking for luxury. With a striking outlook over Lake Te Anau, impeccable service and elegant rooms, this is National Park accommodation at its best.


Milford Sound

Driving time from Te Anau: 1h 30m without stops or traffic, I recommend you set aside 2.5/3 hours for the 115km drive

Where to stop on the way

  • Te Anau Downs for views back towards the lake
  • Mirror Lakes for reflections on a still day
  • Lake Gunn Nature Walk
  • Pop’s View Lookout
  • Monkey Creek

Want to know more? For full info about the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound + tips on places to stop, read my full blog about driving to Milford Sound

How long to stay in Milford Sound: 1-2 days

Widely regarded as the unofficial 8th Wonder of the World, Milford Sound is an absolute Aotearoa must-do for Kiwis and international visitors alike. Plus the road is probably one of the best roads you’ll drive on your South Island road trip!

With abundant wildlife, towering mountains and crashing waterfalls, Milford Sound is simply magical.

Things to do in Milford Sound

Where to stay in Milford Sound

The only accommodation option in Milford Sound is Milford Sound Lodge and their Rainforest Campervan Park, and it’s a fantastic place to stay.

The lodge has studio + two-bedroom chalets with mountain, forest or river views, and the campervan park has powered sites under towering trees with access to a large kitchen, living area, bathrooms and laundry.

TRAVEL TIP: If you’re heading to Milford Sound overnight in a campervan, stock up on food before you go as there’s no shops there. There is a small cafe in town and a brilliant restaurant at the Milford Sound Lodge (the goats’ cheese croquettes are divine) but stop in at the Te Anau Fresh Choice to top up your pantry before you start the drive.


Stewart Island

Driving time from Te Anau to Bluff: 2 hours, 180km, then a one hour ferry

Where to stop on the way

  • Lumsden for a snack from Bafe Bakery
  • Gemstone Beach in Orepuki is about an hour off-route from Invercargill
  • Bluff for oysters when they’re in season

How long to stay in Stewart Island: The ferry only runs a couple of times a day so a two day stop is easiest

Stewart Island (or Rakiura in te reo Maori) is the remote, unspoilt, lesser-visited third island of New Zealand, known for stargazing, native birds, and the epic Rakiura Track Great Walk.

Things to do on Stewart Island

  • Find a kiwi in the wild. I’d highly recommend going on a kiwi spotting tour, the guides know all the best spots and are able to find the birds without causing harm or danger.
  • Cross your fingers for a glimpse of the Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights

Read more things to do on Stewart Island with my full Stewart Island travel guide

Where to stay on Stewart Island

Budget: Stewart Island Backpackers have basic dorm and private rooms for a good price

Mid-range: There’s a decent range of Airbnbs on Stewart Island that will suit any budget

Luxury: Church Hill Boutique Lodge has panoramic views and a fancy restaurant onsite


The Catlins

Driving time from Bluff: About an hour from Bluff to the start of the Catlins area

How long to stay in the Catlins: 1-2 days

With thriving wildlife, endless coastline and loads of nature walks ranging from easy to expert, the Catlins is an off-the-beaten-track South Island road trip destination that active adventurers won’t want to miss.

Things to do in the Catlins

  • An early morning kayak with Catlins Kayak & Adventure to spot penguins, seals and a stunning sunrise
  • Do the short walk to Nugget Point Lighthouse
  • Watch penguins return to land at dusk at Curio Bay
  • Spot sea lions (from a safe distance!) at Surat Bay
  • Walk through native forest to visit Purakaunui Falls

Where to stay in the Catlins

Budget: The Lazy Dolphin Lodge has great reviews if you’re on a tight budget

Mid-range: We stayed at this cosy Airbnb near Curio Bay, it has a kitchenette, nice bathroom and comfy bed

Luxury: Molyneux House has modern self-contained apartments with beautiful ocean views, free WiFi and included breakfast


Dunedin

Driving time from the Catlins: It’s about an hour from the edge of the Catlins in Balclutha to Dunedin

How long to stay in Dunedin: 1-2 days

Dunedin is a bustling student town and is home to a mish-mash of breweries, heritage buildings, sandy beaches and a thriving entertainment scene.

Things to do in Dunedin

  • Go out-out if that’s your thing!
  • Visit Larnach Castle, a stunning real-life castle that was started in 1871
  • Try a tasting rack of local craft beer at Emerson’s Brewery
  • Spot penguins, seals and albatross on the Otago Peninsula

Where to stay in Dunedin

Midrange: Bluestone on George and Amross Motel are both decent mid-range options

Luxury: Larnach Castle has a range of accommodation options if you’re looking for something special

Unique: We spent a night at the epic Cascade Creek Retreat about 45 minutes outside of Dunedin. It’s a beautiful timber farm lodge located on a working farm with a stunning rural outlook, two outdoor baths, ultra-comfortable beds and a well-equipped kitchen complete with ingredients for a hot chocolate and marshmallows for the fire.


Oamaru & the Waitaki District

Driving time from Dunedin: 1h 30m to Oamaru

Where to stop on the way

  • Moeraki Boulders & Fleur’s for fresh seafood
  • Purakaunui Beach

How long to stay in the Waitaki District: Day trip or 1-2 days

Hands down the most underrated district in New Zealand, the Waitaki region boasts character-filled cities, unique gift stores, wineries, award-winning restaurants, some incredible adventure activities and my favourite spot for glamping in New Zealand.

Things to do in the Waitaki District

  • Explore Steampunk HQ, funky shops and penguin colony in Oamaru
  • Have the best brunch ever at Riverstone Kitchen just north of Oamaru, their hot smoked salmon is something I dream about often
  • Then visit the gift shops onsite and wander through the impressive gardens
  • Stop off at Elephant Rocks to see some crazy rock formations
  • Cycle along the Alps2Ocean bike trail
  • Stop off in Omarama for a soak in a hot tub with mountain views and to see the otherworldly Omarama Clay Cliffs

Where to stay in the Waitaki District

Budget: Oamaru Backpackers has a 9.1 rating on booking.com from more than 800 reviews, so they must be good!

Mid-range: For a highly-rated farm stay, check out the Highlands on Homestead cottage on Airbnb

Luxury: The renowned Pen-y-bryn Lodge is a historic boutique hotel with brilliant facilities, including a billiard room, fitness centre, guest library and shared lounge with an open fireplace. Other fancy options in the Waitaki area include the brand new Mariner Suites (opened December 2020) and the Old Confectionary apartments.

Glamping: Valley Views Glamping near Waitaki Valley is one of the best New Zealand glamping spots, with spacious geodesic domes, a well-equipped shared kitchen, outdoor baths and panoramic views over farmland with a backdrop of mountains


Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

Driving time from the Waitaki District: About an hour from Omarama, 96km

Where to stop on the way

  • High Country Salmon near Twizel for the best salmon pate of your life
  • Ahuriri Bridge Campsite if it’s lupin season
  • Pete’s Lookout for the best view of the windy road heading towards Aoraki

How long to stay in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village: Day trip or 1-2 days depending on how many walks you want to do

My first trip to Aoraki Village in August was cancelled by a terrible fire at Lake Pukaki, so I booked a second trip down for December of this year and had the most amazing time.

The drive to the village is truly one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever done, and I’d recommend giving yourself time so you can stop for photos whenever you feel like it.

Things to do in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

  • Hike! Try the Tasman Glacier Hike if you’re short on time (30 mins) or the longer Hooker Valley hike (three hours) if you’ve got half a day. There are longer, more advanced hikes/climbs too depending on your experience, check with the visitor centre to get full info on the options that will suit you.
  • Do a Tasman Glacier helihike
  • See the mountains from the best vantage point with a scenic flight
  • Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre
  • Do a 15,000 foot skydive for the most insane views
  • Go for a boat ride on the Tasman Glacier lake
  • Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at the Hermitage Hotel, their cocktails are incredible!

Where to stay in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

Camping: The White Horse Hill DOC campground is widely regarded as one of the best campgrounds in the country

Budget: YHA Mt Cook has an 8.9 rating on booking.com from almost 1000 reviews, and they have the best value dorm beds and private rooms in the Village

Midrange: We stayed at the Aoraki Court Motel which was decent and good value for money. Rooms have comfy beds, kitchenettes and mountain views.

Luxury: Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat is somewhere for those who appreciate the finer things in life. Enjoy mind-blowing views over Lake Pukaki, elegant furnishings and free afternoon tea for all guests.


Lake Tekapo

Driving time from Aoraki/Mount Cook Village: 1h 10m, 105km

How long to stay in Lake Tekapo: 1-2 days

I loved Tekapo so much that I visited it twice in three months! The bright blue lake looks out of this world and there’s loads to do in the area to fill any itinerary no matter what you’re into.

Things to do in Lake Tekapo

Where to stay in Lake Tekapo

Camping: Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park have campsites and cabins with lake views just a short walk from the hot pools

Budget: The YHA Lake Tekapo has excellent reviews and is ideally located on the lake, right next to shops and restaurants

Midrange: Cairnsmore is a newly-built spacious studio apartment with a kitchenette, outdoor BBQ and lake and mountain views for a good price

Luxury: The Alpine Lodges at the Cairns is my favourite place to stay in Tekapo. The lodges have incredibly comfortable beds, cosy lounges with a fireplace, a full kitchen and a sun-soaked balcony, and they’re just a short walk from town.


Christchurch

Driving time from Lake Tekapo: 2h 45m, 225km

Where to stop on the way

  • Burkes Pass to see the old school Route 66-themed auto-stop, the ideal South Island road trip photo spot
  • Fairlie for the famous Fairlie Bakehouse pies, I rate the pork belly one
  • Geraldine to pop into Barker’s Foodstore for an amazing brunch
  • Ashburton Lakes and Rakaia Gorge if you have time to drive a little bit out of the way
Burkes Pass

How long to stay in Christchurch: 2-3 days

Slowly being rebuilt after the disastrous earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Christchurch is a city with a huge amount of character as well as lots of fun things to see and do.

Things to do in Christchurch

Where to stay in Christchurch

Budget: Jucy Snooze is a pod-style hostel by the airport with great facilities for a really good price

Midrange: This Central City Apartment on Airbnb is well-equipped and has a 4.92/5 rating from almost 400 reviews

Luxury: The Britten Stables is an award-winning restored stables that was a part of the 1896 Mona Vale Homestead. They have a range of rooms available with access to a gorgeous conservatory with an indoor pool, but I particularly love the Library Suite.

Book Britten Stables on booking.com | Book Britten Stables on Airbnb


Akaroa & the Banks Peninsula

Driving time from Christchurch: 1h 20m to Akaroa, 81km

How long to stay in the Banks Peninsula: Day trip or 1-2 days

Best known for its dolphins and French influence, Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula is a great add on to any South Island road trip if you have time.

Things to do in Akaroa & the Banks Peninsula

  • Swim with dolphins or do a wildlife cruise if you don’t want to swim
  • Explore the ocean by kayak tour
  • Join in on a small group tour to watch the penguins at dusk
  • Explore Akaroa’s French-influenced eateries, gardens and homesteads
  • Visit the weird and wonderful Giant’s House

Where to stay in Akaroa & the Banks Peninsula

Camping: Akaroa TOP 10 Holiday Park has good facilities and is the closest campground to the township

Midrange: SiloStay in Little River is a really funky place to rest your head, with your accommodation inside a converted silo! You get an upstairs balcony with countryside views, a kitchenette and an en suite bathroom inside your silo.

Luxury: Bellbird Bach is a sun-soaked innovative bach with space for six people overlooking the valley just past Akaroa, or the Villa in Akaroa is a historical home with space for four.

Glamping: My mum and I stayed at the Te Wepu Intrepid Pods, who have three secluded wooden pods overlooking rolling hills and the Akaroa Harbour. Each pod has an indoor bio-loo, outdoor kitchen, BBQ, wood-fired hot tub and solar-powered lighting and USB charging. Kate and Richie have created an epic glamping spot and this was one of the highlights of our Canterbury road trip!


Kaikoura

Driving time from Christchurch: 2h 30m, 180km

Where to stop on the way

  • Hanmer Springs if you’re happy to take a slight detour

How long to stay in Kaikoura: 1-2 days

With ocean in front of you and mountains behind you, Kaikoura might be one of the best-looking destinations in the country.

Watch for whales and dolphins by boat, kayak or air, chow down on the freshest seafood you’ll ever find, and find baby seals playing under a waterfall.

photo of mountains under cloudy sky
Photo by Mark Macnamara on Pexels.com

Things to do in Kaikoura

  • You can’t visit Kaikoura without a whale watching trip (even though I’m terrified of whales which is a story for another day). Do a whale watching cruise or splurge on a whale watching flight.
  • See the sea by kayak with a guided kayak tour
  • Spot baby seals playing in the Ohau Stream Walk waterfall (keep a safe distance and don’t disturb them)
  • Eat fresh crayfish on the beach with a stop at Nin’s Bin

Where to stay in Kaikoura

Camping: Kaikoura TOP 10 Holiday Park has modern facilities and amazing mountain views

Budget: First Light Kaikoura has budget-friendly rooms with good reviews

Luxury: This Kaikoura waterfront apartment can fit four people and has excellent reviews on Airbnb, or the Hamptons B&B offer ocean view king rooms for two people

Glamping: Manakau PurePods are very high on my New Zealand bucket list, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass roof for stargazing. Dreamy!


And after wrapping up your trip in Kaikoura, it’s a two hour drive back to Picton to complete the circuit!

I hope this detailed South Island travel guide has helped you plan your South Island road trip itinerary. If you think I’ve missed anywhere important or think I should add something onto this road trip plan then let me know in the comments.

Drive safely and have the best time!

Planning a South Island road trip? Read more New Zealand travel tips in these blogs:

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If you’re searching for a beautiful place to go glamping in New Zealand, you’ve come to the right place. This list has NZ glamping spots in both the North and South Islands, from Northland to Otago and everywhere in between. Enjoy!

Hands up if you’re addicted to glamping 🙋‍ I’m a sucker for finding unique and epic places to stay, and little ol’ Aotearoa isn’t a bad country for it.

The New Zealand glamping scene is growing at a seriously impressive rate, with geodesic domes, eco-friendly pods and safari tents popping up in rural spots all over the country.

glamping in new zealand at valley views
Valley Views Glamping in Waitaki Valley

Stay in a yurt in Raglan, cosy up under the stars in a dome in the Waitaki Valley, hang out in a treehouse in Whangarei or sleep in a cabin on a private island in Nelson.

So whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a funky place for a girls’ trip, a remote spot for a solo adventure, or somewhere to treat someone special, here are 22 of the best glamping spots in New Zealand.

RELATED READ: The Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List

What is glamping?

The term “glamping” comes from glamorous camping, the idea of enjoying being off the grid and getting in touch with nature, without having to give up on some luxuries like a comfy bed, indoor toilet and sometimes even electricity.

It was first used in 2005, then was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2016, and is now a common style accommodation recognised by travellers all over the world. Glamping can also be referred to as luxury camping or boutique camping.

These days glamping spots have popped up in most destinations around the globe, from remote rural areas to private islands and everywhere in between.

Basically if you want to stay amongst nature but don’t want to sleep on the floor in a scratchy sleeping bag, glamping is for you!

te wepu intrepid pods glamping nz
Te Wepu Intrepid Pods near Akaroa

What type of glamping options are there?

There are so many different options for glamping in New Zealand, depending on your location, your preferred level of “roughing it”, your interests and your budget.

Glamping first referred to fancy tents with home comforts like proper beds, fairy lights, maybe even a wood fire or hot tub, but it’s since expanded to represent basically any type of unique accommodation that’s located outside of a city and offers a bit of simple luxury.

In New Zealand there are yurts, tiny houses, geodesic domes, farm huts, caravans, glass pods and even an airplane (yes, seriously) where you can live out your glamping dreams.

pepin island glamping in new zealand
Our farm hut on Pepin Island, near Nelson

Why go glamping in New Zealand?

Let’s be real, accommodation in New Zealand can be pricey due to general costs of running a business in the country. Hostel dorms can set you back more than $50 a night in major cities, 3-star hotels often cost at least $150, and staying somewhere fancy is going to be a couple of hundred dollars.

Glamping in NZ isn’t cheap but it does offer a fabulous experience along with a place to rest your head, so you get brilliant value for the money you’re spending.

Many of New Zealand’s best views and most stunning places are rural or coastal, away from motels and hotels, meaning that renting a house or glamping are often the only options.

Glamping gives you the best of all worlds; somewhere to sleep, epic views, the chance to get amongst nature, and a unique experience you’ll never forget.

And as a bonus, lots of glamping spots have a strong focus on sustainability and being eco-friendly, with solar panels, bio-toilets and other ways to be clean and green. Great for the earth, great for you!

glamping in new zealand valley views
Sweet sunsets at Valley Views

How do I find NZ glamping spots?

In New Zealand, there’s more than 300 glamping spots around the country. Not bad for a country with five million people!

You can find unique places to stay on Airbnb, Booking.com, Canopy Camping and Glamping Hub.

Airbnb probably has the best selection of glamping sites and unique places to stay (with more than 300 in New Zealand!), and it’s easy to check reviews of the place and the host.

Keep in mind that Airbnb charges cleaning + booking fees separately so you’ll need to search your travel dates to find the total price. See all unique places to stay in New Zealand on Airbnb right here.

Booking.com is one of the world’s biggest accommodation booking platforms and they’re starting to build their glamping listings up. There are 34 luxury tents in NZ listed on Booking.com right now, you can see them by searching your destination and then selecting “luxury tents” under the property type filter.

Canopy Camping is an NZ-owned business that exclusively manages a number of glamping sites around the country.

Glamping Hub is another glamping-specific platform with more than 200 options for glamping in New Zealand.

The best places for glamping in New Zealand

North Island glamping spots

The best Northland glamping spot: The Fairytale Treehouse in Whangarei

glamping in new zealand

From $250NZD a night

This magical treehouse is set on a private farm amongst native trees, providing a secluded spot for an epic glamping getaway that’s unlike any other place to stay in New Zealand.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.95 rating on Airbnb from more than 100 reviews + hosted by a Superhost
  • Fully-equipped with kitchen, electric oven and gas stove
  • Huge sun-soaked deck that looks into the thick native bush

Book it here: Fairytale Treehouse in Whangarei, Northland

Other Northland glamping options:


The best Auckland glamping spot: The Snug Tiny House in Piha

glamping in new zealand airbnb tiny house piha

From $119NZD a night

Hidden amongst the lush Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland, the Snug is an eco-friendly, cosy and efficient tiny house. Just a seven minute drive from Piha beach and less than an hour from Auckland, this is an ideal getaway for Aucklanders wanting to escape the city.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.9 rating on Airbnb from 40 reviews + hosted by a Superhost
  • Basic but well-equipped kitchen with fridge, toaster, kettle and stove top
  • The host provides organic treats like tea, coffee, granola and fresh fruit

Book it here: The Snug tiny house in Piha

Other Auckland glamping options:


The best Coromandel glamping spot: Slipper Island Resort, near Tairua and Pauanui

From $285NZD a night

Slipper Island is accessed by boat from a small town on the Coromandel Peninsula called Tairua. Guests can choose from beachfront safari tents (yes please), chalets or dorm rooms, and you’ve got free rein of the island’s farmland, snorkelling spots and kayaks.

Why it’s amazing:

  • Um, it’s a private island?
  • Safari tents have comfy queen-size beds and ensuites
  • All guests can use the lodge lounge + kitchen as well as an outdoor cooking area

Book it here: Slipper Island Resort, Coromandel Peninsula

Want to know more? Read my full review of Slipper Island.

Other Coromandel glamping options:


The best Raglan glamping spot: Raglan R&R Glamping

raglan glamping in new zealand

From $250NZD a night

If you’re looking for a place to go glamping in New Zealand with easy access to surf beaches and funky markets, this one is your best bet.

Just an 8 minute drive from the hippie hot spot of Raglan, this grand safari tent is perfectly located as well as boasting fancy amenities like a spa and sunken fire pit. Dreamy!

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.98 rating from more than 230 reviews
  • Private spa underneath the stars
  • Outdoor BBQ + fire pit for toasting marshmallows (complete with ingredients for smores!)

Book it here: Raglan R&R Glamping

Other Raglan glamping options:

  • Raglan Treehouse: 4.89-rated epic treehouse amongst a private pine forest overlooking the ocean
  • The Gazebo: 4.93-rated tiny house with outdoor bath and shower
  • The Round Tent: 4.99-rated (!!!) super stylish yurt complete with outdoor bath, modern kitchen and TV

The best Waikato glamping spot (outside of Coromandel + Raglan): Whiskey Creek Cabin near Waihi

waihi glamping in new zealand

From $250NZD a night

This gorgeous off-grid cabin is definitely towards the luxurious end of the glamping spectrum, with a huge plush bed, rustic decor and stunning rural views.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 5/5 rating from 16 reviews
  • Large couples’ bath complete with wooden caddy for a glass of vino
  • Hot outdoor shower

Book it here: Whiskey Creek Cabin

Other Waikato glamping near Hamilton:


The best Tauranga/Bay of Plenty glamping spot: Lala the Vintage Caravan

tauranga glamping in new zealand

From $77NZD a night

Want to live out your 1970s road trip dreams? Lala is a vintage campervan available for hire in Tauranga, and can be delivered to your house or to a campground of your choice.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.89 rating from 28 reviews
  • Sleeps three, one small double bed and a single bed
  • Brand new kitchen with sink, fridge and induction stove top

Book it here: Lala the Vintage Caravan

Other Bay of Plenty/Tauranga glamping options:

  • Pendeen Cottage: 4.91-rated tiny house in Tauranga from only $110 a night
  • The Ark, Katikati: 4.87-rated pod cabin with hot tub and outdoor BBQ area
  • Pukehina Glamping (30 mins from Tauranga): 4.98-rated luxury teepee with cast iron outdoor bath, hammock and flushing toilet

The best Rotorua glamping spot: Finesse Luxury Glamping in Ngongotaha Valley

rotorua glamping in new zealand

From $300NZD a night

Finesse Luxury Glamping is a 20 minute drive from Rotorua, set amongst thick native trees and offering easy access to bush walks and trout fishing.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.94 rating from more than 100 reviews
  • Secluded spot with minimal noise or light pollution
  • Outdoor hot tub and fire pit

Book it here: Finesse Luxury Glamping

Other Rotorua glamping options:


The best Taupō glamping spot: Mountviews Glamping

taupo glamping in new zealand

From $220NZD a night

Mountviews is a single tent on a beautifully landscaped property with access to the family’s swimming pool and spa pool. It’s located near Acacia Bay, the bay around from Taupō’s main centre.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.95 rating from more than 150 reviews
  • Each booking includes a bottle of wine + continental breakfast
  • Super spacious dome with incredible views

Book it here: Mountviews Glamping Taupō

Other Taupō glamping options:


The best Gisborne glamping spot: Seaside Glamping

gisborne glamping in new zealand

From $157NZD a night

With a bunch of lotus belle tents set up right on the beachfront at Tatapouri Campground, you’ll be the first in the world to see the sunrise right from your bedroom.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.84 rating from 30+ reviews
  • Easy access to surfing, boating, fishing and diving, only 12 minutes from Gisborne township
  • Access to holiday park facilities including full kitchen and bathrooms with hot showers

Book it here: Seaside Glamping Tatapouri

Other Gisborne glamping options:

  • Cozy Caravan: 4.83-rated caravan near Gisborne city centre, ideal for a cheap stay on the East Coast

The best Hawke’s Bay glamping spot: The Tiger House in Havelock North

hawkes bay glamping in new zealand

From $221NZD a night

This ultra-funky converted barn has brilliant reviews for good reason. It’s soaked in natural light, fully equipped with modern amenities and has sweeping views over Hawke’s Bay.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.95 rating from 39 reviews
  • Beautiful decor and comfy furnishings plus a decent-sized kitchen
  • Outdoor bath for stargazing

Book it here: The Tiger House, Havelock North

Other Hawke’s Bay glamping options:

  • Clifton Glamping: 4.94-rated luxury safari tent with outdoor bath + shower, camp kitchen and easy access to wineries
  • Glenlands Glamping: 4.92-rated fancy tent farm stay with solar power, hot shower, outdoor fire place and flushing toilet
  • Glamping in the Trees: 5/5 rated yurt nestled in the woodlands of Fernhill, Hawke’s Bay

RELATED READ: 10 of the Best Things to Do in Napier


The best Wairarapa glamping spot: Te Pamu Escape Glamping

wairarapa glamping in new zealand

From $326NZD a night

One of the fanciest spots for glamping in New Zealand, Te Pamu is a dreamy escape amongst the forest of Te Ore Ore, near Masterton. This is the ideal spot for a special occasion if you have something worth celebrating.

Why it’s amazing:

  • Perfect 5/5 rating from 15 reviews
  • Outdoor bath, full kitchen and brazier
  • Stylish decor and beautiful furnishings

Book it here: Te Pamu Escape Glamping

Other Wairarapa glamping options:

  • Dreamscape Glamping in Waikanae: 4.87-rated designer glamping tent with two outdoor baths, an outdoor fire and views of Kapiti Island
  • Treehouse near Carterton: 4.97-rated off-grid solar-powered treehouse with outdoor bath, compost toilet and easy access to walking tracks
  • Greytown Yurts: With a 4.99 rating from almost 200 reviews, these huge yurts have king-size beds, an outdoor bath with robes, and plant-based toiletries

The best Wellington glamping spot: The Keep, a castle near Lyall Bay

wellington glamping in new zealand

From $186NZD a night

One of the most unique places for glamping in New Zealand!

Sleep in a rustic castle with sea views in Houghton Bay, just a short drive from Central Wellington.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.91 rating from 160+ reviews
  • Three storeys plus a rooftop deck
  • Spa bath with sweet views over the ocean

Book it here: The Keep, Wellington

Other Wellington glamping options:

  • 1993 Campervan in Lower Hutt: 4.83-rated stationary self-contained campervan with double bedroom, hot shower + easy access to farm walks and lots of animals!
  • Train Eco-Stay in Upper Hutt: 4.87-rated tiny house train carriage! It’s solar-powered with a cosy log burner + Smart TV.

South Island glamping spots

The best Nelson glamping spot: Pepin Island cabins

From $190NZD a night

Pepin Island is a private island and working farm about 20 minutes from Nelson, with three secluded farm huts for an eco-friendly and off-the-grid getaway.

The huts are accessible by walking (the one we stayed at was about 30 mins from the carpark) or you can book a 4WD drop off, and you’ll be treated to a cosy little cabin with cooking facilities and an outdoor bath.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.96 rating from 70+ reviews
  • An outdoor bath with ocean views and access to your own private beachfront area
  • Optional grocery or cheeseboard add on + fishing kayaks for hire

Book it here: Passage Hut at Pepin Island

If Passage Hut is booked you can also try Nikau Hut (space for 4 people) or Rocky Point Hut (super romantic) on the same island.

Other Nelson glamping options:


The best Abel Tasman glamping spot: The Chocolate Yurt in Motueka Valley

abel tasman glamping in new zealand

From $110NZD a night (super cheap!)

Make yourself at home in this 6m yurt in an eco-village 15 minutes away from Motueka. Cook up a storm in the outdoor kitchen, stargaze at night through the skylight and book a massage with the host for the ultimate glamping experience.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.96 average rating from 543 reviews which is insane!
  • Fully insulated so ideal no matter the weather
  • Kitted out with handcrafted wooden furniture and comfy beanbags

Book it here: The Chocolate Yurt

Other Abel Tasman glamping options:

  • Rabbit Island Huts near Mapua: 4.97-rated tiny huts on stilts with shared kitchen facilities and an outdoor bath guests can book
  • The Caboose: 4.95-rated handcrafted replica of a vintage train carriage with a private garden and outdoor bath near Takaka
  • Toto’s Eco-Friendly Bush Cottage: 4.98-rated secluded earth house that’s totally off the grid, with solar panels, a simple kitchen and on-site pizzeria
  • Upindowns Golden Bay Glamping: 4.86-rated 5m lotus belle tent with mesh windows to keep bugs out, a hammock for relaxing and loads of space to wander around

The best West Coast glamping spot: Out the Bay, Tauranga Bay

From $185NZD a night

My first official stay in a tiny house and I was immediately sold, Out the Bay has two stylish and efficient tiny houses with views out to the ocean and all the modern luxuries you’d want for a getaway.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.93 rating from 30 reviews (and five stars from me!)
  • Close to beautiful beach walks and the seal colony, with an epic view for sunset
  • Loft-style lounge, kitchen + brazier

Book it here: Out the Bay tiny house

Other West Coast glamping options:

  • Historic train carriage in Marsden: 4.98-rated from more than 250 reviews, this 1907 train carriage crashed in 1963 and has since become a funky tiny home for an ultra-unique stay 15 minutes from Greymouth
  • Glamping yurt at Cape Foulwind: 5/5 rating from 44 reviews, this yurt has spectacular views and modern amenities
  • River & Trail Camping Pod: 4.95-rated cosy wooden pod on the Hokitika River with a hot shower, camp-style kitchen and eco-toilet

The best Kaikoura glamping spot: Manakau PurePod

kaikoura glamping in new zealand

From $590NZD a night

This one is at the top of my New Zealand bucket list, and I’m hoping to tick it off in 2021. With floor to ceiling windows, and a literal glass ceiling, there’s no better place to stay to see the magical South Island starscape.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.96 rating from 27 reviews
  • Uninterrupted rural views while being totally secluded
  • Self-contained with cooking facilities, toilet, glass shower and optional food add ons

Book it here: Manakau PurePod

Other Kaikoura/North Canterbury glamping options:

  • Kahutara PurePod (same as the above but different location)
  • Harakeke Hut in Lyford: 4.84-rated wooden pod set in an alpine landscape with a hot tub, kitchen and bathroom to share with another pod
  • Colonial Wagon at Wacky Stays Kaikoura: This weird and wonderful 4.73-rated colonial wagon can sleep two inside and another two in a sleep-out, with an onboard toilet, shower and small kitchen and included breakfast and animal feeding

The best Christchurch glamping spot: Dome House in Burnside, Christchurch

christchurch glamping in new zealand

From $199NZD a night

Calling this character home “glamping” is a bit of a push but it’s super unique and offers great value so it deserves a place on this list. It can fit up to 7 people with two full bathrooms and a pool room that opens up to the hot tub.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 4.7 rating from 68 reviews
  • Incredibly well-equipped and high tech with full voice automation
  • Loads of entertainment space including pool/movie room and expansive outdoor area

Book it here: Dome House Christchurch

Other Christchurch glamping options:

  • Cashmere Tiny House: 4.92-rated from 60 reviews, this surprisingly spacious tiny house is just ten minutes from the city and has all the mod cons you need for a private escape

The best Banks Peninsula glamping spot: Te Wepu Intrepid Pods

From $325NZD a night

One of my favourite glamping getaways in the country, Te Wepu Intrepid Pods are just over an hour from Christchurch overlooking rolling hills and the stunning Akaroa harbour.

There are three pods, secluded from each other but can also be booked for a group of six, each with a bio-loo, comfy bed, outdoor kitchen and wood-fired hot tub.

Why it’s amazing:

  • Elusive 5/5 Google rating from 15 reviews
  • Set amongst a working farm with zero light pollution and no sound except for bird song
  • Wood-fired hot tub is lush!
  • Optional dinner packages available + free farm eggs and Kate’s famous muesli for your breakfast

Book it here: Te Wepu Intrepid Pods

Other Banks Peninsula glamping options:

  • SiloStays, Little River: Move over tents, this epic accommodation option will have you sleeping in a converted silo! They’ve got a 9.2 rating on booking.com and I’m hoping to make it here in 2021.
  • Wagon Stay, French Farm: Perfect 5/5 rating from 7 reviews, this cosy wagon has sweet sunrise views and an outdoor tub
  • French Farm Yurt: You’ll get the full package with this yurt eco-stay, including nibbles, a three-course BBQ dinner, dessert and breakfast the next morning. Yum!

The best Lake Tekapo glamping spot: SkyScape, Twizel (40 minutes from Tekapo)

tekapo glamping in new zealand

From $690NZD a night

Surrounded by glass giving you the ultimate chance of experiencing the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, SkyScape is luxury glamping at its absolute finest.

Watch the sunrise over the rolling hills, soak in the outdoor bath and then witness the sky come alive when the sun goes down.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 9.7 rating on booking.com
  • Totally remote location on a 6000 acre farm, meaning it’s just you, the stars and loads of animals out there
  • Easy access to hiking + bike trails and free bikes for guests to use
  • Continental breakfast included and optional evening platter add on

Book it here: SkyScape Twizel

Other Mackenzie District/Lake Tekapo glamping options:

RELATED READ: The Best Things to Do in Tekapo


The best Waitaki glamping spot: Valley Views Glamping

From $250NZD a night

My number one favourite spot glamping in New Zealand, and one of the best places to visit in the South Island!

Amber and Patrick have thought of everything at Valley Views, from providing head torches and power banks to a brilliant breakfast spread every morning, a wine list to buy from, board games and private outdoor baths.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 5/5 on TripAdvisor from 88 reviews
  • Shared well-equipped kitchen at the eco-lodge + shared bathroom with sustainable toiletries
  • Geodesic domes with huge comfy beds + hot water bottles for winter
  • Insane views over the hills and mountains of Waitaki Valley

Book it here: Valley Views Glamping


The best Queenstown glamping spot: Remarkables Glamping Queenstown

queenstown glamping in new zealand

From $295NZD a night

Seemingly world away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, this glamping spot is ten minutes from the airport and twenty from the city centre.

The fancy 5m lotus belle tent comes with a comfy queen bed, board games, outdoor beanbags, solar lighting and USB charging points.

Why it’s amazing:

  • 5/5 rating from 30 reviews
  • Continental breakfast included with fresh fruit and some home-baked treats, picnic gear provided
  • Exclusive access to Deer Park Heights, a Lord of the Rings filming location

Book it here: Remarkables Glamping Queenstown

Other Queenstown glamping options:

  • Camp Glenorchy Eco-Lodge: Named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Places in the World, Camp Glenorchy has a seriously impressive resume. Private cabins are rustic and cosy, and guests have access to the Homestead’s shared living spaces.
  • Kiwi Chalet tiny house at Lake Hayes: 4.96-rated from 250+ reviews, this architect-designed tiny house is well-equipped with a full kitchenette, mezzanine loft bedroom and stylish bathroom. It’s just six minutes from Arrowtown and has stunning views over Queenstown’s mountains.
  • Henrietta’s Hut: 4.97-rated from more than 100 reviews, Henrietta’s shepherd’s hut is an ideal and excellent value retreat between Queenstown and Arrowtown
  • Ben Lomond Geodesic Dome: Queenstown’s only geodesic dome is fully off the grid with no WiFi or cell service, access to stunning walking trails and just ten minutes from the lakefront

The best Wanaka glamping spot: Denver Tents at Camp Hawea (15 minutes from Wanaka)

wanaka glamping in new zealand

From $169NZD a night

The Camp is a bustling campground right on Lake Hawea, a short drive from Wanaka. We stayed here in our campervan on our South Island road trip and were able to take a quick look at the safari tents, but I’d love to stay in them next time!

Why it’s amazing:

  • 5/5 rating on Airbnb
  • King-size bed, electric blanket, charging station + access to shared kitchen and bathrooms
  • Incredible views of the lake and mountains

Book it here: The Camp Hawea Denver Tents

Other Wanaka glamping options:

  • Wanaka Glamping Dome: 4.89-rated geodesic dome with panoramic views, BBQ facilities and a hot shower
  • Airstream RV: 4.8-rated retro-looking Airstream RV, well-insulted for winter stays and equipped with cooking utensils + free bike hire
  • Blue Riverview Tiny House: 4.91-rated luxurious tiny house with river and mountain views, 20 minutes from Wanaka and Cromwell

WOW what a list! BRB, going to book my extensive tour of the best places for glamping in New Zealand…

If you have any NZ glamping spots to add to the list please let me know in the comments, and if you’re a glamping accommodation that wants to be considered as an addition on this list you can get in touch with me right here.

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Planning some New Zealand adventures? You might like to read these:

Big thanks to Valley Views, Te Wepu Intrepid Pods, Pepin Island and Out the Bay for hosting me. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

If you’re searching for the best cheap gifts for travellers, you’re in the right place.

Want more gift ideas? Read my blog on 15 eco-friendly gifts for travellers

Us travellers are a different breed, and I’ll admit we can be pretty tough to buy for. We prefer practicality and sustainability over style without substance, and whatever you get us generally needs to fit within pesky luggage requirements or in an air bubble in our very tightly packed backpack.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

But don’t stress, there’s plenty of knick-knacks and gadgets out there that tick the boxes for your travel-loving friends and family, so I’ve rounded up some of the best cheap gifts for travellers to make your shopping a little easier.

Some of these are presents I’ve received personally and that I use daily while I’m out adventuring or moving from A to B, some of them have been recommended by travellers I’ve met on the road, and some are sitting at the top of my own wishlist (hint hint to my friends!).

Whether you’re on a $10 Secret Santa limit or can spend up to $50, here’s a selection of 20 cheap gifts for travellers under $50.

cozy room with christmas tree and decorations cheap gifts for travellers
Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

20 unique and cheap gifts for travellers

1. A luggage scale

Not exactly the sexiest present around, but this is something that has saved me hours of stress and hundreds of dollars on extra baggage, and is a super easy cheap present for travellers.

You simply hook the bag or suitcase onto the scale and lift it to check the weight, so you know how much room you have to play with before getting to the airport and being stung with overweight fees.

Check price on Amazon

2. Packing cubes

Another one that won’t break the piggy bank, packing cubes are a game changer for any traveller.

You can buy fancier sets from places like Kathmandu or Macpac but I’ve always used a cheap set from Amazon and they last years.

Check price on Amazon

3. A Sentence-A-Day journal

My best friend got me a Kikki K Sentence-A-Day journal when I moved overseas a few years ago and it’s been a brilliant way to track the ups and downs of living abroad and travelling full-time.

The idea is that each page asks a different question and then has space for three or five answers, and you write your answer in each year. Questions range from philosophical to sentimental to totally random.

Once you’re on year two or three it’s fun to cover last year’s answers while you write your new one, and then compare how things have changed.

See the Kikki K Sentence-A-Day Journal here | Or see a similar one on Amazon here

4. A reusable coffee cup or drink bottle

Classic for good reason, a trusty reusable drink bottle or coffee cup (depending on the receiver’s beverage of choice) is always a winner.

I love this Brita filter drink bottle, this classy tumbler, this insulated thermos for both hot and cold drinks, and this spill-proof coffee mug.

5. A sleeping set for a hostel traveller

If your travel friend/family member is likely to be sleeping in hostels or on modes of transport, a little sleeping set is basically like gifting them a decent night of zzzzz.

Get a cute personalised bag from Etsy that they can carry PJs in, this brilliant contoured sleeping mask that blocks out all light and doesn’t press on their eyes, and this set of silicone earplugs that’ll make them forget they’re in a 12 bed dorm with snorers above them and a party going on next door.

If you know their size you can throw in some lightweight pyjamas too.

6. Travel wallet

There’s nothing worse than being at the airport and frantically searching through pockets and bags to find your passport, boarding pass or wallet.

With a RFID-protected travel wallet, they won’t need to stress! It’s got a zipped pocket inside for ultra important things plus space for tickets, cash and travel documents.

Check the price on Amazon

7. A travel pillow

Help your friend have a comfy journey with one of these top-rated travel pillows.

I use this Evolution Cabeau memory foam pillow and it’s my number one pick (after trying about 15 different ones throughout my travels). It’s incredibly comfy, has a neck clip to keep it from slipping, and can roll up to squeeze into a suitcase or bag when you don’t need it.

For a traveller who frequently takes red eyes or overnight buses or trains, this blow up lean-in travel pillow looks super dorky but is brilliant for getting some proper rest, especially for people who normally sleep on their front.

For something more compact check out this innovative Trtl pillow, for a multi-purpose support pillow check out this one here, or for a chin-supporting pillow that stops the head falling forward try this one.

8. A travel print

lady bowen falls milford sound
One of the fine art prints in my New Zealand collection

It’s tough to be a traveller in an era where travel isn’t an option for so many people, so to bring a pop of the world’s beauty into your friend’s home why not go for a nice travel print?

This is shameless self-promotion but I sell a range of travel prints (fine art, framed or canvas) from a range of destinations around the globe like Turkey, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand. They’re top quality and can be shipped internationally, you can check them out right here.

And for other options, consider these:

9. A skyline ring

This is one on my own list! These funky rings from Etsy are a nice ode to a special place, especially while the giftee isn’t able to make it there right now.

They have a range of city options like London, Paris, New York and Istanbul, or you can ask for a custom ring.

Check out the rings on Etsy

10. A technology case

Another practical solution to a common travel problem, these technology cases can hold all your camera gear and keep your cables organised instead of letting them live unsecured in a suitcase, where they’re almost guaranteed to magically disappear.

I use this zip up folder case for organising cables and this large case for carrying all my gadgets.

11. Road trip bingo

asphalt road near savanna with bushes
Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on Pexels.com

A fun one for anyone prepping for a long drive, this road trip bingo book by Kiwi company Moana Road will keep travellers of any age occupied.

12. Scratch map

An oldie but a goodie, a scratch map is a fun, interactive way to keep track of your adventures.

You can choose a global map or if you want to get more specific, check out these US or Europe maps.

13. Power bank

Friends don’t let friends run out of phone battery. Keep your traveller connected while on the road by providing them a handy battery pack to give their gadgets some juice while they’re running low.

Check out this 20,000mAh one with two USB ports and a USB-C port, or this smaller 10,000mAh Anker one.

14. A bamboo cutlery and straw set

One of the best eco-friendly gifts for travellers, this bamboo cutlery and straw set is a lightweight option to help minimise plastic use and reduce waste.

This would be especially handy for anyone travelling to South East Asia or Eastern Europe/the Mediterranean, where bars give you three straws for one drink and every meal comes with plastic knives and forks.

Yay for the planet!

15. A set of clip-on lenses for phones

I’m a raving fan of Moment’s wide angle lenses for taking epic travel photos on your phone, but they’re a pricier $120USD which doesn’t quite fit my “cheap” requirement of this blog.

But if you’re keen to give your friend or family member a helpful photography gadget that won’t set you back too much money, there are clip-on lenses or lens sets for phones that are more budget-friendly.

This wide angle lens has a 4.5/5 rating after more than 8000 reviews, and this set of 11 lenses has something for every situation.

16. A jewellery box

cheap gifts for travellers jewellery boxes

This one is a particularly good idea for anyone moving abroad who will be taking important jewellery with them, because they can keep using it for storage wherever they live as well as on shorter trips.

I love these Stackers jewellery boxes, this jewellery wrap, this customised jewellery box and this vegan leather folded jewellery case.

17. A bucket list book

Does your gift receiver have an endless amount of travel plans and adventures that they dream about?

Mi Goals has a super cool bucket list book that lets you list all your bucket list experiences as well as details on where you’ll do them, how you’ll get there, and some awesome ideas to flesh out your list if you get stuck.

If you’re in the US or UK, this Bucket List Book on Amazon might be cheaper and have quicker shipping.

18. A map mug that you colour in

cheap gifts for travellers

Coffee + travel lovers will LOVE this one, a way to remember all their trips while sipping their morning cuppa.

These mugs from Uncommon Goods have maps (choose from world map or US map) that you can colour in with special pens. They’re dishwasher safe and you can start from scratch if you ever want to redo.

19. A sleeping bag liner

If you’re buying for a hiker or camper, a sleeping bag liner is a lightweight, easy to pack option that provides extra heating when used with a sleeping bag, or just as a light linen option in hotter weather.

Check price on Amazon

20. A microfibre towel

Swimming in the lake at Mjlet National Park Croatia
My Dock & Bay towel and I in Croatia

No one likes travelling with bulky towels that hold sand and water, so a microfibre towel that repels sand is a perfect gift for beach-loving explorers.

I’m a fan of Dock & Bay, an Aussie company with bright towels as well as hair wraps and swimming shorts, but you can also get cheap microfibre towels from Amazon.


Hopefully you’ve found a few unique gift ideas for travellers that won’t blow your budget! If you can think of anything worth adding to this cheap gifts for travellers list then let me know in the comments.

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