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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
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.


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.
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.

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.
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.

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.

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.


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.


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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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?

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!

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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!

Full disclosure: When I travelled to Jordan I was actually with a female friend before we jumped on a group tour so I wasn’t solo, but this travel guide is for all gals heading to Jordan.

Solo female travel in Jordan is still rare compared to most other parts of the world. I myself was warned many times about travelling to Jordan (and other parts of the Middle East) from well-wishing friends and family back home.

Things to do in Wadi RUm Jordan
Wadi Rum desert

I was prepared for a similar experience to Marrakech and Istanbul, which are both overwhelming, hectic and incredible at the same time. But after a couple of days exploring Amman with a friend, and then seeing Petra, Wadi Rum and more on a group tour, I can say that my personal experience as a female traveller in Jordan was that I felt safe and comfortable everywhere I went.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The ultimate 7 day Jordan itinerary

Your experience with safety and security in Jordan is going to be completely dependent on where you go, the people you come across and your own circumstances, but here’s an as-detailed-as-possible Jordan solo female travel guide on what to expect when you visit the country, what to wear, how to get around and more.

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!

The Monastery Petra
The Monastery of Petra

Is Jordan safe to travel to?

From my experience, yes, Jordan is safe to visit. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Jordan is a dangerous place, since its neighbours Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have a less-than-perfect record in terms of peace and human rights, but it’s actually known as one of the safest countries in the Middle Eastern region.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Ultimate Guide to Solo Female Travel

Jordan’s rated #40 out of 162 countries on SafeAround.com’s list of the safest countries in the world, and that rating takes into account the dangerous borders with Syria and Iraq. If you’re planning on staying within the main tourist areas (which you should), you’re unlikely to be in any more danger than any European cities you might have travelled to before.

Terrorist attacks at the time of writing (October 2019) are rare, violence against foreign women is for the most part uncommon, and the type of crime you’ll likely encounter (if any) is pickpocketing in Downtown Amman or other busy places, so always keep your belongings attached to your body.

Jordan solo female travel guide Dead Sea
The Dead Sea

So nothing bad will happen?

Unfortunately, I can’t say that with certainty. As a female traveller and especially if you’re travelling solo, you do need to take extra precautions and regardless of what you do, you might find yourself in uncomfortable or unsafe situations.

I didn’t experience it myself but I have heard of other female travellers who were harassed at the major tourist sites like Petra, where local men grab and touch tourists and try to take them out of the main sites and to back roads or their own houses.

If you are being touched and followed in Petra or any other part of Jordan, be firm and pull away or tell them to leave you alone, then get back to an area with other tourists and ask for help if you need to.

Jordan solo female travel
Just chillin’ on Mars

How will I be treated by the locals?

Jordan is a predominantly Islamic country, with 92% of Jordanians being Muslim, meaning the society is still patriarchal and conservative with many Jordanian families into traditional gender roles of women staying at home with the children and men working in the city. Because of this, it is still fairly uncommon for locals to see women in the city by themselves, which can result in stares and attention.

As the wise Beth Sandland once said, it’s important to recognise the difference between being unsafe and being uncomfortable. In Jordan, if you’re light-skinned, light-haired, red-headed, Asian, Black or look different in any way to the locals, you’re going to stand out, which unfortunately means you will receive attention.

From my experience, the vast majority of this attention is not meant maliciously, and you can either ignore it by avoiding eye contact, ask people to leave you alone, or if you are happy to chat then just smile and chat back (although be aware this may bring more and stronger attention).

Don’t let stares and comments make you scared and worried for your safety as they’re probably just trying to be friendly, but if you do feel unsafe then you absolutely have the right to remove yourself from the situation and to say no.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Ultimate Turkey tour itinerary

Although I know this isn’t always the case, every single interaction I had with any local men was only positive. The shopkeepers, waiters, market sellers, bedouins in Petra and more were all friendly and respectful, always keen for a chat and to find out more about where I was from and if I was enjoying so far.

Most Jordanians, like any nationality, just want you to have an incredible time in their country, but as always, there are bad people out there with malicious intentions.

Desert safari wadi rum
Our jeep safari in Wadi Rum desert

What should I wear in Jordan as a female?

Because of Jordan’s conservative and religious society, you’ll need to pack a bit differently from previous holidays to other warm destinations. A good rule to follow in any Muslim country is at least shoulders and knees covered, and you might feel more comfortable and receive less attention if you’re covered right down to your wrists and ankles.

The actual necessity of being covered really depends on where you are. Downtown Amman, traditional areas and any local villages are a definite cover up, and it’s worth taking a scarf to cover your head and hair if you’re visiting any mosques or any residential areas particularly off the tourist path.

For the more touristy areas like Petra, it’s a bit more lenient (which was a lifesaver in Petra, I would’ve died of heat if I had to climb 800 stairs to the Monastery in August wearing long sleeves!).

Here’s a rough guide of what I wore during my week in Jordan:

  • Plain singlets (only for places where it’s okay to show shoulders)
  • Lightweight tshirts
  • A linen long-sleeved top
  • A jumper for the desert at night
  • Linen full-length pants
  • Full-length leggings (only for places where it’s not too conservative as they’re figure-hugging, fine for hiking in Petra though)
  • Maxi skirts
  • Sneakers
  • A scarf
  • A hat
Jordan solo female travel Jerash
This outfit was acceptable in most places, and I would recommend taking a scarf for extra cover if you’re going anywhere rural or extra religious

What are some other Jordan solo female travel safety tips?

  • If you’re really worried about travelling by yourself, jump on a tour! I did a seven-day Essential Jordan tour with Travel Talk and absolutely loved it. It’s a great way to experience a destination if you’re travelling by yourself but want to explore with like-minded travellers and have that extra level of safety and security.
  • Public transport is super limited, so if you’re not doing a tour, the only ways to get around are to hire a car or hire a private driver. Hiring a car is safe for women if you’re confident to drive in a foreign country, but it can be expensive as a solo traveller. Hiring a private driver/guide will cost you upwards of 75JD per day so if money’s no object then it could work, but it’s not a budget-friendly option.
  • I’ve heard of a couple of bad experiences with taxis in Amman, so we used Uber when we were there so there’s always a digital record of where you are and who you’re with. If you haven’t used Uber before you can get a sweet discount if you sign up using this link.
  • Make sure you have cell service and data wherever you go. Most international SIMs have huge roaming charges if you use your phone in Jordan, so it’s best to buy a local SIM card either at the airport or online before you leave.
  • If you want a proper WiFi hotspot you can use for your phone, laptop and any other devices, I’d recommend getting the Skyroam Solis which gives you WiFi anywhere in the world with reception service, and it doubles as a power bank which is super handy in an emergency.
  • Always, always, always travel with travel insurance. I use Worldcare to insure all my trips, so I’m covered for luggage, travel delays and cancellations, medical issues and loads more.

For more solo female travel tips, you can see a detailed list right here.

Again, let me just be clear that this Jordan female travel guide is based on my own personal experience. I was lucky enough to have only positive interactions with Jordanians, and I do think that’s the experience most tourists will have.

As with anywhere in the world there are always going to be bad people, and it’s always important to take precautions to keep yourself and your belongings safe regardless of who you are or where you are. And most importantly of all, GET TRAVEL INSURANCE!

If you have any other questions or want to share your experience of Jordan solo female travel, please flick me a comment and I’ll do my best to get back to you.

This Jordan solo female travel guide is sponsored by Worldcare Travel Insurance, who offer affordable policies with fantastic coverage, perfect for digital nomads, solo female travellers, round the world adventures or anyone going on their OE. I have a long-term policy with Worldcare and it covers me for medical, travel delays and cancellation, lost or damaged belongings, and loads more. Find a policy to fit your next adventure at worldcare.co.nz.

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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.
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.

Week eight of my 52 countries in 52 weeks global adventure has taken my on my first jump out of Europe and into the Middle East for a Jordan. I rendezvoused with my travel buddy Bex and we jumped onto the 7 day Jordan itinerary with Travel Talk Tours for a HOT but unforgettable week.

7 day Jordan itinerary
Petra’s Treasury

Our Jordan itinerary was an epic assault on the senses and a celebration of the most iconic sights, otherworldly landscapes and the best things to do in Jordan. From floating in one of the saltiest lakes on earth, to wandering the ancient streets of Petra, to flying through the Wadi Rum desert on the back of a jeep, the Travel Talk Essential Jordan tour was the perfect way for us to pack the best experiences into our short time. 

Below Bex has shared our full 7 day Jordan itinerary, plus some travel tips, tricks and advice for planning a trip to Jordan. And be sure to check out my top 10 things to do in Jordan guest blog over on Trift!

Or skip straight to:


Amman view
Amman

Day one of our 7 day Jordan itinerary: Arriving in Amman

We lucked out on our flight into Queen Alia International Airport in Amman and both got window seats so we got to enjoy the sights of the Mediterranean, the coast of Turkey and Israel and the West Bank as we arrived. 


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.


To be able to work on the road we bought SIM cards at the airport with a tourist 10 day 10GB package for 10JOD (about £11/$14.10USD/$22NZD at the time of writing) each, from Umniah. There’s about three different providers with pop-up shops so it’s worth shopping around. 

If you arrive on day one of the tour then make sure you let Travel Talk know your landing time and they will collect you from the airport – definitely worth it as the airport is a long way out of the city and the opposite side to the hotel. We arrived the day before so we found our own way to get from Amman airport to downtown Amman, for which there are a couple of options:

  • In Jordan, it’s illegal for Uber to collect from the airport (which doesn’t mean they don’t do it and that Uber doesn’t offer that as a pick up) but it’s just important to know as you might have a couple of drivers cancel before you manage to get a ride. They will also have to claim that you are friends or acquaintances if they’re stopped, and they can’t have their phone out with the Uber app running.
  • There are taxis that go by the meter but expect to pay around 22JOD (around £24)
  • There’s also an airport express bus service provided by Sariyah bus company which goes every half-hour 6am-5pm, and every hour 5pm-5am, and costs 2.50JOD

LOVE TRAVEL INSPO?

I’m currently on a year-long solo round the world adventure, visiting a new country every week for an entire year, with my route based on the cheapest flight every Tuesday. Am I crazy? Yes. But is it epic? Also yes. Follow along on Instagram @findingalexx.


The first accommodation of the one week Jordan tour is Hotel Ibis Amman which is in the north of the city. You spend the first two nights there and return for the last two nights of the tour so if you’re on a longer trip with lots of luggage it’s a handy place to leave one of your bags to save you lugging it around the country.

There’s no pool unfortunately for the summer tours but there’s a small gym, a nice outdoor area, and it’s right across the road from a mall and lots of eateries to choose from so it’s handy to everything you need. It’s a business hotel so nothing fancy, but it’s comfortable.

The tour officially started at 6pm with a meet and greet and a group dinner. One of my favourite things about Travel Talk is that it brings together really like-minded travelers so it’s easy to meet new people (a lot of who live in London so you can stay in touch) and make new travel friends!


Day two: Day trip to Ajloun Castle and Jerash

After a buffet breakfast we headed off at 8:30am to our first stop outside Amman on our 7 day Jordan itinerary. Ajloun Castle, built between 1184 and 1188, is impressively still pretty much all standing. We explored the inside of this epic structure but my favourite part was definitely seeing the view from the top where you can see into Israel and the West Bank.

En route to the castle you pass the ‘this way to the Syrian border’ sign which is a humble reminder of where you are in the world and that for many, this area isn’t just a pretty holiday.

From the castle we drove about 45 minutes to Jerash, an ancient city inhabited since the Bronze Age. This felt very reminiscent of our trips to Greece and Turkey with the towering Corinthian columns, a huge oval colonnade and an incredibly preserved amphitheatre. 

Ajloun Castle day tour

This day was super hot with a lot of walking and standing in the sun so a lot of water, sunscreen and a hat is essential.

We were back at the hotel by mid-afternoon which was necessary in that heat so we had free time to sort our bags, stock up on water and snacks for the coming days, and relax.

For dinner we headed to Tawaheen Al Hawa which is only a five-minute walk from the hotel and offers the most extensive menu I’ve ever seen. It’s more pricey than most places we went but completely worth it for the quality and quantity of food, the atmosphere and the amazing service. We even went back at the end of the tour and took the whole group with us!

Best dinner Amman
Dinner for two at Tawaheen al Hawa

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Day three: Amman to Wadi Rum

Desert day, woohoo! We grabbed a quick breakfast for the road and jumped on the bus at 7:30am to drive south to the bottom of Jordan and the Wadi Rum desert. Our tour group  of 17 merged in Aqaba with another Travel Talk tour of 18 coming across the Israeli border from Egypt. 

Aqaba is a resort-style city with duty-free shopping and offering endless diving and snorkeling tours in the Red Sea. I was so sad not to be able to spend more time here to go for a dive, but it’s definitely on the bucket list to return, and it’s a great option to add on if you’re looking for a 10 day Jordan itinerary.

The combined Travel Talk Egypt & Jordan tour includes two days snorkeling and diving on the Egypt side of the Red Sea so if you’re a keen diver and interested in Egypt then that could be a great option!

After the rendezvous we headed east into the Wadi Rum desert. Seeing the patches of green disappear and transform into every shade of brown and red, with sandstone cliffs towering each side of the road and then massive expanses of sand, you definitely get the feeling you’re driving into another world.

Wadi Rum tour

Brace yourself for the two hours of free time you have when you arrive at your desert camp in the afternoon, because it can be HOT in mid-summer (keep in mind we were here in August so this definitely won’t always be the case). All we could do was lie on our beds sweating and wait it out, but a few others played cards or just sat and drank water to pass the time.

The tents are decked out with electricity, power sockets, lights, a bathroom with a toilet and shower and a fan over your beds to help you sleep.

Wadi rum overnight tour

At 5pm the jeeps arrived and we were off for our desert safari. Each jeep sits between 6 and 8 people, either side of the back of a flat-decked ute with padded bench seats. We rotated spots for different views, but if you get motion sickness then the front is probably best because the drivers love to throw you around a bit for the full experience.

The safari lasts a few hours with three stops along the way to enjoy the incredible views and grab some photos. First was one of the main filming locations for the new Aladdin film, up on a dune looking out over a huge expanse of sand – seriously impressive. 

jeep safari in wadi rum jordan

The second stop was at the ‘mushroom rock’ you might’ve seen in photos. To be honest this rock was so swarmed with people we don’t have one photo of it, there are other parts of Wadi Rum that are way cooler anyway.

The final stop is a place to sit and enjoy the sunset, but if you turn and look the other direction you’ll see one of my favourite views of all time – a massive rock formation in the distance that fully convinced me we were walking on Mars and Matt Damon (a.k.a The Martian) was just around the corner trying to grow potatoes.

Be prepared to get sand EVERYWHERE – a scarf for your face and sunglasses to protect your eyes are both really helpful. 

Jordan itinerary wadi rum

Arriving back at the desert camp we had had a bit of time to try and remove the cups of sand we had in every crevice of our bodies and clothes and then head to the communal area for dinner.

Dinner is as traditional Jordanian bedouin desert meal, cooked in a pit under the sand, very similar to a Maori hangi you can try in New Zealand, followed by a dance party learning some local moves – DJ and all! A really cool local experience to add to any Jordan itinerary.

We hoped to do some astrophotography while we were out in the desert but you would need to walk a decent distance from the camp and neighbouring camps to be out of the light-pollution, and given the warnings from our guide about snakes and scorpions at that time of the year, we passed. 


Day four: Wadi Rum to Petra

An optional activity for day four is a sunrise camel trek to and from the desert camp, for 15JOD each. The time will obviously depend on the time of year but given we were there in mid-summer we headed off at 6am.

Alexx has talked about this on her Instagram Stories (see her Jordan highlights), but no matter where you are traveling and what you’re doing, if it involves animals then it’s really important to do your research and make sure they are treated well and that it’s an ethical activity.

Jordan itinerary
That’s Alexx’s camel getting hungry over on the left!

We spoke with our guide about how and where these camels were kept, how many treks they do a day and if they are limited to one person per camel before we made the decision to go.

From our own research we knew that camels should not carry more than 150kg in total, so with our weight plus the saddle we knew we were comfortably well under that. This is compared to donkeys who can carry up to 50kg, so it’s never okay for an adult to ride a donkey.

I had actually ridden a camel recently in Morocco so I chose just to walk alongside to get some photos, enjoy some time with these epic and quirky animals and to see the sunrise – so that’s a good (and free) option as well. 

Breakfast was a traditional buffet and then we were back on the bus and on our way to Petra, one of the seven Modern Wonders of the World and even more impressive in real life than in the copious amounts of photos we’d already seen. 

Petra tour
The Treasury peeking through the rocks of the Siq at Petra

We dropped off our bags at La Maison Hotel (perfectly located a five-minute walk from the entry gate), had a quick lunch and then headed off for an afternoon of exploring.

Top tip: Do not wear a skirt! Petra is so much bigger than I imagined. The walk from the entry gate to the Monastery at the far end is 8km return and 850 stairs, and in the middle of the afternoon it’s a proper sweat-fest, so practical clothing and good shoes would help a lot, and you can always change into something else for photos at the top if you want.

Because Petra is such a touristy site, you don’t need to worry about the same dress code rules as in the rest of Jordan, so active wear shorts and a singlet would be fine.

Chances are you would’ve seen photos of the Treasury, which is about 2km into the walk and therefore much more popular, but the Monastery is well worth the walk and you get the place almost to yourself instead of battling lots of others for the same photo you’ve seen everywhere.

The Monastery Petra
The incredible Monastery at Petra

It’s also an incredible sight to see and try and fathom how it was built so long ago as it truly towers above you. For photographers, the afternoon light is also much better for the Monastery opposed to the Treasury which is hard to capture from about midday onwards.

For the more energetic there’s also incredible walks to the High Place of Sacrifice which offers views all over the surrounding valleys, as well as through the tombs in the surrounding cliffs. You’ll get a map when you arrive with all the best sites to see clearly labelled, but it’s good to know in advance what you want to see so you can get the most out of your time there. 

The gates to Petra close around 7pm but, with the intense heat, that felt like more than enough time after entering around 1pm. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant. We might’ve gone just for the name alone, but the huge portions of authentic Jordanian food lived up to our expectations! 

Dinner at Mom's Recipe Petra
HUGE portions at My Mom’s Recipe in Petra

An optional extra for 17JOD is Petra By Night, run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 1500 lanterns are put out through the winding rockwalled walk through the Siq and in front of the Treasury which is really stunning.

To be honest the show itself was very simple and overpriced, with two performances of local instruments and then some coloured lights projected onto the Treasury, but I enjoyed seeing the lanterns so it’s totally up to you. You wouldn’t miss anything life-changing if you skipped it. There’s also too many people there to really capture the lanterns in their full glory. 

Exhausted and dehydrated, this was the most satisfying sleep of the week-long Jordan trip. 

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Day five: Petra to the Dead Sea and Amman

The early bird gets the worm! And by that I mean if you head back into Petra when the gates open at 6am you can finally have the Treasury all to yourself with the lighting being much better at that time of the day. Oh, you might just have to share it with some kittens. This was an absolute highlight of the Travel Talk Jordan itinerary, and one you can’t get with a day trip to Petra from Amman.

Petra Treasury in the morning
Kittens + World Wonders, two of my favourite things

Just opposite the Treasury wall there is a short five-minute climb to the viewpoint which we had all to ourselves for 20 minutes to get all the photos and videos we wanted. I would 100% recommend doing this and not bothering the day before as you’ll be battling crowds and heat which will really take away from the magic of the place. 

After another shower (cause you’ll be sweating 24/7), we were back on the bus at 10am and headed for the Dead Sea – the shoreline of which is the lowest dry land on earth, but contrary to common belief is actually not the saltiest lake in the world, but is still VERY salty. Salty to the point that you just lay back and instantly float – it’s like swimming in jelly!

Dead Sea tour Jordan
Absolute Dead Sea floating fail! So graceful

Prepare yourself for a bit of pain as well because the salt will expose any cuts or exposed skin you have. Your guide will remind you during the week, but make sure you don’t shave within 24 hours of swimming. The chafing from wearing skirts in Petra the day before did nooooot feel good, but you can hop in and out every so often and it’s totally bearable, just a bit tingly and uncomfortable.

The Dead Sea is actually a popular destination for healing because of the minerals in the water and the land, and for 3JOD you can cover yourself in local mud which is supposed to be good for your skin. We’re not sure we noticed a difference but it was worth it for a laugh and the photos looking like we’re in wetsuits. 

Dead Sea mud

After a serious rinse off (the mud stains your skin without a good scrub-off), you can hang out in the pool by the restaurant, there’s shower facilities there as well to clean-up before you leave. A perfectly relaxing place to end a hectic three days exploring some of the most epic things to do in Jordan.

It’s only an hour back to Amman and we were so exhausted we had a very relaxed night in.


Day six: Amman

The final full day of our 7 day Jordan itinerary was spent looking around Amman’s ancient Citadel and Roman Theatre, and a walk-through of downtown – the hustle and bustle old town of the city with markets and fantastically cheap falafel. For the best cheap meal in town, head to Hashem for falafel, pita, fries and a drink for only a couple of pounds.

Amman view
The view of Amman from the Citadel

We had the afternoon to ourselves to do what we liked or head back to the hotel and then went back to Tawaheen Al Hawa for one final group dinner. 


Day seven: Depart Amman

Timeeee toooo say goooodbyyyye, as the tour parts and heads off to their next destinations.

Our guide gathered everyone’s flight times and bunched people together to share taxis to the airport which is a great way to save money. Your guide can also tell you how much you should expect to pay to make sure you’re not getting ripped off, but Uber is also a great way to avoid that as well.


The final verdict on Travel Talk Essential Jordan tour

This was the second time we had travelled with Travel Talk (we visited Turkey with them last year), and it was brilliant once again.

Travel Talk runs tours all through the Middle East and North Africa as well as some lesser-visited European destinations, and the quality of accommodation and guides is well above what you would expect for the price. They also often have huge sales like 50% or take a mate for free, so be sure to check out their current specials here.

Jordan’s a lot smaller than Turkey so we covered less ground, but being able to tick off Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea, plus some bonus sights in and around Amman, without having to plan an entire Jordan itinerary ourselves, was super helpful.

All in all it was an excellent week, and I’d definitely recommend it for any young travellers, whether they’re solo, with a friend or in a group.


Got more time? Options for a 10 day Jordan itinerary

If you’ve got longer than a week, the one thing I would really encourage you to do is spend some time in Aqaba to go diving or snorkelling. It’s a 4 hour drive and there are shuttles or public buses you can take, or you can catch a quick flight.

If you’re travelling independently, then I think the perfect 10 day Jordan itinerary would be this:

  • Two days in Amman
  • One day to see Ajloun Castle/Jerash
  • Two days in Aqaba
  • Two days at Wadi Rum
  • Two days in Petra
  • One day at the Dead Sea

Jordan travel tips and advice for planning your trip

Where should we stay before and after the tour?

We stayed an extra three days either side of the tour at the Cabin Hostel in downtown Amman, and we can’t recommend this hostel enough!

There’s air conditioning, sturdy wooden bunks built into the walls with curtains, plugs and clothes hooks all in your bed area, and the staff are super friendly, bringing us fruit platters and snacks as we slaved away on our laptops finishing our Jordan content.

The hostel wanted to make the inside have an outdoor feel and they’ve achieved this awesome treehouse, homely vibe which we loved, and you couldn’t get a more perfect location for the best of the Amman sites and food. Prices start from about £9 a night for a dorm bed, which is pretty cheap for Jordan. You can check prices for your travel dates right here.

Desert safari wadi rum

Is Jordan safe to visit?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the safety of different countries, particularly in the Middle East. Obviously you’re never 100% safe as there are bad people and bad things happen everywhere, but from our experience, our Jordan itinerary was very safe, even for female travellers.

It is always important to thoroughly research the safety of a destination before you plan a trip and be up-to-date on any travel warnings and the latest news, but what I can say is that Travel Talk would also not offer a tour in a country that would put its customers in unnecessary danger, and that we found Jordan to be safe, friendly and welcoming to tourists.

This doesn’t mean a country is perfect and it’s also important not to over-romanticise a location based on its sights alone, because Jordan also has a lot of challenges for people living here, cases of public animal abuse at some tourist sites, and some major human rights issues for women, but it’s good to see and understand both sides.

One of my all-time favourite travel bloggers Beth Sandland recently spoke about how there’s a difference between unsafe and uncomfortable. You might be confronted with ways of life and cultural norms that you are not used to, and this might make you uncomfortable, but it does not mean you are unsafe in any way. 

I’ve also got a detailed Jordan solo female travel guide if you want to read more.

Petra jordan itinerary
Just me stealing a Petra kitten, nothing to see here…

What should I pack for Jordan?

Jordan is a predominantly Muslim country, so conservative dress is required in some places, and you’ll see that most local women are covered with a hijab, abaya or niqab.

While I’m generally a supporter of women wearing and doing what they want, as a visitor it’s essential to respect the local culture and religion, and also avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself.

We wore high-neck t-shirts and full-length trousers or maxi skirts in most places and this was acceptable. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and cover your shoulders and knees, particularly in downtown Amman.

If you’re visiting touristy areas on your Jordan itinerary, like Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum, the dress code isn’t so strict, but remember there are still conservative religious people around so don’t have your boobs and butt out etc.

Jordan itinerary Jerash
This outfit was fine for Jordan

When is the best time to visit Jordan?

Not August! We went at the end of August to tie in with other travel plans, and for two reasonably fit young women it was pretty hard to deal with. We were constantly drinking water and the heat of the desert tents in the afternoon was nearly unbearable. But we also had far less crowds to deal with so you win some, you lose some.

If you’re easily affected by temperature then avoid the middle of summer as well as the middle of winter, because the desert temperatures can drop to freezing.

Petra monastery trek
Me dying after walking up 800 steps to the Monastery at Petra in late 30s/early 40s heat

How should I pay for things in Jordan?

I was surprised how often card payments were available, however you will still need about 100-150 JOD cash for the week because you’re often on group dinners where splitting the bill is only possible with cash.

ATMs charge between 1 and 7 JOD per cash withdrawal so it’s worth shopping around. We were happy if we found one that charged 3JOD. 

Do I need a visa for Jordan?

The rules are different depending on where you’re from but Kiwis, Aussies and Brits at least do need a visa for Jordan.

My top recommendation is to buy the Jordan Pass online before you arrive in Jordan. It’s 77JOD per person and includes your visa into the country (you will need it as you come through customs) and includes entry into all the major sites in Jordan. Make sure you get the two-day entry into Petra for only 5JOD extra, as otherwise it’s 50JOD per day. 

Sunrise camel ride wadi rum jordan itinerary

Do you need to tip in Jordan?

Jordan has a tipping culture, so keep in mind that sometimes your bill will have a 16% service charge added, and you will want some extra cash on hand to tip your tour guide, driver etc at the end of your trip.

If you’re not on a tour and you find yourself needing to tip for a particular activity or experience, 10% is a good rule-of-thumb.

Expect to see children in poverty and begging in Amman

You will most likely come across children begging for money at some point on your Jordan trip. If you haven’t come across this before it can be pretty harrowing and very heartbreaking to say no to.

However, it’s important not to give them money as it actually fuels their poverty cycle, the money most likely doesn’t actually stay with them, and it encourages them to be out on the streets instead of in school so they miss out on their education.

I’m by no means an expert on this, but there is plenty of information from charities and NGOs who work with children in poverty to support this. If you would like to support the children in a country you visit, donating to a charity that helps children stay in education can be a great way to do this – but, as with anything, research is important. 

Jordan itinerary including the dead sea

Some language basics

Arabic is the official language of Jordan so it’s nice to know some basic greetings and pleasantries to use everyday. English is widely spoken but we found it often to be to a very basic level.

Throughout Jordan, people will be more likely to speak local dialects such as Jordanian Arabic, urban, rural, or Bedouin dialects. We found it helpful (and found the locals appreciated us knowing) a couple of terms such as Salam (hello or goodbye), Salamo Alaykom (a more formal hello, ‘peace be upon you’), Shukraan (thank you) and Marhaba (hello, welcome, you are welcome).

Also be patient with locals when trying to communicate in English and remember they are speaking as a second or third language, which we should have great respect for. 

How to cross the border into Jordan

If you’re coming to Jordan from Israel (or from Egypt through Israel) or vice versa, there are two border crossings you need to go through and there is no transport that can travel the whole way through.

You will need to first get to the Israeli border by taxi, shuttle or bus, pass through the border on foot, then take a new shuttle to the Jordanian border (about 7 JOD), again pass through the border on foot, and then get another taxi, shuttle or bus from there into the city.

The borders are only open between certain hours so make sure you arrive at the right time to allow for the crossing.

You can cross at three different places, depending on which cities you are coming/going from and to. There’s plenty more information online about each border crossing, costs, what to expect etc. so it’s worth looking into before you go, as this brief overview is based off our tour-mates’ experiences only. 

Things to do in Wadi RUm Jordan

Can you drink the tap water in Jordan?

You can drink the tap water in Jordan but it’s not recommended due to its high chlorine and calcium levels, so you’ll need to drink bottled water or get a filtered drink bottle like this WaterWell one from Amazon.

What is Jordanian food like?

Get ready to eat lots of falafel, hummus and bread. There’s also a decent amount of veggie dishes and sides available, but it’s worth stocking up on fruit from the supermarket to take with you as snacks as it’s harder to find once you’re moving around.

The must-try is their sweet cheese dessert called kunaffa, which is best to get from Habiba (a chain you can find close to the hotel in Amman, or in the centre of downtown). Our favourite find of the trip was definitely the cold lemonade mint drink that’s available at all restaurants.

What camera should I take?

GoPros are made for specific kinds of travel and this is definitely a Jordan itinerary where it’s worth having, for the jeep safari, the camel trek, Petra and the Dead Sea. I have the GoPro Hero 7 Black and definitely recommend it, from what I’ve heard about the new Hero 8 it’s not a huge step up so it’s worth saving money and going for the slightly older version instead.

It was also a relief to find out we had power in the Wadi Rum desert camp as the two days either side were the most photo-heavy days on our Jordan itinerary, so being able to charge everything overnight was essential.

If you book a desert camp without power (or if you’re not sure), make sure you take a decent-sized battery pack to recharge your batteries, like this one from Cygnett which charges my phone, camera and other gadgets multiple times each.

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Can I bring a drone to Jordan?

NO! Drones are banned from the country, and if you’re caught with it when you arrive or depart Amman they’ll confiscate it and you’ll never get it back. I know some travel bloggers have talked about how they were able to sneak theirs in but it’s your own risk, and being caught flying could lead to serious legal troubles.

If you’re a professional drone pilot with the right licenses and insurance then you may be able to get a permit from their aviation authority, but the process is apparently very difficult.


I hope this 7 day Jordan itinerary guide and tour review has been helpful for planning your own Jordan trip! Be sure to check out my solo female travel guide to Jordan and watch my Jordan highlights on Instagram @findingalexx.

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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.
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.

Huge thanks to Travel Talk for hosting me and Bex on their 7 day Essential Jordan itinerary. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

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!

I know it’s a cliché to say that there’s something for everyone in a destination, but there are fun things to do in Turkey for every type of traveller. Turkey’s tourist attractions range from active adventures to magical landscapes to coastal nirvanas to hectic cities, with seriously impressive cuisine, heart-warming hospitality and mind-blowing historical buildings thrown in for good measure.

Best things to do in Turkey Cappadocia balloons
The stunning balloons over Cappadocia is one of my Turkey highlights

After two visits to this gorgeous Middle Eastern gem, here are my top picks on the best things to do in Turkey, the best cities to visit, food to eat and the Turkey sights you can’t miss, plus some tips for building the perfect Turkey itinerary.

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Skip straight to:


The best things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul is hands down one the best place to visit in Turkey, and it was my 24th destination on my 52 countries in 52 weeks trip. Europe’s biggest city deserves a travel guide of its own so that’s on my (never-ending) to do list, but in the meantime here are some ideas for what to do in Istanbul.

Klook.com

Shop ’til you drop

It was painful walking through Istanbul’s bazaars and shopping streets knowing that my suitcase was already packed to the brim, because it’s one of my favourite shopping cities on the planet.

From the gorgeous lamps and rugs that Turkey is famous for to the ultra-chic boutiques near Galata Tower, there’s plenty of homewares, clothing, souvenirs and antiques to browse and buy.

Just note that the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market can be pretty overwhelming if it’s your first time in a crazy market. Remember to haggle (their starting price can be over twice what they’re actually willing to take), and don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re not interested.

Top tip: If you’re going into the bazaars solo then I’d recommend taking a pair of earphones and playing music as you’re wandering around, it’s easier to ignore the shopkeepers trying to get attention and it doesn’t feel as rude as just walking past pretending they don’t exist.

Grand Bazaar things to do in Istanbul Turkey
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Explore the rainbow neighbourhood of Balat

Balat is Istanbul’s answer to Notting Hill and Burano, with brightly-coloured houses lining the neighbourhood’s streets. Once home to Istanbul’s Jewish and Greek Orthodox communities, Balat is now and up-and-coming area that boasts hipster cafés, vintage shops and lesser-known religious buildings.

Top tip: Remember that this is a residential area and people live here. Don’t stand on doorsteps, make way for cars and pedestrians, and don’t make too much noise.

Balat Istanbul Instagrammable
The famous coloured houses of Balat

Learn about Istanbul’s messy past in the Hagia Sophia Museum

The Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya in Turkish) has been a Byzantine Christian cathedral, a Greek Orthodox cathedral (twice), a Roman Catholic cathedral and an Ottoman mosque, before being transformed into a museum in 1935.

The building itself is exquisite, and the history behind its tumultuous past is fascinating, and that’s coming from someone who’s not such a fan of museums. It’s one of Istanbul’s absolute must-dos.

Top tip: You’ll get a much better experience here with a guide so I definitely recommend jumping on a tour like this one.

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Take a cruise down the Bosphorus Strait

Seeing cities from the water is totally underrated in my opinion! Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait splits the European and Asian sides of the city, and offers unbeatable panoramic views of the palaces, mosques and coastal neighbourhoods.

You can choose from public ferries, hop-on hop-off boat tickets, afternoon cruises or even a dinner cruise with classic Turkish entertainment.

Get a lesson in Ottoman history at Topkapi Palace

This enormous palace was home to the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire from 1478 to 1853, and it’s now a museum showcasing relics and treasures from Ottoman times. The once-Imperial residence is made up of four courtyards and a harem, with over 30 rooms, chambers, pavilions and gardens to explore.

Top tip: The Imperial Treasury in the Conqueror’s Pavilion of the Third Courtyard is home to an incredible Ottoman collection of everything from thrones to super fancy Qur’an covers to the famous Topkapi Dagger. Get to the palace early and go straight here to avoid having to line up later in the day.

Admire the stunning Blue Mosque

One of the most iconic buildings in all of Turkey, the Blue Mosque (official name Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is a 17th century masterpiece. It’s currently under restoration (there was scaffolding up both times I visited in November of 2018 and 2019) but it’s still well worth a visit.

It’s a functioning mosque so it closes to visitors during the five prayer times each day, and ladies will need to cover their hair, arms and legs before entering, but they have shawls and skirts to borrow if you need.

Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque feat. scaffolding

Smoke some shisha

For a chill hang out with friends, head to one of the many shisha bars. Order a mezze platter, choose your favourite shisha flavour and banter with your buddies, or take on one of the locals in a friendly game of backgammon. Spoiler alert: You’ll lose.

The best shisha bars in Istanbul are Huqqa and Lulu Lounge if you’re feeling fancy, or Habab’be in Sultanahmet for an authentic shisha experience.

How to blow shisha rings
Shisha ring professional aka Aykut, our Travel Talk tour guide

Go out-out

Istanbul’s a city of over 15 million people, so unsurprisingly its nightlife scene is thriving. Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated evening, a rowdy night out with other travellers or something in between, there’s a nighttime activity with your name on it.

For a special occasion or a ‘treat yourself’ experience, head to one of the seaside bars in Ortakoy like Reina or Sortie. If you want rooftop cocktails with a view, your best bet is Leb-i-derya or the ultra-flash 360. Or if you’re on a budget and just want to have a couple (or ten…) beers with some like-minded travellers, jump on the seven-hour Istanbul Pub Crawl.

Top tip: There’s only one thing worse than a hangover… And that’s a hangover ruining your holiday. But that’s where milk thistle comes in! I’m no doctor but in all my years of drinking, nothing has cured my sore head like some preventative milk thistle. It’s a natural supplement that helps your liver detox faster (or something like that haha) and if you take one before you drink and another before you go to sleep, you wake up feeling on top of the world. You’re welcome. I use this maximum strength milk thistle and it comes with me everywhere I go!

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Where to stay in Istanbul

In terms of location, I really recommend staying in the Sultanahmet area. It’s close to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, there are loads of places to eat and drink nearby, and most importantly it’s safe for solo female travellers. The streets are well-lit and there are cafés and shops open all night, so I never felt unsafe even walking back to my hotel in the evenings.

On my second trip to Istanbul I stayed at the beautiful Blue Mosque Suites, just a five minute walk from the Blue Mosque itself. My room was HUGE, with a throne-like bed, gorgeous bathroom, table and chairs, TV, fridge and a wardrobe. The owner, Kubilay, is super friendly and helpful, and there’s even a small rooftop terrace to enjoy some çay (Turkish tea) and watch the sunset.

Prices start from about £40 a night for the room I stayed in. Check availability for your travel dates here.

Blue Mosque Suites Istanbul
My royal room at the Blue Mosque Suites

If you’re looking for a hostel in Istanbul, I’ve heard great things about Jumba Hostel and Cheers Hostel.

Want to treat yourself to a luxury stay? Check out the super stylish Hotel Poem, Hotel DeCamondo in Karakoy with a stunning rooftop terrace, or the renowned Four Seasons Sultanahmet.

Booking.com

The best things to do in Cappadocia

Cappadocia is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Turkey, and it’s home to some of the most magical landscapes on the planet. From underground cities and cave houses to deep valleys with *ahem* interesting rock formations, the views alone are insane. Oh, and to take it to the next level, balloons fly over it almost every single day.

Klook.com

Although the balloons are obviously the major pull, there are a bunch of cool things to do in Cappadocia beyond what you see on Instagram. We spent a night in Cappadocia on my Travel Talk Essential Turkey tour last year, and I loved it so much that I came back for four nights when my year-long solo adventure took me to Istanbul.

Cappadocia rock houses

See the sunrise from a balloon

There’s no other way to start a Cappdocia bucket list than with a balloon ride. Yes, it’s become a bit of a tourist trap thanks to social media, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the coolest experiences you’ll ever have and probably the number one thing to do in Turkey.

The balloons are scheduled to go up every morning but it is weather dependent, so I’d recommend spending a few nights here to get the best chance of being able to fly or at least see the balloons.

Cappadocia balloon selfie
The best sunrise of my life

Balloon rides range from about €140-€200 depending on basket size (the bigger baskets can accommodate 24-28 people, and there are baskets as small at 8) and the length of your flight (60 or 90 minutes). There are so many companies to choose from but Butterfly Balloons is my top pick for who to fly with.

Top tip: You need to book your balloon ride in advance, they’re so popular these days that they get booked up weeks before. Book as soon as you’ve confirmed your Cappadocia dates.

Watch the balloons from a Cappadocia hotel rooftop

If you’re on a budget, scared of heights or lucky enough to have ticked off a Cappadocia balloon ride already, watching the balloons from a rooftop terrace is almost as magical as being up in the air yourself.

While the most famous Cappadocia hotels with rooftops are probably Sultan Cave Suites and Mithra Cave Hotel, there are actually plenty of stunning cave hotels with Instagram-ready terraces that won’t break the bank.

I stayed at the Artemis Cave Suites which are incredible, and they’ve got two Instagrammable terraces complete with cushions, rugs and fruit platters, and they were renovating a third terrace while I was there. Prices start at around €80 a night including a delicious breakfast, and you can check your travel dates here.

Cappadocia hotel rooftop
One of the terraces at Artemis Cave Suites

Then I spent a couple of nights at Kookaburra Pension, a more basic cave hotel but also home to a stunning terrace, and I had it all to myself both mornings. And as an added bonus, this hotel was a 30 second walk from Topdeck Cave Restaurant, often touted as Cappadocia’s best restaurant. Prices start from only €30 a night in the low season, check your travel dates here.

Cappadocia rooftop cheap hotel Kookaburra Pension
The rooftop at Kookaburra Pension

Hike through the valleys

Cappadocia is home to a number of valleys with crazy rock formations. Rose Valley boasts pink-hued rocky ridges and is known as the most romantic spot in the area, Pigeon Valley is famous for the pigeon holes that have been carved into the volcanic rock for the local birds, and Love Valley is filled with phallic-shaped towers.

Cappadocia hike valley things to do in Turkey

Take a horse ride

Cappadocia’s original name ‘Katpatuka’ actually means ‘Land of Beautiful Horses’, and seeing the valleys by horseback is one of the best things to do during your Cappadocia trip. Some horse riding experience is recommended as the terrain can be a bit above beginner’s standard.

Go on a quad safari

If you’ve got the need for speed, exploring Cappadocia by quad bike is a brilliant option. This was at the top of my list of things to do on my recent second trip to Cappadocia but unfortunately I was battling a bad cough, so dusty off-roading wasn’t a great idea. But if anyone tries this, please let me know how it is!

There’s also some cool jeep tours like this one if you prefer to be inside a car with a seatbelt while hooning around rocky valleys.

Jeep safari Cappadocia

Other places to visit and things to do in Turkey

Visit Anzac Cove at the Gallipoli Peninsula

This is one of the best things to do in Turkey for the Kiwis and Aussies out there. Dust off your social studies textbooks and take yourself back to primary school when we were first taught about the Anzacs and the Battle of Gallipoli.

Standing where our countrymen attempted to invade the Ottoman Empire back in 1915 and paying your respects for the thousands of soldiers who died is a surreal experience, but it’s a must-do for anyone from New Zealand or Australia.

Top tip: I’d really recommend visiting with a local guide so you can hear about how the battle affected the Ottoman Empire and the soon-to-be Republic of Turkey, particularly a prominent commander called Kemal Atatürk, who founded the country in 1923.

Anzac Cove Gallipoli tour Turkey
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli

Wander through the ancient ruins of Ephesus

My travel style generally steers towards food, photography and views rather than historical sites and museums, but the ancient city of Ephesus was legitimately mind-blowing. The ruins date back to the 10th century BC, and you can see a mix of Hellenistic and Roman settlements throughout the area.

It’s also home to one of the most iconic ruins in the world, the Library of Celsus. The library was originally built around 120 AD, before being all but destroyed by a fire in 262, leaving only the magnificent front façade until that too fell down after an earthquake around the 10th century. In the 1970s the façade was reconstructed, and it’s now one of the best photo spots in Turkey.

Top tip: If you’re short for time on your Turkey vacation, you can see Ephesus and Pamukkale on a two day/one night trip with One Nation Travel.

Ephesus ancient city tour

Be a crazy cat lady

There are SO many cats in Turkey, and even the wild ones are treated like royalty! You’ll find dishes of food and water left out on the streets to keep the cats well-fed, and many strays end up being kind of adopted by local families, restaurants and shops. Don’t be alarmed to have kittens meowing at your feet while you’re eating dinner at an outdoor table, it’s part of Turkey’s charm.

Best things to do in Turkey
The Guradian of Ephesus

Top tip: Note that these cats are wild, and therefore aren’t vaccinated against rabies or other diseases. Most of the cats are friendly and I’ve never been bitten or scratched, but just be careful not to get too close if a cat doesn’t look so impressed with you, and go straight to the doctor if you do get bitten or scratched.

See the travertine terraces of Pamukkale

Known as the “Cotton Castle”, Pamukkale’s white cliffs have become another notable Instagrammable spot in Turkey in recent years. It’s definitely worth a visit for sure, but be prepared to have to time your photos carefully to get any without other people around. Or, better yet, put the camera down and enjoy the golden sunset rays shining onto the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down the cliffs.

Top tip: To preserve the terraces, water flow to the pools is controlled and that means it won’t always look like what it does on the postcards. The particular pools that you always see in photos are actually only full about 25% of the time, so if you’re there the other 75%, you might not get the postcard-perfect views you were expecting, but it’s still stunning.

Pamukkale Turkey itinerary
We were lucky enough to be there when the specific postcard pools were full!

Sail Turkey

Water babies rejoice, Turkey is the ideal location for a holiday on the water. Spend your day sailing between hidden bays, eating fresh seafood from local restaurants, discovering small coastal cities and then toast to your adventures with some raki on deck under the stars.

I haven’t done a Turkey sailing trip myself (yet) but I can recommend two companies that run them if you want to add some sea time to your Turkey itinerary. Travel Talk is who we did our brilliant 9 day Turkey tour with last year, and they have an 8-day sailing tour on a traditional Turkish gulet. Or if you’re keen for something a bit fancier, Medsailors (who I sailed with in Croatia) have a Turkey route where you can choose from a yacht or a catamaran.

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Eat alllll of the food

Turkish cuisine is packed with flavour, from smoky meat kebabs to colourful mezze platters to super sweet Turkish delight rolls. Eating out in Turkey is cheap too, so there’s no excuse not to try local delicacies.

I rarely had an unimpressive meal in Turkey, and the hotel staff were always quick to suggest their top picks nearby. I recommend staying away from the main tourist stretches where you can and instead check with locals and/or online review sites to find the best food near you.

Top tip: If you’re in Istanbul, be sure to visit Şehzade Cağ Kebap for the best lamb kebabs I’ve ever had.

Best things to eat in Istanbul
Best kebabs in Istanbul, Turkey, maybe even the world

Treat yourself to a Turkish spa

If you describe a Turkish spa experience without context, it sounds terrifying.

Take your clothes off, sit on a marble bench and wait for an angry lady to grab you and pull you onto a stone in the center of the room. She’ll pour water on you, throw a pillowcase of foam at you, spin you around and flip you over, and jab her elbows all over your body. Ummm, what?

A Turkish spa experience is just that… an experience! It can be a bit of an assault on both your senses and your body, but I guarantee you’ll have a good night’s sleep after. One of the most unique and unusual things to do in Turkey for sure.

Experience an “authentic” Turkish night

I’m always wary of the places that tout authenticity for tourists, because I feel like that’s sometimes inauthentic itself. But Turkey is home to a number of Turkish entertainment evenings, complete with huge mezze platters, belly dancers, traditional outfits, audience participation and loads of laughs. It’s a fun night, and some are even BYO!

Top tip: We did this one in Cappadocia and it was a hilarious thing to experience with new travel buddies.


Best things to do in Turkey

Has that given you a bit of inspiration for planning your own Turkey itinerary? There are so many epic things to do in Turkey but these are some of the highlights from my two trips.

If you think I’ve missed out any key Turkey sights or tourist attractions, 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.
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.

Huge thanks to Blue Mosque Suites for hosting me for three nights, Artemis Cave Suites for hosting me for two nights and Kookaburra Pension for hosting me for two nights. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.

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!

Tossing up whether to spend your Netherlands holiday in Rotterdam vs Amsterdam? Here’s why I chose to escape the main city and head to Rotterdam instead.

Week #15 of my 52 in 52 trip took me to Amsterdam, one of the most enchanting cities in Europe (and probably the world!). Amsterdam’s charms attract over 15 million tourists each year, but while tourism is obviously a key contributor to the capital’s economy, the city’s bike lanes, narrow streets and coffee shops can’t handle the amount of people coming to see them.

Amsterdam postcard in front of canal

Overtourism in Amsterdam has become so serious that the tourism board has stopped promoting the city at all, instead focusing their time and money on managing tourism rather than encouraging more. To make the craziness even worse, my trip coincided with ADE, a huge dance music festival and conference with more than 1000 events over five days. Yikes!

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To avoid adding to the mass tourism problems Amsterdam is facing (and to escape the chaos myself), I decided to look into the best cities in the Netherlands and choose somewhere else instead. After tossing up between cities like the Hague, Utrecht, Delft and Groningen, I locked in five days to experience the Netherlands’ second-biggest city, Rotterdam.

Cube houses Rotterdam things to do

If you’re looking for an alternative to Amsterdam, or if you’re trying to decide whether to visit Rotterdam or Amsterdam, here are five reasons why you should choose the former, along with the best things to do in Rotterdam, where to stay, and how to get there.


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.


Or skip straight to:


Rotterdam vs Amsterdam? Five reasons to visit Rotterdam

1. The food

My one regret from my week in Rotterdam is that I didn’t have enough money to really get amongst the incredible food scene! From wallet-friendly kebab shops and street food stalls to Instagrammable brunches and fine dining with a contemporary twist, Rotterdam is the ideal destination for any foodie.

Head to Poffertjessalon Seth for the best poffertjes in town (like a small fluffy pancake), visit Lilith’s on a Sunday morning to eat (and snap) Açaí bowls and stacked pancakes made for the ‘Gram, and stop by Panzero for a super cheap panzerotti for lunch, a south Italian deep fried calzone. If you’re looking for somewhere with loads of variety, check out Markthal or Fenix Food Factory.

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Travelling with a group of fellow food fiends? Don’t miss Hotel Bazar on the Witte de Withstraat, one of the main streets for eating and drinking. Open til midnight Sunday-Thursday and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, Hotel Bazar serves up delicious Middle Eastern and North African platters, small plates and main dishes all day and night, perfect for sharing with friends.

Poffertjes from Seth's Poffertjesalon in Rotterdam
Nutella goodness from Seth’s Poffertjesalon

2. The architecture

Rotterdam was bombed early on in World War II, and more than 30,000 buildings in the city and surrounding areas were destroyed. The city has since been rebuilt, but it looks totally different to the magical canals and tall, narrow houses you’ll find in other cities in the Netherlands.

Expect to see modern, innovative and dynamic architecture all through the city, from the famous yellow Cube Houses to the striking Erasmus Bridge to Centraal Station, which looks like it’s straight out of an Avengers movie.

Rotterdam cube houses
The famous Cube Houses of Rotterdam

3. The prices

While the Netherlands as a whole is on the more expensive side of the cost of living spectrum for European countries, Rotterdam’s got a whole lot of cheap eats for travellers on a budget, plus hotels and hostels are cheaper on average than you’ll find in Amsterdam.

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You can explore easily by bike so no need to pay for public transport, some amazing street art and installations, you can get cheap watertaxis to see the city from the water for under €5, and there’s loads of live music down Witte de Withstraat on weekends for little to no entry fees.

Rotterdam best street art
There’s a thriving street art scene in Rotterdam!

4. The location

Rotterdam is super easy to get to from Amsterdam, the UK, or other European cities. To get from Amsterdam to Rotterdam you can take the Intercity Direct train for €16.20, which gets you to Rotterdam from Amsterdam Centraal in 41 minutes.

If you’re landing at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, you can jump on an Intercity Direct to get you to Rotterdam in about 25 minutes for €15.60.

Looking for how to get to Rotterdam from London? The Eurostar now runs a direct train from London to Amsterdam, and prices start from €40 one way.


TRAVEL TIP:

If I need to book a bus or a train in Europe, I use Omio! They show you the cheapest and fastest ways to get from A to B anywhere in Europe.


De Witte House Rotterdam
Witte Huis

5. The shopping

Okay, the Netherlands as a whole has some gorgeous boutiques and local chain stores that you’ll find in Amsterdam too, but in Rotterdam there’s less people to jostle with for a spot in the changing rooms!

One of my favourite finds in Rotterdam was Costes, a chain store (I think it’s from the Netherlands?) with a huge range of classy but casual clothes, the exact look that the Dutch are famous for. The prices and styles are similar to Zara and Mango, but it was nice to find a shop that I haven’t seen in all the other European cities I’ve visited so far.

Another shop that made me cry about already having a full suitcase was Unc. Wardrobe, which had rails and rails of boutique dresses, coats and accessories. They’re also a Dutch company and they have an online store if you want to see their full range.

Rotterdam shopping
Super funky boutique threads at Unc. Wardrobe

If you’re looking to add some retro looking pieces to your wardrobe check out Very Cherry, sneakerheads need to visit SEVENTYFIVE and WOEI, and for unique souvenirs head to Donner bookshop.


Where to stay in Rotterdam

Best budget Rotterdam hotel: CityHub

CityHub Rotterdam is one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. And I’ve stayed at plenty of different hotels and hostels! You all know how much I love pod hotels (and if you didn’t, now you do) and CityHub is the ideal set up for a budget-friendly, private, comfortable pod hotel room. I was hosted by CityHub for one night but I wish I stayed way longer.

Everything about CityHub is efficient and tech-forward, like the computerised check-in and check-out, bracelet room keys that double as the way to pay for your coffee, beer or spirits, and the app which lets you control your room’s light colour and brightness, set a wake up alarm, and chat 24/7 with a local concierge if you need any city tips.

CityHub Rotterdam pod
My pod at CityHut

The pods themselves are built for two people, with a double bed, plugs on each side, storage space with shelves and a clothes rail, and a full-length mirror. Your pod even has a bluetooth speaker system to stream music to! The mattress is super comfortable, and gave me the best sleep I’d had in weeks.

There’s a shared kitchen with a fridge, kettle and microwave, a hangout area with plenty of desk space and seats for relaxing or working, and the shared bathrooms on each floor were perfectly clean, and even had Rituals shampoo, body wash and hand lotion. What a treat!

This place is absolutely perfect for any digital nomads, solo travellers or couples looking for somewhere comfy but easy on the wallet. I would go as far as saying that if CityHub were in more places around the world, I would stay at every single one. I’m a CityHub fangirl now!

Check your travel dates for CityHub Rotterdam here to see current prices and availability.

CityHub Rotterdam
The shared lounge and hangout area at CityHub

Best Rotterdam hostel: King Kong Hostel

I spent three nights at the super cool King Kong Hostel in Rotterdam, and would recommend it for anyone on a tight budget looking for a social place to stay. It’s located on Witte de Withstraat, one of the main streets for restaurants and bars, and it’s got its own café and bar on the ground floor.

I stayed in an 8-bed female dorm with a private bathroom for €25 a night. The rooms are basic, with bunk beds (no curtains unfortunately) and storage lockers. There’s a shared kitchen with a microwave, stove top and a fridge, and you can get a buffet breakfast for €7.50 or order off the café menu.

The staff were all really friendly and helpful, with some great tips on places to eat and drink nearby. The rooms are basic but it’s got a really good vibe, and it’s one of the cheapest places to stay in the city.

Check your travel dates for King Kong Hostel here to see current prices and availability.

Rotterdam hostel King Kong

Best luxury hotel in Rotterdam: Hotel New York

If you’re looking for a fancy place to stay in Rotterdam, you can’t go past the ultra-sophisticated Hotel New York. Located in an early 1900s historic building, previously the head office of the Holland America Line, this elegant hotel has a café/bistro as well as the NY Basement cocktail bar/restaurant, plus an outdoor terrace with brilliant views over the river if you’re lucky enough to be there on a warm day. Prices start from €110 for a double room.

Check your travel dates for Hotel New York here to see current prices and availability.

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


Have you ever considered visiting Rotterdam? Or have you been already and have some other reasons why everyone should put it on their 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.


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.
For more FAQs about my 52 in 52 trip, see this post.

Big thanks to CityHub Rotterdam for hosting me for one night. As always, all opinions are my own and are totally based on my personal experience.

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