After nearly a week in the Philippines, we’ve been left wanting more.
Arriving in Puerto Princesa City on the island of Palawan just after noon on the 20th, we were excited to get to our hotel after nearly 15 hours of travel (due to two flight delays). Once we arrived and were shown our room, we were sadly disappointed. The room was barely bigger than the bed, and the bed was barely bigger than one person! The shower was a dribble, there were dead bugs in the windowsill, and there was a ton of construction going on right behind our room. Nope. This was not how we wanted to spend Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have both definitely stayed in worse places…but after our time in Vietnam, we were really looking forward to something a little better. Enter, the Best Western Ivywall (BWI). After chatting to the front desk about our concerns, we slung our bags over our shoulders once again and walked about a block to the BWI. Best. Decision. Ever.
I’ll admit, we didn’t do a whole lot while on the island. I mean, we ate, swam, drank, worked out, relaxed, and man oh man, was it ever perfect. Everything that we needed (if I can speak for James on this one as well). We did venture out here and there to explore the city a bit, and even rented a scooter on Christmas day and headed an hour away to the beach. While we wanted to do more, and had full intentions of doing so (both tours that we had pre booked were cancelled due to the typhoon making its way onto the island), I’m really glad that we were able to just relax and enjoy some down time with no commitments or moving around. Just a couple of slum dogs living like millionaires.
Since we did have so much down time, I took the opportunity to reflect on our journey so far and compiled our costs, as well as a few other tidbits. Hopefully this not only will help us in the future, should we choose to revisit any of these places, but may also help you out if you’re planning on a similar adventure in any one (or all) of these places (read below if you're interested).
Now that we are heading to Japan, we’re in for a whirlwind adventure and will be busy for nearly every minute of our eight days there, no doubt; Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and back to Tokyo - it’s a lot to pack in in such a short time, but after this week of mellow jello, I feel much more prepared mentally and physically to handle Japan, and I think James does too.
TOKYO HERE WE COME!
p.s thank you for reading this short and sweet entry (or if you continue below, long and possibly drawn out entry). love you long time.
p.p.s I'll be updating my blog late next week on our Japan adventures!
So, how much did all of this fun cost? Let's look at the damage, shall we?
As explained above, below is a rundown of costs, lessons learned, etc. for our entire trip. While we didn't keep exhaustive records of every penny, we did our best to keep track of things along the way. Please keep in mind that this trip was about saying "yes" to almost everything that we came across, and the total speaks to that (lol). But hey, memories are priceless, and as our friend Tom wisely said in Brisbane, "money comes...and money goes. You just gotta live your life". PREACH.
*all costs are in CAD
About six months out from our trip we booked our flights from the Comox Valley to Honolulu using my visa points and paying the difference, bringing our total one way flight costs to $75/each. Since we were going to be heading to the North Shore and exploring the area, my mum decided to rent a car and took that cost on herself (lol thanks mum), so I will not be including that in our total costs for Hawaii.
Our first and last nights were spent in Waikiki at the Stay Hotel Waikiki. These nights were paid for using our Save-On-More points. It worked for a couple of nights, but I wouldn't recommend staying for any longer. Our other two nights in Waikiki near the end of our time on the island were spent at the Aqua Pacific Monarch Hotel - while a bit more high end at $200/night, after a week of camping we were really looking forward to a nice bed and a great rooftop pool! So if you're planning on spending any time in Waikiki, I would highly recommend this hotel. Plus, it's only about a block or two away from the famous Waikiki beach and some great restaurants. Can't go wrong.
While camping on the North Shore, we spent eight nights at the Malaekahana Beach Campground in one of their plantation suites. The suite itself is very basic (cold outdoor shower, no ice box/fridge, but does have a flushing toilet and electricity), but it was beach front and quiet (with the exception of the roosters at 4am). We paid $1000 for the eight nights. They have plenty of accommodation options, though, so you're sure to find something that fits your budget!
When in Hawaii...do EVERYTHING. We estimated that over the course of our time there we spent ~$600 on activities. The most expensive being zip lining at CLIMB works Oahu (coming in at $440 for two of us) and I cannot recommend this enough. It was an incredible experience and worth every penny. Some of the other activities include: snorkelling, SUP boarding, boogie boarding, and the Byodo-In Temple.
Since our campground suite didn't come with a fridge/ice box, we were fairly limited on what we ate for the week(ish) on the North Shore, and ended up eating mostly vegetables, sandwiches, and chips - oh, and wine. Lots of wine. Once back in the city we were able to spread our wings and live a little. We guessed about $300 for our food costs.
Overall, we are looking at ~$2500 for our time on the island, just over $80/each a day. While Hawaii isn't known for being a cheap destination, just remember, no matter how much Hawaii costs, it is always a good idea.
Australia is a bit different in its breakdown because we rented a Spaceship (camper van) which served as both our transportation and accommodation throughout our time in the land down unda'.
Again, about six months prior to departure we booked our flights from Honolulu to Melbourne, coming in at around $300/each (one way).
The Spaceship cost us $1600 for five weeks (which ended up being four because we had to fly back to Canada *these flights are not included in any of the costs* and we did not get any refund on unused van time - oh well). Now, in order to power this beast, we spent roughly $800 on gas. This total got us from Melbourne all the way to Cairns and back down to Brisbane.
So yes, we had our Spaceship, and while we tried to use that for a majority of our time in Oz, we realized that when it comes to staying in the cities, it's actually more work than it's worth to try and camp. This means that we spent a total of ~$1300 on hotels in Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns.
While Australia is quite well known for its backpacker/camping scene, you're not always going to be able to camp willy nilly wherever you please for free. With that being said, we spent ~$500 on campsites. This total includes everything from the most basic with little to no amenities, to the nicer "holiday parks", complete with game rooms, spiffy amenities, and located near the beach.
Australia was actually great for buying groceries. Once we found Aldi (grocery store), we were able to live on $70 worth of groceries a week (so lets just say $300 for our entire time in Oz). While our meals weren't you know...Michelin Star quality or anything, pasta, veg, and sauce will do me just fine. Other than that, we ate out a few times and had a few drinks here and there, bringing our dining out costs to ~$350.
Our most expensive activities were diving/snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Island tour, these tours were both day trips, which included a buffet lunch, island hopping, transportation, and equipment, coming in at $340 for the both of us for EACH TOUR ($680 total). Otherwise, most of the other activities were low cost or even free; beaches and hikes being the main two.
Overall we are looking at ~$6500 in Oz. That's a pretty penny.
Our flights from Brisbane to Auckland: $200/each (one way). Once in Auckland, we had no idea how we were going to get around NZ. After comparing many different options (busses, cars, campers), we went with a car rental, snagging a good deal: $650 for five weeks in a little Nissan Tiida. This option allowed us to live freely, see what we want, go where we want, and it wasn't going to be a pain parking in cities.
Over the course of five weeks, we spent ~$500 on gas - not too bad!
The Interislander ferry from Wellington (North) to Pickton (South) is very expensive, coming in a whopping $230 (one way).
While a majority of our time was spent camping in the tent, we also decided to stick to hotels in major cities (or areas where there wasn't much difference between camping and a small suite, Franz Josef, for example). Overall, we spent $1200 on hotels along the way.
Camping in NZ was slightly different than in OZ and has very few free camping areas (unless you are in a fully self contained vehicle, which we obviously were not), and therefore we spent ~$500 camping in NZ. I will say, though, I much preferred camping in NZ, the sites were better, they weren't as crowded, which meant they also weren't as loud, and were often in great locations.
Grocery shopping was more expensive in NZ, and we didn't eat out very often either, but still managed to spend around $600 on food, living mainly off of instant noodles and oatmeal. We're still trying to regain skin colour after being malnourished for five weeks (lol).
Anything that we wanted to do - we did. This brought our total cost of activities to somewhere around $2000 (eventually we just said "fuck it" and stopped worrying about the cost of fun things). Keep in mind, this total includes everything from jet boating to helicopter rides, skydiving to hiking.
Total costs for NZ: Somewhere around $6000. Some of the best money I (we) have ever spent and I'm sure that we will forever encourage anyone and everyone to experience the beauty of New Zealand.
*Flights from NZ > BALI > SINGAPORE > VIETNAM > PHILIPPINES > JAPAN > VANCOUVER = $3000 TOTAL
Our accommodation had scooter rentals, costing us just $6/day and only about $2 to fill up. These little beauties are the best way to get around in Bali, not only are they the cheapest form of transportation, but they are the most efficient way of getting around the island (where there are literally no traffic rules, it's chaos).
Our place in Bali was brilliant. We managed to snag a two story place at the Askara Canggu Townhouse for $300 for the week. Imagine our excitement after paying $300 for two nights in Queenstown - TO THIS! Amazing. It was quiet and off the main road, looking onto a beautiful rice terrace, and even had a few local cats milling about - I was in heaven.
While breakfast was included in the price of our stay, it was only scrambled eggs and toast everyday, so we opted to spread our wings and eat at a local cafe (Satu-Satu Coffee House) for a few mornings. While it was fairly pricey compared to other options, it was so tasty and well worth the price difference.
We managed to keep our meals to two a day, eating at breakfast and dinner, often skipping lunch because we were out and about (or we'd just snack on oreos). Luckily for us, there was a delicious place just down the street from our hotel that served up a tasty plate of food for only $3. Like, how could I ever even say no to that?
After adding up all of that + activities (temple hopping, mostly), we a managed to come in at $700 for the week.
A short and sweet rundown of our costs in Singapore: expensive.
Despite only being there for 24 hours, we were instantly down about $200. So we went from $100/day between the two of us, to $100/day EACH in Singapore. It's a good thing we were only there for one night!
We were able to catch a shuttle to and from the airport, costing us $9 each, each way ($36 total).
Our accommodation was simple - $56 for the night: a double bed pod in a hostel room of four double bed pods, sharing a communal bathroom with the rest of the hostel. It was in the middle of Chinatown, which I suppose is a desirable area, and the fabulous Singapore harbour wasn't too far of a walk either.
Our dinner definitely cost us more than we had anticipated, but we were starving and couldn't be bothered to ask a local where to find some great cheap eats. Travel tip: always ask a local. While in Vietnam we met a couple from Singapore and told them of our mistake, to which they said something along the lines of: "Wow! you guys were ripped off!" I promptly got "always ask a local" tattooed on my hand as a reminder.
Luckily walking around Singapore is free and beautiful because we were broke!
I'll be honest, our ability to keep expenses straight in Vietnam was at an all time low haha. But in 18 days we managed to spend roughly $2500. We both know that Vietnam could have been done much cheaper, and if you're willing to slum it a bit more, you can definitely do it on the cheap cheap cheap.
Do keep in mind, though, the $2500 includes everything from splashing out on a suite for our Halong Bay cruise, to flights from Da nang to Hanoi ($93 for the two of us). So while Vietnam wasn't my favourite place, we were still able live pretty well while we were there. Buuuut I still won't be going back haha.
We found that most hotels in Puerto Princesa will offer you an airport shuttle at no cost - ACES! Plus our one day scooter rental: $15.
As discussed above, James and I thought that we had found a decent place at a reasonable cost, $36/night with a big pool included. However, once we saw our room we were less than impressed and decided to splash out at the Best Western. This upgrade cost us an additional $200ish but was definitely one of the top three best decisions that we have made in the last four months. And it's Christmas, so we were gonna live a little.
We ate 2-3 solid meals a day and drank just as many drinks a day (haha), spending approximately $300. So yeah, we went a bit overboard. But damnit, we were just enjoying every minute of it. Room service? Don't mind if we do.
We had originally booked some tours, which would have increased our costs by about $100-$200, but they were cancelled due to bad weather. So if you're planning on booking tours - make sure to check the weather. Oh, and maybe try to avoid any possible typhoons.
Total for the Philippines: $715
*this will be updated once we're home if necessary
Travel in Japan definitely comes at a cost. But what can you expect when you're riding some of the fastest and most efficient trains in the world? Estimated travel costs: $800. This includes everything from the local trains like the Tokyo Metro to the faster Shinkansen (from Tokyo to Kyoto).
Japan isn't exactly known for its cheap (or large) accommodations, with that in mind, we'll be spending roughly $800 for our rooms. While we definitely could have gone slightly cheaper and stayed in those famous Japanese pods throughout our time here, we just weren't interested in that. So the cost of our rooms often includes a double bed in a small room (the perfect size for a couple of nights since you're not spending much time in the room anyways).
The problem with Japan is, everything is delicious. So we'll likely end up spending $400 on food for the eight days that we are here. All the ramen. All the sushi.
Most of the things we want to tackle while we are in Japan involve temples, shrines, city walks, or eating (which, as much as I'd like to include it under 'activities', it isn't). These activities are mostly low cost and good for our wallets!
Total time in Japan: 8 days (Tokyo 2 days, Kyoto 2 days, Osaka 3 days, and back to Tokyo for 1 day before heading home)
Total costs for Japan: somewhere between $2000-$2200. Yikes.
From Hawaii to Japan, our total costs: $24,315 - so yeah, I mean, travelling some of the worlds most expensive countries can add up...fast.
Days of adventure: 121
Years of planning & work: 2
Throughout this journey we've had some incredible times; we've laughed so hard our stomachs have hurt, we've had experiences that we'll never forget (both good and bad), we've learned something new everyday for the last 121 days, and we've seen something new everyday for the last 121 days. But at times we have also felt defeated, lost, and tired. It's not always the romanticized picture perfect moments. It can be hard f*cking work when you're in a noisy city trying to talk to someone that doesn't understand you and you don't understand them and you're carrying 50 pounds of your life on your back and sweating profusely and all you want to do is have a nap because you slept on the floor the night before (and breathe). Yeah, you don't often see photos of those moments. But at the end of the day when you're looking back through the journals and photos, the good always outweigh the bad. Even in those tough moments, after time (and serious reflection haha) I've been able to see the good in them, or the lessons learned.
While travel can add up pretty quickly, it is always worth the cost. Each time that I have taken off, I've come home with a new outlook, a different perspective, a whole new appreciation for the country that I am lucky to call home, as well as for all of the things that make life what it is. So if anyone is reading this and thinking about travelling - take some advice from Nike and myself and just do it, because you will never be as young as you are right now, and some of the things that you want to see on this planet will be gone in our life time. These are the reasons that I travel, and why I encourage others (especially in their 20's) to do the same.
With all of this being said, I'd like to close with a quote by one of my favourite humans: "your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."
- Steve Jobs