Living in Korea: An Expat Guide to Daegu, Korea

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in Korea as an expat? There was an interview about living in Gwangju, and today Rocio will share her expat life while teaching in Daegu – the fourth largest city in Korea. She will discuss her moving procedure, good and bad things about living in Daegu, places to visit in Daegu, cost of living in Daegu and more!

 

About Daegu

Daegu is located in the center of the South Korean peninsula. Although the city doesn’t get as much attention as Seoul, it is the 3 largest city in South Korea. Daegu is known for its sweltering summers, delicious apples, and beautiful women. Seriously, Koreans believe gorgeous women hail from this region! Living in Daegu is a wonderful experience because of its perfect size – it’s big enough to have plenty of activities to do yet small enough to not cause overwhelm the way Seoul does – and tight-knit expat community. On top of that, its location is perfect as several day trips can be done and the convenient KTX (Korea’s fast rail trains) easily connects it to Seoul, Busan and everywhere else.

Teaching English in Korea

The Arc in Daegu, Korea

1. About Rocio

I’m Rocio Cadena, a Mexican-American writer, and editor by way of Chicago. I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the cold US Midwest when I was 11 years old. Growing up in Mexico I always dreamed of traveling and living a full life. I’ve realized that a rich existence entails exposing myself to different countries, cultures, and people from diverse backgrounds while pursuing my creative aspirations.

2. Moving to Daegu

I moved to Daegu two years to work as an English teacher. My reasons were to focus on my writing – I was working on a book that I published last year – and to save up money for backpacking Southeast Asia. My time is almost coming to a close and I’m so excited to finally travel like I’ve dreamed of doing for so long!

3. Why did you choose to live in Daegu?

I was initially attracted to the hustle and bustle of Seoul but I needed a smaller place to focus. My problem in Chicago was that I didn’t know how to say no to fun [laughs] and instead work on my writing. In Daegu, I found the perfect sized city – not too big to distract me but also not too tiny to bore me. The fact that Daegu is also more affordable than bigger cities was a huge factor. I also had a couple friends that lived in Daegu and they recommended it.

Living in Daegu

View from Daegu’s Apsan Mountain at night

4. How to prepare to move to Daegu?

Well, I came through Korea’s government English program and they set everything up for their teachers. From our apartments to our bank accounts, to our cell phone contracts, they make sure to help us settle in. But I did a lot of research beforehand as well. I read tons of articles online and connected to friends of friends who had taught before. They were gracious enough to answer my million questions.

5. Cost of living in Korea

Korea is a very affordable country to live in but costs vary depending on the city. In Daegu, studio apartments cost between $300-450 depending on the area. Utility bills are very cheap but summer and winter months are high due to air conditioner and heater. Groceries are the one thing that I find expensive – I struggle to stay within my monthly budget of $100. Lastly, transportation is also very affordable. My public transportation card usually lasts a whole month if I put $35 in it.

6. Did you experience any difficulties while living in Daegu?

Teaching in Korea

With some of my 5th-grade students

Oh absolutely. I’ve always prided myself on being a strong and independent woman but moving to Korea left me feeling dependent on my coworker and somewhat clueless due to the language barrier. I found it demoralizing that I couldn’t do something as simple as open a bank account on my own or order food at a restaurant. I really struggled with this in the beginning but it was all a blessing in disguise as slowly I started getting more and more comfortable with asking for help. For a long time, I wanted to improve in this area, to be okay with being vulnerable and moving to Korea proved to be a crash course in teaching me this.

 

7. Discrimination from the locals in Daegu? Yes or No?

Not directly per se. But I happen to appear more Caucasians than other people of color, so I’ve been spared the staring and sometimes uninvited touching that some of them have endured.

8. How’s about culture shock?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it culture shock, it was more a phase of adjusting and feeling quite homesick but at no point was I shocked the way I felt when I first moved to the US.

9. What do you like about Daegu, Korea?

How manageable it is to navigate it. The average time to travel anywhere via public transportation is about 30 minutes which is great given that I meet up with friends a few times a week. I also love the thriving expat community here – it’s easier to stay in touch and hang out with people in Daegu than it is in Busan or Seoul. When the average commute time is more than 40 minutes, it can become a hassle. The third thing I love the most about my city is the neighborhood I live in – Suseong gu. There’s this nearby lake that I go to all the time for a stroll or picnics.

Living in Korea as an expat

Two girls donning ornate hanbok – the traditional Korean dress – at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul

 

10. Is there anything that you don’t like about Daegu?

Daegu is the hottest area of Korea and summers are hellish humid. I suffered a lot my first year but I fared much better the second time around.

11. What are your favorite things to do in Daegu?

I love going to Suseong Lake for walks and picnics. I also often meet up with friends in cafes. Korea has an amazing coffee shop culture and it’s great fun trying out all the different ones they have. There are even dog and animal cafes! I also love eating out because Korean food is delicious and super affordable.

Living in Korea Suseong Lake

Suseong Lake

 

12. How to make new friends in Daegu, Korea?

Oh yes, there are many expat Facebook groups to join. And the city organizes frequent events to connect expats with one another. Going out downtown at night is also a great way to make friends.

 

13. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Mostly foreigners. I’ve found that Koreans are shy and take a long time to warm up and get comfortable but once they do, they’ll probably be longtime friends.

14. Where to hang out with friends in Daegu?

Suseong Lake, cafes, restaurants, at dinner parties in my apartment… I also enjoy doing domestic weekend getaways with them.

15. A memorable experience in Daegu

I went to Daegu’s famous lantern festival in the springtime. The celebration is to honor Buddha’s birthday and WOW, seeing so many glowing lanterns slowly ascending in the sky was a very special moment. I’ll always carry this memory in my heart.

Living in Korea Daegu Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival held in May to celebrate Buddha’s birthday

 

16. Did you change your perspective about Daegu living here?

I guess in the first few months I was hesitant about my city, I kept wondering what it would have been like to live in Seoul. But over time, Daegu has really charmed me and I’m happy I’ve spent two years here.

Living in Korea

Hiking Palgong Mountain near Daegu

 

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Daegu?

Mentally prepare yourself for the summers [laughs]! Other than that, have fun, you’re going to love your time here.

18. Would you recommend others to live in Daegu?

Absolutely! While I do think recommendations should be based on each person, I would recommend Daegu to most.

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

To always be flexible and adaptable. One good friend said once that being flexible is the only way to be because those that are don’t break, they simply bend, and living abroad has really taught me what this means. While challenges and difficulties will arise, try to embrace these instead of resisting because they are often beautiful life lessons.
So, get out there and travel! Be awed and expand your horizons 🙂

More About Rocio

teaching in Korea
Rocio is the creator of THIS IS ROCIO, a collection of writings about Latinx culture, travel, lifestyle, and interviews. Her career ambition is to become a freelance writer/journalist. After two years of living and writing in South Korea, she will embark on a 6-month long backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in March. Follow her adventures on her Instagram and Facebook.


Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

living in Korea as an expat

Top Things to do on Tet Holiday in Vietnam

Tet Holiday, or Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in Vietnam. Tet is the time for family reunion, so people visit their family, preparing and enjoying Tet holiday together. During these days, there are surely lots of interesting to do, but I’ll just list the most common things to do on Tet holiday in Vietnam and share my culture.

things to do on Tet holiday in Vietnam

 

“Refreshing” the house

Tet is the time for new things. Vietnamese usually spend half of the month before Tet holiday to prepare for it. Cleaning home before Tet is one of the indispensable cultural features in Vietnam. Housecleaning, before Lunar New Year, helps to organize old year, removing old things to remove bad luck and welcome new year fortunes. Repainting the house, washing mattress and pillow, trimming trees neatly, etc. can make home look refresh and nice.

According to Vietnamese culture, lucky fortune will visit the clean, neat, and tidy houses on the first days of the year. Therefore, the owners must finish cleaning their houses at the end of the year before the 23rd, which is the day Ông Táo (The Kitchen God) go back to heaven. Furthermore, housecleaning is not only the belief but also makes the owners feel confident when relatives and friends visit. Also, the guests themselves feel more important and respected when they get invited, as the house is neat and tidy.

things to do on Lunar New year in Vietnam

 

Buying decorations

Vietnamese love decorating their houses on Tet holiday. Lunar New Year is an occasion for members to prepare new items, new furniture, to welcome a full Tet and a fortune year.

prepare for Tet holiday in Vietnam

It’s also important to buy flowers to decorate at home. In the north of Vietnam, Northern Vietnamese usually buy Peach Blossom tree, while in the South, people usually buy Ochna tree to place in their houses.

peach blossom on Tet holiday Vietnam

Peach blossom

There are many criteria to evaluate how good an Ochna tree is. We usually based on the number of flowers, the shape of flowers and the shape of the root. “The more beautiful the Ochna tree is, the luckier the family receives on New Year” – My mom said.

 

“Remaking” ourselves

Tet is the time for changes. Vietnamese usually try to “remake” themselves such as cutting hair, buying new clothes, new shoes, etc. Everyone wants to look better on Tet holiday.

things to do on Tet holiday in Vietnam

celebrate Lunar New Year in Vietnam

 

Making Vietnamese traditional cake – Banh Chung and Banh Tet

Tet is the time for tradition. Folding Traditional cake – Banh Chung, Banh Tet is a Vietnamese tradition which started from 18th Hung Vuong King. At the 28th – 29th of Tet Holiday, Vietnamese families often gather and making Banh Chung (square glutinous rice cake) and Banh Tet to enjoy and give to others. It’s quite difficult to make these traditional cakes so the makers must be very skillful to be able to wrap these cakes beautifully and tightly, otherwise, the cakes will crack and absorb water. Nowadays, there are not many families making Banh Chung, Banh Tet anymore, but everyone still eats it.

what to eat on Tet holiday in Vietnam

Making Banh Tet on Tet

 

Worshiping the ancestors

Preparing dishes to worship the ancestors has become an important activity at the 30th of Tet Holiday. In the early morning, family members prepare the altar and dishes to “invite” their ancestors to come back and celebrate Tet together. By doing this, Vietnamese people can show respect to their ancestors. Tet banquet becomes the invisible link between the living and the dead. This is a beautiful tradition which contains ethics and reminders about the memories and the merits of their ancestors.

 

New Year Eve’s ceremony

New Year’s Eve is the time of connection between two years, and it’s time to prepare the altar and traditional dishes to worship the gods. At the end of the year, the old gods give up work for the new gods at the moment of transfer between the new year and the old year. Therefore, Vietnamese people celebrate New Year’s Eve to see the old god and welcome the new gods.

People usually prepare the feast to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the middle of the courtyard. The dishes include five-fruit tray – Cầu (Custard-apple), Dừa (Coconut), Đủ (Papaya), Xoài  (Mango), Dưa hấu (Watermelon).

things to do on Tet holiday

 

Tasting Vietnamese traditional food

Tet is the best time to try Vietnamese traditional food! Sticky rice with jellied meat, pig trotters stewed with dried bamboo shoots, lean pork paste are some of the main dishes. Pickled onion, pickled small leeks, roasted watermelon seeds and dried candied fruits are important side dishes that you can try in every house.

things to eat on Tet holiday in Vietnam

 

Watching Tet’s TV series

There are some special TV series which are only available on Tet Holiday, and families usually sit together and enjoy them. One of the most popular series is Tao Quan – The Kitchen Gods, which is a comedy series yearly. It reports the main issues happened in Vietnam in that fiscal year with lots of humor.

 

Watching fireworks

You can observe fireworks many places around Vietnam. Many families drive their scooters to main attractions, waiting there beforehand to observing fireworks. The roads are really crowded during this time, so the atmosphere is really nice outside 🙂

 

Family reunion

Tet is the time for family. Therefore, despite how far they are, Vietnamese people always try their best to come back for a family reunion. Family members usually gather together at the main house, or they will go around and visit their relatives and friends. People usually organize Tet banquet during these reunions, and of course, there will be a lot of drinking and eating 🙂

Visiting people is a very unique and indispensable culture on Tet holiday, showing the kindness and joy of spring. When visiting, everyone is dressed in nice clothes, usually with a red meaning, and bring gifts to celebrate with the owner.

 

Receiving lucky money – Lì xì

Lucky money is, as its name, a gift from one person to another to wish them a Happy New Year. Lucky money is often placed in a red envelope, as red equals to “lucky” in Vietnamese culture. Usually, kids receive lots of lucky money, and they will need to say thank you and wish the giver best wishes. These wishes changes based on the giver, but overall, “Health, Happiness, Luck & Prosperity” are the main components. More specifically, if grandparents give lucky money to their grandkids, the kids will give wishes for health. While kids receive money from people who are still working, they will give wishes for jobs and money instead.

lucky money on Tet holiday in Vietnam

Anyone who is not married will still be considered as a child and is allowed to receive lucky money. Also, the younger also give the elder people lucky money to wish for good health.

 

Visiting pagodas and temples

visiting pagoda on Tet holiday in Vietnam
With the desire to find peace, dismissing the anxieties and worries of the old year and wishing for luck and happiness in the new year, Vietnamese usually visits pagodas on Tet holiday. Visiting a pagoda is not only to make a wish, but it is also a moment in which one is immersed in spirituality. People try to visit Pagoda after New Year’s Eve, or the first days of Lunar New Year. Although both genders can visit pagodas, women visited them more often than men. The smell of incense smoke, the beauty of flowers and the peace of the atmosphere will make people feel better and peaceful. things to do on Tet holiday in Vietnam

 

Receiving Parallel and Calligraphy pictures

vietnamese girls on tet holiday

Vietnamese people have traditions to receive parallel and Calligraphy pictures from the Master (ông Đồ) on Tet Holiday.

In the past, when Vietnamese people go to Tet market, they usually go through the gate of the market and ask for the Master, who gives a parallel sentence or a single word. They often ask for the word or parallel to worship with the hope that their children will become good people when they grow up. The most popular words are Tâm, Phúc (Luck), Đức (Virtue), An (Peace), Lộc (Money), … Nowadays, you can receive parallel and Calligraphy pictures at the street next to the Temple of Literature in Ha Noi or at some other pagodas.

Here is a poem about Ông Đồ – the Master

Ông Đồ

Mỗi năm hoa đào nở
Lại thấy ông đồ già
Bày mực tàu giấy đỏ
Bên phố đông người qua.
Bao nhiêu người thuê viết
Tấm tắc ngợi khen tài
“Hoa tay thảo những nét
Như phượng múa rồng bay”.
Nhưng mỗi năm mỗi vắng
Người thuê viết nay đâu?
Giấy đỏ buồn không thắm;
Mực đọng trong nghiên sầu…
Ông đồ vẫn ngồi đấy,
Qua đường không ai hay,
Lá vàng rơi trên giấy;
Ngoài giời mưa bụi bay.
Năm nay đào lại nở,
Không thấy ông đồ xưa.
Những người muôn năm cũ
Hồn ở đâu bây giờ?

The Master

Peach blossoms bloomed every spring
There again, the old master came
With red paper and black ink
On a street, where the people claimed
They claimed to buy his writings,
And all praised him while buying
“Just a mere move of his hand
Turns strokes into a phoenix dance!”
But fewer buyers came each year
Admirers, where did they go…?
Unused ink laid like black tears;
Red paper dulled in sorrow…
That old master just sat there
Among those who did not care.
On the dull red fallen dead leaves;
There fell soft rain with slight grief.
Another peach blossoms’ spring
Yet the old master is not there.
Oh, where are they wandering
Old folks’ souls we all forgot?

 

Playing cards & Bingo

Tet is the time to try out your luck! From Bingo to cards, these folk games become an integral part of Tet holiday. It makes the atmosphere more cheerful and enjoyable.

 

Visiting flower markets

Tet is the time to wander! The streets are really beautiful with all decorations and flower markets, so people usually hang out and observing these beauties. Also, it’s really common to have some professional photo shoots at these flower markets too.

visiting flower market on Tet holiday in Vietnam

 

Things not to do on Tet Holiday

  • Sweep the floor on the 1st day: It’s a big NO – NO! If you sweep your floor on the first day of Tet Holiday, it means that you will sweep out all your luck, money, etc.
  • Throwing trash on the 1st day: If you throw trash away, it means that you throw away your luck as well, so you should avoid it.
  • Breaking things
  • Borrowing money
  • Paying Debts

Happy Tet! Wishing you a great year with full of happiness, wealthiness, healthiness, and luck!

things to do on Tet holiday in Vietnam

things to do on Tet holiday

Model: Hoa Truong

Photo credits: Yêu Chụp Ảnh, Ha Truong, Unsplash.

Moving to Finland: Living in Helsinki, Finland as an expat

Recently, Finland and Helsinki have achieved high rankings in international ratings in education, living standard and safety. While it is indeed a very good place for to live, is it as perfect for expats? What it’s like to live in Helsinki, Finland as an expat? What is the cost of living in Helsinki, or best places to visit in Helsinki? Let’s find out!

 

1. About Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is a capital of Finland and the country’s biggest city. It was founded in 1550 on the shore of the Baltic Sea. There is Helsinki city (with population 650k) and Helsinki Metropolitan area, which includes satellite cities: Espoo and Vantaa.

living in Helsinki as an expat

Helsinki Cathedral


Helsinki is the second smallest (after Brussels) capital of Europe and is the coldest one. It is famous for its closeness to nature and modernity. Also, it attracts tourists with its lakes and islands. There are about 300 islands on the shoreline, many are connected with bridges. There are 8 high-class universities and several technology parts, which brings students and expats.

 

From an extremely intense preparation in Russia into calm and quiet life in Finland. I am Alexander – A Russian expat in Finland, and this is my expat story.

I have been living in Helsinki area for more than five years.  During that time, I came through good, bad and quite weird experiences, which I would like to share.

2. Moving from St. Petersburg to Helsinki

living in Helsinki
In order to move from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, I had to do an insane number of things in a short period. I wish I knew how everything would turn out in advance, so I was prepared.
I was sitting at home, slowly exploring career opportunities in Scandinavia, German, and some other countries, when I got a call. A former colleague told that he recommended me to a company from Finland, and I got the job straight away. That was the start.
It was August 2010 I started working for a Finnish company in Russian office and found out that potentially, I can move to an office in Helsinki. It meant, along with the job and studies, I had to arrange my move in 4 months. I needed to do the following:

  • Arranging the transfer to the office in Helsinki and getting employment residence
  • Applying for a University in Finland and arranging the leave from the one in Russia
  • Getting IELTS

 

3. Tips for studying in Finland

If you plan your studies in Finland, you should know that most of the programs have fees if you come outside EU. For this reason, I applied for a job and studies at the same time. In case you have a job and the residence based on employment – you don’t need to pay for studies.
In Russia, there was no Bachelor/Master system when I was leaving. It was a specialist diploma, which is an equivalent to Master’s degree. I have completed 3.5 years of 5.5, which was an equivalent for Bachelor, recognized by Universities of Finland.

 

4. Cost of living in Helsinki, Finland

I will try to give some examples, to showcase the prices:

a) Accommodation

  • One-room apartment in central Helsinki is around 1000 Eur/month
  • Two-room apartment, outside of central area can cost around 800-900 Eur/month
  • Student apartments for long-term are normally two times cheaper

 

b) Food

  • Average price for lunch at lunchtime is around 9-11 Euros
  • A dinner in a restaurant is around 20-40 Euros
  • Kebabs and pizzas, which are everywhere, cost from 6.5 Eur (there are few spots where it cost 5)
  • A beer at a bar costs 4-7 Euros
  • Employers give tickets for lunch deduction, that saves around 30%
  • If you eat lunch out and have rest of the meals at home – you end up paying 450-600 Eur monthly for food.
  • Food in Universities for students is around 2.5-5 Eur for lunch
living in Helsinki

Helsinki Restaurant day

c) Transportation in Helsinki

  • Single ticket for Helsinki costs 2.8 Eur (with travel card)
  • Single ticket for Bigger Helsinki (Espoo, Vantaa) costs 4.5 Eur (with travel card)
  • Ticket fares can be checked here
  • Taxis are ridiculously expensive, 30 minutes ride is about 45 Euro

 

d) Taxes in Finland

  • Taxes vary heavily depending on the income and other factors (I have 1.5% less tax because my work is outside the city and I pay a lot for transport)
  • Average salary is around 3300, it has around 25% tax

 

5. Overcoming difficulties in Helsinki, Finland

There were no difficulties when I first moved in. The services in Finland worked perfectly. It was very easy to get all documents and settled down. If you secured a job and place to stay, everything should go fine.
What actually was complicated – is arranging work and studies at the same time. This was only possible because courses in Universities in Finland are very flexible. You can choose any number of courses, many of which can be done remotely. Although my schedule was very tight, I could choose work hours and timetable for my university depending on my preference.

 

6. Discrimination in Helsinki from the locals? Yes or No?

I wouldn’t say there is any discrimination. Finns are somewhat cold, but it is important to understand that it has nothing personal.  They prefer communicating among themselves and are often a bit shy with foreigners.

 

7. How to overcome culture shock in Helsinki, Finland?

Culture shock, yes. It was due to general calmness and the lack of communication. When I first came to Finland and saw my flatmate, I told: “Hi, I’m Alex, nice meeting you”. He didn’t pay any attention and just passed by. Later, I was told, that it is normal for Finland and you shouldn’t take it personally, and these types of people just don’t want to be disturbed.
As I figured out later, there are so many people like them. There was a moment when this brought me down. The solution was actually simple – avoiding all people who “don’t want to be disturbed”. Now, the majority of people I talk to in Finland are expats and very little Finns.

 

8. Things I love about Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is a modern city and very close to nature. It is a capital, with a lot of things to do, and you can live in a rural area with fast connections to everything. I see it as a very comfortable place to build a home.
I like the houses in Finland, from cute wooden houses to modern architecture. Most of them are designed with large panoramic windows to gather all the sunlight, which is rare and precious in this northern area. Apartments have access to sauna, and new ones have saunas in every flat.

living in Helsinki

Helsinki Old Vallila district with old wooden houses

9. Things I don’t like about Helsinki

There is a lack of decently priced restaurants. I miss Russia where many restaurants are open 24/7 and there are bars working until the last client leave.  In Finland, at night there are only fast food restaurants and most of them are full of drunk people. Bars normally stop letting people in at 3 am.
Also, taxis are expensive and Uber is forbidden, which I HATE!
Another thing, for me personally, this place is too calm. I ended up visiting St. Petersburg pretty often just to feel myself among friendly people and to spend nights out.

 

10. Best things to do in Helsinki, Finland

I like gathering with friends at some cafeterias or some clubs with live music, going to saunas or e nature. It is always a good idea to rent a cottage at a lake.

Recommendations

  • For saunas: Allas Sea Pool and Kultuuri sauna. Both are located centrally and are next to the sea so you can swim.
  • For nature: Nuuksio National Park and Espoo Archipelago.
  • For cafeterias: Café Regatta, Café Ursula
living in Helsinki

Helsinki nature


These are in my opinion, the best places to go as a tourist as well. In addition to things listed previously, I would recommend Ateljee bar, it has the best view onto the city.

Helsinki nature

Katajanokka island with unique architecture is a nice place to visit!

 

11. Making friends in Finland

I think I have to be honest here. Nordic courtiers have some of the lowest scores when it comes to foreigners making friends with locals. I think it is true.
I still cannot figure out how Finns make friends. When I ask, they tell that it takes a long time. Some foreigners told they have spent months at (for example) a basketball team together, to start speaking informally. In general, I guess I am too lazy to wait that long. However, I did make friends with some Finns, who visit me over years.
Most of the friends I made are from University, Couchsurfing, Language exchange and Expat meetings. They are expats or international students.
For language exchange and making friends, I’d recommend Cafe Ligua.

 

12. Places to hang out with friends

As I told before, I like bars with live music. You can try Molly Malones, Santa Fe and some bars in Kallio district. In summer, it is common to rent a cottage together, somewhere next to a lake or to go for picnics.

living in Helsinki Finland

Helsinki Market Square


Also, when we want to avoid drunk people at night, we go to café Bahgdad. The owners are from Iraq, where you can smoke hookah and drink tea. There is no alcohol.

 

13. Expat community in Helsinki

There is the expat community, to find the meetups I recommend checking this FB group. Also, you meet them at Couchsurfing and Language exchange meetups, international students have their own gatherings. I would say that expat community here is really strong.

 

14. A memorable experience in Helsinki, Finland

I had some guests from Russia. I needed to visit my University for a short time, so I took them with me. When passing through the student district we saw a naked man running, and another naked man chasing him and hitting with a wet towel. My friends were shocked, and I did not even pay attraction. If you are out of the sauna, you are allowed to be naked outside.

 

15. Changing the perspective about Helsinki after a period of time

At first, I liked the calm life here. Felt like it is giving me a good rest after all the rush in my home country. Gradually, this calm life started to annoy me. At the moment, I cannot imagine staying in Helsinki for a month, without leaving somewhere more fun.

 

16. Advice and tips for moving/ living in Helsinki

Getting around with a bicycle is easy, even in winter. I ended up with my driving license expired because it had no need.
The worst weather is in November: Windy, rainy, no sun, and people who endlessly complain about it. You should try to escape the city at around this time and come back when everyone starts getting Christmas mood.

 

17. Would you recommend others to live in Helsinki?

Despite all the calmness, this is a good city to live: Good fresh air, clean water, effective public transportation, and a lot of nature around. If that is what you look for, Helsinki is the place for you. I see many expat families with children in Helsinki area.

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

If I compare it to Russia, Helsinki is much more international. And since I don’t communicate with locals much, I got to know lots of things from expats. Overall, I think I got a much better picture of what is going on around the world while talking to expats directly.

 

19. More thoughts on Finland

Finland scored high in many ratings in recent years: The best country to live, the best education system, the 5th happiest country in the world, etc. You can read a full list is here.
Cmon, there is no country that is so good in everything. In my opinion, Finland is a nice place for calm life, but not nearly as perfect as it is pictured, especially, if you are an expat.
Don’t let the ratings fool you and don’t put your expectations too high.

If you’d like to know more about Alexander and his travels, he blogs at Engineer on Tour. You can follow his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Read more articles on Expat Interview Series:

living in Helsinki

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Yufuin Travel Guide

If you’re looking for a nice town to enjoy hot spring in Japan, I’d recommend visiting Yufuin (由布院 – 湯布院). Located approximately 10 km from Beppu, Oita (another famous onsen destination), Yufuin – 湯布院 is a lovely onsen resort that you can easily spend a day discovering. In this article, you can find tips on Yufuin transportation, places to go in Yufuin, best things to do in Yufuin, what to eat in Yufuin and more. 

湯布院 Yufuin travel guide

One of the most beautiful places in Yufuin – Yufuin Floral Village

I. How to travel to Yufuin – 湯布院?

Depending on your location, there are several ways to travel to Yufuin.

1) From abroad

If you’re outside Japan, you’ll need to travel to Fukuoka first by airplane or ship. There is no direct flight to Oita airport from abroad, but hopefully, there is in the future.

 

2) Inside Japan

By Train

  • From Fukuoka to Yufuin: Hakata Station -> Oita Station -> Yufuin station
  • From Oita to Yufuin: Oita Station -> Yufuin station
  • Note: According to JR Kyushu Train, due to heavy rain, Yufuin no Mori (the green luxury train) operation between Teruoka station and Hita station is stopped. It will be operating as an extra train between Hakata station and Yufuin station via Kokura/Oita station for an indefinite period of time.
湯布院 Yufuin station train

Scenic train to Yufuin – sit back and enjoy the beautiful landscape of Southern Japan.

 

By Bus

  • Bus from Beppu to Yufuin: Approximately 45 minutes. There are 12 roundtrips on weekdays, and 17 round-trips on Saturday, Sunday, and national holidays. You can check the transportation between Yufuin and Beppu here.
  • Bus from Fukuoka to Yufuin: Approximately 1 hour. You can search for the timetable here.

湯布院 Yufuin travel guide

II. Places to visit in Yufuin, Oita

1) Main shopping street

湯布院 Yufuin shop

Yufuin food stand

Are you a big fan of shopping? Even when you’re not, I bet that you’ll still love the Yufuin shopping street.
Along the main street of Yufuin, there are several cafe, restaurants, shops, and museums. As each shop has different products, and it’s really interesting to get in and discover all those local products. Wandering along the main shopping street is also interesting 🙂

2) Yufuin cafe & restaurants

As I mentioned above, Yufuin cafe and restaurants are the main attractions in this lovely town. Each cafe and restaurant has its own design and dishes, so you’ll never get bored!

湯布院 Yufuin roll cake restaurant

Yufuin cafe

湯布院 Yufuin

Would you like to try some traditional Japanese food? This restaurant is for you!

 

湯布院 Yufuin

There are only a few chairs outside this Soba shop, so you’ll have to be hurry!

3) Yufuin shops

There’re several shops in Yufuin, but no shop is alike. If you’re into manga and anime, you’ll love visiting every single shop. Snoopy shop, Totoro shop, Cat shop, Dog shop, … You name it!

湯布院 Yufuin Japan travel guide

Yufuin snoopy shop

湯布院 Yufuin

Need some haircut while traveling in Japan? There’s a hair shop in Yufuin as well!

 

4) Museums

There’re some small museums in Yufuin, and it will cost a bit for the entrance fee. Are they worth visiting? I’ll let you answer it 🙂

湯布院 Yufuin museum

Owl Museum in Yufuin – 湯布院, Japan

 

5) Yufuin Floral Village

Yufuin Floral Village is my favorite place in Yufuin. In order to visit Yufuin Floral Village, you will need to walk along the main street from Yufuin station and then turn right. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost (There’s a huge sign!)

The village is quite small, but it’s really lovely. Each house presents one cartoon character, and you can buy some souvenirs back home. There’s a little Ghibli vibe, some English vibe, some other famous Japanese cartoon as well. A small playground for kids is a big bonus here 🙂

湯布院 Yufuin Floral Village

Yufuin Floral Village

湯布院 Yufuin

The Rabbit House in Yufuin Floral Village

湯布院 Yufuin travel guide

Yufuin Floral Village Cafe

There’s Alice in the Wonderland theme cafe shop but you’ll need to pay to enter and have coffee there.

 

6) Yufushi Yufuin Chuo Jido Park

Going with kids? Here is the place for them! This park has a nice playground for children. Also, while letting them play, you can observe the head of the train here.

 

7) Lake Kinrinko

Lake Kinrin is one of the must-visit destinations in Yufuin. It takes around 30 minutes from the train station to the lake (according to Google map), but believe me, it will take way longer cause you’ll stop by many places. I suggest visiting this place at the end of the trip, so you don’t need to rush here 🙂

 

8) Onsen

It’s one of the purposes of your trip to Yufuin, isn’t it?
From a long time ago, immersing in the warm water of onsens has become an indispensable activity of Japanese people and tourists visiting this country. There are several benefits of visiting onsens, such as curing disease and relieving stress, pain, and aches. If you are looking for a recommendation for onsen in Japan, Yufuin is one of the best places to go.

 

9) Mount Yufu

Since Yufuin is surrounded by mountains, the landscape here is really stunning. Leave the main walking route, you can discover the rural area of Yufuin, with paddle fields and farmhouses.

湯布院 Yufuin travel guide

III. Best things to do in Yufuin

1. Wandering around the town
湯布院 Yufuin travel guide

湯布院 Yufuin onsen Japan

2. Finding hidden cafes

湯布院 Yufuin travel guide

3. Hunting cute things
湯布院 Yufuin Japan travel guide

湯布院 Yufuin Japan travel guide

湯布院 Yufuin Japan travel guide

湯布院 Yufuin Japan travel guide

湯布院 Yufuin Japan

4. Observing traditional Japanese houses’ architecture
Japanese house in 湯布院 Yufuin

 

5. Finding cute bicycles around the town
bicycle in 湯布院 Yufuin

 

6. Buying some souvenirs

what to do in Yufuin 湯布院

Yufuin’s gift shop


what to do in Yufuin 湯布院

7. Visiting Totoro shop

You might hear of Totoro, one of the most famous movies from Ghibli production.

Totoro shop in Yufuin 湯布院

Totoro shop in Yufuin

Totoro shop in Yufuin 湯布院 Japan

8. Buying Japanese footwear – Geta (下駄)

Japanese wooden footwear, or Geta (下駄), resembles clogs and flip-flops. They are usually used with Yukata or Kimono, and they keep or feet above the ground with wooden base.

Have you tried walking on this wooden footwear yet? If not, you should try at least once!

Tips: You can rent Yukata/ Kimono to wear around Yufuin along with Geta.
Japanese shoes in Yufuin 湯布院

 

9. Staying at a traditional Yufuin onsen ryokan

Staying at a Japanese traditional room is one of the must-do activities in Japan. These ryokans were built few hundred years ago, so they still maintain the charming vibe and appealing architecture. The service is also amazing, and you’ll be served traditional Japanese food. Normally the waitresses or waiters will serve meals into your room for dinner, and you’ll eat in the common room for breakfast.  It’s may be more expensive than a normal hotel, but it’s totally worth the try.

Tips: It will be cheaper if you choose the room without meals.

湯布院 Yufuin onsen ryokan

Staying at Ryokan in Japan – A must-do activity!

10. Hiking Yufuin Mountain
湯布院 Yufuin mountain hiking

If the weather is nice, you can try hiking Mount Yufu, or also known as Yufudake. This mountain is considered as the “little Fuji of Oita” thanks to its beautiful twin peaks. You can reach the top of the mountain around 2 or 3 hours.

 

IV. What to eat in Yufuin? – Yufuin restaurants

Disclaimer: These reviews for shop and restaurants are based on my taste, so you may like it or not. However, if you’d like to hear some honest reviews of delicious food, don’t leave yet!

1. Cheese products

Yufuin is famous for cheese. The residents have their own milk and cheese supply from the city, so cheese is the local product.  You can see cheese everywhere: melted cheesecake, cheese cookie, bacon wrap with cheese, cheese ice-cream, cheese souvenirs, etc. There’s even a Cheese factory in Yufuin! They’re a bit crazy for cheese here, I know, but if you’re a cheese lover, you’ll love everything here.

Anyway, back to our topic here, you may wonder where you can have the best cheese product in Yufuin, right?

The best cheesecake ever~

While wandering around Yufuin, I was stopped by the tastiest cheesecake scent at Milch.

So what is Milch? In Trip Advisor, they name this shop as “The best cheesecake in Yufuin”.

Cheesecake here is actually the best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life. With only 120 Yen, you can purchase a small cup of melted-cheesecake. They serve both hot and cold version, but I prefer the hot one. It’s actually warm, not too hot, so you can eat it right after buying. However, if you’d like to buy some back home, there’s only cold version.

Address: 3015-1 Yufuincho KawakamiOita 879-5102, Oita Prefecture 
Phone: +81 977-28-2800

 

2. Yakiniku (Japanese Grilled meat)

where to eat in Yufuin 湯布院

Yufuin BBQ restaurant

V. Where to stay in Yufuin?

The hotels and ryokans are located around the town, but not the main road. I didn’t stay there because I live in Beppu, but it will be better if you spend the night over and relax in the hot springs.

湯布院 Yufuin onsen ryokan - best Yufuin hotel

 

VI.Tips to visit Yufuin

  • Visit Yufuin in the morning in order to escape the crowd
  • Try some local cheese products
  • Autumn is the best time to visit Yufuin
  • If you visit Yufuin in the winter, remember to wear warm clothes because it’s really cold on the mountain.

yufuin travel guide

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5 Best places to go in Vietnam during Tet Holiday

“Tet” is coming in a corner. For those who do not know what Tet is, it is Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year, and it is considered the most important celebration of Vietnamese culture. The whole country is most lively and cheerful during this time, and you don’t want to miss this chance to travel around and learn more about Vietnamese traditions. Here are 5 best places to go during Tet holiday.

 

1.Mộc Châu plateau

200 kilometers apart from Hanoi, Moc Chau is a well-known destination for backpackers. The best time to go to Moc Chau is from the end of January to February, when plum blossoms and sakura bloom everywhere, making the plateau looks like a white heaven.

best places to go on Tet holiday

Credit: Vivu Travel

 

2. Tam Đảo

It is quite hot in Vietnam this winter, and if you miss the feeling of those cold winds blowing to your face, why don’t you come to Tam Dao where the weather is always cool? Visiting the Van Pagoda, Silver Waterfall, Sky Gate… and enjoying local dishes like chayote, Hill chicken, man pig… sounds like a good plan right?

places to visit in Vietnam on Tet holiday

 

3. Sapa

Another Northern destination! If you come to Vietnam and you don’t visit Sapa, it’s such a pity. The breathtaking mountainous scenery of Hoang Lien Son range, the terraced fields on rolling hills, the villages of Highland ethics, the colorfulness of brocade fabric… You just don’t want to miss it.

best place to visit in Vietnam

 

4. Hoi An

My personal favorite place! Used to be a South-East Asian trading port from the 15th to the 19th century, it seems like Hoi An is left by the modern world and still sleeping in its glorious past. With the well-preserved ancient architecture, it makes you feel like you are coming back to hundreds of years ago. It is a small town, so you should spend around 1 to 2 days here.

places to visit in Vietnam on Tet holiday lunar new year

 

5. Dalat

With no doubt, visiting the “City of flower” in the blooming season is a great plan for your Tet holiday. You can hire a motorbike and wander around this city to enjoy its quiet beauty and of course, flowers.

best places to visit in Vietnam on Tet holiday

Some tips for traveling during Tet holiday

  • Don’t travel during the first days of the Lunar New Year. Vietnamese people stop all the business activities and spend time with their family during those days, so all the stores and restaurants will be closed. You should travel before Tet, or from the 4th day onward.
  • Because it’s the holiday season, the price for foods and transportation may be a bit more expensive.
  • There are some big festivals celebrating Tet holiday with thousands of people joining. However, I don’t recommend you to go there. It will be super crowded and chaotic, which may cause you in trouble. Just imagine something like the Black Friday in America.

Read more articles about Vietnam

10 Harsh but True things about Vietnam

Kong Skull Island Filming location in Trang An, Vietnam

Hoa Trung Lake in Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnamese Pho around the world

Visiting Ba Na Hills –  one of the best themed-park in Vietnam

Thank you for reading

Pin it for later

Best places to visit in Vietnam during Tet Holiday. Where to go in Vietnam, what to do in Vietnam and tips for traveling during Tet Holiday (Lunar New Year). You'll definitely want to save this to your Vietnam Board so you can try it when you're in Vietnam. #Vietnam #Vietnamtours #TravelVietnam #Vietnamtrip #AsiaTravel #asia #travelguides

This article was updated on February 5th, 2018

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Expat Interview: Living in Ho Chi Minh city as an expat

Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is a major city in Vietnam. Whilst it is not the official capital of the country, that would be Ha Noi, it is considered as the capital of the South. Ho Chi Minh has an abundance of history and is rich in culture. It is the perfect location for anyone wanted to take a city break. Also, it’s perfect for anyone wanting to take a long break as it is in close proximity to Vung Tau Beach resort and the lush nature of Da Lat. In this article, Katie will share what it’s like to live in Ho Chi Minh city as an expat. She will discuss her moving procedure, good and bad things about Ho Chi Minh, places to visit in Ho Chi Minh, cost of living in Saigon and more!

living in ho chi minh city vietnam

 

1. About Katie – Our Guide

My name is Katie Sephton and I work as an English Teacher in Ho Chi Minh City. I have always been in education, whether that has been me as the learner or me as the educator. I grew up in a small town in the UK called Wigan. It was in the UK that I graduated from university with a degree in Child and Youth studies and gained experience working in schools. Apart from teaching, I have a strong passion for travel and hope to travel the whole world one day. I am a huge Wanderluster, so I decided to start the travel blog Untold Wanderlust to share my travels and experiences from across the globe.

 

2. What was the procedure for moving to Ho Chi Minh city?

I first moved to Ho Chi Minh city in July 2016 after securing a job offer of teaching in public schools. At first, I intended to only stay for 1 year, but here I am 1 year later with no intentions of leaving anytime soon. I knew from being 18 years old that I wanted to spend a year abroad teaching; as this is the perfect way to fulfill both my passions of teaching and traveling. The only problem was that I had no idea where I wanted to teach.

 

3. Why did you choose to live in Ho Chi Minh city?

In 2015, I and boyfriend embarked on a month-long trip through Vietnam. It was during this trip that I fell in love with Vietnam, its culture, lush nature and vibrant cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. After returning to the UK to finish my final year of university, I just knew that Vietnam was the place I would spend my year of teaching abroad. It made sense really, I wanted to travel Asia and I knew I already loved Vietnam, so why take the risk and go anywhere else?

 

4. How to prepare to move to Ho Chi Minh city?

Honestly, I didn’t prepare at all. Before I came to Ho Chi Minh I spent 4 months traveling through nearby countries in South East Asia. I literally rocked up to Vietnam with nothing but my40-liter backpack stuffed with scruffy shorts, a few t-shirts and a pair of flip-flops.

As for accommodation and work documents, I was very lucky in that the company I started working for provided accommodation and applied for all relevant work permits and residency cards. However, I did move out of the accommodation provided by the company after the first two months. I moved out due to the matter of a mice infestation and lack of cleanliness. Finding a house or an apartment in Ho Chi Minh city is very easy to do. In fact, I have contacted an agent, viewed an apartment, put down a deposit, signed a contract and moved in all in one day.

working teaching in ho chi minh city

Me with some of my grade 3 students

 

5. Cost of living in Ho Chi Minh city

Generally, the cost of living in Ho Chi Minh is very low compared to European countries. Things like groceries, transport, and activities are very cheap.

a) Groceries, transport, and activities in Saigon

For example, a pineapple costs me 15,000,000 VND / $0.60. As for transport, a 40-minute journey on a motorbike taxi costs me 33,000,000 VND/ $1.50.  Activities like going to the cinema are around 150,000,000 VND/ $6.60 for a movie and a large popcorn and drink. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I have never actually cooked a meal since being here as it is just so cheap to eat out. Generally, for a local Vietnamese meal it is between 30,000 – 50,000 VND/ $1.30 – $2.20.

 

b) Accommodation

However, accommodation costs more than I had originally thought. Prices vary massively, depending on the accommodation set up and style. For a small (30sq foot) but modern one-bedroom apartment prices start from around 12,000,000 VND/ $530. To reduce costs, it is possible to find a room in a shared house for around 4,000,000 VND/ $180.

living in ho chi minh city apartments

c) Weekly expenditure

So aside from accommodation, my weekly expenditure is usually around 1,500,000 VND/ $66 per week. This includes eating out twice per day, snacks, fresh fruit, a night out, 1 western meal and a trip to the cinema or bowling.

 

6. What are the difficulties of living in Saigon?

When I first arrived, I didn’t really experience any difficulties. I have been lucky in that I moved here with my boyfriend so I have always had someone to talk to and never feel lonely. As I stated in the previous question, the company I worked for sorted everything out for me so there was nothing for me to worry about.

However, about 6 months down the line I started to dislike my job. Not the actual teaching aspect of it, but the unfair demand of work hours and lack of social life. This was difficult for me as I had a great bond with the kids but I was becoming physically exhausted of putting in 12 hour days, 6 days a week. In the end, I ended up leaving the job and finding a much better one with much better hours and pay. My advice to anyone thinking of coming to teach in Vietnam is to be sure to read your contacts thoroughly and understand your work hours.

 

7. Did you experience any discrimination in Ho Chi Minh city?

The people of Vietnam are some of the kindest and warm-hearted I have ever come across. I have never personally experienced any discrimination. The local people are very friendly and helpful, despite a language barrier. They also love it when I attempt to speak the language. Just a simple ‘hello, how are you?’ in Vietnamese goes a long way with the locals.

However, there is the slight problem of discrimination when it comes to the cost of accommodation and sometimes other services. It is openly known that foreigners will pay more money for the exact same house/ apartment than a local. Sometimes, you may not even be allowed to rent an apartment because you are not Vietnamese. However, I do think this is more to do with the law as opposed to the person letting.

 

8. How to overcome culture shock in Saigon?

The way of life here is so much different than in the UK and Europe. From the street food to going to work on a motorbike, it is all so different. For some people, I understand that eating street food may be a concern, but most of the time you can see the person cook it in front of you and let me tell you, the food is the best in Asia.

streetfood in vietnam - where to eat in saigon

Street food in Saigon – People cook in front of you!

The language is also very different too. The characters of the alphabet are the same as in the English language, so it may appear easy to read but the language is very tonal and if your pitch is off slightly it can throw your whole sentence into gobbledygook. However, learning the language is fun and a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and interact with locals.

 

9. What do you like about Ho Chi Minh city?

I love Ho Chi Minh! It is a vibrant city that is a great place to live.
There are so many things to see and do. There are also tons and tons of food places and street vendors. It is a foodie’s paradise. The thing that I love the most about the city though is the sense of community. Even though I am a foreigner here and don’t speak the language very well, I get the sense of belonging more than I did in my neighborhood in England. For example, when I sit down at one of my local restaurants, I am greeted with a huge smile and my food autonomically put in front of me, without the need to order.
restaurants in saigon living in ho chi minh city

 

10. Is there anything you don’t like about Ho Chi Minh City?

That is a very difficult question to answer because I love almost everything about it. The only downside is sometimes it can take forever to get somewhere when there is a lot of traffic. I mean there is always lots of motorbikes on the road, which I do like the hustle and bustle of, but during rush hour things can sometimes come to a standstill. This can be particularly frustrating when you just want to get home from a long day at work.

nightlife in saigon - traffic jam in ho chi minh

Saigon at night

11. What are your favorite things to do in Saigon?

My favorite thing to do is to drive around on a bike or sit in a nice bar or coffee shop and people watch.

living in ho chi minh city saigon

Just one of the crazy sights of Saigon – A dog in the driver’s seat

I just love to sit and take in the culture and watch the local people go about their daily life and business. There is always something cool or whacky to see. For example, when I first arrived, I was amazed at the full-blown man-made aquarium that some locals set up at the back of their motorbike. And I kid you not, I once saw a man hauling a huge wardrobe on the back of his bike.

12. Where do you recommend to visit in Ho Chi Minh city?

As a tourist to the city, I fully recommend people to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a set of tunnels that the Vietnamese used to hide out in during the war. Whilst on a visit here, you can even see the traps that were set up for the Americans. The War Remnants Museum, whilst harrowing, is very educational and a great way to educate yourself about the effects and devastation of the war. If you have a little more time in the city, take your time to visit the markets, the post office, the Independence Palace and check out Walking Street.

living in Saigon - day trip from ho chi minh city

Heading down into one of the tiny tunnel holes

13. Is it easy to make new friends in Saigon?

It is relatively easy to make new friends as the more you visit a bar or coffee shop the more you will see the same people and instantly become connected. There are also a few expat sites that offer meetups and various classes; which make it easy to find people with similar interests.

where to drink coffee in saigon ho chi minh city

Coffee in Saigon

14. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly in Saigon?

I usually hang out with friends from work, who are mostly foreigners. However, I would love to have local friends but many local people my age always seem to be busy with their studies or families. Family in Vietnam is a huge part of their culture and people often do a lot of activities with their family.

 

15. Where is your favorite place in Saigon to meet friends?

Usually a local bar/ food place. There is a great place near my apartment that sells super cheap beer and delicious food. It is the perfect place to hang out with friends, eat, drink and have a laugh. The atmosphere is great as it is lively but not too noisy so we can still chat and play card games.
(Photo caption: Bui Vien at Christmas time – the tourist drinking street)

 

16. A memorable experience in Ho Chi Minh city

I have so many memories but one that is particularly standing out right now is the time myself and a bunch of mates where walking into town for a night out and we came across some local men singing karaoke and drinking beers on the street. They invited us over, we sat, had a few drinks and sang karaoke with them for hours. In the end, we didn’t even make it out.

It was such a fun night interacting with locals and singing street karaoke. This was my first experience of street karaoke and it has since happened again; this is just the Vietnamese culture and hospitality for you.

 

17. Did you change your perspective of Saigon after living here?

Before moving to Vietnam my perspective was always a good one. The local people are so friendly, the culture is incredible and living here would be so fun. My perspective of that has remained the same until this day.

 

18. What are your advice and tips for living in Ho Chi Minh City?

Be open to the way of life and enjoy every minute of it. My main piece of advice is to learn to drive a motorbike too. This one is rich coming from me, as I have still not learned yet, but believe me, I wish I had learned from the start. Learning early on will help combat your fear and you will be able to do so much more and be more independent. Sure! Grab is a great way to get around but it can get a little annoying having to wait sometimes or when you have to rely on someone else to get you somewhere on time.

living in ho chi minh

Learning how to ride a scooter or motorbike is recommended!

 

19. Would you recommend others to live in Ho Chi Minh City?

Absolutely! Ho Chi Minh has so much to offer in terms of culture and activities. The people are incredibly welcoming and the city is very safe. I would totally recommend it to anyone who is thinking of moving here. Just take the plunge and give it a try. It may surprise you like it did me.

 

20. What have you learned from living abroad?

By living abroad, I have learned to become independent and do all the grown-up things like apartment hunting and sorting out hospital appointments and so on. I have also become much more confident in meeting and interacting with new people. It is so easy to do here, as everyone is so friendly. Furthermore, I have learned a second language. Well, kind of. I’m getting there, but Vietnamese is so darn hard to pronounce. This is still very much a learning curve for me.

 

More about Katie

living in vietnam
I’m Katie, an English teacher that has a love for traveling and exploring the world. My passions are to explore exotic destinations, experience once in a lifetime opportunities & to immerse myself in new cultures. I have lived in Vietnam as an English teacher for almost two years where my hunger for travel continues to grow. When I am not teaching I like to explore my surroundings, take lots of pictures and blog about my experiences.
Follow me on Untoldwanderlust, my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


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Expatriates Jeddah: Living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as an expat

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as an expat? In this interview, Noel will discuss the cost of living in Jeddah, good and bad things about living in Jeddah, places to go in Jeddah and more!

 

1. About Jeddah

Jeddah is a port city in Saudi Arabia and is the home of the two most holy places among Muslims, Mecca, and Medina. During the seasons of pilgrimage, Jeddah could be crowded with people from the rest of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world gathers in the city. The temperature could go as high as 45 degrees Celcius during summer and could go as low as 16 during winter. Gender segregation is observed in public places, and women are required to wear a long garb called the abaya.

Here is a video of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


 

2. What was your procedure for moving to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?

I was born in the Philippine but currently working as a Quality Assurance Engineer at an air-conditioning manufacturing company in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Back in 2011, I was applying for an online job posting for South Korea but for some stroke of faith, the manpower recruitment agency placed my application for a job post in Saudi Arabia and on June of the same year, I got hired by the company and was soon dispatched to Jeddah. Everything happened so fast.

saudi expatriates jeddah jobs - life in saudi
When I arrived in the city, I only brought with me in a small suitcase five shirts, two pairs of jeans, a mobile phone, and my old laptop computer. But after staying in Jeddah for more than six years, my room got too cluttered and ten luggage won’t be enough to fit all the stuff I now own.

 

3. Why did you choose to live in Jeddah?

The move to live in Jeddah wasn’t actually a choice, it was purely for work. Due to several negative stereotypes about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I told myself that I would never ever step a foot in this country. However, faith has it that a company called me for work and still thankful for the opportunity to live and get to know this city better.

expatriates jeddah working in saudi arabia

For all I experienced, Jeddah is one of the least conservative cities in Saudi Arabia and with all the expat communities here. Therefore, I would say this country is one of the safest choices when choosing to live in the Middle East. The only thing you can’t have here is the booze. Saudi Arabia has zero tolerance for alcohol.

 

4. How to prepare to move to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The company I was working for actually prepared everything for me. Accommodation, food, and transportation to and from the workplace are all provided. However, I still prefer to cook my own food from time to time.

Being in a city that has a long history of expats, sourcing for ingredients (or least local counterparts) in preparing Filipino food has not been a problem. There are three small stores near our apartment offering various ingredients from different cuisines – Filipino, Indian, Middle Turkish, Egyptian. I’m not sure what else they have, but they have at least the basics I need.

 

5. Cost of living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

a) Accommodation

Prices of accommodations in Jeddah could be different depending on the area. As Jeddah is a multi-national city, specific nationals tend to stay in one area which makes the prices different. But on the average, you could rent a single room with shared bath and kitchen for 10,000 to 15, 000 riyals per year. For flats with two to three bedrooms and private bath and kitchen, the price range is between 18,000 to 24,000 per year.

Accommodations are usually arranged for a contract of at least one year.

 

b) Food

For food, the basics will usually go for 500 riyals per week for one person if you would cook your own meals. But if you’d eat outside, rice and kebab or grilled half chicken would usually start at 15 riyals. Decent burger meals in fast foods start at 18 riyals. International steakhouses start at 80 riyals per set.

 

b) Transportation

If you would take Uber or Careem, it would cost you around 10 riyals for three kilometers distance without traffic.

Premium gasoline costs 0.9 riyals per liter and we don’t pay taxes.

 

c) Internet

ADSL internet starts at 200 riyals per month a 10 MBPS, increase the monthly cost and you could get faster internet speed.

Note: 1 USD is equivalent to 3.75 Saudi Riyals

 

6. What are the difficulties of living in Jeddah?

a) Transportation

Though we have three vehicles taking us to the workplace was provided, the drivers do not usually take us out somewhere else unless we get to bribe them. But, of course, the drivers could not take us anywhere, anytime we want. Which makes general transportation a difficulty.

Jeddah does have a public bus system but you wouldn’t want to try your luck getting into one. It’s not safe, to say the least. The only other option was the local taxis and they charge a lot because no one uses and follows the meters.

Good thing Uber and another local car-sharing company, Careem, became available sometime in 2016 so going anywhere, anytime we want became possible.

 

b) Negative stereotypes

Aside from transportation, the only thing that made my early life in Jeddah difficult was all the negative stereotypes about Saudi Arabia I used to believe in. Things like getting beheaded merely for staring at a woman, the people of Islam being equated to terrorists, getting raped by random men in the streets, things like that.

I never actually wanted to go out of the house unaccompanied.

Good thing I had several friends – locals and from other countries; Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and the non-religious – who all helped me understand and break all the negative stereotypes that had been preventing me to live a full life in the city.

 

7. Did you experience any discrimination in Jeddah?

The locals are actually friendly and are accustomed to all the different nationalities in Jeddah. Some of them actually know a few words from different languages, especially the bad ones, which they often use to cracked the cultural barriers when trying to engage in some of the conversations.

 

8. How to overcome culture shock in Jeddah?

It could actually quite shocking to pass by a group of locals engaging in some conversations as they talk really loud in a sense that they’d sound like they’re arguing. If you’re not familiar with their manner of speaking, these kinds of scenarios would always cause you to flee for your life as they really sound like a sword fight would always ensue at a moment’s notice. But they just talk loudly, nothing to worry about.

 

9. What do you like about Jeddah?

Jeddah is one hot city, the temperature could reach up to 45 degrees Celcius at most. However, having cheap electricity, you can always afford to have your air-conditioning units in full blast, 24 hours a day. Though I don’t necessarily need that.

Also, Jeddah being a coastal city, we have an easy access to the Red Sea where we could just chill out at the beach, or go hunting crabs during weekends.

saudi expatriates jeddah jobs - life in saudi

Floating mosque in Jeddah

 

10. Is there anything that you don’t like about Jeddah?

Being from a tropical country, I missed the occasional rains and the rainforests that Jeddah doesn’t have. Plus the alcohol and pork, which are both illegal in the country.

Also, Jeddah is a bit dirty. You could see plastic bags, pet bottles, and other trash trapped along the roads and loose sands. And if there is one thing that I do not like about the locals, it’s that most of them do not care to clean their mess after having picnics at parks, the beach, and everywhere else. If you would go to parks early in the morning, you’d see mounds of uneaten rice and leftover food laying on the grounds.

And there are no movie houses.

saudi expatriates jeddah

Park in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

11. What are your favorite things to do in Jeddah?

There are several places in Jeddah that the government paved for morning strolls and exercises. If not on the beach, we would usually visit the parks and do several kilometer run or brisk walking until the sun becomes too hot. Then we would have breakfasts at Ikea near the and recover all the calories we have just lost. Afterwards, we would visit the fish market and indulge ourselves with fresh fish for lunch.

expatriates jeddah jobs in jeddah saudi arabia

Fish market

This is how we usually start our weekends before burying ourselves deep in the internet. The internet in Saudi Arabia is relatively fast at 10 to 20 MBPS.

 

12. Where do you recommend to visit in the Jeddah?

If you have a car, I would recommend you visit the Red Sea. Though I must warn you that the beaches at the south are not developed which means you can’t expect any accommodations or any establishments. But they are free. Just bring your food and picnic mats with you if you’d go there. Up north, however, there are private beaches but they could be costly.

Around the city, you could visit the corniche or the seaside when it’s not too hot. There’s also the Fakieh Aquarium Center where you could enjoy viewing the marine life from the Red Sea and watch a dolphin show for an additional fee.

And if malls and shopping is your thing, you can’t have enough of them in Jeddah. Two of the more popular ones are the Mall of Arabia and the Red Sea Mall.

expatriates jeddah

13. Is it easy to make new friends in Jeddah?

From my observation, the expats in Saudi Arabia don’t usually stray from their group. They go in packs but stay with their countrymen. Should you desire to mingle with other nationals, the best way is to get friends with your colleagues.

Football is the only thing that brings different nationals together in Jeddah.

Though recently, several nationals are arranging Couchsurfing meetups. I haven’t been to one so far but I’m looking forward to. I just had to find time as they usually hang out on Thursday nights but I still had to go to work on most Fridays and Saturdays.

 

14. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I don’t usually hang out with foreigners either but I have Saudi national friends that I go out for dinner at restaurants or hang out at coffee shops from time to time. I usually go out with fellow Filipinos as we stay in the same apartment and finding the time won’t be a problem. Sometimes, I attend house parties organized by other Filipino communities but I never had a chance to other expat communities.

There was a time that I got invited to a Sudanese wedding but the venue was in Mecca which is only accessible to Muslims.

 

15. Do you interact with any expat communities in Jeddah?

I love hanging out along the corniche on weekend mornings and the Red Sea at nights during long holidays. They are the closest things to nature parks I have easy access to in Jeddah. When having dinner with friends outside, I love strolling and window shopping around the city center for a few hours before finally going home.

 

16. A memorable experience in Jeddah

There are several reckless drivers in the city and it would be normal to see heavily dented cars on the road. The locals have a high tolerance for it, I should say. I’ll never forget such incidents when a car would bump on another on the road and when both drivers come out of their vehicles, they’d just exchange greetings and would talk like nothing happened, completely ignoring the fact that both their cars are now heavily dented if not almost totally wrecked.

 

17. Did you change your perspective about Jeddah after living here?

Living in Jeddah have greatly changed my perspective about the country and the Muslim people in general. As earlier mentioned, Saudi Arabia and Islam have been known outside the country for public lashing and executions, terrorisms, and illegal detentions due to false accusations. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered any of that and if there is one thing I learned about Muslims after living in Jeddah for a while, it is that Muslims are the most kind-hearted and God-fearing people and there is no way a Muslim will favor terrorism.

 

18. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Jeddah?

expatriates jeddah jobs living in jeddah

In case anyone decides to move and live in Jeddah, forget about the booze and pork. Unless you are married, do not mingle with women in public. But don’t think you can’t talk to your female nurses, doctors, and other public persons. If you’re a woman, abide by the dress code.

In short, learn the local customs and you’ll be fine. Everything else, you could do as usual.

 

19. Would you recommend others to live in Jeddah?

I would not strongly recommend people to move in Jeddah as there are still some rules that must be strictly observed such as gender segregation (unless you’re a married couple). Nightlife can be a bit boring and you will have to rely on the internet and your creativity for other forms of entertainment.

living in jeddah as an expat - expatriates jeddah

Camels in Jeddah

However, if you will have an opportunity for work, Jeddah is a livable city if you can afford to lose some of the social norms you grew up with.

 

20. What have you learned from living abroad?

When you live abroad, you get to break a lot of stereotypes about others’ cultures and social norms. As you are the foreigner, you have to learn to assimilate. You don’t have to reform yourself or do as the locals do, but you must learn to accept that cultures and the ways of life are different. Just accept the differences and you’ll be okay.

 

More about Noel

expatriates jeddah

I am Noel Cabacungan and I document my travels on my personal blog, Ten Thousand Strangers. When not busy tinkering with my blog or day-dreaming of being somewhere else for leisure, I take photos of my two six-inch Stormtrooper action figures. Also, I love food. And if there is something that would make me easily assimilated into a place, it would be food. Noodles, in particular, as they are so easy to consume especially with a pair of chopsticks.

Follow Noel on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!


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The best cheap eats in Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so living or traveling to Copenhagen may cost a lot of money. However, don’t let it stop you from visiting this beautiful Scandinavian city. Copenhagen can be a budget-friendly destination for foodies as well if you know where to eat in Copenhagen on a budget. In this article, I will show you the best cheap eats in Copenhagen.

 

1. Sunset Boulevard

If you want to find a cheap place to eat in Copenhagen, visit Sunset Boulevard. It’s my favorite place to have a nice fresh-made burger. You can find these shops near Round Tower (Købmagergade 43) or Fish Market (Københavns Hovedbanegård).
If you enter the shop, you will see the price for one burger starts from 43 DKK, but you can ask for the cheapest option which is Snack Burger, and it’s only 15 DKK. I find Snack Burger and other burgers are not much different, so I usually go with Snack Burger! Not only so cheap, Snack burger is really tasty. The sauce of Snack Beef Burger reminds me the taste Vietnamese Banh Mi.

2. Takeaway Pizza

Takeaway pizza is also a good choice for cheap eats in Copenhagen. There are many pizza shops around Copenhagen, and the price usually starts from 60 DKK.

Cheap places to eat in copenhagen on a budget

Where to eat the best pizza in Copenhagen?  Pizzeria La Fiorita

I knew this delicious pizza restaurant from my friend, and this place has become my favorite pizza stop. It’s located just nearby the Lake, and not far from Central Copenhagen. The restaurant is small and cozy, so you can experience relaxing atmosphere while enjoying delicious slices of pizza.

With fresh topping and crispy dough, Pizzeria La Fiorita is a great place to eat authentic pizza at an affordable price. There are vegan pizza choices as well, along with other Italian dishes such as Bruschetta, Lasagna, Parmigiana  Spaghetti bolognese, Fettuccine, Tortellini.

Location: Charlotte Ammundsens Plads 2, kld. Hjørnet af Nansensgade, 1359 Kbh. K.

Menu: You can click here to find the menu of  Pizzeria La Fiorita

 

3. Hot dog stand

There are various hot dog stands around Copenhagen, so don’t hesitate to try one! With an affordable price and amazing tastes, you can just pick one up for lunch. So, where to try hot dog in Copenhagen?

cheap restaurants to eat in Copenhagen on a budget

a) DØP

Location: Købmagergade 52, 1150 København K, Denmark

If you find yourself around Norreport Station area, just stop by and try delicious hot dogs from DØP. This hot dog stand is just nearby the Round Tower (Rundetaarn). The price starts at 35 DKK, and you can pay extra 5 DKK to upgrade your choice of sausage.

Here are some reviews of this hot dog stands from other customers:

 

b) John’s Hotdog Deli

Location: Bernstorffsgade 5, 1704 København V, Denmark

John’s Hotdog Deli is another option for people who are around Central Copenhagen. It’s located just outside Central Station and across Tivoli. The price is a bit cheaper than DØP, starting from 28 DKK. Some people say the hotdog here is better than DØP, but I will let you try it yourself 🙂

 

4. Too Good To Go App

This app is totally a life-saver!!! Instead of wasting the food, the restaurants cooperate with this app to let the user buy at a cheaper price in the evening. While using the app, you can see the distance from your location to the restaurants, and the what food they offer. My favorite choices are bakery shops and “All you can eat” restaurants. There are vegan restaurants for you as well! However, you can only go and pick your food at a specific time of the day, so make sure that you don’t miss it.

How to use the application Too Good to Go?

Firstly, you need to register as a user and choose the restaurant based on your interest. After purchasing the ticket, you must be at the restaurant at a proper time to receive your food. The restaurant will check your ticket, press a button, and then give you a small box to take whatever you want.

toogoodtogo

Therefore, if the picking-up time is 10 pm, I suggest to be there 9:55 in order not to be in a long queue or miss all the food. Your phone should have internet data as well in order to check your ticket.

 

5. Supermarket take-away food

There are few cheap supermarket chains in Copenhagen such as Netto, Fakta, Lidl, and Aldi. However, you will see Netto is the most popular one. It’s everywhere in Copenhagen and opens until late at night (10 pm or 11 pm, some even open 24 hours). I usually buy already-made salad boxes from Netto, and it is tasty. There are burgers, sandwiches, spaghetti and other takeaway dishes that you can choose from as well.

 

6. Famous fast food chains: Burger King, McDonald’s

cheap eats in Copenhagen

Even though I’m not a fan of fast-food, it’s one of the cheapest options if you need a quick-and-cheap meal. There are some fast food chains in Copenhagen such as Burger King, McDonald’s, and the price starts from 20 DKK. I usually eat there after a late night, as they open 24 hours.


Read related posts about Denmark:

Cheap places to eat in Copenhagen on a budget

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Expat Interview: Living in Bangkok as an expat

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In this Interview, Tara will show you what it’s like to live in Bangkok, Thailand as an expat. She will discuss her moving procedure, good and bad things about Bangkok, where to visit in Bangkok, cost of living in Bangkok and more!

 

About Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. It is a large coastal city with roughly 14 million people in a 600 square mile area. Similar to other large cities of the world, you can find a diversity of people living throughout the city, as well as restaurants, shopping malls, museums, businesses, etc. Bangkok is a very safe city to live in as a foreigner, and incredibly affordable. Most foreigners come to Thailand to work as Teachers because, in order to stay long-term, you either need to have a work permit or be married to a local to have a marriage visa. From Bangkok, it is extremely easy to travel to other parts of Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

living in Bangkok - Bangkok expats

Bangkok just after sunset

1. About Tara

Hello! My name is Tara Kenyon and I am from Upstate, New York. I have my Master’s degree in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and my Bachelor’s in Biology and Psychology from Binghamton University. For the past 6 years, I have been living in Thailand. At first, I taught English to high school students at a Government school in Nakhon Sawan and then Science at an International High School in Bangkok. I am the creator of “Nutrition Abroad” where I write recipes from around the world and travel guides for the independent budget traveler. My passions are travel and food (as you could probably guess!) as well as wildlife and conservation. 

 

2. What was your procedure for moving to Bangkok?

I originally moved to Thailand in 2011 but lived in a smaller Thai city. After completing my contract there with a government school, I moved home to NY to complete my Master’s degree. I knew I wanted to go back to Thailand, but this time my husband and I wanted to work in Bangkok at an International high school to make more money. In the summer of 2014 we packed up all of our things once again and this time moved to Bangkok. We had never lived in a big city before, so this was a new experience for us.

moving to Bangkok Thailand

 

3. Why did you choose to live in Bangkok Thailand?

After living in a smaller Thai city I really wanted to experience what it was like to live in one of the biggest cities in the world. Also, as an expat living in Thailand, you can only stay longer than a few months if you have a work permit. Many jobs do not provide a work permit, which is why the majority of people who move to Thailand work as teachers. I wanted to upgrade my job from working in the government school system, and most of the big name International schools are located in Bangkok. Bangkok has everything you could possibly imagine, the same as other big cities, so we were looking for some conveniences of that as well.

 

4. How to prepare to move to Bangkok?

When moving from country to country it is very difficult to carry a lot of luggage with you. I could only bring 2 suitcases, so I had to figure out what was most important. Since I was going to be working as a teacher, I made sure to pack all my professional working clothes first. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find the styles of clothes I wanted for working in Thailand, so I prepared by purchasing those items at home first. I also needed to save a bit of money, because in Thailand you get paid only once per month, which means you have to live a whole month before receiving your first paycheck. You need to make sure you have enough money for rent, deposit, etc.

 

5. Cost of living in Bangkok

It totally depends on your lifestyle. Bangkok can be one of the most affordable cities to live in or just as expensive as New York City.

cost of living in Bangkok - Bangkok apartments

a) Accommodation: Bangkok apartments

You can rent a small studio apartment (not in the center of town) in Bangkok for as little as $300 USD per month. Or you can live directly off of Sukhumvit Road in a 2 bedroom apartment for $1,500 USD per month.

Bangkok apartments - Cost of living in Bangkok

 

b) Food in Bangkok

The same is true for food. You can eat Thai street food for less than $1 USD per dish, or you can eat at the fanciest restaurants for $20 USD per dish.

 

c) Transportation in Bangkok

Transportation is typically always cheap, whether you choose a taxi, motorbike taxi, sky-train, or subway. Tuk Tuk’s tend to charge higher prices.

 

d) Shopping for groceries in Bangkok

You can shop for groceries at the local markets and pay pennies for fresh fruits and vegetables, or you can shop at the Central shopping mall grocery stores and pay US prices.

expat living in Bangkok eat Thai food

Thai Spices

e) Buying clothes in Bangkok

For clothing and accessories, you can shop again at the local markets where shirts cost as little as $3 USD, or you can go to the luxury shopping malls that have Sephora, Gucci, Michael Kors, and Coach for example.

 

f) Paying taxes in Bangkok, Thailand

Depending on the type of job you have, you may or may not have to pay taxes. Typically in the government schools, they will pay the taxes for you. In the International schools, you often have your taxes deducted from your monthly salary, which can be anywhere from 10-20% depending on the amount of your salary. It seems steep, but if you’re paying taxes in Thailand than you don’t have to pay taxes in the United States as well.

 

g) My experience

When I worked at a government school I only made $1,000 USD per month but I was able to save $500 USD per month. I ate cheap Thai food, shopped at the markets, and lived in a studio apartment. When I moved to work in the International schools I made roughly $3,000 USD per month, and I saved at least $2,000 USD per month. I lived a more expensive lifestyle, had a 2 bedroom apartment, enjoyed fancier restaurants and traveled to more exotic places.

What to eat in Bangkok Thailand

Thailand is famous for it’s Thai Noodle Soup

6. What are the difficulties of living in Bangkok?

Thai language is an incredibly difficult language. It consists of 5 tones, which means the same word spoken in 5 different ways means 5 different vocabularies. As a foreigner, you will most likely never say the tones correctly unless you take classes, so it can be very difficult to communicate with the Thai people. When I first moved there, I needed to rent an apartment, a motorbike, figure out where to do laundry, etc., and all of this is quite hard without speaking the language. Unless you’re in a tourist area, most Thai’s do not speak any English. I slowly learned the words for the things I needed doing and spent a lot of time studying. I learned how to read the Thai script, which was instrumental when trying to order food from a restaurant or read the signs on the streets.

 

7. Did you experience any discrimination in Bangkok?

The Thai people will stare at foreigners often and you will hear them say ‘farang’ (Thai word for French, but now is used as a blanket term for all foreigners) around you all the time. They don’t mean it in a derogatory way, so don’t feel offended. You might get annoyed after hearing it so many times, but you have to remember that you are a foreigner living in their country. There are times when a Thai person will come up and take a picture with you, sometimes without asking, and this is another thing you have to get used to. For the most part, Thai people are kind and helpful and enjoy engaging in conversation with foreigners. If you learn to say just a few words in Thai, that will really impress them (you might even get better discounts on the market!)

Sometimes, although it’s very rare, foreigners will be charged higher prices than Thai’s at small restaurants or for transportation services. There is not much that you can do about it, and since Thailand is such an affordable country, these differences are so small that it’s better to just pay it and move on.

 

8. How to overcome culture shock in Bangkok?

I didn’t have too much culture shock because I had traveled to South East Asia previously (the Philippines). I knew a little bit about how they lived, and I made sure to ask friends who had been there previously for advice. Also, I did have to get used to the squat toilets, and the fact that not everywhere is as clean as I was used to (especially restaurants). Those adjustments come with time, and now they don’t bother me anymore.

 

9. What do you like about Bangkok?

Bangkok is one of the largest cities in the world, and just like other large cities, it has everything you could possibly imagine. Restaurants, shopping, bars, temples,  museums, you name it! I love how cheap the transportation in the city is. You can take a taxi from one end of the city to the other for less than $10. Bangkok has both an underground subway and an above ground sky-train. The transportation is very efficient and you can find your way around the entire city quite easily. Tuk Tuks and motorcycle taxis can be found everywhere as well. You can spend one day in Bangkok and practically move around the entire city.

Bangkok lifestyle living in Bangkok

Riding through the city in a Tuk Tuk

10. Is there anything that you don’t like about Bangkok?

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the number of people. If you’re walking around the major tourist areas of Bangkok there were will thousands of people around you. It’s nice to find a quieter area of the city where you can roam the streets without too much chaos.

living in Bangkok - cost of living in Bangkok

Busy streets are a common sight in Bangkok

I also don’t like the scams. I haven’t been victim to any scams myself since I know what to look out for, but I hear about them all the time. As a newcomer to the city, make sure to read up on the scams you might encounter so you know how to look out for them. For example, a huge scam in Bangkok involves the Tuk Tuk drivers. They might offer you a discounted rate to go visit a temple, but you are unaware that they plan to take you to a suit shop, or a jewelry store, and try and urge you to buy those products. Don’t ever listen to a Tuk Tuk (or taxi) driver who tells you that a temple is closed but that they can take you to one that is open. This is a lie of course and they should be avoided.

 

11. What are your favorite things to do in Bangkok?

a) Shopping in Bangkok

My favorite thing about Bangkok is the shopping. I love the shopping malls and the cheap markets. Chatuchak market, also known as JJ, is one of the biggest markets in the world. There isn’t an item you can think of that can’t be found there. I love strolling up and down the aisles and seeing what I can find. Always offer 50% less than the asking price! They will always ask for more money, especially to foreigners.

There are enormous shopping malls all throughout the city but the majority of them are located in the Sukhumvit Road area. Malls such as Siam Paragon, Central Plaza, MBK, and Platinum are incredible and like heaven to those who love to shop.

b) Eating in Bangkok

I also love to eat in the city (of course!). Not only cheap Thai street food but all the different ethnic restaurants that can be found there. Bangkok has a Little India, a Little Korea, a Middle Eastern Town, Chinatown, etc. You can find food ranging from Ethiopian to Italian to Mexican.

living in Bangkok - what to eat in Bangkok: Khao Soi

Khao Soi, a Thai specialty

12. Where do you recommend to visit in the Bangkok?

a) Temples in Bangkok

At some point, you will definitely have to visit the famous temples such as Wat Pho and Wat Arun along the riverside. You can visit the Grand Palace or go to see the Emerald Buddha. Be aware that these all are extremely touristy things to do, so there will always be hundreds of other people there.

 

b) Bangkok Nightlife

For those who love nightlife, the Khao San Road area is where most of the backpackers hang out. If you love nightlife but want to stay away from the backpacker crowd, then the areas of Thong Lor or Ekkamai (off Sukhumvit Road) are the best options for you. Here you will find hipster and artsy bars with unique cocktails.

Sky bars are also popular places to visit in the city. My favorite is Above 11, on Sukhumvit Soi 11, which offers a chill vibe with spectacular views of the city’s skyline. They serve a combination of French and Peruvian food. There are dozens of sky bars around Bangkok to choose from.

 

c) Day trips from Bangkok

Since transportation is so affordable and easy to find, you can also venture outside the city to see excellent attractions. An hour north of the city is Ayutthaya where you will find ancient ruins, and an hour west of the city you can visit the famous floating market of Damneon Saduak. A few hours south and you’ll reach the pristine beaches on the islands of Koh Chang or Koh Samet.

 

13. Is it easy to make new friends in Bangkok?

It’s easy to make new friends if you are social! Usually, if you’re working in the school system there will be other foreigners from around the world that you’ll get to know and befriend. You can also go out to bars or join classes such as Yoga to get to know other people. You can’t be shy from starting a conversation with someone, just go for it and they are most likely in the same situation as you and looking for friends.

 

14. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly in Bangkok?

I hang out with a combination of locals and foreigners. I have a lot of foreign friends from working in the school system as well as locals who work there too. You can meet more locals by going out to bars and restaurants as well and starting conversations.

 

15. Where is your favorite place in Bangkok to meet friends?

Thai people love to eat and drink! So bars and restaurants are the best places to hang out. Meals are shared ‘family style’, meaning that a bunch of random dishes is ordered and shared among the whole group. It is not common to order your own dish and not share with the others. Coffee is huge too, and every corner has a coffee shop, so this is another popular place to hang out.

 

16. Do you interact with any expat communities in Bangkok?

No, I never interacted with any expat communities. Usually, in most schools and areas of town, there are so many expats living that you don’t have to seek any out. However, there are many expat communities that you can be a part of if you wish. There are groups for getting together at different bars or restaurants. My friend was a new mother and joined a group of new mothers in the city. They would meet at cafes or take the children to the park.

 

17. A memorable experience in Bangkok

My co-worker was a former journalist who had lived in Bangkok for 20 years. He suggested we go have some drinks at this old US/Thai Military base from the 70’s which had been converted into a bar. We weren’t sure what to expect but we agreed and followed him there.

We arrived at this large compound and he began banging on the door. It was raining outside and nothing was happening, no one was coming. He looked around and was like ‘Oh! Oops, wrong place’. He walked next door and banged again on a large metal door. A minute later we were buzzed inside. There were Thai soldiers with large guns all around us. We walked down this skinny hallway where we had to sign our names in. We were all a little sketched out and unsure about the whole experience, so we signed fake names. Just when I was beginning to think the whole situation was a bad idea, we entered the bar. It turned out to be just your typical VFW bar. They had craft beers, pool tables, and American sports on the T.V. It ended up being a great night.

 

18. Did you change your perspective of Bangkok after living here?

Definitely. I always thought I would hate living in a large city, and Bangkok is one of the largest in the world. But there is always so much to do and see (and so much food to eat!) that it’s impossible not to love it. However, I would still prefer to live near to a big city but not inside of it. I need a little more peace and quiet.

expat living in Bangkok

Sunset from Jack’s Bar in Bangkok

19. Advice and tips for moving to Bangkok or living in Bangkok

Read and plan ahead. Know the general costs of things that you will need so you can come prepared with enough money. Understand the culture and customs of the people so you don’t offend anyone and start off on the wrong foot. Go with the flow! Things are going to go wrong of course, but you will adjust and you’ll remember it as a great learning experience.

 

20. Would you recommend to live in Bangkok?

Should people live in Bangkok? Absolutely. Bangkok will always be my favorite city in the world. In my mi, d there is no other country like Thailand, and it’s a place everyone should experience at least for a short time in their life. The way of life for the Thai people is so fascinating, and unlike the way of life in America. I believe the only way for you to grow as a person is to step outside your comfort zone every now and then. Moving out of your own country to experience another is a growth experience. You will never look at your own country the same way again.

 

21. What have you learned from living abroad?

I have learned patience, tolerance, and understanding just to name a few. I learned that people live differently all over the world and that their customs are not necessarily better or worse than your own, just different. You find yourself feeling more like a citizen of the world instead of a citizen of just your own country. In the US, people tend to live very actively and stressed out lives. I know because I used to live that way. Constantly worried about money and taxes and bills.

In Thailand, I didn’t have to worry about those things. I had enough money to be extremely comfortable, and those worries disappeared. Life is a lot slower in Thailand. It causes you to reflect on your own life. This doesn’t mean that life in Thailand was perfect and I didn’t have any problems. But I hope I can carry the lessons I learned from living in Thailand with me throughout the rest of my life.

 

More about Tara Kenyon

moving to Bangkok

Originally from Upstate NY, I have been living in Thailand on and off for the past 6 years as a teacher. Living in Thailand has inspired my passion for travel as well as cuisine, which helped me begin my website Nutrition Abroad. Here I write about recipes from around the world and provide travel guides and tips for the independent budget traveler. Currently, I am taking a break from teaching, and traveling the world with my husband, blogging about my experiences as I go!

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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Sydney Itinerary: 4 days travel to Sydney on a budget

If you are a travelholic, Australia or specifically Sydney is surely on the list of the top must-come-destination. However, as you might be aware, Sydney, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world, can deter you from getting the most of this lovely city. So, how can you still enjoy the beauty of Sydney without harming too much your wallet? Check out the Sydney Itinerary: 4 days travel to Sydney on a budget written by Trang Le – a travel lover currently living in Melbourne to find out all the answers. She will guide you to the best places to visit in Sydney, things to do in Sydney and places to eat in Sydney in this article.

 

Summary of 4 days Sydney Itinerary

  • Trip: Melbourne to Sydney Budget: 500 – 600AUD (flight ticket and accommodation, Adele concert ticket, eating, shopping, and transportation included)
  • Length: 3 Full days and a half day (4 nights at Hostel)
  • Requirements: Walking ability + good health conditions + Food sharing + Modest shopping + Early wake-up and late comeback
  • Places covered: Harbour area, CBD area (Shopping streets, Mary Cathedral, Sydney Tower, Queen Victoria Building, Hyde Park), The Rocks area, Royal Botanic Garden (Macquarie’s chair), Sydney Fish Market, The Star Casino, Darling Harbour, The Market City ( The paddy’s Market), The Melbourne Contemporary Museum, Harbour bridge walking (30-1 hour) Harbour night view, Manly Beach, Coogee to Bondi Beach walk ( 3-4 hours), The Rocks + the rocks Sunday market
  • Places I ate: It’s time for Thai food, Vietnamese Bread – Destination Roll, Peters Sydney Fish Market, Cafe Cre Asion, The Pancakes on The Rocks
  • The note includes my itinerary, my tips, my recommendations.
  • Good for: travel on budget, nature lovers, photos taking, eating lovers…

 

Sydney Itinerary: Day 1

Sydney Itinerary on a budget 4 days travel to Sydney

I flew from Melbourne to Sydney with the early morning flight at 8 am. After arrived at the hostel around 10 am, I had first breakfast in Sydney with Vietnamese bread at the store next to my hostel: 5.50$ for any rolls. It is quite good and the price is affordable.

Sydney Vietnamese banh mi

5.50$ – taste good with affordable price

Free walking tour Sydney

Then, I went on a tour called “Free walking tour – CBD Tour” at 2:30 pm until 5:00 pm and “Free walking tour – The rocks” at 6 pm until 7:30 pm.

Click here to read more about the free walking tour

Sydney walking glass

The tour includes almost all the main attractions at Sydney CBD and Harbour area


The ending point of the first tour is also the beginning of the 2nd one which is in Harbour area ( Circular Quay).

 

Harbour Area in Sydney

It was about less than 1 hour in between the tours. Therefore, you might walk around the Harbour area to Opera House and take some pictures with Harbour Bridge, Opera House,…

Sydney Harbour

The tour covered all of the main iconic places in CBD Sydney, explained the history then gave some fun facts. I really recommend it for those who are interested in listening to stories and histories, as well as knowing more about what locals think.

My experience

  • Personally, I did really enjoy it since it is free, and I haven’t joined any informative tour like this before. Especially there are so many places to go around Sydney and you might spend a lots money on transportation which can be made in a walking distance.
  • I think the tour is very good for people who are new to the city. You can have an overall review of all the places around CBD, then you can come back later to any places that you are interested in.
  • However, you shouldn’t go on the tour if you prefer walking randomly on your own preferences, taking pictures… The tour is designed to give a brief introduction to Main points in Sydney for you to come back later.

 

Foodie time: Thai food in Sydney

After finishing the tour, my friend and I decided to have a meal at a Halal Thai food restaurant “It is time for Thai”. It is also the place we ate on the last day in Sydney. Since she is Muslim, we preferred eating here. So it is optional if you want to give it a try.

Sydney Tomyum Thai rice

Sydney Thai curry

Personally, I think the “Green chicken curry with Roti” – 13.50$ and Tom Yum Kung are very delicious. I love the smell of coconut and the spicy-sour flavor for Tom Yum. Some friends might know I am a spicy eater, but it is not that spicy though. Therefore, I recommend them to those who are into Thai food and spicy food.

Sydney Thai Fried Vanilla Ice Cream


Sydney Itinerary: Day 2 – Morning to 4 pm

( I went to the Adele concert so there is no plan for evening)

Sydney Itinerary on a budget 4 days in Sydney

How’s going all my traveler guru? I hope that you guys all enjoy reading my 1st day in Sydney and here I am again with the summary of my 2nd day in this lovely city. Where is the best place to have breakfast for the first morning in Sydney? Where to go in the nice and chilly weather to have another look at the harbor FREE and more important, the best place to eat for lunchtime. Everything is included on the second day of Sydney Itinerary.

Breakfast at The Cafe Cre Asion

Waking up at 7 am, I had breakfast at a cafe called “The Cafe Cre Asion”, which is just 5 minutes walking from my hostel.

Sydney cafe shop - where to eat breakfast in Sydney

The Cafe Cre Asion

I found this cafe with the highest reviews and ratings on Zomato app, so I gave it a try. I can say it is the most expensive breakfast that I ever had in my life. However, I think it is worth the money because the food is tasty and filling, so I didn’t feel hungry until dinner.

Sydney Toast

“Toast with peanut butter and avocados adding” and a “Carrot cake”: 16.50$

I ordered a “toast with peanut butter and avocados adding” and a “Carrot cake”: 16.50$ for everything. A better option is to order a scramble eggs toast and matcha latte (only 5$) because it is the most popular drink here.

The Royal Botanic Garden

Then, I went to the Royal Botanic Garden by train from Museum station to Circular Quay, then walk to the place.
At first, I was a bit lost since the place I wanna head to is located at a different gate, and the Garden is huge. Therefore, I needed to walk back to the main gate at Macquarie St.

Free walking tour of Royal Botanic Garden

My friend and I registered a free tour at the Tourist information booth in the Royal Botanic Garden at 10:30 am.

Sydney Royal Botanic Garden tour

The tour took us 2 hours of walking around one little corner of the huge garden. The guide gave us much information about different kinds of trees, the history, and some fun facts.

However, you might get bored since the tour is academic and biologically oriented. I don’t really recommend if you are not interested in knowing about different plants, trees, and biology.  You can spend time at your own pace walking around the garden taking photos instead.

Sydney Royal Botanic Garden

In the Royal Botanic Garden, you must go to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair where you can see both Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the right side. It is very nice and scenic to view from this angle.

 

Sydney Seafood Market

Next, we want to have lunch at the Seafood Market which is the most recommended place if you are seafood lovers.

Sydney fish market - best place to eat in Sydney

You can find a variety of fresh and affordable seafood here. It is a bit expensive when coming to seafood eating. So, be aware of your budget if you don’t want to be broke there since everything is so mouth-watering!

Sydney food market seafood - best place to eat in Sydney

Sydney fish market - Where to eat seafood in Sydney

After going around to different restaurants in the area, we decided to buy food from the Peter’s. My friend ordered a set of Lobster combo: 42$. The portion was too much for one person.Because there is only one lobster, it is unable for me to share with her.

Sydney fish market food - best places to eat lunch in Sydney

I ordered a la carte: one chilly grilled prawn skewer, one mashed cheese oyster, and one grilled shrimp: 17.50$

Tips

Don’t order a big combo if you are unable to share it with anyone else. Better to choose a la carte to save money and try different dishes based on your own interest.
Overall, it was a fascinating experience when eating and covering your hands above the food because of the invasion of many birds flying around and start stealing your food. However, I did enjoy eating there so much. We viewed the scene of the wharf, boats, sky, and birds.

 

The Star Casino

After eating brunch, ( and brunches for me ), we took the train to The Star Casino to get inside a bit.

Both of us are not good gamblers, so we are not willing to play any lots there. You should bring your passport or personal identification to be checked at the entrance.

Sydney The Star Casio - playing casino in Sydney and interesting things to do in Sydney

The Star Casio

We went inside for 10 mins, then went back and headed to the Darling Harbour on foot. ( 20 minutes in normal – lazy pace).

 

The Darling Harbour

Sydney Darling Harbour - best places to visit in Sydney

Darling Harbour in Sydney

On the way, there are many benched so you can rest. The scenery is beautiful and worth taking pictures.

After that, we walked back to the Central area, where I took the train to go to the concert ANZ Stadium to enjoy Adele concert.

 

KOI dessert restaurant

My friend instead went to “KOI dessert restaurant” which is a place of fine dining with very high rates of fancy eating. You might be aware of your budget if you want to spend money on eating at this restaurant. It can cost you around 60-70$ for a set of 3 different kinds of deserts.

I myself don’t really recommend it for those who are not into fine dining and not willing to overspend the budget. Another option for dessert restaurant for sweet-tooth people is: “One tea lounge grill” if you like Matcha and Japanese dessert. I haven’t tried the food there but one of my friends did and she rated it very high. You can check it out.


Sydney Itinerary: Day 3

Sydney Itinerary on a budget 4 days travel to Sydney

To me, traveling is not only getting the most for yourself, but also for other people back home. Therefore, buying some sort of souvenirs is always a MUST in our to-do-list. On the 3rd day, you can find where to go for budget shopping in Sydney. You can also find out how to spend the rest of the day viewing the Sydney from a spectacular view.

 

The Market City

I went to the Market City which takes 10 mins walking from my hostel, so I didn’t spend money for transportation.

Sydney Market city - where to go in Sydney

Market city in Sydney

You can buy different souvenirs there for friends and families. Since my weight for luggage is limited, I can’t buy many things. In some shops, you may bargain to get a good price, some may not. Just try to make a deal with the sellers to see if you can get the good price.
My friend instead went to the Glebe market to see the antique stuff and then we met up near my place. We went around that area to places in CBD, near Sydney Tower, shopping arcade, Commonwealth Bank building.

The Commonwealth Bank building

Here, I really recommend to go and see the Commonwealth Bank building, which is located on the street named Martin place. This is the most expensive building in Sydney and is made of all marbles and very luxurious looking.
However, the bank only opens on weekdays, so we couldn’t go inside on Saturday. It was a bit regretful.

Sydney Commonwealth Bank building

Around this area, you can find many brands stores such as Zara, Forever 21 ( which doesn’t have in Melbourne as you may surprise) …
After that, we went to “Halal Chinese noodles bar” near the George Street to have a meal.

My friend ordered a bowl of beef noodle and the portion was a lot to her to finish so I recommended ordering a smaller one, or a la carte type of food to share with friends. Then again, this eating place is optional since it is Halal food restaurant. You can easily find many different restaurants in this area such as Korean food, Thai food, or Japanese food.

 

Melbourne Contemporary Museum

After that, I went to the Melbourne Contemporary Museum and spent around 45 minutes here.

Melbourne Contemporary Museum

It closes at 5 pm, so you should come earlier. You might find a bit deep and hard to understand the arts but still a good experience.

 

Harbour Bridge

I went to the north side of the Harbour Bridge by train to Milsons Point Station. From there I walked back to the Harbour area through the bridge.

As you may know, you can spend 200$ on climbing above the bridge, but I rather save it up by walking through and see the view from the height.

Sydney Harbour from the Bridge

The beautiful view of Opera House from the Bridge

Sydney Harbour through the Bridge

Another view of Opera House

There are many people walking as well and it wasn’t arduous to walk. The view of the Harbour from the Bridge is amazing and breath-taking .

Sydney Harbour Bridge

It took me roughly 30 mins ( my speed one again ) to finish walking from the north side to the other end. Then I kept continuing walking following the path to Royal Botanic Garden where I saw the whole harbor area from the height at a different angle.

Tips

You better cross the bridge during the sunset time, so you can see clearly the Sydney Opera House under the moonlight, and skylight of sunset. Or else, you should come to the Macquarie chair at the Royal Botanic Garden to see the view during the sunset. However, you may be aware of the closing time which is 5 pm.

Sydney Opera House where to visit in Sydney

Opera House under the young moon

I walked for next 30 mins and then came back to the Opera House to enjoy the night view there.

Sydney Habour Bridge at night

It was so peaceful and romantic when sitting the bench and looking at the view. You better grab some snack and spend time there.
I went inside the Opera House to have a look and went to the famous toilet. Haha. It was beautiful and worth checking out if you may wish.

Sydney Opera House restroom

Sydney Opera House restroom


Sydney Itinerary: Day 4

Sydney Itinerary on a budget - Day trips from Sydney

Here are more tips for Sydney on a budget! As you may know, the transportation fare in Sydney is expensive. However, on Sunday you can get a very good deal with only 2.50$ for all the places.

For that reason, we decided to go to Manly Beach from Circular Quay by ferry. Normally, it will cost you nearly 6$ one way for the ferry riding.

 

From Circular Quay to Manly Beach by ferry

In order to avoid crowding ( because Of Sunday deal), we woke up early and hopped on the ferry at 8:45 am. Still, there were already many people at that time.

Sydney ferry

Go to the front of the ferry so you can take many beautiful pictures

It took us 30 minutes to reach Manly beach ( haha now I know the reason for this funny name).

Manly Beach

We spent nearly 2 hours wandering around, taking photos and having breakfast at a random restaurant. (10-15$) depending on your choice. However, I had butter bread and milk at the hostel to save money before going.

Sydney Manly Beach

Manly Beach Sunday morning

The beach is very amazing with high waves and many surfers who are very MANLY!!! 6 packs and fit body men are everywhere!!!

There are also some local markets where you can check out. At 11:30, we went back to Circular Quay to have lunch at “The pancakes on the rock” – 5 to 10 minutes walking from the Circular Quay.

On the way walking there, we came across The Rocks Sunday Market which sold a lot of different types of vintage products and stuff. You also should have a look at them as well. Here is my friend wearing a supergiant hat selling there.

I came to the restaurant and needed to queue around 5 minutes. However, normally you might be expected to wait for more since the restaurant is very famous! 

Sydney The pancakes on the rock

We shared one of the recommended pancakes here, which is the “Devil Delight Berry Pancakes” – 13,50$. However, you can choose anything on the menu according to your preferences. The price varies from 10 to 30$ but the portion is kinda large for Asian girls like us by the way.

Sydney Devil Delight Berry Pancakes

Devil Delight Berry pancakes – 13.50$

Review of the pancakes

I really love the smell of it. It is not too sweet and especially the pancake is very soft and hot inside. Really tasty! I recommend the restaurant to everyone.
Since it opens 24-hours, you may come at a different time of the day. It’s so very great, isn’t it? In the menu, you can find the Breakfast set which is available all the day and the price is less expensive than the dinner set.
After around one hour having lunch there, we went back to Circular Quay and took the bus to Coogee Beach, where we walked from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach.

 

From Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach

Normally, people walked from Bondi to Coogee however, we want to catch the sunset moment at Bondi so we did it reversely on purpose.
We started the walk at Coogee from 2:45 pm and we reach North Bondi at 6 pm roughly.

Sydney Bondi - Sydney Itinerary on a budget day trip

Sydney Bondi - Sydney Itinerary on a budget day trip

On the way of walking, we stopped at different places to take photos, rest, drink water and go to the toilet as well. I really recommend those with good condition and walking ability to do the walk because you can see all the amazing view of the ocean from the height. It was such an amazing experience that I have never had.

Sydney Bondi - Sydney Itinerary on a budget day trip

When we reach Bondi, we sat on the bench and waited for the sunset time then came back to city central

Note

I don’t ask you to follow all the things I wrote here. If you want to follow, you may be aware of the health condition and some certain aspects. Personally, I am a fast walker (maybe 2 or 3 times compared to a normal pace and all my friends say that ), so I obviously can save time and money by walking fast to different places.

Besides, I AM KINDA STRONG and furious, so you can feel tired and uncomfortable of covering up all the places I went to. So, just consider my note as helpful tips for your next trip.

I hope you enjoy reading it and please give it a comment or share as you wish to let me know you think it is helpful. Due to the time limitation, I couldn’t go to several places as I wish to go like “The Blue Mountain”, “The Taronga Zoo”, “National royal park”..etc. Maybe I will save it for another trip in the future. Who knows?

Sunrise at Sydney airport

Sydney Accommodation

Where to stay in Sydney on a budget?

Click here to read best hotels in Sydney

Read here for other beautiful destinations around the world, or discover Expat Living Abroad tips & Interviews!

Sydney Itinerary on a budget day trip


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