Safari Please!

Spotted..Not giving a care about us!

So, I want to start by putting out a disclaimer, I do not come from the type of Zulu family that considers a Safari a holiday. I’m not sure what I could trace this back to, but both my parent’s individually and as co-parents would have never (once we could afford it) taken us on a Safari holiday… now that that’s out of the way I’d also like to explain to you why until I was in my mid-twenties a Safari holiday has never been appealing to me. I may also explain why I was so wrong (Yes, I admit to being wrong now and then…so you should grab the popcorn!).

Don’t mind me – future so bright I had to look away…Seriously though – I cannot get over the beauty!

Insert all the verbiage you can imagine about growing up in apartheid South Africa….not in exile..in actual South Africa… Holidays were a luxury etc. I could not think of anything less deserving of my time then going to watch animals roam about. Going on holiday was a privilege…One not to be wasted on ..animals…*insert all of the eye rolls*. To this effect I remember getting in to United World College and sitting in our computer lab at Pietermaritzburg Girls High (Good old GHS)… and one of my soon to be classmates asking me about the lions I surely must keep as pets… Yes, I went along with it…I actually had her convinced that I had two lions as pets and one had actually bitten one of my uncle’s hand off so we had to put him down. Please forgive me Aparna.hahaha. To think you went to an Ivy league school after me being able to convince you of such. Why were people so obsessed with these damn animals!?!?! I think I’d seen a lion when we went to the Durban Zoo in primary school once…but I was more interested in the birds and glanced at the “wild animals” on display…

Taking it all in, even the Giraffe weirdly giving birth..which almost made us miss our 4 person flight!

Fast forward, a decade later living in East Africa when all my colleagues kept pushing me to go on Safari…I finally gave in! I had friends coming to visit and what kind of host would I be if I never actually went to these supposed amazing places!

So I blame my ignorance on youth and generally being a poor student who actually couldn’t afford to go to a Kruger or even a B class safari experience. I’ll spare you my terror at taking a 8 person helicopter from Nairobi to the Mara. Really, there are worse stories to be fair…and there are better stories that don’t end with me wanting to hurl my guts!

The Maasai Mara is a treat. It is everything I didn’t realise I needed from a vacation / a Safari. One of my uni besties was down for a visit from New York and ofcourse Kenya had to pull out all of the stops to ensure she had a good time. Fast forward 6 months later and one of my other besties from South Africa came to visit, again, The Mara did not disappoint. Both times we spent about 3 days at the Mara and both at my absolute favourite place – Angama Mara. 

Architecture to die for!!!

Owned by two South Africans, Angama Mara is a slice of heaven.  Each meal, villa and activity is tailored to exactly your taste. From 24-hour service to a Michelin star chef preparing all your meals. From majestic views that give the lion king a run for its money to breath-taking wildlife seen from your own private land rover…from sunrise balloon rides to your own private picnics made by said Michelin star chef. I have honestly never been in such awe; and then they rolled out the massages at your own villa overlooking the expansive Mara.  I saw my first migration at the Mara..I also saw a giraffe giving birth(this was less majestic and just awkward – did you know they give birth standing up?). Every time I’ve gone it has been sparsely lodged; to be fair at that price range I doubt Angama Mara is a place we can all just YOLO to without saving up. The lap of luxury chose me guys!!!

Have you seen anything prettier!!!! These views are literally to die for!

There are obviously cheaper options than the Maasai Mara and way CHEAPER options than Angama Mara. I can’t recommend a safari break enough. There is such a serenity and peace that comes with being one with nature as our ancestors once were. What I particularly loved about being a Kenyan resident was the fact that the Kenyan Government really encouraged  their residents to go to National Parks etc by having both local resident and international prices; this way there’s a discount for all locals and you actually get to enjoy some of the wonders of your own country at a fraction of the price. South African tourism can learn a thing or two from them!

I literally cannot say enough good things about taking some time off and going to connect with nature!

Hit me up for more specific tips! Here’s the first one free – save up!!! Safari’s do not come cheap! Also bring a friend! So thankful that I got some downtime with my besties Zee and Anna over those few days to just unplug and relax!

What have been some of your favourite off-the beaten track Bush adventures? And we won’t get started on the Beach vs. Bush debate – we could be here the whole day! And I personally believe in balance so a bit of both never hurt anyone!

When besties come to visit!!!

Your Ultimate East Africa Beach Guide

And now for my final..and favourite East African beaches! Last and certainly not least…wait for it…wait for it… Part 3!

It is customary to save the best for last, so here we go!

It pains me to write about my last but also favourite beach spots in East Africa…You know when you have a juicy secret and you kind of want to share it but at the same time you know you shouldn’t? This is how I feel. Next thing, everyone is flocking to my favourite beach and it becomes less and less special every single time I go because I see all of you there ALL THE TIME?!?! Let me try and not be selfish.  Where do I even start!

Sunset’s hit different in Lamu

My favourite beach towns in East Africa and Kenya are…In no particular order, but if you follow me on IG (beeinrsa) you will know the exact order:

  1. Lamu
  2. Kilifi
  3. Watamu
  4. Diani

Nestled an hour away by flight from Nairobi you will honestly experience some of the best beaches in the world. Crystal clear water, white sands, ridiculously good Swahili food, the friendliest of people and never-ending sunshine. I’m not making this up, but all 4 of the above beaches have made me feel like I’ve died and actually ended up in Heaven.  The first time I landed in Lamu and I had to take a water “uber” to get to the actual Island I knew that is where I wanted to get married! No boyfriend, no ring, but I was like…One day is one day Lamu (Update two my favourite people got married in Lamu last week and it was MAGICAL)!

Business Class Uber

The area is breath-taking! It is the perfect balance of old coast culture and architecture and modern day ..nothing. You feel like you’ve been thrown into this beautiful time capsule where everything has stood still and you are just a silent observer of people going about their days and lives. From early morning Dhow rides and feasting on Captain I’ll Be Back’s mum’s fish samosas to spending hours at the dinner table gorging on Swahili delicacies and all the Mandazis you can eat.  Lamu is nothing short of magical. It’s the kind of place where you can consume 10 glasses of G&T in a day and not be hungover the next day (and yes this is a proven fact; I attempt to disprove it every single time I go).  The Wi-Fi signal is crap in most houses you go to which adds to the allure of the beach life; unplugging and simply being. There’s arts and crafts, there’s yoga, there’s mangroves and there’s secluded beach bars! It even has a floating bar (A very recent and treasured addition). I really don’t want to say more about the Island for fear of ruining it or spurring you on to see it faster…Useful Hint: like most other beaches in Kenya, the house option is the best option. Hotels are a thing of the past and are limited. They are also extremely expensive. And yes give me a shout, I am happy to give you all of the suggestions on houses to stay at and activities to do and guides to show you the lay of the land. The one thing that is for sure is that Lamu emotionally moves you. I don’t know anyone who’s been to Lamu and not felt some sort of spiritual alignment with themselves.

Watamu and Diana are also very different…Whilst Lamu has an old-world charm mixed in with some strong Arabic influences, these two have the strangest Italian influence. Rumour is this started when Italy had a major crackdown on the mafia and Italian families started emigrating to you guessed it, Kenya! Lo and behold Trump’s favourite, Chain migration started! You spend your days lounging by the beach or a pool and having fresh gelato from one of the million Italian gelato shops! It is truly blissful.  The food is amazing, the people are the friendliest and everyone is extremely content. Again, houses before hotels..book yourself a boat ride on the creek..go snorkeling in Diana…Go tubing in Kilifi…Go skydiving in Diana (I have done this about 4 times now) and try not have a heart attack at how perfect everything is.

A G&T a day

 I really cannot be too prescriptive about these beach destinations…I am however open to answering any and all questions on budgeting for trips, my favourite houses / hotels, my favourite foods, what holiday and beachwear to bring, cultural norms (please do cover up in Lamu as it is a very Muslim town when you leave Shela) and even when is the best time to take this trip! Questions? Comments? Drop me a line on here or on my IG! Slide into my DMs and make your dream holiday a reality!

Your Ultimate East Africa Beach Guide

All smiles for great weather

Part II: Zanzibar

Myths vs. Reality: A disaster filled holiday which turned out more than ok.

Could you write an African beach love story and not include Zanzibar? Probably not…. Could you write a love story specifically about beaches in East Africa and not include Zanzibar? Nope! This lovely little Island is what many a honeymoon dreams are made of. Several friends had told me about their incredible trips to the Island, time and time again and on one long weekend in South Africa, I decided to make the trek. I must admit this was probably one of the most disorganised and spontaneous trips I’ve ever taken.  And unlike my common practice of staying in reasonably priced hotels or Airbnb, we opted to book a house that was a stone’s throw away from Double Tree by Hilton to have communal living and also have the option of making our own meals.  I gave a few friends some notice and we all descended upon Zanzibar on similar flights from London, Johannesburg and Nairobi. It was by far one of the more random trips I’d pulled together as most of the group really didn’t know each other and I was the common denominator. This meant I had to be organised (*sigh*) so everyone was comfortable. In true Bee style, I obviously delegated as much as I could because well let’s face it…My Swahili is non-existent and there was a fair bit that had to be done in Swahili.

Have you ever been in a situation where almost everything that can go wrong goes wrong? Welcome to my Zanzibar holiday!!!At times like this you need to ensure you really like the people you are travelling with because there were so many beginner traveller faux pas that happened. I will withhold some of my idiotic friend’s actions for fear of them finding me and shaming me. I also dropped the ball a couple of times and couldn’t stop laughing at myself because if the tables were turned, I would have lost it.

Disaster number 1 – I left the office with my colleagues’ passport and only realised this when I got to OR Tambo. The guy at the counter … “unless you’ve recently had a sex and race change, I assume you’re joking”. Insert me hyperventilating and having no idea where my actual passport was. I called my colleague in question to ask him where my passport was only to remember that I and two other colleagues pulled a  prank on him a week prior and hid his passport…in my desk…which I then picked up and slipped into my bag  without realising. Mind you this was when KQ was basically trying to recoup its losses through us and was charging USD150 – USD200 (ZAR2,500 – ZAR3000) every time you changed your flight. So you know I was not trying to take a later flight and pay R3000 to change it. For some odd reason I had decided to leave my house keys with a friend and asked them to dash to my house to fetch my passport from where it always is…and my yellow fever card…because the one I had was also clearly my colleagues. I then rushed on the Gautrain to meet them at Marlboro (for those who aren’t familiar with the Gautrain, it’s essentially the stop between the airport and my home) because I didn’t have enough time to go home. Thank you KQ for consistently being late and the nice man at the counter who kept my suitcase while I ran for my life (thank you lack terrorism and the trust that man had). Because of this disaster, it completely slipped my mind that I was supposed to pick up some malaria pills for the trip at the airport pharmacy. I promise I am smarter than my actions :/ These are the hiccups of learning to independently travel. Lessons learnt? Please check your passport before you leave the house and ensure you have every necessary shot or immunization.

We had a relatively safe transition through Nairobi. We went out a ton, but there is safety in numbers and friends who do not imbibe are the real MVPs.  We spent the next day taking in some cultural sites and visiting the giraffe sanctuary. We arrived safely in Zanzibar and got picked up promptly. All of us except for a friend who was working overtime and flew from JHB à Dar es Salaam and then was to take the ferry across from the mainland to the Island. Brace yourself, his story is also a disaster…if you’ve never been to a place, *try* to travel with the group. There is safety in numbers, but also multiple brains are better than one in troubleshooting traveling snags.

We eventually arrived in Nungwi (I’ve been to various parts of the Island and this part was by far my favourite). We arrive and our house is nothing like the photos… There is no internet like the brochure suggested and our in house cook…well…I’m pretty sure 11 year old me was a better cook (He didn’t however try to feed me baked beans from the can like another ‘chef’ at a disastrous New year’s location we stayed at in Diani, Kenya). The guy wasn’t the best of cooks, but he always had a lovely cup of coffee for us when we woke up, fresh fruit and eggs your way. We won’t go into the fact that he refused to make bacon because he didn’t eat bacon. We’d paid half of our boarding fee over the internet and were supposed to settle the rest when we were physically there. The only ATM within a 1km walking distance was out of service… we clearly didn’t get this memo as we assumed we could just swipe for the outstanding amount… Most of the restaurants around our house only took cash which none of us had the good sense to withdraw.  Yes, in retrospect I am also laughing at us.  What a joke, my darling!  I was really pushing this traveling on a budget mission; albeit far too much. I must hand it to a couple of the restaurants who let us eat on credit for two days. They were so trusting and even laughed at my terrible attempt at Swahili… once the only ATM close by was operational, they were hit with a windfall of money from the 6 of us. Lessons learnt?  Always have cash. The airport FX rate is also crap, but it’s definitely a good idea to have a few thousand shillings on you. It’s an even better idea to do a currency exchange in your own country.  Always read the fine print in these house booking websites! Lastly, learn a few Swahili words, just to ensure you don’t seem like a complete idiot or foreigner when haggling at the market…and boy, did we haggle!  Here’s some of my go-to words which say, “hey, I’m clearly foreign but I’ve learnt a couple of things so I’m making an effort.”

Swahili Word List:

  1. Jambo / Salama – Hello.
  2. Tafadhali – Please
  3. Habari – how are you?
  4. Nzuri   – Fine.
  5. Asante – Thank you.
  6. Asante sana – thank you very much.
  7. Nauli ni kiasi gani – how much is the fare?
  8. Lala salama – Goodnight.
  9. Ndiyo – Yes.
  10. Hapana – No.
  11. Sawa – Ok.
  12. Tafadhali, naomba msaada – can you please help me?
  13. Unatoka wapi – where are you from?
  14. Kidogo tu – Just a little bit.
  15. Nataka – I’d like.
  16. Unasemaje kwa Kiswahili – how do you say “x” in Swahili?
  17. Rafiki – friend.
  18. Bas stendi – bus stop. (Genius right?  as a Zulu person I approve of these)
  19. Soko – Market. 
  20. Kesho – Tomorrow.
  21. Nyama – Meat.
  22. Nyama kuku – Chicken
  23. Maji – Water.
  24. Bia – Beer.
  25. Chakula – Food.

More disastrous things that happened this lovely week… That hardworking  friend missing the last ferry in Dar to come to the Island because SAA was late and then having to find a last minute hotel for the night…The hotel in question that the cab driver sent him to was of questionable characteristics and morals…Yes, they tried to introduce him to lady friends (I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard).  Questionable Wi-Fi signals everywhere we went…Maybe a lesson to let go and just enjoy the Island. Lessons learnt? Don’t travel alone when you don’t know a country…but also make sure to get a local sim card if its reasonably priced.

Despite all these unplanned adventures, we had a lovely time… We partook in ample activities and I wouldn’t know where to start in saying which ones were actually my favourite. We took a tour around the city and the architecture and buildings were glorious, especially all the coral stones on the forts. The amazing local food which deserves its own blog post and the extremely hospitable people who we encountered daily … going to the old slave market and trying not to cry my eyes out… It was as if you could still see the slaves cramped into tiny spaces that were barely big enough for a few animals… Going to prison Island and seeing all the tortoises there…. Diving with dolphins and literally marathon swimming so we could just get a glimpse. How could I forget the full moon party where our car broke down at 5am on our way home and the boys having to push it up the hill all the while complaining that we are all equal and deserve to push the car together (It was a VERY steep hill and they had all done a HEAP of drinking). Did I mention it was also 5am in the morning? Haha.  I had more fish than I could have imagined eating and more beer than I should have. All the while gawking at the beach boys and their over age European lovers. If you know, you know! I am obsessed with making whole fish whenever I’m in a coastal town and my obsession was fulfilled almost daily. I could have gone on and on about the clear clear ocean, but that’s standard in East Africa. The white as snow sand really did it for me though! Worth the hype? Yes. My favourite beach destination in East Africa? Nope.  A solid 9/10 as things were relatively cheap, there were a ton of activities and the people were SUPER friendly. You just don’t get that anymore.

How to Make A Travel Budget

So here we are. You’ve seen your ex-bestie’s latest trip to Bali or Thailand and you tell yourself you need to get on it and also get those Instagram worthy photos. You have some savings, but is it enough to live your best life? Where do you even start? How much is enough money? You don’t want to be a pauper, but you also don’t want to break the bank. *breath*. I’m the last person to advocate for just a budget for travel because I generally believe you should have a budget for everything!!! Repeat after me: “A life lived within a budget is a happy life…. A life lived within a budget is a happy life…A….”

Ok, you’ve decided on Thailand or Turkey but what does that even mean? Can you go in a month?  Can you go in 3 months? 6 months? The only sure-fire way of ensuring this actually does not end up with you paying for a holiday 6 months later with the Instagram posts a long-forgotten memory is by coming up with a budget. Travel expenses can vary greatly depending on how you like to travel. Are you a backpacker, a 5-star hotel girl or do you prefer flying in poor poor standard economy and living it up at the lushest hotel you can find? If you’re like me and like the finer things in life but want to pay the least amount possible for them then you came to the right place. Here are some of my go to tips when planning trips!

Make a budget for your flights and transportation. Depending on where you are going chances are what is most likely to cost you the most is flights. I religiously use https://www.skyscanner.net/ and Google Flights as they tend to give you the most economical options. Don’t forget about transits and everyday budgets, e.g. a small sum for Uber / trains as that ALL adds up over a ten-day holiday

Secondly, book your accommodation! I’m a HUGE Airbnb fan as they give you an array of options in terms of sizes of apartments and houses and various degrees of fanciness (Use this code for USD80 off your first booking, and yes, thank me later). Booking.com is also a good second option as they have everything from hotel rooms to apartments on their site.

Make a budget for food. Food is usually the hardest area for me to estimate what I will spend. But think about where you’re going. Chances are food is cheaper in South Africa than London. But eating out will probably cost you the same in London and Paris. Whilst Asia and Latam will probably be the cheapest… It is hard to get exact numbers for food, so use your best judgement. For travel in Europe, a good estimate per day per person is USD13 for lunch, USD20 for dinner, and a few more dollars for extras like a bottle of water or soda during the day. This does not include alcohol. Also, keep in mind that you can eat for a lot less than that if you don’t eat at expensive touristy places. Touristy places are a trap!!! Stay away if you can. If you want to tighten up on your food budget, look for hotels or guesthouses that include breakfast. Or even half board or full board options. Also consider apartment rentals where you will have access to a kitchen (oh hello there Airbnb). Even if you buy groceries and cook just a few times and always eat breakfast in the apartment, you will save money on your trip budget.

Budget for Activities. Most booking sites (Booking.com and Expedia.com) usually give you some sort of discount for activities if you book your flights or accommodation with them. Here you can find cheaper entrance fees for museums, parks, ruins, or other attractions. Do you plan on doing something more expensive like scuba diving or a hot air balloon ride? Add up these travel costs too, and make sure you know what is and is not included.Do you like to shop when you travel? I do…so you knowwww that needs to be on the budget.

Want to know how to save money when you travel? Seek out less expensive lodgings, less expensive dining options, walk instead of using public transportation, don’t do too much shopping, and don’t spend much on extras like alcohol and snacks. But don’t make yourself miserable to save a few bucks (Also I alwayssssss stop at the duty free of any country I’m entering to buy alcohol in bulk especially if it’s a large group trip as alcohol just tends to be cheaper at duty free and in bulk).

It is also always a good idea to track your spending while you travel, this will help you know how accurately your original budget was and help you not overspend too much. Maybe you underestimated how much you’d spend on food, or you thought you’d spend a lot more on activities. That way you’ll have a better idea of what your spending habits are when you travel. Then you can take this information and use it to budget your trip better next time around. I use Splitwise when I’m traveling in groups and it is amazing! It tracks how much each person has paid for each thing e.g If I pay for groceries, a friend may pay for activities and another friend may pick up the bill for drinks etc. The app then simply does the calculations and works out who owes who so the person who paid for you may not be the person you owe in the end. I recommend it if you’re looking for an easy way to track your travel expenses.

For pre trip travel budgeting I either use my MONZO account (Link here, if you want 10 dollars to start courtesy of me) it has the option of having a savings pot so whenever I have some extra cash I put it in the pot, but you can also make it an automatic monthly transfer). I also use my fixed deposit account from FNB and save per month. I set up an automatic transfer, so I don’t have to think about it each month.

Coming up with a realistic travel budget is an important part of planning your vacation. It lets you know if this is a trip you can afford. Hopefully you will realize that your dream trip is within your reach. But if not, you will know how much you need to save. Nothing is ever quite unattainable, but everything worth having is worth taking your time, planning and budgeting accordingly! Happy planning and happy traveling.

As always, if you want to keep up with my latest travels (and not work life), follow my IG account @beeinrsa as all the cool kids are doing it and well you know you want to be a cool kid

Tunisia: A budget friendly holiday you won’t regret!

So my oh so lovely boyfriend was asking me the other day if I actually think I’m the right person to advise people on budget travel, considering of course my love for the finer things in life.. *I will not go on to explain to you the berating he received after this statement/question*…Needless to say…Despite having a point, he made me question that assertion.  I think unless you’re balling out of control – which having recently graduated from my masters; I am not; you have to have a budget when you travel. Normally, I have everything between a fixed deposit and a travel pot with Monzo that I deposit money into every few weeks when I have extra cash to ensure that I have some extra cash to afford all the extra *finer* things he alluded to.

So, at the turn of the year wanting to get in some R&R at recently graduated a masters program budgets we set out for Tunisia. Our main needs for the trip were really (1) budget friendliness, (2) warm-ish weather, (3) R&R so we could plan the year properly, (4) A country that didn’t require me to get a visa because well.. traveling while brown is difficult enough, passport restrictions make it even more difficult.  Due to number 4, I always arrive super early at the airport  much to the dismay of my favourite travel partner who with his European passport tends to whizz through and can actually check-in online. Another disclaimer: I am not a morning person, I never have been and at this rate I never will be. I blame it on Investment Banking habits – working till 3am and then strolling into the office at 9am doesn’t lend itself to being able to wake up at 5am. Especially for travel when you haven’t been able to sleep properly for days because your boyfriend is sick and tosses and turns for most of the night..I’m not crying..I’m not crying ..I actually am crying. So two days before our Tunisia adventure I basically got not more than 3 /4 hours of sleep both nights because Mr. “I have an amazing passport but don’t appreciate it” was super sick, talking in his sleep and super feverish.

Mind you, in terms of immigration I really struggled getting the 411 on whether I needed a visa as a South African, whether I could get it on arrival or whether we shouldn’t book this trip because a visa would take more than 15 business days (I see you Morocco and I don’t appreciate it). I finally convinced myself that the numerous blog discussions from 2011  that I saw online were sufficient to comfort me that I could get a visa when I landed only for USD50… because that really does seem like a fair price to pay for a week holiday. NOT.  So here is your friend grumpy AF having not slept for days headed to the airport at the dead of morning… We’re already running a little late for my liking because… What is travel without life anxiety? We get to the airport, our credit card doesn’t go through because it’s foreign and the car company guy basically tells us to run to the ATM because…well…he needs to get paid… If you’ve ever been to Gatwick you’ll know that ATMs are few and far in-between. So before I could scream – ‘not it’..because well I’m a selfish human being at 5.30am and I really hadn’t slept my partner runs off (#BrowniePointsForKnowingYourPartnerIsAGrinchBefore9am). So crisis averted we check in, they have to do the dutiful….oooh…South African passport…give us a second while we check that you don’t need a pre-arrival visa… Prays to all of her ancestors, Wakandan and otherwise… praying that the 8 year old blog posts did not lead me astray and I really don’t need a visa. because well – I would be in doo doo the holiday being completely paid for and all – and remember #TravellingOnABudget was one of our goals.  And yes, I get the all clear!!! 

Roadside bevvies – especially mint tea goes down well

So for this particular trip we opted to for all inclusive package – not something I’m used to because I clearly always think I’m better at finding a deal than most agents/ Travel companies (I often am). But if you really don’t have time I would strongly suggest getting an all inclusive package with a site (I’ve used a couple that I found to be good). Basically all this meant was that with one fell swoop of the plastic sword (credit card, I mean credit card… Someone please tell me I actually am funny) we had booked flights, accommodation, transfers and all food and beverages our little bodies could consume. So when landing in this amazing country, the hardest thing we had to do was find the people responsible for our transfers… that is after I make it through immigration and find an ATM to pay for this visa in USD cash.  So if you’ve ever traveled with me you will unfortunately know that I’m an anxious flyer, not because I hate flying but because I always want to have things in order. It’s a great but also annoying habit. So I’ll always want hotel confirmations printed, enough cash for the visa on arrival and a powerbank just incase our phones die. Depending on where you are on the OCD scale it can either be super refreshing or super grating (Yes, I know I can admit my own shortcomings). 

I would like to send a shout out to my travel partner for teaching me a valuable lesson – sometimes you gotta fake it till you make it. I land and I’m of course stressing over finding an ATM so my visa process goes off without a hitch …I of course don’t find one…If there was a GIF to explain my stress it would be that one that has smoke coming out from her ears…smiling…but kinda dying inside slowly…After getting to the front of the immigration line…which is fairly easy when both travelers high tail it out of the plane because they know one of us has a ‘difficult’ passport and would need to probably spend more time than others (much to the dismay of one of them who’s current read unfortunately got left on the plane because of this strategy). After stressing and letting people go in front of us for about 4 mins my travel companion literally goes f*&^  it lets go I’m sure they wont bother you. Yay, for white man confidence! The guy takes the Irish passport and doesn’t hesitate to stamp it. He then suspiciously looks at my passport…asks us where we just landed from (me beaming, London 😊)… he stamps it and lets us go through…yes, I just saved USD50 because of white man confidence…

So let me drop a little bit of recent history about Tunisia…because  despite never being I’d spent a lot of time in college doing research about the Arab Spring  and ways that non-violent protests contributed to the Arab Spring as part of my research assistant job (Nerd alert!). The Tunisian Revolution, also called the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive 28-day campaign of civil resistance. It effectively was the catalyst for what we now call the Arab Spring. It included a series of street demonstrations which took place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It started when a fruit vendor set himself on fire in protest in front of a government building. … Within days, protests started popping up across the country, calling upon President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his regime to step down. About a month later, he fled the country. There was relative quiet for a few years… In 2015 there were a spate of foreigner killings claimed by IS. Post that most European countries put the country on the high alert list and a few airlines stopped flying to Tunisia.

So landing on this cold-ish January morning and driving along the highway to get to our beach resort you could feel some of this old history permeating the region. It looked a little desolate, dry and like there was a war at some point and people forgot to rebuild.  For a country that had started it all, it felt like it was somehow left behind in all the rush and happiness around the Arab Spring. It felt as if it was stuck in an era slightly beyond what I was used to. 

I.AM.SO.GLAD.THAT.WE.DID.AN.ALL.INCLUSIVE.PACKAGE.  Can you tell my excitement? I think being in a foreign country, especially one where one doesn’t fluently speak the two most spoken languages, nothing is as important as taking the stress away from everyday menial tasks like finding a restaurant or working out your own activities when you could have someone else do it for you.  Our hotel was lovely and perched on a lovely part of the seaside town. Shout to Hammamet!!! We got a massively great deal because it was off season for Tunisian beaches so what is normally a 1000 pax hotel was really filled to a quarter of the capacity. Everyone kind of knew us by the second day which was also rather lovely.  We ensured that we did not do too much as we really wanted to plan for the year, write out our goals and plan our yearly travel schedule etc. What I didn’t realize and appreciate was really the fact that all inclusive meant…all of the G&T’s and wine we could drink…which would have been AMAZING if it were not for the fact that one of us was sick for each of the days we were there. Brendan had had a flu for the first two or three days which he then passed on to me – can you say a waste of an all-inclusive package? I have never appreciated the value of medicine till this trip. The hotel staff was super helpful, but there’s nothing harder than knowing what you need to get for the flu and realizing there is no equivalent…even struggling to explain it in Arabic/French. So here we were trying to make do with what we could find in the local pharmacy… We had a couple of days where we both rallied and managed to get a couple of clear non-flu activities in.  

So after this amazing trip that I was supposed to be on a budget on (and I really do think we succeeded), what are some of my dos and donts to ensure you actually keep to a proper budget? I thought you’d never ask. Case and point below please. Also, these are not prescriptive…Some may work for you and some may be difficult to stick to, but these ensured we roughly stuck to it.

  1. Do: Opt for an all-inclusive package where possible, this gives you the flexibility to go out and find activities but lifts the pressure because most hotels will cater for all of your meals including snacks and as we learned also have nightly activities to keep you entertained. I did not hit up karaoke every day, but it was nice to know that we had the option
  2. Do: Decide on what activities you want to do ahead of time as these are not included in the ‘all inclusive’ prize- they’re essentially where the hotels make most of their money. So, we opted for a balance. We stayed away from the touristy stuff – insert another market where I was going to buy more trinkets that I wasn’t going to use but probably sell off the next time we move to a new house. We opted to avoid Tunis the capital on this trip (we also have our collective flu to thank for that). We went to the Amphitheatre of El Jem as one of our activities and it was amazing – A ton of movies were shot there and you really felt like you were walking through history
  3. Do: Find a few activities that you can do yourself without a tour guide. If you have a general understanding of how much things are generally supposed to cost this is a great option as you look less touristy and of course no one will try and charge you tourist prices
  4. Do: Find a few local restaurants so you can try something new and not pay exorbitant hotel/ Europe prices. This worked a treat for us, and we had some amazing local wine and fish. It definitely didn’t cost at much as the French 5 star restaurant we went to later in the week – This was not by choice (Rolls eyes, we were doing so well on this #TravellingOnABudget mission till then)
  5. Don’t: Overpack your schedule, more activities obviously mean more money and very often you end up not really enjoying it because you’re so tired from the days/weeks activities. There’s nothing worse than needing a holiday from your holiday
  6. Do: Be very specific with hotel staff when you ask for a restaurant recommendation. One of our only boos boos on this budget mission was asking for a recommendation of a restaurant with a view…but still local… Ofcourse they recommended a place which had quite few ‘locals’ – read foreigners who live locally and costs twice the amount of money of a restaurant in London. You live and you learn! We ended up enjoying it but it put a dent on our budget!
  7. Do: Ensure that your hotel has some free amenities… for us that was staying at a beach resort and having the beach be a 2 minute walk away and having a heated pool because the weather was definitely playing games and it was not in the early 20s they promised…so we could solo mission
  8. Do: spoil yourselffff. Yes, I will get crucified for this but like budgeting for life its uber important to spoil yourself. It makes all the saving worth it and having at least one leisure activity makes you feel like its worth it. So for us it was a Tunisian spa day, for you it may be that market shopping day! Balance is crucial always!!!!
  9. Don’t: Succumb to the pressure! We all have varying budgets and want different things from holidays. If you completely base your budget / holiday on what you see on the internet, (read: Instagram) you will end up spending way more than you can afford. What usually works is what feels right to your pocket. I tend to always have a balance of a few more ‘splurge’ worthy holidays and more – ‘we will find all of the deals even if it kills us’ holidays. Find whats right for you!
Even in 20 celcius weather, we will always make an excuse to wear a bikini!!! (Move over Ashley Graham)

So if someone was to ask me if I could holiday on a budget, my answer would be ofcourse… are we talking GBP400 or GBP4000? What budget are we really playing with? Seriously though – there are so many little things / tips you can incorporate on all your travels that can ensure than you’re keeping your spending within reason whilst having a great time and making some amazing memories! Choose your budget and find the right tools to support those!

Oh and selfish plug, if you want to keep up with my latest blogs, please of course subscribe!!! And follow my live traveling updates on Instagram @beeinrsa. All the cool kids are doing it…Me…I am cool kids..I am following myself because #SelfLove! Till next time, budget budget budget and let me know on what’s on your current travel bucket list (I recently put together my 2019 travel wish list and my bank account laughed at me); but I will make it happen! Subscribe to find out where I’m heading to next!