Many people asked us what destinations will we hit on our trip around the world. While that is not an easy question to answer at this stage (we are just at the beginning of our trip), the only things we are actually certain about are the stops of our Round the World (RTW) ticket.
What is a RTW ticket?
A RTW ticket is a type of multi-destination ticket that enables you to, well… fly around the world for a relatively low price.
Buying a RTW ticket is a popular choice among people who decide to embark in a long term travel experience. However some travellers prefer to buy individual tickets as they go, and by taking advantage of offers and low cost airlines when possible, they manage to keep their travel budget low anyway.
When you buy a RTW ticket you basically decide how many and which stops you want to include – but no matter where you’re going to stop, your trip has to finish where it started and in most cases it has to go on a circle around the globe. Different RTW tickets come with different terms and conditions though, therefore you have a wide range of options to choose from.
We bought a RTW ticket with Round the World Experts, but there are many providers to consider if you’re thinking of setting off on a journey around the world – just google RTW or some similar keyword and you’ll find plenty of options. Our choice was based on the fact that Round the World Experts allow you to change your flight dates at no additional charge. Also their price, overall, was very competitive.
Our RTW itinerary
This is our travel schedule for now, but as I said we don’t know yet for sure what we’re going to do between stops.
November 1st, flying from London to Delhi (arriving on November 2nd)
December 15th, flying from Mumbay to Singapore
December 16th, flying from Singapore to Bangkok
March 31st, flying from Bali, Indonesia to Sydney, Australia (arriving on April 1st)
May 18th, flying from Melbourne, Australia to Christchurch, New Zealand
June 8th, flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Nadi, Fiji
June 30th, flying from Nadi, Fiji to Los Angeles, California
July 15th, flying from San Francisco, California back to London
Romana made a map that includes both the stops as in our travel schedule above and some of the places we would like to visit. You can see this map by clicking here.
As you can see we are planning to spend a bit more time in India and South East Asia than in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and California. This is due to two main reasons: budget (travelling in Asia is quite cheap if you think in terms of euros or dollars), and our interest in Asian cultures.
This is our plan for now, but considering that our ticket allows for some flexibility at no extra charge, things could change as we travel.
We arrived in Delhi on the 2nd of November. First stop of our round the world trip. Delhi’s airport was a pleasant surprise. Very clean, organized and modern.
Once we got out, it was a different story. It was 6am, so the traffic was not too bad compared to what we saw afterwards. During our trip to the hotel we learnt the meaning of that “Horn OK please” written on the back of the trucks, and the basic rules of traffic in India: (1) lanes are just imaginary, decorative lines and (2) you need to honk to communicate your presence, so the other cars know you’re there.
The hotel I picked seemed quite good from the reviews, but we were a bit disappointed when we got there. A bit expensive for Indian prices yet very basic. Because we were very tired and we had no energy to face the crazy streets of Delhi, we just went straight to bed and stayed in all day.
The day after, we felt better and with more energy. On our way out we were met by a guy in reception that volunteered to take us to a place where someone else would give us a free map and tell us about what to do and see in Delhi. Because we wanted to buy a sim card for our phone, the guy also brought us to a vodafone shop. Well, they managed to rip us off when we bought the card as we found out later that we paid 5 times more than the normal price. We were then brought to an agency that organizes tours in Rajasthan. I was thinking “why am I being taken here? I didn’t ask for anything”. But there we were and so… the guy in the agency talked about Delhi, then touched on Rajasthan and finally offered us a tour. Facing the offer, we gently said “we will think about it” and left.
We found out that a lot of hotels bring foreigns into these agencies, because they get commissions if their clients end up buying a travel package. While there’s nothing wrong with it, we didn’t ask for an agency, so the whole experience was kind of awkward. Some of these agencies are also approved by the Indian government but if they think you’re inexperienced they might try to overcharge you.
After this episode we decided to take the metro and go to the Red Fort in Old Delhi. The metro was a pleasant experience. Very modern and organized, however, very packed. Fortunately for me women have carriages just for them, so I had all the space for me. Emanuele though, had to go with all the man in a very packed carriage.
We finally got out of the metro in Chandni Chowk. Walking through the market you see a lot of poverty and hear a lot of noise. The smells are very strong at times and the rubbish is all over the place. Not that I wasn’t expecting it, but it was some strong impact nonetheless.
Finally we had to cross the street to reach the fort and crossing the street is an adventure in India (even more so in the big cities, I guess). The only safe way to do it is to follow local people, they know their stuff! We finally reached the fort alive and we found out that the tourist tickets were 5 times more expensive for foreigners. I suspect this applies to all attractions.
We visited the fort, which is a nice and interesting place to see, and managed to take some pictures. After we left the fort, we were kind of hungry, and we ended up going to a McDonalds to have a veggie burger, a McVeggie – quite nice I must say. Because hindus don’t eat beef, and muslims don’t eat pork, Indian McDonalds are quite different from normal McDonalds. They have just chicken products and a range of vegetarian recipes; if you are in India you should give McDonalds a go, even if you’re not a big fan of it, like us.
The day after, we woke up thinking about what to do and where to go next. We called another another agency that a friend who travelled to India last year recommended. We were trying to figure out which was the best way to do Rajasthan, a state that we wanted to visit, so we considered the idea of hiring a car and a driver (drivers come with cars in India) and asked for a quote. It turns out that the offer this other agency made, while tempting, could have been a treat to our budget, so we took some time to think about it. The offer included a driver for a number of days, plus train tickets to two destinations outstide Rajasthan, plus accommodation. Tempting offer, as I said, and it would have taken the stress out of our adventure… But then it wouldn’t be an adventure anymore, would it?
This offer would definitely have been a good one if we were on a two week vacation. But we are in a long-term travel type of situation and we want to travel as independently as possible, making sure we stick to our budget.
We decided it was not for us. Let’s do like the real travellers do, we said to each other. So, we decided that we would travel by train and hire a driver locally only when strictly necessary (e.g. some destinations are not on the railway line and other destination have a beautiful countryside that you simply can’t enjoy if you don’t have a car – and of course someone who drives for you). Finally we packed our bags, checked out at our hotel, got ripped off again (the guy charged us previously unknown fees), and we went to the train station. We managed to to buy a ticket to Jodhpur, took a night train, and 11 hours later we were in Jodhpur.
Now, does buying the ticket, going to the station, and taking the train sound like an easy sequence of tasks to execute? Well it wasn’t… But I’ll leave that part for my next post.
Planning a new trip is always very exciting, but one of the challenges is to find a nice place to stay for the right value. When I plan a trip, looking for accommodation is one of the most time consuming parts. I never really liked travel packages, where someone is deciding everything for you, so being an independent-minded traveller I always look for accommodation myself, mostly using the Internet.
Until a few weeks ago I used to log on to either venere.com, booking.com, hostelworld.com, or any other accommodation finder website, and launch a search for accommodation on the dates I was looking for. After I’d shortlisted say two or three places, whether hotels, hostels, guesthouses or B&Bs, I would then go to tripadvisor.com, check their user reviews, make a decision, and finally go back to whichever accommodation site I was using and book the accommodation.
This is a good way to go about looking for accommodation and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, recently I realized that there is a much better way to find the right place to stay at the right price – it involves using tripadvisor right at the beginning, and it allows you to find the best deal. You may already know this trick but many people who didn’t know it may find it useful. I certainly did find it useful so that’s why I’d like to share it with you.
So, here goes – I’ve outlined this five step process below:
Go to tripadvisor and select the city you’re looking to visit and the dates you will be there. Tripadvisor will list the hotels available in that city for the dates you picked.
Refine your search using the Refine Search column on the left hand side of the screen. This set of options will enable you to narrow down hotel class, price range, traveler rating, etc.
Shortlist a number of places and read a sample of the user reviews – this will help you make your list even shorter, if at all possible.
Here comes the best part – When you identify the hotel of your choice, click on the Check Rates button. A number of browser pages will pop up, where each page will bear the rates for that hotel from the most popular accommodation finder websites such as booking.com, venere.com, and hotels.com.
Now you have all those sites open and you can compare their rates. On top of that – and probably websites that offer accommodation search facilities will kill me for that – you can also google the name of the hotel, look for the hotel’s own website and try to figure out what their rates are if you book directly with them. Sometimes you’ll find lower prices when you book without intermediaries.
Now how does that look? Do you have your own method? What websites and tools do you use? Do you have any useful tips to share? Any suggestions are more than welcome.
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