How to Island Hop in Fiji

Fiji invokes images of picture perfect white sandy beaches, azure blue water, and chilled Island vibes. If you get out of Nadi, this is definitely the case.

How to get to the Islands

There is really only one company you can use to physically get between the various Islands – Awesome Adventures. They run the only daily boat from the Port at Denanru through the Yasawa island group. You can buy a pass for this boat which covers all your transfers between the Islands for the duration of your stay.  There are other options if you want to stay at just a few Islands rather than hop between.  

They also offer a Combo pass which includes all your accommodation in either 1 or 2 coconut rated resorts. If you book a 1 coconut pass, your food is also included. In the 2 coconut resorts you often pay an additional meal plan of up to 130 FJD per person per night. On balance, the 1 coconut options are absolutely fine for backpackers on an budget.

Sounds Awesome Right?

In theory, you can book your next resort when you get on the boat. In practise, you should do it a few days in advance, no matter what they say on the boat or via email – especially in high season. We were there in low season and twice there was no availability on the island we wanted to go to.  In the end we starting asking the resorts to book, or phoning ourselves.

So, not actually that awesome.  Because Awesome charge quite a bit more than the resort would direct for accommodation. They also do, at least in our case very little for the extra they charge you.  It seems they also take quite a bit in commission from the properties.

So, our recommendation would be to book your accommodation options directly.  The properties see more of your money this way. Given that the 1 Coconut resorts are all Fijian owned and mainly ran by families this an only be a good thing. – this can usually be done via Facebook.

Things to note re 1 coconut properties: 

  • Electricity: Is not 24 x 7 and not always in your room. Where there is 24 x 7 electricity, it is often in a shared place. If you have electricity in your room or dorm it will be at set times of the day
  • Water: Despite the fact that Fiji has the tastiest water in the world, there is really a water shortage in the Islands. You should expect to buy water in the resorts and you should expect it to cost more than it does on the mainland, because of the freight costs to get it to the Islands. We paid 8FJD in one resort for a 1.5l bottle of water. If you are going for a few days, then it is feasible to buy water on the mainland and take it with you. If you are going for longer than 4 days I’m not sure it is worth the extra hassle. They do sell water on the boat for less than 5FJD though if you need to buy some and aren’t willing to pay the higher prices in the resorts.
  • Dry season: If you go in the middle of dry season you should expect there to be water restrictions for showers etc. But fear not, because there is always an enormous swimming pool next to the beach.
  • Bugs: I don’t mean ants, mosquitos, and flies. If you have an issue with them you really should just entirely avoid the tropics. But, I am terrified in an entirely irrational way of spiders. Even the tiny ones. Fiji has Huntsman and Tarantulas, and we encountered both in unacceptable sizes for someone has terrified of them as I am. They are not poisonous. They did not attack me in my sleep. Everything was fine

About the 1 Coconut resorts

We had a 21 day Combo pass which covers food, travel and accommodation in an double room for 20 nights. In hindsight, 2 weeks would have been more than enough so the first piece of advice we’d give anyone is don’t Island hop for more than 2 weeks.

We had the opportunity to use all of the 5 of the 6 resorts in that time.

Waya LaiLai Ecohaven

This is a property owned and run by the local village. The Bure are spacious, you get towels, a furnished balcony and a decent shower. The food is plentiful, and reasonably varied. The people are really friendly.

Plus, you can snorkel with white tip reef sharks from here for the princely sum of 60FJD

Nabua Lodge

This is the biggest 1 coconut resort in the Yasawas and holds up 80 guests. There is entertainment each evening, the bar is open until 10pm, or whenever you stop drinking. They run a large number of different activities each day and the food is really good.  The bures are comfortable and spacious.

White Sandy Beach Resort

The beach is nice, the Bures are reasonably well furnished, which a cute outside shower area in each. The people are really nice & make an effort to get people involved so it has more of a social atmosphere. But, the food was bland, and there wasn’t enough of it. One morning for breakfast they put out cereal, but no milk. One lunch was boiled rice and vegetable super noodles. If you are a foodie, this is not the place for you.

Gold Coast Inn

Set on a really windy beach, which is perfect when the sun is beating down. It is a really pretty resort. Small and very homely. There is no electricity in the rooms but there is 24 x 7 electricity in the main lounge. The bures are set above the beach so you have great views. The family who run this place are amazing. The food was the best we had. You can also walk across to the other side of the island and snorkel the famous blue lagoon for free. The owner even gave Steve a haircut whilst we were there. 

Long Beach Resort

Another family run resort – The people are really friendly. The food is really favourful. The bures are enormous. The kids are super cute. The reef around the back of the island is huge, and has great snorkelling which costs $15 each. It’s a very relaxed and chilled atmosphere but if the right group of people are staying it can be lively in the evenings as well.

Whichever of these Islands you go to, you can be assured of a warm Fijian welcome and the best hospitality you can imagine. Enjoy!

Low season Travel in Thailand and why its good for your budget

Those of you that know us well will not be at all surprised by the fact that we have gone over our original budget on this trip. Partly, that’s because our original budget was not realistic, but mostly its because we, well, went to Africa for 7 weeks.

The one area we have always managed to stay more or less within budget on is our accommodation costs.  At the beginning of our trip we had a sort of slush fund for those times when we just needed to stay in a decent hotel with hot water and towels. As it turns out you don’t really need to stretch your budget that much to do this.  In the month we spent in Thailand in July/August, we averaged £21.20 per night. That’s a whole £34 over our accommodation budget for the month, and at no point did we need to use our own towels.

Now, £34 is the different between the standard and the VIP overnight bus twice, and so it seems a fair amount, but what if we told you we stayed in a Villa with its own private pool for 4 nights and still only averaged £21.20 a night?

Low season is cheap

So, how did we do this?  We were there in Shoulder and low season, which means accommodation is much cheaper. You do run the risk of rain, and we did have a few rainy days, but no more than 8 in a month, which in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal. It also means some places are a bit dead.  For example, we would not recommend Koh Chang at this time of year unless you like deserted bars and restaurants. But in general you get really good deals on places to stay that in high season would be well out of the budget of your average backpacker, or even flashpacker.

Below is the breakdown of our accommodation spend for our month in Thailand including a little bit about what we got for our money. Where a link to a website exists we’ve added it.

Samui Boat Lagoon

4 Nights, £273.00

Private Villa with own Pool, kitchen, Air Conditioning, AMAZBALLS bathroom. Never ever wanted to leave.  Heres a video from their You tube page.  Excuse the dodgy music! 

Green Canyon Hip and Cheap Resort, Lamai, Koh Samui 

4 Nights, £43.14

Bungalow with Fan for 3 nights, upgraded to Air Con on the last night for an additional £2.50. Near the beach and had a cute pool, though about a 20 minute walk from the main Lamai centre.

Coral Bungalows, Koh Phanghan

4 Nights £46.51 

AC room wth balcony.  Rooms are big and have decent bathrooms. They have a nice pool area and often have pool parties. This place is 1900 baht/£45 per night during Full moon.  We were there for Black moon, which was fun, without being a rip off.

SB 2 Cabanas, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao – not on booking sites, turn up!

4 nights, £46.51

Fan Room about 1 minute walk from the beach but the bed was decent and it was near a lot of bars and street food – Koh Tao is little more expensive than other islands for accommodation..

ABC Bungalows, Koh Phaghan

3 Nights, £36.98

A cute little bungalow 1minute away from the beach again, with a Balcony and AC.  Near the Half moon party but not TOO near the Half moon party.  Busy bars and cheap restourants within a 10 minute walk.

King Busch Reggae Beach, Mae Nam, Samui

3 Nights, £62.79

Honestly, not the best choice we’ve ever made.  Bamboo hut on a nice beach, but a really basic room.  It had portable AC (wbich means no AC), and after some of the places we had stayed in we felt robbed. Also, they did, hands down THE worst burger I have ever eaten and their bar prices were high, even compared to all the other places around.

(Please note, Website is in german)

1 night overnight bus to Bangkok – Transport costs come out of a separate budget for us. Our combined boat and bus ticket cost us £40

Samet 99 Koh Samet – booking through booking.com

3 Nights, £47.67

A really nice guesthouse and the owner was really friendly. Unfortunately the Island itself was not as amazing as many of the others.

The Stage, Koh Chang

3 Nights £58.14 Room with AC.

An absolutely gorgeous hotel, with a really nice pool area.  The weather was poor in Koh Chang, and it was completely dead which was a real shame.

Total cost £614.74

Total number of nights 29

Average cost per night £21.20


Other tips to help keep your budget in check.

Don’t stay too long in Koh Samui, & be careful about where you stay

It’s a beautiful island, but really not geared towards budget backpacking.  It is a perfect holiday destination.

The rooms are a bit more expensive in general and the food and drink costs are much higher than in more backpacker friendly areas.  If you do go to Samui, we’d recommend Lamai as it has some reasonably priced rooms, and a decent Thai food market.  We couldn’t find any decent private rooms in Chewang within our budget, but there is a lot of reasonably priced food there, so if you are happy in a dorm its probably worth a look. Otherwise, Samui could easily kill your budget.  To give you an example, a cocktail in Mae Nam, Samui will cost you 150Baht/£2.50 whereas until 10pm on Koh Tao its as little as 60Baht or £1.10. We ate a lot of 7Eleven Ham & Cheese Toasties on Koh Samui (27Baht each in case your were wondering)

Booking.com

Once you’ve used Booking.com 10 times you start getting discounts on certain hostels and hotels.  We got 10% off in 4 places we booked, plus early and late check outs for free.  Booking.com also has ‘secret deals’ and ‘daily deals’ which are available to those who book regularly.  The villa with pool in Koh Samui was 75% off on a secret deal.

Agoda do a similar thing, though we don’t like how little info you get on their site so we rarely book with them for Thailand. Hostelworld and Hostelbookers are okay if you want dorms.

Don’t book in advance for Koh Tao

Make sure you get an early ish boat and don’t book ahead. There are literally 100 of places to stay and most of them are not on booking sites.  Get a taxi to take you to the part you want to stay in and have a wander around. This also gives you the option to move if you pick badly. Also, a lot of the dive centres on Koh Tao give you free accommodation when you book an Open Water Dive course.

Avoid Koh Phanghan at Full moon

The Black Moon party was a lot of fun, and I heard Half Moon was a ‘rager’ of a party, so why on earth waste your hard earned money to stay somewhere and pay 4 times the going rate to go to a party that almost everyone we have spoken to has hated.  The rooms in Koh Phanghan are just not worth £40 a night – that’s like paying £150 for a Travelodge!  There is ALWAYS a party to be found on Koh Phanghan no matter what the moon is doing, and some decent deals to be had out of Full Moon Party season. If you really do want to go to Full Moon, then expect it to cost you.


Next up – Cambodia, where we will really be sticking to budget and spending as little as possible. See how we get on!

Why Everyone should go to Koh Lanta

Paradise Found

Sometimes you end up somewhere unexpected, no plan, and it’s exactly what you need.

After 5 days in Bangkok, food poisoning, a cold, a 5 day dive course which included a 3 day liveaboard. Not forgetting a quick flight back to Bangkok for laptop collection, all we really wanted to do was chill out somewhere and sit on a beach. Our original plan had been to move from Krabi town to Ao Nang, the beach area of Krabi.

All aboard the Songthaew bus

We got a Songthaew there,  took one look at the Starbucks, and a beach with a concrete wall running around it, and decided to go somewhere else. We went to the nearest agent and booked ourselves on the next minibus leaving to somewhere called Koh Lanta. On the bus we booked 1 night at the Lanta Fa Rung Resort in somewhere called Klong Khong beach and hoped for the best.

We got off the bus at the side of the (one) main road and with the help of phone torches and google maps managed to find our hotel on the 2nd attempt. We were led to a bungalow on stilts, with a deck and a hammock. Having dumped our stuff we checked out the bar, and this is where I nearly cried. In my imagination, Thailand’s islands are full of beach bars, with chill out areas on the beach, and amazing views. This is exactly what we had unwittingly found. It took us over 2 weeks, but we’d finally found the Thailand we had been waiting to see.

Never going to leave

The next morning we excitedly went to ask the owner if we could stay but they were fully booked for the next 2 nights. He did get us a room next door though which was actually a bit nicer and had a pool. Though the staff were not anywhere near as friendly as him and his wife. We arranged to go back for our last planned night in Ko Lanta.

Mopeds & Control Freaks are a bad combination

We also hired a moped which Steve rode. This was a terrifying experience for a control freak like me at first, but it gave us opportunity to see much more of the island. All the good beaches are on the west coast. We stayed on Klong Khong beach on our first visit, and Klong Dao beach on our second.  Both were beautiful.

time to chill

The vibe in Koh Lanta is very chilled. There is a beach party somewhere every night but it’s not a mad one with all that mad beach parties tend to have. Rather, the beach bars have live Reggae bands and fire shows, whilst you lie in a beach mat and have a few drinks.

Between our 2 trips to Lanta, we’ve now spent more time there than anywhere else on our travels so far. Its the one place we’ve been so far that we could actually see ourselves living.

Why should everybody go there?

If you are heading to Thailand at any point –  don’t miss this place!

Sunsets

The sunsets are stunning. I mean STUNNING. You can sit at a beach bar and watch the Sun go down and no one will hassle you.

beaches

The beaches are beautiful, and generally not very busy. They can be a little stony on Klong Khong, but Long Beach and Klong Dao are both stone free mostly. So if you are looking for white sand (with some shells in it) and a calm sea you can float in for hours without a care in the world, this is the place to do it.

Resorts

The resorts are generally small family run affairs here and are mostly bungalows of varying levels of luxury. For less than £10 a night you can rent a hut made entirely of bamboo. We met a couple who had been living in one quite happily for 2 months. It still has a private bathroom and its cool enough at night. For £20 you can get an AC bungalow and maybe even a fridge in your room. We stayed in 4 bungalows of varying degrees of comfort and they were all absolutely lovely in different ways. in fact I actually can’t believe how little the place we stayed at in Klong Dao cost considering the facilities.

Food

Food on Lanta is also cheaper than many of the other islands (half the price of Phi Phi for example). You easily eat street food for 2 for less than 150 baht (£3.50). It’s also reflected in the cost of drinks where a beer in a beachside bar will set you back 70baht (1.75) versus Phi Phil where it’s nearer 100 baht (£2.50)

People

Everyone talks about how friendly the Thai people are,  but this was the first place I really felt it and when we went back for our second visit it was the same.

How to get there

Flights go from Bangkok to Krabi and cost approximately £50 return with Thai Lion Air. Or you can do an overnight bus from Bangkok for about £25 each. We’ve done both and I think I prefer the overnight bus but then I don’t like flying so airports stress me out. You can book a shared minibus from Krabi town, Ao Nang or the Airport. This will drop you off at your hotel and costs approx £8 each way. Or you can get a ferry in peak season. This is a little more expensive but has the added advantage of not being a sardine tin – personally I still prefer the mini van option though.  You can also do private transfers for a lot more if you have the cash.

Where to stay

Lanta Fa Rung Resort

(often fully booked but give it a try). Francisco is the owner and a genuinely friendly guy who will give you lots of advice. He wife cooks the best breakfast we’ve had since Sri Lanka. He’s also one of the few people on the Island who will hire you a moped without trying to keep your passport. He and his wife are also huge animal lovers, and have some very well looked after cats that are basically their children.

Bungalows start at 900 baht a night

Moonwalk Resort

Next to Fa Rung, this place has a pool, albeit a small one. Rooms start at 600 baht a night and range from fan cooled to more luxurious AC rooms. Personally we prefer Fa Rungs style but not everyone likes things as rustic as us! Don’t get too upset if the staff are a bit grumpy – they have to deal with some right numpty’s 🙂

Klong Khong Garden

Bamboo huts are just 400baht a night here, though they do have larger bungalows with AC also. This place is near rather than on the beach but the owners are really friendly and helpful. They also have free tea and coffee, a shared kitchen and fridge that you can use which if you are on a budget is really helpful.  They also have cats they treat as their children,  I trust anyone who loves animals as much as these guys do.

Klong Dao Sunset Villas

I actually couldn’t believe this place was 800 baht a night. It was like a proper hotel room.  The bed was amazing, the bathroom was beautiful. It had a fridge, and was about 15 steps from the beautiful beautiful Klong Dao beach. The owner has a great beachside restaurant and he teaches kids how to throw fire about, which makes for an entertaining Friday night.  Its still new, which might explain how cheap it is, but it can only succeed with the way its run and the facilities.

All are available on booking.com

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