Tag Archives: Travel Guide

How to Avoid Taxi Scam in China

Dazu Buddhist Caves 

These caves are UNESCO World Heritage. This doesn’t make them into a breath taking absolutely must see place but it’s a nice and relatively easy day trip from Chongqing. I’m not sure why these are called caves because they are mostly carvings on the cliff side, some are pretty big and some over 900 hundred years old. The themes are Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. We definitely did not see any caves, one small grotto that’s all. There is also a temple and a little garden, nothing too special but quiet and peaceful. (Take your student card along and you get 50% off from the entrance fee. They only accept Chinese, Taiwanese, Hong Kong or Macao student cards but it doesn’t kill to try with your western one! Lie that yours is from Macao or something.)


Famous visitors at Dazu caves.

It takes only about an hour or so to go around, then you can explore the shopping streets and million little stalls with about the same items each and get annoyed at the bunch of old women trying to sell you Buddhist figures for 10 yuan no matter where you go. Before catching a bus back to Dazu sample dumplings and spicy noodles, local delicates.

When I read about these carvings on Internet I discovered something, or then I didn’t. It seems complicated since no one says anything clearly enough. But I think I finally understood after some research. There are many sights around Dazu city where you can go and see these carvings, but the main site and the one mentioned in Lonely Planet (and the one where we went) is called Baoding, about 25 km from the city. There are more of these carvings around the city and you can hire a taxi for a day to see them all, we didn’t have time for that.

 

There are a few trekking paths available. You could get lost into the Chinese countryside with your camera, imagine how fun that would be. Especially if you are interested in photography and can speak/want get better with your Chinese. And even if you can’t speak Chinese it might be wonderful, anyway. But if you want to see some real real countryside I don’t think Dazu is authentic enough.  As a city it was pretty new, boring, colorless, and lifeless. We spent some hour and a half wandering around but didn’t experience anything special. I guess this is one of those cities which got build in 4 or 5 years out of the blue. There were some countryside houses near Baoding but it just wasn’t anything special.

It took us about 3 hours to get to this place from Chongqing. We almost got off on a wrong bus stop, in a wrong city, because the street food stalls had some delicious looking local snacks to offer. But no, there was still 1 hour left and I continued eating my roasted sunflower seeds like a true Chinese. This is typical snack option in China.

As random as it sounds at Dazu bus station some man approached us asking where were we going and offered to take us to Baoding for 50 yuan. I bargained off 10 and regretted for the rest of the trip for not bargaining more. Damn it! Anyway, the price seemed reasonable as the trip was about 20 minutes (half an hour in Chinese taxi costs about 50-70 yuan) We could have taken a bus but didn’t because we arrived at the old bus station and we should have gone to the new one but we didn’t know where it was, later we found out it was just a few minutes walk away, on the other side of the bridge. Well, fat, lazy, imperialist, bastard tourists… I have nothing else to add here. When we came back by bus it cost 3 yuan but it dropped us in the middle of nowhere, I mean in the middle of the city.

It took us about an hour and a half to find the bus station because we just walked to a random direction and followed a man we thought might go there but then we lost him (just don’t ask). I kept asking random people for directions and everyone said it wasn’t far away even though it took us over an hour to walk. This one rickshaw man rode past us and we were wondering whether or not to stop him and ask him to take us to the bus station. I got an eye contact with him and we stared at each other, both hesitating. He almost stopped and I almost stopped him but in the end no one did anything and we continued walking while he drove past us. How poetic…

As we walked trough a small market we saw a mouse and my friend took pictures of it, then an old man tried to kill it with his bags … I tried to ask a woman for directions but she didn’t understand me so I had to ask someone else. Then finally we ended up at the new bus station and saw a very long line to the ticket window. After asking some people (who all tried to ignore me) it turned out we were at the wrong bus station, because we had mixed them up. No worries, we just took a rickshaw to the other side of the bridge… we didn’t know it would be such a short trip. But it’s always good to pay for local services, anyway.

It was already late evening when we arrived back to Chongqing, alive and healthy. The bust arrived to a strange bus station and we took a taxi back to hostel just because we were feeling dead tired, there was no subway and taxis are so freaking cheap in China (what happened to the budget trip?) Truthfully speaking I tried to find a bus stop but didn’t see one anywhere, then I saw it from the taxi’s window. Too late.

The taxi drivers were being difficult bastards and refused to use the meter, one demanding more money than the other. And one of the drivers had his meter on in advance, that old stupid trick. Then one of the taxi drivers agreed to use the meter at the end. 3 dollars.

More about Dazu Rock Carvings


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Tuk tuk, madam? Where you go, sir?



This post will be about Cambodian tuk tuk drivers since that’s the only place where I have encountered any tuk tuk drivers during my life. My experience remains short (4 days) but during this time I met many of them and implied a few different tactics of bargaining. I also made some research about Cambodian tuk tuk drivers and read other blogs/ forum posts about this topic just to make this post more truthful, objective and to make more sense in general.

Complicated business

What I figured out during my trip was that the “get a ride” business is one hell of a business. Our moto drivers at the border, they had a deal with the taxi driver and got paid when they delivered customers to him. I didn’t know I should have bargained for the taxi price with them already. Another thing is that the drivers who hang out in front of hostels/hotels have to pay for it, they get more customers but have to share with the hostel owner. Every driver has to pay certain extra fee to the government on yearly basis for their “tuk tuk license”.

I read that used motorbikes usually sell for 200-250 dollars and usual yearly income for Cambodian is about 150-540 dollars so buying a moto, it’s a big deal. The drivers can get 0-200 dollars per month, sometimes they get nothing. Usually the tuk tuk is rented so when you are paying for your ride you are also helping with the rent fees. There will be advertisements on the tuk tuks, of hostels, cafes, clubs and restaurants. Know, if you take such a tuk tuk and the driver recommends what’s mentioned on the advertisement he will get extra profit for bringing you there. They also get extra profit if they manage to sell you a girl in a nice brothel. This is not a hint how to get best sex deals during your sex tourist trip, this just the sad truth and dam you if you are a sex tourist. See how connected these people are?

By no means are the tuk tuk drivers rich, they are poor no matter how many extra dollars they cheat from you (except if they have websites and own a business). Maybe the street vendors are rich but not the drivers. They are dirt poor and that’s why they make those sad faces when you offer too little money, probably most of the sob stories they pull on you are true too. But I don’t get it though. If a trip to the airport costs 5 dollars then ten trips would be 50 dollars already, 30 trips (1/day/month) ? 150$? This is considered a really good monthly salary in Cambodia. Beats me, really.



Bargain the best deal

You know, at first it was just a bunch of shabby looking men and their tuk tuks, all trying to get us ride with them for xx price, not that high but at least a bit higher than for locals. If you are not mentally prepared enough and take it all too lightly you will end up paying extra, might be just insignificant 1 or 2 dollars per ride but suddenly miraculously over 10 dollars a day. So if you stay for a week… Mamma mia!

When I arrived to Cambodia I was prepared to never trust anyone there, ever. Not even if I get friendly with some drivers, nothing will change the fact that I am just a walking wallet in these people’s eyes. Maybe this is not the best tactic because it will make you feel extremely anxious and suspicious about everything and everyone, eventually you will grow unbearably angry and start hating all tuk tuk drivers in whole world just because (that innocent looking smiling face and those “but it’s so far away” comments lies). It’s better to come prepared, with your guns loaded and your heart hardened.

1. Ask how much before getting on vs don’t ask, just get on and pay when you get off.  

I tried these both tactics and came to a conclusion that there is no much difference. If you negotiate the price beforehand it will make you feel better because if you think about 2 dollars, arrive, pay up and the driver is left unsatisfied, asking for more… it’s just sad. You negotiate the price and pay exact amount, no wavering or extra pity because they will/might ask you for more once you have arrived.

If you have decided to get on and pay later, you must know about basic local fares, which is not a problem anyway, you will learn fast. The problem lies in unsatisfied drivers and your own mental health. You know the basic fare and give just so much money but the driver stars protesting “What you give me? 2 dollars more.” Of course, there is always an option of nonchalantly walking away and maybe  probably getting yelled at by a driver who has nothing good to say to your sensitive, privileged, western, 1st world ears. But at least you have saved those few extra dollars you might have lost while negotiation the price beforehand.

2. Know the price. 

The answer is simple, google. There are travel blogs, forums and all kind of sites from where you can read latest information about tuk tuk fares. Know how much others paid and pay the same or a bit lower.

Another method is to pay a visit to a local gas station see how high is the price for gas  and calculate the answer in your head or with a help of an additional electronic devise. If you don’t know, ask the driver how many kilometers to the destination (a high possibility he will lie), you can even ask him how much does his moto use liters/km. I asked and the answer seemed pretty legit. If you know the price of gas it gives you a good advantage while bargaining.

One more thing, I did try asking people about the prices but especially locals refused to give any answers. They always had this “What? Are you stupid? Do you think I will really tell?” smiles on their faces. I’m telling you, it’s one huge plot of the whole society to rip off foreigners. Other travelers? They pay either more than you (and they will give you this moral crap for not sparing some 3 dollars) or less (and it’s just gonna piss you off). Just find out about the price before you come.

3. Negotiate. 

There is a high possibility for you to get lower prices if you ask one driver to work for you for several days. If he doesn’t show up the next morning it will be his loss, not yours (he won’t show up if someone else offers a better deal). And anyway, there are enough tuk tuk drivers just everywhere so you will never face the problem of not getting a ride. If one tuk tuk driver won’t budge from his “super high fares” just walk away, but know that he might follow you for several blocks while continuing his bargaining and he might make a scene in front of other drivers just to prevent you from getting other rides (but this is a case of extreme asshole drivers, most of them are decent people). What you should be aware of is that the tuk tuk drivers have this bad habit of grabbing your luggage and carrying it to the vehicle so you won’t have other options but to ride with them. Just exclaim:”Wait a minute!” and coolly stop them.

4. Know where to catch your ride. 

Definitely not in front of a nice hotel or even a hostel, not in front of restaurants, bus stations or even at the airport entrance. Just think about it, why are there only “fancy” looking tuk tuks in front of fancy hotels? Or will a driver who can speak English be more expensive than the one who can’t and would there be an English peaking driver in front of your hostel rather than a non English speaking one? It’s all a game like in Hollywood movies where fancy gentleman thieves go to Las Vegas to rob banks and Casinos, you have to think smart and be one step ahead, at all times. (Will this make you into a fat tourist without morals who is out there to cheat poor tuk tuk drivers while your pockets are full of money? If you want to put it so.)

At Phnom Penh, if you bother walking some 5 insignificant minutes away from the airport and to the roadside you will save several dollars. The same story when you negotiate for a tuk tuk ride to Angkor Wat yourself instead of asking the hotel reception.

5. The destination

The drivers are usually from the countryside, probably sold their lands in order to buy a vehicle, so they don’t really know the street names too well. When taking a tuk tuk it’s more convenient to tell the driver the name of the place you are going to instead of the address. They know most of the guest houses and all the important sights and markets (if they don’t know they will still attempt to take you there and might get lost, then they might demand more money upon arrival because “Sir, the gas is so expensive.”) When I showed the address, I had written down, to a moto drivers in Siem Reap (I forgot they use different alphabet) the only thing they understood was “Cambodia”. No shit Sherlock!


 Afternoon nap.

What I learned in December 2012 in Cambodia:

My friend said that in Thailand it’s better to just get on a tuk tuk without asking the price and then pay upon arrival, but if you don’t know the price it’s a bit hard. Anyway, I prefer bargaining in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises, at least in Cambodia. If you smile and are very friendly it’s easier to get the price down, Cambodians don’t like angry bargainers The price ranges between 1 to 3 dollars per person. Usually they settle for 1 $/person (a short trip) but 6000 riels (1,5$) is possible too (if you bargain well). From Phnom Penh airport you can get a cheaper tuk tuk outside the gates, 4-6$. And from the city to the airport it’s cheaper to get a tuk tuk not trough hostel/hotel but by yourself, same 4-6$. A taxi for a day might be cheaper option than a tuk tuk  but way more boring. Ankgor Wat should be possible for 12 dollars a day, we idiots paid 17 per day because we didn’t check the prices beforehand. Some paid over 20 dollars but the cheapest should be 10-12 dollars.

Plan your days well so you can include many destinations in on ride and save money. The tuk tuk drivers usually have a map with destinations and most probably will suggest you several routes which make a lot of sense. Just tell them what you want to see, they tell you a plan, you accept, then they tell you a price and you bargain it lower. Simple and easy. In Siem Reap you can walk everywhere, it’s a short distance, and get a bike for a day to visit Angkor Wat, so if you want just forget about these tuk tuks.

The Dilemma 

I guess, the hardest thing will be the sudden jump from middle class to the riches. Once you arrive to Cambodia (or any other poor country) you will suddenly become rich but your mentality will stay the same old middle class. Suddenly you are facing all these poor people, who look at you with their greedy sparkling eyes  because for them you are nothing but a stack of dollars yet to be spent, on them. But in your own heart, you are nothing but a poor student who could barely afford this trip. It’s a confusing situation.

I am just a student, worked hard to get enough money for my trip and can’t really spend extra. It pisses me off when people cheat me, no matter how poor. I come from a country where cheating is considered bad or even illegal. Yet I know all these people are so poor, can barely earn enough for a meal and my responsibility is to share because I can. But then again, they are cheating me because they think I am rich. I am not rich but in their country I actually am. But if I always pay extra I will exceed my budget and have no money when I come back to my own country. How will I live? But anyway, it will still be a better situation than for people in this country. Fuck. Stupid roller coaster, there is no end to this and thinking like this will just turn me into a cynical asshole, which I actually am but anyway…

Morals will just make you vulnerable, that’s all.

Forget about them?

And what? Become a monkey?

“In my country I am not rich” that’s what I said to one tuk tuk driver. His answer was: “At least you can work and save for traveling while I just work to earn a decent living.” Don’t pretend to be innocent and play the wrong cards. They know all those million ways how to make you feel guilty and they are not afraid of using them against you. Don’t let yourself feel guilty. For what should you? Why would you pay extra? Probably because that will make you feel temporarily at ease, like you are a good person and shit. You are buying that good feeling for 3 dollars so you can go back home like a Messiah, waste water and electricity and throw away food you didn’t finish eating? Ha ha ha…. Double standards, throw those away and we are all nothing but monkeys.

I recently read in a blog something along “[…] but don’t bargain too much because…” Why not? As long as you pay like locals it should be okay? What’s the use of over paying? Letting these people live off scam (pisses me off)? Truthfully speaking, I did feel guilty until I read from this one book about Asian sex slaves “Tuk tuk drivers are the majority (of men) who use services of brothels in Cambodia” (Excluding all those pathetic disgusting sex tourists) Excuse me? I thought if I don’t pay that extra dollar people will die because they won’t have enough money to buy medicine or food. Turns out I saved a man from getting HIV.

My point is, you never know how that money will be spent. Of course, not all tuk tuk drivers buy sex (I presume) but still, what about alcohol, cigarettes, drugs etc? So feeling guilty is just… stupid? It’s inevitable but unnecessary. You can’t help it. But even if you pay extra, what will change? Absolutely nothing. Let’s not romanticize poverty. Are you imagining something about girls going to school, mother recovering from an illness or father bringing home meat or sweets, all this because you paid extra? The possibility of this happening is what, 10%? Get real, the girl gets sent off to a brothel, mother dies and there will be no meat. That’s it.  The sad truth of the world.



If you think I am being heartless check out this blog post or this one and think about tuk tuk drivers asking western men “How about a girl?” and then think about those human trafficked poor girls in brothels. Feeling any pity for the tuk tuk drivers anymore? When we arrived to Siem Reap in the middle of the night to a bus station which was located nowhere, there was this tuk tuk driver we tried to bargain with but he just got angry “We are not in Vietnam!” he exclaimed. Then we tried to bargain with another driver but this angry tuk tuk driver started yelling at him in khmer (most probably something about us being bitches) so I told him: “You are a bad man.” It felt like getting overboard then but afterwards when getting yelled at by the street vendors how we were bad people for not buying anything… I knew what I did was right. Anyway, we ended up taking motos, it felt less like a rip off since both got their own rides.

Finally, I KNOW it’s just a few dollars but this is not about the money it’s the matter of principle. Getting cheated all the time is not a nice feeling and when you are treated like garbage on the top of that. No matter how fucking poor anyone is you pay for service which is worth xx amount of money, paying extra just feels shitty. A little bargaining is always good and I am sure if you offer a fair price the tuk tuk drivers will accept. Too little is too little. Overall they are nice people, don’t pity them or give them too much but also don’t mistreat them by being angry if your offered price is not accepted.

Be a good tourist 

1. Don’t get your ride in front of hostels/hotels so your driver gets to keep the whole profit. Get a random ride at a random place.

2. If a driver comes to sell you his service accept it (if bargaining bears good fruits), reward hardworking.

3. Recommend online (forums etc check this out!) if you get good service, take the driver’s cell phone number and let other travelers know. This will give an extra boost to a driver who really deserves it by being honest (more or less) and a good businessman.

4. If a driver suggest you a cafe or restaurant agree to go if you don’t really care much where you eat. He will get a  few extra pennies for bringing you there.

5. Tip good service (after bargaining a good price) but only if it’s a good service.

6. Talk with drivers so they get to practice English, priceless.

It’s HATE both ways

Finally I  left Cambodia with “I fucking hate tuk tuk drivers” and I’m sure they sent me off with “I fucking hate that rich bitch”. Put yourself into their shoes. They are meeting all these fat ugly people every day for the past, what, 10 years. These foreigners have their wallets full of dollars yet they refuse to pay 1 dollar extra? If I was a tuk tuk driver I would detest all white trash, no matter if a man or a woman, drunk or sober, pretty or ugly, fat or skinny, I would hate everyone equally. Just because they have enough money to travel, they have enough money to dress and eat well, to stay in hotels but not fucking enough to pay 1 dollar extra. Those arrogant and stingy bitches, the double standard us. We think we are Messiahs. In truth we are bastards. All of us. Feeling guilty? How ridiculous.


 Drivers getting some water from the fountain, for the radiators, you know.

How to survive Tokyo – Cheap

I went to Tokyo last winter and this time around I was a lot smarter compared to my first trip that turned out to be nothing but a big sick joke of bad luck and money spending carnival. Hear out my tips because like this I could save hella lot money and time (compared to the first time when I did nothing but spend money and time, unwillingly at that). Dare to be a cheapscake!

  • Information

Take all you can, for free.

I assume you arrive by plane to Narita. First thing go to a tourist information (I heard it closes at 6pm, which totally sucks). Okay now, don’t furrow your brows and think: “I’m not some stupid retarded tourist, I don’t need that shit, I have my guidebook, I am independent.” Shut up and go to tourist info, I command you. Let me explain why.

First of all they will give you all the maps you will ever need and they beat Lonely Planet crap maps any time. Second, they have a lot of useful information about the buzz in the city and will give you time tables for sumo, kabuki or circus, whatever you want. But the most important are walking tours. If you are keen on saving money ask them for a small booklet of walking tours with maps. As you know, Tokyo is just a cluster of small cities and they will have a map of each of the most famous, you will be able to save time and money buy walking trough the sights, temples and museums, each area will take you about half a day or if you like to take it easy one day.  (Note: you will get only the map, no guide, so you can do everything by yourself!) They also have food and restaurant guides, info about tours, even other Japanese cities. Info about the fish market and tuna auction etc. Finally it’s all for free so why not? Huh? You won’t need your Lonely Planet after this.


  • Cash

If you haven’t already exchanged the currency at your home country, which is definitely the best opinion at all times, walk to any ATM and withdraw all the money you will ever need, ALL of it, at the airport. In Japan you will be able to withdraw money at 7elevene, Mini Stop and other 24/7 shops or then at post offices (if your cards works…). Forget about Japanese banks, maybe you will be lucky at City Bank but overall Japanese ATMs don’t usually cooperate with foreign cards. Anyway, if you ever run out of cash you might get into trouble because you can’t really pay with credit card everywhere (like for example in South Korea) and sometimes post offices are closed (ATMs are behind the locks). You can survive with Visa Electron but that might be hard because withdrawing money with it might be near to impossible, though situation gets better year by year. I suggest you get the cash out at the airport and keep the count, if it starts looking like you are running out of cash soon start looking for a way to get more, it’s like a battle of survival. But yeah, try the post offices and convenience stores, probably you will be okay.

  • From Narita to City

You will have several possibilities to go to the city, which will take you about an hour by train, or more, depends on the train and your destination. I suggest you forget about the bus because they are the most expensive. If you favor N’EX (the fast train) The cheapest way is to buy Suica (local subway card) and a round trip to city and back, here is The Deal. But there was a time limit for the round trip, I stayed for three weeks and it was too long already. You can still buy Suica and one way ticket to the city which will be a lot cheaper than buying everything separately. You can buy this package downstairs at the train station and do not worry, there will be enough posters about this, you can ask at the tourist info too. If you can’t buy the round trip then when you go back to Narita take the cheapest train and remember to give your Suica back to get the deposit. So if you don’t want to travel with N’EX you can take the normal train (check out the time table, there are many trains) and it will cost you about 1000-1,500 one direction. For comfortable travel I suggest Suica + N’EX one way and normal train back.

  • Accommodation and transport

You might think you don’t need a subway card but trust me, going around will be heaps easier and less frustrating with the damn card. You can load as little money on it as you want and you can even use it to pay in shops, some restaurants too. Besides you will get your left over money and deposit once you give the card back but I suggest you use up all the money just in case.

Okay, once in the city, before boarding the subway or train take a look at the prices of day tickets and calculate carefully before buying anything. Remember that subway tickets and train tickets are separate, you can buy combination ticket but it’s pretty expensive and you should calculate if it really is worth buying. Note that one day ticket in Japan is not 24 hours but is valid only on the day when you buy it so try to always leave early in the morning to get the most use of it. For me, I used subway every day but thanks to the maps with walking tours for me it was cheaper to just pay with Suica (there is no discount if you use Suica) instead of buying any discount tickets.

Accommodation might be super expensive, depends on your standards. I can tell that the cheapest hostels are not that inviting… A good opinion is to do couch surfing, I did it in Kyoto and it was just fine. Saved heaps of money. If you stay in Tokyo for weeks you could look for two or more hosts, this way it’s possible to make local friends who might take you around. But don’t depend on them too much and NEVER believe Japanese when they say “I will have time later, just wait for a little bit” You will end up waiting whole day. Hostels and hotels are not always on good places when you think about transportation, especially cheapest hostels but people’s homes could be on perfect locations regarding the subway. If you already know where you want to hang out the most be it Yokohama or Shibya choose accordingly. I can’t stress enough on the cost of public transport, you will lose all your money before you even notice.

If your accommodation is  too far away from everywhere your money will go to the train and subway tickets, occasionally buses. I have found out that almost the best location in whole Tokyo would be somewhere on odakyuu (dark green) line. This time I stayed at a friend’s place at Yoyogi-koen and I must say that I could go from there to all the most famous places by subway, very easily with only few transfers. Even going to the airport was simple and easy. Odakyuu line! I used mostly metro so if you prefer trains naturally, get a place at any station as close to the center as possible. I found subway a lot better, faster, there were less people and more lines. Transferring between trains and subways was tricky and if you are not good at orientation I don’t suggest, moreover you have to buy separate tickets.

  • FOOD and DRINKS

When it comes to food try to eat during lunch hours when they have discounts. When you go drinking favor Izakayas where you can buy cheaper alcohol and many different dishes in small size (but the taste is excellent!). Of course, if you want to eat better food you will have to spend more money. If you want ramen you better look for a good restaurant because ramen is either good or bad and you don’t want to pay a lot for crap, for a carp maybe… If you want sushi go to the fish market and try the restaurants around there. (What I am trying to say is that when you want good try the best) If you are couch surfing suggest to your host to cook Japanese home made food together, split the cost. You can try barbecue in a park (save on alcohol by buying it from a supermarket). And do not forget to visit supermarkets in the evenings when they sell sushi and other meals with BIG DISCOUNTS! Do not miss this. You deserve to go to a sushi restaurant at least once but then switch to supermarket sushi it’s really good too. You could try obentou places too, where they will pack you a lunch of your choice to go, that’s a bit cheaper than eating in.

Whenever you go to a restaurant, bar or a coffee shop, especially if you are alone, check if you have to pay for the table or not. At many places they will ask you to pay extra table fee and it’s always as high no matter if you are one or five.

If you drink a lot of alcohol, a heavy drinker bum who ended up in Tokyo somehow, try out karaoke bars. They usually have a package for one hour of singing and unlimited alcohol. This might be cheaper than getting drunk at a bar (especially if you are not alone) but I somehow suspect it’s still more expensive than buying your drinks from a shop. Though, at karaoke bar they have all kind of fancy drinks.

  • Shopping

My suggestion: don’t buy anything. If you insists check out discounts and go to the streets where young people usually hang out like Harajuku, it might be cheaper there than in shopping malls. There are certain shopping streets where you can buy souvenirs a bit cheaper compared to tourist traps but overall they are expensive everywhere. Try out “Korea towns” or areas a bit further away from popular subway stations.

There is also Daiso and other hyaku-en shoppu (100 yen shop) where you can buy almost everything for just 100 yen, they are worth checking out if you are running low on cash but still need to buy souvenirs and such. The products are pretty good quality and they have variety of interesting cookies, sweets and drinks.

Second hand shops in Japan are good but maybe a bit expensive? The quality of available products is actually pretty good and you might be able to find some special stuffs you might never find anywhere else. They are also good sightseeing spots because then you can take a look at Japanese everyday life. What kind of clothes do they wear, what kind of toys do their kids play with, what kind of dishes can you find in their kitchens?

  • Traveling

Finally if you want to travel somewhere from Tokyo like Kyoto or Osaka then there are cheap night buses. (If you didn’t buy a rail pass outside Japan then unfortunately, you can’t by it in Japan.)Train might cost you 100 bucks one direction, a vip bus 50 bucks (if not more) but the cheap buses are from 15 to 30 bucks. The problem is that you need to know Japanese in order to book a ticket online and the offices from where the buses leave can be located in tricky places. If you can’t speak Japanese ask a friend, use google translator or just google, do your everything! Learn Japanese! Remember that tickets are sold out pretty fast so start booking early. Japanese have also their own sites for super cheap airplane tickets.

Some more readings here and here

Don’t miss your flight back home!

More cheapo tips:
Guardian: Tokyo Cheap Eats
BBC: Tokyo on Budget
24 Hours in Tokyo
TOp 5 Budget Eats in Tokyo
Budget Travel Guide to Tokyo


South Korea: How and What?

How to enjoy?

Lonely backpacker will be lonely.

So sad.

In my opinion you get the most out of South Korea when you go there with your friends or make some friends there and travel with them, you will be able to eat samgyopsal, go to noraebang and have more fun in all other ways. I traveled for two weeks alone and I think it was quite depressing (maybe because it was the winter?), many cities don’t have hostels where you could meet other foreigners and if they have there are not many westerners anyway, young Koreans can speak English but good or bad that varies greatly. I suggest you use CouchSurfing outside Seoul, Gyuongju and Pusan, this way you can get a precious chance to taste home made food and sneak a peak into Korean everyday life.

If you wonder what most of the foreigners do in South Korea the answer is they teach English or study. Most of the tourists and backpackers hang out within Seoul and mostly at Hongdae after sun sets. If you go to smaller cities you will feel everyone’s eyes on yourself, not many foreigners go there.

Korea is a pretty safe country and the people are honest. Though, in subways and on the street everyone will bump into you and it freaking hurts. During weekends drunk people will pee and throw up all over, sleep on the streets and just be drunk. See, it’s even safe to sleep on the streets, your wallet and phone won’t be stolen.

So what to bring?

One word

One item

This summer.

The bad smell will be beaten.

And you ready to smell good again?

Deodorant.

Coming soon to the backpacks.

DEODORANT, LOTS OF DEODORANT! I have heard about myths that they sell deodorant at some shops like Watsons but I have never seen it on the shelves. You can buy perfume anywhere. Maybe Koreans don’t sweat at all, must be that. DON’T FORGET DEODORANT!

If you are fat, I mean normal sized in the west bring clothes, mostly pants because in Korea normal is fat and skeleton is normal. Though, you can always find big sized clothes at Itaewon but I doubt you want to look like black rapper or alcoholic. If you are a skeleton congrats, you will be able to buy so many fancy clothes, yay! By the way, if you have boobs pack bras, if you don’t then there won’t be any problem.

Everything else can be bought in Korea.

But you need to pack something, right?

A trash bag because you know, there are no trash bins anywhere on the streets. Even if you go trough them with a loop, you won’t find even a shadow of a trash bin, not a trace, nothing. You know why? My friend had an answer, she said: “Koreans don’t create any trash so they don’t need trash bins.” Simple.

High heels, make up, designer bags, and your best clothes including all of your mini skirts. (guys too!) And of course, a mirror so you can look at yourself every 5 minutes.

Your smart phone. You can leave your old cellphone home, it won’t work there and even if it will you won’t be able to buy a sim card if you are just visiting, or you can but it might be way too difficult and annoying. Some foreign phones and sims work there though so if you are not scared of big bills then… If you have a smart phone it will be useful because you will be able to access Internet at least and use skype and kakao talk.

A big empty bag because you will end up buying too much and an empty stomach so you can eat as much as possible.

Money, hell yeah, you are gonna spend like crazy. It’s cheap but remember, you are gonna spend like crazy!

If you don’t want to use whitening creams you better bring all of what you need along.

What to buy?

Kimbab. The food of the poor.

I heart Korea t-shirt or other Korea related t-shirt, just because those are cheap and cool souvenirs. I brought one I heart Korea t shirt to all my Russian relatives and they love them. LoL

Hambok, a traditional Korean dress just because it’s so pretty. You will never use it for anything (maybe for rugs later) but still, it’s pretty. Go to Namdaemun and the big shopping center at the center, I think on the second (maybe third) floor you will be able to find a cheap little shop for a simple ordinary dresses.

Chocolates with seaweed fillings. Surprisingly good. They also sell delicious stone chocolates aka ugly m&m’s and choco pies (this is typical Korean snack, they also have with strawberry filling which is my personal favorite). Why you are at it buy some Gim, dried laver, it’s tasty.

Ginseng anything, should be very healthy!

Key chains, little silk purses, magnets, teddy bear key chains, wooden masks and fancy fans. + Every possible tourist shit there is.

SHOES! Especially some street at Gangnam (I’m such a good guide, just go there, some street, you will find it somehow) is full of shoe shops filled with branded shoes at cheap prices! At Dongdaemun you will be able to find a shoe market, maybe not the real stuff but very interesting and cheap.

An animal hoodie with ears, tails and other extras. Those are damn cute. I have one with wings sticking from the hood. If you wear one of those back at home they will think you are a crazy otaku or even weird larper, good luck.

Korean won boxers, got one pair for my dad and little brother. It’s funny, trust me.

Mountain climbing gear, there is a wast variety of products, anything you imagined about. Koreans love their mountains!

Make up and perfume, Korean stuff is famous around Asia. All sorts of facial masks and creams, shampoos and million things. Just remember that most of the masks and creams might have whitening effect.

Korean celebrity shits like little pillows, pencils, purses, posters, stickers, key chains, CDs, mugs, clocks, socks, t shirts, fans, umbrellas or anything made to please mad screaming fan girls and Japanese tourists. If you have a personal favorite always ask what they have to offer but if you are not familiar with Korean Showbiz just go for mugs with prints of boy band members hugging each other while dressed in pink and yellow.

Personal stamp because it seems cool while you are there but once you get home you will wonder why the heck did you buy it in the first place. Regrets, regrets. Still buy it.

Other stuff: tableware, cups for alcohol, pan for samgyopsal because by then you are probably so much in love with it you want to try cooking it at your house.