How To Maximise Your Holiday Experience

How To Maximise Your Holiday Experience

This is a guest post from Seb from Aspiring backpacker dot com

Travel can be an absolute joy, but you can always make it better and that is something that we all aspire to do. Of course, this generally means that you need to spend a lot more money to have the amazing experiences that you read about in magazines or see on TV, but it doesn’t always have to be this way. There are a few different ways to really get more out of your travel experience that I have learnt on the road and I have decided to write this blog post to help you get that little bit extra out of your holiday.

Start it early

I think one of the best ways to maximise your holiday experience is to hack it a little and start it early. For example, if you are going away for a weekend, why not start your holiday directly after work on Friday? I did this recently when I used to book one of the Stansted airport hotels, which was a great experience for me. I remember waking up and being totally relaxed and I didn’t have to wait in the terminal for many hours before my flight. It was great to get something nice to eat at the hotel restaurant and then I took the shuttle bus directly to the airport, which took only a few minutes.

Research before you get there

One thing that I know about traveling is that I want to be doing just that and not wasting time on doing other unnecessary things, therefore I like to research where I am going a bit beforehand. Of course you don’t have to do extensive research, just a basic outline of a few things that you want to see and then let the rest flow. The less time you spend researching whilst you are on holiday, the more time you can actually spend getting out there and actually enjoying it!

Plan some rest

Of course maximising your holiday is about using the time that you have the best that you can, but this doesn’t mean that you should be trying to get something out of every waking second! Travel is tiring (in the best way possible), so taking some time out can actually to help you enjoy taking everything in. There are many ways to relax on holiday, but I like to plan a rest day in the middle of my shorter trips and for my longer trips I always think it is important to have a break every two weeks or so. By being properly rested you will be raring to go for your next adventure and it will give you some time to reflect on some of the amazing things that you have already done.

Get into the local culture

One of the biggest mistakes and problems that locals have with tourists is that they are generally not very receptive to the local culture and don’t usually have culturally different experiences other than those that they are used to. For example, people eating McDonalds in Thailand when there is amazing Thai street food everywhere (it’s cheap too). Why would you do this when there are so many amazing places to explore? I, personally, like to get amongst the local culture and this involves things like wandering out of the centre of a town or city, eating where the locals eat, or learning a few words of the local language. I think that you can get so much more out of your experience by doing this. Even just the joys of watching people going about their normal lives in an area without tourists is very interesting.

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

If you’re following us on Facebook, you must have noticed that we’re in Goa. No, we are not here for a week or two but are here for a few months. We’re not “holiday”ing here but are volunteering in Goa. This is our way of slow travel because we want to make our way to Sri Lanka by January 2017.

So what exactly are we doing in Goa?

A little work in the hostel..

I’m volunteering in Goa ‘s Red Door Hostel in Anjuna. The same hostel also has a restaurant where San is working in the bar and kitchen. We get two meals a day here and get to sleep for free. I don’t get paid because I’m a volunteer but San get a little money because he’s a professionally trained chef. Both of us work for half a day and get a day off per week. Our work is very relaxed and a lot of fun.

A little travel blogging..

2016 was a very crazy year. I traveled to 10 countries and didn’t even get a chance to write about them all. I had to take a forced break from blogging while I was attending back-to-back music festivals and later preparing for my German examination. Sitting behind the hostel help desk for half a day has given me a little stability that I needed. I’m finally getting some writing done.

And a little party..

Goa is the birthplace of Psychedelic Trance genre and a typical old school Goa party has no match. This is where I got my first taste of Psychedelic trance music back in 2004 and I was hooked. So yes, we are partying a LOT here. Again.

Why did we choose Goa?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you know by now how much I love Goa. A lot of people hate it because it’s getting touristy, but which place isn’t? Honestly, Goa is massive and there are many empty areas. It’s mostly the beach belt that gets crowded and we have our own secret spots. We’re in North Goa, which is busier than South Goa.

The cost of living in Goa is definitely lower than most of the places we know of, so it is easy to survive here with little money. The fact that we’re sleeping and eating for free has made it possible for us to live off the earnings of our travel blog. Goa is a good place for digital nomads.

I visited Goa for the first time in 2004 and have always wanted to live here. After finally finding courage to quit my full time job, I can finally make my dream come true. Better late than never, don’t you think?

Want to meet us?

A lot of my friends and blog readers are in Goa at the moment because it is a popular spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’re planning on visiting, do check out my post about Goa travel tips and my detailed guide about North Goa Beaches. It has some amazing hotel and hostel reccomendations too. Oh, and send us a message on Facebook or Instagram if you want to meet us in Goa.



A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia change me as a traveler?

Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia change me as a traveler?

This is one of my rare “travel diary” kind of posts which is a result of my introspection and where I express my deepest thoughts.

Can visiting a place for just a few days change me for life?

I thought to myself as I reflected back on the time I spent in Yogyakarta.

I arrived here as a backpacker with a typical “herd mentality”. Over the last few years, without realizing I was usually following the typical backpacker trail. Yes, from time to time, I did make an effort to interact with the locals and to learn about their culture. However, the majority of my time was spent with the other backpackers who I had met while traveling and spending many hours partying. But hey, I thought I was different.

Now here I am, thinking of my fondest memories of my travel in Indonesia, and what’s the first thing that comes to my mind? Spending many hours with the locals, learning more about their culture, learning their language and creating new things every day with my own hands in Yogyakarta after watching how the locals did it.

Now don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with being a backpacker. It is a lot of fun being one and I will be a backpacker for a long time. Not everyone has the same travel style and it is absolutely okay as long you’re happy without harming anyone or anything else in the process. This post is not about that – it is just an expression of my thoughts after hours of introspection.

I can’t forget the time I said “no” for a party in Indonesia because, by that time, I was absolutely in love with Indonesian culture and wanted to wake up early to see more. I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t got my taste of experiencing local culture in Yogyakarta. My mind has found a new snack and it is always hungry for more. I am hopelessly in love, and this time it is with Indonesian culture.

If you ask me to describe Yogyakarta in short, I would just utter three words – Art, culture, & heritage. Mind you, it is not one of those pretentious places where you spend a bomb to experience the local way of life by being a part of a carefully orchestrated charade. It is a place where things get real, whether it is making pottery with the villagers or carving faces on clay puppets.

Before visiting Yogyakarta, a lot of people mentioned that it is a very touristy destination in Indonesia. But upon visiting, I wondered where the tourists were. I didn’t see any while I was exploring some very interesting areas in Yogyakarta. I got my answer when I visited the famous Borobudur temple. Yes, many people visit Yogyakarta to see this largest Buddhist temple that has a fascinating history. But only a few stay on for a longer time to explore the villages and the old town areas.

What is it about Yogyakarta that had this effect on me? Perhaps the fact I was making things with my hands made a difference. Or maybe it was because I was away from my smartphone while making those things that I finally allowed my brain to think and introspect.

Today I promise myself to take out time away from my gadgets as often as I can. I will use this time to create something with my own hands. I will give more time to Art.

Art is magic and it makes us forget a lot of things while making us realize who we are.

Did Yogyakarta transform me into a cultural traveler?

I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I hope to find out soon. What do you think? Have you ever felt this way about a destination? How has travel changed you?

PS: watch out, an epic Yogyakarta post is coming up next where I will shed more light on the things I did.

PPS: to get a glimpse, you can stalk me a little on Instagram 😉

Photo Credit: Bressiona Chastity (Indonesia) and Najii (Japan)


Yogyakarta changed me
An Unbelievably Stunning Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

An Unbelievably Stunning Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

No visit to Turkey is complete without experiencing a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. After all, it’s one of the most beautiful hot air balloon ride locations in the world. After having seen so many pictures of Cappadocia’s surreal landscape with fairy chimneys and caves, I knew I had to visit this place. On an impulse, I booked my ticket to Turkey and there was no looking back.

With Cappadocia on my mind, I researched for weeks to find the “right” balloon company to fly with. A month before my Turkey trip, after exchanging a few emails with Erdal Yaris, I finally decided to confirm my slot with Turkiye Balloons. Why did I choose them? I will tell you at the bottom of my post, but first I want to share how it was to experience a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Flying over Fairy Chimneys - Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

The View! Flying over Fairy Chimneys – Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

What it’s like to experience a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia


A day before my flight, a staff member from Turkiye Balloons called up my hotel to confirm if I was staying and to let them know that they will pick me up at 4:20 am. Normally it is me who double checks and confirms so it was a pleasant surprise to see that they did it before I did

The Pick Up

At 4:20 am I was picked up from right outside my hotel in a big car with “Turkiye Balloons” logo. I was given a nametag with a code as I entered the car. The car drove us to Turkiye Balloons office where around 50-60 more people were enjoying their delicious Turkish breakfast.

The Open Buffet Breakfast

I was presently surprised when I entered the breakfast hall because it was as lavish as a star hotel. With a lot of variety of bread, cheese, olives, salami, eggs, cereal, juices, flavored tea, baklavas the breakfast spread here was expansive and had something for even the pickiest eaters. Even though I wasn’t so hungry at this time, I couldn’t help enjoying a big breakfast.

Pre-Briefing and Pre-Flight

Getting Ready to fly - Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

Getting Ready to fly – Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

After the breakfast, I finally understood the reason for the code on my nametag. The code was an identifier because so that we could find out which group we were in. Our group was called out and soon we were driven from the breakfast hall to tan open field where several balloons were being inflated. I saw a few massive balloons with the logo of Turkiye Balloons being inflated right in front of us as they gradually grew to their massive shape. Soon our balloon was ready and it was time to climb the basket. We also received a pre-briefing with safety instructions, but at this point, I was too excited to listen.

Rising Up

Flying around in Goreme - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turke

Flying around in Goreme – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Our pilot made our basket feel as light as a feather because we rose up into the air gently. The pilot held on to the burner for the balloon to gain more height and soon we saw many other balloons flying under us. Soon it was time to enjoy Cappadocia’s epic sunrise.

Epic Sunrise, View, and the Flight

Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and to make things better, the sunrises here are phenomenal. It’s because the sky gets flooded by more than 100 hot air balloons in what looks like a celebration of a brand new day.

So many balloons - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

So many balloons – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

As we rose higher, I felt like one of the luckiest people on earth to be enjoying a stunning view both below and above me. The sunlight illuminated Cappadocia’s unique landscape under us.

Cappadocia's stunning landscape - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia’s stunning landscape – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

I’m not joking when I say that I felt I was a part of Star Wars and was flying over Planet Tatooine with Anakin Skywalker. After all, George Lucas did want to shoot Planet Tatooine’s scenes in Cappadocia but did not get the permit and he cloned the landscape in Tunisia where the shooting eventually happened.

View from the top - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

View from the top – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Luckily, the morning was windy and we flew over some of Cappadocia’s most famous spots. Over the next hour, we gradually floated above the famous rose valley, love valley and around strangely shaped fairy chimneys. I wouldn’t have recognized these valleys but our pilot was nice enough to point them out to us.

Landing and Celebration Champagne

It’s funny how we normally don’t realize how fast the time is going when we are having fun. Even though the sun was shining brighter than before, I was surprised when the pilot told us it was time to land. From up above, we could see a few cars that were lining up below us. These cars had trailers attached and it seemed we were going to land on one of them. How are we going to that? The trailers did not appear to be very big from up above.

This is how the balloons land on top of cars! - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

This is how the balloons land on top of cars! – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

To our surprise, our pilot gently guided our balloon and we floated above the trailer. We couldn’t help but clap at the pilot’s precision as we landed on top of one of those cars. It was time to celebrate!

Champagne ceremony - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Champagne ceremony – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

With my flight completion certificate in one hand and a champagne glass in the other, I couldn’t stop smiling as I gazed skywards at the birds that flew above us. Yes, I was one of them a few minutes back. If you’re heading to Turkey (or near Turkey), please do yourself a favor and get on one of these flights. There is a reason why many famous travel magazines call this an “experience of a lifetime.”

Tips to make the most of your Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

01 | Research and Pick the right balloon company

Do your research in advance and pick the right balloon company. I highly recommend Turkiye Balloons. A typical flight length is 60 minutes but some operators also provide 90 minute long flights for an additional cost. Turkiye Balloons charges 120 Euros for a 60-minute flight, while the other operators charge 150 Euros and can stretch to 250 Euros depending on the balloon company and the duration.

02 | Watch out for scammers.

There are many fake websites online which will charge your credit card without a flight. If you’re visiting Istanbul before Cappadocia, be careful of tour operators because some of them may try to sell you fake balloon flight tickets.

03 | Reserve your slot

Once you have picked the right balloon company, be sure to reserve your slot in advance because they usually fill out months in advance.

04 | Be Flexible with your schedule

Balloon flight depends on the weather conditions so do stay for a couple of extra days to avoid weather to mess up with your plans.

05 | Carry a jacket and stay warm

Yes, Cappadocia is usually warm during the day but it’s surprisingly cold at 4:30 am. Please do yourself a favor and carry a jacket if you don’t want to be uncomfortable during your flight.

That one time I flew over Mars - Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

That one time I flew over Mars – Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

06 | Planning your Cappadocia itinerary

Be flexible with your itinerary for Cappadocia, else you will be disappointed. The usual pick-up time a balloon ride is 4:30 am in the morning, so if you’re reaching Cappadocia early morning, don’t expect to go for a ride on the same day.

07 | Don’t forget to fully charge your camera

Make sure you fully charge all your gadgets because you’re going to want to click 100s of photos and videos! Carry extra battery if you can.

Why Did I Choose Turkiye Balloons?

If you search online, you will find at least 50+ tour operators and companies that offer hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Which one to pick and how? Simply reading TripAdvisor reviews was not enough for me, so I wrote to a few hot air balloon companies and decided to pick Turkiye Balloons because of the below reasons:

01 | Experienced Pilots and Company Reputation

Even though Turkiye Balloons is one of the newest hot air balloon ride companies in Cappadocia, they have some of the best pilots of Cappadocia and every pilot has minimum 2500 hours of flight experience. This is an important point for me and should be for you as well because you obviously don’t want to put your life in danger by picking a wrong balloon tour operator. Oh, and by the way, the pilots speak very good English!

02 | Smaller Groups = Better Photos

Here’s the thing – I’m a loner and I don’t like group activities or tours. However, if I ever decide to go on a tour, I always pick up the smallest groups. I had seen too many photos and videos on the Internet of people who went with 20-ish other people on a single balloon ride. Imagine having to share a little standing spot with so many people and trying to fight for a good corner spot for a view! No, I did not want to do that. In one of the emails, Erdal mentioned the group size and I knew I had found the right balloon company. From my experience, I found out that most of the balloon companies had different prices based on the number of people.

03 | Quick Response Time

If you’re wondering why response time matters in this case, I will try to explain in the best way possible. Have ever you decided to pick a brand based on their amazing customer service? Chances are, you have. If so, then why not in the case of your tour provider? More than the resolution, it’s usually the speed of response that makes any brand’s customer service awesome. What if you need to cancel your balloon flight for some reason and you need your money to be refunded? Would you want to wait for weeks before someone acknowledges your email? I have burned my fingers in the past when I never got a refund canceling an expensive boat ride in Myanmar that was booked through a tour agent. I sent multiple emails, but never got a refund and eventually had to give up. In this age of technology and automation, I really don’t understand why some companies take forever to respond to their prospective customers. While most of the balloon providers took a few days and some even weeks, my emails to Turkiye Balloons were usually answered within the same hour.

04 | Passenger and Flight Insurance

Let’s face it, accident CAN happen everywhere and it’s better to be insured before than to cry later. Luckily, Turkiye balloons also insures their passengers and flights to protect against unforeseeable circumstances.

How to Book:

Visit Turkiye Balloon’s website and book yourself a slot. Alternatively, you can send them an email at

An Unbelievably Stunning Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey
An Unbelievably Stunning Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey
An Unbelievably Stunning Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Disclaimer: A big thanks to Turkiye Balloons for the complimentary balloon ride. All opinions, as usual, are my own.

Have you ever experienced a hot air balloon flight? If so, I’d love to know where. Let me know in the comments.

You may also like:

Sleeping in a cave in Goreme, Cappadocia

50 Surreal Travel Destinations

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

A Detailed Guide to eVisa for India

A Detailed Guide to eVisa for India

EVisa for India – Avoid India Tourist Visa Surprises. Make sure to check your visa requirements before you book your trip to beautiful India.

As a European, it is really easy for me to travel around the world. The euro goes far and I only have to worry about visas to a few countries. But here is the thing, India not only requires a visa for German citizens but US citizens also need a visa to India. So I am now writing this article hoping that you have a better experience than I did when trying to get my India eTourist visa.

India eTourist visa application explained

India eTourist visa application explained

Here’s the story about my eVisa application experience for India (Indian e-Tourist Visa)

A few months ago I decided to try the new India eTourist Visa. My employment visa for India had expired and I needed a new visa to fly back to India with Sonal. I decided give eVisa a try instead of going through the lengthy embassy visa application process (which I also explain in the latter part of this post). For those of you that don’t know yet, India has launched a new eTourist visa scheme, so most travelers can get an Indian visa online.

This system supersedes the existing tourist visa on arrival where certain travelers were able to pay a fee upon arrival at immigrations. Travelers now have to apply before arrival to India for a tourist visa. They get a PDF that the airline desk clerk will check before boarding the flight. Then once in India, there is a special immigration queue for eVisas and voila, you are set!

This eVisa is actually a great implementation as it not only boosts the tourism industry for Indian locals but it also eliminates costs and is a great benefit to all us travelers. As I said, the tourist visa is now issued online and you will simply receive it in PDF format via email. Your Indian visa will be linked electronically to your passport so you will no longer receive a visa sticker.

Enough about the benefits of the program. I started the process at 8PM and finished 12 hours later, in a nightmare night in the Philippines. The Government website ( is tortuous. I had innumerable problems uploading my ID photo, my passport information page and worse of all, paying. The user experience was even more frustrating than getting a traditional visa. Instead of sleeping before my snorkeling trip in Palawan, I ended up wasting my entire night on this website.

So when a blogger friend talked about, I instantly thought this was an interesting option for my readers. is a US based company whose motto is “zero frustration policy when it comes to visa processing”. For an additional fee, they’ve made an impressively easy interface that makes the visa application a pleasant one (or as pleasant as it can be). After researching them in depth, they provide a few great service options that are very interesting: travelers can save an application and complete it at any time, iVisa system takes any type of image and they make it compliant to the visa application format (versus the Government website which only accepts a few formats and in ridiculously small sizes), they take any form of payment (including Amex and paypal), and best of all, unlike the Government website, they accept visa applications far in advance from the trip.

It’s crucial to understand that there have been applications rejected by the government in the past so waiting until the last minute to process the visas is not a great idea. The government service will only accept applications 33 days before your actual travel date, which made me a bit anxious, since this seemed to be too close to my actual trip.

How does the Indian eTourist Visa look like?

Indian etourist visa

Indian etourist visa

India eTourist Visa validity

One thing to remember is that the validity of your Indian visa will only begin on the day of your arrival and you can not apply more than 33 days before your arrival to India. It’s a single entry visa and if you wish to spend more than one month in India then you will have to contact the Indian embassy as the India eTourist Visa is valid for 30 days alone and it seems like you can only apply for 2 eVisas in one calendar year.

Visa restrictions

If you want to apply for an Indian eTourist visa, make sure you are arriving to India via plane and through one of these airports: Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum & Varanasi. You can exit India by any means of transportation and from any point of exit.

If this is not the case, you will need a paper visa (see below how to get it in the US)

What will you need for your online visa to India application?

You will need a valid passport (valid at least 6 months after your arrival date) and a scan of your passport photo page along with a recent digital photograph of yourself.

After you make the payment online, you’ll receive an email with your visa after a few days, which you can print and take to the airport with you. It’s that easy. Show the printed copy to the immigration officer and a visa will be attached to your passport on the spot.

Again, I recommend that you use to avoid any frustration with the process. Remember you can apply online at any time with them, and the visa will be processed exactly 33 days prior to departure (so they apply on the first available date, ensuring that the traveler doesn’t have to worry about the visa at all).

The traditional embassy Indian visa

For the unlucky ones that can’t get an eVisa, I thought it would be good to explain the traditional bureaucracy involved in getting a paper visa. I wish you luck 🙂

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from USA via post

Step 1 – Visit the India Visa Center for Cox and King website, fill in your details and click on “Proceed”. Make sure to check your info though as you CAN NOT change this later.

Click on “Proceed” again and then on “Click Here” which takes you to the application website and a redirect button will pop up.

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from USA via post

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from USA via post

Step 2 – Be sure to check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your arrival date in India. Fill in details.

Step 3 – Start the online application. It says “Regular Visa Application”. Click that link.

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from USA via post - Online application

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from USA via post – Online application

Another page will pop up which is the actual application with an orange banner across the top.
At the end of your application it will ask if it’s all correct. Once you say YES, you cannot change your details so verify that you entered everything correctly before continuing.

Step 4 – While filling out this application, note that the format for entering dates are as follows: DAY/MONTH/YEAR which is not the typical way we write dates in the U.S (month/day).

Step 5 – Fill out all the pages. I used this EXAMPLE Application Form whenever I had doubts filling in my details.

Step 6 – Once you completed your form, you then have to click on “APPOINTMENT AND PAYMENT” to go back to the CKGS website to complete the rest of your application.

Step 7 – You will now sign and complete extra supplementary forms.
Step 8 – Select your mode of submission. I used Shipping. Simply print out your label at the end which will automatically be created.


  • You have to go to a FedEx office to send your documents, no pickups allowed. At FedEx, only use the free envelope (see picture below) to send with the shipping label provided by CKGS. If you use the wrong envelope then your entire application will be cancelled or kept on hold.
    E tourist visa - how to apply for an eVisa for India

    E tourist visa – how to apply for an eVisa for India

  • Send ONLY 1 (one) application per envelope. You can not send 2 applications in one. That goes for the payment as well.


  • DO NOT request a pickup by FedEx, your application will be put on hold/cancelled. I called CKGS to verify this so I would advise against it!
  • Again, DO NOT send more than 1 application in the envelope.

Step 9 – You can pay by using a Credit or Debit Card/Money Order/Cashier’s Check/Bankers Check (Name of ‘Cox & Kings Global Services USA LLC.) I confirmed this various times by calling their call center and your payment HAS to be made separately for each applicant. You cannot create a payment for multiple applicants.

Step 10 – Once you completed the online process, you will submit your physical application via shipping.

You should arrange your documents in the same order as mentioned in the document checklist.

Tick off the boxes on both the checklists, and add 1 copy of the document checklist in your envelope.

Finally, I got an email from CKGS after they received my actual application package. It simply said ‘Received, but Not Verified’.

After that I received another email with the outcome of the my visa. I know this is a long process but if all your documents are in order then the entire process is actually very stress-free.

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from Germany via post

Step 1 – Complete your application form online by clicking here. Click on Regular Visa Application.

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from Germany via post

How to Apply for Indian Tourist Visa from Germany via post

Step 2 – Complete your details online. Remember that you will have to upload a recent digital passport-sized photo as well as a physical one in your application. Make sure to verify that all your details are correct as you will not be able to edit it later.

Step 3 – you will need to send your physical application to the following address:

Residents of Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen–Anhalt, Thueringen, should submit their applications to: International Visa Services Europe GmbH, Fritschestraße 61, 10627 Berlin

Residents of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria should submit their applications to:International Visa Services Europe GmbH, Schellingstr. 35, 80799 Munich

You will need to add the following documents with your application:

  1. Copy of your online application form.
  2. 2 recent photographs (50x50 mm, colour & identical with a light background).
  3. Passport (should be valid for more than 6 months).
  4. If you are applying for something different than a tourist visa, check that you have everything that’s listed in the Check List.
  5. Proof of Payment
  6. Self addressed and stamped envelope (including € 3.95 stamps for up to 2 passports) to return passport
  7. Visa Order Form for Postal application for Munich.
    Visa Order Form for Postal application for Berlin.

Notes. Minimum processing time is 2 weeks. Ensure that your envelope is properly sealed.

Incomplete applications and incorrect fees will delay the processing of your application.

The passports will be returned only through registered mail (‘Einschreiben Uebergabe’) or through DHL.

Do you have any friends that are visiting India soon? If so, do share this post with them.


El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? A Comparison of Palawan’s top destinations

El Nido or Coron? Or both? If you’re thinking of heading to Palawan for a quick trip and are not sure where to go or what to miss, this post will help you make some decisions. Moreover, this post will also act as an excellent guide if you’re visiting both these destinations in Palawan and are looking for information about how to reach, places to stay, eating options, costs, beaches, attractions, party and more!

Where and what is Palawan all about?

Palawan in the Philippines has been declared as the Most Beautiful Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveler for many years in the row. It’s not a single island but is a group of many islands of different shapes and sizes.

If you follow us on Instagram, you must be knowing that San and I spent a few weeks in the Philippines and a majority of our time in Palawan. We visited both El Nido and Coron but spent only one day in Puerto Princesa. However, before we visited Palawan, we were trying to figure out if we should only visit one of these two destinations. Our dilemma was – El Nido or Coron? We didn’t find adequate comparison online on several factors, so here’s something I wrote to help you pick El Nido or Coron, depending on what you want out of your Palawan experience.


01 | Ease of Reaching

How to reach Coron

You can reach Coron by a direct flight to Busuanga airport which is only 30-45 minutes away from Coron town. Philippine Airlines runs daily flights from Manila and Cebu to Busuanga. Alternatively, you can also reach Coron from El Nido by a ferry that takes roughly 7 hours. This ferry that runs between Coron and El Nido is a little shaky and reminded me of Thailand’s Lomprayah. If you want to save money, you can also travel to Coron from Manila by 2Go Travel, a “mega ferry”. This boat is less like a ferry and more like a cruise vessel with sleeping berths in an air conditioned area, lobby, restaurant, bar and deck.

How to reach El Nido

There were no direct flights to El Nido until recently. As of 2016, AirSwift runs direct flights from Manila and Cebu to El Nido. However, these flights are expensive. Alternatively, you can also fly to Puerto Princesa, which is serviced by budget carriers such as Air Asia. From Puerto Princesa, El Nido is 5-6 hours away by a van and will cost you around 1000 – 700 pesos per person. We paid ₱ 700 because we were 7 people that met at the airport and decided to book a van together but we had heard of people that paid ₱ 1000 pesos per person too. You can also take a bus between Puerto Princesa and El Nido but these buses take more than 7 hours because they stop often.

Winner: Coron Both (Coron had this edge over El Nido till early 2016)

02 | Cost Comparison

02.1 | Places to stay

Places to stay in Coron

Upon reaching Coron, we found many places with affordable rooms starting from ‎₱ 500 pesos per night for a double room with fan and internet. We stayed at Coron Guapos which was just a three-month old property in Coron town at the time of our visit and was well managed. This place is right next to the more popular Marley’s guest house. We also booked our tour from our hotel and had the experience to remember.

Places to stay in El Nido

It was difficult finding budget rooms in El Nido, so we decided to book two hostel beds instead. The most affordable place was Our Melting Pot Hostel which cost us ‎₱ 450 pesos per bed and was full but we were lucky to get two bunk beds. We highly recommend this hostel and their tours. Even though this hostel is a typical party hostel, their dormitory area was always quiet and our sleep was never disturbed. Another hostel option in El Nido is Spin Designer Hostel, which is a boutique hostel(‎₱ 800 pesos per bed).

02.2 | Eating options

Eating in Coron vs El Nido

After spending a few days in Bohol’s Panglao island, we found the food in El Nido to be expensive, even the street food! We smiled with relief upon reaching Coron town because we found a variety of affordable eating options. The food in Coron was much cheaper as compared to that in El Nido, even the street food. We recommend Levine’s restaurant for their all day breakfast.

02.3 | Cost of Tours

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

Our Tour in El Nido, Palawan

The tours in Coron started from as low as ‎₱ 650 pesos per person but were for ‎₱ 1200 pesos per person in El Nido. While in El Nido, we did tour A and tour C where the cost to use a kayak during our tours was ‎₱ 100 pesos per person for 30 minutes. Coron also has a tour called “the ultimate Coron tour” with an unlimited use of Kayak. This is the most expensive tour in Coron and costs ‎₱ 1400 pesos per person. But we were able to negotiate a price of ₱ 1000 per person by making our own custom tour which was like “the ultimate Coron tour” but minus one attraction.

Overall costs

The cost of moving around on a tricycle was lower in Coron. Even scooter rental prices were lower in Coron than El Nido. This could be because the demand was higher in El Nido due to more visitors.

Winner: Coron

03 | Viewpoints

Viewpoints in Coron

Coron Viewpoint – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

Coron Viewpoint on the way to Kayangan lake – One of the most photographed part of Palawan

If you’re a sucker for viewpoints and don’t shy away from making an effort to climb for hours just for a bird’s eye view, you’re going to love Coron. Coron has three main viewpoints. The first is Mt. Tapyas in the main Coron town which you will see from a distance. The second is the spot as shown in the above picture on the way to Kayangan Lake as you climb on top of the rocks that surround the lake. The second one is the one that’s usually featured in every travel article and webpage about Coron. The third as shown in the below picture one can be seen on the road to Busuanga town from Coron town and there’s no need to climb anything to view it. I don’t have a picture of the first because we climbed Mt. Tapyas in the middle of the night after getting a kick of energy from Tanduay rum.

Viewpoint on Coron - Busuanga road

Viewpoint on Coron – Busuanga road

Viewpoints in El Nido

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

San at Matinloc Shrine Viewpoint on Matinloc Shrine Island, El Nido, Palawan

The only viewpoint we found in El Nido was on Matinloc Shrine island. The climb is of little effort but is on pointed rocks. The view is spectacular.

Winner: Coron

04 | Beaches

Beaches in Coron

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

Banana island, Coron, Palawan – Pic by Juvelle Pua

When in Coron, the beaches can’t be accessed by just walking. The nearest beach is there is Cabo beach which is 30 minutes away from Coron town. Unlike other beaches of Coron, there’s no need to take a boat to reach Cabo beach. Other noteworthy beaches are Banol beach and the beaches on Banana island. We visited Banol beach just by chance while we were snorkeling around the skeleton wreck which is right next to it.

Beaches in El Nido

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan

El Nido has more beaches than Coron. Just like Coron, the best beaches only be accessed by a boat or a long scooter ride. But El Nido wins points over Coron here because the main beach is just walking distance away from the main town area. This beach kind of reminded me of Railay’s beaches with limestone formations but was five times more crowded! Our recommendation – seven commandos beach, Talisay island beach, hidden beach and Matinloc Shrine beach. Oh and El Nido fans will hate me for saying this but I found Bohol‘s beaches to be much better than El Nido’s.

Winner: El Nido

05 | Underwater Life, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and Diving in Coron

Colorful Corals and Clams in Siete Pecados marine park, Coron, Palawan
Shipwreck Diving and Snorkeling - Skeleton Wreck in Coron, Palawan
Nemo - a clownfish family in Siete Pecados marine park in Coron, Palawan

Snorkeling in Coron was perhaps the best snorkeling experience of my life. I saw the most colorful corals in Coral Garden – it was like an underwater rainbow! I had tears of happiness in my eyes while snorkeling in Siete Pecados marine park because I had never seen such beauty. We saw some of the most colorful fishes or many sizes here and also a Clownfish (Nemo) family. Our friend who was snorkeling with us saw a sea turtle here. Moreover, Coron has eleven Japanese shipwrecks that you can explore if you love diving. We weren’t able to dive because we ran out of money, but we snorkeled around the skeleton ship wreck. The water around was clear and the visibility was unbelievable.

Snorkeling and Diving in El Nido

The underwater life in El Nido pales in comparison as compared to Coron. No doubt we saw a lot of marine life but it was definitely not as colorful as Coron, especially the corals. Plus, El Nido doesn’t have any shipwrecks around unlike Coron.

Winner: Coron

06 | Lakes and Waterfalls

Waterfalls and Lakes of Coron

Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan - Asia's Cleanest Lake

They say it’s the cleanest Lake of Asia – Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan

Coron boasts of 11 lakes out of which Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake are the most famous ones. They say Kayangan Lake is the cleanest lake in Asia but I don’t know if that’s true. However, I do know that I have never seen water as clear as this where I could see the bottom of the lake. The water in this lake is 70% fresh and 30% salty. Swimming in this lake is an experience I will not forget in my lifetime.

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

Concepcion Falls, Busuanga, Palawan

On one of the days in Coron, we rented a scooter and drove to Busuanga town and visited Concepcion Falls. We spent a relaxed day swimming and chilling in a natural pool around this waterfall. This pool also had a school of doctor fish, which is the same fish they use in a foot spa. But don’t be afraid, they don’t bite you anywhere except a little peck on the toes. Moreover, Coron also has Maquinit Hot Spring with a natural hot water pool but we didn’t go there because it was too hot.

Waterfalls and Lakes of El Nido

El Nido doesn’t have lakes but we got to hear of Nagkalit-kalit Waterfall, the only one waterfall here. It is on the way to Nacpan beach. Again, with 11 lakes in Coron, El Nido can’t win on this point.

Winner: Coron

07 | Lagoons

Lagoons of Coron

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

Twin Lagoons of Coron, Palawan

The twin lagoons in Coron are perhaps the most famous ones. The water here is 70% salty and 30% fresh and these two lagoons are separated by a rock. The best part? Swimming through a hole in the rock to reach the inner lagoon here. The water clarity in the outer lagoon was much better than any of the lagoons in El Nido. There are more lagoons such as the green lagoon, sunset lagoon, and hidden lagoon.

Lagoons of El Nido

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

Secret Lagoon in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido boasts of many different lagoons out of which a few are open for public. We visited the small lagoon, the big lagoon, the hidden lagoon, the secret lagoon – all were beautiful. Some of the lagoons also had a little beach attached. Seriously, El Nido wins hands down if you compare the lagoons.

Winner: El Nido

08 | Town Area

Coron Town is technically on Busuanga island, not Coron island. Confusing, no? The town area is bigger and more spread out as compared to El Nido with more budget friendly eating and staying options in comparison. El Nido town is a smaller and cramped if you compare it to Coron town. There is now a new ATM as well here but it was not working while I was there.

Winner: Coron

09 | Which one is more crowded?

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

Crowded main beach of El Nido, Palawan

With an easier access due to a cheaper direct flight, you’d think that Coron would be more crowded? Wrong! El Nido was definitely more crowded as compared to Coron. It was sad to see El Nido’s main beach which must have been beautiful a few years back but was completely destroyed due to an unbelievable amount of people and boats. We met many people in El Nido who were not even considering heading to Coron but everyone we met in Coron had been to El Nido or was heading there next. Even all the main attractions were crowded due to too many tours.

Loser: El Nido

10 | Places to Drink and Party in Coron and El Nido

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Obra Natural Rasta Cafe in Coron, Palawan

Although our main motive to visit Palawan was not to party but we couldn’t help ourselves from enjoying a few nice evenings. After all, we had made a few friends on the road! For a low-key party evening, I recommend Coron’s offbeat Rasta bar – Obra Natural Art & Coffee. This place is next to Coron School of Fisheries. It’s not your “typical” party place with loud music but is a small café with a seating space for barely 15 people. We loved it so much that we ended up visiting it every evening. We couldn’t get enough of listening to live didgeridoo (didjeridu) and djembe music. If you end up going there, say our hello to the owner – Rodney. Alternatively, you can also check out No Name Bar which is in the main Coron town for a louder party. While in El Nido, you can visit many beach bars on the main beach for a fun evening. Our Melting Pot hostel in El Nido was a party hostel where we ended up playing beer pong for a few hours.

Winner: Tie between Coron and El Nido

11 | The atmosphere and vibes

Call us hippies but vibes are important for us. We found the atmosphere in Coron to be more relaxed and laid back as compared to El Nido. Maybe it was because El Nido was a little too crowded for our liking. Arriving in Coron from El Nido was a refreshing change because it felt that everyone was there to scam us in El Nido and charge extra for every small thing. Moreover, I had read warnings on the internet to be careful about food in El Nido because a lot of people reported suffering from food poisoning. Keeping this in mind, we were careful about what we ate but shockingly San suffered from an upset stomach. Strangely, every friend that we made in El Nido had a bad case of diarrhea and food poisoning and one of them even spent an entire night in the hospital. Upon reaching Coron, everyone in our hotel told us that they suffered from an upset stomach while they were in El Nido. Luckily I was the only one who did not. Maybe it’s because of my Indian stomach or the fact I wore a hat in the sun but I’ll never know the truth.

El Nido or Coron – Our choice?

We spent more time in El Nido than Coron, but we rate Coron much higher than El Nido.

Where should you go in Palawan? El Nido or Coron?

If you have enough time then we highly recommend you visit both. However if you’re heading to Palawan for a quick trip and can visit only one destination, I will try to make things easy for you. If you like having an easy access to the beaches and don’t mind crowds, then El Nido is where you should go. However, if you want to scuba dive or just snorkel around to see underwater beauty, then Coron is your place.

You may also like:

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Entering Hidden Beach, El Nido, Palawan
Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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