La Paz

 

La Paz

La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, as well as the departmental capital of La Paz Department. Is located approximately at 3600 meters above sea level.

La PazFounded in 1548 by Alonso de Mendoza at the site of the Native American settlement called Chuquiago, the full name of the city was originally Nuestra Señora de La Paz (meaning Our Lady of Peace). The name commemorated the restoration of peace following the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors two years earlier against Blasco Núñez Vela, the first viceroy of Peru. In 1825, after the decisive victory of the republicans at Ayacucho over the Spanish army in the course of the South American Wars of Independence, the city’s full name was changed to La Paz de Ayacucho (meaning The Peace of Ayacucho).

In 1898, La Paz was made the de facto seat of the national government, with Sucre remaining the nominal capital only. This change reflected the shift of the Bolivian economy away from the largely exhausted silver mines of Potosí to the exploitation of tin near Oruro, and resulting shifts in the distribution of economic and political power among various national elites.

The city is situated in a chasm below a plateau at an altitude of 3600m alongside the La Paz river. On the plateau is the city of El Alto; the international airport is also located there.

As of the 2001 census, the city of La Paz had a population of about one million.

Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) is situated about 10 kilometers from downtown La Paz, in the Pedro Domingo Murillo Province, La Paz Department, Bolivia. It comprises an area where erosion has worn away the majority of a mountain, composed primarily of clay rather than rock, leaving tall spires. It is similar to another zone of La Paz that is known as El Valle de las Animas (The Valley of the Souls). It[clarification needed] is an important site of the famous holiday, Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Because the mineral content of the mountains varies greatly between individual mountains, the sides of the mountains are different colors, creating striking optical illusions. A majority of them are a clear beige or light brown color, but some are almost red, with sections of dark violet.

Get around

By bus

There are three types of shared public transportation in La Paz: regular buses or “micros”; shared vans, called “mini buses”, and shared taxis running set routes advertised on the windshield, called “trufis”. The former cost Bs 1,30 while the second are Bs 1,50-2,30 depending on duration. A trufi will generally cost you Bs 3-3.50. All types have their routes indicated on the windshield, but mini buses have the bonus of fare collectors hanging out the side, yelling out routes in a rapid, auctioneer-like manner. You can hail a bus or mini bus anywhere; to get off, just yell out “¡voy a bajar!”

By taxi

The easiest way to get around is by taxi. They aren’t metered, so agree on a fare before boarding; a ride within downtown should be about Bs 6-8. If you want to go further, ask two or more taxi drivers before boarding. A normal ride by taxi from downtown to a place within the city won’t cost more than Bs 20.
Make sure that the taxi has a yellow sticker on the windshield and rear paasenger side window that displays a 4 figure number. That is the only surefire way to ensure you are getting into a geniune registered taxi, and not a dangerous ‘gypsy taxi’. Gypsy taxis may have taxi painted on the side of the car, and even have the boarding on the roof, always look for the yellow stickers.

By foot

If you ever find yourself to be lost, in general the easiest thing is to simply walk downhill. You will eventually find yourself on the Prado or another main avenue, then You’ll be able to take a taxi to the downtown, if you are on the south side of the city (Zona sur).

By rental car

There are a few of the large car rental companies in La Paz, both at the airport and downtown, including Avis and Budget. A Suzuki Jimny costs $59/day with Budget and cars seem to be in very good order. Beware of extra charges when you return the vehicle to Budget. The roads around La Paz can be unpaved and so the car can get a little dusty inside and outside, we were asked for an extra $57 to clean the car. Renting a 4×4 is very much recommended as the surrounding area is stunning, visit Chacaltaya and the Valle de Las Animas.

By bicycle

You can do day trips around La Paz by bicycle. You can do the famous death road by your own bicycle by taking a minibus (25 bs incl. the bike) from the bus terminal on Av. Ramiro Castillo to La Cumbre, then cycle down to Coroico and take a minibus back (30 bs with the bike) to the same terminal. Check your brakes! You can take your bike to Chacaltaya (5300 masl) and climb the remaining 150 altitude meters on foot. Take the autopista to El Alto and follow the road to Chacaltaya. Alternatively, take the autopista to just after it makes a sharp turn, take the first local street to the right (a sharp right turn by a pedestrian bridge over the highway) and follow that street up until it turns to gravel and you reach a school called Siete Lagunas. Turn right and follow the signs to Zongo first, then to Chacaltaya. You can also take your bike to Zongo pass with fantastic views of lakes, dams and peaks. This is for well acclimatized people. Check your brakes!

hostel_eng

 

 

All pictures by the author mebes3t

 

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Mexico

  • Agua Azul
  • Museo de Antropología
  • San Juan Chamula

Mexico

The United Mexican States or Mexico ( Spanish : Estados Unidos Mexicanos or México; regarding the use of the variant spelling Méjico , see section The name below) is a country located in North America , bordered by the United States to the north, and Belize and Guatemala to the southeast. It is the northernmost and westernmost country in Latin America , and also the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. The country is often referred to by Mexicans as the Mexican Republic (Spanish: Republica Mexicana ) although this is not the officially recognised title. The term State of Mexico (Spanish: Estado de Mexico ) does not refer to the country, but only to one state within Mexico, located near the centre of the country adjacent to the Federal District.

Flag_of_Mexico.svg

With an estimated 2013 population of about 118.3 million , Mexico is the most populous Spanish -speaking country in the world.

Map-Mexico

How to go

By plane

From the United States

There are hundreds of daily flights linking Mexico to cities large and small throughout the United States.

As with the United States, you will have to clear both immigration and customs at your first point of entry in Mexico, even though that airport may not be your final destination. (For example, many trips on Aeromexico will involve connecting through its Mexico City hub.) You will then have to re-check your bags and possibly go through security again to proceed to your next flight segment.

From Australia or New Zealand

Fly from either Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Auckland(NZ) direct to Los Angeles. Delta, Qantas, United, and V Australia offer non-stop air service from Australia to Los Angeles. Air New Zealand offers one-stop air service from Australia and non-stop air service from Auckland to Los Angeles. Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui offer one- or two-stop air service to Los Angeles from Australia and New Zealand.

Many airlines fly from Los Angeles to Mexico including AeroMexico, Alaska, Volaris, Horizon, Aerolitoral, and United. More options are available if connecting through another U.S. city. Also, make sure to have a good look at visas beforehand. Even just for transit, you will need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) or transit visa for for the USA, and if you get a visa waiver, they treat Mexico as part of the USA, meaning if you stay longer than 90 days in Mexico, you will need to travel further south before returning to the USA.

From Europe

Many commercial airlines link Mexico directly to Europe. It is always worthwhile to compare flight offers from air carriers who can bring you to Mexico City or Cancun via many European hubs, like Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid; the flight duration from those cities is always approximately 11 hours (plus your connecting flight from home if you are not originating at one of those hubs.)

By train

There is at least one place where Mexico is accessible via rail and a short walk – south of San Diego. The San Diego Trolley can be taken from downtown San Diego (which Amtrak serves) to the California-Baja California border. (note: El Paso/Juarez is also well served by Amtrak, the station is within a stones throw of the Rio Grande)

Like almost all countries in the Americas, Mexico phased out intercity passenger rail in the mid-20th century and has not brought it back since. Thus, unlike the US-Canada border where you can ride a train from Seattle to Vancouver or New York to Montreal, there are no options for taking an Amtrak train across the border into any Mexican cities.

By car

American automobile insurance is not accepted in Mexico; however it is easy to obtain short-term or long-term tourist policies that include the mandatory liability coverage, together with theft and accident cover for your vehicle and, often, legal assistance cover. Should you decide to drive to Mexico, the Transport and Communications Secretariat website has free downloadable road maps.

Foreign-plated vehicles must obtain the necessary permits before being allowed into the interior of Mexico. This can be done at the border checkpoints by showing your vehicle title or registration, as well as immigration documents and a valid credit card. It is now possible to apply for your vehicle import permit on-line. Vehicle permits will only be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, so the papers will have to be in the name of the applicant. The Baja California peninsular and the northern part of the State of Sonora do not require a permit.

Due to the incredibly high volume of drugs and illegal immigration (into the US) and drug money and weapons (into Mexico) crossing the US-Mexico border, expect long delays and thorough searches of vehicles when crossing the border. At some of the busiest crossings, expect a delay of one to four hours.

By bus

The Mexican intercity bus system is reportedly the most efficient in the world. There are many different independent companies but all use a central computerized ticketing system. Rates per mile are generally comparable to those of Greyhound in the US, but there are more departures and the system serves much smaller villages than its American counterpart. There are many bus companies based in Mexico with branch offices in major US cities and/or provide cross border transport with a few such examples noted below:

Greyhound offers tickets from the US to major Mexican cities, including Monterrey, Queretaro, Durango, Mazatlan, Torreon, Mexico City with onwards travel with Grupo Estrella Blanca south of the border and vice verse from Mexico north. It is best (and cheapest) to buy a round-trip Greyhound ticket since it may be more difficult and expensive to buy a ticket from Mexico to a US destination which is not a major city. When departing from Mexico, the local bus line (usually Futura) will change the Greyhound-issued ticket into its own, free of charge.

There are other bus companies offering transborder service from Guatemala to Tapachula or Comitan in Chiapas state and from Belize to Chetumal

  • ADO/OCC operates once daily buses from Merida and Cancun, via Chetumal to Belize City. Nearest to the U.S. border is in Matamoros where passenger transfer to Greyhound Lines for the onward trip north.
  • Linea Dorada goes across from Guatemala City to the Guatemala side of La Mesilla/Ciudad Cuauhtemoc in La Mesilla and once daily to/from Tapachula. From the Mexican side there are taxis or combis (shared ride vans) down to the Mexican immigration station in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc.
  • Tica Bus runs the length of the Central American isthmus from Panama City to Tapachula stopping at every Central American capital city and select towns or cities along the way except Belize.
  • Trans Galgos Inter goes from Guatemala City to Tapchula via Rethaluleau and El Carmen/Talisman crossing.

By boat

  • Border crossing from Guatemala.
  • Cruise ships from United States.

Visa and other entrance requirements

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores), certain foreign nationals who intend to stay in Mexico fewer than 180 days for the purpose of tourism or 30 days for business can fill out a tourist card at the border or upon landing at an airport after presenting a valid passport, for USD 22. If arriving via air, it is included in the price of the fare. This service is available to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (see official list).

Visitors to Mexico are processed at all land and air entry points by officials of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Institute of Migration), a unit of the Secretaría de Gobernación (Secretariat of the Interior). These are the names you will see prominently displayed at those entry points.

The current Mexican tourist card is formally known as a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Immigration Form), or FMM. The current FMM design as of 2014 is a tall rectangular card. If you are flying into the country, the FMM fee is normally included as part of the ticket price and the FMM forms will be distributed while in-flight. The FMM form has a perforation that divides the card into two parts; the lower part asks for some of the same information requested on the top part. At entry, after reviewing your passport and filled-out FMM, the INM officer will run the machine-readable part of your passport’s information page followed by the bar code on the FMM form through a scanner on his computer, stamp your passport and the FMM, separate the FMM along the perforation and give the bottom portion of the FMM back to you with your passport.
Keep the FMM together with your passport at all times. Under Mexican law, it is your responsibility to ensure the bottom portion of the FMM is returned to the Mexican government at time of departure so that the bar code can be scanned, thus showing that you left the country on time.

Hostels all over Mexico

Acapulco    Akumal    Bacalar    Cabo Pulmo    Cabo San Lucas    Caleta de Campos    Campeche    Cancun    Chetumal    Chichen Itza    Colima    Contepec    Cordoba    Cozumel    Creel    Cuernavaca    Cuetzalan    Durango    Ensenada    Guadalajara    Guanajuato    Hermosillo    Holbox    Island    Huatulco    Isla Mujeres    Ixtapa    Jose Maria Morelos    La Paz    Leon    Loreto    Los Mochis    Mahahual    Mazatlan    Mazunte    Merida    Mexico City    Monterrey    Morelia    Mulege    Oaxaca    Palenque    Papantla    Patzcuaro    Playa del Carmen    Puebla    Puerto Angel    Puerto Escondido    Puerto Morelos    Puerto Vallarta   Queretaro    Rincon de Guayabitos    Rosarito    San Andres Cholula    San Carlos Nuevo Guaymas    San Cristobal de las Casas    San Jeronimo de Juarez    San Jose del Cabo San Juan    Teotihuacan    San Luis Potosi    San Miguel de Allende    San Pancho    San Pedro Cholula    Sayulita    Taxco    Teacapan    Tepotzotlan    Tepoztlan    Tequisquiapan    Tlaxcala    Toluca    Troncones    Tulum    Tuxtla Gutierrez    Tzucacab    Uxmal    Valladolid    Valle de Bravo    Veracruz    Villa de Santiago    Xalapa    Xico    Zacatecas      Zihuatanejo

 

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Vietnam

  • Ha Lonbay
  • Sapa-Red Dzao
  • Tai Chi - Hanoi

Vietnam

Vietnam (Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) is a long, thin country in Southeast Asia. Its neighbouring countries are China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west.

Vietnam_Expand1

Climate

Vietnam is large enough to have several distinct climate zones.

The North has four distinct seasons, with a comparatively chilly winter (temperatures can dip below 15°C/59°F in Hanoi), a hot and wet summer and pleasant spring (March-April) and autumn (October-December) seasons. However, in the Highlands both extremes are amplified, with occasional snow in the winter and temperatures hitting 40°C (104°F) in the summer.

In the Central regions the Hai Van pass separates two different weather patterns of the North starting in Langco (which is hotter in summer and cooler in winter) from the milder conditions South starting in Danang. North East Monsoon conditions September – February with often strong winds, large sea swells and rain make this a miserable and difficult time to travel through Central Vietnam. Normally summers are hot and dry.

The South has three somewhat distinct seasons: hot and dry from March to May/June; rainy from June/July to November; and cool and dry from December to February. April is the hottest month, with mid-day temperatures of 33°C (91°F) or more most days. During the rainy season, downpours can happen every afternoon, and occasional street flooding occurs. Temperatures range from stifling hot before a rainstorm to pleasantly cool afterwards. Mosquitoes are most numerous in the rainy season. December to February is the most pleasant time to visit, with cool evenings down to around 20° (68°F).

108px-Flag_of_Vietnam.svg

Visas

Visitors with passports from these countries do not require a visa for stays up to the days specified:

14 days – Brunei
15 days – Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Russia
21 days – Philippines
30 days – Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia
All other nationalities will require a visa in advance to visit Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has agreed to grant visa exemption to the people of five European countries, in an attempt to lure more tourists to the country.

The countries whose residents will not require a visa to travel to Viet Nam are the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The PM’s decision will come into effect on July 1 this year.(2015)

Embassies are recalcitrant in publishing a schedule of fees, as the relatively high visa cost is a source of embarrassment, revenue, and a tourism deterrent (EU and US). A slowdown in tourist number arrivals has been disguised by the removal of visa fees for certain nationalities (but not former Vietnamese) resulting in neighbouring countries numbers filling the vacuum. Visa free travel for neighbouring countries is part of Vietnam’s commitment to visa free travel for fellow citizens of ASEAN (The Association of South East Asian Nations)
Foreign citizens of Vietnamese origin can apply for visa exemption that allows multiple entry for 3 months at a time which is valid for the duration of the passport.

Visa on arrival

This method is available only for Air travel.
The term visa on arrival is a bit of a misnomer in the case of Vietnam as a letter of approval has to be obtained before arrival. This is handled by a growing number of on-line agencies for a charge of USD10-21 (Aug 2014). Most agencies accept payment by credit card, some accept payment by Western Union or Paypal. You also have to pay stamp fee at the airport when arrival. You need 1 photo.

The visa on arrival fees 2014:

One month – single entry USD45
One month – multiple entry USD65
Three months – single entry costs the same with one month single entry
Three months – multiple entry USD95
Six months – multiple entry USD135

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Her Majesty’s Government in London states “We are aware that there are nearly 1000 travel companies that are able to arrange legitimate visas-on-arrival but this must be done prior to arrival in Vietnam. There have also been reports of bogus companies that claim to be able to arrange for a visa on arrival. As the British Embassy and Consulate cannot confirm whether a company has a legitimate arrangement in place, the safest way to obtain a visa is via the nearest Vietnamese Embassy. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you obtain a visa allowing multiple entries.”
The situation is complicated by the fact that the Internet high level domain “gov.vn” does not necessarily denote a government agency!

Visa extensions

Prior to 2015 it was relatively simple (and inexpensive) to obtain a one-time, 30 day extension to your standard single-entry tourist visa. This is no longer the case! As of May 2015, obtaining a 30 day extension took 10 days and cost US$185 – although the stamp still states “10 (mười) USD”. Similarly, overstaying your visa has become considerably more expensive (on the order of USD 50/day).

How to go

By plane

Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. Non-stop flights are available from Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Macau, Qatar, Turkey, Dubai and the U.S. However, most direct flights are served by flag carrier Vietnam Airlines while plenty of other long-haul flights are available with transits via Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei.

By train

There are direct international train services from Nanning and Beijing in China to Hanoi. Most require a change of trains at the border at Pingxiang/Dong Dang, but the Chinese-operated daily Nanning express (T8701/MR2) runs through, although it still spends about four hours at the border for immigration.
The daily train from Nanning starts around 18:00 and arrives around 05:00 to Hanoi. Hard Sleeper c. CNY180 and soft sleeper c. CNY295. (You can consider taking the bus from Nanning instead which is a cheaper and pretty convenient day journey.
The Kunming-Hanoi line was shut down by landslides in 2002 and, as of 2011, remains closed. There are no train links to Laos or Cambodia.

By road

Cambodia

The main crossing is the Moc Bai/Bavet crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh road. Buses between the two cities cost USD-12 and take around 6 hr. Passengers vacate the vehicle at both countries’ checkpoints. Only one passport photo is required for a Cambodian visa on arrival. Tours of the Mekong Delta (USD25-35, 2-3 days) can provide a more insightful journey between the two cities.
Through tickets to Siem Reap are also available (US$18), though it is cheaper to buy a ticket to Phnom Penh and then arrange onward transport on one of the many connecting buses.
Close to the coast is the Xa Xia/Prek Chak border. Cambodian visas are available on arrival. Buses run between Ha Tien in Vietnam to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The Vietnamese consulate in Sihanoukville issues 30-day tourist visas on a same-day basis.
Coastal areas are also served by the Tinh Bien/Phnom Den border near Chau Doc in Vietnam
The Xa Mat/Trapeang Phlong crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Kampong Cham road is not well served by public transport but may be useful for accessing Kampong Cham and Eastern Cambodia.
Banlung in North Eastern Cambodia is connect to Pleiku in Vietnam by a crossing at Le Tanh/O Yadaw. Visas are avaiable on arrival, one photo required. Change buses at Le Tanh.

China

There are three border crossings between China and Vietnam that can be used by foreigners:
Dongxing – Mong Cai (by road; onward travel Mong Cai to Ha Long by sea or by road)
Hekou – Lao Cai (by road and/or rail, but no international passenger train services)
Youyi Guan – Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Pass – by road and/or rail)
There are several Day buses from Nanning running every day, at least at 10:00 and 13:50 and costs about CNY160 (Nov 2014), reaching Hanoi at evening (around 22:00 although in China they may tell you the arrival is before 22:00), with a break for less than an hour to cross the border and transfer buses – all arranged in the ticket and no further hassle or arrangements by yourself. This may be more convenient than the night train from Nanning to Hanoi at 18:00 reaching Hanoi around 05:00, which is also more expensive. The ride itself is picturesque, and you receive a water bottle and some snacks at the bus. At the border crossing there are money changing ladies trying to get your dollars or renminbi for a deal.

Laos

There are at least six border crossings between Laos and Vietnam that can be used by foreigners.
Be wary of catching local buses from Laos to Vietnam. Not only are they often crammed with cargo (coal and live chickens, often underfoot) but many buses run in the middle of the night, stopping for several hours in order to wait for the border to open at 07:00. Whilst waiting, you will be herded off the bus (for several hours) where you will be approached by pushy locals offering assistance in getting a Laos exit stamp in exchange for money (usually USD5+). If you bargain hard (tiring, at 04:00) you can get the figure down to about USD2. The men will take your passports, which can be incredibly disconcerting, but will actually provide the service they promise. It is better to get the Laos exit stamp yourself for free at the border station. The sleeping bus from Vientaine to Hanoi is fairly nice as all cargo is stored in the cargo hold and you are allowed to sleep in the bus at the border crossing until it opens at 7AM. There is also a VIP bus from Savannakhet.

These include:

Donsavanh – Lao Bao
Kaew Neua – Cau Treo (Keo Nua Pass)
Nam Can ( Vietnam ) to Xieng Khuang ( Laos )
Tay Trang ( Vietnam ) to Phong Sa Ly ( Laos )

By boat

Boats can be taken from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border town of Chau Doc. Such a journey takes roughly 5 hours and includes brief stops both to exit Cambodia and enter Vietnam. Make sure you carry a few US dollars to tip the boat porters with, so as to avoid losing your luggage in the Mekong when alighting or changing boats.
Longer tours lasting multiple days may also be available from Phnom Penh. Check with your accommodation provider or along Sisowath Quay.

Sleep

Lodging is not an issue in Vietnam, even if you’re travelling on a pretty tight budget. Accommodation in Vietnam ranges from scruffy US$6-a-night dorm accommodation in backpacking hostels to world-class resorts, both in large cities and in popular coastal and rural destinations.
Even backpacking hostels and budget hotels are often far cleaner and nicer than in neighboring countries (Cambodia, Thailand, Laos), and cheap hotels that charge US$8-10 for a double room are often very clean and equipped with towels, clean white sheets, soap, disposable toothbrushes and so on.
In hotels costing a few dollars more (US$12 per room upwards, more in Hanoi) you can expect an en suite bathroom, telephone, air conditioning and television. As with hotels elsewhere in the world, mini-refrigerators in Vietnamese hotels are often stocked with drinks and snacks, but these can be horribly overpriced and you would be much better off buying such items on the street. Adequate plumbing can be a problem in some hotels but the standard is constantly improving.
It is a legal requirement for all hotels to register the details of foreign guests with the local police. For this reason they will always ask for your passport when you check in. The process usually only takes a few minutes, after which they will return your passport. However, because non-payment by guests is by no means unknown, some hotels retain passports until check-out. If a place looks dodgy then ask that they register you while you wait and take your passport with you afterwards. It is helpful to carry some photocopies of your passport as well as Vietnam visa, which you can then hand over to the hotel, insisting if necessary that your actual passport is not in your possession but rather at a travel agency for purpose of visa extension (which is a legitimate situation). Alternatively, you can try to extend an advance payment rather than allow them to keep your passport.
Most hotels throughout Vietnam now have high-speed Internet access. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are blocked but a quick google search can explain how to easily bypass this ban. The use of computers is generally free, although some hotels levy a small charge.

Vietnam Hostels for Backpakers

Ben Tre   Buon Ma Thuot   Can Tho   Cat Ba Island   Chau Doc   Da Lat   Da Nang   Dong Hoi   Ha Long   Haiphong   Hanoi   Ho Chi Minh   Hoi An   Hue   Kontum   Luong Son   Mui Ne   Nha Trang   Ninh Binh   Phan Thiet   Phu Quoc Island   Quy Nhon   Sapa   Tien Giang   Vung Tau

 

 

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Thailand

  • Ayutthaya
  • Kwai River
  • Bangkok

Thailand

Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It borders Myanmar to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the west and Malaysia to the south.
 With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and, hey, great beaches, Thailand is a magnet for travelers the world over.

108px-Flag_of_Thailand.svg

 Thailand is made up of 76 provinces, but may be conveniently divided into five geographic and cultural regions.

* The Central Plains — Bangkok, highlands and historic Thailand.
* The North — Chiang Mai, hill tribes, and the Golden Triangle.
* Isaan — The great undeveloped Northeast. Get off the beaten track and discover backcountry Thailand and some magnificent Khmer ruins.
* The East — Beaches and islands on the northern Gulf of Thailand coast, within easy reach of Bangkok  And, oh yes, Pattaya.
* The South and Islands — Hundreds of kilometers of coastline on both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Krabi and many more of Thailand’s famous beach spots.

 Thailand is the most popular tourist destination in South-East Asia, and for a reason. Exotic yet safe and largely hassle-free, cheap yet equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beachfront backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential Thainess, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun-seeking sanuk lifestyle.

 This is not to say that Thailand doesn’t have its downsides, including the considerable growing pains of an economy where an agricultural laborer is lucky to earn $1 per day while the nouveau riche cruise past in their BMWs, and a highly visible sex tourism industry. Bangkok, the capital, is notorious for its traffic jams and rampant development has wrecked much of once-beautiful Pattaya and Phuket. In heavily touristed areas, some lowlifes have made scamming tourists into an art form, but in Thailand as anywhere the old adage is true — if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.tailandia_mapa

Visas

A) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 90 days:- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea.

(B) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 30 days: (30 days when entering by air; by land border only 14 days)- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

(C) Countries/territories that do not require a visa for stay up to 14 days or others (if indicated):- Cambodia, Ukraine.
Those with passports from countries not widely known, including European city-states, or have problems with document forgery, should obtain a visa in advance from the nearest Thai embassy. This is true even if visa on arrival is technically permitted. There are reports of tourists being detained using valid passports not commonly presented in Thailand. In addition, ask for a business card from the person or embassy which granted the visa, so they may be contacted on arrival, if necessary. Anyone whose nationality does not have its own embassy in Bangkok, should find out which third country represents your interests there, along with local contact information.
Proof of onward transit:- long happily ignored by Thai immigration, has been known to be strictly applied in some instances (Indian passport holders beware). The requirement is for an international flight itinerary – NOT train, ferry, or other departure type.

Airlines, who have to pay for your return flight if Thai immigration doesn’t let you into the country, also check this and often will not let you board your flight for Thailand without it.) A print-out of an international e-ticket on a budget airline is sufficient to convince the enforcers, but those planning on continuing by land may have to get a little creative. Buying a fully refundable ticket and getting it refunded once in Thailand is also an option. Land crossings, on the other hand, are a very straightforward process and proof of onward journey is generally not required (Indian passport holders beware again… or anyone, if the border officials simply decide to uphold the bureaucracy).

Overstaying:- Overstaying in Thailand is possible with a 500 baht fine per day. Earlier it was fairly simple to avoid overstaying by doing a visa run to a neighbouring country overland or via a cheap flight, but since 12 August 2014 this will not be possible according to latest developments.
Stricter regulations introduced on 22 July 2014 now impose harsher penalties as a means of curbing overstaying. As can be seen from the tables, a distinction is made regarding an overstayer’s circumstances. Overstayers presenting themselves to immigration officials at an airport or other border control are subject to the regulations in the first table.

In all other circumstances,  overstayers will incur the much harsher penalties of being banned from re-entering Thailand for at least five years even if they overstay by just one or two days.
For example, an overstayer through no fault of their own is involved in an accident, or becomes involved in an altercation where the police are called. The first thing the police will want to see is your passport. Once it becomes apparent that you’ve overstayed your welcome, you’re likely to be deported and banned from re-entering the kingdom for either five or ten years.

New Regulations for extensions 2014

Climate

Thailand is largely tropical, so it’s hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F), a degree of relief provided only in the mountains in the far north of Thailand. The careful observer will, however, note three seasons:

Cool: From November to the end of February, it doesn’t rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5°C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year’s or at Chinese New Year a few weeks later, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.

Hot: From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F). Pleasant enough when sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, but not the best time of year to go temple-tramping in Bangkok.

Rainy: From July to October, although it only really gets under way in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn’t mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding is not uncommon.
There are local deviations to these general patterns. In particular, the south-east coast of Thailand (including Ko Samui) has the rains reversed, with the peak season being May-October and the rainy off season in November-February.

How to Go

By plane

The main international airports in Thailand are at Bangkok and Phuket, and both are well-served by intercontinental flights. Practically every airline that flies to Asia also flies into Bangkok, this means there are plenty of services and the competition on the routes helps to keep the ticket prices down.
International airports are also located at Hat Yai, Krabi, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai, though these largely restricted to flights from other Southeast Asian countries. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore make excellent places to catch flights into these smaller Thai cities, meaning you can skip the ever-present touts and queues at Bangkok.
The national carrier is the well-regarded Thai Airways, with Bangkok Airways filling in some gaps in the nearby region. Bangkok Airways offers free Internet access while you wait for boarding to start at your gate.
Chartered flights from and to Thailand from international destinations are operated by Hi Flying Group. They fly to Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, and Udon Thani.
Many low-cost carriers serve Thailand including [Nok Air], Thai Air Asia and Thai Lion Air. See Discount airlines in Asia for an up to date list.
For a full at-a-glance list of all Thai-based carriers, see the Thai airlines section (below).

By road

Cambodia – six international border crossings. The highway from Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor via Poipet to Aranyaprathet, once the stuff of nightmares, is now merely bad and can usually be covered in less than 3 hours. The border crossing at Poipet remains the stuff of nightmares, however. The Cambodian side is merely slow. The Thai side is glacial: travellers queue (outdoors in the heat) to reach a queue (in the Immigration building) – typically two and one hours, respectively. An alternative is to head to Hatlek/ Cham Yeam towards Koh Kong; that crossing is quiet and honest with good communication links.

Laos – the busiest border crossing is at the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong between Nong Khai and the Lao capital Vientiane. It’s also possible to cross the Mekong at Chiang Khong/Huay Xai, Nakhon Phanom/Tha Khaek, Mukdahan/Savannakhet, and elsewhere.
Vientiane/Udon Thani – A bus service runs from the Morning Market bus station in Vientiane to the bus station in Udon Thani. The cost is 80 baht or LAK22,000 and the journey takes two hours. The Udon Thani airport is 30 minutes by tuk-tuk from the bus station and is served by Thai Airways, Nok Air and Air Asia.

Malaysia and Singapore – driving up is entirely possible, although not with a rented vehicle. Main crossings (with name of town on Malaysian side in brackets) between Thailand and Malaysia are Padang Besar (Padang Besar) and Sadao (Bukit Kayu Hitam) in Songkhla province, Betong (Pengkalan Hulu) in Yala province, and Sungai Kolok (Rantau Panjang) in Narathiwat province. There are regular buses from Singapore to the southern hub of Hat Yai.
If you are driving, then depending on whether your starting point is Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Penang, you can expect to make it to Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Krabi/Phuket/Ko Samui respectively on the same day. The key to this is leaving *EARLY* (7 a.m.) since border crossing formalities can take up to 2.5 hours, particularly on holiday weekends. The following is a guide to border crossing procedures at the Bukit Kayu Hitam/Sadao border crossing point.

What you will need:

1) Passports with at least six months validity
2) Original car registration document – if you are in Malaysia and you have a car on loan, you can go to your financing bank and request the original for the trip. They will ask you to write a letter requesting it and then hand it over to you.
3) Visa for Thailand if your nationality requires it (Malaysians and Singaporeans do not need one). Even if you are not eligible for visa-free entry, if you are crossing at the Bukit Kayu Hitam / Sadao border crossing, you can obtain a visa on arrival at the border if you are from one of the eligible countries.
4) 3rd party liability coverage car insurance for Thailand – Malaysian and Singaporean car insurance does NOT extend to the territory of Thailand. The minumum legal coverage for Thailand is easily purchased in the Malaysian town of Changlun right before the border. Stop at any one of the numerous shops that have signs advertising ‘Insurans’. 3rd party coverage can be bought for a minimum of MYR 17 (~SGD 6.3) which covers you for 9 days. Longer term coverage can be purchased as well if you plan on making multiple trips during a year. However, since this insurance does not cover damages to your own vehicle, you should call your insurance company and ask them for an extension of 1st party coverage to Thailand, although this is not legally required. Most insurance companies will do this on a per-trip basis. Charges may vary according to your insurance company. When you buy car insurance, many will also sell you Thai arrival / departure cards for a nominal fee of MYR 2 (SGD 0.75) for each. While these are freely available at the border, it will save you some time and hassle getting these here. The insurance agent will also fill them in for you!

Procedure for crossing:

1) Follow the North-South highway to its terminus at Bukit Kayu Hitam. Continue straight towards the Thailand border.
2) You will first pass through a Malaysian immigration checkpoint. You do not need to get out of your car here, regardless of nationality. Just drive up to the window and hand over the passports for yourself and all passengers in the car as well the car registration document. Once they are scanned / stamped and handed back to you, continue driving ahead.
3) The next checkpoint is a Malaysian customs checkpoint, but there is a gap of about a kilometer between the Malaysian immigration and Malaysian customs checkpoints. In this gap, on the left, there is a duty-free shopping complex. It might be worth stopping here on the way back since goods here are somewhat cheaper than at Malaysian supermarkets and no GST is charged here. Again, at the Malaysian customs checkpoint, you do not need to get down from the vehicle. Just drive up to the window and hand over your documents. Assuming that you have no contraband and nothing to declare, you will be waved through. Now this part is a bit tricky …
4) Immediately after the Malaysian customs checkpoint, you will pass a border stone indicating that you are now in Thailand. To your left, there will be a large parking lot. Go ahead and park your vehicle there and come outside with your documents (Passports, car registration and car insurance).
5) Stand in the Immigration and Borderpass lines to clear immigration. You can *only* stand in these lines if you are of Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, or other nationality that does not require a visa for entry to Thailand. If you require a visa on arrival or if you have a stamped visa from the Thai embassy, you must go into the office on the left to get your immigration stamp. However, since the queues at the Immigration and Borderpass lines are longer than the crowd inside the office, you’ll probably finish your immigration formalities faster than if you were of a nationality that does not need a visa for entry to Thailand!
6) Once the immigration stamp has been provided, take your documents to the Customs window (right in front of the Immigration and Borderpass windows). Hand over your passport and car registration (and insurance, if they ask for it) to the Customs agent and they will provide you with a temporary import permit for your vehicle. This import permit is valid for ONE MONTH and you must have this permit in order to take your vehicle out of Thailand, so protect it as carefully as you would your passport. The import permit has some scary looking words in it, such that you will pay a fine of THB 1,000 per day for every day beyond the expiry of this import permit for a maximum of 10 days, and then THB 1,450,000 if you keep your vehicle in Thailand beyond that! Don’t worry about those scary words, as long as you don’t overstay your visa and leave within 30 days with your vehicle, you will face no problems whatsoever. The temporary import permit is provided freely for no charge.
7) Once you have cleared immigration formalities and collected your vehicle import permit, walk back behind these booths you just passed to the parking lot. Collect your car now and then drive past those very same booths. You may or may not get stopped by a Thai officer for documents checking, so it is imperative that you complete the procedures mentioned above. It would be very easy to drive into Thailand without either getting an immigration stamp or a vehicle import permit, which may complicate matters for you upon your exit.
8) Set your clocks back an hour since Thailand time is one hour behind Malaysia / Singapore time. Drive into Sadao and further into Thailand! Enjoy your stay and drive safely!

Myanmar:

Mae Sai/Tachileik – foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; onward travel restrictions: since Oct 2009, onward travel by land to Kengtung is only possible if accompanied by an official guide (1,000 baht/day + expenses), exiting Myanmar at Tachilek is only possible for those who entered at this border crossing and were issued a 14-day entry permit; to get to Tachileik or Kengtung from the rest of Myanmar, a domestic flight must be taken (eg from Heho).

Mae Sot/Myawaddy – This border crossing was closed in July 2010 and re-opened on 5 December 2011. When open, foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; neither onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the Burmese border town of Myawaddy) nor overnight stays are possible. No visa is needed; instead there’s an entry stamp fee: USD10 if paid in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.

Three Pagodas Pass (Sangkhlaburi/Payathonzu) – foreigners can only access this crossing from the Thai side; onward travel into Myanmar (ie beyond the border town) is not possible; entry/exit stamps are NOT issued here, and foreigners passports are held at the Myanmar checkpoint, where a fee is levied: USD10 if paid in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency. However, as of November 25, 2008, this crossing is temporarily closed.

Ranong/Kawthoung – foreigners can access this crossing from either side, and enter and/or exit either country here; no onward travel restrictions (other than those that apply to everyone, no matter how they enter); access to/from Kawthoung is by sea (Mergui/Dawei & Yangon) and air (Mergui & Yangon). If entering without a visa, maximum stay is 3 days / 2 nights, travel beyond Kawthoung is not permitted, and there’s an entry stamp fee: USD10 if paid in dollars, more (500 baht) if paid with Thai currency.

By train

Thailand’s sole international train service links to Butterworth (near Penang) and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, continuing all the way to Singapore. Tickets are cheap even in first class sleepers, but it can be a slow ride; the 2-hour flight to Singapore will take you close to 48 hours by rail, as you have to change trains twice. The luxury option is to take the Eastern & Oriental Express, a refurbished super-luxury train that runs along the same route once per week, with gourmet dining, personal butler service and every other colonial perk you can think of. However, at around USD1000 one-way just from Bangkok to Butterworth, this is approximately 30 times more expensive than an ordinary first-class sleeper!

While you can’t get to Laos or Cambodia by train, you can get very close, with rail terminals just across the border at Nong Khai (across the river from Vientiane) and Aranyaprathet (for Poipet, on the road to Siem Reap). A link across the Mekong to Laos opened in March 2009, but service to Cambodia remains on the drawing board.
There are no rail services to Myanmar, but the Thai part of the infamous Burma Death Railway is still operating near Kanchanaburi.

By ferry

It is now possible in high-season (Nov-May) to island-hop using ferries from Phuket all the way to Indonesia. This can now be done without ever touching the mainland, Phuket (Thailand) to Padang (Indonesia).

Thailand Hostels

Ayutthaya    Ban Phe    Bangkok    Buriram    Cha-Am    Chiang Dao    Chiang Khong           Chiang Mai    Chiang Rai    Chumphon    Don Sak    Hatyai    Hua Hin    Hua Tan Taew    Kanchanaburi    Khanom    Khao Lak    Khao Sok    Khon  Kaen    Koh Chang    Koh Kho Khao    Koh Lanta    Koh Lipe    Koh Phangan    Koh Phi Phi    Koh Samet    Koh Samui   Koh Tao    Koh Yao    Krabi       Krabi Ao Nang    Loei    Mukdahan    Nakhon Phanom    Nakhon Ratchasima      Nakhon  Sawan    Nan    Pai    Pak Chong    Pattaya    Phang Nga    Phatthalung    Phetchaburi    Phitsanulok    Phuket    Phuket Karon Beach    Phuket Patong Beach    Phuket Rawai Beach    Phuket Town    Prachuap Khiri Khan    Ranong    Ratchaburi    Rayong    Samut Songkhram    Samuthprakarn    Satun    Sukhothai    Suratthani    Ubon Ratchathani    Udon Thani

 

 

 

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Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar or Ulan Bator is the capital of Mongolia. In 1998 its population was estimated at 650,000. It is situated north and slightly east of the center of Mongolia, on the Tuul River, in a valley at the foot of the mountain Bogdo Uul.

Founded in 1649 as a Buddhist monastery town named Urga, it prospered in the 1860’s as a commercial center on the tea route between Russia and China. Mongolia first proclaimed its autonomy in 1911, and when the city became the capital of the new Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924, its name was changed to Ulaanbaatar (“red hero” in the Mongolian language), in honor of Mongolia’s national hero Sühbaatar, who liberated Mongolia from Ungern von Sternberg troops, Chinese rule, and called in the Soviet Red Army. His statue still adorns Ulaanbaatar’s central square.

Ulaanbaatar has an international airport, Buyant Ukha Airport and is connected by highway to all the major towns in Mongolia and by rail to the Trans-Siberian railway and Chinese railroad systems. The city has the only university in the country. But there are number of colleges both private and public. A historical library contains a wealth of ancient Mongolian, Chinese, and Tibetan manuscripts.

If you have breathing problems, be aware that Ulaanbaatar has high levels of Air Pollution. UB has a population just over a twentieth of Beijing; yet according to the World Health Organization, UB is considered the second most polluted city in the world in 2013 – behind Ahvaz, Iran.  But the countryside air, away from the cities, is gorgeous.

Climate

Ulan Bator is located at about 1,350 metres (4,430 ft) above mean sea level, slightly east of the centre of Mongolia on the Tuul River, a subtributary of the Selenge, in a valley at the foot of the mountain Bogd Khan Uul. Bogd Khan Uul is a broad, heavily forested mountain rising 2,250 metres (7,380 ft) to the south of Ulan Bator. It forms the boundary between the steppe zone to the south and the forest-steppe zone to the north.

It is also one of the oldest reserves in the world, being protected by law since the 18th century. The forests of the mountains surrounding Ulan Bator are composed of evergreen pines, deciduous larches and birches while the riverine forest of the Tuul River is composed of broad-leaved, deciduous poplars, elms and willows. As a point of reference Ulan Bator lies on roughly the same latitude as Vienna, Munich and Orléans. It lies on roughly the same longitude as Chongqing, Hanoi and Jakarta.

Owing to its high elevation, its relatively high latitude, its location hundreds of kilometres from any coast, and the effects of the Siberian anticyclone, Ulan Bator is the coldest national capital in the world,  with a monsoon-influenced, cold semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk, USD A Plant Hardiness Zone 3b ) that closely borders a subarctic climate and humid continental.

The city features brief, warm summers and long, bitterly cold and dry winters. The coldest January temperatures, usually at the time just before sunrise, are between −36 and −40 °C (−33 and −40 °F) with no wind, due to temperature inversion. Most of the annual precipitation of 267 millimetres (10.51 in) falls from June to September. The highest recorded precipitation in the city was 659 mm (26 in) at the Khureltogoot Astronomical Observatory on Mount Bogd Khan Uul. Ulan Bator has an average annual temperature of −0.4 °C (31.3 °F)

The city lies in the zone of discontinuous permafrost, which means that building is difficult in sheltered aspects that preclude thawing in the summer, but easier on more exposed ones where soils fully thaw. Suburban residents live in traditional yurts that do not protrude into the soil. Extreme temperatures in the city range from −49 °C (−56 °F) to 38.6 °C (101.5 °F)

Ulaanbaatar Weather

Get in

By plane

The majority of visitors arrive in Mongolia through Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA: ULN), which is located 18 km to the southwest of Ulaanbaatar. Many locals still call the airport by its old name “Bouyant Uka”. The airport was reconstructed in 1990, and the immigration, customs formalities and luggage delivery are relatively efficient.

MIAT (Mongolian Airlines) offers direct international flights to the city from Berlin, Moscow, Irkutsk, Seoul, Beijing,Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Domestic flights from ULN to Dalanzadgad, Moron, Khovd,Bulgan Khovd, Altai, and Arvaikheer are also available. Korean Air also flies daily from Seoul to ULN. Air China flies to and from Beijing. The Russian airline Aeroflot flies daily between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar. Turkish Airlines fly direct from Istanbul.

By train

Direct (but long) journeys are possible from Moscow, Russia and Beijing, China on the Trans-Mongolian line of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Trains also run to the Chinese border towns of Erlian and Jining 3-4 times a week. There’s also a daily train to/from Irkutsk in Russia, which can also be reached from Vladivostok at the eastern end of the Trans-Siberian.

Trains from Beijing run once a week (on Tuesdays) and seats can only be reserved at the International Hotel in Beijing (a ten minute walk north of the main Beijing rail station). The journey takes about 30 hours. Packing a face mask might be a good idea as sandstorms in the Gobi desert may cause difficulty in breathing.

By car

As there are barely any paved roads in Mongolia, the few ones that exist, lead to Ulaanbaatar. Navigating in Mongolia on a paved road is very easy because you just have to follow that ONE road (compared to driving on tracks, where there are hundreds of possibilities…).

Coming from the north the paved road starts at the Russian Border. Coming from the south (the Gobi) the paved road starts at Choir. Coming from the north-east the paved road starts at Bulgan.

By bus

Once in the country, it should not be difficult to find a bus going to UB, at least from larger towns. However, bus stops are difficult to locate, with buses usually just stopping in populated areas. Furthermore, Mongolian buses are notorious for being late and on some routes for not even arriving on the scheduled day. Domestic buses usually go to Dragon Center (СХД18-р хороо, 18072 Улаанбаатар), Teevriin Tovchoo (near Main Railway Station ) and the eastern bus station near the Botanical Gardens (the Gardens are completely destroyed, but the location is well known to the locals).

Get Around

By taxi

Taxis are cheap, charging around T800 per kilometer, but a foreigner will get overcharged easily. After midnight charge goes up to T1,000 per kilometer. A ride from the airport to the city center should cost you no more than T15,000, but most drivers will try to charge you a minimum of T20,000. You may get a better and more reliable deal by seeking out older drivers in their own cars, rather than the official yellow cabs, now there are new white cabs with large square meter LCD on the dash. Younger drivers can sometimes get extremely opportunistic and try to hold you or your luggage at ransom until you pay them extraordinary amounts of money. Always negotiate the fare in advance and don’t be fooled by tricks like “I meant 3,000 for each of you.”
Tip: carry a small memo of MNT amounts (500 MNT, 1000 MNT, 1500 MNT etc) and show them exactly what you are willing to pay before you get on.
Please note that no taxi drivers speak English, so it’s best to have the name and destination written in Mongolian to the driver unless the driver knows English. Otherwise, English-speaking drivers are relatively non-existent.

By bus

Buses are regular and have a fixed charge per ride. Electric trolley-buses are slower and run fewer routes. After midnight, only trolley-buses are available. But they go for only two main routes. Smaller buses (really just vans), called micro-bus, are equally accessible. These have someone who hangs out the window at each stop shouting the name of the destination in rapid Mongolian. A bit hard to understand.

Many of the city buses go out to the edge of the city. Route 22, goes southwest to the Bird Farm along the Tuul River. Catch the bus at the Ard Cinema bus stop, the Cinema has been replaced by an Anod Bank. This bus stop is located on Bagatoiruu Street, from the central Post Office walk west along Peace Ave. At the intersect with the traffic lights, cross the street and turn right (north) half a block and you will reach a small square with the bus stop.

Bus #11 and #22 go close by the Airport. Get out at Nisekh, and walk 500 mtr across the field.
As in any city, be wary of pick pockets on the buses, especially when the buses are packed.

By foot

Walking is also an option as the city center is quite compact. Having only one main Avenue, Ulaanbaatar stretches from east to west and it’s also easy to draw a mental map. but getting around ger districts can be puzzling. Get a good city map at the Mongolian Government Map shop. Located on Ih Toiruu Street. West from the State Department Store three blocks, the first intersection with traffic lights, turn right (North) about one half block, on the east side of the street you will see a yellow and blue Elba Appliance store, the Map Shop is behind and inline with the North wall of the Elba. But purchasing map from the airport would help save you a lot of time. finding specific places or offices by address is quite challenging because locals will usually tell you the places by nearest landmarks such as West Junction (supposed to be Undsen Huuliin gudamj) and Urt Tsagaan (which is Tourist Street1) and along the department store (Peace avenue) sometimes locals will not know any better than you as they too never seen some street names put on the streets. specially when you buy guide books, look for books with pictures printed so that it would help you ask locals about places rather than only showing written addresses with postal codes.

Visit

Note that most tourist sites have a separate camera/video fee in addition to the entrance fee.

Gandan Monastery (Gandantegchinlen Khiid). The main monastery in the city has services around 10AM every morning. Approximately five thousand monks live here. In 1938 the communists destroyed the religious icons in this monastery and took its contents to the Hermitage where it was then regenerated into ammunitions used to fight during the siege of Leningrad. It was not until very recently that the Mongolian people were able to reconstruct the massive statue of the Buddha that resides in the largest of the temples featured in the picture on the right. Taking photographs requires the payment of an additional negotiable fee (often that for an adult is requested).

Choijin Lama Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Chingeltrei district, Left of Central Library, 10.00am-17.00pm. Choijing Lama Temple Museum is a unique showcase of religious art and the history of Buddism in Mongolia. This museum is a gem of the historical and cultural heritage of the previous century. The monastery was active until 1938. According to the degree of the Peoples Khural, November 1941, the monastery was included in the list of historical and cultural monuments and was taken charge by the Committee of sciences in 1942. It was then turned into a museum. The museum is an ensemble of Buddhist architecture and consists of 5 temples and 5 arched gates. In the main temple there is the sculpture of Choijing Lama and the embalmed mummy of his teacher. It also contains the great coral mask of Begtse, created under the direction of protectors using over 6000 pieces of coral. Yadam temple and Amgalan temple contain rare artifacts made by the famous Mongolian artist and sculptor, Zanabazar. In total the museum has over 5000 items out of which 12 are unique and 200 are particularly valuable. 

Natural History Museum (closed indefinitely), Ulaanbaatar. Behind of the Government house. 10AM-5.30PM, last admission 4.30PM. When the first national museum was established in Mongolia in 1924, the base of the natural historical museum was founded by consisting the principal sections of the exhibitions with the choicest exhibitions of Mongolian Nature. When the national central museum was put in present location in 1956, it has been enriching its exhibitions and expanded as a big natural department, which has various kinds of geographical, flora, fauna and paleontological exhibits. The government Resolution, which to classify the museums in different fields like as the developed countries, was passed and the national central museum was abolished in 1991. Since 1992, a new museum was established in the place of national central museum with the purpose of being the leader natural central museum for the further development, getting foreigners enjoyed in international level, showing the geological history such as locations of planets and earth establishment and formations and show the biology characteristics of earth central zone and named as Museum of Natural History. Natural history involves historical process of 4.7 billion years of that is very long term from the origin of the world until the origin of plant, animal and human. Thus the museum shows the briefness of these events by exhibitions and contributes knowledge to peoples mind. The museum consists of: – Mongolian geography, ancient volcanoes, stones from the volcanoes – Earth origin, planet studying meteorites – Geological history, useful resources, minerals – Ancient and contemporary botany – Land fauna /mammals, birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, amphibious/ – Very ancient plant and animals /paleontology/ – Human origin Museum colleagues always enrich their treasures, exhibitions, renovate the exhibition halls and improve the museum settlement so that the museum became a big museum, which has the capable to attract foreign and domestic visitors. The museum is one of the big museum of Mongolia that has the 40 halls with 2700 square meters, 12000 exhibits and more than over 50 thousand visitors visit to the museum each year and exhibition marshrut lasts about 1.5-2.0 hours. The museum is studying and advertising museum, which introduces natural history, its appearance movements and developments to the audiences by theoretical and objects researching. Closed summer 2013 for renovation, and may reopen elsewhere in the future.  As of late 2013, items have begun to be moved into storage, as the structure of the building has been deemed unsound.

Chinggis Square, (Chinggis Square). The big open space in the center of the city was renamed to Chinggis Square from its old name Sukhbaatar Square. It has an equestrian statue of the 1921 revolution hero Sükhbaatar, and seated statue of Chinggis Khaan and their sons and 2 military generals (Urlugs). edit
Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Khan-Uul district, Chinggis avenue Bogdo khan winter palace museum Ulaanbaatar. This palace known as The green palace was built between 1893-1903 during 10 years by Mongolian masters and dedicated to the YIII Bogdo gegeen, the head of lamaist religion & last khan of Mongolia.In 1911 there was formed The Bogdo khan state and the YIII Bogdo gegeen assumed political authority over Mongolia as the Bogdo khan or “Holy King” and continued to govern as a constitutional monarch from the time of the Mongolian People’s Revolution in 1921 until his dearth of illness in 1924. After Bogdo khan death in 1924 it was turned into museum Bogdo khan palace was founded as the first National historical museum of Mongolia. In 1954 was founded The state central museum and the Bogdo khan palace museum became the branch museum. Since 2000 the museum is activiting as Bogdo khan palace museum.Now the Bogd khan palace museum consists of seven Summer Prayer temples and the winter palace. The collections of the museum include unique and valuable objects related to Mongolia’s political, religious, and artistic history from the 17 to early 20-th centuries: bronze castings, silk paintings, mineral paintings, and paper icons made by well-known artists and artisans of the period, among others the first Bogdo Javzundamba Zanabazar and his school; as well as objects owned and used by the YIII Bogdo Javzundamba and his wife queen Dondogdulam, including royal clothing and equipment, gifts from domestic and foreign guests or representatives, and items purchased by the king for his own diversion. The collection of the museum is consists of a great number of original objects and works of art from the Bogdo khan palace and is divided into 12 parts: sculpture, scrolls paintings/thangka/, applique, wood carving, religious objects, clothes, furniture, decorative arts, collection of stuffed animal, special collection, support collection and architecture.. Also all exhibits is divided into: high level category, valuable category and original category. Nowadays we have 68 exhibits of high level category and 23 exhibits of valuable category. The number of these categories will be increasing. Exhibits of high level category includes gilded bronze sculptures made by the famous master Zanabazar and school of Zanabazar, thangka paintings from the XIX-XX centuries, the painting shown the capital city of Mongolia 1912 made by Jugder, original paintings made by founder of Mongolian modern painting B.Sharav and expensive clothes of khan and queen. 

Central Market or Black Market  (Naran Tuul)  Khar Zakh. The notorious black market on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar is a large, crowded flea market which sells a huge variety of items. Suitable for the adventurous traveller, it is patronised mainly by local people.

Zaisan Memorial. A huge communist-era monument located on a hill in the south of the city. It represents the Russian and Mongolian heroes who fought together during WWI and WWII. Nowadays it is a popular viewpoint where you can see over the whole city. There’s also a huge buddhist statue at the bottom. 

International intellectual museum, Ulaanbaatar, Bayanzurkh district,in front of East Center, Mongolia.. From Monday-Saturday 10.00 am-18.00pm. The museum’s collection includes many Mongolian puzzle toys and world famous, rare and precious exhibits. The museum is a manufacturer of Mongolian puzzle toys, logic games, hand crafted products and souvenirs and it exports most of its products abroad. The museum has exhibited over 80 international exhibitions and fairs in 50 countries. 

The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar, Chingeltrei district, Barilgachdin Square (Two blocks west of the Government House). 10-6. The collection includes items from the Stone Age to 20th C. Particularly interesting is the collection of Buddhist art beginning in the 17th Century. 

Eat

Nobody travels to Mongolia for the food, but Ulaanbaatar has a good range of Western, Asian and Mongolian options. No other city this side of Beijing has close to a comparable selection. Even better, meals here are quite reasonable. You can get perfectly reasonable pizza for $3, even a night out at a fancy French cafe shouldn’t pass $20. Consider splurging on a couple good meals here, especially if headed out for a long trek into the country. Be aware that fresh vegetables, especially in winter, are hard to come by and expensive.
Korean (solongos khoolnee gazar) and Chinese restaurants dominate the city. As Asian restaurants in America tend to tailor their menu to the American palate, so in Ulaanbaatar do the East Asian restaurants tailor their menu to the Central Asian palate.

Sleep

Nowadays, budget accommodation in Ulaanbaatar tends to give the best deals for a traveller. Usually a bed in a clean dormitory costs about $5-10 and a double room should be under $30 a night. Good mid-range options are sparse. Note that during the annual Naadam festival it is almost impossible to get any kind of accommodation in UB without prior reservations.
Guest homes may not respond to email (only 2 of 5 responded to us). Be Aware that in August 2009 the government passed a law requiring domestic transactions to be priced in the Mongolian currency (MNT). Some guest homes attempt to charge more than the price on their website saying their website is out-of-date. Some may change the price (higher) from the price you have agreed to pay from your on-line reservation, citing that the exchange rate has changed. Many guest homes operate also as Tour Guide/Operator/Agency and be more interested in selling a tour and devote less attention to the guest house facilities in room size/space, limited number of bathrooms/showers relative to the number of beds, internet WiFi service shut off at 22:00h and turned on at 09:00h, and so forth.
Budget private rooms are often located in rented apartments in complexes away from the main guesthouse. Guesthouses rent these from nomadic families during the summer peak season and return them when the family return to the city for the winter months. Dark and dirty stairwells are the norm in Ulaanbaatar.

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Find Hostel from 5 $

 

All pictures by the author mebes3t

 

 

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Laos

  • Wat Xieng Thong
  • Muang Khoua
  • Buddha Park

Laos

Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. A mountainous and landlocked country, Laos shares borders with Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west, and Myanmar and China to the north. 

Flag of Laos.svg

Thailand promotes itself as amazing, Vietnam can well be described as bustling, Cambodia’s Khmer temples are awe-inspiring… but the adjective that was most often applied to Laos is forgotten, this is changing fast however, with tourism being the biggest growth sector in Laos with ever rising visitor numbers under its new tourism slogan ‘Simply beautiful’.

Visitors who are drawn by the laid-back lifestyle and the opportunity to watch the sunsets on the Mekong will simply explain the attraction by revealing that the true meaning of “Lao PDR” is Lao – Please Don’t Rush.

Laos Map

 

Visas

Russians, Korean, Japanese, Swiss and ASEAN nationals including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines can enter Laos “visa free”; all other tourists need a visa in the form of a tourist visa (for one or possibly two months) issued by a Lao embassy or consulate. A visa on arrival is also available to most people entering at the airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse, as well as the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge between Nong Khai in Thailand and Vientiane and on the Lao/Vietnam-Border. It is also available when entering via Stung Treng (Cambodia), although guesthouses in Cambodia and the Lao embassy in Phnom Phen will say it is not to make money with visa services. When applying for a tourist visa or to obtain a visa on arrival, one (maybe two at Lao embassies) passport photo is/may be required (although you may be able to pay a USD “fee” to have this  requirement waived) – recently (June 2013) passport photos were not asked for (at Friendship Bridge).

Visas can be obtained in advance from Lao embassies/consulates. The fee varies by nationality/embassy; USD50 is common, although can be as high as USD 63 (in Kuala Lumpur). Processing times also vary; 2-3 days is typical, though you may be able to pay an extra small amount (around USD 5) to receive the visa in as little as one hour. In Phnom Penh the travel agencies can arrange the visa the same day (but may charge as much as USD 58) while getting it from the embassy takes a few days. Getting a visa from the embassy in Bangkok costs around 1,400 baht for most nationalities, plus 200 baht more for “same day” processing. It’s cheaper and quicker to get one at the border.

Visas are also available at the Lao PDR consulate in Khon Kaen, Thailand. Thai and English (limited) are spoken by consular staff. Hours are Monday-Friday 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00. (UPDATE July 2012): There have been several changes that took place in February 2012. Prices have increased and are now similar to those charged by the Laotian Embassy in Bangkok.

 The Laotian consulate has re-located to a big gated building off of Friendship Road. The consulate is about 1 km north of the Khon Kaen Immigration office. It’s on the southbound side of Friendship Road (going towards Nakhon Ratchasima). The consulate is on the same side of the road as the Khon Kaen Immigration office. It’s also about 500m from a large Tesco Extra which is on the opposite side of the road.  

There are visa-on-arrival facilities at the international airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse, and at all border crossings (see below), including now overland from Cambodia (visa on arrival facilities opened at Voen Kham -north of Stung Treng, Cambodia). Paying with Thai baht will cost considerably more and border officials will not accept Lao kip at all). A USD 1 “out of office hours/overtime” surcharge, and a small (possibly THB10 to USD1) entry stamp fee, might also be charged.

Entry permit extensions (sometimes referred to as “visa extensions”) are available from the Immigration Department in Vientiane, the Immigration Department in Luang Prabang, the Police Station in Pakse, the Police Station opposite the Lao-Mongolian Hospital in Phonsavan and possibly other cities. Extensions are not possible in Lao’s second city, Savannakhet, although you can do a border run from there to Thailand to get a new 30 day visa.

The cost is USD2 per day plus a small “form fee” ranging between 5,000 kip (Pakse) to USD2 (Luang Prabang.) In Vientiane it’s 5000 kip for the form and 3 usd for application fee. The exchange rate is bad so better pay in usd if you have. The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo; fill in a form (in Luang Prabang immigration officers do this for you) and come back in the afternoon for your extension.

If you want to extend for longer than two weeks and are near the Thai border, it can be more cost effective to cross the border (entry to Thailand is free for most western nationalities) and return immediately to get a new 30 day Lao visa. 
Extensions are also possible via agencies elsewhere in Laos (who will courier your passport to Vientiane and back again, around USD3 per day minimum of 7 days). 

Hostels in Laos

Luang Prabang    Pakse    Vang Vieng    Vientiane

 

 

 

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