Having only opened up to tourists relatively recently, there’s a nascent culture of tipping in Myanmar. We’d encourage tipping for particularly good service; wages are low so they’ll certainly be appreciated. That being said, do only tip on a merit basis and don’t feel obliged to do it. Here are our guidelines for tipping in Myanmar.
It is customary to tip in India. Staff will happily to accept and appreciate it. Small tips (anything between 20 and 100 rupees) for small services, such as looking after shoes, carrying bags etc… are appreciated and bar staff also expect small tips. However, please do not feel obliged to tip every time, or to give more than a small note.
Matt recently visited Soneva Fushi and Jani, two luxurious resorts in The Maldives. On returning to the office, we found it interesting to think about the various kinds of ‘luxury’ available, and also what the word actually means.
It’s really tough to capture what ‘luxury’ actually is; we all talk about it quite a lot, especially in the travel sphere and I’ve often wondered how to quantify and explain it, especially when talking to other travellers.
As my experience has grown over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in many “luxury” hotels, I’ve realised how difficult it is to define a luxury hotel, let alone categorise it. Ultimately it’s all about the individual experience you have and how it fits with you as a person. This is when hotels like Soneva Fushi and Jani come into their element; here, the accommodation and service blend to provide an incredibly personal, relaxing and awe-inspiring experience.
If I can’t get to sleep at night, sometimes I just think of my time in The Maldives. It is one of the most relaxing places I have been on this earth and, for me, no other place can quite compare with it. Everyone in the office knows this all too well, and when I was planning my most recent trip to Sri Lanka I just couldn’t resist adding on 5 nights in The Maldives, only this time I was staying at a particularly special place.
The Maldives has over 250 resorts, nearly all of them on private islands, and it just seems to be an unstoppable force in terms of growth; about 10 resorts have opened this year alone, many of them 5* or above. It’s becoming more difficult to choose between the options and ever more important to be able to discern between the different types of luxury on offer.
I’ve been a fan of the Soneva luxury concept from the beginning. Co-founders Sonu and Eva opened their first hotel in 1995 in The Maldives and have honed their unique philosophy over the past 20 years. They have a brand that values understated touches of luxury, stunning architectural design, barefoot living, making the most of the beautiful natural world surrounding their properties and placing environmental protection at the forefront.
I have to say that I keep my finger on the pulse with travel news and about two years ago I first heard about Soneva Jani being built – this was something on a new scale, even for TMaldives (which is already mind-blowing in what it has to offer): 5 islands with 25 water villas and the biggest overwater structure, plus a 5.8km beyond-imaginable lagoon. Just outrageous even on paper, I dreamed about going.
It all starts with the ‘no shoes, no news’ concept. As soon as you step onto the resort your shoes are taken from you and, for however long you stay, you go around the resort barefoot. Does it sound gimmicky? A little, but all you can do is relax with soft sand between your feet, glorious sunshine and turquoise ocean everywhere on the horizon – with no worldly worries to distract you.
There’s no plastic on the island; a special glass blowing factory recycles glasses and the resort grows as much food on the island as it can to cater for the guests. The retractable rooves in over-water villas are incredible and the slide down into the ocean from your bedroom is the stuff of childhood dreams.
Luxury is so much more than just a picture-postcard image of a stunning resort and Soneva resorts prove this. It’s about attention to detail, personalisation, and providing an experience of dreams. For those looking for a particularly special place to stay, I’d certainly recommend either Soneva Fushi or the newly opened Soneva Jani – both would make for a spectacular experience.
We’re incredibly excited to share a sneak peek of Koyao Island Resort’s new luxury tented accommodation. Perched on a hill overlooking the stunning, island-dotted Andaman sea, it’s an awe-inspiring place to relax. The tents will be opening later this year; a potential place to stay for Christmas 2017 at the latest.
There is a strong tipping culture in Sri Lanka; wages are low so it’s an important additional way of making money. Of course, tips should be earned for good service rather than simply expected. Here are our guidelines for good tipping practise.
Like the elixir of life, air miles always seem out of reach despite so many anecdotal legends told of their power. Understanding how to get them and spend them can feel like embarking on a journey to Mordor, to cast an evil ring into the lava-filled pit of Mount Doom. But if achieved, the bounties reaped are infinite and heavenly. Here, we provide a realistic guide on how to accrue and spend air miles.
Some people may be surprised to discover that one of the most famous films of all time, The Bridge On the River Kwai was filmed almost entirely in Sri Lanka, and not in the bridge’s actual location in Thailand. And now, with the opening of the Sir David Lean Bungalow (named after the Director of the film) by the boutique hotel group, Elephant Stables, it’s possible to stay in one of the beautiful spots that feature in this classic film.
Many people planning a trip to Asia find the budgeting process tricky. There’s a big misconception that everything is priced low when really it’s just very good value compared to a European holiday equivalent, but not necessarily ‘cheap.’ Here, we share our top suggestions on planning a luxury family holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Its stunning UNESCO heritage sites, golden-sand beaches and beautiful tea plantations make Sri Lanka a fantastic destination for a holiday with a difference. Not to mention the herds of wild elephants, mouth-watering curries and colonial history. Tempted to visit this magical isle? While you might already be dreaming of discovering its delights for the first time yourself, what are the practical aspects to consider? Here’s some information on 10 things you might want to think about:
India is a vast country, with a colourful and sometimes chaotic way of life. For even the most well-travelled visitor, exploring the country can seem a little daunting. This is where the benefit of a guide (and driver!) becomes clear.
Far-flung destinations offer awe-inspiring cultural riches, gorgeous golden-sand beaches and tastes and smells you may never have experienced before. It’s a shame that ‘star trek’ style teleportation devices still haven’t been invented as it’s always the journey there and back that moves us to question the meaning of life.
International long haul flights can be a thorn in one’s side when the price tag becomes apparent. The cost doesn’t have to be astronomical though and, with some expert ‘insider’ knowledge, you can get fantastic value for your transport. Here are our top tips:
Booking a holiday is a big commitment of time and money. Whilst we can all swoon over pictures of beaches and sunsets, there can be a gap between what you’re promised and what you actually experience. Whether you’re considering ‘DIY’ing or booking with a travel company, here’s our ‘elevator pitch’ as to why you should book with Experience Travel Group and enjoy a holiday of a lifetime.
Nestled in the dense forests of Ulu Muda forest, The Earth Lodge is one of the most unique and remote lodges in all of Southeast Asia. It provides an adventure guests will likely remember for the rest of their lives. Here, co-founder of Experience Travel Group, Tom, reviews his Earth Lodge experience.
Being a single parent really shouldn’t restrict your travel horizons. But the process of organising a holiday can seem that more daunting, so we’ve put a top 10 list of things to do to make sure you’re prepared and confident before the off.
MD & Founder, Sam Clark, provides his round-up of the most exciting new hotels in South and Southeast Asia. From luxury tented lodges in the wild, to exclusive island beach resorts – he passes on his top recommendations for places to stay on your next trip.
A divisive issue among travel enthusiasts, the question ‘South America or Asia?’ often arises when considering where to go for a trip with a difference. The passionate music of South America, its beautiful landscapes and Latin culture are a strong lure, but the mouth-watering food, stunning ancient architecture and tropical beaches makes Asia a strong opponent. Here, we weigh up the pros and cons for each destination, concluding Asia is certainly our favourite place to travel (though you might disagree – ho, ho, ho!)
Planning a family holiday to Sri Lanka can seem challenging, certainly for those wanting to make sure they get the best value for money. Here, travel expert Becky shares her top tips for keeping the costs down and getting ‘bang for your buck’.
India is a vast country encompassing everything imaginable from the mountainous Himalayas in the north to the tropical coastal beaches of the south. It can be very daunting planning a trip to the country, as there is so much to see and it is home to so many different ways of life. Here, we’re sharing our expert tips on how best to start planning.
A travel itinerary is the backbone of your holiday. It details the flights, hotels, transfers, experiences and meals you’ve pre-booked and it sets the pace of your trip. It’s a document to which you will excitedly refer before you depart and which will guide you as you travel. But how do you make sure that your itinerary delivers the holiday of your dreams? How do you put it together in the first place?
ETG travellers Hilary and Paul recently visited the north of Sri Lanka on a small group tour. Here is an account of the best experiences they had, fantastic inspiration for your next adventure.
Planning an Indonesian holiday can be challenging, with all the various islands, flight schedules, experiences and hotel options available. With lots of island hopping, the cost of an Indonesia family holiday can come as a surprise to some. This guide will help you to approach planning in a realistic frame of mind and will share some insider tips on how to keep prices down.
Having relatively recently opened up to the world, Myanmar can still pose challenges for travellers wanting to navigate the country. It encompasses a vast landmass, so getting about can be problematic as can be experiencing the highlights away from crowds and reaching undiscovered spots. This short guide will briefly outline how best to plan your trip.
For those considering how they’ll get around the vast country of Myanmar (Burma), you may be wondering whether it’s worth hiring a driver and guide for parts of your trip. We believe they help you to maximise your experience in the country and are great value for money; they’ll really get you under the surface, providing an insider’s perspective on all the things you see.
India, with a population of more than a billion people, a massive – and massively diverse – land mass and spellbinding diversity, can be a hard place to pin down. To me it feels more like a continent than a country and I can understand why some people find it a little bewildering and confusing.
We sent travel writer and wildlife enthusiast Robin McKelvie on a research mission to Satpura National Park. Less frequented than the more famous Ranthambore National Park, here he shares his experience spotting on his jeep, walking and canoe safari.
Delhi is one of those cities that you have to visit at least once in a lifetime. It is India’s London, Paris or New York, a truly global city bursting with enough to do to occupy you for a month, never mind a few days.
What makes Jaipur so compelling is that the ultra modern and new industries are built on a bedrock, a literal bedrock, of pink sandstone. The famed ‘Pink City’ is just that. Its old core is alive with pink hued stone, which changes shade constantly from sunrise to sunset.
On my Experience Travel Group adventure here I learned that there are myriad ways to discover the Pink City. One day I headed off with a knowledgeable local guide with residents of the city to discover places that they did not even know. On another I got up at sunrise for a guided cycle tour through the city as it woke. Here are my top 9 experiences in Jaipur for you to enjoy.
1. Lose Yourself in the Pink City – Yes it really is that pink! Gloriously so. Even at the height of the day the scorching sun casts a rich red hue as it warms the stone. It is early in the morning and at sunset, though, that Jaipur really does take on a quite breathtaking beauty. This is the time I recommend you lose yourself in the old streets, letting the centuries ease back as you weave past a sea of people, tuk tuks, motorbikes, cows, pigs and eve monkeys.
2. Explore the City Palace – No visit to Jaipur is complete without delving into the City Palace, actually a complex of palaces first built in 1729 and added to over the centuries. This is the very heart of the city and swirls together Rajasthani and Mughal architecture in one glorious pink confection. I especially enjoyed poking around in the Armoury, checking out ceremonial weapons, and eking through the cool, marble interior courtyards.
3. The Romance of the Palace of the Winds – The nickname of the Hawa Mahal is romantic in itself. It is worthy of the moniker, though, a dream concoction of red sandstone layered like a honeycomb pyramid. Every one of its 953 windows is intricately decorated, and would once have kept the royal ladies from display, allowing them to watch what was happening in the street outside without being seen themselves.
4. Take a Heritage Walk – I loved that Experience Travel hooked me up with a local guide who was seriously passionate about his city. I would never have found them otherwise as they had no web presence. As it was I joined a tour along with half a dozen locals – who all worked in design agencies – for an exploration of the old town that delved into long forgotten old mansions. People still lived in these old dames, much to the surprise of the locals in my group. We were very much discovering their city together. I also loved that we stopped off for street food titbits as we went. The guide knew the best stalls where both hygiene and quality was high.
5. Sunrise Cycle – This early start was more than worth it as I got to experience the city waking up from the unique perspective of a bike. If you’d told me before this trip that I would be cycling around the dramatic chaos of a major Indian city I would not have believed you. But here I found myself immersed in the urban jungle and loving every second. My expert guide ensured my bike and helmet were spot on before we embarked and looked after me all the way. We stopped off at street stalls for a delicious lassi, some sweet chai with the local workers and a wee bakery for sweet treats. Woven into the mix were a market bursting with colour and life and a Hindu temple, where Krishna was being enthusiastically and loudly worshipped.
6. Delve Through History – The Albert Hall dates back, as it sounds, to colonial times. It is a glorious example of colonial architectire, fusing European, Indian and Islamic styles into one chocolate box pretty whole. Within its ornate walls the story of the city is elegantly and evocatively told. This is a must if you want to learn more about what makes Jaipur tick and the eclectic influences that have woven its rich fabric over the centuries.
7. Dinner with the Royal Family – When Experience Travel told me I had the chance to dine with a local family I didn’t for a second expect it be a royal family! Yet here I found myself in the kitchen at Sai Niwas as a descendant of the royal family of nearby Jodhpur cooked me up a gloriously spicy dinner along with her renowned polo commentator son. I enjoyed a hands-on cooking lesson before we devoured a delicious dinner and talked about the history of the city and vagaries of life today in Jaipur, getting a totally unique experience.
8. Sculpture and Light – It was back to the City Palace for a spectacular show that not only entertained, but informed me about the history of the local maharajas. This son et lumiere show (which only opened in 2014) is a must do. You can combine it with dinner at the restaurant here too. It takes a swashbuckling and spectacular journey through six centuries of the local dynasty.
9. Trek to the Hill Forts – On my last morning in Jaipur I was picked up and whisked off out of the city into a rugged crumple of hills. Here I joined a local guide, who led me through a small village and up through a Hindu temple on to the bare hills. We met a farmer who was out looking for his oxen. He was worried as a leopard had just been spotted in the area! We eked our way up through the wilderness to Kuntilgarh Fort. From the ramparts I could see myriad forts, palaces and walls stretching all around. The scene reminded of the Great Wall in China, not something I had been expecting to see on the edge of Jaipur, but Jaipur is like that!