My wife and I are planning on going to Myanmar/Burma for about 14 days in late December. We would like to travel independently and stay in budget and/or mid-range accommodation. We still haven’t quite worked out the travel arrangements between different towns. Any suggestions would be welcome. Sarad, via email
It’s impossible to discuss travel to Myanmar without considering its current political situation. You should choose carefully how and where you travel, as how you spend your money will affect the lives of the local people. Choosing to stay in small, family-run accommodation is a good idea, as you’ll not be contributing as much money to the government. Lonely Planet’s new Myanmar guide offers hundreds of accommodation options that are believed to be run independently. Bear in mind that a tax of at least 10 per cent goes to the Myanmar government, no matter where you stay.
Travelling by air will mean more money goes to the government but buses, trains and trishaws (cycle rickshaws) are all available. Buses are one of the most convenient modes of transport in the country, often both faster and cheaper than travelling by the archaic train network. Longer journeys are often served by night buses.
It is wise to pre-book a couple of days in advance for popular bus routes, such as Bagan to Inle Lake. As you are visiting in high season, you will also need to book your accommodation in advance.
I want to visit Eastern Europe during the summer. I’m a solo female traveller, so what would be the safest mode of transport to take between the different countries and cities? Kiera, via email
You’ll find trains your best bet. Hiring a car can be tricky through multiple countries, and flying would mean you miss out on seeing all the glorious countryside in between destinations. Trains are convenient, fast and not too expensive. There’s a great network of trains connecting the major Eastern European cities. You’ll find Rail Europe (raileurope.co.uk) a good resource. Depending on how long you’re travelling for, it might be worth looking into an InterRail pass. This allows you unlimited travel within selected countries for a set period of time.
In terms of safety, encountering problems on the European train network is rare. Take sensible precautions, such as keeping valuables with you and not carrying large amounts of cash. Seat 61’s website (seat61.com) has reams of information on trains in Eastern Europe if you want an idea of what your transport will be like.
Overnight trains are a great way to save on accommodation costs and most have a steward on board to ensure that you get off at your stop. Book a bed in advance and ask for a single-sex compartment. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing a cabin on the overnight train, you can sometimes book a compartment all to yourself, although this will prove more costly.
Alternatively, stick to travelling during the day.
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A useful travel tip for backpackers: get an old pair of underpants and stain them with coffee granules, then leave them in the top of your backpack. Any sticky-fingered thieves will quickly get deterred if they see dirty pants sitting on top!
Gemma Burnham, via Facebook
This is probably the best travel tip we’ve ever heard. Gemma assures us that she has done it and that it works! – Travel Ed
Don’t be stingy
Make sure you don’t stinge on your hiking shoes or your backpack. These items will be your best friend or worst enemy. Blisters and a sore neck and shoulders don’t make for a good trip.
Aimee Steel, via Facebook