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  • Escape the Ordinary, Find the Extraordinary: 15 Destinations to Spark Wanderlust & Romance

    Ditch the cookie-cutter itineraries and join us on a journey to hidden gems that ignite wanderlust and rekindle passion. Forget the overdone gondolas in Venice or the crowded Eiffel Tower selfies. True love thrives on adventure, and sometimes, the most extraordinary romance blossoms in unexpected corners of the world. If you're a couple who craves authentic experiences and unique backdrops for your love story, you have come to the right place. Not-so-spoken about Wanderlust and Romance destinations These are all places we have discovered ourselves, on our journey over three years of full time travel. From the sun-kissed shores of Balian Beach to the mystical allure of Aphrodite's Rock in Cyprus, where we got engaged, our curated list unveils hidden paradises waiting to be discovered. Imagine hand-in-hand explorations through the vibrant streets of Hoi An, Vietnam, with its ancient lanterns casting a magical glow, or picture yourselves snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of El Gouna, Egypt, surrounded by incredible resorts and docks in a private-walled city. This is not your typical honeymoon or Valentines brochure. We want to show you something different; off-the-beaten-path destinations that promise to weave unforgettable memories into the fabric of your love story. Each escape on this list offers a unique blend of romance, adventure, and cultural immersion from our own personal experiences. Ready to dive deeper? Buckle up, because we're about to unveil each of these extraordinary wanderlust and romance destinations, one hidden gem at a time. Let's fuel your wanderlust and ignite the flames of romance! P.S The order of this list is literally exactly as we remembered them, without intending on any type of ranking system. Perhaps inadvertently they are kind of in an order, as the most memorable. In any case, we recommend them all equally! Please note that some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. Tap here for further information. 1 ▪ Balian Beach, Bali, Indonesia Balian Beach isn't your typical Bali hotspot. Tucked away on the west coast, roughly 2 hours northwest of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, it sits nestled between verdant rice paddies and the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. You'll find it just north of the small village of Sangguling, nestled at the mouth of the Balian River. This secluded location guarantees a more peaceful and intimate experience compared to the bustling south of Bali. Balian Beach is known as a surfer's paradise, where volcanic ash paints the sand black in places, and powerful waves serenade sun-kissed shores. Imagine hand-in-hand strolls along the secluded coast, watching surfers dance with the ocean before sharing intimate moments under starlit skies. That is what you get here in a spot that seems so quiet at night and tranquil during the day, but where you will always find a cool bar or throng of people in a restaurant. This hidden gem offers more than just waves, with nearby rice paddies whispering secrets and charming cafes tempting your taste buds. For a touch of adventure, you will find secluded waterfalls nestled amongst lush greenery and incredible bat caves on the beach. You can even indulge in yoga retreats that reconnect you with nature and each other! Balian Beach is a romantic haven for adventure-loving couples seeking serenity, beauty, and a unique touch of Bali magic, but without all of the tourist kerfuffle! ● Save for later: Balian Beach, your guide to the best beach in Bali! RETURN TO CONTENTS 2 ▪ Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite's Rock), Paphos, Cyprus Steeped in legend and bathed in Mediterranean sunshine, Aphrodite's Rock in Cyprus promises a love story come to life. Picture yourselves hand-in-hand, strolling along the dramatic coastline where, according to myth, the goddess of love herself emerged from the sea foam. Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters believed to grant eternal love, or explore the hidden grotto said to be where Aphrodite met her lover, Adonis. This enchanting spot sits on the Akamas Peninsula, at the westernmost tip of Cyprus, offering breathtaking views of the turquoise Aegean Sea and a secluded escape for your romantic rendezvous. Just beware, the allure of this mythical haven might make you believe in fairy-tales again! It certainly did for us, being the spot where we got engaged. We visited back in June 2019, with Jenn coming to the UK for our first road trip around Europe. Leon's family happened to be in Cyprus at the same time, so we dropped by before heading out to France. Both of us are fascinated by Greek mythology so the significance of the location was not lost on us, even if the proposal was completely unplanned! It happens to be an untold story for us at the moment, but we will put a blog post together about it soon! ● Discover more from Cyprus: Columbia Beach Resort in Pissouri, Cyprus, our memorable time at this 5-star getaway RETURN TO CONTENTS 3 ▪ Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia Ahh, Malaysia's Langkawi. Imagine a tapestry woven from lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and ancient myths - that's Langkawi, a secluded archipelago nestled in the Andaman Sea. This gem, off the northwest coast of Malaysia, promises romance amidst emerald jungles, where playful monkeys swing through the trees and hidden waterfalls cascade into turquoise pools. Explore a vibrant underwater world in crystal-clear waters, or sail around the majestic Kilim Karst Geopark, marvelling at dramatic limestone formations emerging from the sea. Hike through ancient rainforest light shows, search for hidden treasures like the Langkawi Sky Bridge, or soak in the sunset while riding the Langkawi Cable Car. All while enjoying panoramic views that will leave you breathless. Langkawi is an island paradise waiting to be discovered, offering a unique blend of adventure, luxury, and natural beauty to ignite your love story! We spent two weeks in Langkawi in several places across the island, including the incredible Red Coral Cottage, right on one of the epic beaches here, in the north of the island. We were blown away by how quiet it was, strolling on gorgeous white sand beaches without a soul in sight. This is a place of immense peace and tranquillity, where you can take boat tours among the mangroves that are far more personal and connected than the big tourist traps in neighbouring Thailand. Aside from just beaches, Langkawi offers plenty of public spaces, boardwalks and parks too. The perfect blend for the perfect romantic location! Discover more: ● Dream Forest and the legends of Langkawi ● Langkawi Cable Car & Skybridge, the steepest and longest in the world ● Langkawi Kuah Night Market, a true taste of Malaysia! RETURN TO CONTENTS 4 ▪ Batumi, Republic of Adjara (in Georgia) Most people thing of the U.S state of Georgia when we mention it. Georgia very much is a country of its own, and is in one of those spots that is so eastern Europe it becomes western Asia. A strategically important city on the Adjara coast, Batumi is easily accessible by plane, with direct flights from major European cities, or by train for a scenic journey through the Caucasus Mountains. When we talk about escaping the ordinary, Batumi is a city that does that in some very unique ways. European charm meets Eastern vibes on the cobbled streets, giving a flair to the city that can be as romantic as it can be adventurous. Against a backdrop of stunning mountains the city has a coastline lined by impressive boardwalks, with monuments and gardens to accompany a fantastic beach, even if it is a pebble one. The skies can be gorgeous here, with sunsets to literally die for. With the beach covered, heading inland is a real treat with quirky architecture like a skyscraper with a built in Ferris Wheel and a tower straddled with the unique letters of the Georgian alphabet. Batumi also boasts a youthful energy, with bustling bars and clubs alongside peaceful public squares and spaces, offering something for every romantic whim. All accompanied by a great variety of restaurants, plenty of bars and wine spots (wine is said to have been invented here) and a rather unusually large amount of casinos. Which by the way offer free buffet food, beverages and even smokes to their guests. Have we convinced you yet? More from Batumi: ● 5 reasons you should head to Batumi, Georgia this summer ● 10 Awesome places to check out in Batumi RETURN TO CONTENTS 5 ▪ San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico San Cristóbal de las Casas, also known by its native Tzotzil name Jovel, is nestled in the Central Highlands region of the Mexican state of Chiapas. It sits in a small valley surrounded by hills, offering stunning vistas and a cool mountain climate. This is a town that they say once you venture in to, you will not want to leave. Honestly, this is just about as true as anything we ever learned on our travels. Simply put, San Cris is where it is at! We spent 3 incredible months here enjoying all it had to offer. The main thoroughfare through the town is the heartbeat of the action, with gorgeous bars and bistros, restaurants and shops, and all the fresh produce you can shake your re-useable grocery bag at. In Spain-esque style, a sleepy and serene street roars into life in the evenings, with street vendors, performers, artists and musicians springing to action every evening. Couple that with fireworks, epic sunsets and dry lightning phenomenon, a quirky cool AirBnb and that very special Mexican cuisine, and San Cristobal will certainly grab your attention. There is so much to see and explore here! We wrote a whole blog about it in the link below, but we will not leave it on that cliff-hanger. Let's leave it on the incredible street art. Cannot mention the town without its art in the same breath, so there that is. We aren't kidding, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary, and it really is first class! If you don't believe us, tap the link below to see more. See more: ● Vote for Your Favourite Mexican Street Art from our top ten picks! ● Forget Cancun; Why this little-known highland town is a must see in Mexico RETURN TO CONTENTS 6 ▪ El Gouna, Hurghada, Egypt El Gouna, also known as the "Venice of the Red Sea," isn't your typical Egyptian experience. This resort town lies along the Red Sea coast in south-eastern Egypt, roughly 25 km north of Hurghada. Instead of sprawling, sandy beaches, El Gouna is a network of lagoons and canals, creating a unique "Little Venice" vibe. That being said, it still has epic beaches too! Imagine strolling hand-in-hand along charming walkways beside turquoise waters, exploring colorful marinas lined with incredible yachts, and enjoying romantic gondola rides under the Egyptian sun. Beyond its aquatic charm, El Gouna offers a diverse range of adventures; snorkel amid vibrant coral reefs, kite-surf on crystal-clear waters (which it is world-renown for) or explore the nearby desert landscapes by ATV or in a hot air balloon. This secluded haven promises a romantic escape unlike any other in Egypt. El-Gouna is actually a walled-city, which means that only residents, workers and guest are allowed in. The security is actually quite welcome, making it feel super safe, even if you never actually even see the 'walls'. There are spectacular restaurants here, all types of cuisine, along with a vibrant nightlife. Everything about it impressed us; it is modern yet old, traditional yet different, resort style yet it feels like a city. It kind of has to be seen to be believed, although there is one draw-back, in that if you want to go to Luxor, you will need a near 20 hour day to do it. Still worth it though! Read more: ● Explore the stunning sights of ancient Egypt with a day trip tour from El Gouna to Luxor ● Top things to do in El Gouna, Egypt: ATV or Jeep ride across the desert with Alex Safari RETURN TO CONTENTS 7 ▪ Gundogan, Bodrum, Türkiye Gundogan in Türkiye, offers a blissful escape on the Aegean coast, approximately 17 km southwest of Bodrum. This hidden gem sits within the larger Milas district, surrounded by rolling hills, olive groves, and picturesque bays. Unlike its bustling neighbor Bodrum, Gundogan exudes a tranquil atmosphere, making it ideal for couples seeking a peaceful and romantic getaway. Having come from a month in Istanbul, the slower pace of Gundogan was very welcome. In fact, we actually came here 2 months before the start of its actual 'season', which meant we were able to enjoy that very sleepy feel as the town sprang to life with businesses getting ready. Let us explain; this bay of this town is completely lined with resorts, bars and restaurants, in between some villas. They ceremoniously shut down outside of peak season, laying out all of the reed rush parasols and furniture, clearing the decks and leaving the foliage to grow. As the season starts to draw near, every day something new starts to appear. Our Airbnb was about halfway up the hill around the bay, and it was awesome to take daily walks down it to the boardwalk for exercise and just because. With no-one around, it was seriously beautiful! It amazed us really as the temperature was still in the low 20's, which is just about perfect! So, (we digress), as you walk past it is great to watch the decks being polished, jetties being set up, bushes being cut back and fresh menu stands making their way onto the path. April to the end of May really is the golden spot here. Gundogan has all of the Turkish charm, calls-to-prayer, markets and traditional restaurants you could want, it has resorts, water sports, sandy beaches and adventure tours. Not to mention incredible and vibrant flowers that are beautifully grown in most of the gardens of the white-washed houses. Which by the way, is a rule here in Gundogan! It may always lose out to Bodrum in the popularity stakes, but you know what, it is probably better that way. If you catch our drift! ● Save for later: A Guide to Gündoğan, Bodrum's Best-Kept Secret RETURN TO CONTENTS 8 ▪ Arundel, West Sussex, England Located on the River Arun in West Sussex, England, lies the historic town of Arundel. This charming haven, about 80 km south of London, boasts a medieval castle towering over quaint cobbled streets lined with independent shops and traditional pubs. Imagine hand-in-hand strolls along the riverbank, breathing in the fresh air and soaking in the picturesque views of the castle reflected in the water. Arundel Castle, dating back to the 11th century, offers a glimpse into England's past. It also happens to boast one of the finest gardens you will be likely to find, with in particular a spectacular rose garden that we will never forget. Beyond the castle walls, you will find the equally spectacular Arundel Cathedral, known for its Gothic architecture and giant circular stained-glass window. The location of Arundel is also pretty neat if you want to tie in other must-see spots including Stonehenge and the Roman city of Bath. We did this loop on a weekend, and it makes for a really neat road-trip. While Arundel may be well known in England, it is not a name that rolls of the tongue amongst foreigners. You think castle you think Windsor right? Or Tower of London? Well we hope in this clearly-not-enough space to describe this place slot has done enough to convince you to add this to the list. Enough to check out our blog posts for them? Heck we will even throw Stonehenge in there for the sake of it! Read more: ● Uncover Arundel Cathedral: A Magical Piece of British History ● One of THE finest in all of England, the historic Arundel Castle ● Stonehenge: history, facts, and things to know before you visit RETURN TO CONTENTS 9 ▪ Whitby, North Yorkshire, England Whitby, set on the North Yorkshire coast where the River Esk meets the North Sea, offers a unique blend of romantic charm, historical intrigue, and natural beauty. This ancient seaside town, roughly 200 miles north of London, is steeped in history. Its East Cliff is dominated by the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey, a 7th-century monastery famously linked to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Make no mistake, we have been to copious amounts of ruined sites around the world, and this is the ONE to see. Just the whole experience here is like a whimsical story. From the moment we stepped off of the traditional steam train from Pickering, yes steam train, the town of Whitby was everything we imagined England would have been like back in the day. As a fishing town, there are old nets and crates everywhere, fishing and sail boats in the harbour, old stores with the weather worn oak beams on the outside and old stone built buildings still standing strong after hundreds of years. Walking through towards the sea brings you to 109 steps, that lead to a wonderful old church with one of the most incredible views of any cemetery we have ever come across. The view from up there is one of a kind, even before one gets to the Whitby Abbey ruins themselves, set against a deep blue sky like a painting out of the Louvre. Package that all together with Dracula and Bram Stoker, fish and chips, old English pubs, sandy beaches, clifftop trails and the surrounding Yorkshire Moors National Park. At risk of blabbering on like an ad for Whitby, we shall leave it there! ● If your curious for more: Exploring Whitby Abbey & Dracula's Birthplace via the Pickering Steam Train RETURN TO CONTENTS 10 ▪ Sacre Coeur, Paris, France The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Coeur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Coeur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica in Paris dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, at an altitude of 130 meters (427 feet). From this elevated perch, the Sacré-Coeur offers spectacular panoramic views of the entire city of Paris. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. This breathtaking view, combined with the basilica's stunning architecture, makes it a popular tourist destination. Not just for tourists, it also made it a rather beautiful spot for an evening celebrating our engagement in Cyprus. We were here literally a few days after, and it was a fitting spot. A place that is as alive during the night as it is during the day. As is Paris itself of course! Okay, so we admit, you will probably find Paris in practically every guide you will ever see about romantic destinations. Most likely in the top like two or something too. So sorry not sorry about that, but nonetheless here we are. We have no excuses haha! Seriously though, we need not mention all of the other Paris stuff, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Catacombs, Arc de Triumph so on and so on... ● Read more: Unfortunately blog posts for France are unavailable at this time. Please check back again later (admit it, you all hear that dial tone sound from back in the day now right?!) RETURN TO CONTENTS 11 ▪ Isla de Pasion, Cozumel, Mexico Everything about this place fits in with wanderlust and romance. Like a glove in fact! Situated approximately 10 minutes by boat from Cozumel's main shore, Isla de Pasion sits on the Caribbean Sea, offering secluded vibes and crystal-clear waters. This private island boasts powdery white sand beaches, fringed by palm trees and lapped by turquoise waters. To get there, you can take an ATV through the main central area of Cozumel, on the only road out of town that goes past the main island resorts before drifting off towards the isolated pier where boats ferry those who find them to the island. Quite literally you drive off the road onto a dirt path, dodging potholes and overhanging foliage all the way, before parking up in a clearing by a dock that has seen better days. After negotiating with the almost-no-English boat driver on price, we took a three hour return and went off to enjoy this paradise island that would not look out of place in a Maldives brochure. It is a little bit of a nervy moment waiting for the boat to return, totally unnecessary but still. Anyway, we obviously got picked up, albeit a little late, and here we are telling you to do the exact same thing. Go here. You won't regret it. ● Find out more: Isla de Pasion: The Secluded Island Paradise Off the Coast of Cozumel, Mexico RETURN TO CONTENTS 12 ▪ Hoi An, Vietnam Hoi An is a captivating town renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage status and its captivating blend of history, culture, and charm. Located approximately 30 kilometers south of Da Nang city and situated beside the picturesque Thu Bon River, Hoi An offers a unique experience that is as romantic as it is cultural and dare we say it, even spiritual. Stepping into Hoi An's ancient town feels like stepping back in time. Its well-preserved streets, lined with lantern-adorned yellow shophouses dating back to the 15th-19th centuries, exude a magical atmosphere. Its thriving market is the heartbeat of the place, covering most of the riverside streets with just about everything you can think of. The smells were beautiful too, no durian in sight (if you do not know Durian fruit, you will when you come to Asia), just warm incense and kind smiles to accompany them. As the sun sets the transformation in the town gets underway, with more lanterns than you can imagine on just about every tree and every store. This town has been a trading hub for so long, it has blended and frozen culture from all over Asia. It tells this story, in a mesmerizing show called Hoi An Memories, located on its own island on the river. Add this experience to gorgeous local cafes and restaurants, friendly locals and the monthly lantern festival, lighting candles on the rive, and you have a place of romance and wanderlust. Period! A big shout out to the incredible Mulberry Silk Village in Hoi An where we stayed too. We are yet to write about this incredible experience on our blog, but it will be coming soon! This fabulous hotel includes a silk workshop with traditional techniques and had-sewn clothing. Not to mention exquisite cuisine and several pools to enjoy and relax in. If you are interested, be sure to subscribe to be notified when it lands! ● Save for later: Magic in the Moonlight: Exploring Hoi An Night Market and lighting a candle at the Lantern Festival RETURN TO CONTENTS 13 ▪ Singapore Singapore, a sovereign island city-state in Southeast Asia, is a vibrant metropolis known for its futuristic skyline, colonial architecture, and diverse cultural tapestry. Sitting at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is separated from Malaysia by the Johor Strait and Indonesia by the Singapore Strait. Its compact size, measuring just 728 square kilometers, makes it easily explorable on foot or by its efficient public transportation system. Singapore's unique character stems from its multicultural population, comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian communities. This blend is reflected in its languages, religions, cuisine, and architecture, creating a truly fascinating experience for visitors. Perhaps most famous for its iconic Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands, this futuristic city has plenty to romanticize about. If you do not know about these two places, you will see them featured just about anywhere Singapore is mentioned. But while this garden paradise, complete with the famous Supertree Grove and Cloud Forest Dome is great during the day, at night it becomes a free light show beneath the trees and stars. Meanwhile Marina Bay Sands, which affords you a rooftop view with breathtaking views of the bay, becomes a shopping haven throughfare to the electric Spectra Light and Water Show, also free at night. Then of course there is probably the best Chinatown in all of south east Asia, with its epic Hawker Center complete with the world's first hawker Michelin Star, Hawker Chan. Oh and then there is Little India, local islands to explore, a vibrant night life and everything without the need for a car. Oh and the incredible world-famous Jewel at Changi Airport (which by the way is one of the best airports in the world). Sold on Singapore yet? Not off the beaten path, but no doubt Singapore is extraordinary. Read more: ● Gardens by the Bay and Gardens by the Bay Light Show in Singapore ● 2 EPIC FREE Light Shows you can see EVERY NIGHT in Singapore RETURN TO CONTENTS 14 ▪ Chiang Rai, Thailand Chiang Rai, nestled in the mountainous northern region of Thailand, is a city brimming with cultural charm, natural beauty, and unique experiences. Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai offers a more relaxed and authentic Thai experience, perfect for those seeking to delve deeper into the country's rich heritage and stunning landscapes. As with most Thai cities, Chiang Rai is brimming with temples, amongst them some of the most famous in the country itself. The White Temple and the Blue Temple are indeed worthy of that title, which is saying something given there are over 40,000 across the land of smiles. The best part about here however was not so much the inner city, but more about the outskirts where we found a fantastic Airbnb. At the time we were renting a car, and had a permanent stay in Chiang Mai. So we came up to the Rai via the only highway, which happens to be windy and mountainous and very nice, to stay in a 'dome', overlooking a delightful mountain valley with a bathtub on its balcony. Style Paidoi Resort is one of those that really speaks for itself, and goes hand in hand with romance of course! We will get around to writing about it one day, but for now you are just gonna have to trust us, and in the meantime check out the sister temples and the very odd, and almost concerning Baan Dam Museum below. Top destinations in Chiang Rai: ● Baan Dam Black House Museum: Places to see in Chiang Rai ● The Blue Temple Chiang Rai - Wat Rong Suea Ten ● The White Temple in Chiang Rai: All You Need to Know RETURN TO CONTENTS 15 ▪ Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada Last on the list but by no means the least, Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge, spanning the border between the province of Ontario in Canada and the state of New York in the United States. The largest of the three is Horseshoe Falls, which straddles the international border of the two countries. It is also known as the Canadian Falls and this is the one we visited. Twice, and for Jenn (as a Canadian from Toronto) many more on top of that! Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. The falls are truly awe-inspiring, with a total height of 167 feet (51 m) and a width of 3,419 feet (1,043 m). The water flow rate is an average of 6,000 cubic meters per second (212,000 cubic feet per second), although this can vary depending on the time of year and weather conditions. It is a truly spectacular sight to witness, especially from the top of the falls, or at night with the mesmerizing fireworks and light show. There are many different ways to experience Niagara Falls, from taking a boat ride to the bottom of the falls to walking behind them. As mentioned earlier you can also take a boardwalk right up to the top, and you can even take a zip line back down to the bottom during the day or at night. There are a ton of other activities around the falls too, including amusements, museums, bars, restaurants and resorts. There is something truly magical about Niagara Falls, and the energy here is powerful. Incredibly it seems to be avoided on many a list out there, but trust us, it is worth it. And a fitting place to end this not-in-any-particular-order list! All you need to know: The ultimate guide to Niagara Falls in Canada As ever thank you for reading, and please feel free to share your experience, or ask any questions you may have, in the comments below. All feedback on the post is welcome too! How to follow our Blog There are lots of ways for you to stay up to date with Jenn and Leon Travel. If you follow us on Instagram, you can join our broadcast channel for our latest updates and posts. You will also find us on YouTube of course, or you can simply subscribe to our blog, and we will drop our latest posts straight into your email inbox. It is that easy! Get our Country Guides for FREE for a limited time only We would love to offer you LIFETIME ACCESS to all of our exclusive COUNTRY GUIDES for FREE, in kind exchange for some genuine feedback on the user experience and content. In the last 6 months we have seen incredible growth on our blog, and we are now reaching hundreds of people every day. It is has been an amazing journey, and both of us would sincerely appreciate your support in helping us to continue to evolve and improve our offer to you, our fellow travelers! What are our country guides you say? Well, we have spent many, many hours creating comprehensive country guides on closerlives.com packed full of all of that important stuff one might need to know before visiting a country. We include things like visa information, culture and customs, transportation, health & safety tips, must-see places and handy interactive maps. Not to mention helpful links, sim card info and even emergency numbers. All put together with our experience from living in the countries themselves too. We have done the research to save you the time, compiling it all on neat and tidy pages (we hope) that are easy to navigate, and use on the go if needed to! If you would like to take a few minutes to check them out, tap the button below, hit ‘Get your Guide’ and pop COUNTRYGUIDEFREE in the voucher code box at the checkout.

  • Safety First: 6 Top Recommendations for Airbnb Guests

    Considering an Airbnb for your upcoming getaway could be a wise economical choice. Yet, it's important to note that they may not offer the level of security found in hotels. As such, when arranging your Airbnb accommodations, it's crucial to conduct thorough research and take several precautions prior to finalizing your reservation. From scrutinizing your host's reputation through past guest reviews to assessing the safety of the local area and inspecting the rental for hidden surveillance devices, this guide outlines vital tips to safeguard your well-being throughout your journey. Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. Tap here for further information. Image source: pexels.com Airbnb Safety Tips First, I would like to clarify how reliable Airbnb is. When you ask, is Airbnb safe, what are you comparing it to? If we are talking about property sharing, then Airbnb is much safer. Compared to hotels, the level of security is much lower. We won't delve into Airbnb's security technologies; for that, you can visit the VeePN website. From the article you can learn about Airbnb safety concerns and options for improving safety. We'll focus on what can be done to improve security when using Airbnb. #1 Reviews and Rating - Basics When it comes to ensuring safety with Airbnb accommodations, paying attention to guest reviews is paramount. Before making a booking, it's essential to peruse the reviews—doing otherwise is not advisable. After finding a visually and statistically appealing listing, the next step is to dive into individual guest reviews. Reviews are incredibly telling; they're personal accounts of previous guests' experiences. Negative experiences, in particular, tend to prompt guests to share their concerns, offering future guests valuable insights. #2 Check for Cameras You can ask the host directly about the presence of security cameras for complete transparency. Despite the prohibition of concealment devices, conducting a sweep of the accommodations for cameras is a good practice to maintain privacy. Platforms like Airbnb strictly forbid the use of hidden cameras and any recording equipment. Hosts are obligated to inform about any such devices on the premises. Specifically, recording is not allowed in private areas such as bedrooms and bathrooms; however, they may be present in shared spaces. Surveillance devices must not be installed inside rental properties, although exterior cameras are permitted with full disclosure to guests. Nevertheless, there have been incidents reported in the media where travelers found undisclosed cameras in their rented spaces. #3 Read Airbnb Host Profiles To enhance your safety during your stay, it's recommended to thoroughly review the profiles of Airbnb hosts. A well-crafted host profile is often an indicator of a reliable and attentive Airbnb host. A comprehensive profile typically includes a detailed personal description. Hosts who invest time into sharing information about themselves are likely to demonstrate a commitment to providing a positive guest experience. Moreover, pay attention to the verification information a host has submitted to Airbnb. At a basic level, look for confirmed contact details such as a government-issued ID, a verified phone number, and an email address. #4 Make Sure the Host Is Responsive It's critical to select an attentive host for a worry-free experience. Should any problems arise or if you encounter an emergency situation, you'll appreciate a host who can return your communication promptly, ideally within a day. Imagine being locked out of your accommodation with no timely support – it’s a scenario best avoided. Before booking, sift through the reviews focusing on the host's communication score. A high rating in this area is reassuring. Initiate a conversation with your potential host ahead of your visit to gauge their responsiveness. If you encounter a lack of responsiveness or unsettling inquiries, consider it a red flag. It's advisable to cancel and seek another place rather than risk a potentially unsafe circumstance upon arrival. Image source: pexels.com #5 Don't Leave Airbnb to Pay Ensuring safety on Airbnb revolves significantly around secure payments within the platform. Wondering what that entails? Let's take a moment to address a common query that I, as an Airbnb host, often encounter. Many guests propose the idea of bypassing the Airbnb platform for direct cash transactions when booking. On the surface, this might appear beneficial. Guests and hosts could potentially save on the service fees charged by Airbnb. For instance, a week's accommodation priced at $2,000 on the platform might be reduced to $1,600 if the service fees are eliminated. That's an enticing saving, right? However, it's essential to reconsider. Operating outside Airbnb's system is not a wise choice. It’s better to already install a VPN on iOS and try to save on housing by changing the region. This way you will be protected by Airbnb and save money. #6 Store Your Valuables Safely You should check whether their accommodations include a secure safe for storing valuables. Essential items such as passports, electronic devices, and jewelry should be placed in the most secure location available, and some rental properties offer safe storage solutions. In certain cases, it might be necessary to supply your own padlock, which adds a layer of security since only you will have access to the combination. You can use portable safes as an alternative for safeguarding possessions during travel. These safes typically consist of a fabric outer layer integrated with wire mesh and are secured with a braided steel cable, effectively deterring thieves unless they possess bolt cutters. He specifically endorses the Pacsafe brand for their range of anti-theft products, including portable safes. Conclusion Airbnb accommodations offer an affordable alternative for lodging during travel. Yet, unlike hotels, they may lack standardized security protocols. To ensure a secure and enjoyable stay, it's essential to conduct thorough research prior to finalizing your Airbnb reservation. Pay close attention to the host's review history, assess the safety of the local area, and be vigilant for the presence of undisclosed surveillance devices within the property. Above you will find a checklist of crucial considerations that will help safeguard your well-being while you're away from home. Written by Stacey Davis for Jenn & Leon Travel Blog How to follow our blog There are lots of ways for you to stay up to date with Jenn and Leon Travel. If you follow us on Instagram, you can join our broadcast channel for our latest updates and posts. You will also find us on YouTube of course, or you can simply subscribe to our blog, and we will drop our latest posts straight into your email inbox. It is that easy!

  • 2 EPIC FREE Light Shows you can see EVERY NIGHT in Singapore

    Like us, you may have heard that Singapore can be expensive. Indeed it can be for accommodation, but when it comes to activities, this city-state has it covered! We were shocked to be able to see not one but TWO absolutely FREE light shows in Singapore, that you can see within an hour of each other, for the perfect romantic night out! The evening starts off at the incredible Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, getting there nice and early to secure a spot lying down beneath the giant trees. The Garden Rhapsody Light Show starts at 7.45pm, lasts around 15 minutes, giving you an hour to get a good spot on the bay for the incredible 9pm Spectra Light Show at Marina Bay Sands. In between that you get to cross a highway on an incredible bridge, walk through the famous MBS Resort, including its impressive The Shoppes Mall, complete with its own Changi Airport style 'mini Jewel' water fountain. In this post, we will tell you a little bit about Singapore's incredible Gardens by the Bay, which is a must-see in itself, and also offers many free activities. We will then show you some of our Garden Rhapsody Light Show highlights, along with how to get to the Spectra Light Show from there, and what to expect once you get to Marina Bay Sands. Oh and just so you know, if you prefer video highlights, we have that covered too! Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. Tap here for further information. Explore Gardens by the Bay with Klook Enter directly with your Klook voucher and have access to waterfront gardens and the cooled conservatories. Get discounts and combo deals for other park attractions including Dream Forest and Flower Garden. What is Gardens by the Bay in Singapore? Gardens by the Bay's story is one of vision, innovation, and a deep love for nature. It's a tale that stretches back to 2005, when Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, dreamt of transforming the city from a "Garden City" to a "City in a Garden." He envisioned a green oasis amidst the urban jungle, a space that would boost environmental sustainability, enhance quality of life, and become a national icon. In 2007, the seeds of this futuristic Eden were sown. Supertrees, the now-iconic vertical gardens, rose from the ground, their steel skeletons soon adorned with a vibrant tapestry of plants. Cooled conservatories, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, were constructed, promising journeys into fantastical ecosystems. Every element, from the cascading waterfalls to the intricate walkways, was meticulously designed to celebrate nature and its vital role in a thriving city. At the heart of Gardens by the Bay lies the iconic Supertree Grove, a mesmerizing forest of 18 steel giants reaching towards the heavens. These aren't your average trees, though. These are marvels of innovation and beauty, blending nature and technology like a futuristic fairy tale. Supertrees range from 25 to 50 meters tall, dwarfing visitors and offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Gardens and beyond. But these titans aren't just empty shells. Their "skin" is adorned with a breathtaking vertical garden, housing over 162,900 plants of more than 200 species. Bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and flowering climbers weave a tapestry of life across the steel skeleton, creating a stunning ecosystem in the sky. These aren't just aesthetic marvels; they're champions of sustainability. Seven of the Supertrees are equipped with photovoltaic cells, harvesting solar energy to power the Gardens' lighting and irrigation systems. Others function as air exhausts for the cooled conservatories, contributing to the Gardens' efficient climate control. The best part is that much if the site is completely FREE to walk around, relax and chill! There are a plethora of monuments, themed parks, exhibits and leisure areas too. This is THE place to be in Singapore, especially if you only have limited time and a tight budget! Interested to know more? Take a closer look at Gardens by the Bay with all you need to know including our highlights, find out how to get to the Gardens by the Bay, a bit of its history, the things you need to know before visiting, and our experience rating. RETURN TO CONTENTS The Garden Rhapsody Light & Sound Show So now that you know about Gardens by the Bay, lets get to know the epic Garden Rhapsody Light Show. A breathtaking display of lights, music, and technology set amidst the lush greenery of one of Singapore's most iconic attractions, this is a must-see. Here's everything you need to know about this enchanting spectacle! ⪢ Location: The Garden Rhapsody Light Show takes place at Gardens by the Bay, a sprawling nature park located in the heart of Singapore. The show specifically occurs in the Supertree Grove, where towering vertical gardens known as Supertrees stand. ⪢ Schedule: The show typically runs twice nightly, with the first showing starting around 7:45 PM and the second around 8:45 PM. ⪢ Duration: Each performance of Garden Rhapsody lasts for approximately 15 minutes, during which the Supertrees come alive with a dazzling display of lights and music. ⪢ Themes: The show features different themes throughout the year, ranging from seasonal celebrations to collaborations with renowned artists and musicians. These themes often incorporate elements of nature, technology, and Singaporean culture, creating a visually stunning and immersive experience for the audience. ⪢ Technology: The Garden Rhapsody Light Show utilizes cutting-edge lighting and projection technology to illuminate the Supertrees in a mesmerizing array of colors and patterns. Synchronized to an evocative soundtrack, the lights dance across the Supertrees, creating a harmonious blend of music and visual artistry. ⪢ Free Admission: Similar to the Spectra Light Show, Garden Rhapsody is free for all visitors to Gardens by the Bay, making it accessible to both locals and tourists. ⪢ Crowd Experience: The Supertree Grove can get quite crowded during the show, especially on weekends and holidays. Arriving early can help you secure a good spot for viewing the spectacle, whether you prefer to watch from directly beneath the Supertrees or from a distance. ⪢ Best Viewing Spots: While the entire Supertree Grove offers excellent vantage points for viewing the show, some of the best spots include the viewing deck at the OCBC Skyway, which provides a bird's-eye view of the illuminated Supertrees, as well as the ground-level viewing areas surrounding the grove. ⪢ Additional Tips: It's a good idea to arrive at Gardens by the Bay well before the showtime to explore the park's other attractions, such as the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest conservatories. The Garden Rhapsody Light Show at Gardens by the Bay offers a magical experience that combines nature, art, and technology in a unique and unforgettable way. Whether you're a first-time visitor to Singapore or a seasoned traveler, this enchanting spectacle is sure to leave you awestruck! If, like us you go for the 7.45pm showing, you will be able to comfortably make the Spectra Light Show at 9pm, via The Shoppes Mall in Marina Bay Sands. Much of the crowd will most likely be doing the same thing! It is an impressive walk, with plenty of awesome photo opportunities taking the bridge out of Gardens by the Bay, over the highway that cuts across the lit skyscrapers of the Singapore cityscape, and into the architectural marvel that is the famous hotel itself. Take a closer look at our walk through the mall in the next section, before we get to the marvel that is the Spectra Light and Water Show! RETURN TO CONTENTS Dive into Luxury & Dazzling Delights: Exploring The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands Imagine strolling through a shopping paradise bathed in the glow of Singapore's skyline. Picture iconic luxury brands lining opulent avenues, all accessible from the comfort of a world-class resort. That's the magic of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, a retail wonderland that is every bit as fashionable as the stores themselves. The bridge over the highway leads straight into the mall, and the entrance is impressive. It brings you out at the upper level, so you get to see the full spectacle of the mall itself. It has been designed to impress, and will have you looking all over the place at the sparkly signs and interesting features, such as the canal that runs through the middle of it! While only here for a short time as we were passing through to grab a good spot for the light show, we immediately knew it was worth coming back to check out further! We hope you do too. Here are a few things you can expect at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands: ⪢ Step into a Fashion Fairy-tale: Prepare to be dazzled by over 170 luxury boutiques, each housing the crème de la crème of fashion. Think Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton – the list goes on! Witness the architectural marvel of the world's only floating Louis Vuitton Island Maison, or marvel at the unique Apple store, entirely surrounded by water. It's a feast for the eyes, even if your wallet begs to differ! ⪢ Beyond Retail Bliss: The Shoppes is more than just designer labels. Indulge in a culinary adventure with over 200 restaurants and cafes, from Michelin-starred delights to casual bites. Craving dim sum with a view? Or perhaps a sky-high cocktail overlooking the city lights? The Shoppes caters to every palate and mood. ⪢ A Jewel of a Fountain: Before you enter the shopping haven, don't miss the mesmerizing Jewel, a captivating rain vortex cascading through a seven-story atrium. It's a free, Instagram-worthy spectacle that sets the stage for your luxurious adventure. If you are coming from Gardens by the Bay entrance, you will find it at the opposite end as you walk in. ⪢ Effortless Connectivity: The Shoppes seamlessly connects to the Bayfront MRT station, making it easily accessible from anywhere in Singapore. No need to worry about taxis or navigating traffic – just hop on the train and be whisked away to your shopping haven. ⪢ Foodie Paradise: From casual food courts to celebrity chef restaurants, The Shoppes caters to every craving. Indulge in Michelin-starred delights at Beni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, savor authentic Italian fare at Spago by Wolfgang Puck, or grab a quick bite at the many food courts offering local and international cuisine. Oh and a quick shout out to TWG Tea on the Bay for this epic store! We both love tea, and when we saw this place we were hugely impressed with its stunning appearance! What a great store! If you are a tea lover like us, you are going to want to check this place out. The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is more than just a shopping mall; it's an experience. It's a chance to indulge in luxury, savor world-class cuisine, and marvel at architectural wonders. So pack your bags (and your credit card!), and get ready to embark on a shopping adventure you'll never forget! Bonus Tip: Check out The Shoppes' website for exclusive deals, events, and a directory of all the amazing stores and restaurants waiting to be explored! RETURN TO CONTENTS Spectra - A Light & Water Show The Spectra Light Show in Singapore is a captivating audio-visual extravaganza that takes place along the iconic Marina Bay waterfront. It's one of the city-state's most popular tourist attractions, drawing visitors from around the world to witness its mesmerizing display of lights, music, and water effects. Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from the Spectra Light Show: ⪢ Location: The show is staged at the Event Plaza along the promenade of Marina Bay Sands, next to the Apple Store on the bay. ⪢ Schedule: Spectra typically runs nightly, with multiple showings at 8pm and 9pm each evening. ⪢ Duration: The show lasts for approximately 15 minutes, immersing the audience in a spellbinding journey through a symphony of lights, water jets, and music. ⪢ Themes: Spectra weaves together various themes, including Singapore's rich cultural heritage, its modern skyline, and themes of harmony and unity. The show's narrative unfolds through a seamless fusion of light, water, and sound elements, creating a multisensory experience. ⪢ Technology: The show employs state-of-the-art lighting, projection, and water fountain technology to create stunning visual effects. Marina Bay's skyline becomes the canvas for a dynamic display of colors, patterns, and imagery, synchronized perfectly with an evocative soundtrack. ⪢ Free Admission: One of the most appealing aspects of Spectra is that it is entirely free to attend, making it accessible to locals and tourists alike. This makes it a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Singapore, offering a world-class entertainment experience without any cost. ⪢ Crowd Experience: Given its popularity, the area around Marina Bay Sands can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons or on weekends. Arriving a bit early can help secure a good viewing spot. ⪢ Best Viewing Spots: Optimal viewing spots for Spectra include the Event Plaza itself, as well as the adjacent Helix Bridge and the promenade along Marina Bay Sands. Each vantage point offers a unique perspective on the show, allowing visitors to enjoy it from different angles. ⪢ Weather: It's advisable to check the weather forecast before heading out, as the show may be canceled in the event of adverse weather conditions, or you may need an umbrella. ⪢ Food & drinks: Bringing along some snacks and drinks is a good idea, as there is not a great deal of options for buying food that in this area. Plus you won't want to lose your spot! The Spectra Light Show in Singapore offers a captivating blend of artistry, technology, and storytelling, providing visitors with an unforgettable sensory experience against the backdrop of one of the world's most stunning urban landscapes. And the fact that it's free makes it all the more appealing, especially if you are budget-conscious traveler looking to make the most of your time in the Lion City! RETURN TO CONTENTS How to get from Gardens by the Bay to Spectra Light Show in Singapore For some reason we could not get the map to go through The Shoppes Mall at Marina Bay Sands, but as you can see you can walk across the Marina Bay Overpass Viewing Point and through the mall to get to the Spectra Light & Water Show. This only takes around 15 minutes, so you will have time to browse around the mall if you want to. Note that the city metro runs right beneath The Shoppes, so getting home after is just as smooth sailing! Show Start Times: Garden Rhapsody Light & Sound Show happens twice nightly, at 7.45pm and 8.45pm. The show lasts around 15 minutes. The Spectra Light Show also happens twice nightly, at 8pm and 9pm. The show lasts around 15 minutes. Websites: gardensbythebay.com.sg | marinabaysands.com/attractions/spectra Explore Gardens by the Bay with Klook Enter directly with your Klook voucher and have access to waterfront gardens and the cooled conservatories. Get discounts and combo deals for other park attractions including Dream Forest and Flower Garden. RETURN TO CONTENTS Our first impressions of Singapore on YouTube (including light show highlights) In this video, we show you our first impressions of Chinatown, eat at the famous Hawker Chan at the Chinatown Complex Hawker area, we take the MRT and learn the transport system in Singapore and of course we had to walk along the water and explore Gardens by the Bay. We also check out the city at night! We visit the tree light show AND the epic water fountain show! A must-do when in the city! We did SO much in our first day! Come and explore with us! RETURN TO CONTENTS Our Garden Rhapsody & Spectra Light Show experience rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5 Both of these events are absolutely worth seeing in their own right! Lying under the stars and trees of Supertree Grove, watching the dazzling lights and soaking up the carefully choreographed lights for fifteen minutes along with hundreds of other people. What is not to like! Then to walk on through the dazzling Marina Bay Sands hotel, only then to watch a free water light and laser show that almost felt like a concert. Honestly, we could have paid for both and still been happy! Absolutely a must-see in Singapore. The pair of them! How to follow our blog There are lots of ways for you to stay up to date with Jenn and Leon Travel. If you follow us on Instagram, you can join our broadcast channel for our latest updates and posts. You will also find us on YouTube of course, or you can simply subscribe to our blog, and we will drop our latest posts straight into your email inbox. It is that easy! Your FREE interactive map of Singapore Check out all of the places we visited in Singapore courtesy of this interactive map from Wanderlog. Tap any of the numbers for more information including directions, our blog posts, links to reviews and much more. Wanderlog is a free travel planning app for iOS and Android devices that allows users to create trip itineraries, organize flights, hotel and car reservations, view places to visit on a map, and collaborate with friends. It is super handy and has made a big impact on our travel planning. It saves time and is super easy to use! Explore Singapore with Klook Klook offers a wide variety of tours to help you experience the best of Singapore. Whether you're looking for a river cruise, a zip line adventure or even an iFly experience, Klook has it all. In addition to their wide selection of tours, Klook also offers great deals on transportation, accommodation, and activities. All tours are led by experienced guides who can help you learn about the history and culture of the Singapore. Klook's tours are all-inclusive too, so you don't have to worry about anything but enjoying your experience! Your GUIDE to visiting Singapore First time in Singapore? Check out our comprehensive guide with all you need to know including our latest posts, must-see places, and key information about health & safety, transport, local customs, connectivity, visa information, useful links and much more!

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  • Home - Closer Lives | Travel Blog, Store, Poetry & More!

    Introduction Discover your next travel destination, plan the perfect trip, find inspirational gifts or immerse yourself in our poetry and prose! Read more At Closer Lives, we are passionate about living life to the fullest. Through our online store and travel blog we aim to bring you closer to the world around you. We believe that life should be lived with a sense of adventure; we are passionate about inspiring people to explore the world, discover new cultures and get out of their comfort zone. We also share on YouTube and Instagram for inspiring visuals alongside thought-provoking poetry, another big passion of ours. Be it planning a trip, hunting for a cool gift, or simply just looking for inspiration, we believe Closer Lives will hav