There are very much two sides to this very important question.
You have those that swear by cruises, the hotel at sea if you will. Docking at various different ports throughout the duration of your holiday.
Yet, on the other hand, you have those that prefer to have the freedom to spend as long or as little time in a given place as they want.
There really isn’t a right or wrong way to travel and see the world. However, we will endeavor to highlight what they both entail. As we have been fortunate to experience a 12-day Indonesian explorer cruise, and a 7-week self-organised holiday in Bali.
Let’s consider the hotel on the sea…
With thousands, and I mean Thousands of Cruises setting sail annually. There really is a cruise to suit everyone. Whether it’s to visit the east coast of the states or through the tiny narrow rivers of Norway on a river cruise.
You then have those that visit multiple countries and ports, which is great to sample the varying cultures along the way. Equally, you have those that spend a shorter period of time and visit multiple ports within the same country.
One thing we found that was great, as we didn’t have to worry about a thing. All food and entertainment are included. As was our visas, which saved us a massive headache to try and arrange. Each cruise will include different things, for example, some will include a soft drink and soft-serve ice cream. Otherwise, you will need to purchase a drinks package that can run into the hundreds!
Our cruise cost $2,000AUD for the two of us for 12 nights. So roughly $88AUD (or £56ish a night). This was not including the Komodo island tour or the safari tour while in Jakarta.
I can tell you now, had we not been on a cruise we would not have been able to see wild Komodo Dragons. The only reason why is because they only allow cruise tours into the national park.
We were also fortunate to see some incredible off-the-beaten-path things while in port on this Indonesian Explorer. Things we would never think to have seen had we looked to arrange this one our own.
These ports were as follows;
- Komodo Island and Pink Beach (we paid for an excursion),
- Bali (which we couldn’t tender from due to choppy seas),
- Probolinggo, and
- Jakarta (we paid for an excursion here too).
Organising to visit these places wouldn’t have been very difficult. But one thing it would have been is daunting for someone that hasn’t organised this sort of trip before.
Let’s now discuss the other way to travel
Planning your own trips around the world…
Ok, this is broad and sometimes you still need to organise a flight to get your cruise, after your cruise has finished, or even to and from your destination.
We’ll touch on that later on.
We all know these holidays we are talking about. The ones that fall into two categories.
- You head to the travel agent (whether this is online or not) and book your package holiday with them. So, your flights, airport transfers, and accommodation (sometimes food depending on your board) are included.
- You throw a dart into a map and decide you’re heading there. Ok, well maybe the dart-throwing isn’t entirely accurate.
But you decide that you want to head somewhere and you search the interweb for the best hotel, flights, and airport transfers you can buy.
We’ll ignore number 1 for this post and focus on the self-organised trip. We’ll use our 6 weeks trip to Bali for this one.
What you need to think about is the following;
- Visas (if necessary),
- Things to do and places to see.
If you have the luxury of not having a fixed date or where you would like to go, you can save even more money. We found using websites like SkyScanner and Kayak the most cost-effective. The beauty with websites like this is that you can narrow your search specifying your budget and time of travel.
As our cruise disembarked in Singapore, we had to make our way to Denpasar, Bali. Having looked at flights for a few days, it was cheaper to fly to Jakarta, stay in a cheap hotel (after getting a taxi too), and then fly on to Denpasar the following day.
All in all we must have saved about £50, and saw a tiny slither of Jakarta in the process.
Going direct to the hotels can generally land you a nice discount based on booking via the likes of booking.com. By booking this way only a percentage goes to the hotel. Up to a whopping 40% goes to the website before the hotel even gets a look in.
It is always better to find a hotel (or a few hotels) you like the look of and contact them directly. Not only will you tend to get a better rate, but the hotel gets to keep more of the money than if you booked via a comparison website.
Win, win for everyone!
We found the Astagina Villa Resort and Spa in Legian. The cost of our stay was going to be about £3,000 for the 7 weeks. After sending them an email to see if they had a better price, we were offered a reduced rate by 40%. Taking our accommodation to just over £1,800 (or around £37 a night)
Your savings might not be as large as this, but our booking was considered a long stay. But you never know, If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
This was quite easy, and you can check with a quick search if you need a visa. We used the guys over at iVisa, a website where not only can you search if you need a visa. But in sum circumstances, they can arrange it all for you. You just give the country your passport was issued and the country you are heading to, and it informs you what you need to do. For us heading to Bali, we could get a visa upon arrival.
You will need to double-check the length of your visa, and what you need to do to extend if you wish. As mentioned above, you can even process your visa through them as well, giving you the price for the various types on offer.
We will split this section into the following sub-sections.
- Airport transfers,
- Driving around, and
- Public transport.
We were fortunate here as the hotel included our airport transfer to them when we arrived. Which was a godsend as we wouldn’t have had the first clue how to arrange that upon landing.
Having said that, if you find yourself effectively stranded. you can use these tips to ensure you stay safe.
- Do not just jump into a taxi because it says taxi. I have heard some real horror stories of people that have done this and been either left paying over the odds. Or worse, been robbed at gunpoint.
- If you are in a country where a driver wants to give you a price for the journey before setting off. Kindly decline, and ask them to put their meter on. They will generally know what a journey will cost and happily add a few extra just so it doesn’t go through their meter. Giving the perception they are giving you a good price.
- If you have the Uber app, have a look and see if you can get a ride from them. All drivers have to be vetted, the app also gives you the colour and type of car, along with a photo of the driver. So you will be safe in the knowledge you are not going to be ripped off, or worse.
We found one of the best ways to see some of those hidden gems, were to hire a local to be our driver. This was vital in Bali as driving around is very… shall we say, unique. As a driver of over 10 years now, I would still have found it very overwhelming had I tried to drive myself.
You’ll actually find it is very similar in price or cheaper than hiring a car yourself. If you go down this route, please make sure they have insurance to cover you in the event of an accident.
When looking at arranging public transport, the main problem you have is that it’s relatively limited on where it goes. You may want to go and visit somewhere where there is zero public transport going there. If you in a city, public transport is great. Plenty of buses, trains, and taxis.
But, if you are heading out of the city, as mentioned that’s where things get more difficult.
So, in conclusion, is it a cruise or arranging your own trip that allows you to see more of the world for less.
We spent a total of about £1,800 for our 12 night Indonesian Explorer cruise back in 2016. This is in comparison to around £3,000 for our 7 weeks (well 49 days) in Bali.
Yes, the cruise was pretty much all-inclusive (minus our soft drinks package and the 2 excursions we did). But when you look at the cost of our 7 weeks in Bali this worked out so much more cost-effectively.
- Bali cost £3,000 for 49 days (this worked out at around £62 per night). This included all our meals, excursions, entertainment, transport, accommodation, and any souvenirs we purchased.
- The cruise cost £1,800 for 12 nights (this worked out at £150 per night). That’s more than double the cost per night to when we were in Bali.
For me, it has to be arranging your own travels. Even though we loved our cruise. We love organising our own thing. Heading off the beaten track, searching for those hidden gems that you just wouldn’t get to see from a cruise.
Yes, this means potentially an enormous amount of research to conduct. Along with many factors that could cause issues for your travels. But, planning for those issues is what makes travelling great.
But we love the opportunity to visit where you want and when you want to. One where you don’t need to rely on a cruise date, docking where you want to go, and having excursions heading to where you want to go to.
Don’t get us wrong, had we not been on a cruise around Indonesia we would never have been able to visit the Komodo Island. In fact, a cruise is something we have been looking into ever since our return from our travels back in 2016.
However you decide to organise your travels, don’t forget to arrange your travel insurance. It could cost you more than you think not to have it.