The first time I ever flew anywhere by myself I think I was eighteen, returning back from a family holiday in Spain early so I could work…and my Mum cried at the airport saying bye. If she cried at this (I saw her a week later) imagine how bad it was saying bye to her for a whole year. Since my first experience at eighteen I’ve done quite a bit of solo travelling, whether that be going to Rome for university or backpacking through South East Asia. It’s so normal to me now I don’t even know how I’d cope having a travel partner constantly chatting to me; I’m more than happy with my own company.
On Monday of this week I had a bit of a celebration. I graduated from my Masters Degree in Roman and Byzantine Archaeology and in true Kathy style I decided that the following day would be the perfect time to hop on a plane and not return for a year (yep, it was a bit of an emotional whirlwind).
So with that in mind I set out on my second solo backpacking trip a couple of days ago (although I’m meeting people at pretty much every stop this time so not quite as solo as last time). Thank the gods Emirates have opened a daily flight from Newcastle (my local airport) to Dubai making getting to the other side of the world just that little bit easier.
I’m not one to usually rave about airlines but I simply cannot get over how good Emirates were. They got off on a good foot due to me only having to travel 40 minutes to get to the airport. No commute to Edinburgh, Manchester or London really did make the difference.
Secondly, they could not have made it any easier being gluten free and travelling. It’s usually a massive issue but with Emirates all I had to do was log in to my online account and simply switch my meals to GF. And hand on my heart the GF food provided was amazing and of a high standard. A nice little bonus is you always get your food first (well after the kids) because of your special dietary requirement. Every cloud and all that.
Thirdly (and very importantly), I had a 8 and a half hour stopover in Dubai whilst waiting for my connection flight to Bali. Now as a weathered backpacker I was more than prepared to spend that time taking advantage of the airports wifi and watching a bit of Netflix. However, if you have a long stop over period in Dubai they provide a hotel, connections to and from said hotel and food for you (just as well really because you only get 60 minutes free wifi in Dubai…). I got a whole hotel room to myself and breakfast in the morning (and an unexpected United Arab Emirates stamp in my passport which I’m actually a bit too excited about).
What seemed like a pricey flight at the time of booking was quickly becoming excellent value for money. I can safely say I will definitely be using Emirates for my long distance flights in the future. In my own opinion when it comes to long haul you could always go for comfort and use one of the best airlines (Eithad are also amazing FYI).
So the getting to Bali bit was made easy and ran extremely smoothly. As I got into Denpasar, Bali quite late I used the only reliable way I know to book a cheap hotel to get my head down for the night. Agoda and Trivago are my usual go-to sites. They’re recognisable brands and have helpful reviews. My advice when it comes to picking hotels and hostels is always go off other peoples reviews. If the place has been completely slated just avoid it.
It was on Agoda I found BaliRa Airport Hotel and as the name indicates it’s within walking distance of the airport (about half a mile, if that). It has 12 rooms, a little pool and really good wifi (if you’ve ever been backpacking you’ll know how rare this is). I paid £20 for the night, which I used my British debit card to prepay with. As I knew I would, I left something at home – my STA Travelcard (kind of essential I know). So until I get that in a week or so I’m stuck using my British card which means charges being thrown at you left right and centre. A handy hint I realised when I was travelling last time is to use a UK site to book hotels or change the currency at the check out (this is on option on Hostelworld) and then you’re not charged the conversion fees! Not just a pretty face, I know.
So that’s my journey from Newcastle, England to Denpasar, Bali in a nutshell. I’m so excited to explore Bali over the next week and a bit so if anyone has any recommendations please let me know (I’m headed to Gili T tomorrow morning)!