Hauntville: Where to Get Your Haunted House Fix in Melbourne

Saturday, 20 October 2018
Living in the United States, Halloween was always one of my favourite holidays. I enjoyed everything about it! The change in the weather. The ability to dress up and pretend to be someone else. All the glorious candy. And of course, getting to face your fears. 

In Southern California, it had become a yearly tradition to go to Knott's Scary Farms and Universal Horror Nights. Each year I would eagerly wait to see the incredible special effects makeup and pray that at least one scarer would be able to scare me. When you work in the mental health field, little scares you. So the rare occasion that I would let out a scream, I was happy. When I moved to Melbourne, I knew my favourite Halloween traditions may be increasingly difficult to find. 

The past four years, Halloween has become a bigger deal in Australia. When I first moved, many of the schools did not allow students to dress up and good luck finding any haunted houses. Now it seems more and more haunted houses are popping up all around Melbourne. This year, Hauntville is a new haunted house with a festival area I was super excited to check out!

Located at Burnley Park a close walk from the Burnley train station, this fun, festive Halloween extravaganza includes two scary haunted mazes, a variety of kooky carnival games, a creepy crawly eatery, and plenty of opportunities to interact with the less... lively characters you'll find around the park.  

Entry to the grounds is free but if you're wanting to access the haunted houses, there is a fee. If you're a little unsure if you want to be scared, get there early and grab some witches brew. It may help you calm your nerves before your scares. Didn't have a chance to eat beforehand? There are plenty of incredible food trucks waiting to cater to your every food need. 

Once the moon is bright and full, make your way over to Cirque Du Slay or the Yarra River Coffinworks. Here, you'll face your fears while struggling to find your way through the zig-zagging maze. Beware! Every step may take you down a dangerous path and the thrill of a lifetime. The biggest question? Will you make it out alive?

Got little ones who may scare a little easy? Visit Hauntville from 4-6 for a less frightening, but still entertaining experience. Dress your younger haunts up for the daily costume competition or let them go on the Trick-or-Treat walk. The scare houses are open during this time as well except there will be no scarers popping out throughout the maze. 

Hauntville haunts are open until 28 October from 4:30-10:30. Click here to get your tickets! And be sure to get them soon because this is a scare-tastic event you don't want to miss!

And until next time...
Stay curious!

How to Spend a Long Layover in Kuala Lumpur

Friday, 21 September 2018
For the longest time, I used to hate having a layover anywhere. I wanted to get to my final destination as quickly as possible. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate a long layover. In fact, I often seek these layovers out. It gives me the opportunity to explore a city or country I wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to.

I recently had a 12-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur on my trip to India. Many people told me just to sit and relax in the airport. But who really wants to sit in an airport, eating overpriced food for 12 hours?  I honestly don’t have travel plans to Malaysia or KL anytime soon, so I wanted to make the most of my time.

Getting Through Customs
If you have an, extend layover, always ensure you do not need a tourist visa to leave the airport. Fortunately, US passport holders are eligible for a free visa on arrival when in Malaysia. It took no time what so ever to get through customs. As I didn’t check any luggage, I didn’t need to wait for my suitcase to arrive.

As you exit the baggage collection area, to your right, you will find a luggage check area. For 28 Ringgit ($6.76USD), they will safely store your luggage for an entire day. Rates depend on how long you will be storing your bag so it may end up being cheaper for some people.

Take the Express Train
There are two train options to get into KL Central. I opted for the express train that only takes 28 minutes to get into the city. Round trip costs 99 Ringgit ($24 USD). The other train, which stops more frequently, is cheaper however as I was pressed for time I opted for the fastest train possible so I could see as much as possible.

Batu Caves
Once at KL Central, you will access all the train lines throughout Kuala Lumpur. If you come from an area that has excellent public transport, please be advised all the lines are not created equal. The line to the Batu Caves only runs once an hour.

The train, if it’s running correctly, takes about 40 minutes to get to the Batu Caves. It can take longer so make sure you factor the time in. Once you're at the caves, there are so many incredible places to explore. To the left of the train station is the Ramayana Cave. It costs 5 Ringgit to get in, but the caves are covered in sculptures depicting the story of the Hindu gods.

If you continue walking straight once exiting the train station, you will pass the menagerie and a smaller temple. Continue walking, and you’ll find the iconic steps leading up to the temple embedded in the caves. When walking up the stairs, watch out for the monkeys, they will try and snatch your purse looking for food. If they’re rebuilding the temple, you will be asked to carry a bucket of sand to the top. Think of it as Spartan training and take two. It’s for a good cause.

If you have time, and a bigger budget than I did, you can also explore the Dark Caves. There you will see tons of super cool critters and get to walk throughout the vast cave.

KLCC Petronas Twin Towers
After the Batu Caves, take the train back to KL Central or the Central Market Station. From there you can transfer over to one of the rapid lines. I opted to go to the towers first before exploring the markets. This line is slightly more expensive, but trains are running almost every 8 minutes so you will quickly get from point A to point B.

If you’re big on shopping, KLCC is a shopaholic’s heaven. There are so many incredible shops its hard not to get lost. There are also plenty of places to eat so if you’re not brave enough to try Malaysian food at the markets, this is the place to give it a go.

From there, exit the towers and walk to the gardens. The gardens are beautiful and give you exquisite views of the Petronas Towers. If you want to go up to the viewing deck of the towers, be sure to book in advance. When I went to try my luck, it was sold out for the day. However, there are a few incredible rooftop bars in the area that allow beautiful views of the towers and KL. Heli Bar is an iconic rooftop bar with a view that will impress any traveller.

Central Markets
Once you’ve viewed the towers and explored the high-end shops, hop back on the rapid line and get off at Pasar Seni. Here you will be able to access the Central Markets. Like many markets, there are a lot of trinkets and goods. It’s a relatively small space, but there was still some incredible artwork. I enjoyed that the artwork was different from many of the other pieces you find in SE Asia. If you’re pressed for time, I would recommend skipping the market. It is similar to most markets you’ll see in SE Asia.

Located within close proximity to the Central Markets, Chinatown is a beautiful outdoor market with a lot of historical sights located along the walk. You’re able to read about the history, explore KL a bit more, and shop. Many of the stalls offer similar goods, but all of the prices are super reasonable. There are also quite a few areas to stop and grab a bite to eat. A definite must when in KL.
One of the most common tips I got about exploring KL was to eat! My stomach wasn’t 100% so unfortunately I didn’t get to taste my way around KL but I did stop and grab a laksa in Chinatown. It was incredible! Thankfully, the staff spoke English (incredibly well), so I was able to just get the liquid. It was so tasty. It made me wish that I could have eaten it properly.

Once you’ve finished exploring and eating, make your way back to KL Central. If you’re pressed for time, you can use GRAB (SE Asia’s version of Uber), and that will get you back to the station quickly. From there, you can catch the express train back to the airport.

And just like that you’ll explore a new city, get a little exercise and make the most of a long layover. Travelling solo? No worries at all. I was travelling solo and had no issues getting around the city. I asked the information desk at the airport the best way to get everywhere and they were very informative. I never felt unsafe while walking around the city. Do not let solo travel stop you from exploring during a layover!

And until next time...
Stay curious!

5 Incredible Luxury Melbourne Hotels

Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Sometimes we just need a little bit of luxury in our life. When travelling, this is the perfect time to indulge. No need to worry about lumpy beds, drunken bunkmates stumbling into the room in the middle of the night, or dodge looking hotels. Treat yourself to a relaxing holiday getaway. When travelling to Melbourne, here are some of our favourite luxury hotels. They're so lovely you'll want to spend your entire trip relaxing indoors. 

The Grand Hyatt
Located in the heart of one of the best shopping streets in Melbourne, the Grand Hyatt will help anyone achieve the boujee holiday they crave. For some of the most epic views of Melbourne, request a room above the 20th floor. The Grand Club Lounge allows panoramic views of the city skyline. With a kitchen, bar, and fitness centre open 24/7, there's a little something for everyone at the Grand Hyatt! 

Sofitel Hotel
Situated on Collins Street, close to Parliment Station, Sofitel Hotel is another incredible lux hotel that will leave you relaxed and never wanting to leave. The floor to ceiling windows offers incredible city views. Sofitel Hotel is located to many Melbourne must-see attractions and world-class dining. 

Pro tip: If you're on a budget but still want to see the impressive views of the Sofitel Hotel, go to the loo on the 35th floor. This public toilet allows for some of the most incredible, free views of the city!

The Langham
Situated on the opposite side of the Yarra River, the Langham Hotel is near the hustle and bustle of the Southbank Promenade. The views are to die for at the Langham! Even the pool has spectacular views of the city! You'll be situated close to Crown Casino so you'll never have to worry about missing out on an adventure. 

Crown Towers
What's better than being right next door to the Crown? Actually staying in the Crown! Almost every single room has stellar views of the Yarra River and city skyline. Get treated like royalty with the many amenities Crown Towers has to offer. Treat yourself to a spa day, workout at their top-notch gym, or go gamble in the Casino and pretend like you're in Vegas. Either way, your stay will be memorable.  

InterContinental Melbourne
With luxury hotels all around the world, incredible deals and perks for their hotel ambassadors, and high-quality customer service, what isn't to love about the InterContinental Melbourne? The beautiful facade of the building is a beautiful welcome to the luxurious stay you will have. The location is absolutely perfect! You're close to trams, trains, access to the airport, and incredible food and shopping. Everything about your stay will scream luxury!

If you were staying in Melbourne, which one of these luxury hotels would you choose? Have you ever stayed in one of the hotels listed? What was your experience like? 

And until next time...
Stay curious! 

7 Tips for Exploring Melbourne in Under $50/day

Monday, 17 September 2018
If you're caught up on my most recent posts, you may be second guessing whether or not a holiday to Australia is for you. A delightful holiday can quickly turn into a costly one. But that doesn't need to happen! It is super easy to explore Melbourne on a budget. Here are my tips and tricks for travelling around Melbourne for under $50 a day! 

1. Utilise free public transportation
When travelling by tram in the CBD, it is completely free! You never have to worry about touching on or off as long as you stay within the free tram zone. Utilising the free tram zone will get you to all of the must-see attractions within the CBD. 

Planning on travelling outside of the CBD? There are a couple options for getting low or no cost travels. Check the various backpacker travel groups on Facebook. Many people will offer free rides to a destination you may want to see. If travelling with people you're unfamiliar with doesn't quite sound like something you want to do, try using Uber Pool or Ola. With Ola, you get $25 worth of travel for free! Uber Pool also gets you from point A to point B at a super discounted price. 

2. Plan your meals
Eating out will take a massive chunk out of your daily budget. Even eating at Macca's can run you $12/meal. Don't waste all of your budget on food! Prep your meals ahead of time! If you're rushing around the city, you can easily pack light, filling meals to hold you over till you're at your hotel. Most hotels and hostels have a kitchenette area. You may not be able to prepare everything you would back at home, but you'll still be able to throw some delicious food together! 

You can find great deals on fresh produce and meats at the local markets or supermarkets. Not only are you getting fresh, healthy meals, but you're also saving heaps on your budget. Want to shop for your meals and see one of Melbourne's most iconic sights? Queen Victoria Market has some of the cheapest fresh produce and meats in the city! 

3. House sit, couch surf or stay in hostels
Accommodation can cost you a pretty penny while in Aus. If you're not too fussed about staying in a fancy hotel, there are plenty of ways of finding low to no cost accommodation. 

Housesitting websites allow you to stay for free in exchange for watching someones house and possibly their pets as well. There are some housesitting websites you can use. However, it may take some time building up a profile that allows people to trust you. Start by housesitting in your local area so that by the time your trip comes around you'll be well established. 

Couchsurfing is another excellent way to have free accommodation while travelling. Not only will you get free accommodation but you'll also be able to get an insiders perspective of the city. They will be able to share tips and tricks that most tourists won't get to experience. Just be sure to trust your gut. If you feel wary of the person before your stay, don't stay with them. 

Hostels are another incredibly cheap way to stay while in Melbourne. The staff is always super knowledgeable about getting around the city and what to see. Many hostels also have discounted tour prices if you want to explore the Yarra Valley, see the Penguin Parade, or tour the Great Ocean Road

4. Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol is friggin' expensive in Australia. You will easily blow your entire budget just going out a couple nights. The most obvious thing to do to save your budget is to not drink while in Australia. For some, you enjoy going out having a drink or winding down your day with a nice glass of wine. If you are going to drink in Australia, here are some money saving tips. 

First, buy directly from the bottle-o. This will be much cheaper than buying a pint at a pub. Second, opt for wine over beer or spirits. Wine is more inexpensive than bottled water here in Australia. Your dollar will go much farther when drinking wine. Last, drink during Happy Hour. This is when you'll find great deals on drinks. There are many pubs and restaurants around the city with incredible happy hour deals. 

5. Take advantage of the free sights
There are so many cheap or free sights in Melbourne. When you're on a budget, you must take advantage of them. Many sights are located within the CBD, but there are other impressive free sights scatter across Melbourne. Love to stay active and rock climb? There's a free outdoor bouldering wall in Burnley. Do you like to window shop? Take a trip to Chadstone and see all the lovely shops. Just be sure you're not tempted to buy anything!

6. Use docket deals
When shopping at Woolworth's or Coles, your receipt contains discounts both on the front and the back (when you sign up for a free rewards card). Even if you're only there for a short period of time, these docket deals give discounts for alcohol and for food. It's a great way to help stick to your budget! 

7. Groupon is your friend
I don't know about you but I LOVE a good deal. For the longest time, I had forgotten about Groupon. I honestly thought the site had shut down. But recently, I found it and it's become my best friend. As I don't have extras on my health insurance, I've found discounted physio appointments, discounts on car services, discounted restaurant deals, and more. Groupons is PERFECT for keeping you on budget whilst in Melbourne. Be sure to utilise it! 

How do you stick to your budget while travelling? Share your budget-friendly tips in the comments below!

And until next time...
Stay curious!