Blogger Isabel Leong spent less than S$7,000 traveling to 15 countries in Europe. Can you beat that?
SINGAPORE — Isabel Leong is barely 23 years old, and she has already travelled to more than 105 cities in 30 countries — mostly on her own dime.
And now, the Singaporean hopes that by sharing her travel tips and experiences, students here, especially those who are cash-strapped, will be motivated to go out and see the world.
“(Travelling) opens up their minds about the possibilities of the future. A lot of young people (like me) are lost about their life direction, and going out there and being exposed to different people and their life stories can give them some insight,” Leong said in an interview with TODAY. “There are a lot of soft skills to learn as well, including adaptability, independence, social skills and intercultural knowledge.”
Leong started supporting her own travel adventures in 2013, beginning with the usual destinations like Bali and Phuket, and then eventually heading off the beaten path to smaller cities and towns around the world, like Cambodia’s Kampot province and Cantabaco in the Philippines. In 2015, she went on a student exchange programme in Rouen, France, where she began travelling around Europe in earnest. Since 2013, she has been to 64 cities in 16 countries.
To fund her exploits, she worked part-time for about four to five hours a week to pay for her own food and transport, and saved whatever she could to fund her travels.
“I became financially independent after junior college. There was an eight-month break after I graduated from junior college until school started in university. I took the time to explore different occupations and what I liked. I did everything from admin work to telemarketing to being a camp instructor,” said Leong, who recently graduated from Singapore Management University. She now runs a travel blog on student and budget travel called belaroundtheworld.com, which she set up last year.
“That was when I found out the importance of saving up. When I was in university, I also worked as a gym instructor, training clients part-time while juggling my studies.”
Leong also became an expert at travelling on a tight budget, spending less than S$7,000 over three months travelling to 15 countries in Europe. She kept a mental meal budget of about S$10 per day whenever she travelled, and stocked up on apples to keep herself from going hungry.
Instead of staying at expensive hotels, she also chose to couch-surf, which allowed her to stay with a host for free in exchange for prepacked bak kwa (barbecued pork) or a Singapore magnet. And even though most of her couch-surfing experiences have been positive, one particular incident in France taught her to be more judicious about her choice of hosts.
“As a beginner in couch-surfing, I wouldn’t select solo male hosts. There was one time I was in the south of France, in Nice, I couch-surfed with a guy. He expressed designs and it was quite scary. I tried to make up emergency plans in case he went overboard, but luckily I held my (ground) and he didn’t pursue it any further,” she said, adding that the host had started getting “uncomfortably” close to her, and had even offered to let her snuggle with him on his bed.
“I was constantly talking to my friends at home — but not my family because they would be worried sick — in case anything happened they would know what happened. It deterred me from couch-surfing, but I still went on after that, mostly with families or couples, though.”
Here are Leong’s three other tips for young travellers:
BRING YOUR STUDENT CARD
“This is one very valuable tip, because museums and even train tickets offer cheaper student ticket deals, especially in Europe. Sometimes you even get to go to museums for free.”
DON’T BE OSTENTATIOUS
“A lot of students, when they travel, are very worried about whether they would get pickpocketed. What I tell them is to try not to be too ostentatious about their belongings. Keep your bags zipped and don’t wear expensive-looking watches. They also talk about not putting your wallets at the back of your pocket, and that is also true because I have had instances where people were feeling my butt for stuff on a very packed train in Prague.”
“If you are thinking about whether to do (something), just go and do it. You are only visiting a place once and you don’t want to leave with regrets. One of the boldest things I have done was to go bungee jumping in Phuket. My friend and I were (hesitant) at first, but we decided, what could we lose? Since then I’ve been (braver) about adventure (travel).”
Singapore is South East Asia’s most prosperous city and smallest nation by land area. In recent years, newly developed mega-attractions and casino driven integrated resorts had transformed this “all work” economic powerhouse into one of the region’s most popular destinations for leisure travel.
Because of its compact size, Singapore is very easy to travel and generally safe. It is a top choice for first-time international travel, family trips, and those seeking to indulge in metropolitan luxuries. While costs are significantly higher than the rest of Southeast Asia, a lot of people continue to visit Singapore because of its unique and top-notch attractions that cater to almost every type of traveler.
I honestly didn’t expect to travel to Singapore as often as I have, considering the high number of seemingly more “exotic” and adventurous destinations elsewhere in the region. Singapore was just too irresistibly accessible with so many direct flights to other cities all over the region as well as convenient land crossing to Kuala Lumpur, another popular international gateway, in Malaysia. Singapore was a worthwhile jump-off point to Southeast Asia and a fitting “last stop” for indulging in urban comforts before the journey home.
Merlion Park — Pretty hard to miss anyway because of its prominent location at the mouth of the Singapore River. Not only could you get a good photo with the Merlion statue, Singapore’s most iconic monument, but there are amazing views to be seen of the Singapore Skyline, Marina Bay Sands, The Esplanade: Theatres by the Bay, and the Singapore Flyer.
Singapore Riverside and Civic District — this relaxing promenaded riverside area is a short walk away from the Merlion Park. Take a stroll down memory lane and get acquainted with the city’s early development and colonial history. A happening nightlife scene can be experienced at Clark and Boat Quay.
Chinatown — Experience Singapore’s multi-cultural diversity by taking a walking and food tour of Chinatown. Visit a church, a mosque, Indian and Chinese temples all in one walk. Go on a food adventure and try dishes from Singapore’s different cultural influences at affordable hawker centers of Chinatown.
Marina Bay — Marvel at Singapore’s new urban cape by taking a walk around Marina Bay. Visit Marina Bay Sands, the Helix Bridge, Singapore Flyer, and Esplanade: Theatres on the bay. Amazing overlooking views can be seen from the sky park of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer.
Gardens by the Bay — an ambitious project set to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden.” The main attractions here are the 25 towering man-made Super trees and two equally extraordinary bio domes.
Singapore Zoo — an impressively maintained zoo where you can find a wide array of animals from around the world. The River Safari is also worth checking out.
Sentosa Island — spends a fun day on rides and themed attractions or relax at the beaches of Sentosa. The island is home to Universal Studios Singapore, the first theme park of its kind to open in Southeast Asia and the second in Asia after Universal Studios Japan.
Regarded as THE summer event on the Algarve, Pine Cliffs annual gala promises guests a memorable evening of world-class entertainment and exquisite cuisine, and is perfectly timed to celebrate the hotel’s recent emergence from a multi-million pound transformation of its rooms and facilities, alongside the addition of the new contemporary Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites. Performing songs such as his platinum-selling break-though I Need a Dollar and the international smash hit Wake Me Up, the appearance of Californian-native Blacc reaffirms Pine Cliffs reputation as the Algarve’s premier resort, further cementing the destination’s appeal to sophisticated, discerning travellers.
Pine Cliffs is offering a special two-night Summer Gala Platinum Package from €1490 per room staying at Pine Cliffs Hotel in a Deluxe Resort View room (or from €1690 per suite staying at Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites). Available for stays between 5-7 August or 6-8 August, this package is based on two sharing, includes breakfast and two *Platinum Package tickets to the gala event. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +351 289 500 102. Visit summergala.pinecliffs.com to find out more and download an exclusive message about the event from Aloe Blacc here.
Pine Cliffs Beach Club Now Open for Alfresco Fun in Canary Wharf, London
For those searching for a taste of the Algarve closer to home this summer can also swing by the Pine Cliffs Beach Club in Canary Wharf’s Montgomery Square. Open each weekday from 11am to 11pm, the chic pop-up bar, run in partnership with award-winning travel specialist Quintessentially Travel, will transport work-weary Londoners to the sun-kissed Portuguese shores.
In the true spirit of The Luxury Collection, Pine Cliffs Beach Club brings a taste of the Algarve to London providing global explorers with authentic experiences that reflect the local spirit, lifestyle and design. The al-fresco Pine Cliffs Beach Club will offer a wide selection of chilled drinks including fine Portuguese wines, Pine Cliffs Resort’s signature white port cocktails, Moet Ice and Sagres beer. Throughout the summer, customers will also have the chance to win a holiday for two at the luxurious resort, including return flights and accommodation.
Regarded as one of Europe’s leading lifestyle destinations, Pine Cliffs enjoys a spectacular, unrivalled location on the Algarve coastline. Set across 72 hectares, the resort offers a wide range of luxurious accommodation options for couples, groups and families. There are exceptional leisure and sports facilities, with 11 different restaurants and bars, including the poolside seafood restaurant O Pescador; Beach Club on the golden shore of Praia Falésia; Piri Piri Steak House; and Zest, a new outlet offering guests an array of health-conscious drinks, snacks and dishes. In addition, the hotel features six swimming pools, Porto Pirata kids club, an Annabel Croft Tennis Academy, a nine-hole golf course with panoramic views, complemented by a world-class wellness and fitness offering comprising the new Serenity The Art of Well Being destination spa and Pine Cliffs Goes Active gym and health club, as well as numerous shops and boutiques.
Pine Cliffs Beach Club is located in Montgomery Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5JJ. Open throughout the summer until September, from 11am to 11pm Monday to Friday.
The Pine Cliffs Summer Gala Platinum Package is available for a two night stay between 5-7 August or 6-8 August. Price is per room, based on two sharing and includes:
Bed and Breakfast accommodation at either Pine Cliffs Hotel from €1490 staying in a Deluxe Resort View room or Pine Cliffs Ocean Suite staying in a Resort View suite from €1690.
Two Summer Gala tickets, including welcome cocktail, gift, open bar at Yakuza and a buffet dinner.
Room upgrade, subject to availability; 10% off standard rate for any extra nights; 20% discount on golf.
A Diamond package is also offered from €1890 for Pine Cliffs Hotel accommodation or from €2090 for Ocean Suites accommodation respectively. This includes all of the above, though replaces the gala buffet dinner with a sit-down plated waiter service dinner.
All packages are available subject to availability.
Email email@example.com or call +351 289 500 102. Visit summergala.pinecliffs.com to find out more.
About Pine Cliffs Resort
Pine Cliffs Resort is owned by United Investment Portugal (UIP), part of the IFA Hotels & Resorts consortium based in Dubai. The Pine Cliffs Hotel, the Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites and the Pine Cliffs Residence properties within the Pine Cliffs Resort are managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, under The Luxury Collection brand.
One of Europe’s leading integrated luxury and family resorts, Pine Cliffs Resort has won numerous accolades since opening in 1992, including the Portugal’s Leading Family Resort award six times in the World Travel Awards and appearing twice on Condé Nast Traveller’s ‘Gold List’.
Pine Cliffs Resort offers extensive investment opportunities via its holiday ownership options and selection of luxury freehold properties, three of which include a guaranteed annual rental return of 5% net within the first 5 years: Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites, Pine Cliffs Suites & Pine Cliffs Residence.
The resort also offers extensive leisure facilities including a nine-hole golf course and the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy; 11 diverse restaurants and bars; the Porto Pirata Children’s Village; Serenity The Art of Well Being destination spa and Pine Cliffs Goes Active gym and health club; and numerous shops and boutiques. For more information on Pine Cliffs Resort, visit www.pinecliffs.com
About The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts
The Luxury Collection® brand is comprised of world-renowned hotels and resorts offering unique, authentic experiences that evoke lasting, treasured memories. For the global explorer, The Luxury Collection offers a gateway to the world’s most exciting and desirable destinations. Each hotel and resort is a unique and cherished expression of its location; a portal to the destination’s indigenous charms and treasures. Originated in 1906 under the CIGA® brand as a collection of Europe’s most celebrated and iconic properties, today The Luxury Collection brand is a glittering ensemble, recently surpassing 100 of the world’s finest hotels and resorts in more than 30 countries. All of these hotels, many of them centuries old, are internationally recognized as being among the world’s finest. For more information and new openings, visit theluxurycollection.com or follow Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
About Quintessentially Travel Established in 2010, Quintessentially Travel is the award-winning travel division of Quintessentially, the world’s leading members-only Lifestyle Management and Concierge Club.
As a standalone provider of tailor-made travel, their worldwide service is available to all; Quintessentially membership is not a pre-requisite, but a wild case of wanderlust is.
Quintessentially Travel enjoys unparalleled access to the finest experiences imaginable, anywhere in the world. Their unsurpassed travel portfolio enables them to cater to all personal requirements, arranging every single element of the trip; from meet and greets, flights, private charters, transfers, experiences, hotel and villa bookings, to yacht bookings, event access and private guided tours.
Whatever the occasion, be it a family holiday, the ultimate honeymoon, a solo adventure of a lifetime or unique corporate experiences, Quintessentially Travel offer everything in the world of luxury travel, for every moment in life.