Songthaews and buses in Chiang Mai

All transportation from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

There are several transportation options to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Below, you’ll find a set of alternatives to do so along with costs, timetables, and trip durations so you can decide which works best for you.

 

Buses from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bus trips to Chiang Mai take 10 to 12 hours.
You can book your trip online on www.bookaway.com (use the code “gravy5″ at checkout to get 5% off the ticket price), at one of the many travel agencies in town (preferably near your hotel), or at Mo Chit Bus Terminal.

 

VIP Coach, Bangkok, Thailand

Tourist Buses

Tourist bus tickets fees to Chiang Mai start at 530 THB.

Most buses depart from Khao San Road every hour. If you opt for the overnight bus and need to put a backpack on the luggage hold underneath, make sure to carry your valuables with you on the bus.

Deluxe Buses

Deluxe bus tickets fees can go up to 850 THB.

All deluxe buses heading to Chiang Mai depart from Mo Chit Bus Terminal (easily accessible via Skytrain).
You can buy your ticket for that day once you arrive at the station. There are complimentary snacks and water for the road.





Bagkok Skytrain
Bangkok Skytrain BTS

 

How to get from Chiang Mai Bus Station to the city center

In case you decide to go by bus, you should know that Chiang Mai has two bus stations: Arcade Bus Station and Chang Puak Bus Station.
The Arcade Bus Station is located at Kaeo Narawat Road. Terminals 2 and 3 are where all the long-distance buses coming from outside the Chiang Mai province arrive and depart (Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Phitsanulok, Ubon, Korat, Nan, Luang Prabang, Mae Sot).

From the Arcade Bus Station, you can quickly arrange a songthaew to take you to the city (Tha Phae Gate). The songthaews fare is 100 THB, but if you’re willing to wait for the songthaew to fill up, you can lower the price to THB 20 per person (expect to pay more if you want them to take you to the hotel). The trip takes around 15 minutes.

 

Songthaew

 

Choosing the Airplane

Chiang Mai International Airport receives domestic and international flights. Daily flights are coming in from Bangkok at almost every hour.

 

Air Asia X A330

 

The low-cost airlines operating at this airport are:
• Air Asia
• Nokair
• Thai Smile
• Vietjet

Plane tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai start at 1000 up to 3400 THB, and flights take an average of 1h20m.
You can book your flight over on bookaway.com (and use the code “gravy5″ at checkout to get 5% off the ticket price).

 

From the Airport to Chiang Mai:

Taxis are waiting at the northern end of the airport, and trips to the city center should cost around 160 THB.

In the southern end, you’ll find the Airport shuttle buses (not very frequent) charging 60 THB, and songthaews charging 40 THB. Both only tend to leave when they’re full.

Tip: If you’re willing to walk a few hundred meters on the main road outside the airport, you’ll be able to get a songthaew for 20-25 THB.

 

Choosing the Train

You can travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train during the day or at night. Check the timetables here: www.railway.co.th

Trips can take 14 to 16 hours, therefore, to optimize your time, you can travel at night on a sleeping train. As this is a very sought after option, buy your tickets in advance, and to avoid commissions, avoid travel agencies and buy the ticket at the Station counter yourself. Now, if you prefer buying your train tickets online, we recommend www.bookaway.com (you can use the code “gravy5″ at checkout to get 5% off the ticket price).

 

Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Bangkok

 

 

Have in mind that Chiang Mai train station is located 3 km from the city center, but there will be songthaews at hand on the train station.

 

If you have any questions or some extra info to add, let us know in the comments.


Vietnam Laos border queue

Crossing Vietnam - Laos borders overland

Land border crossing is tedious and difficult. Airplanes can ease and shorten the entire process, but the money you save from not buying plane tickets makes up for the time spent inside of a bus.

However, previous experiences like the one we had in Poipet, made the subsequent land border crossings stressful. And this time was no different.

 

Land borders Vietnam > Laos

There are 6 different land border checkpoints from Vietnam to Laos: Ngoc Hoi, Lao Bao, Cau Treo, Nam Khan, Nam Xoi, Tay Trang.
However, bus and tourism agencies tend to use only the following 4: Lao Bao, Tay Trang, Nam Khan, and Cau Treo.

 

 

We crossed the Tay Trang border because we were heading to Luang Prabang.

While still in Sapa, we decided to split the 18-hour bus trip to Laos into two parts. First chunk: going to the Vietnamese border city of Dien Bien Phu and spend the night. The next day: Dien Bien Phu to Luang Prabang, Laos.

 

From Sapa to Dien Bien Phu

We bought our tickets for the morning bus to Dien Bien Phu at the bakery Baguette & Chocolat in Sapa for €11,40.

 

 

The 8-hour trip was rough. Let’s just say that keeping down the banh mi we ate for breakfast was a struggle, as people kept opening the windows to vomit and spit…

 

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It was like watching this scene from Titanic for 8 hours.

 

We arrived at Dien Bien Phu bus station late in the afternoon and quickly bought tickets for the next day’s trip: € 20,15 each.
If you prefer to buy your ticket to Luang Prabang online, we recommend www.bookaway.com. Use the code “gravy5″ at checkout you’ll get 5% off the ticket price.

 


Mário and Avinash (a friend we met on the bus) at Dien Bien Phu bus station.

Border accommodation

We spent the night at the cheapest and decent hotel we found in the area (Huyen Anh Hotel).
Due to our level of exhaustion, we hardly explored the city, dragging ourselves through a few streets in search of a supermarket to buy provisions for the next day’s bus trip.
For dinner, we ate at the hotel restaurant. Great portions, really cheap and surprisingly good!

 

 

Goodbye Vietnam

At 7:30 a.m. on the next day, we set out for Laos in a mini-bus with no leg space. Two hours later we arrived at the Vietnamese border building, grabbed our backpacks, and headed inside.

The queue was long and barely moving as only one guard was doing the checks outs. A rumor spread that he was asking for “farewell donations” from tourists in front of the queue—didn’t happen to us.

After an exit stamp on the passports and a short mini-bus ride in no one’s land, we reached the Laos border checkpoint: a long white building with a row of window openings at a weird height.

 

Vietnam Laos border queue

 

A guard behind the first window gave us some papers to fill with our personal info and the answers to questions like ‘Why are you visiting Laos?’ or ‘Where are you staying?’. Minutes later we handed him the completed papers, our passports, and the €32,5 for the visa fee.

From the fourth window, another guard called our names and asked us for a dollar.

– What for? We just paid for the visa back there.
– It’s a processing fee, sir.

Reluctantly we paid, but as we reached for the passport, he told us to wait. Another guard called us from the 2nd window and we were asked to pay 2 more dollars.

– Why?…
– Because today is Saturday. Weekend fee.

A group of Canadians also crossing the border were called from the third window, charged an additional bullshit fee, and coerced to take new photos for the visa, as the ones they brought wouldn’t do—this service was 5 dollars.
Oh, there was also a fee for sanitary control and infections: a further $1.





Laos Visa on Arrival

Remember to check Laos document requirements regarding the entry of international tourists in advance. As far as we know, tourists from all nationalities can get a visa on arrival to Laos from Vietnam—provided they have a legal passport (duh!), a visa-size photo and the money for the processing fees listed below (2020):

Affghanistan: $40
America: $35
Austria: $35
Bangladesh: $40
Belgium: $35
Canada: $42
China: $20
Denmark: $35
England: $35
Finland: $35
Greece: $35
India: $40
Italy: $35

Ireland: $35
Nepal: $40
Norway: $35
Nederlands: $35
Pakistan: $40
Portugal: $35
Sri Lanka: $40
Spain: $35
Switzerland: $35
Sweden: $31
Turkey: $35
Vietnam: $20

Keep in mind that the same doesn’t apply the other way round. To enter Vietnam from Laos, you’ll need a Visa in advance.

 

Sabaidee Laos!

Anyways, after crossing the border, everyone got back into the mini-bus fuming, but the following 10-hour drive helped us forget what happened and accept what we cannot change— Hakuna Matata.
What matters is that we’re here and ready to explore Laos!

 

Laos '12

 

Border crossing expenses

Bus ticket Sapa >DienBienPhu: €11,40
Bus ticket DienBienPhu > Luang Prabang: €20,15
Accommodation at the Huyen Anh Hotel: €3.96
Laos Visa: €32,5
Extra fees: who knows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To prepare yourself for the border crossings to come, read the post 9 Tips & tricks for a smooth border crossing. It’ll help!

If you have any questions or some extra info on the Vietnam-Laos borders, please leave it in the comments below.


Girls selling papper lanterns in Hoi An

Hoi An in a weekend

We arrived in Hoi An at dawn to a city still half-asleep.
In the half-hour walk to our accommodation, we saw many paper lanterns hanging from treetops and cables: “we’re definitely in Hoi An”.

Looking for transportation to Hoi An? Check out www.bookaway.com.
To get 5% off the ticket price use the code “gravy5″ at checkout.

 

Welcome to Hoi An

 

When we got there the doors were still closed, so we decided to sit and wait by a water stream nearby. Our backpacks probably caught the attention of a random lady who approached us asking if we needed a place to sleep. We politely declined the offer saying we already had a reservation, so she left for a few moments just to come back on a scooter to make the same offer  ̶  that we declined once more. Maybe she thought we wouldn’t recognize her with a helmet on.

Minutes later she started waving at us from her house, to let us know that her house was right there, on the other side of the stream.

Feeling awkward, we left and went for a coffee.

 

Hoi An Historic Center / Old Town / Ancient Town

We rented two bicycles from our accommodation to visit Hoi An old town. In 10 minutes we arrived at the entrance, left the bikes away from the bike park assistants, and headed to Chua Phap Bao Pagoda.

 

Chua Phap Bao Temple, Hoi An

Bonsai and tiny statue

 

Hoi An was a far Eastern trading-port from the 15th to the 19th century. The town is a complex of narrow pedestrian streets colored by bright yellow houses, temples, and paper lanterns. Being the UNESCO World Heritage Site that it is, the streets are overflowing with tourists and unfortunately, a big part of these traditional buildings was transformed into souvenirs shops.

 

Paper lanterns in Hoi An

Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam

 

The original street plans and townscape remained intact, but you’ll find many houses serving as coffee shops, tailors, photography shops, knick-knacks shops, and restaurants.

 

Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam

Hoi An Street

 

Restaurants here can get a bit pricey, but you’ll find some food stalls away from the main streets. We ate a very decent bowl of cau lao: noodles on some sort of herbal broth with dough fritters and roast pork on the top, at a fraction of the price of the fancy restaurants nearby.





Entrance fee

To visit the historic center of Hoi An you’ll have to buy a ticket at the Tourist Information Center: we paid 4.74€ each.

The ticket comes with a map of the area highlighting some temples and houses, allowing you to enter 5 different attractions within the historical center in 24 hours. After the first 5, you’ll have to pay for every individual place you decide to visit next. In total there are 22 points of interest listed.
We managed to visit more than 5 without paying any extras, so you might get lucky as well.

It’s a bit hard to define the opening hours of all the places, but we can say that most of them close around 5.30 PM, and some close for lunch.

 

Thu Bon River in Hoi An Vietnam

 

The first one we visited was: Quan Thang. You can skip this one, it’s not worth wasting an entrance because all you’re allowed to see is a dark hall.
Actually, we couldn’t believe that was all, so we kept walking through the lobby until we entered the kitchen at the farthest end of the house. We only realized that wasn’t part of the visit when we were invited out and the door slammed behind us. Rude! 😀

We continued to stroll the streets and visited the beautiful Cantonese Assembly.

Afterward, we went to the Tran Family Chapel and the Tan Ky House (over 200 years old), both with a small guided tour explaining the history and architecture of the houses, concluding on a room turned into a gift shop.

All these traditional timber-frame houses have a mix of Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, and French influences, and have been passed on to family descendants.

 

Chinese Assembly, Hoi An

Hoi An Temple

 

We zigzagged through tourist crossing the famous 18th century Japanese Covered Bridge, it was a bit crowded, to say the least. If you just want to cross it, you won’t need to show your ticket unless you want to visit the adjacent pagoda.

Hoi An's Japanese covered bridge

Hoi An ancient town filled with people

Recommendations

• Museum of Trade Ceramics
• Museum of Folk Culture
• Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
• Quan Thang
• Duc An House
• Full Moon Lantern Festival: there are 13 festivals in 2017, check the calendar here.

 

The Market

In the late afternoon, we walked towards the local market. While checking some fruits, Mario was approached by a sweet-talking girl who, that allied to his inability to say “no”, managed to drag him to a tailoring stall to sell him a suit. It took him 20 minutes to get out of there, mainly because she didn’t take “no” for an answer and had a solution for every excuse possible  ̶  including international shipping.

It reminded us of pushy Bangkok tailors, shamelessly touting to every tourist passing by.

 

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Thu Bon River at night

The historic center is divided by the Thu Bon River. Here, locals in their small wooden boats, invite you in as soon as you approach the promenade.

 

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At night time the river gets lit up by floating paper lanterns sold by young girls all around the riverbank. In the streets hundreds of lanterns create a magical atmosphere, inviting everyone for a night stroll.
You must walk around Hoi An old town at night, there’s plenty to do and to see.

 

RTW2009-1798HoiAn

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Cua Dai Beach

On the morning of our second day, instead of pedaling towards the historic center, we headed towards the ocean. In the middle of the bike ride that took around 50 minutes, we stopped at a cafe and ended up talking with the owner.

 

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The conversation flowed and eventually, we reached the topic of global warming and the rise of sea levels. The owner of the cafe  ̶  a very sweet Vietnamese lady who had never traveled abroad  ̶  talked about her childhood on Cua Dai beach that is now partially destroyed. She was a bit surprised to hear that this is a global problem when we told her that the same is happening on the Portuguese coast.

Later on, when we arrived at Cua Dai beach, a big portion of the shore was made of sandbags stacked together to contain the sea.

 

Cua Dai beach (Hoi An, Vietnam 2016)

Cua Dai beach (Hoi An, Vietnam 2016)

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We spent two days in Hoi An which was enough to feel the area and visit the picturesque historical center. Despite the many tourists, Hoi An managed to convey a really intimate and magical atmosphere.

 

Expenses

Things tend to be a bit more expensive around here: accommodation, bike rental, and food. Luckily we booked a room with a fridge and ate tons of fruit from the local market (best watermelon ever).

Hoi An Tourist Ticket: 4,74€
1,5L Water bottle: 0,16€
Lunch: 1,55€
Dinner: 3,7€
Accommodation : 5,40€
Coffee: 0,35€
Bus ticket NhaTrang > Hoi An: 7,89€

If you have any questions or some extra info to share, please leave it in the comments below! 


Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City

Waking up in Ho Chi Minh City

Eager to be on our way to Vietnam, we used the time stuck on the bus to discuss what we were going to do at the Prek Chak-Xa Xia border. The main goal was to follow the advice given to us in Kampot by the hotel clerk

– If you want to cross the border without paying extra tourist fees, ignore the first guard. Walk straight to the second counter, get your passport stamped and move on. The guard on the first counter is there to charge money for a stupid temperature check.

So that was the plan: to show up with a serious face and walk confidently towards the second counter as if we’d been there before.

 

Mario_border_vietnam

Didn’t work. We got called immediately to the first counter, had our temperature checked with an infrared gun, and got charged for it. Luckily it was the only 1USD.

Two hours later we reached Haitien bus station where we waited for a night bus to Ho Chi Minh. Restaurants all around were full of people eating and waiting for departure.
Having a 10-hour bus trip still ahead of us, we decided to eat something on a plastic table and tiny stools right next to the buses: pork noodles à la exhaust smoke. Yum!

If you haven’t booked your bus to Ho Chi Minh yet, go to www.bookaway.com and use the code “gravy5″ at checkout to get 5% off the ticket price.

 

Our first trip in a Vietnamese sleeping bus

They look like tour buses and can be quite comfortable if you’re not 1.90m tall like we are. Each passenger gets a tiny bunker bed, a blanket, and wifi – if they’re lucky.

 

 

The trip ended up taking around 8 hours, with a 20-minute bathroom break at a huge decked out service station where we tried our first pork steamed bun ever!

At 4:00 AM we arrived at Ho Chi Minh’s District 2 on a mini-van. The city was quiet except Bui Vien street where tourists stroll around from bar to bar and sinister people covertly sold drugs – 10 seconds in, we were offered cocaine.





Waiting for the sunrise

Tired, we walked to a park nearby and rested on a bench waiting for the sun to come up. Around 5:00 AM the city started to wake up: cars and people moving around, birds chirping and pooping on my leg… We’re off to a good start!

By 5:45 AM the park was packed with locals playing badminton, power walking, and doing Asian Zumba classes. We were surprised to see so many seniors working out. Quite inspiring, take a look at the video:

 

 

We stayed in Ngan Long Hotel, about 15 minutes walk from the backpackers street – Pham Ngu Lao. Being the first thing in the morning and unable to do an early check-in, we left our bags in the reception and went out to explore District 1.

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest Vietnamese city where something like 9 million people live. The urban part is divided into 19 districts and we were housed on the first.

 


Image by Codie Leseman via CodieMaps

 

District 1

Around the backpackers street in District 1, most businesses are geared towards tourism: Western-style cafés, restaurants, pastry, and souvenir shops.
Narrow streets become wider avenues when you walk towards the river and you’ll find yourself surrounded by financial buildings, fancy shops, and the classic Opera house.

 

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If you’re into books, there’s a massive bookstore called Fahasa on Nguyen Hue Street, filled with English books at Vietnamese prices (like half the price you can find them in Portugal).

We walked along the sidewalk by the river to the Vietnamese History Museum. The museum is located in the same area as the Zoo and the Botanical Garden. The entrance was 0.59€ and inside you’ll find history from all periods of Vietnam: from the pre-historic to the latest dynasties. It’s a “classic-style museum”, not one of those modern ones with interactive panels, video, and sound.

 

Vietnam History Museum

 

Later we visited the Independence Palace, a building associated with the history of Vietnam’s war, home of the president of the south and the last stronghold to be conquered by the northern army.

 

Independence Palace

Independence Palace or Reunification Palace

 

The entrance was €1.18 and it took 1 hour and a half to visit the garden and the various levels of the building including the underground bunker. The bunker was built after the president’s own air force bombed the palace trying to kill him.

 

Radio Equipment in the Bunker

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It’s astonishing to be down there among war maps and 70’s radio transmitters. The place feels heavy and claustrophobic, there’s a weird tension in the air as if one of those old telephones could ring at any moment.

 

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Religious Drive-Thru

After visiting the Palace we walked along the large avenue right in front of it to see The Notre Dame Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was closed on both days we tried to enter.

 

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

 

The cathedral was built with red bricks imported straight from Marseille and today it represents the influence French settlers and Catholicism had over the city—Catholicism is still the second largest religion in Vietnam.

We were told that in the days there’s mass, locals park their motorbikes around the cathedral and listen to the priest from the bikes, never bothering to go inside.

 

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Still on the subject of French-influenced architecture, right next to the cathedral is the Central Post Office, a very well maintained building where you can get in for free, enjoy the beautiful interiors and dispatch a few postcards to people back home. The post offices still work and are used by the Vietnamese to this day.

 

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Saigon Central Post Office

 

District 5: Cholon and Chinatown

On our last day in Ho Chi Minh, we decided to explore Cholon on District 5, where the largest Chinatown in Vietnam is. We wanted to go by bus but couldn’t find the correct information. Luckily we managed to get it from a local girl after some severe hand gesturing and Google translate:

From District 1 to District 5 get the blue bus Nº1. It’s a 5km ride that costs €0.20.

 

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Cholon has an immense Chinese community and it’s like a small town itself. The Chinese influences are all throughout the area creating a unique atmosphere: authentic restaurants, pagodas, and markets like the busy Binh Tay Market where everything is bought and sold, makes up for a great day.

 

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We spent our afternoon sightseeing, walking, eating fruit, and taking pictures. By the end of it, we headed back to the city center in the same bus, the Nº1.

 

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The bus rides and the experience of being pedestrians around town showed us how hectic the traffic is. People crossing the road feinting each other, hundreds of scooters gathering at the red traffic lights, while others speed up and cut corners as the light turns green.

Once a Khmer fishermen village, centuries of conquering, colonization, and political change made Ho Chi Minh City a cultural global center. Locals were friendly and interested in other cultures, approaching us time and time again to make conversation even if just to practice their English.

 

HCMC travel expenses (daily average for 1 person)

Breakfast: 1,67€
Lunch: 0.59€
Dinner: 2,16€
Water: 0,18€
Accommodation: 5,70€
Entrance to the Independence Palace: 1,18€
Entrance to the Vietnamese History Museum: 0,59€

If you have any questions or some extra info everybody can benefit from, leave it down in the comments! 


Traveling in Aveiro

The ultimate travel guide to Aveiro

The city of Aveiro is becoming a must-see destination in the center north of Portugal.

This beautiful coastal city that Nuno and I call home has a lot to offer: Art Nouveau, soft sand beaches, ovos moles, free bike rides, and one of the brightest blue skies you probably ever seen — all within arm’s reach.

Some people wrongfully call Aveiro the “Portuguese Venice” (usually those who never visited Italy) and even though there are some similarities between Venetian gondolas and moliceiros, that’s pretty much it. Aveiro has a unique bright personality and doesn’t need an international doppelganger to stand on its own.

 

Cais Botirões

 

As a great weekend destination, visiting the city will take you no more than 2 days, but to see the whole region you’ll need a couple more at least. Here’s a glimpse of what you can see:

We wrote an Aveiro post series divided into 3 parts. In full, they’ll compile the outright best information for an excellent time in the city. To curate this info we dug deep, knocked on doors, and asked friends for advice to create a travel guide made of worth-seeing classics, trendy spots, and tips only locals know about.

Keep reading part one or jump to:

• Aveiro Travel Guide: the best food, bars, and accommodation
• Discover Barra and Costa Nova: the beach getaways by Aveiro.

 

Climate

The best time to visit Aveiro is between March and September. During the winter months (December to March) temperatures hover around 9ºC and the sun shines all year round. Nonetheless, pack a windbreaker—Aveiro is a VERY windy city and it gets cold at night.


Aveiro center Vera-Cruz

 

How to get to Aveiro

By train:

By being located between Lisbon and Porto, Aveiro gets to be served by the Northern Railway Line.

Lisbon to Aveiro takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes, train ticket prices start at €21 up to €39,60.

Porto to Aveiro: If you land on Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (Oporto), take the subway to Campanhã railway station (35 minutes for €2).

From Campanhã or São Bento railway stations, get the urban train to Aveiro (yellow line, 1 hour trip for 3.55€). Urban trains run hourly and every day of the week, check the timetables here or download the CP App.

 

By car:

If you’re planning to drive, many freeways will bring you to Aveiro: A1, A5, A17, and A29.

Lisbon to Aveiro (233km) toll rates start at €17,50 
Porto to Aveiro (59km) toll rates start at €4,75

There are a free car and caravan parking facility near Rossio, free of charge.

 

What to see and do in Aveiro

All spots mentioned in this post are marked on the map below by the dark blue pins.

They’re also marked on Maps.me. You can download the app here.

 

Ria de Aveiro

The saltwater canals permeating through the city center are an extension of the Ria, a coastal lagoon that gives Aveiro it’s unique appeal. Walking along its canals and crossing the footbridges guarantees you won’t miss the most picturesque parts of the city. 

 

Bairro da Beira-Mar

This is the most typical neighborhood of Aveiro established by the hardworking fishermen, salt workers, and their families.

It’s an esteemed city quarter, assembled by narrow streets and simple houses, embellished by a mishmash of colors and patterns of Portuguese tiles.
This is also where São Gonçalinho celebrations happen every year.

 

São Gonçalinho (January)

Hands down the most random and entertaining celebration in Aveiro.
Every year, in January, people go to the top of the São Gonçalinho chapel— patron saint of Aveiro—to throw sugary hard cakes as a way to fulfill their vows.
The crowd below tries to catch the rock-hard cakes called ‘cavacas’, not necessarily for being tasty, but because they’re said to bring good luck.

We made a video about it:

Praça do Peixe e o Mercado José Estevão

It’s a small Eiffel-style iron and glass building in the Beira-Mar neighborhood, and one of Aveiro fish markets, opened Tuesdays to Saturdays from 7 AM to 2 PM. 
There’s a restaurant on the first floor.

At night, the vicinity comes alive with bars, cafes, and terraces: starting at 10 PM to approximately 3 AM-ish.

 

Fish market in Aveiro Portugal

 

Fábrica Campos and the Fonte Nova Quay

Now a repurposed building Fábrica Campos was a manufacturing plant of paramount importance for Aveiro during the XIX and XX centuries.

 

Fonte Nova quay

In front of it is the Fonte Nova Quay, a beautiful urban space widely used by locals and perfect for a late afternoon stroll or lawn rest.

 

Fonte Nova Quay Aveiro

There are cafes, a supermarket, restaurants, and a sushi place called Subenshi to grab dinner after the sunsets.

 

Marinha da Noeirinha

Marinha da Noeirinha is an old saltern that was recently restored and is being explored in different ways. Here you can go on a guided tour and learn about the salt-making process, take a dip in its rustic salt-water pool, or even enjoy an afternoon on its “salt Spa”. Allegedly the high concentration of salt in the water and slurry yields them therapeutic properties that aid with skin conditions, allergies, and respiratory problems.

 

Salt Spa in Aveiro

 

If you’re interested in spending the night, there are water bungalows with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a terrace.

 

Marinha Noeirinha Aveiro

 

Guided tour to the saltern: €5 adults and €2,5 children
Salt Spa: €2 per hour (or included in the ticket for the beach area)
Beach Area: €3.5 for half a day or €5 for a full day. Kids pay €2 and €3 respectively.

Check it out at noeirinha.pt

 

Park Infante D.Pedro

In the mood for a picnic? Visit the city park that locals call “Parque da Macaca” (Monkey Park) due to a very bad-mannered monkey that lived there during the ’90s. Nowadays the monkey is no more but the park is greener than ever. As for animals, there are fish, turtles, and ducks on the lake.

 

Aveiro city park

Park Infante D. Pedro

 

Aveiro old Train Station (under restoration – 2020)

A XIXth century building, that was closed and lamentably discarded after the new train station was built. The white building is covered with several Portuguese tile panels, illustrating the region and its people. Worth a picture.

 

Aveiro old railway station© NH53

Fórum Aveiro

A shopping mall that doesn’t look or feel like one.
Instead of an obnoxious eyesore planted in the city center, it’s unique architecture merges beautifully with the city and invites you in for a walk.

 

Forum Aveiro

 

Here you’ll find the convenience of a food court, pharmacy, a rooftop garden with great views, and everything else a shopping mall has.





Festival dos Canais (July)

A one-week festival packed with a vast range of performances, workshops, and music of Portuguese and international artists. Events take place at different points of the city, every day, starting in the afternoon and extending to the late evening.

The festival is free, open to the public, and family-friendly.
Check the full program and highlights on the site www.festivaldoscanais.pt

 

Museums (all closed on Mondays)

Ecomuseum Marinha da Troncalhada

As a big salt producer back in the day, Aveiro managed to have 275 working salterns during the 80’s. Today there are less than 10, and Marinha da Troncalhada is one of the few that still works.

You can visit the eco-museum independently, for free, at any time of day—but we recommend doing it late in the afternoon, due to the epic sunsets.

 

Gazeebo in Marina da Trocalhada

Mario walking on the salt pans of Aveiro

 

If you’re with a group of 6+ people and want to learn about the whole salt picking process, request for a guide at the City Museum (€1 per person). There isn’t any written information on the site, however, if you speak Portuguese, have a chat with the salt workers!

This is also a great place for bird watching (aquatic birds, perching birds, and birds of prey).

 

Seagulls flying in Aveiro© César Sotelo

Art Nouveau Museum

Aveiro is an acclaimed city-museum of Art Nouveau in Portugal. Around the city center, you’ll find several of these beautiful historic buildings, and one of them is “Casa Major” which was adapted into a multi-level museum and tea-house.

 

Art noveau museum in Aveiro

 

Entrance fee: €2
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10 AM to 12.30 PM and 1.30 PM to 6 PM.

Tea House opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 09:30 AM to 02:00 AM
Weekends 09:00 AM to 03:00 AM

 

Aveiro Museum a.k.a Santa Joana Museum

A former female religious convent transformed into Aveiro’s main museum, now houses permanent exhibits of sacred art from the Portuguese baroque period, jewelry, and artifacts of historical importance to the city. Such as the tomb of the Order’s most famous nun, Princess Santa Joana.

Entrance fee: €4
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM.

 

Museum Santa Joana

Aveiro Museum Santa Joana's tomb
Aveiro Museum of Santa Joana

 

Museums discount tickets

For €5 you can get a general ticket that grants you access to all the museums in the city center:

• Ecomuseum Marinha da Troncalhada
• Art Nouveau Museum
• Aveiro Museum
• City Museum

The general ticket can be bought at the counters of the museums mentioned above (keep in mind that they’re all closed on Mondays).

 

Tours and Workshops

Moliceiro boat ride

You can sail along the scenic route on a moliceiro, just keep in mind that these boat rides were tailored to tourists. All moliceiros tend to have a guide on board spitting out mindless information for 45 minutes straight, disregarding if you’re interested or not.

Having said that, on Rossio along the central canal are plenty of boat operators. As of July 2020, ride fees start at €6 for children and €13 for adults.

 

Aveiro city center with art nouveau buildings


Near Fábrica Campos/ Fonte Nova Quay and far from the commotion of the city center, the boat operator 
Eco Ria offers tours with optional upgrades. Prices also start at €13.

As there are fewer tourists around this area, you might be lucky enough to get an entire boat for yourself.
Check the tours info on their website (it’s translated into several languages): www.ecoria.pt

 

Motorboat ride to the beach

One of the motorboats that connected Aveiro to Costa Nova in 1945, was transformed into a boat museum offering tours from the city center (Rossio) to the beaches of Barra, Costa Nova, São Jacinto, and Torreira. Tour fees start at €15 for 45 minutes rides up to 2-hour rides (round trips).

During July, they have tours to the Big Moliceiro Sailing Regatta in Torreira, it’s a must-see. For information on the specific days (as the dates of the regatta change yearly), contact the Lancha da Costa Nova: www.praiadacostanova.pt

 

Lancha da Costa Nova

 

Tip: These motorboat tours, by removing you from the city center to places you cannot see otherwise, are a great way to glimpse the natural side of the Aveiro estuary. Besides, you’ll be paying a similar price to the moliceiro boat rides that can’t seem to do anything but going through the same ol’ tourist route.

 

Explore – Aveiro Walking Tours

For a fun, cultural activity we recommend Explore-Aveiro Walking tours. They have several in-depth tours beyond the touristic circuits, with cool-knowledgeable guides on the history and folklore of Aveiro.

The tours are mostly tip-based, meaning you’ll have to tip the guide at the end. For dates and info, check their Facebook page: facebook.com/exploreaveirowalkingtour.





Ovos moles Workshop

Ovos moles are the most renowned sweet of Aveiro and can be tasted at any bakery around town. But if having a bite is not enough, you can learn its history and make your own at an ovos moles workshop at Oficina do Doce. The bonus is: you can eat them in the end.

Fee: €2 per person
Duration: 45 min.

Call them, email them or go to the shop and ask if they can squeeze you in with a bigger group (workshops only happen with 10+ people).

 

Moving around in Aveiro

Buga (Aveiro’s free bicycles)

Aveiro is practically flat, there aren’t any big hills, and renting a bicycle on a BUGA stand is easy. All you need is a document with your identification as collateral (like a driver’s license or passport) and the bike is yours for 2 hours to use within town limits, and free of charge!

BUGA stands opening hours:
Monday to Friday 9 AM to 6 PM
Weekends 10 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 6 PM

 

Buga Stand for bike rent

 

Tuk-tuk

The vehicles from Aveiro Tuk-Tours are electric, and prices change according to the duration of the tour — but you don’t need a tuk-tuk to visit Aveiro.
30 minutes ride: €7,50
45 minutes ride: €10
1-hour ride: €12,50
30-minute ride + moliceiro trip + a visit to the salterns: €15

 

Bus

Around here, everything is a 15-minute walk from everywhere else. Buses are only necessary to get to the beach.

However, prices and timetables are here: www.aveirobus.pt
Tickets can be bought on the bus for €2.10

 

Reaching the beach

Barra and Costa Nova beaches are a 20 minutes bus ride from the city center. There are 2 bus stops at different ends of the city: one right by the railway station and the other near Rossio.

Read all about it on the post: Discover Barra and Costa Nova: the beach getaways by Aveiro.

 

Facilities (miscellaneous)

It’s 2020 so there’s free wi-fi at every hostel, restaurant, and cafes.

Currency exchange stores, electric car charging-points, self-service laundries, and everything else we mentioned in this post are marked on Maps.me.
Note that many typical restaurants close on Mondays.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment or contact us
Podes escrever-nos em português se preferires. 


Trekking in Sapa Vietnam

Easy guide to Sapa mountain trekking

As soon as you set foot on Sapa, you’ll be bombarded on all sides by trekking opportunities. So there’s no need to book a trek in advance because resources abound.

In this guide, we will delve into the whole Sapa trekking tour process:

How to book it
Treks to choose from
Prices
Equipment
Our experience at it

 

Booking a trek in person or by phone

Two months before arriving in Sapa, we were recommended a local guide by a Portuguese backpacker we met in Kampot.  We followed her suggestion and called Mama Mae — the local Hmong guide she told us about.

 

Sapa-43.jpg

 

The booking process was simple: you can do it directly with the local guides as they approach you in the street, or by phone since they’ll hand out their numbers if you’re not ready to commit on the spot. You can also do it through your hotel, the Sapa tourism office or any tour operator around town.

 

You can book one of the following options:

• Half day trek
• Full day trek: includes one meal
• 2-day trek with homestay: includes two meals and a few drinks, a bath, and a bed for the night (usually at the guide’s family house)
Some tour operators like Buffalo Tours or Sapa Sisters offer up to 5-day trek options

Then you’ll set up the day, time and spot where the trek starts.
The payment is usually done at the end of the trek.

 

Price tables

Booking directly through a local guide will cost a fraction of what you’ll pay to a tour operator. Still, every guide has her own fee and these are some of the offers we got:

Mama Bau: 14€ for one day trek and 28€ for 2 days + homestay.
Mama Susu: 11,50€ for one day and 28€ for the 2 days + homestay.
Mama Mae: 11€ for one full day
Tour operator fees start at 35€ for one day

 

IMG_1127

 

If you’re an experienced hiker you could do the trek on your own, but by hiring an experienced guide you’ll be helping the local communities and learning about them. Besides, no one knows the hillside as they do.





Let’s do this!

Nuno and I met Mama Mae at 9 in the morning, near the Gothic church in the city center. The two of us joined a group of four American girls and three other Hmong women that walked alongside us the entire trek.

Mama Mae spoke very good English but the other Hmong women did not. We figured that they must accompany tourists as a way to practice their English, so eventually, they can become guides themselves.

 

Hmong women showing us the way through the Sapa moutains in Vietnam

 

Take plenty of water

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day in opposition to the stormy days before. We were super excited to be out and about exploring nature, and having a genuine taste of the Vietnamese rural life.

 

Rice paddies at Sapa

 

However, two hours in, we realized that 1,5L water bottle wouldn’t last long for two grown men hiking a mountain and descending through muddy rice terraces. Not to mention that Mama Mae got thirsty too, so we ended up sharing our water with her—because we’re gentlemen.

Take plenty of water, you’ll need it. There aren’t any shops in the hills, only in the villages.

 

Mario trekking the mountain in Sapa

 

Soul cleansing views

The scenery was breathtaking—everywhere we looked was like a panoramic screensaver!
Not only Mama Mae took us to the best lookout spots in the mountains, but we also saw water buffaloes, piglets, tea and cannabis plantations. We talked for hours about Vietnam, her family and ours. She was like an open book.

 

Water buffalo and farmer at a Sapa rice paddie

Mama Mae holding cannabis leaves

 

Meanwhile, the other 3 Hmong women kept walking by our side asking time and again:

– Where are you from?

 

Vietnamese Hmong women with Mario and Nuno

 

At noon, we stopped for lunch at a humble restaurant where other hikers were. Mama Mae provided us with a noodle soup and some pieces of fruit, but the drinks we paid ourselves. After lunch, we walked a few more hours to her house, where the first day of trekking ended. We met the husband and granddaughters as she prepared some tea for us: Lipton, believe it or not.

After tea, she explained how she makes indigo blue dye from plants.

 

Hmong fabric dye

Indigo dyed fabrics drying in the sun

 

True colors

The other 3 Hmong women that followed us around came with a goal in mind: to sell. To sell as much as possible.

After a subtle sign from Mama Mae, they pulled out all sorts of knick-knacks from their wicker baskets: bracelets, wallets, shawls, and whistles, along with an aggressive selling tactic. They turned into unfazed vending machines that didn’t take “no” for an answer.

 

Back to Sapa on a motorbike

Having finished our full day trek, Mama Mae took us to the center of her village, calling two motorbike taxis to take us back to Sapa: 2.00€ each, paid by ourselves.

The ride back to Sapa alone was amazing. It’s not every day that someone can ride through valleys in Vietnam, with the sun setting behind the mountains and the last sunbeams reflecting on the rice paddies. That’s something we’ll never forget.

 

Mountains, Sapa Vietnam

 

Trekking equipment

Keep it light and simple.
All you’ll need is a comfortable pair of sturdy shoes, light clothing, and a camera. Remember to take plenty of water, snacks, sunblock and you’ll be good to go.

As a side note, Sapa has plenty of shops that both rent and sell trekking gear.

 

Sapa trek guide walking

 

Full day trek expenses

Full day trek: 11€
Motorbike taxi: 2€
Water bottle: 0.60€

If you’re planning a trekking tour on Sapa we still have Mama Mae’s, Mama Bau’s and Mama Susu’s phone numbers and will gladly share them with you. Leave a reply down here or at any of our social media outlets and we’ll send it to you via email or PM.

Here’s a photo of Mama Mae taken in September 2018 by Cristelle — one of our readers. Cristelle reached out to us and asked for Mama Mae’s phone number. Two days later she was trekking with her in Sapa!

We’re super glad to contribute (even if in a small way) to your adventures, and by doing so helping Mama Mae on the other side of the world.

Trekking Sapa Vietnam 2018

Mui Ne sunset

Mui Ne and the Police

After more than 5 hours on a bus, we arrived in Mui Ne at dinner time. The bus company we traveled on (Futa), conveniently dropped everybody at their accommodations—don’t know if it’s company policy or because all hotels are on that main road.

It was weird to travel on a sleeping bus during the day, luckily the WiFi worked just fine.

Looking for transportation to Mui Ne? Check out www.bookaway.com.
To get 5% off the ticket price use the code “gravy5″ at checkout.

As soon as we got our room at the 247 a/c Guesthouse we dropped the backpack on the floor and headed out to hunt for some dinner. Starving and not being fans of seafood, we needed some alternatives.

 

IMG_0295

 

As we walked along Mui Ne’s main road a nice Vietnamese lady selling kitesurf packages and boat excursions invited us to see her menu. We were hungry and the photos on the menu looked good, so we said ‘yes’.

Let’s just say that we learned something that night: travel agencies are not restaurants.

Two days later we found an open-air food court named Dong Vui Square. A really cool place with a great selection of foods: from noodles to paella.

Mui Ne Beach

The next morning, after a bowl of fruit and muesli—which reminded us of our breakfasts in Ayutthaya—we went off to the beach. Or tried to at least.

From the terrace where we had breakfast, we could see the water peeking from between the houses. Even though it was right there in front of us, reaching it was a pain in the ass. Here’s why: along that main road we mentioned before, all sorts of buildings and private properties form a barrier between people and the beach.
To reach it we had to trespass private property, and like Bonnie & Clyde, we did. Later that day we found a “legal” crossing near the local market.

Mui Ne is a fishing village and the small round boats that look like plastic kiddie pools anchored in the open sea prove it.

 

Mui Ne beach

Mui Ne Fishing Village

 

The coastal strip of sand stretches for several kilometers and is lined with tall coconut trees. The water is blue and the sun shines all year round. The beach has the potential to be in any travel catalog if it wasn’t for all the garbage scattered everywhere. So after a chat in the sand, we left.





Palm trees at Mui Ne Beach

 

To explore more of Mui Ne, we rented a scooter.
The more west we got, the cleaner the beaches and the ocean.

 

Mario swimming

 

Learning to ride bikes in Kampot and understanding the convenience of driving, gave us the audacity to think that ‘from now on scooters are the way to go‘. So we rented one directly from our guesthouse for 80,000 Dongs (€ 3,20) for a whole day.

We rode to the actual fishing village of Mui Ne that appeared to have more boats than people. Unfortunately, besides a beautiful view from the high points, there’s not much to do around here. We stopped for lunch and took some photos.

 

Boats in the see

 

Running on the floor of the restaurant was a big rat looking for food, completely unfazed by humans—we named it Bertha.
Bertha looked strong and healthy, so the food had to be good.

 

Problems with the po-po

After lunch, we hopped on the bike and headed towards the White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne. Halfway through, two police officers pulled us over.

 

 

A very friendly officer holding a booklet approached us and asked for our international driver’s license, which we didn’t have. However, we anxiously flaunted our regular Portuguese ones, but by now, we knew we were in trouble.

He looked at us, frowned condescendingly, and flipped through the booklet showing us a bunch of gore illustrative images of what can happen to tourists driving without an international driver’s license. His portfolio included:

• Amputee tourist
• Tourist blood
• Reckless tourist speeding
• Tourist in a wheelchair
• Drunk tourist getting drunker planning to drive afterward
• A WordArt clock representing the short life of tourists that drive outside their country

Finally, he pointed to the page where the traffic fines were. According to him, it said we had to pay 1,200,000 Dongs or he would have to arrest us.
We didn’t have that amount of money, so he flipped the page again to a clause saying we had to pay  800,000 Dongs—which we didn’t have either.
Nuno and I were frantically searching for money in our wallets, pockets, and backpack. All we managed to put together was 300,000 Dongs and a pre-diarrhea feeling.

Seeing how upset we were, he grabbed the money from our hands, smiled, and said:

 – Shhh. Ok, ok. I am your friend… You can go now. No more police ahead.

That was the moment we realized what had happened: we got scammed by a police officer. How nice!
We turned around and headed back to our guesthouse.

 

Getting over it

After doing the conversion from Dongs to Euros we realized that he ‘confiscated’ just €12, but it could have been much more.

To take our minds off what had happened, we went hiking in the Fairy Stream near the Mui Ne main road—as you may have noticed, almost everything extends along this road.

 

Walking the fairy Stream in Mui Né

Fairy Stream

 

It is a small stream of freshwater where you can walk on and enjoy the surroundings. There are red dunes, rock formations, trees, ducks, and cows walking around.

 

A cow eating a bush at the Fairy Stream

IMG_0767

 

There’s no entrance fee around here, but rumor has it that some crafty locals might try to charge you for it. Also, if you get there by bike you will be charged for parking. To avoid it, park further from the entrance and walk there.

 

IMG_1842.jpg

 

As a maritime zone, Mui Ne is slowly attracting upscale tourists to all the fancy resorts by the sea. It might not have much to explore, but it offers you good weather and a relaxed environment. Especially if you don’t find any police.

 

Mui Ne travel expenses (Daily average for 1 person)

Breakfast: € 1,85
Lunch: € 1,64
Dinner: € 3,31
Water: € 0,19
Coffee: € 0,57
Accommodation: € 3,50
Scooter: € 3,20
Half tank of fuel: € 1,18

If you have any questions or some extra info everybody can benefit from, please leave it down in the comments!


What to do in Aveiro, Portugal

Ultimate Aveiro Travel Guide: the best food, bars, and accommodation

Whether you started by reading our Ultimate Aveiro Travel Guide, or just found this post at random, you should know that we’re delivering to you more than the average tourist experience in the city. If the first part was all about introducing Aveiro to get your trip started on the right foot, this part is all about the best accommodation, typical restaurants, and what to do late at night—either chilling after dinner or partying to the after-hours.

All spots mentioned in this post are marked on the map below by the green pins.

They’re also marked on Maps.me. You can download the app here.

 

Ria central canal in Aveiro

 

Accommodation

Due to the international exposure that Aveiro has gained in the last couple of years, tourist influx and accommodation have multiplied tenfold. Most options are located in the city center, around the Rossio area and Lourenço Peixinho avenue.

Still, and without knowing how much are you willing to spend on accommodation, we want to tip you off to the fact that most hotels and family-run housings in Aveiro are ridiculously overpriced. Sleeping in Aveiro is not exactly cheap when compared to other big Portuguese cities like Lisbon or Porto.

 

Ponto de Abrigo Aveiro

 

However, when Nuno and I travel we pick our accommodation based on price, proximity to the city center, and the reviews and comments on booking sites. Therefore, those were the criteria for our following selection:

 

Ponto de Abrigo: www.facebook.com/pontodeabrigo

Aveiro GuestHouse: www.facebook.com/aveiroguesthouse

 

Tip: If you plan to make your reservation through Booking or Agoda, double-check the prices in the respective Apps as it may be cheaper to book from there. We talked about this and much more on the post Travel Apps We Use and Love

 

What to Eat

You can try many recognizable Portuguese flavors in restaurants across Aveiro. However, the secular connection its people have with the sea enriched the local cuisine with unique dishes.

 

Fish market

 

Fish

There’s quality fresh fish everywhere in the city, but Maré Cheia is popular for knowing how to cook it well. Try the grilled fish, the fish stews, and the typical eels stew.

Dishes start at €16.
Closed on Wednesdays.

 

Meat

For traditional Portuguese meat dishes, we recommend 2 Duques (Closed on Sundays), Snack bar Picota, and Evaristo (Closed on Saturdays). They serve delicious homey food in generous portions, with prices starting at 7€.

At Cervejaria o Augusto in the Rossio, try the bifana—an old-school Portuguese snack of fine pork steak in a loaf of bread.

On the outskirts of Aveiro, on Bairrada, the roasted suckling pig is one of the most appreciated dishes. It can be a pricey meal (that we suggest you eat only when you visit Bairrada) but to have an idea of what it tastes like, eat a sandes de leitão (piglet sandwich) for €4,50 at Tasquinha do Leitão, in Praça do Peixe.

 

Leitao Sandes (suckling pig sandwich) from António dos Leitoes Porta Larga - Coimbra, Portugal

 

Burger Joints

If you’re in the mood for a good burger, head over to Revolta Hamburgueria, or to Porta 35 (a convenient option due to its location right in the Praça do Peixe).  

Cafe Ramona serves the most famous burgers in town, but getting a table around here on Fridays and Saturdays can be tricky. Closes on Sundays.

 

Hamburguer Ramona AveiroPhoto: Café Ramona

 

Vegetarian and Vegan

For our vegan friends, Vegifruit serves veggie options of soups, baguettes, and salads with fruit juices at great price deals. Closed on Sundays.

Other options are Musgo, Saladas+, and Ki a vegan and macrobiotic restaurant with desserts to die for. Closed on weekends.

 

Bakeries

Aveiro has to be the Portuguese city with more pastry and bakery shops per square meter. There’s at least one in every corner.

 

Ria Pão bakery

 

Try Ria Pão in the Rossio area, or Fanepão 88 closer to the Santa Joana Museum. You’ll find the counters brimming with cakes, pastries, cookies, and bread. To avoid the flood of people that come here from 4 PM to 6 PM, make it an early afternoon snack.

 

Aveiro pastry shot filled with cakes

On Lourenço Peixinho avenue, Pastelaria Ramos
 is known for the best cartuchos in town. We can describe them as gooey-chocolaty-cylinder-shaped-cakes filled with whipped cream. Yes, please!

 

Cartuchos de Aveiro

 

Ovos Moles

Every bakery and pastry shop around Aveiro sells the famous Ovos Moles and all its derivatives such as fios de ovos, castanhas de ovos, broas de ovos… we could keep going.

 

Ovos moles

Confeitaria Peixinho Aveiro

 

Nonetheless, locals say that some ovos moles are better than others, and the best are sold at Confeitaria Peixinho and Maria da Apresentação e Herdeiros, two neighboring stores right in the city center. 

 

Tripas

Compared to the favored ovos moles, tripas are the underdogs of Aveiro sweets. Let’s just say that if tripas were in a band, they would be Kelly Rowland, and ovos moles would be Beyoncé.

Maybe it’s the unfortunate name “tripa” (that translates into “gut/ intestines”) that makes people apprehensive, but the truth is that these semi-baked-waffle-doughs from heaven, are the most comforting and versatile baked-sweets around town. You can eat them on their own with a dash of cinnamon on top, or take it to the next level with a filling of your choice such as chocolate, ovos moles, jam, ham and cheese, and the list goes on.

 

Mario eating a tripa

Our favorite filling is apple jam and cinnamon ’cause it tastes like warm apple pie. You can find them being sold until late at night on kiosks in the Praça do Peixe and around Aveiro beaches. Enjoy!

 

Ice cream

To nibble on some ice cream go over to Gelataria Milano or to Gelados de Portugal. You’ll find flavors like ovos moles, port wine, and Portuguese custard tart to name a few.





Nightlife

Although Aveiro is not exactly “the city that never sleeps”, we do know how to have a good time. At night, Praça de Peixe becomes the favorite spot for locals to hang out and have a drink.

 

Cais dos botirões at night

Most bars are closed during the day, but starting at 10:00 PM to around 3:00 AM music gets louder and the entire area gets occupied by the terraces of bars and cafes.

 

Praça do Peixe at night

 

Bars

Despite not abundant (and most quite small) bars cater music to suit almost every taste. Here are some of the best options:

Toc’aqui: Portuguese and international music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. 

Kitten’s Irish Bar: One of Aveiro Irish pubs. It’s small and cozy with a wide selection of craft beers.

GuesthouseStands out for its good location and great terrace, perfect for hanging out with friends on sunny afternoons and warm summer nights.

 

terraces at night in Aveiro

 

Mercado Negro: In an old building with the façade facing the central canal of the ria is Mercado Negro: a bar with different areas distributed throughout an old apartment, and the only place during the winter where you can have a glass of red wine by the fire.

Mercado Negro houses several exhibitions and concerts throughout the year.

Má IdeiaChill place with alternative music and friendly staff.

Luxor Bar: An Egyptian themed bar with a sitting area and a dancing area. It’s located outside Praça do Peixe and has a cover charge.

 

Clubs

If going to bed at 3 AM is for babies, here’s where you can go next:

Sal Club: At a walking distance from Praça do Peixe it’s the new acquisition to Aveiro night scene, that has gained a lot of popularity over the past year.

Estação da LuzConsidered one of the best nightclubs in Portugal. Cover charge is €10 and ladies nights are on Fridays.
It’s about a 15-minute taxi ride from Aveiro. Taxi fees should be around €10.

 

Discoteca Estaçao da LuzPhoto: Estação da Luz

 

Cultural Options

Teatro Aveirense has a cool theater agenda that you can check on their website: www.teatroaveirense.pt
In addition, they do weekly screenings of indie and classic films.

 

Teatro Aveirense

 

For good theater (albeit a more humble lineup) we recommend the Estaleiro Teatral, at the Infante D. Pedro Park.

For good travel photography and film, visit Trilhos da Terra.

 

 

If you have any question, feel free to leave us a comment or contact us
Podes escrever-nos em português se preferires.


Barra beach in Aveiro

Discover Barra and Costa Nova: the beach getaways by Aveiro

Like all the Aveiro locals, Nuno and I spent many summers with our family and friends on the beaches of Barra and Costa Nova. Being an affordable summer destination, the shore is brought to life every year by the influx of visitors coming from the neighboring cities to soak up the rays, boogie-board, and stroll on the boardwalks.

 

promenade at Barra beach

But when winter sets in, the beach remains the cheeriest getaway for the local sun worshipers to escape — so there’s still plenty to do during the cold season as well. Here’s a glimpse of what you can see:

Public transport from Aveiro to Barra and Costa Nova Beaches (Updated July 2020)

You can take the Transdev bus (L5951) in the Rossio area or near the Train Station, which will take you to Barra or Costa Nova in around 40 minutes.

Ticket cost: €4,92 (round-trip to Barra) and €5,20 (round-trip to Costa Nova)
Timetable: 

Public Bus Aveiro to Barra Costa Nova beach(Click on the image to enlarge)

Keep in mind that your bus stops are called either “Barra” or “Costa Nova”, not “Forte da Barra” which is far from the beach.

 

Weather warning

The most frustrating thing about living in Aveiro is the constant stiff wind that won’t quit. That’s why if you’re coming to spend a day at the beach, be sure to get yourself a windscreen. There’s a 90% chance that it’ll be breezy and not get pounded by sand will make your day much more pleasant.
Summer average temperature: 20ºC

Windy beach

Don’t expect warm tropical waters either — it’s the Atlantic ocean.
Sea average temperature: 16ºC

Having said that, there’s still a 10% chance of you having the best beach day of your life, ‘cause when it’s good, oh… it’s gooood.

 

What to see and do

All spots mentioned in this post are marked on the map below by the yellow pins.

Barra Beach

The beach is divided by a long breakwater: to its right is the laid-back ‘old beach’ (or meia-laranja). To the left and stretching along 1.5 km is the ‘new beach’, frequented by different types of crowds spread throughout its length. Right next to the breakwater is where families and children hang, but if you keep moving you’ll find a younger demographic in the area called 7º ano.

 

The beach and breakwater of Barra beach

 

The Lighthouse

It’s right here on Barra beach that you’ll find the highest lighthouse of the Iberian Peninsula, and the oldest in Portugal. The view from the top is spectacular and a definite must-see.

 

Barra beach in Aveiro
Barra beach view


Go up the 288 steps on Wednesdays, during the summer from 2 PM to 5 PM, and in the winter from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Free of charge.





Meals

As the commercial and residential areas are right next to the beach, you’ll easily find many options to eat and drink but these are the ones we recommend:

Miami serves our favorite burgers and fries!

 

Miami burgers restaurant

 

For good handmade pizza try Pizzaria Brasão on the main street in front of the lighthouse. Also on that same main street is the hip sushi house Barba Azul.  

But if you don’t feel like spending time on a restaurant, grab a quick bite at the supermarket Auto Mercado Gonçalves in the beginning of the breakwater: they sell deep fried goodies, bread, fruits, and drinks. Grab what you need for an utensil-free meal and have a picnic at the beach!

 

Mini Market Gonçalves exterior
Mini market in barra beach

For an afternoon snack

Regueifas

Try the Portuguese sweet bread called regueifa or a pão de deus with sugar and shredded coconut on top. Regueifas are a staple from Barra and have been sold here since we can remember. In fact, a good summer day is not complete without a regueifa.

 

Regueifas and pão de deus


Get yours at the Iracema kiosk, a small wooden stall right at the entrance of the breakwater.

Iracema kiosk

 

Bolacha Americana

Bolachas Americanas, are big wafers sold by a loud gentleman carrying a white can through the beach. He’s a well-known figure in Aveiro and has been selling Bolachas Americanas since he was 12. His name is Carlos, and you won’t be able to miss him if he walks by you.

 

Bolacha americana

 

Tripa

If you haven’t tried a tripa yet, do it! Along the main road parallel to the beach, many kiosks sell them with a myriad of fillings to choose from.

 

Vendor making a tripa of Aveiro

 

For more info on other Aveiro delicacies and dishes read Aveiro Travel Guide: best food, bars, and accommodation.

 

What to do in Costa Nova

By now, you probably saw one of these colorful striped houses on the internet — they’re in Costa Nova, only a 15-minute walk from Barra beach. Around here, key attractions are organized on a main street parallel to the sea, along with locally owned shops and seafood restaurants.

Striped houses of Costa Nova Aveiro

The beach

The smaller beaches are a great alternative to the crowded sands of Barra, perfect for relaxing and sunset strolls.

 

Costa Nova beach

 

The Fish Market

On the main street is the tiny Municipal Market where the hardworking fishmongers sell the catch of the day like they’re mother and grandmothers taught them: effusively. It’s a treat to walk through and a great place to get a typically Portuguese gift.

Municipal market Costa Nova
During summer opens from 8 AM to 8 PM.
On winter weekdays opens from 8 AM to 12 PM. On weekends opens from 8 AM to 6 PM. Always closed on Mondays.

 

A must-eat in Costa Nova

Don’t miss Café Atlântida and try a pastel de nata — they’re said to be the best in Aveiro. The staff is not friendly, but the tarts make up for the tartness.

 

pastel de nata atlantida Costa Nova

 

Beach bars and cafes

Along the boardwalks of Barra and Costa Nova are several beach bars providing fresh drinks, good music and bean bags for lounging on the sand.

In Barra, the ones we like best are 7º ano de Praia and Offshore, right next to each other.

 

Offshore bar


In Costa Nova, we always hang out at Bronze
because it has the best terrace and sea view.

 

Bronze in Costa Nova

 

The boardwalks

In the midst of winter on those days when we’re missing summer the most, we often go for a stroll along the boardwalks whilst eating a warm tripa. Walking on the sand dunes and having the ocean as a backdrop makes them extra scrumptious. You should try it: it’s both soul cleansing and artery clogging.

Barra beach boardwalks


Some people use the boardwalks for jogging though.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Choices.

 

Other activities

Through the scenic route from Barra beach all the way up to Costa Nova, is an excellent path for running, cycling, and skating. If you don’t have gear for any of that, rent a bicycle on Be Tour at the Memorial Park in Barra beach (between the lighthouse and the ria) for €5 per hour. Only from June to September.

 

Bike rental in Barra beach, Aveiro


Many schools offer lessons in surfing, sailing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, stand up paddle on the ria, and the list goes on.

Surf’aqui – Surf school: with surf lessons, bodyboard, longboard, stand up paddle lessons.

Trilhos d’Água  Diving school: for diving lessons.

Ria ActivaWindsurf and Kitesurf lessons, and bicycle rentals.

 

Accommodation

Accommodation at the beach tends to be pricier than in the city, so go enjoy your day by the ocean and return to Aveiro by the end of the day — there are plenty of buses to take you back. However, if you decide to spend the night you have:

Pensão José das Hortas (Costa Nova)

It’s a traditional Portuguese lodging with more than 100 years of history, located on the main street where all the colorful striped houses are.

As it is a family-owned business, it only opens during high season (from June to late September).

Camping (Barra)

If you came prepared, camping can be an affordable option: there’s a camping ground in the middle of the residential area in Barra.

 

Note that every place mentioned in this post is marked on maps.me. Download the app and the map for guidance. If you have any questions, contact us. We live here and we can help you out! 


Things to do in Dalat

Dalat: what to do and what to eat

We left Mui Ne on a small bus and headed to Dalat, a city in the Highlands region of Vietnam. Lying on the hills and surrounding Ho Xuan Huong Lake, Dalat climate differs from the otherwise tropical climate of Vietnam—the lower temperatures and humidity gave it the name of the “City of Eternal Spring” or how the French used to call it “Petit Paris”.

 

Getting to Dalat

If going uphill in an old car may be difficult, it’s harder when you do it on an overheated-prehistoric minibus with no leg space. The minibus had air conditioning, it just had to be turned off during 95% of the ride, otherwise, the bus wouldn’t go up.

The trip took around 4 hours through twisting roads and cars overtaking us like in an action movie. On the bright side, the landscape grew greener as pine trees started covering the hills. Up there, coffee plantations and strawberry greenhouses substituted the dragon fruit plains of the lowlands.

Looking for a bus to Dalat? Go over to www.bookaway.com and use the code “gravy5″ at checkout to get 5% off your ticket price.

 

View of greenhouses of Dalat

 

The bus stopped at the door of the Au Phu travel agency in the city center. Apparently, all tourist buses stop here, so as usual, taxi and bike drivers awaited.

 

DA LAT MARKET VIETNAM JAN 2012

 

What to do in Dalat

On our 3-day stay in Dalat, we rented two mountain bikes at Groovy Gecko Adventure for €3.30 each, for half a day. It was the best deal we found in the city and the bikes were pretty good.

 

Linh Phuoc Pagoda

On the first day, we pedal for 40 minutes to the Linh Phuoc Pagoda—a complex of temples different from what we had seen so far. The decoration was of Chinese inspiration, more figurative, detailed, and adorned with pieces of colored tiles.

 

Linh Phuoc Pagoda exterior

 

There are towers to climb, giant statues of gods and goddesses, wax monk figures, and winding glaze dragons to see. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed inside the main hall because we were in shorts, so consider that before you go.

 

Giant buddha at Linh Phuoc Pagoda Vietnam

Dalat Linh Phuoc Pagoda

 

You can grab something to eat at the restaurant inside the complex for little money. They sell dumpling soup, soda, fruit, and ice cream.

 

Thap Cham Railway

On our way back to Dalat we stopped by the Crémaillère Railway Station, an art-deco building from the 30’s that these days only operates a 7 km trip, connecting Dalat to the village of Trại Mát.

Later on, we biked to the Xuan Huong Lake in the city center and rested our legs in the grass while watching the sunset.

 

Da Lat Railway Station

DA LAT GA VIETNAM JAN 2012

 

Visiting the city center

As the night began to set, the central square transformed into a proper Asian night market. The streets came alive with hundreds of people captivated by neon lights from restaurants and street food stalls, and by the perfect piles of fruits, cheap clothes, and knick-knacks.

 

Dalat's night market

Da Lat

Crazy House

The next day we visited the Hang Nga or ‘Crazy House’, the bizarre private home of an imaginative architect that is now a hotel and a tourist attraction.

 

Corridor Inside The Crazy House (Hang Nga guesthouse)

 

The house keeps augmenting to follow the plans of its creator, financed by the revenue generated by ticket sales: €1.64 for one person.

 

Crazy House Main Building

 

Bao Dai Summer Palace

Further up the mountain in the middle of a pine tree forest is the Bao Dai Summer Palace, one of the residences of the last king of feudal Vietnam.

The entrance fee was €0.62 (plus an additional fee if you want to take photos), and it grants you access to the 52 rooms of the palace.

 

Bao Dai Summer Palace

Bao Dai Palace in Dalat

 

It was fascinating to see the home of the royal family, their objects, and portraits on the walls. The visit ended in the downstairs kitchen and through a gift shop full of generic souvenirs.





Truc Lam Pagoda

We kept pedaling to the Truc Lam Pagoda, a delightful Buddhist monastery amid pine trees and gardens in pristine conditions. The pagoda is maintained by monks and nuns that reside there.
We spent a good hour staring at the lake and the surrounding mountains. There was a scent of incense in the air and big metal wind chimes ringing in the breeze. You can’t get more ZEN than this, it was beautiful!

 

The Truc Lam pagoda

 

Thien Vien Van Hanh

On the third day, we only had the chance to visit the Thien Vien Van Hanh pagoda in the morning.

The rest of the day was spent at a cafe drinking hot tea while it rained like crazy. It was a big tropical storm that lasted all afternoon and flooded our hotel room.

 

Xuan Huong Lake in Dalat

 

What to eat in Dalat

Here in Dalat, we ate several things for the first time.
Like this flat pizza/crepe hybrid, with egg, sausage, and chives sold in the central square at night.

 

Street food at Dalat night market

 

BòNé

It was late at night and we couldn’t find a place to eat that looked “trustworthy”. Eventually, we passed by a restaurant with people cooking at the forefront: sausages, fried eggs, coriander, and sizzling meat. Table for two, please!

 

Bò Né 3 ngon Dalat

 

The restaurant Bò Né 3 Ngon was dripping oil from the walls and the floor was a slippery slide. Not one word on the menu was written in English and no one from the staff spoke it. When we asked them a question, they pointed to the menu on the wall (same menu we had on our hands but with bigger letters). We shrugged and ordered a “Number 2” because the restaurant smelled delicious and we like surprises.

Bakeries

Nuno and I are big bread lovers and luckily, Dalat has several bakeries, most of them doubling up as restaurants. They have a huge selection of bread and other baked goods, all super affordable.

 

Fried cakes and milk

One night walking around secondary streets, we noticed some locals gathering near a food stall, sitting on the characteristic tiny Vietnamese chairs.

 

A random weekday night in Da Lat

 

It smelled sweet so we curiously approached the stall. Behind it, a Vietnamese lady was selling assorted fried dough cakes and different kinds of warm milk. You can pick 3 or 4 cakes and one glass of milk, sit down on the tiny plastic chairs and eat.
And so we did!

 

Fried cakes street vendor

 

If you’re visiting Vietnam and need to freshen up from the heat of the lowlands, climb the mountain and check this friendly city.

 

Dalat travel expenses (Daily average for 1 person)

Bus Mui Ne/ Da Lat: 4,43€
Breakfast: 0,87€
Lunch: 1.05€
Dinner: 2,43€
Water bottle: 0,20€
Coffee: 0,53€
Hotel: 3€
Crazy house Ticket: 1,58€
Bao Dai Summer Palace: 0,59€
Bikes: 3,30€

If you have any questions or some extra info everybody can benefit from, please leave it in the comments below!