One day I want to go to Burma. I haven’t made it there yet but I want to show you how I, as a travel blogger and as myself, would plan a (hopefully) successful trip there using my favourite websites and blogs.
So, what do I know about Burma? Pretty much nothing. In fact, I could write it in a paragraph.
I know that in 2011 Burma opened it’s doors to tourists. Before that the politicians (yes, I’m that vague) didn’t want tourists to come with their Western ideals. Thanks to this embargo on the country it has maintained it’s unique character. Locals dress and act as the Burmese always have done and it hasn’t been infiltrated by outsiders. Burma is as close to as it was during colonialism than any other country. Of course, this now makes it very attractive to us tourists who want to come along and have an ‘authentic’ holiday experience. It’s cited as one of the hottest destinations among backpackers, which makes me want to go and check it out too. One last thing, I know I’m meant to call it Myanmar, but I’m not sure why.
As you can see, I’m totally clueless about anything else. I don’t know where to go, where the backpackers are, where the fancy bits are, what the sights to see are, the must sees, the cuisine, the local drink, absolutely nothing.
Here’s what I’d do to find out:
My first port of call, as with pretty much anything would be to type it into Google. “Things to do in Burma”. Looks good hey? Ooo I like the golden rock photo. I’d have a look around there. While I’m looking at this I’d have a Word document up by the side so that I could copy and paste in anything of interest to look at further. I could happily spend an hour or two deep diving here and just checking out a few cool things to see, and no doubt I’d lose what I wanted if I didn’t make notes as I went.
Once I had a few pointers of where I’m planning to go I’d want to find people who’d actually been, people just like me with the same budget and interests, to see how they managed to fit them together.
Obviously, gapyear.com is a perfect resource for this. Using the search I can look at the message boards and articles to see what people are saying. I’ve written before about how useful the message boards were when I was planning my trip to Japan, and I’d expect them to be just the same when it comes to Burma. Trawl the message board answers to get the juiciest stuff, trust me.
This way I can also leave questions on the message boards and in the comments sections to get specific answers if I have any questions. Any info I find I’d copy and paste into my growing Word file.
Next up I’d take a look at how I’m going to get there, now I have a rough plan of where I want to go and for how long. I can search in Google to see how much to expect, and then follow up on it when I’m ready. I’ve probably already got a few tips for this from my previous searching skills anyway.
I can also have a look around to see how I’m going to get between the destinations I want to go to, and price that up a bit too. All the while I’m fleshing out that skeleton on the Word file.
I’m quite involved in the travel blogger world so off the top of my head I can name a few people who I know have been to Burma including Becki from Borders of Adventure, Nick and Dariece from Goats on the Road and Marek from Indie Traveller. I do a quick search on their websites to see what comes up and to check I haven’t missed anything in my plan. I’ll usually be pleased to have some information from someone who’s been there recently and will give me an honest report of what it was like.
If you don’t know of anyone, you can always go on BlogLovin and do a search on there to see what comes up.
I’d also do a general Google search for ‘travel blog Burma’ because I genuinely believe that travel bloggers are the best sources of information when it comes to travelling. There are very few who’d write about somewhere they hadn’t been, so you know it’s all tried and tested advice.
Social media search
Another great way to search for recent information is to go on Twitter and search for #Burma or another similar, related hashtag. I’ll have a look around the few leads that gives me and store the information.
If you use Tweetdeck at all (just another Twitter tool) you can set up a stream to follow #burma to see if anything interesting comes along while you’re still planning. I know that if I have any questions about anything I can specifically go to them on Twitter and hope they give me an immediate as possible answer.
Now that I have more of an idea about where I want to be and what I want to see, I get to look at accommodation. I genuinely love looking at hotels and hostels and imagining myself in the places, having a great time. Generally depending on my requirements I will consult three sites. I love airbnb.co.uk for group situations, not for this trip though. For planning a trip to Burma I’d take a look at HostelBookers.com and Booking.com. These are pretty much the only accommodation sites I use. Unless I just do a Google search for ‘hotels in Burma’ and then I would just accept whatever appeals.
Here I’d have a look around at prices, locations and standards to see if there are any cool places that catch my eye. Again, copying and pasting links and information to my Word document. Hopefully I will have already picked up some ideas from the previous research but when you’re trip planning you can never have too much knowledge, and sometimes it’s reassuring to have your other plans backed up by the reviews confirming it’s a good idea.
So now I have my rough copied and pasted list of things I want to do in Burma, accommodation options, how I’m going to get there and an idea of what it’s going to cost me. I’m still at the hunter, gatherer stage, I’m not ready to commit to anything but I want to remember where I’ve been in case I need to go back.
Now I would type in some more precise searches to see if anything a bit cool comes up.
“Coolest things to do in Burma”
“Best attractions in Burma”
“Absolute must dos in Burma”
“Crazy activities in Burma”
“Insider’s Guide to Burma”
“Best places to stay in Burma”
That kind of thing. I’m looking for something to do that other people may not have thought of. I want to have a unique experience, because as a travel blogger I literally want something to write home about.
Organising my thoughts
This Word file of mine is now looking pretty messy. I might have a look back through and try to organise it a bit. Then I’d usually think about it for a few days before booking anything. I’d want to talk to friends and family who may have been, keep reading a bit more and double-check my dates.
I’d usually book flights, accommodation, transport and activities, in that order. In the past I’ve taken a good few months between booking the flights and moving on to the rest, just in case plans change, but it depends how much time you have.
Of course, you can use these tips for any destination you like, but Burma just seems that bit more difficult to plan a trip. If you need any more help, just give the guys at Gap Year Travel a call!