If you’re reading this, let me be among the first to extend hearty congratulations to you because it means you made it to the end of 2022!
Without any doubt, this year has shown us travel enthusiasts shege! How can we come to terms with Emirates Airlines appearing and disappearing, and Dubai cancelling and uncancelling visas?
The Russian and Ukrainian situation causing real time problems in terms of cost of living and fuel costs = high aviation fuel and you can complete the sentence. Flight ticket prices that were once
N300,000 are now N1,200,000! Hmm, let’s not even talk about the dollar rate of exchange that was N480 – $1 this time last year. Now, it is almost double. All of these have made your average ‘catch flight not feelings’ end up catching only Netflix.
So with us anticipating a better 2023 – elections and a new beginning we pray – it is also a good time to start thinking about how to make your money count in 2023 by going to destinations that are worthwhile.
I am a general lover of the continent of Asia, especially for their food and rich culture. Some of the Asian countries are very affordable, especially in terms of value for money, compared with other continents.
So in no particular order, you must take on a visit to Bali, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea in 2023! If you can try to do so in 1 trip, you’ll thank me later!
Bali is one of the 6,000 inhabited Islands in Indonesia. It is surrounded by Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Australia (No jokes. You can fly from Bali to Sydney in 5hrs 40 mins!).
Japan is an island country located in East Asia, in the Pacific Ocean. It lies to the east of China and Korea, and to the north of Taiwan and the Philippines.
South Korea is located in East Asia, on the Korean Peninsula, bordered by North Korea to the north, China to the west, and Japan to the east.
How do you get there?
There are currently no direct flights from Nigeria into the three countries so my recommended carrier, due to short layovers, is Qatar Airways.
Typical flight from Lagos to Doha is 7 hours, hen you have up to 3 hours layover in Doha. So it’s between 9-11 hours depending on which of the Asian countries you’re going first.
I would recommend a flight itinerary like this: Lagos to Japan and Bali to Lagos. Typical flight cost between
N900,000 to N1.6 million naira (depending on the month you’re reading this article).
You can get one of the local connecting flights between Japan and South Korea (this is typically less than 2hrs flights so estimate -$200-$300) and South Korea to Bali, typically 5hrs ( estimate $300-$500)
What you should know about the travel requirements
Thankfully the visas for the three countries are not your typical bring-your-mother’s-blood kind of requirement.
For Japan and South Korea, you’ll need regular documents to prove your source of income (bank statement) and how you earned it – through being employed (letter from your workplace) or through business (CAC), travel itinerary , flights & hotel reservations.
Submission of the Japanese Visa application is in Abuja, and South Korea is via VFS submission. The Visa fees for Japan is
N10,700 and South Korea is N17,000.
The Indonesian visa is an e-visa but it isn’t as straight forward as it looks for Nigerian nationals. We are required to have a sponsor for the e-visa (Indonesia agency). Whilst the visa fees are $150, extra fees for agencies to represent your application ranges from $400-$1650. This is because of the high level of risk involved in guaranteeing Nigerian applicants as our nationality is flagged as high risk for narcotics and crime in the South East Asian region.
- Vaccination cards (double jab) are required for South Korea and Indonesia
- Vaccination card (triple jab) is required by Japan.
Bonus: Just like most countries, please always travel with your yellow card even when it’s not a stated requirement.
When to visit
The best time to visit Bali, Indonesia, Japan or South Korea depends on your personal preferences, the specific activities and experiences you are interested in, or your affordability – the time with the perfect weather would be the most expensive and the time with the poor weather will be the most affordable.
Across the three countries, the best times in terms of weather as it’s generally mild, and popularity is April – May. Travel cost would be at its peak during this time, but it would be totally worth it.
Japan and South Korea have the Spring rush as the cherry blossoms (flowers) are typically in bloom. This time is also perfect for Bali as it is dry season with little rain.
For low season, in terms of affordability travel, November to February will be winter in Japan & South Korea and rainy season in Bali.
Where to stay
Where to stay is pretty much subject to your budget and your purpose for travel.
Bali – recommended combination of Ubud – is the greenest place you’ll ever see, with the most amazing infinity pools and jungle resorts. I would recommend you combine this with Nusa Dua or Seminyak (the night life area).
Through it all, accommodation in Bali is value for your time and money. The typical $200 per night hotel in Bali is worth at least x3 in European countries.
For Seoul, South Korea, I’ll recommend you stay in the Dragon city, it’s next to so many amenities – shopping, cinema, metro station – so you can live an urban life . You can combine this with hotels in Myeong-dong areas (especially if your main travel purpose is for shopping and skin care). I won’t advise you stay in Seoul alone. Try to visit Busan (3hrs train) or fly to Jeju Island (2hrs local flight).
For Japan, I’ll recommend for Tokyo -Ueno area, and the Shibuya area. It would be of great value to visit other towns such as Kyoto and Osaka during your visit. This can be connected by bullet train 3hrs 30 mins from Tokyo.
How can you move around?
Moving around in Bali is fairly easy. You can either hire a scooter (the most popular mode of transport) or hire a driver and car or use their own uber called grab. All are fairly affordable but I’ll be careful of taxi scams, especially when distracted. Be certain of the amount you give because sometimes drivers switch up and claim you gave lesser amount thereby making you pay more.
Japan and South Korea have fantastic rail network and all stops are translated into English. Once you’ve done your Google search for your destination, it would tell you which metro colour and stop .
How much should you budget?
Again budget is relative to taste. So I’ll only speak for the barest minimum. If you were to combine the 3 destinations including your international flight- you’ll be looking at $5,000-$8,000. This would factor 3-4* accommodation with breakfast, domestic flights & trains where applicable, visa fees and international flights.
What to eat
Look out for lots of food during your trip and don’t think about watching your weight or counting calories. Most of these food choices are fresh and organic so you’ll be eating well.
In Bali, Indonesia, look out for dishes like babi guling (suckling pig), nasi/bami goreng (fried rice), and sate lilit (grilled satay). Alcohol lovers look out for their local alcohol Arak and also their locally produced wine (Sababay winery).
South Korea is known for its delicious cuisine, including Korean barbecue, kimchi, tteokbokki and bibimbap and of course alcohol lovers look out for Soju.
Japan is also known for its mouthwatering cuisine, including sushi, ramen, teriyaki and tempura and alcohol lovers look out for sake.
What should you expect?
Expect countries with richly displayed culture which they are very proud of, and you’ll naturally fall in love with them. They are very welcoming and very curious about our side of the world. Don’t take their inquisitive as being nosy, instead take it as them being curious and looking to be educated about us.
Bali is known for its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and unique culture, which is a blend of traditional Balinese Hinduism and Buddhism with elements of Animism, so you’ll find the town with a rich religious display of their gods.
Japan is known for its unique culture which combines traditional Japanese customs with modern Western influences. Some of the things you can expect to see and do in Japan include visiting temples and shrines, experiencing traditional Japanese baths, and tasting Japanese cuisine.
South Korea is known for its rich history and culture, as well as its modern, technologically advanced cities. Connectivity isn’t a challenge in a country like South Korea as they have free wi-fi on the streets – this, in itself, is mind blowing.
Some of the things you can expect to see and do in South Korea include visiting historical sites and temples, experiencing traditional Korean baths and spas and trying Korean cuisine.
All three countries have thriving Nigerian restaurants/clubs so for those who have no interest in exploring other food, some jollof rice awaits you.
These are very enterprising countries with lots of ideas for trade, the non- business person in you will get quick inspiration in the electronics village in South Korea or the cosmetics haven in Myeong- Dong in Korea.
Why should you visit these countries?
There are so many reasons to visit these three countries, but I’ve chose my top ten.
The three countries would not disappoint you when it comes to food. My favourites I’ve mentioned above and you should try them too.
The culture in the three countries is very unique and fascinating, and it is totally worth travelling half way across the world to experience.
In Japan, you can experience the rich history through the country’s temples, shrines, castles, and other cultural landmarks. Do make sure to try the Kimono outfit (lots of layers of outfits that takes up to 45mins).
In South Korea, there are lots of amazing cultural sites , such as the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Changdeokgung Palace. Do make sure you rent a Hanbok outfit to visit any of the palaces you choose.
In Bali, you would experience a deeply spiritual and cultural place. The temples, traditional dance performances, and cultural workshops. Should you wish to visit their famous temples, you’ll need to have all parts of you bodies covered or you’ll need to use a sarong provided by the temples.
Bali is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including Kuta Beach, Nusa Dua Beach, and Sanur Beach. Lots of water sports and under water activities such as snorkeling and deep diving.
South Korea has a number of beaches, including Haeundae Beach and Gwangalli Beach, which are popular vacation spots.
Japan is home to beautiful natural landscapes, including, forests, beaches, hot springs and of course mount Fiji.
Bali, Indonesia is one of the greenest places you’ll ever see. Beautiful and Scenic rice terraces. The Tegalalang Rice Terrace in particular is a popular spot for photography.
South Korea is home to a variety of landscapes, including mountains, beaches, and forests and of course the Jeju Island.
When it comes to cute everything, South Korea is the place for you. It’s known for fashion, and there are many shopping districts and markets to explore.
Bali is a great place to shop for souvenirs and local crafts, including traditional textiles, jewellery, and woodcarvings.
Technology and architecture
Japan and South Korea are known for their advanced technology and futuristic aesthetic, which can be experienced through its transportation systems and electronic gadgets.
South Korea is known for its vibrant pop culture, including K-pop music and K-dramas, which are popular around the world. During the 2020 lockdown many of us got addicted to K-dramas and of course the famous Squid Games made us even love South Korea more. Visiting Korea means you get to visit various movie locations and feel the presence of your favourite stars.
Beauty in South Korea is so popular, it’s called K-beauty. It is world-renowned as being the global centre of innovations in cosmetics and skincare, and rightly so. The products promise the glass look and you must try out the face masks, snail solution, and so on.
Relaxation, spa and rejuvenation
Something amazing the three countries have in common are their natural spas. In Japan, they have Onsen, or hot springs – a perfect way to unwind.
Bali is a popular destination for yoga and wellness retreats, offering a range of classes and workshops in beautiful natural surroundings.
South Korea is also known for its spa and retreat options. South Korea has a thriving wellness industry, and with all top class k-beauty products.
Bali is home to a wide range of luxurious resorts and hotels, offering everything from spa treatments and fine dining to private villas and infinity pools. Best part, their rates are at value for money.
So wherever 2023 is taking you, make sure that Bali, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are part of the plan!