Things Locals Are Better At Telling You


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It’s inevitable – you touch down in some uncharted country and you’re ready to hit the streets exploring, but first, where’s your hotel? What’s the best way to get there – and what is a fair price? These are the questions that you start wondering and undoubtedly you’re going to get taken for a ride – both literally and figuratively – more than once in your travelling, so it’s always a great idea to get details right from the horse’s mouth. So what are some examples of things you should ask locals about? Read ahead for the top questions locals in many countries get posed and why.

How Much Is A Taxi To X Location?

Possibly the most common and most useful of all the questions that could be posed to a local. Determining the price of a taxi to any location will help you understand what the real price is and not the conveniently higher foreigner price that you will encounter in many countries – unless you question or fight it. Knowing in advance will help you determine when you’re being taken advantage of, and will help you be able to combat it.

Where Can I Get A SIM Card?

Another common question locals will be able to answer. Unlike in the UK where you can get almost any SIM you want from the checkout lane at Tesco, abroad it can be much harder to figure out. You may need to get a SIM from an actual phone company or may be able to pick it up from a roadside convenience shop. They may also range drastically in price, so asking a local what the best option is can be a great idea.

How Much Is a Bus to X Location? How Long?

This is another really important pair of questions to ask locals. Not only will they know how much a bus ticket to a location will cost, but they will know how long it should take as well. These are both important because often some people will try to take advantage of foreigners and charge a higher price for bus tickets that should be cheaper. Alternatively they may also take advantage of foreigners with transfers – claiming you need to purchase a transfer or additional portion of your trip through them. Know what you’re buying in advance and ask locals who will know. Very often it’s a business or individual trying to take advantage of foreigner ignorance as to what the actual case is.

Which Dish Do You Recommend?

Another great suggestion on questions to ask locals. Dishes the locals are eating are usually the best dishes to opt for in your culinary travels as they will provide you the most authentic opportunities to try dishes that only the locals are eating or that the locals highly recommend rather than the standard dishes everyone seems to have the world over.

There you have a couple of great questions you should ask the locals the next time you find yourself in a foreign country. Always remember that the locals have their ear to the ground, so they will be able to help you the best – aside from expats who have been in country for an extended period of time.

New European Hot Spots – The Word Is Out

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When you hear the word ‘Europe’ you automatically think of places like London, Paris, Berlin or Rome. Many people would think immediately of the very discovered locations across the continent that have become more discovered as time has gone on and travel has become more and more available to everyone, not just the very well off. So how can you catch a slice of undiscovered Europe when it feels like every inch has been traversed by tourists time and again? Check out these top three undiscovered gems of Europe.

Slovenia

Slovenia is fast becoming one of the next hottest European destinations for those looking for something other than another photo of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower or the Arc d’Triomphe. With amazing natural scenery including Lake Bled – an impressive alpine lake with picturesque island and castle in the middle of the water – the Julian Alps, caves throughout, impressive Mediterranean coastline and gorgeous valleys such as the Savinja and Salek Valley. The capital city, Ljubljana is a welcoming, beautiful city with a perfect town centre that is primarily pedestrianised, making it easy for travellers to get around by foot. Enjoy one of many backpacker friendly bars or cafes in the centre, and wonder for yourself why more people don’t come to this unique gem of Europe.

Albania

Word is out – Albania is in. This formerly very closed off country has in recent years started to develop a booming tourist infrastructure with many hotels and restaurants popping up all over the place. The typical tourist trail includes Tirana, the capital city, along with the coastal cities of Vlore and Sarande. Don’t miss Ksamil – an area that gives the Caribbean a run for its money in terms of beaches and beauty. For a more alpine experience, head inland to lake Ohrid on the border with Macedonia. This large lake offers some pristine imagery and opportunities for hiking, swimming and boating in the summer for the nature lover. Add to this that Albania enjoys beautiful weather for a large majority of the year, including a summer that sees temperatures still into the 20s into November, along with easily affordable hotels and restaurants, so it’s a budget lover’s dream come true!

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

This part of the Balkans is an impressive, landlocked country north of Greece and borders the other Balkan nations of Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. The countryside itself is beautiful, dotted with churches and villages and general natural beauty in the form of hills, plains and valleys. Lake Ohrid is arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the country and is one of the highest rated tourist attractions. This is the same Lake Ohrid as mentioned under Albania – and both sides are stunning and worth a visit, but be warned that the tourist aspect makes at least FYROM’s Ohrid more expensive than other places in the country.

There you have three untouched, undiscovered gems of Europe that are usually not on many people’s hit lists for checking out when they’re in the area. To really shock your friends and family with amazing travel stories, check them out while they’re still unique and charming, before mass tourism makes them another common theme you hear about.

Eastern Europe Spots Not To Miss

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When you say the words ‘Eastern Europe’, images come to mind of Soviet-era blocks of apartments, grey, dull weather, bland food and intimidating police on every street corner. While the blocks of apartments may be true, the rest couldn’t be further from the truth. Eastern Europe is awash with amazing natural and architectural beauty, and is indeed one of the last relatively untouched places in the continent. Here are the top Eastern European destinations for you to check out before they become overrun with tourists and change forever.

Ukraine

The country of Ukraine has gotten some bad press in recent years in part to the Eastern Ukraine conflict with Russia, particularly in Donetsk region as well as in Crimea. Anyone thinking about heading to Ukraine shouldn’t be put off by any of the conflicts happening in the east or in Crimea. The west and north west areas around Kyiv and L’viv are perfectly safe, welcoming and friendly. The food in Ukraine is to die for – flavourful, varied and enjoyable. Typical fare includes meat or potato stuffed dumplings known as Vareneky, rice and meat stuffed cabbage leaves with tomato sauce (Holuptsi) and a lot of things that are deliciously flavoured with dill and garlic. The cities are very European in architecture and layout and are bustling with many bars, vibrant nightlife and great local beers. If going to Eastern Europe, Ukraine is a do not miss.

Romania

Romania is a large, beautiful and mysterious country with some spooky stories and history. Home to Transylvania, the believed home of Vlad Dracula, mythical vampire king, the countryside of Romania is stunning and rugged with many mountainous and hilly regions dotted with small terracotta coloured villages and is bordered by five other countries – Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Moldova. The countryside is some of the most beautiful in the region, with towering, snow topped mountains giving way into lush valleys of green. For a beach experience, Romania has some impressive beaches on the Black Sea coast, where many Romanian holidaymakers head for the summer to cool off in the Black Sea. Be sure to visit Dracula’s castle located near Brasov for a really unique experience.

Bulgaria

This lesser visited country boasts some impressive coastline along the Black Sea as well as some of Europe’s prettiest cities. Plovdiv, an artsy backpacker city located in the centre of Bulgaria is a great, chilled out spot for people who like to hang out, meet other travellers and sample the local beers and food. Varna, on the Black Sea coast is Bulgaria’s answer to the traveller dream – bustling nightlife, impressive beaches, and great shops and restaurants all on the waterfront.

There you have three locations in Eastern Europe that you must check out when you’re in the area. These three in particular are also located all along the same region, making them easy to visit as a trip altogether. You won’t be disappointed by Eastern Europe – with so much to explore, and much of it untouched, you will find a whole other world on the east side of the continent.

Short Japan Travel Guide

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For many travellers, thoughts of their ideal, dream trip are always something they talk about, even if it’s just once or twice a month. Japan always seems to be high on dream travel lists, and for good reason. With so many unique and colourful exports through anime and video gaming along with food and general culture, Japan has found its way into the hearts of many in the West, generating an innate desire to go and experience this wonderfully strange and fun country. Here is a quick travel guide for those looking to head to Japan, especially if it’s their first time.

Getting To Japan and Getting Around

Undoubtedly, getting to Japan is fairly straightforward, regardless of where you’re coming from. Tokyo, the capital city is well serviced by primarily national carriers of other countries throughout the world and so flights are easy to find throughout the world to Japan. Once in Japan though, where should you go? There are a number of amazing, unique areas within the country which you can travel to either by train or air, with train being one of the more popular options. The islands are Hokkaido to the north, Honshu, on which Tokyo is located, Shikoku and Kyushu. Kyushu is the southernmost island and enjoys somewhat tropical, much warmer weather than other islands, especially Hokkaido where it’s not uncommon to be able to ski still late into the season. In order to access some of the more outlying islands quickly, air travel is recommended. Everywhere else though, trains are common and an enjoyable experience, especially the bullet train (Shinkansen) which can get you to and from different towns and cities in record time.

While train travel can be relatively expensive in Japan, the best option is to purchase a JR (Japan Railway) train pass in advance of your trip. These can be purchased online with options for different periods of time (ie: three weeks) and are all you can travel for the specific period of time. They are only available to visitors and you must purchase the exchange document online, which you then trade in once in Japan for the actual rail pass. Passes are not valid on some lines, so check before travelling.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Japan can likewise be fairly expensive, depending on where you are. Hostel rooms can be higher than those in Europe slightly, usually around $30 per night, but may be more in the centre of major cities like Tokyo. Avoid hotels unless you have a larger budget as many start from around $70 a night. Air Bnb’s have grown in popularity, so if you are travelling with friends in a group it will probably work out cheaper per person to rent a full home with the ability to cook some of your own meals as well with the added benefit of having privacy, rather than all paying for hostel beds.

Things To See and Do

Japan is awash with amazing cultural and historic things to see and do and you will be hard pressed to find time to be “bored” in Japan. Depending on your individual tastes and preferences, Japan has a huge ancient culture to explore including traditional onsen experiences, the bath house experience with the hot natural pools, tatami mats, tea ceremonies and calligraphy. This is a must do for anyone coming to Japan, especially if you don’t have a lot of time but want the ultimate cultural experience. Sightseeing through temples, gardens and the mountains of Japan is likewise a must do. If you’re a fan of the traditions and culture surrounding Japan’s cherry blossom season, plan your trip in the spring to coincide with the blossoming season and be sure to take part in the tradition of Hanami or Yozakura – dining under the cherry blossoms by day or night, respectively. For a true Japanese treat, head to Mount Fuji for some impressive natural beauty.

There you have a quick travel guide for first timers to Japan. With so much to see and do in this relatively small country, it’s easy to see why this continues to delight travellers time after time.

Top Things You Should Never Travel Without

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So you have booked the ticket, you’re packing your bag and you start to think “What do I really need to pack?”. This is a common question that plagues travellers and tourists of all walks and ages. What exactly should you pack in order to have the best possible travel experience? What things should you definitely not leave home without? This article will answer those questions and more. Travelling can be a rewarding experience, but with the wrong equipment or if you forget to pack something integral, it can be more difficult than it has to be. Here are the top things any traveller shouldn’t leave home without.

Earplugs


If you’re planning to make hostels your home on your travels around the world (and even if you aren’t), a good pair of earplugs is integral to a good nights sleep. If you are a fan of dorms or you’re going to be staying in the city centre, earplugs are key to sleeping and sleeping well. Even if you have private rooms in hostels, they can still be noisy with parties and the like going off well into the wee hours, so having earplugs is a great plan. If you’re not staying in a hostel and are staying in an Air Bnb or central hotel or apartment, the sounds of the city can be noisy and keep you up.


Eye Mask

This comes in handy more times than you think and is useful for long bus rides when you want to sleep, sleeping early in the daytime if you have to catch a flight or if you are sleeping on planes, in cars and even just at night if you’re the type of person who can’t have even a sliver of light. It also comes in incredibly handy in hostels when people may have to get up early and sneak out of dorm rooms if they have early flights, meaning you can keep your darkness and shut eye.

Comprehensive Medical Kt, Featuring Medicines

A comprehensive medical kit is one of the most important things every traveller needs. Regardless of whether you need bandages, iodine wipes, alcohol wipes, cotton buds, ibuprofen, paracetamol or other pain medicine or even anti diarrhea medicines, a medical kit is always your first port of call when you have a health related issue. For those who want the benefit of anti-diarrhea medicine without the side effects of binding you up for days, swap it out for activated charcoal with a probiotic powder that you can mix into drinks to help good bacteria in your gut to fight off the bad bacteria.

Important Documents Including Specific Immunization Records

Of course, any traveller will tell you it’s imperative to take all your relevant documents with you – passport, airline tickets, insurance details and the like. What they don’t often tell you is that you need to take certifications of specific immunizations like Yellow Fever. It’s important to bring this certificate with you where ever you go abroad if you have had it so that you can prove you have been immunized. Some countries absolutely require the Yellow Fever vaccine while others don’t, so bring it just in case you are asked.

So there you have the top things you shouldn’t leave the house without when you head off on your travels. Some things are more for comfort but some are really useful to have and you don’t realise as such until it’s too late!

Colombia For First Timers – Why You Need To Go

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When you hear the words “Colombia” you might conjure up some not so nice images of gun toting cartel members, rampant crime and drug smuggling. Unfortunately while Colombia has been a hotbed for this kind of activity in previous years, it’s been working hard to clean up its act. With new peace deals between the government and the former drug cartels, namely the FARC, peace is on the horizon with focuses shifting from coca to more peace-friendly crops like coffee and cocoa. With the elimination of these issues, tourism is starting to bloom in this formerly avoided South American country. Read ahead for a short Colombia travel guide for first timers.

Getting To Colombia

Depending where you’re coming from, you will probably be flying into one of the country’s numerous big cities such as Cartagena, Medellin or Bogota, amongst others. There is currently no land border crossing between Panama and Colombia, but instead, potential visitors can catch a boat from Panama to Colombia, with stops available in the stunning San Blas islands – a must do for anyone wanting to traverse further south from Central America. The border with Venezuela was formerly open but recent political and economic upheaval has caused the border to be shut until further notice. The borders with other countries remain open though, and so anyone looking to traverse further south could easily do so through the likes of Ecuador and Peru.

Things To Do

Firstly, the cities in Colombia such as Medellin, Cartagena and Bogota can be stunning and beautiful, with swathes of colonial architecture, Spanish churches, cobbled streets and stretching city parks. In the lowlands around the northern shores, visitors have a choice between the Caribbean seas or the Pacific Ocean. The further inland you go, you get gorgeous mountains, ideal for trekking and visiting coffee plantations where you can see the process from start to finish and even try some of the freshest coffee possible straight from the fields. Take a cable car tour in Medellin to get a stunning view from the tops of the hills, and travel around the countryside of other areas of interest such as Cali, or head into the Amazon in Leticia. For a truly stunning piece of paradise, head off the mainland to the Santa Catalina islands – a string of islands in the Caribbean Sea that will leave you breathless.

Safety

Typically these days Colombia enjoys far more safety than it did in the 80s and 90s thanks in part to the government’s desire to clean up the reputation. Expect any punishment for drug possession to be hefty. Use common sense and check which areas are no go zones in advance of your trip. Typically people are best to avoid the Darien Gap area of the country on the border with Panama due to paramilitaries and militia activity, although with the ending of the FARC, this may become something that becomes more relaxed as time goes on. Generally speaking, use all the common sense you would in your own hometown or city with regards to travel after dark, drinks in bars, going with strangers, showing signs of affluence and you should be fine. You will find that Colombians are actually very friendly and welcoming people who want to show you a good time.

So there you have a beginner’s guide to Colombia – perhaps one of the more misunderstood countries of the Americas. So pack your bag – Colombia is growing increasingly more open for business and you’re in on the ground floor!

Hidden Canada – Gems Not On The Tourist Trail

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Most visitors to Canada will tend to stick to the typical tourist trail of Vancouver Island, Toronto area or maybe the Rockies. For most people this is sufficient for them to see what they want to see in the time frame they want to see it, but for those who like getting off the tourist trail a bit, Canada has a lot to offer. If you are considering a trip to the Great White North anytime soon, you need to check out the below stops along your way for a truly unique experience.

Churchill, Manitoba

Most people who come to Canada seem to skip out on some of the central provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There isn’t a huge amount to see, and many people don’t necessarily come to these regions unless they have family or a pertinent reason to. One such reason is to visit Churchill, a small town in northern Manitoba, famed for its proximity and number of polar bear sightings. Churchill is regularly touted as the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’ and it even has its own passport stamp you can get in your passport at the local tourist office for a fee. If nature and wildlife are your thing, Churchill is right up your alley and one to definitely try to fit in.

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador

Many visitors to Canada don’t consider the Maritime provinces as a hot spot to hit up and explore. The provinces are comprised of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. This last one in particular fails to see much in the way of tourism, especially from outside of Canada. With unique, European influenced cities like St John’s and rugged, stunning coastline on all sides, this is one province that is ideal for outdoor lovers. The island of Newfoundland can be driven end to end in about twelve hours, allowing visitors to start in St John’s in the morning and be in Port aux Basques on the other end within the same day. Small cove towns, beaches and some impressive alpine forests, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lanse aux Meadows up near the small town of St Anthony makes this an unique and awe inspiring province to visit, and we haven’t even mentioned the inherent hospitality you’ll experience or the amazingly delicious province specific food like Jig’s Dinner or Toutons!

Yukon Territory

The Yukon Territory in Canada’s north west corner is a rugged, mountainous, alpine area that has few residents and even fewer visitors. In the winter the area is inhospitable and difficult to traverse, making it ideal for summer visitors. Be sure to check out the cities of Whitehorse and Dawson for some truly unique looks at history in the region, with Dawson being relatively unchanged from how it once appeared in Klondike times. To access it though, you will need to drive up a long, desolate highway that is prime for adventurers and truckers and you will be rewarded at the end with the Sour Toe Cocktail… a drink (alcoholic or non alcoholic) that has an old severed, mummified toe in it. If completed, you receive a certificate stating you completed the Sour Toe shot, a perfect reminder of such a strange but wonderful part of Canada.

So there you have a couple of great parts of hidden Canada. Canada is full of amazing things to see and do, and being the second largest country in the world means that it’s prime for exploration and finding something everywhere you go. Never underestimate the power of going off the beaten trail in a place like Canada – you never know what you will find.