September 2019

Looking to Get Into the Travel Industry? Check Out Our New Courses!

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a girl works at a laptop next to her backpack and orange portable battery pack
Posted: 9/26/2019 | September 26th, 2019

Over the last few years, we’ve been running a travel media program called Superstar Blogging. It has taught people how to start a blog, write better, master YouTube, and improve their photography.

And, today, as we release some content updates, we’re changing how our courses are structured.

Drastically.

Instead of having four “let’s cover it all” courses on blogging, writing, photography, and vlogging, we’re now splitting them up into more in-depth single-topic courses.

That way, you pay for just the information you want and we can go deeper into each subject.

In our survey courses, there was just so much ground to cover that the more we added, the more unwieldy the courses became.

We had so much information in the courses that it was hard for people to find the information they wanted and needed. It’s like in university. Classes don’t cover the entirety of science. They cover individual aspects of science.

So rather than address a lot of topics briefly, our new reconfigured courses go in-depth and answer more of your advanced questions on particular subjects.

And you don’t have to pay for the topics that aren’t relevant to your specific needs!

Our new course list is:

Blogging

  • Blogging Basics: How to Start a Travel Blog
  • How to Make Money with Your Travel Blog
  • Newsletter Marketing for Travel Blogs
  • SEO for Travel Bloggers
  • Social Media for Travel Bloggers
  • The Fundamentals of Travel Blogging

Vlogging

  • A Complete Guide to Making Money as a Vlogger
  • How to Edit Your Travel Videos like a Pro
  • Vlogging 101: Everything You Need to Know to Start a Travel Vlog

Photography

  • Mastering Your Camera: An Introduction to Travel Photography
  • Travel Photography: Compact Cameras & Mobile Photography
  • Travel Photography: Managing and Editing Your Work
  • Advanced Travel Photography: How to Do More With Your Camera
  • How to Make Money as a Travel Photographer

Writing

  • An Introduction to Travel Writing
  • How to Make Money as a Travel Writer
  • How to Master Editing Your Work
  • How to Master Travel Writing for the Web
  • Travel Writing Skills: Memoir and Personal Essays

These courses contain decades of knowledge from your expert teachers – as well as the industry experts we interview in our courses. These courses will teach you what works, what doesn’t work, save you time, frustration, and help you get ahead faster.

They are your blueprint to success.

All our courses come with a seven-day money-back guarantee. Additionally, we offer various add-ons that include tech support and personal feedback on your work in case you want added help.

Our new courses also only range in price from $9.99 to $49.99.

We noticed an industry trend of expensive boot camps and masterclasses – and wanted to go in the complete opposite direction. When you’re a new travel blogger, you don’t have a lot of money to spend so we wanted to create affordable but in-depth courses so people could start their career in travel without the anxiety that comes with spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on something new.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Most people give up because they get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there and frustrated in trying to figure out how to implement it. These courses will help you cut through the noise and give you time tested strategies that are proven to work.

So, pick up one of our new (and cheaper) courses – and start your career in travel today!

And, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer them.

Sincerely,

Matt

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post Looking to Get Into the Travel Industry? Check Out Our New Courses! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Announcing TravelCon 2020: Keynotes, Speakers, & More!

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Travelcon 2020 in New Orleans, United States
Posted: 9/23/2019 | September 23rd, 2019

At the end of June, we announced our next TravelCon and, today, I’d like to share some more details about our next big event.

First, it will be May 8-10, 2020, in New Orleans so mark your calendars!

We have a lot of big changes and improvements coming this year. The four big ones I want to announce right now are:

1. We have a destination partner! New Orleans & Company, the city’s official tourism board, is our official destination partner, and we’ll be working hard with them to organize a lot of activities throughout TravelCon that will get you out of the hotel and around the city.

In a first, this year we’ll be doing FAM trips and tours of the city before and after the conference. We’ll also be conducting a scavenger hunt around New Orleans (we’re super stoked about that!).

We’ll have specifics on both in the new year. We know this was something you all really wanted and we’re excited to finally be able to offer them!

Check out our TravelCon page on New Orlean’s website for exciting information on the city!

2. We’ll be ditching our second-night party so as to have longer niche meet-ups. Everyone loves our niche meet-ups! They are one of the highlights of TravelCon, so rather than make them rushed, we’re not going to have anything that gets in their way so people can spend more time hanging out with their new friends.

3. We’re adding back a second included lunch. Everyone wanted more organized lunches, so we’ll be doing two this year.

4. Finally (and this is a big, big change), we’re moving workshops from the main schedule and making them add-ons before the conference. We’ve found that managing the workshops has proven harder than we thought. People sign up for multiple workshops, don’t show up, want to transfer to different workshops, or. miss the sign-up time. This leads to a lot of people not getting into the classes they want when, in the end, there is space. It takes up a lot of admin time and is confusing for attendees.

Plus, the teachers feel that they have to compress information into a really short period of time and they don’t like it.

So, to solve those problems (and free up room for more talks), we’re moving the workshops to the day before the conference (May 7th) and making each four hours long. Each workshop will cost $99 and come with a 30-day refund policy. Sign up for as many as you want. They are all first-come, first-serve.

We know this a big change and many of you won’t like having to pay for the workshops, but this will allow us to better handle the sign-ups so everyone gets the workshop they want, pay the workshop leaders more, and create more room in our schedule for other talks during the conference.

Those sign-ups will be available in January too.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be announcing more of our plans for the upcoming event, but for now, those are the big schedule changes you need to know about!

This Year’s Speakers

Over the next few months, we’ll be announcing our speakers, but here’s our first round of speakers and workshop leaders:

Keynotes

Pico Iyer

Author

Pauline Frommer

Frommers

Jeff Goins

Author, Real Artists Don’t Starve

Nicole Walters

Business Coach

Breakout Speakers

Faith Adiele

Author, Meeting Faith

Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Writer + Photographer

Leyla Giray Alyanak

Women on the Road

Alexandra Baackes

Alex in Wanderland

Dev Basu

Powered by Search

Marc and Julie Bennett

RV Love

Julia Cosgrove

AFAR

Don George

Author, The Way of Wanderlust

Brice Gump

Major Impact Media

Monet Hambrick

The Traveling Child

Alexandra Jimenez

Travel Fashion Girl

Ciara Johnson

Hey Ciara

Richard Kerr

The Points Guy

Seth Kugel

Author, Rediscovering Travel

Mickela Mallozzi

Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi

Chris Mercer

MeasurementMarketing.io

Laurence Norah

Finding the Universe

Erick Prince-Heaggans

Minority Nomad

Kristen Sarah

Hopscotch the Globe

Nadine Sykora

Hey Nadine

Mary Ann Thomas

Postcards From Mat

Amanda Williams

A Dangerous Business

One thing we will be doing with the talks this year is reducing the number of panels, so we can have more actionable workshops rather than discussions. We’ve heard you about not wanting lots of panels and so we will minimize them as much as possible.

We’re going to have sessions this year on Google Analytics, taxes, IP and legal issues, customer service, networking, hosting video, writing, advanced SEO, and hiring employees. Moreover, we’re going to be expanding the number of talks on LGBTQ travel, Instagram, affiliate marketing, and creating products.

Here’s our tentative schedule, which will show you how each day will flow:

(You can see a bigger version on the TravelCon website.)

***

Tickets to this year’s TravelCon are $349 until 12/31, when prices will go up to $399.

We’re capping our ticket sales at 800 again this year. We’ve currently sold 258 tickets to next year’s event and expect to sell out again!

So sign up today before tickets are gone.

And, remember, you can refund your ticket 90 days before the event and transfer them 30 days before the event. We know how travel plans can change and want you to know that if something comes up, you can get your money back.

See you in New Orleans!

—Matt

Book Your Trip to New Orleans: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the United States for even more planning tips!

The post Announcing TravelCon 2020: Keynotes, Speakers, & More! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 7 Best Tour Companies in Iceland

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a mountain peak in Iceland under the Northern Lights
Posted: 9/17/2019 | September 17th, 2019

Iceland is an utterly unique country, with glaciers varying in color from white to blue to gray, waterfalls the size of skyscrapers plummeting down sheer rock cliffs, and bumpy lava fields covered in moss in every shade of green you can imagine. And you’ll hear fantastical tales from history and folklore from people who still believe that elves might exist.

It’s one of my favorite countries in the world, one I fell in love with the first time I visited. I’ve been back multiple times since then during various seasons.

But Iceland isn’t always easy to get around, especially in the off-season, when many bus routes shut down because of weather.

One of the ways to get around that problem is by joining an organized tour. You’ll get to experience places that can be inaccessible without a four-wheel drive, and you’ll have local knowledge to help make the most of your day, depending on the ever-changing and often extreme weather.

I’ve put together a list of my favorite tour companies in Iceland, from short city walking tours to multiday adventure hikes. A lot of tour companies aren’t cheap there, and you’ll definitely pay more than if you were to do the same route solo, but here are the seven that provide incredible experiences at the right price:

1. Follow Me – Free Walking Tour Reykjavik

the guides at Follow Me - Free Walking Tour Reykjavik
A free walking tour is always a great way to introduce yourself to a new city, and the guides from Follow Me can give you a good overview of Iceland’s capital on this 90-minute stroll. It runs three city walking tours a day in peak season (June to September) and one a day the rest of the year; it also now offers an Old Harbour and Brewery tour every afternoon.

The Reykjavik walking tours have been running since 2012, and the guides are all local comedians and entertainers who love the city and want to make you laugh while you’re exploring it. They’ll show you some more overlooked parts of town and also give you some tips for saving money in this expensive country. Like many free walking tours, most guests tip the guide what they feel the tour was worth at the end.

—-> Click here to learn more about Follow Me – Free Walking Tour Reykjavik!

2. Ride with Locals

Ride with Locals in Iceland
Ride with Locals is a motorcycle tour company that will take you to the middle of nowhere on trails you wouldn’t access any other way, meaning you’ll see volcanoes, craters, and mountains that very few visitors to Iceland do, making your Iceland experience particularly unique. Its trips last between three days and a week and generally head inland, rather than hugging the coast like most tours.

The motorcycles are KTM 690R and Husqvarna 701 dual sport bikes, and all guides are really experienced with riding through Iceland’s highlands. Some trips use sleeping bags in mountain huts for accommodations (and include all the meals), while others include hotel stays with breakfast.

Costs range between about $2,800 and $5,000, including motorbike hire and fuel, depending on the length of the trip.

—-> Click here to learn more about Ride with Locals!

3. Intrepid

a red roof church in front of a black sand beach in IcelandIntrepid’s tour offerings are always solid, using small groups and local guides, and they don’t rush you from sight to sight. It offers a number of options in Iceland, including the classic Ring Road trip, where you circumnavigate the island and get to visit some of the best-known sights, from the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón on the south coast to the volcanic lake at Mývatn in the north. There’s also a six-day camping trip along the southern coast.

Intrepid tours start at $1,000 and go up to $4,600 for the ten-day comfort tour.

—-> Click here to learn more about Intrepid!

4. Arctic Adventures

people on tour with Arctic Adventures in Iceland
Arctic Adventures is a big player in the Iceland tour market these days and offers a huge range of one-day and multiday tours, as well as helping you out with self-drive tour arrangements. Its one-day tour options include all the main Icelandic sightseeing activities, like ice caves, snorkeling, glacier tours, and the popular Golden Circle route to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir hot springs, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

Arctic Adventures’ full-day trips range in price from around $100 to $160, depending on the need for equipment or smaller groups (for the more adventurous activities).

—-> Click here to learn more about Arctic Adventures!

5. Trek Iceland

two people hiking in Landmannalaugar, Iceland
Specializing in trekking and hiking tours, Trek Iceland offers a variety of trips ranging from half-day ice cave tours to an eight-day trek on the Laugavegur Trail. If you’re coming solo to Iceland, there’s even a version of the Laugavegur trip exclusively for solo travelers, which is a great way to get to know a bunch of like-minded people.

For more challenging experiences, the company runs tours for experienced hikers and climbers, such as a hike that summits Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur. This involves glacier hiking and can take 12-15 hours, so it’s not for the fainthearted.

Trek Iceland’s prices are generally cheaper than some of the more well-known tour companies. Single-day trips start from just over $100, and the multiday trips range from $400 for two days up to $1,800 for weeklong treks.

—-> Click here to learn more about Trek Iceland!

6. Extreme Iceland

Iceland's Glacial Lagoon
Extreme Iceland offers some adventurous tours, like river rafting, ice cave tours, snorkeling, and glacier hiking. It takes groups through the Vatnajökull glacier ice cave near the well-known Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, or you can take a guided tour through the Langjökull ice cave after driving through the world’s largest ice tunnel to reach the starting point. Extreme Iceland also runs several weeklong trips covering much of the country, with some more adventurous activities as optional extras.

For budget travelers, Extreme Iceland runs tours in its bright yellow “Big Bus,” including Golden Circle tours for a very affordable $56, or longer day trips to the west for $120. Its multiday tours are also competitively priced; for example, a six-day Laugavegur Trail trip with dormitory-style huts runs around $1,500.

—-> Click here to learn more about Extreme Iceland!

7. Icelandic Mountains Guides

Extreme Iceland coastal hiking
For 25 years, Icelandic Mountain Guides has focused on true adventure travel with very small groups. Its multiday tours include more unique routes, like a five-day backpacking trek from Núpsstaðaskógur to Skaftafell, or a ten-day expedition across the Highlands starting from the northern town of Akureyri; these longer trips will set you back upwards of $4,000.

It also runs one-day tours to ice caves and glacier walk experiences, among others, leaving from Reykjavík, along with similar one-day adventures on the Sólheimajökull glacier on the south coast if you’re in the area and can meet them there. The half-day and one-day tours are generally pricier than other companies (from $100 and up for half-day excursions) but often include specialist equipment or ride on quad bikes or snowmobiles.

Icelandic Mountain Guides has a genuine conservation focus and holds a twice-yearly event where guides spend time planting trees. Its current aim is to increase its carbon-offset programs so that its multiday tours are also carbon neutral.

—-> Click here to learn more about Icelandic Mountains Guides!

***

From challenging multiday hikes through some of the most scenic landscapes you’ll ever see, to gently exploring a glacier lagoon by boat or visiting puffin colonies, to wandering the streets of the quirky capital of Reykjavik, there’s an Icelandic tour company for you!

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Iceland!

Nomadic Matt's Guide to IcelandWant to plan the perfect trip to Iceland? Check out my comprehensive guide to Iceland written for budget travelers like yourself! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money in one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations in the world. You’ll find suggested itineraries, tips, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, and my favorite non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and get started.

Book Your Trip to Iceland: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Iceland?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Iceland for even more planning tips!

Photo credits: 2 – Follow Me, 3 – Ride With Locals, 5 – Arctic Adventures, 8 – Icelandic Mountain Guides

The post The 7 Best Tour Companies in Iceland appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Is Peru Safe to Visit?

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Machu Picchu, Peru shrouded in mist
Posted: 9/12/2019 | September 12th, 2019

Peru is receiving record numbers of tourists these days, with over four million a year going to experience the third-largest country in South America.

Whether to visit Machu Picchu, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, or the vibrant capital city of Lima and its blossoming food scene, people are flocking to Peru in droves.

However, I also often hear and read about tourists getting mugged or hear being stolen. I get worried emails from travelers wondering if Peru is safe to visit.

Today, I want to answer their questions:

Is safe to visit Peru? What do you need to look out for? What precautions do you need to take?

9 Safety Tips for Peru

a woman selling bananas sits in the street in Peru
In general, Peru is a pretty safe place to visit. You’re not going to get kidnapped or murdered there, but Peru does require you to be a bit more vigilant than other places. There is a lot of petty crime against tourists, especially those who are careless and leave valuables around.

Here are nine tips that should help you understand what the risks are and make sure your trip to Peru is even safer:

1. Avoid displaying any expensive belongings – Keep your best jewelry out of sight (or even leave it at home). Don’t flaunt valuables like your mobile phone or tablet, and always keep an eye on your stuff. Don’t even wear airpods on the street. Minimizing the target on your back that says, “I’m carrying a lot of valuable stuff” is very important.

2. Be aware of thieves or muggers working in pairs or small groups – The trick of distracting you (for example, someone “accidentally” bumping into you, or a group of kids playing or fighting near you) is often used so that an accomplice can rob you while you’re not paying attention to your belongings.

3. Watch out for pickpockets – In crowded places or on public transit, be aware that thieves could be looking to literally pick your pocket, or slash your bag, to steal from you. Keep some small bills in a separate pocket, so that when you’re paying for things, you don’t need to put your whole wallet or purse on display.

4. Avoid traveling alone at night – There have been incidents of people being mugged as they leave a taxi at night in the cities, and repeated reports of bandit activity after dark in some areas, such as Tingo María, northwest of Lima, at the entrance to the Tingo María National Park. Having at least one friend with you will help if these worst-case scenarios happen, but it is also simply useful as an extra pair of eyes and ears to keep vigilant.

5. Choose a reputable bus operator – Sometimes the cheapest option isn’t the best one. Some of the cheap bus companies have the most reckless drivers and lots of breakdowns, and since Peru has some of the world’s worst traffic accident rates, you’re usually safer using a slightly pricier bus company. Some of the most reputable bus operators include Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, Civa, and Movil Tours.

6. Don’t use drugs – This is always a good idea. But since Peru produces a lot of cocaine, tourists (especially young backpackers) tend to do a lot of it here. It’s not worth the risk, however, since if authorities even suspect you of using drugs, you can be detained for up to 15 days. Buying drugs here supports organized crime, so be smart and skip the drugs.

7. Learn some Spanish – Being able to speak some basic Spanish will help you in many situations, but if you get in trouble and need help, then you’ll really appreciate it. Start with an app like Duolingo or Memrise to master some basic vocabulary, or take a more comprehensive course like those offered by Rosetta Stone. And don’t forget to make friends with your Google Translate app.

8. Be careful in the coca-growing areas – In the Huallaga Valley north of Tingo María, cocaine is still being produced, and in the same area in recent years, the Shining Path group (a communist revolutionary organization) has been part of some violent incidents. Although tourists are not generally targeted by drug traffickers or Shining Path members, you still need to be extra vigilant in these areas.

9. Buy travel insurance – In the case that something does go wrong, it’ll be a lot less stressful if you have travel insurance. You should have it whenever you travel, but in a country where petty theft is, unfortunately, a little more common, it’s even more important. And of course, it’s also important for covering any medical or other emergency situation you might encounter.

FAQ about Safety in Peru

alpacas standing on a hill in Peru
With these travel tips, you’ll be able to stay safe while you visit or backpack around Peru! Furthermore, here are answers to some frequently asked questions we get:

Is Machu Picchu safe?

Machu Picchu is such a common tourist destination that you’ll most likely be safer here than any other part of Peru. Chances are you’ll be hiking with a group or in a crowd, so pickpockets and other petty thieves are unlikely to be around. It’s much more important to be vigilant in cities like Lima or Cusco.

The more important safety issue if you are hiking to Machu Picchu is to take care of your health. Make sure you have plenty of water, and use sunscreen and hats to deal with the heat. If you’re not acclimatized to the altitude, then altitude sickness can be a problem; you need to take it seriously if you start to feel sick. Avoid this by staying in Cusco for at least a couple of days before visiting Machu Picchu.

Finally, if you use a guide, which is recommended when hiking, make sure they are a licensed operator, as you sometimes hear of unlicensed guides taking you the wrong route and keeping your hiking permit payment for themselves.

Is Peru safe to travel alone?

Solo travel is pretty common in Peru, and you’ll often find plenty of other solo backpackers to spend time with, so it’s unlikely you’ll be alone that much.

Bus travel and being out after dark anywhere is safer in a group, but in general, solo travel in Peru is no more dangerous than traveling with friends or a partner.

Remember, too, to avoid really standing out and looking like a tourist. Don’t dress in fancy clothes, don’t wave your expensive gadgets around, and if you get lost, don’t stand there staring at a map. Basically, avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, and you’ll immediately reduce the chance of a petty thief deciding you’re their next victim.

Is it safe to travel to Peru with kids?

On the whole, it’s not especially unsafe to take your kids to Peru. Family and children are very important in the Peruvian culture, so you and your kids will be made to feel very welcome.

Be careful with particularly small children, though, because they’re more susceptible to getting sick from unfiltered water, for example. It’s also not recommended to take kids under three to high altitudes such as Machu Picchu.

Is Peru safe for female travelers?

It’s not particularly more unsafe to be a female traveler in Peru, though you might be the victim of some unwanted attention, mostly in the form of catcalling — but just ignore it and move on. Local women in Peru rarely go out to bars without men, so if you are a women-only group in a bar, you might get some extra attention.

Avoid being alone if you can, especially after dark, because petty thieves will see you as an easy target. Having said that, if you are a solo female traveler and need help, most locals will be very understanding and do their best to assist you.

Can you drink the water in Peru?

While tap water is plentiful in the country and indoor plumbing is common, it’s advised that you boil all your drinking water while in Peru. Make sure to boil your water for at least 1 minute to remove any contaminants. If you have a Lifestraw or Steripen you can use either of those to ensure your water is always safe to drink. Additionally, bring a reusable water bottle to avoid single-use plastic.

Are taxis safe in Peru?

Taxis are relatively safe, but you’ll want to make sure that you only use authorized taxis and that you know the rate in advance. If you need a taxi, have your hostel or hotel call one for you and find out what the rate is in advance. Make sure you agree on the fare with the driver in advance, as taxis don’t use meters so it’s easy to get overcharged if you’re not paying attention.

Try to avoid riding alone at night, especially if you’re a solo female traveler.

****

Peru is an amazing destination no matter what your interests, with a fascinating culture, welcoming people, and amazing landscapes and historical sights. I think everyone should check these out for themselves!

You do need to be cautious about your personal safety, however. The most common issues travelers face there are petty theft and pickpocketing, but by exercising a bit of extra vigilance and common sense, you can protect yourself against much of this. If you also make sure you’re not carrying valuables in an obvious way and don’t have large sums of cash in one place, the risks of having significant losses are really low.

Peru is a relatively safe country to visit, and the amazing attractions will definitely make your trip worthwhile!

Book Your Trip to Peru: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Peru?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Peru for even more planning tips!

The post Is Peru Safe to Visit? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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So, What Comes Next?

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The capitol building and a statue in Austin, Texas
Posted: 9/9/2019 | September 9th, 2019

One of the most-asked questions on my book tour was: “What comes next?”

Now that I’m back from Paris and have moved out of New York City, and now that my book tour is over, what are my next big plans?

Well…

Not much.

Right now, I’m back in Austin. I have to finish moving into my new apartment (why do couches take so long to arrive?) and, beyond a couple of trips to NYC and DC for weddings, I don’t plan on leaving Austin for a long time.

My passport is staying in my drawer. I’m not moving back to New York or Paris or some other city. I’m not working on a new book. There’s no new big projects. Nothing.

For the foreseeable future, all I see is Austin.

And I’m very excited about that.

A tree only grows when it has roots, and now that the madness of all this year’s projects is over, those roots can finally start to weave their way into the earth and provide the foundation for further growth.

I can finally get into the one thing I’ve been craving all year: routine.

I’m going to get into a better workflow, go back to the gym, start cooking again, take up some hobbies, sleep more, and maybe even start holding monthly meet-ups.

Who knows!

I used to think that I had to rush my travels, that there was too much of the world to see, and that that was why I couldn’t stop traveling — because, if I did, I’d never see it all.

And to me, that was a crime.

That’s why it was always “just one more trip.”

Part of me still feels that way.

But, in reality, there is no rush. You can never see it all. There will always be something else to see or do, or something new.

And it will still be there in a few months.

So, right now, the world can wait. I’m tired of being on the move. I’m tired of staying in spaces not my own. I’m tired of wearing the same three shirts over and over again.

When that kind of burnout happens, you have to stay put.

So I will stay put and recharge the battery named “travel.”

I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t really care.

I’m in no rush to go anywhere right now.

I always define travel as something that pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes you grow as a person. Being home and learning to stay put will be a new adventure. This is something I’m going to have to learn how to do (it was really tough passing up on super cheap flights to the Seychelles).

So, in a way, I guess that is what comes next is a deep dive into this concept called “home.”

I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Austin?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Austin for even more planning tips!

The post So, What Comes Next? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How to Avoid Paying Bank Fees While Traveling

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An ATM lit up at night against a purple brick wall
Updated: 8/22/2019 | August 22nd, 2019

Saving money for travel is one of the biggest obstacles that keeps people rom realizing their travel dreams.

Yet, all too often, I see travelers throwing money away in avoidable bank fees.

Banking overseas is more than just putting your card in an ATM and taking out money. There is a lot more to consider — especially if you want to become a savvy traveler!

When you travel on a budget, banking overseas involves knowing three things:

  1. How to avoid paying bank fees.
  2. How to eliminate foreign transaction charges.
  3. How to get a good exchange rate.

I know too many people who travel abroad and end up paying obscene ATM fees and credit card transaction fees. All because they didn’t do their research and plan ahead.

In 2019, there’s absolutely no need for it. You didn’t save up all this money in order to give it the banks, right? I know I didn’t. I want to keep it all for myself because every avoided fee is more money for food, drinks, and activities on the road!

Want to save more money on your next trip abroad? Here is how you eliminate ALL bank fees when you travel in 5 easy steps!

 

1. Eliminate ATM Fees

ATM fees can really add up — especially if you’re traveling for weeks or months at a time. Let’s think about it: While you’re on the road, you will probably withdraw money from an ATM twice a week. Fees vary around the world, but on average you end up paying around $3-5 USD per withdrawal. That is $10 per week, $40 per month, or $520 per year! Do you know how many days you could spend in Southeast Asia for that amount? Almost 3 weeks!

Even if you only use the ATM half the time, that’s still $260 USD per year. And most travelers I know go to the ATM even more than twice a week, which only increases the amount in fees they pay. Why give banks money you need for travel? You did a lot of work saving your money — don’t waste it by giving it to a bank.

To help you avoid fees, here are four things you’ll want to do on your next trip to eliminate those pesky fees:

First, pick a bank in the Global ATM Alliance. This is a network of large banks that have come together and waived fees and allows for free ATM withdrawals. While they have the high fees ($5 USD per withdrawal) for banks outside their network, by using partner ATMs you can avoid ATM charges entirely.

Below is a list of major banks in this alliance:

  • Bank of America (United States)
  • Barclays (England, Wales, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and certain countries in Africa)
  • BNP Paribas (France, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Morocco, Italy, New Caledonia, Réunion, Guyane, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Luxembourg)
  • Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Italy)
  • Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italy)
  • Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, Peru, Chile, and Mexico)
  • Westpac (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands)

Be sure to check with your local bank on specific coverage areas. There are some exceptions, i.e., if you use your Barclays card in one country, there might not be a fee, but in another, there may be. Other fees, such as an international transaction or foreign currency fee, may also still apply so double-check before you go!

Note: Bank of America charges a 3% foreign transaction fee on all withdrawals not in USD.

Secondly, if you are a US resident, the best bank to use is Charles Schwab.

Why?

Charles Schwab has no fees and reimburses all your ATM fees at the end of each month. You will need to open a high-yield checking account in order to qualify, but there is no minimum deposit required and no monthly service fee. Their ATM card can be used in any bank machine around the world, and you’ll never pay a fee. This is my primary bank card and I’ve been using it for years. Since getting it, I’ve avoided all ATM fees. It’s literally saved me thousands of dollars over the past decade of traveling the world.

Third, get a low-fee card. I use HSBC as my backup because HSBC has ATMs all over the world and charges only $2.50 USD per ATM transaction when you use a non-HSBC ATM. While it’s not as good as zero, it’s still better than what a lot of other banks charge. Additionally, Capital One doesn’t charge any withdrawal fees, but you do have to pay any fees charged by the local bank.

Finally, ask your local bank or credit union. Not charging ATM fees has become a widespread practice over the last few years, so make sure to ask your local bank.

Here are some suggested ATM cards for non-US travelers:

Canada: Scotia or Tangerine are a part of the Global ATM Alliance.
Australia: ING, Citibank, or HSBC have no feed cards.
UK: UMonzo or Starling let you avoid ATM fees abroad.

If you are looking for other ways to cut wasteful expenses on the road, visit this collection of all my best tips for further money savings.
 

2. Avoid Credit Card Fees

The next major fee we need to get rid of is the credit card foreign transaction fee. Most credit cards charge a 3% fee on purchases made overseas. That can add up since most of us use our credit card for everything. It’s become a lot more common for credit cards to waive that fee since if you use your card a lot overseas, you’ll probably use it a lot anywhere. My favorite no overseas transaction fee cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Barclay Arrival Plus, Capital One, and Citi Premier. (For more suggestions, you can find all my favorite travel cards here.)

If you use these cards overseas, you won’t pay 3% and you’ll save a lot of money!

For non-US citizens, check the following websites that list cards that might not charge any overseas fees:

 

3. Minimize the Exchange Rate “Penalty”

Every time you use your card overseas, your local bank coverts the transaction into your local currency for billing purposes and takes a little off the top for doing so. Thus the official rate you see online is not what you actually get. That’s the interbank rate, and unless you become a major bank, you’re not going to get that rate. All we can do is get as close as we can to that rate. To avoid being on the real losing end of conversion, follow the following tips:

Use a credit card — Credit card companies get the best rates. Using a credit card will get you an exchange rate closest to the official interbank currency rate so avoid an ATM or cash if you can.

Use an ATM — ATMs offer the best exchange rate after credit cards. They aren’t as good as credit cards since commercial banks take a little more off the top, but it’s much better than exchanging cash. Money exchange offices offer the worst rates because they are so far down the food chain, they can’t get the best exchange rate (plus, they usually charge a commission as well).

Don’t use ATMs in weird locations — Using those ATMs you find in hotels, hostels, local 7-11s, or some other random place is a bad idea. They’re convenient, but you’ll pay for that convenience. They always charge high ATM fees and offer horrible conversion rates. Skip those ATMs and find a major bank.

Here’s a video that highlights just how sneaky these companies can be:

 

4. Don’t Change Money at Airports

Most exchange bureaus in airports are so far down the financial food chain they don’t have the clout to offer good exchange rates. The rates you see at airports are the worst — never, ever use an exchange bureau there unless you absolutely have to. Another tip: avoid using the company Travelex at all costs — they have the worst rates and fees. Never, never use them. Avoid their ATMs too!
 

5. Always Pick the Local Currency

When you use your credit card abroad, you will often be given the option to be charged in your home currency (i.e., instead of being charged in euros, they will charge you in US dollars). Never say yes. The rate at which they are converting the currency is always worse than the rate your bank will give you. Pick the local currency and let your credit card company make the conversion. You’ll get a better rate and save some money in the process.
 

6. Don’t Get Currency at Home (and Skip Foreign Currency Cards!)

While buying currency at home might seem like a good idea, you’ll end up getting a worse exchange rate. Unless you are 100% sure you’ll need cash right on arrival, avoid exchanging money in your home country. Airports all have ATMs where you can withdraw money. You can get a much better rate when you do that. Don’t get currency before you go.

Additionally, avoid any “foreign currency cards” (like those offered from currency exchange companies) where you can pre-load money at a set exchange rate. The rates given are also terrible and they often have all sorts of additional fees. Doing this basically is trying to predict the exchange rate. You’re hoping it doesn’t get worse when you travel but what if it gets better? You don’t know either way. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t get these cards.

***

Bank fees can add up to some serious money over the course of a long trip. If you want to save money, you need to be proactive when it comes to banking and currency exchanges. A little planning can go a long way and save you a ton of money over the weeks, months, and years of your travels.

I see too many travelers visit the ATM all the time without paying attention to the latest exchange rates. You’re on the losing end of the stick that way. Be smart and bank smart. I haven’t paid a bank fee while traveling the world in over ten years and you shouldn’t either.

And with these simple tips, you’ll never have to again.

WANT MORE? HERE ARE OTHER IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIPS TO HELP YOU SAVE MONEY:

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

how to travel the world on $50 a dayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experiences. It has everything you need to know about the book

Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy today!
 
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post How to Avoid Paying Bank Fees While Traveling appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The Complete Guide to Diving in Koh Tao

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<img src="https://media.nomadicmatt.com/2019/DivingonKohTao_13.jpg" alt="Alex in Wanderland diving in the waters near Koh Tao, Thailand"
Updated: 8/22/2019 | August 22nd, 2019

This is a guest post by Alexandra Baackes, the legend behind Alex in Wanderland. She’s also a PADI divemaster and a resident of Koh Tao, Thailand. Koh Tao is a popular destination for scuba divers and one the the biggiest places people learn in the world! In this guide, Alex gives you the insider scoop on diving schools, prices, and the best areas for viewing sea life when you visit Koh Tao.

Travelers in Thailand like to label their destinations neatly. Intricate island paradises are boiled down to one or two simple words or associations: Koh Phi Phi? The Beach. Koh Phangan? The Full Moon Party. Koh Tao? Diving.

Some of them are fairly well deserved.

After all, Koh Tao is one of the world’s top destinations when it comes to number of annual dive certifications issued — in fact, it’s second only to Cairns, Australia. Travelers flock from across Southeast Asia to take their first breaths underwater in the coral reefs fringing this paradise island. It’s simple to see why: the courses are among the most affordable in the world, the teaching standards are high, the conditions are easy, the dive sites are abundant, and it’s a dang fun place to decompress after a day underwater.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when planning a trip to Koh Tao — there are more than 70 dive schools on the island! — so a bit of research goes a long way when it comes to such a large investment of your time and travel budget.

PADI or SSI?

A massive shark swimming above a diver in the waters near Koh Tao, Thailand
There are more than 50 scuba diving training systems around the world, but in Koh Tao, the choice generally comes down to two: the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) or Scuba Schools International (SSI). Each organization develops its own teaching materials; writes its own standards based on those set by the umbrella organization, the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC); and awards its own certifications.

No matter what certification card you walk away with, you’ll use the same equipment, see the same fish, and be able to dive at the same destinations. Certifications are interchangeable and recognized worldwide. The most important factors in the quality of your course will be your dive school and your dive instructor. But there are minor differences between agencies.

PADI
PADI is the world’s leading scuba diving training organization. If you find comfort in numbers, then
this agency with nearly one million certifications per year might just be for you! The major benefit to diving with PADI comes at the professional level. For instructors and divemasters, PADI provides the most employment opportunities, and PADI instructors can work independently (while an SSI instructor must teach through an SSI-registered shop). So if you have dreams of staying in Thailand to teach the backpacker masses and you want to be loyal to one agency, PADI is a strong agency to hedge your bets on.

SSI
Once just a small subset of the diving industry here, SSI has exploded to control a full 50% of the market share on Koh Tao. The benefit of doing an SSI certification comes down to best bang for your baht, as an SSI course will typically cost you nearly 10% less than a PADI course. If you’re coming to Koh Tao specifically for its status as one of the world’s cheapest places to get certified, those extra baht can make a big difference. Plus, all coursework is done via the free app and/or online, making it a green choice.

What’s the Course Like?

Alex in Wanderland diving in the water with a groupd of friends near Koh Tao, Thailand
The Open Water course is the first certification you’ll complete as a diver. Many divers come to Koh Tao to complete their Open Water certification, and some get hooked and stay till they’re instructors themselves. But be wary of “zero to hero” packages that include the full array of courses from first underwater breath to master scuba diver trainer — take it one step at a time.

(While half-day experiences called “Discover Scuba Diving” or “Try Scuba Diving” are available, they don’t lead to any sort of certification and should really only be considered if you’re (a) super strapped for time or (b) extremely unsure if diving is for you. Otherwise, just dive in, literally, to the Open Water!)

The typical Open Water diving course is completed in three to four days. There are videos to watch, book chapters to read, tests to take, and, of course, dive sites to explore! It might sound intimidating, but the course is designed for students as young as 10 — the academics shouldn’t intimidate you.

Here’s a rough outline of what your course will look like:

  • Day 1: Orientation, paperwork, and videos.
  • Day 2: A morning in the classroom learning about basics skills, equipment, and the effects of diving on the body. An afternoon spent in the pool or at shallow dive sites working on skills such as regulator recovery and mask removal, among others.
  • Day 3: A morning in the classroom finishing knowledge reviews and taking some quizzes. In the afternoon, the fun really begins with open-water dives 1 and 2, which will stay shallow and low-key. Some skills will be practiced during the dives.
  • Day 4: You’ll go out on a morning boat and complete open-water dives 3 and 4, where you’ll get to go a bit deeper and explore. In the afternoon, you’ll take the final exam. Congratulations — you made it!

Upon completion, you’ll receive a certificate that allows you to dive anywhere in the world with another certified buddy, independent of a professional, to a depth of 18 meters.

And the Open Water course is just the beginning! Koh Tao is a true mecca for dive education: you can take courses in freediving and technical diving, and specialty scuba courses in everything from photography to conservation and beyond — plus the gamut of continuing and professional courses up to Instructor Trainer!

Which School Should I Choose?

A massive school of long fish in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao ain’t called a mecca for diving for nothing: there are nearly 70 dive schools on this 13-square-mile rock! This decision is the biggest when it comes to determining the quality of your diving course. For the most part, the schools fall into a few categories:

Big schools: Bans, Big Blue, Crystal
These schools are enormous scuba powerhouse resorts that can churn out hundreds of Open Water divers a week, with instructors for almost every language imaginable. They are ideal for someone who is confident about going under water (i.e., doesn’t need extra individual attention) and wants to make lots of friends and meet people in a big group setting. However, those groups can be a bit large for comfort.

Medium-sized schools: Master Divers, Sairee Cottage
Medium dive schools generally have the best of both worlds. They have a range of instructors and groups large enough to make friends in, but they aren’t as prone to overcrowding or rushing through the course.

Small schools: Hydronauts, Ocean Sound
These schools are great at accommodating special needs or focusing on a certain specialty. The extra attention with instructors is key for those who are feeling uncertain about heading underwater or who simply want to be spoiled with attention and learn in a more focused environment. However, these schools sometimes rent boat space and pool time from other dive schools rather than having their own facilities.

When picking a school and an instructor, consider these factors:

  • Does it have an instructor who speaks your language? There are many specialty language-focused dive schools on Koh Tao: for Spanish, head to Pura Vida or La Bambona; for French, French Kiss Divers; for Finnish, Koh Tao Divers.
  • Will the confined dives take place in the ocean or in a pool?
  • How many students will be in the group?
  • What time do they leave in the morning? Those eager beavers who want to be the first on the dive site might not mind being up in time for New Way’s 6am departure, while night owls might prefer Ban’s or Sairee Cottage’s more relaxed dive times.
  • Is the equipment up to date and in my size? Schools in Koh Tao have a good record for equipment range and maintenance, but it never hurts to ask.
  • Will you get to have my own dive computer throughout the course? Will there be an extra charge?
  • How qualified is the instructor? Some students may appreciate the enthusiasm and up-to-date training of a new instructor, while others may find comfort in a teacher with tons of qualifications and years of experience.
  • Do you like the instructor?

How Much Will It Cost?

Alex in Wanderland posing for a photo on Koh Tao, Thailand
Open Water courses on Koh Tao range from 9,200 to 10,800 baht ($300–350 USD) — without accommodation. (Once upon a time, almost every dive school on the island bundled accommodation in with their courses, but that’s becoming more and rarer outside the largest dive resorts. If accommodation is included, it’s a very basic fan room — or you can upgrade to a nicer one at a discount.)

Though it’s less common these days, many schools will have a videographer come along on dives 3 and 4 and make a 10-20-minute music video–style recording of your day. At night, the class will gather to watch it. Depending on the video company, they may charge you a flat rate for a copy or base it on how many copies are sold — so you can take one home for anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 baht ($32–97 USD). Some schools have switched to providing still photos instead, which you can purchase as part of a package — expect to pay around 300 baht ($10 USD) for one photo or 1,000 ($32 USD) for a set of several.

Though it’s not an agency standard, many schools have a policy that students can’t bring their own cameras out on Open Water Courses, so don’t freak if you aren’t allowed to bring your GoPro — they aren’t trying to bully you into buying a video or photo package; they are trying to keep you safe, keep you focused, and avoid damage to reefs and marine life until buoyancy is mastered.

For divers who have already completed their Open Water course, fun dives cost around 700–1,000 baht ($23–32 USD) each, depending on how many dives you’ll do and if you have your own equipment. Those with time and money constraints will want to make it a priority to visit at least one of Koh Tao’s premier dive sites.

What are the Can’t-Miss Dive Sites?

Alex in Wanderland leaping into the water to start a dive in Thailand
If you’re a brand new diver doing your Open Water course on Koh Tao, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter where you go — you’re going to love it! You’ll be so focused on your skills and the magic of breathing underwater for the first time, you won’t really notice the differences between different dive sites yet anyway.

Twins
Twins is a very common training dive site used for dives 1 or 2 of the Open Water course. Twins sits just off the coast of Koh Nang Yuan and is perfect for new divers, thanks to its shallow depth. A highlight here is the family of rare saddleback clownfish inside an anemone that you can’t miss — there’s a ring of rocks around it!

White Rock
White Rock is another one of the most commonly visited dive sites on Koh Tao, frequently for dive 4 of the Open Water course. It’s an enormous dive site, providing a wide sampling of Koh Tao’s marine life — including the odd sea turtle who lumbers through. Read more about diving White Rock here.

Southwest
Southwest is a collection of pinnacles carpeted in soft coral anemone and
the pink anemonefish that accompany them. This is a great site for spotting barracuda and giant groupers. It’s located 13km southwest of Koh Tao and is almost always visited on the morning boats. With pinnacle depths from 6m to 27m, it’s perfect for anyone from Open Water certified and up. (Feeling adventurous? There’s a secret pinnacle here as well.) Read more about diving Southwest here.

Shark Island
Shark Island is so named for its resemblance to a dorsal fin, rather than an abundance of certain toothy fish. The north side is best known for its diversity of coral, while the south side has unique soft corals you won’t see elsewhere on Koh Tao. The rocky outcrop is located southeast of Koh Tao and is a less commonly visited site due to both its location and its often challenging conditions — both current and visibility can be a struggle here. Read more about diving Shark Island here.

HTMS Sattakut
This former US Navy ship was sunk in June 2011 off the coast of Sairee Beach and has become home to Jenkins’ whiprays, great barracuda, and dozens of gobies playing hide-and-seek in rusty crevices. The wreck doesn’t start until about 18m and sits down at 30m, so you really need to be Advanced Open Water certified or do a Deep Adventure Dive to enjoy it fully. To penetrate, you must have or be training for a wreck specialty.

One of the HTMS Sattakut’s greatest assets is its location less than 15m from neighboring dive site Hin Pee Wee. So you can compliment a spin around
the wreck with a zip around the coral reef. Hin Pee Wee features several pinnacles, a resident turtle, and some impressive macro life. Read more about diving the HTMS Sattakut here.

Chumphon
Chumphon is a submerged granite pinnacle covered in colorful sea anemone and surrounded by large schools of trevally, batfish, and barracuda. Lucky divers will spot giant groupers, pompanos, and even whale sharks. Due to its depth, this is a dive site best enjoyed by Advanced Open Water students.

Chumphon is almost always visited on the morning boats. Due to the distance — it’s 11km from Koh Tao — and the size of this dive site, some schools schedule two dives in a row here. Read more about diving Chumphon here.

Sail Rock
Sail Rock is considered the premier dive site in the Gulf of Thailand. Don’t miss “the chimney,” a beloved, not-so-secret swim-through, and a deeper secondary pinnacle east of the main rock. This granite, deep-ocean pinnacle rises from 30m and breaches the surface, a welcome sight after the two-hour boat ride from Koh Tao.

Occasionally, you can get lucky and complete dives 3 and 4 of your open water here for an extra fee, though generally, this is a specialty trip costing anywhere from 2,500 to 3,500 baht ($81–113 USD) and including three dives, breakfast, lunch, and a beer on the way back. A handful of schools take trips to Sail Rock but most only go once a week, so plan accordingly. Read more about diving Sail Rock here.

When to Dive on Koh Tao

A colorful school f fish in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand
Most island divemasters agree that April and May are the best months — they’re warm and clear, and the sea is flat. And in recent years, they’ve been chock full of whale shark sightings! Plus you could time your trip to spend Songkran (Thai New Year’s) on Koh Tao (mid-April).

That said, there isn’t really a bad time to dive on Koh Tao, outside of November and December, when winds and can be high and the weather can be dicey, causing boat rides to be unpleasant and visibility to be poor.

***

Learning to dive on Koh Tao should be approached with caution, as it can lead to a very serious addiction to the diving hobby and lifestyle! Many a dive virgin has arrived by ferry with plans to stay a few days and get certified, only to find themselves months later calling the island home and working toward becoming a scuba diving instructor.

Alexandra Baackes is the author of The Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao (which is an incredible guide to the island! and founder of Wander Women Retreats, which hosts an annual women’s dive and yoga retreat on Koh Tao. She overshares about travel, diving, and life as an entrepreneur on her blog Alex in Wanderland and on her Instagram @alexinwanderland.

 

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!

Thailand travel guideMy detailed, 350+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money while in Thailand, a country I used to call home (so I know it really well!). You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and get started.

Book Your Trip to Thailand: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay are:

  • The Dearly Koh Tao Hostel – The eco-friendly hostel offers a bar, cafe, restaurant, pool, and rooftop terrace. It’s a great place to relax and connect with other travelers.
  • Gecko Republic Jungle Hostel – You’ll be hard pressed to find a cleaner hostel with staff as friendly as those that work at Gecko. It’s easy to meet people here and there is AC available too!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Thailand?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Thailand for even more planning tips!

The post The Complete Guide to Diving in Koh Tao appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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12 Ways to Be Prepared for Anything While Traveling

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be prepared like a boy scout
Updated: 9/2/2019 | September 2nd, 2019

When I was a kid, I was a Boy Scout. I made it pretty far too, but then I became a teenager, decided it was “lame,” and quit. As a Boy Scout, I learned how to tie knots, camp outdoors, be a good citizen, play with knives, and got to have cool sleepovers.

One of the most important things you learn as a Boy Scout is their motto to always “be prepared,” and as I’ve grown up and traveled the world, I’ve found this to also be a travel truism.

You never know what might happen on the road.

Stepping out your door into the unknown is what makes travel so exciting. Each day brings endless possibility, but that possibility is for both good and bad. You may end up enjoying a day sightseeing in Paris — or getting robbed in Berlin. You may spend an amazing day on the beaches of Thailand — or suffer food poisoning in Costa Rica.

But if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to face whatever happens to you on the road:

1. Take Multipurpose Gear

Packing multiuse gear ensures you can easily adjust to changing conditions and helps reduce the amount of clothing you need to take. For example, I like pants that zip off into shorts, walking shoes that look nice enough for an evening out, and using my swim trunks as a pair of shorts. This saves room in my bag while money since I don’t need to buy as much stuff. This always ensures you are dressed for any occasion (after all, who knows when you’ll suddenly find yourself invited to party?!).

Here are some posts on gear that can help you:

2. Carry a Small First Aid Kit

While we live in 2019, not 1919, and you can find modern medicine anywhere in the world, I always carry a small first aid kit with me with a few essential items to be safe. I take Tylenol, stomach illness medicine, eyedrops, Band-Aids, scissors, hydrocortisone cream, antibacterial ointment, and a small supply of doctor-approved antibiotics. I’m usually able to find a pharmacy when I need one, but in case of an emergency, it’s good to have these items handy.

Here’s a detailed guide on putting together a first aid kit.

(And, on a similar note, here are 10 ways to avoid getting sick on the road.)

3. Pack a Small Flashlight

You’d be surprised how many travelers don’t carry one, but a flashlight will prove to be invaluable when you suddenly decide to go caving in Panama, when your hike lasts longer than expected and nightfall sets in, or when the electricity goes out unexpectedly, which is not uncommon in a lot of places. I carry a small, waterproof pen flashlight when I travel.

4. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle (with a Filter)

Water is life, and while it’s unlikely you’re going to be lost out in a desert or the jungle, it always pays to be prepared. Carrying a reusable water bottle and filter will not only save you money as a traveler, but it will also prevent tons of single-use plastic from ending up in landfills or the ocean. And yes, should an emergency arise you’ll be prepared. Most people can survive for 3 weeks without food — but you’ll only make it 3 days without water. Never leave home without a reusable bottle and filter, such as a SteriPen or LifeStraw.

5. Learn Basic Phrases

Locals don’t expect you to be an expert in their language, but knowing how to say “hello,” “goodbye,” and “thank you” go a long way in endearing yourself to locals. After all, wouldn’t you be annoyed if someone came to your home and expected you to know their language?

Knowing a few key phrases will not only make interactions easier, but it will also help you when you bargain for goods, order food, get lost, or need help.

Lonely Planet makes excellent pocket language guides for just about every language spoken, and Benny Lewis wrote this excellent guide on learning languages.

6. Study Nonverbal Communication

Most people interact using both verbal and nonverbal communication, so paying attention to facial expressions can help you appropriately read a situation, even if you don’t understand the verbal part. When you don’t know the language or might take words out of context, keep calm and take a moment to read the feelings of the person. This has helped me defuse tense situations with taxi drivers, vendors, and hotel owners. Understanding nonverbal communication doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice, but these websites offer:

7. Keep Emergency Cash with You

While there is almost always an ATM around these days, you never know when emergency cash might come in handy. You could end up in an airport (like I recently did) and find that none of your ATM cards work and you are stuck without any money. I recommend having a stash of $200 USD for emergency situations. I don’t carry this money around but leave it in my hotel room safe in case something happens. It will be useful if you get robbed or lose your wallet.

8. Have Backup Credit and Bank Cards

I always keep one backup credit card and bank card with me in case of emergencies. You never know when one bank might decide to lock your account for suspicious activity without telling you (yes, that has also happened to me) or when you might get robbed. I recently had my bank account information stolen while I was traveling in Europe. My bank had to deactivate my card, and if I hadn’t had a second one with me, I wouldn’t have had access to any money.

Here are some helpful blog posts on credit cards and banking for you:

9. Make Copies of Your Passport and Important Documents

Keeping copies of your documents can come in handy during an emergency, especially if you lose your originals. If you get robbed or lose your passport, having copies ready for officials can make filing police reports and obtaining new documents much easier. When I lost my passport, my backup copies helped with my police report and served as my proof of identity at the American embassy. Copy your passport, your health/travel insurance paperwork, and your credit cards.

10. Carry a List of Emergency Contacts

If something happens to you, having a list of emergency numbers on you will help medical professionals know who to contact. I also keep a list of my allergies with me so if I need treatment and can’t answer questions, doctors know what I’m allergic to.

I keep two copies: one with me and one in my bag in my hotel room. Because having backups are important!

11. Have Travel Insurance

The ultimate form of preparedness, having travel insurance will be a blessing when you have to go to the hospital because you popped an eardrum scuba diving, get sick on the road, or break a leg. Chances are nothing is going to happen to you while traveling, but for when it does, you are going to want to have insurance. Only a fool travels without it.

Here’s a list of suggested articles on how to pick the best travel insurance:

12. Read Before You Go

There’s nothing more important than knowing about the place you’re visiting. Head to a library or bookstore and get a few books on what life is like where you’re going. If someone came into your home and ignored all your rules, you would get upset — the same guidelines are applicable when you travel overseas. Knowing basic rules and etiquette can help you avoid any misunderstandings and leave a favorable impression in your host’s minds. Otherwise, you could end up like this British couple who were jailed for kissing in public in Dubai. (That’s a big no-no in Middle Eastern countries.)

***

You never know when you might face the unexpected, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years of traveling, it’s that even the best-laid plans can go awry. You may not use these items all the time, and, hopefully, you won’t ever need some of them, but the point is to be ready when you do. After all, a scout is always prepared.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

how to travel the world on $50 a dayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experiences.

Click here to learn more about the book and pick up a copy today!
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post 12 Ways to Be Prepared for Anything While Traveling appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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17 Things to See and Do in Taiwan

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The skyline of Taipei in Taiwan with nature in the foreground
Posted: 9/3/2019 | September 3rd, 2019

I used to live in Taiwan for a few months as an English teacher. I loved the time there and have always felt the country was really under appreciated. So, in this is a guest post by Carrie Kellenberger from My Several Worlds and an expat living in Taiwan for ten years, she lists out all the amazing things you should see and do there.

Every country in Asia is beautiful, but Taiwan is special for many reasons. The people are warm and hospitable. In March 2019, Taiwan was listed as the happiest place in East Asia.

While it might be a small island, you would be amazed at the never-ending variety of sights and fun things to do here. With over a hundred mountain peaks above 3,000 meters, over a hundred hot springs scattered around the island, both golden and black-sand beaches, nine national parks, world-class museums, glittering skyscrapers, stunning temples, and a huge number of night markets that are second to none, Taiwan has something that everyone can enjoy.

To this day, nearly 14 years after I moved here, I still think Taiwan is one of Asia’s best-kept travel destination.

Here are some of the best ways to spend your time in Taiwan:

1. Eat, Eat Eat!

A busy market at night in Taiwan
The national pastime in Taiwan is eating. Taiwanese, both adults and children, are very work and study oriented, so their lifestyles demand healthy food that is available on the go. Moreover, there is always an abundance of fruits and vegetables, so visiting a local market can be a delight when you find out how cheap it is to eat fresh food.

As a result, Taiwan has become an epicurean’s playground. The food scene is an international smorgasbord of culinary delights, for every budget and almost every diet.

Night Markets
While there are five-star international restaurants of every variety throughout the country, the night markets are where the real gastronomes go. They promise to keep your belly full while your wallet remains relatively unscathed.

There are over 30 night markets in Taipei, New Taipei, and Keelung (and over 70 night markets across Taiwan). If you’re not sure which one to choose, visit this list of night markets in Taiwan and take your pick. My personal favorites are Shilin, Keelung, and Roahe Street in Taipei.

Here are a few things you should try:

  • Xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings, a favorite staple food here. They are made out of a thin pastry folded into a type of bag that is then stuffed full with a meat-and-vegetable mixture and a tiny amount of soup, then garnished with raw ginger and soy sauce. Biting into one of these is a flavor explosion in your mouth. Plenty of street vendors at night markets offer fresh xiao long bao for around $2 USD for a basket of 10-12. There is really no reason not to try them. I’ve yet to meet a visitor to Taiwan who hasn’t loved their xiao long bao experience. I promise you will not be disappointed.
  • Oyster vermicelli
  • Oyster omelets
  • Beef noodle soup
  • Deep-fried chicken
  • Tian bu la (a type of fish cake fried with coriander with a dash of pepper and spice)
  • Sweet Taiwanese sausage or BBQ on a stick
  • Stinky tofu
  • “Coffin bread” (a tasty bread bowl shaped like a coffin)
  • Pig’s blood cake (It’s made from pig’s blood, sticky rice and soy broth and tastes much better than it sounds, I promise!)
  • Shaved ice
  • Zhen zhu nai cha (Taiwanese bubble tea)
  • Taiwan Beer (it’s the most popular local beer)

No matter what you decide on, you’re sure to have a great meal at a low cost while experiencing Taiwanese culture at its very best. You’ll be amazed at what you can buy for dinner for just $5 USD! You’ll definitely find some things that you hate, but you’ll also find things that you’ll love. It’s all part of the experience, right?

2. Visit a Taiwanese Teahouse

a tea house in Taiwan with a teapot ready to pour into cups

Tea culture in Taiwan is wonderful, and there are many options for tea lovers.

  • Maokong Gondola – This gondola will whisk you four kilometers to a mountain peak in a glass-bottomed cable car, from which you can view the tea plantations built into the side of the mountain as you zoom up. You can catch it at the Taipei Zoo MRT station; a ride costs 120 NT ($4 USD) each way. Once you’re at the top, there are several winding paths for a pleasant mountaintop stroll and a great selection of teahouses to choose from when you’re ready to enjoy a cup of fresh mountain tea.
  • Jiufen – If you’re heading out of Taipei, Jiufen is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations, owing to its appearance in the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away. This seaside mountain village offers some terrific shopping opportunities, as well as all the different kinds of foods you see in the movie. It’s one of my favorite places, because it is also home to some beautiful teahouses in the most glorious setting. Imagine sitting at the top of a mountain, looking out over the ocean in the comfort of a traditional tea house. It is truly a magical experience, especially if you can get there for sunset. Go on a weekday to avoid the large weekend crowds.
  • Jwu Jiu Teahouse – If you make it as far south as Chiayi, be sure to find Jwu Jiu Teahouse, a hidden gem that is like taking a step back into the past. Jwu Jiu is a traditional wooden teahouse set above enormous stone ponds filled with hundreds of giant, brightly colored koi. Feed the fish while sipping on your tea, and enjoy some traditional dim sum in the loveliest setting you’ve ever seen. The grounds belong to a local family, and the teahouse uses a well that is over a century old, in which the water still runs deep and pure. The owner has kept most of the original structures and bricks, plus a hundred-year-old Osmanthus tree, which is associated with many traditions in China and Taiwan. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the teahouse’s long history, displayed with pride and obvious care.

3. Check out the Northern Coastline

the lunar-like landscape of Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan
Head to the coast for some incredible lunar-like landscapes at Yehliu Geopark. There are some unique, otherworldly rock formations, including one that looks like Queen Elizabeth (though it took over 4,000 years to form) that are a popular tourist attraction. Try to get there early to beat the crowds.

4. Hit the Beaches

beautiful Taiwan coastline in the north
The beaches of Kenting on the southern tip of the island offer fun in the sun. White Sand Bay is the most popular and a great place to soak up the sun, swim, snorkel, or even go diving (just keep an eye out for jellyfish!). Other great beaches are South Bay and Little Bali Bay.

5. Soak in the Hot Springs

the Beitou Hot Springs just outside Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei has its very own active volcano in its backyard, and because of the volcanic activity in the area, Beitou Hot Springs enjoys a steady stream of visitors and locals who love to bathe in its healthy waters. Prices start around 40 NT ($1.30 USD) per person for a soak in the hot springs, making it a very affordable choice for anyone looking for some R&R.

6. Go Island Hopping

a beautiful sandy beach on Penghu Island, Taiwan
The beautiful islands of Penghu just off Taiwan’s western coastline will delight your sense of wanderlust and are especially well known for their golden beaches. This island archipelago has islands that are all distinct.

Boats will drop you off at one island for a few hours and then take you to the next one, so you can literally go from snorkeling to observing sea turtles to wandering through traditional aboriginal villages made out of coral in a single day.

7. See Old Taiwan

a lighthouse on Matsu Island, Taiwan
Two groups of islands that make up the Kinmen Archipelago off the west coast of Taiwan, just a couple miles from mainland China — and they are old Taiwan at its best. Here you’ll be able to see some traditional architecture, and there are also insightful museums that highlight the ongoing tensions between the People’s Republic and Taiwan.

8. Get Off the Beaten Track on Orchid Island and Green Island

getting off the beaten path on the rugged Orchid Island, Taiwan
Located just off the southeastern coast, these lush islands are a treat to visit. Here you’ll find hiking, swimming, diving, and amazing hot springs. You can also get further off the beaten path and have an adventure by renting a scooter to traveling around the islands yourself!

9. Explore the Green Mountains

the view from Jade Mountain, Taiwan
Grab a scooter and head up into the green mountains, which extend over five ranges the length of the island. If you want to stretch your legs, climb to the summit of beautiful Jade Mountain and watch the sunrise; this beautiful peak is almost 4,000 meters above sea level, making Taiwan the world’s fourth-highest island.

10. Visit Wuling Peak on Hehuan Mountain

hiking on Hehuan Mountain, Taiwan
If you’re still craving some climbing and hiking, head to Wuling Peak on Hehuan Mountain, around 3,275 meters above sea level, making it another good hike for anyone looking to spend more time outdoors. But what really makes this place special is that the peak is so high, you can look down into a sea of clouds below!

11. Go Hiking in Taroko National Park

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
Ready for another city break? This national park offers visitors a chance to hike through mountainous terrain and gorges, and you can even stop to dip your feet in swiftly flowing mountain rivers. Covering just under 100,000 hectares, it’s one of only nine national parks in Taiwan. Admission is free.

12. Head East

some of Taiwan's beautiful eastern coastline with tall cliffs
To really enjoy Taiwan’s majestic beauty, don’t forget Taiwan’s eastern coastline. The east coast highway has some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the world, from plunging sea cliffs and splashing surf to beaches, nature reserves, and rural towns a world away from the big city.

13. Witness Some Chaos

the busy food markets of Taiwan
Check out the feeding frenzy of the markets in Taipei, or enjoy a stroll around cool Ximending, the gay district and Taipei’s answer to Tokyo’s Shibuya. Ximending boasts a massive outdoor plaza behind the Red House (a well-known cultural landmark) and a pedestrian shopping zone filled with the latest fashion trends, coffee shops, restaurants, and local artisans.

Give yourself bonus points for checking out all the super cool graffiti; you won’t find it on the main thoroughfares, but if you venture onto some of the smaller side streets, you’ll soon find yourself in world of brightly decorated alleys and lanes.

14. See Tianhou Temple

Tianhou Temple, Taiwan; photo by Wayne Hsieh (@whsieh78)
While you’re in Ximending, it’s worth stopping by one of the oldest temples in the city, Tianhou (also known as the Ximending Mazu Temple, after the in-house deity Mazu, goddess of the sea). Around since 1746, it’s one of three major temples in Taiwan from the Qing period. It’s located on a main thoroughfare — but it’s very easy to miss the entrance.

Stepping through the entrance to this beautiful Taoist temple filled with mythological creatures, smoky incense, lucky goldfish, and people paying respect to the gods is truly a surreal experience. You’d never know this quiet oasis is in one of the busiest areas of Taipei!

15. Explore Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Taiwan
If you have your own ride in Kaohsiung, I strongly encourage you to stop by Fo Guang Shan Monastery and pay homage to the monks that live there. An ultra-Zen monastery open to the public, the complex is massive and stunning, leading to the Great Path of Buddhahood, a broad pathway flanked by eight identical pagodas.

You can explore each as you walk your way up to the Big Buddha, the highest seated bronze Buddha in the world. I’ve been to many temples and monasteries in my lifetime, but this one takes the cake.

16. Visit a Taiwanese Aboriginal Village

locals making food at a Taiwanese Aboriginal village
There are many knowledgeable local guides that can introduce you to the aboriginal way of life in Taiwan. The Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village near Sun Moon Lake is the most popular destination to learn more, but it’s certainly not the only one — there are lots of villages to choose from.

17. Take Part in the Pingxi Lantern Festival

red overhanging lanterns at the Taiwan Pingxi Lantern Festival
One of the coolest events in Taiwan, the Pingxi Lantern Festival involves releasing hundreds of paper lanterns into the sky. (Many newlyweds also include this meaningful tradition as a part of their wedding celebration.) If you don’t want to brave the crowds, you can easily purchase a lantern and light one on any of Taiwan’s beaches.

Taiwan is very environmentally friendly, so make sure you go with the eco-friendly paper lantern options that disintegrate, leaving no residue, and don’t cause fires. The company My Taiwan Tour also currently offers biodegradable paper lantern tours in Shifen.

***

There are many things about Taiwan that make it an incredible place to live; it’s easy to take some of those things for granted once you’ve been here for a while. I frequently hear that people think Taiwan is very Westernized, and while I agree that it is to some extent, there are still plenty of authentic Taiwanese experiences to be had!

Taiwan is and continues to be an unexpected travel destination that continues to delight visitors to this day. There is no place like it!

Canadian expat Carrie Kellenberger has been living in Asia since 2003. She moved to Taiwan in 2006 and became a permanent resident in 2012. She loves entertaining guests and travelers to Taiwan. You can read about her adventures and life there at her blog, My Several Worlds.

Book Your Trip to Taiwan: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay in Taipei are:

  • Formosa 101 – This hostel is located right near the Taipei Tower and the Tonghua Night Market. They offer free breakfast and have a laid back lounge for relaxing.
  • Meander Taipei – The staff here is really helpful and the beds are comfy. They have free breakfast as well as other daily activities available.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Photo credits: 9 – David Hsu, 15 – Yi Chen, 16 – Huicheng1967

The post 17 Things to See and Do in Taiwan appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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27 Golden Rules For Becoming a Master Traveler

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nomadic matt's golden rules of travel
Updated: 9/2/2019 | September 2nd, 2019

Every industry has its own “best practices” — proven rules and standards that guide the industry and the people in it. Travel is no different. There are many “rules to live by” that can help us navigate the unknown world with fewer mistakes.

I have my own golden travel rules.

Over the past ten years, I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that have helped me thrive when I travel. When I first set out in 2006, I made a lot of mistakes. (Ok, I still make some mistakes.)

And that’s not a bad thing. If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t trying new things and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

Mistakes are going to happen.

But, over the years, I’ve developed a list of 27 golden rules for travel. These guidelines help me save money, make friends, stay safe, and fit into the local culture.

If you follow them, you’ll become a master traveler, able to travel the world with swashbuckling zeal and expert ninja-like knowledge… all without breaking the bank so you can keep cutting a path forward through the world for longer:

1. Be adventurous – You only live once. You’re going to get chances to do wild things you’ve never dreamed of doing when you travel. Don’t hold back. Count to three, say “screw it,” and take the leap. You didn’t come this far for nothing. Say yes when someone asks you to go rock climbing, salsa dancing, spelunking, or try the world’s hottest pepper despite not liking spicy food.

There’s no one around to judge you. No one cares what you do. No rumors will be spread. Push yourself to do something new and daring at least one.

2. Get a no-fee ATM card – Why give your money to the banks? Get an ATM card that doesn’t charge any fees and use that extra money for more traveling. Over the long term those $2-5 charges really add up. I use Charles Schwab as my bank, but you can also find many others that offer no-fee accounts — or use a one that is part of the Global ATM Alliance, and pay no fees within that network.

This article can show you how to avoid bank fees when you travel (and will give you a list of suggested cards too).

3. Get a rewards credit card – Why pay for travel when you can get it for free? Use a travel rewards credit card to earn points and miles that can be redeemed for free travel.

You’re already spending the money anyway so why not get rewarded for it?

Travel credit cards come with tons of perks and huge bonuses that can be redeemed for free flights right away. Plus, they get you the best exchange rate on your purchases.

Having one is an absolute must.

Want to know how I get hundreds of thousands of points per year and fly for free? Sign up for my free primer on the art of travel hacking and I’ll show you.

4. Always carry backups – Always carry a backup bank and credit card in case one is lost, stolen, or hacked. That way while you are fixing the issue, you still have access to your money. Instead of the problem crippling your trip, it merely is an annoyance. This has happened to me before and, I can ensure you, you’ll be thankful you followed this advice!

5. Only carry what you need – When you leave to go out for the day, only care the cash you need and one credit card. You don’t want to get robbed and lose everything. Leave the backups and extra locked back at your hostel!

6. Join a frequent flier program – Get rewarded for all of those flights you’ll be taking by joining a frequent flier program. That way you’ll earn miles, perks for flying, and free flights. Miles are like money — and you wouldn’t waste money, would you? No! So, sign up for a loyalty program, and collect points. Even if it takes you years to get a free flight, at least you are not being wasteful!

7. Travel alone at least once – Few things are as liberating as solo travel. As a solo traveler, you’re free to do whatever you want. When you travel solo, the world is your oyster. You’re free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. To me, it’s the purest sense of freedom there is.

But beyond that sense of freedom, solo travel actually teaches you a lot about yourself. Travel is an amazing personal development tool after all, and solo travel is one of the best ways to learn and grow and challenge yourself.

Without anyone around you, you have to solve the problems you face on the road. You have to figure out how to get from point A to B, deal with people who speak a different language, get comfortable eating alone, find things to do, and work out problems that arise. It’s you and your wits. That forces you to grow in ways you won’t in the comfort of your home or with a group.

While it won’t be for everyone, I still encourage everyone to try solo travel at least once. Even if you don’t love it, you’ll learn a ton about yourself in the process.

8. Learn basic phrases – Locals don’t expect you to be an expert in the local language, but learning a few basic phrases will go a long way to endearing you and making them go the extra mile for you. It will bring a smile to their face that you tried! “Hello,” “how are you?” and “thank you” go a long, long way no matter where you go.

9. Stay in hostels – Get to know other travelers and experience the communal spirit of traveling by staying in hostels a few times. They aren’t all the dirty party places you see in movies. Most hostels are very clean, offer breakfast, have comfy beds and Wi-Fi, organize events, and know the local area very well. They also aren’t just for young backpackers; you’ll find people of all ages (and even some families) staying there. Try them out. You may like it.

Here is a list of the best hostels in the world to get you started!

10. Use tourist boards – Local tourist offices are a wealth of knowledge. When you get to a new destination, visit the tourist office and ask the staff an insane number of questions about the place. They exist solely to help you get the most of your visit and it’s their job to know everything and everything about a place. Plus, they often have tons of discounts not found anywhere else.

Visiting one is often one of the first things I do in a new city.

11. Try new foods – Culture is often best experienced through food. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Get out of your comfort zone and experiment. You might actually like it (those fried caterpillars in Zambia were delicious!).

12. Be flexible with your plans – Travel is a series of happy accidents with way leading to way. Don’t skip going to that random city with the friends you just met because your itinerary says something different. You’ll regret it.

Go with the flow and be open to new things.

This will make your travels a lot more stress-free.

12. Pack light – Take it from a former over-packer: you never need half the stuff you take. Put everything you think you need in a pile and then remove half of it. The lighter you travel, the easier you travel.

Here’s our suggested packing lists:

14. Take extra money – Something always happens that you never planned for that will cost you extra money. I never thought I would fly last-minute to Fiji, need to replace my camera in Italy, or buy an extra iPhone cable in Australia. Always take extra money just in case. You may not need it, but you don’t want to be without a little extra when something bad happens.

When you start planning for your trip, set aside a $300-500 emergency slush fund in for accidents.

15. Get lost – Meander through a new city without a map. Get lost — because in the end, you aren’t really getting lost, you’re just discovering new experiences. So put down the map and wander. Eventually, you’ll find your way.

16. Call home – Your parents miss you. Don’t forget to call and say hello.

17. Get a phone — It will be easier to stay in touch with friends (and call home), meet up with other travelers, and contact hostels with a phone. SIM cards and prepaid phones are cheap, so there’s no excuse not to stay connected.

But don’t be glued to your phone. I see too many people hooked on their phone these days. But it is still a good idea to carry one for emergencies, especially when they are so accessible and affordable now.

18. Travel slow – This isn’t a race or a competition. I know you want to get a lot in with your limited time, but you see a lot more when you see a lot less. Travel slow and experience each place. Don’t race from train station to station; that will set you up for a stressful, unenjoyable time. With travel, less is more.

19. Live somewhere once – Stop at least once. Get to know a place. Learn the language. Make local friends. Explore. Become the local. Living in a foreign place gives you a different perspective on life and a real sense of what it’s like to be an outsider.

Plus, living a foreign place and surviving will help you gain a lot of confidence.

20. Avoid taxis – They just cost a lot. Don’t use them unless you don’t have any other option.

21. Bring a reusable water bottle – Not only are all those disposable plastic water bottles bad for the environment but the cost adds up over time. A water bottle here, a water bottle there, and you’ve spent $50 on water alone. Get a reusable bottle and drink the tap water in conjunction with a SteriPen or LifeStraw water purifier.

22. Buy travel insurance – You never know what could happen on the road — but something always does. I’ve had to deal with lost baggage, broken gear, delayed flights, and even some pretty serious injuries. Without travel insurance, I would have not only had to pay out of pocket for these expenses but I would have been left to navigate them alone.

Buy travel insurance so that if you’re injured or you break your camera, you’re covered. Plus, you’re friends and family will be able to relax knowing that, should something happen, you’re covered. It’s only a few dollars a day. It’s worth the peace of mind.

Here’s the link to our resource page with all our articles on the subject!

23. Bring basic first-aid – Cuts and scrapes happen, and you can get what you need most anywhere in the world, but it’s still good to carry bandages, antibacterial cream, and some hydrocortisone cream in your first aid kit just in case. Also, carry duct tape — you’ll never know when it’ll come in handy.

Here are some tips on how to pack a suggested first add kit.

24. Get off the beaten path London, Paris, and the temples of Kyoto are all amazing for a reason, but get off the beaten path, go away from the crowds, and explore on your own. Find something new, stick out, meet the locals, and discover. The road less traveled is usually a good one.

25. Take photos of your friends – Years from now, you’ll want to look back at your younger self and see all the people who changed your life. Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing. Make sure you take photos of your friends. You’ll want them later.

26. Use the sharing economy – The rise of the sharing economy has made backpacking so much easier and cheaper. From ridesharing, house sharing, and meetup websites, there are so many ways you can get off the tourist trail and experience day-to-day life with locals! Here are some suggested websites:

  • Couchsurfing (free shared accommodation with locals)
  • Airbnb (paid accommodation with locals)
  • BlaBlaCar (rideshare app)
  • EatWith (share a meal with local cooks)
  • Vayable (for finding local tours and activities)

And finally, the most important tip of them all….

27. Ignore all my tips and do whatever you want – It’s your trip. Go where you want, when you want, and for how long you want. Don’t worry about this or that. Make mistakes. Learn. Make more mistakes. Have fun and become a better traveler. At the end of the day, you won’t look back and think “if only I had more miles” but instead “damn, that was a lot of fun.”

So get out there and have some fun!

You deserve it.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

how to travel the world on $50 a dayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experiences. It will teach you everything you need to know about travel!

Click here to learn more about the book and how you can start reading it today!
 
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post 27 Golden Rules For Becoming a Master Traveler appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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