January 2020

Important Superstar Blogging Update!

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A blogger at work at a table with his laptop, phone, and coffee
Posted: 1/15/2020 | January 15th, 2020

Hey everyone,

Some community news today:

As you know, we have a media school called Superstar Blogging, with courses on travel blogging, vlogging, writing, and photography. We started this program over four years ago to help people learn and master the skills needed to succeed in the online travel space.

After talking to the other teachers, we’ve decided to close the doors to new students for the writing, photography, and vlogging courses as of January 31, 2020.

Now, if you’re already in one of these three courses or thinking of enrolling in one of them before that date, fear not! We’re still going to honor all our commitments to current and future students, all of whom will still get lifetime access to the lessons (the courses won’t be taken down and will still live online). You’ll also still get access to any updates we issue and access to the Facebook groups (as well as any existing Q&As included in the course).

As for the blogging course, enrollment will remain open. We will continue to not only run this course but also update and expand it regularly. In short, we’re honing our focus and blogging will be our sole priority.

(In the coming months, we’re also going to offer a higher-tiered, smaller, and more focused, mastermind version of the course. It will add a much more in-depth, hands-on component and be limited to a small group of people. But more on that when the time comes!)

If you want to join our other three courses, you have until the end of the month to sign up. After that, no new students will be accepted!

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

Best,

Nomadic 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 Important Superstar Blogging Update! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Is Chile Safe to Visit?

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A stunning photo of the mountains of Torres del Paine, Chile in the summer
Posted: 1/6/2020 | January 6th, 2020

Chile is one of the most popular destinations (and one of my favorites) in South America. I was blown away by the beauty of the country, the delicious and inexpensive, the plethora of different eco-systems, and how hospitable the locals were. (And, as someone who works online, how much they are investing in tech!)

Owing to its diverse geography, the country offers a lot to visitors. From exploring the wilderness of Patagonia to tasting wine at boutique local vineyards, visiting the bucket-list favorite Easter Island, exploring the Atacama Desert, hanging out in the vibrant capital of Santiago — there are endless reasons to visit Chile.

But, with recent protests, concern over safety has become a topic of concern among travelers.

While Chile is not a dangerous country and the news media overblows everything, there are some things you do need to be careful about when you visit Chile. The tips below will not only help you learn more about how to deal with the risks there but they’ll make sure your experience is as enjoyable as possible.

8 Safety Tips for Chile

Like anywhere else, you need to be vigilant and take a few precautions. Here are my top eight safety tips for Chile:

1. Be aware of your belongings.
Petty theft is going to be your biggest concern in Chile, especially in the larger cities. Since these types of crime are usually situational and occur on a whim, don’t make yourself a target: keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid carrying or wearing expensive accessories as well. Having been almost robbed in Colombia, I can tell you that it’s not a fun experience!

Be aware that there might be teams of thieves working together: one will try to distract you while another steals something, so be careful if a stranger tries to get you into conversation in a busy place. This is most common on the bus.

There are other popular scams, all designed to distract you, such as the “bird poo” scam, where someone squirts a gooey liquid on you and then they or an accomplice rob you while you’re trying to clean it up or figure out what’s going on.

2. Don’t pet stray dogs.
I know: dogs are super cute. But the number of stray dogs in Chile has been increasing, and quite a lot of them have scabies, which is a highly contagious disease. If you come across dogs who look like they have skin problems, make sure not to touch them.

3. Watch out for riptides and currents when you swim.
Chile has lots of beautiful beaches, but unfortunately many of them have dangerous offshore rips. It’s easy to get swept up in these and not be able to swim back to shore. Watch for signs on beaches that say “no apto para bañar” or “peligroso,” meaning it’s too dangerous for swimming.

4. Double-check your taxi driver.
There have been some incidents of people being robbed by unlicensed taxi drivers, including in what look like airport taxis. Don’t hesitate to use pre-booked taxis or to check that the taxis you use are officially licensed ones. When going out, ask your hostel or hotel to book your taxi for you as well.

5. Be prepared for an earthquake or volcanic eruption.
Chile is located in a highly active seismic zone, and earthquakes are relatively common. Make sure you familiarize yourself with any safety or evacuation procedures at your accommodation. If you’re hiking, be aware that earthquakes can trigger landslides.

6. Watch out for drink-spiking.
There’s been an increase in reports of people having their drinks spiked in recent years. Victims become unconscious and may have their belongings stolen or worse, be assaulted or raped. Be especially carefully in the Suecia and Bellavista nightclub areas of Santiago, but it’s good practice in general to avoid accepting drinks from people you don’t know and to keep your drinks in sight at all times.

7. Look out for the car tire scam.
In the larger cities, there have been incidents wherein tourists driving rental cars have a sudden puncture because thieves have surreptitiously slashed a tire, and then their belongings are stolen while they are distracted by the puncture. Keep a good eye on your stuff if you should mysteriously get a flat tire!

8. Buy travel insurance!
Whenever you travel, you should always have an appropriate level of travel insurance, because you never know what might go wrong. While you hope that nothing will happen, you’ll be grateful you have travel insurance if you are the victim of theft, get sick or injured, or find yourself in an emergency situation.

Trust me, I’ve been there (on more than one occasion!) — having insurance makes a difference. Always buy travel insurance before you go!

FAQ on Staying Safe in Chile

Now that you know how to stay safe in Chile, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I get about safety there:

Should I be worried about the current protests in Chile?
Starting in the fall of 2019, anti-government protests erupted in the capital in response to policies that increased subway fares and then became general protests about the increased cost of living, privatization, and inequality. Parts of the capital, Santiago, erupted in flames and the protests got violent.

However, while the scars of those incidents are visible everywhere and there are frequent protests, they are no longer violent and are shrinking in size as the government gives in to certain demands. Moreover, these protests are confined entirely to the capital so once you leave Santiago, you won’t notice anything going on. If you’re going hiking in Patagonia or out to the desert or even to the nearby town of Valparaiso, you won’t notice anything.

If you’re concerned about the protests, skip the capital. But know the country is still safe to visit!

Are there places to avoid in Chile?
Not really. You’ll want to be more vigilant in the busier areas of cities like Santiago and Valparaiso, where petty theft and tourist scams are more likely to occur. There is no reason to avoid these places — just keep your guard up and your possessions secure.

There are also some areas of Chile where you can come across unexploded landmines but that’s only near the illegal border crossings into Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, so you should make sure you only use the official border crossings and avoid straying into the nearby countryside at these crossings. If you see a landmine warning sign, don’t ignore it!

Is Chile safe to travel alone?
Solo travel is as safe in Chile as any other kind of travel, and you should just take the usual extra precautions when traveling alone anywhere. The biggest problem will be making sure you keep an eye on your luggage and valuables at all times, especially on public transport. But it’s still quite safe for solo travelers!

Is it safe to drive in Chile?
Chileans tend to drive quite aggressively, so this might put you off from renting a car in Chile. It’s also tough work driving in Santiago because the traffic is always really busy and pedestrians will run across roads without checking.

The highways are well maintained with tolls. Once you’re off the main roads, however, the secondary roads are often not well maintained and are poorly lit, so you will need to be more careful. If you’re driving in the mountains, you’ll soon see that the hillside roads don’t have the guardrails you often see in other countries.

So, as long as you have experience and are comfortable in a more hectic environment, then go for it! If you’re not used to driving in countries with more lax rules of the road, I’d advise against renting a car.

Is it safe to walk around Santiago?
Chile’s capital Santiago is a large city with well over five million inhabitants, and so, like many big cities, there are parts that are perfectly safe and there are parts that might be a little dangerous. The Las Condes, Vitacura, and Providencia areas of Santiago are known to have higher rates of petty theft than other parts of the city, so be extra cautious when in those areas.

Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water here is generally considered safe, but it never hurts to boil your water to be sure. Boiling for 1-3 minutes (depending on the altitude) will ensure your water is safe to drink. You can also use a Lifestraw or SteriPen to purify your water as well. You’ll definitely need a water purifier for when you hike in the mountains down south, where it is not safe to drink the tap water or from a stream. (I used a Lifestraw when I went.)

Is Chile safe for solo female travelers?
There is no special risk for female travelers in Chile, although, like in many parts of the world, you should probably avoid being alone in empty or dark places at night. Women are also most likely to be victims of drink-spiking, especially if you’re on your own at a bar or club. However, many women go backpacking alone in Chile, and for the majority of them, the trip is uneventful. While you might be traveling solo, you will also most likely end up making some like-minded friends.

Here are a few helpful posts on safety written by our solo female travel experts:

****

So, is Chile safe? Yes! And you must visit! It is an amazing country, whether you’re interested in the natural wilderness, want to head out to Easter Island, or are keen to experience the culture and vibe of Santiago.

Just be aware of scams meant to distract you and use some common sense.

Chile is safe to visit. And the amazing sightseeing, culture, and people will make your trip well worth it!

Book Your Trip to Chile: 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 hostels in Chile are:

  • Hostal Forestal (Santiago) – Great staff, great breakfast, and a fun atmosphere. What more do you need?
  • Hostal Po (Valparaiso) – This hostel was opened by a former backpacker so they know exactly what we travelers like. It has a cool, quirky ambience, and a fun rooftop common area that’s great for hanging out and meeting people.
  • Kona Tau (Easter Island) – This rustic hostel has a laid-back vibe, and the owner and staff go out of their way to make sure you have a memorable, relaxing experience.

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 – and I think they will help you too!

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

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





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24 Things to See and Do in Budapest

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The skyline of Budpapest, Hungary during a summer day
Posted: 1/13/2020 | January 13th, 2020

I’ve always had a love affair Budapest (though the city may not know it). Growing up, Budapest seemed like this historic yet mysterious place closed off by the Soviets but filled with historic grandeur. When I first visited, the gritty, rundown streets charmed me. Budapest felt edgy in sharp contrast to, say, Prague’s more sanitized history. IT was a city of underground bars in abandoned buildings, hearty food, and serious people.

Over the years, I’ve seen the city change as the tourists visit in droves. And, while no longer as edgy (those ruin bars are no longer hidden), Budapest is still something else. It offers some of the best nightlife in Europe, tons of spas and hot springs, stunning historic buildings and museums, and lots of green space.

Budapest is a city with layers. No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll be able to find it here. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 24 things to see and do in Budapest.
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

The historic old town of Budapest, Hungary and its many churches and monuments
Whenever I arrive in a new destination, I always take a free walking tour. It’s a budget-friendly way to see the main sights, learn about the destination, and ask any questions you have to a local expert. They’re a quick and easy way to get an overview of a city, which will help you plan the rest of your trip. Budapest has a number of good free tours available. Here are a few you can check out to get started:

 

2. Soak at the Baths

Budapest is known for its thermal spa baths (it’s one of the best things about this city). You’ll find more than 100 mineral hot springs here, many dating back to the Roman Empire.

The most popular is the Széchenyi Baths in City Park. With 18 pools, it’s the largest and most famous in Europe. The historic buildings that house the spa were built in 1913, and it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Don’t forget your bathing suit and flip-flops (you can rent towels and lockers).

Állatkerti krt. 9-11, +36 1-363-3210, www.szechenyifurdo.hu. Open daily 6am-10pm. Admission starts at 4,900 HUF.
 

3. Ruin Bars

The interior of Instant Bar, a ruin bar in Budapest
The nightlife in Budapest is one of the best in Europe — and ruin bars are a big reason why. Located in the old Jewish Quarter, much of the neighborhood was left to decay after World War II. During the 90s, bars began to appear in the abandoned buildings in the area. Now, this underground scene is well on the map. But that doesn’t make this eclectic, arty, and funky spaces any less fun. Szimpla Kert, Instant, and Fogasház are my three favorites but, for a more detailed list of what’s hot right now, check out my post on the best ruin bars in Budapest!
 

4. Castle Hill

This historic area is home to baroque houses and Habsburg monuments. Cobblestone streets and narrow alleys that hark back to the city’s medieval roots parallel panoramic views of Pest and the Danube. This section of the city is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Old Town in the north and the massive palace to the south, which dates to the 13th century.
 

6. Buda Castle

In the Castle Hill area, you’ll also find Buda Castle (it’s more of a palace complex than anything else). The original complex was constructed in the 13th century, however, the huge Baroque palace that exists today was actually built between 1749-1769. Originally intended for the nobility, the palace was looted by the Nazis (and then the Soviets) during World War II.

Fun fact: Beneath the castle, Vlad the Impaler (colloquially known as Count Dracula) was imprisoned for 14 years. In the dungeon area, there is also a labyrinth that tourists used to be able to explore — in the dark, no less — though it’s now closed. You’ll also find some museums here as well (see below).

Szent György tér 2, +36 1 458 3000, budacastlebudapest.com. The courtyards are open 24/7 while the castle is open daily from 10am-8pm.
 

5. Hospital in the Rock

This museum served as a hospital, bomb shelter, prison, and nuclear bunker. Here you’ll learn about the impacts that World War II, the 1956 revolution, and the Cold War had on the city and its people. Opened in 2008, it’s one of the most popular attractions in town. Admission includes a one-hour guided tour of the museums, which has all sorts of wax figures, tools, equipment, and furnishings.

Lovas ut 4/c , +36 70 701 0101, sziklakorhaz.eu/en. Open daily 10am-8pm. Admission is 4,000 HUF.
 

6. Hungarian National Gallery

Opened in 1957, this museum focuses on Hungarian artists and history (of which I knew very little before my first visit). The gallery is located in Buda Castle, home to paintings and sculptures from the renaissance and middle ages, including wooden altarpieces from the 1400s. You can also tour the building’s massive dome. The gallery hosts rotating temporary exhibits too so check the website to find out what’s on during your visit.

1014 Budapest, +36 20 439 7325, mng.hu. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm (last tickets sold at 5pm). Admission is 1,800 HUF and audio guides are available for 800 HUF.
 

7. Budapest History Museum

Buda Castle on the edge of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary
This museum covers four floors of Buda Castle and provides a comprehensive overview of the city’s entire history. It’s a must for anyone looking to get a more detailed look at the city’s 2,000-year past. My favorite exhibit was the “1,000 Years of Budapest” display. Be sure to get the audio guide as it provides a lot of good supplemental information. It’s worth the cost.

+36 1 487 8800 , budacastlebudapest.com/budapest-history-museum. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm (6pm in the summer). Admission varies by season (2,000-2,400 HUF). An audio guide is available for 1,200 HUF. Admission is free on national holidays.
 

8. The Cave Church

In the 1920s, Catholic monks built this church in a large cave system that had been previously used by a hermit monk. Known as Saint Ivan’s Cave, the cave was used as a hospital during World War II. When the communists came to power after the war, they covered the entrance in concrete and executed the head monk. In 1989, as the Iron Curtain fell, the church was reopened and is now a popular place for tourists as well as a place of worship for locals. Get the audio guide to make the most out of your visit. There is a lot of history here.

Sziklatemlom út Gellért Hill, sziklatemplom.hu/web/fooldal.html. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-7:30pm. Admission is 600 HUF.
 

9. Matthias Church

This neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church is one of the most unique churches in Europe. I’ve literally seen hundreds of churches and cathedrals across the continent and this is one of the most original. The original church in this spot was built in the 11th century, though nothing remains of it (the current building was constructed in the 14th century and was heavily renovated in the 19th century).

During the Turkish invasion of the 16th century, it was converted to a mosque, which is why its vibrant colors and designs that aren’t common in European churches (the church has a colorful roof that almost makes it look like it was built from Lego). Once inside, you’ll see the huge vaulted ceilings and ornate décor.

Szentháromság tér 2, +36 1 355 5657, matyas-templom.hu. Open 9am-5pm on weekdays, 9am-1pm on Saturdays, and 1pm-5pm on Sundays. Admission is 1,800 HUF. Guided tours are available for 2,500 HUF.
 

10. Fisherman’s Bastion

A solo female traveler sitting at Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
Built between 1895 and 1902, this terrace is comprised of seven towers that look out over the river. Each one is meant to represent one of the seven Hungarian tribes that founded the city. The terrace was designed by the same architect who created the Matthias Church and provides stunning panoramic views across the Danube River. Competing legends say that the name comes from either the fact that the terrace overlooks the old fishermen’s guild or that the fishermen’s guild was responsible for protecting that area of the wall. No one is quite certain which is right.

Szentháromság tér, +36 1 458 3030, fishermansbastion.com. Open daily 9am-11pm. Admission is free, with an additional charge of 1,000 HUF to visit the upper turrets.
 

11. Hungarian Presidential Palace

The Hungarian Presidental Palace has been the workplace of the president since 2003. Known as Sándor-palota (Alexander Palace), it’s not nearly as impressive as the surrounding buildings, but if you time your visit right you can see the changing of the guard ceremony at the top of each hour from 9am-5pm (excluding Sundays). Sometimes the palace will be open for tours (but this rarely happens so don’t get your hopes up).

Szent György tér 1-2, +36 1 224 5000. Admission to the changing of the guard is free.
 

12. Buda Tower

This reconstructed “tower” is all that remains of the Church of Mary Magdalene, which was originally built in the 13th century but was destroyed during World War II. When the Turks occupied the city between 1541-1699, the church was converted into a mosque. It reopened in 2017 and you can now climb the 172 steps that lead to the top. That said, the views from Castle Hill are just as good — and free — so I’d skip climbing the steps and just admire this historic tower from the outside.

Kapisztrán tér 6, budatower.hu/en. Open daily 10am-6pm (but only on the weekends in January and February). Admission is 1,500 HUF.
 

13. Walk Across the Chain Bridge

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge connects Buda with Pest and is a wrought-iron and stone suspension bridge. The bridge originally opened in 1849 but was damaged during World War II and had to be rebuilt. Spend some time strolling across the bridge and taking in the view. Don’t miss Gresham Palace, located on the Pest side. It’s an Art Nouveau building that is now a luxurious Four Seasons hotel.
 

14. Visit Parliament

The parliament building in Budapest, Hungary lit up at night
Built in 1902, this is the largest building in the country and home to the national assembly. This massive structure — which covers over 18,000 square meters — took almost 20 years to build. You can take guided tours of the building where you can learn about the history of the city and how the government of the country works. (If you plan to visit, purchase your tickets in advance as the lines can get quite long.)

Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, +36 1 441 4000, parlament.hu. Open daily 8am-6pm. Admission is 6,000 HUF.
 

15. Stroll Along the Danube


After visiting Parliament, take a walk along the river. Head south to check out the promenade and its many green spaces and sculptures, including the sobering “Shoes on the Danube Bank,” a memorial honoring the Jews who were shot here during World War II. If you have a book or just want to take in the view, this is a reflective place to stop and relax.
 

16. Great Market Hall

This is the oldest and largest indoor market in the country. Built in 1897, you’ll find mostly produce, meats, baked goods, and candy on the ground floor while the upper floor is home to restaurants and souvenir shops. It has a lot of traditional places to eat, so be sure to walk around and explore first. Yes, it’s touristy (it’s the central market, after all), but I still found the food quite good (and affordable). Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s still worth a quick visit to walk around.

Vámház körút 1–3. Open Monday 6am-5pm, Tuesday-Friday 6am-6pm , and Saturday 6am-3pm. Closed on Sundays. Admission is free.
 

17. St. Stephen’s Basilica

This is the largest church in Hungary. Named after Hungary’s first king, the church is comprised of ornate architecture, gorgeous artwork, and is crowned by a massive dome. It was completed in 1905 after taking 50 years to build. Be sure to check out all the little chapels as well as the reliquary that is (allegedly) home to St. Stephen’s mummified right hand.

Szent István tér 1, +36 1 311 0839, bazilika.biz. Open weekdays 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-1pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Entry to the basilica is by donation, though it’s 600 HUF per person for the tower/observation deck.
 

18. Dohány Street Synagogue

Also known as the Great Synagogue, this is the second-largest synagogue in the world (it seats 3,000 people). Built in 1854, the synagogue offers guided tours that shed light on the building and its place in the city’s history. You’ll learn all about the construction of the synagogue, Jewish life in the city, and much more. As a follow-up to your visit, check out Wallenberg Memorial Park (right behind the synagogue) and the nearby Hungarian Jewish Museum.

Dohány u. 2, +36 1-343-0420. Hours vary from month to month; call ahead for details. Admission is 4,000 HUF.
 

19. Gellért Hill

Gellert Hill on a sunny day in Budapest, Hungary
Gellért Hill, just south of Castle Hill, is the best place to watch the sunset (if you go for the sunset, take a flashlight for the trip home). There are also several monuments on the hill, such as the Liberty Statue, a bronze statue was erected in 1947 to celebrate the liberating Soviet forces who defeated the Nazis; the Statue of Queen Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary who married Franz Joseph I; and the Statue of King Saint Stephen, Hungary’s first king, who helped establish the country as a Christian nation and provided a period of relative peace and stability.

20. The Museum of Terror

Life in Budapest under the fascist and communist regimes was brutal. The building that houses this museum was used by the ÁVH (Secret Police) and Arrow Cross Party (the Hungarian Nazi party) during their reigns of terror. Over 700,000 Hungarians were killed or imprisoned by the Soviets, and the museum does an excellent and moving job of highlighting just how terrible their daily lives were. The museum’s permanent exhibits are spread over four floors and house all sorts of propaganda, weapons, and informative multimedia displays. They also host temporary exhibits too (for information on those, check the website for the most up-to-date information).

Andrássy út 60, +36 (1) 374 26 00, terrorhaza.hu/en. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Admission is 3,000 HUF.
 

21. Heroes’ Square

Heroe’s Square (Hosök Tere) is the largest square in Hungary. Here you’ll find statues of Hungarian kings and other historical figures, including the seven chiefs who led the Magyars (modern-day Hungarians) in the 9th century. The monument was built in 1896 to celebrate Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary and originally included Hapsburg monuments (as the Hapsburgs ruled the country at that time). The square is also home to the Millennium Monument, a large stone cenotaph dedicate to those who gave their life for Hungary’s independence.
 

22. Go Island-Hopping

There are a few islands on the Danube that you can visit to escape the city. The most popular is Margaret Island. It’s connected by the Margaret and Árpád Bridges and has a large park, swimming pools, and a musical fountain. Óbuda Island is known for its outdoor activities, including wakeboarding, jet skiing, and golf (there’s a driving range here). In August, they host the Sziget Festival of music and culture.
 

23. The House of Houdini

Born in 1874, Harry Houdini was a famous escape artist and illusionist. He was best known for his elaborate and sensational escape tricks, including escapes handcuffs, chains, and even a grave where he was buried alive! Born in Hungary, this is the only museum in Europe dedicated to the Budapest native. The museum, which requires you to solve a small mystery before you can even visit, is home to original Houdini props and pieces of memorabilia, as well as props from the Houdini film starring Adrien Brody.

11 Dísz Square, +36 1-951-8066, houseofhoudinibudapest.com. Open daily from 10am-7pm Admission is 2,600.
 

24. Educate yourself as you walk!

One of the many historic old buildings in Budapest, Hungary
Beyond exploring on your own or taking a free walking tour, Budapest has tons of other tours worth checking out from in-depth niche walking tours, to food tours, historical tours, and pub crawls. While they aren’t free, you’ll get to learn much more about the city, its past, and its culture. Here are a few companies worth checking out:

***
From its wild ruin bars to its relaxing spas, Budapest offers everything you can find in Western Europe — but for a fraction of the price. Plus, it also sees a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in cities like London, Paris, and Prague.

With tons to see and do and budget-friendly prices, it should come as no surprise that Budapest keeps becoming more and more popular.

 

Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!

Nomadic Matt's Guide to EuropeMy detailed, 200+ 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 backpacking around Europe. 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 Budapest: 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 being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay in Budapest are:

  • Retox – A big party hostel located next to Budapest’s biggest nightlife area. This one is for serious partiers!
  • Carpe Noctem – The staff here will end up feeling like family, and there are organized trips out on the town every night.
  • Wombats – Another party spot, but it’s clean and comfortable, and one of my all-time favorites.
  • Hostel One – Great rooms, great staff, and plenty of common space to socialize in. The staff will even cook for you!
  • Big Fish – This hostel is located right on the main boulevard of Budapest. It has new beds, a huge kitchen, and a cozy common room!

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 — and I think they will help you too!

Photo Credit: 3, 8 – Visions of Domino

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A Traveler’s Manifesto: 30 Travel Rules to Live By

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nomadic matt's manifesto black and white
Posted: 1/9/20202 | January 9th, 2020

As travelers of the world, we have a unique opportunity to break down barriers, foster cultural exchange, and create a positive impact on communities around the world. We can banish stereotypes of our own cultures, stimulate the local economy, and bring fresh ideas and perspective to places.

Travel can be a life-changing experience — not only for the destination you are visiting but also for yourself. We walk away a better version of ourselves and with a better understanding of the world.

Yet, too often, travelers become the worst of themselves — throwing up on streets, being obnoxious to locals, demanding places conform to their needs, contributing to waste and overtourism, and ignoring local customs.

Too many travelers treat destinations as their personal hedonistic plaything.

Therefore, in order to foster positive social exchange, get the most out of travel, and be awesome, I say, as we begin this new year, we take the following pledge so we can be the people other travelers want to know and locals don’t hate:

1. I will read about where I’m going before I get there.

2. I will be respectful of local cultures and customs.

3. I will learn some phrases in the local language.

4. I will try one thing I’m afraid of.

5. I will not turn cheapness into a competition since travel is not a race to the bottom.

6. I will eat the local food.

7. I will not haggle over less than a dollar.

8. I will not be a loud, obnoxious traveler that demands that locals conform to my values.

9. I will have patience.

10. I will be humble.

11. I will have no regrets about partying until dawn but I will be respectful of my hostel dorm mates and their sleep.

12. I will learn to hold my liquor. If not, I will limit my intake.

13. I will understand traveling is not an excuse to give up on personal hygiene.

14. I will not ask fellow travelers the same questions over and over again and, instead, will get to know them beyond where they are going, where they’ve been, and how long they are traveling for.

15. I will not turn travel into a competition, since it is a personal experience.

16. I will not tell people how many places I’ve been, because no one cares except me.

17. I will not whine about how a destination was so much better ten years ago nor will I listen to those who do.

18. I will not judge people on how often they return to a destination.

19. I will not be a smugly superior backpacker and judge others for how they travel.

20. I will not judge people for not packing light or eating comfort food when they feel homesick.

21. I will remember to get off Facebook, put my camera down, and enjoy the moment.

22. I will travel slow.

23. I will have no regrets about changing plans at the last minute.

24. I will go in any direction my heart desires and follow my wanderlust.

25. I will remember this is a privilege.

26. I will not decide if I love or hate an entire country within a few hours of being there and interacting with a handful of people.

27. I will not drink and drive. Even on a motorbike. Even in Southeast Asia. Even if everyone else is doing it. Because I value my life and the lives of others

28. I will be respectful of the environment and limit my plastic consumption.

29. I will not ride animals nor visit an animal experience that involves petting or touching that exists solely for tourist purposes.

30. I will be grateful for every stupid, amazing, unexpected, breathtaking moment on the road and all the wonderful people who enrich my life.

***

We all have our own interests, preferences, and desires. But, as we start the new year, let’s all make a commitment to be better travelers. Let’s be respectful, curious, and supportive. Let’s be the best versions of ourselves as we hit the road and experience everything this world has to offer.

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.

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 A Traveler’s Manifesto: 30 Travel Rules to Live By appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Ethics in Writing: The Case of Saudi Arabia

Posted By : webmaster/ 201 0


A solo traveler sitting on a cliff in the desert in Saudi Arabia
Posted: 1/8/2020 | January 8th, 2020

As I scrolled through my social feeds recently, I noticed, set against desert backgrounds, a number travel “influencers” extolling the beauty and virtue of Saudi Arabia.1

But the majority weren’t there to take advantage of the new tourist visa and explore on their own. No, they weren’t there to see what this new openly country was really about. They were there on paid press trips, funded by a company called Gateway KSA, an NGO designed to promote the country. (Note: The organization says it’s independent of the government, but it has Saudi royal family members on its board and, given the complete control the family has over the country, I doubt they bring in influential Westerners without Royal approval.)

Now, let me be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with visiting Saudi Arabia. I have a few friends who just did. If you want to travel somewhere, you should. People are not their governments and I’m not one for travel boycotts.

But taking money from a government is a lot different than paying your own way. As Rick Steves has said, travel is a political act, and taking government money can create the impression of tacit approval of it. So when a government offers to sponsor a trip, I think the question that needs to be asked is “Is this a government I want to appear to support?”

The government of Saudi Arabia oppresses its people and promotes extremism abroad. It jails activists (including bloggers), has a horrible record on women’s and LGBT rights, kills journalists (Khashoggi is just the most famous example), and suppresses dissent, tortures detainees, uses flogging and amputation as punishments, and is among the world’s leading executioners.

Those involved in these paid trips say they were simply showing off the destination and the people. “It’s not about the government,” they said. “Saudi Arabia is a beautiful place, and there are lots of interesting things to see there.”

No doubt there is beauty in that country and no doubt there are incredibly warm and wonderful people there too.

Yet I believe that taking money from government-funded organizations creates a moral hazard when you consider that the government jails its own bloggers and “disappears” LGBTQ and women’s rights advocates.

Psychology has shown time and time again everyone tries to reduce dissonance to justify their actions.2 In this case, I think those taking these trips were either just clueless about issues with the countries or created rationalizations when a giant check was waved in front of them. Both reasons are disheartening and are morally shallow.

That’s not saying that I always bring up politics or societal conditions in my posts. Or that it’s necessarily the job of a travel writer to always discuss local politics.

After all, no government is perfect. They all have their faults. You can find terrible things committed by governments around the world.

But I think some destinations require more detailed and deeper coverage. How can one go to the Amazon without commenting on policies that lead to its destruction? How can one go on safari without talking about wildlife issues? There are aspects of travel that require more insightful reporting.

Places like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Nicaragua, Chile, and North Korea, for example, are among many places that require more rounded reporting given their political situations (and the fact that one is in the middle of a civil war).

Not bringing up the elephant in the room (the government’s actions) also does readers a disservice, because it may put them at risk when they visit since they might believe they can travel like the influencer did or how they do in the West.

Press trips are not like regular trips. They come with handlers, special access, drivers, guides, and a host of other benefits a regular traveler will never get.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s one way industry insiders find out what’s new.

But washing one’s hands of the political realities of sponsored travel is the problem, especially with influencers and bloggers who lack the editorial firewall traditional publications have. It’s why, when I asked on a recent survey if people trust bloggers who take a lot of paid trips, 85% said no. In another recent study, only 4% said they trust online influencers.

So prevalent are the hashtags #ad and #sponsored that people tune them out.

Sure, there have always been paid trips, but I feel there’s less of a sense of ethics among modern travel influencers. Looking back on the early days of blogging, I feel there were lines we wouldn’t cross — mostly because we were travelers too, and we had an idea about the context of the trips we were on. But now there’s more money floating around as millions of dollars per year are thrown at influencers. I’ve been offered huge sums to promote products (I once got offered $15,000 for a single blog post). It’s hard to turn that down if you don’t have another source of income.

Moreover, social media didn’t exist when most bloggers started and we had to rely solely on our blogs and in-person relationships. Now, with so many platforms, so many people competing for gigs, so much money out there, and the feedback loop social media provides, I think people are justifying morally dubious activities in a way that didn’t happen in the past.

Yes, traditional writers bemoaned us the same way I’m bemoaning “influencers” now, but I don’t remember standing en masse on people’s rooftops in Greece, going off trail to take pictures of flowers, or hanging off ledges for the perfect shot the way I see people doing those things now. Too much of today’s content is “look at me,” not “learn from me.”

So what can be done?

My advice for people who consume travel content is to avoid people who do things that aren’t legal or ethical and don’t paint a full picture of what’s happening in a country. By glossing over thorny issues, they make it more likely you’ll think everything is fine and increase the risk of something going wrong.

Look for those who are sharing more than pretty photos. Look for those doing things you, the consumer, can also do (not just on a paid promotional trip), because those are the ones who are going to be able to help you learn how to travel better in real life.

And, my fellow creatives, I urge you to consider the ethics of who sponsors your trip and to give your readers the most complete and accurate information. Don’t just feature glossy pictures. We get it: every place has wonderful people, every place has beauty.

But some places require more in-depth context. Some paid trips shouldn’t be taken.

Because, while special access and paid trips are fun, they aren’t that fun when the money received from them drips in the blood of the very citizens you are trying to highlight.

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!

Footnotes
1. I’m not here to call anyone specifically out but there’s an article that goes down that highlights some people.

2. The best book on this subject is Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.

The post Ethics in Writing: The Case of Saudi Arabia appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Stop Waiting for the Perfect Time to Travel!

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An adventurous traveler leaping for a cliff into inviting blue water
Updated: 01/06/2020 | January 6th, 2020

As the sun rises on a new year, we look out on the horizon and determine to be a better version of ourselves. This year we will travel more.

We’ll ponder the exotic locations we hope to find ourselves in.

We’ll think of the adventures we’ll go on and the people we’ll meet.

We’ll begin to formulate plans, research trips, and start saving money.

But, as the year progresses, most of us will abandon those dreams, forever pushing them off as life throws us curveballs and seems to want to get in our way.

“Tomorrow,” we’ll say to ourselves. “Today isn’t perfect and we just have too many things to do.”

Now, is not the right time.

The right time is when we have more money, more time off, or when things aren’t so “crazy.”

Then we can travel. We just need the stars to align a little more.

But, here’s a secret: there’s never going to be a right time to travel.

You’ll always be able to find a reason why today just isn’t the right day.

The idea that the stars will align and you’ll find the perfect day to step out of your door and into the world is fantasy.

Today might not be the perfect day — but neither is tomorrow.

Tomorrow, there will still be more bills to pay.

Tomorrow, there still won’t be “enough” money.

Tomorrow, there will still be someone’s wedding or birthday party to attend.

Tomorrow, there will still be more planning to do.

Tomorrow, you still won’t know if you’re making the right decision.

Tomorrow, you will still second-guess yourself.

Tomorrow, you’ll find another excuse why you can’t go.

Tomorrow, people you know will still sow the seeds of doubt in your head.

Tomorrow, you’ll still worry about all the bad stuff that might happen to you.

Tomorrow, something else will come up and you’ll say to yourself, “today isn’t the right day. Let’s try again tomorrow.”

Tomorrow will never be perfect.

Because there is no such thing as perfection. The hardest part of any journey is stepping out the door. And one of the key components to making that first step easier is to understand that the stars will never align and there will never be the right moment to travel.

You just have to go. You have to leap. You have to trust yourself that it will all work out.

Because it will.

If I had waited for the perfect day when my friend said he would join (he never did) or when I had just a bit more money, I’d still be home in my cubicle job.

I was constantly worried I hadn’t saved enough money. I was constantly worried I didn’t have the skills to survive on the road.

There was always a reason to put off my trip.

Sometimes, you just have to take the leap and go for it. Ships aren’t mean to stay in a harbor. You weren’t meant to stay at home and wonder “what if?”

One day you’ll run out of tomorrows.

And you’ll be filled with nothing but sadness and regret.

So stop waiting.

Stop making excuses. 

This is your year.

It doesn’t matter if you can only save a dollar per day. Just start. Action begets action.

Forget about tomorrow. Everything will work out.

Your bills will disappear when you cancel the services that generate them.

You’ll make more friends on the road than you could ever imagine.

You can work overseas.

And, if it doesn’t work out, you can always come home.

The world is full of possibilities.

And you’re capable of doing great things.

But only if you start today!

P.S. – Want to learn more about traveling on a budget? My New York Times best-selling book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, 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 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 Stop Waiting for the Perfect Time to Travel! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 8 Best Napa Wine Tours

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purple grains hanging on a vine in Napa Valley
Posted: 12/28/19 | December 28th, 2019

Napa Valley is easily one of the most famous wine-producing regions in the world, and last year nearly four million people headed there — it is big business for Northern California!

Of course, if you plan on spending some time in Napa Valley and nearby Sonoma, you’ll most likely want to explore some of the 600 wineries in the area. A great way to do this — both to get some local, insider knowledge and so that there’s no need to drink and drive — is to take a Napa wine tour.

There are nearly as many wine tour options as there are vineyards. I’ve listed some of my favorites here, and you can decide which fits your style and, more importantly, your budget. Just remember that you’ll usually also have to pay tasting fees on top of the tour costs — these vary between $20 and $40 — though many will waive that fee if you buy some wine. Also don’t forget, especially if you’re coming from outside the United States, that you’ll need to be 21 or over to join these tours, though some allow children to tag along.

1. Napa Valley Wine Trolley

If you’re after something a bit different, then the Napa Valley Wine Trolley is a good way to go. Instead of a regular tour bus, you’ll ride on a replica of a cable car. It’s an open-air car, of course, so make sure you pick the right weather to try this.

Tours leave from the Oxbow Market in Napa; a $99 tour includes four wineries and a casual picnic-style lunch, plus unlimited bottled water and soft drinks between tastings. You can upgrade to the full-day Castle tour ($139), which includes a two-hour stop and tasting at Castello di Amorosa.

2. Napa Valley Bike Tours

Of course, being a valley full of vineyards, Napa is a really scenic place, so exploring it by bicycle is a great option. Napa Valley Bike Tours offers either guided or self-guided rides, leaving from their store in Yountville. The popular half-day guided tour is $124 per person, with two winery visits and a great guide who’ll give you the full story of the area.

The handy part about the self-guided tours is that, besides being able to visit the wineries you choose at your own pace, you still get a box lunch, and any wine you buy will be picked up for you (riding with wine in your backpack gets old really fast). Self-guided tours cost $114 per person and also include comfy bikes, helmets, and all the planning info you need.

3. Calistoga Bikeshop

Another bicycle option is Calistoga Bikeshop, a popular rental shop that also runs guided day tours for $150, including a hybrid bike, a picnic lunch, and pick-up for any wine you buy. The guides plan a unique route depending on what the group members want, starting from their shop in Calistoga.

If you have an extra day in the area and don’t need more wine, Calistoga also offers great mountain biking trips to the Palisades or along the Oat Hill Mine Trail.

4. Platypus Wine Tours

Platypus brands itself as the “anti-wine-snob wine tour,” so if you want to have a fun day learning more about wine, then this is a good choice. (The name is memorable, but you won’t actually see a platypus anywhere in Napa Valley, in case you’re wondering.)

Platypus runs small-group trips, taking in four wineries for $110 (including a picnic lunch), focusing on small and medium-sized, usually family-owned wineries. You can choose from tours centered on Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, or North Sonoma.

5. Active Wine Adventures

As the name suggests, Active Wine Adventures offers tours that include more than just wine tasting, so it’s a great way to explore Napa Valley. For example, the Hike & Wine tours start with a two-hour hike in some of valley’s beautiful landscapes and move on to a lunch and winery tasting experience. These cost $139 plus lunch because you can choose from a high-end restaurant lunch or a vineyard picnic. They offer similar tours in the Sonoma area, too.

6. Green Dream Tours

Try some wine and help the world. Green Dream has a focus on sustainability: besides using green business practices, it also buys carbon offsets to balance its use of fuel. Their Napa Valley tours ($144, $154 on weekends) are among the few where the tasting fees at three boutique wineries are included.

Green Dream also offers a combo tour, taking in three wineries across Sonoma and Napa Valley, with lunch at the Oxbow Public Market ($139 weekdays, $149 weekends). For visitors to San Francisco, there’s a combo with a tour of Alcatraz plus two Sonoma boutique wineries, for $179.

7. Small Lot Wine Tours

If you’re coming by car to the Napa Valley region, then Small Lot can be a really budget-friendly way to enjoy a wine tour. They provide a tour guide who’ll drive your car for you for the day, and design a tour route just right for you, depending on the kind of wine you want to taste, what you want to do for lunch, and whether you’re planning on buying wine. At $50 per hour (with a four-hour minimum), if you’ve got a car full of friends, this can work out to be one of the cheapest ways to explore Napa but still have local expert advice.

8. Napa Valley Wine Country Tours

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours offer full-day trips from San Francisco, including a Golden Gate Bridge photo opportunity, to four wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions. Tours include a picnic lunch and are usually $119 per person (sometimes there are $99 specials on the website).

For something a bit different, they also run wine tours around the Napa Valley in an open-top convertible limousine, including a castle visit, for $150.

***

There are so many options for touring the Napa Valley and experiencing all the wine culture the area has to offer, depending on your tastes and preferences. These suggestions should ensure that you have a great day out exploring one of the world’s most famous wine regions.

Book Your Trip to Napa Valley: 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!

The post The 8 Best Napa Wine Tours appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How Families and Senior Travelers Can Use this Website

Posted By : webmaster/ 238 0


A traveling family at the beach stanind near the water
Updated: 12/27/19 | December 27th, 2019

I’m 38, single, and I travel solo. These are things that probably won’t change anytime soon (though my mother keeps asking me when that second one will).

As such, most of the travel tips on this website tend to be focused on what I, a single traveler, learn about traveling better, cheaper, and longer.

But that doesn’t mean my advice is only for solo travelers.

My belief is that budget travel tips are universal because when we all touch down in, say, London, we all deal with the same costs. We may end up staying in different places and eating in different restaurants, but the methods we use for saving money will generally be the same.

A common question I get asked is if my advice will work for families or older travelers. (It’s also brought up in my reader surveys: “Matt, I wish you would write more for those with families or older travelers.”)

There’s a common perception that family and senior travel is an inherently different form of travel that requires special considerations. I know not everyone thinks that way, but I often feel that the question, “Can you write tips that apply to family/senior travel?” implies that distinction.

But I don’t think that is really the case.

Sure, when you’re traveling with a family, you want kid-friendly activities and restaurants, and maybe you just won’t stay in a hostel dorm together. But is that really a whole new form of travel?

I don’t believe so.

You’re just looking for different things within the realm of budget travel.

Of course, not every budget-travel tip applies to every traveler. We all have different desires and needs and, since the question above is a very valid one, I wanted to show how you can apply the advice of this solo traveling nomad to your family trip or, if you’re older, highlight some different accommodation types and tour information.

(Disclaimer: I’m not pretending to know about how best to travel with children or the needs of older travelers. I don’t. But since this is a question that comes up a lot, I just want to collate the tips and articles on my website to create a resource page that I believe can help in your planning.)

Family Travel Tips

The wide wide world family posing for a family photo with an elephant
Like solo travelers and senior travelers, families that travel together are going to have three major expenses:

  • Flights
  • Accommodation
  • Food

The more you can lower your expenses, the longer you’ll be able to travel. To that end, here are some tips, tricks, and resources to help you save money on your trip so you can

How to Save Money on Flights

It’s one thing to buy a flight for one person; it’s another to buy flights for four or five people. That $700 flight suddenly becomes $3,500, and that’s just more money than most of us can or want to spend. Seeing that number just for the flights would keep me at home!

To help you save money on flights, here are the 5 steps I follow whenever I am searching for a deal. It will work just as well for families as it does for me, a solo traveler. Nine times out of ten, I’ll be able to save myself some money following these steps — and I don’t have to spend hours researching either.

1. Start your search on flight deal websites – These sites will have rare deals that won’t last long. It’s a great place to start to get ideas and find last-minute deals. If you’re not picky about where and when you travel, you’ll likely find some great flight options here. My favorite sites for flight deals are:

I compare what I find there with ITA Matrix. It allows for complex searches and is used by every avid flyer I know. While it only searches major airlines, it has a calendar option so you can see prices over the course of the month. It’s helpful to show you the approximate baseline price. You’ll want that moving forward so you can compare other sites to find the best deal.

2. Search budget carriers – Next, I visit Momondo and Skyscanner. I’ll check these sites for budget carrier options. There are a lot of third-party options here as well. If the price difference is huge it might be worth booking via a third-party site (just read their reviews first — and make sure you buy travel insurance just in case!)

3. Check Google – Third, I check Google Flights to see if it is cheaper to fly to a different airport. For example, if you’re flying to Paris from New York City, it might be cheaper to fly to Dublin and then book a cheap Ryanair flight (I once did exactly save and saved $200 when compared to a direct flight to Paris).

4. Visit the airline’s website – After I’ve searched for deals and budget flights, I check directly with the airline. Airlines occasionally offer cheaper prices to encourage customers to book directly with them. You’ll also have more peace of mind booking direct since there won’t be a third-party involved should a delay or cancelation occur. That said, more often than not, you won’t find the cheapest prices directly with the airline.

5. Book and review – By now, you should have found the best deal. Book it! Then, in 23 hours, do another quick search. Clear out your browser’s cookies and do a quick search to see if the price dropped. Many airlines let you cancel for free within 24 hours. If you find a better deal, cancel and rebook. If not, stick with your flight and call it a day! (Make sure your flight has free cancelation within 24 hours before you book a new flight)

In addition to following those simple steps, here are some other helpful things you can do to find the best flight deal for your next family trip:

Use travel credit cards to get pointsTravel hacking is vital when you have to buy multiple airline tickets. With very little work, you can accumulate hundreds of thousands of points — enough to get you and your family anywhere in the world.

These days, there are tons of amazing travel credit cards that provide incredible perks and value for avid travelers. These include 5x points on certain spending categories, huge sign-up bonuses, lounge access, Global Entry, and much, much more!

I earn over 1 million points per year — and you can too. Best of all, it doesn’t require any extra spending either.

Visit a travel agent – Believe it or not, travel agents can still be good for bulk flight discounts, especially culturall-specific travel agents that specialize in flights to their country of origin (for example, buying flights to China in Chinatown).

Beyond using points or finding some amazing deal, there’s not much you can do to lower the cost of flights (whether for a single traveler or a family). Airline ticket prices are going up and we’re all going to suffer. There are ways to avoid being the person who pays the most for their ticket but, without points, there’s no way to get free or very discounted flights.

For more tips and advice on finding a cheap flight, here are some helpful posts:

Finding Budget-Friendly Accommodation

This is another big cost that doesn’t need to break your bank. The biggest way to win: skip the hotel. Hotels are the most expensive form of accommodation. Luckily, there are some great alternatives. Here’s how you can overcome (or cut) these costs:

Stay in a family-friendly hostel – Hostels are not just for young, single backpackers. There are many hostels out there that are great for families (and tour groups) that don’t have the party atmosphere normally associated with hostels.

One of the best family-friendly hostels in the world is the chain Youth Hostel Association. They offer nice, quiet, clean rooms, and have hostels around the world.

Use Hostelworld.com to find quiet, family-friendly hostels. You can read reviews, see what facilities and amenities there are, and look at photos to find the perfect hostel for you and your family.

Rent someone’s home or apartment – Vacation rental sites can get you all the comforts of home while on the road and work out cheaper per person than a hostel or hotel. In many instances, you can rent a whole apartment for prices similar to budget hotels. This will allow you access to self-catering facilities so you can cook your own meals, saving you even more money in the progress.

The best apartment rental sites include:

  • Airbnb – The best platform for finding private rooms and entire homes for rent. There are both budget-friendly and luxury options too. (You’ll want to read this before using the platform though)
  • Homeaway – Similar to Airbnb, HomeAway offers vacation and short-term apartment rentals all round the world (they recently merged with VRBO so they have a sizeable list of properties too).
  • Campsapce – A platform for renting space to camp on private property, as well as cabins, lodges and other more rustic accommodation.

Use last-minute hotel discount sites – If you do need a hotel, use websites like Hotwire, HotelTonight, and Priceline to find cheap, last-minute hotel rooms.

Use a hospitality network – Many of the hospitality networks like Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club, and Servas have numerous hosts who take families. You’ll need to spend a bit more time finding and connecting with them, but it’s definitely possible.

There is often this perception that these websites are for just young, solo travelers, but many, many hosts take families (Hospitality Club and Servas more so than Couchsurfing). You get to know a local family with these websites, and your kids will have other kids to play with, too! Win-win.

For more information and tips on finding cheap accommodation, check out these relevant blog posts:

Cutting Food Expenses

I imagine feeding a family is not very cheap (I know, I know — Captain Obvious over here, right?). When you’re traveling, being budget conscious becomes even more important, as food costs can ruin your budget. Here are some tips that can help:

Cook – Obviously, cooking food will be cheaper than eating out. Visit local markets or grocery stores, get some food, and have a picnic or make sandwiches for later. When I don’t have access to a kitchen, I buy a lot of pre-made meals at supermarkets. They aren’t world-class meals but they do the trick.

Get lunch specials – The best time to eat out at restaurants is during lunch when places offer lunch specials and set menus that are cheaper than dinnertime menus. This is especially true around North America, Europe and in Singapore.

Food trucks/street food – If you’re in a place with food trucks or street food, eat there. Not only will these meals be cheaper, they will probably be tastier too. Food trucks and street stalls are my favorite places to eat. You can find meals for under $1 USD in many parts of the world, making it easy (and cheap) to feed a family.

Don’t eat near tourist attractions – This is an important rule of mine. If you eat near a major site, food will be three times as expensive and probably a third as good. Walk at least four blocks away before you pick a restaurant. You’ll get cheaper, more authentic local food this way.

Stick to local food – Local food is always going to be cheaper than imported food, non-seasonal food, and western food. If you want to stick to your budget, eat what the locals eat.

For more tips and information on eating cheap while traveling, check out these posts:

Saving Money on Attractions

Use city tourism cards to get discounts and free entrance into local museums and attractions. Tourism offices (think London Tourism, Paris Tourism, New York Tourism, etc.) offer these cards that give you free entry and substantial discounts to participating attractions and tours in a city, free local public transportation (a huge plus), and discounts at a few restaurants and shopping malls.

They last for a varying number of days and are one of the best ways to see many attractions on the cheap. (Remember, kids below 12 get into most museums for free.)

Moreover, student and youth discount cards are available for people over 13. These cards will give free or discounted access to museums and attractions around the world. You can get these cards at STA travel.

How Senior Travelers Can Travel on a Budget

Don and Alison, a happy senior couple traveling the world posing with an elephant

Accommodation for Older Travelers

While many of the tips above will also apply to older travelers, the most common concern I hear from older travelers is that I write too much about hostels. I think many older travelers feel that they won’t fit in if they stay in a hostel, which just isn’t the case (ok, maybe that’s true if you stay at a party hostel). But most hostels are inclusive and you’ll find a pretty wide variety of ages.

In fact, lots of boomers use hostels. Both dorms and private rooms are great options because they provide lots of space to meet other travelers, get tips, and share your own experiences.

I’ve even met travelers in the 70s using hostels!

That said, here are some budget-friendly alternatives to your standard hostel:

What About Medical Issues?

The most common topic I get questions about from older travelers is the issue of medical concerns. From getting prescriptions abroad to finding coverage for pre-existing conditions, older travelers often (but not always) need to spend more time and energy making sure their medical needs are properly addressed.

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to have these issues looked after. Many doctors will supply prescriptions in advance so you can purchase what you need abroad conveniently and safely. Additionally, there are more and more insurance companies that provide coverage to older travelers.

Insure My Trip is the best place to start as they can find plans that cover travelers 70+. (For younger travelers, World Nomads is my preferred company).

For additional coverage, travelers under 75 can use Medjet. Its the premier global air medical transport and travel security membership program. They provide comprehensive evacuation coverage that ensures you won’t get stuck at a foreign hospital should something happen during your trip.

Tours for Older Travelers

Another question that gets posed a lot is how to avoid those expensive single supplements tour groups charge for individual travelers. To avoid those fees, use small group tour operators like Intrepid Travel. It’s really only the large bus companies that still have that fee anyway (think Globus or Trafalgar tours).

Most small operators have discontinued the practice of single supplements. Generally, anyone who runs groups smaller than 15 travelers or offers a hop-on/hop-off style service won’t require a single supplement.

For more tips, information, and inspiration, here are some insightful posts for older travelers:

***
Nothing is ever universal, but tips for solo travelers, couples, families, or older travelers are not mutually exclusive. They can be borrowed from each other and used as you see fit.

I write as a solo traveler who likes to save money, and while not all my tips are applicable to every type of traveler, most can be. I hope this post addressed some of the questions you had about what tips on this site are relevant to family and senior travel.

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 Families and Senior Travelers Can Use this Website appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 6 Favorite Hostels in Vancouver

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Vancouver city skyline at night
Posted: 12/28/2019 | December 28th, 2019

Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s filled with delicious food (there’s lots of amazing sushi here), spacious parks (don’t miss Stanley Park), and is close to both the mountains and the ocean. The city consistently ranks in the top five best places to live in the world — and it’s no surprise why. It’s a wonderful, wonderful city that I’ve loved ever since I first visited in 2004 with my family.

Since then, I’ve come back a handful of times to explore it on my own. I’ve seen the city change a lot of the last fifteen years — and one of the things that has changed for the benefit of us travelers is that there are a lot more hostels. Vancouver now has one of the best hostel scenes in Canada, and you won’t be disappointed with what you find here.

Below are my favorite hostels in Vancouver. They offer incredible value and have all the facilities you’ll need too!

1. Cambie Hostel Seymour

Cambie Hostel Seymour, Vancouver
Cambie Hostel Seymour is located in Gastown, a hip area of Vancouver loaded with bars and restaurants. This hostel is pretty basic and small (dorms are two or four beds), and the hostel itself doesn’t have much ambience: expect bare rooms and bathrooms in need of a refresh. But guests don’t stay here because of the property; they stay because of its prime location and easy access to other destinations in the city and to the airport. But there is a common area and a “chill room,” which comes complete with its very own hostel cat.

If you’re cooking, the kitchen isn’t huge and seating is limited, but the hostel also makes it easy to go out and dine. They offer $5 off breakfast at the popular Cambie Bar, a part of the Gastown sister hostel a quick walk down the road (see below). Below the hostel is the popular Malone’s Social Lounge & Tap (the reason for the late-night noise) and Chihuahuas Mexican Grill, so you can eat and drink without going far. Because of its proximity to the bars, it gets loud at night. If you want a lively hostel, stay here.

Beds from $25 USD, privates from $55 USD for the night

—> Book your stay at Cambie Hostel Seymour!

2. Cambie Hostel Gastown

Cambie Hostel Gastown, Vancouver
This Gastown hostel offers comfortable beds, a small common room to meet and mingle in, and access to Gastown’s restaurants and bars. This includes The Cambie, the hostel’s bar, which draws in crowds of locals. It can get incredibly loud, so bring some noise-cancelling headphones because basic earplugs won’t cut it. Like its sister hostel a few blocks away, there’s also housecat to keep you company (if you’re allergic to cars, bring allergy meds).

Housed in a building dating back to the late 1800s, it’s in need of a little renovation. The hostel has a small kitchen and the showers are close to the toilets, which makes it cramped. Its location is its main selling point, though, so if you’re not expecting anything special other than direct access to Gastown and all it has to offer, this is a good place for you.

Beds from $23 USD, rooms from $53 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Cambie Hostel Gastown!

3. HI Vancouver Central

HI Vancouver Central, Vancouver
Like many of the other hostels in town, HI Vancouver Central is an old building, which means the property could use a little love. Fortunately, the rooms here offer comfortable beds and every room has a ensuite bathroom. Choose from two-bed or four-bed dorms or private four-bed rooms. Located on Granville Street, it’s in the heart of the action, with many pubs and clubs around, making it noisy at night (but lively and fun too).

The hostel has a free breakfast serving bagels and other baked goods, as well as some fruit and cereal. It has a small common room and basic kitchen with only a toaster, microwave, and kettle. HI also offers tours daily, to destinations around town as well as a pub crawl.

Beds from $29 USD a night, rooms from $52 USD a night

—> Book your stay at HI Vancouver Central!

4. HI Vancouver Downtown

HI Vancouver Downtown, Vancouver
Tucked into a quieter part of the city, HI Vancouver Downtown is a good spot for heading out to explore popular Granville and Davie Streets, which offer plenty of cafés, restaurants, and shopping. It’s also a quick walk to the beach and ferries to Granville Island (where you’ll find lots of shopping), as well as walking distance to the beautiful Stanley Park.

The hostel itself isn’t all that impressive: the dorms don’t have enough outlets to accommodate every bed, the bathrooms are old and can be a bit musty, and the Wi-Fi doesn’t work very well. But the hostel does have a free continental breakfast, a game room with foosball and pool, a library, and a TV room. It also runs tours and has bike rentals so you can easily explore more of the city.

Beds from $29 USD, rooms from $71 USD a night

—> Book your stay at HI Vancouver Downtown!

5. Samesun Vancouver

Samesun Vancouver, Vancouver
The Samesun chain of hostels consistently rank as some of the best in the cities where they are located. Samesun Vancouver is no exception. My favorite feature of this hostel is in the six-bed dorms, which offer cozy pod beds and give you a bit more privacy than normal bunks, as well as your own light, shelf, and outlets. The bathrooms are clean, and there are plenty of them, so you’re not left waiting in line.

There’s a lot to love at this hostel. It’s has a decent free breakfast including eggs and hot cereal, a full kitchen, common areas for meeting people and relaxing, daily hikes, and even the Beaver Bar, a lounge serving food and beer with a daily happy hour.

The only real downsides of Samesun are the small rooms (it’s hard to maneuver in the four-bed dorm), the lack of elevators (so you’ve got to haul your belongings up flights of stairs), and Wi-Fi that doesn’t work well, if at all.

Its location is excellent, however: it’s in the Granville district, which is loaded with bars and restaurants, and near historic Gastown. Like most other hostels in the city, it’s located in an area where the bars are open late, so if you’re sensitive to noise, bring earplugs.

Beds from $27 USD, rooms from $75 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Samesun Vancouver!

6. Vancouver Backpacker House

Vancouver Backpacker House, Vancouver
The Vancouver Backpacker House is about as barebones as it can get — it has only a self-check-in so you have to contact the staff in advance, it does not accept credit cards without a huge fee, the rooms don’t have enough lockers, and its location is not in the city proper. It also has some interesting house rules, like not all of the bathrooms are open to use all of the time. The 10-bed dorm room is in the basement, and, oddly, the private rooms have interior windows. Depending on the room you book, you may have to walk to another building once you’ve checked in.

But if you’re on a tight budget and the other hostels are packed, this place works. It’s near public transit that takes you into the city in about 15 minutes.

Beds from $23 USD, rooms from $41 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Vancouver Backpacker House!

***

While the hostel scene in Vancouver may not be as extensive as other parts of the world, you’ll still find lots of suitable options here. In an expensive city like Vancouver, hostels are your best option if you’re on a budget — especially if you’re looking to enjoy the city’s rambunctious nightlife.

Just make sure you have some good earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you’re a light sleeper. This is a lively city, after all!

Book Your Trip to Vancouver: 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
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory.

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 Vancouver?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Vancouver for even more planning tips!

The post My 6 Favorite Hostels in Vancouver appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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