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My 6 Favorite Hostels in Boston

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The Boston skyline as seen from the river on a bright summer day
Posted: 1/18/2020 | January 18th, 2020

With its historic colonial buildings, die-hard sports fans, and lively nightlife, Boston is one of my favorite cities in the US (and I’m not just saying that because it’s where I grew up!).

Boston has been a commercial hub since the 17th century and holds an important place in American history. After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, it became a pivotal bastion of support for the US War of Independence. Even today, the city is brimming with history and has lots to offer. It’s a must-visit destination for anyone looking to understand the roots of modern America.

Since it isn’t the most affordable destination, budget-conscious travelers and backpackers are probably going to want to save money however they can. That means finding budget-friendly accommodation.

Like most US cities, Boston doesn’t have many hostels. But the ones it does have are modern, clean, safe, and social for the most part.

To help you save money during your visit, here are the best hostels in Boston:
 

1. HI Boston

A clean and comfortable dorm room in the HI Boston hostel
HI Boston is the best hostel in town. It offers both same-sex and mixed dorms, and each bed comes equipped with a shelf, outlets, and a locker. The private rooms are modern and have more of a hotel feel to them; they also come with TVs and a bathtub (which is largely unheard of in a hostel).

The hostel also has a free continental breakfast, a kitchen to cook your own meals in, and a common room complete with TV, pool table, and a piano. They also organize free city tours and host dinners, among other activities. It’s a very social hostel.

HI Boston is located close to the Freedom Trail, the Boston Common, and Chinatown. More attractions, like the campuses of Harvard and MIT, are a only few T (subway) stops away.

Beds from $25 USD, private rooms from $101 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at HI Boston!
 

2. Boston Fenway Inn

A clean and comfortable dorm room with lockers in the Boston Fenway Inn
The Boston Fenway Inn is the cheapest hostel in town. But you get what you pay for, so expect basic accommodations. The rooms here can get cold in the winter, and the windows let in a lot of sound from nearby restaurants and bars. Bathrooms aren’t plentiful, and sometimes there are lines. And if you’re not one of the first to shower, you may miss out on hot water.

Breakfast is included but is quite basic (toast and coffee) unless you wake up early and grab pastries before they’re gone. It also doesn’t have a full kitchen, and the common room is set up with tables and chairs, so it’s not super comfy.

However, the hostel is located in a prime spot near the affluent Back Bay neighborhood, a picturesque and historic neighborhood with designer boutiques, indie shops, and some of the best spots in town to eat and drink. The hostel is close to Fenway Park, the stunning Boston Public Library, the Museum of Fine arts, and the Mapparium.

Beds from $19 USD, private rooms from $54 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Boston Fenway Inn!
 

3. FOUND Hotel Boston Common

An empty and tidy dorm room at FOUND hostel in Boston, USA
FOUND Hotel Boston Common is one of the oldest hotels in the city. Renovated in 2018, it has much more of a hotel feel to it. There isn’t a common room or kitchen, so it’s not easy to meet other travelers here, and the rooms here are small (some of the private rooms have hardly enough space for the bed).

But it’s a short walk to Boston Common and the Public Garden and has plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs nearby. It’s also just over one block from the subway, so it’s easy to get to other attractions in town.

If you want a place that’s quiet, tidy, comfortable, and not particularly social, then book your stay here.

Beds from $36 USD, private rooms from $82 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at FOUND Hotel Boston Common!
 

4. Boston Homestel

The bunk beds and single beds in a dorm room at Homestel in Boston
Located in an old house a few miles outside of the city center (but close to the JFK Library), Boston Homestel offers simple rooms and dorms. The rooms here are clean and bright but don’t have much to them. The beds aren’t the most comfortable, but the quiet location makes it easier to fall asleep than in other hostels in the heart of the city.

The hostel has a common room and a small kitchen, but not much more. It’s a quiet hostel, so don’t come to Boston Homestel expecting a party.

Beds from $37 USD, private rooms from $87 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Boston Homestel!
 

5. Backpackers Hostel & Pub

The entrance of the Backpacker hostel just outside of Boston
Backpackers Hostel & Pub is a social hostel located in Everett, just outside the city. It’s not fancy by any means, but it has a lively atmosphere and free breakfast (which is a big plus for budget-savvy travelers). The dorms are large and not particularly fancy or comfortable (most are 8-10 beds), but the drinks are cheap, and it’s just a 10-minute drive from downtown by car (25 minutes by public transportation).

The staff are super friendly and helpful, and they also offer a free shuttle pickup service from the nearest T (subway) station (which is a 30-min walk away). They have a kitchen too, so you can easily cook your own meals here to save even more money. It’s a busy, social hostel.

Beds from $40 USD a night (private rooms not available).

—> Book your stay at Backpackers Hostel and Pub!
 

6. Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships

One of the cozy cabins on the Liberty Tall Ship in Boston
Available from June through September, this is easily the coolest place to stay in town: a functional sailing vessel, the Liberty Clipper. It’s a wooden three-mast ship with cozy cabins for rent. While the rooms are small, the experience is unlike anything else Boston has to offer.

Towels and linens are included, and the hot water is plentiful. There is no Wi-Fi, however, and you need to leave the ship during the day. But if you’re looking for a unique experience, this is hard to beat. It’s also a great choice for couples.

Cabins from $60 USD a night.

Book your stay at Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships!

***

Whether you’re looking to stay in the heart of town or in more quiet accommodations further afield, Boston will have something for you. While the rock-bottom budget options are limited, the facilities at the better hostels will not leave you wanting.

Even with the prevalence of Airbnb here, hostels are still the cheapest accommodation option. Just be sure to book early and you’ll be able to find a bed, meet new travelers, and save some money in the process!

Book Your Trip to Boston: 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 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 I think they will help you too!

Looking for more information on visiting Boston?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Boston with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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





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My 5 Favorite Hostels in Melbourne

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The skyline of Melbourne, Australia lit up at night
Posted: 1/5/2020 | January 5th, 2020

Melbourne is the backpacker hub of Australia. It’s laid-back vibe, awesome live music scene, and rowdy nightlife make it a favorite for backpackers and budget travelers alike.

Whereas many cities Down Under are worth visiting for a few days, you could easily spend weeks here without getting bored.

Since it’s a popular spot for budget travelers, the city boasts dozens of hostels to cater to the growing tourist numbers. In my decade-plus of visiting Melbourne, the hostel scene here has changed drastically. There are tons more hostels here than there used to be — and there are lots of upscale and boutique options too. These days, you have so many choices it can be overwhelming.

To help save you time, here are my top five hostels in Melbourne. If you stay at any of these, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing experience!
 

1. United Backpackers

The exterior of the Uniter Backpackers hostel near the busy Flinders Station
United Backpackers has everything I Iike in a hostel: it’s affordable, has comfortable dorms and private rooms, is secured by key-card entry, has a kitchen and dining room, includes free breakfast (with pancakes), and has tons of places to relax and hang out.

Its basement bar hosts events throughout the week and there’s also a TV room and a common area with a pool table. The hostel also offers a free walking tour of the Central Business District (CBD) which is packed with street art, restaurants, bars and clubs.

This hostel is large so it’s easy to meet people as well. However, since it’s so large there are occasional lines for the bathroom and the hot water can run out in the morning (so wake up early or shower at night). If you’re staying in a dorm, choose one of the smaller ones — the 12-bed dorm can get crowded.

Located across from Flinders Street Station, it’s easy to get anywhere in the city. It’s also just a seven-minute walk to Eureka Skydeck which provides amazing views of the city.

Beds from $35 USD, rooms from $126 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at United Backpackers!
 

2. Flinders Backpackers

Another hostel next to Flinders Street Station, Flinders Backpackers offers massive 16-bed dorms — a popular choice for budget backpackers traveling on a shoestring. For those looking for privacy, there are also private rooms here but they are rather small.

Free breakfast, which includes a make-your-own pancake station, is included. The hostel also has a large common room, TV room with movie nights and free popcorn, and a kitchen for cooking your own food. Every week, they make a family-style dinner for the guests to enjoy (a nice way to save some money if you’re on a budget).

If you’re staying in the dorms, bring earplugs (especially if you are on the lower floors) as there is a club nearby that can be loud.

They also have a bar and restaurant on-site which has events almost every night. On Fridays, they make a huge batch of Goon Punch, an Aussie cocktail, so things get lively. Not surprisingly, this hostel is quite social so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, you probably won’t find it here.

Beds from $25 USD, rooms from $81 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Flinders Backpackers!
 

3. Base St Kilda

The exterior of the Base St. kilda Hostel in Melbourne, Australia
Base St Kilda is far from the center of Melbourne, but it’s in a perfect location if you want to stay near the water. Like most hostels in the city, it has a free pancake breakfast, a free walking tour, and is own bar. The hostel is definitely a party hostel so don’t stay here if you’re looking for quiet.

They host regular activities like karaoke and foam parties and the huge common room here has pool, foosball, and board games. As for the rooms, they’re a bit cramped but still comfortable enough. Every dorm has en-suite bathrooms and the private rooms here all have their own balcony.

There is also a kitchen but it isn’t huge (there are no ovens so you just have basic options when it comes to cooking your own meals). The Wi-Fi works best in the common room, but it’s not great in the dorms. If you need decent Wi-Fi, head out to one of the cafes to use theirs instead.

This hostel is great if you want to hang out and party by the beach. You can take public transit into the CBD, which is easy to do and takes around 30 minutes.

Beds from $26 USD, rooms from $79 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Base St Kilda!
 

4. Tramstop 14 Backpackers

If you want a chill place to stay that caters to long-term stays, Tramstop 14 is the place for you (they even offer discounts for guests staying longer than a week). If you’re passing through, it may feel a little bit like you’re crashing someone’s house because so many people are staying long term — but don’t let that deter you! With dorms that sleep up to 10, as well as single and double rooms, it’s quite affordable and a lot smaller than most of the other hostels on this list.

As with many hostels in the city, there aren’t enough bathroom facilities so plan on a wait in the morning if you’re not up early.

The hostel has a small kitchen and a comfy lounge with Netflix and is much calmer and quieter than most other hostels in the city. It’s a good choice for anyone looking to relax and get a decent sleep.

The hostel is close to the Rod Laver Arena and Melbourne Cricket Ground, as well as the Melbourne Museum. It’s also a short tram ride to the CBD. Located in the more bohemian Fitzroy neighborhood, there’s plenty to do nearby, such as checking out the art and live music scene or relaxing at one of the local cafes.

Beds from $27 USD, privates from $68 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Tram Stop 14 Backpackers!
 

5. The Nunnery

The history of The Nunnery is one of the things that makes this Melbourne hostel so interesting. Built in the late 1880s, it was an actual nunnery for over six decades. The hostel has both dorms and private rooms, and also offers some extras like hair dryers and hair straighteners if you ask for them. They also offer free bike rentals too.

The rooms aren’t always super clean and depending on what you book, they vary from spacious and nice to basic and cramped. They have a small kitchen so if you want to cook make sure you get there early or there won’t be any space. There’s also a lounge, balcony, and courtyard for hanging out with other travelers.

They host free events every day, such as pub crawls and movie nights so there is always something to do. Free breakfast is included too.

It’s Fitzroy location is close to Brunswick Street, the Melbourne Museum and Carlton Gardens, and it’s only a 10-minute walk to the city center.

Beds from $28 USD, rooms from $89 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at The Nunnery!

***
While there are now over 30 hostels in Melbourne, these hostels are the best the city has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a long-term stay as you sort out a working holiday or just visiting for a few nights, a stay at these hostels will ensure you have a fun, safe, and social experience.

After ten years of traveling the world, I still love to stay in hostels. They add character to your experience and make it easy to meet other travelers. If you want to make the most out of your time in Melbourne, be sure to stay at any of the hostels above. You won’t be disappointed.

Book Your Trip to Melbourne: 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. 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. Those are your two best resources.

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 they will help you too!

Looking for more information on visiting Melbourne?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Melbourne with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credit 2 – Ashton 29, 4,

The post My 5 Favorite Hostels in Melbourne appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Travel is a Privilege

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A traveler walking down a beach in the beautiful BVIs
Updated: 1/16/2020 | January 16, 2020

Let’s face it: not everyone is going to able to travel. Whether it’s money, family obligations, or circumstance, travel is out of reach for a large percentage of the world’s population.

In the “quit your job to travel the world” cheerleading that happens so often on travel websites (including this one), we often forget that it’s not so easy for everyone.

Yes, years on the road have shown me that, for many of us, our inability to travel is partly a mindset issue (since we believe travel is expensive, we don’t look for ways to make it cheaper) and partly a spending issue (we spend money on things we don’t need).

Our culture says travel is expensive and — without a frame of reference to know that that is wrong — people just assume it’s right. And yes, people that have decent-paying jobs but go shopping often or spend a lot on avocado toast (or whatever it is they spend money on) are more often than not prioritizing travel.

But there are those for whom no mindset change, spending cuts, or budget tips will help them travel — those who are too sick, have parents or children to care for, face great debt, or work three jobs just to pay their rent.

After all, 2.8 billion people — nearly 40% of the world’s population — survive on less than $2 USD a day!

In my home country of the United States, 14% of the population is below the poverty line, 46 million people are on food stamps, many have to work two jobs to get by, and we have a trillion dollars in student debt dragging people down.

No tips on any website will magically make travel a reality for those people.

Those of us who do travel are a privileged few.

Whether we quit our jobs to travel the world, spend two months in Europe, or take our kids on a short vacation to Disney World, we get to experience something most people in the world will never get a chance to do.

We overlook that fact too often. We overlook how lucky we are. As I’ve started building FLYTE — a foundation to help high schools take economically disadvantaged students on educational trips overseas — I’ve thought a lot about privilege.

I grew up in a predominately white, middle-class town with parents who paid my college tuition. I had a job after college that allowed me to live on my own, take vacations, and still save for my first trip around the world. And because I speak English, I easily found work teaching English in Thailand, where I could save to extend my travels.

That’s not to say that hard work doesn’t count. But hard work doesn’t exist in a bubble, and the circumstances that create the opportunities for hard work to bear fruit are often more important.

I’ve met people of all ages, incomes, abilities, and nationalities on the road. Folks like Don and Alison, who are backpacking the world at 70; Michael, who worked 60-hour weeks at a minimum-wage job; Cory, who travels the world in a wheelchair; Ishwinder, who didn’t let visa restrictions stop him; and countless others.

But even they had circumstances that allowed them to travel: support from family and friends, jobs that allowed for overtime, or other skills. They weren’t barely getting by or on social assistance. They didn’t wonder if they could afford their next meal.

I worked hard to get where I am. I’m sure you’ve worked hard too. One’s work isn’t less because of opportunity. But I think it’s important to remember that the circumstances around you make it easier for your work to bear fruit than for others. It’s easier to succeed when you don’t have to worry about housing or your next meal. It’s easier to succeed if you’re educated or can get a full night’s sleep in a safe community.

We are some of the lucky ones.

We get to do something that others will never be able to do.

We are privileged.

Even if you’ve hitchhiked around the world with no money, worked overseas, cut costs to travel around the world on $10 USD a day, or travel-hacked your way to a first-class ticket, you have the opportunity to do something most people go to sleep only dreaming about. You have the freedom and choice to move about the world in a way most people don’t.

That’s a form of privilege.

As we go into this new year, I think it’s important that we never forget or be ungrateful for the opportunity we have. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s be humble. Let’s be more respectful. Let’s give back.

And let’s not squander the opportunity.

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 being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld, as it has the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. I use both 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 – and they will save you time and money too!

The post Travel is a Privilege appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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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

The post 24 Things to See and Do in Budapest appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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

Posted By : webmaster/ 205 0


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/ 249 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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