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Our New Patreon!!!

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Nomadic Matt in Hawaii
Posted: 03/18/20 | March 18th, 2020

Since mid-February, Coronavirus has spread uncontrollably around the world. Many countries are on complete lockdown. People are quarantined in their homes. We have an unprecedented shutdown of human movement around the world.

This is a “Black Swan” event, an unpredictable turn of events that will undoubtedly change the world. It’s going to leave a mark on society and reshape how we interact, work, and conduct ourselves (maybe people will finally start washing their hands more).

One of the (many) direct consequences of this rapid spread to Pandemic levels is that it has shut down the entire travel industry, an industry that relies specifically on the movement of people to exist.

Right now, no one should travel. We need to flatten the curve, reduce the transmission of this disease, and ensure we do not overwhelm our healthcare systems.

No country can afford to repeat Italy’s experience. We must all do our part, no matter how hard it is.

The world will be waiting for us when this is all over.

But, like everyone else in travel, we have been hit really bad. The team and I become increasingly worried as the days go by and our traffic and revenue fall to zero.

These are dark times.

And we have you.

And want to turn to you, our beloved community, especially as a number of you have asked how you can support the site during this time of uncertainty.
Today, we have a way:

We are launching a Patreon!

A Patreon is a members-only subscription service where you’ll get exclusive perks like:

  • Monthly Q&As
  • Signed books
  • Access to all our events
  • Planning calls with me
  • Postcards
  • Calls with the team
  • Private Instagram postings and blog posts.

This isn’t going to be asking for a handout. You’ll get behind the scenes access and content exclusive to you every month.

Just go to our new Patreon page, pick your subscription level, and you’re in!

We’ll start sending messages and arranging everything this week. (And, yes, we’ll keep this going even after the crisis has subsided.)

Situations like this make you look at things differently. We were already moving towards a more community-centric model with our events. The Coronavirus is just expediting that process and this new membership program is the next phase of that.

These are really hard times in the travel industry. This is a really hard time for us.

But we have you – and that’s what matters. The team and I really appreciate anything you can do to help us ride out the storm. We’re going keep trucking on and creating content that you can use for when we can travel again.

Thank you so much for everything and for helping us get through this weird period of time!

– 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 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 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post Our New Patreon!!! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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7 Ways to Scratch the Travel Itch Without Traveling

Posted By : webmaster/ 344 0


A man reading a book while sitting on his couch
Updated: 3/17/2020 | March 17th, 2020

Once at a reader reader meetup, a fellow traveler approached me. He had just returned from an overland drive from New York City to Patagonia.

After I peppered him with questions about his trip (I mean really, how cool does that trip sound?), he asked me one:

“How do you deal with coming home, staying in the travel mindset, and keeping the lessons you learned alive?”

It’s a great question and it touches on something a lot of travelers get blindsided by: the post-travel blues.

Post-trip depression is something many long-term travelers struggle with.

Coming home is often harder than leaving (or adjusting to life abroad) because it’s so anti-climactic.

Before your trip, there is this massive buildup of emotions, preparation, and excitement. You’ve been planning a trip for months, imagining yourself in foreign lands, meeting interesting people, and going on an adventure.

You’re moving toward a goal. You’re excited. A bright future of possibility lies before you.

But then you come home after months (or years) abroad and it’s suddenly “now what?”

There’s no more buildup.

Just a complete stop.

You don’t come back with a bang; you come back with a whimper. Your friends are only kind of interested in your trip, but soon their eyes glaze over at your travel tales. Before you know it, you fall back into your old routine and it’s as this trip never happened.

So what can you do to recreate that sense of travel when you get back home?

And, given the times we live in, what do you do when you are quarantined because of Coronavirus, flights are grounded, and the travel industry has come to a halt?

How can you keep that sense of adventure alive while you are home (literally in your home and generally in your community)?

Well, here are 7 ways to bring the world to you when you can’t go to it:

 

1. Read Travel Books

Ten Years a Nomad by Matt Kepnes on a table with a coffee
The easiest thing you can to bring the world to you is to visit it through a book. Read about people’s adventures and stay inspired as you dream about all the places you’ll go in the future. Get new ideas, learn about other cultures, satiate your wanderlust, and grow your “to visit” list.

Let your mind travel when your body can’t.

Here’s a list of some travel books to get you started:

For more suggestions, here’s a larger list of my favorite travel books.

And here’s a list of 13 non-travel books that changed my life (because if this quarantine lasts for awhile, you might want to read some other genres too!).

Additionally, if you want regular book suggestions, we have a travel book club where, once a month, I send a list of some of my recent reads.
 

2. Watch Travel Movies

A scene from the film Midnight in Paris
From far-fetched classics like Indiana Jones to biopics like Wild to documentaries like A Map for Staurday, travel movies are another great way to satiate your wanderlust. Here are a few of my favorites:

For more, here’s a full list of the best travel movies out there.

And, if you want some TV or Netflix suggestions, here are a few shows worth binging:

  • Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain
  • An Idiot Abroad
  • Departures
  • The Long Way Round
  • The Amazing Race
  • Dark Tourist
  • Someone Feed Phil
  • Ugly Delicious

 

3. Start Planning Your Next Trip

a diverse group of travelers gathered together
Eventually, the current situation with the Coronavirus will pass and we’ll be able to travel again. So, while you are at home with lots of time on your hands, start planning your summer or fall trip. After all, we’re all gonna really need to get outside once this crisis is over! Trip planning will keep you busy and help make the days and weeks fly by.

First, buy a guidebook. I love getting lost in guidebooks and plotting itineraries and dreaming of the sights I’ll see. They’ll help you get the lay of the land, outline your budget, and give you an introduction to the destination. We have 7 in-depth budget travel guidebooks to some of my favorite destinations around the world, including:

They’re the product over over ten years of backpacking the world and are chock full of insider tips, budget suggestions, itineraries and much, much more!

For other destinations, I suggest using Lonely Planet guidebooks. They’re my go-to company whenever I’m planning a new trip. They have the widest selection of destinations out there. You can check out their selection here and pick one up for your next trip! (Amazon is delivering so you don’t need to leave your house to get one!)

Next, check out this comprehensive step-by-step guide to planning a trip. It will walk you through all my best tips on planning a trip so you can be ready to go the second we’re allowed to travel again.

Being at home can lead to a lot of boredom but I’ve always found trip planning – even for places I never end up going – a great mental escape that helps me pass the time and occupy my mind.
 

4. Start Travel Hacking

a man holding a credit card making an online purchase
While you’re waiting for your next trip, sign up for a new travel credit card so you can earn points and miles for free flights and hotel stays. This is how I travel so often without spending a ton of money. Accommodation and flights are two of the biggest expenses you’ll have so being able to reduce that to near zero ensure you’ll be able to travel a lot more!

Here are some posts to help you learn more and get started today (because the sooner you start the sooner you can earn a free trip!)

 

5. Join Online Communities

A laptop and a coffee resting on a table
A wonderful way to connect with other travelers and keep the spirit of travel alive is to join an online community. There are a lot out there these days (including the one we started a few months back). Being at home can be isolating and, as you dream and plan future trips, connect with other travelers. Share trips, advice, stories, and keep your spirits high!

Here are a few of the best online communities you can join today:

 

6. Read Travel Blogs

a laptop on a table beside a mobile phone
Whether you’re planning a trip or just looking for something to read, travel blogs have a wealth of on-the-ground information, insider tips, and stories that can give you a lot of helpful advice and suggestions for your next trip.

Not only that but, as the travel industry grinds to a halt during this pandemic, reading blogs helps you support those of us who rely on advertising as part of our income. So, not only will you be getting lots of information but you’ll help keep bloggers from going under. Win-win!

Here are some suggested blogs to read:

For even more awesome websites worth reading, here’s a list of my favorite travel blogs.

And since we’re also struggling traffic-wise, here are some of our most popular posts in case you feel like browsing (thanks in advance!):

 

7. Meet Travelers Near You

A Nomadic Network meetup with lots of local travelers
(Note: At the moment, this tip does not apply due to the quarantine but, once it is lifted, this can be a way to meet people in your local area.)

Having a support network is vital. You need people who won’t think you’re weird when you tell them you want to hike across the Amazon. You need people to say “Can I join?”

That why we started The Nomadic Network. It’s an online and in-person meet-up group for travelers all around the world. We host regular events every month in cities across the globe (at least when this crisis is over. Sign-up, use our forum to chat with people virtually, and, when this all over, come meet up in person!

Some other great websites for meeting people in real-life are:

  • Meetup.com – There’s a group out there for everything. I use this site frequently.
  • Couchsurfing – Couchsurfing is more than a website that offers accommodation. It has lot of local groups that hold events all the time. It is a wonderful way to meet other travelers and locals – at home or on the road.

***

Coming home can be hard. We all need a community that supports and understands us. And, while we can’t meet that community in real life right now, there are many ways you can bring the world to you while you are at home.

Use these tips. Keep your travel spirits alive. Plan a future trip. The world will be waiting – and ready – for you when this is all over.

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 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 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

Photo Credit: 7 – OuiShare

The post 7 Ways to Scratch the Travel Itch Without Traveling appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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16 Things to See and Do in Tallinn, Estonia

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A view of the Old Town in Tallin, Estonia on a bright summer day
Posted: 03/12/20 | March 12th, 2020

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a medieval city nestled against the Baltic Sea. With its picturesque historic Old Town that dates back to the 13th century, it has been drawing in tourists since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Cheap flights, cheap prices, and the beauty of Prague without the crowds have made Tallinn an appealing weekend getaway for Europeans.

I visited the city on a trip from Finland — there’s a frequent ferry service between the two cities — and was enamored by it. It was a blend of Nordic and Baltic culture with plenty of things to see and do.

Best of all, it was super affordable!

Though the city has become a bit more crowded and expensive in the last couple of years, it’s still one of my favorite places in the region. It’s peaceful and wonderful: the people are open and relaxed and the country is super tech-forward (they offer e-residency services specifically for digital nomads).

To help you make the most out of your trip, here are the best things to see and do in Tallinn — from the super touristy to off the beaten trail!
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

An empty street in the Old Town of Tallin, Estonia
One of the best things you can do when you arrive in a new city is to take a free walking tour. They’re a great way to learn about a destination and its history while taking in the main sights.

Not only will it give you a solid introduction to the city but you’ll get access to a local guide who can answer any and all questions you might have.

EstAdventures has a few different free tour options, including general walking tours, tours focused on the city’s communist past, and street art tours. Just make sure to tip your guide!
 

2. Estonian Maritime Museum

The Estonian Maritime Museum in Tallin, Estonia
Founded in 1935 and located inside a historic 500-year-old building, this museum highlights the history of Estonia’s maritime culture. The main attraction is the interactive Seaplane Harbour exhibition, which includes a Short 184 seaplane as well as the steam-powered icebreaker Suur Toll.

And don’t miss the 1936 submarine Lembit, the only surviving Baltic warship from before WWII (and one of only two submarines in Estonian naval history). There’s also an aquarium, ship miniatures, and a flight simulator. It’s a fun and educational place for adults and kids alike.

Vesilennuki tee 6, +372 6200 550, meremuuseum.ee. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm; closed Monday. Admission: 15 EUR.
 

3. Glehn Park & Castle

Glehn Castle and Park in Tallin, Estonia in the winter
Glehn Park, located on the Nomme hillside, is home to medieval-style Glehn Castle. Built in 1886, both the park and castle were created by Nikolai von Glehn, a rich and eclectic man known for his unusual taste in decoration (such as tables and chairs carved like figurines, large statues, and an obelisk in front of his house marking the grave of his favorite horse).

Unfortunately, most of the castle was looted during World War I, so none of the unique pieces of furniture he created remain. However, you’ll still get to see the statues he built on the grounds of the park. There’s also an observatory tower and palm house, which has a gorgeous mosaic rooftop. It’s a good place to relax, go for a walk, or go skiing during wintertime.

Vana-Mustamäe 48, +372 652 5076, ttu.ee/organisatsioonid/glehni-loss. The building isn’t open to the public as it is now used for events (weddings, conferences, receptions, etc.).
 

4. Tallinn Town Hall & Square

The Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia in summer with lots of people
Tallinn’s Gothic town hall is the oldest in the Baltics. Completed in 1404, it boasts a 64m spire topped with a weather vane of an old warrior (named Old Thomas), a Tallinn city guard and hero from the 16th century who fought in the Livonian War.

You can climb the spire to 34 meters (111 feet) from May through September. The interior of the Town Hall is open to visitors as a museum only during July and August; inside, you’ll get to see colorful designs on the walls, intricate wood carvings, and stunning arched ceilings as you learn about the city and its history.

The surrounding plaza is a great place to people-watch and it hosts lots of activities and markets throughout the year.

Don’t miss the annual five-day Tallinn Old Town Days festival held in May. It’s dedicated to the cultural heritage of Tallinn and includes themed days such as Medieval Day and Children’s Day, as well as numerous workshops, music, and theatre performances.

Raekoja plats, Kesklinna linnaosa (City Center), +372 645 7906, raekoda.tallinn.ee/. Open weekdays from 10am-4pm. Advance reservations required. Admission is 5 EUR.
 

5. Tallinn Museum of Photography

An antique camera in the Tallinn Museum of Photography in Tallinn, Estonia
Hidden amidst the cobblestone streets of Tallinn, this small museum is tucked away inside a 14th-century prison. It focuses on Estonia’s history of photography with a permanent exhibition including antique photos and cameras from 1840 — when photography first made its way to Tallinn — to 1940.

You can also check out contemporary photography from modern-day artists in many of the museum’s rotating exhibits. It’s a very small museum, but super interesting even if you’re not a huge photography buff.

Raekoja 4/6, +372 644 8767, linnamuuseum.ee/fotomuuseum. Open Saturday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am–5pm, Thursdays from 12–8pm, and Sunday from 11am–4pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
 

6. Estonian Open-Air Museum

An historic wooden building at the Estonian Open Air Museum in Tallinn, Estonia
Located 15 minutes from the city center by car, this open-air ethnographic museum recreates what life was like in Estonia’s rural countryside. It’s a life-sized rural village composed of farms, a wooden chapel, a school, fire station, shop, and an inn that highlights how families from different social classes lived during the 18th and 19th centuries.

There’s plenty to do, from eating a traditional Estonian meal to riding a horse to taking a workshop. It’s open all year round, but you might want to go during the summertime when it’s warm! It’s also one of the best things to do in Tallinn with kids. Download the mobile app Numu for a free audio guide while you’re at the museum.

Vabaõhumuuseumi tee 12, +372 654 9100, evm.ee/est/avaleht.Open daily from 10am–5pm. Admission is 8 EUR. Free entrance with a Tallinn Card.
 

7. Ichthus Art Gallery

The interior of the Ichthus Art Gallery in Tallinn, Estonia
This is one of Tallinn’s best-kept secrets. It’s tucked away in the depths of St. Catherine’s Dominican Monastery, which dates back to 1246. On arrival, turn right toward steep steps that take you into the cellar. The confined space used to contain three wings, called the Claustrum, that housed monks in the 13th century.

Today, the space is used by artist Aleksandr Savchenkov, who sells his original artwork from the cellar. As you wander about you’ll also see the ‘Energy Pillar’, which is located in the ancient monastic chambers and is said to be a source of spiritual well-being.

Müürivahe Tänav 33, +372 5559 5920. Admission is free; however, donations are accepted.
 

8. Epitaphs of the Cathedral of Saint Mary

Epitaphs of the Cathedral of Saint Mary Tallinn, Estonia
The grounds of this church date back to the 13th century, though the current building itself is from the 17th. What makes it unlike most other churches is that coats-of-arms epitaphs hang on the walls of the church instead of more traditional religious artwork or decorations.

Historically, these were used as headstones for people of importance, such as nobles and knights. They reflect the people of status who were buried on the grounds.

In fact, the first man who ever led a Russian voyage around the world, Admiral Adam Johan von Krusenstern, is buried here. Climb the 69-meter (226-foot) bell tower to get a beautiful view of the city.

Toom-Koolitänav 6, +372 644 4140. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–3:30pm, closed Mondays. Admission is 5 EUR for adults and 3 EUR for children. Dress respectfully as this is a place of worship.
 

9. Estonian Architecture Museum

The architecture museum in the historic Roterman Salt Storage building in Tallinn, Estonia
The Estonian Architecture Museum was established in 1991 during the fight for Estonian independence. The museum is located in the Rotermann Salt Storage building, which was built in 1908 (and then reconstructed in 1995 with multiple additional floors for the museum).

Its galleries now feature drawings from the 1920s, as well as over 11,500 archived items (such as drawings and sketches) and some 18,000 items in their photo collection. There are always some interesting rotating exhibits here too.

Ahtri tänav 2, +372 625 7000, arhitektuurimuuseum.ee. Open Tuesday–Sunday 11am–6pm, closed Mondays. Admission is 6 EUR.
 

10. TV Tower

The view from the TV tower in Tallinn, Estonia
Adrenaline junkies will get a kick out of visiting the TV Tower. Not only will you have an incredible bird’s-eye view of Tallinn from the top, which stands 314 meters (1,030 feet) tall, but you can also try the Walk on the Edge experience. Hop into a harness and step outside of the tower onto the exposed deck. It’s the highest open deck in Northern Europe and offers both an amazing view and a huge rush!

The TV Tower was constructed when Tallinn was chosen as a host city for sailing during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. It closed in 2007 for renovations and reopened in 2012. It has floor-to-ceiling windows (not ideal if you’re afraid of heights) so you can really soak in the view as well as touch-screen information panels so you can learn about the tower and the city.

The tower hosts many events, such as music concerts and the annual Stair Run to mark the anniversary of its reopening.

Kloostrimetsa tee 58 A, +372 686 3005, teletorn.ee. Admission is 13 EUR and the Walk on the Edge costs 30 EUR.
 

11. Telliskivi Creative City

Crowds of people at Telliskivi Creative City in Tallinn, Estonia
The Telliskivi Creative City is a workplace for over a thousand people, with artist’s studios, a radio station, rehearsal spaces, and NGO offices, all situated throughout ten repurposed factory buildings. Telleskivi hosts a flea market every Saturday, and there are over 600 cultural events throughout the year, including dance performances, music concerts, and improv theatre.

There are colorful murals on many of the buildings and you’ll also find restaurants and bars full of locals and tourists alike. Make sure you eat at Peatus (“Stop” in Estonian) for a really unique experience: it’s located inside two old Soviet railcars (and the food is great too!).

Telliskivi tänav 60a, Pohja, Tallinna linnaosa.
 

12. Bastion Tunnels

The old, dark Bastion Tunnels in Tallinn, Estonia
These tunnels were initially built in the 17th century as an addition to the Kiek in de Kök (Peek in the Kitchen) tower, and were intended for storage. They later held prisoners and then were used as shelters against air raids during World War II.

In more modern history, thieves and rebels used them for shelter since the police usually avoided the tunnels. They were cleaned out and opened up to the public in 2004. If you’re brave enough, you can explore the winding maze of the dark, damp tunnels on a guided tour when you visit the tower.

Komandandi tee 2, +372 644 6686, linnamuuseum.ee/kiek-de-kok. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm (Thursday until 8pm), closed Monday. Admission is 14 EUR.
 

13. Toompea Castle & Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The famous Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia
Toompea Castle dates all the way back to the 9th century and is currently used by Riigikogu, Estonia’s Parliament. The east wing has a brightly colored pink and white exterior in baroque style, as ordered by Empress Catherine the Great in 1773. The opposing side still has its medieval stone exterior. The Estonian flag is raised above the tower at sunrise every day.

You can also visit the nearby Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It opened in 1900 during the Czarist Empire and is home to Tallinn’s largest bell (it weighs 15 tons). The impressive exterior showcases Russian Revival architecture with its onion-shaped dome. The interior is decorated with colorful mosaics and stained-glass windows and has three ornate altars.

Toompea Castle: Lossi plats 1a, +372 631 633, riigikogu.ee. On Thursdays at 11am, there’s a 45-minute English-language tour of the castle. Admissions is free though you need to reserve your spot in advance.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: Lossi plats 10, +372 644 3484, cathedral.bg/en/home. Open daily from 7am-7pm. Admission is free. Dress respectfully as it is a place of worship.
 

14. Soviet Statue Graveyard

An old statue of Lenin at the Soviet Statue Graveyard in Tallinn, Estonia
The Soviet Statue Graveyard, located near Maarjamäe Castle, contains a collection of discarded statues, such as those of Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Mikhail Kalinin. After the Soviets left Tallinn, they were dumped here and ignored.

You’ll find large statues of heads (a classic Soviet statue trend) and others that tower over three meters (ten feet) tall. It’s a surreal place to visit — especially when you realize it hasn’t even been 30 years since Estonia achieved independence and these statues were left to fade into history.

Pirita tee 56, 10127, ajaloomuuseum.ee/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/noukogude-aegsete-monumentide-valinaitus. Open Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm, closed Monday.
 

15. KGB Museum

Files on an old desk at the KGB Museum in Tallinn, Estonia
Rooms previously used by spies during the Soviet era sit on the top floor of the stylish Hotel Viru, located on Viru Square. They house listening and recording equipment (some cleverly disguised), dial telephones, uniforms, and a typewriter.

Few people ever knew these rooms existed, and they were only exposed in the 1990s when the KGB fled the city. They shed light on just how controlling and subversive the Soviet government was during the occupation.

Viru väljak 4, +372 680 9300, viru.ee/en. Open daily from 10am–5pm. The guided tour begins in the hotel lobby.
 

16. Take in the View

The view over the city from the Kohtuotsa view point in Tallinn, Estonia
For the best view in the city, head to Kohtuotsa viewing platform. It’s on Toompea Hill and offers the best view of the city and harbor. You’ll also often find buskers here, making it a nice place to end your day and watch the sunset.

***

Tallinn remains one of my favorite destinations in Europe. It’s a fun and lively city home to quirky museums, hidden art exhibits, and beautiful architecture.

Go enjoy all the wonderful things to do here.

Book Your Trip to Estonia: Logistical Tips and Tricks

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

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

  • Tallinn Backpackers – This is a lively, social hostel that makes it easy to meet people since they have a pub crawl every night. The staff are great too!

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

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

Photo credit: 3 – Vladimir Varfolomeev, 4 – Holger Vaga, 5 – Pudelek, 6, 7 – Sander Säde, 8, 9 – Zairon, 10 – Nosser, 11 – Sheila Dee, 12 – Relkmsaiia, 13 – Narva69, 14 -Diego Delso, 15 – Ferran Cornella, 16, 17 – PIERRE ANDRE LECLERCQ

The post 16 Things to See and Do in Tallinn, Estonia appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 11 Best Things to See and Do in Israel

Posted By : webmaster/ 282 0


A aerial view of Tel Aviv in Israel during a colorful sunset
Posted: 03/05/20 | March 5th, 2020

Home to incredible historical and religious sites, the mineral-rich Dead Sea (which is also the lowest point on Earth), a lively nightlife, and a world-class food scene, Israel has a lot to offer visiting travelers.

Though a small country that doesn’t take too long to drive around, there’s just SO much on offer that you could still easily spend weeks here and not run out of amazing sights to see, activities to do, and delicious food to eat.

To help you get started planning your trip, here’s a list of what I consider to be some of the best things to see and do in Israel:
 

1. Tel Aviv

An aerial view of Tel Aviv and its coastline in Israel
With almost four million people in the greater Tel Aviv area, this beach city on the Mediterranean has a lively, cosmopolitan vibe. It’s the country’s most modern city and where the majority of international flights arrive (there are also international airports in Haifa and Eilat, but Tel Aviv is the main point of arrival).

While the city has a lot to offer (including 13 beaches), one of the major draws is the food. The culinary scene is full of inventive eateries using fresh, organic ingredients and mixing traditional Israeli cuisine with tastes from around the world, reflecting the many ethnicities that make up the country’s population. There’s even a huge number of vegan options too (Israel is an incredible destination for vegetarian and vegan travelers). You can also stroll the stalls at the Carmel Market and the Levinsky Market for tasty local street food.

Tel Aviv also has a nightlife that would rival New York or London. For a night out, you can find rooftop bars, wine bars, and craft beer breweries all over town. In particular, check out venues lining Rothschild Boulevard. Also, there’s a strong music scene with tons of live concerts happening around town (in all genres) as well as a world-class philharmonic orchestra. There’s lots of great theatre here too!

During the day, visit any of dozens of museums, including the popular Yitzhak Rabin Center, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, or the Museum of the Jewish People. Tel Aviv also has many informative and insightful walking tour companies to help you learn more about the city’s past, its people, its street art, and its architecture (Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus structures, “the White City,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site). New Europe is the best free walking tour in town (just be sure to tip).

And don’t miss the ancient port of Jaffa (home to a large flea market, an artists quarter, fine restaurants, a mixed population of Arabs and Jews, and great views of Tel Aviv).
 

2. The Dead Sea

The shore of the Dead Sea in Israel
Israel and Jordan share the Dead Sea. Covering over 600 square kilometers, its shores are the lowest point on earth and its water is so salty — over eight times more than the ocean — that virtually no sea life can survive in it (hence its name). That saltiness also means you float on the water (salt increases buoyancy), which is why you’ll see lots of people here snapping pictures as they float the day away.

Unfortunately, it also means that if you have any cuts on your body, you will feel them keenly! Additionally, industrial exploitation has shrunk the shoreline and caused sinkholes in some areas, so beware of that and pay attention to any signage.

The salt and other minerals (like magnesium and bromide) have historically been thought of as healing, which is why there are tons of health retreats lining the shore. While many beaches are only accessible through a resort, there are also several public ones along the coast, including Neve Midbar in the north and Ein Bokek in the south.
 

3. Jerusalem

The skyline of the historic city of Jerusalem in Israel
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, with its history stretching back about 5,000 years. Referred to as “the Holy City” (in Arabic, al-Quds), Jerusalem holds an important place in three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Home to over a million people, it’s a destination for pilgrims and tourists alike, brimming with an incredible (and often controversial) history.

The walled Old City, not to mention nearby Mount Zion and the City of David (the original site of Jerusalem), include so many famous and significant sites that you could easily spend several days touring them.

For Jews, the Western Wall (formerly called the Wailing Wall) is considered the holiest place for prayer. It is divided into men’s and women’s sections, and there are tunnels on one side that can be explored.

The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (just above the Western Wall) are among the holiest sites for Muslims, behind only Mecca and Medina.

For Christians, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City mark the path of Jesus’s final walk to his execution and the site of his crucifixion.

In the western, newer section of Jerusalem, be sure to visit Yad Vashem, the deeply emotional official memorial for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. There’s also the Israel Museum, which is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls and other treasures of Israel’s past.

For an insightful overview of the city, take a walking tour or food tour. There’s the Machane Yehuda market tour, and Abraham Tours (which also runs an amazing hostel) organizes daily walking tours highlighting Jerusalem’s past from different (and often competing) perspectives.
 

4. Biblical Sites

The ancient monastery near Jericho, Israel
As an epicenter for three major religions, Israel has a lot of important shrines and pilgrimage destinations. A large number of travelers join biblical tours (either guided tours or self-guided ones) to visit places like the Galilee, Bethlehem, and Jericho (the latter two in Palestine).

Galilee is home to a number of Christian sites, including Nazareth, where you’ll find the largest church in the Middle East; and the Jesus Trail or the Gospel Trail, hikes from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee — which is also home to numerous sites of Christian interest, such as Capernaum, Tabgha (where Jesus fed people loaves and fishes), Cana, and the Mount of Beatitudes (the supposed location of the Sermon on the Mount).

Known as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is a must-visit destination. Be sure to visit the Church of the Nativity, one of the most important Christian sites (ostensibly where Jesus was born) and also one of the world’s oldest operating churches (it opened in 333 CE).

Near Jericho, you’ll find Qasr el Yahud on the Jordan River, said to be the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and the Monastery of St George, a cliff-hanging complex carved into a sheer rock wall in the Judean Desert.
 

5. The Negev Desert

The sprawling and arid Negev Desert in Israel
The Negev Desert covers the southern half of Israel and spans over 13,000 square kilometers, taking up 55% of the entire country. It’s a starkly beautiful place. For the best views, visit the Florence and George Wise Observatory near Mitzpe Ramon. Also, don’t miss Timna Park in the far south (near Eilat), which has incredible geological formations: huge sandstone pillars and sand of many colors. There’s also an annual hot air balloon festival held there each autumn.

The Negev is full of all kinds of adventure activities, too, from sandboarding in the dunes in the north to rappelling off the cliffs of the Ramon Crater. If you don’t have a car, you’ll find no shortage of tour companies to take you around.
 

6. Masada National Park and Fortress

The Masada Fort and National Park in Israel
One of the most-visited parts of the Negev Desert is Masada National Park. Located just 100km (62 miles) south of Jerusalem on the edge of the Dead Sea, this was the ancient fortress built by King Herod the Great on a plateau. It’s famed for being a refuge for Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire, who lived up there for seven years before committing mass suicide after a siege by the Romans back in 73 CE. Today, it’s a symbol of Israeli determination and one of the country’s most popular attractions.

There’s a cable car up to the fortress, but an alternative is to hike up the Snake Path, a 60-90-minute hike offering views of the arid landscape, the Dead Sea, and Jordan. Just be aware that it can be really hot in summer (it’s a desert after all), and sometimes authorities close the path if the weather is too hot. (Bring lots of water.) It’s better (and cooler) to ascend before dawn and see the sunrise over Jordan from the trail or the summit.

Open daily from 8am until 3pm-5pm. Admission to the park is $9 USD. You can reach the park in about 90 minutes from Jerusalem by car.
 

7. Dive Israel’s Reefs and Wrecks

A scuba diver in the clear Mediterranean waters of Israel
Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea and has a short coastline on the Red Sea — both of which offer world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. Some of the best spots on the Red Sea, where you can see incredible coral and sea life, include Coral Reef Beach, Migdalor Beach, and Princess Beach.

For scuba divers, the water deepens very quickly off Eilat, so you can do deep-water diving without needing to use a boat to get further from the shore. (Those who don’t wish to go in the water can visit the Underwater Observatory Marine Park.)

On the Mediterranean coast, divers can explore shipwrecks and ancient Roman ruins at the Underwater Archaeological Park at Caesarea.
 

8. Israel’s Lesser-Known Archaeological Sites

The ancient city of Acre in Israel
There has been human activity in what is now Israel for over 100,000 years, making the region incredibly rich when it comes to archaeological finds. While most people are familiar with the main sites (such as Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Masada) there are actually tons more to see throughout the country.

In fact, there are more than 300 excavations active in Israel, which means that there are new discoveries being made all the time. Here are some of the best lesser-known sites:

  • Megiddo – Located southeast of Haifa, this was once a fortified city, with its origins going back to around 3000 BCE. The Hebrew name “Har Megiddo” (Mount Megiddo) became in Greek “Armageddon,” as this is the supposed site of the end-times battle. Today, the ruins host an excellent and informative museum that sheds light on the area and its sprawling history.
  • Templars’ Tunnel in Akko – This secret tunnel was built by the medieval Templars at their fortress in Akko (Acre) in the 13th century. It stretches 150m and was only discovered in 1994. The site is accessible to the public, which means you can actually explore the tunnel yourself.
  • Beit She’an – This Biblical site dates back to the 6th century BCE and is home to beautiful and well-preserved Roman ruins, including bathhouses, a theater, column-lined streets, and much more. It was the Roman capital of northern Israel and is one of the largest archaeological sites in the world.
  • Beit Guvrin-Maresha – Located in Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park (near Kiryat Gat), this Roman ruin was known as Eleutheropolis during the Roman and Byzantine eras. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a Jewish cemetery, an amphitheater, and a Byzantine church. You can also find the ruins of public baths and burial caves here as well.
  • Herodium National Park – Located just outside of Jerusalem, this fortress built into a hill rivals the more popular Masada yet sees a fraction of the visitors. Here you’ll find palatial ruins, underground tunnels, secret caves, lookout points offering beautiful views, and the famous tomb of Herod the Great.

As for the more well-known Caesarea National Park, it’s located just 30 minutes by car south of Haifa. As one of the country’s biggest archaeological sites, it’s home to Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader cities. It’s famous for its Roman aqueduct, hippodrome, and amphitheater (a great place to see a concert), plus there is a public beach and shopping nearby.
 

9. Learn About Gaza (and the West Bank)

The struggling Gaza region in Palestine
Located on the southwest coast, Gaza has a long past. In recent history, the region has been controlled by the British, Egyptians, and Israelis, and is currently ruled (de facto) by Hamas. Palestine-Israel relations are a sensitive topic — and I have no desire to get into that in this post — but understanding the conflict is vital to understanding the region and its history.

While you can’t easily visit Gaza, it’s just 71 km (44 miles) from Tel Aviv, and there are several border tours you can take to learn more about the ongoing conflict. Abraham Tours runs “dual-narrative” tours of Gaza that offer insight into the complex history of the conflict (they also run tours about the West Bank).

Additionally, Green Olive Tours, a joint Israeli-Palestinian company, offers tons of insightful single and multiday tours around Gaza and the West Bank as well.

And these are some reputable NGOs that work in Gaza that you can reach out to:

 

10. Haifa

The stunning gardens near the coast in Haifa, Israel
Haifa, a relaxed port city on Mount Carmel in the north, is another must-see destination. Home to just under 300,000 people, the city’s history stretches back to the third century CE. An important industrial hub, Haifa boasts a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian inhabitants, which has helped it maintain a diverse and cosmopolitan feel. Haifa is also home to Israel’s only subway: a single line with six stops

You could easily spend a few days just seeing the highlights. Don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Baha’i Gardens in the city center, a beautiful terraced garden that is home to the golden-domed Baha’i Shrine of the Báb. For an amazing view, take the cable car up Mount Carmel to the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery. The ride is just five minutes and costs 35 ILS ($10 USD) (round-trip). You’ll be rewarded with a picture-perfect view of Haifa and the Mediterranean.

You can also base yourself in Haifa while taking day trips to Nazareth, Megiddo, or other destinations in Galilee or along the coast.
 

11. Visit a Kibbutz

Kibbutz Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea in Israel
A kibbutz is a collective community typically centered around a particular job or workplace. They started back in 1910 and were originally centered around collective agriculture. The concept spread rapidly, and today there are still nearly 300 across the country. Many are open to visits from tourists who are looking for a more unique travel experience. Here are some of the most popular kibbutzim if you’re looking to learn more:

  • Kibbutz Ein Gev – Located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, this is one of the biggest kibbutzim in the country. It’s home to a beachside resort open to visitors, as well as several agricultural operations (including dairy farming and a banana plantation). Over 600 people live in the kibbutz, and you can take a short train tour through it to learn more or book a stay at its holiday resort. The tours last 30 minutes and cost 16 ILS (under $5 USD).
  • Kibbutz Degania Alef – Established in 1910, this was Israel’s first kibbutz. It is home to over 500 people, who all work in the community’s factories, farms, or service industries. There are also two small museums in the community that shed light on its history and development, as well as some historical buildings you can visit to learn more (you’ll need to book your museum visits in advance).
  • Kibbutz Ein Gedi – Located on the Dead Sea, this kibbutz is famous for its botanical garden, which spans almost 25 acres and is home to over 900 species of plants. Founded in 1953, the kibbutz is home to just over 600 people and is focused on agriculture and tourism. Free tours are available daily in English and Hebrew.

***

Whether you are interested in religious history, are curious about archaeology, or just want to spend time outdoors hiking, diving, and snorkeling, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Israel. It’s truly a world-class destination for laid-back vacationers, foodies, and intrepid backpackers looking to get off the beaten trail.

No matter what you’re looking for, Israel won’t disappoint.

Book Your Trip to Israel: 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 hotels. Some suggested places to stay in Israel are:

  • Florentine Backpackers Hostel (Tel Aviv) – A fun, social party hostel in Tel Aviv surrounded by craft-beer bars and quirky cafés. It’s near the beach too!
  • Abraham Hostel (Jerusalem) – A social hostel that hosts tons of activities, from yoga to hummus-making classes to open-mic nights. It’s really easy to meet people here and has a laid back atmosphere.
  • Haifa Hostel (Haifa) – This is a new hostel, so everything is in good shape and kept clean. It’s in a good location and close to the gardens, and the staff are super friendly and helpful.

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 those I use — and I think they’ll help you too!

Photo credits: 5 – Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, 7 – dorin BEN HAMO, 11 – Israel_photo_gallery

The post The 11 Best Things to See and Do in Israel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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13 Cool Things to Do in South Africa

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The coastal drive near Cape Town, South Africa
Posted: 03/2/20 | March 2nd, 2020

South Africa is famous for its stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife, award-winning wineries, beautiful beaches, and its lively and cosmopolitan cities. I’ve been to the country twice and always leave wanting more. There’s something deeply special about this place.

Stretching over 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) and home to over 56 million people, you could easily spend months here and still not see everything. Heck, just driving from one end of the country to the other would take several days.

Though there are hundreds of things to see and do in South Africa, here’s a list of what I think are the must-see and must-do activities while you’re here:
 

1. Go on a safari

a zebra on safari in South Africa
Most people come to South Africa to go on a safari — and for good reason. It’s home to some of the best game drives in the world and you’ll want to spend at least a couple of nights in one of the hundreds of national parks. There’s truly nothing like it.

The most well-known safari destination is Kruger National Park, which has incredible diversity and tons of amazing wildlife, including the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and Cape buffalo).

I went to Kruger a few years back, and it was everything I’d expected and more. Although you can drive yourself around the park, I actually recommend using a guide because they’ll be much better at spotting animals and will also give you heaps info about them, their habitat, and the park itself. Since this is one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences it’s worth spending the money to get a knowledgeable guide.

While Kruger is the most famous safari destination, there are dozens of other options across South Africa. Here are a few I recommend:

  • Hluhluwe and iMfolozi National Park – Located in the east of the country and is known for its rhino populations.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – On the border with Botswana in the north, it’s known for its black-maned lions.
  • Addo Elephant National Park – Near Port Elizabeth on the south coast, this is a great choice for self-drive safaris.
  • Pilanesburg National Park & Game Reserve – Home to the Big 5 and is doable in a day trip from Johannesburg if you’re short on time.

Safaris are so common in South Africa that pretty much every price point and budget is covered. Accommodation options range from budget-friendly campsites to upscale guesthouses and resorts.
 

2. Visit Cape Town

Cape Town in South Africa
Cape Town is the most popular destination in South Africa — and for good reason. It’s a vibrant, multicultural city with lively bars, delicious food, great weather, lots of nature and hiking nearby. In addition to the city’s amazing beaches, the waterfront is bursting with things to do as well.

There’s a lot to do in the city so check out this entire post I wrote on what to do while you are there!
 

3. Go Surfing

surfing in South Africa
Both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean coasts of South Africa offer world-class surfing. Jeffrey’s Bay on the south coast near Port Elizabeth is the most famous surfing destination in South Africa and offers big waves and multiple breaks.

There are also a number of good surfing locations near Cape Town, including Dungeons in Hout Bay and a number of others further south on the Western Cape, such as Long Beach.

If you’re a beginner, Durban is a great option for surfing lessons because of the reliable waves and warm water of the Indian Ocean. Expect to pay around 500 ZAR per person for a 2-3 hour lesson.
 

4. Learn About Apartheid

Nelson Mandela monument in South Africa
You can’t visit South Africa without learning about the horror of apartheid (a system of institutionalized racial segregation), which cast its shadow over the country from the 1940s all the way into the 1990s. Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg does an excellent job of highlighting apartheid’s history and legacy.

While in Johannesburg, be visit the Constitutional Court. It stands on the site of a former political prison and you can tour some of the prison ruins and learn more about the many political prisoners who were unjustly detained here.

Also, be sure to visit the District Six Museum in Cape Town. It’s a memorial to the people who lived in the area in the 1970s who were forced to relocate so that white citizens could move in. It’s both sobering and illuminating.
 

7. Visit Robben Island

Robben Island, South Africa
When it comes to learning about apartheid, you’ll want to also plan a trip to Robben Island. Located just four miles off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island was a maximum-security prison until 1996. During the apartheid era, many political prisoners were sent to Robben Island. This includes Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years behind bars on Robben Island. The prison is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important cultural sites in the country.

Conditions at the prison were incredibly harsh, with many prisoners forced into hard labor in the limestone quarry. They were also made to sleep on the stone floors of their cells without a bed as well.

Today, former prisoners are tour guides and they shed light on what life was like here during apartheid. You’ll be able to see Mandela’s cell and take a bus ride around the island to see the prisoner’s graveyard as well as the quarry where Mandela and other prisoners were forced to work.

Ferries operate 3 times a day, starting at 9am (a 4th ferry operates during the summer season). Admission is 320 ZAR for adults and 200 ZAR for anyone under 18, which includes the ferry ride. Expect to spend at least four hours here (including the tour and getting to/from the island).
 

5. Hike the Drakensberg Mountains

Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
The Drakensberg region near the east coast is home to the highest mountain range in the country, with rugged, green peaks, sandstone cliffs, and deep valleys. There are lots of trails, ranging from casual walks to strenuous climbs and plenty of options for both day hikes and multi-day hikes. Some of the popular routes include the following:

  • Rainbow Gorge: Easy and beautiful two-hour trail in the Cathedral Peak area.
  • Ploughman’s Kop: A half-day trail with a steep climb, but beautiful rock pools along the way so you can cool off with a dip.
  • Chain Ladders Hike: A challenging one-day hike, including ladders attached to the rock face.
  • Cathedral Peak: Best climbed with a guide, this hike can be split across two days with a night spent camping in a cave to break up the hikes.
  • Giant’s Cup Trail: Typically done a five-day hike, but not overly strenuous.

 

6. See African Penguins

penguins in South Africa
Part of the Table Mountain National Park and a short drive from Cape Town, the Boulders Penguin Colony is home to several thousand African penguins. (Fun fact: they’re also known as jackass penguins, because the noises they make sound like a donkey braying.)

Unfortunately, they’re an endangered species as a result of human impacts like pollution, oil spills, and habitat destruction. For that reason, you aren’t allowed to walk on the beach where the penguins breed but you can watch them from the nearby viewing platforms. There is also a raised boardwalk that starts at the Boulders Visitor Centre which will let you get up close to the penguins. Just keep in mind that they are wild animals and the beach is their home, not yours. Be sure to keep your distance and don’t try to feed them or pet them. As cute as they are, they’re still wild animals.
 

8. Take a Road Trip

road trip on the Garden Route in South Africa
South Africa is an awesome road trip destination. The most famous route is the Garden Route, which takes you along coastal cliffs and through forests and mountain ranges. Stretching along the south-central coast from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east, the Garden Route is only around 200km (125 miles) long but is full of beaches, lakes, and lagoons.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can stop at Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bridge in Africa, and go bungee jumping there. Expect to pay around 1,400 ZAR ($95 USD) per person.

The beautiful beaches of Plettenberg Bay on the Indian Ocean are also a worthwhile Garden Route stop.

There are other popular road-trip routes in South Africa, such as the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, which winds around the Blyde River Canyon, or the Wild Coast route for exploring dramatic coastal landscapes. You can also pick a road-trip route that takes in several national parks, as there are quite a few scattered around the country where you can self-drive through the park to see the wildlife.
 

9. Go Wine Tasting

wine tasting in South Africa
South Africa’s climate is perfect for grape growing and the country produces award-winning white, red, and sparkling wines. The wine industry here dates back to the seventeenth century and there are hundreds of wineries to be found (and sampled of course).

In the Cape Winelands region not far from Cape Town, Stellenbosch has over 150 wineries in a very small area while a bit further away, Franschhoek not only has over 50 vineyards but also some of South Africa’s best restaurants. You can do a wine tour that will take you to several different or you can stay in one for a night or two (many have guest accommodations).

If you don’t have a vehicle and want to take a tour, expect to pay at around 1,000 ZAR per person for a half-day tour of the region and its wineries. Many hostels run their own tours to the region or have partnerships with local tour guides who can take you as well. Be sure to shop around for the best deal!
 

10. Explore the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve in South Africa
A frequent stop on the way to or from Kruger, Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world. It’s particularly lush and green compared to the Grand Canyon and also has extremely deep, sheer cliffs. There are numerous natural rock formations and other natural features in this UNESCO-listed reserve, including Pinnacle Rock, God’s Window, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. You can also find ancient rock art in the Echo Caves.

There are several hiking trails as well as abseiling, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.
 

11. Go Whale Watching

whale watching in South Africa
South Africa is generally considered to be one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. If you’re visiting between June and November you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting Southern right whales, Bryde’s whales, and orcas.

The town of Hermanus, located 120km southeast of Cape Town, is the base for many of the best whale-watching companies in the country. Some reputable companies to check out are:

  • Southern Right Charters
  • Hermanus Whale Cruises
  • Xplora Tours

Expect to pay around 950 ZAR for a two-hour tour. Drinks and snacks are usually included and discounts are often available for students, seniors, and children. be sure to book in advance as tours sell out fast since there is a limited window.
 

13. Go Scuba Diving

tropical fish in South Africa
If you love to dive (or want to learn), head to Cape Town. The diving here is world-class thanks to the mixing of warm and cold ocean currents. Here you’ll find rocky shores, lots of reefs, and kelp forests. There are also lots of wrecks on both sides of the peninsula too.

Expect to pay around 1,450 ZAR for a one-tank dive (including equipment rental) and 6,600 ZAR for your PADI certification if you’re a new diver.

For more wrecks, head to Port Elizabeth (which is on the coast halfway between Cape Town and Durban). There are several interesting wrecks to explore here, including the Haerlem (a scuttled navy frigate) and the Doddington (which wrecked in the 18th century). It’s also a great area for diving with sharks.

For something more unique, visit Port St. Johns to witness the sardine migration. It occurs every June with four miles of water thick with sardines! You can book multi-day diving tours to see the sardines, with most lasting 5-6 days cand costing 30,000 ZAR per person.

Sodwana Bay (on the border with Mozambique) is another top location to see healthy coral reefs as well as lots of fish and marine life.

***

With its perfect weather, incredible wildlife, award-winning wine, and culinary delights, South Africa is an underrated destination that deserves your attention. It’s a country I never get tired of visiting and is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. You just can’t help but fall in love with it — no matter your interests.

Book Your Trip to South Africa: 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 South Africa?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to South Africa with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

The post 13 Cool Things to Do in South Africa appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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You Should NOT Visit Syria Right Now

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One of the many damaged buildings in Syria
Posted: 2/27/2020 | February 27th, 2020

If you’re like me, you associate travel with positive emotions: the feeling of the sun on your shoulders halfway around the world, of breaking bread with people from cultures different than your own, and the inner joy of making your way across unknown lands safely.

Travel improves our lives, broadens our horizons, and helps us understand the world we inhabit.

Yet these are experiences few humans will ever have.

As widespread as it has become in recent years, travel is still a privilege afforded only to a few.

That is especially true of war zones, where residents are more concerned about living through the day than seeing the wonders of the world. Things we take for granted — the ability to turn on a tap and get drinkable water, to flick a switch and get light, to walk to the store and find food on the shelves — are rare or absent for those suffering through such conflicts.

While there many places in the world that are like that, today I want to talk about one in particular: Syria.

Lately, I’ve seen a number of folks visit Syria as tourists. When asked why, they usually talk about trying to highlight the good people in the country and how such places aren’t “just what you see in the media.”

And while both of those things are almost always true, I don’t think one should visit conflict zones as a tourist — whether you’re a writer, blogger, or everyday Joe or Jane. I think it’s reckless and shows a complete lack of empathy and respect for the people suffering through the horrors of war. It’s self-centered. It doesn’t actually help in any real way. It usually creates a distorted picture of the situation. It’s a misuse of Western privilege.

No one doubts there are wonderful people and places in Syria. In fact, one of my greatest travel regrets is not having visited Syria before the conflict, because friends waxed poetic about how the hospitality and openness of the locals were second to none.

And the media is always more “doom and gloom” than the reality on the ground.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a continuing war going on in Syria where millions continue to be displaced and dying. While bloggers or tourists are there taking pictures, hundreds of thousands are freezing.

The country has been in a civil war for close to nine years. Over 400,000 civilians have been killed (some estimates put that number as high as 585,000). That’s more than the entire population of places such as Iceland, Belize, the Bahamas, or Malta.

On top of that, over 13 million people have been displaced — with half of those being forced to leave the country entirely. And many can never return due to retaliation from government forces against them or their families.

And almost half of the schools in the country have been affected, with one in three children unable to attend.

And while ISIS has been pushed back, they still have control of some areas, and thanks to Trump, there is also now an influx of both Turkish and Russian troops. (And that’s only causing more chaos.)

As millions suffer through ongoing war, chemical attacks, and displacement, visiting as a tourist and having a fun time is a horrifying idea to me. It makes those who go seem more concerned with their ego than the plight of the country. “Well, I just really want to see the country, so fuck those who are suffering!”

War zones are not tourist attractions. Bombed buildings that used to be filled with life are not backdrops for Instagram shots.

While millions suffer and die just hours away or are displaced and cannot return home, bloggers or tourists shouldn’t be frolicking in the places where they used to live and laugh and spend time with their children, snapping pictures and having fun while giving lip service about how it’s sad to see what is happening to the country. That to me seems like a major disconnect.

If someone wants to go there and report as a journalist to educate the world and try to mobilize action to stop the conflict, that’s one thing.

But I’ve yet to see one person who wasn’t an actual journalist from the mainstream news media do that. Instead, I hear talk about how “complicated” the situation is, how things are being rebuilt, and how everyone is happy and things are safe, whitewashing the war crimes of President Assad. If you follow these accounts, you get the impression the worst is behind the country. (It’s not. And the fighting in Idlib is getting incredibly worse, with children being greatly affected.)

But that’s because these bloggers are (a) in government-controlled territory and (b) likely talking to Assad supporters or those too afraid to speak out.

Then there’s willful ignorance. Take the example of Drew Binsky. I’ve never met him, though I do enjoy his videos. And I’m sure he’s a well-intentioned guy. But he went to Syria and, when challenged about this for the same reasons I’m bringing up, said, and I quote:

I know that Syria has been in a constant state of war for nearly a decade and I choose not to make that a focus. Why? It’s a lose-lose for me, because A) it’s a touchy subject and B) I don’t know much about the war and politics in general. In fact, I can’t even tell you a thing about American politics cuz I don’t really care! I’ve spent the last 8 years on the road and I’ve purposely separated myself from any politics because I choose to spend my time doing other things that make me happy. I guess the bottom line here is that more eyeballs on my videos means more haters, and we all know that haters are gonna hate!

Apparently, people who bring up the notion that maybe going to a war zone is not a good idea are haters. And here he admits to not knowing much about the war or caring too much about the subject.

How can you visit a country torn by war and not want to learn more about it?

How can you have a platform and seek to educate people and not talk about the conflict? It’s a pretty important thing!

And he’s not the only one who has done this, just the most well known. There have been many others. (It would be hard to link to them all, but they are easy to find via a Google or Instagram search.)

I think trips like these to war zones or repressive regimes are further examples of the lack of ethics in the online travel industry, as well as “look at me” vs. “learn from me” writing that puts the reader second to the influencer’s own ego. Rather than using this visit as a teachable moment to expand people’s knowledge, educate, and talk about a dire situation, they visit without thinking about that deeper impact.

But against the backdrop of war, egos must wait.

A visit to government-controlled territory during an ongoing conflict is simply playing into the propaganda that says that the news is exaggerating the plight of the people. What gassing by the Assad regime? What war crimes? What factionalism? There’s nothing to see here, right?

Many of the Syrians I spoke to had even fewer kind words for those who go there. They talked of those who visit now as “taking joy in others’ misery,” whitewashing Assad’s crimes, and Western privilege. This quote from Zaina Erhaim, an exiled Syrian journalist, sums up what I heard from Syrians I spoke with:

Besides the active war going on and tens of civilians being killed on a daily basis, beside whitewashing Assad as [someone] who has brought life and security back, using their privileged background [to get] released if stopped at checkpoints, above all that, to cross to our home where half of us are forbidden from going to, as we are forced into displacement and in exile, to walk above our memories and wounds in order to get some extra views, is inhuman.

Their blogs step on our trauma as they take smiling pictures in our streets, with our destroyed homes and favorite restaurants in the background, while we are prevented from going back to because we simply did our work and protested for basic rights.

***

I think travel boycotts are dumb. People are their governments. But when war is happening and millions are dying and displaced, our desire to travel must wait. When Syria and these other countries are done fighting and need to be rebuilt, tourism dollars are a wonderful way to help make that happen.

Take Afghanistan or Iraq. While turmoil still exists there, these countries are trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild. There are new governments, and the society is trying to move past the conflict. There’s a functioning economy and civil society. Now is the time to visit those places.

But Syria? There is still an active conflict with other nations rolling tanks through part of the country. (Turkey and Russia are in conflict there, and Israel recently sent missiles into Damascus). Wait until the conflict is over, people aren’t dying and starving in the streets, and there is (hopefully) some sort of brokered truce or long-lasting cease-fire.

That’s when people will need our tourism dollars.

If you want to help those in Syria, lobby governments to try to find a way to end the conflict. Give to aid organizations like these:

But don’t go visit. Don’t give Assad his propaganda wins. Don’t make people think everything is fine and the world should move on. Don’t go to a place where so much suffering is going on just because you want to see it. It’s just the wrong thing to do.

Travel enriches the mind and expands the soul.

But it loses its charm when a place that is still shattered like glass and those around you are mired in a conflict without end.

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 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 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

The post You Should NOT Visit Syria Right Now appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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18 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip

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planning a trip overseas
Updated: 02/24/20 | February 24th, 2020

I remember when I started planning my first trip around the world. I had no idea what I was doing.

When I decided to quit my job and travel the world, I walked into a bookstore and bought Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on Shoestring. Buying that guidebook was my first step toward long-term travel. It made the trip seem more real, more tangilbe. It made it all seem possible.

While helpful, the book didn’t exactly prepare me for planning a trip around the world. Back then, there weren’t really travel blogs, guides, sharing economy websites, and apps like there are today. I was excited and determined — but I was lost. I just had to figure it out as I went, hoping I didn’t miss anything important.

Trip planning can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? What’s step one? What’s step two? What’s step three?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you haven’t done something like this before — and especially considering just how much information there is out there these days. Blogs, social media, and guidebooks have never been more plentiful. There’s a firehose of information out there which can sometimes make the task of planning a trip even more challenging and overwhelming.

After a decade of traveling the world, I’ve planned countless trips and vacations for myself, friends, family, and even group tours. In the beginning, it was trial by fire and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. However, that helped me develop an efficient checklist that ensures I don’t miss anything important during the trip planning process.

After all, I don’t want to get to my next destination and then realize I forgot something. And neither do you!

There is a lot of information on this website (and even more information packed into my book), but one question that comes up frequently is, “Matt, how do I put this all together? How do I plan a trip?”

In a continuing effort to help you get out the door and into the world, I’ve created this step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip. It works for any kind of trip and no matter how long you’re going for! Just follow this checklist and you’ll be off in no time!

If you want to jump ahead, simply click on any of the links above.

How to Plan Your Next Trip

Step 1: Decide Where You Want To Go

a map of the world
Defining where you want to go sets a goal to work toward. A lot of people talk vaguely about travel. They never say where they are going, just that they are going. Picking a destination is immensely important, as it gives you a definite goal.

It’s a lot easier to mentally get behind “I am going to Paris in the summer” than “I’m going to Europe” or “I’m going somewhere.” Not only will your trip become more concrete for you and easier to commit to, but it will make planning easier as well…because you know what to work towards. Get specific with your plans. Get detailed. The more focused and concrete your goal, the easier it will be to actually reach it.

Resources for picking your travel destination:

 

Step 2: Decide the Length of Your Trip

How much does it cost to travel? That depends!

Without knowing how long you’re going away for, I can’t answer that question. And it’s a question you need to answer so you can start planning!

In order to figure out how much you need to save you’ll need to know how long your trip will be.

Are you going away for a week? A month? A year?

The length of your trip is a huge factor in determining how much money you need. Spend some time mulling that over until you have your answer.

For example, after you say “I’m going to Paris this summer,” add “for X days.” That way you can start to narrow down just how much money you’re going to need to save. “I am going to Paris for 10 days” is a trip that you can plan for. It’s an attainable goal.


Want to learn how I travel the world for free? GET MY FREE GUIDE


 

Step 3: Will you Travel Solo or Go With Someone?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is whether you’re going to go alone or travel with someone. Both are great options — but they are decidely different choices too.

Traveling solo will give you the freedom to go anywhere you want. No compromising. You just go wherever the wind takes you! However, it means you have to do all the planning yourself — which can seem daunting if you’re new to trip planning.

Traveling with someone means you have someone to help plan the trip with you. It will make researching your itinerary faster and you’ll have someone to spend time with on the road. However, it also means you’ll need to compromise sometimes. Perhaps on meals or activities or accommodation. It will just depend on you and the person you travel with.

At the end of the day, there is no wrong answer.

Personally, I love the freedom of solo travel. But I’ve had some incredible trips with friends too. Chances are you’ll get to do both over the years. But for now, what is this trip going to be? Solo or with someone?
 

Step 4: Research Your Costs

So you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there, but to really nail down how much money you need, your next task is to research the costs in your destination at the style of travel you want.

Do you want to backpack, or would you rather stay in luxury hotels?

How much are hostels, hotels, restaurants, and attractions?

Knowing will allow you to estimate how much money you’ll need for your trip. Here is how to research costs:

  1. Buy a guidebook.
  2. You can begin with my travel guide section.
  3. Ask on community websites like our forum and Facebook group or Lonely Planet.
  4. Google prices for specific things you want to do.

You don’t need to do more than that. There’s so much information on the web that if you go down the rabbit hole of overplanning, you’ll get lost and confused by the firehose of information. Stick to those four things and you’ll be set!

In our example, if you are going to Paris for 10 days and need $75 USD a day (not including your flight), you know you need to save $750 USD (though round up to $800 USD since it’s good to have extra) for your trip.

If you were to travel around the world for a year, you’d need $50 USD a day.

Here are some other insightful posts that will help you better estimate your costs:

  • 5 Ways to Make Your Money Last When You Travel
  • How to Know the Travel Info You Find is Legit
  • How I Research My Solo Travel Destinations
  •  

    Step 5: Start Saving Money

    saving money for travel in your piggy bank
    Before you can start saving money, you need to know how much you have and how much you’re spending. Start to write down all your current expenses so you can determine where you are spending money — and how you can cut back.

    People bleed a lot of money every day through small purchases: a coffee here, a snack there. It all of that adds up. In order to make changes to your spending habits, you first need to understand them. Making a list will do just that. It will also put your financial needs into a better perspective.

    For example, if you need $2,000 USD for the trip you’re taking in eight months, that means you only have to save $8.33 USD per day. Couldn’t you find a way to save $8 USD per day? Heck, your daily coffee is most of that!

    If you’re struggling to save money, here are 22 ways to cut your expenses and save money for travel. This will help you get started and on the road to saving money in no time!
     

    Step 6: Get a Travels Rewards Credit Card

    travel credit cards
    While you’re working to save money, get a travel credit card so you can earn sign-up bonuses to redeem miles and points for free flights and hotel stays. Collecting points and miles from travel credit cards is how I get tons of free flights, free hotle stays, and free travel perks every singel year — and without any extra spending too!

    These days, most cards have welcome offers of up to 50,000 points when you meet their minimum spending requirement. That’s enough miles for a free flight almost anywhere in the world!

    If you want a free flight, sign up for the cards that help with that. If you want free hotel rooms, get a hotel card. Either way, sign up for a travel credit card and start earning points today. As long as you can pay off your monthly balance, you’ll get free travel credit.

    You don’t need to sign up for very many cards either; pick one or two and focus on those. Do this the moment you decide you want to travel. Don’t wait — waiting equals lost miles, which means less free travel.

    Collecting points and miles (which is called “travel hacking”) is what all the experts do to cut their costs and travel longer. It’s what has kept my costs down and me on the road for so many years.

    I am always doing this so I can travel for as cheap as possible.

    For more information on travel hacking and travel credit cards, check out these posts:

     

    Step 7: Switch to No-Fee ATM Cards

    Once you’re abroad, you;re going to need money. While many countries will accept credit cards, in the majority of countries cash is still king. That means you’ll need to use ATMs to withdraw the local currency. And that also means you’re going to get dinged by ATM fees.

    If you’re just away for a week or two, paying a few dollars in ATM fees isn’t the end of the world. But if you’re away for a longer period, those fees will add up and chew into your travel budget — a budget you’ve worked hard to grow. Don’t give banks any of your hard-earned money.

    How? By using a no-fee ATM card.

    I use Charles Schwab, but there are lots of other banks (don’t forget to check your local banks) that don’t charge ATM fees. Additionally, you can join a bank in the Global ATM Alliance.

    By using a no-fee ATM card you can avoid those pesky ATM fees, leaving you more money for what it was intended for: travel

    Here’s exactly how you can avoid ATM fees while traveling.
     

    Step 8: Stay Focused and Inspired

    While you get closer to your goal, make sure that you keep feeding your desire to travel. Travel planning can be exhausting and overwhelming — especially if you don’t have support from your friends and family. It can often get discouraging and feel out of reach at times.

    Luckily, there are tons of ways to stay focused and keep your spirits high thanks to the amazing community we have on this website. Here are some inspiring travel stories to help keep you inspired to travel:

    Additionally, be sure to join our online travel group The Nomadic Network. Not only will you find support (and tons of tips) online, but we also host regular in-person events all around the world. These are a great way to get inspired, meet other awesome travelers in your area, and get travel advice.
     

    Step 9: Check for Last-Minute Deals

    Okay, you’re inspired, prepared, and on your way to saving money for your trip. But before you go buy that flight or book that hotel, check for deals you might have missed. You may dream of Paris but maybe there are great deals to Berlin right now. Or maybe you can get a seven-day cruise for 70% off, a package deal to Hawaii for the price of your flight to Paris, or 50% off sailing trips around Greece.

    These days, there is always a deal to be found — especially if you’re flexible with your dates and/or destinations. Some deal websites worth checking out are:

     

    Step 10: Book Your Flight

    taking off into the sunset
    After you’ve used your travel credit card and received your sign-up bonus, use your miles to book your flight. It is harder to use miles these days due to less availability, so make sure to book early to ensure you get your desired flight.

    Fortunately, there are still many ways to avoid being the person on the flight who paid the most for their ticket. My favorite sites for finding cheap airfare are:

    • Momondo – A great platform for finding really cheap flights.
    • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is one of the best websites for searching multiple destinations at the same time.
    • Google Flights – Like Skyscanner, Google Flights is great for open searches to multiple destinations.
    • Kiwi – Kiwi is great for finding lesser-known routes or smaller carriers.
    • AirTreks – AirTreks focuses exclusively on multi-destination RTW tickets.

    For the best deals, book your flight about two-three months in advance. Here are two articles on how to score a cheap flight:

     

    Step 11: Book Your Accommodation

    luna's hostel in panama city
    If you’re traveling for under two weeks and have a set schedule, feel free to book accommodation for the duration of your trip if it will give you peace of mind (or if you’re visiting during the high season).

    For trips longer than two weeks (or if you are going to be traveling long-term) just book your first few days. That will ensure you have a place to go on arrival. Once there, you can get insider advice from your hotel/hostel staff as well as other travelers. You can then use that info to plan your next steps.

    While you can book more than your first few nights, you might end up wanting to change your plans once you land. I prefer having flexibility, which is why I always just book my first few nights and go from there.

    Here are my go-to sites when it comes to finding the best deals on accommodation:

    • Hostelworld – Hostelworld has the largest selection of hostels and is my go-to site for finding affordable hostels online.
    • Agoda – Agoda has the best results if you’re heading to Asia and the widest selection of properties in the region.
    • Booking.com – Booking.com is the best overall platform for finding budget hotels and guesthouses. They have the biggest inventory and best deals.
    • Airbnb – The go-to site for private rooms and apartments owned by locals.

    If you plan on staying in a lot of hotels during your trip, sign up for a hotel credit card before you depart. Cards like Marriott’s Bonvoy Boundless offer a huge welcome bonus, 6x the points on hotel stays, and a free hotel stay every year. Whenever I stay in a hotel, it’s because I’ve earned it with free points!

    If you’re on a tight budget or you want to connect with more locals furing your tarvels, consider joining paltforms like Couchsurfing or Be Welcome. These communities allow travelers to stay with locals for free as sort of cultural exchange.

    Long-term travelers can also try housesitting or WWOOFing as well as they both offer free accommodation (in exchange for either pet sitting or farm work respectively).
     

    Step 12: Plan Your Activities

    plan the perfect adventure overseas
    To make sure you have budgeted properly, outline the major activities you want to enjoy during your trip and how much they cost. Make any last-minute adjustments to your savings so you can ensure you have enough money. This will also help you figure out if you need any reservations for your chosen tours or activities.

    Search online for discounts as well. While some countries offer cheaper prices in person, others give discounts to those who book early/online. Research which is which for your itinerary so you can save money.

    For shorter trips, you can also book your activities in advance to ensure you get tickets. For longer trips, book as you go.

    Additionally, before you leave home, have a rough idea of what activities are priorities for you. That way, if you run out of time or money, you can focus on your top activities so you don’t miss out. Also, make sure to double-check that there are no holidays or other obstacles that will prevent you from certain activities as well.
     

    Step 13: Sell Your Stuff

    If you are going on a long-term trip (six months or more), sell your stuff in order to earn extra money for your trip. Start doing this about 60 days before you leave. Some sites to use are:

    • Gumtree – An online classified site with a focus in the UK and Australia.
    • Amazon – The biggest online store in the world.
    • Craigslist – Online global classifieds that have both local and global reach.
    • eBay – Another global online classified site.
    • Facebook Marketplace – Great for finding people near you (so you don’t need to ship your items).

    If you aren’t going to be gone that long, skip this step. If you are going away long-term but want to keep your stuff, move it to a friend’s house or keep it in storage. A good storage company in the US is Public Storage. It’s one of the most affordable options out there.
     

    Step 14: Automate Your Bills

    Get rid of your mail, go paperless, and set up online bill payment for your recurring bills to ensure you won’t miss any while overseas. If you are still going to get paper mail, use a service like Earth Class Mail, which will collect and scan your mail for you. (If you are going on a two-week trip, you don’t really need to worry about this, so you can skip this step, too.)

    If you have the option (and don’t want to pay for a mail service), you can also have all your mail sent to a friend or family member.

    Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you cancel any phone plans you have or switch your plan to one that is more travel-friendly. T-Mobile is great for travelers going on trips under 3 months. For any trips longer than that, you’ll want to cancel your plan and just buy SIM cards abroad. That will be much cheaper!
     

    Step 15: Tell Your Card Companies You’re Traveling

    No matter how long you’ll be gone, it’s a good idea to let your credit card companies know you will be overseas; that way any transactions that you make aren’t flagged as fraudulent and your card is less likely to be blocked. There’s nothing worse than having to sit on the phone with your credit card company instead of enjoying your vacation.

    Also, make sure you have multiple credit card and debit cards with you. That way, should one card get flagged, lost, or stolen you won’t be left high and dry. I’ve lost cards, had them stolen, and had them flagged many times over the years. Without a backup, I would have been stranded — so plan ahead and bring some backup cards just in case!
     

    Step 16: Pack!

    pack your bags
    Time to pack for your trip! It can be tempting to want to bring everything with you “just in case” but when it comes to travel, less is more. You don’t need 5 sweaters or 8 pairs of shoes. You can get by with less, I promise. it’s actually quite liberating once you get used to it!

    I travel with a 40L REI bag and then a smaller day bag.

    Unless you’re heading to multiple climates and need bulky winter hear, you don’t need a massive 70L bag stuffed to the top. Here’s my suggested packing list to help you take just the right amount of stuff and avoid overpacking (here’s a list for female travelers as well).

    While what you pack will depend on where you are going, remember that you don’t need to pack everything you own. You can buy things you need on the road. You can do laundry overseas. At the end of the day, you have to carry everything you bring. So bring less!

    There are a few extra tiems you might want to pack beyond your everyday clothes, though. Some things I like to bring with me are:

    Additionally, make sure you bring any prescriptions with you so you have enough for the duration of your trip. If that’s not feasible, bring a doctors note and prescription with you so you can fill it abroad.<
     

    Step 17: Buy Travel Insurance

    While a lot of people think, “I’m healthy, I don’t need travel insurance. I won’t get sick,” travel insurance is much more than just medical protection. It covers you when your camera breaks, your flight is canceled, a family member dies and you have to come home, or if something gets stolen.

    Yes, it’s an added expense. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I never leave home without it because I’ve seen first-hand just what can happen on the road.

    I never thought I would pop my eardrum while I was scuba diving in Thailand or break my camera in Italy.

    I didn’t know I would get stabbed in Colombia.

    My friend never thought he would break his leg hiking.

    Another friend didn’t expect her father would die and she would have to fly back home.

    Unfortunately, bad things can happen when you’re traveling. True, these events are few and far between. But they can cost tens of thousnds of dollars to handle on your own. If you’re not prepared to pay out of pocket, buy travel insurance.

    To help you figure out the best plan for you and your trip, here’s my ultimate guide to picking a good insurance company. It will show you how to pick a good plan that covers you for when you get sick, your flights get canceled, if you get injured, something gets stolen, or your trip is delayed.

    My favorite company is World Nomads and I use them for all my trips. If you’re older than 70, check out Insure my Trip as they are the best provider for older travelers.

    For more information on travel insurance, you can check out these posts:

     

    Step 18: Enjoy Your Trip

    have a great time on your trip
    And now, everything comes together. It’s time to go on your trip and have fun! Head to the airport, board your plane (don’t forget your passport!), and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ve earned this!

    If you’re feeling nervous, don’t worry — that’s perfectly normal. You’re about to embark on an amazing adventure — and that’s a huge change. Feeling anxious or nervous or unsure is something every traveler experiences. But you’ve made it this far. Trust your planning, follow your instincts, and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime. I guarantee it.

    ***

    By using this post as a guideline for your trip planning, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. You’ll check all the boxes, not miss anything, and have plenty of money for your vacation. It can be as simple as booking a flight and packing or as complex as rearranging your entire life to go backpack the world forever.

    But, no matter how long your trip may be, this list will help you stay organized and motivated as you plan your trip and to step onto that plane and out into the world.

    P.S. – Yes, I did leave out visas and vaccinations, because needing those isn’t as universal as the other stuff on this list, but don’t forget to check if you need those, too!

    Want to have this information at your fingertips? Download this post as a PDF

     

    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 most comprehensive inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

    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 18 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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    How to Find a Job Teaching in Spain

    Posted By : webmaster/ 327 0


    Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher in Spain
    Posted: 2/22/2020 | February 22nd, 2020

    Teaching overseas is one of a great way to earn money while you travel, stay in one place longer, and get to deeply experience another culture. I spent years teaching in Thailand and Taiwan and they were some of the most impactful experiences of my traveling. Living in a foreign culture, trying to get by day to day, and learning to create a life for yourself is a surefire way to become a more confident you and give you a deeper understanding of yourself.

    I get a lot of emails from people about teaching overseas and one of the most asked about destinations is Spain! While we’ve written about the destination before, I wanted to add in another perspective from someone who just did it last year.

    Natasha is a local Austinite who graduated from school and moved to Spain for a year. Here she is explaining how she did it and how you can too!

    Tell us about yourself!
    Natasha: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but my family moved to India when I was two months old. After a year, we moved to Australia, where I grew up until I was 9. Then we moved to Vancouver where I stayed until I was 15.

    I consider myself to be from Australia, Canada, and the US in almost equal parts, and ethnically I am Indian and Pakistani. I double-majored in international relations and Latin American studies at UT-Austin.

    In my free time, I make YouTube videos about travel and I am devoted to health and fitness. I also cook and practice yoga.

    You recently spent some time teaching in Spain. Tell us how you got started doing that. Was it easy to figure out the process and find a job?
    I studied abroad in Madrid in college. While I was there, I met some people who were English-language assistants and kept in touch with them after I returned home. I knew I wanted to take a gap year and travel after graduation, so I reached out to them and they told me about different programs I could apply for.

    I looked into a few, but the government program “Auxiliares de Conversación” was free and had good reviews, so I chose to apply to that one. It allows foreigners to visit and work as teaching assistants. You’ll be paired with a teacher and help the students learn English.

    The application is quite daunting. It required an essay, two letters of recommendation, a lot of legal paperwork, and other forms. The essay I wrote was about a page long, essentially a letter of intent explaining why I was interested in the program and the qualities that make me fit for the position.

    The program also requires an official college transcript as well, but it accepts applicants from diverse educational backgrounds. so as long as you show keen interest, have good letters of recommendation, and have decent grades you should be fine!

    I didn’t decide to join this program until the beginning of March, but I would suggest starting the process as soon as it is available in January. That will give you more time to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops. After receiving your acceptance, I suggest booking your visa appointment immediately, as these fill up fast!

    Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher in Spain sitting on a bench

    Did you have any prior teaching experience? Is experience necessary?
    I didn’t have any teaching experience, and the Auxiliar de Conversación program doesn’t require you to. As long as you have (or are completing) your bachelor’s degree and are a native English speaker, you are eligible.

    What was an average day like?
    You are only required to work 12-16 hours a week with this program, so a workday is typically about four hours. Since we’re English-language assistants, we are paired with an English teacher and don’t have to create a curriculum for the whole class.

    On an average day as an auxiliar, the teacher I worked with would mostly have me walk around and assist students with the activities she had assigned them to do. Since I was an assistant and not the main teacher, my job mostly consisted of providing help like that.

    The teacher for the younger grades would have me work one-on-one with students that were falling behind or had special needs, to give them more attention, but we usually worked on the same activities as the other students. For about 10-15 minutes of the class, I would sometimes give a presentation or play vocabulary games, such as Bingo or Hangman.

    I was never required to teach an entire lesson, but I would occasionally have to manage small groups of students. This allowed them to participate more since they would not be as shy to speak English (and it’s easier to control a few students than a whole class).

    Regarding the actual teaching, it was the easiest and smoothest part of my time in Spain. As long as you can keep the students interested and engaged you won’t have any issues.

    Did you have any unexpected challenges?
    Many! I lived about an hour’s walk from my school, which was inconvenient and isolating. It took me a while to figure out the bus system, so adapting to my location was the first challenge.

    However, the biggest challenge I faced was having to come back to the US for a month, because I didn’t have a visa. I was informed that I didn’t need a visa prior to entering Spain, but upon arrival, I would need to get my NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) and I would be set.

    Well, when I arrived, I was the only applicant without a visa. I went to eight different foreign consulates, and no one knew if I had to leave Spain to get a visa. Ultimately I had to fly back to the US, score an almost-impossible-to-get appointment with the Spanish consulate, and get my visa. The bureaucratic system is slow and very tedious, so try to talk to former auxiliares if you can (there are lots of Facebook groups for this).

    Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher posing at sunset

    What is one thing you wish you knew before you started teaching?
    I wish I knew that one person’s experience could be very different from the next. I had an amazing overall experience; however, parts of my life didn’t go as I expected.

    I went in expecting to make great connections with my colleagues more than anyone else, but the environment at the school I worked at wasn’t very welcoming. A lot of teachers at my school didn’t live in the community (they commuted from pueblos as far as an hour away). This made it hard to form close friendships. Moreover, my school was comprised of teachers who were still completing their exams, so every year the teachers changed schools. That meant that the sense of community was not very strong.

    Fortunately, I became friends with other auxiliares in my area and was welcomed warmly into their community. I became friends with teachers at other schools, took trips with them, and received lots of help with life in general in Spain.

    What kind of salary can auxiliares expect?
    Auxiliares earn a “scholarship” rather than a salary. I was paid 1,000 EUR/month ($1,100 USD) during my contract. I would say that one should expect around 700-1,000 EUR per month ($770-1,100 USD) (or about 15 EUR/hour ($16.50 USD). Auxiliares in Madrid received the same “scholarship” as I did, but the cost of living in that region is much higher.

    If you are paid 700 EUR, you usually work 12 hours a week instead of 16, and you can definitely try and teach private English lessons to earn more.

    Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher in Spain exploring

    What are your top three tips for someone interested in teaching in Spain?
    1. Arrive with at enough to live off of for at least three months. I was fortunate to live in a city with decent prices for accommodation. I had two roommates and spent around 250 EUR/month ($275 USD) on rent. Groceries, rent, and transportation were my main expenses, around 650 EUR ($715 USD) for all of those (plus some miscellaneous things). This left me with just a bit of money to use for travel.

    In the Valencia region, the government was three months late to start paying us and always late by at least a few days to a week after the first paycheck. Since it’s not a lot of money, you’ll want to have a lot of savings. That way, if you’re paid late, you will have enough money to get by.

    2. Research where you want to work. I chose Madrid as my first choice and Andalucía as my second. I would have also liked to live in Barcelona, but that wasn’t an option. I applied late to the program and existing auxiliares have priority for where they are stationed. As a new applicant (and a late one), I was sent to Valencia.

    When choosing regions, be aware that a region does not necessarily mean you will end up in the city it’s named for. By that I mean, the “Madrid” region does not only mean the city of Madrid but rather the entire region around the city. Regions are like states, and so you could end up living two hours (or more) from the capital of the region.

    You should also take into account the language spoken in the region. Where I lived, people spoke Valenciano just as much (if not more) than Spanish, and school was conducted in valenciano (a dialect of Catalan). Luckily, Valenciano has similarities to Spanish.

    However, if you’re placed in the Basque Country (northern Spain), they speak Euskara, which has no similarities to Spanish. So if your goal is to practice or learn Spanish, make sure you choose to live in a region that speaks it.

    Weather is another aspect to consider. While in the summer it is warm almost everywhere, winters can be quite cold (more so in the north). If you’re not a fan of cold weather, consider living closer to the south and the sea.

    There are auxiliar Facebook groups and blogs that have plenty of information and anecdotes about different regions, which can help you make your decision.

    3. Learn some Spanish. Understand that you could be placed in a pueblo very far from a big city, so brush up on your Spanish a little. It isn’t mandatory to teach English, but it will really come in handy if you’re in a smaller location and want to connect more with the locals (and your colleagues).
     

    Want to Learn More About Teaching Abroad?

    Here are some helpful posts about teaching English overseas to help you learn more:

    For more teaching tips and advice you can follow Natasha on Instagram and YouTube.

    P.S. – Want to meet other travelers in real life? This year we launched The Nomadic Network, a platform created to help travelers connect, learn, and get inspired in real life! Here are our upcoming events if you want to take part: Seattle (2/17), Austin (2/18), Fort Lauderdale (2/19), Portland (2/19), San Francisco (2/20), Los Angeles (2/23), Detroit (2/24), Boston (2/24), Dublin (2/24), San Diego (2/24), London (2/25), Chicago (2/25), and NYC (3/10).

     

    Ready to Teach Overseas? Get My Comprehensive Guide

    This digital guide will put you ahead of your competition, help you land a high-paying job with a reputable company, and give you first-hand knowledge from real teachers! Get started today with this downloadable PDF (for your computer, e-reader, or mobile device) with the book PLUS 12 interviews about life as a teacher, plus job advice from one of the industry’s top recruiters!

    Book Your Trip to Spain: 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 somewher eother than a hotel, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite hostels in Spain are:

    • Sungate One (Madrid) – Super clean, in a great location, and very social. They organize pub crawls, communal meals, and walking tours too!
    • Kabul (Barcelona) – This is the best party hostel in the city. It’s fun, social, and really easy to have fun and meet people.
    • La Banda (Seville) – Another fun and social hostel. They have an on-site bar and host huge communal dinners too. It’s lively and agreat place to meet people and party.

    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 Spain?
    Check out my in-depth destination guide to SPain with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

    The post How to Find a Job Teaching in Spain appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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    Let’s Talk About the Double Standard in Travel

    Posted By : webmaster/ 341 0


    Kristin Addis in Hawaii
    Posted: 02/20/2020 | February 20th, 2020

    Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other women travelers to help cover the topics important and specific to them! In this month’s article, she explores the double standards that come with solo female travel.

    I rushed to the gate at Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As the agent checked my passport, he looked around me and, perplexed, asked if I was alone.

    I’d just finished up four months of solo traveling up from South Africa, one of the best and most enriching solo trips of my life, and replied that yes, I was alone.

    “Your husband lets you do that?” he asked incredulously.

    I get it. In Tanzania, it’s unthinkable for a woman, especially in her late twenties like I was, to travel alone. I gently let him know that nobody “lets” me do anything, and that I’m unmarried.

    While I take pleasure in shifting paradigms when possible, I still wonder what it would be like if I were a man. How would I be perceived when I solo travel or write about it? How would people treat me differently?

    1. They wouldn’t ask me whether or not my husband “lets me” travel alone.

    From Tanzania to the Philippines, I’ve been asked where my boyfriend or husband is. I bet almost nobody would ask me if my girlfriend lets me travel alone if I were a man.

    Kristin Addis in Tanzania

    I wouldn’t have to question whether or not I should lie about being single. I wouldn’t debate wearing a decoy wedding band. My safety wouldn’t be tied up in my singleness.

    2. They wouldn’t question whether a boyfriend or daddy pays for my trips.

    Is it so strange to believe that a woman can fund her own lifestyle? Why is there such a pervasive myth that women who travel solo are being bankrolled by someone?

    When I travel, I pay for it, and when I travel with my partner, we split it 50/50.

    I bet I wouldn’t have to state that if I were a man, though.

    3. People might ask when I’m planning to settle down, but they wouldn’t do it with such frequency and entitlement to the answer

    Maybe settling down with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog named Spike used to be the norm, but we have more mobility these days, and the internet, and too many people anyway. So why is it so darn important to people that I eventually settle down?

    I think in a way it’s saying, “Hey, this was the only option I gave myself, and now you have to follow suit.” For those who conform to expectations, it’s uncomfortable when others deviate from the norm, especially women.

    But I’m not worried about it. If and when I choose, I’ll do it, and if I don’t, that’s OK too. I’m approaching this more like a man, OK?

    Also, get out of my ovaries.

    4. I’d be called adventurous and an explorer rather than irresponsible and stupid.

    If I traveled solo as a man, even if something unfortunate happened to me, I’d be called an explorer and lover of life.

    Yet as a woman, I’ve been called stupid, warned I’d be “found dead and cannibalized,” and accused of leading other women to their death (just look at the comments on this video, the worst of which I actually deleted).

    5. I wouldn’t be warned I’d “get raped” if I traveled alone.

    If I were a man, I’d only have a 6.6% chance of being told I’d “get raped” if I travel alone, versus nearly 70% as a woman.

    This is problematic on so many levels, it deserves its own post.

    6. I’d be able to wear what I want.

    In some places, I can’t wear what I want. I understand that modesty is built into the culture in many places around the world, and I respect it and assimilate when in those countries.

    But that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that I enjoy wearing long sleeves and pants in 90-degree weather with 90% humidity while the boys get to wear shorts and tank tops.

    7. I wouldn’t have had to wonder what the hell to do when cornered in an elevator in Santiago by two big men, saying salacious things to me in Spanish.

    When I traveled through Patagonia with a male friend, nobody harassed me, assuming I wasn’t available. Yet when we parted ways so that I could solo travel — something that was important to me to do — the catcalls started pouring in.

    Sadly, I’ve been catcalled in almost every country that I’ve been to, even the ones you’d least expect (yet not at all in southern and eastern Africa — points for Africa!). It ranges from “ciao bella” to being chased down the sidewalk.

    Kristin Addis in Namibia

    It is not a compliment, it’s an assertion of power, and it’s exhausting.

    In Santiago, it crossed the line into terrifying when two huge guys got into an elevator with me, hovered over me, and harassed me. It was the perfect place, because who could help me in there?

    Would that have happened to a man?

    (On the positive side, if I were a man, locals might not be as concerned with taking care of me as many are. People might also not trust me outright the way they do. Right or wrong, women tend to be perceived as more peaceful and gentle and in need of protection.)

    8. Nobody would have assaulted me in public in Nepal.

    In Pokhara, Nepal, after a random power cut, the sun was setting and I realized I needed water to drink to get through the evening. Though I prefer not to walk alone when it gets dark, I had to do so in that instance.

    Kristin Addis in Nepal

    I heard myself scream before realizing that a local male had grabbed my breast. I whirled around and saw nothing but the back of his head as he ran away like the coward he is.

    Everyone nearby just pretended like they hadn’t seen anything, of course.

    9. But maybe the police would have taken me more seriously.

    I wonder, if I’d been a man demanding the police take notice, would they have listened to me? Would the officer still have rolled his eyes and acted like I was ruining his night by demanding an escort back to my guesthouse?

    I can only wonder if it would have been different.

    10. Insulting my ass would not be the topic of discussion on a post about road trips.

    When women share about something like travel on social media, why is body shaming still a thing?

    Why, on a post about road trips of all things, does someone feel the need to inform me that my ass is flat? Does that happen to guys too? I think not.

    11. I wouldn’t have had an internet stalker demand a naked selfie from me for months on all of my social platforms.

    If being a solo female traveler is tough at times, try writing about it. Have any of my male peers ever been harassed for months on end, on every platform, by a stalker demanding a naked selfie?

    Unfortunately, women are targeted online way more than men. According to the BBC, one in three teenage girls have been sexually harassed online.

    Why can’t we just share our travel pictures in peace?

    12. I wouldn’t get a flood of comments from fragile males on posts like this.

    It always happens, but I’m curious: Why should any egalitarian male, who has the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective, ever take this personally? Why does pointing out issues in our society automatically equate to blaming men?

    Louder, for the ones in the back: it doesn’t.

    ***

    Obviously, there are drawbacks for male solo travelers too — and benefits that only women who travel solo get to enjoy. There can be an implied trust factor between women that transcends cultures, and time and time again, people have been generous towards me in ways that I didn’t expect.

    In the end, I still love and champion solo female travel and believe that every woman should do it. I’m just sick of all the double standards and think it’s high time to call them out.

    Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over eight years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.

    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 somewher eother than a hotel, 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 Let’s Talk About the Double Standard in Travel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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    How to Become a Sustainable Traveler in 2020

    Posted By : webmaster/ 325 0


    A solo male travelers backpacking in Southeast Asia
    Posted: 2/17/2020 | February 17th, 2020

    After years on the sidelines, sustainable travel has made its way to the forefront of the travel industry. Environmentally friendly travel is now one of the fastest-growing movements in the industry, and I, for one, welcome this trend. It’s an incredibly important topic that I’ve been writing about for years.

    After all, why destroy what you love? No one wants to see paradise paved over. We all cringe when we return to an overdeveloped, polluted destination. None of us want to contribute to that.

    Being an eco-friendly traveler is simply being a respectful traveler.

    As we strive to become more environmentally conscious, the questions for travelers become:

    Just how do we “green” our travels?

    What can we do to lower our carbon footprint as we travel the world?

    How can we better interact with the communities we visit?

    What changes can we make that are actually helpful?

    Flight shaming people is not the answer, but do we all just stay home and quit traveling?

    Fortunately, there’s actually a lot we can do as travelers to reduce our ecological footprint while contributing to the sustainability of the communities we visit.

    Here are 13 concrete ways to reduce your environmental impact as a traveler:
     

    1. Stay Close to Home

    Though the exotic is always appealing, travel doesn’t have to be about going somewhere far away. Travel is the art of exploration and discovery — and that can just as well be nearby. Find somewhere close to home you haven’t been, get in your car (or better yet, take the bus), and go visit. You never know what you’ll come across!

    “X” is always the most interesting place on the map.
     

    2. Make Greener Transportation Choices

    If you can, try to travel by train or bus. Not only does this reduce your carbon footprint but companies like FlixBus, Megabus, and Greyhound always have some cheap tickets, so you can save money too.

    And when traveling by car, consider offering rides to other travelers to lower your collective emissions and cut costs. Many people will be happy to chip in for gas if it saves them time, which means you can save money and lower your carbon footprint at the same time. Win-win! That will cut your per-person transportation emissions in half (if not more). Use platforms like BlaBlaCar, Couchsurfing, and Craigslist to find rideshares near you.

    Avoid flying or driving long distances by yourself whenever you can.
     

    3. Travel Slow

    When we travel abroad, we have a tendency to rush around from place to place, trying to soak in as many sights as possible. I get that. After all, not everyone can be permanent nomads, and when you have limited time and aren’t sure if you’re coming back again, I can see why people “travel fast.”

    However, not only does this raise your transportation costs since you’re moving a lot, you end up increasing your carbon footprint. All those trains, buses, and planes add up. The fewer you take, the better.

    Additionally, being a good traveler not only means reducing your carbon footprint but also doing good by the communities you visit. Day-tripping brings in very little money to communities but impacts their infrastructure heavily (it’s why the city of Hallstatt in Austria is restricting day tours). So try to stay at a destination for a least a night.

    Traveling to fewer destinations is good not only for your wallet and the climate, it’s good for local communities as well.

    (Plus, slowing your travels will let you get to know places in a deeper way, since you’ll get to spend more time there. In travel, less can be more.)
     

    4. Pack Smart

    While the specifics of will depend on where you’re going, there are a few things you’ll want to bring with you to help you travel more sustainably:

    • Reusable water bottle – Nalgene makes durable bottles that are BPA-free and made in the USA.
    • Water filter – Many destinations don’t have potable water, which means you’re going to be using tons of single-use plastic. Instead, bring a Lifestraw or SteriPen. These devices will purify your water so you can drink from practically anywhere, ensuring you can avoid single-use plastic bottles.
    • Tote bag/stuff sack – If you’re traveling long-term, bring a tote back or an extra stuff sack. You can use them for buying groceries and avoid plastic bags. At other times, they can be used to keep your bag organized.
    • Diva cup – This is a reusable menstrual cup. While I can’t speak from personal experience, it’s something our resident solo female travel expert packs when she travels, since menstrual products are not always available (and can also be quite wasteful).
    • Utensils – Travel cutlery (a fork, knife, and spoon, or just a spork or a set of chopsticks) can come in handy if you’re on a budget and plan on cooking your own meals. But they’re also useful for street food and eating out, as you can avoid plastic cutlery.

    Additionally, bring a small Tupperware container for leftovers. I always find myself with extra food when I cook in hostels. This helps avoid waste and provides food for the next day. It’s an amazing travel hack surprisingly few people make use of.
     

    5. Fly with Fewer Connections

    While I don’t believe in flight shaming, it’s impossible to deny that flying does have a hefty carbon impact. In addition to limiting your flying, try to use longer flights with fewer connections. Twenty-five percent of airplane emissions occur during takeoff and landing, which means if you fly shorter flights with more connections, your emissions will be drastically higher.

    Flying direct is simply the better option environmentally, so opt for that whenever possible.
     

    6. Avoid Overvisited Destinations

    If you can, avoid cities grappling with overtourism. You’ll find fewer crowds and lower prices, and you also won’t be putting as much strain on local communities struggling to keep up. (And, from a sheer personal-enjoyment point of view, who wants to deal with crowds or long lines? No one.)

    If you do visit overtouristed places, such as Venice, Amsterdam, or Barcelona, pick a hotel or hostel instead of using sites like Airbnb. Apartment rentals drive up rents for locals and force them out of the city center. Unless you’re going to share accommodation with a local by renting a room from them (or using Couchsurfing), stick to hotels and hostels. Airbnb and similar sites really are detrimental to cities that don’t have a lot of housing.
     

    7. Take Public Transportation

    After walking, public transportation is the next best way to explore new destinations. On arrival, head to the local tourism office to learn about the options (as well as any visitor discounts available for public transit).

    If you do need a taxi, use ridesharing apps instead. Uber and Lyft have a “pool” option in many cities, which lets you split your ride with other travelers. While it may take a little longer to get to your destination, it will save you money and ensure that your ride is as eco-friendly as possible.

    When it comes to longer distances, budget buses are your best way of getting around, since they usually pack in a lot of passengers. Megabus and FlixBus are two of the most popular options.

     

    8. Eat Local

    Food that is imported has a much higher carbon footprint than locally grown food (and it’s usually not as fresh either). To keep your carbon footprint down, eat like a local. Stick to foods that are grown locally, and avoid packaged and imported foods much as possible. This will ensure that you’re eating seasonal produce, which not only is going to be the freshest but will also support the local economy. (Also, stick to organic food if you can.)

    Sure, the odd Western comfort meal is not the end of the world, but the more you eat locally, the more you reduce your environmental footprint and the more you help the local economy as well. After all, you didn’t come to Thailand to eat a burger you could get at home, right?
     

    9. Cut Back on Meat and Dairy

    I’m not saying you need to go vegan. I love meat and never plan to give up bacon. But if you’re concerned with the impact of your food, reducing your meat and dairy intake is extremely helpful. Over 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food — and the majority of those emissions are from animal products. So by cutting back on your meat and dairy consumption, you’ll drastically reduce your carbon footprint. (Avoid Brazilian beef if you can, as lot comes from cleared rainforest land. Cattle ranching is the #1 cause of rainforest deforestation in the world. Same for soy too.)

    Plus, it’s never been easier to travel as a vegan or vegetarian, as there are tons of amazing restaurants out there — as well as apps to help you find them (you can download the HappyCow app to find the best vegan and vegetarian options near you).

    Even if you take meat and dairy out of one meal a week, you’ll be moving the needle in favor of a lower carbon footprint and a more ethical diet.
     

    10. Avoid Animal Attractions

    Part of traveling green is helping the other creatures that inhabit his earth. That means you should avoid any and all attractions that use captive wild animals for entertainment. The most common offenders are riding elephants, swimming with dolphins, visiting captive whales, and petting (drugged) tigers. These activities require animal abuse and imprisonment and should be avoided.

    Animals are best viewed in their natural habitats. If you want to see them, go on a safari, jungle hike, or whale-watching tour and see the animals where they belong, in the wild.

    If you want to be an ethical and responsible traveler, stick to taking photographs and avoid direct interactions with animals.

    For more information on animal tourism and how to avoid it, check out these helpful organizations:

     

    11. Reduce Your Plastic Use

    I hate plastic. It creates a ton of waste. From plastic bottles to toothpaste tubes to shopping bags, plastic sucks. I admit I’m not perfect, and I still use too much, but I’m always trying to reduce my consumption (both at home and abroad).

    Avoiding plastic as much as possible is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. You can buy a reusable water bottle, use toothpaste tabs, carry your own cutlery, and travel with a canvas bag for starters.

    Additionally, skip the plastic straws and cutlery and avoid getting take-out unless it comes in biodegradable containers. Straws can take 200 years to biodegrade, and plastic bags take 20. Don’t let a few minutes of convenience endanger the planet. Skip the plastic.
     

    12. Cut Back on Cruises

    Cruises are one of the worst offenders when it comes to carbon footprints and overtourism. Taking a cruise has the same average per-person carbon footprint as flying from London to Tokyo — round-trip. That’s almost 20,000 kilometers (12,500 miles)!

    Thanks to cruises, carbon emissions in popular port cities can be so high that thousands of people actually die prematurely every year.

    And to top it all off, day-trippers from cruises visits are overwhelming local economies, driving up prices, forcing out locals, and creating destinations that are over-reliant on tourism.

    Don’t get me wrong: cruises are a fun way to travel. But if you’re looking to lower your environmental footprint, you’ll want to avoid cruises as much as possible.
     

    13. Take a Nature-Related Trip

    Travel is one of the best personal development tools there is. It opens you up to a whole new world and widens your perspective of so many things — people, culture, history, food, and so much more.

    If you want to better understand and appreciate the natural world, try taking a trip with the sole purpose of connecting with nature. Head to the Australian Outback, go diving and swim around coral reefs, visit national parks, camp in the Moroccan desert, stay a few weeks in a town with little or no electricity, canoe down the Amazon River, or spend a few nights under the stars in a field close to home.

    Do something that gets you in touch with the world in a way that sitting at home with all the electricity and free-flowing running water doesn’t. I promise that when you come home, you’ll have a new perspective on why we’re all so focused on being environmentally friendly these days.

    It doesn’t take much to see that we are living unsustainably and something’s got to give. Going on a nature adventure can get you to think differently when it comes to the environment and how important it is for us to treat it well.

    ***

    Traveling in a more green and eco-friendly way is something we should all aspire to. As travelers, it’s our responsibility to make sure that, while we explore the globe, we do so in a way that doesn’t harm the planet or the local communities that we visit.

    With a few simple changes, you can all become better and more sustainable travelers. You just need to take that first step. Action begets action, and the more actions you take, the easier the other ones will be.

    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 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 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 those I use — and they’ll save you time and money too!

    The post How to Become a Sustainable Traveler in 2020 appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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