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The 8 Best Hostels in San Francisco

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Looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge on the coast of San Francisco, USA
Posted: 6/11/2020 | June 11th, 2020

San Francisco is a beautiful, eclectic city. Balancing its hippy roots with its modern, techie scene, San Francisco is a cool, lively, energetic city bursting with history and tons of amazing food. It’s some to hippies, students, artists, entrepreneurs, and sizeable immigrant communities. All of that combines to create one of the best cities in the country.

However, it’s also one of the most expensive in the country too!

Fortunately, the city has a growing hostel scene so you can find affordable accommodation during your visit. I’ve been visiting San Francisco for a decade and have stayed in dozens of hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs. Since the city is so expensive, hostels are your best bet here.

There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four when picking the best hostel in San Francisco are:

  1. Location – San Francisco is huge and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
  2. Price – In San Francisco, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small, cramped, and doesn’t offer great service.
  3. Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi, and most have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
  4. Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!

To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in San Francisco that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:

Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Orange Village
Best Hostel for Families: Adelaide Hostel
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: HI Fisherman’s Wharf
Best Hostel for Partying: Green Tortoise Hostel
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: HI Downtown
Best Overall Hostel: Green Tortoise Hostel

Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in San Francisco:

Price Legend (per night)

  • $ = Under $40 USD
  • $$ = $40-50 USD
  • $$$ = Over $50 USD

 

1. HI San Francisco – Downtown

The interior of a spacious private room at HI San Francisco Downtown
HI Downtown has some standard perks like free breakfast and free towels but they also organize a lot of events — including pub crawls, trips to Muir Woods and Yosemite, and bike tours across the Golden Gate Bridge.

HI Downtown at a Glance:

  • $$$
  • Organizes lots of events?
  • Free breakfast and free towels
  • Lots of common areas

Beds from $54 USD a night, rooms from $159 USD.

—> Book your stay at HI Downtown!
 

2. Green Tortoise Hostel

The huge ballroom dining area at the Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco, USA
This hostel is an travel institution in San Francisco. It’s one of the oldest in the city. It’s my favorite hostel in the city (and one of my favorites in the entire country). They offer free breakfast, free dinners multiple times per week, and they even have a free sauna! They have a huge common room so it’s easy to meet people and it’s a very fun, social atmosphere. There’s a pool, tons of games (like giant jenga and foosball), and musical instruments in case you want to jam.

Green Tortoise at a glance:

  • $$
  • Lots of free perks (free breakfast, free dinners, free sauna)
  • Lively party atmosphere
  • Great for solo travelers

Beds from $47 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Green Tortoise!
 

3. HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf

The front desk and lobby of the HI hostel at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, USA
This is another great HI hostel. They have lots of common areas (so it’s easy to relax and meet people), they organzie tons of events (like bike tours, museum tours, and pub crawls), and they even have a small theater for watching movies. They also have a cafe on-site (with reasonable prices) and keep the hostel clean and tidy.

HI Fisherman’s Wharf at a glance:

  • $$
  • Female-only dorms for extra security
  • Organizes lots of events
  • Huge kitchen

Beds from $41.50 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at HI Fisherman’s Wharf!
 

4. Found San Francisco – Union Square

Bunk beds in a dorm room at FOUND hostel in San Francisco, USA
Located right near Union Square in the heart of the city, Found has spacious private rooms as well as smaller dorm rooms. It’s a good choice for anyone looking for a bit more privacy and some peace and quiet. The kitchen isn’t huge but the beds are super comfy and the rooms are clean and a bit more stylish than most hostels.

Found Union Square at a glance:

  • $$
  • Convenient location
  • Modern ammenities

Beds from $40.50 USD a night, rooms from $269 USD.

—> Book your stay at Found!
 

5. HI San Francisco – City Center

A comfy bed in a spacious privae room at the HI Hostel City Center hostel in San Francisco, USA
This cozy hostel is located in a boutique hotel from the 1920s. It does an excellent job of balancing historic charm with a modern atmosphere. There are lots of beautiful paintings and murals and they even have a speakeasy-style cafe. But it’s the atmosphere here that makes your stay worthwhile. There are lots of common areas to chill out and meet people and they also have female-only dorms too. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the main shopping area there are lots of cheap reataurants nearby as well.

HI City Center at a glance:

  • $$
  • Easy to meet people
  • Free breakfast and free towels
  • Comfy beds

Beds from $49 USD a night, rooms from $125 USD.

—> Book your stay at HI City Center!
 

6. Adelaide Hostel

The lobby and common area of the Adelaide Hostel in San Francisco, USA
This is one of the quieter and more laid-back hostels in the city. The beds are comfy and there are privacy curtains so you can actually get a decent sleep (something I really appreciate). They offer free breakfast as well as free meals throughout the week so it’s easy to connect with other travelers. The hostel on a sidestreet just two blocks from downtown so you get the convenience of being centrally located without all the noise. The staff here are awesome too and can help you mkae the most of your trip.

Adelaide Hostel at a glance:

  • $$$
  • Comfy beds with privacy curtains
  • Quiet atmosphere
  • Helpful staff

Beds from $52 USD a night, rooms from $169 USD.

—> Book your stay at Adelaide!
 

7. Orange Village Hostel

Narrow bunk beds at the Orange Village Hostel in San Francisco, USA
This is the cheapest hostel in the city. They include free breakfast and organize weekly pizza nights and movie nights. The dorms are basic (you get what you pay for) but there is lots of common space to relax in and they have a big kitchen so you can cook your own meals (and save even more money). The bathrooms aren’t the most clean or modern, but again, for the price it’s to be expected.

Orange Village at a glance:

  • $
  • Super affordable
  • Easy to meet people
  • Free perks (breakfast, pizza nights)

Beds from $39.60 USD a night, rooms from $126 USD.

—> Book your stay at Orange Village!
 

8. Pacific Tradewinds

The dorm room of the Pacific Tradewinds hostel in San Francisco, USA
This independent hostel offers lots of free perks for budget travelers (like free ramen), and is community-focused. They organize events (like pub crawls and trivia nights) so its easy to meet people and the hostel is near the subway so it’s easy to get around. It’s a classic backpacker hostel and a great choice for solo travelers.

Pacific Tradewinds at a glance:

  • $$
  • Free sandwiches and ramen
  • Easy to meet people
  • Awesome staff

Beds from $42.50 USD per night.

—> Book your stay at Pacific Tradewinds!

***

By staying in one of the hostels above you’ll not only save money but you’ll meet other travelers, get insider tips and advice, and have an amazing visit to one of the counry’s best cities. Whether you’re a solo female traveler, a family, or someone backpacking on a tight budget, you’ll be able to find a hostel that suits your needs and travel style.

Book Your Trip to San Francisco: 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.

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!

Need a Guide?
San Francisco has some really great tours on offer. For an in-depth walking tour, check out <a href="Take Walks. They use expert local guides and have a super insightful (and fun) tour through Chinatown.

For something more hands-on like a segway tour, use Fat Tire Tours. They have a few different tours around the city and are a great alternative to a standard walking tour.

Looking for More Information on Visiting San Francisco?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to San Francisco with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

The post The 8 Best Hostels in San Francisco appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How to See Taiwan on a Budget

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The busy downtown and tall buildings of Taipei, Taiwan
Posted: 6/8/20 | June 8th, 2020

With a million things to do, a huge variety of delicious food, warm-hearted people, lots of hiking opportunities, and beautiful buildings and temples, Taiwan has it all.

Yet, despite that, it remains one of the most underrated — and undervisted — countries in Asia.

On the one hand, I like that it’s still off the radar because it means fewer crowds. You’ll never see too many people traveling around Taiwan. It’s, to use the cliche, a hidden gem you have (mostly) to yourself. There are no hordes of people trying to take their IG selfies.

On the other hand, it’s a shame people don’t make Taiwan a bigger travel priority because it’s so wonderful and has so much going for it. This is a country that deserves way more attention than it is given.

And, what’s great for budget travelers like us, is that Taiwan is also super affordable.

It’s on a level of cheapness similar to parts of Southeast Asia, with many meals costing only a few dollars. Even when I “splurged” on a meal like a high-end sushi omakase, I spent less than 1,200 NT$ ($40 USD). A meal (and too many beers) at an English style pub aimed at expats? Less than 360 NT$ ($12 USD).

Taiwan is a dream destination for those looking to get a lot of value for their money.

Today, I’m going to break down some typical costs in Taiwan, my suggested budgets, and ways to save.
 

Typical Costs


Taiwan is pretty cheap so, as long as you don’t eat at high-end restaurants or stay at upscale hotels, you won’t be hard-pressed to spend a lot of money. Here’s a list of typical costs in new Taiwan dollars (NT$):

  • Noodle soup – 30-45 ($1-1.50 USD)
  • Noodles – 40 ($1.35 USD)
  • Rice – 85-100 ($2.85-3.35 USD)
  • Lunch boxes – 100 ($3.35 USD)
  • Sushi lunch – 300 – 450 ($10 – 15 USD)
  • MosBurger (best fast food burger joint) – 165 ($5.50 USD)
  • Museum entry – 30-100 ($1-3.35 USD)
  • Metro ride – 30-65 ($1-2.15 USD)
  • Taxi – 70 (plus 25 per kilometer) ($2.35 USD plus 0.84 per km)
  • Intercity train ride – 375-850 ($12.55-$28.40 USD)
  • High-speed rail (HSR) – 155-1,500 ($5.20-50.15 USD)
  • Hostel dorm – 240-600 per night ($8-20 USD)
  • Hostel private room – 1,050-1,350 per night ($35-45 USD)

 

How Much Did I Spend?


Over 13 days, I spent a total of 29,273 NT$ (2,252 NT$ per day). In USD, that’s $981 ($75 USD per day). Now, my notes were a bit less than fully detailed towards the end of my trips and I can’t find some receipts so I’m going to round this up to an even 2,375 NT$ ($80 USD) per day.

That’s actually a lot more than I thought I spent. I had to do the numbers twice but more on that in a second.Here’s how those costs broke down:

  • Food – 8,597 NT$ ($289.20 USD)
  • Accommodation – 13,351 NT$ ($449.12 USD)
  • Tours/Museums – 1,410 NT$ ($47.43 USD)
  • Transportation – 5,915 NT$ ($198.95 USD)

So why did I spend so much money in a country that I said just was “super cheap”? I mean $80 is way more than Southeast Asia levels. Well, it has more to do with me than travel in Taiwan:

First, I stayed in private rooms. At three to four times the cost of a dorm, that is going to add up really quickly. I don’t like dorms since I’m a light sleeper and, since I was traveling alone, I didn’t have anyone to split the cost of the room with.

Second, I took a lot of high-speed trains. Those tickets are 600-1,200 NT$ ($20-40 USD) a ride versus 150-300 NT$ ($5-10 USD) for the regular train. Since I had little time and a lot of ground to cover, that drove up my costs.

Third, I took a few private tours as I wanted a local guide for myself so I could ask a battery of questions about life in Taiwan. I enjoy doing that over group tours, especially when I am researching destinations for guides like I was during this visit.

And, finally, in an effort to eat as much as possible, I probably had 3-4 meals a day, including many high-end restaurants and Western food. That amount of food really shrank my wallet (but sadly not my waistline). I’m talking a Hobbit level of eating here:

Those four things drove up my daily average to levels your average traveler/backpacker wouldn’t hit in such a short time.

 

How Much Do YOU need?

So, with that said, how much do you need to travel around Taiwan? If you replicated my trip, I think 1,930-2,230 NT$ ($65-75 USD) would be enough. You wouldn’t want for anything on that budget and it would cover cheap private accommodation, high-speed trains, some tours, and a healthy amount of food and drinks. If you took a few slower trains or stuck to eating at food markets (avoiding high-end sushi restaurants like me), you could get by closer to 1,785 NT$ ($60 USD) per day.

If you’re on a backpacker budget, you need around 890-1,040 NT$ ($30-35 USD) a day. A dorm room will cost you around 300 NT$ ($10 USD), meals are only 90-150 NT$ ($3-5 USD) each, and beer is pretty cheap. Taking regular (slower) trains would save a few more dollars a day.

In short, whether you’re a backpacker or just a regular budget traveler, you’re never going to spend a huge amount here. Outside accommodation and high-end food, everything in the country is super cheap.
 

How to Save Money in Taiwan

The towering skyline of Taipei, featuring Taipei 101 in Taiwan
If you’re looking to spend even less money and get some good deals, here are things that can lower your costs even more:

1. Skip the High-Speed Rails (HSR)
The high-speed trains in Taiwan are super convenient (though they only go down the west side of the island): they depart every 15 minutes and the journey between Taipei and Kaohsiung (the most southern point) only takes 1 hour and 50 minutes.

However, they are also very expensive: a ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung costs around 1,500 NT$ ($51 USD). On the other hand, the “local” trains are half the price at just 845 NT$ ($28 USD) (likewise, it’s just 539-739 NT$ ($18-25 USD) from Taipei to Tainan and around 375 NT$ ($12.50 USD) from Taipei to Taichung).

Plus, the HSR line doesn’t pass through city centers, so you’ll either need to take a bus or train from the HSR station, costing more time and money.

So, if you want to save money and aren’t in a rush, skip the HSR trains.

2. Stay in Hostels
In Taipei, hostel dorms can be found for 550-700 NT$ ($18.50-23.50 USD) per night for 6-10-bed rooms. Private rooms in hostels can be had for 1,600-2,200 NT$ ($54-74 USD) per night.

Also, skip hostel private rooms. A basic two-star hotel will cost 1,200-1,500 NT$ ($40-50 USD), making it a better budget choice if you want privacy.

3. Eat at the Food Markets
The food in Taiwan is world-class. I didn’t appreciate it much when I lived there back in 2010, but now I realize just how diverse, tasty, and healthy the food is. Every town is littered with day and night markets. If you want to save money on food (and it’s very easy to do that here), eating the local food at these markets is the best way to eat on a budget. You’ll find most meals cost around 30-80 NT$ ($1-2.75 USD).

And, even if you prefer a sit-down restaurant, you’re looking at 120-150 NT$ ($4-5 USD) for a meal at a place serving Taiwanese cuisine.

You never need to spend more than 400 NT$ ($15 USD) per day here.

Eat local = save big!

4. Avoid Western Food
I mean you didn’t come all this way to eat a bad version of the food you can get back home, right? You can find every Western dish your heart desires in Taiwan and most of these meals will cost about 300 NT$ ($10 USD). But, frankly, skip Western food. I never found anything that great and Taiwanese cuisine is way more delicious and filled with such variety that you’re not going to get tired of “eating the same thing” over and over again.

5. Take Free Walking Tours
One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new destination is take a free walking tour. They give you the lay of the land, show you the main highlights of the city, and provide you with a local guide who can answer your questions.

Like It Formosa is the best walking-tour company in Taiwan, offering tours in Taipei, Jiufen, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Its tours have a cultural and historical focus, making them a great foundation for your visit.

And, if you’re in Taipei and want something more lively, Tour Me Away offers free tours as well as pub crawls and food tours starting at 600 NT$ ($20 USD) per person. They’re a good choice for backpackers looking to meet other travelers.

6. Take the Bus
Intercity coach buses are available to all major cities around Taiwan, including Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. They are comfortable, modern, safe, and have air conditioning (too much, usually, so bring a sweater).

A bus from Taipei to Kaohsiung takes around five hours and costs 300-500 NT$ ($10-17 USD) depending on what day and time you depart.

The two main intercity bus companies are Ubus and Kuo-Kuang Bus. For fares and timetable information, visit taiwanbus.tw.

7. Take in the Free Attractions
There are plenty of free temples, shrines, museums, and parks around the country. There’s more than enough to fill your days. I never had a problem wandering around the cities and finding things to do that didn’t cost a penny. Your local accommodation or guide book or Google can tell you what to do.

8. Go Hiking
Spend your days hiking Taiwan’s many mountains and trails. Taiwan is filled with national parks. The country is so small that you are never far from any park, they are well connected to public transportation, and they are all free.

***

Taiwan is an incredibly affordable destination . To me, it’s on par with some destinations in Southeast Asia since the food was cheap and so many activities were free. You get a lot of value here. So, if you’re looking for an uncrowded and affordable place to visit, Taiwan is it.

Book Your Trip to Taiwan: Logistical Tips and Tricks

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

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

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 How to See Taiwan on a Budget appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 32 Best Things to See and Do in Amsterdam

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The calm waters of a canal in beautiful Amsterdam, Netherlands
Posted: 6/4/2020 | June 4th, 2020

Amsterdam is known as a party city, full of wild nights and all kinds of questionable debauchery. It’s a fun, eclectic, and party-focused destination popular with young backpackers looking to let loose.

But it’s a city with a lot more to offer too.

I’ve visited Amsterdam more times than I can count (it’s one of my favorite cities in the world) and I’m never disappointed. There are tons of museums, lots of chill cafes, and more nightlife than you can handle.

It’s a city with something to offer everyone. Even if you’re not looking to party the nights away you’ll still enjoy your visit.

To help you make the most of your trip, here are the best 32 things to see and do in Amsterdam:
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

People relaxing along the canals of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Whenever I arrive in a new city I start off by taking a free walking tour. They help you get oriented and give you an overview of the city, culture, and the main sights worth seeing. You’ll learn some history and be able to ask a local guide all the questions you have, which is the best way to get insider tips.

Free Walking Tours Amsterdam and New Europe both offer daily free walking tours. They last 2-3 hours and give you the perfect introduction to the city. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!

If you’re not on a tight budget and want an in-depth alternative tour, check out Black Heritage Tours. While their tours aren’t free, they are incredibly informative and eye-opening. They focus on the impact of slavery during the growth of the Dutch empire and highlight black culture and contributions to the country. Sobering but edutcational.
 

2. Visit the Van Gogh Museum

This museum is home to many of Van Gogh’s best works. It’s also the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the entire world. The museum does an excellent job of outlining his life, chronicling his works from beginning to end so you can better understand and appreciate his style and evolution (as well as his life beyond painting). Opened in in73, it’s one of the most popular (read: crowded) sites in the city, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. The museum also has paintings by other famous artists of the period, like Monet, Manet, and Matisse. If you want to beat the crowds, try visiting later in the afternoon.

Museumplein 6, +31 20 570 5200, vangoghmuseum.nl. Open Sunday–Thursday from 9am–7pm and Friday—Saturday from 9am–9pm. Admission is 19 EUR for adults. Students 18 and under enter free.
 

3. Explore Jordaan

Jordaan is a trendy residential area. While it’s become more popular in recent years, it’s still one of the most overlooked parts of the city. The area is full of cozy shops and boutiques, bars and pubs, and hip restaurants. It’s also the area of the city where Rembrandt lived during the final years of his life. It’s a quiet place to explore away from the crowds if you want to get a better feel for the city outside its main tourist areas.
 

4. Take a Canal Tour

A boat tour of the canals of Amsterdam on a sunny day
Amsterdam is a beautiful, picturesque city thanks to the scenic canals that break up the city’s sprawl. To see the city from a new perspective, take a canal tour. There are large tour boats that can take you up and down the waterways, but you can also rent your own boat for a self-guided tour (if you’re comfortable driving a boat). Self-guided rentals are for small, open-air boats that give you a more intimate, unique experience. They cost around 50 EUR, which makes it super affordable if you have a few friends to join you. For a standard guided tour on a larger boat, expect to pay around 16 EUR per person.
 

5. See Anne Frank House

This is one of the most popular tourist sites in the entire city. While it’s an important and somber place to visit, it’s also incredibly overcrowded. You just shuffle through the house and never really have time to digest what you’re seeing. Personally, I think the Jewish History Museum does a better job at highlighting her life. However, if you do want to visit then be sure to book your ticket in advance or arrive very early.

Prinsengracht 263–267, +31 20 556 7100, annefrank.org. Opening daily from 9am–10pm (shorter hours in the winter). Admission is 10.50 EUR.
 

6. Visit the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum
Established in 1798, The Rijksmuseum is an art and history museum located right next to the Van Gogh Museum. The museum, recently renovated, features an extensive Rembrandt collection including the famous painting “The Night Watch.” In addition to works by Rembrandt, the museum is also home to an a robust collection of other classic Dutch painters, like Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. There are over 1 million items in the collection (it’s the largest museum in the country) with over 8,000 on display — so you can easily spend a few hours here.

Museumstraat 1, +31 20 674 7000, rijksmuseum.nl. Open daily from 9am–5pm. Admission is 19 EUR for adults. Students 18 and under are free.
 

8. Relax in Oosterpark

If you need to get away from the crowds, head to Oosterpark. It’s a relaxing green space east of the city center and is perfect for lounging and enjoying a sunny day. It’s much less busy than the city’s popular Vondelpark and will show you a different, more residential part of the city. There are sculptures (including the National Slavery Monument that commemorates the abolition of slavery in 1863), playgrounds, ponds, and plenty of space to picnic or lounge. It was the city’s first large park too, dating back to the 1890s
 

9. Try the Heineken Experience

Heineken is one of the most famous (and popular) beers in the world. You can take an interactive self-guided tour this former brewery and learn about how the beer was made and how the company evolved over the centuries (the beer dates back to the 1870s). Admission also includes two beers, so if you’re a fan be sure to book a tour. It’s a fun way to learn some history.

Stadhouderskade 78, +31 20 721 5300, heinekenexperience.com. Open Monday–Thursday from 10:30am–7:30pm and Friday–Sunday from 10:30am–9pm. Admission is 21 EUR at the door and 18 EUR when booked online.
 

7. Wander the Red Light District

the red light district in amsterdam
Unsurprisingly, Amsterdam’s Red Light District is one of the city’s main draws. Though much tamer than in previous years, the Red Light District manages to balance sex and seediness with being a major international tourist attraction. While it’s worth seeing, I’d keep your time here brief. While it’s quite calm and quiet during the day, at night the area is bursting with drunken revelers and gawking tourists that clog the sidewalks. Even if it’s not your scene, I’d still make sure to see the area with your own eyes. It’s certainly unique!
 

10. See the Erotic Museum and the Amsterdam Sex Museum

Tucked away in an old warehouse in the Red Light District and has an exhibition about eroticism in all its various forms throughout the ages. It has sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, and other artwork. And, of course, there is a gift shop if you want a more unique souvenir from the city.

The Amsterdam Sex Museum is the more serious museum and if much more informative than the Erotic Museum (but also a little less fun). It was the world’s first sex museum, having opened in 1985. It highlights the history of sexual views and norms, as well as the lives of some of the world’s most sexually famous individuals (like the Marquis de Sade).

Erotic Museum: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 54, +31 20 623 1834. Open Sunday–Thursday from 11am–1am and Friday–Saturday from 11am–2am. Admission is 7 EUR.

Amsterdam Sex Museum: Damrak 18, +31 20 622 8376, sexmuseumamsterdam.nl. Open daily from 9:30am-11:30pm. Admission is 5 EUR.
 

11. Visit the Tulip Museum

The small Tulip Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Netherlands is known for its stunning and Insta-worthy tulip fields. This tiny museum, located in a tulip shop, does a wonderful job of telling the history of tulips in country. It’s one of the best off-the-beaten-path attractions in Amsterdam. It’s never very busy and and it’s only 5 EUR (which makes it one of the cheapest museums in the city).

Prinsengracht 116, +31 20 421 0095, amsterdamtulipmuseum.com. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is 5 EUR.
 

12. Take a Bike Tour

Bikes in Amsterdam chained up to one of the many bridges
Bikes are to Amsterdam like wine is to Bordeaux. The locals love to bike everywhere and there are supposedly more bikes than people in the city. Bike useage has shot up 40% in the past two decades and locals collectivly cycle over 2 million kilometers every day! If you want to explore the way the locals do, take a bike tour.

Mike’s Bike Tours is the best company to use, whether for a tour or to rent a bike on your own. Not only do they offer city tours but they also offer bike tours of the surrounding countryside as well. Tours start at 32 EUR and last around 3 hours.
 

13. Spend a Day in Haarlem

A windmill along the water in Haarlem, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Haarlem is a walled city that dates back to the Middle Ages, located just 35km from Amsterdam. The city is home to around 160,000 people and it’s quite quiet and calm. It has a beautiful central church, great outdoor market, and all the beauty of historic Amsterdam with fewer crowds. If you feel like getting out of the city, spend a few hours here just wandering about. You’ll get a much better feel for the country away from the busy and tourist-heavy streets of Amsterdam. Be sure to visit the Windmill too. It’s right on the water and offers tours as well as a nice view of the city.
 

14. Learn Something New at the Amsterdam History Museum

This is a huge museum that offers an in-depth and insightful look at Amsterdam’s past. There are a lot of artifacts, maps, paintings, and multi-media displays throughout that provide a comprehensive overview of the city and how it has evolved. museum. It’s one of the best history museums I’ve ever visited and you could easily spend 3-4 hours here. Even if you’re not a history buff like me it’s worth a visit. I can’t recommend it enough!

Kalverstraat 92, +31 20 523 1822, amsterdammuseum.nl. Open daily from 10am–5pm. Admission is 15 EUR.
 


 

15. Chill Out in Vondelpark

A small pond and an old building Vondelkpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands in the summer
Created in 1865, this is Amsterdam’s largest (and most popular) park. Spanning over 120 acres, it’s the perfect place to walk, bike, people-watch, or relax — especially after a visit to a local coffee shop. In the summer, the park is filled with people and there are often lots of events here too. Pack a lunch, bring a book, and enjoy a picnic on a sunny afternoon!
 

16. See the FOAM

Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam is a photography museum and home to a stunning collection of incredible pictures. Surprisingly it also sees few crowds even though it’s in the main part of the city. Opened in 2001, the museum is composed of four exhibitions that are constantly changing so you never know what you might see (check the website to see what is on display during your visit). They have a beautiful outdoor garden too. It’s a small museum and it doesn’t take long to see so don’t pass it by!

Keizersgracht 609, +31 20 551 6500, foam.org. Open daily from 10am–6pm (9pm on Thursdays and Fridays). Admission is 15.50 EUR.
 

17. Visit the Jewish Historical Museum

This is the only Jewish history museum in the country, though it’s often overlooked in favor of The Anne Frank House. Personally, I think the museum does a better job whe it comes to highlighting the history and struggles of Jews in the Netherlands. Specifically, they have an excellent exhibit on World War II that highlights the Dutch resistance, complacency, and guilt over the Holocaust. Established in 1932 (and reopened in 1955, after WWII), the museum houses over 11,000 items, artifacts, and works of art.

Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, +31 20 531 0310, jhm.nl. Open daily from 11am–5pm. Admission is 17 EUR.
 

18. Browse the Waterlooplein Flea Market

Books and clothing for sale at the Waterlooplein Flea Market in Amsterdam, Netherlands
This is the oldest and biggest market in the city. With over 300 stalls, this open-air market is essentially a giant flea market. You can find anything and everything here if you’re willing to look. Secondhand clothing, hats and accessories, antiques, electronics, and much more can all be found here (both new and used). If there’s something you want, you’ll probably find it here so be sure to spend some time wandering and browsing. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s a fun place to explore and people watch.

Waterlooplein 2. Open Monday to Saturday from 9:30am-6pm.
 

19. Visit the Rembrandt House Museum

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists in human history (his famous painting, The Night Watch, is in the Rijksmuseum). This house, which he lived and worked in between 1639 and 1658 has been converted into a museum that highlights his life and work. You can see how he painted and how his house was decorated during his life. It’s a neat snapshot into history. If you’re an avid art/art history fan, this shouldn’t be missed.

Jodenbreestraat 4, +31 20 520 0400, rembrandthuis.nl. Open daily from 10am–6pm. Admission is 14 EUR.
 

20. See the Museum Amstelkring

Museum Amstelkring
Hidden inside a 17th-century canal house, this is one of the most interesting churches I’ve ever been to. Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (“Our Lord in the Attic”) is a clandestine Catholic church that was secretly built during Protestant rule on the 3rd floor of a regular house (it was never really a secret, but since it was out of sight the authorities didn’t crack down on them too harshly). Built in the 1660s, the chruch has a beautiful drawing room and the furnishings and artifacts make this one of the best 17th-century rooms still intact.

Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38, +31 20 624 6604, opsolder.nl. Open Monday–Saturday from 10am–6pm and Sun days from 1pm–6pm. Admissions is 11.50 EUR.
 

21. Learn About Drugs at the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without learning a little bit about drugs. This museum (which has a sister museum in Barcelona as well) is full of information about the historical and modern use of cannabis. It covers all the medicinal, religious, and cultural uses of the plant and focuses on how hemp can be used for all sorts of beneficial agricultural, consumer, and industrial products. It’s actually really educational!

Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148, +31 20 624 8926, hashmuseum.com. Open daily from 10am–10pm. Admission is 9 EUR.
 

22. Explore the Museum Van Loon

The historic antique interior of the Museum Van Loon in in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Built in 1672, this museum is located in a canal house on the Keizersgracht canal. Originally, the house was owned by the wealthy Van Loon merchant family. They collected beautiful works of art and their house is now a museum full of period furniture, the Van Loon art collection, and Van Loon family portraits. Albeit small, it’s another museum that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There’s an immaculate garden here too.

Keizersgracht 672, +31 20 624 5255, museumvanloon.nl. Open daily from 10am–5pm. Admission is 10 EUR.
 

23. Indulge at Foodhallen

Foodhallen is an indoor food market offering all kinds of delicious food. Opened in 20014, it’s essentially like having a bunch of food trucks all in one indoor location. There are over 20 different stalls here, making it the best place in the city for foodies. Personal favorites include Viet View and Le Big Fish.

Bellamyplein 51 or Hannie Dankbaarpassage 47, foodhallen.nl. Open daily from 11am-midnight.
 

24. Visit Noord

A bar and restaurant in the trendy Noord district of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Noord has evolved into one of the cooler and trendier districts in recent years. It’s one of the cheaper areas in the city so a lot of new bars and restaurants have opened here. The old industrial areas have been reclaimed and there is lots of green space too. It’s a fun, vibrant area with much fewer crowds than the central part of the city. Rent a bike and explore — you won’t be disappointed!
 

25. Browse the Stedelijk Museum

I’ll be honest: I don’t like modern art. It’s just not my cup of tea. But if you do, this is the place in the city to see it. Opened in 1874, the museum is home to over 90,000 items including works by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. The exhibitions cover paintings, drawings, graphic design, sculptures, sound, and installations. To be fair, there is a ton of variety here — it’s just not my favorite style. But definitely check it out if you’re an art fan!

Museumplein 10, +31 20 573 2911, stedelijk.nl. Open daily from 10am–6pm (10pm on Fridays). Admission ins 18.50.
 

26. Take an Alternative Art Tour

Some of the colorful street art of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is home to some incredible street art. You’ll see it all over while you explore, but if you really want to appreciate it and learn about the alternative art scene in Amsterdam then take a tour. Alltournative Amsterdam runs an amazing, insightful tour where you can learn all about the alternative arts while getting to see the best murals in the city. All the people I took on the tour loved it!
 

27. Visit Quirky and Offbeat Attractions

There are tons of offbeat attractions in Amsterdam. Here are a few more of the best if you’re looking for more unique, quirky experiences:

  • The Houseboat Museum – This decorated houseboat gives you a glimpse into what living on the canals is like. It’s cramped but interesting to see how people live on the canal.
  • Electric Ladyland – The world’s first museum dedicated to fluorescent light. It’s definitely not your typical art gallery/museum but it’s fun to wander and interact with the colors and the fluorescent space.
  • Micropia – A “zoo” home to all sorts of microbes and bacteria. It’s super educational as you can learn about all the invisible microbes that we interact with day to day (you can also scan yourself to see what actual bacteria and microbes are on you right then and there).
  • The Torture Museum – This museum showcases the punishments prisoners faced throughout the city’s history. There are all sorts of brutal tools as well as a hanging cage and Inquisition chair. Disturbing but insightful!
  • Museum Vrolik – This museum is home to one of the largest collections of human (and animal) deformities. It has some 150 different items, including creepy jars holding fetuses, human and animal skeletons, and even the remains of a pair of conjoined twins. Super weird!

 

28. Take a Food Tour

As a foodie, one of the best parts of any trip is getting to eat my way around a new city. Food is an important part of every culture, and it’s something I’m always happy to splash out on when given the chance. If you’re looking to learn more about Amsterdam’s food scene and sample some of the city’s best offerings then I suggest taking a food tour. Not only do you get to try amazing foods but you learn a ton about their history, how they’re made, and how the food culture here has evolved.

If you’re looking to try a food tour, some companies worth checking out are:

***

Amsterdam is more than just wild nights, drugs, and the Red Light District. It’s a hip, fun city with tons of museums and greenspace, as well as lots of history and delicious food. Plus, it’s incredibly scenic. It’s everything you want in a European capital!

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or planning a trip around Europe, make sure to spend a few days in Amsterdam. It won’t disappoint!

 

Want the real, most honest, straight to the point guide on Amsterdam?

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

Book Your Trip to Amsterdam: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Get Your Guide
Check out my detailed guide to planning a visit to Amsterdam with suggested itineraries, places to stay, things to do, where to eat, and how to get around. Just click here to get the guide and continue planning today!

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 should book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. Some of my favorite places to stay in Amsterdam are:

If you’re looking for more place to stay, here is a complete list of my favorite hostels in Amsterdam!

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

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

Photo Credits: 4 – Jukka, 5 – Jason Riedy, 6 – Rain Rabbit, 8 – Patrick Müeller, 9 – martin_vmorris, 11 – Tine van Voorst, 12 – Kotomi_, 13 – Sharon VanderKaay , 14 – Guilhem Vellut

The post The 32 Best Things to See and Do in Amsterdam appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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5 Myths About Booking a Flight that You Need to Ignore

Posted By : webmaster/ 48 0


The departures and arrival display at an airport
Posted: 6/1/2020 | June 1st, 2020

Let’s talk about cheap flights. We all know airlines are out to screw us over — and no one wants to be the person who gets stuck paying the highest fare. That’s why we spend hours upon hours in front of the computer, researching articles on airfare, and trying to game the system like we’re attempting to outsmart a used car salesman.

I’ve written about finding a cheap flight before — and even my process for booking a flight — but today I want to talk about some persistent and inaccurate myths about booking a flight that have stuck around through simple inertia and lazy journalism.

There’s a lot of articles out there that will list “secret hacks” that will save you thousands. “If you book a flight on a Tuesday during a blood moon while standing on one leg, you’ll get the cheapest flight possible!” Ok, that’s an exaggeration but I read a lot of articles that are straight-up inaccurate and outdated that, today, I want to explain which “rules” are straight-up lies so you don’t follow them, save hours of time, and still end up with a cheap flight!
 

MYTH #1: You Should Search Incognito

This is the worst myth of them all. It makes sense. We all know that every company in the world uses cookies to track our online habits. So why wouldn’t airlines track us? There’s a belief that airlines are watching our browsing habits and then raising ticket prices when they see us looking at the same route(s) over and over again.

Lots of websites will tell you to use a browser’s “incognito mode” to avoid this. Turn them off, stop being tracked, and trick the system, right?

Except this is not true at all.

There’s no evidence that airlines behave that way and numerous studies by booking companies have shown there is no variance in pricing when you use incognito mode.

And, typically, when you abandon your cart, businesses discount prices to get you to complete your purchase not raise them higher.

According to Scott of Scott’s Cheap Flights, one of the most popular bargain-flight websites,

“There’s no evidence that airlines are showing you a different price based on your cookies. We are mistaking airfare volatility for a Truman Show–esque interpretation that the airlines are out to raise fares on us. Airfare is constantly changing, often by the hour if not by the minute these days. When a flight you’re looking at goes up in price, there’s a temptation to think that it’s because of your cookies, but Occam’s razor is that the price went up because airfare is constantly changing.”

They searched the same Denver to London flight 100 times in a row, and on the first search and the hundredth search, the price stayed exactly the same.

Another study by CheapAir found the same thing.

The average economy fare changes 61 times each day. Airlines use sophisticated software to change prices based on demand. Additionally, they put their inventory not just on their own website but also on hundreds of third-party websites so millions of people are looking at the same flights at any given moment. The system is constantly updating itself based on ticket sales and demand.

After all, there are only so many seats on a plane. You just can’t add more!

That’s why prices change.

Searching in incognito mode is simply not going to help you find a cheaper flight.

An airplane taking off during a bright orange sunset

MYTH #2: It’s Better to Book on a Tuesday

Back in the day, most airlines used to drop flight deals on Tuesdays and that would lead to other airlines following suit. Thus the old adage to book on Tuesdays.

But Hopper, a popular cheap-flight app, analyzed the data and found that only 1.6% of flights were cheaper on a Tuesday.

These days, as I mentioned above, airlines use dynamic pricing and artificial intelligence to constantly change their pricing. The algorithms consider a variety of factors: historical and current demand, seasons, weather, particular events, etc.

According to Scott,

“Some websites still claim there is a single predictable time each week when fares are cheapest. When airfare was first sold online, airlines and online travel agencies would often load their fares just once a week, say, Tuesday at 2pm. There were a limited number of the cheapest fares available, and so if you were one of the first people to book right after the new fares were loaded, you really could get a great deal. Nowadays airfare is changing by the hour if not by the minute, driven less by humans plugging in fares each week and more by complex computer algorithms.”

So there’s no “best day to book.” Waiting for a Tuesday likely won’t save you any money.

Book your flight on whatever day you want.
 

Myth #3: There is a Perfect Time to Book

Airfares don’t actually change that dramatically. Until about 21 days before a flight, they are pretty steady. I remember talking to the Google Flights team once and they found there’s only typically a $50 difference between the highest and lowest price point.

That doesn’t mean it couldn’t swing more radically. As I said, airlines change prices based on a lot of factors. Sometimes that $50 swing could be $100 or $200 — but, barring an event that drives up demand, airfares tend to be in a narrow range up to 21 days before a flight.

After that, thanks to antiquated rules, the system thinks that a “last-minute” flight — three weeks away or less — must mean a business traveler and so fares rise. (So never book less than 21 days before leaving!)

Generally speaking, the best time to book a flight is about 2-3 months ahead. Why?

Most people book about 2-3 months before they go away. If you’re a family going on vacation, you don’t just do it on a whim. You take time off work and plan months in advance. So airlines know that and about 2-3 months before a trip is generally when prices reach equilibrium between supply and demand.

A busy airport terminal full of bustling travelers
 

MYTH #4: Websites Can Predict Prices

Websites that predict prices are just taking an educated guess based on historical pricing. Don’t put too much stock in these predictions. The past is not prologue and a spike in demand or a concert or other event can change the price of a ticket outside its historical range.

I like the price meter on Google Flights because it lets me know the general historic price range of this fare. But any website that says “wait to book because prices are going to go down” is full of shit.

Airfare is incredibly volatile. There are a limited number of seats on planes and dozens of variables — from overall economic conditions to the price of oil to competition from new budget airlines to the difficulty of predicting travel interest for a specific flight 11 months from now. No one knows what the future holds. The recent pandemic is proof that modeling the future doesn’t work.

These websites have no idea what future airfare will be and are just guessing.

As Scott echoes:

“It’s important to distinguish between when is cheapest to travel and when is cheapest to book. We know a lot about when it’s typically cheapest to travel: January through March and September through November. That’s not to say there are never cheap flights in June. Think of it like an NBA game: just because one team is favored doesn’t mean there’s never an upset. This is all to say that anyone who claims to have cracked the code and be able to predict with certainty whether a flight six months from now will go up or down in price is doing you a disservice.”

 

MYTH #5: There is One Best Booking Website

Why do you see prices vary from website to website? Third-party websites often buy tickets in bulk and the prices depend a lot on what booking class they’ve purchased (usually they buy the cheapest and most restive fares which is why those flights are always unchangeable). Plus, again, thousands of people could be booking at once and so as the cheaper seats go, the prices go up!

That’s why, while I love Skyscanner and Momondo, I check lots of other websites before I actually book.

But, while I love them, remember: there is no single best website out there for flights.

Prices vary among all these platforms. That’s why you have to search multiple websites and meta-search engines.

There’s no single best booking website, only the best one at the time of booking.
 

***

Any article that claims to show you the “secret” to cheap airfare is probably too good to be true — because if it worked so well, airlines would have put an end to it a long time ago. You can’t outsmart the airlines. You can only bend the system to your advantage.

There’s simply no magic bullet to finding cheap airfare.

As much as we all want there to be one.

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 5 Myths About Booking a Flight that You Need to Ignore appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 13 Best Things to See and Do in Taipei

Posted By : webmaster/ 39 0



Posted: 5/30/2020 | May 30th, 2020

Taipei, the capital of Taiwan and its most populous city, is the epicenter of tourism for the country (though most people just come for a short layover as it’s a major air hub for Asia).

And while there is plenty to do elsewhere in Taiwan, even if you don’t leave Taipei, you can still find lots of things to see and do in the area to fill close to a week!

I love Taipei. I lived here in 2010 while I taught English and built this website. It was a wonderful experience that helped me grow as a person. A decade later, I finally made it back to the city I loved so much and it was remarkable to see that so much of what I loved was still there: the endless gigantic food markets serving some of the best food in the world, a wild nightlife, spacious parks, interesting and quirky museums, and nearby mountains that call to you with easy and accessible hikes.

Taipei (like Taiwan as a whole) is a hugely underrated destination and I can’t urge you enough to visit. It combines culture, nature, wonderful people, and affordability. I don’t understand why more people don’t visit but make their loss, your gain!

To help you plan your trip, here are my top 13 things to do while in Taipei:
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour


One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new destination is to take a free walking tour. They show you the lay of the land and help you see a place’s highlights while learning a little about its history and culture. Plus, you get access to a local who can answer any and all of your questions.

Like It Formosa offers free daily walking tours around Taipei. Their tours focus more on cultural history than their competitor, Tour Me Away, which also offers free walking tours geared towards the backpacker crowd (Tour Me Away also runs pub crawls).
 

2. Visit the National Palace Museum


The National Palace Museum has over 70,000 artifacts from Imperial China, most of which were brought to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War (1929–1947). In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are also rotating exhibits throughout the year as well as a section for children. There are free daily tours in English too. If you can’t get on the tour, get the audio guide. While the descriptions on the artifacts are pretty detailed, the audio tour goes into even more depth and gives you deeper insight into what you are seeing and the time period it is from.

221, Sec 2, Zhi Shan Road, +886 2 2881 2021, npm.gov.tw. Open Sunday–Thursday 8:30am–6:30pm and Friday–Saturday 8:30am–9pm. Admission is 350 NT$ ($11.65 USD) (470 NT$ ($15.65 USD) with an audio guide).
 

3. Soak in the Hot Springs


The Beitou Hot Springs area is a popular destination since it’s on the MRT (metro system) and only 30 minutes from downtown. There are lots of resorts, spas, and inns in the area where you can enjoy a dip in a hot spring. Be sure to also visit the Hot Springs Museum (housed in an old bathhouse from 1913), the Xinbeitou Historic Station (a heritage train station from 1916), and Thermal Valley (a sulfurous lake nearby that has walking trails).

Admission to most hot springs starts around 40 NT$ ($1.33 USD) per person, making it a very affordable getaway for anyone looking for some R&R.

Hot Springs Museum: No. 2, Zhongshan Road, +886 2 2893 9981, hotspringmuseum.taipei. Open daily from 9am-5pm. Admission is free.

Xinbeitou Historic Station: 1 Qixing St., +886 2 2891 5558, xbths.taipei. Open Tuesday-Thursday from 10am-6pm and Friday-Sunday from 10am-8:30pm (closed Mondays). Admission is free.
 

4. Take a Cooking Class


Taiwan is a foodie’s dream! You got noodle soups, incredible rice dishes, amazing buns, dumplings, scallion pancakes, and so much more. The food in the country is world-class. While cooking classes here are a little pricey, they do take you through the local markets and teach you about local ingredients and how to make some traditional dishes. I always found Taiwanese food intimidating so it was nice to have someone help me understand the local food. It made me more adventurous in the night markets.

Some cooking classes worth checking out are:

Expect to pay around 2,000 NT$ ($67 USD) for a class.
 

5. Visit the Museums


Taipei has a lot of museums. Given its size, I was surprised by how many actually they had, especially since the city isn’t known as being a center for museums. Here are some of my favorites:

  • National Taiwan Museum – This is the oldest museum in Taiwan and covers its history from a variety of different scientific perspectives, such as anthropology, earth sciences, zoology, and botany. It’s really basic and best if you go with kids. Admission is 30 NT$ ($1 USD).
  • Miniatures Museum of Taipei – Opened in 1997, this museum is home to over 200 architectural miniatures, including castles, replica towns and streets, and even a 1/12 scale model of Buckingham Palace. It’s a weird museum but pretty cool. Admission is 180 NT$ ($6 USD).
  • Museum of Contemporary Arts – I’m not a fan of contemporary art myself, but if you are, then don’t miss this museum. It has a rotating collection of exhibits, so there is always something new on display. Admission is 50 NT$ ($1.66 USD).
  • Taipei Astronomical Museum – A fun and educational museum with exhibitions on ancient astronomy, technology, telescopes, the solar system, and much more. Admission is 60 NT$ ($2 USD).
  • Taipei Fine Art Museum – Opened in 1983, this was the first art museum in Taiwan. It’s home to a wide variety of works from both international and Taiwanese artists and hosts rotating exhibitions too. Admission is 30 NT$ ($1 USD).
  • National 228 Memorial Museum – This museum is dedicated to the tragic events that began on February 28, 1947, when an uprising against the Chinese government started following World War II. Admission is 20 NT$ ($0.67 USD).

 

6. Go Hiking


Taipei has plenty of hiking trails just outside town that are easily accessible. There are easy, moderate, and challenging trails, as well as both short and full-day hikes. Here are a few worth checking out:

  • Xiangshan Trail – An easy 45-minute hike that offers nice views of Taipei. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Xiangshan MRT station.
  • Bitoujiao Trail – Located one hour from town by car, this moderate hike takes you along the coast. The trail is in the Ruifeng District 11km east of Jiufen. The hike takes 2-3 hours.
  • Jinmianshan Trail – An easy 1.5-hour hike in Yangmingshan National Park. The trail starts a 10-minute walk from the Xihu MRT station.
  • Huang Didian Trail – A challenging ridge hike that takes around five hours. From Muzha Station, board the bus to Huafan University and get off at Huangdi Temple. From there, the trail is 25 minutes away on foot.
  • Pingxi Crag Trail – A moderate 2-3-hour hike with lots of steep sections. For experienced hikers only. The trail begins just five minutes away from Pingxi station.

 

7. Take a Day Trip to Jiufen


Jiufen is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations. First, because it’s incorrectly believed to be the origin of the film Spirited Away, so people come for that. Second, it’s famous for being a historic gold-mining town with it’s preserved old streets. And, third, it’s famous for its traditional teahouses.

Jiufen is tiny. You can walk around in about 30 minutes. The center of the city and its historic streets and buildings are all preserved as they looked 100 years ago so walking around here is a cool experience. Be sure to come early (like first thing in the morning) to beat the crowds because, by midday, the streets are wall-to-wall people. If you stay the night, you’ll also get the city to yourself once the crowds leave around 4pm.

As a tea lover, this is one of my favorite places in Taiwan because it’s home to some beautiful teahouses in the most stunning settings. It also overlooks a bay in the distance, and there are lots of lookouts.

Some teahouses not to miss are:

Additionally, there are a few museums highlighting the town’s gold mining past, lots of parks and lookouts, and some nearby hiking trails. (If you want to hike, spend the night as you’ll need the extra time.) Like It Formosa does a free walking tour here too (for this one, you need to sign up in advance because they only do it when people register).

The trip will take around 1-1.5 hours by train and bus. Take the train from Songshan Station (in Taipei) to Ruifang Station. From there you can take a bus straight to Jiufen. Expect to spend around 100 NT$ ($3.33 USD) for your round-trip ticket. There are also tourist buses with organized day trips; these usually cost around 475 NT$ ($16 USD).
 

8. See the Temples


Taipei brilliantly mixes the old and the new. Almost 90% of Taiwan identifies as either Buddhist or Taoist, and that is reflected in Taipei’s temples. Here are some of the most popular and ornate temples:

  • Longshan Temple – Built in 1738, this temple was built to honor the goddess of mercy, Guanyin. There are also statues worshipping 100 other Chinese folk deities here as well. The temple has been damaged or destroyed numerous times by earthquakes or military conflicts, but it is always rebuilt by the locals who still visit and worship at it. No. 211, Guangzhou Street, Wanhua District.
  • Bao-an Temple – Dalongdong Baoan Temple (Bao-an for short) is a Taiwanese folk religion temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It dates to the mid-18th century and is home to two dragon columns that are over two centuries old. It looks particularly amazing lit up at night. No. 61, Hami Street, Datong District.
  • Confucius Temple – Located near the Bao-an temple, this simple temple is dedicated to the famous philosopher Confucius, whose teachings are part of the cultural backbone of both Taiwan and mainland China. It’s modeled after the original Confucius Temple in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius in mainland China. No. 275, Dalong Street, Datong District.

 

9. Enjoy the View from Taipei 101


For the best views in Taipei, visit Taipei 101. Opened in 2004, this was the tallest building in the world until 2010 (when the Burj Khalifa took its place). Standing 508m (1,667 feet) tall, it towers over Taipei.

Even though I hate heights, you can’t visit Taipei without seeing it from the top of this building. There is an observation platform on the 89th floor that is absolutely breathtaking. You can also go up to the 91st floor and step outside if you want to really get your blood pumping (don’t worry, there are bars so you can’t fall).

Additionally, go to Morton’s Steakhouse for happy hour. Not only do they have super cheap drink specials but their patio provides some extraordinary views of Taipei 101 itself.

No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Road, taipei-101.com.tw/en/observatory. Open daily 11am–9pm. Admission is 600 NT$ ($20 USD).
 

10. See the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall


Officially known as Liberty Square, this national monument was built in 1976 in honor of Chiang Kai-shek, former president of the Republic of China. He ruled mainland China from 1928 to 1949, and then in Taiwan from 1949 until his death in 1975.

In addition to his monument, which is over 75m (250 feet) tall, there is also a massive open square where rallies and protests have been held over the years (hence its renaming as Liberty Square). The memorial also houses a library and a museum that documents Chiang Kai-shek’s life and career. It also has exhibits on Taiwan’s history and how the country evolved throughout the years.

No. 21, Zhongshan South Road, Zhongzheng District, +886-2-2343-1100, cksmh.gov.tw. Open daily from 9am-6pm. Admission is free.
 

11. Ride the Maokong Gondola


Take a ride on the Maokong Gondola, which was built in 2007, and get some great views of the city and surrounding forests. The route stretches over 4km (2.5 miles) and includes several stations between the Taipei Zoo and Maokong.

Spend some time exploring Maokong as it was once the prime tea-growing area of Taiwan. There are lots of winding footpaths you can wander, teahouses and cafes (the area still produces a lot of tea), and stunning views of Taipei (especially at night when the city is all lit up). It’s a popular spot on the weekend so visit during the week to avoid the crowds.

Stations at Taipei Zoo (2), Zhinan Temple, and Maokong. Open Monday–Friday 9am–9pm (10pm on Fridays), Saturdays 8:30am–10pm, and Sundays 8:30am–9pm. Tickets start at 70 NT$ ($2.33 USD).
 

12. Explore the Night Markets


Taipei is home to dozens of night markets — and most of them have tons of delicious food stalls. Here are a few worth checking out:

  • Shulin Night Market – This is the biggest night market in Taiwan. Opened in 2017, it is home to over 400 vendors and covers a massive 12 acres. It’s full of delicious (and cheap) street food, as well as clothing, electronics, and all sorts of souvenirs and other goods.
  • Raohe Night Market – The second most popular night market. Be sure to try the black pepper buns while you’re here. There’s also a Michelin-recognized food stall that you shouldn’t miss called Chen Dong Ribs Stewed in Medicinal Herbs.
  • Tonghua Night Market – This night market is popular with locals, as it has a ton of delicious places to eat. It’s essentially a food market more than anything else. Be sure to try the stinky tofu!
  • Snake Alley – Located in the former red-light district, it gets its name from the fact that many tourists used to come here to eat snake meat. While I wouldn’t recommend that, there’s a tasty Michelin-recognized stall that’s worth sampling called Hsiao Wang Steamed Minced Pork with Pickles in Broth.
  • Ningxia Night Market – This is one of the smaller night markets, so it’s easy to explore (though it does get crowded). There are lots of delicious oyster stalls here.

 

13. See the National Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall


Sun Yat-sen was a politician, physician, and philosopher, as well as the first president of Taiwan. This memorial was built in 1972 to honor Doctor Sun Yat-sen. He’s considered “the Father of the Nation,” and the memorial hall is home to items from his personal and professional life. He’s one of the few figures beloved in both mainland China and Taiwan, as he was instrumental in the overthrow of China’s last imperial dynasty.

In addition to the hall’s museumesque displays of Sun’s possessions, it also serves as a meeting place, educational center, and cultural center.

No. 505, Section 4, Ren’ai Road, (02) 27588008 #546, yatsen.gov.tw. Open daily 9am–6pm. Admission is free.

***

From the food to museums to natural beauty, Taipei is a world-class city that I don’t think people appreciate enough. It needs to be on people’s radar more. I loved my time living there and coming back to visit just reminded me how marvelous (and affordable) the city is!

Make visiting Taipei a priority. With so much to see and do, you’re guaranteed to have an outstanding visit.

Book Your Trip to Taipei: 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 places to stay in Taipei are:

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!

Looking for more information on visiting Taiwan?
For more tips about visiting Taiwan, check out my introduction to Taiwan for more tips on what to see, do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 1 – Heikki Holstila, 2, 3 – Caitriana Nicholson, 4 – familyfriends754, 6 – Guillaume Paumier, 14 – Ilee_wu

The post The 13 Best Things to See and Do in Taipei appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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What Happens When You Turn Your Hobby Into a Job?

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Nomadic Matt posing for a photo while looking out into the horizon in Madagascar
Posted: 5/28/2020 | May 28th, 2020

There’s a big industry on the web that will show you how you can turn your passion into something that pays your bills. I’m sure you’ve seen the Facebook ads:

“Follow your passion! Make money doing what you love!”

In just a few easy steps, you’ll be able to solve all your life’s problems, find your dream job, and make bazillions!

But you don’t find your passion the way you find change underneath your couch pillow.

No. Instead, you stumble around blindly in the dark, stubbing your toe on a bunch of different things, until you find the light switch you’re looking for. One day, you wake up, turn the right light on, and realize that this is what makes you happy — and you can’t imagine doing anything else.

You find the work you are passionate about through trial and error.

I started this website on a whim. I was 27 years old and I just needed a way to fund my travels. Being a travel writer seemed like a way to do that. This website was to be my online résumé where (maybe) editors would hire me for assignments. There were no grand plans to turn my love of travel into a career. No thoughts of the future. I just wanted to do something that would keep me on the road one day longer.

During those first years, to keep the money coming in, I also taught English in Asia, tried to run online marketing websites, and even played semi-professional poker.

Yet, as time passed, I found myself devoting more and more time to this website. I loved learning how to make it better, finding new ways to help people travel, writing content, figuring out social media and SEO algorithms, and meeting people through it. Many of the bloggers I met in those first days are now some of my closest friends.

I still wake up every day loving what I do and the people I meet.

I was asked recently what happens when you turn your passion into a profession? How does that change your relationship with the thing you love so much?

Well, it changes the relationship a lot.

As the years have passed, travel went from something I wanted to do to something I had to do. The content beast had to be fed. I always had to go out and do stuff to make sure the articles were as updated and accurate as possible. I was no longer just casually blogging about my experience but creating detailed guides.

Time moved quickly until, one day, suddenly, there were also five employees to worry about, health care plans to consider, accountants and taxes to pay, meetings and conventions to attend, ad revenue to secure, conference calls to make, and contracts to read.

There was to be very little traveling on a whim and going with the flow anymore.

This had become a business.

Sometimes it fucking sucks.

Sometimes I wake up and just don’t give a shit.

Sometimes I don’t want to go on a trip just because we need content. Sometimes I’m tired of taking pictures of menus, going to grocery stores to look at prices, and collecting brochures for our guides. Sometimes I don’t want to write another goddamn article or could care less about a brand deal coming through.

Sometimes I want to burn the whole thing down.

On those days, I think fondly about simpler times, when every day was Saturday and my biggest worry was tomorrow’s hangover. When I just enjoyed travel without the pressure of bills and salaries and traffic.

But no job is perfect. There are going to be times when the stress makes you want to scream.

If you’re going to do anything for the long term, you have to be willing to deal with those kinds of days.

Because, when you love what you do, you are willing to eat that shit sandwich. Gleefully.

I’ve been open about how, over the last few years, balancing it all has led to a lot of anxiety and stress, which is part of the reason I’ve slowed down and stopped traveling so much.

And it’s why I believe that when your passion becomes your profession, it is important to take some time for yourself.

You need to release the pressure and stress and enjoy your passion just because you like it and it makes you happy.

That’s why I take some trips I don’t write about.

It’s why I try to get offline and use social media less frequently these days.

It’s why I don’t do big projects (e.g., changing our email funnel) when I’m on the road as much anymore.

Life is a battery that needs to be recharged — and doing something for no other reason than that it makes you happy recharges that battery.

I think this is something a lot of people who “turn their passion into a profession” lose sight of in the beginning. They throw themselves right into the work because their passion is the driving force, without realizing or acknowledging the pressures and stress doing something for money creates.

The days and weeks pile up and they go so far into the weeds that they lose some of that spark that drove them in the beginning. They burn out, become depressed, and lose balance. They see the endless work in front of them and go, “When did it become like this?”

I always tell my students that the work never ends. You’ll never be done. There always will be something more to do no matter how many “passive revenue” streams you set up.

You need balance.

Balance is the key to “turning your passion into a profession” without burning out. Most people I know who end up doing something long enough learn this lesson after too many hours of stress and anxiety (though some never do).

It took me my first eight years to learn that lesson.

There’s nothing I’d rather do in the world than work in travel. I still love waking up and working and helping others change how they see the world.

But I’m also a lot better at creating balance in my life than I was in the past, which is why I don’t get burnt out as much (or think about burning it all down as often anymore).

To sustain your passion as a profession, you have to find balance so you can feed the fire inside you that made you leap into this in the first place.

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.

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 What Happens When You Turn Your Hobby Into a Job? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My Favorite 6 Hostels in Chicago

Posted By : webmaster/ 42 0


A busy downtown Chicago full of people and traffic
Posted: 5/23/2020 | May 23rd, 2020

Boasting a robust food scene (don’t miss Chicago-style pizza), fun nightlife, and plenty of green space, Chicago is not only one of my favorite cities in the US — it’s one of my favorite cities in the world! While the winters here are harsh, it’s a beautiful, green city in the summer that offers visitors a plethora of things to see and do.

I’ve been visiting Chicago for a decade and have stayed in a lot of hostels here. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The four most important criteria when picking the best hostel in Chicago are:

  1. Location – Chicago is huge and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
  2. Price – In Chicago, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small, cramped, and doesn’t offer great service.
  3. Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi, and most have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
  4. Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!

To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in Chicago that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:

Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: HI Chicago
Best Hostel for Families: HI Chicago
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: Freehand Chicago
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: Chicago Getaway Hostel
Best Hostel for Partying: Wrigley Hostel
Best Overall Hostel: HI Chicago

Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in Chicago:

Price Legend (per night)

  • $ = Under $40 USD
  • $$ = $40-50 USD
  • $$$ = Over $50 USD

 

1. HI Chicago (The J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Hostel)

The clean and spacious interior of the HI Chicago hostel
HI Hostels are some of my favorite hostels to stay at because they know exactly what we budget travelers want. Their accommodations are affordable and they have all the amenities we need to enjoy our stay. HI Chicago is no exception. They organize a free walking tour (and other weekly activities such as pub crawls and jazz bar tours), the common areas are spacious, they have a fully-equipped kitchen, the beds are comfy with thick mattresses, and they offer free breakfast. You can walk anywhere in the city within 30 minutes too! It’s an all-around great hostel and my favorite one in Chicago.

HI Chicago at a glance:

  • $
  • Lots of ammenities
  • Social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
  • Organizes lots of activities

Beds from $32 USD a night, rooms from $85.

—> Book your stay at HI Chicago!
 

2. Wrigley Hostel

The clean and colorful dorm rooms of the Wrigley Hostel in Chicago, USA
This is a lively hostel with a bar on-site, making it a good place to stay for any night owls looking to enjoy the city’s nightlife. They have an outdoor patio with a BBQ so you can grill up burgers when the weather is nice and they organize walking tours and day trips. The dorm beds aren’t great (the mattresses are thin and the beds are squeaky) but the staff are awesome and the free breakfast is delicious. While the shower pressure was weak, the bathrooms were clean which is a fair trade if you ask me! The hostel is also close to public transportation so you can easily get around the city too.

Wrigley Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Bar on-site
  • Organizes tours and activities
  • Free breakfast

Beds from $36 USD a night, rooms from $141.

—> Book your stay at Wrigley Hostel!
 

3. Freehand Chicago

The clean and cozy common area of the Freehand Chicago hostel in Chicago, USA
Housed in a historic build from 1927, the hostel is immaculately designed and has tons of character. They have an award-winning cocktail bar on-site which is a fun place to hang out and relax. Freehand is definitely more of a boutique hostel, but it’s worth the price if you feel like treaing yourself. It’s not super social here but the beds are cozy, the water pressure is strong, and the common areas are laid back. It’s the coolest hostel in the city.

Freehand Chicago at a glance:

  • $$
  • Female-only dorms for added privacy and security
  • Cocktail lounge
  • Beautiful interior design

Beds from $45 USD a night, rooms from $173.

—> Book your stay at Freehand Chicago!
 

4. Parthenon Hostel

The clean and cozy common area of the Parthenon Hostel in Chicago, USA
Located in Greektown, Parthenon has a large common room with a huge TV and lots of books, can help you organize tours, and offers free breakfast. In short, it has all the makings of your classic backpacker hostel. There’s a pub right off the lobby as well, which is a good place to hang out and meet other travelers. The dorms aren’t huge and the beds aren’t anything special, but the place is one of the more affordable in the city so you get what you pay for. They have a female-only dorm as well. It’s clean, comfortable, safe, and in a good location.

Parthenon Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Female-only dorms for added privacy and security
  • Super comfy beds
  • Great location

Beds from $34 USD a night, rooms from $90.

—> Book your stay at Parthenon Hostel!
 

5. Found Chicago

The common area of the Chicago Getaway Hostel in Chicago, USA
While they have lots of modern ammenities (including a karaoke lounge), the vintage decor and huge collection of 70’s boardgames gives the hostel a very retro feel. It’s clean, quiet, and the beds are really comfortable. There’s laundry facilities on-site and the bathrooms are modern and clean (which is rare for hostels!). It definitely has more of a hotel feel to it, making it a good choice for anyone looking for a quieter, more luxurious stay.

Found Chicago at a glance:

  • $$$
  • Clean and quiet
  • Beautiful vintage interior
  • Really helpful staff

Beds from $63 USD a night, rooms from $294.

—> Book your stay at Found Chicago!
 

6. Chicago Getaway Hostel

The dorm room of the Getaway Hostel in Chicago, USA
While the rooms here are nothing special, the hostel has a big common area and is in a great location. Free breakfast is included and they have a board to let you know what’s happening in the city during your visit. It’s not super social so it’s good choice for travelers looking for something more quiet. Public transportation is closeby so you can easily get around too. Best of all, it’s the cheapest hostel in the city!

Chicago Getaway Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Free breakfast
  • Good location
  • Lots of common space

Dorms from $21 USD, rooms from $79 USD per night.

—> Book your stay at Chicago Getaway Hostel!

***

No matter what kind of budget you have you’ll be able to find a hostel that works for you and your travel style.

Book Your Trip to Chicago: Logistical Tips and Tricks

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

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

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!

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

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

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





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12 Things to See and Do in Bergen, Norway

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The historic and colorful old buildings of Bergen, Norway in the summer
Posted: 5/25/2020 | May 25th, 2020

Enveloped by steep mountains and sitting next to the country’s deepest and longest fjord, Bergen is a small city tucked away on the west coast of Norway.

Though home to only 220,000 people, there’s a surprising amount of things to see and do in this tiny city. You can easily spend days here hiking its natural surroundings, relaxing on a fjord cruise, eating fresh seafood, and learning about its long history. I stayed about three days during my visit and felt I could have stayed a little longer. It’s pretty, historic, and filled with a lot of good food options.

Bergen is a pretty big tourist destination in Norway so you sadly won’t have this city to yourself. To help you make the most of your trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Bergen:
 

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

The famous and colorful Bryggen district of Bergen, Norway in winter
The first thing I do whenever I arrive in a new place is to do a free walking tour. They’re the best way to get the lay of the land, see the main sights, and meet a local expert of whom I can ask all my questions.

Nordic Freedom Tours organizes regular tours in English and Spanish. (Just make sure to tip your guide at the end!)
 

2. See the Fish Market

The Bergen Fish Market dates back to the 13th century. For centuries, it’s been the hub for local fishermen to sell their fresh fish and seafood. The indoor section of the market began in 2012 and is open year-round (the outdoor market opens on May 1 for the summer).

If you’re looking to sample some local delicacies, there are also lots of restaurants and food stalls. Just make sure you budget yourself, as prices range from 130 NOK ($14 USD) for an appetizer to around 290 NOK ($30 USD) for a main dish.

Torget 5. Open Monday-Thursday from 10am-10pm, Friday-Saturday from 9am-10pm, and Sundays from 11am-10pm.
 

3. Visit the Maritime Museum

Bergen has depended heavily on maritime trade since its inception in the 11th century. You can spend an afternoon at this museum learning about the city’s maritime history. The exhibitions include ships, paintings, films, artifacts, original maps, and some cannons from the 18th century.

The highlight here is the Kvalsund boat, an old Viking longship that dates to the eighth century. It was excavated in 1920. There’s also an original Halsnøy boat that dates back to somewhere between 390 and 535 CE.

Haakon Sheteligs plass 15, +47 55 54 96 00, museumvest.no. Open daily 11am–3pm. Admission is 100 NOK ($10.50 USD). You can take a guided tour of the museum in English during the months of June, July, and August.
 

4. Wander Bryggen

The Bryggen district of Bergen, Norway
Bryggen is the old wharf and is home to over 60 narrow, brightly colored wooden boathouses. From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Bryggen was the main hub for the Hanseatic League, a powerful merchant guild from central and northern Europe. Fun fact: its office is the only original building that’s still standing -the rest have been rebuilt in the same style.

Today, these buildings are used by various restaurants, tourist offices, and hotels. Though fires have ruined a lot of the original buildings, the area is still a beautiful place to wander around. You can take a 90-minute guided walking tour with Bryggen Walking Tour to learn about the history of the wharf. The tour also includes entry to the Bryggen Museum and the Hanseatic Museum.
 

5. Explore the Botanical Garden

Bergen’s Botanical Garden was established in 1996 and covers 17 acres. It’s a nice place to grab some fresh air and relax with a book. With over 5,000 species of plants, it’s home to Norway’s largest collection of roses, as well as the largest collection of rhododendrons in Scandinavia. There are also different sections, like the Sunny Meadow (home to summer annuals), a traditional Japanese garden, and the Alpine Garden, with all kinds of alpine plants from around the world.

Mildevegen 240, +47 55 58 72 50, uib.no/arboretet. The garden is open 24 hours and admission is free.
 

6. Hike Mount Ulriken

A guide marker on Mount Ulriken in Bergen, Norway
Located just a few kilometers outside the city, Mount Ulriken stands 643 meters (2,100 feet) high and is the tallest of the seven mountains near Bergen. If you’re not feeling up for a hike to the top, you can take the cable car, which takes about eight minutes and costs 285 NOK ($30 USD) round trip. At the top, you’ll get spectacular sweeping views of Bergen and the sea. There are some shorter hikes (2-3 hours long) up there as well.

If you enjoy an adrenaline rush, you can speed down the mountain on Norway’s fastest zipline. It opened in 2016 and is 300 meters long. You need to book tickets in advance though. Tickets cost 450 NOK ($47 USD).
 

7. Explore Pepperkakebyen

The gingerbread houses and villages of Pepperkakebyen in Bergen, Norway
The Gingerbread City, open in November and December, is the world’s biggest annual gingerbread festival. It started in 1991 and now includes over 2,000 volunteers, bakers, businesses, and schools. It is made up of hundreds of gingerbread houses and made to resemble a snowy wintry nighttime in Bergen. If you’re here during the holiday season, don’t miss it!

Teatergaten 30-2, +47 55 55 39 39, pepperkakebyen.org. Open from mid-November until December 31. Admission is 100 NOK ($10.50 USD) for adults and free for children under 12.
 

8. Visit KODE

The KODE Museum is one of the largest in Scandinavia for music, contemporary art, furniture, videos, historical artifacts, and crafts. It showcases a wide variety of over 40,000 objects that date back to the 1800s. The museum is located in four buildings; visitors can also visit the homes of three famous Norwegian composers (Edvard Grieg, Harald Sæverud, and Ole Bull).

Head over to KODE 1 to see the Silver Treasure, a permanent exhibition of gold and silver objects, dating from 500 years in the past. For temporary exhibitions and Bergen’s largest art bookstore, check out KODE 2. KODE 3, which opened in 1924, is home to works from Edvard Munch, who painted The Scream.

Rasmus Meyers allé 9, +47 53 00 97 04, kodebergen.no. Open Tuesday–Sunday (hours vary per season). Admission is 140 NOK ($14.70 USD) in the winter and 160 NOK ($16.80 USD) in the summer.
 

9. See Bergenhus Fortress

A traveler explores the historic Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen, Norway
Next to the Bergen Harbor is an imposing stone fort called the Bergenhus Fortress. It dates back to the 1260s and is one of the oldest fortresses in Norway. It encompasses Rosenkrantz Tower, a fortified tower that dates to the 16th century, and Haakon’s Hall, a former royal residence from the 13th century.

Unfortunately, a fire destroyed Haakon’s Hall and all of the interior decorations in 1944, so it is now decorated with tapestries and is mainly used for concerts and banquets. The Rosenkrantz Tower was the residence of Eirik Magnusson, the last king to hold court in Bergen. Make sure you climb the narrow stairs to the top of the tower, where you’ll get an impressive view of the surrounding area.

5003 Bergen, +47 55 54 63 87. Admission is free, though guided tours in English are available June–August and cost 100 NOK ($10.50 USD).

10. Visit the Leprosy Museum

Leprosy ran rampant in Europe between 1850 and 1900. With three leprosy hospitals, the city had the greatest concentration on lepers in all of Europe. This eye-opening museum is located inside of St. George’s. Its archives belong to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. You can take an educational tour to learn about the history, symptoms, and treatment of leprosy, as well as what the conditions were like in the hospitals during the outbreak.

Kong Oscars gate 59, +47 481 62 678. Open May–August. Admission is 100 NOK ($10.50 USD); guided tours in English are 30 NOK ($3 USD) and occur at 11am.
 

11. Go on a Food Tour

Bergen’s strong focus on local and sustainable food helped it earn its title of UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015. Bergen Food Tours is a local tour company that organizes tours to some of the tastiest restaurants in the city. The three-hour Bergen Classic tour costs 870 NOK ($91 USD) and will give you a taste of local dishes like fish soup, wild salmon, reindeer sausage, smoked seafood, and brown cheese, as well as local craft beer.

Nesttunkollen 9, +47 960 44 892, bergenfoodtours.com. Open Monday-Saturday from 11am-5pm. Check website for tour times. Tickets are 890 NOK ($80 USD) per person.
 

12. Take a Fjord Cruise

The beautiful calm waters of Nærøyfjord near Bergen, Norway
This is a spectacular way to view the fjords up close and take a relaxing break from the city. There are several different fjords around Bergen, so you can choose a tour that suits your budget and timing.

The one to Mostraumen run year-round tour and takes you 27 kilometers in the Osterfjord along the Mostraumen strait. You’ll see towering mountains, sparkling waterfalls, and you might even spot seals and eagles!

You can also take a fjord cruise to Nærøyfjord and Sognefjord (Norway’s longest fjord) to get up close to the gorgeous valleys and gigantic peaks.

Expect to pay anywhere from 700 to 2,000 NOK ($73–209 USD) per person.

***

Even though Bergen can be an expensive destination to visit but there are plenty of free and budget-friendly activities here to keep you busy. It’s a popular destination but it lives up to its reputation. I loved my visit to Bergan. I suspect you will too.

Book Your Trip to Bergen: 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 most comprehensive inventory. If you want to stay somewhere else, use Booking.com, as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels. My favorite places to stay in Bergen are:

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 to save money — and I think they will help you too!

Looking for more travel tips for Norway?
Check out my in-depth Norway travel guide for more ways to save money, tips on what to see and do, suggested itineraries, informational reading, packing lists, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 4 – Paul Arps, 5 -Toniu, 6 – Sveter

The post 12 Things to See and Do in Bergen, Norway appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 7 Favorite Hostels in Miami

Posted By : webmaster/ 40 0


The sandy beaches of Miami, Florida
Posted: 5/23/2020 | May 23rd, 2020

Miami is a party city. There are just no two ways about it. People come here to get wild, visit nightclubs, lounge on the beach, and drink the nights away. While it’s not a city I particularly love, even I’ll admit they know how to have fun here.

I’ve been visiting Miami for years. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel here. The top four when picking the best hostel in Miami are:

  1. Location – Miami is huge and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
  2. Price – In Miami, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small, cramped, and doesn’t offer great service.
  3. Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi and many include free breakfast but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
  4. Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!

To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in Miami that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:

Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: SoBe Hostel & Bar
Best Hostel for Families: Generator
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: Rock Hostel
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: Freehand Miami
Best Hostel for Partying: Miami Beach Hostel or Miami Party Hostel
Best Overall Hostel: Generator

Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in Miami:

Price Legend (per night)

  • $ = Under $25 USD
  • $$ = $25-35 USD
  • $$$ = Over $35 USD

 

1. Freehand Miami

The Freehand Miami hostel in Miami, USA
For a budget-friendly hostel, Freehand Miami really goes above and beyond. They have a pool, yoga classes, shuttles to Little Havana, and tours to Key West and the Everglades (among other places). It’s an upbeat hostel with two bars on-site and is just 5 minutes from the beach (and 1 mile from Miami’s crazy nightlife). It’s a good choice for travelers who want a social hostel but one that isn’t too wild. Just be sure to bring earplugs as you can sometimes hear the street noise from the city’s late-night revelers.

Freehand at a glance:

  • $
  • Organizes lots of tours and events
  • Easy to meet people
  • Bar and pool

Beds from $25 USD a night, rooms from $128 USD.

—> Book your stay at Freehand Miami!
 

2. Rock Hostel

The cafe/bar of the Rock Hostel in Miami, Florida
Located in the Art Deco district, the Rock is another fun hostel. Breakfast is included and the staff here are super friendly and can help you make the most ou of your visit. They organize tours, tasting events, and day trips (including boating trips if you want to spend a day on the water). They have a bar and restaurant on-site so it’s easy to chill out and meet people and there’s a kitchen available if you want to cook. They even have a shuttle service if you’re coming from the airport.

Rock Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Free breakfast
  • Organizes lots of events
  • Female-only dorms

Beds from $17 USD a night.

—> Book your stay at Rock Hostel!
 

3. Generator Miami

The pool and patio of the Generator hostel in Miami, Florida
While Generator is a chain (and some of their hostels in other countries aren’t great), this hostel is amazing. They have a pool, two restaurants, a bar, and are just minutes away from the beach. While it’s a massive hostel (there are 8 floors) and it’s the most expensive hostel in the city, the beds are more comforable than the cheap ones you’ll find at the party hostels and the place is kept clean. They offer bike rentals, private rooms (including rooms for families), and have tons of common areas throught the hostel. It’s not a super social hostel (they don’t organize a lot of events), making it a good choice for anyone looking for time alone or who needs to get work done.

Generator at a glance:

  • $$$
  • Great for families
  • Pool and restaurant
  • Clean and comfy dorms

Beds from $42 USD a night, rooms from $109 USD.

—> Book your stay at Generator!

 

4. Miami Beach International Hostel

The minimalist dorm room of the Miami Beach International Hostel in Miami, Florida
If you’re looking to party, look no further. This hostel offer free drinks, all-day happy hours, keg nights, and more. Both breakfast and dinner are included and the hostel is super budget-friendly too (but you’ll make up for that by buying drinks no doubt). The beds are decent and the dorms are basic, but chances are you’ll be too exhausted (read: drunk) to care. Definitely don’t stay here if you’re not looking to party.

Miami Beach International Hostel at a hlance:

  • $
  • Wild parties
  • Free breakfast and dinner
  • Cheap drinks

Beds from $16 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Miami Beach International Hostel!
 

5. Miami Party Hostel

Bunk beds in a dorm room beside the windo at Miami Party Hostel
The name says it all. Offering wild parties, pub crawls, and a rooftop restaurant and bar (with shisha), this is clearly a place for budget travelers looking to let loose. The beds here are terrible but the showers are decent. The beach is close by and breakfast is included. It’s your classic party hostel so don’t come here looking for a good sleep.

Miami Party Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Free breakfast
  • Wild party atmosphere
  • Close to the beach

Beds from $20 USD a night, rooms from $114 USD.

—> Book your stay at Miami Party Hostel!
 

6. Miami Hostel

The common room of the Miami Hostel in Miami, Florida, USA
This hostel is conveniently located near grocery stores, a liquor store, and fast food restuarants — everything a traveler needs! They have a big communal kitchen if you want to cook your own food and organize tours around the region in case you’re looking to explore beyond the city. The common areas are both indoors and outdoors and they have a pool table if you just feel like hanging out. The beds aren’t great but there’s a free shuttle right out front that can take you to the beach. It’s also one of the cheapest places to stay in Miami.

Miami Hostel at a glance:

  • $
  • Organizes tours
  • Lots of ammenities nearby
  • Social atmosphere

Beds from $22 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Miami Hostel!
 

7. SoBe Hostel & Bar

An aerial shot of Miami Beach and its warm, clear water
This is the cheapest hostel in the city. Don’t expect much. But, if you just want a cheap place to crash then this will do the trick. It’s a party hostel with super cheap drinks so expect things to get wild here (everyone also gets free drinks too). Breakfast is included and they have lots of free stuff if you want to hit the beach (free beach chairs, volleyballs and soccer balls, beach mats, beach umbrellas, etc.) The beds suck and the bathrooms aren’t great but it’s a non-stop party!

SoBe Hostel & Bar at a glance:

  • $
  • Super cheap
  • Bar on-site
  • Close to the beach

Beds from $12 USD a night

—> Book your stay at SoBe!

***

While there are other hostels in Miami, there are the best choices in my opinion. Whether you’re looking to party or just want a cheap place to spend the night, you’ll be able to find what you need, save money, and have an amazing visit!

Book Your Trip to Miami: 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.

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!

Looking for More Information on Visiting Miami?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Miami with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The post My 7 Favorite Hostels in Miami appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 4 Favorite Hostels in Toronto

Posted By : webmaster/ 35 0


An orange sunset over the Toronto skyline in summer
Posted: 5/23/2020 | May 23rd, 2020

Toronto is Canada’s version of New York City. It’s a diverse, multicultural city with a vibrant nightlife, amazing food scene, and tons of fun things to see and do — no matter what season you visit in.

While it may lack the historic charm of Montreal or the natural beauty of Vancouver, Toronto is a massive metropolis that will easily keep you entertained.

However, it can also be an expensive city to visit.

Budget hotels are inconveniently located and Airbnb prices rise every year. Fortunately, the city has a few budget-friendly hostels that will help you save money — money you can spend enjoying the city and all it has to offer!

That said, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four when picking the best hostel in Toronto are:

  1. Location – Toronto is huge and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
  2. Price – In Toronto, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small, cramped, and doesn’t offer great service.
  3. Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi, and most have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
  4. Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!

Price Legend (per night)

  • $ = Under $40 CAD
  • $$ = $40-50 CAD
  • $$$ = Over $50 CAD

 

1. HI Hostel Toronto

The common area of HI Hostel in Toronto, Canada
HI Hostels are always some of my favorite to stay at because they really get what we travelers need. HI Toronto is in a convenient central location close to everything you need (nightlife, shopping, restaurants, the CN tower, the waterfront, and more). Free breakfast is included, there are private safes for every guest, and they host lots of regular events. It’s a fun hostel and very easy to meet people here as there is a bar on-site that regularly hosts live music.

HI Hostel Toronto at a glance:

  • $$
  • Hosts lots of events
  • Easy to meet people
  • Great central location

Beds from $45 CAD per night, privates from $133 CAD per night.

—> Book your stay at HI Hostel Toronto!
 

2. Two Peas Pod Hostel

The outdoor common area of Two Peas Pod hostel in Toronto, Canada
This hostel has a lot going on for it. On top of hosting events, they also run a store and cafe, providing travelers with a full spectrum of services to ensure their stay is not only fun but convenient. They have a super chill rooftop common area (you can see the CN Tower from it) and they also have a mini movie theater that hosts regular screenings. Their pod beds are super cool too!

Two Peas Pod Hostel at a glance:

  • $$$
  • Hosts lots of events
  • Awesome common areas
  • Super comfy beds

Beds from $59 CAD per night, privates from $159 CAD per night.

—> Book your stay at Two Peas Pod Hostel!
 

3. The Only Backpacker’s Inn

The colorful exterior of The Only Backpacker's Inn in Toronto, Canada
This is your standard chill backpacker hostel. They have a bar (with over 200 beers), a cafe, lot of common areas (including an outdoor patio), and free breakfast. The staff are super friendly and it’s located near the subway so you can easily get around the city and explore. It’s also one of the cheapest hostels in the city.

The Only Backpacker’s Inn at a glance:

  • $
  • Lively social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
  • Helpful staff
  • Chill outdoor patio

Beds from $37 CAD per night, privates from $95 CAD per night.

—> Book your stay at The Only Backpacker’s Inn!
 

4. The Parkdale Hostellerie

The exterior of The Parkdale Hostellerie in Toronto, Canada
This is the most affordable hostel in the city. There’s no free breakfast (but the money you save makes up for that). There’s a lot of common space as well as a communal kitchen. It’s not that central as the other hostels. It’s also near Vegandale, an up-and-coming vegan area of the city.

The Parkdale Hostellerie at a glance:

  • $
  • Super affordable
  • Social atmosphere
  • Near lots of great restaurants

Beds from $26 CAD per night, privates from $78 CAD per night.

—> Book your stay at The Parkdale Hostellerie!

***

Toronto is a world-class city. The hostels here are especially social and fun, making it easy to meet people and have fun with other travelers. Just make sure you book your stay in advance as there are not many hostels here – and they fill up fast (especially in the busy summer months)!
 

Book Your Trip to Toronto: Logistical Tips and Tricks

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: 2, 3, 4, 5

The post My 4 Favorite Hostels in Toronto appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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