Go Backpacking http://gobackpacking.com Around the World Travel Blog Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:21:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.3 Top 10 Most Amazing Car Adventures in the World http://gobackpacking.com/top-car-adventures/ http://gobackpacking.com/top-car-adventures/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:21:14 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=27660&preview_id=27660 The top 10 most amazing car adventures in the world is a list of top drives, from the Mongol Rally across Eurasia to driving across the United States.

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Mongol Rally (photo: Sam Greenhalgh)

Mongol Rally (photo: Sam Greenhalgh)

The moment we receive that special piece of paper that says we can drive, the great wide world opens up to us.

There are more than 64,000,000 km of road on this planet, and its definition is almost as wide as an 8-lane interstate.

We assign the word ‘road’ equally to a 160 km per hour autobahn and barely disguised mud track in Sub-Saharan Africa, but when the driver hits those straights for the first time that frisson of excitement, anticipation and exhilaration is much the same.

Mechanics, fuel, visas and imagination permitting, you can go anywhere.

Here are 10 of our favourite amazing vehicle adventures from across the world; a blend of assisted drives that you could attempt yourself or magnificent, madcap journeys that are truly unique.

1. American road trip – short

America is gigantic, weighing in at almost 10 million km squared. You could drive for a day and still be in Texas. So if you’re planning a road trip here, you might initially consider a ‘miniature’ trek.

A drive through Boston and New England in the Fall, or a Pacific passage from Los Angeles to San Francisco, are large enough to boast about but small enough to complete in a few days.

2. To Mongolia

A 10,000-mile mega-journey to the ancient Mongol city of Ulanbaatar with no set route, the Mongolia Charity Rally is an epic sweep across Europe and deep into the heart of Asia.

Your team of three to four needs to pick up a vehicle (probably a van or 4×4, although ice cream vans have been used in the past) and a certain level of sponsorship – and then the rest is up to you, including the route.

The various teams of drivers plot their scattered course from Berlin to Belarus, and Kiev to Kazakhstan, through to the Gobi Desert.

At the conclusion, the vehicle will be dropped off for use for the people of Mongolia. The next rally begins on July 6.

3. UK

OK, it doesn’t have that sense of awe and vast space that the U.S. confers, but Land’s End to John O’Groats is 14-and-a-half hours, according to Google Maps, so one could potentially fit the length of Britain into one day.

The beautiful south coast incorporating Devon and Cornwall, a semi-circle of the Welsh coast, the Outer Hebrides, Hadrian’s Wall, the academic grandeur of Oxford and Cambridge, or flying visits to some of our great cities such as London, Cardiff, and Edinburgh, are fantastic options.

Be careful with your driving; you might just assume that all of our roads are spick and span, but there can sometimes be some nasty surprises – The World Economic Forum found that Britain’s roads were worse than those in Chile, Cyprus and Croatia.

4. Australian road trip

Coast or roast? This giant Antipodean expanse is too perfect for drivers, who can either plan a spectacular coastal journey down the east, tying in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, or a desert scorch through the outback and the unforgiving desolation of Northern Territory and Queensland.

It’s a favourite for backpackers and adventurers but just make sure that you’ve catered for emergencies – getting stuck in 40 degree Celsius temperatures with no petrol or water is a deadly circumstance.

An episode of Outback Truckers might convince you of the merits of such an inhospitable drive – or put on the brakes forever.

5. Euro-trek

If you don’t fancy a trek to Mongolia why not plot your course across Europe in a rental car?

Surprisingly, according to Hostelworld.com, the cost of renting a car for three weeks in mainland Europe can be cheaper than a 22-week InterRail Global Pass.

Logical suggestions would include a tour of the Iberian Coast, a hop through rural France via the Channel Tunnel, or the Bulb Route and Tulip Festival in Holland. There’s a freedom to driving that public transport doesn’t allow.

So if you want to spend three days in a Slovakian village or a Norwegian fishing community, it’s a possible destination and a tale or two to recount forever.

6. Camper van tour

Take out the hassle of planning accommodation by transporting your accommodation with you, wherever you choose.

There’s something kitsch and cool about hustling in a little VW, which is barely any bigger than a normal car, and as with the Euro trek of point five the only limit is your level of adventure.

Different countries have different laws on where and whether you can park the vehicle, as this Wanderlust story collection explains.

7. American road-trip – long

This is the dream; getting in a car and driving for weeks or months. For anyone who has never visited our trans-Atlantic cousins, the differences between states on opposite points of the compass – the vibe, the food, the accents, the variations in federal law – can be vast.

A good place for inspiration is Nomadic Matt, who is planning a gigantic circular drive of several thousand miles of California, Louisiana, Illinois and other states later this year. The site’s creator has travelled extensively across the world and said of this summer’s U.S. venture:

“To me, travel is more than visiting some far-flung exotic destination. It’s about exploring the unknown. It’s seeing new places and coming to a new understanding of how the world works together. Sometimes that means flying across an ocean and exploring a new country. Other times, it simply means getting in your car and driving off to explore your own country and learning to appreciate where you come from.”

Gumball Rally in NYC (photo: Damian Morys)

A Lambo at the Gumball Rally in NYC (photo: Damian Morys)

8. Gumball 3000

The glamour 3,000-mile journey of the list in ultra-luxurious, futuristic, or iconic vehicles, this is a madcap drive that has changed route every year since inaugurator Maximillion Cooper’s first drive back in 1999.

Some of the vehicles are specifically built for the challenge; in 2013 the InCENArator was designed for wrestler John Cena, installing a Corvette CR7 with flamethrowers and 24-inch limited edition rims. Scoff if you like, but it raised £14,000 for the Gumball Foundation charity.

A superb array of sponsors, a worldwide entry list and gigantic donations for causes, this is as much of a spectator sport as a road trip. Apply for the 2015 version (#StockholmToVegas), held in the last week of May, here.here.

9. Scenic worldwide routes

Rough Guides has 40 ideas for road trips where the landscape is as much a part of the adventure as the vehicle and company.

Pick your perfect passage; The Powder Highway in Canada is perfect for lovers of snow; the Karakoram Highway from China to Pakistan will take in pieces of epic art dating back 3,000 years; and the Salar De Uyuni mirror world of Bolivia transports you to almost moon like world of wonder.

These are not impulsive drives; they’ll need the right vehicle, the right attitude, and the right camera.

10. Gunther Holtorf and Otto

The greatest in ‘off the beaten track’ – get in a car and drive for more than 20 years, across 179 countries and a whopping 900,000 km. Gunther even traded in his wife for a younger model shortly before the journey began in his amazing, seemingly indestructible Mercedes G-Wagen.

Gunther and wife Christine have been held at gunpoint, crashed into by kangaroos, and nearly been swallowed whole by Zaire potholes.

Otto is now taking pride of place in the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart – only the logistics of driving on islands such as Tuvalu and the danger of entering nations such as Sudan stopped the clean sweep of 195 UN Member States.

That’s an unmatchable car adventure – isn’t it?

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This story was written in collaboration with Jennings Motor Group.

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

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Second Time Is The Harm In Paraguay http://gobackpacking.com/second-time-paraguay/ http://gobackpacking.com/second-time-paraguay/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=27490 Ryan makes a return trip to Paraguay, only to wish he never went back after unpleasant encounters everywhere and horrible weather the whole time.

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The presidential palace in Paraguay

The presidential palace in Paraguay

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Read Part 1 here.

That’s right, I said second time is the harm in Paraguay, not charm. My quick return trip there was anything but charming.

After enjoying the Jesuit ruins, I should not have gone back. Let’s start in Iguazu Falls.

It is there that I crossed back into Paraguay, this time to Ciudad del Este, one of the ugliest cities I have ever seen.

There are no hostels there, just cheap, dirty hotels for people on a budget, as I was. I could not keep the mosquitos out of my room and in Paraguay these blood-sucking bastards are known for carrying Dengue fever.

After a terrible night’s sleep, I decided it was time to move on, to head off to Asunción, the capital, where I figured there would be a lot to do, being that it’s the biggest city in the country.

I was wrong.

Compared to other parts of the country, sure, it was lively. But after experiencing other South American capitals, it was quite the disappointment.

Asunción is a poor man’s Montevideo, a place with some nice architecture, a few museums and maybe a bit of nightlife, but that’s it. Paraguayan food is nothing special either.

I was there during the winter and it was still disgustingly hot and humid, and overcast the whole time with occasional showers that did nothing to cool the place off, not really. Like Ciudad del Este, the mosquitos were everywhere and it was hard to sleep at night.

I still cannot believe, to this day, that I did not get Dengue fever from the trip. I was easily bitten more than 50 times between the two cities, probably closer to a hundred, even though I brought bug repellent with me.

Catedral in Asunción

Catedral in Asunción

We spent one day walking around the city, taking in the historic district, including the partially pink presidential palace, and one night on the town.

The locals were not particularly friendly to us. They kept staring at us, but unlike in Colombia, when saying hi starts a conversation or a friendship, it led to more blank looks from the locals. But we had a good group, other than one girl who complained about every place she had ever visited, and we had a good time.

Then the morning came, when I found out my camera was stolen. I think it was one of the guests, probably the one who left that day. Oh well. S*#t happens.

But the most frustrating part was trying to leave the country.

Because on this trip, I acquired a Visa before entering, I didn’t pay much attention at customs. Turns out they pulled a trick I’m sure they’ve done on others: they didn’t stamp my passport.

As I left, the customs officials at the Asunción border said they were going to detain me for entering illegally. I pleaded with them to let me go, that I would never do that, that I paid for a Visa and I didn’t realize the customs officials didn’t stamp my passport, and then it became clear this was all part of the plan.

One official asked me how much money I had on me. Thankfully, it was only 104 Argentine pesos and a few Guaraní, the Paraguayan currency, altogether $26 or so.

They told me I could leave if I gave it to them, so I did.

Every time I flip through my passport and see only three stamps for Paraguay, it reminds me that any backpacking trip can truly be an adventure.

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Paraguay And The Jesuit Ruins http://gobackpacking.com/paraguay-jesuit-ruins/ http://gobackpacking.com/paraguay-jesuit-ruins/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=27486 After hearing about them from a French traveler, Ryan saw Paraguay and the Jesuit ruins, a quick trip over the Argentine border that turned into more.

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La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná

La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part story. 

Missing the bus meant a trip to Paraguay and the Jesuit Ruins. What?

This is just another story about the random things that happen when you’re backpacking, the ebb and flow in which a slight setback can lead to a super discovery.

I never thought about traveling to Paraguay. My two-month trip in 2012 was going to be Argentina and Uruguay, that’s it, and we already know I made a stop in Chile to climb an active volcano. Well Paraguay was my first surprise detour.

The idea came about in Corrientes, Argentina, where I missed the bus to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, a beautiful region I’ll tell you about later. At the bus stop I met a French traveler and two German backpackers and we decided to share a private car to get there, to save time and money.

I cannot remember if it was during the road trip or when we finally got to the hostel, but at some point the French traveler told me about Paraguay. He had just gone, he said, and loved it.

He said the ruins are nothing compared to what you find at Machu Picchu or in Central America, but that they were worth the trip, especially if you’re passing Posadas, Argentina, on the way to Iguazu Falls.

I was, so I changed my itinerary, a little.

You only need a day to see the ruins. You just cross into Encarnación, Paraguay, from Posadas, and then take another bus toward the country side.

Paraguay is really cheap, then about 75 percent cheaper than Argentina, so I spent only $100 the whole day, transportation and meals included, as well as the entrance fee. You normally would get a Visa but I went on a Saturday, changing everything.

Jesús de Tavarangüe

Jesús de Tavarangüe

I went to both the ruins at La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangüe, both well-preserved, a symbol of the Jesuit missioners that made this their home during the colonization of South America in the 17th century.

La Santísima Trinidad is just off the major northbound highway. You tell the bus driver to let you off at its access road and he will.

I’ve loved ruins since I went to Chichen Itza in 2004, by chance on spring solstice, when the mirage of the snake appears on one of the Mayan temples.

Nothing near as grand happened in Paraguay but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

On my way to Jesús de Tavarangüe, I had to stop at the gas station across the street from where the bus left me, to wait for the next moto taxi because these ruins are not a short walk from the highway. There were several locals watching a World Cup qualifier and invited me to sit with them, watch, and have a beer while I waited.

I was there only 15 minutes, but it was fun.

Then on I went to the last leg of the trip, where I spent about an hour before heading back to the highway to catch the bus to the border.

I decided then and there that I would return to Paraguay after going to Iguazu Falls, that I would make my way to Asunción before crossing back into Argentina.

I should have left well enough alone.

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TripVerse: An App to Help You Streamline Your Travels http://gobackpacking.com/tripverse/ http://gobackpacking.com/tripverse/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:00:56 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=27631 TripVerse, an online itinerary viewer, is the latest app that wants to streamline the way you plan your travels.

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TripVerse itinerary viewer homepage

Research and organize your upcoming trips with TripVerse

TripVerse, an online itinerary viewer, is the latest app that wants to streamline the way you plan your travels.

For a traveler like myself who doesn’t do much planning beforehand, it takes a lot for an app like this to impress me. Despite some flaws in its early stages of development, I think TripVerse may just be the app that changes the way I plan.

How It Works

Getting set up on TripVerse begins much like many other online travel apps. Create a profile. Find friends to follow. Discover other users’ pre-planned trips. Begin to plan your own.

The design is simple enough that using the desktop version of TripVerse is pretty intuitive. There were some technical issues that came up from time to time, but even still I found it highly user-friendly.

Instructions pop up on the screen when using it for the first time to orient the user to its functionality, which means I don’t have to guess blindly what to do next.

Creating a trip with TripVerse

Creating my first trip

TripVerse makes creating an itinerary fun and simple. The first step is to create a trip; I’m traveling to Barcelona later this month, so I titled mine “Four Days in Barcelona.”

When adding my first trip, I was prompted to define the location; this auto-populated as soon as I began typing “Barcelona,” and my map automatically zeroed in on the city center. The app also pulled an image of my destination from Flickr, an unexpected feature that added a lot to the visual appeal.

Once I added my dates and any notes about the trip, it was time for the next step, adding activities.

This is where I feel like TripVerse shines.  Once it knows your destination, a list of popular activities is pulled in directly from Foursquare.

The activities are grouped into categories including sights, art, outdoors, food, coffee, shopping, and nightlife; simply clicking on each activity will take you to Foursquare so you can read the descriptions and reviews left by other travelers or see exactly where it is on a map before deciding to add it to your itinerary.

Even though I had a number of ideas for my trip already, this feature opened up a whole world of possibilities to me.

I didn’t have to search Google for “things to do in Barcelona;” instead, I had a ready-made list of options to choose from. In essence, the app picked up where my own ideas left off.

Browsing activities recommended by Foursquare on TripVerse

Browsing activities recommended by Foursquare

Because Foursquare supplies information like the address and opening hours of each attraction as well, I didn’t have to search for it myself. And as soon I added one of these Foursquare activities to my itinerary, a pin instantly dropped onto my map.

I found this feature especially useful; this way, before deciding which day to do each activity, I could see where they were located relative to one another and group accordingly.

When I wanted to add my activities, I could do so easily. Even when all I had was the name of a place a friend had recommended, such as a restaurant or a park, I just had to begin typing. As long as it was listed on Foursquare, all the information I needed would auto-populate, saving me loads of time.

Initially, all activities are added to your “Bucket List;” once you have an idea of when you want to do them, you simply drag it to a day in your itinerary.

Once you’re satisfied with the way your trip looks, you need to download the mobile app so you’ll be able to view it offline.

The mobile app also allows you to add and edit your itinerary when connected to Wi-Fi, but to view it while traveling, you must choose the option to download.

Viewing and editing my trips in the mobile app

Viewing and editing my trips in the mobile app.

Creating trips on the mobile app works in exactly the same way as the desktop version though I ran into more glitches while using it on my iPhone and eventually switched back to my computer.

Finally, you can add as many more trips as you like. Once I had enough ideas for Barcelona, I began browsing options for a few other destinations I hadn’t had time to research just yet and saved a few more activities.

You can also browse complete itineraries that other users have created. You can search by destination, activity, tags, or length of your trip (day trip, less than a week, or greater than a week).

While it didn’t seem likely that anyone else’s itinerary would match my tastes exactly, I can see how this feature could be useful in helping you come up with new ideas.

Discovering trips on TripVerse

Browsing other users’ trips.

Room for Improvement

As of now, TripVerse has a number of technical issues that limit its usefulness.

For example, I had trouble on several occasions dragging my activities from one day to the next—they remained in my “Bucket List” instead of organized neatly by day.

When creating my profile, it seemed the only way to add an image was to have a source URL; I couldn’t simply upload a JPEG file from my computer as I would have liked, and as I imagine would be easiest for most users. Once I’d added information to my profile, the formatting was such that my photo and words overlapped.

Additionally, the desktop and mobile versions of the app do not quite match up. Profile options appeared on my mobile app such as “Passport” and “Frequent Flyer #” which I could neither edit on the mobile app nor locate on the desktop version.

TripVerse mobile app

My profile and trip discovery on the mobile version.

The desktop version seemed to hold most of the functionality while the mobile app seemed more appropriate (at this point) for taking your itinerary with you once it’s already been created.

Overall Impression

While there may be some issues with TripVerse at the present moment, I liked the concept behind it and can see the potential for it to be a very powerful trip planning tool.

By connecting directly to Foursquare, it eliminated the biggest complaint I had about the last such trip planning app I used (having to research extensively on my own before creating my trips).

I loved that I didn’t need to toggle between Google and TripVerse to plan out my days; having everything easily accessible is a major advantage.

The design is sleek and simple, and as far as functionality is concerned, I don’t see many limitations. As soon as the technical issues are resolved, I would happily return to TripVerse to plan my travels.

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This review was brought to you in partnership with TripVerse; all opinions are my own.

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

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The Best Countries For Solo Female Travellers http://gobackpacking.com/solo-female-travel/ http://gobackpacking.com/solo-female-travel/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=27601&preview_id=27601 Lisa Eldridge's guide to the best countries for solo female travellers, including the nationalities of other travellers you can expect to meet in each.

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The San Blas Islands, Panama

The San Blas Islands, Panama

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Lisa Eldridge, author of A Female Guide to Solo Travel

Whether you’re new to solo travel, have travelled before or are a solo veteran, choosing the right country for you depends on your level of comfort and how challenging or adventurous you want your trip to be.

So what makes a country good for solo travellers? Safety, friendly locals, language, good infrastructure and the ability to meet other solos are the key ingredients.

If you’re looking for ease, pick a country with locals who speak the same language. It makes getting lost or needing to ask a question in your language so much easier, and you’ll immediately have more confidence if it’s the same lingo.

Spanish speakers may gravitate towards other Spanish-speaking countries such as Latin America and English speakers towards Australasia or North America.

Here’s a guide to countries just geared up for solo travellers with other nationalities of solos you can expect to meet there.

For First Time Solos

If it’s your first time and you’ve researched and got the facts but you’re feeling apprehensive about going on your own, these countries are perfect for first time solos.

England

Great for English speakers and for those who want to see a lot in a short time.

With a cosmopolitan society, multi-cultural cities and plenty of history, England has a lot to offer a solo traveller, but if you’re looking for interaction, venture out into the countryside where you’ll experience a more authentic discussion with the locals.

Types of travellers: American, Australian, Asian, European.

USA

If you’ve never travelled alone before, America is a great starting point.

The United States may not be as exotic as somewhere like Asia but what it lacks in ancient culture it makes up for in world- renowned buildings and vibrant cities (and if you’re British, they love the British accent).

Types of travellers: Mainly American.

Australia

Australia is one of the easiest places to travel to alone and because of its ease, many younger travellers choose to visit here to experience life Down Under before entering the job market.

Australians are incredibly friendly, and you’ll never be short of company. With an outdoors culture and a more relaxed vibe, Australia will feel just like home only further away.

Types of travellers: Younger crowd on the East coast. European and many more.

New Zealand

An abundance of gorgeous scenery and easygoing folk create a winning destination.

And if it’s adventure and the great outdoors that you’re searching for, New Zealand could be for you. There is a large choice of hostels, campsites, hotels and wooden lodges and getting around the country couldn’t be simpler. Jump aboard an organised tour, hire a car or rent a motor home to travel around the two islands; perfect for those who prefer solitude.

Types of travellers: European, Israelis.

Bhutan

Bhutan may not be somewhere that you’ve even thought of, but it’s one of the most cultured countries in the world and incredibly safe for solos.

You can only enter the country on a pre-organised tour or an invite from a resident so it can be quite costly, but you get your very own personal guide, 4-star accommodation and three course meals included as you’re escorted around this Buddhist country. Although Bhutan is very peaceful, Thimpu is the best place to meet others and has surprisingly good nightlife.

Types of travellers: Maturer travellers from across the globe.

Atacama Desert, Chile

Atacama Desert, Chile

For Seasoned Solos

You’ve been on a round the world ticket and travelled through the easier countries. You’ve surpassed yourself by visiting countries you didn’t expect, and you realize it’s not that hard. You’re ready for the next step, and your feet are twitching for somewhere new.

Here are the best places for seasoned solos (or first timers looking for something a bit more challenging).

Swaziland

Africa may not seem like a continent suitable for solos, but this is one country that welcomes internationals with open arms.

The Kingdom of Swaziland is untouched by mass tourism and with Swazis believing that greeting foreign guests is a way of gaining wisdom, you can be sure of an enlightening and cultural stay. Swaziland is mainly for game parks and culture and the best way to see the country is on a self-drive.

Types of travellers: Maturer travellers from across the globe.

Thailand

Thailand’s hospitality is known as one of the friendliest in the world. If you choose to travel solo here, you are guaranteed royal treatment and service fit for a queen.

Completely geared up for the tourist industry, Thailand is incredibly easy to visit with great transport links, stunning accommodation and the guarantee of meeting many other like-minded solos.

Types of travellers: A younger crowd on the Andaman Coast. Europeans, Australians.

Canada

Canadians are some of the loveliest people on the planet and with vast open spaces and cosmopolitan cities, this country has a lot of offer. If you love stunning scenery, the great outdoors, and long train journeys than Canada is a great starting point for your solo adventure.

Types of travellers: European, Australian, Asian.

Latin America

So many countries, so little time! From the less-developed to the more modern, Belize is the only English-speaking country here with the rest predominately Spanish (except for Brazil, which is Portuguese).

These countries are challenging if you don’t know the language and it can be an adventure getting around them. It’s a completely different scene from Southeast Asia, and you’ll meet a different type of traveller looking for more of a cultural experience.

Types of travellers: Americans, Israelis, Spanish and other Europeans.

India

If you’re looking for a complete overload of the senses and somewhere so diverse and different from anywhere else then India it has to be. It’s an amazing country with so much to see that you may not even get around half of it.

Travel during October to February and you’re likely to meet westerners travelling the country but be ready for a culture shock, and as a woman you might draw some unwanted attention, especially in the beach areas. This country is a life-changer.

Types of travellers: Europeans, Australians, Kiwis, Russians, Israelis.

Israel

Due to its ongoing political unrest with the West Bank, Israel may not be on your bucket list, yet this country is amazingly easy to travel around with English spoken in most areas. With a cosmopolitan capital, great food and sandy beaches (not to forget the Dead Sea), Israel and its people will surprise you.

Types of travellers: All nationalities.

Europe

With different regions and cultures to discover, Europe is the perfect continent to explore with many open border crossings.

Western Europe is the easiest to travel around with many home comforts and an organised transport network but for the more seasoned solo who is looking for somewhere more rustic, visit the Balkans: Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia or Bulgaria.

Types of travellers: Australians, Asians (in the Alpine countries), Russians (in the Balkans), Europeans.

For The Solo Pro

Anywhere in the world! Just check the Foreign Office advice before you begin your intrepid adventure.

Where is your favorite country as a solo traveller?

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A Female Guide to Solo TravelAbout Lisa Eldridge

If you love these tips on solo travel, there are plenty more in A Female Guide to Solo Travel, the most comprehensive travel guide for women travelling alone.

Learn how to conquer your fear of travelling solo, how to plan your trip, coping mechanisms for when you’re on the road, and how to overcome to post-travel blues when you return home. Plus there are lots of special discounts to save you money too!

Find out more here…

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

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Spring Sale: Save 30% on Travel Blog Success http://gobackpacking.com/spring-sale-travel-blog-success/ http://gobackpacking.com/spring-sale-travel-blog-success/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:30:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=27613&preview_id=27613 Save 30% on a lifetime membership to the Travel Blog Success course and community when you join between April 13-17, 2015. No coupon code needed.

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Around the World in 15 Taxis [Infographic] http://gobackpacking.com/around-the-world-in-15-taxis-infographic/ http://gobackpacking.com/around-the-world-in-15-taxis-infographic/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=27595&preview_id=27595 If you’ve ever found yourself stranded in a foreign country, thinking “to tip or not to tip,” take a look at this infographic from The Taxi Centre.

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If you’ve ever found yourself stranded in a foreign country, unfamiliar currency in hand, thinking “to tip or not to tip,” take a look at this infographic from The Taxi Centre.

Looking at 15 different cities and countries around the world, the infographic gives a rundown of the most common taxis used, pricing, and the accompanying etiquette and expectations.

While some of the information you’ll probably consider standard (when in NYC, tip generously or be afraid), much is likely to take you by surprise. For example, don’t tip rickshaw drivers in China unless you want to deeply offend, and in Nigeria don’t be surprised if your taxi journey turns into a close quarters bus ride.

Take a look at the infographic to see the full spectrum of vehicles (and animals) covered, from the cheap and cheerful to the downright extortionate.

Around the World in 15 Taxis

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This post was brought to you by The Taxi Centre.

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Bargain Dining in New York City http://gobackpacking.com/bargain-dining-new-york-city/ http://gobackpacking.com/bargain-dining-new-york-city/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=27358 Ryan gives us tips on bargain dining in New York, a city he loves and visits often, including stops at the restaurants in this post.

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You'll find creative dishes at Isabella's.

You’ll find creative dishes at Isabella’s (photo: Isabella’s)

New York brings to mind several things for people who have never been there.

It’s big and hectic, the people aren’t nice, and everything is expensive.

Let me address those one by one.

1. It’s big and hectic. This is 100 percent true.

2. The people aren’t nice. I think this is false. They’re just in a hurry because it’s big and hectic.

3. Everything is expensive. Partly false, and let’s stick with this one.

Rent is expensive. Taxis are expensive. But if you’re visiting the Big Apple for the first time and looking to try some delicious food for a decent price, let me share with you my guide to bargain dining in New York, a city I know quite well after living just outside it for a bit and spending lots of time in it over the last 12 years.

It covers a handful of restaurants, each one economical and elegant in its own way. Because no two restaurants serve the same food, I won’t rank them. Instead I’ll list them in alphabetical order.

If you can get a great dish for under $30, that qualifies. I’m also sticking to Manhattan, just to keep it simple, despite the fact that Brooklyn and Queens are home to some of my favorite places.

This should give you a good start to eating out in New York. Enjoy!

Caracas Arepa Bar is a good place for Venezuelan arepas.

Caracas Arepa Bar is a good place for Venezuelan arepas. (photo: Caracas Arepa Bar)

Caracas Arepa Bar

93 1/2 E. 7th St., East Village

For Venezuelan-style arepas — the best kind! — go to Caracas Arepa Bar. There are four locations, each one easy to find thanks to the directions on the restaurant’s website.

I’ve been to the one in Manhattan.

The arepas are authentic and they won’t break the bank. The most expensive one is $8.50.

If you go on a weekday between noon and 4 p.m., you can get the lunch special, any arepa plus soup or salad for $8.50.

I got there 10 minutes too late for the special but De Pabellón, an arepa stuffed with shredded beef, black beans, salty cheese and sweet plantains, was enough to hold me until dinner, which I rarely eat before 9 p.m. when I’m in the city.

Eggs benedict

Eggs Benedict (photo: Isabella’s)

Isabella’s

359 Columbus Ave., Upper West Side

A friend brought me to Isabella’s during a trip to the city 10 years ago, and I’ve gone back often ever since.

It’s good for brunch, for lunch, for dinner, for almost any occasion really.

The last time I went I had the blackened swordfish, which came with crab and sweet potato hash and sweet red coconut curry, all for only $28.

I might have gone for brunch on that same trip, although I can’t remember. I just know I love the crab cake Benedict ($18).

I love it all, actually.

Arroz con pollo

Arroz con pollo (photo: La Fonda)

La Fonda

169 E. 106th St., Spanish Harlem

Originally called La Fonda Boricua and now known as just La Fonda, what has remained the same is the authentic and inventive recipes that accentuate the best food from Puerto Rico.

I might recommend this restaurant as much as any other, if only because the large Puerto Rican population in New York means these ethnic dishes are a must to get the proper flavor of the city.

You can go with mofongo or the pernil, both classics, or you can be more daring and order the glazed salmon or tilapia in a homemade passion fruit sauce.

No matter what you pick, you’ll spend only in the high teens or low 20s.

Monkfish piccata

Monkfish piccata (photo: Nizza)

Nizza

630 9th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen

My sister’s friend told her about Nizza, and during a trip she and I made to the city, we decided to check it out. It was, after all, just up the street from our hotel.

I learned that Little Italy, while charming and with its share of good Italian restaurants, is not necessary for good Italian food at a good price.

At Nizza you can get a lamb sirloin for $22.75. Or if you feel like pizza, enjoy a piccante pie with spicy Italian sausage, roasted hot peppers and smoked mozarella for only $14.75. There are various specials as well, depending on the day, such as monkfish piccata.

Most people are drawn to the variety of fancy restaurants on nearby W. 46th St., a popular stop among theater-goers, but if you’re looking for a better deal, just turn the corner on 9th Avenue and head to Nizza.

Pastrami Queen has some of the best sandwiches in New York.

Pastrami Queen has some of the best sandwiches in New York. (photo: Pastrami Queen)

Pastrami Queen

1125 Lexington Ave., Upper East Side

New York is famous for its Jewish delis with delicious sandwiches, and Pastrami Queen is one of the best.

I went with the corned beef sandwich and baked potato knish, enough for two meals, even though it cost me only $19.

You should see their sandwiches. They are stuffed with meat, as if they’re trying to imitate the skyscrapers that dot the city.

If Pastrami Queen isn’t the best reason to ride the green line on a visit to the city, I don’t know what is.

What’s your favorite bargain dining option in New York City? 

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Surfing, Wildlife and Family Vacations in Costa Rica http://gobackpacking.com/vacations-costa-rica/ http://gobackpacking.com/vacations-costa-rica/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:45:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=27582 You can find surfing, wildlife and family vacations in Costa Rica. Ryan almost went once for the surfing and now he's planning to see the wildlife.

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Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers everything from surfing to wildlife to family vacations. (photo: crluxuryvds)

In 1998, the University of Nevada student body counted at least three students from Hawaii. One of them was me.

One of the first people I met was a guy named Rory from California, and one of the first things he said to me was, “Let’s go to Costa Rica!” I knew nothing about Costa Rica Travel Excellence, just that Rory, despite being from the inland town of Grass Valley, was a surfing enthusiast.

He figured I must be too, being from Hawaii, and I used to surf, yes, but I wasn’t an enthusiast. But I was willing to listen to Rory, who had already gone to Costa Rica once.

All I knew about Costa Rica were nerdy geographical facts I learned in my introduction to Spanish class. I can still hear my professor saying things such as, “Mexico is part of North America, not Central America, which is considered a region of North America that is home to countries such as Costa Rica and Panamá.” I also learned the capital of Costa Rica is San José.

I needed to learn more, of course, if I was going to visit the country, so I looked a bunch of stuff up online and found a lot about surfing, wildlife and family vacations in Costa Rica. I did it again recently, as I never made the trip with Rory but began thinking about it again after Rory sent me a message last year from Hilo, my hometown in Hawaii, which he was visiting as part of his honeymoon.

As I scoured the net, I quickly noticed you can find everything from solo surf packages to all-inclusive family vacation packages in Costa Rica. Making a decision was about to get tough.

How would I choose from so many travel companies and offers?

Luckily you always have Trip Advisor.

After everything I’ve read, I think the wildlife of Costa Rica fascinates me the most.

There are red-eyed tree frogs, white-faced monkeys and scarlet macaws, and that’s just the beginning. There are bats and crocodiles and poison dart frogs, and hundreds of other species I would love to see.

Maybe I could do some zip-lining as well. I hear it’s one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.

I just don’t think I’ll be doing any surfing. I went to Brazil recently, to the northeast, and got on the board again, at Porto de Galinhas.

I spent two hours in the water and caught only four waves, a sign that my best days of surfing — which were never great to begin with — are over.

So, sorry Rory, but my trip to Costa Rica is going to be a lot different from yours.

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This story was brought to you in partnership with Travel Excellence.

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Chile vs. Argentina: Which Country Has the Better Wine? http://gobackpacking.com/chile-argentina-wine/ http://gobackpacking.com/chile-argentina-wine/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:30:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=27112 Ryan tackles the question of which country has better wine: Chile or Argentina? His decision is based on tasting wine from each, including a trip to both.

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A couple of the travelers I met during my wine tours near Mendoza

A couple of the travelers I met during my wine tours near Mendoza

The question came up repeatedly as I prepared to make the biggest trip of my life.

Better wine: Chile or Argentina?

I asked anyone I could find who had been to both places or were wine lovers like myself, and the responses were split right down the middle, plus one iconoclastic friend who picked Croatia.

I was looking forward to finding out for myself.

CarinaE was my favorite bodega in Argentina.

CarinaE was my favorite bodega in Argentina.

Argentina

I’ll start here because this is where I started my trip, in Buenos Aires to be specific, but I was thinking about Mendoza the whole time.

The name has been on so many of the bottles of wine I have bought, and I had read how beautiful this part of Argentina was too.

I loved the crisp air, the fall foliage, and the snow-covered mountains, and after taking all that in for a day, I was ready to head south to Maipú, to rent a bicycle and do some wine tours. I ended up doing a half-dozen of them.

My first stop was CarinaE. Starting here turned out to be a big mistake. It was the best bodega of the day, and nothing else came close.

Here I took a tour, then got to the part I like the most, tasting the wine. I tried the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Malbec, and a cab/Malbec blend. The latter was by far my favorite.

I went to five more vineyards that day, the ones you’ve read about in Dave’s post and another that I cannot remember, probably because I had already fallen in love with CarinaE.

By the third stop, at Filosofos, when our host was telling us about the wine, about its flavor, its texture, I started to think, “Yeah, yeah, just gimme a glass and pour it already.”

At my fourth stop, Lagarde, the host was in even more of a hurry to pour the wine than I was to drink it. I thought, “Geez, at least act like you like being here.”

As I made the wobbly ride back to the bike rental shop, I kept thinking about CarinaE. But I still had half a mission, to find out which country has the better wine: Chile or Argentina?

The grape vines that create Pinot noir at Undurraga

The grape vines that create Pinot Noir at Undurraga (photo: Glauber Ribeiro)

Chile

I was in Santiago almost a week, but I had only a couple of days for wine tours. I was already familiar with two wines from Chile, Casillero del Diablo and Ritual, the latter of which was not offered as a tour at my hostel.

I decided to go with Undurraga, following a recommendation from my friend Joan. It was a good recommendation.

The tour was thorough, explaining the history of the bodega, the cultivation process, and, of course, the tasting.

I’ve always been a big fan of Pinot Noir, and naturally, enjoyed the sample included in the tour. I believe a Carmenere and Merlot were part of the tasting as well, along with a dessert wine, a sweet white.

I picked up a bottle of the Pinot and the dessert wine, which I shared with my parents on my mom’s 70th birthday party last year during their visit to Medellín.

But the Pinot was the best. It’s part of the TH series, and I waited two years to drink it, definitely worth the wait.

The Finalists

Carinae Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend vs. Undurraga Pinot Noir.

It could only be those.

The Decision

CarinaE.

I’m not sure I’m ready to say Argentine wine is better, only that I like CarinaE’s Cabernet/Malbec blend the best, partly because they sell it only at the bodega.

Normally I order Pinot Noir if I’m at a restaurant.

So I guess my answer is:

I’ll take Argentina if I want a Malbec. I’ll go with Chile if I want a Pinot Noir.

To the wine fans reading, what’s your preference, Chilean or Argentinean? 

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