Go Backpacking http://gobackpacking.com Around the World Travel Blog Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:52:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 5 Tips for Traveling in Perú http://gobackpacking.com/tips-traveling-peru/ http://gobackpacking.com/tips-traveling-peru/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=26234 Ryan tells us his 5 tips for traveling in Perú after experiencing high altitude, shy people, terrible Wi-Fi, food poisoning, and an underestimated budget.

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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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Guinea pig is a popular delicacy in Perú.

Guinea pig is a popular delicacy in Perú. But I’ll tell you something else about food in my 5 tips for traveling in Perú.

They boast some of the world’s most beautiful destinations, but you have to prepare for a handful of things in different parts of Perú: the shy people and weak Wi-Fi, under-budgeting and potent coca leaves, and the good and bad of all the cuisine.

Well, there you have it, my 5 tips for traveling in Perú.

Thanks for reading.

Just kidding. Let’s talk about them.

Huacachina was beautiful but it's no surprise that, in the middle of the desert, the Wi-Fi is weak.

Huacachina was beautiful but it’s no surprise that, in the middle of the desert, the Wi-Fi is weak

1. Third-world Wi-Fi

This is the first thing that got my attention.

Working online, you notice this kind of stuff immediately. It’s hard to get work done when you’re connection drops more often than you are used to, depending where you live.

I live in Medellín, Colombia, a very modern city. The Miraflores district of Lima is comparable, and the Wi-Fi there was pretty good.

But even in Cusco, a tourist trap, I had problems. And Huacachina and Puno? So bad.

One good thing came out of it, though: it forced me to enjoy my vacation more.

Cusco, because it is so popular with tourists, is no longer cheap to visit.

Cusco, because it is so popular with tourists, is no longer cheap to visit

2. A Bigger Budget is Better

The title probably makes you say, “Duh!” I bet in even makes you wonder why I would include something so obvious among my 5 tips for traveling in Perú. But what I mean is, expect to pay more than you think.

Cusco and Lima are no longer cheap. They’re affordable, but I spent a lot more than I expected to, probably $800 more.

There is so much to do, so much to see.

A big part of that is…

It tasted good going down but that plate of fried seafood I ate my last night in Perú made me really ill.

It tasted good going down but that plate of fried seafood I ate my last night in Perú made me really ill.

3. Food (Pros and Cons)

Of all the countries in Latin America, Perú probably has the best food. There is so much variety.

I already told you about my favorite dishes, and there are many other good ones.

The downside is, the third world aspect of Perú becomes apparent after the first time you get sick.

“Everyone does,” my roommates in Medellín told me. “You will too.”

I almost made it the whole month there without getting sick, but my last night, I ate a plate of fried seafood that didn’t agree with my stomach.

I was sick my entire first week back in Medellín.

These women wanted people to pay them to take their photo with their alpacas.

These women wanted people to pay them to take their photo with their sheep and alpaca

4. The People Are Shy

Peruvians, like other people from places where the indigenous culture thrives, can be very shy.

This means they might not want their picture taken.

All you have to do is ask politely and everything should be fine. In some cases, they want you to take their picture because they are wearing traditional garb and have an alpaca with them.

I think I paid 2 soles (about 66 cents) so I could take the pic above.

I definitely drank coca leaf tea before climbing Machu Picchu.

I definitely drank coca leaf tea before climbing Machu Picchu

5. Coca Helps Nausea

Cusco and Puno are way up in the mountains, Cusco at 11,200 feet, Puno at 12,468.

There is a way to cure the altitude sickness. Drink coca leaf tea.

You can chew on the leaves too, from what I’ve heard, but I prefer the tea.

I would drink two cups in the morning with breakfast, then another two in the afternoon.

After a day or two, I was acclimated.

 

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

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Peschici: Whitewashed Homes and Cobblestone Roads http://gobackpacking.com/peschici-gargano/ http://gobackpacking.com/peschici-gargano/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:59:47 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=26205&preview_id=26205 A visual journey through the historic center of Peschici, a village on the northern coast of Gargano, Italy.

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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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Cobblestone streets

White walls invite graffiti, yet even spray paint seems to have its place here

Following a fun morning exploring the back streets of Vico del Gargano and lunch at the Arianna Club where we were staying, my fellow bloggers and I were introduced to Peschici.

Peschici is a whitewashed seaside village of 4,400 residents at the northernmost point of the Gargano promontory in southern Italy.

As was the case in Vico, I felt an overwhelming urge to scurry off and lose myself in the narrow cobblestone streets of the historic center.

This time, I also made sure to stop for gelato and to pick up a few little souvenirs in one of the many gift shops.

Daily life

A woman chats with someone outside her front door, while around the corner, laundry dries in the fading sunlight

Homes

Look up for a different perspective. The geometry of the buildings caught my eye here.

Looking inland toward the green hills of Gargano

Looking inland toward the green hills of Gargano

Kids

Kids look out over the Adriatic Sea at the northernmost point of Peschici

Love locks

Love locks signify couples’ commitments to one another

Gelateria Creperia Michel

The popular Gelateria Creperia Michel in the heart of Peschici’s historic center

Chocolate gelato topped with a scoop of Nutella

Chocolate gelato topped with a scoop of Nutella

A couple enjoys the sunset together

A couple enjoys the sunset together

The village of Peschici, Italy

Peschici from a distance

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My trip to Gargano, Italy was in partnership with Gargano OK.

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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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Wandering the Back Streets of Vico del Gargano http://gobackpacking.com/vico-del-gargano/ http://gobackpacking.com/vico-del-gargano/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=26155&preview_id=26155 I knew nothing of Vico del Gargano upon arrival, yet it was as though everything I expected of Italy was suddenly before me. The mundane was fascinating.

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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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Back alley

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Like a mouse in a maze, I wandered the back streets of Vico del Gargano.

Every narrow, twisted alley I encountered, my eyes opened a little wider. In years I was 37, but in spirit I was a little kid again.

I knew nothing of Vico del Gargano upon arrival, yet it was as though everything I expected of Italy was suddenly before me. The mundane was fascinating.

The first door I came across in Vico was also my favorite

The first door I came across in Vico was also my favorite

The colorful doorways became the focus of my attention.

I have a thing for painted wooden doors and ornate archways, and Vico was full of them, adding splashes of color to the otherwise ancient stone facades.

Looking up, laundry lines hung from windows.

Vicolo del Bacio (Alley of the Kiss)

Vicolo del Bacio (Alley of the Kiss)

Vico del Gargano is known as the “Village of Love” and wandering the old center, it wasn’t hard to see why.

One alley in particular, Vicolo del Bacio (“Alley of the Kiss”) is entered through a 30-foot tunnel, barely wide enough to fit a single person.

Given the close confines, legend has it that whoever you enter the alley with you’ll end up kissing.

I imagine every guy in Vico takes his first date through Vicolo del Bacio.

Courtship

Courtship

Upon exiting the covered section, you’re treated to a small enclosed plaza on the lefthand side.

A romantic scene featuring a seated woman and a male suitor is painted into a niche in the wall. A nearby plaque indicates the painting was restored August 13, 2013.

A small plaza

A small circular plaza

It was a Thursday morning, and there were few residents to be seen.

An old Italian woman, surely someone’s grandmother, stood in her doorway dressed in black, watching me and my fellow bloggers.

She was kind and patient and willing to pose for photos despite the language barrier.

A craftsman in his workshop

A master craftsman in his workshop

A few small sculptures lead my attention to a doorway. Above it was an old wooden sign with “Mastro” (Master) etched into it.

I entered the door to find myself in the middle of the craftsman’s workshop. He stood before me with a lit cigarette and a smile.

He encouraged us to come in and look around. I continued through the workshop and up a staircase filled with old photos and a large phonograph.

Exiting the other side, I was now back near the start of where the walk began. A Norman castle loomed large, though there wouldn’t be time to explore it.

Colorful funghi for sale

Funghi for sale

A few us of took a bathroom and coffee break at Manita Cafe.

Nearby, a street vendor was selling the most colorful mushrooms I’d ever seen.

A medieval press used to squash olives and grapes

A medieval press used to squash olives and grapes

Once our group had reunited, we entered Museo Trappeto Maratea, an old underground olive mill built inside a natural grotto.

Opened in 1317 and used as a working mill until the 1950s, it now fills the role of Gargano’s agricultural museum. Entrance is free, so there’s no reason not to visit.

The most impressive feature was the giant wooden presses built into the limestone walls. The rest of the grotto showcased old agricultural tools and machines.

High up on one of the walls, a quote caught our collective attention, “What is not eternal is nothing.”

Vico del Gargano

Vico del Gargano

To leave the mill, we climbed the stairs to find the rain from the day before in Monte Sant’Angelo had returned.

I felt grateful for the few hours we had to get lost in Vico del Gargano, a village stuck in time, which had captured my imagination and reminded me of what it’s like to be a kid again.

As we drove away in the pouring rain, all I could think about was opportunity to continue exploring villages like Vico.

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My trip to Gargano, Italy was in partnership with Gargano OK.

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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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Celebrating New Year’s Eve Abroad http://gobackpacking.com/celebrating-new-years-eve-abroad/ http://gobackpacking.com/celebrating-new-years-eve-abroad/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=26116&preview_id=26116 Dave shares the excitement of celebrating New Year's abroad in destinations like Queenstown, Paris, Lima and Medellín.

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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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Countdown to New Year's in Christchurch

Countdown to New Year’s in Christchurch

If my trip around the world taught me one thing, it’s how much I prefer to celebrate Christmas surrounded by family in the United States.

I was surprised to find a minimal amount of public decoration in New Zealand my first December spent away from home, and I made it a point to leave Egypt for Belgium ahead of Christmas in 2008 as there would’ve been even less to see there.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve abroad, on the other hand, has always been filled with excitement. Since 2007, I’ve had the chance to ring in the New Year in four different countries.

The advantages to ringing in the New Year abroad are numerous, including:

  • Exotic factor
  • Cultural insights
  • Saves a vacation day
  • Special holiday offers
  • No guilt for being away from family

Contiki, the popular international tour company catering to 18-35 year olds, has designed several short European trips to help you take advantage of New Year’s Eve 2014.

Check out Contiki’s festivals and short stays to see what’s currently on offer.

2007 – Public Square in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christmas in Queenstown left me feeling homesick little more than a month into my RTW trip, but New Year’s in Christchurch offered redemption.

To be honest, I don’t remember much from that night, and I only have a few photos to jog my memory. To some of you reading, that’s the sign of a good night and I’m not one to disagree!

I was staying at a hostel close to Cathedral Square, nearing the end of my three and a half week stay in New Zealand. I had an early morning flight to Brisbane to catch January 2nd, so New Year’s was to be my last hurrah.

I linked up with a couple of guys from the hostel and we began drinking at a bar. As midnight drew near, we walked over to Cathedral Square where a stage featuring live music had been set up and a countdown timer was ticking down on the adjacent screens.

The square was crowded, but it was a far cry from seeing the ball drop in New York City’s Time Square. Christchurch’s celebration was quaint by comparison, but certainly more comfortable.

At midnight, the crowd erupted as fireworks lit up the sky above.

According to the photographic evidence, my new friends and I concluded the night by walking around the surrounding streets, which were now mostly empty, as people had either moved to bars or gone home.

My host Laura (left), her friend Manon (center) and me

My host Laura (left), her friend Manon (center) and me

2008 – House Party in Paris, France

I met Laura on the train from Varanasi to Agra earlier in the year. After spending a few days bonding over visits to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, she offered to host me when I passed through Paris.

I hadn’t planned that far ahead, and by the time I reached Paris, thew New Year was only a few days away. When the big night arrived, we picked up some wine, vodka and frozen Quiche to bring to a pre-party.

We made our way over to Laura’s friend Alice’s apartment a few metro stops away. Upon arrival, I noticed three things: I was the only guy in a room full of attractive French medical students, there was no shortage of champagne, and there was more Quiche than any of us could possibly consume in a single night.

As Laura explained, Quiche, even the frozen ones, were seen as a step up from pizza, which was considered fast food.

The night was off to a good start, and it was about to get better. At 9:30pm, we split up in two cars and drove to a house party happening in the suburbs. Picture a Parisian Grey’s Anatomy.

One guy was wearing a dress, another a gold suit and still others had donned fluorescent yellow construction worker vests complete with reflective tape. Whatever their motivation, their sense of humor added to the ambience of a carefree night.

There was a lot of French being spoken, but as I’ve learned, a large dose of patience and a lot of smiling goes a long way. The endless supply of French wines and champagne didn’t hurt either.

Fireworks on the streets of Lima

Fireworks on the streets of Lima

2011 – Date Night in Lima, Peru

I’d gotten to know my way around Lima in November and early December, so when I returned from the US after Christmas, I wasn’t too motivated to spend the night paying higher-than-normal cover charges at crowded bars and clubs.

Instead, I opted for a relaxing night in with a Peruvian girl I’d started dating. She arrived with food in hand (smart girl) and we proceeded to ring in the New Year from the comfort of the apartment I was renting.

At midnight, we began hearing fireworks go off. Walking out to the balcony, I was surprised to see people lighting off fireworks in the street below. While cars were driving by.

In fact, I watched as some cars literally swerved to avoid the projectiles which were traveling horizontally as often as they were vertically.

“What a crazy scene,” I thought. Certainly something you wouldn’t see in any major American city, unless you were looking to be arrested.

Dancing with my friend Lina into the wee hours

Dancing with my friend Lina into the wee hours

2012 – Private Home in Medellín, Colombia

Colombians love fireworks too. The entire month of December in the city of Medellín is marked by the loud explosions of fireworks going off nightly around the city. I’ve been told it’s illegal, but it goes on unabated anyway.

Given the amount of partying that occurs the entire month, you’d think Colombians are also big on celebrating New Year’s Eve in a public way, but that’s not the case. They see it as more of a holiday to spend with family, more often than not preferring to be at home when the clock strikes midnight.

At the end of 2012, my Colombian friend Lina invited me to the home of her tenant’s girlfriend’s parent’s house in San Javier, a district known for its insecurity in recent years. Slightly nervous, but confident in my friend, I went along for the ride.

We took the metro line west to the San Javier stop, and walked four to five blocks to the home.

The family greeted us with open arms, handing us plates of the recently cooked dinner. It was a humble meal, a little meat, salad and arepa, but it was the thought that counted.

The Aguardiente (local anise-flavored liquor) flowed, and I danced with Lina and others into the early morning hours.

2014 – To Be Determined

I have yet to decide where I’ll ring in the upcoming New Year, but I do expect it to be in a new country. I can’t think of a better way to kick off another year of travel and adventure than to spend it partying abroad.

I’ve heard amazing things about Rio de Janeiro, and if I can get my Brazilian visa taken care of in time, you might find me on a beach sipping a caipirinha as we welcome 2015.

Have you celebrated New Year’s Eve abroad? Share your experience in the comments below.

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This post was brought to you in partnership with Contiki.

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The Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo http://gobackpacking.com/monte-sant-angelo/ http://gobackpacking.com/monte-sant-angelo/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=26118&preview_id=26118 A visit to Monte Sant' Angelo, a medieval town on a hill in Gargano, Italy known for its shrine to the Archangel Saint Michael.

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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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Entrance to the Monte Sant' Angelo

Entrance to the Monte Sant’ Angelo

A few months ago, I was invited by the kind folks at Gargano OK, a consortium of local businesses, to tour their slice of southeastern Italy.

Gargano, part of the Puglia region, is known as the “spur of the boot” on the account of its location just above the “heel of the boot” on Italy’s Adriatic coast.

For years, its been known amongst Italians as a budget-friendly beach destination, but as I would quickly come to find out, there’s much more to do here than lie on a lounge chair and work on your tan.

Our first morning was dedicated to visiting Monte Sant’Angelo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which would be the 98th on my ever-growing list.

This medieval town is perched upon a hill, occupying the highest point in Gargano.

As we drove up the winding roads, the weather turned from overcast to wet and windy, thus we didn’t waste any time heading straight to the main attraction, the oldest shrine in Western Europe to the Archangel Saint Michael.

Per UNESCO:

“The first appearance of the Archangel is said traditionally to have occurred in the year 490, however it is quite likely that the cult arrived in the Gargano in the mid-5th century or even at the beginning of that century.

Initially, the cult of the Archangel Michael was mainly a cult of natural, healing forces based on the Saint’s  appearance and revelations – in line with the ancient pagan worship – and was strongly marked by oriental influences.”

Under the shelter of the portico, our guide informed us that over the centuries, Saint Michael had appeared to people on four occasions here.

The shrine has been a pilgrimage destination for much of that time, as it continues to be today.

Not seen in my photo above is an octagonal, 13th century bell tower, which was originally a watch tower.

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Entrance to shrine of Saint Michael, a church built on top of a cave where this saint was seen 4 times. #garganook

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Upon entering the building, one descends down a staircase to a pair of Byzantine bronze doors made in Constantinople and dating back to 1076. Their 24 panels depict scenes of angels from the New and Old Testaments.

At this point, photos are still allowed however they are prohibited within the shrine itself. Break this rule and you can expect the monk manning the small desk by the entrance to have a word with you.

Stepping through the doors is like stepping back in time. The lower half of the room is formed by a natural grotto (cave), with upper sections showing the manmade stonework.

Looking straight ahead, and partially visible in my photo above, is The Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament. To the left is a small Choir and The Chapel of the Relics.

Turning one’s attention to the right, there are a handful of wooden pews, as mass is still held regularly within the shrine. They face the altar of Saint Michael, which features a statue of him from 1507.

The rain had let up by the time we left the building, but had it been nicer, I would’ve enjoyed walking through the streets of  Monte Sant’Angelo to soak up a little more of the atmosphere from this town which dates back to the Middle Ages.

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UNESCO

 

Monte Sant’Angelo became a World Heritage Site in 2011.

Click here for the full list of UNESCO sites Dave has visited during his travels.

 

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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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Visiting Havana http://gobackpacking.com/visiting-havana/ http://gobackpacking.com/visiting-havana/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:00:08 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=26139 It’s known for it’s stunning white beaches and azure blue waters but a trip to Cuba is not complete without visiting the island's capital, Havana.

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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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Visiting Havana

Meander around one of the plazas

It’s known for it’s stunning white beaches and azure blue waters but a trip to Cuba is not complete without visiting the island’s capital, Havana.

Cuban Music

If you love salsa then you’ll love this city. Home of the Buena Vista Social Club, the most famous Cuban salsa of all, Havana has a thriving live music scene.

And it’s the place to practice your dance moves whether in one of the city’s bars or the more well-known venues such as Casa de la Musica situated in the new area of the city, with a cover charge of $10.

Cubans are so friendly so don’t be surprised if get asked to dance. As well as traditional music you’ll find flamenco shows at El Meson la Flota to entertain you as you dine.

Visiting Havana

Lose yourself in the crumbling back streets

Things to See

Havana is more of a city to relax, eat good Cuban cuisine and drink cuba libres whilst enjoying the music. The plazas are the places to just wile away the hours, people watch and have your picture taken with locals dressed in traditional costumes.

Just meandering around Old Havana with its faded pastel-colored houses and Art Deco style is an adventure in itself, losing yourself amongst the back streets and reappearing within one of the plazas.

A visit to the small Chocolate Museum is a must, even if it’s just to treat yourself to a chocolate shaped cigar.

The Revolution Museum

The Revolution Museum

For those wanting to learn more about the controversial history of this island, the Revolution Museum gives a good insight with many images but you will need to know Spanish to understand it.

There’s also an Afro-Cuban tour to learn more about Cuba’s customs and folklore, or you can take an Ernest Hemingway tour and follow the footsteps of this famous writer who once made Cuba his home (there’s even a hotel names after him).

From Havana you can take a trip to the tobacco fields to the west of the capital to watch how cuban cigars are made. There is a bus service or you can take a day tour if you don’t want to stay overnight.

View of Old Havana from a hotel terrace.

View of Old Havana from a hotel terrace

The Best Views of Havana

Although the city is divided into more than one area, Old Havana definitely has more character.

One of the best ways to see this part of the city is from a hotel terrace and there are several to choose from.

Hotel Ambas Mundos has great views of the Christ of Havana across the water from the sixth floor or opt for Hotel Raquel for a more classical Italian style roof (but there is no bar or restaurant on this one).

Taxis

Getting around Havana couldn’t be easier

Getting Around

The best way to get to the newer part of the city is by taking a big red tour bus. A day ticket is cheap at just $5 and will take you along the promenade past Revolution Square to the newer part of the city and the beach.

Cuba is also known for its 50s classic American cars which you can find in Havana operating as taxis. But if you’re feeling flashy, then hop into a convertible (with a choice of colors) and take a tour around the city in typical Havana style.

If you’ve got longer than a week in Cuba, consider a multi-center holiday by combining Havana with Trinidad before relaxing on a white Caribbean beach in the Holguin area to top up your tan before flying home.

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This post was brought to you in partnership with Air Transat. Visit their website for flights to Cuba from all major Canadian cities.

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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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3 Practical Reasons to Use TunnelBear VPN While Traveling Overseas http://gobackpacking.com/tunnelbear-vpn-traveling/ http://gobackpacking.com/tunnelbear-vpn-traveling/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 23:00:43 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=26159 Privacy and security while using public WiFi networks is important, but so is accessing US-based entertainment. That's where TunnelBear VPN comes in.

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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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TunnelBear VPN program for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

TunnelBear VPN program for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, sound like something exclusive to the realm of technogeeks, hackers, and Chinese dissidents, but they are an interesting and useful service to those backpacking and traveling overseas.

A VPN is a group of computers networked together over the Internet that will allow you access to private data.

Think: employees accessing their company’s network and files while away from the office, universities and their students, etc, all while providing a secure and encrypted connection between the two.

You can use a VPN to securely protect your data and privacy while using public WiFi networks across the world, to block those cookies we all know the airline websites use to jack up the price for visitors who return at a later date, and other cool things like connecting to proxy servers in other countries.

The security and privacy aspects of a VPN are things that we all know are important, yet most of us neglect until something bad happens.

Instances of a breach in privacy data are rare and thus don’t prompt us into action until it is too late, but there are some compelling and practical reasons for using a VPN service on a more day-to-day basis.

After a period of nomadic travel and backpacking across Colombia, I decided to settle down into an apartment in Medellin.

It was around that period with my increased downtime and a steady connection to the Internet that I was reminded about all the awesome things I missed about the world wide web and couldn’t access properly while overseas.

Turns out there are quite a few websites and services that are restricted to international visitors.

I recently downloaded the TunnelBear VPN service which is a handy little program that allows you to cloak your IP address as if you were in another country.

TunnelBear is super easy to use and is totally accessible to non-techies–my mom could even use it. All you do is click the On/Off button in the program and select the country of your choice.

A funny little bear digs his way out of the country you’re in and pops up in the country where you want to appear to be.

Three Practical Reasons Why I Use a VPN

1. Netflix

You can access Netflix in many countries across the globe, but the content selection is totally different and can be quite limited.

On one hand, it is really cool to be able to access more Spanish language movies and television series (as well as US shows dubbed into Spanish), but sometimes I grow tired of the limited selection here in Colombia.

With the click of a button I can be back in the United States and have full access to their instant library as well as some features that they restrict like adding movies to your watch list.

2. Pandora

Having access to good instant streaming music was something I really missed down here during my downtime. My MP3 selection always gets a little tired with time, and streaming things from YouTube or other services is often less than ideal.

Pandora was always my favorite service back home, but it is simply not available outside of the US, Australia, and New Zealand due to their licensing restrictions.

But thankfully, again with the click of a button, I can be back in the US with all my channels and my full music selection so I can pop in the headphones and enjoy like normal.

3. The Onion

Here’s one I didn’t expect to run into upon traveling… The Onion, if you’re not familiar, is an amazing satirical newspaper. I used to read the Onion with some regularity while working in Washington DC politics, and I really missed reading their witty take on the news of the day.

I don’t know about your friends, but I was constantly seeing hilarious headlines from the Onion in my Facebook feed, so I’d click through to read and then check out a few more articles.

Inevitably I would hit the dreaded restriction for international readers which only allows five articles in 30 days. But again, using a VPN like TunnelBear to cloak your identity will allow you unfettered access to “America’s Finest News Source”, even while browsing from your smartphone.

TunnelBear for PC country selection list

TunnelBear for PC country selection list

TunnelBear VPN

There are all sorts of compelling reasons related to privacy and security to use a VPN, but yeah, those are my actual practical reasons for using a VPN–being able to access my favorite sources of diversionary entertainment.

There are tons of VPN programs and services out there and it can be hard to know what to look for. If you’re looking for simplicity, you can’t go wrong with TunnelBear.

It’s just a flick of the switch to turn it on or off. There are no complicated settings or other hurdles while setting it up or in order to keep it connect and working properly.

TunnelBear for Android connected

TunnelBear for Android, connected status

As you would expect, the program is available for Windows and Mac, of course, but what is also extremely cool is that you can get it for your Android, iPhone, or tablet as well.

This allows you to use your phone apps as if you were in the United States as well (again, practical for Pandora music, Netflix, and accessing certain websites).

Free users get 500mb of data per month, while the upgraded and unlimited account runs only $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year–a very modest expense for the benefits it provides as well as the ease of use.

Check out TunnelBear today for your VPN needs.

What about you? Do you use a VPN service on a regular basis? Other favorite websites, programs, or services that you have found to be restricted while traveling?

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This post was brought to you in partnership with TunnelBear.

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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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8 Things to Do in the Dominican Republic http://gobackpacking.com/things-to-do-dominican-republic/ http://gobackpacking.com/things-to-do-dominican-republic/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:00:50 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=26120 A list of 8 fun things to do in the Dominica Republic, including an exploration of the capital, playing golf, sailing, diving, and relaxing on the beaches.

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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 Dominican Republic

The stunning Dominican Republic

With a rich culture and fascinating history, the Dominican Republic is known for its hospitality, but this Caribbean island has more than just crystal white beaches to offer.

1. Explore The Capital

There’s plenty of things to do in the Dominican Republic and the first place to start is the island’s capital – Santa Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can find colorful dancers in traditional dress.

A fusion of old and new, you can spend your hours exploring the medieval fortresses and palaces or enjoy the shopping and the nightlife that the capital has to offer.

2. Play Golf

The Dominican Republic knows how to create golf courses. Being the number one destination in the Caribbean, there are 25 golf courses to choose from, each one designed with a WOW factor in mind.

From coastal backdrops to sparkling waterfalls, playing a round of golf here comes with breathtaking views.

Safari truck

A safari in a truck like this is the best way to see the island

3. Take a Safari

If you want to see the real Dominican, consider taking a safari tour around the island.

Not only do you get to see a coffee and chocolate plantation and learn all about their processes but you also get to visit a typical Dominican home and spend time with a local family as well as attending a local school to learn about their education.

This is a great way to explore the east coast of the island and the safari organizers are happy to pick you up from any number of resorts.

4. Admire the Views

Take a cable car to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres, a giant mountain standing nearly 800 meters tall in the city of Puerto Plata for stunning views of the city and the surrounding ocean. If you’re feeling adventurous try hiking to the top instead.

Sailing

There are lots of watersports to choose from too

5. Get Active

For the active traveler, the Dominican Republic has plenty to keep you busy.

Whether it’s windsurfing, sailing, ziplining, mountain biking or offshore fishing for those staying in the costal resorts, there’s never a shortage of activities to do.

For those less active, a visit to a local stadium to watch a game of baseball, the favorite game of the nation is definitely recommended.

6. Go Diving

Whether you prefer to dive or just snorkel, head to the Samana peninsula for a giant pinnacle formation called the Cabo Cabron where you can find lobsters and crab.

Catalina Island is another popular dive spot with a shallow reef bursting with colorful fish, or choose one of the shipwrecks off the island to explore their eerie chambers.

White sand beach

Choose to chill out on a powdery beach

7. Relax on a Beach

Of course a visit would not be complete without a trip to one of the Caribbean beaches.

The most popular area of the island is Punta Cana, bursting with hotels all promising first-class service in a truly Caribbean style.

8. Get Married!

The Dominican Republic is one of the prime destinations for those looking to tie the knot in paradise. Packages can be quite cheap and you can choose from a variety of hotels to say your vows.

With eight international airports in the Dominican Republic you’re never far away from a place in a Caribbean paradise.

White powdery beaches, plenty of activities and lots of rum – is there really a better place to have a vacation?

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This post was brought to you in partnership with the Barceló Dominican Beach All Inclusive Resort.

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Pedal The World: An Adventure Around The World On A Bike http://gobackpacking.com/pedal-the-world-bike/ http://gobackpacking.com/pedal-the-world-bike/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:45:49 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=26104&preview_id=26104 Untrained, Felix Starck cycled 18,000 km through 22 countries in 365 days with one goal, "the dream of absolute freedom and the discovery of our globe."

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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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Untrained, Felix Starck cycled 18,000 km through 22 countries in 365 days with one goal, “the dream of absolute freedom and the discovery of our globe.”

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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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4 Things I Learned Road Tripping Around North America http://gobackpacking.com/road-tripping-north-america/ http://gobackpacking.com/road-tripping-north-america/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=26088 Route 66, Jack Kerouac's On the Road: the road trip is as iconic and American as Apple Pie. Here's what I learned on the road, and why you should go too.

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Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona

Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. The town was made famous by the Eagles’ song.

In 2013, I spent the better part of a year on a road trip around the western half of North America, primarily in the United States but also parts of Canada.

Like most, I love traveling overseas and learning about new cultures, trying new food, and seeing new corners of the earth, but I also realized that I hadn’t seen even a fraction of what there is to see in my own country.

Thus I set out by truck to explore some of the quiet corners of the American West, the dusty towns and outposts that dot the landscape, and the amazing parks and natural areas that the American West is so famous for.

I covered 20,000+ miles over the Western half of the continent, visited some 15 National Parks, and spent more time camping in a single year than perhaps in my entire life.

In the process I learned a lot about myself, about road trip travel, and about this big, beautiful country that I call home.

A boy running the doorways in the ruins of Chaco Canyon.

A boy running the doorways in the ruins of Chaco Canyon.

1. People Are Really Nice

I was always amazed at the amazing generosity I experienced from complete strangers in certain parts of the world –from being invited into homes to break the Ramadan fast in Yemen, to sharing a bottle of Aguardiente at a corner store in Colombia–and would often wonder why isn’t it like that in the United States?

Turns out it is. Or at least it can be if you are putting yourself out there and are receptive to it.

I found myself surprised time after time by the generosity of strangers in my own country, from the sweet old couple who invited me over to dinner every night while camping in Joshua Tree, to the handful of rides I received while hitchhiking back to my truck after hiking across Zion National Park, to strangers stopping to help me out when I got a flat tire in the cellphone reception free land in the wilds of Colorado.

If you put yourself out there and are open to the generosity of your strangers, you’ll be surprised at what you find.

The road stretching to the La Sal Mountains in Utah, near where I got my flat tire.

The road stretching to the La Sal Mountains in Utah, near where I got my flat tire.

2. It’s a Really Big Place

There is so much to see and do within North America that one really can’t do it justice in just one trip. Maybe not even in one lifetime. I spent the better part of 9 months tick tacking my way across the western half of the USA and Canada and still only saw a fraction of the major cities, National Parks, and wide open spaces.

That’s to say nothing of everything that lies between the Rockies and the Eastern Seaboard.

Traveling overseas often gives us a bigger appreciation for some of the things we have back home. But traveling widely across your own country can also instill in you a greater appreciation for what lies a little closer to home.

My trusty road trip companion in Death Valley.

My trusty road trip companion in Death Valley.

3. We Do Nature With Public Access Like Nobody Else

It is totally feasible and actually quite popular to be able to road trip across the United States or road trip across Canada while bouncing from park to park or public area to public area.

In the United States there are vast swaths of land within the public domain from the National Parks, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and more. You can easily travel around the country and camp for free or quite affordably.

During my lengthy travels I only paid to camp or stay somewhere a handful of times.

In many parts of the world that simply is not an option, and I feel fortunate that one can readily find absolutely stunning places that are open to all, all across the American West.

The lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

The lights of the Las Vegas Strip

4. Adventure Can Be Found Everywhere

Too often we think that we have to set out on some big overseas expedition in order to find adventure and explore new things while overlooking all the opportunities that lay right outside our doorstep.

International travel can often be a shortcut to adventure–everything is new and different, and even the simplest of tasks like running errands can be a big challenge in your day-to-day life, especially with the added language barrier.

Adventure and travel are less about where you go, but how you see the things the around you. The more you can cultivate an open and interested attitude about the things that surround you and your most familiar places, the more you will get out of your far-flung adventures and out of life in general.

The stunningly beautiful Canadian Rockies in Field, British Colombia.

The stunningly beautiful Canadian Rockies in Field, British Colombia

The road trip is the classic and most iconic way to see the United States. From Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley–the road and the automobile are perhaps nowhere else so inextricably linked to a cultural identity as they are within the United States.

Whether you are native-born or a visitor to the US, you should absolutely make it a priority to see the country as so many generations before you have–from behind the wheel and on the open road.

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This post was brought to you in partnership with Motorhome USA.

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