Travel Tips From The Experts

Traveling does not have to be a stressful experience. I am currently planning a 14-day trip with stops in Berlin, Paris, and Rome. As I visit these cities, I will also be visiting surrounding cities—Munich, Normandy, and Florence. While it may sound like a lot of work, with proper organization and these travel trips, planning your dream trip does not have to cause you anxiety and worry (otherwise, it isn’t worth it…).

Get ready for your dream trip  (Creative Commons)

Get ready for your dream trip (Creative Commons)

 

Eat Local

I’ll never forget the first time I went to Mexico and ate local cuisine. I thought I knew what Mexican food was supposed to taste like—I’d eaten at plenty of “authentic Mexican restaurants.” Boy, was I wrong!

Make sure that you try all the local food you can get your hands on, because nothing back home will be close to the real deal. Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Worst case scenario, you eat something that tastes terrible. It is very unlikely that something you eat will make you ill.

Taste the local delicacies! (Creative Commons)

Taste the local delicacies! (Creative Commons)

 

Be Friendly

If it seems as if the locals do not like you, it may be your habits. Other countries have their respective habits, and if you are having trouble interacting with locals, it may be because of customs you are unfamiliar with. You would be surprised; something as small as your body language could be offending the locals. One of my best tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. Furthermore, try saying “hello” in the local language. This will appreciated and go a long ways to opening up channels of communication.

 

Hunt Down Local

Okay, I don’t mean to literally hunt down the locals, but seek advice and recommendations from those that know the area you’re visiting very well. At the very least, your hotel should have a concierge that can direct you to great restaurants and places of interest that are not tourist traps.

While your first reaction will be to talk to other tourist, breaking out of your comfort zone and getting comfortable will locals is almost guaranteed to make your trip better and more memorable. You never know, you may fall in love with and marry the girl you stopped and asked for directions—stranger things have happened.

 

Don’t Plan Too Much

While you want to ensure that you see all the most important culturally-enriching sites to see in whatever city you visit, you do want to make sure and leave some time open. Planning every hour of every day won’t give you the chance to make an impulsive decision or to appreciate the city for what it is—the lifestyles, the families, and the scenery.

Up front thinking (Creative Commons)

Up front thinking (Creative Commons)

 

Plan Enough

We have covered the part where you don’t plan too much; however, don’t forgo all planning. The most important plans one can make deal with finances. Make sure you’ve got some cash stashed away in case you lose your wallet and credit cards.

Additionally, I’ve found that travel insurance for your vacation is a must. It’s a fraction of a percent of the trip’s cost, and it covers emergency medical insurance, trip cancellation, and trip interruption and delays.

Wherever you go, keep a positive outlook, respect cultures and traditions of the places you visit, and step out of your comfort zone.

Lads Holidays

Going on holiday with the lads is a pilgrimage that nearly every friend group should undertake. More often than not you find out more about your mates after a week in the sun than you do in 18 years. While places such as Zante and Magaluf are synonymous with the lads holiday there are lesser known destinations that offer just as much at competitive prices.

Novalja, Croatia

Found on the Croatian island of Pag in the Adriatic sea, Novalja is one of the biggest summer party areas in all of Europe, even more so with the World Cup being on. Many go for the Hideout Festival which is quickly becoming one of the best dance music festivals in the world. With a summer temperature average of around 22° it is not overbearingly hot whilst the Adriatic Sea is one of the most pristine in Europe. However, the best reason to look towards Croatia is the currency. Although in Europe, the Euro is not the currency of choice, rather the Kuna, which is currently 9.49 to the British Pound, making it extremely good value for money. For a cheap but beautiful destination then Croatia really is the place for you.

Welcome to Novalja, the best party beach in Europe (Creative Commons)

Welcome to Novalja, the best party beach in Europe (Creative Commons)

Vang Vieng, Laos

If you and your buds have a bit more money in your pocket and can afford the flights to South-East Asia then Vang Veing should be pencilled into your itinerary. The idea itself is one of sheer simplicity but that said it is something that you have probably never done before. Upon arriving in what is an innocuous village, get a tuk-tuk a few kilometres up the river, which is an experience in itself. From there you simply float back down the river in rubber rings. That sounds okay but mixed with the fact that there are loads of makeshift wooden bars along the way, one has a monkey, it is awesome. With cut-price Beerlao and copious amounts of Lao-Lao whiskey, zip-lines and volleyball courts down river it really is an experience. Of course one should approach with an air of caution, drinking and rivers aren’t exactly the safest of combinations but if you take it easy then you will have a great time.

Vang Vieng, Laos by Prince Roy (Creative Commons)

Vang Vieng, Laos by Prince Roy (Creative Commons)

Las Vegas, U.S.A

Now if you are really flushed with cash then Vegas most surely be calling you and your mates. Anyone who watched the first Hangover movie must be itching to get drunk in Vegas and with casinos plying you with free drink that usually happens pretty quickly. With plenty of girls, live entertainment and bars on the Strip you going to wind up doing something out of the ordinary. Pool parties and other events befitting the grandeur of Vegas, partying there, does make you feel like a Rockstar.

Las Vegas (Creative Commons)

Las Vegas (Creative Commons)

Now these are great destinations but the most important thing for a good holiday is the people you are with. If you are a good bunch then you will have fun wherever you go.

Watch the World Cup action far from where it’s at

Colourful Brazil (Creative Commons)

Colourful Brazil (Creative Commons)

At last the World Cup finals are in play. After much anticipation and speculation that the twelve venues in Brazil wouldn’t be ready, the first game was played recently, with Brazil notching up its first Group stage victory against Croatia in Sao Paulo.

For many football fans, it would be a dream to be in Brazil for this, the 20th World Cup, but anyone who’s not there now probably won’t be going. But if that includes you, you shouldn’t feel too bad about not being there in person. There are plenty of downsides to going to Brazil during such a busy time.

For a start, it would be really expensive. All the businesses that cater to tourists will be cashing in on the fact that accommodation and transport will be so much in demand, and the average tourist is expected to spend about $2,500 while they’re in Brazil during the tournament. Secondly, there are some really big distances to cover between the different venues, so a lot of the trip time will actually be spent doing some pretty long road trips between the matches. Thirdly, there’s quite a high possibility of getting sick. Anyone visiting Brazil is always advised to have a yellow fever vaccination and to take anti-malarial tablets, but at the moment there’s also a high incidence of dengue fever in the country. Three of the World Cup venues have issued high alerts for dengue fever and it is not something you can immunise against. It’s spread by mosquitos, so the only way to reduce your chances of getting the illness is to use mosquito repellent and to wear long trousers and shirts.

Take comfort in the fact that wherever you are on the planet during June and July, you’ll never be far from coverage of the World Cup. While Brazil is the hot favourite to win, there are plenty of other teams who could take the cup home – Betfair has Argentina, Germany and Spain as other short-priced favourites. But there are plenty of other punts you can have on the World Cup apart from backing a team as the outright winner, like which player you think will win the Golden Boot or how many red cards a team will get during the tournament!

Although it would have been great to say you were in Brazil when the 2014 World Cup was on, take comfort in the fact that you haven’t had to pay a fortune for the privilege and enjoy the footage on the nearest TV to hand instead!

Man VS Brazil – The Ultimate Checklist to Come Out on Top

Brazil is the number one most visited country in South America—that’s because there is so much to do there. Therefore, it is important that you properly prepare yourself before setting foot in the country selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup Tournament and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The following is a short compilation of “must visit” and “tourist trap” locations in Brazil.

Must Visit

Christ the Redeemer

The Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (creative commons)

The Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (creative commons)

While you will want to forgo most tourist traps, Christ the Redeemer is one you can’t. It’s America’s Statue of Liberty, France’s Eiffel Tower, and Egypt’s Great Pyramids. Known as the most symbolic icon in Brazil, standing 30 meters tall, Christ the Redeemer is a must visit for all travelers.

Mike Sowden, a CNN correspondent, offered up the following two pieces of advice when visiting Christ the Redeemer: “If you want to avoid the crush, go on a weekday rather than the weekend and perhaps pick a day that isn’t totally clear. The morning is better for photos of the statue, as the light is on him, whilst the afternoon and evening offers better light across Rio.”

Natal Beaches

When you are not stressing about your team losing, you’ll want to make sure and relax on the pretty beaches of Natal. I’m not saying you cannot fully immerse yourself into the tournament; ensure you are keeping up with the matches at a site like liveworldcupodds.com, which you can do while sinking your toes in the sands of a Natal beach. Try to kill two birds with one stone.

Known as the “Sun City,” because of its near-perfect weather conditions, football fans in Natal will also get to experience Natal’s brand new stadium, Estadio das Dunas. When it comes to specific beaches, I highly recommend Ponta Negra or Genipabu.

Beach Ponta Negra (creative commons)

Beach Ponta Negra (creative commons)

Tourist Trap

Favela Tours

There is a reason that society doesn’t have a zoo for humans. It would be awkward and inhumane; however, Brazil does have their own form of humiliation called “Favela Tours.” Favela, which translated into shanty town, is a guided tour through the slums of Brazil.

It isn’t a poor decision just because it’s people-watching of the poor, but because it can be extremely dangerous. Drug dealing and muggings are common in these areas of Brazil.

Tourist Trap Cities

There are some cities that, as a whole, are seen as tourist traps. Foz do Iguaçu and Ouro Preto are both historic cities, however, they are both tourist traps for the naïve and unexpecting. One traveler recalls his trip to Ouro Preto and remembered the following: “…crowds of tourists and locals who run after you, trying to sell themselves as guides or their goods…”

I am not a fan of people trying to sell me trinkets I don’t want…to each their own, however.

With useful websites like TripAdvisor, a little planning will ensure that you don’t end up losing all your money in a tourist trap or to muggers in unsafe areas.

Experience Portugal: a Celebration for All Senses

Europe is definitely a magnificent place and what makes it truly great is the fact that it is as diverse as the fish in the sea. From East to West and from North to South, there will always be something unique to experience as you travel from country to country. And although there may be things that connect the entire European continent, every single place in the Old World will bear a mark of uniqueness and greatness.

Portugal is a place where the sun shines and where the people are wonderful to spend time with. All in all, it can make for a great travel experience and there are at least 3 things that will make you feel like you have stepped on a small piece of Heaven as soon as you set foot on Portuguese land.

Algrave Coastline (creative commons)

Algarve Coastline (creative commons)

The Sandy Beaches: a Holiday for Everyone

The magic atmosphere of the Portuguese beaches. In between Europe and Africa, both Portugal and Spain have something very special about their own culture and their beaches can be among the best you have ever seen precisely because they blend in the old and the new, the North and the South and the relaxing atmosphere with the summer entertainment. Basically, regardless of what type of beach you enjoy, there will be at least one in Portugal to make you feel great: windsurfing on the Praia de Guincho, chill atmosphere on the Alentejo coastline, and so on.

Sweet Weather to Warm Up Your Soul

There is nothing to be compared with the wonderful weather around these places either, which will definitely make for a great escape even if you visit Portugal in the winter, where the temperatures can get as high as 15 Celsius degrees. In between hot and not too hot and in between dry and wet, this weather makes for perfect holidays.

Caparica Beach, Portugal (creative commons)

Caparica Beach, Portugal (creative commons)

Amazing Food You Will Want to Take Home with You

Last, but not least, you will get to experience the marvellous Portuguese cuisine. Although it may not be as widely known as other cuisines of Europe, the Portuguese dishes truly deserve a place in the top most interesting and delicious ones in the world. You may be familiar with piri-piri chicken, but as soon as you will try out other types of Portuguese cuisine dishes, your taste buds will be in for a party. Whatever you want your food to be like, there will be something to suit your taste. From fish and seafood to pork and from special tarts to delicious pasta, there is a great diversity of foods you will just have to try out.  And if you take these dishes with one of the world renowned Portuguese wines, you will be left truly heart-warmed by the amazing grace and deliciousness this place has. If you want to get to Portugal and experience this on your own skin, then click here and find out more.

 

 

Madeira’s top five views

Rocks on the coast of Madeira by Jsome1 (Creative Commons)

Rocks on the coast of Madeira by Jsome1 (Creative Commons)

As holidays in Portugal go, they don’t come much more scenic than a trip to Madeira. This compact island in the Atlantic Ocean packs quite a visual punch thanks to its rugged coastline, mountainous interior and lush, tree-lined landscapes – making it the ideal place for an active walking getaway with Monarch.co.uk

Being a mountainous island, sweeping views are plentiful so you won’t have to search hard for a jaw dropping vista to capture on camera. Let’s take a look at the five best lookouts on the whole island:

1. Pico Ruivo

The most obvious place to go for the best view of a place is its highest point – after all, if there’s nothing taller, you can enjoy an unobstructed 360-degree view.

On Madeira, this title goes to Pico Ruivo, a more than 6,000ft tall peak located in the centre of the island. There are three trails up to the summit, of varying difficulty, but the sensational views to every corner of the island from the top are worth the effort.

Hikers should be aware that weather conditions can change rapidly at such altitudes and the presence of cloud could obstruct your view, although seeing the cloud base far below the summit is breathtaking in its own right – creating an otherworldly feeling.

2. Funchal cable car

A less strenuous way to see a good panorama in Madeira is by riding the Funchal cable car from the capital city up the steep hillside behind it. As you gain height, you’ll see the whole town spread out beneath you with the sparkling ocean beyond, where giant cruise ships cut through the water.

Once at the top, you can enjoy a stroll around the beautiful botanical gardens, which have some pretty impressive panoramas in their own right.

3. Levadas

One of the most popular ways to take in Madeira’s natural beauty is by hiking along one of its many levadas, or irrigation channels. Cut through the mountainous landscape several hundred years ago for practical rather than tourism reasons, these channels and the narrow paths running alongside them pass through some stunning sections of countryside, where trees and wildflowers thrive in the shadow of jagged mountains.

Varying in length and difficulty, you should easily be able to find a walk to suit you and your family’s preferences.

4. Valley of the Nuns

Hidden away between the mountain summits, the village of Curral das Freiras (the Corral of the Nuns) enjoys an isolated but spectacular position. Looking down from the viewpoint above the town, one gets a stunning contrast between the tiny white buildings and the rugged green peaks.

By all accounts, the drive to the head of the valley is quite hair raising along narrow, twisting roads, but if you put your faith in the driver and keep your eyes open you’ll enjoy some amazing scenes during the journey.

5. Santo da Serra golf course

Even if you’re not an avid golfer, it’s worth playing a round at Santo da Serra near Machico for the scenery alone. This undulating championship course in the north-east of the island enjoys a fabulous hilltop location with stunning views of the ocean, although the winds that whip across the mountain add to the challenge posed by the narrow fairways.