Local knowledge when you travel

European cities have a lot to offer and are very diverse. One city might be known for it’s create architecture, whilst another is more seen as a ‘Mecca’ for musicians and artists. One thing they have in common and that is the fact that most of them have a lot of history going on and that they are culturally rich. Looking at Paris or London, both places to be for fashionistas and artists. Copenhagen with it’s Freetown of Christiania which was founded by a group of hippies in the 70s. And Prague with is wide assortment of cheap and tasty beer.

So Europe seems to be a great place to go. Momondo created this amazing interactive cheat sheet so you that provide you with all the local knowledge you need to know: trendy areas, club scene hotspots, and local knowledge such as what food to taste and what to drink.  Check it out!

Exploring Dinosaur Island

Hear the term ‘Dinosaur Island’ and images of the jungle-covered isle from the film The Lost World will probably spring to mind. At any rate, you probably won’t think of the Isle of Wight, although – drumroll, please – this actually is Dinosaur Island.

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While this nickname is a relatively recent development, its history does of course go back millions of years – 130 million, to put a rough figure on it – when dinosaurs freely roamed the Isle of Wight. Today, I’m going to be talking all about the local dino heritage, as well as clueing you in to a few of the dinosaur-themed things to do and see while you’re here. Meanwhile, you can get information about places to stay on this website.

The lowdown on the Isle of Wight’s dino days

The Isle of Wight has earned its title of Dinosaur Island thanks to the impressive level of dino-based finds here. Fossils and footprints have fascinated paleontologists and locals alike, not to mention captured the imagination of tourists. It’s down to this heritage that the island has even been named the Dinosaur Capital of the UK on the new Dinosaur Map of Britain (created by a researcher from the Natural History Museum).

Evidence of a host of different species have been uncovered on the island, and it’s this diversity – as well as the volume of finds – that have helped give it its prestigious position.

Attractions

Since 2013 has been named as the island’s Year of the Dinosaur, this year is a particularly good time to visit. Alongside the island’s year-round attractions, you can take part in specially organised fossil hunts and even dinosaur appearances!

Dinosaur Isle

For anyone coming to the island with an interest in dinosaurs, Dinosaur Isle is an absolute must-visit. This is the first purpose-built dino attraction to open its doors in Britain, and you’ll find it on Culver Parade in Sandown (home to the famous Sandown Beach).

What’s lovely about this museum is that the inside has been decorated to mimic the kind of landscapes the creatures would have walked through on the Isle of Wight all those years ago. And, nestled within this landscape, you’ll spot incredible re-creations of dinosaurs built to scale, including the polacanthus and iguanodon.

Of course, you’ll no doubt be keen to see some real remains, and you’ll be in luck because you can check out authentic dinosaur skeletons. What’s more, you can see both skeletons and fossils arriving at the museum as and when they’re found by the museum’s researchers. Amazing!

Fossil walks

You don’t need to be visiting during the Year of the Dinosaur to go on guided fossil walks, but there are some special ones taking place for those of you travelling before the end of 2013. Whether you are or not, though, there are several companies that offer regular excursions, including Footprint Tours and Dinosaur Fossil Hunts.

The latter, for example, is run by an expert in Cretaceous fossil crustaceans, who offers two-hour long tours. These cost very little, but are an excellent chance to discover fossils for yourself and learn a lot.

Dinosaur Island app

Just to finish off, I’d like to point out that to celebrate the Year of the Dinosaur there’s a special Dinosaur Island app for smartphones and tablets. Definitely download it before you go, because at six coastal locations on the Isle of Wight it’ll activate and give you the chance to snap pictures of your family or friends (or whoever you’re travelling with) in the local landscape as it would have looked 130 million years ago – dinosaurs and all!

Morocco’s Magic: Endless Travel Fun

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ATLAS MOUNTAINS

The Atlas Mountains offer endless fun to any outdoor loving person; from the southern Anti-Atlas ranges that give you fantastic views of the golden desert to the snow capped High Atlas Mountains dotted with quaint Berber villages where you can stay in traditional Atlas Mountains hotels. The Anti-Atlas ranges are less visited hence give an opportunity for anyone looking for a trip off the beaten track, the facilities are minimal as compared to the High Atlas ranges.

Jebel Siroua is an ancient volcano that is popular with hikers. For a more challenging experience the purple colored Jebel Lekst is the most popular and most difficult. Jebel Aklim though less visited is equally challenging; but after the struggles of getting to the top you will be rewarded by spectacular views of the High Atlas and Jebel Siroua. If you’re planning on trekking around volcanoes on your trip make sure you get a travel insurance policy which covers those kinds of activities!

The High Atlas ranges on the other hand gives you more advanced trails as its most frequented by visitors. For those fit enough the Toubkal summit which is the highest in Northern  Africa awaits you, the Imi Ourlad to the beautiful village of Imli offers spectacular lush valleys, sparkling streams and moderate trails. Tizi Oussem route only a short walk from Imi Ourland lets you experience the Berber culture as you pass through their villages; it is an excellent break from the city.

MARRAKECH

Marrakech city is a must stop over: from its fun filled Djemaa el Fna square with charming story tellers, fire eaters, music and dancing. There is a lot to see, you can start by visiting the majestic Koutoubia Mosque with its distinctive traditional Almohad style minaret which is visible from near and far.

Wander along the narrow alleyways and spend some dirhams in the souks. The souks are lined up along the alleyways and comprise of small retail cubicles that sell almost everything from fine fabrics, carpets and spices to love potions and Berber lipstick.

Try out scrubbing yourself clean in the traditional baths known as Hammam and sleep in a riad to experience the rich culture of the Berbers. Before leaving Marrakech make sure you spend a night in the clubs and enjoy being entertained by the popular belly dancers who contribute heavily to the vibrant nightlife. A magical holiday in Marrakech won’t be forgotten quickly.

FEZ

Fez and Meknes are recognized as ancient Morocco capitals. If you are looking for an inspiring historical tour then you are sure to get that and more from Fez. It is Morocco’s intellectual and spiritual center, boasting of one of the world’s oldest universities and the largest intact medieval quarters. It is a UNESCO World Heritage town whose biggest attraction is the old medina Fes el-Bali. Take some time to wander off in the narrow alleyways where you will encounter donkey carts or local artisans at work.

This fantastic town is also famous for its fabulous leather products that are sold in the leather souk. Visit the tanneries and witness the rigorous process of tanning and dyeing leather. Morning hours are perfect to visit when the colors are still bright and appear vivid on pictures.

 

Exciting Destinations for Family Holidays

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BARCELONA
Barcelona is a popular party destination, but there is a lot for the family to enjoy: from the fantastic beaches lined up with fine family friendly resorts to the wander of Gaudi’s fairytale architecture.

The best place to start your trip is strolling along the mile long colorful Las Ramblas where you will enjoy mingling with the locals as well as other tourists. Enjoy watching fortune tellers, dancers, music and the fine statues as you wander through the magical streets. You may let the young ones experience the magic of fortune telling. There are also numerous restaurants lined up along this street where your family can enjoy a good meal as you explore the bustling surrounding.

There are some exciting parks to relax after a long day exploring the Las Ramblas; the Teatre Grec gardens are not only lush but also inspiring and tranquil.

If you don’t fancy exploring on foot then why not get a ticket for one of Barcelona’s hop on hop off buses? This is a great way to see all the main sites in the city and find out some of the history and background behind it. It’s also a great way to save the children’s tired legs!

If you have not introduced your family to sea food then here you can have a great start. It is immoral to leave Barcelona without sucking on an oyster, and there are numerous restaurants where you can enjoy sea food delicacies.

Don’t forget to treat your kids to some of the finest chocolates in the world!

INDIA
India is fascinating and a spectacular destination for all ages: there is always something for everyone.  Whatever your age, it is guaranteed that you will marvel at the enchanting landscapes, alluring wildlife, rich culture and magnificent architectural grandeur.

Take your family on a wildlife trip and watch your kids get thrilled by the spectacular wildlife as you sink deeper and deeper into the Indian jungles. The Royal Tiger is just one of the rare jungle attractions that can be found in the Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park.

Kerala is another exciting destination for families; it is also known as ‘gods own country’ and all you need is get there to know why. This fairytale land is blessed with extravagant attractions, dramatic hill stations and the popular backwaters for a tranquil family holiday. Let the family enjoy navigating these glorious waters in a fabulous boat house. Experience the Indian culture up close and candid as you watch closely as the natives continue with their daily activities. There are numerous resorts to stay at in the area, such as the Poovar Island Resort which is a great place to keep the kids entertained when you’re not exploring.

PORTUGAL
Portugal is ideal for that long awaited family holiday: the fine weather, enchanting towns, rich marine heritage, charming fishing villages and the friendly people make it a perfect holiday paradise.

The Algarve is a popular touristic destination: it offers picturesque coastlines, pristine sandy beaches, magnificent resorts and world class golf courses. It has something for everyone and offers an opportunity for family fun.

Madeira Island is an all year round holiday destination with spectacular gardens, rugged coastline, volcanic caves, gorgeous beaches and enchanting cultural experiences. Some of Portugal’s splendid flowers are showcased in the lush gardens. For a tranquil and intimate experience, you can savor a family picnic surrounded by this natural beauty. For a beach experience you can head to the Praia da Jamaica and build some sand castles with the kids on the beautiful sandy beach. Take a walk through Funchal, the islands capital and have some cultural fun, take family photographs in the picturesque squares and enjoy roaming in the charming streets.

 

Singapore: Tour The City Like a Local This Year

Traveling is always an exciting time, and one of the best places to visit this year is Singapore. Singapore has so many different things to offer in regards to tourists, and there is definitely something here for everyone. Of course, there are those common places that most tourists visit and can get through in a day. Most of that being the couture shopping that Singapore is known for, but thankfully there’s a great selection of alternative attractions to see too! Whether you enjoy cultural sights, shopping, or just some fun and relaxation, you will be sure to find it in wonderful Singapore.

Artwork at the Ritz-Carlton

It is a little crazy to be visiting a hotel, instead of an actual museum, or is it? The artwork at the Ritz-Carlton is one of the greatest collections there is to see of modern and contemporary art, and it is virtually unknown to tourists!

Chinatown Heritage Center

When visiting Singapore, of course there are museums and other places to look into the past of this city, but everyone should make it to the Chinatown Heritage Center. Here, visitors can admire the different 19th and early 20th century scenes that are available to see, and it also introduces you to the culture of the city too! You can even shop there and collect little souvenirs.

Geylang

Located in the former red-light district of Singapore, Geylang has a lot of history to offer. Walking the streets, you will be introduced to the wonderful architecture, as well as experience some of the modern elements of the city too. One of the best things to do ere is try the local food.

The Camden Medical Center

If shopping and couture is your forte, you’ve come to the right place. Being big in fashion and appearance, Singapore has a nice little cosmetic secret. Stop in the Camden Medical Center for some of the latest skin treatments, from expert medial advancements to traditional and herbal medicines.

Haji Lane

Tucked away in the heart of the Muslim quarter, Haji Lane has tons of little secret shops to offer the savvy shopper. Of course, you will find a vast variety of couture shops in popular places, but here, it is really a shopper’s dream come true!

Funan Digitalife Mall

If electronics are what excites you, try the Funan Digitalife Mall. Take advantage of the most hi-tech devices for about 10-20% cheaper than you would at other shops!

The White Rabbit

This restaurant gives you a little history, a lot of beauty, and some really great Euro comfort food. Once a historical church, this building was renovated to be a beautiful restaurant, keeping much of the church’s aesthetic design.

Zouk

The nightlife in Singapore can be compared to that of New York, and a wonderful place to see it is by visiting Zouk. This amazing nightclub will fill your night with loud music, flashing strobes, and tons of dancing. No matter where you party in Singapore however, you’re bound to have an amazing time!

If you thinking of how to get to Singapore or how to get around here are some handy tips. When in Singapore you have several options for getting around including MRT, bus and taxi.

 

5 Tips to Have A Successful Camping Trip

I read a great article, here, with lots of camping tips, but I wanted to make one of my own. I hope it’s useful to you. Camping season is here, inspiring many city dwellers to pack up and head out into the wild to try and get some peace, some quiet, and some fresh air during their days off.  That being said, a camping trip will only be peaceful and fun if you properly plan ahead and make sure that you’re prepared for your trek out into the wild.  Here are our 5 top tips that will help you have the camping trip of a life time:

 

Hike to Your Destination

If you plan on driving right on in to your camp site, then get ready for crowds and a noisy campground – you’ve been warned!  Any time that you can drive directly to a site means that you’ll have 5 to 10 times or even more people being around you at any given time.  So if you’re going for “peace” and “quiet”, choose to hike to your site. Tours such as Kakadu tours in the Australian outback will offer endless peace for people chasing some serenity.

Even if you have to only hike a couple of kilometres/miles down the road to get to your camping destination, you’ll be cutting down the amount of people around you and giving yourself the promise of a far more relaxing camping experience.

 

Eat Well

Why is it that when people think “camping” they immediately think “hot dogs”? Even if you’re camping for only two days or so, you’ll undoubtedly tire of hot dogs by lunch time on the second day.  Add some variety to your menu and throw in some of your favourite treats from home.  Haul along that watertight cooler and throw it in the lake if you want to have some cool bevies to enjoy as you lounge in the lake under that hot afternoon sun (though don’t forget to tie the cooler down!) and bring:

  • A camping stove
  • At least one frying pan
  • A plate, bowl, and set of utensils for everyone coming along on the trek.

 

Comfortable Accommodation

This depends on how tough you are and how lightly you sleep. If you are a slave to comforts and can’t stand the idea of being away from your bed, then make sure you bring an inflatable mattress and a pillow. In for a penny, in for a pound; if you love comfort, you could always glamp and get a big fancy bell tent from one of the higher-end tent stores like Boutique Camping in the UK, or make sure you have a look on Glamping Hub if you’re living in America. But, if comfort isn’t that important to you, and you don’t want to carry something so heavy, then the smallest, light weight tent you can get hold of will probably do. After all, you’ll probably spend most of the time outside and only use the tent for sleep.

 

Bring the Essentials

This means bringing along a real first aid kit (not just band aids and some antibacterial cream), a compass, rain gear, matches, a map, and water.  It’ll only take you a few minutes to put these things together, but it’ll be well worth it should you need to use them on your trip.  Some other essentials include:

  • Sunscreen
  • Towels
  • Rope
  • Bear spray
  • Propane

 

Be Friendly With Campers and Park Staff

To get the inside scoop on where the best trails are or what the history of the area you’re camping on is, then you need to make friends with the experienced campers in the area as well as the park staff.  Get friendly with the ranger and the camp host.  Even saying “hi” to them every morning while you cook over your Bunsen burner stove will go a long way in helping you get the information on the area.

 

Less Is More

When it comes to camping, you don’t want to go all out and bring every single thing that you think that you may need.  Stick to the “less is more” principal and bring along only the basics.  Don’t bother spending a ton of cash on you camping gear and just stick with what you know you’ll definitely need.

 

 

5 Tips for Dealing with Culture Shock

Culture shock 1Dealing with culture shock can be a surprisingly difficult challenge for some people that are either traveling abroad for the first time, or delving into a much more foreign culture than what they’ve experienced in the past. It’s tough to prepare for the first steps out of the modern, air-conditioned Delhi airport, when the noise and smell and sights hit you, the autowallahs surround you, and the beggars surround you. When you arrive at a homestay in a Masaai village in Tanzania, you can’t do much to get in the mindset of little girls being stronger than you, sharing a bed with a goat, or giving up on identifying what it is that you’re eating. Culture shock can be overwhelming, and make travel that much more difficult. Here are some tips for combating it:

 

Culture shock 21. Know what you’re going into

If you take some time researching the place that you’re going, understanding a little bit of the local customs, and knowing at least a little bit what to expect, your transition will be infinitely easier. Get information from guidebooks, travel blogs, national websites, novels about the country, or whatever else you find easiest to acclimate with. You will find many moments where you instantly recognize a custom that would otherwise be totally baffling to you had you not read about it beforehand.

 

2. Learn a few words

You’re always going to feel like a little bit of an idiot saying the same three Thai phrases over and over again, but they really do help. Being able to say simple pleasantries, ask how much something costs and understand the answer, and a few emergency phrases will help a lot. As you become more comfortable with the culture, you can expand your vocabulary, but it’s good to have at least a tiny bit before you arrive.

 

3. Find patterns

Diving into a place that is totally foreign from everything you’ve ever experienced is great, but don’t overstretch yourself. Many backpackers arrive in a city, see the top recommended sites, and move on within two days. This isn’t recommended, especially when you’re first starting out. Find a comfortable guesthouse, get to know the owners, ask them lots of questions. Learn your way around the neighborhood, go to the same noodle lady on the corner every day until she knows what you want better than you do, and otherwise ease into things. Then you can move on with a much better basis.

 

Culture shock 34. Band together

Other foreigners will be going through the same experience as you, and can be an excellent resource in information and retaining sanity (not to mention talking you out of making bad choices). This is especially true if you’re traveling alone. Find comfort and familiarity in people with similar backgrounds to your own, and use their advice and company to get a better foothold wherever you are. That’s not to say that you should be dependent, or only have an “expat experience.” The more you adapt over time, the less you’ll need other foreigners to help you out.

 

5. Reminders from home

Sure, traveling with your stuffed bear you’ve had for 20 years might like funny to the locals, but who cares? If it gives you a sense of security, it’s worth it. Skype home. Have your parents send you something special that you can’t find where you are (cheddar cheese, maple syrup, good coffee, tampons, whatever). You will be a happy person.

 

Immersing yourself in a new culture doesn’t have to be intimidating. While some degree of shock is inevitable, it’s easy to manage by following a few simple tips. Above all, don’t be scared of trying new things!

 

 

Staying Sane on the Road

Long term travel can be one of the most liberating, refreshing, and consciousness-expanding experiences that you choose to undergo in your lifetime. But while it has so much positive potential, it can often take a toll on your mental health. Feelings of homesickness and culture shock can be overwhelming, especially when combined with the stress of always being on the move.

 

staying sane 1If homesickness is a big issue for you, you should take the time to recognize why that is. Do you miss specific people? Routines from home? Utilize Skype to keep up to date with loved ones. Bring a keepsake from home to travel with, or engage in activities that remind you of the life that’s on hold there. Write your thoughts down continuously, and then take some time to appreciate where you are. There was probably a good reason you decided to do this solo cross-Europe backpacking trip. What was it? Make it happen.

 

Excessive anger and frustration often arise in places far-removed from your normal comfort zone. The train is five hours late, the immigration office is inexplicably closed, the tuk tuk driver scams you, the street food made you sick, and the directions that every single person gives you are wrong. Most western cultures appreciate timeliness and demand logical explanations for policies. We welcome directness over saving face, and expect honesty over cheating. The same values are not necessarily held in all parts of the world, and you may find your temper rising when things just don’t run the way that they should.

 

staying sane 2To combat this, perspective is essential. Sure, the enterprising Turkish shopkeeper ripped you off for as much as he could—probably less than a Starbucks’ coffee worth. The bus to Dar es-Salaam isn’t running today for no apparent reason? Fine, walk around the village instead and appreciate that this is only a one-time inconvenience for you instead of a daily reality. My personal philosophy is to budget for these annoyances, as unfortunate as they are, and not let them bring me down. If it ever becomes too much, spend the little bit extra to treat yourself—a hotel with AC and a pool, a well-earned meal at a modern restaurant, or a spa day. You’ll feel much better for having done so.

 

staying sane 3But psychological stresses like these are often heightened by backpackers’ tendency to always be on the move. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, by all means, slow down. Drop some stops from your itinerary in order to appreciate the places that you most want to see and not feel like you need to leave on the same day. Take the time to explore each town that you like and try to get a feeling for local life as much as big tourist sites. Being flexible will allow you to adjust to the pace of each place, learn more of the language, find restaurants and people that you like, and feel much less stressed than if you are constantly running to catch the next sleeper bus.

 

If at any point traveling ceases to be fun, it’s time to take a moment to seriously evaluate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Long-term backpacking is a release from the frustrations and cycles of life at home. It gives us a chance to explore totally new things, but by the same token requires that we be open to them.

5 Rainy Holiday Websites

It happens to everyone at some point: the trip of a lifetime, meticulously plans, comes to a shuddering halt due to an unexpectedly early onset of the monsoon season, which quickly takes on Biblical proportions and threatens to sweep away anyone not hiding under the bed in their a guesthouse. Rainy days trapped in the hotel certainly put a damper n your trip, but they don’t have to ruin it. Here are five websites to keep you busy while you wait out the weather:

5 Rainy Holiday Websites 11. Pinterest
Humor, inspiration, DIY projects, photography, recipes, advice—no matter what you’re interested in, you can find it here. Pinterest operates on a system of publically bookmarking captioned photos into categories that you create. Browsing through the pins of friends and strangers is sure to result in fun discoveries and an endless amount of time consumption. While individuals of any gender will have fun exploring, the site’s demographics and communal interests ensure that if you have either weddings or babies on your mind, you’ll never leave.

2. StumbleUpon
True to the expression, this site allows you to come across unexpected gems from across the internet. It’s less organized and social than Pinterest, but more likely to result in bizarre and hilarious websites and videos that you’ll want to share with friends. It’s especially good for humor, but once again you can find endless links to quality pages on just about any topic.

5 Rainy Holiday Websites 23. Gambling websites
Make money without leaving your room! Sites like http://www.luckynuggetcasino.com offer blackjack, video poker, roulette, slots, and tons of other games to play. Start off trying out your favorites just for fun, and then you can start wagering real money when you’re more confident with your strategies and skill level. Lucky Nugget and other sites work well on mobile devices by all major companies, so you can still get just as much out of them if you’re not traveling with a netbook or laptop. If you can’t go outside and experience the place you’re in, at least put some extra cash in your account to enjoy it more once the rain clears up.

4. Project Free TV
We at The Wanderkind don’t condone breaking the law, but as long as the content is already hosted by someone else…we’re not going to tell you to not catch up on your favorite shows. Stream the latest seasons of that cliffhanger drama, or go back to the pilot of your all time favorite classics and start from the beginning. As long as you enjoy at least a decent wifi connection, you can find it all here. Queuing up multiple episodes and having a marathon is our recommended method.

5 Rainy Holiday Websites 35. Wikitravel
Get up-to-date recommendations from other travelers on the next place you plan to go. Far more productive than the other options listed here, and nowhere near as self-indulgent. Travel smart by building on the advice and experiences of others that have come before you.

You should never miss out on your holiday just to sit on your computer all day. But if the weather just won’t cooperate, we hope that these suggestions will help you stave off the boredom and leave you refreshed and excited when it’s time to get back out there. Enjoy!