Tips for first-time backpackers

Tips for first-time backpackers

Backpacking is certainly not for the faint-hearted. You need to be prepared to rough it out, allow for flexibility, keep a close watch on your budget and make do with little or even no comforts. But backpacking is also unlike any other travel experience – besides the sights that you see, you will also learn to appreciate the little comforts you enjoy in life and make do with less while building up confidence and resilience. 

If you have decided to take that leap of faith and try out backpacking, here are some tips that you will find helpful!

1. Get a good backpack

Your backpack will be sticking with you for the entire duration of your trip and is likely to be the only bag that you carry. It is only fair that you get a good quality backpack. An ideal backpack should be water resistant to withstand wet weather, have multiple compartments for you to organise your belongings and have two zippers so that you can lock your bag up. It should also have an internal frame and padded shoulder and hip straps. 

The size of the backpack to carry largely depends on your body size – it should be large enough to able to fit the items that you need but not so large that it will weigh you down or even cause injury. That said, you should not carry a backpack that is too small as it may not be able to contain the items that you need.  

2. Pack only what you need 

Your packing list is largely dependent on the destination you will be heading to. That said, you should leave items such as jewellery, perfumes and even your laptops behind – such items are non-essentials when it comes to backpacking. Do check the weather conditions of your destination as well as the accommodation you are staying in before deciding which items of clothing to bring. If you will be able to wash your clothes, you can afford to bring less otherwise, pack enough clothing to last you the entire duration of your trip. 

Besides clothing, you should also bring enough toiletries and medication as you may not be able to get them easily on the go. You should also bring along snacks as you are likely to get hungry along the way.

3. Plan ahead but allow for changes

Backpacking involves spontaneity and flexibility but that does not mean you do not have to plan ahead. For first-timers, you should book your lodging and transportation in advance so that you can have peace of mind that you have a place to stay and you can get from one place to another. You can also plan which sites you would like to visit during your travels but do allow for flexibility on that front – you may well spend more time than you expect at a particular spot. It is also a good idea to have backup plans so that even when faced with unforeseen circumstances, you will not be at a lost. 

4. Photocopies of important documents

In the event that anything goes missing, photocopies of essential travel items such as your passport and accommodation booking will come in helpful. Do keep your backup copies separately from the original.

5. Go off the beaten path

Avoid the touristy spots – thieves often lurk around such areas and tourists are an easy target. You will only stand out with your backpack and catch their attention so do not put yourself through unnecessary danger. Do your research – find out what are some of the hidden gems in your destination and consider exploring such places instead. Be prepared that you may not be able to cover all the 'hidden' places that you may want to visit – it is only part and parcel of backpacking!

6. Bring sufficient cash and monitor your spending

While you should refrain from bringing a large amount of cash, ensure that you have enough to last you the duration of your backpacking adventure. Card payments are not always accepted, particularly in remote locations. Besides, it is easier to keep track of your spending with cash so if it helps, bring an amount that you deem sufficient and try to make it last for the entire duration. Remember that backpacking is not luxury travel.  

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5 Travel Bloggers Tell Us About Their Favourite Destinations

5 Travel Bloggers Tell Us About Their Favourite Destinations

If you didn't know already, BonAppetour love to travel, but these travel bloggers have committed themselves to documenting their globetrotting adventures on wonderfully well-thought-out blogs. "Been there done that" is not just an expression for them- it's an exciting reality.  We wanted to ask the ultimate question to these intrepid travellers: Of all the places you have been to, what has been your number one destination? And these were their responses: 

Jo from Wander With Jo – Cape Town

Jo is an adrenaline junkie and an avid globetrotter. She loves to write and started putting pen to paper at a very early age by jotting letters to her penpals. Now, she writes on her blog and shares her travel tales with adventurists across the globe.

Cape Town, South Africa, is definitely one of my top travel destinations.  This lively place offers something for all kinds of tourists. Be it adventurists or peace seekers, spiritual travelers or party goers – The mother city happily accommodates everyone in its humble abode. 

There are a lot of fun activities which can be undertaken individually, with your loved one or even as a family. Climb or take a cable car to the top of Table mountain or enjoy the adorable African penguins in their natural habitat, you will not be running out of places to see or things to do anytime soon. 

Around one week in Cape Town is sufficient to see the top attractions but if you have time and want to slow travel or enjoy at your pace, I would recommend spending a month, at least.

Read more about Jo's travels on her site here, or get social with her on Facebook l Twitter l Instagram l Pinterest 

Eboni from Eboni + Ivory- Amsterdam

Eboni is based in London and blogs about a mix of Lifestyle and Travel topics over on her site Eboni + Ivory

 I am half Dutch. My mum and dad met in Amsterdam, but seen as my father passed away when I was very, very young, I have never felt the strong connection to Holland. That was until I went to Amsterdam.

I felt instantly at home in Amsterdam. This small, watery city is like no other place in the world. Like my blog name, this city truly encapsulates everything about an Eboni/Ivory personality; beautiful tulipsbikes with baskets and glistening canals make up Amsterdam’s sunny day. On the other hand, it’s no secret that Amsterdam is very well known for its seedy underbelly with a prominent cannabis culture and world-famous Red Light District, Amsterdam surely is a game of two halves! This all just entices me further and promises for an interesting visit!

It is completely possible to get to most places by foot. Pick a cental-ish location for your accommodation and explore by walking. I have never hired a bike, but I would leave that to the locals unless you’re wanting a quiet cycle through Vondelpark- it can get pretty dangerous if you're not a usual city-cycler. Trams can be fun, but the cost can add up after a while, and if the weather is nice, a walk along the canals is just so much better!

My must-do activity in Amsterdam is a ride on a tour boat. I love cities that have boat tours and Amsterdam is no different. Make sure you find a good deal online.

Read more about Eboni's travels on her site here, or get social with her on Facebook l Twitter l Instagram l YouTube

Jessica from The Travelista – Tuscany

Jessica has honed in on luxury travel blogging over on The Travelista. Check out her award-winning blog for posts about her luxurious adventures around the world. 

Of all the destinations around the world, Tuscany has a special place in my heart. It’s a place to discover a rustic slice of Italy without the hectic tourist crowds – and if you love Italian food, you’d be in the right place. The vineyards, romantic hillsides and breathtaking landscapes are enough to melt the coldest of hearts. Tuscany is rural escapism at its most fabulous.

I have fond memories of Tuscany as it’s the place me and my boyfriend had our first holiday, which we decided to name ‘The Tuscan Road Trip’. We flew in to Pisa and picked up our hire car. After checking out the famous Leaning Tower, we drove over to our rural base of Castello di Casole, a converted castle near to Casole d’Elsa. From here we took day trips to Siena and San Gimignano, before driving to Florence for the last few days of our trip. In the space of a week we squeezed in 5 incredible Tuscan cities, each one different from the next. It felt like a mini adventure and having our own car gave us a great sense of freedom.

Read more about Jessica's travels on her site here, or get social with her on Facebook l Twitter l Instagram 

Millie from Millie Goes – India

Female travel blogger Millie has set foot on 5 of the 7 continents and writes about her escapades on the blog Millie Goes.

India – the land of colour, festivals and spice! From its rich history to less than organised culture, there's a certain magic here that you can escape. This diverse country has quickly become one of my favourites; you really can have it all here! I've found that India has a little bit of everything, with peaceful Himalayan mountains full of yoga retreats, the hustle and bustle of the city, quite beachside towns and let's not forget the vast desert!

I guess the hardest part for me is to narrow it down to what I loved the most here. There's simply too much to list all in one place but I have to say one of Delhi’s hidden charms is that you can be in the busiest section of town, yet step into the nearest temple and within its walls is a beautiful silence. They've perfected the balance of respecting traditions of the past with the chaos of the present, something us Brits can't seem to get a handle on. Of course, we all know I’d be foolish not to mention their incredible food too!

Find out more about India from my Two Minute Guide to the country.  

Read more about Millie's travels on her site here, or get social with her on Facebook l Twitter l Instagram

Julie and Drew from Drive on the Left-  Ljubljana, Slovenia

Julie and Drew are American expats who currently call London their home. They write for all travellers, armchair explorers, wanderlusters, and those whose travel itch needs a little scratching on their blog Drive on the Left

Our favorite travel destination has to be Ljubljana, Slovenia. It is small and compact, with an adorable historic center, divided by the Ljubljanica River. Coffee shops, bars and restaurants line the river, making it the ideal spot for a coffee in the morning, or a glass of wine in the evening. We had a wonderful meal at Špajza, situated in an old, rustic home, and enjoyed a delicious burger and Slovenian craft beer at Pop’s Place. The Ljubljana market was phenomenal, packed with perfect produce, including lots of truffle-related products. For a little exercise, we walked up to Ljubljana Castle, with expansive views of Ljubljana, the surrounding lush countryside, and the Julian Alps in the distance.

Ljubljana is certainly not high on tourists’ radar, which adds to the appeal. It is large enough to offer plenty of activities for a long weekend, but small enough to explore thoroughly. With a combination of great food, friendly locals, dazzling buildings, and the natural beauty of the Alps, it is hard to go wrong in Ljubljana. 

Read more about Julie and Drew's travels on their site here, or get social with them on Facebook l Twitter l Instagram l Pinterest l YouTube

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10 Ways to Enhance Your Vacation and Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture

10 Ways to Enhance Your Vacation and Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture

Every place gives more of itself. But not many travelers get the chance to find them. There is just not enough time to discover everything in the brief time you spend at your destination. And as you travel more, it is easy to fall into the trap of experiencing the same things over and over again with little variations. Not that it is a bad thing. A sense of familiarity can be a huge confidence booster when confronted with the unknown. On the flipside, doing more of the same hinders you from experiencing new things.

The best takeaways from travel are the experiences you get from it. Each destination has its own unique essence and vibe that sets it apart from all the other places you have been to. If you think that enhancing your vacation requires taking on adrenalin-pumping adventures, think again! You do not have to go to the extreme to step out of your comfort zone. Below are some ideas on how you can immerse yourself in the local culture on your next trip.

1. Choose to Travel Smart

You cannot plan for a perfect trip. But you can minimize the stress that comes with traveling. Flight or traffic delays, lost documents, and other unexpected problems could happen to anyone. Anticipating potential glitches makes it easier to resolve them. Pack with convenience in mind. Imagine lugging around your stuff using only public transportation at your destination. The less stuff you have with you, the less cumbersome it would be to carry them with you. You will never know when you may have to deal with sudden changes that would require you to act as quickly as possible. And it would be hard to do that if a heavy piece of luggage could slow you down. 

Pick a travel insurance package that best suits your requirements. This is often easier said than done considering the amount of information you need to go through. You can read comparative reviews on reputable consumer and travel websites. This should give you a fairly good idea of which ones are suitable for you. Alternatively, you can ask for recommendations from friends. Given the uncertainties that come with traveling, a well-chosen travel insurance plan can prove handy if needed.  Traveling smart is about planning the most important details beforehand so you do not have to worry about them once you get to your destination. This allows you to focus on just having the best time of your life during your trip.

2. Pick Accommodations That Offer A More Local Ambiance

Finding an accommodation nowadays is much easier given the wide array of choices available. A growing number of travelers are willing to explore the experiences couch-surfing, homestays, and renting an apartment offer. Part of the appeal of staying in these places is that it provides opportunities for a more local experience. While hotels can give you the familiar comforts you find anywhere else in the world, many often lack the more personal touches that reflect the uniqueness of the town or city.

Couch-surfing and homestay is an excellent choice if you do not mind constant interactions with your hosts. But it can be a bit restricting for those who are used to having their own personal space. If you want something more private, you can opt for an apartment rental. You can still get the more personal touches of a home without sacrificing your privacy. If you prefer staying in hotels, consider looking beyond the chained-brands. Instead, look into smaller and well-known family-owned or local hotels.  These are the places where you often find a more personal experience on local hospitality. Where you stay add up to your entire vacation experience. So it is best to choose your accommodation well.   

3. Manage Expectations

Your expectations can define your travel experience. You have to learn how to manage them well. Some places do not have the comforts and conveniences that you take for granted at home. Local airports and public transportation can be inefficient. Traffic can be horrendous. Internet speed can be unbelievably slow. And free Wi-Fi may be hard to come by. These are the things that some travelers, even the most experienced ones, tend to complain about often for understandable reasons. But fretting over them steals the fun out of seeing the possibilities when you find yourself in the midst of the unfamiliar.

A simple way to have the best possible experiences while on vacation is to expect the unexpected. Set reasonable expectations on the most important things like safety and security. And be flexible with the rest. Learn something about the local customs before your trip. This should prepare you a little for what is in store for you. It can help you adjust your perception and reactions on things that may be a bit different from what you are used to at home.

4. Don't compare

Every destination may seem far better or worse than each other. Comparing them just sets you up for needless disappointments. Tourist attractions may not be at par with the ones you have visited in the past. At some point in your travels, you will be disappointed by what you see. But that is the beauty of traveling. You find that it is the differences, the good, the bad, and everything in between, that make places stand out. Your attitude towards a place and its people can influence your experiences. Many travelers fail to connect with local people in meaningful ways because of negative views they have about the place.

Picking a vacation spot is just a small part of the bigger picture. The returns on the time and money you invested for a getaway depend on your ability to squeeze the best possible outcomes from every experience. So avoid getting trapped in a habit of comparing your current experiences with the ones you have in a previous trip or at home. Take everything as it comes and just go with the flow. You might be surprised to find something better than you hoped for.

5. Adjust to the Local Place

The whole point of taking a vacation is to enjoy a break from your daily routines. It But slowing down is not as easy as it looks, especially if you are used to a fast-paced environment. You might be surprised how challenging it can be at times. It is not like you can quickly switch off ingrained habits. It even gets trickier when you want everything to go as planned. Buses and trains in some of your destinations may not often run on time. Services in shops and restaurants may not be as fast as you experience at home. Local shops you want to visit may be closed at midday as owners enjoy their siesta

Adjusting to the local pace can save you from a lot of stress. It also makes it easier to pay attention to what is going on around you. You will notice things you could otherwise miss as you rush through your planned activities. It may even create more room for spontaneity as you explore the things you discover that may not be on your itinerary. So the next time you are on vacation, make a conscious effort to slow down from time to time and do what locals do.

6. Experience Dining At Hole-In-The-Walls

Eating street food and local cuisines served at hole-in-the-wall restaurants enhances your travel experience. This may not seem a good idea if you consider food hygiene and safety. But many top tourist destinations are known for their street stalls that offer some of the tastiest foods in the world. If you have not done it already, add visits to street stalls and food places where locals go in your itinerary. 

You can be more adventurous with food without unnecessarily putting your health and safety at risk. Choose places that are most likely regulated by local authorities. Food poisoning is bad for tourism so many cities are invested in keeping street food safe for locals and tourists alike. Some of the best-tasting foods are sometimes found along the streets or in seemingly nondescript restaurants. You can miss out on a good meal or snack by sticking to the tried and tested flavors of chain restaurants you find at home.

7. Vist Local Farmers' Markets

Not many tourists venture into local farmers’ markets. It seems pointless when you do not have plans of doing any food shopping. A visit to busy and unfamiliar open markets can also be overwhelming. But it can be one of the best places to go if you want to have a more authentic local experience.

A trip to the market gives you a glimpse of the myriad of colors and flavors that make up the place’s culinary scene. If you are staying in a place equipped with a kitchen and basic cookware then you might want to make the most of it by preparing your own meal at least once. You can cook a delicious meal using the freshest and finest ingredients you can find in the market.

8. Learn Something to Remind you of a Place

Learning a skill while traveling is a lasting souvenir you can take back with you. It does not have to be anything complex that requires a lot of time to pick up. It could be as simple as cooking a traditional dish or craft. Short lessons on art, cooking, and pottery are just few of the things you can explore.

Picking up a skill not only expands your repertoire of talents. It can also be a great gift you can share with family and friends at home. Imagine the surprise and delight they get when you serve them an exotic dish that you have learned to prepare in one of your travels. It puts a twist to the kind of souvenirs you can bring home with you.  

9. Make Friends with Fellow Travelers

Traveling is a common interest that could forge lifelong friendships. Some of the friends you meet while vacationing abroad could be your future travel buddies. Others become one of the reasons you visit a place again. But it is not easy making friends when traveling with a tight-knit group. You become comfortable with each others’ company that you tend to overlook the people around you.

If you want a deeper experience on your trips, pay more attention to strangers and travelers you meet along the way. Make time for conversations and learn from them. The stories you hear may even inspire you to travel to the places they tell you about. Talking with the local people also gives you a better grasp of the local culture. You may even find out things that could improve your vacation experience.

10. Dine at Someone's Home. 

What if there is more to dining with the locals than visiting the restaurants they frequent? What if you can actually enjoy a meal and have an interesting conversation with them at their homes?  Think of all the things you can talk about with the people who will open their doors for you. The idea alone has all the makings of a memorable experience you do not often find in run-of-the-mill vacations.

BonAppetour makes this concept a reality by connecting travelers with vetted hosts who can serve you with their version of traditional cuisines. You can let them plan a simple dinner or a night of party with your friends. You can even make special requests based on your dietary restrictions. The hosts can tailor your experience based on your preferences with the added bonus of having a night of fun and conversations to look forward to. 

It does not take a lot of resources to make the most of your vacation. Sometimes it only takes small tweaks to make your trip more exciting and memorable. As you immerse yourself deeper into the local culture and experience things from their perspective, you discover things that many others miss. And there is nothing like leaving a place knowing that you have experienced more than what you planned for.

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Top 5 Facts about Dining Etiquette in Barcelona

Top 5 Facts about Dining Etiquette in Barcelona

It is almost impossible to get through traveling anecdotes without a tale involving food, whether it be tried and tested dining experiences or perhaps daring attempts in quirky cuisine. While it is a no-brainer to figure out the signature or hallmark dishes of Barcelona, it takes a great deal of consciousness to avoid making light of dining etiquette that could either make or break your dining experiences in Barcelona. 

Here are 5 top tricks for you to try local cuisine AND eat like a local too.

Master the language of knife and fork

Fear not. You are not alone. Getting caught in an awkward situation where you have to make a decision between raising your hand for assistance and serving yourself is a universal experience we all face at some point in time. Such encounters are especially prominent overseas, so picking up the universal language of knife and fork would be handy in getting your requests across. The last obstacle before you can safely exit the restaurant and conclude a successful dining experience would be to ask for the bill. As daunting as it may sound, you must take a leap of faith. Elevate your hand in the mid-air, and let por favor slip off your tongue while signing an imaginary cheque in the air. The waiters should be able to get the hint.


Freedom to Tip

Unlike other European cities, tipping in Barcelona is definitely not mandatory. That being said, tipping is not prohibited and it could be a splendid way for you to show your appreciation of an excellent service. To tip moderately, it is perhaps wise to round off your bill to a whole number, for instance, pay 20 euros if the bill reflects 19.20. For travelers that are on tight budget, you would be relieved to learn that in certain instances such as coffee order and menu del dia, tipping would be considered unnecessary. You are then free to save those few coins for a wish at the nearest wish fountain.

Wait and Watch

While it is not uncommon for travelers to receive invitations to local’s homes, committing a faux pas and driving your hosts up the wall is the last thing you want to do. A usual dining setting involves having the most honored member of the family to be seated at the head of the table, following by the most important guest situating on the right of the host. To err on the safe side, we suggest that you hold your horses and wait till most of the members to be seated down before filling in that vacant seat. Having a small gift like chocolate or wine would definitely put you in a good light as an exemplary guest.

Linger to mingle

If you are being brought up in an environment that prioritizes efficiency over anything else, and living by the principle that every second counts, you might find this teeny-weeny act a challenge. That is to stay put after you are done with your meal. Sobremesa, which literally means ‘over the table’, is the time spent after a meal to hang out with family or friends through the engagement of small talk. To do otherwise would be considered as rude and ill-mannered so you may want to start hitting the books, and read up on 101 ways to hold a meaningful conversation. Alternatively, refer to tip #5 to learn how you can master the art of conversing within a meal’s time.

Learn from the local themselves

The list above is certainly not exhaustive, and what’s a better way to acquire those dining etiquettes than picking it up from the local themselves! Dine away with local hosts in Barcelona simply by picking an experience from seafood barbecue with Nani to a sensory dining experience-dine in the dark with a local host, Pablo. Dining with the locals offers opportunities for you to get an insider’s guide of how to enjoy Barcelona. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous and hands-on, why not try learning the steps in crafting and customizing your very own Tapas with Yves.

The existence of dining etiquettes would no doubt make a huge difference in your dining experience. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful when taking the extra mile in creating a pleasant dining experience. Bon Appétit! 

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