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How to Use the Sharing Economy to Travel on a Budget

Posted By : webmaster/ 28 0


A group of travelers having a picnic on a mountain at sunset
Updated: 12/27/2019 | December 27th, 2019

In the decade that I’ve been traveling, the Internet has revolutionized travel. While not always for the better, there is no question that it has allowed people to share, connect, and collaborate in ways that haven’t been possible.

For budget travelers, this change has led to a plethora of new money-saving and community-building apps and platforms that have made travel even more affordable and accessible. It’s never been easier to connect with locals, get off the tourist travel, and experience the local pace of life.

To help you save money and connect with locals and travelers alike, here are the best sharing economy platforms for travelers.
 

Hospitality Networks

A group of Couchsurfers having a picnic together
Hospitality networks have been around for decades but they didn’t get popular until the creation of Couchsurfing.

Founded in 2004, this was one of the first sharing economy platforms to change the way people travel. Couchsurfing connects travelers with locals who are willing to give them a free place to stay (couch, room, floor, etc.). In addition to accommodation, travelers get a local perspective on a destination. It’s meant to be used as a form of cultural exchange and is used by travelers of all ages (and families too!).

Couchsrufing popularized hospitality networks and, with millions of members all around the world, it’s easy to use and find hosts pretty much anywhere. And if you don’t want to stay with locals, you can use the app to meet other locals and travelers for coffee, a meal, a visit to a museum, and other fun activities.

There are always meet-ups posted on the platform (including lots of language exchanges) and it’s easy to find travel companions on the app as well. (My Community Manager has used it to find road trip companions on a few occasions).

But there is more than just Couchsurfing out there. Other hospitality exchanges worth checking out are:

 

House and Pet Sitting

Two cute dogs being walked by a pet sitter in a park
One of the most recent areas of the sharing economy to see major growth has been house sitting and pet sitting. As more and more people travel, there is a growing demand for house and pet sitters as most people can’t bring their pets (or farm animals) on a trip with them.

On the other side of the coin, more and more travelers are looking to travel slow. There are also tons of digital nomads out there who need long-term bases to work from as well. House sitting and pet sitting websites like Trusted Housesitters have done an amazing job at connecting these two demographics.

Much like Airbnb, there are profiles, ratings, and reviews to ensure the platform is safe for everyone involved.

I know bloggers who travel exclusively via house sitting, cutting their travel costs by as much as 30% a year! If you’re looking for a unique and fulfilling way to travel slow, try pet sitting. Because who doesn’t want to spend their time with cute animals?

Other house and pet sitting webistes you can use are:

 

Apartment Rentals and Paid Accommodation

A cozy Airbnb apartment rental with lots of plants and light
Hotels are expensive. Maybe hostels aren’t your thing. So, what’s the next best choice? Renting someone’s apartment (or a room in it)! On apartment sharing/rental websites, you can rent a room, couch, or whole apartment at much cheaper rates than a hotel room.

Plus, you’ll have a local host to answer your questions and a kitchen to prepare meals. It’s the best middle ground between hostels and hotels. I think Airbnb offers the most robust inventory for finding a spot in someone’s house, and I prefer them the most. (That said, Airbnb is far from perfect.)

However, it’s important to always compare rental sites because, unlike hotel sites where properties appear over multiple websites, listings are at the owner’s discretion and some owners list their property on only one site.  (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)

Similar services to Airbnb include:

 

Eat With Locals

A group of travelers using the sharing economy to have a meal together
Like apartment sharing, there are now meal-sharing sites that connect you with local cooks. EatWith lets locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that travelers can then sign up for.

You can pick from a variety of meals in each destination with each meal uniquely designed and priced (like Airbnb, hosts choose their own prices). Since each cook has their own specialties, you can find a ton of variety on this platform. The dinner parties are intimate, insightful, and are a unique opportunity to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make new friends.

Similar services include:

 

Taxis

A smartphone user using the Lyft app on their phone
In many countries around the world, taxis are incedibly expensive. As a budget traveler, you likely avoid taking them as much as possible. However, every now and then we all need one. Instead of calling a regular taxi, use taxi ridesharing apps to save you money.

Lyft is available around the world and is an affordable option of budget travelers. Uber is the other main option. It’s usually a little bit more expensive than Lyft but the cars are nicer and the service a little more professional.

Both options will save you money (especially if you use the “pool” option to share your ride with other potential customers). If you choose Uber, use code jlx6v to save $15 off your first ride. Other apps that replace taxis are:

 

Car Rentals

A car rental parked near a beautiful view surrounded by clouds
Need a car for a few hours — or a few days? Rent someone else’s! Turo (which is available in the US, Canada, the UK, and Germany) allows you to rent people’s unused cars by the hour or by the day. Prices are usually cheaper than your traditional rental, and you’ll have much more variety too.

Car rental platforms are great for short rentals where a traditional company might be inflexible or overpriced. Other car rental apps worth checking out are:

 

Rideshares

Two friends in a car together starting a road trip
Rideshares are a convenient and cheap way to travel medium and long distances. Instead of taking the train or a bus, you can use ridesharing apps to find locals and travelers who you can, for a small fee, share a ride with.

It’s a popular option in Europe and, while usually not as cheap as the bus, it’s often much faster (and more comfortable).

Drivers are vetted and verified and it’s a much better way to get out of stuffy trains and buses, meet interesting characters, and take a mini-road trip. It’s one of my preferred methods of travel.

The biggest player in this space is BlaBlaCar, which is huge around Europe and a couple other parts of the world (like India, Turkey, Mexico, and Brazil).

If you’re traveling on a budget and want to have a more memorable experience, try a rideshare. It will save you money, time, and you’ll have a much more interesting experience!

Some other good ridesharing companies:

 

Volunteering/Work Exchanges

A group of young kids in Southeast Asia posing for a picture
If you’re looking to travel long-term but don’t quite have the savings, consider a work exchange program. These usually entail volunteering at a hostel, farm, school, or NGO in exchange for free accommodation (and often free food as well).

Positions can last for a couple of days to a couple of months; there is tons of variety in the lengths of time as well in the positions available. You can find opportunities in pretty much every country and city in the world too.

Worldpackers is one of the best platforms to start your search in. You simply pay to sign up (most work exchange websites charge a nominal fee) and then you’ll get access to their database. You can search for opportunities, read reviews, and contact hosts directly to plan your next exchange.

If you’re on a budget and want to extend your travels, this is one of the best ways to boost your time abroad. Other great work exchange resources are:

***

The rise of “the sharing economy” has made it so much easier for travelers around the world to connect with each other — and save money in the process!

But more than just saving money, these platforms allow better access to destinations, promote new interactions, offer unique opportunities, and create nuanced and intimate travel experience.

On your next trip, be sure to give the sharing economy a try. You’ll learn much more about the culture and destination, save money, and have a much more memorable experience.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post How to Use the Sharing Economy to Travel on a Budget appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 6 Favorite Hostels in Vancouver

Posted By : webmaster/ 21 0


Vancouver city skyline at night
Posted: 12/28/2019 | December 28th, 2019

Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s filled with delicious food (there’s lots of amazing sushi here), spacious parks (don’t miss Stanley Park), and is close to both the mountains and the ocean. The city consistently ranks in the top five best places to live in the world — and it’s no surprise why. It’s a wonderful, wonderful city that I’ve loved ever since I first visited in 2004 with my family.

Since then, I’ve come back a handful of times to explore it on my own. I’ve seen the city change a lot of the last fifteen years — and one of the things that has changed for the benefit of us travelers is that there are a lot more hostels. Vancouver now has one of the best hostel scenes in Canada, and you won’t be disappointed with what you find here.

Below are my favorite hostels in Vancouver. They offer incredible value and have all the facilities you’ll need too!

1. Cambie Hostel Seymour

Cambie Hostel Seymour, Vancouver
Cambie Hostel Seymour is located in Gastown, a hip area of Vancouver loaded with bars and restaurants. This hostel is pretty basic and small (dorms are two or four beds), and the hostel itself doesn’t have much ambience: expect bare rooms and bathrooms in need of a refresh. But guests don’t stay here because of the property; they stay because of its prime location and easy access to other destinations in the city and to the airport. But there is a common area and a “chill room,” which comes complete with its very own hostel cat.

If you’re cooking, the kitchen isn’t huge and seating is limited, but the hostel also makes it easy to go out and dine. They offer $5 off breakfast at the popular Cambie Bar, a part of the Gastown sister hostel a quick walk down the road (see below). Below the hostel is the popular Malone’s Social Lounge & Tap (the reason for the late-night noise) and Chihuahuas Mexican Grill, so you can eat and drink without going far. Because of its proximity to the bars, it gets loud at night. If you want a lively hostel, stay here.

Beds from $25 USD, privates from $55 USD for the night

—> Book your stay at Cambie Hostel Seymour!

2. Cambie Hostel Gastown

Cambie Hostel Gastown, Vancouver
This Gastown hostel offers comfortable beds, a small common room to meet and mingle in, and access to Gastown’s restaurants and bars. This includes The Cambie, the hostel’s bar, which draws in crowds of locals. It can get incredibly loud, so bring some noise-cancelling headphones because basic earplugs won’t cut it. Like its sister hostel a few blocks away, there’s also housecat to keep you company (if you’re allergic to cars, bring allergy meds).

Housed in a building dating back to the late 1800s, it’s in need of a little renovation. The hostel has a small kitchen and the showers are close to the toilets, which makes it cramped. Its location is its main selling point, though, so if you’re not expecting anything special other than direct access to Gastown and all it has to offer, this is a good place for you.

Beds from $23 USD, rooms from $53 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Cambie Hostel Gastown!

3. HI Vancouver Central

HI Vancouver Central, Vancouver
Like many of the other hostels in town, HI Vancouver Central is an old building, which means the property could use a little love. Fortunately, the rooms here offer comfortable beds and every room has a ensuite bathroom. Choose from two-bed or four-bed dorms or private four-bed rooms. Located on Granville Street, it’s in the heart of the action, with many pubs and clubs around, making it noisy at night (but lively and fun too).

The hostel has a free breakfast serving bagels and other baked goods, as well as some fruit and cereal. It has a small common room and basic kitchen with only a toaster, microwave, and kettle. HI also offers tours daily, to destinations around town as well as a pub crawl.

Beds from $29 USD a night, rooms from $52 USD a night

—> Book your stay at HI Vancouver Central!

4. HI Vancouver Downtown

HI Vancouver Downtown, Vancouver
Tucked into a quieter part of the city, HI Vancouver Downtown is a good spot for heading out to explore popular Granville and Davie Streets, which offer plenty of cafés, restaurants, and shopping. It’s also a quick walk to the beach and ferries to Granville Island (where you’ll find lots of shopping), as well as walking distance to the beautiful Stanley Park.

The hostel itself isn’t all that impressive: the dorms don’t have enough outlets to accommodate every bed, the bathrooms are old and can be a bit musty, and the Wi-Fi doesn’t work very well. But the hostel does have a free continental breakfast, a game room with foosball and pool, a library, and a TV room. It also runs tours and has bike rentals so you can easily explore more of the city.

Beds from $29 USD, rooms from $71 USD a night

—> Book your stay at HI Vancouver Downtown!

5. Samesun Vancouver

Samesun Vancouver, Vancouver
The Samesun chain of hostels consistently rank as some of the best in the cities where they are located. Samesun Vancouver is no exception. My favorite feature of this hostel is in the six-bed dorms, which offer cozy pod beds and give you a bit more privacy than normal bunks, as well as your own light, shelf, and outlets. The bathrooms are clean, and there are plenty of them, so you’re not left waiting in line.

There’s a lot to love at this hostel. It’s has a decent free breakfast including eggs and hot cereal, a full kitchen, common areas for meeting people and relaxing, daily hikes, and even the Beaver Bar, a lounge serving food and beer with a daily happy hour.

The only real downsides of Samesun are the small rooms (it’s hard to maneuver in the four-bed dorm), the lack of elevators (so you’ve got to haul your belongings up flights of stairs), and Wi-Fi that doesn’t work well, if at all.

Its location is excellent, however: it’s in the Granville district, which is loaded with bars and restaurants, and near historic Gastown. Like most other hostels in the city, it’s located in an area where the bars are open late, so if you’re sensitive to noise, bring earplugs.

Beds from $27 USD, rooms from $75 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Samesun Vancouver!

6. Vancouver Backpacker House

Vancouver Backpacker House, Vancouver
The Vancouver Backpacker House is about as barebones as it can get — it has only a self-check-in so you have to contact the staff in advance, it does not accept credit cards without a huge fee, the rooms don’t have enough lockers, and its location is not in the city proper. It also has some interesting house rules, like not all of the bathrooms are open to use all of the time. The 10-bed dorm room is in the basement, and, oddly, the private rooms have interior windows. Depending on the room you book, you may have to walk to another building once you’ve checked in.

But if you’re on a tight budget and the other hostels are packed, this place works. It’s near public transit that takes you into the city in about 15 minutes.

Beds from $23 USD, rooms from $41 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Vancouver Backpacker House!

***

While the hostel scene in Vancouver may not be as extensive as other parts of the world, you’ll still find lots of suitable options here. In an expensive city like Vancouver, hostels are your best option if you’re on a budget — especially if you’re looking to enjoy the city’s rambunctious nightlife.

Just make sure you have some good earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you’re a light sleeper. This is a lively city, after all!

Book Your Trip to Vancouver: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Vancouver?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Vancouver for even more planning tips!

The post My 6 Favorite Hostels in Vancouver appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 6 Favorite Hostels in Los Angeles

Posted By : webmaster/ 24 0


a street scene with a bus in Los Angeles
Posted: 12/28/2019 | December 28th, 2019

In the last few years, more and more hostels have started opening up in Los Angeles and a city that was filled with only a couple now has dozens. While most used be located in Santa Monica or West Hollywood, you’ll find hostels spread out all over the city now.

That’s great, because LA itself is super spread out and it’s a pain in the butt to get anywhere. Now, if you want to stay in a hostel, you’re no longer confined to just a few parts of town.

The city is your oyster!

With so many options to now choose from, below is a list of my favorite hostels in the city to help guide your planning. I wouldn’t stay in any other place.

1. Freehand

Freehand hostel dorm in Los Angeles
This hostel/hotel features designer rooms with comfortable, a rooftop pool and bar with amazing views of the city, a lobby bar, a restaurant, and even a fitness center. Over the last few years, the once barren Downtown has become cool again. DTLA is one of my favorite parts of town and, though far from the main sites, you can at least get on the metro to go wherever you want! One thing to note: while this place is super cool, it’s also big and trendy and popular with locals so you don’t get a traditional hostel vibe here. That said, it’s the cheapest place to stay downtown!

Beds from $39 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Freehand Los Angeles!

2. USA Hostels Hollywood

USA Hostels Hollywood dorm in Los Angeles
This is one of my favorite hostels in the city. It’s in a prime location between Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip. I love the privacy pods in the dorms, which come equipped with a shelf, outlet, and light in each. The beds and pillows are also super comfortable and all the rooms have en suite bathrooms.

The hostel offers a complimentary breakfast, plus a garden patio, lounge, weekly BBQs, and other activities like karaoke and walking tours to Runyon Canyon, the Hollywood sign, and Beverly Hills, as well as a limousine tour.

Beds from $37 USD, rooms from $123 USD a night

—> Book your stay at USA Hostels Hollywood!

3. HI Los Angeles Santa Monica

HI Los Angeles Santa Monica in Los Angeles
HI Los Angeles Santa Monica is located a block from the beach and near the famous Santa Monica pier. The hostel includes free Wi-Fi, a stocked kitchen, and complimentary breakfast. It also single-sex dorm rooms. While the beds aren’t super comfy, the hostel offers numerous indoor and outdoor common areas, plus daily free activities and experiences, like pub crawls, walking tours, hikes, and more.

If you’re looking for access to the California beaches and nearby Venice, this is where to stay.

Beds from $31 USD a night

—> Book your stay at HI Los Angeles — Santa Monica!

4. Samesun Venice Beach

Samesun Venice Beach dorm in Los Angeles
If you want to be a part of the action on Venice Beach, Samesun Venice Beach is the place. The hostel has both dorms and private rooms, most of which include an ocean view. Dorms have four, six or eight beds (mixed or female) that have lights and shelves for each. The bunks can be a bit shaky, and the bathrooms are small, and there’s no elevator but, overall, it’s an awesome place to stay in Venice.

Your stay includes free breakfast too. They also do a lot of activities to help ya get to know the city and others in the hostel!

Beds from $36 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Samesun Venice Beach!

5. Banana Bungalow Hollywood

Banana Bungalow Hollywood in Los Angeles
Housed in a former motel, the retro Banana Bungalow Hollywood has a friendly, lively vibe and views of the Hollywood sign. What sets this hostel apart from others isn’t just the free parking (which is basically unheard of in LA) but that every dorm room has a kitchen and bathroom inside the room.

The hostel also has a tiki garden with lounge chairs to soak up the sun, a sidewalk café, and tons of activities in the common room, like live music, comedy, and karaoke, plus a movie theater for when you’re not exploring everything that’s within walking distance, like the Walk of Fame and Chinese Theater.

They also coordinate group activities, such as party buses, tours, hikes, and more. There’s free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and coffee daily, free BBQs and other free food nights, and movie nights. Because of all of the ways to spend time with others at the hostel, it can get loud at night and partying can go until late, so bring earplugs.

Beds from $29 USD, rooms from $99 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Banana Bungalow Hollywood!

6. Walk of Fame Hollywood Hostel

Walk of Fame Hollywood Hostel in Los Angeles
The Walk of Fame Hollywood Hostel is located in prime Hollywood location (you can actually watch the red carpet for the Academy Awards from the upper floors of this recently renovated hostel). Rooms here are clean, the beds are some of the most comfortable in town, and private rooms come a mini-fridge. There is only one bathroom per floor (even privates have shared bathrooms), so it can get a bit crowded. Not all of the dorms have AC, so in the warmer months it can get hot. The hostel has an updated kitchen and serves a complimentary continental breakfast daily.

The hostel also hosts nighttime activities and has a common room with foosball and pool tables.

Beds from $28 USD, rooms from $119 USD a night

—> Book your stay at Walk of Fame Hollywood Hostel!

***

There are not a lot of hostels in Los Angeles, but even from among those slim pickings, these are the best. They are spread out around town so you can find one in whatever part of town you’re staying in, and the prices are pretty affordable too! Check them out the next time you’re in town.

Book Your Trip to Los Angeles: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Los Angeles?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide onLos Angeles for even more planning tips!

The post My 6 Favorite Hostels in Los Angeles appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The Best Cruise Travel Insurance

Posted By : webmaster/ 30 0


A huge cruise ship sailing into the sunset on calm waters
Posted: 12/28/2019 | December 28th, 2019

Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can get for your trip.

As I’ve come to learn — and as any traveler will tell you — things don’t always go as planned. You just never know what will happen.

Sure, nine times out of ten you’ll be completely fine. But every now and then you’ll stumble into an unfortunate situation.

Maybe it’s just a missed flight or a delayed connection. Maybe your wallet disappears while riding a crowded bus. Maybe, like me, you burst an eardrum while scuba diving.

Bad things, unfortunately, do happen when you travel.

And they can get really expensive if you’re injured or fall sick abroad and are not insured.

But what about if you’re taking a cruise — how does travel insurance work then?

Well, of course, you still need travel insurance if you’re on a cruise, but there are some extra things you’ll want to be aware of.

7 Things to Look for in a Cruise Travel Insurance Policy

1. Make sure that whichever travel insurance policy you choose, you double-check that it’s valid for any emergency and problem that might arise on a cruise specifically. Often, cruise coverage is an extra charge on top of your regular travel insurance.

2. Even if you’re cruising close to home, you may still run into unforeseen issues. For example, in the United States, medical insurance stops covering you when your ship is more than six hours away from a US port; in Australia, it stops as soon as your ship leaves port. For that reason, you’ll want to get a policy that covers you even if you’re in/around your home country.

3. Be aware that the treatment for less serious medical conditions — the kinds that don’t require you to leave the trip — are more expensive on a cruise ship than on land. Make sure your policy has a sufficient amount of medical coverage of at least $100,000 USD.

4. Remember, if you fall seriously ill when you’re at sea and you need to be evacuated to a hospital, it’s more expensive than if you’re already on land somewhere near a hospital. Evacuation by helicopter can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Make sure your policy has sufficient evacuation coverage.

If it doesn’t, consider getting Medjet. They are the premier membership program that provides robust evacuation coverage.

5. Be sure to have cancellation, delay, or trip interruption coverage too. For example, if you have a flight delay that means you’ll miss the start of the cruise, it’s a lot more difficult to deal with than just arriving late for a land-based trip. Hurricanes or other severe weather events also affect cruises significantly, and you’ll want your insurance policy to take that into account.

6. Take a look at the shore activities you might participate in during the cruise and check if any need to be mentioned to your insurer, like certain adventure activities or water sports.

7. Unlike other kinds of travel, you might be more likely to take valuable jewelry and expensive clothing on a cruise, for some of the fancy dinners and events cruise ships hold. Often a regular travel insurance policy will only cover these items up to a certain value, so check that your belongings are covered against possible loss or theft.

What is the Best Cruise Travel Insurance?

With so much to consider, it can be hard to decide which cruise travel insurance to choose.

Be aware that while many cruise companies offer their own insurance, the conditions are often stricter, and you might find it hard to make a claim. For example, they often will only reimburse up to 75% of your expenses, tend to have only a short list of reasons you are able to cancel for, and rarely cover pre-existing medical conditions. You’re always better off using a third-party insurer.

Whichever policy you decide on, it’s vital that you read the policy details carefully so you know exactly what you are covered for.

The insurers below are some I recommend that have specific cruise insurance policies and offer a decent amount of coverage for a lot of potential mishaps.

Travel Guard
Travel Guard has specific cruise insurance policies, which makes it simpler than trying to find an add-on. If you’re getting a quote online, they’ll ask you to specify if you’re taking a plane, a cruise, or both. They cover any emergency travel assistance, trip interruption, delay, or cancellation.

Medical expenses and emergency evacuation are covered, but the maximum amount varies between the essential, preferred, and deluxe plans: the essential plan includes a $150,000 limit on emergency evacuation, which might not be quite enough from some parts of the world, but you can get up to a million dollars of coverage on the deluxe plan.

VisitorsCoverage/IMG
In early 2019, VisitorsCoverage and IMG partnered to launch a new insurance product specifically for cruise travelers, called SafeCruise. The SafeCruise plan includes all the extra protection you need as a cruise traveler and even has an upgrade option to include coverage of up to 75% of prepaid, nonrefundable costs if you cancel for any reason at all.

The emergency evacuation or medical repatriation coverage has a high limit of $1,000,000. Additionally, as long as you purchase insurance by the time you make your final trip payment, there’s a waiver for most pre-existing conditions, too.

Insure My Trip
Insure My Trip is an unbiased aggregator site that will look at many different insurance policies to find the one that best fits your needs.

For example, if your cruise is during hurricane season to an area that might be affected, its search algorithm takes that into account and recommends travel insurance policies with good coverage for weather problems.

***

Don’t go on a cruise without proper travel insurance. However, you need to be aware that for a cruise, you have to pay a bit more attention than usual to the conditions of the policy. Make sure that any policy you choose covers you sufficiently for medical evacuation, medical treatment onboard, and other mishaps like missed connections, stolen luggage, delays, and cancellations.

If you can’t afford to add cruise travel insurance on to the costs of your trip, you probably can’t afford to travel. It’s just not worth the risk of coming home with a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars or more if something unexpected goes wrong.

In my experience, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The peace of mind is worth the extra cost.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post The Best Cruise Travel Insurance appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My 15 Favorite Things to See and Do in Georgia

Posted By : webmaster/ 23 0


A lone church on a small hill in Georgia
Posted: 12/28/2019 | December 28th, 2019

Once part of the Soviet Union, Georgia is a destination full of ancient history, stunning landscapes, and plenty of surprises. It’s home to an award-winning wine industry and the cool capital of Tbilisi, which has a stunning Old Town and vibrant nightlife.

And to top it all off, the Caucasus Mountains offer incredible hiking and climbing for anyone looking to explore the outdoors.

Georgia deserves all the praise it gets. It really is jam-packed with activities and attractions and is slowly starting to get on people’s radar. I loved my time there, and my only regret is that I didn’t have more of it (but I guess that’s just a reason to go back, right?).

It may not be one of the most obvious places to travel, but if you want an eclectic destination that doesn’t have a lot of crowds and is safe, inexpensive, and filled with great food and drink, Georgia is it! I can’t recommend it enough.

Here’s a list of what I consider to be some of the best things to see and do in Georgia:
 

1. Visit Tbilisi

Blue skies over the historic city of Tbilisi, Georgia
Georgia’s capital is home to just over a million people and has started to gain a reputation as a progressive city that offers an amazing blend of old and new.

Tbilisi is surrounded by hills, one of which is home to the ruins of Narikala Fortress, which dates back to the fourth century. Take the cable car up for amazing views overlooking the city and the Mtkvari River. And the restored historic Old Town is full of colorful window frames, gorgeous balconies, ornate spiral staircases, and intriguing alleyways to explore.

In contrast with this history, there are also lots of modern sights to see in Tbilisi, like the ultramodern bow-shaped Peace Bridge and a growing number of trendy bars and restaurants. If you’re looking to party the night away, be sure to visit Bassiani, one of the most popular nightclubs in town.
 

2. Try a Sulfur Bath

The old brick dome sulphur baths in Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi is known for its sulfur baths, natural hot springs with minerals that are said to help with problems such as joint pain, arthritis, eczema, and dry skin. They have been a staple of the city since it was founded and are now a popular pastime for tourists and locals alike. (There are actually over two thousand mineral springs throughout Georgia, so you can have a spa day outside Tbilisi as well.)

The baths underneath the Narikala Fortress are the easiest place to try this popular Georgian tradition; you can also get a traditional scrub and massage. The baths are easy to spot: they have large brick domes rising out of the ground that cover the healing waters.

Expect to pay at least 50 GEL (Georgian lari) ($17 USD) for a budget bathhouse or 100 GEL ($34 USD) for a nicer one.
 

3. The Chronicle of Georgia

The massive pillars of the Chronicle of Georgia in Georgia
Just outside Tbilisi, the Chronicle of Georgia is made up of 16 enormous pillars and columns with carved images that illustrate the nation’s history, each of which is over 30 meters tall! Some people call this “Georgia’s Stonehenge,” but there’s nothing ancient or mystical about it — the memorial was built in 1985 by a Georgian sculptor (although it was never finished).

It’s easy to reach the Chronicle by taking the metro and then walking a short distance. In addition to seeing this unusual monument (which is free), you’ll also get a beautiful view over the city and the Tbilisi Sea.
 

4. See Mtskheta

The medieval Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Georgia
Mtskheta was an ancient capital of Georgia and today is known as the religious center of the country. It’s about a half-hour north of Tbilisi and is home to historic churches and beautiful buildings from the Middle Ages (some of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites as well). The entire city was also declared a Holy City by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2014.

One of the best things to do in Mtskheta is to go up to Jvari Monastery on the hilltop, most famous for being where Christianity was declared the official religion in 319 CE. The monastery itself was built in the sixth century and has survived nearly unchanged since then. From here you’ll be treated to stunning views over the town and the two rivers that meet at Mtskheta.

Also, don’t miss a visit to the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (which dates to the 11th century) and the fourth-century Samtavro Monastery.
 

5. Eat Khachapuri

A delicious home khachapuri, a traditional food in Georgia
There are all kinds of traditional Georgian foods you can try, but the one that all visitors seem to leave Georgia raving about is khachapuri. It’s basically a cheesy bread that can come with various toppings and in various shapes, sometimes looking a bit like a pizza and other times more like a big bread roll.

Every region of Georgia has its own version, but probably the most famous is Adjarian khachapuri. It comes in a kind of boat shape and is first filled with cheese and then topped with an egg.

Another popular food you’ll want to try is kudari, which is a large leavened bread pocket stuffed with meat (usually pork or lamb) and vegetables.
 

6. Visit the Vadrzia Cave Monastery

The many caves of the Vadrzia Cave Monastery in Aspindza, Georgia
The Vadrzia Cave Monastery is located near Aspindza in the south of Georgia, about four hours from Tbilisi by car. It’s one of the most famous monasteries in the entire country. Built in the 11th century, it’s a system of caves dug into the side of Erusheli Mountain. Originally, the complex included 13 levels and over 6,000 apartments. These were used to help protect the locals from the Mongols, who ravaged the entire region in the 12th century.

These days — after earthquake damage and raids from invaders — there are around three hundred surviving apartments and halls that can still be accessed. Additionally, the underground Church of the Dormition is still intact, which is home to murals depicting historical scenes of Georgian royalty.
 

7. Hit the Slopes

The massive snowy slopes of Gudauri, Georgia in the winter
Georgia probably isn’t your first thought for a skiing holiday. However, the country is rapidly becoming well known in Europe and Asia as a fun and affordable ski destination, and more lifts are being added each season. It shares the highest mountain range in the region and has plenty of snow in the winter, making it a great place to ski. Plus, it’s a whole lot cheaper than many options in Europe.

At the moment there are four main ski resort areas: Gudauri, Mestia, Goderdzi, and Bakuriani. There’s even a ski school with English-speaking instructors in Gudauri, which is only a two-hour drive from Tbilisi. You can get lift passes for as little as 30 GEL ($10 USD).
 

8. See the Katskhi Pillar

The famous Katskhi Pillar towering over the trees in Georgia
For a particularly unique sight, head to western Georgia’s Katskhi Pillar. This huge limestone monolith is a natural tower that stands over 130 feet high. You can reach Katskhi in a couple of hours from Batumi or in about three and a half hours from Tbilisi.

But that’s not all — built on the top of this narrow pillar is a church complex dating back to the seventh century. Until 2015, a monk actually lived up on top, but these days the monks sleep in the monastery at the bottom — and only monks are allowed to climb up the steel ladder on the side as part of their daily pilgrimage to pray in the church. The buildings were refurbished recently, and a visitor center is in the works.
 

9. Go Hiking or Trekking

One of the many small villages in the valleys of Georgia
If you like hiking or trekking, then you’re going to love Georgia. The Caucasus Mountains stretch from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea — over 1,000km — so there are plenty of possibilities.

The most popular multi-day trek is walking from Mestia to Ushguli (4 days). There are enough villages along the route that you don’t need to camp. Not surprisingly, the scenery along the way is magnificent.

As Georgia is a hiker’s paradise, there are literally dozens of other hiking possibilities, so look around and see what kind of trek fits what you’re after. Some suggestions worth considering are Omalo to Shatili (5 days), Chaukhi Pass (1-2 days), and Svaneti to Racha (a challenging 3-4 days).
 

10. Try Georgian Wine

A collection of local Georgian wines lined up on a table
It’s said that Georgia has the oldest winemaking history in the world. Georgians have been making wine for over 8,000 years, so you can bet they’re pretty good at it by now. They use qvevri (clay pots buried in the ground) to ferment grapes for a unique taste. The climate in Georgia is perfect for winemaking, too, so it’s no wonder that Georgian wine is starting to win awards internationally.

There are five main wine regions in Georgia, but the largest and most visited is Kakheti in the east. Technically you can make it a day trip from Tbilisi, but it deserves more than just a few hours. If you want to explore the vineyards, then pick either Sighnaghi or Telavi as a base.
 

11. Explore the Coast

A sunny day on the coast of Georgia in Batumi
If you’re looking for some rest and relaxation, Georgia even has a beach resort region along the coast. At Batumi, located on the Black Sea, you’ll find subtropical temperatures perfect for swimming. It can get quite humid in summer too.

You can chill out at a beach resort near Batumi or explore some of the craziness this part of Georgia has to offer (it’s sometimes described as the Las Vegas of the Black Sea). The region is home to some unique architecture and a number of casinos, though it also has the enormous Batumi Botanical Gardens, which boasts one of the most diverse ranges of flora you’ll see in a botanical garden anywhere.
 

12. Visit Gergeti Trinity Church

The medieval Gergeti Trinity Church in Georgia
Built in the 14th century, this church tucked away near Mount Kazbek is perched almost 2,200 meters above sea level and draws crowds from all over the country. It’s one of the most picturesque spots in all of Georgia, offering stunning views of the mountain range (which you’ve probably seen on Instagram).

While you can visit on a day trip from Tbilisi, a better idea is to head to Stepantsminda and stay there overnight. That way, you can see the church in the morning (which offers great light for photos) while beating the tourist crowds that will eventually arrive from the capital.
 

13. The Caves of Gareja

The Caves of Gareja in Georgia near the border with Azerbaijan
Located near the border with Azerbaijan, this is a Georgian Orthodox complex that dates back to the sixth century. Here you’ll find hundreds of small rooms, small chapels, churches, and monastic living quarters carved out of the rock face.

The monastery survived incursions from the Mongols and Persians but was shut down under Soviet rule and used for military training (which caused a lot of damage to the buildings).

Today, you can visit the complex on a day trip from Tbilisi. The journey takes around three hours by bus and bus tickets cost 25 GEL ($9 USD).
 

14. Visit Gori

The city of Gori in Georgia
Gori is the hometown of Joseph Stalin, the brutal Soviet leader. Located 90 minutes from Tbilisi, the city is home to the popular Stalin Museum, which has lots of artifacts (including the wooden hut where he was born) and information about his life — all of it whitewashed and biased, of course.

Here you’ll also find a World War II museum that focuses on the achievements of the Red Army, as well as Gori Fortress, a citadel that dates back to the 17th century and offers a panoramic view of the region.

Although it’s close enough for a day trip from Tbilisi, you can stay in this small city of just 50,000 for a day or two if you want to get away from the crowds.
 

15. Get Outdoors in Svaneti

The mountainous Svaneti region of Georgia
This is one of the most beautiful regions in the entire country. Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Georgia, you’ll find many tiny villages and incredible hiking here. There are also several UNESCO heritage sites in the area, including watchtowers that date back to the 12th century. You’ll also be completely enveloped by the Caucasus Mountains, which provide both a picturesque backdrop and stunning views.

Stay in Mestia, a tiny village of fewer than 2,000 people, and head out on foot or by car to explore the region. You’ll also find some of the best cheese in the country, made by traditional methods kept alive by the Svans (an ethnic subgroup). The region is one of the most remote areas in Georgia — see it before the tourists arrive.

***

This list just scratches the surface when it comes to the incredible things to see and do that Georgia has to offer. There are dozens more historical sites, monasteries, caves, and castles to see and a whole lot more stunning landscapes to explore. (And the country is quite safe too.)

Whether you just have a few days to enjoy Tbilisi and its surroundings or a couple of weeks to cover more of rural Georgia too, you are not going to be disappointed!

Book Your Trip to Georgia: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory. Some of my favorite places to stay in Costa Rica:

  • Fabrika (Tblisi) – This hostel is also a bar and co-working space housed in an old Soviet warehouse. It’s got a cool vibe and the people here are wonderful. This is the best place to stay in the country if you ask me.
  • Temi Hostel (Kutaisi) – This hostel is small but the staff are great and it’s clean and cozy. It’s in a great location too.
  • Boutique Hotel and Medusa Hostel (Batumi) – This place is relatively new so the beds are comfy and have curtains and the place is well maintained. The staff are super helpful and will make sure you have an amazing visit to Batumi.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Georgia?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Georgia for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: 3 – Marcin Konsek, 4 – orientalizing, 6 – Marco Verch, 7 – Tony Bowden, 8 – Paata Liparteliani, 9 – Levan Nioradze, 11 – tomasz przechlewski, 15 – Andrzej Wójtowicz, 16 – Florian Pinel

The post My 15 Favorite Things to See and Do in Georgia appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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19 Easy Ways to Save Money in Armenia

Posted By : webmaster/ 21 0


Rugged mountains in Armenia
Posted: 12/16/19 | December 16th, 2019

I never got to Armenia when I was in the Caucasus. I was bummed because there so much history there. Next trip, right? Well, Carine and Derek love Armenia so much, they’ve visited four times over the past few years. So, in this guest post, they are going to give us their best tips for saving money when you visit Armenia!

Armenia is one of the oldest nations on earth. Its roots date back to 860 BCE, and its capital, Yerevan, just celebrated its 2,800th anniversary, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The nation has a very rich culture, a ton of beautiful places to explore, amazing food, and some of the most hospitable people you’ve ever met. Having been to Armenia four times, we’ve found it to be one of our favorite places on earth.

The crowds have not made it yet to this beautiful part of the world, which is why we often hesitate to share our love for Armenia with others (we want to keep it our little secret as a budget-friendly destination).

But Matt convinced us otherwise, so here we are, sharing our 19 best tips for saving money in the country:

1. Walking around the cities
The cities in Armenia are very walkable. They’re easy to navigate and well marked. You can even get from one end of the capital Yerevan to the other in 30-40 minutes. Walking is also the cheapest and healthiest way to get around. So bring comfy shoes — they will come in handy!

And if you get lost, just ask the locals. They’re so helpful and love showing their city off. Don’t be surprised if they end up walking with you to your destination and inviting you over for coffee and cake as well!

2. Take a free walking tour in Yerevan.
people walking down a crowded street in Armenia
There is so much to see and do in Yerevan. The best way to get a taste of it is to join a walking tour with Yerevan Free Walking Tours. The tour lasts about three hours, covering almost 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) and about 25 points of interest. To join, just meet at 5 pm (17:00) by the entrance to the History Museum on Republic Square.

3. Use the GG or Yandex apps instead of taxis.
Although there are taxis, the fastest way to get around is to use the GG or Yandex apps. Like Uber, they call on drivers in your area to pick you up. GG only works in larger cities at the moment.

Rides within Yerevan will cost you about $3-4 USD, depending on how far you’re going. Rides to the airport will set you back about $6.

If you want to call on a regular taxi, make sure you agree on the price before getting in, especially at the airport. This is where regular taxis will most often try to charge you double what you’ll pay on GG or Yandex. Sure, it’s convenient not having to wait for your ride to get there, but is it really worth the extra money? Probably not. Offer to pay them the same thing GG would charge, plus an extra 100 AMD (or dram) ($0.21 USD) to avoid the wait.

A little note about cars in Armenia: Although they surely had seat belts at one point in time, they are not frequently used. Don’t be surprised if there is no buckle or seat belt at all. Especially, don’t be surprised if the driver just shrugs off your comment about it!

4. Hop on a marshrutka to get around Yerevan.
One of the cheapest ways to get around the larger cities is by taking marshrutkas (minibuses). Cities are working on putting together a map of the various routes, but for now, you can use the A2B Transport app on Android, or if you know Armenian, check out Marshrut.info (although your browser may offer to translate the page into English, too).

Riding a marshrutka costs 100 AMD ($0.21 USD), which you pay before getting off, or when the driver asks you. To get off at your stop, just say kangnek (kang-nek), which means ‘Stop here’. The bus will pull over at the next stop to let you off.

Also, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the ride: Sit in the front when you can; you’ll be more comfortable. If you take one of the minivan marshrutkas, you open and close your door. Just make sure you don’t slam the door too hard, or you’ll hear it from the driver. Sometimes seating will get tight, so you may need to stand. Also, don’t be surprised if women ask you to hold on to their purses, groceries, or babies if you do have a seat — although the nice thing to do is to offer them yours!

5. Take a bus between cities.
a church with a mountain backdrop in Armenia
Although tourism infrastructure is slowly being built, it’s still quite easy to get around the country, even if most people don’t speak English.

There are larger buses that go from city to city, though most are to and from Yerevan. These are also called marshrutkas. Costs vary between $0.50 to $5.00 USD depending on where you’re going. Your money will be collected before the marshrutka leaves.

Just know that there’s no actual bus schedule: they usually head out to larger cities (Gyumri, Vanadzor, Dilijan) when they’re full. If not, they leave on the hour — just don’t expect them to be very timely! You can grab one at any of the three bus stations in Yerevan.

On your ride, it may happen that they may need to refill the marshrutka with gas. Many vehicles in Armenia run on compressed natural gas and propane, so during the fill-up, you will be asked to get out of the vehicle as a safety precaution.

6. If you’re in a rush to get to a new city, take a shared taxi.
You can also take a shared taxi, which usually leaves from Yerevan’s main bus station. You’ll split the fare between 3-4 people. There is no schedule for departures. Again, they wait until the taxi is full before they head out.

Costs vary between $5 and $10 USD per person, depending on where you’re going. You can negotiate with the driver, though. If each person pays a little more for their fare, they won’t wait to fill up to go.

Our tip here would be to find friends at your hostel that want to go to that same city. They’ll help you fill that taxi up faster.

7. Just hitchhike to get around (and make friends).
a road leading to snow-capped mountains in Armenia
This is definitely the cheapest and most fun way to go! Even locals recommend it to get around. They call it avtostop, which comes from the Russian word for hitchhiking. When traveling outside of Yerevan, it can often be easier to hitchhike between villages than to wait for a marshrutka. However, it’s not the most time-conscious way to do it.

You’ll notice that Armenians are very friendly, generous, and hospitable, so they’re very willing to pick up strangers looking for a ride on the side of the road. However, if you end up making friends with the driver, they will insist you come over for drinks and food before they drop you off at your desired destination. If you want, you can try and tip the driver, but chances are, they’ll kindly refuse.

A few tips here to ensure safe and easy travel: We recommend you look clean, travel in groups of two or three people, and to have a mixed-sex group. Also, women shouldn’t be offended if the driver (likely a male) only speaks to the men of the group! Armenia is still a very traditional country.

8. In Yerevan, take the metro.
Yerevan’s metro system is little known to visitors, but it is displayed on Google Maps and is one of the best ways to get around the city. It’s also one of the things residents of Yerevan are very proud of. The Karen Demirchyan Yerevan Metro covers 2 miles (13 kilometers) and has about 10 stops. Tickets cost 100 AMD (or $0.21 USD), so it’s really cheap to get from one end of the city to the other. In the summer months, it’s also the coolest mode of transportation.

There is no metro card to speak of. Simply go to the counter and exchange your money for a token to get you through the gate. Also note that for some odd reason, you’re not allowed to take pictures in the metro, even though most stations are beautifully built.

9. Hostels and homestays are your best bet for cheap short-term stays.
houses in a city in Armenia
If you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind sleeping in large, 20+-bed dorms, there are spots available in Yerevan for as little as $3 USD, slightly out of the center of Yerevan. If you want a smaller dorm, around four to six people, expect to pay about $15 USD per bed. These types of dorms are closer to the city center. At that price, certain hostels even have private rooms available.

Armenia is also a great place to do a homestay. If you want to connect with residents on a different level, we highly recommend doing this. It’s one of our favorite ways to get to know the culture and to experience how locals live. The family you choose will treat you like one of their own, hence feeding you like crazy. We would especially recommend this in smaller towns, where you can actually learn a lot about life outside of Yerevan.

10. Airbnb is a great option for longer stays.
Airbnb is quickly growing in Armenia, especially among expats who rent out their places during the months they’re not around. You can find great options in the center of Yerevan for $40 USD or less. This will give you access to an entire apartment with a kitchen, which is a great way to save money as well. You may even be able to negotiate the price if you’re staying for longer periods of time.

11. Couchsurfing is great for if you’re on a super tight budget.
With such hospitable people, it’s not surprising to see tons of great options for Couchsurfing, mainly in Yerevan. If you like staying with a local, this is one of the best options. Just don’t be surprised if your host ends up adopting you at the end of your visit!

12. Visit Armenia in the shoulder seasons for the best pricing.
The busiest time to visit Armenia is during the summer. June to September are when you can expect to see crowds and high prices. However, if you go to Armenia in April or May or the end of September through mid-November, the crowds will have subsided, and prices will drop. This is when you can find cheaper accommodations, and even negotiate prices for longer stays.

13. For cheap eats, look for typical Armenian meals.
aerial view of a church in the mountains in Armenia
You’ll find a lot of cheap and delicious options typical of Middle Eastern cuisine and influenced by the Caucasus region. You can eat local treats like lahmajoun (Armenian pizza) for as little as $2 USD per plate. Another great cheap option is getting shish taouk or wraps from hole-in-the-wall restaurants. These bad boys will also only set you back $3-4, depending on what you put in them. Another delicious and cheap option is khatchapuri (cheese-filled bread), a typical Georgian meal that is served all over Armenia.

Some of the best homemade meals are sold on the side of the road. You’ll see plenty of people selling their fresh produce, homemade wine, vodka, sweets, and other treats all over the country, mainly on large “highways.” You’ll also find these stalls set up near some of the more popular tourist destinations, like Garni, Geghart, and Noravank. These will only be a fraction of the cost of what is sold in grocery stores, and they’ll be much more delicious, that we promise! If you buy a few things from the same stall, you can negotiate the price. Also, don’t be shy to ask for a sample!

14. If you have a kitchen, cooking in is always the cheapest option.
If you plan on cooking in, expect to spend $20-30 USD for weekly groceries, split between two people. You can either get your goods at grocery stores like Sas, Vas, or Parma, or head to a market to get them straight from the source. In Yerevan, the Gum Market (pronounced “Goom”), or Gumi Shuka, is a great place to shop and observe residents in their daily routine.

15. Avoid the produce at the supermarkets.
The best place to get fresh produce is not in grocery stores. It is often imported from far-off countries and packaged in a lot of plastic. For the best produce, be sure to check out the fruit stalls that are on every street corner or behind a group of large buildings. They have local goods that are in season, and often you can negotiate a good price, especially if you’re buying a larger volume.

16. Drink the tap water.
water flowing over a beautiful waterfall in Armenia
The water in Armenia is perfectly safe to drink straight from the tap. Even while you’re out exploring, you’ll find public water fountains, called pulpulaks, everywhere, from public parks to street corners, all over Yerevan and in larger cities. These fountains are almost always running, providing fresh drinking water to those in need.

You can get a sip of water straight from a pulpulak or fill up your own water bottle. To redirect the flow of water at an angle for the bottle, simply place your finger on the spout, and voilà! (As an eco-friendly tip that helps you save money and the environment, make sure you have a reusable water bottle.)

17. Get the best souvenirs at Vernissage in Yerevan.
You will notice a ton of handicrafts and other goods being sold all over the country. If you find something special in one of the villages you visit, get it there. But if you’re looking to get souvenirs for friends and family back home, be sure to check out the Vernissage in Yerevan. Although Sunday is the big day when all the merchants are present, you can still score great finds any day of the week.

Your best bet is to walk around once to see what’s available and compare prices. Then go back to the stalls with the best prices and try to negotiate a little more. Try to wait until the end of the day to get the best prices, as most merchants will want to go home.

18. Don’t be afraid to bargain on prices.
We mentioned it before, and we’ll say it again: don’t be afraid to bargain on goods. Although tourist prices aren’t as exaggerated as in other parts of Asia, you can still knock off a good percentage by negotiating with the seller. Just be fair with your final price. It may seem like a few dollars for you, but it may mean the difference between having a meal that night or not for the seller.

19. Visit Armenia’s top sites for free.
ancient ruins in Armenia
One of the best things about Armenia — as if we haven’t listed off enough of them — is that most of the popular sites of interest are free. Noravank, Geghart, Khor Virap, the Areni winery (including a wine tasting) — all these amazing sites are free to enter and visit.

***

We loved our time in Armenia and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get away from the crowds and travel on a budget. Your dollars go so much further here than in most other countries. Yet you’ll never be lacking in delicious food or comfortable amenities. And too add to all of this, you’ll have a ton of beautiful sights to visit and kind people to share your journey with!

Carine and Derek spend half the year traveling the world and the other half exploring their home province of Quebec. Their goal is to inspire everyone to chase their wildest dreams and to leave a positive impact on Earth. Their blog, We Did it Our Way, focuses on eco-friendly travel guides to both popular destinations, as well as off-the-beaten-path locations, on how to live and travel sustainably, and on tips for content creation. Carine and Derek are also on Instagram (@wediditourway) where they share their pictures and eco-tips.

Book Your Trip to Armenia: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory. Some of my recommended places to stay in Armenia:

  • Envoy Hostel Yerevan – This is a cozy little hostel where the staff goes above and beyond to help you make the most of your time in the city.
  • Kantar – Kantar is incredibly clean with lots of common area space, and one of the best breakfasts in Yerevan!
  • Hostel Tsaghkadzor – There are no frills to this place in Tsaghkadzor, but it’s comfortable and close to all the town’s main attractions.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Armenia?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Armenia for even more planning tips!

The post 19 Easy Ways to Save Money in Armenia appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How to Stay Fit and Healthy on the Road

Posted By : webmaster/ 28 0


A lone runner sprinting on a beach at sunset
Updated: 12/26/19 | December 26th, 2019

I’m not a healthy guy. OK, I am a very healthy guy when I am home in my apartment with my juicer, kitchen, and nearby Whole Foods. On the road, it’s another story.

Even with the high expectations and goals I set for myself a few years ago, I’ve failed at maintaining a healthier lifestyle on the road. While I make more health-conscious decisions, I still go out too much, never sleep, and stuff my face with pizza because it is convenient.

To try to change that, I met up with my friend Steve Kamb, the legend behind Nerd Fitness, a site dedicated to helping nerds stay fit. Steve travels a lot too and he knows how to balance life on the road with staying in shape.

We sat down together to talk about all things fitness and travel. Here are Steve’s top tips for staying healthy and in shape while traveling.

My Interview with Steve

For more travel and fitness advice, here’s an interview with Steve I did a few years ago. It’s full of helpful tips and advice and expands on many of the points above.

If you really want to learn how to stay in shape (both at home and abroad), watch this video!

7 Tips for Staying In Shape While Traveling

A solo traveler running down a paved road toward snow-capped mountains
1. Make Healthy Living on the Road a Priority!
Yes, you DO have time to exercise; you just need to make time for it. You can complete a workout in 20 minutes in your hotel room or hostel using basic exercises — and you don’t need any equipment!

Here are some simple and effective exercises you can do in your hotel, hostel, or even just a nearby park:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Stretching/yoga

Even just 5 minutes of these exercises will have you sweating. And you can literally do these exercises anywhere too. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

2. Walking for the Win!
Do everything you can to walk as often as possible. There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot. You get to take in a lot more of the local life and it’s much easier to get away from the crowds this way. Plus, it’s cheaper than taking a taxi or paying for a bus ticket.

If just exploring at random isn’t exciting, sign up for a walking tour. Most cities will offer free walking tours that usually last between 1-3 hours. Not only will you get an insightful introduction to your location but you’ll get in a lot of steps too!

3. Playgrounds and Parks
Check Google Maps for a nearby park and walk over there for your workouts. Many parks have equipment you can use to work out with, though if they don’t you can do pull-ups on swing sets or tree branches. Get creative!

Also, check websites like meetup.com for regular workout groups. Most cities have running clubs that host weekly runs, yoga sessions in the park, tai chi, and other sports/activities. Check around to see if there is anything nearby that piques your interest and will help you stay active.

Don’t be afraid to try new things, either! Plogging (jogging and picking up trash), slacklining, tumbling, parkour — there are tons of unique options to be found if you spend a little time looking.

4. Diet is 80% of the Battle
As a budget traveler, chances are you’re working hard to lower your food budget. That likely means that you’re not eating well. Consider upping your food budget (even slightly) so you can eat healthier.

Get some protein and veggies in your diet! Don’t be afraid to do a healthy “family dinner” with hostel mates where you all split the cost. You can also try changing up your diet to better suit the local options. That way, you’ll be eating more fresh produce while supporting the local economy.

You can also make more drastic changes to your diet as well. It’s never been easier to travel with a plant-based diet and still stay healthy and energetic.

That doesn’t mean you need to cut out all the junk or cheap drinks. But your diet is the most important component when it comes to health and fitness. Invest in it!

5. Do the Best You Can
If you only have 10 minutes to exercise, exercise for 10 minutes! Every little bit adds up, and 10 minutes is better than nothing. If you have to eat poorly at the train station, make up for it the next day.

At the end of the day, it’s all about progress. Not perfection. Do your best. Lay the groundwork for better habits. Nothing happens overnight, but every step in the right direction will help you reach your goal.

6. Employ the “Never 2” Rule
If you miss a day of exercise for whatever reason, don’t allow yourself to miss two days in a row. If you eat one bad meal, that next meal should be healthy. Never two in a row.

By employing the “Never 2” rule you’ll be able to prevent bad habits from taking hold. The odd day off or cheat meal? No problem. But when it comes to staying in shape, consistency is key. Try to keep your momentum going. You’ll see results much quicker that way, which will encourage you to stay on track.

7. Have Fun!
Don’t be afraid to have late nights with friends or say yes to crazy adventures. After all, that’s why we travel!

Just make sure you get right back on track as soon as possible afterward so you don’t lose the momentum you’ve built up. While it might seem challenging to balance fun and fitness, it just takes a little practice and effort. Once you get the habit in place, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!

****

For more fitness tips and information, check out Nerd Fitness. It’s a great resource for travelers and non-travelers alike who want to get fit and have fun doing so!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post How to Stay Fit and Healthy on the Road appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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My Favorite Books of 2019

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a hallway of colorful stacked books
Posted: 12/17/2019 | December 17th, 2019

Another year is almost over, which means it’s again time for my annual best books of the year list! This year, I sort of fell off the book-reading wagon. Writing my own book, moving to Paris and then Austin, and running a conference was exhausting and, by the end of the day, I was often too tired to read.

But, while Netflix often whisked me away to dreamland, I did manage to read a lot of great books this year. It may not have been as many as I would have liked but one can still not be made at averaging two books a month.

So, as we come to end of 2019, here are my favorite travel and non-travel books I think you should pick up to consume:

Ten Years a Nomad, by me!

Ten Years a Nomad by Matt KepnesThis is my new(ish) book!!! Unlike my previous books, this is not a “how to” guide but a collection of insights and stories from the road. It’s a memoir of my ten years backpacking the world and the lessons I learned along the way. This book gets to the heart of wanderlust and what extended travel can teach us about life, ourselves, and our place in the world. It’s available as an audiobook too!

I think it makes for the BEST Christmas gift and it would mean a lot if you picked it up! Gift it to a friend! Leave it in hostels! Whatever you want!
 

River Town, by Peter Hessler

River Town by Peter HesslerThis book is about American writer and journalist Peter Hessler’s time living in Fuling, China, in the 1990s as one of the first Peace Corp volunteers allowed back in China. I loved his book Oracle Bones, so I was excited to read this one. I don’t think it’s as good, but it’s a detailed, fascinating, well-written account of what living as an expat during a time of great change was like.
 
 

Lands of Lost Borders, by Kate Harris

The Land of Lost Borders by Kate HarrisI read this right after I handed in the final draft of my book and was blown away by Kate Harris’s magical prose. Kate writes the way I would love to be gifted enough to write. The book follows her journey cycling the Silk Road from Turkey to Tibet and is filled with vivid descriptions of the people and places she encountered. It’s one of the best books I read all year.
 
 
 

The Joys of Travel, by Thomas Swick

The Joys of Travel by Thomas SwickThomas Swick has been a travel writer and editor for decades and is one of the giants in the industry (it’s been fun to get to know him over the years, and I only regret not finding his work sooner). The book is a quick but thoughtful read on the emotions we feel as travelers and is filled with lovely stories from his time living abroad in Poland and how mass communication has changed travel. It’s a book that will surely inspire you to see more.
 
 

Here Lies America, by Jason Cochran

Here Lies America by Jason CochranThis book examines death tourism in America and the forgotten history that comes along with it. My friend Jason Cochran spent time roaming the country exploring the secret past of America’s greatest memorials through the lens of his family’s history. It’s an intriguing and absorbing look at the history of the US (I learned a lot I didn’t know) and how we remember our history (and what we choose to forget). I can’t recommend it enough!
 
 

The Atlas of Happiness, by Helen Russell

The Atlas of Happiness by Helen RussellWritten by Helen Russell (who also wrote the entertaining book The Year of Living Danishly), this book examines what makes certain cultures happy and others not. (In many ways, it’s like The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.) The book’s writing style makes it an easy read that will give you lessons you can use in your own life.
 
 
 

Stillness Is the Key, by Ryan Holiday

Stillness Is the Key by Ryan HolidayWritten by Best-selling author and modern-day philosopher Ryan Holiday, this book is a short and easy (but insightful) read about the need for stillness in your life. In this fast-paced world, we forget that slowing down can provide us with calmness, thoughtfulness, and help us lead a happier life. As someone who has gone through a lot of change this year, I found a lot of wisdom in the book. It’s some of Ryan’s best writing to date.
 
 

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker PhDAs an insomniac, I was hoping this book would help me learn how to sleep better. It didn’t. But what it did do was show me just how important sleep really is and why I need to try to get a lot more of it. “Sleep when you’re dead” is a common phrase, but reading this taught me that if I don’t try to sleep more, I’ll be dead quicker.
 
 
 

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake CrouchWithout giving too much away, this sci-fi book by Blake Crouch revolves around the idea of an infinite multiverse where every possible outcome of a decision plays out — and each decision thereafter creates another split, and so forth and so forth. It made me really think about regret and the decisions we make in our lives in a way I never thought about before. I couldn’t put the book down and found it a profoundly impactful book. It changed how I view regret.
 
 

Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me), by Carol Tavris

Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol TavrisI know that I’m raving about a lot of books on this list, but this is hands-down the best I read all year, one that made me look at people differently. We have a hard time saying, “I was wrong” (even when presented with facts that show 100% we were wrong). This book delves into why people double down on false information. In an age of “fake news,” it was an eye-opening look into how people reduce cognitive dissonance.

***

So there you have it! My favorite books of 2019. I wish the list was longer so I could say I kept my promise to read more, but all you can do is pick up and keep going! I have a pile of books on my coffee table I’m getting through quicker, now that I’m at home more.

Regardless, if you’re looking for some good books this holiday season, pick one of these up (especially mine, because, hey, let’s be real, I’d appreciate the support!).

If you have any suggestions on what to read, leave them in the comments. I’m due for another big book buy soon!

If you’d like to see some of the other books I’ve recommended (or are currently reading), check out this page I created on Amazon that lists them all!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them both all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all those I use to save money when I travel — and they will save you time and money too!

The post My Favorite Books of 2019 appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Discover Something New at Home this Holiday Season

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Traveling “home” this holiday season? Don’t fall into your old routine. Your high school hangout may be an easy go-to, but if you don’t live there anymore there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some great new local spots. (Plus, be honest: you already know what all your classmates are up to from Facebook.)

We turned to local writers to help you rediscover your hometown over Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Each city guide features a great new restaurant to try while you’re in town, a cool neighborhood that wasn’t on the radar last year or a store where you can pick up a keepsake to bring your old home back to your new home. We’ll also catch you up to speed on the hot topics of conversation in each city, so you’ll come back savvy enough to join the local sports banter or eat your holiday weight in Cronuts.

Click your city below to learn what’s new since the last time you went home:

Continue reading Discover Something New at Home this Holiday Season

Discover Something New at Home this Holiday Season originally appeared on Gadling on Mon, 25 Nov 2013 12:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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4 Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Save You Time

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APTOPIX Airport Travel
Associated Press

Sure, some of these travel tips are basic. But Thanksgiving travel is looking to be an even bigger mess than normal this year, especially around the East Coast. So this 90-second refresher from Samantha Brown and Mark “Hawkeye Louis” could save you hours.

Continue reading 4 Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Save You Time

4 Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Save You Time originally appeared on Gadling on Tue, 26 Nov 2013 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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