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A Traveler’s Manifesto: 30 Travel Rules to Live By

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nomadic matt's manifesto black and white
Posted: 1/9/20202 | January 9th, 2020

As travelers of the world, we have a unique opportunity to break down barriers, foster cultural exchange, and create a positive impact on communities around the world. We can banish stereotypes of our own cultures, stimulate the local economy, and bring fresh ideas and perspective to places.

Travel can be a life-changing experience — not only for the destination you are visiting but also for yourself. We walk away a better version of ourselves and with a better understanding of the world.

Yet, too often, travelers become the worst of themselves — throwing up on streets, being obnoxious to locals, demanding places conform to their needs, contributing to waste and overtourism, and ignoring local customs.

Too many travelers treat destinations as their personal hedonistic plaything.

Therefore, in order to foster positive social exchange, get the most out of travel, and be awesome, I say, as we begin this new year, we take the following pledge so we can be the people other travelers want to know and locals don’t hate:

1. I will read about where I’m going before I get there.

2. I will be respectful of local cultures and customs.

3. I will learn some phrases in the local language.

4. I will try one thing I’m afraid of.

5. I will not turn cheapness into a competition since travel is not a race to the bottom.

6. I will eat the local food.

7. I will not haggle over less than a dollar.

8. I will not be a loud, obnoxious traveler that demands that locals conform to my values.

9. I will have patience.

10. I will be humble.

11. I will have no regrets about partying until dawn but I will be respectful of my hostel dorm mates and their sleep.

12. I will learn to hold my liquor. If not, I will limit my intake.

13. I will understand traveling is not an excuse to give up on personal hygiene.

14. I will not ask fellow travelers the same questions over and over again and, instead, will get to know them beyond where they are going, where they’ve been, and how long they are traveling for.

15. I will not turn travel into a competition, since it is a personal experience.

16. I will not tell people how many places I’ve been, because no one cares except me.

17. I will not whine about how a destination was so much better ten years ago nor will I listen to those who do.

18. I will not judge people on how often they return to a destination.

19. I will not be a smugly superior backpacker and judge others for how they travel.

20. I will not judge people for not packing light or eating comfort food when they feel homesick.

21. I will remember to get off Facebook, put my camera down, and enjoy the moment.

22. I will travel slow.

23. I will have no regrets about changing plans at the last minute.

24. I will go in any direction my heart desires and follow my wanderlust.

25. I will remember this is a privilege.

26. I will not decide if I love or hate an entire country within a few hours of being there and interacting with a handful of people.

27. I will not drink and drive. Even on a motorbike. Even in Southeast Asia. Even if everyone else is doing it. Because I value my life and the lives of others

28. I will be respectful of the environment and limit my plastic consumption.

29. I will not ride any animals nor visit an animal experience that involves petting or touching.

30. I will be grateful for every stupid, amazing, unexpected, breathtaking moment on the road and all the wonderful people who enrich my life.

***

We all have our own interests, preferences, and desires. But, as we start the new year, let’s all make a commitment to be better travelers. Let’s be respectful, curious, and supportive. Let’s be the best versions of ourselves as we hit the road and experience everything this world has to offer.

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.

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 A Traveler’s Manifesto: 30 Travel Rules to Live By appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Ethics in Writing: The Case of Saudi Arabia

Posted By : webmaster/ 74 0


A solo traveler sitting on a cliff in the desert in Saudi Arabia
Posted: 1/8/2020 | January 8th, 2020

As I scrolled through my social feeds recently, I noticed, set against desert backgrounds, a number travel “influencers” extolling the beauty and virtue of Saudi Arabia.1

But the majority weren’t there to take advantage of the new tourist visa and explore on their own. No, they weren’t there to see what this new openly country was really about. They were there on paid press trips, funded by a company called Gateway KSA, an NGO designed to promote the country. (Note: The organization says it’s independent of the government, but it has Saudi royal family members on its board and, given the complete control the family has over the country, I doubt they bring in influential Westerners without Royal approval.)

Now, let me be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with visiting Saudi Arabia. I have a few friends who just did. If you want to travel somewhere, you should. People are not their governments and I’m not one for travel boycotts.

But taking money from a government is a lot different than paying your own way. As Rick Steves has said, travel is a political act, and taking government money can create the impression of tacit approval of it. So when a government offers to sponsor a trip, I think the question that needs to be asked is “Is this a government I want to appear to support?”

The government of Saudi Arabia oppresses its people and promotes extremism abroad. It jails activists (including bloggers), has a horrible record on women’s and LGBT rights, kills journalists (Khashoggi is just the most famous example), and suppresses dissent, tortures detainees, uses flogging and amputation as punishments, and is among the world’s leading executioners.

Those involved in these paid trips say they were simply showing off the destination and the people. “It’s not about the government,” they said. “Saudi Arabia is a beautiful place, and there are lots of interesting things to see there.”

No doubt there is beauty in that country and no doubt there are incredibly warm and wonderful people there too.

Yet I believe that taking money from government-funded organizations creates a moral hazard when you consider that the government jails its own bloggers and “disappears” LGBTQ and women’s rights advocates.

Psychology has shown time and time again everyone tries to reduce dissonance to justify their actions.2 In this case, I think those taking these trips were either just clueless about issues with the countries or created rationalizations when a giant check was waved in front of them. Both reasons are disheartening and are morally shallow.

That’s not saying that I always bring up politics or societal conditions in my posts. Or that it’s necessarily the job of a travel writer to always discuss local politics.

After all, no government is perfect. They all have their faults. You can find terrible things committed by governments around the world.

But I think some destinations require more detailed and deeper coverage. How can one go to the Amazon without commenting on policies that lead to its destruction? How can one go on safari without talking about wildlife issues? There are aspects of travel that require more insightful reporting.

Places like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Nicaragua, Chile, and North Korea, for example, are among many places that require more rounded reporting given their political situations (and the fact that one is in the middle of a civil war).

Not bringing up the elephant in the room (the government’s actions) also does readers a disservice, because it may put them at risk when they visit since they might believe they can travel like the influencer did or how they do in the West.

Press trips are not like regular trips. They come with handlers, special access, drivers, guides, and a host of other benefits a regular traveler will never get.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s one way industry insiders find out what’s new.

But washing one’s hands of the political realities of sponsored travel is the problem, especially with influencers and bloggers who lack the editorial firewall traditional publications have. It’s why, when I asked on a recent survey if people trust bloggers who take a lot of paid trips, 85% said no. In another recent study, only 4% said they trust online influencers.

So prevalent are the hashtags #ad and #sponsored that people tune them out.

Sure, there have always been paid trips, but I feel there’s less of a sense of ethics among modern travel influencers. Looking back on the early days of blogging, I feel there were lines we wouldn’t cross — mostly because we were travelers too, and we had an idea about the context of the trips we were on. But now is way more money floating around as millions of dollars per year are thrown at influencers. I’ve been offered huge sums to promote products (I once got offered $15,000 for a single blog post). It’s hard to turn that down if you don’t have another source of income.

Moreover, social media didn’t exist when most bloggers started and we had to rely solely on our blogs and in-person relationships. Now, with so many platforms, so many people competing for gigs, so much money out there, and the feedback loop social media provides, I think people are justifying morally dubious activities in a way that didn’t happen in the past.

Yes, traditional writers bemoaned us the same way I’m bemoaning “influencers” now, but I don’t remember standing en masse on people’s rooftops in Greece, going off trail to take pictures of flowers, or hanging off ledges for the perfect shot the way I see people doing those things now. Too much of today’s content is “look at me,” not “learn from me.”

So what can be done?

My advice for people who consume travel content is to avoid people who do things that aren’t legal or ethical and don’t paint a full picture of what’s happening in a country. By glossing over thorny issues, they make it more likely you’ll think everything is fine and increase the risk of something going wrong.

Look for those who are sharing more than pretty photos. Look for those doing things you, the consumer, can also do (not just on a paid promotional trip), because those are the ones who are going to be able to help you learn how to travel better in real life.

And, my fellow creatives, I urge you to consider the ethics of who sponsors your trip and to give your readers the most complete and accurate information. Don’t just feature glossy pictures. We get it: every place has wonderful people, every place has beauty.

But some places require more in-depth context. Some paid trips shouldn’t be taken.

Because, while special access and paid trips are fun, they bring less joy when the money received drips in the blood of the citizens you are trying to highlight.

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!

Footnotes
1. I’m not here to call anyone specifically out but there’s an article that goes down that highlights some people.

2. The best book on this subject is Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.

The post Ethics in Writing: The Case of Saudi Arabia appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Stop Waiting for the Perfect Time to Travel!

Posted By : webmaster/ 26 0


An adventurous traveler leaping for a cliff into inviting blue water
Updated: 01/06/2020 | January 6th, 2020

As the sun rises on a new year, we look out on the horizon and determine to be a better version of ourselves. This year we will travel more.

We’ll ponder the exotic locations we hope to find ourselves in.

We’ll think of the adventures we’ll go on and the people we’ll meet.

We’ll begin to formulate plans, research trips, and start saving money.

But, as the year progresses, most of us will abandon those dreams, forever pushing them off as life throws us curveballs and seems to want to get in our way.

“Tomorrow,” we’ll say to ourselves. “Today isn’t perfect and we just have too many things to do.”

Now, is not the right time.

The right time is when we have more money, more time off, or when things aren’t so “crazy.”

Then we can travel. We just need the stars to align a little more.

But, here’s a secret: there’s never going to be a right time to travel.

You’ll always be able to find a reason why today just isn’t the right day.

The idea that the stars will align and you’ll find the perfect day to step out of your door and into the world is fantasy.

Today might not be the perfect day — but neither is tomorrow.

Tomorrow, there will still be more bills to pay.

Tomorrow, there still won’t be “enough” money.

Tomorrow, there will still be someone’s wedding or birthday party to attend.

Tomorrow, there will still be more planning to do.

Tomorrow, you still won’t know if you’re making the right decision.

Tomorrow, you will still second-guess yourself.

Tomorrow, you’ll find another excuse why you can’t go.

Tomorrow, people you know will still sow the seeds of doubt in your head.

Tomorrow, you’ll still worry about all the bad stuff that might happen to you.

Tomorrow, something else will come up and you’ll say to yourself, “today isn’t the right day. Let’s try again tomorrow.”

Tomorrow will never be perfect.

Because there is no such thing as perfection. The hardest part of any journey is stepping out the door. And one of the key components to making that first step easier is to understand that the stars will never align and there will never be the right moment to travel.

You just have to go. You have to leap. You have to trust yourself that it will all work out.

Because it will.

If I had waited for the perfect day when my friend said he would join (he never did) or when I had just a bit more money, I’d still be home in my cubicle job.

I was constantly worried I hadn’t saved enough money. I was constantly worried I didn’t have the skills to survive on the road.

There was always a reason to put off my trip.

Sometimes, you just have to take the leap and go for it. Ships aren’t mean to stay in a harbor. You weren’t meant to stay at home and wonder “what if?”

One day you’ll run out of tomorrows.

And you’ll be filled with nothing but sadness and regret.

So stop waiting.

Stop making excuses. 

This is your year.

It doesn’t matter if you can only save a dollar per day. Just start. Action begets action.

Forget about tomorrow. Everything will work out.

Your bills will disappear when you cancel the services that generate them.

You’ll make more friends on the road than you could ever imagine.

You can work overseas.

And, if it doesn’t work out, you can always come home.

The world is full of possibilities.

And you’re capable of doing great things.

But only if you start today!

P.S. – Want to learn more about traveling on a budget? My New York Times best-selling book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, will teach you how to master the art of travel save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experiences. Click here to learn more about the book and start reading it today!

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 Stop Waiting for the Perfect Time to Travel! appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 8 Best Napa Wine Tours

Posted By : webmaster/ 23 0


purple grains hanging on a vine in Napa Valley
Posted: 12/28/19 | December 28th, 2019

Napa Valley is easily one of the most famous wine-producing regions in the world, and last year nearly four million people headed there — it is big business for Northern California!

Of course, if you plan on spending some time in Napa Valley and nearby Sonoma, you’ll most likely want to explore some of the 600 wineries in the area. A great way to do this — both to get some local, insider knowledge and so that there’s no need to drink and drive — is to take a Napa wine tour.

There are nearly as many wine tour options as there are vineyards. I’ve listed some of my favorites here, and you can decide which fits your style and, more importantly, your budget. Just remember that you’ll usually also have to pay tasting fees on top of the tour costs — these vary between $20 and $40 — though many will waive that fee if you buy some wine. Also don’t forget, especially if you’re coming from outside the United States, that you’ll need to be 21 or over to join these tours, though some allow children to tag along.

1. Napa Valley Wine Trolley

If you’re after something a bit different, then the Napa Valley Wine Trolley is a good way to go. Instead of a regular tour bus, you’ll ride on a replica of a cable car. It’s an open-air car, of course, so make sure you pick the right weather to try this.

Tours leave from the Oxbow Market in Napa; a $99 tour includes four wineries and a casual picnic-style lunch, plus unlimited bottled water and soft drinks between tastings. You can upgrade to the full-day Castle tour ($139), which includes a two-hour stop and tasting at Castello di Amorosa.

2. Napa Valley Bike Tours

Of course, being a valley full of vineyards, Napa is a really scenic place, so exploring it by bicycle is a great option. Napa Valley Bike Tours offers either guided or self-guided rides, leaving from their store in Yountville. The popular half-day guided tour is $124 per person, with two winery visits and a great guide who’ll give you the full story of the area.

The handy part about the self-guided tours is that, besides being able to visit the wineries you choose at your own pace, you still get a box lunch, and any wine you buy will be picked up for you (riding with wine in your backpack gets old really fast). Self-guided tours cost $114 per person and also include comfy bikes, helmets, and all the planning info you need.

3. Calistoga Bikeshop

Another bicycle option is Calistoga Bikeshop, a popular rental shop that also runs guided day tours for $150, including a hybrid bike, a picnic lunch, and pick-up for any wine you buy. The guides plan a unique route depending on what the group members want, starting from their shop in Calistoga.

If you have an extra day in the area and don’t need more wine, Calistoga also offers great mountain biking trips to the Palisades or along the Oat Hill Mine Trail.

4. Platypus Wine Tours

Platypus brands itself as the “anti-wine-snob wine tour,” so if you want to have a fun day learning more about wine, then this is a good choice. (The name is memorable, but you won’t actually see a platypus anywhere in Napa Valley, in case you’re wondering.)

Platypus runs small-group trips, taking in four wineries for $110 (including a picnic lunch), focusing on small and medium-sized, usually family-owned wineries. You can choose from tours centered on Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, or North Sonoma.

5. Active Wine Adventures

As the name suggests, Active Wine Adventures offers tours that include more than just wine tasting, so it’s a great way to explore Napa Valley. For example, the Hike & Wine tours start with a two-hour hike in some of valley’s beautiful landscapes and move on to a lunch and winery tasting experience. These cost $139 plus lunch because you can choose from a high-end restaurant lunch or a vineyard picnic. They offer similar tours in the Sonoma area, too.

6. Green Dream Tours

Try some wine and help the world. Green Dream has a focus on sustainability: besides using green business practices, it also buys carbon offsets to balance its use of fuel. Their Napa Valley tours ($144, $154 on weekends) are among the few where the tasting fees at three boutique wineries are included.

Green Dream also offers a combo tour, taking in three wineries across Sonoma and Napa Valley, with lunch at the Oxbow Public Market ($139 weekdays, $149 weekends). For visitors to San Francisco, there’s a combo with a tour of Alcatraz plus two Sonoma boutique wineries, for $179.

7. Small Lot Wine Tours

If you’re coming by car to the Napa Valley region, then Small Lot can be a really budget-friendly way to enjoy a wine tour. They provide a tour guide who’ll drive your car for you for the day, and design a tour route just right for you, depending on the kind of wine you want to taste, what you want to do for lunch, and whether you’re planning on buying wine. At $50 per hour (with a four-hour minimum), if you’ve got a car full of friends, this can work out to be one of the cheapest ways to explore Napa but still have local expert advice.

8. Napa Valley Wine Country Tours

Napa Valley Wine Country Tours offer full-day trips from San Francisco, including a Golden Gate Bridge photo opportunity, to four wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions. Tours include a picnic lunch and are usually $119 per person (sometimes there are $99 specials on the website).

For something a bit different, they also run wine tours around the Napa Valley in an open-top convertible limousine, including a castle visit, for $150.

***

There are so many options for touring the Napa Valley and experiencing all the wine culture the area has to offer, depending on your tastes and preferences. These suggestions should ensure that you have a great day out exploring one of the world’s most famous wine regions.

Book Your Trip to Napa Valley: 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. 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 I think will help you too!

The post The 8 Best Napa Wine Tours appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How Families and Senior Travelers Can Use this Website

Posted By : webmaster/ 29 0


A traveling family at the beach stanind near the water
Updated: 12/27/19 | December 27th, 2019

I’m 38, single, and I travel solo. These are things that probably won’t change anytime soon (though my mother keeps asking me when that second one will).

As such, most of the travel tips on this website tend to be focused on what I, a single traveler, learn about traveling better, cheaper, and longer.

But that doesn’t mean my advice is only for solo travelers.

My belief is that budget travel tips are universal because when we all touch down in, say, London, we all deal with the same costs. We may end up staying in different places and eating in different restaurants, but the methods we use for saving money will generally be the same.

A common question I get asked is if my advice will work for families or older travelers. (It’s also brought up in my reader surveys: “Matt, I wish you would write more for those with families or older travelers.”)

There’s a common perception that family and senior travel is an inherently different form of travel that requires special considerations. I know not everyone thinks that way, but I often feel that the question, “Can you write tips that apply to family/senior travel?” implies that distinction.

But I don’t think that is really the case.

Sure, when you’re traveling with a family, you want kid-friendly activities and restaurants, and maybe you just won’t stay in a hostel dorm together. But is that really a whole new form of travel?

I don’t believe so.

You’re just looking for different things within the realm of budget travel.

Of course, not every budget-travel tip applies to every traveler. We all have different desires and needs and, since the question above is a very valid one, I wanted to show how you can apply the advice of this solo traveling nomad to your family trip or, if you’re older, highlight some different accommodation types and tour information.

(Disclaimer: I’m not pretending to know about how best to travel with children or the needs of older travelers. I don’t. But since this is a question that comes up a lot, I just want to collate the tips and articles on my website to create a resource page that I believe can help in your planning.)

Family Travel Tips

The wide wide world family posing for a family photo with an elephant
Like solo travelers and senior travelers, families that travel together are going to have three major expenses:

  • Flights
  • Accommodation
  • Food

The more you can lower your expenses, the longer you’ll be able to travel. To that end, here are some tips, tricks, and resources to help you save money on your trip so you can

How to Save Money on Flights

It’s one thing to buy a flight for one person; it’s another to buy flights for four or five people. That $700 flight suddenly becomes $3,500, and that’s just more money than most of us can or want to spend. Seeing that number just for the flights would keep me at home!

To help you save money on flights, here are the 5 steps I follow whenever I am searching for a deal. It will work just as well for families as it does for me, a solo traveler. Nine times out of ten, I’ll be able to save myself some money following these steps — and I don’t have to spend hours researching either.

1. Start your search on flight deal websites – These sites will have rare deals that won’t last long. It’s a great place to start to get ideas and find last-minute deals. If you’re not picky about where and when you travel, you’ll likely find some great flight options here. My favorite sites for flight deals are:

I compare what I find there with ITA Matrix. It allows for complex searches and is used by every avid flyer I know. While it only searches major airlines, it has a calendar option so you can see prices over the course of the month. It’s helpful to show you the approximate baseline price. You’ll want that moving forward so you can compare other sites to find the best deal.

2. Search budget carriers – Next, I visit Momondo and Skyscanner. I’ll check these sites for budget carrier options. There are a lot of third-party options here as well. If the price difference is huge it might be worth booking via a third-party site (just read their reviews first — and make sure you buy travel insurance just in case!)

3. Check Google – Third, I check Google Flights to see if it is cheaper to fly to a different airport. For example, if you’re flying to Paris from New York City, it might be cheaper to fly to Dublin and then book a cheap Ryanair flight (I once did exactly save and saved $200 when compared to a direct flight to Paris).

4. Visit the airline’s website – After I’ve searched for deals and budget flights, I check directly with the airline. Airlines occasionally offer cheaper prices to encourage customers to book directly with them. You’ll also have more peace of mind booking direct since there won’t be a third-party involved should a delay or cancelation occur. That said, more often than not, you won’t find the cheapest prices directly with the airline.

5. Book and review – By now, you should have found the best deal. Book it! Then, in 23 hours, do another quick search. Clear out your browser’s cookies and do a quick search to see if the price dropped. Many airlines let you cancel for free within 24 hours. If you find a better deal, cancel and rebook. If not, stick with your flight and call it a day! (Make sure your flight has free cancelation within 24 hours before you book a new flight)

In addition to following those simple steps, here are some other helpful things you can do to find the best flight deal for your next family trip:

Use travel credit cards to get pointsTravel hacking is vital when you have to buy multiple airline tickets. With very little work, you can accumulate hundreds of thousands of points — enough to get you and your family anywhere in the world.

These days, there are tons of amazing travel credit cards that provide incredible perks and value for avid travelers. These include 5x points on certain spending categories, huge sign-up bonuses, lounge access, Global Entry, and much, much more!

I earn over 1 million points per year — and you can too. Best of all, it doesn’t require any extra spending either.

Visit a travel agent – Believe it or not, travel agents can still be good for bulk flight discounts, especially culturall-specific travel agents that specialize in flights to their country of origin (for example, buying flights to China in Chinatown).

Beyond using points or finding some amazing deal, there’s not much you can do to lower the cost of flights (whether for a single traveler or a family). Airline ticket prices are going up and we’re all going to suffer. There are ways to avoid being the person who pays the most for their ticket but, without points, there’s no way to get free or very discounted flights.

For more tips and advice on finding a cheap flight, here are some helpful posts:

Finding Budget-Friendly Accommodation

This is another big cost that doesn’t need to break your bank. The biggest way to win: skip the hotel. Hotels are the most expensive form of accommodation. Luckily, there are some great alternatives. Here’s how you can overcome (or cut) these costs:

Stay in a family-friendly hostel – Hostels are not just for young, single backpackers. There are many hostels out there that are great for families (and tour groups) that don’t have the party atmosphere normally associated with hostels.

One of the best family-friendly hostels in the world is the chain Youth Hostel Association. They offer nice, quiet, clean rooms, and have hostels around the world.

Use Hostelworld.com to find quiet, family-friendly hostels. You can read reviews, see what facilities and amenities there are, and look at photos to find the perfect hostel for you and your family.

Rent someone’s home or apartment – Vacation rental sites can get you all the comforts of home while on the road and work out cheaper per person than a hostel or hotel. In many instances, you can rent a whole apartment for prices similar to budget hotels. This will allow you access to self-catering facilities so you can cook your own meals, saving you even more money in the progress.

The best apartment rental sites include:

  • Airbnb – The best platform for finding private rooms and entire homes for rent. There are both budget-friendly and luxury options too. (You’ll want to read this before using the platform though)
  • Homeaway – Similar to Airbnb, HomeAway offers vacation and short-term apartment rentals all round the world (they recently merged with VRBO so they have a sizeable list of properties too).
  • Campsapce – A platform for renting space to camp on private property, as well as cabins, lodges and other more rustic accommodation.

Use last-minute hotel discount sites – If you do need a hotel, use websites like Hotwire, HotelTonight, and Priceline to find cheap, last-minute hotel rooms.

Use a hospitality network – Many of the hospitality networks like Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club, and Servas have numerous hosts who take families. You’ll need to spend a bit more time finding and connecting with them, but it’s definitely possible.

There is often this perception that these websites are for just young, solo travelers, but many, many hosts take families (Hospitality Club and Servas more so than Couchsurfing). You get to know a local family with these websites, and your kids will have other kids to play with, too! Win-win.

For more information and tips on finding cheap accommodation, check out these relevant blog posts:

Cutting Food Expenses

I imagine feeding a family is not very cheap (I know, I know — Captain Obvious over here, right?). When you’re traveling, being budget conscious becomes even more important, as food costs can ruin your budget. Here are some tips that can help:

Cook – Obviously, cooking food will be cheaper than eating out. Visit local markets or grocery stores, get some food, and have a picnic or make sandwiches for later. When I don’t have access to a kitchen, I buy a lot of pre-made meals at supermarkets. They aren’t world-class meals but they do the trick.

Get lunch specials – The best time to eat out at restaurants is during lunch when places offer lunch specials and set menus that are cheaper than dinnertime menus. This is especially true around North America, Europe and in Singapore.

Food trucks/street food – If you’re in a place with food trucks or street food, eat there. Not only will these meals be cheaper, they will probably be tastier too. Food trucks and street stalls are my favorite places to eat. You can find meals for under $1 USD in many parts of the world, making it easy (and cheap) to feed a family.

Don’t eat near tourist attractions – This is an important rule of mine. If you eat near a major site, food will be three times as expensive and probably a third as good. Walk at least four blocks away before you pick a restaurant. You’ll get cheaper, more authentic local food this way.

Stick to local food – Local food is always going to be cheaper than imported food, non-seasonal food, and western food. If you want to stick to your budget, eat what the locals eat.

For more tips and information on eating cheap while traveling, check out these posts:

Saving Money on Attractions

Use city tourism cards to get discounts and free entrance into local museums and attractions. Tourism offices (think London Tourism, Paris Tourism, New York Tourism, etc.) offer these cards that give you free entry and substantial discounts to participating attractions and tours in a city, free local public transportation (a huge plus), and discounts at a few restaurants and shopping malls.

They last for a varying number of days and are one of the best ways to see many attractions on the cheap. (Remember, kids below 12 get into most museums for free.)

Moreover, student and youth discount cards are available for people over 13. These cards will give free or discounted access to museums and attractions around the world. You can get these cards at STA travel.

How Senior Travelers Can Travel on a Budget

Don and Alison, a happy senior couple traveling the world posing with an elephant

Accommodation for Older Travelers

While many of the tips above will also apply to older travelers, the most common concern I hear from older travelers is that I write too much about hostels. I think many older travelers feel that they won’t fit in if they stay in a hostel, which just isn’t the case (ok, maybe that’s true if you stay at a party hostel). But most hostels are inclusive and you’ll find a pretty wide variety of ages.

In fact, lots of boomers use hostels. Both dorms and private rooms are great options because they provide lots of space to meet other travelers, get tips, and share your own experiences.

I’ve even met travelers in the 70s using hostels!

That said, here are some budget-friendly alternatives to your standard hostel:

What About Medical Issues?

The most common topic I get questions about from older travelers is the issue of medical concerns. From getting prescriptions abroad to finding coverage for pre-existing conditions, older travelers often (but not always) need to spend more time and energy making sure their medical needs are properly addressed.

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to have these issues looked after. Many doctors will supply prescriptions in advance so you can purchase what you need abroad conveniently and safely. Additionally, there are more and more insurance companies that provide coverage to older travelers.

Insure My Trip is the best place to start as they can find plans that cover travelers 70+. (For younger travelers, World Nomads is my preferred company).

For additional coverage, travelers under 75 can use Medjet. Its the premier global air medical transport and travel security membership program. They provide comprehensive evacuation coverage that ensures you won’t get stuck at a foreign hospital should something happen during your trip.

Tours for Older Travelers

Another question that gets posed a lot is how to avoid those expensive single supplements tour groups charge for individual travelers. To avoid those fees, use small group tour operators like Intrepid Travel. It’s really only the large bus companies that still have that fee anyway (think Globus or Trafalgar tours).

Most small operators have discontinued the practice of single supplements. Generally, anyone who runs groups smaller than 15 travelers or offers a hop-on/hop-off style service won’t require a single supplement.

For more tips, information, and inspiration, here are some insightful posts for older travelers:

***
Nothing is ever universal, but tips for solo travelers, couples, families, or older travelers are not mutually exclusive. They can be borrowed from each other and used as you see fit.

I write as a solo traveler who likes to save money, and while not all my tips are applicable to every type of traveler, most can be. I hope this post addressed some of the questions you had about what tips on this site are relevant to family and senior travel.

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 Families and Senior Travelers Can Use this Website appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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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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