When we are about to travel to a destination, it can be difficult to want to book without knowing what exactly we are booking. Travel reviews can be a light in the tunnel to sedate the fears that we feel about booking something somewhere we have never been. These reviews can give us the experiences of people who have been there and done that which helps us avoid making bookings that would have been disastrous. It is easy to find travel reviews but how do you know which ones are going to be the best way to determine if you want to go there? Here are some tips on how you can successfully navigate travel reviews to help you on your future travels.
How travel reviews help you find what you are looking for
There are a million places that have reviews from airlines to places to stay. The trick is to find what you are looking for that is not a paid for review. Some websites will pay someone who has never been there before to write great review about your worst nightmare. This is the most common with places to stay because a hotel will have the money to spare a few to pay of writers who will write about the great amenities that they see on the website. In this case, take the time to search through websites that have travel blogs with writers that write about where they have personally stayed or through travel blogs. Many of these blogs will give you an accurate understanding of the place which can help you determine if the reviews you found where actually true. Seeing one good review out of a dozen travel blogs which state that the place was bad means that you have a paid for review.
How can the age of the review help you decide if this hotel is right for you?
Another way to tell if the review is good is how recent the review is compared to the actual age of the hotel. If you find one good review and the review is as old as the hotel, then you can assume that no one thought that this particular place was good or bad enough to write about. Explore your other options first before considering booking that hotel. A good review to use in your decision should be as recent as possible and is similar in nature to what the other ones before it said. For example, if you find an astounding review after seven or eight reviews from the same year that spelled bad news, well best to keep looking at other places to stay. The reverse is also true. One bad review does not mean that the place should be avoided at all costs.
Ok, ok, but how can you tell if it is a good travel review?
A good review should be full of relevant information about the surroundings of the place you are considering staying at. Take a second to consider what it is that you will need to know about that area before being quick to agreeing completely with the review. Is the place close to any places to eat and if they are, what are the review of that place the person mentioned? Was the food good or bad? What are the small details that you would mention and do you see them mentioned in the review you are reading? A person who has been there will state what they have used and where the closest store was. Look for personal details of how helpful the staff was or any experiences while staying there. Chances are if you stay somewhere and then write a review about it, you are going to have some personal details that you are going to add about that experience.
How important is a return customer?
Another tip is to look for people who are return customers. Return customers who leave multiple adventure travel reviews are a huge bonus because you know they have been there. They will also have information on how the services offered have changed and whether they plan on returning later on. This is one of the most important reasons to leave your input after using a service. Your experiences will help you leave helpful feedback later on which could help you keep track of your perfect getaway spot in the future. Multiple stay reviews can help new travelers find their perfect spot without having to go there to find it.
Why should I care if the English sounds right?
Many paid reviews are not always going to have great English. Many of the people who want to pay for a review will not pay enough for a native English speaker to write the review. If the English words do not match the country that has been specified, you may not have a good review. It is always important to remember that we will write in our native language which makes writing the review easy. This is one of the easiest to find but also the most overlooked tips which can help you weed out the bad reviews that will not be relevant to your trip.
Using travel reviews to book your vacation plans does not have to be a hassle. Many people learn the hard way which plans work and which ones do not. If you use these tips, you should easily be able to navigate your way through the reviews that were paid for by companies to make themselves look good. Make sure that the review reads correctly, has relevant information, throws in a few personal tidbits of information, and is recent. The most important thing is to make sure that you have fun on your trip and write about it so others can use your review for their search too.
La Tomatina In All Its Glory
Since 1945, the food fight of Spain’s La Tomatina festival has been drawing in crowds of local revelers and foreign tourists who want to see the spectacle for themselves. Every year, in the last week of August, it gets bigger and better and 2015 is set to be no different as the local officials have gone out of their way to hold a safe, respectable fight as part of a much longer, vibrant week of events and celebrations.
La Tomatina: the world’s biggest food fight.
Naturally, when people think of La Tomatina they think of the massive food fight that provides the rather messy but undeniably exciting climax of the festival. It is said that over one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are used as ammunition on all the tourists that take to the streets – and it is certainly a great way of dealing with the issue of food waste! It is a strange occasion full of traditions; there is the arrival of the tomatoes by truck, the Palojabon (a challenge to reach a ham on top of a soapy pole) the firing of the water cannons and, of course, the fruity free-for-all that ensues until the hour is up.
What else can you see and do if you head to La Tomatina 2015?
Unfortunately, the massive food fight can overshadow the rest of the week’s events and it really is worth spending the full week in Bunol to make the most of what the 2015 La Tomatina festival can offer. When it comes to food, many think of the food being thrown around but they are less aware of the cooking contest that takes place the night before where festival participants put their best bowls of paella before judges and a salivating audience. During the days there are parades with plenty of dancers and musicians to get people in the spirit of the event and the region; at night there are fireworks to enjoy and there is even the La Tomatina After Party where participants can unwind once all the last bits of tomato have been hosed off (or washed off with a dip in the river).
Who is the festival recommended for?
This festival is blatantly for those that do not mind getting very messy and smelly in a storm of tomatoes, but visitors also need a sense of adventure, an appreciation of Spanish culture and a willingness to immerse themselves in a whole range of sensory experiences. There are two ways of looking at the festival: either it is a quick weekend trip for young travellers and students looking for raucous fun and a good party or it is the ideal week’s break for older, more adventurous travellers that want to experience all the sights, sounds and tastes. There are also tour packages available so this could be a good option if you plan to travel as a group.
Other tips for people looking to go to La Tomatina.
1. The growing popularity of the event and its impact on the town has meant that access to the La Tomatina food fight is actually restricted to 20,000 people and you must have a ticket to enter – if you just show up on the day you will be disappointed! Tickets cost just 10 Euros, but it is 750 Euros if you want access to a truck.
2. Because of the wealth of events in Bunol that week, it will be preferable to stay there; however, accommodation is also limited so it may be worth staying in nearby Valencia and getting the train in each day.
3. Plan your outfit carefully – you may have to throw it away.
4. Oh yes, and it surely should go without saying that you must not bring your own ammunition to the fight; just use nice, squashed tomatoes that will do little harm.
La Tomatina: so much more than just tossing around some tomatoes for a hour.
The food fight will always be the biggest draw of the festival – no matter how much they restrict the ticket numbers or how ripe the fruit gets – but hopefully this guide has shown that there is even more to see and do than swim in tomato juice for an hour. La Tomatina is a week full of parties, paella, fireworks and festivities and should be enjoyed in all its glory.
It sounds compelling. Search postings for an adventure of a lifetime, read reviews, book it. Off you go. If only it were that easy.
Many people have the same question when it comes to travel: how am I going to pay for this trip?
Good news, this post will outline what action you an take (yes a single action) to acquire the money you need to pay for your tour, including cheap airline tickets.
This blog post will address 2 questions:
1. Where do I start?
2. How do I save and pay for my trip (saving money, and paying for a trip are two different things. Stick with me, you’ll see why).
Will the savings process be obvious? Are you going to tell me to give up a triple shot mochaccino habit? No, I’ won’t. That’s been covered ad nauseum and there’s conflicting data that suggests cutting out a designer cafe coffee a day will /will not help.
I’m going to make this super simple. In fact, it is deceptively easy. And the good news? This method also works if you want to loose weight, get in shape, achieve goals, etc…Like I said, super simple and you need to only do 2 things.
Like most, if not all things in life, you have to have an idea of what you want in order to achieve it. Don’t leave planning to luck, fortune, etc… Perhaps you’ve read this quote before
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice
“That depends a good deal on where you want to go to,” said the Cat
“I don’t much care where -” said Alice
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
Find Your Adventure of A Lifetime
Step 1 – Where do you want to go? Not sure where to begin? Check out the Top Ten lists. Have an idea of the part of the world or time of year? Check out the search engine and filter your results. The point is to identify a tour that calls to you. As you thoroughly read the tour descriptions. Ask yourself these questions;
1. Can I see myself on this tour?
2. What parts of the adventure travel and tour resonate with me? Get me the most excited? Which parts of the tour do I look forward to the most?
3. What would I like to get out of this tour? A new appreciation for a part of the world I know? A brand new experience where everything is completely new? Or something in between?
Step 2 – I’m not going to tell you to exclude or stop spending. I don’t like to tell people the way to success is by “not” doing something. In my experience negative is not nearly as impactful as positive. So here’s the positive. For one month, simply write down everything you spend money on. Everything, and down to the penny. The reason is to not have you decrease spending by making it more difficult (e.g. I’m not going to buy that coffee because I forgot my spend tracking form). I recommend you do this so you have a realistic view of how you spend you money. If you catch yourself ever saying “where is my money going?” then this technique will give you clarity. I recommend breaking down into categories, fixed expenses (rent, car payments, student loans, utilities) and variable expenses (booze/vices, food, clothing, etc…). Don’t make the variable expenses too narrow (beer, wine, tequila) unless you really want to. I highly recommend for the first month you keep it broader, and then narrow it if you find that the category is representatively large
Tracking the fixed expenses is easy. Tracking the variable expenses is a challenge BUT THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL FIND THE BIGGEST DISCOVERY.
Your goal is clarity.
And clarity comes from writing it down every day. At the end of the month tally the variable expenses by categories. See a trend? Start asking yourself, did you really need to spend $250 at the club for a bottle of some rappers private label vodka? You get the point. Clarity will answer your question of where and how you can save money. But only if you write it down so you can actually see it!
Step 3 – All tours include tour prices, make sure you account for transportation to and from your tour. By planning a head, you don’t have to rely soly on cheap airline tickets. Of course there are cheaper days to book travel. Don’t want to read the article? According the Wall Street Journal, here are the best days to book travel. (Please note this article was written about US departure locations)
How Far in Advance to Buy Your Ticket
On average, the lowest price was found 57 days before departure
On average, the lowest price was found 171 days before departure
Ok, let’s fine tune this.
The day of the week also impacts how much you will pay for your ticket. All of the prices below are the average domestic and international fares over 130 million trips and a 19 month time period.
The clear winner, the weekend!
Ok, now you know what day of the week and how far in advance you should buy your airline ticket.
But did you know if you are very mindful, there are actual ways to “hack” your travel? This goes beyond finding cheap airfare, traveling on discount airlines, trolling travel sites for last minute travel deals, etc…Specifically how to get your airfare paid “for free”. Or rather, you can leverage your existing spending to accumulate points to redeem for miles. This is WAY beyond signing up for an airline credit card. There is a whole art to this. Here are two services that can help you get your airfare (and maybe more) covered. Abroaders (full service) and Travel Hacker (quasi- self service).
Abroaders – a full service travel hack concierge. Great to use if you want to outsource the entire process of miles/points accumulation. For a fixed 6 month fee, they will handpick credit cards and frequent flyer programs to maximize your accumulation of miles. More miles means less money spent on reaching the origination point of your tour. That means more money in your pocket or another adventure travel tour! Right now they serve mostly people with access to the US banking system. However, they are rapidly rolling out service to other countries.
Travel Hacker – a quasi – self service travel hacking company that provides resources to help you maximize points/miles accumulation. They provide alerts, education, you’ll learn about glitch fares, Round-the-World tickets, padding out your mileage account, earning elite status, etc…
What I love about both services is their guarantee of results and satisfaction or your money back. You can’t beat that!
So there you go. Write it down, review monthly and try a travel hack service.
Your adventure awaits!
Thailand might be more famous for its idyllic islands in the South and centuries-old cultural places such as Sukhothai or Ayutthaya, but it has also plenty to offer for those who seek adrenalin-infused adventures. We selected five spots for a thrilling experience:
1. Phraya Nakhon Cave
It just takes a short 45 minutes ride by car from Hua Hin, followed by a 30 minute trek through lush gardens and forest to reach Thailand’s most magnificent cave: Phraya Nakhon. Built by the end of the 19the century, a Buddhist pavilion stands on a small hill inside the cave, giving a mystical yet spectacular atmosphere when a ray of sunlight falls from a hole in the cave ceiling, illuminating the pavilion.
Where to find? Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, central Thailand.
2. Tham Lod Cave
The cave is located in northern Thailand, close to the border of Burma, about 4 hours by bus from Chiang Mai. 1666 meters in length, this limestone cave features not only stunning stalactites and stalagmites, but it’s also possible to paddle by kayak around the Nam Lang River which flows inside and around it. Further, the cave is home to many bats and swifts.
Where to find? Mae Hong Son Province, northern Thailand
3. Tham Lum Khao Cave
Located a mere two hours ride from Bangkok, it’s also widely known as ‘’Snake Mountain Cave”. A majestic cave column has been formed over millions of years, resulting in being the world’s tallest at 62m. It features also a number of underground rivers and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
Where to find? Kanchanaburi Province, Central Thailand
4. Crazy Horse Buttress Rock
As Thailand becomes more and more recognized by climbers from around the world, the Crazy Horse Buttress should be mentioned as well here. Though its formation might look a bit daunting, climbers of every skill level will find there challenge here. And if you are not into climbing, explore the nearby Furnace Cave which requires a lot of crawling through mud!
Where to find? Chiang Mai Province, North Thailand
1. You don’t need to be young and in physical excellent shape to start training Muay Thai
Muay Thai is all about skills. And developing those skills need a lot of practice. Therefore make sure to ask if there are Beginner classes or designated, supervised areas for beginners. Moreover, discuss your targets with the trainer, create an exercise plan. How long will you be training? Two weeks? One month? Three? But don’t worry, your instructors and fellow students know that you’re new and nobody expects you to be in good shape. Most Muay Thai gyms offering also single classes; attend first one of those, see how the instructors, students and atmosphere is and decide afterwards. It is important that you feel comfortable for the upcoming weeks and months!
2. Show that you’re really interested in learning and practicing Muay Thai
Ask for the class timings and be punctual. How many times per day and week are training lessons? If you’re really serious about you Muay Thai, you need to train more than once a week. Be the last leaving the gym. Don’t be shy. Don’t just ask the trainers for help; get support by senior students. Ask if there are any fights in town, maybe your trainers / senior students are even participating. Perhaps you can even go with other students to those fights. Watch the techniques they’re using, ask those advanced students or trainers what mistakes the fighters are making. You literally have to breathe Muay Thai.
(photo from TigerMuayThai.com)
3. Continuously improve yourself – and seek for feedback
Be ready to suck at first and consider that normal. Sure, your trainer will give you feedback, but also be open-minded and take suggestions for improvements. Ask advanced students and get your feedback/suggestions from them, because after all, you are going to spend probably a significant amount of time with them. Try to spar some time during the training with senior students. Be a good teammate to anyone and hold the safety pads, try to build up relationships. Ask for a meal plan. What do other (advanced) students consume? Any special diets? The most important thing however is that you don’t stop asking questions at any point of time.
Exotic. Colourful. Diverse. Rich in flavors. There are probably dozens of words and phrases which can describe Thai food. However, once you step into the Land of Smiles, it is recommendable to make your own picture; stroll around the bustling streets of Bangkok with its countless mobile food sellers, walk through the markets of Chiang Mai or just sit in a small local restaurant in Phuket – place your order and indulge into a variety of flavors and fragrances!
We selected the 5 Must Try Dishes for you here:
1. Green Papaya Salad – Som Tum
It’s refreshing, delicious and yes, spicy: Som Tum! Available on markets and in local restaurants, it’s almost impossible to leave Thailand without trying it. Shredded green papaya, blended with sliced tomatoes, roasted peanuts, chilli and palm sugar, you can eat this sweet-sour-spicy dish along with boiled rice in any part of the country.
2. Northern Thai Sausage -Sai Ua La Wan
When visiting northern Thailand, in particular its second largest city and cultural capital, Chiang Mai, it’s a must to try the Sai Ua La Wan – sausage. It is one of the most famous dishes you can get in the city and it’s virtually available on all markets and typical Thai restaurants. A perfect blend of spices, herbs and a good amount of chilli, making this probably one of the tastiest pork sausages you will come across.
3. Thai Basil Chicken – Pad Kra Pao Gai
Thai Basil Chicken is considered as the most popular dish for Thais. The chicken is stir fried and topped with basil, served with rice and fried egg. Besides chicken, it’s also available with pork or shrimps. Pad Kra Pao Gai is served from Chiang Rai in the north to the southern islands of Thailand, by street-food vendors and in local restaurants.
4. Spicy Chicken Soup – Tom Kha Gai
This extremely mouth-watering dish is made from a variety of refreshing ingredients: coconut milk, oyster mushrooms, chicken breast, chilli and onions. Tom Kha Gai is not only a fest of flavors, but on top a very healthy dish. It’s usually served with boiled rice and is available throughout the country in most local restaurants.
5. Green Chicken Curry – Gaeng Khiao Wan
Even when it comes to curries, Thailand has a number of delights to offer; being the most popular curry dish available in Thailand, Green Chicken Curry is served from small family-run -to top rated hotel restaurants. Its ingredients however remain mostly the same: Green curry paste, tender chicken, garlic and onion, among other exotic spices and herbs.
A follow up to our August 8 posting. Make sure you read that one too!
Today I’m writing about 3 more stunning locations: Bunaken, Peucang, and Wakatobi. You can find tours to these islands as well as others on our Tours to Asia page.
With 17,000 islands, it is quite difficult to find the perfect beach getaway in Indonesia. Sulawesi with its surrounding islands and mini-archipelagos offers without doubt some of the country’s finest beaches. Bunaken is a small island of just 8 km², located north-west of Manado, the largest city in the north of Sulawesi. You can get to Manado from Jakarta or Denpasar via Makassar. A ferry connects Bunaken with Manado and takes about one hour.
The island is famous for its clear water and large marine biodiversity, hence making it another perfect place for diving and snorkelling. Rest assured you can stretch your legs on the beach and sipping on a fresh coconut without the company of many tourists. A must see for those seeking a unique experience.
Pecang Island is part of the Ujung Kulon National Park, located just off the shores of western Java. It is relatively easy to reach if you enter Indonesia from its main hubs Jakarta or Bali, as you can conveniently travel overland by bus from the capital or the Island of Gods via Yogykarta and Jakarta. The island is an ideal place to stay if you are en route to Mount Krakatau. Crystal clear turquoise water invites you to jump in or to do a relaxing stroll on the beach. The beach has a direct border with its jungle forest. Don’t be surprised if you see curious monkeys running around or wild deer.
Wakatobi can be considered as one of Indonesia’s hidden gems: these picturesque islands are located south of Sulawesi and comprises of the four main islands, Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko and a number of smaller ones. In order to get there you can fly to Makassar and get a connecting flight to Wangi Wangi or a direct flight from Denpasar to Tamia. Leave your footprints behind in the white sandy beach, relax under the shadow of coconut trees or go for diving and snorkelling. If you want to explore the other islands, you can hop onto one of the fast boats with regular schedule, connecting the main islands.
Let’s face it, spending money on a sleeping location can be a big waste. Think about it. You spend good money, settle in, close your eyes, and hopefully don’t remember a thing.
Here are 4 cheap alternatives to hostels and hotels that offer a different experience.
SwapMyCityPad.com – This site allows you to swap your own flat/apartment or house with other like-minding people for a weekend or longer.
VivaStreet.co.uk – Going to the UK? check out this site for options. Includes B&Bs.
CouchSurfing.org – Not only a cheap place to sleep, but lots of local knowledge about what to do, what to see, and hidden gems.
CampingInMyGarden.com Have your camping gear? Then check out this site. Microcamping and private gardens!
We’re starting a new series called Off the Beaten Path. Our first post in the series will cover 3 amazing locations in Indonesia. Please see our Tour Reviews section for more information about tour operators and schedules.
Note: All prices in the posting are subject to change and/or be included in tour packages. Double check!
Raja Ampat is an archipelago located at the north-west tip of Papua, the Indonesian part of the world’s second largest island, New Guinea. It comprises of more than 1500 islands and is widely regarded as one of the last real remaining paradises on earth. Why? Due to its isolation, it has been so far untouched from mass tourism. Visitors are rewarded with the sheer beauty of nature; even if you’re not a birdwatcher you will love to see plenty of unique bird species in all shapes and sizes calling only Papua their home. You can stroll around the islands with its small hills without seeing any other tourists. Oh, and the underwater world: the turquoise colored water automatically hypnotizes you! Jump in and snorkel or dive – the magical blend of corals and colorful fishes will surely take your breath away…
How to get there: from Jakarta via Makassar (Sulawesi) to Sorong (Papua) with Lion Air, Merpati, Sriwijaya Air and Express Air.
Fees: 500.000 IDR per person per year, usually to pay at the airport in Sorong. It is more considered as local area tax, in order to preserve the area.
Komodo National Park
Komodo Island is world-wide known for its monitor lizards, the closest living relatives to the dinosaurs. It’s a thrilling experience to see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat- there are nearly 6000 lizards living across the three islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar, among a number of smaller ones. The area was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 1991. What else can you do and see? One of the lesser known things is that the park is not only home to the before mentioned lizards, but also to a number of other animals such as wild horses, wild pigs, civets and macaques and reptiles such as cobras and vipers. Further, there are fantastic areas for diving around – how about some carpet sharks or manta rays?
How to get there: by ferries from Sumbawa, but mainly from Labuanbajo, Flores. In order to reach Flores, you can conveniently fly in from Denpasar (Bali) or Jakarta.
Fees: Entrance fee: 20.000 IDR; Camera: 50.000 IDR; Video camera: 150.000 IDR; Ranger: 80.000 IDR (per group); Local area tax: 50.000 IDR
Mount Krakatau or Anak Krakatau is an active volcano, sandwiched between two of Indonesia’s major islands, Sumatra and Java. It parent volcano exploded in 1883 and was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history. Anak Krakatau -“Child of Krakatau “-was eventually formed beneath Mount Krakatau years later. The island has black sand beach half around the island, while the other half is virtually inaccessible as lava flows down into the ocean. Climbing up the volcano doesn’t take much time, but can be quite exhausting. Once you reached the highest accessible point, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view over the surrounding islands.
Don’t miss out one of the highlights: the mystical yet spectacular view at night of floating lava!
How to get there: by ferries from Sumatra and Java. If you take an organized tour, buses will usually depart from Jakarta (Java) or Bandar Lampung (Sumatra). A Conversation Site Entry Permit (Surat Ijin Masuk Kawasan Konservasi/SIMAKSI) needs to be obtained prior.
Fees: Official Rangers/Guides: 250.000 IDR. Berthing fee: 200.000 IDR per boat.
Food-based tourism is on the rise, and eating the best in-season local ingredients are often a big highlight of a destination. When looking for top places to visit based on seafood dishes, it is no secret that coastal cities are generally the highlight. Seafood lovers should be sure to check out the following 5 destinations to experience some of the best meals to ever come out of the ocean.
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
It is no secret to foodies that the historical city of Boston is one of the top seafood destinations in the Unites States. The cold waters of the North Atlantic produce some of the best clams, oysters and cod to be found anywhere. The oldest restaurant in the country is located here and still serves up delicious oysters to locals and tourists alike.
Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada
Moving up the Atlantic coast to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia will allow travelers to experience some of the freshest sea scallops around. The scallop business is serious up in these parts and prices are competitive for top quality dishes compared to other regions where scallops are not so abundant.
Even though Madrid is not a coastal city, as the nation’s capital and home of the Spanish royal family, the city has amazingly good seafood dishes. The national dish of paella is best represented here, with top quality seafood imported from other regions of the country. Due to this, it is said that Madrid tops all Spanish cities for the quality of its seafood.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The whole Caribbean is full of top-notch seafood but the Cayman Islands has the culinary expertise of world-class chefs to prepare the dishes. As a major financial center, the capital city hosts some of the biggest power players in the world who expect only the best.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Located on the Gulf of Tonkin in the northern part of the South China Sea, Halong Bay is an idyllic setting with numerous options for locally sourced seafood. The Vietnamese tradition of fresh ingredients and light, healthy cooking styles is especially evident in this fish-rich region.