Budget travel – Etramping Travel Blog https://etramping.com Adventures Around the World! Fri, 16 Aug 2019 04:58:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 https://i2.wp.com/etramping.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/cropped-eTrampinglogoB18-2-2-e1533721426720.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Budget travel – Etramping Travel Blog https://etramping.com 32 32 37340027 How to Prepare for Everest Base Camp Trek: Packing List and Training https://etramping.com/everest-base-camp-trek-packing-list/ https://etramping.com/everest-base-camp-trek-packing-list/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2019 05:13:39 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=42924 Trekking to Everest Base Camp is a dream for any outdoor enthusiast. To be ready for the experience, here’s what you need to pack and how you should prepare.

The post How to Prepare for Everest Base Camp Trek: Packing List and Training appeared first on Etramping Travel Blog.

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Back in 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first scaled the world’s highest peak, they were packing wooden handled ice axes, heavy steel crampons and military-style woolen clothing.

EBC Trek Bridge

By contrast, today’s equipment and apparel puts that to shame, with the advancement of some seriously impressive and potentially life-saving technologies.

While we didn’t make an attempt to summit Mount Everest when we Trekked to Everest Base Camp (perhaps one for the future), we still needed some top-quality gear to see us through on our dream-come-true Everest Base Camp trek. And if you’re considering following in our footsteps – you’ll need it too.

Aside from that, this 12-day EBC trek is a tough and challenging ascent to potentially dangerous altitudes, albeit through some of the most stunning scenery on earth.

You’ll need to be of sound body and mind to attempt it, so in this article we’ll explore useful training tips to get you in shape, while outlining all the kit that is essential for making the empowering journey to the steps to heaven. 

Also, feel free to check out Lydia’s guide to preparing for high altitude trekking in the Himalayas.

Assumptions About Your EBC Trek

What do you immediately think of when you imagine the Everest Base Camp trek?

Is it that you need to be insanely fit to undertake it?

Perhaps that it’ll be mind-numbingly freezing every step of the way?

Maybe you’ve heard horrifying stories of people secumbing to altitude sickness or exposure?

Alternatively, you might be one of those people who thinks it’ll be a breeze and you could do it in your sleep (like I did)! 

Whatever you know or you think you know, it’s always advisable to prepare for the worst case scenario. While it’s true you need to be in good shape, you don’t need to overdo it.

It’s when you’re actually attempting the summit that you should be borderline Olympian.

It is going to be cold, but so long as you have the right gear – you’ll handle it like a boss. We’ll take a look at how to deal with altitude sickness later, as the Everest Base Camp trek is anything but a breeze and still demands respect and detailed preparation. Let’s take a look at what you should be packing.

EBC Trek Apparel

Below you’ll find essential apparel you’ll need to gather before you set off on your Everest Base Camp adventure. Bear in mind that it is possible to buy or rent this equipment once you reach Kathmandu and in Namche Bazaar, but the quality and price can vary. It’s handy if you forget something, but even at the expense of traveling light, you probably should bring your own gear with you.

Underwear

You’ll no doubt get to know and love the term ‘wicking’ when you’re preparing for your Everest Base Camp trek. All your apparel needs to be breathable and allow moisture away from your skin. Obtaining clothing with this feature is a must – perhaps no more so than with your underwear. Nobody likes chafing. Look to pack 3-5 pairs max. Disposable underwear is a way to go if you want to wear a clean pair every day.

Hiking Socks

Don’t, whatever you do, pack cotton socks. You’ll be riddled with blisters. Instead, go with something more breathable with added cushioning. Anti-odor products are a good idea too, and pack a thermal pair for when the temperature really drops just to be comfortable. Around 5-7 pairs will do great.

Base Layer

Wicking is very important when it comes to clothing that is close to the skin, which is exactly what your base layer will be. This will include both a top and bottom, and sets are often available. It’s important that airflow is restricted to keep you warm, while you won’t be soaking with sweat inside the first ten minutes. All-in-one body suits are also an option if that’s what you would prefer.

Trekking Tops

Once again, cotton is a no-no when it comes to choosing your lightweight trekking top. You should be looking to pack around 2-3 of these, making sure that they are breathable. Wicking, as ever, is key.

Hiking Pants

Good quality hiking pants (and possibly shorts) are a must for your Everest Base Camp trek. You could probably do it with one pair, but having a backup can help (if you don’t mind carrying the extra weight). Look for something that’s versatile, as there are various products targeted at different seasons and conditions. Tactical, multi-pocket apparel is also really useful.

Insulation Layer

Your insulated layer can be made from a variety of different materials, so long as it keeps you warm with good breathability. You can choose from either down, synthetic or fleece, all with their own advantages and disadvantages – which means it will usually just come down to personal preference. Fleece lined, thermal leggings are also a good idea.

Outer Layer

Your final layer should be heavy duty gear, capable of withstanding whatever the elements decide to throw at you. Unfortunately, you’ll likely need to spend a little more in this department – especially if you want something that is going to do the job with any longevity. Don’t forget you’ll need the bottom half, too. 

Check the weather forecast for when you’re going. In case of my EBC trek – I used this layer only once and would honestly survive without it, but it made a huge difference in weight of the backpack).

Waterproofing

Even more so than your heavier outer layers it’s worth having a lightweight rain jacket and pants for emergencies – which will be useful in sudden downpours at lower altitudes or if the temperature is on the warmer side.

Trekking Boots

Your new best friend will undoubtedly be your footwear, which should be a mid-to-lightweight hiking boot with excellent support. Make sure they actually fit you correctly before making a purchase just because you like the color. The inability to try before you buy is one of the major downsides of online shopping…

Please make sure your shoes are waterproof – you don’t want to get blisters because there was a bit of rain.

Gloves

A pair of good quality gloves will be essential once you start feeling the chill. They should protect you not only from the cold but also the elements (sun, wind, and rain).

Sunglasses

Don’t forget the sunglasses. That big ball of fire in the sky can cause all kinds of problems at high altitudes in thin air. The glare off the snow will be blinding – so protecting your peepers is paramount. Invest in good quality products – dollar sunglasses will not be up to the job at these heights.

Lydia picking up trash off the trail on our way back

Hat

While not looking super trendy, a sun hat is a must! It will protect your head and neck from burning and keeping you awake at night. Also, get yourself a beanie or equivalently warm article of headgear to keep the heat from escaping from the top of your bonce.

Knee Guards

Invaluable! There are days when I walk around a city for a bit and my knees start to hurt. What would happen on the EBC trek if I didn’t have the knee guards? I don’t even want to think about it. If you have a slightest knee problem, or want to make sure you don’t develop one, do get yourself a pair of knee guards for this trip.

To get to the Everest Base Camp, you’ll be doing around 35,000 steps a day. Make sure to pay attention to your walking so that you don’t develop an injury.

Mouth cover

A scarf, face/head/neckband, or balaclava is something I found to be of utmost importance – especially on the dusty Everest trek routes, and when the wind is whipping up at freezing temperatures. Throughout the trek, you should keep your moth covered otherwise you’ll sneeze like crazy.

EBC Trekking Gear

There’s still so much more you’ll need if you’re going to complete the Everest Base Camp trek safely and in as much comfort as possible.

Below you’ll find a list of extremely useful items that you’re also likely to be in need of on your Everest hike. Once again, you will be able to pick most of this gear up in Kathmandu or Namche Bazaar (which is ideal if you want to travel light), but prices will vary and can often be of poorer quality compared to what you will pay.

Water containers

You’re not going to get very far if you can’t stay hydrated, so a water bottle or pouch is an absolute must. You should have one of these anyway – there’s no excuse for buying plastic bottles of water when you can carry a reusable one. Consider looking at a backpack with a hydration system if you want to remain on the go.

You should carry containers that can take a minimum of 3 liters of water.

Backpack

Which brings us nicely to whatever you’re going to carry all your gear in. The right trekking backpack will be another of your best friends while on the Everest trek – so make sure you invest in something that is durable but lightweight, and that has the capacity to hold all your stuff. Look for something between 35-65 liters – you shouldn’t need anything more than that.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are not essential but they can mean the world of a difference, especially if you’re a little unsure on your feet. They significantly reduce the stress and pressure on your knees, too – rather handy if you happen to be climbing to the base of the highest mountain in the world. They’re a godsend coming back down, too.

Headlamp

This will be essential for your early morning start on the hike to Kala Patthar during the last leg. It’ll also be highly useful whenever it’s dark – which does happen from time to time. Great as a potential signalling safety device, too.

Sunscreen and Lip Balm

At these altitudes, you’re asking for trouble if you don’t protect your skin. Make sure you get a high factor (50+) – you’re not up here to tan. We have packed too little sunscreen and suffered for this…

Toiletries

Invest in a sturdy, good quality toiletry/wash bag to keep all your usual doings in. And only take the essentials – you’re not going to need several bottles of that expensive fragrance.

Showers are a luxury most don’t enjoy every day on the trek – and even when you do get a chance – the water is lukewarm at best. So here are the items we recommend in your toiletry bag:

Toiletries Bag Content:

  • Toothbrush,
  • toothpaste,
  • toilet paper,
  • baby wipes (plenty, that’s your shower most of the nights), hand sanitizer,
  • 3 x tiny shampoo and shower gel packets,
  • (for men) razor if you want a clean shave look at the top, but it will probably take away the image of the difficulties you had to go through to get there,
  • (for women) feminine wipes, sanitary pads/napkins,
  • muscle rub (great to use just after washing up in the evening),
  • and any personal hygiene products you require should be plentiful.

Camera

It’s not essential, but you’re probably going to want to snap a few photographs of the outstanding scenery you’re going to experience on the Everest trek. Group shots with new friends having accomplished the mission are always nice keepsakes for years to come. Something lightweight and compact is all you need – unless you’re wanting to take pro shots of course.

Towel

What gets wet must also get dry. A small trekking towel will come in very handy.

Ziplock Bags

Important documents, passports and cash are very susceptible to extremities. Keep them safely protected in waterproof bags. Useful for electrical items, too.

Medications

Nobody will remember these for you – it’s up to you to ensure you pack any important medications you might need along the way. Make sure you pack altitude sickness pills!

Water Purification Tablets

There is a huge problem in Nepal with plastic waste. Don’t add to it. Make sure you take enough water purification tablets with you to cover the amount of water you’re going to drink. 2 x 50 tablets should do the trick. 

Book/Playing Cards

There’ll be downtime where you’ll want to relax or keep yourself entertained. A good book and a deck of playing cards will do both. However, don’t stress about this too much if you don’t want to carry these or forgot to pack them. Unlike what you probably think, you want have that much time to relax – you’ll be too tired and cold for that.

Energy Bars/Electrolyte Drinks

If you’re going on a tour, your guide will be responsible for making sure you’re well fed and watered en route, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some snacks thrown in for good measure. Effervescent tablets or powders are also great to boost your energy levels. At the very least, they’ll make the water taste nicer. Pick all this up in Kathmandu or before – it gets expensive the higher you climb.

Ear Plugs and Eye Mask

Sleep is your friend and is never more necessary than when you’re putting your body through its paces. Even if you’re not a light sleeper, having a bit of extra help to reach the land of nod will be a very wise decision.

Sleeping Accessories for EBC Trek

Now, I’m not talking about an eye mask and ear plugs here (although they have their place). More so what you’re actually going to be sleeping in. Hiring options, when it comes to sleeping bags will often have questionable hygiene, so if you ’d much rather sleep in your own cot than someone else’s, you will need to carry it all the way up.

You could always bring a sleeping bag liner for peace of mind and extra warmth, which is something I would recommend. Unless you’re going in the peak of the season, most accommodations will be able to provide you with extra covers. However, carrying a sleeping bag that is warm enough for the weather will add several precious kilograms to your weight.

in case you decide to buy your own sleeping bag, Trekking Everest gets cold. Really cold. As such, you’ll want to opt for a down-lined sleeping bag. Sure, it’s fine to go for synthetics (they are generally easier on the wallet), but you’ll be more comfortable and enjoy a better night’s sleep if you invest in duck or goose feather. At the very least, it should be rated to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise, you might find you’re missing fingers and toes in the morning, or worse – you’ve not even slept at all.

EBC Trek Emergency Equipment

Even with the best will in the world, sometimes mishaps and accidents do happen. Unfortunately, undertaking the challenge of the Everest Base Camp trek does bring with it more risk, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to come prepared with a few essential items for use in an emergency.

Lydia and Cez take a breather

Your tour guide will most likely have a first aid kit, but it’s well worth carry a backup just in case. You can get some well stocked travel first aid kits today that won’t break the bank or take up too much space. Adding some basic survival tools like a signal mirror and multi-use knife is also a sound idea. You can never be too careful when out trekking in Nepal. Or anywhere for that matter.

A rescue whistle is a wise addition to your kit (often part of a trekking backpack) as it takes up very little space and could easily save lives. If you need to attract attention for whatever reason, having one of these powerful little ear-busters could really make the difference. Also useful for waking up your mate in the morning.

Insurance for Everest Base Camp Trek

It might surprise you (or then again it might not) to discover that obtaining insurance when you’re trekking above a certain altitude (3,000 or 4,500 m) is actually not as straightforward as one would hope. Many companies are reluctant to cover such intrepid adventuring as the risk becomes significantly greater. There’s no cutting corners here, remember, it is absolutely essential that you’re covered before you even strap on a boot.

In my personal experience, World Nomads is the best cover for such an endeavor – as long as you select the Explorer Plan. It covers you then up to 6,000 m. Here’s more details on the kind of cover you can expect from them.

There are other options out there worth checking out. Just make sure that you’re covered to the height you’ll be climbing to, and that helicopter rescue is also included if the worst comes to the worst. Always read the small print, folks – it could save you a fortune and, more importantly, it could save your life.

How to Prepare for the Everest Base Camp Trek

You don’t have to be a mountaineer to experience this incredible trek, but as previously mentioned, it helps that you’re in good shape and have a decent level of fitness at the very least. Even so, it’s not to be taken lightly and deserves time and effort to condition your mind and body in preparation for the challenge. The second you start to play fast and loose with this level of outdoor adventure, is the second you could seriously injure yourself and/or others.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is ensure you have all the right gear. You might already have noticed I’ve made this easy for you with my packing list above. It’s very important that you have all the essential equipment and apparel, as doing a half-arsed or lazy job of it could have dangerous repercussions. If you’re fully kitted out it will give you peace of mind. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also get a massive kick out of using your new gear for the first time, which really spurs you on to get started on the trek.

And make sure you’ve broken your hiking boots in if you haven’t already. Starting the trek with brand new shoes is likely to lead you right to blister city.

Education is also key. Read. Lots. Open yourself up to as many accounts of the Everest Base Camp trek as you can possibly get your hands, ears and eyes on. Check out travel blogs from people who have already done it. Watch videos and documentaries on the trek and climb – it’ll arm you with useful knowledge and get you excited in equal measure. Make sure you know what to expect on every leg – and you’ll be in a great position to deal with anything Nepal throws at you.

Training and Exercises Before EBC Trek

It is entirely possible to do the trek to the base of Everest without lifting a finger beforehand, but I wouldn’t recommend it – and nor would 99.9% of hikers, Sherpas and guides that are the real pros at this sort of thing. It’s important to get your body ready for the physical exertion you’re going to face – and that means a solid training program to get the blood pumping.

Hiking practice is probably the best way to prepare for the base camp journey, because that’s exactly what you’re going to be doing. When training for any long-distance trek, many hikers will simply fill a backpack with weights and walk around their neighborhood. Obviously, it’s much better if you have access to mountains and countryside, so get into the great outdoors as much as possible pre trek. Try to find a local hike that will take you five to six hours to accomplish and is predominately uphill. Replicating the Everest conditions as closely as possible is ideal training for anyone interested in the base camp trek.

Cardio is key. Set yourself a training program that involves a repetition of sets either swimming, rowing, running or cycling. If you lack the motivation or need an extra kick up the butt – get yourself a personal trainer or partner to yell at you to push further. Start slowly and build to working out for greater distances and longer periods of time. Your 20 minute cycle one week should be up to 30 minutes the next. Just make sure you start all your hard work in plenty of time if you’re not already in good shape. Aim for a minimum of three months before you travel to hit the aerobics hard.

Strength training will build your core muscle group and help with endurance and stamina. Both of which you’re going to need by the bucket load if you want to succeed on this trek. Check out interval weight training at a local gym – it’s easily the best way to focus on and develop the muscles that will push you to the top. Do sets of reps that will pay attention to your legs, arms, torso and shoulders – all of which will be taking a lot of punishment on the hike.

So long as you’re maintaining proper technique throughout a regular program, you’ll be doing wonders for your physical and mental ability to tackle the challenge ahead. There’s a strong chance you’ll look great, too!

How to Avoid Altitude Sickness

Perhaps one of the biggest fears for anyone contemplating the Everest Base Camp trek, is the threat of altitude sickness. It occurs when the body hasn’t acclimatized properly to high altitudes, and can pose a significant and potentially deadly health risk if not controlled or treated correctly. That being said, prevention is far better than cure, and with the right techniques, education and awareness, it will not be a problem for you. Follow the bullet points below to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

Everest Base Camp

Climb at a Slow Pace

There’s no need to rush. Don’t be afraid to notify your guide if you need to slow down or take regular breaks. There’s no shame in it – better to be safe than sorry.

Time to Acclimatize

Similar to the above point, one of the biggest causes of altitude sickness is going too high too fast. Give your body time to adjust on your trek. Any good trekking company will factor this in, but if you need more time, make sure you speak up.

Drink Plenty of Water 

Stay as hydrated as possible on your trek at all times.

Drink Garlic Soup Daily

Garlic helps prevent altitude sickness. Hence, you’ll find the garlic soup on a menu in every single eatery along the way to the top of the world. Moreover, nearly every dish will have some garlic added to it for a good measure.

Garlic soup

If you’re not into garlic, try to buy garlic pills in Kathmandu. They’ll give you similar results without the taste.

Don’t Drink Alcohol

Booze and cigarettes aren’t good for you at the best of times. Try to avoid them during your hike to Everest.

Snack Regularly

Pack those extra carbs in – you’ll soon be walking them off. Energy bars, fruit, grains, chocolate,  veggies…it’s all good.

Climb High – Sleep Low

A famous saying in climbing circles. You should climb as high as you can and then head back down before you sleep. And never go to bed if you’re feeling ill or the effects of a headache. It’s important to leave the thinner air behind before getting some shut-eye.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

You see that big mountain? It’s been there for thousands of years. It’ll be there when you’re healthy and ready to conquer it. Don’t ever push yourself to exhaustion. Know your limits, and if you’re not feeling well, don’t be too proud to say you can’t make it. Save it for another day – it’s not going anywhere.

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Cheating the Cheaters – the Ultimate Guide to Avoid Tourist Scams https://etramping.com/avoid-tourist-scams/ https://etramping.com/avoid-tourist-scams/#comments Thu, 18 Apr 2019 16:41:22 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=41652 Avoid tourist scams like a pro. Check out this ultimate guide containing everything from lodging to pickpocketing tricks you need to watch out for!

The post Cheating the Cheaters – the Ultimate Guide to Avoid Tourist Scams appeared first on Etramping Travel Blog.

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This article is dedicated to helping people become more aware of their surroundings and learning how to avoid tourist scams. Traveling has its dangers, after all – we want to help you overcome any challenge, and see your holiday through to the end.

Interacting with locals
Interacting with locals is one of the most rewarding feelings when it comes to travelling.

As a general rule, it’s helpful to keep the following tips in mind. For one, make sure your whole group is aware of the daily traveling schedule. You can’t get sidetracked if you stick to a plan. Next, avoid giving out information about your plans, lodgings, or personal matters to strangers.

Only keep small amounts of cash on you if you’re sure you won’t need it where you’re going. Even then, try keeping a safe amount back at the hotel safe (if applicable). This way you avoid impulse spending, as well as deterring you from falling into some traps. They can’t scam you if you don’t have any money.

Stick Together with Your Group

Also, no matter how friendly a stranger may seem – don’t get singled out from your group. Most of all don’t follow people you don’t know – anywhere. Remember that common courtesy only applies if the other person acts just as polite. Don’t be afraid of saying a firm “NO” to people who won’t leave you be.

Happy people during the elephant tour
Stick to your group and you will be fine. :)

Another good way to avoid tourist scams is simply to not be intoxicated in an unfamiliar place (like restaurants or bars). Everyone likes a refreshing beer on their holiday. Just make sure you’re around people you trust.

Last, but not least, do your research. You can’t be fooled if you’ve done your homework. You should know the goings-on at your destination, along with how much pocket money is enough on a daily basis. Before booking or buying anything, settle the prices clearly. Vendors and providers can use misunderstandings to their advantage (your loss!). Oh, and always keep a receipt.

Agness writing a blog post on the beach
Do your research properly and don’t get fooled by anyone.

These should be common sense most of the time. Though, you’d be surprised how many people abandon common sense when faced with unfamiliar surroundings. Now that those are out of the way, let’s have a look at the top tourist scams you need to avoid.

Foreign Exchange (ForEx) Fraud

It’s quite difficult to avoid tourist scams involving ForEx – especially when you visit countries with multiple exchange rates or currencies (like Venezuela and Cuba). Venezuela’s economic crisis has created two exchange rates – one official, one black market. Obviously, the official one will be to your disadvantage. Make sure to discuss which exchange rate you will use.

Watch Your Currency

One other famous example is the currency swap you can find in China. If you ever buy from street merchants (we’ll admit, some souvenirs are hard to pass up) be mindful of the change they give you. It’s not uncommon to receive a Ruble note instead of a Yuan, which is way less valuable. You should also not accept bills with obvious signs of damage. Other vendors might not take them.

Always be careful with your money!

There are also some legitimate practices that will nonetheless leave a hole in your wallet. One of these is called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). Vendors want to “help” make things less confusing by allowing you to pay in your home currency. The catch is, as always, a really bad exchange rate.

Unconvincing Money Collectors

On a related note (no pun intended), watch out for fraudulent “money collectors.” A local will stop you on the street, get out some pocket change, and tell you that they collect money from every country. They obviously expect you to fall for the trick and give them one of your own bills.

Locals selling tropical fruits
Most of the locals are extremely friendly but watch out money collectors.

That aspect in itself is a bit humorous. Just think of it – a money collector who has never seen a Euro or Dollar?

Government Imposter Scams – Fake Police et al.

It’s hard to avoid tourist scams in a situation where you see a police uniform. Tourists generally don’t know much about local laws and customs. The scammer has an easy time playing on that fear of having done something wrong or illegal.

Try to distinguish local real police with fake scam police.

Let’s take the most common example:

  • You get pulled over or accosted by someone driving a police car.
  • They threaten you with a steep fine for whatever reason.
  • Unless you would rather get out of it by paying a small fee, that is.

Real policemen would not attempt such things.

However, you shouldn’t start screaming for help or other such rash decisions. The scammer could be holding a weapon (though they often aren’t). Simply tell them that you would like to head to the police station or a simple hotel lobby nearby. That generally deters them, and they wouldn’t risk assaulting somebody in the open street for some petty cash.

Never Hand Your Wallet to Anyone

Another case is where the fake police officer mentions there counterfeit bills are rolling in the area. They offer to inspect your wallet for guilty bills. Don’t give it to them. They will just run off with it or snatch a couple of bills when you aren’t looking. Avoid tourist scams like this by understanding how officers actually behave in these situations.

Be careful of the old “dropped wallet” scam.

Of course, they can also get craftier with their schemes by adding in a few accomplices. You’ve probably heard about the “dropped wallet” scam. A lucky fellow just happens upon one in the street and asks you if you want to split the money. The fake police officer comes on the scene and accuses you of stealing. He asks to see your wallet, just in case you already dipped into the funds.

Pro tip: don’t travel without appropriate insurance. Depending on the country where we go, we use either World Nomads travel insurance or SafetyWing.

Don’t Get Framed

There’s also a variation on the above. The accomplice comes over asking for directions, or even asking if you want a part in something illegal. When the fake cop casually overhears your conversation, they’ll accuse you of buying drugs or something similar. Don’t give them your passport when they ask to inspect it! Follow the advice we mentioned before, and you should be fine.

Passport
Don’t give your passport to anyone.

Some scammers dress in government officials and ask tourists for souvenirs. Can you guess what those souvenirs are? Exactly – money. If they notice you didn’t pull out a decent amount, they even have the nerve to ask for more!

Taking the Taxi

Being wary of cab rides is probably the best way to avoid tourist scams for most travelers. We all know how cabbies like to take unwary visitors on scenic taxi drives just to get a little extra cash. Avoiding this can be difficult. At least you can ask your hotel for an approximation of the cab fare from the airport.

On the other hand, you should watch out for cabbies that don’t activate their meter. You could end up paying up to triple the price! Most countries require them to turn it on by law, anyway. There’s also the risk of running into taxis with a device called a “turbine.” This gadget makes the meter run faster than usual. The driver keeps you distracted by showing you the sights, so you won’t notice the scam taking place.

Always ask the driver to turn on the meter.

Of course, there are also countries where they aren’t obligated to turn the meter on. You may have to settle on the fare. Just be sure they don’t tell you that they charge “per person” at the end of the road. Settle everything beforehand.

Staying Prepared

Furthermore, always try to write down or memorize the taxi number. You don’t know when you run into somebody who refuses to give you your luggage back! They usually avoid confrontation if they see you’re prepared. You could also try keeping your stuff nearby instead of putting it in the trunk.

Another trick they might attempt is to take you to a closed attraction. They conveniently forget to tell you that, however. Then, they recommend another place – naturally very far away and your wallet will soon feel the sting.

As you would expect, these are not the only situations where you can avoid tourist scams. Merchants will also drain your wallets if you don’t know how to deal with some of them.

Dishonest Vendors and Food Places

Who knew that buying a simple souvenir could end up with a headache? To avoid tourist scams at foreign flea markets, street vendors, and the like, you need to understand how they act.

Street vendor in Huayuan, China.

For one, always check the pricing in more than one shop. While not actually a scam, the first touristy souvenir spot you come across might have hugely overpriced items you could get much cheaper a few blocks away. Some of them are conveniently placed that way, where tourists might disembark.

Seafood vendor in Macau.

Note that it’s especially wise to avoid places taxi drivers recommend. Not that they’re all bad. But, they might get commissions for any clients they bring in. That commission is clearly paid for with your own money. Shops, restaurants, and even hotels are sometimes guilty of this.

Street Vendors

As for an actual scam, imagine the following scenario:

  • There’s a food stand serving your favorite dish.
  • You hand over the cash before the delicious meal is in your hands.
  • Now the vendor says you paid much less than you agreed on.
  • Since it’s your word against theirs, you now have to pay up if you want your meal.

Guilt purchases are also a frequent tactic. Let’s say you’ve asked the price for a slice of cake, or a piece of watermelon, for example. They won’t tell you the price up-front but will weigh it and tell you some number that’s too high for your budget. If you try to back out of the deal, they will try to guilt you into buying it anyway. They took the time to cut the slice and weigh it, after all.

Be careful of locals trying to cheat you out of a larger note.

When that’s not the case, you should make sure to carry small bills and change. The reason for this is that vendors might try to cheat you out of a larger note. They will claim they don’t have a change, so you need to pay an exact amount. The catch is that they never gave you your bill back. This all happens quite fast, so you might not even notice what has happened until it’s too late.

Vulnerable Credit Cards

There are more high-tech trickeries going on, however. If you pay in restaurants or bars with a credit card, the waiter will take it out of your sight and charge you for your order. That’s common practice. What you don’t know, is that they can use a special machine to get your credit card information and buy things on your behalf.

credit card
Try not to pay with your credit card too often.

If you want to avoid tourist scams like this, try carrying only cash around. Not only do you dodge this scheme, but you save valuable time canceling your credit card in case it’s stolen in other circumstances. You even skip out on contacting your credit card company to cancel the fraudulent purchases.

The last rip-off in this section is in regards to expensive-looking trinkets and gems. If you travel a lot, you’ve probably even encountered this one. A stranger steers you over to a jewelry shop where they have a convenient discount on expensive-looking gems. You can supposedly resell these back home for a fortune. Any affluent-looking people confirming the story are probably accomplices.

Nothing Like Bad Lodgings to Ruin a Holiday

With the Internet at your disposal, you’re lucky you can check hotel reviews before beforehand. For example, you could end up in a place where they charge you for every amenity, whether you used it or not. Again, it’s your word against theirs, so you can’t exactly prove you haven’t used the microwave, for example.

Agnes in her room in Trinity Hostel
Pick your accommodation carefully.

There’s also the possibility of hotels refusing to give you a refund for poor conditions. Sure, this is not actually a scam. But it serves as a good warning for people who book cheap hotels without checking the conditions firsthand.

“Conditions May Apply”

Speaking of which, always pay attention to the fine print. It’s the easiest way to avoid tourist scams involving lodgings. Hotels most often advertise cheap prices. But when you get to the payment part, you are met with a huge bill. It’s most likely because the rate is part of a loyalty program or some other bonus they’re offering (to seniors, for example.)

Hotel
Don’t be scammed by hotel.

This next case is another great argument for why you should pay in cash. Your hotel could charge your credit card for something you supposedly broke. They even send your credit card company pictures of the damage, and maybe of a counterfeit repair bill. In this scenario, you should contest the charges with your credit company, by saying it was not made with your approval.

Worst Case Scenario – Deceitful Eviction

The worst thing that could happen, however, is getting evicted early. This could work in two ways:

  • One: management tells you that your stay actually ended on the previous day. They’ve “disposed of your luggage” to make way for the next guests, while actually planning to sell your valuables later.
  • Two: they claim you’ve done something wrong and firmly demand that you leave, without a refund for what was left of your holiday. The police most likely can’t help you in this situation. You must rely on your own research to filter out the reputable lodgings from the bad ones.

Another way hotels try to cheat some extra money from their clients is to tell them that there’s been water contamination. Naturally, they expect you to buy water from their overpriced bars. On the off chance that the contamination story is true, you could always go to a corner store and get it much cheaper. You can avoid tourist scams like this pretty easily, though it probably caught enough victims if it’s still this widespread.

Overly Friendly Locals

The following might sound like we’re being exceedingly cautious. But hey, if you want to avoid tourist scams entirely, you should be aware of as many as possible. Most of the time, strangers don’t act friendly towards people without an ulterior motive.

Local in Banaue, the Philippines.

You could run into someone who claims the attraction you’re trying to visit is closed for whatever reason. Then, they “helpfully” suggest going someplace else (where they generally get a commission). Always check for yourself before accepting their offer.

Being Helpful… for a Price

Others might ask for a small price to protect your vehicle while you’re away. Or just being all-around too friendly and helpful, only to ask for a small reward in exchange for their services. There’s a clever scam that plays on this. A shoe cleaner’s apprentice might throw dirt on your shoes when you’re not looking. The cleaner notices your dirty shoes and offers to help you with a steep fee.

Other than that, there might be beggars or supposed charity workers who go around giving people gifts. Only, they’re not actually gifts – as soon as you wrap their trinket around your arm, they start asking for money. You might actually have to give them something if you don’t want them following you around.

Keep in mind that some beggars could be scammers.

We’re not saying you should refuse the hospitality of people. Just have a little skepticism and don’t let a pretty smile fool you. And now, for the final section of our ultimate guide to avoid tourist scams. It will deal with the distractions pickpockets use to swindle you.

Pickpocketing and Theft Distractions

Certainly, we could have added some of the following to the previous part. But, these usually involve some form of criminal activity rather than betting on your naivety. We’ve already discussed the shoe cleaner scam, so here’s the pickpocket version.

Someone draws your attention to dirt on your shoes, shirt, or some other area that involves you turning your head. While you’re distracted, your pockets have been picked clean. In some cases, someone attractive will draw you into a conversation while their partner flees with your wallet. Don’t underestimate the creativity of some of these schemes, though.

Staged Fist Fights and Flat Tires

Pickpockets can act in groups to stage a fist fight (which naturally draws in crowds). Everyone is too busy watching the fight in a crowded area. Meanwhile, one accomplice can be sneaky enough to move undetected, stealing everything they can get their hands on.

Don’t get distracted when attending crowded events and fights.

Similarly, thieves could act in group to puncture your tire as a distraction method. While you’re busy changing your tire, an accomplice offers to help. This only serves to keep your eyes away from the car. If you haven’t locked your doors, someone will steal anything handy.

Of course, there are plenty of other distractions that could get you involved in a pickpocketing scam. Keep your eyes peeled, especially in crowded places. You don’t need to be paranoid to be careful.

How do you avoid tourist scams?

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Insurance for Digital Nomads. What You Need to Know https://etramping.com/insurance-digital-nomads-need-to-know/ https://etramping.com/insurance-digital-nomads-need-to-know/#comments Tue, 02 Apr 2019 10:42:39 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=40951 Choosing insurance as a digital nomad or long term traveler can be a minefield. Check out this handy guide to getting the best cover for you.

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If you prefer a ‘too long, didn’t read,’ cut-to-the-chase kinda article, simply visit SafetyWing travel medical insurance. You’ll get the idea.

As much as we love to bring you exciting and inspiring travel tales here at eTramping, occasionally we feel obliged to deliver a message on a more serious note. And let’s face it, insurance is about as unexciting and uninspiring as an article could possibly get. Nonetheless, it is a subject that needs to be broached from time to time, particularly as it’s a vital part of traveling, yet something that many would-be nomadic types still regularly overlook. This is due in no small part to it all being rather confusing, expensive, and as mentioned – more than a little dull.

It’s probably a good idea to have cover for this.

Which is why we’ve decided to pen this little article to hopefully make things a little easier when it comes to choosing the right insurance for traveling. And as we are digital nomads ourselves, we’re focussing more on cover for the long-term globetrotters amongst you – because that is quite different to shorter trips. So, let’s rip the band-aid off and jump right in, with as little jargon as possible. The quicker we can then get back to the fun stuff.

Do You Need Insurance in the First Place?

Ahhh, the eternal question among travelers, a debate that will no doubt rage for many a year. The short answer is yes – you do. If you choose not to take it, you’re playing fast and loose with your financial stability, and, more importantly – your health. Quite simply there are many things you’ll experience in this life that you have little to no control over. Some of those things will impact your ability to do the things you want to do. Like my less-than-pleasant accident in China.

Putting a brave face on.

I won’t labour the point, suffice to say I was eternally thankful to be covered for medical expenses after twisting my knee while fooling around in a classroom entertaining students. The bill ran into the thousands, and on your head be it if you decide not to prepare for such a possibility. You’re welcome to take the risk, if you prefer so.

A Little Terminology

First of all, let’s clear a few things up – because insurance terminology can get your head in a spin. It is most important you know the type of cover you’re going to be applying for, so, let’s do some definitions.

Travel Insurance

Never leave home without it – but it’s more suited to those going on shorter trips – let’s say for up to 12 months. Gap year students, backpackers, and volunteers abroad are likely to look at this option, which will only give you basic cover for emergencies, short-term illnesses or theft/loss of belongings. You’ll also have a permanent address in your home country – not useful if you intend to be of no fixed abode for any length of time.

Health Insurance

Likely to be what you already have back home, either private or from the state. Full cover for any medical eventuality. This is also ideal if you plan on settling down outside your own country, as it’ll cover everything from regular check-ups, to accident and emergencies and more serious, long-term illnesses. It’s not particularly useful if you’re going to be moving around – you’ll find it might not cover you in every corner of the globe.

Travel Health/Medical Insurance

Now we’re talking. This is the insurance we personally use as digital nomads. Comprehensive health insurance when you’re on the go. If it’s worth it’s salt, it’ll last as long as you need it, rather than you being required to return home to renew every 6 months. For those who don’t know where they’re likely to be tomorrow, next week, month or year – but need peace of mind in case the unthinkable happens – this will cover the lot. But what should that actually be?

Thankfully, Agness cheered me up.

The Cover You Need

Here’s an at-a-glance checklist for what you should get covered for as a digital nomad. You’ll notice that most policies will cover more than listed here in the small print – but these are the basics.

  1. Accidents and emergencies. Eg – twisting your knee or suffering Montezuma’s revenge.
  2. Round-the-clock emergency service support. Including search and rescue, evacuation and transport.
  3. Lost, stolen or damaged luggage.
  4. Legal expenses.
  5. Other travel assistance. Eg delays, emergency accommodation.
  6. Coverage for every country you visit.

Bear in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list – merely the very least you should expect. Each policy will be different, and it’s up to you to structure one that caters for your needs. For example, if you’re regularly engaging in winter sports or visiting the US – both of which will usually involve more costly premiums.

Snowshoeing is still a winter sport, right?!

Extras

Aside from all the health and medical assistance, many digital nomads want their insurance to cover the loss, damage or theft of their personal belongings. I don’t mince my words when I say that to lose a laptop as a globetrotting entrepreneur would be similar to losing a limb. Well, perhaps not quite that bad – but not all companies will foot such a bill. And we recommend only covering the expensive gear – insuring a $50 camera isn’t worth it at all.

Lost without laptops.

As previously mentioned you need to make sure your insurance covers you for each country you’re going to be in or traveling to. Don’t just take it as a given – thoroughly examine all your benefits before embarking to said destination so you don’t get any nasty shocks later. Countries like North Korea might send a cold shiver down the spines of insurers, far more than say, Iceland.

Which Company to Choose?!

Yes, it’s a selection headache, and we could potentially rattle off pages and pages comparing different companies and you might still be none-the-wiser. But, in the interests of getting to the point and not boring you to tears, we have chosen to use SafetyWing ourselves. They have rapidly become something of a godsend for worldly wanderers everywhere.

That’s because (and it’s been a long time coming) it’s travel medical insurance for digital nomads BY digital nomads. These guys know a thing or two about the nomadic lifestyle, rather than simply catering to tourists or short-term travelers, as most insurance companies are wont to do. We long-termers finally have a voice – and an affordable one at that. Mind you, though, this is our choice and we are not giving advice for your personal situation here.

Why SafetyWing?

Aside from cover that ticks most of our boxes, they offer the most competitive premiums on the market. At $37 every 4 weeks, there isn’t another company that can match them (unless you do make a trip back home every 6 months). You can already be on the road when you join them. For us roamers, that really was an attractive proposition. You’ll also be covered for up to 30 days should you wish to return “home” for any reason.

The official eTramping seal of approval.

Other Options

Of course, there are other options available. World Nomads are another excellent travel insurance company, while Liaison Majestic, Bupa Global, and Allianz also jockey for favour. They come at a cost though, so you’ll need to shell out some of your hard-earned online cash to afford them.

If you happen to be European, you can use your European Health Insurance Card in any EU country (and
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), but it still really is only a temporary solution and isn’t comprehensive. You won’t be able to renew it if you’re no longer a resident in your home country.

I ❤ travel insurance. Maybe not quite as good for a hoodie slogan.

And we certainly don’t advise relying on your credit card cover if you have it, usually limited to 90 days and totally unsuitable for independent and remote workers. Handy as an incentive from your bank, pretty useless for a digital nomad.

Private Health Care

Finally, you could always try and go it alone. You might very well know many travelers who never took out insurance, and if they ever got into difficulty they covered costs out of their own pocket at private clinics. This is all very well and good should it be little more than a routine check-up, but if – in a worst case scenario – you were to require serious medical attention, then unless you’re rolling in cash you might find your nomadic lifestyle will come to a swift and untimely end.

To Sum Up

In our extensive experience, it’s a no brainer. It’s simply not worth the risk to not take out travel medical insurance. Even if you’re the healthiest person in the world, at a sprightly 19-years-of-age, you never know when a piano is going to get dropped on your head. Maybe if you’re only going on a short break you can fly by the seat of your pants a bit more. But if you’re serious about a long-term nomadic lifestyle, exploring the far-flung corners of the globe will wild abandon – then you need to have a solid insurance team in your corner. Just don’t forget to read the small print and remember that it’s all about your individual situation – we are not giving YOU advice here.

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What the Heck is a Jeepney? https://etramping.com/what-is-jeepney/ https://etramping.com/what-is-jeepney/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2019 07:51:31 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=14707 Click here to find out all about Jeepney - most popular cheap transport option in the Philippines! Jeepney photos, Jeepney history, Jeepney cost, and more!

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London has the red double-decker bus, New York the yellow taxi, and the Philippines has the Jeepney.

I have never heard of “jeepney” before, but once I travelled to the Philippines, I had to add this word to my travel vocabulary list. In today’s post, I want to introduce this extremely interesting vehicle to you and I hope you will have a chance to have a ride one day.

Best way to experience the Jeepney ride, of course, is to go to the Philippines! Here’s a handy Philippines Travel Itinerary for you.

Jeepney collage

What is Jeepney?

Jeepney is the Philippines’ most popular mean of public transport, extremely cheap and pretty comfortable, used by most of the locals. It is also known as Jeeps and in Filipino you would call it Dyipne or Dyip.

Because of its open rear door design, picking up and dropping off is easy for both passengers and drivers, although there’s quite a lot of shuffling inside. 

Each vehicle represents the multi-cultural history of the Philippines.

As one of first makers of Jeepneys, Ed Sarao says: “There is bit of Spanish, Mexican traits there; how they incorporate vivid colors, fiesta-like feelings. There is a little of the Americans because it evolved from the Jeep. There is a little Japan because of the Japanese engine. But it was built by Filipino hands.”  

Jeepney in Banaue
Cool jeepney in Banaue

The bulk of Jeepneys are built from second-hand Japanese trucks, originally intended for cargo. It is devoid of passenger comforts. Depending on length, it can load from 18 to 30 passengers, the drivers are usually waiting for a full load before going their way, but that may differ depending on the route (drivers know best what’s the most profitable way for them).

Colorful jeepney in Banaue
Colorful jeepney in Banaue

What is so special about Jeepneys?

They all qualify as “art-on-wheels”! Probably no two jeepneys are alike. The jeepney art is impressive and it is a combination of artwork applied by airbrush and sticker artists.

Jeepney in Banaue

Many jeepneys concentrate the art on the front, insanely cramming the hood area with accessories, the sides with empty galvanized expanses or scatterings of ads and small art. Some are gleamingly and colorfully wrapped with accessories and airbrushed or stickered art. The main art theme are religious symbols.

Jeepney driver in Manila
Jeepney driver in Manila

Where can you find Jeepneys?

The answer is EVERYWHERE in the Philippines! During the day they go on fixed routes, picking up passengers from designated stops. There are roughly 50,000 Jeepneys roaring around Manila on any given day so there is no way you won’t spot at least 1 when strolling down the streets.

Jeepney

How Much is the Jeepney Ride?

Getting around may cost as little as 8 pesos which is $0.20. However, different routes / distances/ cities may have different prices. For an average Filipino, jeepneys are the cheapest way to get from one place to another, without walking.

Jeepney many people
Taking a jeepney at night in Manila

For budget travelers, jeepneys are one of the best and most comfortable transport options. Drivers normally speak English (like most of the Filipinos) so you can easily get to your destination for a few cents.

A boy trying to get out of jeepney in Manila
Cez trying to get off a jeepney

What it’s Like to Ride in a Jeepney?

Pros of Jeepney:

  • Picking up and dropping off is easy for both passengers and drivers, they can stop anywhere unlike buses. You can catch one from nearly any place you are at.
  • It’s a good opportunity to talk to some locals and get to know people.
  • Less likely you’ll get ripped off (the prices are normally fixed) unlike some buses and most taxis.
  • There is plenty of space inside to sit down and unfold your legs (unless it’s fully packed).
  • Budget-friendly mean of transport in the Philippines.
Jeepney in Banaue
Jeepney in Banaue

Cons of Jeepney:

  • There is no air-conditioning.
  • Not much will protect you from the elements (imagine a ride in the rain).
  • It’s not very safe (no seat belts and drivers drive like crazy).
  • Most of the jeepneys are overloaded with passengers so you might end up squeezed feeling like being in a can of sardines (shoulder-unto-armpit, back-unto-chest, shoulder-unto-shoulder, elbow-unto-hipbone).
Fancy jeepney in Banaue
Fancy jeepney

Our experience with Jeepneys

We took our first jeepney right after we arrived at Manila airport. We caught it just outside the airport to get to the bus station from where we were going to Pagudpud. It was easy to get in and cheap, pretty shaky ride, but safe and we enjoyed it. The driver didn’t talk much, but he knew the place we were heading to so he dropped us off just in front of the bus station. We paid 8 pesos each. There were only 5 other passengers with us. It was fun! Afterwards, we had at least one ride in every city we’ve been to.

Jeepney in Laoag
Jeepney in Laoag

Have you ever had a jeepney ride? If so, how was it?

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Technological Travel – The Best Resources to Make Your Adventure Easier https://etramping.com/best-technological-travel-resources/ https://etramping.com/best-technological-travel-resources/#comments Thu, 07 Feb 2019 02:49:10 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=39795 The world is getting smaller and exploring it is getting easier, so make sure you keep up! Here are the best resources to tech up your travel.

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Ask any traveler over a certain age – for argument’s sake, let’s say anyone born before 1975 – what it was like to travel before the advent of the technology we have today. We’re pretty sure you’ll be astounded with the responses – and also equally impressed! Before we had mobile phones, computers, apps, and GPS, you would have to be much more prepared and organized when embarking on a travel adventure, otherwise, you might find yourself in seriously deep water.

Phone technology
Is phone your best technology resource when it comes to travelling the world?

It was a vastly different experience then, and one which you could debate for hours on the merits of pre-tech travel, the advantages and disadvantages compared with today. Perhaps we’ll save that for another post! Right now, here’s a run-down of the best tech resources to make your travel easier.

Smartphone

While it is possible to travel phoneless – and we know fellow travelers who have refused to own one while being on the road for over six years – being able to access a smartphone will do wonders for making travel easier. It’s astounding just how smooth it makes organizing and executing your travel plans, so everything goes off without a hitch.

We’ll touch on what you need to add to it later, but unless you’re going for the full nomad, off-the-beaten-track experience, you really need one of these. You either adapt – or you die!

Netbook/Laptop

Enter any hostel today and you’ll probably see a dozen or so people hunched over screens and busy bashing away on the keys. Essential if you’re working remotely, such as travel blogging or writing, netbooks and laptops are now part and parcel of a traveler’s lifestyle.

Laptop at the Colosseum
Working and exploring the Colosseum at the same time.

Organizing and saving your photos, messaging friends and family, researching your next move or just binge-watching Netflix in the common area – get yourself one of these to make your life easier. We recommend something small and light too – remember this when you’re figuring out what and how to pack.

E-Reader

Purists among you will pour scorn on this entry, those who like to physically turn pages, and yes – it is much better to have a real book, as the feel and smell of an E-reader just isn’t the same! But traveling and reading go together like fish and chips, and it’s hard to pack several books – or even one book for that matter – such is the value of space. E-readers are a great alternative, perfect for storing several thousand novels at once, so you’re never bored while waiting to board. Don’t forget they’re invaluable for accessing new books in your chosen language when in foreign lands, as well as checking all the travel info online, for example catching up with best boating blogs and vlogs.

Camera

Packing a camera is a contentious issue, but it all really depends on what you want to get out of your travels. Some people leave them at home, believing they get in the way of making memories, while others believe they are essential in making them. It’s up to you.

taking pictures
I used to be pretty addicted to taking photos.

If you like taking photos – then take one along. If you don’t – leave it behind. Simple.

Accessories

There’s a whole bundle of tech tricks and trinkets you can stuff into your backpack, and more being released every hour saturating an already confusing market that will have you pulling your hair out.

We’re passionate about doing away with all the fluff and only including what is absolutely necessary, what you’re actually going to use, and what will ease your packing headache. It’s bad enough as it is.

  1. Universal travel adaptor. Spend a bit of money and invest in a good one for multiple country use. This is your friend, and you don’t want it falling apart on you.
  2. Earphones. Essential for watching Rick and Morty at 3 am when everyone else is asleep.

That’s it. Honorable mentions might include an SD card or a USB stick, but that depends entirely on your needs. This really this is about as bare-bones as you can get.

Google Maps

Pretty much a no-brainer this one, as it’s probably the most invaluable travel tool at your fingertips. Most smartphones now have GPS built in, so you’ve really no excuse for getting lost anymore. Gone are the days of writing down the address of where you’re staying that night and wandering around for hours trying to find it. Google maps is awesome for finding out where you are, and where you need to go. Absolutely essential.

Weather Underground

Of course, you can always stick your head out the window and check if it’s raining, but you can’t do that if you’re 2000 miles from your destination. There are multiple weather apps out there, but “wunderground” is incredibly accurate with an attractive interface and ease of operation. It even includes pollen levels and chances of flu outbreaks – so you know when to run for the hills in case of a zombie apocalypse.

XE Currency Converter

If you’ve got a smartphone, don’t even think about traveling without this app. XE converts money in a heartbeat at the current exchange rate, as well as having a whole host of other options nobody ever really uses. So much so that we don’t know what they are, we just know that they’re there.

How often do you use currency convertor?

The best thing though is when you add currencies to your saved list, you can access current rates even offline – which is perfect when you’re crossing a border and exchange sharks are trying to rip you off.

Google Translate

Invaluable when it comes to breaking the language barrier, google translate is a work of staggering genius – and it’s improving all the time. Will the art of learning a language be replaced with technological advancement? Quite possibly – which is perfect for lazy people. You can also hold your phone up to a foreign sign and google will translate it – which is extremely useful for avoiding ordering something unpleasant in restaurants.

Selfie Stick

No. Just, no!

Agness of eTramping selfie
Selfie time :)

There you go folks, a very simple run-down on what we believe to be the most essential technological wizardry you can arm yourselves with to make your travel easier. We’ve deliberately opted for a streamlined approach, but really there’s no limit to the amount of gear you can clip-on to improve your chances of returning home in one piece. We’re all turning into robots!

Do you have any tips on essential tech to make traveling easier? Share the love – we want to know!

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Are These People the Most Inspirational Travelers of All Time? https://etramping.com/most-inspirational-travelers/ https://etramping.com/most-inspirational-travelers/#comments Thu, 17 Jan 2019 13:47:34 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=39263 Most of our planet has been discovered, but there was once a time it was not. Are these intrepid explorers the most inspirational travelers of all time?

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Imagine the world, several hundred years ago, when only a small percentage of the planet was documented. They didn’t have google maps back then, did they?! Nor did they have any real concept of what was out there in the vast, dark void. But that didn’t stop them from bravely venturing forth out into the big wide world (believed to be limitless at the time – which is very big indeed) to be the first to conquer a new territory, document an exotic beast, or map our planet as we have come to know it.

These intrepid souls have gone down in history as the most inspirational travelers of all time, and without their fearlessness, our history might be an altogether different one. In today’s blog post, we salute those who have gone before us, and continue to inspire every traveler who dares to venture forth into the great unknown.

Marco Polo

One of the most famous explorers ever to grace the seven seas, Marco Polo inspired countless of voyages after him, adventures, books, and then later films and television – and even board games. There’s little doubt he is the poster boy for exploration during the golden age of discovery. Hailing from Venice, Polo was an Italian merchant operating in the 13th century, and the first European to meet Kublai Khan – the ruler of the Mongol empire.

His writings on Asia and China in particular were ground-breaking, and the first real source of information that Europe had about the far east. However, the definitive print of this work can never actually exist, because of the difference in the manuscripts. Lost in translation you might say.

Christopher Columbus

Polo was to significantly inspire another Italian – Christopher Columbus – the Genoa-born explorer credited with discovering the New World. His voyage in 1492 is perhaps one of the most famous of all time, as he set sail westwards from Spain, expecting to reach Japan to open up a new East India trade route.

Instead, he happened upon the rather large continent of the Americas, and the rest is history. The fact that North America had already been discovered by a Norse explorer in the 11th century is often overlooked, but Columbus himself had accomplished his goal of spreading the word of the Catholic church in Central and South America.

Ferdinand Magellan

Not to be outdone, the Portuguese had their own fearless seafaring adventurer in Ferdinand Magellan, the man credited with the first circumnavigation expedition in 1519 to 1522. It took much longer to get around the circumference of the planet back then. Actually setting out in a Spanish backed voyage to sail to the East Indies, Magellan managed to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the process.

He went on to discover the Philippines but was to meet his end there while attempting to convert the islanders to Christianity. Magellan’s legacy nonetheless continues, particularly when it comes to naming spacecraft or topographical points of interest on planets.

James Cook

Cook was a British explorer and captain in the Royal Navy. Hailing from the north of England, Cook is credited with being the first person to discover the Hawaiian Islands, as well as Australia and New Zealand. No mean feat considering the vastness of ocean that exists in those parts, not to mention the dangerous currents therein.

His experience sailing the Pacific over 12 years pretty much provided Europe with everything they needed to know about the region at the time. His two famous ships, the Endeavor and the Discovery, regularly lend their names to space exploration and scientific ventures.

Nelly Bly

Although the golden age of discovery was dominated by men, women began to play significant parts as inspirational travelers in later years. None more so than Nelly Bly, who was a pioneering US journalist known for her work exposing the treatment of mental hospital patients in New York. However, perhaps her most famous exploit was to circumnavigate the globe in 72 days, by hook or by crook. Determined and inspired to beat the fictitious “Round the World in 80 Days” record set in Jules Verne’s classic, she achieved the feat in 1888. A movie about her exploits is currently in production – and more people need to be aware of her incredible adventure.

Jacques Cousteau

There is simply no name as synonymous with undersea exploration as the great Jacques Cousteau, a French Navy officer, explorer and conservationist who pioneered the development of the aqualung. Cousteau was a brilliant filmmaker who documented the subaquatic world in the 60’s and 70’s with his popular television programme “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” He was to continue to produce over 120 films and 50 books, and was the first person to win the coveted Palme d’Or for a documentary feature in 1956. Although passing in 1997, Cousteau’s adventures continue to inspire both travelers and filmmakers in equal measure.

Neil Armstrong

We’ve gone underwater, so let’s finish by going into space – and more specifically setting foot on the moon. That’s exactly what Neil Armstrong managed to achieve in 1969, and he needs little introduction. Arguably the most famous pioneer of all time, his immortal worlds “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” will still give you goosebumps every time. Armstrong and his team of Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin entered the Apollo 11 spacecraft at the turn of the decade and made history.

In becoming the first man to walk on the moon, Armstrong passed into legend, and to this day it is still regarded as our greatest achievement. Maybe someone reading this is destined to beat it. Mars anyone?

To boldly go…

Yes, we know we’ve missed out a bunch of extremely important and inspirational travelers and explorers, including Lewis and Clarke, Shackleton, Amelia Earhart, Ibn Battuta and James T Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Please accept our humble apologies – we’ll include them next time. While you’re waiting, why not follow in their legendary footsteps, and set out on your own voyage of discovery? In the words of poet T.S Elliot – “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know that place for the first time.” What he said.

Who is your favorite inspirational traveler? It doesn’t have to be someone in the past! Let us know!

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Best Destinations for Bloggers in 2019 https://etramping.com/best-destinations-for-bloggers-in-2019/ https://etramping.com/best-destinations-for-bloggers-in-2019/#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2018 01:11:16 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=36518 What are the best locations for digital nomads? Here you'll find a list of best places to work remotely in 2019!

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You’re reading this article because you want to find a perfect place to settle for a while to work on your blog. It means that you are:

  • about to start a blog,
  • you have recently started your blog, or
  • you’re an established blogger.
Agness blogging at the beach in the Maldives. Seems like a dream job, right?  

In all of the above situations – even though your experience level differs – your needs are very similar. You need a place where:

  • the internet is fast and reliable,
  • it’s relatively cheap (since you can work from anywhere, go somewhere you can afford a decent living),
  • there are other bloggers around (so you can network and learn from each other),
  • you don’t have to explain to everyone around that you aren’t unemployed, you don’t need help finding a “real” job, and you don’t have unlimited time because you don’t work 9 to 5 (sorry for the angry voice – it’s not like I’ve had enough of explaining myself).

I’ve been traveling and blogging since 2011, together with my blogging partner (Agness), and we’ve been to some of the best blogger hotspots, while we also heard from our fellow bloggers about other and upcoming digital nomad destinations for 2019

Here you’ll find a list of best places to work on your blog in 2019:

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Surrounded with culture, beauty and other like-minded travelers, Chiang Mai, is the most popular digital nomad destination. There are many reasons why this is such a great hotspot for bloggers, but the main draws are the fact that it’s cheap, it’s safe, it’s peaceful and the locals are some of the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet. Spend your days exploring golden-roofed temples and the old city walls, head out into the jungle for an unforgettable trekking experience, or simply work together with all the other bloggers in the Camp at the Maya Shopping Mall.

Advantages of blogging from Chiang Mai

  • Very low cost of living (monthly rent $200-$500)
  • Good weather (easier to stay positive and no need to spend money on winter clothing)
  • Probably the highest concentration of digital nomads in the world
  • Plenty of things to do in the city and around
Welcome to Chiang Mai – the most popular digital nomad destination.

Disadvantages of blogging from Chiang Mai

  • Cliche (everyone goes there)
  • Need to do a visa-run every 30 days (leave the country and come back to start a new 30-day visa-free period)
  • Not a great place for kids as they may miss out on lack of Western education standards
  • Very expensive and less advanced emergency/health services (less advanced than most Western countries)

Mykonos, Greece

With inspirational beaches, peaceful tavernas and a buzzing nightlife, the Cyclades island of Mykonos offers the perfect blend of ‘work hard, play hard’. Hire a private villa with a good Wi-Fi connection, some stunning views and a pool to reward yourself with after a day of writing. With its white-washed architecture, traditional windmills and golden shores, Mykonos is über Insta-worthy too; making it a perfect spot for any blogger, or a family holiday.

Mykonos offers the perfect blend of ‘work hard, play hard’.

Advantages of blogging from Mykanos

  • Beautiful and inspiring scenery
  • Fast and reliable internet
  • Greece is part of the European Union (fair and easy visa process, protection of the law)
  • Good emergency/health services (and free for citizens of European Union)

Disadvantages of blogging from Mykanos

  • Pretty expensive compared to other entries on this list
  • Seasonal pricing (high-peak season results in price increases)

Tallinn, Estonia

Did you know that Estonia is one of the most digitally developed countries in Europe, if not the world? It was even the first country to declare internet access to be a human right. Well, there’s one of your main reasons to visit right there. Aside from the Estonians’ views on technology, Tallinn itself is an exciting city, well worth exploring. Bursting with history and surrounded by beaches, you’ll never be short of material to write about.

Historical Tallinn.

Advantages of blogging from Tallinn

  • Low cost of living
  • Estonia is part of the European Union (fair and easy visa process, protection of the law)
  • Good emergency/health services (and free for citizens of European Union)
  • Highly developed infrastructure for digital nomads (including very advantageous taxation and first ever e-residency for digital nation)

Disadvantage of blogging from Tallinn

  • Very cold winters (I find it an disadvantage but you may think otherwise)

Cape Town, South Africa

The gateway to many of the most incredible experiences in southern Africa, Cape Town has to make it on the list for the top blogger hotspots of 2019. Boasting breath-taking landscapes to rival any other, you’ll find yourself captivated by Table Mountain sunrises and Boulders Beach sunsets shared with a colony of African penguins. It’s a remarkable city with a culture and lifestyle that, on visiting, will surely win you over.

Table Mountain sunrises and Boulders Beach sunsets of Cape Town.

Advantages of blogging from Cape Town

  • Cost of living is relatively low (apart from the rent which may get pricey)
  • It’s a great base to explore Africa

Disadvantages of blogging from Cape Town

  • Safety may be a concern in certain areas, but don’t let media scare you

Where else would you recommend to move to work on the blog?

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For the Old Pro’s: Top Destinations to Inspire Those Who Have Just About Seen It All! https://etramping.com/top-inspiring-destinations/ https://etramping.com/top-inspiring-destinations/#comments Mon, 03 Sep 2018 15:31:39 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=35586 When you’ve just about seen it all, it can be hard to know where to go next! Try our selection of destinations for the traveling pros!

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When you’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt, you might be scratching your head for somewhere interesting to go that can ignite the jaded travel bug inside you. For those of us who are traveling pros, or (whisper it) tired of traveling, getting excited about a journey can sometimes seem like a distant memory and something that only happened when you were first setting out. Long-term travelers are especially susceptible to such feelings, and you can feel slow and sluggish just trying to get to the next place. And then, of course, there’s the seemingly endless barrage of repetitive questions – “where are you from?” “Where are you going?” “Where have you been?” “How long have you been traveling for.” Sometimes, it can all get a bit too much.

But fear not! There’s hope out there and planet earth will provide. We’ve put together a selection of inspiring destinations, even if you’re not a seasoned veteran with the souls of your shoes worn to nothing. Read on, and get that fire under the bum lit once again!

Alaska

For those looking for the great outdoors, a more challenging vacation, or simply to put some serious distance between yourself and civilization, then you could do a lot worse than visiting Alaska.

Tied with California for having the highest number of national parks in the US (8), this stunning corner of the world has some of the most breathtaking wilderness you’re ever likely to see. It has long been the poster boy for hiking and camping enthusiasts, and can easily push folk right outside their comfort zone – which is why we’re suggesting it! Whale watching here is an especially unforgettable experience not to be missed.

South Africa

Africa as a whole is generally a place that we think people should visit when they’re a little older, wiser and more confident traveler, as there are some fantastic sights to be seen, but unfortunately, it’s not the easiest or safest destination to traverse. We pick South Africa from any number of interesting countries because they have some of the finest safari experiences on the whole continent.

Negotiating your way around is easier here too as English is one of the 11 languages spoken in these parts – which is great if you’re tired of language barrier frustrations elsewhere. There’s more than enough here to keep those traveling pros on their toes!

The Philippines

Made up of over 7000 islands, The Philippines could keep you occupied for a while. It’s becoming more and more popular for an older, more discerning travel crowd, looking for something more than party hostels and booze cruises – although we’re sure you can find it here if you want to!

You’re more likely to rub shoulders with well-traveled types here though, as well as being a fantastic budget destination where you can get by on less than $25 a day. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and the population is extremely friendly and approachable for foreigners. There’s a real mix of challenging travel or laid-back lifestyle, perfect for those either looking to chill out or be inspired again. Or both!

Kyrgyzstan

Central Asia and the old silk road is the perfect place to travel if you’ve just about done everything else. It’s more challenging, with a more significant language barrier than perhaps anywhere else on our list.

Higher altitudes and dramatic weather contribute too. But the beauty of the mountains, rivers and lakes more than makes up for it. Kyrgyzstan has been boasting a steady increase in tourism in recent times – particularly from Germany – as it’s a hot-spot for long distance cyclists, mountaineers and hard-core hikers. You’ll find some incredible vistas here, a fascinating tribal culture still very much in evidence today, and unique accommodation experiences not to be missed. You can’t visit the region and not sleep in Yurt. If that doesn’t get you excited again – maybe it is time to hang up the boots?!

Antarctica

The largest desert in the world is pretty much on any traveler’s bucket list – ourselves included – and we’ve been planning on ticking this box for some time; so, watch this space!

Antarctica is a continent that needs little introduction, but in a seemingly barren, freezing wasteland – why would you consider going? With stunning glaciers, incredible wildlife, vast tundra, and a unique remoteness; there’s a sort of magical pull to the ice caps of the world that mankind just can’t shake. And yet with that, perhaps the number one advantage of visiting these parts is you’ll pretty much be alone; it isn’t exactly the world’s number one tourist destination!

Iran

Unjustifiably, Iran has had a bad rep for years, largely thanks to political meanderings and bureaucratic bull-poo. It’s still not easy to get into the country if you’re from the US, Canada or the UK – but it can be done – and SO worth it.

Behind the media hype and nonsense you read in the news, you’ll find arguably the most hospitable people on earth, living in an immensely beautiful, richly diverse country. There’s everything you could want here, from mountains to beaches, cloud forests to deserts and vibrant cities with fantastic cuisine, all under the umbrella of an ancient civilization. Whatever you travel for, Iran is sure to provide it, and if governments would stop screwing things up for everyone – they’d have the fastest growing tourist economy in the world.

Phone technology

We wish we didn’t have to stop, as there’s so much more out there to get the travel bug biting again – even if you’re a jaded, old, traveling pro. We get it too, as sometimes we’ve been ready to give it up and go back to the 9 to 5, but then we realise we’ve not even come close to experiencing everything we want to experience! Longer term travel isn’t easy, but it is so incredibly rewarding and worth sticking with it. So, choose one of these destinations to visit if you think you’re in danger of slowing down!

Do you have any suggestions for the old pros? What inspired you to travel again – or to keep traveling? Let us know!

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Learning to Scuba Dive in Koh Tao https://etramping.com/learning-to-scuba-dive-in-koh-tao/ https://etramping.com/learning-to-scuba-dive-in-koh-tao/#comments Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:48:45 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=35435 Learning to scuba dive in Koh Tao is a popular activity for travelers in Thailand. Despite being afraid of scuba diving, many conquered their fear and go scuba diving in Koh Tao. Read Bailey's story.

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Today’s blog post is contributed by Bailey, whose biggest passion in life is traveling. Along with her boyfriend Daniel, the two have been to more than 40 countries together. They recently finished a 14-month backpacking trip in South and Central America and are now currently exploring New Zealand. They are always in search of their next adventure and love anything outdoors. You can follow them on their travel blog, Destinationless Travel or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

While on a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia with my boyfriend, Daniel, I knew that there would come a time when I would have the opportunity to learn to scuba dive. I knew that learning to scuba dive in Koh Tao was on Daniel’s list of things to do, but I wasn’t sure if it was also on mine.

For me, the ocean seemed so big, mysterious, amazing, and scary all at the same time. Not to mention, I am not the strongest swimmer (Daniel is Australian and seems to have grown up part-fish!) I just didn’t have confidence in the water, let alone the ocean!

All ready to go scuba diving.

Learning to scuba dive or not was a challenging decision because deep down I truly wanted to scuba dive. I had always wanted to be a diver and explore the mysteries beneath the water’s surface, but I was scared. I had a huge fear of something going wrong!

Once arriving in Koh Tao, I knew that it was a “now or never” type situation and therefore I overcame my fears and partook in a PADI Open Water course in Koh Tao Thailand – this is how it went.

Arriving at Koh Tao

We arrived on a ferry from the neighboring island of Koh Samui and were greeted by what felt like hundreds of Thai salespeople. Some were shouting out names looking for people who had already booked with their hotel or dive center, and others were trying to gain new customers.

Stunning Koh Tao.

My “type-A personality” rarely ever lets me show up unprepared, especially since I was so nervous about scuba diving. I had already researched good dive centers with the best safety ratings and reviews. If I was going to learn to scuba dive I wanted it to be with the best teacher and gear!

Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, we were approached by a man from a place called Ban’s Diving Resort which was a company that I had in mind from all of my research. He explained that he would give us a free ride into the town center where the dive resort was located and we could speak to them there and check it out. They had deals on accommodation and dive packages and even offered refunds to people who didn’t complete the course! We jumped in the back of the pickup truck and were off.

Booking the Dive Course

It all happened so fast. One minute we were arriving on the island, and what felt like seconds later we were signing our lives away on a waiver for a scuba diving course.

Jumping off of the dive boat.

I was so nervous and expressed this to the lady at the sales counter. She assured me that the first day was only practicing with the equipment in the pool. She told me that if I didn’t like it at any point they would refund me a portion of my payment so there was no financial pressure. Of course, Daniel was in my ear, “you’ll be fine babe, it’ll be easy.” I couldn’t say no, I signed the waiver and paid for the course.

About Learning to Scuba Dive in Koh Tao

Before I get into my whole story about learning to scuba dive, here is a little bit of background info on scuba diving in Koh Tao. 

Koh Tao is an island in Southern Thailand that is world renowned for scuba diving. Literally, dozens of different dive shops operate on Koh Tao and due to the high competition, prices are really affordable. We paid around $1000 USD for both of us to complete our Open Water and Advanced PADI certifications including accommodation for the week at a nice hotel with a pool.

Fish scuba diving.

Around Koh Tao, there are several different dive sites. Since scuba diving has become so popular there it is said that a lot of the corals are getting ruined over time, but I still thought the diving was spectacular. Lots of fish, shipwrecks, cave systems, and crystal clear waters with little to no current. It makes for the perfect place for learning how to scuba dive.

Learning the ropes

The first part of learning to scuba dive is easy, it is just in the classroom! I had to watch a few different videos, listen to my instructor talk a bit, and fill in some workbooks. All of this information basically taught me the dangers of scuba diving, but also how simple the equipment really is to operate. To be honest, learning about how everything works helped to calm my nerves.

The second part was also easy as we stay in a swimming pool. I had to pass a swimming test which I was nervous about because I’m not a strong swimmer, but it was actually really easy. We only had to swim a couple of laps and then tread water for 5 minutes.

Day 1 – In the Pool

After we completed the swimming test we got to put on our gear and breathe underwater for the first time – which is a weird and incredible experience. When you first put your head underwater you automatically hold your breath, you actually have to tell yourself that it’s okay and to breathe through the regulator. When I finally took that breath underwater I was amazed. I knew I had to keep pushing myself to get into the ocean, I knew that being in the ocean was something I needed to experience for myself.

We spent the remainder of the day practicing swimming with our gear on in the pool. I was surprised at how challenging it was to swim in a straight line. When you breathe in, your lungs fill up with air making you rise and then when you breathe out the air releases and you fall. In scuba diving they call it “controlling your buoyancy” and the aim is to take shallow breaths to allow yourself to swim in a straight line.

Floating in the ocean with our dive gear on.

We also practiced setting up our gear, but our instructor assured us that he would still do it for us the first time and then check it every time after that.

Our Instructor

I truly believe that when learning to scuba dive, the instructor makes a huge difference. Our instructor, Jens, was a Dutch fellow with an incredible passion for scuba diving. He wasn’t some young guy who just started teaching, this was Jens’ career choice, passion, and really seemed to be his life.

Learning to scuba dive is amazing.

Jens consistently had a huge smile on his face and answered all of our questions before we could even ask them. I assume he had taught this course so many times before that he knew what we were always thinking before we even did!

Jens was such an experienced instructor within the company that while he was teaching us, he was also teaching another instructor. He was demonstrating how to teach a class. There was nothing Jens didn’t know and did everything with a smile and extreme confidence.

He always told us how great our group was and how much better we were than all of the other groups. I don’t necessarily know if this was true or not, but it gave me a false sense of confidence which I really needed.

The Group

Besides Jens, our actual group also was helpful for me during learning to scuba dive. The group was small and made up of a trio of Dutch friends along with Daniel and I. The others were about our age and equally as excited and nervous. We became great friends with them over the course of the week.

Scuba dive partners.

Having such an encouraging, supportive, and fun group made conquering my fears that much easier.

Real Nerves

The night before I had a mini-breakdown over how nervous I was. Daniel told me that I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to, but that was the thing, I did want to, I was just scared.

I went over in my head over and over again everything I needed to remember. Daniel and I practiced all the hand signals. I was determined I was going to do it!

The next morning I woke up after very little sleep and tried to keep cool. Still, just as determined, I met up with the group and prepared to get on the dive boat.

My First Scuba Dive in the Ocean

Once on the boat, Jens prepared all of our gear for us and checked our air levels. We had a little meeting where he told us about the dive site. He said that where we would be diving is very shallow. We would jump off the boat and swim a little bit first, and then go underwater where we would be on a nice sandy beach that was only as deep as the pool.

Exploring the ocean.

We went over the hand signals once more and then got ready to jump in.

One of my original fears about scuba diving was that I was not a strong swimmer. But what I didn’t know before is that the vest you wear which holds the tank (called a BCD) inflates with air. So every time you are on the surface of the water you just inflate your BCD and you float. There is actually zero swimming involved whatsoever!

We had to jump into the water from the edge of the boat while holding out regulator in our mouths and our mask on. Once you hit the water you push a small button that fills your BCD up with water and that’s it, you are just floating in the water no problem.

Once our whole group was in the water, we flipped over onto our backs and kicked our feet until we were in the spot Jens wanted us to dive at. At this point, we deflated our BCD’s and just calmly sunk under the ocean’s surface.

The First Breath Underwater

When I was finally under the water and breathing, seeing from my mask, and realizing that I was just fine I had one of those moments of relief and satisfaction. I could do this! I was so happy I pushed myself to do it! Breathing underwater is a feeling that can’t be explained, it just has to be experienced.

That first dive lasted about 30 minutes but felt like only 5. There was so much to look at! I had no problems and felt that I was doing well at controlling my buoyancy.

Becoming an Expert

Over the next few dives, it was baby steps. We learned to take off our mask as well as switch to an emergency regulator. While doing these things was scary, it also gave me confidence knowing that in an emergency situation I knew what to do and how to do it.

We slowly started going deeper on our dives and learned how to descend without the use of a rope. We also played around with the weightless feeling by doing flips on the bottom of the ocean floor. I learned to conserve the air in my tank better and by the end of our open water course (four ocean dives), we were diving for up to an hour!

Conquering My Fear

I am quite the adventurer normally, but for me, out of skydiving, bungee jumping, or anything else really, scuba diving was the scariest. But, I didn’t let my fear stop me. I proceeded with caution but continued to push forwards each step of the way.

|Over the course of the four days I listened very carefully to everything Jens had to say and I self-talked my way through the challenges. But what really helped me was knowing how proud I would be of myself at the end when I did conquer this fear.

What I Didn’t Expect

I knew I would be proud of myself for completing the open water course and the four scuba dives, but what I didn’t expect was that I would want to do it more! In fact, our whole group had such an awesome time that we weren’t ready for it to end!

Jens told us that we could continue and do another 5 dives over two days to complete our Advanced PADI certification. These dives would include a shipwreck dive, a night dive, and certify us to dive as deep as 30 meters! We couldn’t say no especially since Jens promised he would be our instructor again.

A True Scuba Diver

After completing my Advanced PADI in Koh Tao, I have done lots of scuba diving all over the world! I am no pro by any means, however, I feel confident diving and love doing it! Daniel and I went on a scuba dive trip to Bali shortly after Thailand where we dove a site recommended to us by Jens, a shipwreck called the USS Liberty Shipwreck.

Scuba diving in Koh Tao.

We have also dived at various dive sites around San Andres Island, Colombia and in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. My favorite dive experience though was in Tulum, Mexico where we scuba dived in the cenotes, which are freshwater swimming holes and cave systems! It was incredible and super different than the ocean. One of the cenotes was completely pitch black and all we had was a flashlight to see what was around us, and another involved us swimming underneath a ceiling made from roots of trees!

For me now, scuba diving is a hobby and something I do when I travel. If there is an opportunity to dive in a really great spot, I go for it! I love that conquering my fear has not only created a new hobby for me but has enhanced my traveling experiences by being able to explore the ocean as well as the land in a new place.

Is learning to Scuba Dive something on your bucket list? Where in the world would you want to scuba dive first?

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Top Things to Do in Mumbai: A Local’s Guide https://etramping.com/top-things-to-do-mumbai/ https://etramping.com/top-things-to-do-mumbai/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2018 07:50:32 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=35401 If you really want to extract the true essence of Mumbai, explore it from a local’s perspective with Renuka of Voyager For Life.

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RenukaToday’s blog post has been contributed by one and only Renuka Walter, a fellow travel blogger and a digital nomad from India. Her blog, Voyager For Life, is all about interesting travel stories, her misadventures on the road, the experiences that enrich her, the people she meets, the cuisines she tastes…and the person she becomes. Don’t be shy and follow Renuka’s experience on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Mumbai is magic. It’s a city that evokes many emotions. From slums to skyscrapers, street food to posh hotels, super frenzied local trains to a calm seaside, Mumbai is like a spectrum. You got to be curious and have an intrepid spirit to explore Mumbai, because, as they say, the city never sleeps.

Mumbai is magic. It’s a city that evokes many emotions.

Formerly called Bombay, Mumbai is the financial capital of India, located in the western part of India, in the state of Maharashtra. So if you really want to extract the true essence of Mumbai, explore it from a local’s perspective and take back some endearing memories. 

Explore the ‘vintage’ Mumbai

Begin your expedition with some of the iconic sites of Mumbai, such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Churchgate, Colaba Causeway, Gateway Of India, and Rajabai Clock Tower. Mumbai has a rich heritage of British-era architecture, which is worth marvelling.

Admire the art & heritage

Mumbai is a heritage city. Besides the vintage architecture, there are so many art galleries and museums in Mumbai that you probably would feel overwhelmed.

Gateway of India.

To check out the best, make sure you visit National Gallery of Modern Art, CST Heritage Gallery & Railway Museum, Jehangir Art Gallery, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Sakshi Art Gallery, and Tasveer.

Go for a morning jog or an evening stroll at Marine Drive

If you really want to have a close brush with the locals of Mumbai, Marine Drive is the place you should spend some time at. It’s a beautiful seaside pavement, which is mostly hogged for its mesmerising view of the sea and the skyscrapers.

Marine Drive at sunset.

Make sure you take a walk at Marine Drive in the morning and get mesmerised by the scintillating sunset view in the evening.

Enjoy ‘doing nothing’ at Bandra Bandstand

Mumbai has a free-spirited aura, which a traveller must soak in. One of the best places to enjoy ‘doing nothing’ in Mumbai is Bandra Bandstand. It’s a lovely seaside promenade flanked by palm trees offering mellow breezes. It’s a favourite romantic hideout for the younger crowd. Also, it’s a place to catch glimpses of a few top Bollywood stars.

Watch a play at Prithvi theater

Prithvi theater is one of the best hangout places in Mumbai not just for the great plays, but also for the food and brew.

A small treat at Prithvi Theater.

There’s a charming open-air café, where you must sit and observe the vibe around. You should also check out the art gallery and a small bookshop on the premises.

Take the Film City tour

As Mumbai is home to the world’s biggest film industry known as Bollywood, taking the Film City tour is a foregone conclusion. There are day tour packages that take you to all the famous film-shooting locales, and give you glimpses of live shooting as well.

Take in the vibe of the beaches

Since Mumbai is a coastal city, you have to experience its ‘beach’ vibe. The top beaches to visit in Mumbai are Juhu, Gorai, Aksa, Marve, Versova and Madh Island.

Relaxing Juhu Beach.

Play with the waves, watch the locals, sip fresh coconut water, and savour the mouth-watering street delights like Pani Puri and Baraf ka Gola.

Drive on the Bandra-Worli Sealink

The best way to get a stunning cityscape of Mumbai is by driving on the Bandra-Worli Sealink. Although the drive lasts for barely five minutes, the view of the skyscrapers and the harbour is a sight to behold.

Nosh through the Irani cafes and restaurants

Thanks to Iranians who have lived in India for over 150 years now, there’s this charming culture of Irani tea in Mumbai, Pune, and Hyderabad. Thus, you will see a lot of Irani cafes, bakeries and restaurants in Mumbai. The top dishes to relish are Irani Chai (tea), Bun-maska (Bun with butter), Keema Pav (minced meat), Akuri (eggs) and Mawa Cake.  

Food is served!

The top Irani cafes & restaurants to try are Kyani & Co., Café Excelsior, Stadium Café, Merwan & Co and Leopold Café just to name a few.  

Visit the religious sites

Mumbai is an amalgamation of different cultures and beliefs. You will see a lot of Parsis, Iranians, Catholics, and Muslims in Mumbai. You must visit the famous Dargah (shrine) called Haji Ali, which is located beautifully in the middle of the sea.

Haji Ali.

Also, Mumbai is a city of churches. The most famous ones are Mount Mary Basilica, St Andrew’s Church, St Thomas Cathedral, Afghan Church, Gloria Church and St Peter’s Church. 

Sizzle up for the night-life of Mumbai

Make sure you make the most of a Friday night in Mumbai. The Mumbai nightlife is an experience to reckon with.

Mumbai never sleeps.

Check out some of the top nightclubs, such as Trilogy, Blue Frog, Tryst, The Wine Rack and Kaama to name a few.

Savour the street food of Mumbai

Mumbai is also a food city; especially the food served by the street vendors is the most sought after. Yes, you must go on a street culinary tour of Mumbai and try all the popular dishes like Vada Pav, Misal Pav, Pav Bhaji, Bhel Puri & Sev Puri, Batata Vada, Bombay Sandwich and Ragda Pattice.

Travel on a local train

Although getting on a local train in Mumbai is a daunting affair, it’s an experience you should take to get acquainted to the real, everyday life of a Mumbaikar. You will see how people travel long distances and try to finish off a few of their household chores, such as cutting veggies, while they are on the train. Also, it’s interesting to see hawkers and vendors get on the train and set up their shops in a jiffy.

To avoid the discomfort of an over-packed train, take a ride during the lean hours – 1 to 4 pm. Also, there is an option to travel in a first-class coach, which has a relatively lesser crowd. My advice would be to take the local train ride with a known local instead of venturing into it all alone.

Have you been to Mumbai? Are you planning to go? What was/would be your favourite thing to do in the city to feel like a local?

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Smash Your Stereotypes about Pakistan https://etramping.com/pakistan-stereotypes/ https://etramping.com/pakistan-stereotypes/#comments Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:57:22 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=35340 Here, in no particular order, are top 7 travel experiences to smash the prevailing stereotypes about Pakistan shared by Tim Blight of UrbanDuniya.

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Today’s blog post has been contributed by Tim Blight, an Australian traveller and our best friend, who fell in love with Pakistan from his first visit in 2006. He is the founder of travel blog UrbanDuniya.com, and author of Pakistan Traveller, the world’s most comprehensive travel guidebook to Pakistan. Enjoy reading! 

Think of Pakistan and what comes to mind? A nation full of Muslims who dress conservatively and eat spicy food, and gigantic, traffic-choked cities sitting amid deserts filled with camels. For most people, the stereotype is all they have to base their ideas of Pakistan on, and it’s understandable, given the widespread media representation of the nation. As some folk say; “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”; it’s not that these don’t exist in Pakistan, but the truth is much more multi-faceted and varied than these one-dimensional stereotypes. Travel is a great way to break down barriers, and visitors to Pakistan often leave surprised at how multilayered the country really is.

Pakistan Traveller is the world’s most comprehensive travel guidebook to Pakistan.

Pakistan is a safe enough place for intrepid, aware travellers to visit, which is why I wrote my travel guide Pakistan Traveller. It’s my hope that through my writing, both here and in my book, I’ll encourage more outsiders to see Pakistan for the dynamic and diverse nation it is.

Here, in no particular order, are my top 7 travel experiences to smash the prevailing stereotypes about Pakistan!

1) Pakistan isn’t just a desert!

Snow-capped mountains, pristine forest glens, and crystal clear lakes and rivers. Thought Pakistan was all deserts and camels? Think again. There are endless hiking opportunities, mountain climbing, rafting, trout fishing, even skiing in places like Swat.

The spectacular mountains near Hussaini.

Locals like to refer to Pakistan’s northern provinces as “the Switzerland of the East”, but I like to call Switzerland “the Pakistan of the West” – nowhere I’ve been quite compares to the Karakoram and Himalayan Ranges.

2) Pakistan is diverse!

Pakistan is not a nation of one culture, rather, it is a diverse, multicultural nation with 74 regional languages. Urdu is the official national language, and English is also granted “official” status, but each major city and region also speaks a different native tongue.

Burushaski, not Urdu, is the language of the Gojali people.

In the province of Punjab alone you can hear Punjabi, Saraiki and Hindko and Potohari, and that doesn’t include Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, and Kashmiri whose speakers might have moved to the province. Each language and region comes with its own special cultural traditions, rituals, dress, customs and cuisine.

3) Not all Pakistani food is spicy curry!

Most outsiders think of Pakistani food as being “Indian with more meat, more oil and less spice”. Indeed, travellers might not think much of Pakistani food – most of what gets served in hotels consists of chicken floating in an oily gravy (salan). But get invited to a local’s home and you’ll discover local specialties you’ve never dreamed of.

Holio Garma in Hunza.

In Punjab I tried kachnar, a flower bud which is cooked just as it begins to bloom; in Balochistan you can devour the mouth-watering sajji, a whole goat stuffed with spiced rice and barbecued over coals; and up in Hunza in Gilgit-Baltistan you can chow down on holio garma, a non-spicy stew of spinach, potatoes and apricot kernels, then wash it all down with a walnut oil tea!

4) Pakistan isn’t just carpet bazaars!

Lahore’s most upmarket retail and restaurant strip is where the city’s rich come to play and spend their money. Far from being a chaotic bazaar filled with veils and spiced meat, on Gulberg’s main MM Alam Road you’ll find the whole range of western and colorful local wear (nouveau Pakistani chic) at boutiques like J. (pronounced “jay dot”), Sapphire and Khaadi.

Islamabad’s upmarket Centaurus Mall.

The area is also filled with food outlets boasting everything from Turkish to Thai, Korean bi bim bap to coffeehouse croissants. Islamabad and Karachi have their posh hangouts, too.

5) Not all Pakistanis are Muslims!

Just over 96% are, but Pakistan is also home to important Hindu, Christian, and Sikh communities, among others. While their practice isn’t seen everywhere and every day in Pakistan, their contribution to the cultural fabric of Pakistan is on show for those who search; go to interior Sindh to see the holy Sadh Belo temple in the middle of the Indus River while in Lahore sits the Gurudwara Dera Sahib, the place where the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev, died in 1606.

Gurudwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.

In Sehwan Sharif the Sufis dance dhammal to the beat of a drum in spiritual devotion, while up north near Chitral some local tribes practice an ancient faith known as Kalasha.

6) Speak to the women!

I’m not a Pakistani woman, so I’m not about to start talking about what “life is really like” for Pakistani women – I’ll leave that to the Pakistani women themselves. What I will say is that in my experience talking with the many Pakistani women that I have met, I find it difficult to reconcile the varied experiences I’ve heard with the flat, predictable stories of victimhood that we get from the media. It’s not that no Pakistani women are victims, but neither are all of them. As a foreign man, I’m going to leave it at that.

Exploring Multan with a good friend.

I suggest you go there and (respectfully, and within the cultural framework) speak to some of the over 101 million women in Pakistan yourself; there are over 101 million stories to be heard.

7) It’s not all chaos and danger!

Go to any corporate office in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad and ask the workers what they dread most; “meetings” is a common response. Jokes aside, Pakistan is far from being a jumble of accidental and planned ways to meet your maker. There is a lot of chaos (lack of traffic rules, a flagrant breaking of other regulations), but for many Pakistanis life simply goes on.

A peaceful sunset over the desert near Jhang.

When you’re sitting with new-found friends in a tiny village, watching the sunset over the sugarcane fields and eating mangoes straight from the tree, you’ll quickly forget that chaos even exists.

So that’s it! I hope this has inspired you to learn more about Pakistan, and if you have a sense of adventure, go there yourself and smash a few more stereotypes for yourself! And don’t forget to come back and tell everyone the truth about your Pakistan experience! And of course, if you have any questions, head over to urbanduniya.com/PakistanTraveller where I’d be happy to answer them!

Have you ever visited Pakistan or any other place that defies its stereotypes? We’d love to hear about it!

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A Very Unique Friendship – How I Travelled Solo to Morocco https://etramping.com/unique-friendship-morocco/ https://etramping.com/unique-friendship-morocco/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2018 14:44:33 +0000 https://etramping.com/?p=35310 For women traveling alone, certain places don’t always have the best reputation. This is my experience in Marrakech, all thanks to a new life-long friend.

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I honestly don’t know where to begin with this story as it has a little bit of everything, it was almost like being a wine cork floating in a bathtub. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, moments of hilarity and moments for tears. But ultimately, I think I’ve come out of this experience a stronger person and with the knowledge that you’re never truly alone. Allow me to explain.

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Looking over the rooftops of Marrakesh.

It was meant to be a simple trip with a Polish friend of mine, Rafal with whom I’ve travelled to Malta this January. Flights were booked to Marrakesh, reservations and plans were being made. Imagine my surprise when my travel partner informs me he actually doesn’t have a passport – to fly to Morocco

Decisions, Decisions

With our arrangements totally up in the air and my friend’s new passport not likely to arrive in time, I had a choice to make. Should I stay or should I go? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a blond, white girl from Poland. As such, traveling to Arab countries can be…challenging…to put it mildly. I was nervous, to say the least, especially after hearing one or two horror stories from fellow solo female travellers venturing to Marrakech.

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Moroccan cookware used to make a tagine, which I now know how to do!

In the end, I made the decision to go, backed 100% by my boyfriend, Cez, Lydia and my own mum! It wasn’t a moment too soon either, as I was still struggling with the dilemma less than seven hours until my flight. However, there I was traveling alone to Morocco, with more than a little apprehension. What could possibly go wrong?!

A Lucky Choice of Hostel

I was staying at La Casa Del Sol hostel which is right in the heart of the city – and I’m really rather glad I did. I felt very safe there (more of that in a moment) and it was a comfortable and welcoming home away from home. I was in town for five days, and my single room was all I could have hoped for, while the hostel itself was a beautiful, traditional Moroccan design – including a rooftop terrace from where you can enjoy that famous Arabian sunset across the city. It’s a budget-friendly option too!

One of the rooms at La Casa Del Sol hostel.

I felt immediately that it was a great spot for solo female travellers, and this is largely in part due to Lashan – the hostel’s charming receptionist. He would adopt me as his older sister and made my stay here the best it could possibly have been – even in spite of difficult circumstances. I was to discover that my initial reservations about traveling here alone were justified.

Developing a Thick Skin

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve travelled the world, seen a few things, got into some scrapes and learned a lesson or two, but walking the streets of Marrakesh alone as a white female was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. I tried to stay positive and enjoy the sights and attractions of the city, and while I’ve developed a thick skin to deal with slurs and sexual comments over the years, I was upset at just how brazen they could be.

Trying to enjoy the beautiful architecture isn’t easy when men are catcalling.

And I needed to be tough because the sexual remarks and insults I would receive (and are too base to even think of repeating here) were to sadly become a feature of my stay here. That is until I came under the protection of my hospitable host and temporary guardian!

A Lasting Friendship

Troubled by my encounters with Arab men, I was, admittedly, feeling vulnerable and alone. I was questioning having come here in the first place. Lashan recognized this almost immediately, and he went out of his way to make sure my memories here would be positive ones. We clicked right away and spent a lot of time together as he all but became my private security.

This is what a gentleman looks like. The one on the right, obviously.

He would very kindly accompany me every time I went out to make sure I wasn’t getting insulted or ripped off, even if it was simply to walk me to the local photocopy shop to print of the boarding pass for my flight home.

Lashan ready to study.

We studied together, listened to some tunes, and when Ramadan was over, ate Moroccan pancakes at 1 am in the morning. It’s fair to say that without his support and presence, my time in Marrakech would have been significantly darker.

Mixed Emotions

Lashan was a bundle of positive energy, always smiling, always ready to help and an absolute credit to La Casa Del Sol hostel. And so, it was with mixed emotions that I left Marrakesh, in one hand leaving behind “my little brother from another mother,” while at the same time I will certainly not miss the torrent of abuse I received for being alone Caucasian female. It certainly isn’t going to boost their tourist economy for solo female travellers!

Mates for life!

But in the end, for every negative experience I had, Lashan ensured I had several positive ones. He is undoubtedly a very special person, guiding me safely around the best spots of the city, introducing me to the delights of homemade Moroccan food, and generally being a companion when I needed it the most. In a world where some say chivalry is long dead, I salute you, sir, a knight in shining armor.

Although that’s probably a little hot to wear in Morocco.

Have you ever experienced similar kindness from strangers? Let us know – we do love a good happy ending!

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