6 tips for the best food experiences abroad

Food and drink are one of my favourite ways to experience a new place. Cuisine plays such a big part of the local cultures you will want to immerse yourself in when abroad. Sure, nowadays you can eat food from pretty much anywhere in your nearest city but it probably will never measure up to the authentic experience. Often times it isn’t the fancy meals that are the best when travelling but the authentic. Here are 6 tips for the best food experiences abroad.

Check if you can drink the tap water

In many places it isn’t safe to drink the tap water so never assume it is! This should be one of the things you research before you fly out so you are well prepared. If tap water isn’t potable either buy bottled water or boil tap water to be used for drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth. If you drink non-potable water you could be exposing yourself to bacteria which could make you sick and ruin your tip.

Research delicacies your destination is famed for

Another thing which is always on my list to investigate before I go off on a trip is what I should be eating and drinking when there. Are you visiting a famous wine region? Is there a local beer? Is there a signature dish that everyone associates to a country or city? Make sure you know what the must trys are for wherever you are headed to as well as a couple of eateries that are known for it to make sure you don’t miss out.

Eat at food markets / street food

Food markets are a brilliant way to snack your way through multiple local delicacies and can typically be much cheaper and more convenient than sitting down for a meal. My advice is to always try things even if you don’t think you will be a fan! It is better to have an experience once rather than to regret not having it. The smaller portions often typical of food markets means you can try multiple dishes and get a fresh and quick sweet and savoury fix.

Ask locals where they eat

Most hostels and airbnbs are happy to provide food recommendations and often have a prepped list for their guests. I usually ask locals where they eat when I am out and about too so I am not getting a recommendation to a place that hospitality staff think tourists will like or which are affiliated with my accommodation. If your friends and family have previously visited where your destinations, definitely make sure to get their favourites beforehand too!

Ask waiters for their menu recommendations

Although often times waiters simply will respond to this question with the most expensive thing on the menu or the special the chef wants to sell out of, it is always worth asking the question. With a bit of charm and rapport with the wait staff I have found I always get truly good suggestions on my trips and have never regretted a choice.

Share multiple plates with your travel buddy

Now I know some people won’t share food even with their mother but please relax your rules when abroad! I am someone who never knows what to choose on a menu because there is too much I like the look of. I have a couple of travel buddies who are always down to get multiple things to share which means we all get to experience and discover more than if we each just had our own singular plate of food.

How to keep things ethical when interacting with animals abroad

Seeing wildlife is an amazing motivator for travel. Unfortunately in many parts of the world animals are abused by our fellow humans, and in particular exploited for the benefit of the travel industry. Here are some things to consider to ensure your interactions with animals stay ethical.

Put yourself in their shoes

Animals deserve respect. My favourite way to ensure I check my behaviour when encountering wildlife abroad is by putting myself in their shoes. Would I like some random person to start petting me, invading my personal space, destroying my home? No. Treat animals the way you would want to be treated in the same situation.

Don’t touch or ride animals

It is called wildlife for a reason folks. Animals are supposed to be wild. Wildlife is not supposed to be in a cage, lined up for tourist selfies, or forced to hug us. As soft as a koala may be, if you are hugging it you are ethically blurring lines, even in a sanctuary. Sure a sanctuary may keep animals in decent conditions and fund conservation projects but it still doesn’t mean that we should be partaking in anything more than observation.

Observe

Watching an animal in its natural undisturbed habitat? What an honour! This is the best way to appreciate a creature, not how soft its fur is! Watch for long enough and you can get a sense of an animal’s character and mannerisms, a much more valuable interaction than a threatening approach which scares it off.

Consent

Now, I am not trying to argue that you should never interact with any animals. However, only ever engage if an animal approaches and touches you and you deem it safe to respond. Much like you shouldn’t be touching another human without consent, let animals make the first move to engage with you to ensure it is something they want and not something that will distress them.

Use your voice in defence

If you are going on safari or want to visit a sanctuary, do your best to choose responsible and ethical providers. Take things a step further by speaking up if you see any cruelty against animals whilst travelling, particularly if the cruelty is inflicted for the sake of tourism. Opt not to ride the elephant. Leave reviews exposing the treatment of animals where you have had bad experiences and alert the local animal services if they exist.

How to complain when your travels go wrong

In my past there have definitely been situations where my easy going nature has dissuaded me from making a fuss in less than desirable travel situations where I probably should have. One of my friends is super talented at voicing her complaints when things aren’t up to standard and she has been given plenty of free stuff as a result. Travelling with her has opened my eyes and I now see her as my boss-guru what taught me to own that as a customer I have rights and am entitled to what I paid for and nothing less. Here are some top things to keep in mind when your travels don’t go as planned and you want to say something about it.

Do not feel guilty

You have entered into a transaction, you are paying for a product or service, you are not paying to suffer inconvenience so that you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. You have the right to receive the quality you pay for. Sure, complaining can be awkward at first, but remind yourself you are not being unreasonable, you are merely seeking a provider to make good on what was agreed. Never feel guilty for demanding what you have paid for in a mutually agreed deal.

Calm disappointment

Kill them with kindness. Ok not kindness, but a reasonable, firm, and disappointed demeanour rather than rudeness. It boils down to the fact that you paid for something that you either didn’t get or wasn’t up to scratch so you are entitled to be disappointed, have a right to complain, and should expect the provider to try and make amends. If you are calm, providers more often than not see reason rather than immediately going on the defence if they feel attacked.

No expectations

I think it is important to complain or feedback if something isn’t right, however, I don’t recommend doing it just to seek free stuff or money back. You should have no expectations. Whilst with certain well known travel names you will likely get some form of compensation, in many cases things won’t play out the way you would like. Don’t let this ruin your trip! Stay positive! It is a mishap which in my experience can make for a funny story. Only complain because it feels right to you, to get it off your chest, and never do it seeking a certain response or remorse which you may not get.

Complain early

Something wrong with your hotel room? Make a fuss immediately. If you do, the managers can’t say that you never raised an issue if they still haven’t taken action by the end or your stay. If you complain straight away you may be looking at a room upgrade rather than an inconvenient stay and a discount. Raise issues from the get go, and you throw in the added benefit of freeing yourself from the frustration which could affect your trip.

Demand to speak to the manager

Employees will always take you seriously when you request to speak to management. Rather than this needing to sound threatening, the ask shows that you are serious and expect a resolution and to be respectfully heard. A good manager should put you as the client first even if a poor employee hasn’t.

Play the review card

Management not playing ball? If you really feel hard done by and want to ensure they do right by you, mention the fact that you are going to have to give them poor reviews for not assisting you with your complaints. The travel industry is so competitive that reviews literally translate to profit or loss. You are completely in your right to write an honest review and the intention reminds providers that you may be one person but your voice can have significant impact.

Print proof

Certain deals can disappear one day to the next and when you go to claim what you paid for providers can deny that it existed. It is always a good idea to have a printed confirmation of bookings to avoid any confusion if what you paid for is not available. If complaining after the fact for a refund but have messages that you complained during your travels, this is powerful evidence you should always include too.

10 items to pack in your first aid kit when travelling

You don’t want to be caught short when away and are desperately in need of a plaster or paracetamol. Sure, depending on your destination some typical first aid items may be easy or hard to get, but if you can, it is always best to come prepared. Why suffer on your trip without these when you can have them ready to go!

Aloe vera or after sun

I have certainly had a painful, bright red, ‘I am clearly not from here’ burn before. Ok, ok, I have had several. The thought of aloe vera on your toasty skin should be enough for you to pack this and I should not have to convince you more. Also, if you don’t burn easily, this is still a must to hydrate your skin after harsh sun.

Sun cream

Let’s all be kind to and take care of our bodies and lather up when we are spending full days roaming around outside. Remember, just because it is not sunny, it does not mean you are not getting hit with that UV.

A box of waterproof plasters

Scratches, cuts, and/or blisters. You are pretty much guaranteed to get some (at least if you are as clumsy as me) and you can avoid any unnecessary discomfort if you have some plasters handy. Be sure to pack a box with various sizes for choice!

Antiseptic wipes

If you need to disinfect a cut on the go before plastering it up, these are lifesavers. The wipes are individually packaged so you don’t need to bulk up your luggage with the box.

Mosquito repellent (with DEET)

A MUST. Please do yourself a favour and avoid as many annoying and itchy bites as you can. I know repellent can smell super strong but it is better to be cautious with mozzies particularly in malaria risk zones.

Paracetamol/ibuprofen

If you are prone to headaches, hangovers, and/or you know your monthly pal is coming, make sure you have some with you. Ditch the box to reduce the bulk in your first aid kit.

Lip balm with SPF

Cracked and sore lips are never fun. If you are somewhere hot you are going to be dehydrated with dry lips, if you are in a cold spot, your lips will suffer equally. Pack the balm, and make sure it has SPF protection for that extra self love.

Tweezers

Tweezers always come in handy in case you need to remove a splinter or tick. Secondary use being to keep those eyebrows looking FINE.

Antidiarrhoeal medicine

If you have never got the shits travelling have you even travelled? I certainly have, during unbelievably long bus journeys when all I wanted to do was avoid the public toilet. Once again, do yourself a solid (pun was not intended but shall leave as funny) and pack this!

Hydration tablets

You can feel pretty low on energy after a bout of diarrhoea. Hydration tablets can support you in recovering more quickly and have been my best friend in destinations such as Peru where many days were physically demanding hikes.

5 ways to switch off when travelling

Travelling is one way which people try and ‘escape’ their normal. For some it is super easy to be present and mindful of their surroundings when abroad, but for other workaholics it may be a challenge. Here are 5 tips for quieting your mind and zoning into the here and now.

Turn off all notifications

This is the first thing you should do in your destination if you are addicted to your phone (like most of us). A notification is a cry for attention, a message to react rather than relax! No! You are in an awesome destination in a completely unique moment that you will never relive. This is no exaggeration. Sure, you can return to a place you have been before, but it will a different time, you will be older, your circumstances will have changed, you may not be with the same people, and so on. This moment in time is yours and irreplaceable, do not let this be intruded upon by work or friend drama you can address later. I’m not telling you to forgo tech (you will need Google Maps) but limit yourself to an hour in the evening where you answer your messages and check your emails.

Think of 3 things you like in your destination that you do not have at home

Giving yourself a thought exercise of this nature will allow you to focus your mind and attention on where you are. Sometimes I find myself wandering around new places and missing the details. Challenging yourself to reflect on the place you are in can help you tune in to all the characteristics that make it so special.

Be still and people watch

People watching is a brilliant way to learn about the customs and culture of a place. A destination is not just about the natural beauty or tourist hot spots, but about the inhabitants! A good hour of watching passers by also means you have to be still for an hour which will encourage your mind to be also. Whether it be sipping a coffee at a cafe or sat on a bench, how often do we actually permit ourselves to be calm and not constantly in motion either physically or mentally? When you are travelling you hopefully have left behind the time pressures and responsibilities of your everyday life, so spoil your soul and sit still! In this day and age it is a luxury and one of the things I look forward to the most when travelling.

Wander without a particular destination

This works particularly well in cities or towns where you are staying. If it is safe to do so, meander around the streets without necessarily having a destination. If you are not distracted by getting somewhere you need to go you can discover hidden gems and most importantly be more aware of what is around you rather than following that Maps route.

Move that body

The benefits of exercise for mental health and focus are still very much the same wherever you are in the world. Hopefully, your destination may offer opportunities to be active in ways that are a little bit different from home, but do not forget to move whether that be swimming, windsurfing, hiking, or yoga. The more it diverges from your normal activities the better!

10 things to do when it rains on your trip

It is sure to happen at some point during your travels, you will be hit by a miserable rainy day (fingers crossed it will be an exception rather than the rule). Particularly if your destination is about the weather and the outdoors, this can really suck, I feel for you, and sometimes it is hard to perk yourself up or know what to do. Here are 10 ideas that I pull from when stuck in this shituation.

Indoor local/artisan markets

If you are in a city or even a small town, there are likely to be markets you can spend some time nosing around! Think farmers markets for treats, vintage markets for some stellar finds, or art markets to find that unique piece that just needs to be in your living room. Markets are often indoors and if not sometimes have some sort of protection for bad weather so they are good spots to leave for a day you know the weather might turn on you.

Food/bar/pub crawl

Are you somewhere that is famed for its food and drink scene? Indulge! Hopefully you are with company and you can share some bites and get some drinks around town. It might be a bit more spenny than your typical day but you can visit the best spots in the area, find some gems, and you will definitely sleep well after.

Museums, galleries, & libraries

Enrich yourself with some local culture. I am not just talking about taking in the exhibitions themselves, but also witnessing the architectural beauty of these buildings which can be sights to behold. Maybe you don’t usually prioritise museums and galleries, so now is your chance, and they are particularly great if you didn’t do too much reading up on the history of your destinations beforehand. Once again, good to plan to visit these kind of sites if you know there is going to be a rainy day during your stay.

Cooking class

I absolutely love tasting all the different cuisines around the world, and the flavours my palate has experienced abroad has definitely influenced my cooking at home. A cooking class can be a way to learn how to spice your food, balance sweet and sour, or even just nail the cooking of a fresh piece of fish. If cooking is your passion, there is nothing better than some hands on experience and local culinary wisdom.

Hit a local hotspot

I am talking about finding a popular game pub (board games, ping pong, darts, anything), a karaoke bar, a bowling alley, a pool/billiards hall, or an arcade. Some of my best memories on my trips are hanging, chatting, and laughing with my friends at establishments like these. This is a chance to see how people from different places spend their leisure time and what niche haunts are on offer, whilst potentially giving you a chance to try and beat the locals at a game of pool.

Cards, a book, and a coffee shop

Live like a local, in my opinion it is the best way to travel. Find a quirky coffee shop, or if you are alone, google a rad hostel with some awesome communal areas to find some company. I always bring a pack of playing cards with me when I am on a trip and love learning new games from my friends on a commute or a down day. Spend the day drinking good coffee, living that cafe scene life, and getting sucked into your book du jour or hell even a good Netflix binge.

Get out if you’ve got the gear

If you are in Peru or some other destination where you knew you would be out and about with the possibility of rain, hopefully you have come prepared. If the rain is not awful and you have got a cagoule, get out there! The weather can clear up mid-hike and hey, sometimes, it is part of the fun, or why the memory stands out later on. One of my favourite stories from a trip to Toronto was getting absolutely drenched whilst helping my two friends carry a mattress about 20 blocks (long story and definitely not dressed appropriately). If it is just rain, get out there!

Trip admin

If we are talking a full on storm, windy as fuck, no chance you are going out kind of day, use the time to journal about your trip for future reference, plan the rest of your trip, and declutter your photos, because hunny you know you need the extra storage space!

Crafts class

Google what is on offer where you are staying. It could be kite making, glass blowing, jewellery making, paper lantern making, or a pottery class, the possibilities really are endless. If you want something a bit more mobile, try a dance class!

Go to a local gig

See if you can find a bar that has live music on! This is a great way to discover the local music scene. Another tip would be to check out whether they have Sofar Sounds gigs where you are. I have been to a couple of them before and highly recommend them. The organisation puts on intimate gigs at ‘secret’ spots where you can bring your own drinks. In London, I have had the privilege of seeing some really awesome local flats through this company which made perfect makeshift stages for the artists.

10 travel related things to keep you busy during Coronavirus lockdown

Coronavirus has brought the world to a halt in aid of our fellow human in a way most of us have never experienced before. Fingers crossed we can see governments taking similarly drastic measures for climate change too, eh? It is easy to feel a little claustrophobic as a result the restrictions that have been put on our freedom. You may, like me, be starting to feel like your longterm relationship with Netflix is suffering as a result of too much time together and that it can no longer sustain you through this extended lockdown. I have made a list of 10 travel related things you can do to keep yourself busy during these days. Here is to diversifying your activities from the ingesting, lying on the couch, and sleeping which were a staple of my first week (no shame).

Sort out your travel photos

Have you got a crap ton of photos on your that need editing and putitng into folders? Sort it out! Organise your images and relive past trips as you do, helping to ease any depression and anxiety you may be feeling during this time. Clear the storage on your phone and back up your photos. Lastly, send photos to travel buddies that you have been meaning to and/or chase them for photos they owe you.

Make a travel bucket list

A bucket list is a great way to visualise all the things you want to do in this life to ensure you can start ticking them off. General bucket lists can be a little bit daunting to get through so why not make a bucket list for the next year (from whenever we can travel again) as well as a general one? Think about putting some structure or order to your list and you will have a trip plan ready to go for when we are free to roam again. Also, don’t limit yourself to an actual list, be creative and make an inspiration board or mind map!

Research & plan your next getaway

Get your research done now so when restrictions start to ease you don’t have to hesitate in booking your next adventure. It is likely that you may find some bargains given the struggle the travel industry is being put through right now. If you do your planning beforehand you will be ready to take advantage. Hopefully the research will also get you excited for all that is to come after we beat this thing.

Connect with someone you met travelling

Have an email stashed away from a cute guy you met in Vietnam who bought you coffee? Happened to see that rad girl you met at a hostel in Budapest post on Facebook recently? Reach out! It could be a chance to make a new friend, reignite old friendships, or just to hear someone else’s perspective on this time. It can be nerve wrecking to reach out to someone you don’t talk to regularly (hey, thrills are hard to come by these days) so rise to the challenge. I promise that even if they awkwardly don’t respond it will be therapeutic to do a little writing and reflect on how you are and what you are up to in life right now.

Make a trip video/scrapbook

Delight your travel companions and yourself by putting together an awesome masterpiece of a trip you did. You will get to relive the trip during the process whilst also getting to flex those creative skills. This kind of project is exactly the kind of thing many people want to do but put off because there is never time, and well, now is the time!

Journal a past trip

One of the reasons I love making this blog is that my travel experiences are forever captured. Trust me, you forget a lot! Whilst photos help document a trip they can’t capture all the moments like the funny thing your friend did or the exact itinerary. Get out your pen and reflect and reminisce about a better time.

Check out travel gear online

Appreciate this will be a tight time for many given the economic impacts of this lockdown, however, the impacts will also be felt by companies that sell hiking boots, travelling backpacks, travel gadgets etc. It may be possible to grab a bargain with many retailers dropping prices to avoid sales plummeting. If you can’t financially permit yourself to make a purchase at this time you can at least do some research into options online so you know what you do want to save up for when things are more stable again.

Get an international pen pal

Been meaning to practice your French? Want to hear perspectives & stories from the other end of the world as if you were there visiting? Want to potentially reach out to someone who is struggling with loneliness at this time? Look for a pen pal and reach out! Send a care package or a snack which is super typical from your country to cheer them up along with your letter. If you want to keep it local, write to the elderly in your community and ask them about their travel memories, I am sure many will have super interesting stories (a time without Google Maps means much more challenges than nowadays).

Educate yourself on sustainable travel

I am learning more and more lately about the environmental impacts of this hobby of ours. Take this opportunity to read up on what options there are out there to minimise your footprint when travelling. If you want visual inspiration of what a greener trip can look like, search up eco accommodation options, there are some amazing ones.

Learn more about a place you have already been

I am definitely guilty of having travelled to places without doing too much research on its history beforehand when life is busy. Have a read of the history of a place that piqued your interest during your travels. If you don’t want to read, find a documentary! If your interest isn’t historical, educate yourself on the issues impacting the community presently. It is easy to be caught up with what is happening in our immediate surrounding when news coverage rarely extends past local stories or selected global ones.

Top 10 tips for packing for any trip

I’ve packed for many a trip and I have got better at it with time. I’ve been through it all, I definitely used to overpack, have had luggage lost in transit, and had the odd disaster of my toiletries spilling all over my clothes. Here are my top tips to ensure nail the art of you packing smart (sorry, had to).

Choose the right luggage

If you’re going away for a couple of days, don’t overpack and commit yourself to a carry on size case or backpack. Choose something you will actually be able to lug around wherever you are going. Are you going to be moving from location to location? Don’t bring a suitcase, opt for a backpacking backpack. Invest in lightweight luggage to make the most of your weight allowance and to be gentle on your back.

Make a packing list

Have a little Google for packing lists for your destination and adapt it to make your own. Having an example list is good inspiration and may make you think of thing you may want to bring that you had forgotten. Making a list and taking it with you will also help the forgetful of you to make sure everything comes home with you again.

Choose your clothing/fabrics wisely

Opt for fabrics that don’t crease easily and are easy to wash if you will be abroad a while. Bringing breathable, waterproof, and versatile clothing is ideal and doesn’t need to be restricted to just active trips. If you pick the right clothing you will also be able to layer which is key to keeping your luggage light. If you stick to a colour palette, you’ll also have an arsenal of interchangeable outfits ready to go!

Roll clothes

Rolling clothing is the best way to prevent creases and tends to save more space. Rolling your clothes also makes it a lot easier to see what is in your case as things aren’t hidden!

Be conscious with your packing order

If you know you arrive at night and the first thing you are going to want is you PJs and toiletries without having to fully unpack – leave these at the top of your luggage! Equally if you know there are items you won’t need until later in your journey, keep them at the bottom of your pack stack.

Pack a reusable tote bag

A reusable tote is super light and gives you the option to have an extra bag to take around in your day bag in case you buy anything. Having one with you everywhere will also make you a more sustainable traveller as you can say no to plastic bags.

Bring your reusable water bottle

Once you have cleared security there will likely be a water point in the airport where you can fill this up. This beats having flight attendants bringing you all those plastic cups full of water.

Invest in shoe bags

Place shoes in shoe bags in your luggage to avoid them soiling any of your clean clothing. Reuse plastic bags if you don’t have any fabric bags.

Keep important things in your carry on

Keep all passports, boarding passes, visas, medication, essential toiletries, and valuables with you in your carry on so that if God forbid anything happens to you check in bag, you have all the important things to keep calm carry on.

Wear a scarf on the plane

I am alway cold on planes and a scarf can also act as a blanket and a pillow so it is my favourite versatile accessory to take with me. If you wear it on your person you also don’t need to take up any space if your luggage.

Practical tips for more sustainable travel

There is no denying that air travel and tourism has a significant contribution to our global ecological footprint. Nowadays there is mounting focus on how to be more conscious when travelling to offset the impact of our adventures. When travelling we have the same responsibility to act in a sustainable manner that we have in our own local communities and I would argue even more so as we are guests in someone else’s home. Here are some practical tips I have collected during my years of wandering which I follow to try and be a more sustainable traveller when packing and during my visits abroad.

6 tips for sustainable packing

Use refillable toiletries and/or bar soaps

Use refillable containers for all your toiletries to avoid buying and chucking toiletries with unsustainable packaging that aren’t finished when abroad. If you do buy toiletries, leave your unfinished toiletries in a hostel with a note that they are free for use. If you want to go the extra mile, invest in bar soaps and shampoos to avoid plastic packaging as well as liquid restrictions on hand luggage.

Pack a microfibre towel

If using towels provided by your accommodation, follow instructions to avoid them being washed more than necessary. Go one step further by bringing a microfibre towel (which are super light and take up minimal space) that you can use at your various locations.

Bring your refillable bottle and reusable carrier bag

Pack your refillable bottle and fill with boiled water if you are somewhere where tap water isn’t potable. If you have a light and collapsable cup and like your coffee, bring this along too! Particularly in markets many vendors will give you your goodies to take away in plastic bags, bring your reusable bag with you everywhere so you have it to hand whenever you can avoid plastic use.

Don’t shop just for your trip

Be conscious when you go shopping for clothing and buy things that you can layer so you have options for all possible climates when the time for a trip comes. Avoid buying things just for a trip that you are unlikely to use often even if what you buy is sustainably made. If you do find yourself with excess clothes donate and/or recycle them.

Invest in an ebook, use book swaps, or sign up to your local library

If you read a lot an ebook is your best bet in terms of weight and space in your luggage. If you love your paperbacks, use your local library as a source for you reads. Alternatively, most hostels have a book swap you can use to pass on your book when done and pick up a new gem (even if you are not staying, pop into a hostel that has one).

Take eco friendly or reusable period products

There a various companies making plastic and chemical free tampons and pads nowadays which are great options to avoid the environmental damage the alternatives cause. Want to save more space in you luggage and be less wasteful, then invest in a menstrual cup which is reusable and can last ten years.

6 tips for sustainability during your trip

If you can, choose to stay longer

Staying longer at accommodation offsets the frequency of a full room scrub down and bedding/towel wash before the next tenants come. More time in a country also means you can opt for public transport as opposed to domestic flights to get from point A to B.

Eat local and less meat if possible

Buy things that are sourced regionally and are in season if cooking for yourself. If you eat out, eat local to support the economy and take try the local dishes which are more likely to be made with quality local ingredients. Opt for sustainable eateries if you can. Much like back home, the less meat in your diet, the better for the environment.

Rideshare, trains over planes, and night buses

If you are hiring a car or looking to travel by car, try and fill it through ridesharing apps or Facebook groups if you aren’t travelling with enough people for a more eco-friendly trip, good stories, and the perk of splitting the costs. If you have the time always opt for trains and public transport over planes. Night buses are a great way to get from A to B whilst avoiding traffic and paying a night’s accommodation (some countries have really comfy ones like Peru).

Do NOT litter and pick up litter

I cannot stand people who litter in someone else’s home, don’t do it, even if it is a place where trash is a typical site. Go a step further and actually pick up some of the rubbish you see lying around and dispose of appropriately. If you see someone leave their trash lying around or a plastic bag on the beach, dispose of it appropriately following the recycling nuances wherever you are.

Bin toilet paper if asked and shorten your shower

In many countries the plumbing won’t be capable of dealing with toilet paper waste, respect this and remember to bin not flush! Be conscious and shorten you shower to preserve water, particularly in locations where water is scarce.

Opt for eco-friendly lodging and travel

Many airlines now have carbon offset programs for their flights, details of which are shown on sites like Skyscanner. Try and stay in eco-friendly accommodation, nowadays there are so many unique and quirky options in most locations and you will leave feeling good about your stay.

How to make friends when travelling solo

So, you’re finally doing it, going on the solo trip you’ve been wanting to for ages? Yes, go you! I firmly believe it is one of the most empowering things you can do in life. You may be nervous about being lonely or not finding people or having to dine alone, so here are my top four tips for making friends whilst your out there “alone” in the big wide world.

Stay in hostels

Hostels are the best way to go if you are travelling solo but want to meet people. They are wallet friendly, chilled out, and often have awesome social spaces (think rooftops and bars). Hostels are also full of solo travellers so you will be amongst people in the same situation as you! If you are put off by the idea of sharing rooms many hostels offer private rooms, otherwise you can choose a room for anywhere from 4 to 20 or so people. In terms of quality and cleanliness, it’s easy to circumvent nasty surprises by only staying at really highly rated hostels. When you share a room with someone you will naturally say hi and strike up a conversation and it’s the same idea in the lounge, kitchen, or social spaces, there are going to be people around and you’ll be bound to interact.

Just say “Hi, where are you from?”

Okay, if you are naturally a little more shy or socially anxious this may be the hardest bit, but often someone else will initiate the conversation so that you don’t have to. If striking up a conversation is not easy for you, you will never go wrong with this line. Everyone is travelling, everyone is new, everyone has a story you’ve never heard. Everyone is interesting! If you start a conversation with this one question that everyone can answer the rest will naturally flow. Maybe you’ve visited their home country, somewhere else they’ve travelled, or maybe you play the same sport/instrument or whatever. Make the verbal move and the rest will no longer be uncomfortable.

Be generous

Generosity goes such a long way amongst travellers. This spans from sharing advice about cool places to visit, to sharing a packet of snacks you’ve just bought with others at your hostel, to buying someone a beer. Being nice is nice, and you appreciate kindness even more when it comes from a stranger. Whoever you treat will automatically think you are rad, and if it’s a drink you’ve bought them, they will usually get the next round. Even if they don’t, just look at it as an investment in humanity. It is good for the soul to give. Share the love.

Ask people to join you on a day trip

Maybe you are doing a tour and have a vehicle hired for the day you can fill with people? Ask around at the hostel if anyone wants to join! You all save money by splitting the costs, you’ll all get some awesome company, and whoever joins saves having to organise it themselves. Even if you are not doing a tour but just going by yourself to see a site, ask around if anyone is checking out the same thing that day and buddy up! It always helps if you’ve already struck up a convo earlier in the day/week but this is super normal amongst travellers and if you are positive and friendly, you’ll have companions in no time. Some hostels also offer day trips you can sign up for directly which tend to attract other solo travellers just like you.

How to cross the Wadi Araba/Yitzhak Rabin border

September 2019

Use this guide to straight up walk into Jordan from Israel with zero stress!

Quick Bites

How long to stay: Stay 3 nights in Jordan to pay no fees to Jordan
Why to visit Jordan from this border: Petra and Wadi Rum
Transport: Beware the taxi mafia at the Jordan border
Go with: A group if you want to pay less per person on taxis, or join up with people before crossing where the taxis can’t see you

How to cross the border into Jordan from Israel? When I made the crossing everything online was super outdated, unclear, or led me to believe that we would get fleeced at the border and end up paying more than we had to. Use this guide to straight up walk walk on into Jordan from Israel with zero stress!

The process

Israel to Jordan:

Get to the border via taxi or alternatively there is a bus that leaves you close. First, go to the cashier and pay your exit fee to Israel, taking the opportunity to exchange a small amount of money (very small as the rate is crap) for you taxi on the other side. Go through a couple of passport checks on the Israeli side (have your entry ticket with you) and exit Israel!. Walk straight to Jordan!

The Jordan side is simple. Enter a hallway with offices and go to the officer you are directed to. They will check your passport and give you a slip to fill in with your details which they will stamp. Do not lose this as you need this to leave. You shouldn’t pay anything upon entry, only upon exit if you don’t meet certain conditions.

Jordan to Israel:

Similarly to entry, go to the officer you are directed to and give them the slip you filled out upon entry (get this stamped at Petra). We had stayed in Jordan three nights and had gone to Petra so we were not eligible to pay the visa or exit fee. If you are eligible to pay anything go ahead and then pass through to the Israeli side. Here you will wait in line for a luggage check which can be rather slow. We left Jordan relatively early thinking we’d miss the crowds as we wanted to get a bus from Eilat all the way to Tel Aviv sameday. We were wrong though and were met by a long wait on the Israeli side for baggage checks so leave some time for the crossing (1-2 hours). Following this, go to passport control and obtain another entry ticket (I just kept all those I’d received during my time in Israel as a precaution). After passport control you pass through into Israel to find taxis waiting.

Visas and costs

Israeli costs:

Unfortunately, although I was charged nothing when arriving to Tel Aviv’s airport or when I re-entered Israel post my short visit to Jordan, there is a fee to pay when you leave Israel via the Yitzhak Rabin border. Israel charges 101NIS each to leave which we hadn’t been aware of when we made the crossing (thankfully you can pay with card).

Jordan Pass:

The Jordan Pass is a package you can buy before entering Jordan that acts as a visa fee waiver and a ticket for entry to Petra. Everyone online seems to recommend getting it, however, it really depends how long you want to spend in Jordan and visiting Petra, otherwise it may not be worth it (it wasn’t for us). The Pass has three packages: 70JD for one day’s, 75JD for two consecutive day’s, and 80JD for 3 consecutive day’s entry to Petra. This is really the only differentiator as you get free entry to more than 40 Jordanian attractions, free downloadable brochures, and the tourist visa fee waiver (only when you stay a minimum of three nights) with all three.

When to opt for the Pass if crossing into Jordan via this border:

If you want to see some of the other 40 attractions included in the pass, and will stay in Jordan at least three nights. Your visa fees will only be waived if you stay at least 3 nights in Jordan. Without the Jordan Pass entry to Petra is 50JD for 1 day, 55JD for 2 day, and 60 JD for 3 day entry. If you want to see some other attractions, the Pass is a good deal. Bear in mind if you are going to stay three nights in Jordan coming through the Wadi Araba border you wouldn’t pay anything upon exiting anyway so the Pass is essentially a ticket bundle.

When to not opt for the Pass if crossing into Jordan via this border:

If you are going to Petra but do not have time or interest in visiting the other 40 attractions included in the Pass. We were originally going to stay two nights in Jordan: one night in Petra, and one night in the Wadi Rum desert. We actually extended this because if you stay three nights you don’t have to pay a 10JD departure tax. Add to this the fact that accommodation in Aqaba is much cheaper than Eilat (we were going to have to spend the night in one of these two) and you’re onto a double winner.

Long story short, if you stay two nights in Jordan and visit Petra you don’t pay the 40JD visa fee, but if you extend to three nights or more, you also don’t pay the 10JD departure tax. Make sure to get your Jordanian entry slip stamped at the Petra ticket office. They won’t remind you, so remember to ask! I’m not 100% sure if you won’t get you fees waived at the border if you don’t have this, but why risk it! We ended up only paying 50JD each for our Petra entry, saving 20JD by not getting the pass. It is an almost free trip to Jordan if it weren’t for the Israeli charges.

Transport to and from

Get to and from the Israeli side by taxi, Gett taxi, or by bus. We made friends with some Israeli guys at our accomodation who offered to drive us so feel free to try that too if you are feeling charismatic.

Get to and from the Jordan side by taxi. There is a taxi mafia so they will charge you more like 15JD to Aqaba although the official rate is 11JD. A taxi to Aqaba from the border or vice versa at 10JD is a good price. We met a Brazilian couple at the Jordanian side waiting for the owner of their hostel to pick them up and joined them to go directly to Petra rather than stopping at Aqaba first. The taxi guys were not happy and came over to argue as they’d seen we’d grouped up! Ride sharing saved us time and money with the trip to Petra costing us about 30-40JD between the two of us. Grouping up is a way to pay less per head but group up before crossing where the taxi drivers can’t see you if you are going to do this.

Exchanging money

We exchanged just enough for a taxi to Aqaba on the Israeli side of the border. Obviously our plans changed and we ended up taking a car straight to Petra. We asked the driver if we could stop somehwere to exchange money on the way to pay him and he did the exchange in the car at a decent rate. Only when we got to the hotel did we kick ourselves as (oddly) it had the best rate we had seen. Advice: exchange just what you need for a taxi from the border and exchange the rest at your hotel.

Things to remember

  • Don’t lose your documentation (Isaeli entry/exit tickets and Jordanian entry slip)
  • You will always pay an exit fee to Isreal of around 101NIS
  • Stamp your Jordanian entry slip at the Petra ticket office
  • Group up before crossing to the Jordanian side of the border to avoid the taxi mafia’s wrath
  • Only get the Jordan pass if you want to see Petra and some of the other 40 attractions included
  • Stay less than two nights and don’t visit Petra (why would you not) to pay a 60JD visa and a 10JD exit tax
  • Stay less than two nights and visit Petra to only pay a 40 JD visa fee and a 10JD exit tax
  • Stay two nights and visit Petra to only pay 10JD exit tax
  • Stay three or more nights and visit Petra to pay nothing on exit!
  • Exchange enough money at the border to pay transport to your accommodation but not more

The main reason for any tourist to cross the Wadi Araba / Yitzhak Rabin border is to visit Jordan.

How to make the most of a year abroad

I was one of those lucky humans who got to take a year abroad as part of my university degree. It didn’t tack on a year to my degree and I only had to pay 15% of regular fees for the year at my home university and nothing at my guest university, the University of Melbourne. As such I estimate that it was roughly the same or cheaper price wise for the year, relocation costs and currency exchanges included. It still remains one of my favourite years of life, and not to buy into the clichés, but the experience did encourage me to try new things and release my more hedonistic side which had long since been repressed by my rational self. I wouldn’t change anything about my experience but here is the advice I would have found useful before I took my year abroad.

1. Be bold when choosing a location

I studied the majority of my undergraduate degree in the UK and had never been to Australia before my year abroad. So how did I choose it? Melbourne was actually a friend’s suggestion and I’m so glad she made it. I did some research and the city appeared to be so on my wavelength. My year was going to count toward the third year of my four year degree so the thought of no language disruptions was comforting and Melbourne had been repeatedly voted one of the best places to live. A lot of people remarked on its distance from the UK, how could I contemplate going so far? Frankly, doubts never crossed my mind.

Some coursemates went to Singapore or Japan, destinations which a lot of people wouldn’t choose for the fear of too much culture shock or language barriers. However, I would argue that this is the best time to make a move like this. A year abroad is for a finite time and at a uni where you are sure to meet other people in the same boat to make friends with. It is not the same as up and leaving to a new place as an adult with no job, no friends, and no existing network. Safe to say, if you want to go somewhere a bit ‘out there’ for a year abroad, do it! It is one year of many years of life, you are pretty much guaranteed a good network amongst the others making the same trip as you, and this is the easiest it will ever be to make a choice like this before you get bogged down with responsibilities.

2. Say yes, a lot more often that you normally would

A year abroad is a chance for a fresh start, much like a new year is to many. It’s a chance to be you in a new location, with new people, and new opportunities. Maybe you let yourself realign your priorities differently than you normally would. Maybe you feel the confidence to do those things you’ve been wanting to for ages that you always put off because you were a little scared. Maybe you make some bad choices that you then forget with tequila. It’s all possible, I’d argue even more possible with the excitement of a year abroad, a year of novelty.

During my year abroad I dyed my hair for the first time (and was not a fan), got several piercings, did my first 10 person road trip around New Zealand, did my first 20 person road trip along the east coast of Aus (never again, too many egos on one trip), backpacked solo for the first time ever, met someone special, made friends with some stellar humans, spent Christmas in Fiji, did way too little schoolwork for the third year of an engineering degree, had a rogue road trip with my cousin who visited from Europe, and had zero damn regrets. Don’t get me wrong there is a ton more I would want to do out there, but I made the most of my time, and lived to the max. I followed the hedonist in me and the result was countless memories and experiences that are immensely precious to me.

Melbourne cityscape overlooking the State Library of Victoria
The view over the State Library of Victoria in the Melbourne CBD

3. Meet as many people as you can

A year abroad is a massive step out of your comfort zone, particularly as it is usually taken during your penultimate year of uni when you have already solidified some roots at your home uni. I personally viewed it as an opportunity to meet likeminded and adventurous individuals and of course some Aussies. The great thing about Melbourne was that there was a university committee setup specifically for exchange students so it was easy to meet people. People would also use the society’s Facebook group to organise get togethers at the beginning of the year for people to mingle and get to know the new cohort. It may feel uncomfortable and daunting to go to these things, but they’re an excellent way to build up a community in what is your new home.

I won’t lie to you and say I made a whole bunch of Australian friends because the majority of my friends over there were year abroad students from European universities or international students. Oftentimes the home students already have their friends and don’t need new friends like guest students do, but you can definitely decide to make the effort, particularly with those on your course. My advice would be to go to as many events as possible at the start of your year to maximise your chances of meeting people on your wavelength. Talk to people at lectures and get involved in societies and sports. Use the excitement and novelty of the first few weeks to get stuck in and meet the people who are clearly your people and then you are good to go from there.

4. But also… be selective with who you spend your time with

It is worth stating that relationships are stronger and more meaningful the more time you dedicate to them. This may seem like on obvious statement, but when you only have a year, it makes it much more important to prioritise and utilise your time how you really want to. I’d personally rather have two or three really amazing friends than loads of acquaintances. Although I did meet a lot of people at the start of my time in Melbourne, it was pretty obvious to me who I really clicked with from the start. These people were the people I chose to dedicate time with and join on trips. I’ve seen a handful of people I met in Melbourne since I left (both closer and more casual friends) and it’s been a good three years since my time there. My memories were made sweeter by the people I actively chose to share them with and continue to relive them with today.