Monthly Archives: January 2014

Holi Celebrations

10 of the best festivals you should try to visit

Every year millions of people travel the globe to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s biggest, most extravagant festivals. From the well-known Glastonbury festival to the lesser known Diwali Festival, here is our list of 10 of the best festivals you should try to visit around the world.

Diwali Festival of Lights, India

Diwali Festival of Lights, India. Photo by Gerg1967, flickr

Diwali Festival of Lights, India. Photo by Gerg1967, flickr

Marked by four days of celebration, this festival held annually between mid-October and mid-November the biggest and brightest of the Hindu traditions. With its beginnings in ancient India as a harvest festival, Diwali has come a long way, with each day celebrating a different tradition. Visitors can expect to see homes lit up with oil lamps and candles, and the night sky to be illuminated with firecrackers.

Glastonbury, England

Glastonbury festival is attended by around 175,000 people each year. Photo by paolo999, flickr

Glastonbury festival is attended by around 175,000 people each year. Photo by paolo999, flickr

For all those music lovers out there, Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is not to be missed. Held in Somerset, England on the last weekend of June each year, Glastonbury is attended by approximately 175,000 people, making it the largest greenfield festival in the world. Festival goers can experience the festival to its fullest by camping over the three days in tents, caravans or motorhomes. Having seen some of the biggest acts in the world, including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and U2, Glastonbury Festival is everything a music festival should be.

MORE: TOP 5 MUSIC FESTIVALS YOU MUST SEE WHEN IN EUROPE

Dia de los Muertos, Mexico

Colourful display of costumes and culture during Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. Photo by we heartit.com, Pinterest

Colourful display of costumes and culture during Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. Photo by we heartit.com, Pinterest

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a three day Mexican festival celebrating the deceased. Beginning on October 31 and ending November 2, this unique experience combines a colourful display of costumes and culture, and has close relations to Halloween. Many cities around the world celebrate Dia de los Muertos, however the more memorable ones are held in Mexico City and Los Angeles.

Oktoberfest, Germany

Always a good time when the beer is flowing at Oktoberfest. Photo by xsnowdog, flickr

Always a good time when the beer is flowing at Oktoberfest. Photo by xsnowdog, flickr

One of the biggest festivals in the world, Oktoberfest in Munich attracts more than 6 million people every year to indulge in this 16 day event starting in late September. An important part of Bavarian culture, the festival began in 1810, and serves approximately 7 million litres of beer each year. The festival has also expanded to include attractions such as amusement rides and side stalls.

Burning Man, Nevada

A photograph from Burning Man 2011 by photojournalist Scott London. For more info, please visit: www.scottlondon.com/burningman

A photograph from Burning Man 2011 by photojournalist Scott London. For more info, please visit: www.scottlondon.com/burningman

On the last Monday of August each year, approximately 50,000 people come together in the deserts of Nevada to enjoy a week free of the normal conventions of society and to experiment with art, self-expression, and self-reliance. Burning Man is named for its tradition of setting alight a large wooden effigy, and the festival is perfect for those who want to party 24/7.

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

City streets packed during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Photo by JoAnn Livanos, Pinterest

City streets packed during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Photo by JoAnn Livanos, Pinterest

Mardi Gras, or ‘Fat Tuesday’, celebrates the start of the Catholic season of Lent, and typically runs for two weeks. This spectacularly colourful festival usually sees one major parade each day, as well as masquerade balls and smaller parades throughout the city and neighboring communities. The last five days of the event are when the festival showcases its most elaborate parades, so grab your beads and head to Louisiana for this not to be missed event.

Chinese New Year, China

China's Lantern Festival during the New Year. Photo by Boston dot com, Pnterest

China’s Lantern Festival during the New Year. Photo by Boston dot com, Pnterest

Fireworks explode across the Huangpu River in Shanghai marking a New Year. This awesome festival is celebrated on the first 15 days of the Chinese calendar and Chinese communities can be seen celebrating the New Year with firecrackers, lion dances, parades, and decorations all around houses and in cities. The end of the celebrations are  marked by the Lantern Festival, an amazing sight in itself. The Chinese New Year is truly a sight to be seen, especially for travelers who like to indulge in the local culture.

Holi Festival, India

Arm yourself. Colourful powders to choose from. Photo by Shashank Ramesh

Arm yourself. Colourful powders to choose from. Photo by Shashank Ramesh

Also known as the Festival of Colours, the Holi Festival is an outrageously fun, carefree day which typically falls in March each year. The festival signifies the arrival of spring and began as an ancient Hindu religious festival. During the day, people are free to run, chase, play, and colour each other with brightly coloured powder and water. So arm yourself with a water gun or water balloons, as everyone is fair game when it comes to this incredible day.

San Fermin Festival, Pamplona

Running for dear life at the San Fermin Festival in Spain. Photo by Hello Giggles

Running for dear life at the San Fermin Festival in Spain. Photo by Hello Giggles

Whether you’re competing or watching, you’re sure to get your heart racing at the San Fermin Festival. Better known as the running of the bulls, the festival also includes other folkloric events during the week-long period beginning on July 6 annually. As one of the most internationally-renown festivals, Pamplona sees more than one million people in attendance each year, with many thrill-seekers taking part in the one kilometer run to the bull ring.

Carnaval, Rio de Janiero

Incredible costumes at the Carnaval, Rio de Janiero. Photo by Adang Yusuf

Incredible costumes at the Carnaval, Rio de Janiero. Photo by Adang Yusuf

If you didn’t get your fill of partying and parades at Mardi Gras, then Carnaval is the place to go. This spectacular festival is sure to satisfy even the hardest party-goers, with samba music, colourful costumes, giant parades, and non-stop partying. Held each year before Lent, visitors can expect to see a number of samba schools competing with each other, but be prepared to fight the crowds, as Carnaval is considered the biggest festival in the world with at least 2 million people on the streets each day.

img

How to volunteer overseas and what you need to know

Volunteering abroad is one of the most fulfilling ways to spend your holiday. It is undeniably an experience unlike any other, giving travellers of every age the opportunity to invest energy and time towards a positive outcome for both themselves and those they are helping. Below is a few things about how to volunteer overseas and what you need to know.

There are opportunities to volunteer in every single country in the world, some with more demands than others. Each volunteering experience differs, depending on the need of the destination. Some countries have the desire for more English teachers, others require the need for fresh water and food, and some are just looking for enthusiastic people willing to run summer camps for children and teenagers. Whatever your interests, and wherever your travel destination, there are volunteer opportunities available.

The 2012 Official volunteer report, composed by Go Overseas gave evidence that India was the #1 most searched country for volunteer programs. Before that, in 2009, Gecko Go’s showed statistics that Peru was the country with the most volunteer programs.

How to get involved

The first step to volunteering is being organised. Backpacking normally works on having a rough schedule rather than a tighter one, so it’s good to pre-determine a time frame for how long you want to volunteer in each place for. The benefit of doing so means that you won’t need to stress as much about accommodation, as most volunteer jobs offer some form of place to stay, eat and sleep. If you’re the type of person who prefers an even more organised method, it is best to search for volunteer programs online before travelling. There are a number of websites that give you information for each destination and the type of work on offer, and there are companies that you can contact directly that will help organise your travelling around your volunteer work. Sometimes these volunteering opportunities lead to jobs or even a career.

Pay to Volunteer? Sounds pointless?

Despite volunteer work being well, voluntary, some companies do have some form of fees to cover your accommodation and food during your stay. Put into perspective, however, the fees are minuscule and do also include your security (and in some cases, insurance) for the duration of your volunteer program. It is important that you don’t allow fees to prevent you from volunteering. At the end of the day, the fees are there to protect you as an “employee” and to ensure that you get the most out of your experience. Instead of sightseeing, you’re using your money to give somebody a chance to have fresh water; to learn English, or you may be saving the planet by planting one tree at a time. No matter what you’re doing as part of your program, it will be more than just fulfilling, it will be life changing.

Popular companies that charge you to volunteer

  • Real Gap, international volunteer and internship programs including plant and animal conservation, teaching, summer camps and community development programs,  starting at $180USD
  • GOECO, popular international volunteer company, ranges in types of volunteering and starting at US$500 for Asia and $900 for Central/North Africa. They also offers programs in North and South Americas, Australasia and pacific, Israel and South Africa
  • Global Volunteers offer volunteer programs starting from one week, and extending up to three weeks. They are an American based country, offering volunteer programs internationally, starting at $995USD for  programs inside USA, $1700 for India and roughly $2500 for countries including China, Tanzania, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. They also offer student discounts
  • Tanzania volunteers, a program with a focus on internships and volunteer work. They have more than 50 internship and volunteer work placements in the healthcare and social sector, which include orphanages, day care centres, street kid centres and juvenile jail. They also have placements in schools to work with children living with disability. Prices start at US$1010 for 4 weeks volunteering, and groups of 5 get a 10% discount off the quoted price. The prices are all inclusive of 3 meals a day, accommodation, language training, phone connection, internet usage, transportation and a shirt.

How to avoid paying to volunteer

However, if you prefer not to pay for programs, you can independently apply for volunteer programs through country websites, travel forums and guidebooks. Be warned though that applying directly to a destination can often lead to less organisation and therefore you run the risk of being unprepared. Language barriers can and will occur, and situations can often becoming confusing if you are not prepared with the right information before entering your volunteer program. The safest way to apply is to read and research reviews on online forums from people who have previously volunteered. Know what you’re getting yourself into before diving in, head first.

Consider several volunteering programs before deciding on one that is best for you and that suits your backpacking destinations to ensure you get the absolute most from your holiday. The best way to think of this is as a holiday that will also look great on a resume, will give you a confidence and a knowledge boost and will leave you feeling completely satisfied about taking a gap year or holiday.

imgn1

The top 10 safety travel tips you need to know

Whether it’s your first time travelling or your 25th time travelling, safety needs to be on top of everyone’s priority list. To keep safe you need to stay aware of your surroundings, so here are the top 10 safety travel tips you need to know.

Safety while traveling

Always keep a photocopy of all your documents in a safe place and always carry your passport with you. You may be asked for identification wherever you go, so it is best to be prepared.

At night, don’t travel alone. Try and avoid travelling at night, if not, travel in large groups.

Do your research on the locations you will be visiting. Know where to go and where not to go. There are always places in the city that are unsafe.

When using ATMs, avoid using them at night, as there is a greater chance you will be robbed.

Safety at your hotel

Swipe cards are becoming more common in hotels instead of keys. So make sure they are using unmarked swipe cards at your hotel. If you are ever robbed the perpetrator wouldn’t know which room to access.

Lock your doors whenever you are in the room, and double check your door is fully secure before going to bed.

Walking the streets in safety

Try and blend in with the locals, by dressing in similar style. You will stick out like a sore thumb if you are wearing something completely different.

Be aware of your surroundings, and that includes people as well. You may be scoped out by those who want to cause harm.

Be discreet; don’t wear expensive jewellery, even in the day time. No matter what time of day it is, it will not stop people from trying to rob you.

If you don’t feel too confident about your valuables, such as money and credit cards, wear them in a belt which is worn underneath your clothes.

Know where to get help

Wherever you are, know where to get help. Know where you can find the local police, know where your embassy is and know how to contact your travel insurer.

imga

The 5 dos and do nots of backpacking

Backpacking is a fun and rewarding method of travelling, particularly for those of us who have limited money. It gives you the chance to see everything from the Louvre to trek Machu Picchu in Peru, all whilst on a budget and with minimal baggage. The 5 dos and do nots of backpacking however, should be taken on board when it comes to travelling this way. Here are some pointers to give you a heads up when backpacking through multiple countries and cities.

What to do when travelling

  1. Embrace the culture of every place. You may never get the chance to dance to Latin music in the streets of Argentina again, so make the most of everything in the moment.
  2. Eat all the food! Try everything. Even just once.
  3. Take photos. There are loads of people out there who prefer to embrace their surroundings rather than take a photo, but I assure you, take photos of every place, even if it’s just one on your phone, it will help you remember how good it felt to be in that place.
  4. Make friends with the locals and other backpackers. Be open minded and strike up conversations with people because everybody has an interesting story. You never know, your new friend might give you a lift into your next destination.
  5. Learn the language. Learn how to say hello, thank you and goodbye in a few languages. It will benefit you when it comes to shopping, bargaining, and dining out. Even when you’re in a hostel/hotel or bar and if you decide to alter your route of travels of the local language will help.

What to not do when travelling

  1. Pack a massive suitcase. You won’t need a hair straightener; you definitely won’t need five pairs of jeans and three coats. Be smart when you pack, and roll your clothes to make room for other things, like a map and a packet of band aids (you never know).
  2. Be Bossy. If you’re travelling with a group, the key to having a good time is to compromise. Plan a rough route before you leave so that you know where you definitely want to go, but be open to suggestions to visit other landmarks along the way. You don’t want to be fighting with friends on your holiday.
  3. Buy loads of unnecessary items. That brand new “designer” bag you bought from a market in Paris is now part of the baggage you have to carry through the next five countries of your trip. Be smart, buy stuff in your last destination or buy items that are small and light to carry.
  4. Put yourself in danger. You can say no to things. If you feel uncomfortable about a situation, sit it out. There’s nothing worse than an unplanned trip to the emergency room because somebody was stupid (“yolo” is never justification for jumping off a roof into the hostel pool).
  5. Forget your family and friends at home. Buy them postcards and send them photos of you travelling along the way so that they know you’re safe and so that they remember to pick you up from the airport when you get home in three weeks time. The most important thing to take from all of this information is to have a good time on your backpacking adventure; live without regrets. You’ve earned it, after all.
img.php

5 of the wildest party hostels from around the world

Travelling with nothing but a backpack and putting down a little bit of money for a bed for a few nights don’t seem that great. But if you listen closely you might hear the vibrations of music pumping through the walls. Hostels are not just known anymore for their cheap accommodation, but for their party lifestyle. So here are 5 of the wildest party hostels from around the world.

5 of the wildest party hostels from around the world: Flying Pig, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Flying Pig Hostel, Amsterdam. Photo by Windor Waterfall.

Flying Pig Hostel, Amsterdam. Photo by Windor Waterfall.

First up is the Flying Pig Downtown Hostel.  Known as party central, the Flying Pig offers beds from $37 (US). Partying till day break, DJs from around the world pump their tunes, and an all-night open bar for the party goers. Lay back on the comfy couches and inhale some cannabis if that’s your thing. If you are wanting some quiet time, the “happy room“, which is a pillow room, is downstairs for those who are looking for a rest.

Surf’n’Sun, Gold Coast, Australia

Surf n Sun Beachside Backpackers. Photo by Hostels.com.

Surf n Sun Beachside Backpackers. Photo by Hostels.com.

Surf’n’Sun Beachside Backpackers, offer up roomd from $28USD a night. Located near the beach with a pool on premises the hostel has free club entry and punch. This party tends to start late in the afternoon, with those coming from the beach ceremoniously cracking open some goon bags (casket wine).

The Rising Cock, Lagos, Portugal

The Rising Cock Hostel Booze Cruise in Lagos Portugal. Photo courtesy of the Hostel.

The Rising Cock Hostel Booze Cruise in Lagos Portugal. Photo courtesy of the Hostel.

The Rising Cock. Booze cruises go for only $36USD so if you’re after a 24 hour party, this is the place to go.  Travellers from all around the world come her for the ranhcy cruises that are fueled with every kind of drink in the Mediterranean. If the ocean isn’t your thing, then there are also beach parties, all-you-can-drink sessions and crazy drinking games. These is a central hotspot for many young travellers and if you’re looking to meet someone special, this is the place for it. And of course, try to remain in control when drunk and enjoy the party.

Loki Hostel, Cusco, Peru

Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru. Photo by Per Agge.

Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru. Photo by Per Agge.

The Loki Hostel, is the place to go for those backpackers making their way back from Macchu Picchu. Beds from $8USD a night, the Loki is a 450 year old mansion that has been converted into a hostel. Always tightly packed with backpackers the Loki offers an open lounge and many themed nights.

The Pink Palace, Corfu, Greece

Down the hatch, drinkers skull their drink at the Pink Palace in Greece. Photo by Keith Parker, flikr.

Down the hatch, drinkers skull their drink at the Pink Palace in Greece. Photo by Keith Parker, flikr.

From $26USD a night, The Pink Palace offers a 24 hour cocktail bar, a beach and Jacuzzi. Once popular with people like the iconic Freddie Mercury, Saturday nights are particular crazy. The themed pink toga parties held every Saturday are a favourite. Other than the pink toga party the Pink Palace also offers a booze cruise with cliff jumping (clothing optional), matchmaker night, Ouzo cup volleyball and pajama parties.

packing

15 things you don’t need to bring travelling

Have you ever checked in for a flight, weighed your baggage and cringed as the red numbers on the scales showed that your bag was 5kg to heavy? As you stepped to the side to ferociously open your bag and chuck as many clothes and souvenirs as possible into your carry-on luggage, did your mind curse your past self for packing too much?

Traveling is a learning experience, and so is packing for it. We always want to be prepared with all the items we think we may need, but as we get more experienced with travel and packing, we start realising that we are carrying more than what we really need. So here are 15 things you don’t need to bring travelling.

15 things you don’t need to bring travelling

1) Soap

Leave the big bottles and soap bars behind. Most hotels and hostels provide basic toiletries, and if you must,;invest in a nifty container of 2-in-1 body wash and shampoo.

2) Jeans

They are heavy, take up a lot of space and they are near impossible to dry if they get wet in the rain or require washing.

3) Books for holiday reading

They take up space and are incredibly heavy. Ask yourself if you are really going to read on your journey. If yes, ask your hotel or hostel if they have a selection of reading material. Most do. An e-reader can hold dozens of books in one small device, just remember the charger!

4) Bulky towel

Once again, most hotels and activities provide one. If you can’t imagine travelling without your own, bring a micro-fibre towel. They dry faster and are lighter than a regular beach towel.

5) Reusable water bottle

Stainless steel bottles may fulfill moral stance but there is a high chance you will never use it. It is much easier to buy a water bottle that you can fill up at a clean water refill cooler

6) Jewelry

Wearing flashy jewelry is like standing out like a candle among darkness. It can attract thievery or the unwanted impression that you are wealthy.

7) Hair straightener

You won’t have the time or the care to straighten your hair, especially if you are backpacking.

8) Heels or hiking boots

Heels are useless in the cobble-stoned streets of Europe and completely impractical everywhere else. Hiking boots are usually available for rent.

9) Electric toothbrush

They require batteries and are heavier than the standard toothbrush. Note it is electric. They require charging and carrying the base unit, too bulky use a standard toothbrush.

10) Laptop

Unless you are on a business trip, there is no need to bring your laptop. Computer cafes and Wi-Fi for your smartphone are everywhere.

11) Traveller’s cheques

They are a thing of the past. Banks now charge less for accessing your money overseas. Cheques are also limited to what kind of currency you can load on (usually only the major currencies).

12) iPod speakers

They are pointless and usually fragile. Embrace the local music.

13) Pyjamas

An extra set of clothes just for sleeping? Forget about it. Wear a clean shirt and comfy pants and save time in the morning from not having to get changed!

14) Camera zoom lens

Stick with a lens that can be used broadly as multiple zoom lenses can be damaged, or too much of a hassle to swap between.

15) Pillow

They are bulky and from experience, get lost or dirty easily.

If you’re packing something using the words “what if…” or “if this happens…” then what you’re packing is probably not necessary! Remember, the more space there is in your luggage, the more souvenirs you can bring home. Good luck!

backpacker

The best advice for beginner backpackers

Tourism is one of the world’s biggest industries now that the world has become accessible to so many travelers. However some of us hesitate in taking the plunge and stepping outside of our comfort zone. Here are some tips that will prepare you for entering the big, bad world, Bonnie Deider writes. The best advice for beginner backpackers is below.

1) Plan for your travels

First and foremost, make a travel plan but don’t necessarily stick to it. A Lonely Planet guide is helpful but be willing to sacrifice parts of your journey as you can’t see everything and it’s best not to rush things. Guides can also be outdated within a year of publication. Websites like Trip Advisor may be more useful than print as they are always being updated and contributed to. So make sure you research and plan your trip thoroughly

2) Limit the number of people you travel with

Be reassured that the person/s you are planning to travel with will be fun and easygoing. Don’t travel with too many people as they may change your course of action. Don’t travel with too many people, a small intimate group is able to change course easily.

3) Purchase travel supplies carefully

Don’t just purchase the most attractive bag on sale at Kathmandu. Know what you’re in for and pack accordingly. If you’re flashpacking  (?)instead of backpacking leave space so you can buy things when you get to your destination. If you’re roughing it out, stick to a bag suited to your body size. Nothing is more uncomfortable than carrying a backpack the length of your body, with the top of the backpack peeking over the top of their head.

4) Pack lightly

You will hear it from your family, you will hear it from friends, you will hear it from your travel agent and you will hear it from the quiet voice in your head called ‘Common Sense’, but it won’t be repeated enough. Hardly any of us listen and that’s okay, it is normal for first-time backpackers to over-pack. However you will save yourself from wasted energy whilst gaining plenty of traveller cred if you stick to, say, a backpack weight of 10kg or less. The best method to achieve this is to stack a pile of clothes on your bed, then cut it in half and then half again, and then pack it into your bag. This method is also useful when bargaining!

5) Organise your finances and assets

Work out how to access your finances before you go overseas. Double check your fees, pin and tell your bank your plans to prevent cards being blocked. You’ve probably sold your car at this point, but if you haven’t, who is going to look after it and will it be safe while you’re travelling? Who is looking after your apartment? Are your belongings in a reliable storage facility?

6) Make sure your Phone plan is sorted out

Go into your mobile phone provider’s store and turn off that pesky global roaming. Leave it off for the entire time you are overseas. Besides getting a nice break from the cyber world, you will also save yourself a burning $1000 bill. To save battery leave your phone on airplane mode and connect to Wi-Fi. It’s everywhere and most of the time, beautifully free. Download Viber, Skype, and Whatsapp and relish in the fast Internet speeds that most of the world enjoys on a daily basis.

7) Become a journalist

Memory is a killer so attempt to keep a journal. Photos are great to look back on but there’s nothing like rereading your written thoughts when you are back at home and suffering from post-holiday depression.

8) Be open-minded

Keep within yours and the local country’s values and ethics and be respectful to locals. This is incredibly important for Westerners travelling to under-developed or developing nations.

9) Buy travel insurance

So many times we hear of travelers stiffed with expensive hospital bills or worse… Family members with expensive funeral arrangements. It will make your family and friends happy if you invest a few hundred bucks in some protection. You might be a careful traveller, but you never know when things can go wrong.

10) Try not to sweat the small things

How often in your life are you going to have the chance, time or money to do this? Often the best experiences are unexpected and randomly stumbled upon so be adventurous and embrace it!

Hero Jetsetta

8 of the world’s strangest foods to try while travelling

For those who don’t have a weak stomach and want to experience something different on holiday, why don’t you give this a try by tasting the strangest delights that are on offer?  It’s also entertaining for you to take along a friend who will find it disgusting and atrocious. Their reactions will make your experience even more enjoyable. So below are 8 of the world’s strangest foods to try while travelling.

Snake Blood

Draining a snake's blood, soon to be enjoyed by... someone with courage. Photo by Maeghan

Draining a snake’s blood, soon to be enjoyed by… someone with courage. Photo by Maeghan

Feel like snake? We sure did! Found in Vietnam, snake wine is a must try. After killing the snake, the bile and the blood are separated into two different shot glasses where they are mixed in with rice wine. This is then drunk, and the snake that was killed will be presented to you, cooked and ready to eat. Oh and don’t forget the heart. Once the snake is killed you can eat the heart straight away. Some say, you could still feel the heart beating whilst you swallow.

Deadly  Fugu

High trained canidates prepare fugu in Japan for their license Photo by Bio Web

High trained canidates prepare fugu in Japan for their license Photo by Bio Web

This next food is a risk. Fugu restaurants are found everywhere in Japan, and the delicacy served there is fugu, or puffer fish. Because of the toxins running through the skin, and other parts, it can easily kill you if it is prepared incorrectly. Made by chefs who have had rigorous training, many people would rather eat the puffer fish with a little bit of toxins left, as they say their lips get a tingling sensation.

Cooked Asian Insects

Mmmmm cooked beetles. Would you dare Photo by Ben and Francoise

Mmmmm cooked beetles. Would you dare Photo by Ben and Francoise

Tarantulas are normally a spider you will stay away from. Not in Cambodia. Fried tarantulas are an extremely popular food that everyone enjoys, particularly the abdomen.  The creamy texture of the abdomen served along with freshly cooked rice is a dish everyone loves and needs to try. Found all over the world, but particular in Asian countries are cooked insects. Thailand, Cambodia, China and even Mexico and Africa are all places to find cooked insects. From silk worms to giant water beetles, if it moves it can be eaten!

Rocky mountain Oysters

Rocky mountain oysters. Extra crunchy when fried. Photo by Ryuji Morishita

Rocky mountain oysters. Extra crunchy when fried. Photo by Ryuji Morishita

Don’t be deceived.  Rocky mountain oysters are not oysters found in the mountains. Not even close No they are the scrotum of a bull – deep fried.  Yummy right… right? Found in America this delight is a favorite with the cowboys.

Scotish Haggis

Haggis, made up of sheep's heart liver and lungs. Photo by Dangerdoormouse, Flickr

Haggis, made up of sheep’s heart liver and lungs. Photo by Dangerdoormouse, Flickr

A sausage looking food stuffed with sheep’s heart, liver, lung with some beef thrown in and an array of spices, set in a casing of sheep’s stomach lining is what you call haggis. A traditional Scottish dish, this is definitely one to try.

Digested Coffee

The end result of Kopi Luwak made in Ubud Bali Indonesia. Photo by Around the Island

The end result of Kopi Luwak made in Ubud Bali Indonesia. Photo by Around the Island

You’re in Indonesia and feel like a coffee? Why don’t you grab a Kopi Luwak. It is the most expensive coffee in the world and is also known as civet coffee. But why is it special? The coffee beans are fed to a small animal called an Asian Palm Civet. After they have eaten the beans they shit them out, producers harvest them and turn them into the Kopi Luwak coffee.

The best and worst ways to access money overseas

The best and worst ways to access money overseas

In the past, travellers’ cheques were the most popular way to access your money overseas. Today, travellers rely on credit cards and ATM withdrawals because of the better exchange rates and lower fees. Cameron Blair lists the best and worst ways to access money overseas.

Credit cards

Pros: They are best for large purchases such as airline tickets, hotel bills, car rentals and restaurant meals. Credit card purchases are exchanged at usually the best rate you can get for currency exchange.

Cons: Some restaurants, shops and hotels won’t accept credit cards. It is only local shops who may or tiny food places who will not accept them. Good for emergencies, easily used in many restaurants and hotels. Make sure the card does not leave your sight as they are easily compromised by unscrupulous merchants. If withdrawing money from an ATM you will also be subject to any charges your credit card company imposes. Make sure you’ve made arrangements to pay the upcoming bill if you are away for a long time!

Debit cards

Pros: They are best for getting cash in local currency. Withdrawing money from ATMs using a debit card is the cheapest and easiest way to get cash.

Cons: With each withdrawal you make you will be subject to currency conversion fees, foreign ATM fees or other charges from your bank or the local bank that owns the ATM. If your card is lost or stolen you may not have the same protection as a credit card would and it is quite difficult to replace

Cash

Pros: Cash is best for the first 1-2 days of your trip until you find an ATM. It can handle your immediate expenses such as buying a meal or taking a taxi to your hotel.

Cons: You may not get a great conversion rate and you may also have to pay fees or commissions. You can get cash from the airport before you leave but try your local bank first as they may waive fees for certain account holders. It is also not a good idea to be carrying around lots of cash when you get to your destination. Around $100-$150 worth of local currency cash is suggested.

Wire Transfers

Pros: Places like Western Union have made a fortune off stranded travellers reaching out for help when they’ve found themselves in a bad situation. They are a quick way of getting out of a pinch quickly. Should only be used in an emergency.

Cons: Expensive transaction fees

The best and worst ways to access money overseas

First and foremost, let your bank know when and where you’re travelling overseas to avoid a temporary hold being placed on your cards. This really is the best/worst ways to access money overseas.

Do your homework and don’t leave purchasing your foreign cash, cards or traveller’s cheques to the last minute.

Take a combination of foreign cash, your credit card and your debit card. This way you will never be stranded without access to your funds.

Ensure you have requested a PIN for your debit card and credit cards.

Consult your bank and consider locking in your exchange rates up-front with foreign cash or your travel cards. This way you know exactly how much currency you have to spend.

If you need to increase your credit limit, arrange it before you leave the country.

If you plan to transact on your account while overseas, make sure it is linked as the primary savings account on your debit credit card or keycard. The primary savings account is the account you access when you press the ‘savings’ option at an ATM or at the checkout.

Download your bank’s app onto your smartphone/tablet so you can manage your accounts while you’re overseas. Alternatively, you can read this article published by the Huffington Post on Bank Safety

Finally, arrange travel insurance to cover you in case the unexpected occurs!

Hero Cultural Edger

Where to find the most unusual food festivals in the world

Food is integrated into every country and almost every culture. Depending on where we go, we will encounter different tastes and dishes that will entice our taste buds or put us off food. Some are strange and some might raise your palate to another level. So here are a few of the most unusual food festivals in the world that celebrate what we all universally love, food.

The most unusual food festivals in the world

La Tomatina Festival

The fight begins. Photo by Denis Doyle, Pinterest

The fight begins. Photo by Denis Doyle, Pinterest

At the end of August each year the ultimate food fight happens, a fight beyond the dreams of every child. The La Tomatina festival is held in Bunol, a town in the Valencia region in Spain. As with every good food fight, no one really knows why this started, or even when. People say 1944 and others say 1945. As to why? Only god knows. 30,000 people are involved in this carnage of the brave tomato. After the cannon fires it is each man for himself. The best advice? Grab as many tomatoes as you can, squash and fire in every direction possible. There is more to this weeklong festival, music, dances and fireworks but you have to admit it, the hunger to go to this festival, is solely to fight…with tomatoes.

The West Virginia Road Kill Cook Off

Welcome to the West Virginia Road Kill Cook Off. Photo by Andrew Zimmern, Pinterest

Welcome to the West Virginia Road Kill Cook Off. Photo by Andrew Zimmern, Pinterest

The next festival is one that will make the Beverly Hillbillies proud. The West Virginia Road Kill Cook Off have two rules for entering the contest. Rule one, the animal in question, at some point, had to been hit by a truck or car (we can practically hear Jamie Oliver drooling right now). The second rule, it cannot have been hit on the interstate highway, because that would be healthier for you. At least the trainers at the biggest loser would be happy! The grand prize if you win the cook out is a cool $1,000 cash prize.

The carnival at Vilanova i La Geltrú

Massive candy fight breaking out in Carinval Viu les Festes de Catalunya. Photo by Catalunya tourism

Massive candy fight breaking out in Carinval Viu les Festes de Catalunya. Photo by Catalunya tourism

Halloween has nothing on this festival. Combining two things that we loved as a child and, what we have always wanted to do is a food fight, with candy. Yes with candy! Our mothers can stow away their nagging, this was inevitable after many years of food fights being interrupted, and being told to stop eating candy.  The carnival at Vilanova i La Geltrú is a two week festival that is held every February. The two weeks are filled with live music, costumes and food, but more importantly candy, and more candy.

The spam jam festival

Spam Jam Festival. Photo by Kyle Nishioka, flickr

Spam Jam Festival. Photo by Kyle Nishioka, flickr

In 2002 the most magical event happened in the history of food. On the beautiful island of Waikiki, Hawaii this blissful food brought its people together to celebrate, in the form of a festival. Everyone is beyond happy when attending this event, they enjoyed the free entertainment and the food is phenomenal. And it was all because of spam.  The spam jam festival is a free event which 25,000 people had attended and enjoyed in 2013. Its family fun environment was created to raise money for charities.  Nothing says Waikiki than sitting on the beach, watching the stunning sunset, enjoying a delicious spam sandwich!!

Hero - Yourdm

Top 5 music festivals you must see when in Europe

Psychedelic colours at Tomorrowland, Boom in Belgium. Photo by Tanguy Cyber Factory

Psychedelic colours at Tomorrowland, Boom in Belgium. Photo by Tanguy Cyber Factory

Music festivals attract hundreds of thousands of music fans annually, some with tents or motorhomes in tow. Many of the biggest and best festivals appear exclusively in Europe, where the biggest names in rock, pop, electronic and alternative music are lined up. Many may find it overwhelming trying to choose from such an array of festivals, so here is a list of five of the biggest, most popular festivals in Europe, where you’re sure to find your match, no matter your age or taste in music.

Tomorrowland, Boom, Belgium

Crowds gather at Tomorrowland, Boom in Belgium. Photo by Rutger Geerling

Crowds gather at Tomorrowland, Boom in Belgium. Photo by Rutger Geerling

When it first began in 2005, Tomorrowland attracted a mere 10,000 people to the town of Boom, Belgium. Since then however, it has risen in popularity to become one of the most notable electronic music festivals in the world. Held on the final weekend of July, this festival creates an experience like no other. With some of the biggest DJs in the world, including Armin Van Buuren, David Guetta, Skrillex, and Avicii, you won’t have a moment of boredom. In 2013, over 180,000 tickets were sold, but that’s nothing compared to the 360,000 tickets planned for release in 2014.

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, England

Glastonbury Festival held each year in Somerset, England. Photo by Jaswooduk

Glastonbury Festival held each year in Somerset, England. Photo by Jaswooduk

For lovers of classic rock, Glastonbury Festival is the concert for you. Beginning in 1970, it is attended by approximately 175,000 people annually. As one of the largest greenfield festivals in the world, Glastonbury is not easily ignored. Some of the biggest acts in the world have performed at Glastonbury, including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2, David Bowie, and a massive list of other huge names. Not only does the festival deliver an amazing line up each year, but most of the staff are volunteers, which allows money from ticket sales to be raised for a good cause.

Sziget Festival, Budapest, Hungary

Rock on dude! Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary is off the hook! Photo by Jonan Basterra

Rock on dude! Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary is off the hook! Photo by Jonan Basterra

Named by The Independent as one of the top five best festivals in Europe, and with the 2011 European Festivals Award, Sziget Festival does not disappoint. In 1993 it began as a low profile student event, but has since grown into a prominent rock festival, with a massive 362,000 people in attendance in 2013. Loads of DJs kick ass music, this great place is hosted in August annually on a 108 hectare island on the Danube. The Sziget Festival boasts more than 1000 performances each year and has an amusement park. If all that isn’t enough, the festival owns a  “party train” that transports attendees from all over Europe to the event in Budapest.

Roskilde Festival, Denmark

Rockin' performances at Roskilde Festival, Denmark. Photo by Rudd Hilgeman

Rockin’ performances at Roskilde Festival, Denmark. Photo by Rudd Hilgeman

Named after its location, Roskilde Festival is one of the largest festivals in Europe, hosting 130,000 people in 2011, as well as more than 180 artists. The four day festival traditionally includes a four day warm-up period, where attendees can make camp and indulge in the Scandinavian culture before the festival begins. The event is run by a non-profit foundation, and in 2014 participants of the festival have the opportunity to decide which organisations should receive profits from the festival. Including crowd-pleasing headliners, local Scandinavian acts, and up-and-coming names, the festival caters to lovers of rock, hip hop, metal, urban, and electronica. With notable acts such as Bob Dylan, U2, Nirvana, and Metallica, Roskilde Festival is a great way to spend a week in the European summer.

T In The Park – Kinross-shire, Scotland

Crowds arriving for legendary performances at T In The Park, Kinross-shire, Scotland. Photo by Mike Gray

Crowds arriving for legendary performances at T In The Park, Kinross-shire, Scotland. Photo by Mike Gray

During July at the unused Balado airfield in Kinross-shire, a crowd of  around 250,000 people can be seen gathered for T In The Park, Scotland’s biggest and most successful outdoor festival. Beginning in 1994, the three day event has seen the likes of Oasis, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, and Daft Punk, to name a few. Like many other music events, traditions have emerged from T In The Park. Most notable is their fancy dress Friday, where the weird and wonderful come out to play. The festival is now four times the size it once was, and is only set to get bigger and better with each year.

Hero Amit Aggarwal

A short guide on what to do when travelling in India

Akshardham Temple in Delhi. Photo by Russ Bowling, flickr

Akshardham Temple in Delhi. Photo by Russ Bowling, flickr

India is the place to experience thousands of years of culture. Everything about India invokes your senses. As you walk out of the airport you discover the fragrance of exotic spices, the sight of busy locals going about their everyday life, the feel of the different fabrics that make a gorgeous sari, shopkeepers shouting in fast quips, engaging intensely with customers over some kind of deal.

Places to go in India

Known as the pillars of belief, the Jaim temples at Ranakpur in Rajasthan. Photo by PNike

Known as the pillars of belief, the Jaim temples at Ranakpur in Rajasthan. Photo by PNike

Mumbai, New Delhi, Jaipur and Uttar Pradesh are the most popular places.

Formally known as Bombay and with an estimated 20 million people, Mumbai is filled with history and culture. Colonial style buildings dating back to the British Raj fused together with ancient Mausoleums fill this incredible city with amazing culture. The streets are packed with people, market places selling everything under the sun. The stench of sweat and humid temperatures only add to the experience.

The city palance of Udaipur where the Maharaja King lives. Photo by PNike

The city palance of Udaipur where the Maharaja King lives. Photo by PNike

Known as the capital and heart of India, New Delhi is filled with the history of its country and exquisite structures such as the Lotus temple, Humayun’s Tomb, Coonaught Place, Akshardham temple and of course India Gate.
In northern India, Jaipur is a must see city. It is the home of the Diwali festival and the Gangaur festival. There is a great deal of India’s proud history to experience here. Uttar Pradesh, which is also in northern India, has great access to the Ganga, but most importantly it holds one of the most iconic images of India, the Taj Mahal.

Where to stay

Akshardham temple at night. Photo by Aditil Rajaram, flickr

Akshardham temple at night. Photo by Aditil Rajaram, flickr

There are hotels everywhere in all the major cities and have great prices attached to them. The average price for one night’s stay in Mumbai can vary. For modest budgets expect to spend $63 to $195 USD staying at The Taj Mahal Palace.

In New Delhi you can get a great hotel room for as low as $40 USD per night at the Hotel Krishna or for around $230 USD per night you can stay at the Fraser Suites.
In Jaipur, accommodation can cost as little as $53 USD per night at the historic looking Umiad Bhawa Heritage Style Hotel or if you have deeper pockets you can stay at the Lebua Lodge for only $228 USD per night.

If you are visiting the Taj Mahal area, Uttar Pradesh, there are plenty of rooms on offer. For $75 USD per night you can stay at the Mosaic Hotel or if you want a good deal try the luxury Oberoi Amarvilas Agra, which offers rooms at $843 USD per night.

Food to try

Street vendor carries a plate of vegetables in Jaipur Rajasthan. Photo by Inzane

Street vendor carries a plate of vegetables in Jaipur Rajasthan. Photo by Inzane

Experiencing the flavours and spices of Indian cooking is a must, so some of the dishes you need to try are:

  • The Punjabi favourite, Sarso Da Saag with Madke Di Roti, a dish made of mustard leaves and ghee which is served with corn bread.
  • Dal-Baati-Churma is a Rajasthani speciality. Made from lentils, which are best known as dal, is accompanied by hard bread.
  • One of the most popular Indian foods which is found everywhere is Tandoori chicken. Roasted in a traditional tandoor and marinated in yoghurt and spices, the combination makes the chicken moist and flavoursome.
  • A great vegetarian dish to try is Bisi Bele Baath. This rice dish is prepared with lentils and a range of vegetables and tamarind pulp, asafoetida, curry leaves and a great many other spices.
  • Another tasty street food to try is Masala Dosa. This very thin pancake which is made up from lentil and rice batter and has a potato filling.
  • Rogan Josh is a Kashmiri cuisine that consists of lamb, spices and yoghurt.
  • The must have dessert to try is Gajar Ka Halwa. Made from carrots, ghee, milk and sugar this delicious dish is served with plenty of dry fruits and almonds.

How to get around

Travelling by bus in India is always exciting. Photo by Audley Blog

Travelling by bus in India is always exciting. Photo by Audley Blog

There are plenty of ways to make your way through India. Buses, taxis and boats are the most common.

If you’re looking for a bit of fun, take a cycle-rickshaws. Cycle-rickshaws are a great way to get around the cities. Prices vary with cycle-rickshaw as it’s up to the driver, so 10Rs for every 10 minutes is a rough estimation. If you want to take an auto-rickshaw ride on your holiday you will be looking at 19Rs for the first 2km and then it will be 6.50Rs per km after that. Always remember to negotiate the price before the trip.

A great way to see the city is by riding in a rickshaw. Photo by Saumalya Ghosh

A great way to see the city is by riding in a rickshaw. Photo by Saumalya Ghosh

Catching a train ride in India is a whole new experience. Travelling on the largest network in the world won’t be an easy ride, but it is guaranteed to be fun and an eye-opening experience. If you are a budget traveller, be prepared to battle and fight for a seat on the train. The train will overload with passengers. If you don’t get a seat, sit in the corridors with the hoards of other passengers.

Some even hang off the side of the carriages or enjoy the view by sitting on top of the carriage. This can be quite exiting to see India this way, just remember to hold on tight. Loads of accidents happen each year so be careful if you plan to ride this way. You are also able book your ticket in advance to avoid a battle at the ticket line!

What to do

India's Taj Mahal is the most sacred Mausoleum. Photo by Superb Wallpapers

India’s Taj Mahal is the most sacred Mausoleum. Photo by Superb Wallpapers

A great way to truly experience India is to get immersed in some historical visits, markets and festivals. If you’re in Mumbai during Diwali get ready to have day worth of fun. This festival of lights illuminates the city with everyone lighting small oil lamps. The light is to represent the triumph of good over evil. Diwali, a time spent with family, visiting Diwali markets, concerts, and a lot of fireworks and plenty of praying.
When in India, you must visit the Taj Mahal found in Uttar Pradesh. This iconic monument which was built in 1631 to 1648 was built for the wife of Shah Jehan. Sitting next to the river bank of the River Yamuna, the Taj Mahal is a great place to discover one of India’s treasures.

Holi, The Festival of Colors, India

Holi, The Festival of Colors, India

Holi is one festival you cannot miss. Roughly five and a half hours from Jaipur, Udaipur is the place to celebrate Holi. Full of singing and dancing throughout the streets, performances at local temples and huge bon fires, you also get to throw coloured powder and water at everyone! Known for people going absolutely crazy, Holi is a festival to have fun and celebrate love.
Full of traffic from rickshaws and motorbikes, street vendors and food stalls, Chandni Chowk is one market you need to go visit and get lost in. Found in Old Delhi, which is only minutes away from New Delhi, Chandni Chowk is filled with crowded lanes and the strong smell of spices. The hustle and bustle of the market will give you an insight into the real India, and its rich cultural heritage.