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Mini Travel Guide: Western India

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides, in which expats and locals are kind enough to tell us about all their favorite stuff. And then we go there immediately.

travel guide western India

Hello, this is Sheena, and that’s also the name of my blog about design in India, travel and food. I was born in Western India, and though I lived in New Zealand while I was growing up, I’ve lived here for the last five years too (it’s the fresh coconuts that keep me here) – in Mumbai where in first met Sarah in real life, in Goa and in my hometown Pune.

Must Go
Still called Bombay by locals and used interchangeably, this bustling metropolis is the country’s financial center and the home of Bollywood, India’s film industry. It’s a fast-paced and densely populated dichotomy, housing some of the world’s most expensive real estate and it’s second largest slum. 
Mumbai isn’t really for sightseeing. If you’ve been to Chor Bazaar, the iconic thieves market or the Gateway of India, you’ve seen enough so reserve your time for exploring and eating well.
Goa
Goa is the antithesis to Mumbai and my favourite place in the world. It’s India’s sunshine state and boasts lush paddy fields, endless palms, and a gorgeous, dramatic coastline. The former Portuguese colony is where the hippies came in droves and later the psychedelic trance movement began and Goa has mostly retained its bohemian charm. 
I love the beautiful sun soaked beaches of Morjim, Ashwem and Mandrem in the north, and the quiet and solitude of South Goa but know that all over Goa, the drinks are cheap, the food is incredible and the locals are hospitable. 

Matheran 
A hill station and strict no-car zone, Matheran is perfect for a short weekend trip. Ascend via foot, on horseback or via the slow chugging toy train and stroll past beautiful crumbling British and Parsi bungalows, shop for chikki and handmade leather shoes (it’s likely needed as you’ll definitely see a few broken sandals on your walks) and make your way to one of several scenic viewpoints for the sunset. It’s quiet and green and the perfect place to unwind.
Kutch
Kutch is off the tourist trail which is odd because the region has quite a lot to offer. From Dholavira, a recently excavated ancient Indus Valley civilisation and one of the country’s most prominent archaeological sites to the Rann of Kutch, a salt desert known for its wild ass and flamingo sightings to villages around Bhuj dedicated to making textiles and handicrafts. 

Must do
South Bombay for architecture
Design and architecture lovers will love South Bombay. It has the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world, second only to Miami. To check them out, walk down seafacing Marine Drive, or watch a film in one of Mumbai’s art deco cinemas such as Liberty or Eros.
There are also many examples of gorgeous colonial architecture in a variety of styles such as Gothic Revival, Victorian and Indo Saracenic. Starting at the sprawling Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, walk the length of DN Road in Fort from the iconic CST station until Flora Fountain and turn left and follow the road to Horniman circle.
If you’re short on time, stroll around Oval Maidan where there are some fine examples of architecture on either side – include the Bombay High Court and Rajabai Clock Tower.
Kala Ghoda 
Kala Ghoda is Mumbai’s art and design district and houses museums and galleries – check out NGMA and Jehangir art gallery, design shops such as Obataimu and Filter and ultra cute cafes such as Kala Ghoda Cafe and The Nutcracker. Nearby Colaba is also host to many contemporary galleries – pick up a Mumbai Art Map for free and check them out!
Sanjay Gandhi National Park 
A massive national park in Borivali that’s actually within Mumbai city limits and is one of the its best kept secrets. It’s lush and green and offers a real respite from the city. It also houses Kanheri Caves, a Buddhist site of rock cut monuments which is especially lovely to visit during the monsoons when it’s dotted with tiny waterfalls that you can splash in . 
Take a vacay in Goa 
Goa is made for tourism. The Saturday night flea market has independent artists and travelling hippies hawking their ultra-cool wares and it’s my favourite shopping destination in the country. The sunshine state also has some of the finest restaurants in the country offering many international cuisines. Eat at La Plage and Sublime in Morjim, Bomras in Candolim and Thalassa in Vagator.

Must eat 
The city’s favourite is the ubiquitous vada pav or the great Indian burger consisting of a fried potato patty in a soft bun but there’s also chaat – an array of dishes with a mixture of textures and flavours – sweet, savoury, spicy and sour. You have to try pani puri, sev puri and dahi papdi chaat. If you’re worried about Delhi Belly (Relax, you’re in Bombay!), try it at Swati Snacks in Tardeo or Elco in Bandra. 
Parsi and Irani cafes
Mumbai has many Parsi and Irani cafes owned and run by communities of settlers originally from Iran and followers of the prophet Zoroaster with bentwood chairs, marble tabletops and unique, delicious grub.
Try patrani macchi or steamed fish in banana leaves, jardaloo sali boti or lamb curry with apricots topped with potato sticks, and berry pulao, the latter available at Britannia, a veritable Mumbai institution run by the cutest 94 year old Anglophile and his family.
Local Goan cuisine
Goa is for meat and seafood lovers. You’ll find the best fare in small shacks on the beach, where you can often see the day’s haul come in. Ask for rava-fried prawns, recheado squid and tangy fish curries. It’s also home to the vindaloo (but better than you know it) and many lesser known but equally delicious dishes such as sorpotel, Goa sausages, xacuti and cafreal. 

Cultural tips
Mumbai is cosmopolitan and safe, especially for solo women travellers though as with anywhere, it pays to be cautious. 
Like many tourist oriented destinations, Goa runs in season, typically beginning after the monsoon in October and running until before the peak of summer in April and this is the best time to come! Goa is mostly liberal (no topless sunbathing though) and you may mostly dress as you wish except when visiting the churches, where arms and legs need to be covered. 
Dress modestly in Kutch.
Learn to bargain. Haggling is a big part of the culture although more and more street vendors now work with fixed price for which there are usually signs. 
We generally tip around 10% in restaurants.

Travel on the cheap
The Indian rail system is very well connected and although it fills up well in advance and can be quite confusing, there are quotas allocated for tourists which can be obtained from tourist offices.
Government buses are another good bet for getting around, they’re affordable and timely, and easier to snag a seat on.
Try to couch surf or stay with friends in Mumbai, as Mumbai offers very little value for money when it comes to accommodation. If your budget can be stretched a wee bit, Abode boutique hotel offers great options with a heady dose of cool design.
In Goa, cheap accommodation is plentiful. Stay in simple huts on just off the beach for under $15 and rent a scooter or motorbike to get around as taxis are expensive.
Thanks so much for sharing, Sheena! Indian readers, I’d love to hear from you – what are your must-gos and must-dos?

Mini Travel Guide: Tanzania

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals share their favorite things with us. And then we all rush out and buy plane tickets.
Tanzania-travel-tips
Hey, my name is Abigail and I currently live in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I teach English Literature at Haven of Peace Academy, a Christian international school. Choosing to move here two years ago was one of the best decision I have ever made, and I won’t ever regret the time I’ve spent in this incredibly gorgeous country.
Must Go
Tanzania is a beautiful country and is well known for the vast plains of the Serengeti, the teeming wildlife of the Ngorongoro Crater, and the towering Kilimanjaro. These are just the tip of the iceberg of Tanzania’s natural treasures. About 14% of the entire land area of Tanzania is protected land, a larger percentage than any other country (TANAPA). What you choose to see is largely dependent on your budget and timetable, but there are a few special treats that every traveler should see.
Mafia Island is a part of the Zanzibar archipelago of islands and is a half hour flight southeast of Dar es Salaam. There are only a handful of resorts on the island, and a large part of the surrounding ocean is protected by the Mafia Island Marine Park, meaning that the breathtaking coral reefs beneath the surface are undamaged from the pervasive dynamite fishing, offering spectacular snorkeling and diving. Mafia Island is also the home for a large aggregation of whale sharks, some of which are believed to spend the entire year in the Mafia channel. Whale shark sightings are almost guaranteed from September through March and is a must-do while you are on the island. There are also a number of other cultural and historical tours on the island, which played a prominent part in the history of Africa’s east coast.
While the Northern Safari Circuit including Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are world-famous and certainly worth visiting, Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest national park and offers a glimpse of an untouched sliver of Africa in all its glory. Most visitors to Ruaha are able to spend entire days viewing elephants, antelopes, buffalos, lions, leopards, and even the rare and endangered wild dogs without ever running into another safari group. The Great Rift Valley intersects the park and the landscape is varied and beautiful with natural springs, wetlands, rolling hills, mountains, and the Great Ruaha River.
Zanzibar is Mafia Island’s larger, more popular cousin, easily accessible via international flights, domestic flights from Dar es Salaam or Arusha, and ferries from Dar es Salaam or Bagamoyo. Like Mafia, there are opportunities for incredible diving and snorkeling, as well as hundreds of pristine beaches. If you ever wanted to visit a tropical paradise, Zanzibar is it, but don’t forget to explore Stonetown. 
The capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only functioning historical town in East Africa. The magical narrow streets and classic Arab architecture are enchanting. Spend some time wandering through the city and admiring the coral stone buildings and intricately carved wooden doors, and be sure to check out the Old Fort, which is home to many cultural events throughout the year, including Sauti za Busara, a music festival of artists from all over Africa that takes place every February. 
Zanzibar’s history is fascinating, with a number of museums and tours exploring its romantic affair as the home and capital of the Sultanate of Oman, Said bin Sultan, a once prosperous slave trade, the spice markets, and its eventual joining with Tanganyika and Pemba to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Sadaani & Pangani
Sadaani National Park is one of the easiest parks to access from Dar es Salaam, as it is only a three hour drive along the newly paved Tanga Road. Yet, it is in many ways a hidden treasure, undervalued by many. Sadaani is where the safari meets the beach, and is one of the few coastal rainforests in Tanzania, and the only national park bordering the Indian Ocean. It is home to four of the “Big Five,” and due to the park’s 1989 ban on walking safaris, features animals that are largely unpoached and unafraid of tourist vehicles. 
You can take a boat safari on the Wami River, or venture into the largely untouched wilderness by 4×4. However, due to Sadaani’s location as a natural wetland, the roads can often become extremely muddy, even impassable. An experienced guide with a 4×4 is recommended, and the park is best visited during the dry season (June-December). There are a number of lodges in and around the park, include a campsite on the beach inside the park itself, however I would recommend the eco-lodge where I stayed in October. 
Located just a half hour from the northern gate of Sadaani National Park, Tembo Kijani is situated on a breathtaking strip of beach. Large salt plains are within walking distance, and the lodge offers a walking safari where you can see age-old process of refining salt from the plains in action, visit a local village, and see a number of birds and the occasional larger wildlife.
Pangani is just a short drive from Sadaani (and on the way, depending on how you go), and is still an unspoiled paradise. It was once a main center of commerce along the Swahili coast, as evidenced by the remaining Arab and colonial-influenced buildings along the river and coastline. Several resorts dot the coast and offer windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, sea turtle viewing, kayaking, and dhow rides. Beautiful coral reefs sit just offshore along with Maziwe Island and Marine Reserve, where Kasa Divers operates a sea turtle conservation/relocation program called Friends of Maziwe on this small unvegetated island, home to three species of marine turtles.

Must Do

Go on safari
This is fairly self-explanatory. You are in Tanzania, the home of the Serengeti and “Big Five.” Go on safari. See unspoiled Africa in all its glory. Stare in breathless awe at lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebra, and antelopes in their natural habitats.

Road trip (or train, if you’re patient)

Tanzania is beautiful, but most visitors see very little of its diversity when they fly from city to city. Not only is road travel often cheaper, it also allows you to see what life in Tanzania looks like outside of Dar es Salaam and the tourist hot spots. The TAZARA train between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya or Mwanza is also a fantastic way to see the country, but be prepared for the train to run late—by a day or more.
Climb a mountain
If you have time and money, climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Summiting the “roof of Africa,” at over 18,000 feet is an incredible experience, but it is quite expensive. Though not known for its mountains, Tanzania boasts a number of other mountain ranges, including the Usambara Mountains, Uluguru Mountains, and Udzungwa Mountains, all offering diverse rainforests, beautiful forests, and gorgeous waterfalls. More serious trekkers may also enjoy Mount Meru, the active volcano Ol Donyo Lengai, and Mount Hanang. Hire a local guide and go exploring off of the beaten path—you will be amazed at the beauty that awaits!
Scuba dive
Getting my Open Water and Advanced diving certifications was my birthday gift to myself my first year here in Tanzania, and again, it was a decision I will never regret. There are coral reefs along the entire Tanzanian coast, the more popular diving destinations being off of Pemba, Zanzibar, and Mafia islands. Pangani and Kilwa also have several dive companies offering access to lesser known reefs. Even if you never leave Dar es Salaam, the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are welcoming and a ten minute dhow ride to either Bongoyo or Mbudya Island makes the closest reefs accessible to snorkelers. Finally, Lake Tanganyika’s crystal blue waters allow for freshwater diving and the chance to see a number of endemic cichlid species.
Must Eat
Pilau
This is essentially rice and meat (usually goat) cooked with ginger and other spices. It is not like any other rice you’ve ever tasted—and so much better!

Tea Masala (chai)



Tanzanians love their ginger. Traditional Tanzanian tea, usually known as “chai,” but also occasionally listed as Tea Masala in restaurant menus, is a black tea with ginger, cinnamon, and liberal doses of sugar and milk. It is often served for breakfast with chipati, which is a bit like a thick flour tortilla.
Mishkaki
Mishkaki are essentially kebabs, but somehow better. You can get them as chicken, fish, beef, or goat. The beef or goat mishkaki are my favorites, and typically come deliciously marinated. They are available everywhere—restaurants, bars, and along the side of the road.
Chips Mayai
Another traditional meal, chips mayai, literally translated is french fries and eggs, and that’s exactly what this is. Several eggs are cooked over a pile of french fries, then served with kachumbari, chopped tomatoes and onions with vinegar.
Fresh fruit
It would be ridiculous to visit a tropical country like Tanzania and not enjoy the fresh fruit. Mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, avocadoes, and bananas are sold beside the road and oh, so delicious!
Cultural Tips
Dress Modestly
Especially in rural areas and the islands in the Zanzibar archipelego. Women, keep your shorts or skirts at knee length, as the thigh is traditionally considered a very sexual part of the body for many Tanzanians, and there is a significant Muslim influence throughout the country.
Greet People & Be Friendly
Tanzanians are generally extremely friendly and willing to help. It is, however, considered rude to jump directly into a request for help or topic of conversation. Greetings are very important culturally, so most conversations begin with a friendly “Mambo” (What’s up?) to be followed by “poa” (Cool) or “Habari?” (How’s life?) with the reply “nzuri” (Good).
Don’t Make Eye Contact With Beggars / Sellers
This is mostly applicable to Dar es Salaam and reveals the darker side of the city, but you will often see people selling a variety of goods along the streets (anything from flowers and fishtanks to dishrags and live rabbits), or beggars asking for money. Though it might at first seem rude, it is best to not make eye contact. Many of the beggars (especially children), are not there of their own volition and are only pawns for others using the “income” for drugs or alcohol.
Travel on the Cheap
Though there are plenty of luxury resorts, private safari tours, and chartered flights to be had in Tanzania, it is easy to travel inexpensively, so long as you travel like a Tanzanian. In the city, take public transportation (the dala-dala / bus system) instead of taxis, and for cross-country travel, take the larger buses. The driving is often sketchy, but it is by far the cheapest way to travel if you don’t mind sitting for ten or more hours at a time. 

Eat local foods, such as rice and beans, pilau, mishkaki, samosas, etc. available along the streets and in small restaurants (often called “mamalishas,” literally meaning “mama feeds”), and stay in the number of backpacking hostels and local bed and breakfasts scattered across the country.



When doing so, do be aware that food poisoning can be a risk (only eat food that you have seen being cooked thoroughly), and you should carry mosquito repellent (in case mosquito nets are not provided) and toilet paper (not all of the bus stops are well-equipped). But be prepared to see and experience Tanzanian culture and hospitality at its best!

Are any of you guys from Tanzania? Have you spent time there? I’d love to hear your travel tips!
photos by Abigail // Andiwa Dixon

Mini Travel Guide: Namibia

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides, brought to us by ex-pats and locals who are kind enough to to take us under their proverbial wings and tell us about alllll the best stuff.


Hi! I’m Ellie. My dad is an anthropologist whose life work has been studying and living among the Himba in Namibia. My family has lived in Namibia on and off since I was a young child and I recently returned from a two month trip there this summer.

Namibia is a former German colony that only gained its independence from South Africa during apartheid in 1990. My sister was actually the first American born in Namibia after it became its own country! Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia and offers a really varied landscape with everything from grassy savannahs to desert mountain ranges to gorgeous beaches. Although urban life has expanded a lot in Namibia during the past twenty years, a small part of the population is still indigenously living.

Must Go

This national park is a game reserve for Namibian wildlife and houses a wide variety of African of animals that roam freely within the almost 2,000 square miles of the park. Visitors are allowed to drive wherever they wish and take pictures but are not allowed to get out of their cars except at designated settlements. Giraffes, zebra, elephants, springbok, and kudu are among the commonly spotted wildlife. If you have luck on your side during your visit, you might see lions and rhinos, or even an extremely rare leopard or cheetah.
The third largest city in Namibia, and the most charming in my opinion, is the beachside town of Swakopmund. It is filled with gorgeous old buildings and houses and has some of the most beautifully curated curio shops Namibia has to offer. Nearby is a camel riding farm owned by a lovely German lady and in the next town over (Walvis Bay) you can book a kayaking trip in a secluded lagoon that is home to thousands of seals and flamingos. An antique shop owner in South Africa told me she had visited Swakopmund in the 1950s and the streets of the town used to be lined with rose quartz.
This stunning waterfall is located on the northern border between Namibia and Angola. There is a resort hotel here, but anyone who wants to is welcome to go swimming in the pools at the top of the falls. Swim with caution because even if you survive a trip down the waterfalls, there are plenty of crocodiles lying in wait at the bottom. The drive up to Epupa Falls is through Kaokoland where the Himba, Hawkavona, and some Herero live so you’ll get a chance to see a few of their villages and homesteads.
It’s been in various states of disrepair in the times I’ve visited, but this is a giant, castle-like house that is literally in the middle of nowhere but definitely worth a visit. It was originally built by a German soldier for the wealthy American heiress he married, but he was tragically killed during WWI and his wife never had the desire to return to Namibia without him. The castle was abandoned for many years and the horses from their stable were set free and now make up the wild horse population of Namibia.

Must Do

Climb the sand dunes at Sossusvlei
These are some of the tallest sand dunes in the world and definitely worth the exhausting climb to the top. You can see for miles in every direction and even do some sand boarding if you’re feeling adventurous.
Visit the mining ghost town of Kolmanskop
There was a huge diamond mining boom in Namibia during the early 20th century and the remaining buildings in this ghost town are partially filled with sand that makes them both haunting and fascinating.
Wood carvers market in Okahandja
This is a huge open air market filled with African/Namibian curios of every kind. The wood carvers there are famous for their beautiful work and it’s definitely a fun experience to barter with the vendors as they hawk their wares.
Peter’s Antiques
This shop is located in Swakopmund and is as good as any natural history museum in Namibia. It is filled with fascinating treasures that include voodoo dolls (they have a witch doctor come in regularly to perform a protection spell for the shop against any bad voodoo in their collection), a wide variety of masks, ancient weapons and tools, and hundreds of other items of interest.

Must Eat:

Namibians love meat so their cuisine includes a lot of the animals that are native to the country. If you are a fellow meat lover, you can have the opportunity to try ostrich, kudu, springbok, gemsbok, zebra, and maybe crocodile tail (if you’re really brave!). If you are a vegetarian (like me) there are plenty of options at almost every restaurant.

Cultural Tips
Most Namibians speak English and are very friendly and helpful, but learning a few greetings in Afrikaans and/or some of the native dialects will endear you to locals.
Many of the vendors at street markets will charge a lot more for goods than they would cost at a curio shop, so be careful when bartering and keep your options open.

Namibia is a safe country on the whole, but do take extra care with your personal belongings and don’t leave luggage in a car unattended.

Travel on the Cheap

Renting a vehicle is a necessity for travel in Namibia because distances between cities and settlements is great. You can rent a bakkie (small truck with a covered truck bed) or a kombi (small van) and take advantage of the camping that is available at many Namibian accommodations. There are places to purchase inexpensive blankets and pillows and most of the street vendors are happy to trade their goods for bedding, so it’s easy to get rid of at the end of your trip. If you don’t mind sleeping in your car, this can be an easy and less expensive way to see Namibia.

Thanks so much for sharing, Ellie! Are there any Namibian readers out there? Any travel tips to share?

P.S. 9 free (or cheap) ways to have more fun while you travel + 18 super helpful travel tips

photos by: j27 // Christiaan Triebert // David Siu // DIVA007 // Damien du Toit // cc

Mini Travel Guide: Italy

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals share their favorite things with us. And then we all rush out and buy plane tickets.

Italy travel tips

Hi there! I’m Gigi from The Ramble—a blog about travel and inspiration. This year I interviewed 100 Italian locals for a guidebook called Italy: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, and How to Fit In. The idea is that the best travel tips always come from the locals…so I asked 100 of them to tell us about their cities and regions.
With those 100 interviews, as well as my own extensive travels through Italy (I just got back from my 5th trip, to the foodie-heaven of Emilia Romagna), I learn more about and fall more in love with Italy all the time.
Must Go
Locals call these colorful cliffside towns “the land between sea and sky,” which is both poetic and true. The towns are vibrant, colorful, and gorgeous—and are surrounded in endless sea and sky. When you visit, make sure to walk the path between the five towns and, if you want an unusual view, rent a kayak in Monterosso and kayak away from the beach and toward the cliffs. 
Surrounded by hills in Umbria (Tuscany’s lesser-known, less-expensive, and just-as-pretty neighbor), Assisi is a great place for a hilly hike, a visit to the famous church of St. Francis, and a stroll through one of Italy’s most charming city centers. 
Both these places (and Italy in general) get crowded in summer, so go at the beginning or end of the tourist season if you can (when everything is open, but you won’t get trampled by other visitors).
Must Do
Shop at a local market
Food is very, very important to Italians. So, shopping at one of the local, fresh markets is a great way to mingle with the locals, dig into the day-to-day culture, practice your Italian, and enjoy the fresh goods that each farmer or seller takes such pride in. 
If possible, do a little research before you go to know both what’s in season and what the region is known for (for example, Vignola is known for its sweet black cherries and the Amalfi Coast is all about lemons). 
Attend the opera…in an ancient, still-functioning coliseum
In Verona—the town where Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet—you’ll find one of the largest functioning coliseums. Here, you can see the Italian opera in all its glory, all while taking in the vastness and history of the coliseum. 
Take a food tour or cooking class
Italy is all about food. To really get under the skin of the culture, you can’t do better than a small, local food tour or a cooking class led by an Italian momma. 
Must Eat
Italian food is extremely regional (and often seasonal), so the best thing to do is ask for the regional or city specialties that are currently in season. 
As a start, here are three top picks:
Pizza in Naples (anytime)
Even 10 kilometers outside Naples, pizza is different, so if you want to try the real deal, try it in the city center. One of the most popular restaurants for locals? Da Michele
Artichokes in Rome (spring)
There are two famous styles of artichokes in Rome: the Jewish-style carciofi alla giudia (whole artichokes flattened and fried), which are (not surprisingly) at their best in the Jewish ghetto, and the Roman-style carciofi romaneschi (soft and stuffed with breadcrumbs, mint, and garlic). Both are Roman classics and worth a try.
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in Emilia Romagna (anytime)
This world-famous cheese is at its best in its original home of Parma and the surrounding area. For a real foodie experience, try the parmiggiano at various ages (a cheese aged 30 months tastes different than the average two-year-old cheese). 
Cultural Tips
Never order a cappuccino after lunch or with a pizza
Italians believe that a milky beverage interferes with digestion and should only be consumed early in the day. So if you’re craving coffee after you’re meal, do as the Italians do and throw back an espresso.
Dress nicely
Italians take pride in their appearance, so you’ll notice that the locals tend to wear dresses, skirts, nice pants, and/or fashionable outfits. If you want to fit in, think fashionable and business casual.
Travel on the Cheap
Travel in the off-season
You’ll find deals on apartments, lower prices for attractions, and sales in the shops—and you’ll beat the crowds and the often-oppressive summer heat.
Go somewhere you’ve never heard of
Everyone hits Rome, Florence, Venice, and Tuscany. And while all those places are wonderful, so are the foodie paradise of Emilia Romagna, the hill country of Umbria, and the cheerful, friendly south. Because these places aren’t as well known, they’re also often cheaper. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Gigi! Do any Italian readers have any good tips to share? 

P.S. Want to quit your job and travel for months at a time? I wrote a (cheap) book that’ll help you do that!

Mini Travel Guide: Vanuatu

This is one of Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals share their favorite things with us.
travel guide Vanuatu

Hi! I’m Gaea. I spent three years in the Peace Corps on the stunning islands of Vanuatu. I lived on two of the islands and visited as many of the other 80 as I could. I documented my adventures here.  

To really experience the diversity of life on these tiny islands you need to taste fresh baked laplap, hike a volcano, watch coconut-hatted dancers and drink a few shells of kava. Though each piece of this country has a unique culture and language, the things they share are broad smiles and bright laughter.

Must Go
The Outer Islands
Port Vila, the capital city and main international airport, was born from the blending of hundreds of culturally distinct groups who live on the outer islands. Head out of town and stay at a bungalow on the outer islands. Spend your evenings drinking kava with the papas or storian (chatting) with the mamas. You’ll be treated like family and bungalows are great launching points for hikes, swimming or cultural experiences like gardening and dancing.
Tanna Island and Mt. Yasur Volcano
Mt. Yasur on Tanna Island is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Listen to the rumbling of the volcano as you hike three hours to the rim where the eruptions happen in front of your toes. Stay until Friday to visit the Jon Frum cargo cult, a religion that bridges the divide between Christianity and traditional beliefs.
Pentecost Island and Land diving
The land divers of Pentecost bless each yam harvest by leaping from a tower of lashed together branches with vines tied to their ankles. After two Kiwi travelers watched them dive, they created the watered-down version we know as bungee jumping. This ceremony only happens between April and June when the vines are the right, so time your trip appropriately. While you are there, enjoy the Jurassic Park feeling of Pentecost Island by hiking through the jungle to crystalline waterfalls. 
Must Do
Dive 
The coral reefs surrounding the islands of Vanuatu are home to world-class diving and snorkeling. If you’re a first time diver, get your feet wet with a single dive. For experienced divers, head to one of the many wrecks or look for sea turtles and dugongs among the coral bommies. 
Cultural festivals
Almost every island has a cultural festival to celebrate and share their dances, arts, language and history. Spend a weekend sleeping in a bungalow, eating food fresh from the garden and learning about the complex culture of one corner of the country. 
Drink Kava
Whether you head to a kava bar in town or drink in a traditional nakamal on the island, the kava experience is not to be missed. Kava is made from the root of the kava plant and tastes much like the ground it’s grown in. Knock back your half a coconut shell quickly and then enjoy the view or the conversation.
Must Eat
Laplap
The national dish of Vanuatu is rarely a favorite with visitors, but it is worth tasting once. This starchy meal is made by baking mashed bananas, manioc or taro in a ground oven. For fancy meals, the laplap is covered in coconut milk or meat. The more palatable option is laplap simboro, a version made by rolling the starch into “burritos” of island cabbage and boiling them in coconut milk.

Pineapples

Pineapples in Vanuatu are what the Greek gods dreamed of when they asked for nectar. Visit the Mama’s market in downtown Port Vila in January for the best selection.
Cultural Tips
Smile. Everyone smiles and laughs at everything. Join in the merriment and be part of the fun.
The standard of dress in Vanuatu stopped with the missionaries. Men and women wear clothes that cover their knees and women are expected to wear skirts outside of town. Though men can go shirtless in informal environments, women should avoid wearing strappy tank tops or shirts that show their bellies.
Saying no to someone is rude. Instead, people will tell you what you want to hear, even if it lacks accuracy. 
Travel on the cheap
There are two ways to get places in Vanuatu: quickly or cheaply.
In town, the buses (16 passenger vans) have no set routes and will drop you where you are going in the order they picked you up. The taxis will take you directly there, but over charge you for the pleasure.
When traveling to other islands, planes are usually reliable but very expensive. Ships are cheap but may take a few days to reach your destination. If you have the time, bring a jar of peanut butter and some bread and make the ship ride part of the experience.

Most importantly, be flexible in your travel plans. Set up your return to be back in Port Vila a few days ahead of your international flight and then go with the flow. Whatever happens, there will be an adventure to go with it.

Thanks so much for sharing, Gaea! I’m sure lots of Kiwi and Aussie readers have been to Vanuatu – do you guys have any tips to share? 


photos by brian dearth // sarah cooks // gaea

Mini Travel Guide: French-speaking Canada

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides, in which locals and expats share their favorite things with us so we can travel to their country and have as much fun as humanly possible.
Hi! I’m Kayla. I have lived in various places in eastern Canada, and have French Canadian extended family, but I fell in love with la belle province of Québec during my years as a graduate student in Montréal. I’m excited to share some tips on traveling in this region (with a slight bias towards the city of Montréal). It offers truly one of the most unique and enjoyable cultural experiences in North America!
Must Go
Montréal’s “Plateau-Mont Royal” neighbourhood
I’ve seen it cited as one of the hippest neighbourhoods in North America, and I’m not surprised! It’s an exceptionally vibrant area of the dynamic and diverse city of Montréal. Le Plateau features hip bars/restaurants/shops, a rich arts and music scene, a particular architecture involving charming wrought-iron staircases and old-stone masonry, and les ruelles verts (alleyways-turned-urban green space).
Old Québec, Québec City
If you can ignore the tourist traps in this area, Québec City hosts a beautiful, historic riverside “Old Town”, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Learn about the history of French culture in Canada and appreciate the rich cultural and language heritage that Québec has been able to preserve. To make the most of the beautiful waterfront location of the Old Town, top it off with a stroll along the mighty St. Lawrence River.
Coastal Québec and New Brunswick
I highly recommend spending some time outside of the urban areas, and coastal Québec and the neighbouring French-speaking area of the province of New Brunsiwck is a spectacular place to do that. Whale-watching off the small Québec town of Tadoussac, exploring the rugged coast of the Gaspésie, and indulging in fresh seafood in the charming coastal communities along New Brunswick’s north shore will satisfy your nature-loving side.
Must Do
Café culture
Unlike some other parts of North America, eating and drinking is truly appreciated as a social activity here, and exploring independent cafés is a great way to enjoy the unique joie de vivre.
Farmer’s markets
A culture of buying and eating locally produced/grown/caught food is alive and well. I strongly recommend checking out the Jean-Talon Market in Montréal’s Little Italy during peak summer – it’s North America’s largest outdoor market! 
Festivals
There are nearly continuous festivals year-round, from Québec City’s famous Winter Carnival, to Acadian Festivals in New Brunsiwck, to Pop Montréal (indie music heaven) and Montréal’s Jazz Festival (the largest in the world). There is always a spectacle to see and something to celebrate.
Must Eat
Montréal Bagels
In my humble opinion, Montréal bagels rival – or surpass – the bagels of New York City. Buy hand-rolled bagels fresh out of the wood-fired ovens at either of the two most famous bagel shops (St. Viateur or Fairmount) located in Mile End, an historically working-class Jewish neighbourhood turned hipster mecca.
Poutine
Fries + gravy-like sauce + cheese curds. Need I say more? This bowl of gooey goodness is popular across Canada, but was invented (and perfected) here. Many restaurants and poutine shops offer unique twists on the classic, too. For example, foie gras poutine is a thing. Seriously.
Maple Everything
Maple products are reasonably priced because the region is such a large producer of the sweet stuff. Pick up maple syrup (or maple sugar…or maple butter… or…) at a farmer’s market to get the best price. If you visit during early spring, usually around March, you can visit a cabane à sucre (“sugar shack”) to see how the syrup is made. A popular maple treat is the tire d’érable or maple taffy, which is maple syrup poured on snow to harden it and then rolled up on a stick to be eaten like a lollipop.
Cultural Tips
Many urban québécois, most New Brunswickers, and virtually anyone working in tourism/hospitality are bilingual in English and French (and quite possibly other languages!). However, it is a francophone region, so you may occasionally have a “lost in translation” moment. But hey – take the opportunity to practice or learn the beautiful language! It will be appreciated. While brushing up on my own French, I was told that it’s not the quality that matters: “C’est juste l’effort!”
Travel on the Cheap
Have a picnic in a park
Eating (and drinking) outside is very popular during the hot summer months. Save some money on restaurant meals by hitting up a grocery store and heading to a nearby green space.

Lodging
Like anywhere else, hostels are a cheap way to stay, but I really recommend renting a room or apartment through Air BnB to feel a bit more like a local rather than a tourist!
Use public transit or walk
In the urban areas, walking will allow you to experience more sights and sounds, plus there are lots of buses and Montréal has a fantastic metro (a.k.a. subway) system. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Kayla!  I’m sure heaps of you readers are from this area of Canada – what else do we need to know about?

Mini Travel Guide: Romania

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which locals and expats share insight and tips about their favorite places. And then we immediately add yet another country to our ‘must go’ list. 
travel guide romania
Hi, I’m Mickey, a Romanian expat, born and bred in Bucharest, who landed in the U.S. by way of a dimpled musician. I geek out about language learning at Panglossity. I would love to give you a few tips about visiting Romania.
Must go
Bucharest, once dubbed Little Paris, is a city with a lot to offer to the history buff traveler. Don’t miss the the Old City Center, an entirely pedestrian area full of architectural gems. Enjoy a frappe in a 1890s cafe, dine alfresco on a cobblestone street and shop in hip stores along Lipscani street. You can also visit the Bucharest Village Museum if you want to see how Romanian peasants live. With its oldest construction dating back to 1722, this museum-park combo boasts around 120 dwellings from all the regions of Romania. So here’s your chance to peek inside cozy little houses transplanted from remote villages straight into the heart of the city. The ticket is valid for an entire day, so you can take your time exploring old mills, crooked inns and charming homesteads.
Peles Castle, only a two-hour train ride from Bucharest, was built in the 1870s by Romania’s German King Carol I of Hohenzollern, to serve as a summer residence and venue for political and cultural functions. The castle is representative of the German Neo-Renaissance style, but the art connoisseur can easily discover elements of the Italian Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque and French Rococo styles, because of the mix of craftsmen that worked on the construction. Give yourself at least 3 hours to visit and be wary of the weekend crowd. Tour guides are available in several foreign languages.
Sighisoara is a popular tourist destination because it hosts the oldest inhabited medieval fortified town, which likely dates back to the 12th century. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you plan to visit in July, you can hang out with knights and court jesters during the Medival Festival. But keep in mind that you haven’t experienced a jam packed festival until you’ve experienced one in a brick wall citadel.
Must do
Buy handcrafted souvenirs
Romania has been experiencing a handmade boom in the past 5 years. Take advantage of the talent of young artisans and buy your souvenirs from them. The selection is abundant, their ideas are creative and most of their crafts are eco-friendly.
Make sure you sample the local wines
Romania is known as a producer of good and affordable wine. If you’re not that much of a wine lover, the local beer is good too. However, I would recommend trying the wine first. Start with Feteasca Regala, Grasa de Cotnari and Busuioaca. Before you drink, say “Noroc” which translates as “Good luck”.
Must eat
A lot of Romanian dishes are made with ground beef. Vegan choices are still fairly uncommon even though vegetarian dishes are an option in most restaurants. Almost all menus are also written in English, so you can make an informed choice. However, make sure you ask about allergens, as Romanians are not that used to food sensitivities
Sarmale is a Romanian traditional dish made with seasoned minced meat wrapped in sauerkraut or vine leaves. It is traditionally served with polenta (mamaliga), sour cream (smantana) and chilli pepper (ardei iute). The vegetarian version replaces the meat with mushrooms and rice.
Profiterol is a French-borrowed choix pastry filled with vanilla ice cream. You can get it as a dessert at a restaurant or, more commonly, from a Cofetarie (a confectionery store).
Eggplant salad (salata de vinete) is a vegan spread made out of smoky grilled and chopped eggplants with white onion and a dash of herbs and olive oil.
Cultural tips
Romania is a cash-based economy. It might have been a while since you last had to pay cash for everything, but be prepared to do so during your trip to Romania. Some restaurants and clubs will be able to accommodate your card swiping tendencies, but having enough cash with you every day is your best bet. Even though it’s been a member of the European Union since 2007, Romania has not yet made the transition to the Euro currency. The Romanian currency is Leu. Change your money through official exchange offices or banks.
Obey traffic laws
In cities especially, people tend to disregard traffic laws and indicators. If you see someone jaywalking, never follow their lead. Romanian drivers are not known for their courtesy and patience.
Travel on the cheap
Make use of the public transportation system
In addition to being walkable, large cities have a reliable and affordable public transportation system, which includes buses, trams and trolleys. Don’t spend your money on cabs as they can sometimes be a rip off for foreigners. The Bucharest subway has electronic display informing you of all the other means of transportation that it connects to at every stop. Most subway trains also display this information in English. Newer buses also have panels with this sort of information.
The rail network is cheap and fairly reliable, as long as you choose to travel by Inter City trains.

Thanks for sharing, Mickey! Have any of you guys been to Romania? Any tips to share?

Mini Travel Guide: Luxembourg

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals give us insights into the best stuff. (And then we try not to immediately book tickets). This guest post comes to us via Steffi.

travel guide luxembourg

Nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the North”, Luxembourg is the only Grand-Duchy in the world, which gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1839. It is a multicultural little gem in the heart of Europe, home to some 530.000 people from 171 nationalities. 


I cannot believe that it has taken me seven years of living abroad, first in the UK and then in Germany, to truly realise the beauty of my wonderful and unique home country. If you arrive by plan and then catch the bus into town, you will know what I mean – the view of the valley and the rock on which Luxembourg sits is truly breath-taking. 
Must go
As lovely and charming Luxembourg City is, you need to venture beyond the borders of the Capital City. Catch a train to Clervaux in the North of the country where you can discover the Family of Man Photography Exhibition, which is housed in a medieval castle. 
You can also get on a bus to Remich, in the South-East, where you can start the afternoon with a wine tasting session, followed by a boat trip on the Moselle, the river which divides Luxembourg from Germany. 
For the hikers among you – do not miss out on the Mullerthal, which is also known as Little Switzerland. 
Must do
An absolute must do is a visit to the Casemates in the City Centre, which are fortified gun emplacements built nestle into Luxembourg’s city rock, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is definitely a photography opportunity not to be missed. 
Must eat
Gromperekichelcher
These are potato fritters, served on food stalls during open-air public festivities such as the Christmas market, the Octave (the yearly pilgrimage to the Cathedral) and Schueberfouer (the annual fun fair). They are the perfect side dish for the Bouneschlupp, a traditional Luxembourgish bean-in-beef-broth. 

For the more culinary adventurous among you, I would highly suggest you try some game meat (venison or boar) or horse meat, another Luxembourgish speciality. 

Wäinzossis
This is a sausage served in a mustard sauce, accompanied with mashed potatoes and some vegetables. 
Luxembourg is also very proud of its wine making region; so do it like the locals, order a glass of crémant (the name for the sparkling wine which is not from the Champagne region) as an aperitif and round off your main course with a glass of Rivaner or Elbling (the table wines) or Auxerrois or Pinot Gris (the more upmarket white wine). 
Cultural tips
Luxembourg is a Catholic family-oriented country and as a result Sundays are considered as “holy”, which means that shops are usually closed (with a few exceptions). So go with the flow and enjoy a lazy Sunday, rather than getting annoyed that you cannot go shopping. 
Apart from that, learn how to say “moien” (hello in Luxembourgish), Luxembourgers are very proud of their identity and their own language, and you will see that this little word will go a long way, and way further than “Bonjour” (the French word for hello). 
Travel on the cheap
Let’s be honest, Luxembourg is not a cheap place to visit, so be prepared. 
Youth hostels are good-value for money and there are several in different places around the country. 
In terms of food, I highly recommend having your main meal at lunch time (that is what the Luxembourgers do); a lot of restaurants, cafés and bars cater for this and offer a “Plat du Jour” (Dish of the Day) for less than 10 Euros. A traditional Luxembourgish dinner is a few slices of bread with cheese and ham, which you can easily pick up in the supermarkets. 
Believe it or not, there are things which are free in Luxembourg: in the summer the City of Luxembourg organises free open air cinema screenings and concerts, like the “Blues and Jazz Rallye” in July. 
There are also a few parks around Luxembourg City, so grab a local beer from the supermarket, and soak up the sun. 
In regards to transport – avoid taxis at all costs, they are unbelievably expensive. Public transport in contrast is very cheap, a day ticket, which provides you with unlimited travel on all buses and trains for the whole country, only costs 4 Euros. 
Enjoy your time in Luxembourg, and if you need a tour guide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!

Thanks so much for sharing, Steffi! Have any of you guys been to Luxembourg? Any tips to share?


P.S. How to plan a month’s-long, quit-your-job kind of trip + the art of travel zen

photos by 55laney69 // david jones // alis whim // filtran // wolfgang staudt // cc

Mini Travel Guide: Tonga

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals are kind enough to share their insights and suggestions with us. And then we try not to immediately book flights.
travel tips Tonga

Malo e lelei! (Hello!) I’m Mandy and I blog over at Beneath a Balcony of Stars. I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in The Kingdom of Tonga. 
Located in the South Pacific Ocean, Tonga is a nation made up of over 176 islands and is the last Polynesian monarchy. It’s a short two-hour flight from Fiji and New Zealand and it’s been my home for the last two years. Secluded and truly untouched, the waters that surround Tonga are so clear that you can see 100 feet down! Whether it’s spending time on/in the water or playing on land, I have loved living here. I’ve also had the opportunity to really get to know the culture and the wonderful people who inhabit this little corner of the world.
Must Go
Vava’u
Tonga is made up of three island groups. Vava’u is the northern most island group and is known for it’s natural beauty and mountains (large hills, in my opinion). Spend time sailing through blue lagoons, swimming in candle-lit fresh water caves, exploring hidden coves and enjoying the trade winds as they lead you around these truly magnificent islands. Most of the islands are uninhabited or are dotted with small villages filled with some of the most wonderful and generous people you will ever come across.
Ha’apai
Ha’apai is definitely off the beaten path. The middle of the three island groups is known for its amazing scuba diving locations. In January 2014, Ha’apai was hit by a cyclone and has been rebuilding ever since. It’s still a great place to visit. Sea kayaking, snorkeling and horseback riding are just a few of the things you can do while visiting these 62 scattered islands.
‘Eua
‘Eua is an island off the coast of the largest island, Tongatapu. Covered in lush rainforest, ‘Eua is the perfect place for the true wanderlust. To get there you take the world’s shortest commercial flight (7 minutes) from the main island. Rocky cliff faces, caves, and sinkholes will greet you upon arrival. ‘Eua is also Tonga’s oldest island. Tongan legend says that ‘Eua is where the Polynesian god Maui stood when he fished up the rest of Tonga’s islands from the deep Pacific waters.
Must Do
Swim with the Whales
Tonga is one of two places in the world where you can swim in the wild with whales. From July to October humpback whales come to Tonga to mate. They are friendly, beautiful and humongous creatures! It’s an experience that cannot be described in words and an absolute must!
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
There are over 100 different species of tropical fish around Tonga and heaps of coral gardens for exploring. The turquoise water is not only crystal clear, but boasts some of the most interesting wildlife. Manta rays, spinner dolphins, sea turtles and sharks are just some of creatures you might come across while swimming in the Tonga waters.
Traditional Tongan Feast and Dance Show
If you want a fun night many of the islands invite visitors to traditional Tongan feasts, which may include a dance show afterwards. Usually these events include delicious traditional Tongan food, a pig roast, stories about Tonga’s history and fire dancing.
Must Eat
‘Ota ‘Ika
This dish is made up of raw fish, vegetables (usually green peppers and onions) and coconut milk. It’s best served fresh.
Lu
Lu is made in an underground oven (called an ‘umu) and consists of your meat of choice (beef, lamb, chicken, shell fish), coconut milk, onions and taro leaves. It’s traditionally eaten with root crops (yams, sweet potatoes, etc.) and is best served hot.
Coconuts
The islands of Tonga are covered in coconut trees and the people here know what to do with them! There is cold coconut water that can be bought at the food markets and cold-pressed coconut oil that can be used for cooking (and other health and body needs). 
Cultural Tips
Modest dress is important when following Tongan cultural customs. Men sometimes where wrap skirts (called tupenus) to special events and it’s inappropriate for women to expose their shoulders or knees in public. It’s best to save that for one of the resorts or out on the water!
Tonga didn’t just get the nickname “The Friendly Islands” for any reason. The people you meet here are some of the most genuine and lovely people you will ever come across. Their generosity is something I will never forget about my time in Tonga.
Travel on the Cheap
Take the ferry. There is an inter-island ferry that runs once a week between the three island groups. It’s quite the adventure!
Hitch Hiking is commonplace here. If you need to get someplace just put your thumb in the air! 
If you’re interested in a quiet, untouched getaway complete with adventures and amazing people, Tonga is the place to be!

Have any of you Aussie and Kiwi readers been to Tonga? Any other tips to share? 

Mini Travel Guide: Zambia

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals share their favorite things and make us want to put a $2,000 flight on our credit card.
travel guide for Zambia

Hi! My name is Twaambo, I’m a Zambian girl who dearly loves her home country. I was born in the capital Lusaka, and lived there until I finished high school and have globetrotted since then. Landing at the airport is like putting on an old comfortable house shoe. We just fit!
Must go
South Luangwa National Park
This is a world renowned wildlife haven that caters to all kinds of travellers. Depending on which lodge you stay at,the adventurous type can sleep outdoors in tents (or in the tree house tents , the monkeys give a great “Good morning”!) or you can stay in safari luxury at one of the award winning lodges. There are several National Parks e.g Kafue National Park which also give you a great wildlife experience, bush walks, evening drives
Victoria falls (Mosi oa Tunya) 
One of the seven wonders of the world, this is one of the things that Zambia is best known for. The lovely spray of water (depending on when you visit) leaves you refreshed and surprised, and swimming in the ‘Devils pool’ (amongst other thrilling things you can do at the falls) is for the daredevils!

Lake Tanganyika
The world’s longest freshwater lake! It boasts amazing waters, magnificent sunrises/sunsets, great birdwatching and fishing.
Mutinondo Wilderness 
If you’re looking for a peaceful, tranquil stay in the African bush, this is a gem. Read a book, seated in a three walled chalet (yes, it stays like that all night, and, no, nothing will come and get you!) You can also try activities like hiking, biking, horse riding, and swimming in the clear rivers. 
Must do
Bungee jump 
Of course you have to bungee jump of the knife edge bridge at the Victoria falls! It’s a 111m drop and a breathtaking view! Adrenaline anyone?
Tazara train to Dar es Salaam
Take the train from Kapiri Mposhi all the way to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania). Enjoy uninterrupted views of Zambia, bring a book, an ipod and patience, as the train does not always run on time! Watch the kids wave at you from your window and be surprised by the elephant or giraffe as you chug through some national parks as you go through Tanzania.
Livingstone Royal Express
If a train ride with fine dining is your thing, the Royal Livingstone Express may just be it. The journey runs parallel to the Zambezi River. Guests have the opportunity to catch glimpses of elephants, birds, other wildlife (even the white rhino!) As it gets darker, guests are invited to a lavish dinner in the lush dining cars. 
Must eat
Nshima
This is the local staple food (like polenta!) that you can eat with various vegetables, meat or fish. Eat it with pumpkin leaves (pumpkin leaves and groundnuts, yum!) and a side of fried bream (fish). Also you must eat with your hands!

Caterpillars (mopane worms)
Why not try something out of the box? Caterpillars are tasty and a good source of protein! They are sold dry and you can eat them as is, or fried crisp, or with onion and tomato.They pack a whopping 31 mg of iron per 100 grams. 
Chikanda
This is a vegetarian meatloaf made of boiled orchid tubers and peanuts that’s affectionately called the African/Zambian polony. You can also find this for sale in the markets, just a little chilli and you have a delicious snack to go.
Cultural Tips
Zambians are very nice people that are pretty open about talking to people, but don’t like confrontation. Striking a conversation is easily done but if someone gets annoying simply state your place and walk away. As in every country you visit, one must be careful with personal belongings, especially around markets and crowded areas.
Travelling on the cheap
Numerous long distance bus routes are available to get from the Lusaka to most parts of the country (especially tourist spots). Your lodging should be able to give you insight on the best way to get to them. Feel free to ask the locals for recommendations. Buses and taxis are widely available, just double check with a local of the actual price as on some rides you may pay ‘tourist tax.’ Public buses do not run much later than 11 pm, and then taxis are your best and safest option.
Thanks so much for sharing, Twaambo! Have any of you guys been to Zambia? Any tips to share?

P.S. I rounded up all of my favorite travel resources here