Search Results for: label/mini travel guide

Mini Travel Guide: Western India

Western India on your travel bucket list? Enjoy this mini travel guide to Western India and dip your toes in Indian travel! 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.

mini 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 in Western India

Must Go in Western India


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 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.


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 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 in Western India


Must do in Western India

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 in Western India


Must eat in Western India

Street food in Mumbai

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 for traveling in Western India


Cultural tips for traveling in Western India

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.
cheap travel in Western India


Travel on the cheap in Western India

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 for in Western Indian travels?

Mini Travel Guide: Tanzania

Tanzania is a paradise of snorkeling, mountains, the big game “5, “and beaches—It’s got pretty much everything a traveler could want! Enjoy this mini travel guide to 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.
mini travel guide to Tanzania
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 in Tanzania

Must Go in Tanzania

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

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.

Ruaha National Park

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.

Stone Town, Zanzibar

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 in Tanzania

Must Do in Tanzania

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 in Tanzania

Must Eat in Tanzania


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 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 for traveling in Tanzania

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.
Cheap travel in Tanzania

Travel on the Cheap in Tanzania

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 Tanzania travel tips!

photos by Abigail // Andiwa Dixon

Mini Travel Guide: Namibia

Namibia means sand dune surfing, great wildlife watching, and exotic dishes featured in this mini travel guide to 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.
Mini travel guide to Namibia
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 do in Namibia

Must Go in Namibia

Etosha National Park

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.

Epupa Falls

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.

Duwisib Castle

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 see in Namibia

Must Do in Namibia

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 in Namibia

Must Eat in Namibia

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 for travel in Namibia

Cultural Tips for travel in Namibia

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.
cheap travel in Namibia

Travel on the Cheap in Namibia

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 Namibian 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: Damien du Toit // Christiaan Triebert // David Siu // DIVA007 // Damien du Toit // cc

Mini Travel Guide: Italy

Italy is an absolute must visit. Here’s what not to miss in this mini travel guide to 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 in Italy

Must Go in Italy

The Cinque Terre

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 in Italy

Must Do in Italy

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 in Italy

Must Eat in Italy

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 for travel in Italy

Cultural Tips in Italy

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.
Cheap travel in Italy

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!
photos Yoosun Won // david barrie // andrea castelli // mario mancuso // trish hartmann // Piervincenzo Madeo

Mini Travel Guide: Vanuatu

Never heard of Vanuatu? In this mini travel guide to Vanuatu you can learn more about this great travel destination. 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 do in Vanuatu

Must Go in Vanuatu

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 in Vanuatu

Must Do in Vanuatu


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 in Vanuatu

Must Eat in Vanuatu


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 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 for traveling in Vanuatu

Cultural Tips for traveling in Vanuatu

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.
cheap travel in Vanuatu

Travel on the cheap in Vanuatu

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? 

Mini Travel Guide: Romania

Romania travels on your mind? Dip your toes with this mini travel guide to 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 in Romania

Must go in Romania


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.


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  in Romania

Must do in Romania

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  in Romania

Must eat in Romania

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


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.


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).

Salata de vinete

This eggplant salad 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 for traveling  in Romania

Cultural tips for travel  in Romania

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.
cheap travel in Romania

Travel on the cheap  in Romania

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?