The Flag Lowering Ceremony at Wagah Border

The Flag Lowering Ceremony at Wagah Border

It goes without saying that one of the best parts of travel is the unusual traditions and ceremonies you encounter on your path. This post from Prasad, on his blog desitraveller, highlights one of those such ceremonies.

A show of pomp and bravado

“Somewhere between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan is Wagah Border between the two neighbouring countries.

Every day thousands of visitors watch the joint flag lowering ceremony on the Wagah Border. While the stadium on the Indian side is filled to capacity, very few people come to the Pakistani side.

Pakistani Rangers at Joint Check Post Wagah Border

Each side tries to outdo each other in a march, showcasing who can snap heels harder on the ground, while visitors shout patriotic slogans to cheer up the soldiers and photographers try to catch the fast-moving action.

If you are in Amritsar India or Lahore Pakistan I suggest you make this trip to Wagah to watch a flag lowering ceremony that has no parallel anywhere.”

I highly recommend this post, it goes above and beyond just telling you how to get there and why you should go. It explores the history of the ceremony and even John Lennon’s involvement. It will be one of the top blog posts you read today.

BSF and Pakistani soldiers at the flag lowering ceremony

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The best Flamenco in Granada?

The best Flamenco in Granada?

Whether your kind of thing or not, a Flamenco show in Spain is one of those must do experiences when visiting the country. The best shows are to be found in the south of Spain, a place where the Flamenco tradition is deeply rooted.

The Wanderlost Campaigner in Granada

This post comes from Kelly, on her blog The Wanderlost Campaigner, about her experience of Flamenco in Granada and has a great recommendation of where to go. It not only talks about the show, but has some great information about the traditions of Flamenco as well as one of the best paragraphs about it you’ll read in a long time (look for the one about 7 paragraphs in that starts “When the show begins, I suppress the urge . . .”



Here’s what Kelly has to say about the post:

“The Casa Del Arte Flamenco is in central Granada, you can easily walk there if you are centrally based, and it also means you won’t have to navigate the steep and uneven paths up into the cave venues.

It’s true that the famous cave venues are a spectacle in themselves, they nearly all offer incredible views of the Alhambra, but some friendly locals had told us they were just for tourists, we took the advice. We were not sorry.

So if you are thinking about what to do in Spain or want to learn a bit more about a Spanish tradition that doesn’t involve the death of an animal, be sure to read about Kelly’s flamenco experience in Granada.

seeing a flamenco show in Granada

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The Mystery of the Whispering Gallery of Gol Gumbaz

The Mystery of the Whispering Gallery of Gol Gumbaz

Have you come across the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, India on your travels? I hadn’t, but if you are close to the region, it seems like a fun place to visit and I highly recommend checking out this post from Sandy, on his blog Voyager.

Visiting the Gol Gumbaz

As always with Sandy’s posts, it’s written so well and tells the story of his visit with plenty of helpful tips. It is also complemented with some wonderful pictures and video the captures the haunting sounds.

“Did you know that Gol Gumbaz, a mausoleum in Bijapur, India is the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican? Also, any sounds made inside the “Whispering Gallery” echoes back 7 -10 times! Another remarkable feature of the dome is that it stands proudly without the support of pillars!”

Discover more about The Mystery of the Gol Gubaz on Sandy’s blog.

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15 Unmissable Foodie Experiences in South America

15 Unmissable Foodie Experiences in South America

South America is a colourful, joyful and diverse continent. From the dizzy heights of La Paz, to the crystal clear Caribbean Sea in Colombia; whatever floats your boat, South America has oodles of it.

Our Taste of Travel talk food in South America

This post comes from Shannon on her blog that she runs with partner Adam, Our Taste of Travel. Their goal is to tell their stories through the food they eat and people they meet – sounds perfect to me!

“Those in search of foodie experiences, South America is a must-visit. We were expecting to blown away by the steaks and wine of Argentina, and fresh Peruvian ceviche. And, we were. But truth be told, there is way more to South America than this.

Each country is brimming with unique foodie experiences, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve put together the ultimate collection of fun foodie adventures to help you get started.”

Foodies, rejoice. This one is for you!

Making and drinking hot chocolate in Peru
Photo: Our Taste of Travel

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25 Must See Places in Delhi With Family

25 Must See Places in Delhi With Family

Delhi can easily be considered an overwhelming place for travellers. So much to see and do, so busy, so many people! Luckily this post from Sandy, on his blog Voyager, breaks it down for you.

What to do when visiting Delhi

“A city that has been continuously inhabited from the 6th century, a vibrant and pulsating culture, a place where history rubs shoulders with science and technology. A city that is the power center of India.

A city that carries within it the ethos of 7 cities spanning the passage of time, a city that is indeed the heart and soul of India. That for you is Delhi. Delhi is a veritable treasure trove of sights and experiences and is indeed a feast for the five senses. Here is a list of 25 must-see places in Delhi with Family.”

Visiting the Lotus Building in Delhi

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Your guide to visiting Cartagena, Colombia

Your guide to visiting Cartagena, Colombia

As Colombia continues it’s travel renaissance, Cartagena de Indias is quickly emerging as one of the worlds hot destinations. This guide to the city has been written by Sasha who, with his wife Rachel, runs the travel blog Grateful Gypsies.

Starting off with a little bit of history, the post continues with the best places to visit in Cartagena as well as advice about where to stay, what to eat, nightlife and so much more. Enjoy!

A city of contrasts

Cartagena de Indias is a city of contrasts. On one side of the city you’ve got the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of cobblestone streets with stunning colonial architecture on every corner. On the other, high-rise condos towering above the beach with shopping malls and chain restaurants galore. In the intense mid-day heat, the city is quite tranquil. Once the sun goes down, however, raucous party buses and bumping salsa bars take over. With a fascinating history, beautiful surroundings, and vibrant nightlife, this city on the Caribbean coast is a great place to start when backpacking Colombia.

A Bit of History

Visiting the old town of Cartagena
The beautiful Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Founded back in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, this city was named after Cartagena, Spain, which was also named after another city – Carthage, Tunisia. Thanks to its strategic location, Cartagena became a major trading port that helped to expand the Spanish empire. Silver from Peru was exported, while African slaves were imported. This made it an easy target for pirates, which led to the building of a defensive wall and several fortifications along the coast. For further protection, the Castillo de San Felipe was built in 1657. You won’t find pirates in Cartagena these days, but you can still walk on the old city walls and visit the fortress.

A statue of Simon Bolivar
A statue of Simon Bolivar – a common sight in South America.

Fast forward to November 11, 1811, and Cartagena became only the second city in South America to claim its independence from Spain. It took a few more years, but independence became official with the help of “The Liberator” Simon Bolivar when he incorporated Colombia into the confederation of Gran Colombia. In Bolivar Park, you’ll find a statue of him on horseback with one of his famous quotes – “Cartagenians: If Caracas gave me life, Cartagena gave me glory.”

Free Walking Tours

Free walking tours of Cartagena
Explore the town with a local guide to learn more.

The best way to learn about the city’s history is by joining one of the daily free walking tours. They’re led by friendly, knowledgable local guides every day of the week at 10 AM and again at 4 PM. Even though the tours are free, it’s advised to reserve a spot ahead of time as they cap the group size. Tours last a few hours and provide a fantastic introduction to the city. If you enjoy the tour, be sure to leave a decent tip for your hardworking guide.

Exploring the Old Town

Once you’ve learned all about Cartagena on the tour, exploring the Old Town on your own will be even more rewarding. For example, you’ll know what the several different designs on the door knockers mean. These beautiful door knockers (known as aldabas) signify what the family living there was known for. A mermaid or seahorse signifies a merchant, a lion is for military members, and a lizard is a sign of royalty.

Colourful doors can be found all over the city
Royalty must have lived here!

There’s plenty more to see and do in the Old Town, including several museums, churches, and art galleries. In between, you can just walk around and admire the beautiful homes covered in bougainvillaea – a tropical, shrub-like vine covered in colorful flowers. Make sure you have your batteries charged up, because these make for some great photos.

The Old Town is very much the center of tourism in Cartagena, and this is where you’ll find the bulk of accommodation, shopping, dining, and nightlife. Places here tend to be a bit on the pricier side, though. Backpackers may want to consider basing themselves in another funky neighborhood not far outside the city walls.

Getsemani

Discover amazing street art in the area of Getsemani
Cool street art is around every corner in Getsemani.

This traditional Colombian ‘hood is quickly emerging as a backpacker hotspot in Cartagena. Full of hostels, street art, and super friendly locals, it’s a very welcoming place to call home for your visit. The main square here is buzzing at night with locals and tourists alike. Here you can grab some cheap street food and hit a Happy Hour while you watch break dancers bust a move. If you’re looking to class it up a bit, there are several great restaurants to choose from here as well.

Bocagrande

The Beach at Bacagrande
Beach lovers will want to stay here in Bocagrande.

Those looking for more sun and sand on their Cartagena trip may want to consider staying in the Bocagrande area. You don’t have to stay in one of the fancy hotels to base yourself near the beach, as you can find furnished apartments on Airbnb for a fraction of the price. The beaches here aren’t the best, but it’s hard to beat sipping on cold beers, munching on seafood, and listening to the sounds of the ocean and wandering musicians.

Out of Town

If you’re looking for those white sand beaches with crystal clear water, you’ll have to head out of town a bit. Every travel agent in the city has day trips to Playa Blanca, or you can just catch a boat from the port in the morning. Another popular option for a day tour is the Volcan del Totumo, where you can jump in the mud bath that’s said to rejuvenate your skin.

Visit the Casa En El Agua in Cartagena
The amazing Casa en el Agua.

Those with a few days to spare may want to consider booking a stay at the Casa en el Agua. This eco-hostel out in the middle of the ocean is the perfect place to chill out after a busy couple of days exploring the city. Spend your days sunbathing, snorkeling, and visiting nearby beaches, and then enjoy dinner and drinks with the other lucky travelers who managed to snag a coveted spot at this little slice of paradise.

Food and Drink in Cartagena

As it’s on the coast, it should come as no surprise that seafood is big in Cartagena. Those on a budget will want to stick to local joints called corrientes, which feature set menus that typically run about $3-4 and include fish, coconut rice, fried plantains, and salad.

Eating in Cartagena
Mmmm… ceviche!

With so many good restaurants here, you’ve got to splurge on at least one meal. Fans of American chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain may want to check out La Cevecheria, where the host dined on an episode of his former show “No Reservations.” It ain’t cheap, but it’s well worth it.

Down in Bocagrande, there’s a fantastic local joint called Guatila. It’s very unassuming and easy to miss from the outside, but don’t let the simple appearance fool you. This is real deal Colombian home cooking. Sit down to a perfect plate of seafood coconut rice or a bowl of the mouth-watering mote de queso – a rich cheese soup typical on the coast.

Nightlife

If you’re looking to let loose at night, Cartagena is a damn good place to be. Once the sun goes down, you’ll start to hear the roar of the Chiva buses. These colorful open-air buses whisk tourists around town with music blasting and cocktails flowing. They’re a great way to meet people and get a little tour of the city at night while you get your buzz on.

Salsa parties in Cartagena
People are dancing everywhere in Cartagena.

Cartagena is all about the salsa, and there’s no shortage of places to go tear up the dance floor. One of the most popular spots to dance the night away is Cafe Havana, which is packed to the brim on weekends. If you’ve got two left feet, never fear – there are plenty of places where you can take lessons before trying out your moves in public.

Where to go in the evening
One of the coolest bars in town.

The city is also home to a wide variety of bars and clubs. One of the most interesting places to grab a drink has to be the KGB Bar. Located opposite one of the city’s many churches, this theme bar is full of Soviet Union-era decorations and propaganda. The back room even looks like you’re in a submarine! It’s a great spot to have a few drinks and snap some cool photos before heading out to dance.

Practicalities

While a trip to South America can seem like such a difficult task to pull off, visiting Cartagena is actually quite easy. There are direct flights here from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Atlanta, and New York in the US, as well as some seasonal flights from a few Canadian cities.

For continuing your South America journey, there are super cheap flights from here to other cities in Colombia such as Bogota and Medellin. As far as visas go, citizens from 95 different countries are allowed 90 days visa-free in Colombia on arrival.

The view from Cartagena city walls
The fort as viewed from the city wall.

With its historical walled city, beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, and legendary nightlife, Cartagena makes an excellent choice for a vacation. It’s also a great way to get your feet wet when traveling in South America, as it’s got a very developed tourism industry and is quite safe. A few days of exploring the Old Town, lounging on the beach, and wining, dining, and dancing the night away here is the perfect warm-up for all the epic adventures this continent has to offer.

About the author

Bio: Sasha is an English teacher, videographer, and blogger from the suburbs of Detroit. He has taught English in China and studied Indonesian in Bali and is currently doing the digital nomad thing as he travels around South America. He and his wife Rachel run Grateful Gypsies, where they write about living abroad, teaching ESL, live music and more.

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Staying in The Maldives – How much?

Staying in The Maldives – How much?

If you are one of the lucky that have visited this iconic slice of paradise, then you will already know a lot of this. However, for the rest of us who often slip away in a daydream, planning a trip to those white sandy beaches, stunning clear ocean, hoping one day we will get there, you will find this useful.

Travel Lushes in The Maldives

This post is from Ashley’s travel blog, Travel Lushes. It is a great guide for travelling to The Maldives on a budget. It breaks down what you can expect to pay for accommodation and transportation to your slice of paradise with links to further reading about Ashley’s visit to The Maldives and the different places she stayed.

Right . . . back to day-dreaming!

Visiting The Maldives on a budget

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A chance encounter in the Armenian Wilderness

A chance encounter in the Armenian Wilderness

Sometimes when you are travelling amazing things happen. People often ask travellers where their favourite place was, most amazing animal, but very really do they ask who was the most amazing person you met. To me, that is travelling.

Meeting the locals in the Armenian Wilderness

A forest encounter in the Armenian wilderness

This post comes from Anna, on her blog, The Wildest Tales. It tells of her chance encounter while hiking through a forest that led to a visiting a small village in the Armenian wilderness and the kindness she was welcomed with.

“An incredible story from a tiny village lost in the Armenian forest. It was the most fantastic thing that happened to me during my travels, or even perhaps in my whole life – I mean it. Tandzatap,  with its amazing people, it’s where the magic happens. Yearning for an authentic travel experience? Don’t waste your time, visit Armenia off-the-beaten-track with me and my wildest tales!”

It’s stories such as these that get my wanderlust burning, a chance encounter that can lead to great memories. Check out Anna’s post from Armenia here.

Sharing lunch with the locals in the Armenian Forest

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Know before you go, visiting the Colosseum in Rome

Know before you go, visiting the Colosseum in Rome

The Colosseum. So iconic it gets to use the prefix the, not a or one of many, but the! The fact it still stands (well, most of it does) is a testament to the Roman Empire and has made it famous worldwide.

Did you know this about the Colosseum?

This post is from Abby, on her blog TheWingedFork. It was when she was visiting the Colosseum and she overheard another tourist asking her daughter that question, ‘What’s a gladiator?’, the inspiration for this post struck.

Gladiator in the Colosseum

Abby says: “It was somewhat mindboggling that someone visiting this magnificent marvel didn’t know it’s history, or didn’t bother reading the boards on display there.  So I decided to create a list of things people should already know about the Colosseum before visiting to get the most out of their time there. The list includes the gory, the good, the majesty and the history.

“Yes, it is beautiful, awe-inspiring and magnificent, but it is also sombre and macabre. The Colosseum must be respected for what it is, a reminder of what a few blood-thirsty men can do to entire civilizations.”

This isn’t your standard listicle, the way Abby writes sucks you in. There aren’t many list posts that also tell a story, this is one of the few and highly recommended if you are planning a visit to Rome and the Colosseum or even just want to learn a little more about the iconic Roman building.

So read Abby’s post here, 7 things to know before visiting the Colosseum.

What to know before visiting The Colosseum in Rome

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19 travel tips you need to know and how I learnt them

19 travel tips you need to know and how I learnt them

In hindsight, maybe travelling through Africa as a first-ever solo travel trip may have been a bit ambitious, but as they say, if you’re gonna go, go big! Do they say that? Maybe I say that. Anyway.

When I returned from that trip, as part of a charity fundraiser, I released my travel diary I kept while on the go and turned it into an advice book on Amazon.  How To Clean Your Underwear in Africa, tells the tale of my first taste of solo travel. I flew into Nairobi, Kenya, and out of Johannesburg, South Africa, travelling overland all the way.

Available on Amazon

 

On this journey, I learnt a lot. A lot about travelling, a lot about people, a lot about myself and each chapter in the book is finished off with a summary of little nuggets of wisdom learnt the hard way, through experience.

With so much travel advice, especially for solo travellers in there, I thought it would be unfair to keep it cooped up on Amazon, hence this post, a summary of the summaries. There are some great tips for first-time travellers and even some nuggets for seasoned pros. As it turns out, most of them are just common sense, but then again, that has never been my strong point.

19 nuggets of travel advice for first time travellers

19 top tips and nuggets of advice for solo travellers

1) Do not drink too much the day before you fly.

Yep, learnt this one the hard way! Flying with a hangover is not fun. By all means, have a going away celebration with your homies, but be sure to leave a good 48 hours before your flights!

Do not drink and fly

2) Get your jabs sorted in plenty of time.

When I saw the wooden shack at the side of the Kenyan Tanzania border selling Yellow Fever jabs, I felt so relieved that I actually did some research. Vaccinations are a great idea, unless you want Japanese Encephalitis to turn your brain to jelly, and some countries (such as Tanzania) require certain certificates before allowing you to enter. Remember some jabs, like rabies, require multiple injections, so be sure to book an appointment with a doctor early to discuss what you need and how long it will take to save rolling the dice with a wooden roadside jab shack.

3) Never leave your wallet behind at an airport scanner when you have lost your voice. In fact, don’t leave it behind at all.

Umm, so I did this in Dubai airport (read point one again). I put them through a scanner and walked off without them. I am a genuinely bad traveller, speak to anyone in my family, they are amazed when I even make it to the local shops in one piece. Anyway, I was in Dubai airport, three hours until my flight, no wallet, passport or phone, oh, and I had lost my voice (again pint one). Keep an eye out for that blog post coming one day, or the book on Kindle is just 99p 😉



4) Visas can be bought on arrival but sometimes they can’t and it may be cheaper not to, especially in the case of multiple entry visas.

Visas can quickly become the most expensive part of a long trip, be sure to do your research, not just for cost, but also scams, such as this visa scam at the Thailand – Cambodia Poipet border. Also, think about if you will be entering a country more than once. I saved a lot of money by buying a multiple entry visa for Thailand in advance, it’s worth the time researching.

5) Ensure you get a price from the taxi driver before you get into the car and barter barter barter, you can get the price down as there are lots of taxis wanting your business.

Standard advice when travelling, be sure to agree a price first or expect to be screwed.

6) Not everyone who approaches you in the street is a crook, guides are a great way to see the local area and learn as you go, I guess you just have to use your intuition to choose the right one.

I met Charles on the street in Nairobi when looking for a map. I didn’t trust him at first, but luckily, someone in a small tourism hut confirmed he was who he said he was and could help me. It was such a stroke of luck as Charles was a true gentleman and ended up being an amazing guide. We did a walking tour of the city together (based on my taxi ride from the airport, I wasn’t getting in a car again!) and helped with many other things including buying train tickets for onward travel.

Walking tour of Nairobi
Meeting Charles was the best thing that could have happened to me in Nairobi

7) Buy your tickets for onward travel as early as possible.

More for peace of mind, but if I know how I am leaving a place, where the train or bus station is, how to get there, that kind of thing, I will relax and enjoy a place much more.

8) Tuk-tuks are awesome.

Self explanatory

9)You will spend more money than you think!

I guess this should be ‘I spent more money than I thought I would’. But be careful, keep a close eye on your finances. Although everything seems cheap, expenditure quickly accumulates. A meal here, souvenir there, excursion. If you’re not careful your budget will be blown quicker than a stag party in Amsterdam.

10) Culture shock is a bitch, which is what I am putting the fear I felt for the first few days down to.

I had heard of culture shock but to be honest, I didn’t think much of it and thought I’d be fine. Man was I wrong. I grew up in a small country town in the UK, to suddenly find myself in downtown Nairobi was something I was not prepared for. I went for a walk and was back in the hotel about 20 minutes later. It was the most alone I felt all trip. But don’t worry, it gets better.

Train from Nairobi to Mombasa

11) Take a universal plug if you want to keep your pants kind of clean.

A clue to the book title there.

12) If you feel exposed and that you stand out, do not sit under a television in the local bar/restaurant.

If I went back to Mombasa now I think I would love it, however, I arrived at a bit of a low point. I was not really in a touristic area and I stood out like a plum in a pineapple shop. When I found a cafe selling sausage rolls, I was so happy. I got my snack, sat down, and never felt so uncomfortable as everyone was staring at me. At least that’s what it felt like, it was actually the TV just above my head that had their attention, but I still felt incredibly awkward.

Travel advice for newbie travellers
Sat with my sausage roll. If you look carefully you can see the reflection of the TV in the tablet screen!

13) If you have to exchange money at a border make sure you negotiate and don’t change too much.

You can always find people willing to exchange currency with you at the border. Remember, this could be a scam, do you really know what the currency you’re buying should look like? Even if it is legit currency, you will be getting a pretty crappy rate, so negotiate and just try your best not to need these guys.

14) Learn a few words of the local language so you can initiate some interactions.

Even if it’s just hello, please, thank you and my favourite, where’s the toilet. There’s nothing like butchering a person’s language to bring a smile to their face.

15) Remember to work out how much you need to spend on visas throughout your trip and keep the money in dollars as it is the only payment many borders will accept.

Just take a bit of research, a separate wallet and good self-control not to spend all your visa money on a hike to see wild monkeys (yep, point 9).



16) You have to make your own choice about giving to kids that beg at the windows of public transport.  

I wasn’t aware of this and quite shocked when I first saw it. It is a difficult decision. Do you give them stuff and encourage the behaviour or do you give them nothing, hoping if everyone does the same, then this will stop, which is highly unlikely.

Kids begging at train windows in Africa
Kids run to the windows whenever the train stops

17) Stay in hostels if you are travelling alone and want to meet people.

I wish I did this from the beginning. The first few nights I spent in hotels and it did not help with my culture shock. Meeting people is one of the biggest fears for the first time solo traveller but meeting people on your travels is easy, and you will meet some amazing people.

One of the guys I met gave me this advice. “If you are alone in a hostel, turn off your phone, grab a beer, find the largest group and just ask if they mind if you join them. This way there will be no pressure on you to talk, you can just listen, learn names, see what they are like, join in if you want but above all as it was the largest group the next day most people around the hostel will know your face and say hello to you.”

Great advice and it works.

18) Do the Devil’s Pool trip at Victoria Falls but make sure you book it before you go to Victoria Falls park.

Jumping in the Devil’s Pool was a bucket list moment and one of the highlights of my trip!

Victoria Falls in Zambia
Do it!

19) Have an amazing time, meet some amazing people, learn stuff, buy stuff, travel safe, be smart, trust, be trustworthy, live your life.

Having fun in Livingstone, Zambia

Do you have any travel tips to add?

So there you go. There are a lot more lessons in the book which is being well received. You can currently get a free digital copy by signing up to The Travel Blogs info bursts, a monthly round-up of some of my favourite posts that were pinned that month from all over the world and more.

Did I miss anything? What is your best piece of travel advice? Feel free to leave it in the comments for anyone looking for a bit of confidence.

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