Travels with Talek https://travelswithtalek.com It's all about the experience Mon, 20 Jan 2020 19:29:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 115219145 WHAT TO SEE IN YEREVAN, (ARMENIA): THE PERFECT YEREVAN CITY TOUR https://travelswithtalek.com/what-to-see-in-yerevan-armenia-the-perfect-yerevan-city-tour/ https://travelswithtalek.com/what-to-see-in-yerevan-armenia-the-perfect-yerevan-city-tour/#respond Mon, 20 Jan 2020 13:00:15 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=21184 What to see in Yerevan? I found virtually limitless opportunities to stroll the city’s picturesque streets, sample the food and wine, learn about the ancient culture and much more. The charming capital city of Yerevan is Armenia’s largest city and [...]

The post WHAT TO SEE IN YEREVAN, (ARMENIA): THE PERFECT YEREVAN CITY TOUR appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
What to see in Yerevan? I found virtually limitless opportunities to stroll the city’s picturesque streets, sample the food and wine, learn about the ancient culture and much more.

The charming capital city of Yerevan is Armenia’s largest city and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. There is archaeological evidence of people inhibiting the Yerevan since the 4th millennium BCE.  That alone was enough to pique my interest. That and the fact that Armenia is not on the major tourist routes. I love off-the-beaten-track destinations dripping with history, and Yerevan is a perfect example.  There are plenty of things to do in Yerevan to include in your Yerevan itinerary and create your own perfect Yerevan city tour.  

Republic Square in Yerevan

So where is Yerevan? As capital of Armenia, Yerevan is in the Caucasus region which lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Other Caucasus countries include Azerbaijan, Georgia, parts of Russia and parts of Turkey.

Transportation in Yerevan is efficient making it easy to get around. The Yerevan metro system is fast, clean and cheap, only 100 dram, about .25 US cents. Most of the 10 stations are marked bilingually. Between walking and the metro, you can easily get to all the things to see in Yerevan.

English and other western languages are spoken in the tourism industry and ATMs are readily available in Yerevan but less so in other parts of the country. Many street signs in the central streets of Yerevan are written in English.

It is a compact city easy to navigate with a map. The city is beautifully laid out in ever-widening concentric circles with Republic Square roughly at its center.

What to See in Yerevan

Most visitors to the city start their Yerevan city tour at Republic Square, a broad plaza surrounded by some of the country’s most important buildings including the Government House, History Museum, National Gallery and various ministries. In the center of the square is a large fountain.

Republic Square in Yerevan

One striking feature of Republic Square is the tufa stones used to construct the buildings. This native Armenian stone comes in shades of pink, cream and grey. In the evenings when the fading sunlight hits just so, the square takes on a soft magical golden glow.

The avenue leading directly north from Republic Square is Northern Avenue, with high-end stores and restaurants on either side. The street is great for window shopping. Although mostly a commercial avenue, there are also luxury condominiums on the avenue where the wealthiest local are said to reside. Underground, running the length of the avenue is an underground shopping center offering everything from food to furniture.

The Opera in Yerevan

At the other end of Northern Avenue is the Opera, a massive, round structure that presents all types of the performing arts; opera, symphony, drama, music.

*****

Matenadaran

Further north is the Matenadaran, a great source of pride for Armenians. The Matenadaran is a repository of manuscripts and a research organization. It houses the world’s largest collection of Armenian documents; over 23 thousand manuscripts and gospels some dating as far back as the 9th century.

Matenadaran in Yerevan

According to Rouben Poul Adalian, Director of the Armenian National Institute in Washington D.C., “The Matenadaran is the repository of Armenian civilization.”

You can take a tour of the Matenadaran but don’t imagine you will only see old books written in Armenian. A tour guide will present the history of Armenia through the manuscripts many of which are gloriously illustrated. The tour only takes about a half-hour. It is a great example of what to see in Yerevan that will help you understand the Armenian culture and history better.

*****

Cascade and Sculpture Park

Yerevan’s Cascade and Sculpture Park are really two destinations in one.

The Cascade is a giant limestone structure of stairs rising to a platform top.  From there you can enjoy unobstructed views of the city as well as the legendary Mount Ararat. It’s quite a climb but fortunately, there are several escalators behind the stairs to whisk you to the top.  The cascade is decorated with beautiful sculptures interspersed throughout.

Sculpture garden at the Cascade in Yerevan

At the bottom of the Cascade is the Sculpture Garden populated with artwork from the likes of Botero and others. It is a large, open-air area great to walk around and take photos.

On either side of the Sculpture Garden are traditional Armenian restaurants and cafes.  This is a major entertainment destination for tourists and locals alike.  On designated days there are also concerts in the garden.

*****

The Vernissage Bazaar

This wonderful bazaar adjacent to Republic Square is a massive gathering of local arts and crafts. The space takes up about two city blocks. The weekends are the best because that’s when the city’s carpet vendors lay their goods on display.  This is an organized chaos of colors, aromas, and sights. An excellent place to buy local clothing, art, souvenirs and more! And don’t forget to bargain!

This is a fun place to spend a morning or afternoon wandering among the vendors, exploring the local crafts and drinking coffee.

*****

Armenian Genocide Museum

If you’re debating what to see in Yerevan, make sure you don’t miss this moving exhibit.

The Armenian Genocide is one of history’s most brutal holocausts. It describes and immortalizes the expulsion and mass extermination of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman government during the years 1914 to 23.  Most of these ethnic Armenians were at the time citizens of the Ottoman Republic.

The Armenians were arrested, deported and most were eventually massacred. This ethnic cleansing took place in two stages; first, the able-bodied men were deported so the rest of the population wouldn’t have protection.  Then the women, children and elderly were led on death marches and also murdered.

Armenian Genocide Museum

The majority of the Armenian communities found today in places like the United States, France, and other countries as far as Latin America, are the direct result of this diaspora resulting from the genocide.

As can be imagined, this is a moving exhibit.  The displays pull no punches and many of the photos and translated documents are hard to take.  You will need a couple of hours to view the entire exhibit and you will probably want to take a guided tour.

*****

Mother Armenia

Mother Armenia is a statue in Yerevan of a woman holding a sword that represents Armenia. The symbolism is that, although Armenia is benevolent, she will defend herself against all enemies.

Completed in 1962, the stature replaced a statue of Joseph Stalin.  While the statue of Stalin was being taken down, one soldier was killed, and others were wounded. The local observation was that, even long after death, Stalin was still killing Armenians.

The statue is 51 meters high with the pedestal and it sits in Victory Park with a spectacular view of the city of Yerevan.   There is a little museum at the base. The overall impression of the park and statue is that they are definitely worth a visit.   Mother Armenia in Yerevan

Gum Food Market

One can’t-miss activity in Yerevan is the Gum Food Market. This lively, multi-level market takes up about a city block and sells just about anything you can imagine; all types of food, clothing on the upper level and live animals on the periphery of the market.

If you linger at one counter more than a few seconds the vendor will approach you and offer samples of everything from cheese to dried fruit.  This is an excellent place to stock up on souvenirs and sample the local snacks.

Dry fruits in Yerevan market

The market is in the center city so it won’t be out of your way and visiting it can easily be combined with other destinations.

*****

The Ararat Brandy Museum

The Ararat Brandy Museum is the unique place representing the history of Armenian brandy. Offering tours in 5 languages, it covers all the milestones of the Ararat history. You have to book a tour in advance.

Wander the Wine Bars of Saryan Street

Saryan Street is a long, trendy street with cute, inviting wine bars and restaurants on either side. It seems a mix of New York City’s Greenwich Village and London’s SOHO with a dash of Eastern Europe thrown in for authenticity.

The restaurants spill out onto the street in little, cozy cafes.  The area is busy throughout the night as the restaurants are open late.  Some of the wine bars double as art galleries or book stores making the area a place to linger and savor the Yerevan night scene.

By far the best things to see in Yerevan are the streets.  Getting lost in winding streets, broad avenues, squares and leafy parks of the city is the best way to get to know this fascinating capital.

Get Out of Town – Day Trips from Yerevan

The culturally important sites of Zvartnots Cathedral, Saint Gayane Church and Echmiadzin Cathedral are all close together and just a short distance from Yerevan. As a result, they can all be seen on a one-day trip from Yerevan.

Zvartnots Cathedral

Although in ruins now, Zvartnots Cathedral is a unique example of Armenian architecture from the early Christian period.

Ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral in Yerevan

Church of Saint Gayane

This 7th-century church is very near Echmiadzin, the spiritual center of Armenia and within walking distance of the cathedral. The church has remained virtually unchanged since it was built in 630 CE and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The dates in Armenia just amaze me. I find it fascinating to imagine people walking around in the 7th century on the same streets that we walk today.  And the structures they created!…so graceful and symmetrical. It is a pleasure to see these. The church of Saint Gayane is one of those memorable buildings.

Gayane was the name of the abbess who was martyred with thirty-eight other nuns in the early 2nd century CE. She was tortured and martyred at the site of the church. Later she was canonized Saint Gayane.

As impressive as the outside of the church is, it is the inside that truly grabs your attention. It is full of colorful murals detailing the story of the saint. Of particular interest in the mural of the martyred nuns ascending to heaven. Mural of Saint Gayane church

Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral

This is the soul of Armenian spirituality, the center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, also known as the holy city.

Echmiadzin Cathedral is located in the town of Vagharshapat, less than an hour from the capital city of Yerevan. The cathedral is to Armenians what the Vatican is to Catholics.

The cathedral was founded by Saint Gregory the Illuminator around 300 CE. According to scholars, the cathedral was the first built in Armenia. Many consider it the oldest cathedral in the world in one of the oldest inhabited cities on earth.

Surrounding the cathedral are beautifully landscaped gardens.  Also on the grounds is the cathedral museum containing many relics of great significance to Armenian believers. These include the lance that pierced Jesus and a piece of Noah’s Ark.

In 2000 UNESCO declared Echmiadzin a World Heritage site.

What to Eat in Yerevan and Where to Eat It

Armenian food is very tasty, but not spicy-hot.  Meals generally begin with a salad and continue with meats accompanied by vegetables.  The dolmas (stuffed vegetables) that you see throughout the Middle East are also present in Armenia. Other Middle Eastern-type specialties in Armenia include hummus and babaganoush.

One Armenian specialty that I had not seen anywhere else is lavash.  Lavash is a thin bread pancake stuffed with mostly goat cheese and garnished with scallions, cilantro, or sometimes cucumber and tomatoes. You wrap it up taco-style and eat it like a taco or eggroll. This treat is amazing, especially when the bread is right out of the oven!

Armenian lavash

Some good Yerevan restaurants specializing in traditional cuisine include: Danal and Taverna Yerevan.  There are also great snack bars around the Cascade and sculpture park. They are always packed but a little patience and you will be rewarded with lavash!

Know before you go to Yerevan.  Explore these reference materials to get a good understanding of the city first.

What are your thoughts on the beautiful city of Yerevan?  Is this someplace you’d like to visit?  Let us know in the comments.

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post WHAT TO SEE IN YEREVAN, (ARMENIA): THE PERFECT YEREVAN CITY TOUR appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/what-to-see-in-yerevan-armenia-the-perfect-yerevan-city-tour/feed/ 0 21184
TRAVEL SAFETY DOS AND DON’TS: AN EXPERT’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ILLNESS, INJURY AND THEFT https://travelswithtalek.com/travel-safety-dos-and-donts-an-experts-guide-to-avoiding-illness-injury-and-theft/ https://travelswithtalek.com/travel-safety-dos-and-donts-an-experts-guide-to-avoiding-illness-injury-and-theft/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2020 13:00:26 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=22831 Ask people what are some of the top travel safety dos and don’ts and the answers might surprise you. Some will say terrorist attacks. In fact, according to NBC News, you are more likely to choke on food, die from [...]

The post TRAVEL SAFETY DOS AND DON’TS: AN EXPERT’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ILLNESS, INJURY AND THEFT appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
Ask people what are some of the top travel safety dos and don’ts and the answers might surprise you. Some will say terrorist attacks. In fact, according to NBC News, you are more likely to choke on food, die from being buried alive, or being struck by lightning than you are to be involved in a terrorist attack.

Others will say car accidents. That’s getting close, but still not exactly correct.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with James Page,* Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Head of Assistance and Claims of AIG Travel.

Mr. Page shared a wealth of information on the top causes of injury and illness while traveling and how to avoid them. During my lifetime of travel, I’ve seen – and experienced – many such examples. I share a few here, interspersed with Mr. Page’s advice.

It turns out, the single most common cause of injury while traveling is poor judgment, and poor judgment manifests itself in many ways.

Top Travel Safety Dos and Don’ts

Don’t think you’re superman (or woman).

Believing that you can just jump on any vehicle and tour a new location without any proper instruction is the number one activity that causes injuries while traveling. You know what I’m talking about; the cool scooter tours in Vietnam, the jet skis in Cancun or, in my unbelievably dumb judgment, the whitewater rafting trip down the Zambezi where I almost drowned. Understand the vehicle you are maneuvering and know the route. Wear protective gear. Secure proper instruction or don’t do it.

causes of injury while traveling. Scooters

Use alcohol wisely

Of all the travel safety dos and don’ts, alcohol-related ones are the most obvious.

Now here is a lethal cocktail; excessive alcohol and poor judgment. As a wine lover myself, far be it from me to eschew a glass of sauvignon blanc, but overindulge, especially while traveling and you’re looking for trouble. The second most common reason for injury like falling off balconies, decks, ships or horses are frequently linked to alcohol consumption.

Know your limits!

The third top cause of injury while traveling is something that we’re all at least a little guilty of…venturing beyond our physical limits. In other words, know your limits and stay within them. If you are out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, you probably shouldn’t hike to Everest base camp. If your knee hurts while walking the dog, it’s going to hurt a lot more hiking the Appalachian Trail. Know your limits when considering the travel safety dos and don’ts.

Beware the transfer trauma

Here is one that surprised me. Transfer traumas! What’s a transfer trauma? It’s when you step off a bus, train or ferry, if you don’t watch where you place your foot, you can experience a nasty fall. I can see that. Think about it. Ever try getting off a subway train with those huge gaps to the platform? I’m surprised these injuries are not higher up on the list.

Transfer trauma one of the causes of injury whioe traveling

Don’t feed the animals

Here is one of the classic causes of injury while traveling; mishaps when approaching animals. Been there, done that (I’m raising my hand). I am guilty of one of the biggest travel safety DON’TS… feeding the monkeys. In my defense I will say that the monkeys I fed were really cute. Look at these guys! Would you have done the same thing? Still. I realize now that’s a bad idea, especially after The Great Monkey Attack of Angkor Wat.

causes of injuries while traveling are monkey bites

Continue your normal medical routine

I laughed when I read this one. “Medical conditions do not disappear when you are traveling!” Seriously, are you surprised? Your high blood pressure and cholesterol do not magically disappear while you are on vacation. You still need to take your medications and watch your dietary intake. Nuff said on this key travel safety DO.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands… a lot. Over and over and over. This little habit grows on you. Something as simple as this can prevent you getting any number of afflictions. My husband carries around a little container of antiseptic gel and uses it a lot. I made fun of him for years for being overcautious until I read that this is one of the easiest way to avoid illness.

Pay attention!

Travel safety dos and don’t are easy to follow if you pay attention. We’ve all seen videos of people falling into ditches, manholes or escalators while looking at their cellphones. It’s a thing, all right. Watch where you are walking! Store your selfie sticks until you get to wherever you’re going to take your photo. Ignoring standard safety measures to take better photos is an accident waiting to happen.

Consider what you eat.

Eating exotic cuisine, or food you are not used to, is a top cause of illness while traveling. Now, one man’s “exotic” is another man’s daily bread.

I have eaten everything from iguanas, crickets and ant eggs in Mexico, to sheep eyeballs in Mongolia to things too bizarre to mention in Beijing and actually enjoyed (or at least tolerated) everyone of them, but I’ve been doing this all my life.

Do people build up a resistance to weird food? Maybe. But perhaps people who have never encountered exotic or unusual food should pace themselves. It’s not just what the foods are, but how they are prepared that can cause stomach issues.

The last thing you want is stomach issues on a trip. I speak from experience.

Wash fruit before you eat it

I got horribly sick from eating a big, fat, beautiful (but unwashed) peach in Dubrovnik. I was in a hurry to catch the bus to Split. I knew I SHOULD wash that peach, but it looked so appealing. I was running out of time and I was hungry so I bit into it.

Four hours later when I got off the bus I thought I was going to die. I spent the entire visit to Split in my Airbnb projectile vomiting so bad I made the Exorcist look tame by comparison.

Washing the peach would have been the easiest travel safety DO to follow.

Like many things related to traveling, you have to weigh the pros and cons. Experimenting with different cuisines is one of the great pleasures of traveling.

Don’t deprive yourself from trying new food because you think you might get sick. But do evaluate the condition of the restaurant. Don’t be shy about asking how the food is prepared. Finally, use your best judgment.

*****

Below are a couple of activities that I can vouch for as being accidents waiting to happen. We all like to try our hand at adventurous and strenuous activities when we travel, sometimes with no prior experience.

Examples include rock climbing, zip-lining, parasailing or my favorite, whitewater rafting. They are all dangerous but they are SO MUCH FUN!! How do you reconcile this?

All I can say is get proper instruction, check weather conditions, make sure you have the proper gear, or don’t do it at all. Jeopardizing your body or your health is not worth it under any circumstances.

Falling off a mechanical bull is oinjury while traveling.

Whether you decide to be foolish or prudent while traveling, always, always, always get travel insurance because seriously guys, you never know.

More Travel Safety Dos and Don’ts for a Safe Trip

  • Register with your Embassy prior to travel. If you are a U.S. citizen, consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to download the Smart Traveler app for important emergency information and register with the local embassy. Know the security risk level of your destination.
  • Ensure your phone is able to make calls to your home country and that you know how to place an emergency call in a foreign country.
  • Leave a copy of your passport and itinerary with someone at home who is designated as your emergency contact registered with the embassy.
  • Confirm if you need any vaccinations before you travel and be educated about the risks of your destination including water, streets, proper gestures, etc.
  • OMG! Don’t pack medication or medical equipment in your checked baggage. Take your meds on your carry-on with you.
  • Have your passport with you when you take a cruise, even if you depart from the US. You never know when you will need to disembark due to an emergency and travel home.
  • Educate yourself on insurance; does your primary health insurance cover you outside the US? Are you purchasing appropriate coverage for travel insurance based on your destination?
  • Know how to say a few key words such as “police” and “help” in the language of the country you are visiting.
  • Learn about local customs before you arrive. Is certain clothing like shorts considered inappropriate? Dress accordingly.
  • The same common-sense rules apply overseas. Avoid discussing sensitive topics like politics and religion. People often will give foreigners’ faux-pas some leeway, but then again, they may not.
  • Don’t forget to carry chargers for your digital devices. Don’t risk running out of batteries in an emergency.
  • Prepare a list of your emergency contacts including family, friends and coworkers, as well as contact information for insurance and emergency travel assistance. Keep both hard and digital copies.
  • Activate travel notices with your bank and credit cards; familiarize yourself with local currency and the closest banks and ATMs.

What surprised me about these safety dos and don’ts of traveling is how simple it is to follow them. It’s all common sense and sober (pun intended) judgment. A little preplanning goes a long way towards safe travels.

  • * As Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Head of Assistance and Claims of AIG Travel, James Page has global responsibility for the AIG Travel Operations and Assistance Services. Previously, he was President of AIG Travel Assist, Inc., and President of American International Assistance Services, Inc. James joined AIG in 2000 and has played an integral role in the development and growth of the assistance business and call center operations worldwide.

*****

What do everyday frequent travelers do to stay safe while traveling? We asked a couple to give us a list of their travel safety dos and don’ts. The answers may surprise you. Check out these valuable tips.

A couple of good travel safety dos and don’ts can make all the difference between a great hassle-free trip and getting ripped off.

Travel Safety Dos and Don’ts from Frequent Travelers

Sew secret pockets into your clothes

Find a seamstress to sew secret pockets inside of your favorite travel pants (or do it yourself if you’re crafty). That way, you can hide your phone, passport, or wads of cash whenever you’re passing through sketchy areas. You wouldn’t believe the freedom and peace of mind this brings—even if nothing bad ever happens!

If you want to take it a step further, you can hide your valuables in your secret pocket while carrying a fake wallet and cheap Nokia phone in your normal pockets. This way, you’ll have something to hand over if you get robbed (can you tell I’m based in Cali, Colombia?). The reality is, most thieves aren’t going to believe you’re walking around without a phone or wallet. And if they do, it might piss them off (something you’re best off avoiding).

Tip: Before sewing everything together, make sure your valuables (passport, phone, money and cards) fit inside. The idea is for the pocket to be as low-profile as possible so there are no noticeable bulges anywhere. Lastly, I wouldn’t recommend storing anything in these pockets when you’re going through airports. If security decides to pat you down, they might find your secret pockets a bit suspicious.

sew a pocket into your clothes to keep your valuables

Mitch Glass blogs at Project Untethered.

Make copies of your ID and passport

You never know when your passport or ID might get stolen or misplaced. By making two copies, you can give one to a friend or relative and keep the other with you while you travel. If you’re a U.S. citizen or national traveling abroad, you can enroll in the Smart Traveler Program for free for an added level of travel safety. If you are abroad, you can enroll at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, which can assist you if you lose or have your passport stolen.

make copies of your passport, a key do of the travel safety dos and don'ts

Stymie pickpockets

Pickpockets are an inevitable hazard while traveling. You’ll find them and travel scams in all big, bustling cities throughout the world.  You’ll find pickpockets anywhere tourists congregate and transmit the fact that they are tourists by reading maps in the street, carrying prominently displayed camera equipment, using their phones in public or staring up at skyscrapers with mouth agape.

Pickpockets are increasingly sophisticated and we must be equally adept at stopping them. Here’s how.

  1. Use a money belt, ankle belt or some other accessory to keep a large part of your valuables while traveling.
  2. Don’t keep all your money in one location. Split it up; wallet, money belt, other hidden location.
  3. Know where pickpockets congregate; metro, train and bus stations, airports, entertainment venues, any crowded location.
  4. Be alert to any commotion which can frequently be a diversion to pickpocket you.
  5. Don’t display valuables; jewelry, electronic devices, cash, wallet.

There are so many other ways to stymie pickpockets. Just being alert and acknowledging to yourself that this can happen is a good start.

Don't expose your wallet, a solid do of the travels safety dos and don'ts

Talek blogs at Travels With Talek

Travel with a dog

My rescue dog Annie is a wonderful travel companion. She never complains about my choice of music on the car stereo, she is always happy to go out hiking (even if it is raining) and she never complains about where we stay the night, as long as she is by my side she is happy! She also helps me to feel safer when I am visiting new places as a solo female traveller. Okay, she is no guard dog, she doesn’t actually have an aggressive bone in her body, and I don’t travel with her for safety reasons but that doesn’t stop me feeling like she is an extra layer of security. She does alarm bark and I imagine pick pockets may be less likely to approach someone with a dog by their side!

a traveling dog

Gemma blogs at A Girl and Her Dog on the Road.

Don’t draw attention to yourself

One of our favorite travel safety tips is trying to blend in. If you look like you’re from out of town, you are a much bigger target for crime. Blend in as much as you can by wearing inconspicuous clothing and only looking at maps when necessary. It’s also a good idea to be careful about who you ask for directions so that someone doesn’t take advantage of you.

don't draw attention to yourself, a key don't of the travel safety dos and don'ts

Take precautions to avoid theft

Losing my valuables is one of my biggest worries while travelling. As a blogger, I travel with expensive camera equipment, along with regular valuables like cash and passports. To avoid my fears coming true, here are some tips I use to keep valuables safe:

Lock everything up that you don’t need while you’re out exploring. Most hostels and hotels have lock boxes inside the rooms where you can store your valuables. If the room doesn’t have a lockbox, you can ask the front desk to store your valuables in the lockbox there. When locking away valuables, be sure to use your own locks. Often the locks provided by hotels can be cheap and easily broken into. I bring two locks with me while travelling: one for storing my belongings at the hotel, and another to carry with me.

When I take any valuables out with me, especially in populated areas, I lock my bag to itself to deter anyone who might try to pickpocket me. As an extra precaution, I carry my bag in front of me in crowded areas.

Try to avoid having your valuables show in public. I once had someone grab my iPhone right out of my hand!

Last but not least, purchase travel insurance that covers theft of personal belongings. This brings peace of mind that even if something unfortunate happens, you will at least get reimbursed for the monetary value of the items.

hotel lock for travel safety, the best of the travel safety dos and don'ts

Lora Pope blogs at Explore with Lora.

Don’t trust public WiFi

Another way to stay safe while traveling is avoiding public WiFi when you travel. Why? Using it makes it very easy for hackers to steal your personal information, like credit card numbers. To protect your identity, you can always sign up for something called a VPN (virtual private network) that will allow you to securely connect to the Internet. You can also get a portable router to set up your own WiFi hotspot. It will allow you to convert any wired connection, say in your hotel room, to a secure wireless one.

don't trust public wifi, a good don't in the travel safety dos and don'ts group

Always bring snacks and drinks for emergencies

When on the road, travelers often find themselves needing to take long bus rides. Whether the trip is three hours or a long-haul overnight ride, I always recommend bringing bus snacks and drinks in case of emergency. You just never know when you’ll be stuck somewhere for long hours if an unexpected event happens on your ride. I’ve been in situations where buses and trains that were supposed to take only four hours lasted up to eight, and I’ve seen people get stuck for ten hours in traffic jams. This is especially common in developing countries or places where the roads are two-lane mountain roads. Even in situations where you would normally expect to stop, you may find yourself without the right currency to make a purchase.

My recommendation is to bring a bottle of water or two, and enough snacks that you can go at least two meals without a problem. Hopefully you won’t end up needing these, but you need to always be prepared when circumstances would otherwise be out of your control. You also need to pack these inside of your carry on so that they aren’t visible. There are some bus companies that do not allow food and drink. In this situation, you would only be busting them out in case of emergency. But better safe than sorry, and if they see them they may force you to throw them out.

Great bus snacks are anything that comes pre-packaged and won’t cause an annoying smell for other passengers or make a mess for the driver. And of course, always clean up after yourself before you go.

keep snacks on hand for emergencies

Stephanie Craig blogs at Sofia Adventures.

Password-protect phones and add tracking tools

Our smartphones store so much personal information, such as emails, credit card information, and bank accounts. By adding a passcode to your phone, it makes it very difficult for a thief to open your phone and steal your sensitive information. Some phones offer fingerprint IDs and face recognition, adding an extra layer of security for when you travel.

You should also turn on location tracking and install software that will wipe your phone so that you can track it down or destroy all of your data if it’s ever stolen when you’re traveling.

pasword protect phones and computers, a key do in the travel safety dos and don'ts

Travel with a Pacsafe

In the world where safety is not guaranteed everywhere we travel to, keeping yourself and your valuables safe is paramount. But how do you make sure that you don’t fall a victim to the country’s insecurity? My all-time favorite tip to keep my items safe is to always carry a Pacsafe. Commonly known as an anti-theft travel product, a Pacsafe will guarantee the safety of your valuable items you might have traveled with. (Although it’s not advisable to travel with valuable items, sometimes you just have to travel with your really expensive camera to capture the best moments)

Regardless of how secure your hotel might seem like, a Pacsafe is a must-have to lock away your valuables, passport, and some extra cash. (The amount of items you can keep in a Pacsafe depends on its size, so remember to purchase a Pacsafe size that suits your needs). A Pacsafe comes with a wire which you can fasten around the hotel chair or bed. Although it is unlikely that someone would break into your hotel room, it is better to take precautions rather than being sorry.

use a pacsafe, a good do in the travel safety dos and don'ts

Credit: Flickr

Esther Namugerwa blogs at The Adventurous Feet.

Learn about your destination before your trip

Part of the excitement about travel is the planning! So while you are researching the best places to stay and eat and your bucket list activities, take a look at the travel safety information for where you’re headed. How safe are your accommodations? Are there any local health issues you need to concern yourself with? What will be your main mode of transportation? Which neighborhoods are the safest, and which should you avoid?

research your destination before you arrive, an important do in the stavel safety dos and dont's

Here is a selection of travel safety books for your reference.

If you like this post, you will enjoy these other articles with essential travel safety dos and don’ts for your next trip:

What are your favorite travel safety dos and don’ts? Let us know in the comments.

safety travel dos and don'ts, a man putting his head into an aligator's mouth

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post TRAVEL SAFETY DOS AND DON’TS: AN EXPERT’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ILLNESS, INJURY AND THEFT appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/travel-safety-dos-and-donts-an-experts-guide-to-avoiding-illness-injury-and-theft/feed/ 0 22831
6 MEMORABLE THINGS TO DO IN ASTURIAS (SPAIN) https://travelswithtalek.com/6-memorable-things-to-do-in-asturias-spain/ https://travelswithtalek.com/6-memorable-things-to-do-in-asturias-spain/#respond Mon, 06 Jan 2020 13:00:35 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=21509 There are so many things to do in Asturias, northern Spain’s lush green natural paradise.  The best way to share the magical experience that is Asturias is to ask a resident to explain it to us.  For this reason, I’ve [...]

The post 6 MEMORABLE THINGS TO DO IN ASTURIAS (SPAIN) appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
There are so many things to do in Asturias, northern Spain’s lush green natural paradise.  The best way to share the magical experience that is Asturias is to ask a resident to explain it to us.  For this reason, I’ve asked resident and Asturias lover, Debora de Block to share with us her appreciation of this beautiful Spanish region.

*****

The Six Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Asturias

Regular readers of this blog must know by now why Asturias, in the north of Spain, is worth visiting. High mountains, abundant wildlife, hidden, empty beaches, great food, friendly people and an interesting historical heritage. And that all within a very short distance from each other! Having lived here for a bit over a year now, I’d like to share with you the many things to do in Asturias and the six reasons why I fell in love with Asturias… 

Ok, to be honest: I first fell in love with an Asturian. Before I met him, I never even heard about Asturias! When we both still lived in the Netherlands (where we met and where I am from), we visited his home region during the holidays. We did the ‘usual’ tourist stuff: visiting the breathtaking Lagos de Covadonga in the Picos de Europa, hiking the exciting Ruta del Cares, mountain biking along the Senda del Oso and shopping in Oviedo, Gijon and Aviles. 

Ruta de Cares hike, one of the reasons why I fell in love with Asturias

Breathtaking views and great depths at the Ruta del Cares

Our decision to move to Asturias in 2018 gave me the opportunity to explore Asturias’ less well-known areas. Discovering these areas together with our little daughter not only gave us great experiences as a family. It also helped to build our tourism company intoAsturias.com. In this way, we want to let international visitors discover and explore Asturias as well!  

Things to Do in Asturias

Enjoy the Climate

Asturias has a great climate for active people. This part of Spain’s north coast is called ‘Costa Verde’ for a reason. Summers are relatively cool and except for the mountainous areas, winters in Asturias are mild. While a large part of Spain was suffering a major heatwave earlier this summer, Asturias was the perfect base for people with an active lifestyle. 

Hiking, rock climbing, canoeing and mountain biking are only some of the examples of activities in summer. In winter, Asturias’ two ski stations offer skiing and snowboarding. Regular snowshoe walking tours are also organized. Of course, you can also ride a sled or just build a large snowman!

Hiking Picos de Europa, things to do in Asturias

Picos de Europe offers trails for all hiking levels

Follow Dinosaur Footprints

Dinosaurs walked along the coast (and you can still see their tracks!).  Something that I only discovered after I started living in Asturias is that part of the Asturian coastline is called the ‘Jurassic or Dinosaur’ coast. This name refers to the section between the cities of Gijón and Ribadesella (approx. 75 km long). 

Along the coast, you find footprints and fossil bones from dinosaurs and other Jurassic reptiles. A great day out is to visit the Jurassic Museum of Asturias which is built in the shape of a dinosaur footprint. The museum teaches you all about the eras when dinosaurs roamed Asturias.

We found some impressive dinosaur footprints next to the La Griega beach (the biggest tracks known in Spain and among the largest in the world)! But there are many more to discover along the coast. A great way to end your exploration is to go for lunch or dinner in nearby Lastres, one of Asturias’ prettiest fishing villages. 

Dinosaur footprints with Llastres fishing village in the background

Gigantic dinosaur footprints with at the background fisherman village Lastres

Walk the Camino de Santiago

A great way to explore Asturias while meeting people from all over the world is by hiking (part of) the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago originated in Asturias.  Three of the many Caminos pass though Asturias: the Camino del Norte, the Camino San Salvador and the Camino Primitivo. 

The latter one follows the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela of the very first pilgrim: King Alfonso II of Asturias. Having heard of the divine discovery of a tomb in a forest in Galicia, the king embarked on a journey to see this with his own eyes. The Camino Primitivo follows his footsteps (or more accurately, horse tracks).

Nowadays, more than 15.000 people hike the Camino Primitivo each year. While this number is still growing, it is still one of the most pristine and tranquil Caminos to follow. 

Statue of Asturian kings, things to see in Asturias

Statue of King Alfonso II in front of Oviedo’s Cathedral, the very first pilgrim

Experience Nature’s Paradise in Asturias

Asturias is actively promoted as a ‘Natural Paradise’ and a major ecotourism destination. More than 1/3 of Asturias is designated as a nature reserve of some sort.

One national park and dozens of natural reserves and protected landscapes allow you to immerse yourself in nature.   

Puerto Maraibo National monument

Relatively unknown Natural Park de las Ubiñas La Mesa

Stay in a Mountain Cabin in a Nature Reserve 

There are a variety of places to stay in the nature reserves. Casas rurales, or rural houses, are often a great way to start exploring Asturias’ nature. However, a more adventurous way is to spend the night in a refugio, or mountain hut. 

Last autumn, we spent one night in the mountain hut ‘Brañagallones’ in Redes Natural Park. After a beautiful hike enjoying the autumn colors, we were welcomed by its inviting smells from the kitchen. We entered for a well-deserved Fabada Asturiana, Asturias’ famous dish of large white beans and meat.  

Brañagallones is quite luxurious compared to more basic mountain huts in Asturias. It has warm water and private rooms of various sizes. Also, it is easily accessible if you don’t want to hike up there. From the village at the foot of the mountains, four-wheel drives take you up to the hut after which you can go on a hike for as long as you want. A perfect place for people who want to experience staying in a refugio for the first time!

Asturian country home, why i fell in love with Asturias

Mountain hut Brañagallones in Natural Park Redes

See Brown Bears in Their Natural Habitat 

The idea of hiking in brown bear territory makes me very excited! Unlike other parts of Spain and Europe, people here are generally proud of the presence of bears. Brown bear observation is one of the main tourist attractions of Somiedo Biosphere Reserve. 

Ecotourism related to bears offers a source of income for small villages in other locations in Asturias as well. I’ve met some great people for whom ecotourism is a way to revitalize village life and provide jobs for young people. I am always happy to direct visitors to them, as well as providing any other suggestions for your visit to Asturias, my lovely place! 

Brown bears in Asturias, why I fell in love with Asturias

Look out! You’re entering brown bear territory! -Near Cangas de Narcea

Want to know more about all the things to do in Asturias, nature’s paradise? Check out these books.

Love Asturias and northern Spain?  You may enjoy these posts too.

Author Bio:

Debora de Block founded intoAsturias (www.intoAsturias.com) in 2018. She aims to let international visitors experience Asturias through her blog, guided tours and providing tailored trips.

What are your thoughts on the great variety of things to do in Asturias?  We’d like to know.

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

*****

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post 6 MEMORABLE THINGS TO DO IN ASTURIAS (SPAIN) appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/6-memorable-things-to-do-in-asturias-spain/feed/ 0 21509
15 BEST THINGS TO DO IN TBILISI, GEORGIA ON A BUDGET https://travelswithtalek.com/15-best-things-to-do-in-tbilisi-georgia-on-a-budget/ https://travelswithtalek.com/15-best-things-to-do-in-tbilisi-georgia-on-a-budget/#respond Mon, 23 Dec 2019 13:00:35 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=20725 Wondering about things to do in Tbilisi, the charming capital of Georgia?  Activities range from exploring ancient monasteries to strolling the winding, hilly streets of the Old Town to enjoying stunning views from the ultra-modern Peace Bridge. …and the wine!  [...]

The post 15 BEST THINGS TO DO IN TBILISI, GEORGIA ON A BUDGET appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
Wondering about things to do in Tbilisi, the charming capital of Georgia?  Activities range from exploring ancient monasteries to strolling the winding, hilly streets of the Old Town to enjoying stunning views from the ultra-modern Peace Bridge.

…and the wine!  Georgia has a wine culture going back thousands of years.  Enjoying a glass of dry red Georgian wine while people-watching in an Old Town cafe is one of the best things to do in Tbilisi.

Old Town Tbilisi. So many things to do in Tbilisi

Founded in the 4th century, Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, one of the Caucasus countries along with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia in the north Caucasus and northeastern parts of Turkey.  Tbilisi claims to be “the city that loves you” and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere really bears that out.

Tbilisi is an easy city to get around. You won’t have any problem finding places to stay in Tbilisi.  Locating good places to eat in Tbilisi is a snap as there are good restaurants around every corner in all price ranges offering the unique, inimitable Georgian specialties.

Tbilisi feels Eastern European but with a Middle Eastern flair. That’s how someone described the city to me and I see it too. As befits a city at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Tbilisi has influences from both continents. Nowhere is this cultural fusion more evident than in the city’s architecture, a mix of Soviet Era buildings, distinctive Georgian homes with carved wooden balconies, modern skyscrapers and Arabesque bathhouses.

Let’s check on some “know-before-you-go” Tbilisi travel tips and fun facts before diving into the best things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia.

  • Georgian currency is the lari. One US dollar is worth about 2.97 lari as of this writing.
  • The population of Georgia is 3.7 million. The capital city of Tbilisi has 1.1 million.
  • Getting around Tbilisi is easy.  Taxis are cheap and abundant.  There is also a pretty comprehensive metro system. The cost of a ticket is .50 lari.  You need to buy a 2 lari metro card to use the metro. There is also an Uber-like service called Bolt.  Just download the app and away you go.
  • The Georgian language is one of the oldest in the world with its own alphabet that is different from any other.
  • Despite a shared border, Georgia has no diplomatic relations with Russia.

Now let’s explore the can’t-miss Tbilisi activities as we dive into…

The Best Things to Do in Tbilisi 

Explore Old Town on Foot

Walk the cobblestone streets of Tbilisi’s Old town bordered by the 4th century Narikala castle, the Abanotubai neighborhood and the modern Rustaveli Avenue.  Old Town sits on the banks of the Kura River in a jumble of narrow streets leading to leafy plazas, open-air cafés and fascinating architecture.  It is a compact area so it is easy to explore in a day or two.

Ride the Cable Car to Mother Georgia and Narikala Fortress

Board a modern cable car at the river’s edge and float up to the 4th-century castle and Mother Georgia. Also known as Kartlis Deda, Mother Georgia is a 66-foot tall statue of a woman holding a sword in on hand with which to smite her enemies and a bowl in her other hand symbolizing benevolence and Georgia’s ancient wine culture.

The view from Mother Georgia is among the best in the city and provides an excellent perspective from which to view Tbilisi.

Motheer Georgia, things to see in Tbilisi

Indulge in a Sulfur Bath

The Abanotubani District in the southern part of town is a collection of domed, brick structures offering steam and sulfur baths and massages. The area has been offering baths for centuries.

The most elaborately decorated and tourist-friendly is the Asian inspired Chreli-Abano Sulfur Bath and Spa. They speak some European languages and can bill in Euros. Prices range around 50 lari for massages and 40 lari for baths.  It is worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime, authentically Georgian relaxing experience.

Explore Restaurants in Shardeni Street

This quaint street is one of Tbilisi’s restaurant rows. Both sides of the street are lined with open-air restaurants and bars selling traditional, as well as international fare.  There are also many hookah bars in the area. This street is definitely on the touristy side but certainly worth a look-see.

Tblisi restaurant row

Get Your Culture Fix on Rustaveli Avenue

Rustaveli Avenue, named after Georgian poet, Shota Rustaveli, is one of Tbilisi’s most beautiful Avenue running from Freedom Square to Rustaveli Square.  Here’s where you find the National History Museum and National Art Museum, separate museums but in the same building. If museums are your thing, you can spend a day here learning about the country’s turbulent history and introducing yourself to little-known but remarkable Georgian artists. Entrance fee is about 15 lari.

Tbilisi church with icons for sale. Painting at the National Art Gallery in Tbilisi

Also on Rustaveli Avenue is the Parliament building where the Rose Revolution was ignited. In November 2003, pro-western demonstrators stormed the Parliament building with red roses in hand led by Mikheil Saakashvili.  The protestors succeeded in ousting then-president Eduard Shevardnadze thus ending the Soviet era in Georgia.

Right in front of the Parliament building vendors set up little shops selling local arts and crafts. This broad and busy avenue also has upscale department stores and spectacular churches.

Check out Tbilisi Street Art

Tbilisi is one of the best cities for street art.  You find it everywhere on bridges, in tunnels and city walls. It is whimsical, very artistic and fun.

Tbilisi street art, fat boy Tbilisi street art, two girls Tbilisi street art man with guns Sculptures on a bridge in Tbilisi Bronze statues street art

Hunt for Soviet-Era Paraphernalia at the Dry Bridge Market

This large and bustling flea market sits by a bridge over a branch of the Kura river that went dry, hence its name.  The flea market sells many different items from household goods to artwork but it is really famous for its Soviet-era paraphernalia.

Soviet merorabilia in Dry Bridge market

Flea markets such as these sprung up throughout the city after the fall of the Soviet Union so residents could make ends meet. Now the market caters more to tourists looking for arts and crafts and other souvenirs of their visit.  Its a fun place to go and examine the Soviet memorabilia that was so omnipresent during the Soviet era.

Cross the Peace Bridge

At 490 feet long (150m) long, the Peace Bridge spans the Kura River in downtown Tbilisi.

Peach Bridge in Tbilsi, Georgia. Things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia

It is a modern design constructed of steel and glass with thousands of lights that go on as soon as night falls to create a dramatic sight.

Indulge in Georgian Wine

Tbilisi wine culture goes back 8000 years. It is one of the oldest wine regions on earth.  The wine industry is so integral to the national identity, in fact, that Georgia’s Qvevri wine making process was added to the UNESCO intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013.  One of the best known Georgian wine regions is Kakheti. The wine is inexpensive, compared to Western countries, and it is excellent!

Georgian wine display. Things to do in Tbilisi Georgia

Sample Georgian Food

I found Georgian cuisine to be enormously underrated. It is very flavorful but not spicy. The dishes tend to be vegetable focused with accompaniments of meat and starches vs the other way around.  Cheese and other dairy products like yogurts also feature prominently on menus. The cuisine has Mediterranean, Turkish and Iranian influences with dashes of Russian due to the many years Georgia was part of first, the Russian Empire followed by the Soviet era.

Traditional must-try dishes include the khachapuri, a cheese-infused bread which frequently includes an egg in the center.  It’s the Georgian equivalent of a slice of pizza. People can either grab one the go or dine on one in a formal restaurant.

churchxela, Georgian candy dolmos with pomegranates. Georgian food khachapuri Georgian dish khinkali, Georgian soup dumplings

My absolute favorite Georgian dish was the khinkali, a Georgian soup dumpling. The trick to eating a khinkali is to consume it without spilling the broth. You grab a khinkali by the handle, turn it upside down and nibble at the edges while slurping the broth. The stuffing can be anything from meat to vegetables.

Dolmos are also common in Georgia but the word doesn’t mean “stuffed grape leaves” as it does elsewhere.  In Georgia “dolmos” means any vegetable stuffed with meat or rice.  You find them at many restaurants.

The Georgian desserts are varied and sweet but one uniquely Georgian sweet specialty is the churchxela, a candle shaped candy made of dry fruit and nuts dipped in grape juice and dried into a sausage shape.  The candy is sliced and served with cheese and wine or by itself.

Where to Eat in Tbilisi

Tbilisi is packed with great restaurants from simple cafeterias to high-end establishments. Many specialize in a specific dish or feature regional dishes. Three stand-out restaurants specializing in Georgian food include:

The Bread House serves delicious Georgian comfort food at reasonable prices.

Pasanauri Garden has an outdoor seating area. The specialty of the house is khinkali in all its glorious iterations. Order a bunch of different stuffings and share.

No 1 Khachapuri Adjaruli on Rustaveli Avenue is the place to go for traditional khachapuri.  Another can’t miss experience so centrally located that you’ll probably be near it several times while in Tbilisi.

 Get Out of Town 

The outskirts of Tbilisi are a treasure trove of history and culture. And the destinations are close enough to make for good day trips, or a weekend visit.

Visit Mtskheta

Mtskheta is the site of early Christian activity and the former capital of Georgia.  Legend has it that it was here, in this striking town of brooding monasteries and medieval castles, where the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers meet,  that St. Nino first preached Christianity to the local residents. As a result, Christianity was first proclaimed the state religion in Mtskheta in 337 CE.  The country has remained firmly rooted in Christianity despite its history as part of the former Soviet Union.

Mtskheta UNESCO World Heritage site

The town is also the site of two of Georgia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Jvari Monastery and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

At less than an hour from Tbilisi, Mtskheta makes for an ideal day trip from Tbilisi. A visit to Mtskheta is an excellent opportunity for souvenir shopping and getting a feel for the country outside of the capital city.

Insider tip: Don’t forget to try the delicious wine ice cream, a specialty of the area.

Discover Jvari Monastery

Jvari means “The Monastery of the Cross.”  Visiting this 6th-century monastery is like taking a trip back in time.  The location is stunning. It sits stoically on a mountaintop with spectacular views of Mtskheta and the surrounding countryside as far as the eye can see.

UNESCO Jvari Monastery. Things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia

From this vantage point, you can also see Svetitskhoveli cathedral. The monastery has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

See the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

For sheer opulence and dramatic architecture, 11th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is the most magnificent religious building in Georgia. In fact, it is because of its beautiful architecture and historical significance that the cathedral has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is the religious heart of the country and the burial place of King Vakhtang I, founder of Tbilisi.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral door Interior of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral f King Vakhtang I, founder o Tbilisi

There are many legends associated with the cathedral.  One is that the robe of Jesus Christ is said to be buried in its depths.  Another states that King Giorgi, the ruler when the cathedral was built ordered the architect’s hand to be cut off so he could never create anything so beautiful again.  The religious splendor of the cathedral is overwhelming. I can only imagine the impression this opulence made on the minds of the simple peasants that witnessed it being built.  It is a must-see in Tbilisi.

Explore Ananuri Fortified Complex

An hour and a half from Tbilisi is the 17th-century Ananuri fortified complex, the ancient seat of the Aragvi, a royal feudal family.   The complex is actually two castles joined together by a crenelated stone wall. It also holds two churches and several burial sites.

Anaruri Castle near Tbilisi, Georgia

Some areas are in ruins but most are remarkably well-preserved.  Ananuri’s historical value is in displaying what a fortified castle in the 1600s looked like. It’s wonderful to wander around and imagine the hustle and bustle of this castle in its heyday.

Where to Stay in Tbilisi, Georgia

For a cool experience, you may want to stay at a boutique hotel in the renovated home of Georgian royalty. The Museum Hotel, with its Asian flair and welcoming outdoor court, is one such place near everything you want to see in Tbilisi.

Tbilisi doesn’t lack for accommodation options from hostels to high-end.  Check out places to stay in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Want to know more about Georgia’s history, culture, and cuisine?  Take a look at these travel guides to help you plan your trip.

If you’ve been to Georgia, what were your impressions?  If you’re getting ready to travel there, what do you most want to see? Let us know in the comments.

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and ad

The post 15 BEST THINGS TO DO IN TBILISI, GEORGIA ON A BUDGET appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/15-best-things-to-do-in-tbilisi-georgia-on-a-budget/feed/ 0 20725
HOW TO SLEEP WELL WHILE TRAVELING https://travelswithtalek.com/how-to-sleep-well-while-traveling/ https://travelswithtalek.com/how-to-sleep-well-while-traveling/#respond Mon, 16 Dec 2019 13:00:27 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=21935 You yearn to sleep well while traveling, but it’s tough!  Between jet lag, a disrupted eating schedule, sitting in one place for hours and other disturbances, trying to get a good, solid 7 or 8 hours sleep is as elusive [...]

The post HOW TO SLEEP WELL WHILE TRAVELING appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
You yearn to sleep well while traveling, but it’s tough!  Between jet lag, a disrupted eating schedule, sitting in one place for hours and other disturbances, trying to get a good, solid 7 or 8 hours sleep is as elusive as a dream.  I’ve asked sleep researcher, Alicia Sanchez to give us her take on how to sleep well while traveling.

Here are strategies to help you get a good night’s sleep and be refreshed while traveling.

Top Strategies to Help You Sleep Well While Traveling

Whether you’re traveling a few hours from home or across the country, sleeping away from home can be a challenge. Yet, you need to sleep to enjoy your travels. Sleep keeps your immune system strong, clarifies your thinking, and stabilizes your appetite and metabolism. That’s going to give you the energy to do all you’ve got planned. Here are a few ways you can sleep better when you’re on the road.

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule in Advance

If you’re only traveling one or two time zones, you can probably move on to the next tip. However, if you’ll be three, four, or more time zones away, shifting your sleep schedule can alleviate jet lag. Start by moving your bedtime and wake up times 15 to 30 minutes closer to your planned bed and wake up times at your destination. This method is also more helpful if you’ll be in your location for longer than a week. Otherwise, by the time you get adjusted, it’s time to return home.

Bring a Piece of Home with You

Your body reacts to environmental signals. Bringing a few things from home that you normally use in your bedroom or in your bedtime routine can prepare your brain for sleep. A pillow or blanket that smells like home reminds your brain what to do at bedtime. For some people, it could be bringing along their favorite pair of slippers. If you usually burn a candle in the evening, bring it along. Look for small items that can help your travel destination feel, sound, and smell more like home.

Create the Right Sleep Environment

You could be fighting unfamiliar sounds and smells along with jet lag. To help you sleep well while traveling, try to create a healthy sleep environment from the very beginning—one that’s cool, dark, and quiet.

Your body temperature drops at the onset of sleep and continues to fluctuate throughout the night until it starts to rise again near morning. Lower the room temperature to somewhere between 60 to 68 degrees to support your body’s nighttime needs.

Quiet can be hard to find if you’re visiting family or at an urban destination. Try bringing along a white noise machine. White noise contains a combination of all noises, which drowns out other sounds. Limited space in your suitcase? Download a white noise app. Most apps have several noises to choose from, including nature sounds, the hum of an airplane cabin, the whir of a hairdryer, and the tumble of a clothes dryer.

Light can also be a major sleep disrupter. At home, you can install blackout curtains or heavy drapes, but you don’t have that option on the road. Close the curtains, draw the blinds, and do what you can to keep light out at night. If you’re not sure what kind of accommodations you’ll have, pack a sleep mask. You might want to try it out before you go to make sure you’ll be able to sleep with it on.

Move Your Body and Get Outside

Exercising and getting outside are incredibly valuable if you’re suffering from jet lag. You need to stay awake when it’s light outside to help your body adjust to local time. Your eyes have special photoreceptors that absorb sunlight and send messages to the brain to suppress sleep hormones. What better way to do that than a morning or afternoon walk to help you sleep well while traveling?

Exercise helps you stay awake when you’re sleepy. If you’re traveling far enough from home, it might be beneficial to fill your first day with tours and other scheduled activities, so you keep moving. You’ll be tempted to nap, but if you’ve got a lunch reservation and a museum tour ahead, you won’t have time for it.

Eat on a Regular Schedule

Light isn’t the only way your body times your sleep cycle. Your eating schedule does too. You may not be able to eat meals at your regular times, but do try to eat them at regular intervals. Doing so can help your body adjust to local time and help you sleep better on the road.

Be Consistent Before, During, and After Your Trip

Establish a bedtime routine long before you leave home. Bedtime routines serve two purposes—to trigger the start of the sleep cycle and relax the body before bed. You need both of those when you’re away from home.

If you normally change into your pajamas, brush your teeth, and read a book before falling asleep, your brain will recognize that pattern even when you’re in an unfamiliar bedroom. However, to be effective, you have to have that pattern established long before you leave. Once you have a pattern, follow it during your trip, and keep it long after so that you’re set for your next adventure.

Conclusion

Travel enriches and feeds the soul. Plan in advance, and make sure to pack a comfort item to help you sleep. Make the effort to get better rest, so you can fully enjoy everything your destination has to offer.

Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.

What are some of your strategies to help you sleep better when you travel?

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post HOW TO SLEEP WELL WHILE TRAVELING appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/how-to-sleep-well-while-traveling/feed/ 0 21935
2019 PHOTO OF THE YEAR…and the winner is… https://travelswithtalek.com/2019-photo-of-the-year/ https://travelswithtalek.com/2019-photo-of-the-year/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2019 08:00:50 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=22757 The winner is December’s Mount Ararat in Armenia. Choosing the Photo of the Year is always fun because it reminds me of the beautiful and interesting places in the world. The year 2019 had some nice fulfilled expectations. Petra and [...]

The post 2019 PHOTO OF THE YEAR…and the winner is… appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
The winner is December’s Mount Ararat in Armenia.

Choosing the Photo of the Year is always fun because it reminds me of the beautiful and interesting places in the world.

The year 2019 had some nice fulfilled expectations. Petra and Azerbaijan turned out to be everything I imagined they would be.

Spain never disappoints and Cuba, despite its challenges, showcased Havana during the city’s 500 year anniversary.

Closer to home, Boston showed why it is a world-class city and New York...well, what can you say about NYC that hasn’t already been said. It is a special, unique place.

This year’s photos were taken in some of these cities. Each month the favorite was chosen by popular vote.

This year’s winner is December’s Mount Ararat in Armenia.  I voted for January’s Jordanian Spinner followed by September’s Glacier Bay. But December’s Mount Ararat in Armenia got the most votes and the people have spoken.  Thank you to all who voted!

We’re announcing the winner here as well as on the Travels with Talek Facebook page.

January

Jordanian Spinner

Jordanian Spinner

*****

February

Cold!

Cold!

*****

March

Peaceful Lake

Peaceful Lake

*****

April

Oviedo, Spain Central Plaza

Oviedo, Spain, Central Plaza

May

Havana Cars

Havana Cars

*****

June

Cuban Cat Lady

Cuban Cat Lady

*****

July

Boston Street

Boston Street

*****

August

Perfect Cuban Beach

Perfect Cuban Beach

*****

September

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

*****

October

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

*****

November

Azerbaijan Market

Azerbaijan Market

*****

December

Virap Armenia with Ararat

Virap Armenia with Ararat

Previous years’ winners

2018 Winner Photo of the Year

Photo of the Month 2018 Torres del Paine Chile

Photo of the Year 2018 Torres del Paine Chile

*****

2017 Photo of the Year Winner

Photo of the Year 2017 Ay Mama Ine

Photo of the Year 2017 Ay Mama Ine

*****

2016 Photo of the Year Winner

Photo of the Year 2017 The Colors of Cuba

Photo of the Year 2016 The Colors of Cuba

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post 2019 PHOTO OF THE YEAR…and the winner is… appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/2019-photo-of-the-year/feed/ 7 22757
TAORMINA, SICILY: RESTAURANTS AND ATTRACTIONS https://travelswithtalek.com/adventures-southern-italy-taormina/ https://travelswithtalek.com/adventures-southern-italy-taormina/#respond Tue, 10 Dec 2019 17:00:25 +0000 http://travelswithtalek.com/?p=9696 Taormina restaurants and attractions are around every corner in this ancient city, the gateway to Sicily.  It is a great place to absorb your first impressions of this culturally fascinating island. Taormina attractions have been drawing visitors for centuries.  It [...]

The post TAORMINA, SICILY: RESTAURANTS AND ATTRACTIONS appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
Taormina restaurants and attractions are around every corner in this ancient city, the gateway to Sicily.  It is a great place to absorb your first impressions of this culturally fascinating island.

Taormina bay

Taormina attractions have been drawing visitors for centuries.  It is a gracious, inviting city packed to the brim with culture, natural beauty, and the mouthwatering cuisine that helped make Italian food world-renown.  I found Taormina restaurants to have some of the best food in Italy…and that’s really saying something!

Taormina – A brief history

It is well documented that the area around present day Taormina was inhabited by the Siculi, an Italic people, during the Iron Age. When the Greeks arrived in Sicily in the early 700s BCE, the Siculi still inhabited the area  around eastern Sicily

The Greeks remained in Sicily until after the Roman occupation while their culture continued dominant for centuries after.

By 241 BCE the Romans, now firmly in control of the entire island, had made all of Sicily the first Roman province. During the Roman era the island was a major grain supplier to Rome. Roman governors managed the island where they built splendid villas some of which can still be visited today.  Once such residence is the nearby Villa Romana del Casale, a beautifully preserved Roman palace and fine example of Roman mosaic artistry.

Dancing girls mosaics in Casale

Dancing girls mosaics in Casale

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Taormina continued to be one of the most important towns of Sicily. Because of this strength and importance, it was one of the last cities retained by the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium.

Once the Roman Empire fell entirely, the city was conquered successively by the Muslims who ruled until 1078, the Normans, regional Spanish crowns, and  France on 1675.

Taormina was part of the Two Kingdoms of Sicilies under the Bourbon dynasty until 1860.

In modern times Taormina has retained vestiges of each of the cultures that conquered it. Traces of Muslim, Norman, Roman and other cultures can be seen in the city’s ruins, architecture and art.

Taormina’s pleasant weather, culture and idyllic location on a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea has made it a modern day attractive destination. Prominent celebrities have visited the city and extolled its virtues far and wide making it an even more desirable destination. Among these are Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia and Friedrich Nietzsche (who wrote his Thus Spoke Zarathustra there).

More recent visitors have included Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Bertrand Russell.

This is a town with a romance and an environment that beckons and beguiles. It attracts the rich and famous as well as the curious backpacker.

Taormina Attractions

Mount Etna

Mt. Etna, is Sicily’s live volcano and one of the world’s most active. The volcanic soil is very fertile and supports the orchards and vineyards on the mountain slopes. In 2013 UNESCO declared Mt. Etna a World Heritage Site. 

Corso Umberto

Corso Umberto is a major Taormina attraction. This main pedestrian street with medieval buildings on either side of the street, doesn’t even seem real. It feels more like what a pedestrianized Sicilian street would look like if Hollywood designed it. It’s too perfect; narrow little alleyways end in an ocean view, al fresco tables with checkered tablecloths sit underneath leafy vines dripping wisterias, cafes and cute boutique shops selling a wide variety of souvenirs and Sicilian specialties line the sidewalk. The street stretches about one kilometer from the old town gate of Porta Catania to the other, Porta Messina. It can take you a few minutes or an entire day to absorb the street’s charm.   

Piazza Aprile IX

Right in the center of Corso Umberto is the beautiful Piazza Aprile IX, or April 9th Square named after the date when Garibaldi began his conquest of Sicily to make it part of Italy and unify the entire country. Although just a beautiful plaza, it is one of Taormina’s principal attractions and meeting places.

The piazza boasts a spectacular view of the impossibly blue Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. This is an ideal spot to take a break in one of the laid-back cafes, savor a coffee and absorb the atmosphere.

The piazza is always lively with artists painting the views and musicians playing classic Italian songs in the shadow of the age old local church. At night the stores remain open and the crowd is just as lively. Spontaneous dancing breaks out and it is not unusual to hear the mellow notes of an aria from a popular opera drifting on the wind.

Piazza Aprile IX, Taormina attractions

Teatro Greco

The Teatro Greco (Greek Theater) is the mother of all Taormina attractions.

This perfect horseshoe-shaped theater is sublimely situated high above the Ionian Sea with Mount Etna stoically situated in the background against the blue sky.

The theater was built in the 3rd century BC. The building materials, brick, is Roman but the design is mostly Greek. This leads experts to believe that it was originally built by the Greeks and rebuilt by the Romans on the original site.

In summer, the Teatro Greco is still used to stage all types of performances. Can you imagine?! A theater that is thousands of years old that was so perfectly designed and built that it is still in use today. I find that amazing.

The theater is the second largest theater in Sicily (after Syracuse) and the most spectacularly situated Greek theatre on Earth. You cannot miss this!

Insider tip: Make sure to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds and get the best tourist-free photos.

Taormina bay

As the first city in Sicily coming from the Italilan boot, Taormina was also my first experience with real Sicilian food, a unique category of cuisine with strong flavors and a focus on seafood. Time and time again the typical Taormina restaurants just blew me away with their tastes and ambiance.  

Taormina Restaurants

Just like the many cultures that occupied Sicily for the last two millennia, are reflected in the architecture, so too these cultures are represented in the local cuisine.  The local cuisine has much in common with Italian cuisine but it also has traces of Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences.

Traditional Taormina cuisine specializes in seafood but all dishes are represented.

Some of the best Taormina restaurants for traditional Sicilian food include Al Duomo, Trattoria Don Ciccio, Malvasia, Grotta di Ulisse and Osteria RossoDiVino.

For a more budget friendly and delicious option, try Pizzeria Porta Messina and Pizzeria Nina.

One of the top travel tips I always talk about is “always eat at least a few blocks away form the tourist areas.” Food in tourist areas tends to be below par and expensive.  The restauranteurs reckon tourists don’t know any better and they are unlikely to return so there is very little risk in displeasing a tourist.  In the case of eating around Corso Umberto, Taormina’s main drag, I have to make an exception.  We tried Terrazza Angelo, in the heart of Corso Umberto and were pleasantly surprised.  We went for the spectacular view and ended up loving the food.  Highly recommended.


In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine. - Robin Leach
Click To Tweet


Taormina Restaurants Taormina Restaurants

Driving in Italy

Just a note if you are going to rent a car in Italy.  Make sure it is a compact one to easily fit through the narrow streets that were never meant for automobiles.

At the very tip of the Italian boot in Reggio Calabria is the town of Villa San Giovanni. Here is where you take the car ferry to Messina in Sicily. The car ferry takes 30 minutes and costs about €35. The crossing itself is smooth sailing. Actually getting the car onto the ferry is another story. You have to drive the car through these narrow and steep up-hill ramps and sharp corners; like an obstacle course. It takes longer to stow the car than it does to sail to Sicily, so make sure your car is suited for the Italian streets and ferry.

Driving in Italy can be a challenge for other reasons too. Once when we were looking for our hotel we diligently followed the traffic signs but continued to go around in a circle. After the fourth try, we found a policeman and asked for directions. Just as had happened in other parts of Italy, the policeman directed us to go against the traffic.  A “piccola infrazione” (small infraction) he called it. “Otherwise you’ll just go around in circles”, he said. I wanted to ask if it wouldn’t be easier to just change the sign but decided against it.

From the food to the archaeology to the winding streets to the medieval town, Taormina attractions and restaurants will delight you.

Make sure to check out these reference materials to have a good grasp on the area before you visit.

What Taormina restaurants and attractions are your favorites? Would you feel comfortable driving in Italy?  What car would you rent? et us know in the comments. 

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

Like this post? Read the entire series:

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post TAORMINA, SICILY: RESTAURANTS AND ATTRACTIONS appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/adventures-southern-italy-taormina/feed/ 0 9696
TOP 16 THINGS TO DO IN GRAN CANARIA, CANARY ISLANDS (SPAIN) https://travelswithtalek.com/top-16-things-to-do-in-gran-canaria-canary-islands-spain/ https://travelswithtalek.com/top-16-things-to-do-in-gran-canaria-canary-islands-spain/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2019 13:00:48 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=22330 I wasn’t entirely sure where the Canary Islands were, much less the many things to do in Gran Canaria, one of the main islands in the Canary Islands. The island of Gran Canaria was certainly a surprise. Here is a [...]

The post TOP 16 THINGS TO DO IN GRAN CANARIA, CANARY ISLANDS (SPAIN) appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
I wasn’t entirely sure where the Canary Islands were, much less the many things to do in Gran Canaria, one of the main islands in the Canary Islands. The island of Gran Canaria was certainly a surprise. Here is a brief primer for the uninitiated, like I was.

Canary Islands Facts

The Canary Islands are a part of Spain and in the European Union. These islands are composed of two Spanish provinces Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Seven islands make up the Canary Islands. From largest to smallest in area these are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Ferry service among the islands is efficient and pleasant so island hopping is definitely an option.

As a part of Spain, the currency is the Euro.

The weather in the Canary Islands is pleasant year round with an average temperature of mid 70s F (21 C) depending on what island you are visiting. It is hotter in the summer months of July and August.  The Canary Islands are generally believed to have the most consistently pleasant year-round weather on earth.

The culture is entirely Spanish. That means the food is pretty much spectacular with awesome tapas bars and Michelin star restaurants in the bigger islands.

Things to do in Gran Canaria. Visit Gran Canaria main square

Gran Canaria main square

The islands boast spectacular beaches, varied topography, vibrant nightlife, world-class hiking, arts and culture.

But here is the clincher, guys; value-added tax (VAT) in Spain is an average of 20% but in the Canary Islands it is only 5%! For products and services considered “essential” like communications, there is no VAT at all. This makes the Canary Islands an economical and highly desirable vacation destination.

Where did the name Canary Islands come from?  Let’s dispel one of the misconceptions about the Canary Islands.  There are no canaries there.

There are two schools of thought as to where the name “Canary Islands” came from.  The first legend is that when the Spaniards first landed there around 1483, they found huge dogs and named the island “canine island” which eventually morphed into Canary Islands. There are dog statues in the main square in honor of this legend.

Things to do in Gran Canaria, visit the main square

dogs on the main square of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Another theory tells us that the original inhabitants of the islands simply called themselves “canario,” so the Spaniards named the land the Isla de Canarios or Canary Islands–canario means canary in Spanish.

Officially, or at least on the internet, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands were called the Guanches, confirmed as a North African group genetically most similar to the African Berber people of today.  This makes sense as the coast of Africa, populated by modern-day Berbers,  is just a couple of hours from the Canaries.

So, I guess that the Canary Islands, like Spain and the rest of the world is a mixture of all our peoples, a beautiful mosaic.

Things to Do in Gran Canaria

Explore Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Your first stop in Gran Canaria should be the capital city, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This is a good place to begin immersing yourself in the culture and getting information on the best things to do in Gran Canaria.  

Head for the historic center where you will find the majority of the points of interest of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Do yourself a favor and book a local tour at the tourist information center on Plaza Mayor. You will save time and get a great overview of the area’s history and layout.

Must-Visit Sights Include:

Santa Ana Cathedral – Completed in 1570 this Gothic masterpiece and accompanying museum is a must. The unique interior is reminiscent of palm trees, the symbol of the island. Make sure to climb to the towers for breathtaking views of the city and the main square or Plaza Mayor.

Archeological Museo Canario – This comprehensive museum displays the area’s history from prehistoric times including data on the original inhabitants.

Plaza Cairasco – This beautiful square is home to the historical Hotel Madrid and the spectacular Ilustre Gabinete Literario, once a theater and now a literary and cultural center, is the most beautiful building in Gran Canaria both inside and out.  Make sure to book the very reasonably priced tour and prepare to be amazed at the spacious and opulent salons…especially the gold room!

Things to see in Gran Canaria, the Gold Room

The Gold Room at the Gabinete Literario

Stroll the Historic Center of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with its narrow alleys and picturesque squares. Find a little tapas bar and have a late lunch or a coffee.

Casa de Colon – A colonial-style mansion, formerly the governor’s home, once visited by Columbus.  Today the building houses a museum dedicated to all things Columbus. There are several salons each dedicated to a different aspect of the Columbus voyages.  Highlights include a model of the Spanish galleons that sailed to the Americas and a replica of Columbus’ ship cabin. A visit to the Casa de Colon is one of the most interesting things to do in Gran Canaria.

Things to do in Gran Canaria, visit Casa de Colon

La Casa Colon

There is a digital presentation of all four of Columbus’ voyages where you can follow the ships to all their destinations.

Of special interest to Hispanic-Americans is salon number 4 that displays the relationship between Canarias and the Americas. This room houses records of where the ships landed in the Americas and the subsequent emigration to these destinations including Cuba, Venezuela, Lousiana, Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. Here you’ll see charts showing yearly emigrations records per settlement (P=people, F=families).

History of Canarios Cuba in Canarias chart

If you are interested in this topic you will find delightfully revealing tidbits of information like what cities were founded by Canarians like San Antonio, Texas, San Augustine, Florida and Matanzas, Cuba.  Salon number 4 was under renovation when I was there but if you ask nicely they let you in with an employee.

Also of interest is the subterranean part of the building which houses prehistoric artifacts. You get a sense of the amazing history this house has seen throughout the centuries.

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

*****

Once you get your culture fix in the capital city, head south for some fun-in-the-sun things to do in Gran Canaria. The southern coast is famous for its beautiful beaches. Here are a few that are close enough to each other that they can be visited in one or two days.

The best things to do in the beach areas of Gran Canaria include:

Climb the Maspalomas Dunes

Maspalomas is a resort area on the southern part of the island. The area is full of cute rental units, both cottages and condos. Local people also live in the area giving Maspalomas a neighborhoody feel other resort areas lack.

The real claim to fame in Maspalomas is the famous sand dunes that stretch out for miles. People have picnics on the dunes and ride all-terrain vehicles. It is an otherworldly experience reminiscent of visiting a real dessert.

Maspalomas is also the place where Columbus kicked off his last leg of the journey to the Americas on his final voyage. A plaque marks the spot.

Watch the Sunset in Meloneras

Meloneras Beach is the more upmarket section of the southern part of Gran Canarias.  The condos are higher-end and the stores on the boardwalk remind one of a Rodeo-Drive-on-the-beach.

Canary sunset. Things to do in Gran Canaria Maspalomas dunes. Things to do in Gran Canaria

People come to Meloneras to experience the spas, stroll the boardwalk and dine at the surprisingly affordable restaurants.

One can’t miss activity is to watch the sunset over the horizon creating colors no man-made pallet ever imagined.

Party at Playa del Ingles Yumbo Center

This place is wild. It is a huge entertainment complex consisting of over 200 bars, restaurants, and shops on four stories in an open-air environment. It’s the place to go for an evening’s entertainment open late into the night.

Many establishments have their own drag or floor shows and piano and karaoke bars.  There are so many entertainment options to choose from, there is something for everybody.  We stopped at a club called Sparkles and saw a fun comedy review.  Drinks were reasonable, service was prompt and attentive and the atmosphere was fun and inviting.  You are encouraged to join in the revelry so don’t be shy.

Relax at Playa de Amadores

This beautiful beach is great for relaxing.  There is a boardwalk with local restaurants serving drinks and traditional Spanish fare like octopus and paella.

Try Watersports at Puerto Rico Beach

Choose from paddleboard, kayaking, jet skiing, or just chill on the beach.

Take the Ferry to Puerto Mogan

Island hopping via the many ferries in the area is a great way to experience the islands. We took a half-hour ferry ride from Puerto Rico beach to the port of Mogan. It’s a beautiful ride with interesting scenery along the way.

Puerto Mogan in Gran Canarias

Mogan is a relatively new community created to offer tourists accommodation alternatives to the standard hotel-condo.  The town sits by the port, designed like a small Spanish fishing village with white-washed homes dripping bougainvillea in every hue.  Little cafes, bars, and shops add to the picturesque ambiance.

The ferry costs 10 Euros round-trip and runs every hour until just before dusk.

*****

Visiting the interior of the island is a delightful surprise. You expect to find sleepy villages and old men with berets walking their dogs on the town square.  There’s plenty of that, but you don’t expect to find imposing Gothic cathedrals, elegant botanical gardens and liquor factories with world-wide markets.

Each little town has its own delight worth visiting.   Here are some examples of interesting towns in Gran Canarias and some unique things to do in them.

Experience Arucas

This town in north-central Gran Canarias is full of surprising sights.

The most impressive of Arucas’s attractions is its Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. It’s actually a church but it is so big and impressive, it is referred to as a cathedral.

This beautiful, graceful Gothic building was completed in 1977 after almost 70 years of construction.  The church’s spires can be seen from almost every spot in town.

Arucas gardens, one of the best things to do in Arucas Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist

Just a few blocks from the cathedral is Arucas’s botanical gardens, a collection of plants from various parts of the world presented in a beautifully landscaped area surrounded by sculptures.

Sample the Local Rum

Destilerias Arehucas is the local rum factory of Gran Canaria located in the town of Arucas.  The distillery gives tours explaining the history of rum and the production process from the sugar cane harvest to the aging in the oak barrels. The heavy sweetish aroma of the rum in the cellars permeates the distillery.

Tours are given in many European languages. At 5 Euros per person, it is an excellent way to spend an hour or more learning something new in a beautiful facility. Did you know that all rum is clear? It is the barrels that give it it’s brown color.

The specialty of the house is a honey rum.  At the end of the tour, the facility offers a self-serve tasting of about 20 different types or brands of rum.  Can you imagine, self-serve!  Despite people behaving properly by taking small samples, by the end of the tour one can be a bit tipsy. Suddenly total strangers on the tour who don’t even speak your language become your best friends taking each other’s photos while you sample rum. Once you return home you’ll look at your photos and ask…who ARE these people?

sampling rum at the Arehucas distilery Arehucas rum distilery

It’s a very interesting, fun tour.

See the Firgas Fountain

About twenty minutes from Arucas on a winding mountain road is the beautiful town of Firgas. Firgas is your typical Spanish mountain town with the local church nestled on a mountain top overlooking a breathtaking view of the countryside.

Little cafes, some with just one table, dot the narrow streets. Inside the counter displays overflow with home-made pastries that taste just as good as they look.

In the center of town is an unusual ceramic fountain celebrating the Canary Islands. The fountain is unusual because, as the town is high on a mountaintop, the water is pumped to its highest level then allowed to flow downward creating a cascade of rushing water. The effect is delightful.

Firgas is the perfect place to relax with a coffee, gooey pastry and watch the world go by with the tinkling fountain in the background. It’s one of those travel moments that are priceless.

Visit the Guayadeque Ravine

The area of Guayadaque is a valley on the east side of Gran Canaria. It is famous for the lush landscape so different from the rest of the island that it looks almost prehistoric. The valley is thick with almost 100 different species of vegetation including palm trees.

Guayadaque Ravine

The valley is also home to the Canarian lizard, one of the world’s largest lizards, native to the area, that can grow to almost 3 feet. It is not unusual to see the lizards feeding within a few feet of the road.

The Guayadaque Ravine has always been dotted with caves some of which have been turned into restaurants serving traditional Spanish food. Both locals and tourists go to the Ravine for meals in the unique environment of the caves. The restaurants are usually packed so be prepared to wait for a table.

*****

If you’re looking for an unusual vacation destination with history, culture, beach, great food and so much more, think of the many things to do in Gran Canaria and book your trip.  You won’t be disappointed.

Make sure to check out one of these handy reference books before you go.

What are your thoughts on Gran Canaria? Did you know much about this location or was it a surprise to learn more about it? Let us know in the comments.

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post TOP 16 THINGS TO DO IN GRAN CANARIA, CANARY ISLANDS (SPAIN) appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/top-16-things-to-do-in-gran-canaria-canary-islands-spain/feed/ 2 22330
5 AWESOME DAY TRIPS FROM BAKU, AZERBAIJAN THAT WILL AMAZE YOU https://travelswithtalek.com/5-awesome-day-trips-from-baku-azerbaijan-that-will-amaze-you/ https://travelswithtalek.com/5-awesome-day-trips-from-baku-azerbaijan-that-will-amaze-you/#respond Mon, 25 Nov 2019 13:00:18 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=20690 The best day trips from Baku will take you to locations filled with high artistic achievement, mysterious temples, and amazing natural phenomenon. After a couple of days exploring Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan with a Baku city tour, it’s time [...]

The post 5 AWESOME DAY TRIPS FROM BAKU, AZERBAIJAN THAT WILL AMAZE YOU appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
The best day trips from Baku will take you to locations filled with high artistic achievement, mysterious temples, and amazing natural phenomenon.

After a couple of days exploring Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan with a Baku city tour, it’s time to discover its surroundings.  I’ve gathered a small selection of some of the most interesting day trips from Baku.  All of these outings are within one or two hours of Baku giving you an opportunity to visit them all within one or two days depending on how much time you spend at each location and what your interest level is.  But they are all worth visiting.

From richly decorated mosques to blazing mountains to prehistoric rock carvings and cave art, these day trips from Baku will make you rethink your impressions of this little-understood country.

Day Trips from Baku, Azerbaijan 

Bibi-Heybat Mosque

This graceful, cream-colored mosque appears deceivingly understated on the outside. But once inside you are greeted with a kaleidoscope of colors from the light streaming in through the stain glass windows.

The domes are decorated with emerald green mosaics and golden colored inscriptions from the Qu’ran. The tombs rest in an enclosed area encased in silver gates and gold-colored roofs.  The combined effect of the colors, designs, and textures is stunning.

stained glass windows in mosque Mosque tomb in Baku seen on day trips from Baku Mosque ceiling seen on day trips from Baku

Rebuilt in the 1990s after the identical model the Soviets destroyed in 1934, the mosque stands majestically before the Caspian Sea about 20 minutes from Baku Old Town.  It contains the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of Muhammad.

When visiting, women will be provided with a robe covering–that looks like an old hospital gown–to wear while in the mosque.

The Mud Volcanoes

About one and a half hours from Baku is an area known for submarine mud volcanoes.  The road there is in great condition until you hit the detour to the location.  Then the road becomes unpaved, bumpy and very steep. There are taxis nearby to take people whose cars cannot travel to the volcanoes.

Once you get there you will see a barren grey landscape with dozens of volcanoes from tiny ones less than a foot high to much larger ones.

Azerbaijan is home to over a third of the mud volcanoes in the world.  They are formed from pockets of underground gas that force themselves to the surface.  You would think that the volcanoes are hot but since they are not caused by magma, they are very cold.  A totally weird and counter-intuitive feeling is to dip your fingers in the “boiling” mud and feel the cool texture.

The local residents believe the mud has medicinal qualities to cure or alleviate skin conditions and they collect the mud in plastic bottles for sale to tourists and residents.

The Petroglyph Museum in Gobustan

A few minutes from the Mud Volcanoes is the Petroglyph Museum in Gobustan. The museum offers an in-depth explanation of the prehistoric petroglyphs, or rock carvings, found in the area. The exhibit recreates the people who made the petroglyphs, why and for what purpose.

The petroglyphs are significant because of their variety and artistic achievement which many compare to the cave art found in the Altamira caves of northern Spain. The area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More than just a museum,  the location functions as an educational center with over 20 exhibition rooms and a small 3D theater.

Prehistoric figures seen in Petroglyph Museum, one of the best day trips from Baku

Kids will love the “please touch” exhibits.  I thought they were pretty cool too.

Gobustan Rock Art in the Gobustan National Park

After learning about the petroglyphs the fun part is to stroll through the grounds of the Gobustan National Park and actually see them close up.

It is fascinating to imagine our long-ago ancestors carving their visions into the rock. There are designs of bison and other animals that were so important to their survival. Images of pregnant women also feature prominently, perhaps an homage to a fertility goddess.

Petroglyphs in Gobustan Museum, one of the great day trips from Baku

One set of carvings I found especially interesting were those of groups of people next to each other that appeared to be holding hands.  Some of the figures were clearly male, others female with smaller figures representing children.   They appear to be moving together, perhaps dancing.  What were these people trying to do all those tens of thousands of years ago in that cave? What fears were they trying to dispel? What prayers were they hoping to get answered?

I found the images poignant and moving.

As these destinations are so close together, it is easy to combine the Petroglyph Museum, Gobustan National Park and the Bibi Hayat Mosque into one of the perfect day trips from Baku.

The Fire Temple of Ateshgah

The Ateshgah of Baku is often referred to as the “Fire Temple of Baku.”  This is a structure that looks like a cross between a medieval castle and a Hindu temple about an hour from Baku. In fact the temple has been used by many religions including Zoroastrian, Hindu and even Sikh.

Constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ateshgah has been turned into a museum and was declared a state historical-architectural reserve by decree of the President of Azerbaijan.

The central temple sits in the center of a courtyard surrounded by stone walls with little alcoves which were used as cells.  To convey the historical use of the temple, wax figurines have been placed in the cells depicting the lives the worshipers lived.

The star attraction is the fire in the central temple. The fire blazed naturally from escaping natural gas for nearly a century and has been replaced by a gas pipe line.  If you take a picture at a particular angle, it appears as if you are engulfed in flames.

Ateshgah Temple Inside Ateshgah Temple

All the while I was wandering the temple and the exhibits I was thinking about what interesting creatures we humans are.  How we have been driven to create and to connect spiritually throughout history no matter where we are.  I always come to the conclusion that the more I learn about the world the more I realize how little I know.

Yanar Dag

Yanar Dag is a natural fire that burns continuously on a hillside in Baku near the Caspian Sea. The flames can rise as high as 3 meters in the air. It is said the fire was initially lit by a shepherd in the 1950s and has remained blazing ever since.

Geologists say the Yanar Dag fire is the result of hydrocarbon gases sprouting up from the earth’s surface.

Azerbaijan is known as the land of fire.  This natural phenomenon is unexplained when seen with the naked eye. The site has taken on religious significance for some residents over the years.

The site is the base of a large hill surrounded by an arena of sand.  There is a small seating area for people to sit and observe the blazing fire.  It’s amazing to see it burn with no visible fuel, it’s just fire sprouting from a mountain.

The site is impressive enough during the day, but at night, the sight of the blazing flames against the night sky is truly remarkable.

Want to know more about Azerbaijan and its fascinating capital? Check out these books.

Is Baku, Azerbaijan on YOUR bucket list?  How do these day trips from Baku sound to you?  We’d like to know.

Baku Azerbaijan

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post 5 AWESOME DAY TRIPS FROM BAKU, AZERBAIJAN THAT WILL AMAZE YOU appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/5-awesome-day-trips-from-baku-azerbaijan-that-will-amaze-you/feed/ 0 20690
SAFE TRAVELS: A DOCTOR’S 20 TIPS FOR TRAVELING HEALTHY https://travelswithtalek.com/doctors-tips-staying-healthy-while-traveling/ https://travelswithtalek.com/doctors-tips-staying-healthy-while-traveling/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2019 10:30:38 +0000 https://travelswithtalek.com/?p=15836 Traveling healthy is key for a positive travel experience. That’s why people say “safe travels” when they see you off. The last thing you want is to spend your valuable off-time sick in bed. I’m frequently asked if I have [...]

The post SAFE TRAVELS: A DOCTOR’S 20 TIPS FOR TRAVELING HEALTHY appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
Traveling healthy is key for a positive travel experience. That’s why people say “safe travels” when they see you off. The last thing you want is to spend your valuable off-time sick in bed.

I’m frequently asked if I have any tips for staying healthy while traveling.  Since I am not a health professional, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Dr. William Spangler,* global medical director at AIG Travel.  The good doctor has a wealth of actionable tips for traveling healthy.  He also has some good health tips on what NOT to do. Read on…

A Doctor’s Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Health-related Issues While Traveling

Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling. An older couple

Stress is debilitating. Don’t try to do too much the first day, especially when traveling across time zones.  Your body is not used to traveling. The older you are, the more difficult it is to bounce back. Try to ease into your vacation or business trip. Plan so your first day is an easy one. Stroll the city the first day rather than hike. Don’t schedule a late dinner or a party night on your first day.

Some of the best health tips while traveling include, know your limits. If you have not hiked for 10 years, don’t book a hike to Machu Picchu. Search out alternative transportation.

Dos and Don’ts to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Staying Healthy While Traveling - Flu Shot - traveling healthy

  • You’ve heard it before. Depending on the country, stick to bottled water, wash your hands frequently, use antiseptic gel.
  • Get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the single best thing you can do to prevent yourself and others from getting sick.
  • Break in your shoes before you go on that trip. You will be walking a lot and uncomfortable shoes will cause you pain.
  • Bring an extra pair of glasses or at least the prescription.
  • Never put your medications in your checked luggage. Always bring them in your carry-on.

Staying Healthy While Traveling on a Long Flight

How to Stay Healthy on a Long Haul Flight. Traveling healthy - safe travels

What actions can people take while on a long-haul flight to promote healthy travel?

To reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that can result from sitting on a plane for long periods of time, get up and walk as frequently as possible, at least every two hours. Increase your circulation with stretching exercises. You can do these in the areas by the restrooms, by walking up and down the aisle, and even while sitting in your seat.

To clear your ears when landing, hold your nose and blow out VERY gently. Forcing the air can cause damage to the eardrum and will not make the ears clear any faster.

As you’ve probably heard, an airplane is like a flying petri dish. There are likely more germs on your fold-down tray table than in the restroom, so act accordingly. Don’t be afraid to be that guy that wipes down the tray table and armrest.

Airplane air is recycled and since there always seems to be a guy coughing and sneezing a few rows away from you, his germs are also being recycled.  Wipe down and close the air vents too.  Here is a situation where it can pay to be overcautious.

Needless to say, don’t fly with a cold. Landing will be very painful on your sinuses and you will needlessly jeopardize your fellow passengers.

Tips on Reducing the Effects of Jet Lag

Staying Well on Your Trip - Avoiding Jet Lag - healthy traveling

  • Drink plenty of fluids, limit alcohol – a glass of wine with dinner is fine.
  • Exercise will tire you out and help you sleep.
  • Try to get into the daily routine of the new location as soon as you can.

What’s in My First Aid Travel Kit?

Bring Your Medications to Stay Healthy While Traveling - traveling healthy

What should every traveler have in her first aid kit to ensure they stay healthy while traveling? You may want to ask your healthcare provider about prescription anti-nausea medication and a gastrointestinal antibiotic. As for over-the-counter medication, pain medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can be a lifesaver. BAND-AIDs are always good to have and will come in handy in case your shoes were not broken in beforehand. And don’t forget a good quantity of antiseptic wipes.

Your medications are a critically important part of your trip. Follow these key recommendations to stay healthy while traveling abroad:

  • Make sure you have enough. Stock up for at least three extra days. You never know when some unforeseen situation will keep you from returning home on time. Who knew a volcano in Iceland would delay flights in Europe?
  • Make sure you know the generic name of your medication as well as the trade name, dosage and frequency.
  • Keep your medication in the separate, original container if possible. Depending on what countries you travel to, you may need a doctor’s letter stating that your medications were medically prescribed. The last thing customs officials want to see is a bunch of loose pills coming into their country.

Health Myths Debunked

It's a good idea to have travel health insurance. traveling healthy

Are there health myths for travelers that you can address and perhaps debunk?

Probably the biggest myth I can think of is that your home health insurance will cover you overseas.  Even if it does cover, you will still have to “pay-and-file” on the spot. Meaning you will have to pay for medical expenses upfront and file for insurance after you return home. This can be costly and time-consuming.

Should you have a medical emergency, you’ll want to evacuate as quickly and efficiently as possible. Medical evacuation insurance is recommended with a coverage of at least US$50,000 and preferably US$100,000. In circumstances that meet the terms of the policy, this level of coverage typically will provide for a medical evac jet or a nurse to accompany you home on a commercial flight. Depending on the situation, the cost of a medical evac will likely not be less than five figures – and a quarter of a million dollars is not unheard of.

For “regular” travel medical coverage, including dental, I recommend minimum coverage of US$10,000; US$50,000 would be preferable.

————

Staying healthy while traveling can make all the difference between a fun trip and a nightmare journey. I think these tips will go a long way to ensuring you minimize any health risks and enjoy your travels.

*Dr. William Spangler is based in Houston, Texas and is the worldwide medical director for AIG Travel, a company that is a global leader in medical, security, and travel assistance. Dr. Spangler completed his undergraduate studies at Albright College in Pennsylvania and received his MD from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.

He directs a global team of medical professionals including physicians, nurses and paramedics who assist travelers with medical concerns throughout the world. Assistance services include such activities as medical referrals, monitoring, evacuation and repatriation.

————

Keep Fit While Traveling: A Travel Nurse’s Guide to Traveling Healthy

Staying fit while traveling is also a serious issue and just as important as working at staying healthy while traveling. If you do your best to stay fit and healthy at home, the routine disruption of several days on the road can wreak havoc on your regular fitness schedule.

I asked Alex McCoy, a health care professional for tips on best ways to stay healthy and fit while traveling and got some simple and effective ideas.

Two people walking on a bridge. brisk walks will help you keep fit while traveling.

Hello! My name is Alex McCoy and I am a travel nurse and blogger over at FitTravelLife.net. I have a passion for finding ways to prioritize fitness on the road. Whether you are traveling across the country or across the world, frequent exploring can be detrimental to any sort of health and fitness routine. BUT this does not have to be the case. By coming up with a few routines and systems you can still experience new places and enjoy healthy travel along the way.

If you are on a vacation, a lot of these rules can be a little more “relaxed.” However if you are constantly on the move or taking frequent trips, it is even more important that you stick to this advice if you have long term fitness goals. Staying healthy while traveling isn’t overly complicated, it just takes a little more planning and discipline.

Here are some health travel tips to keep you fit while on the road.

Incorporate Movement in Your Destination

move and keep fit while traveling. A couple on bicycles

Walk rather than ride around cities.

While Uber and Lyft provide a convenient alternative to public transportation, saving cash by walking also allows you to get more exercise in on sightseeing days. By walking between activities you also get the true feel of the place you are visiting and the small details like sights, sounds, and smells aren’t blocked by a car window.

Drop into a local gym or fitness class.

One way to guarantee you are up and working out before a long day of adventuring is to sign up for a class at a local gym. Most places charge a small fee ($15-20 depending on the city) but are very welcoming to visitors trying out a class for a day. The best part about small group training is you can meet some locals and ask for pointers on navigating your destination or finding the best food in the area.

Go for a jog or a walk/run and scout out the area where you are staying.

Whether you are staying for a day or a month, it is nice to have a lay of the land before planning your list of things to see. Set a route on Google maps and take a quick jog in the morning so you have a feel of how the neighborhood or city is laid out. If you aren’t a big runner, set a timer and jog for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds while you look around.

Don’t Use Travel as an Excuse to Eat Everything

a good breakfast will help you keep fit while traveling. a bowl of fruitGo big on a few (planned) meals

As a big foodie myself, I like to plan out which restaurants are a must at each destination. At these locations I don’t keep myself from trying their famous dishes even if they are a little more decadent than foods I would normally eat. Part of the beauty of travel is experiencing local cuisine, so allow yourself to indulge on these occasions!

Keep healthy snacks on hand.

Another way to save money and calories is to pack or purchase a few healthy snacks. If you travel light, make a quick stop at a grocery store to pick up some fresh produce or jerky to snack on in between meals. I also like having a few protein bars on hand for breakfast on the go.

Skip the junk that isn’t worth it.

If you make a stop out of necessity to grab food, use it as a time to pick more wholesome, healthy foods. For example, if you are road tripping and fast food is the only convenient option, opt for a grilled chicken sandwich or a to-go salad if they have them. Just because you are on a trip doesn’t mean that food will taste great or make you feel good, so don’t waste extra calories on an “okay” meal.

Get Outside and Keep Fit in the Sunshine

A woman in the sunlight. Time for yourself will help you keep fit while travelling

Use apps or Google Maps to find local walking trails or places to hike.

Even if I am not motivated to get a traditional workout in, getting outside to hike or explore doesn’t feel quite as intimidating. I use All Trails a lot to find a hike that fits the timeline I have in mind and look for routes with scenic overlooks or waterfalls. Some of my best travel photos have been thanks to getting out into nature and away from the traditional areas most tourists visit.

Try a new activity.

The beauty of travel is you are often introduced to environments or climates that are different from home. Look for ways to try something unique to the area you are in that also doubles as physical activity. If you are somewhere warm, look for local bike tours or a body of water where you can rent kayaks. In colder locations, try something new like snowshoeing or skiing. This is a great way to get some movement in and also experience local culture.

Use a local park to get a quick workout in.

A woman exercising. Exercise around town to keep fit while travelingI am a big fan of interval training on vacation. In 20 to 30 minutes you can get sweaty and work all of your muscle groups, then be ready to move on with the fun stuff you have planned. Parks are a great place to find equipment that can be used to mix up your workout routine. Use a bench for step ups, monkey bars for pull ups, or do lunges on small bleachers. Don’t stress too much about what you are doing, just get moving!

Safe Travels! 

*****

While getting bigger, stronger, and faster doesn’t have to be a priority when you are on a trip, I highly encourage you to keep up some sort of basic routine for health and fitness. Taking a few weeks off of eating right and exercising makes it that much hard to keep fit at home when you finally get back to normal.

Here are a couple of guides to help you get started:

Stick to the basics while traveling: move a little every day, drink water, and make a conscious effort to eat as best as you can and you will be much more successful in the long run when it comes to your overall health.

If you travel a lot, these health travel tips are especially important for long term health and longevity, which is the key to being able to continue traveling.

PIN ME TO PINTEREST!

What are your tips for staying fit while traveling? We’d like to know.

Like these tips for staying healthy while traveling? You might like these posts too.

Jet Lag: Tips to Lessen the Effects Faster

The top 10 causes of injury and illness while traveling

Travel safety tips you need to know

BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful, money-saving links to book your trip:

  • Research and book your flight with Skyscanner. I have found them to be the best because they list all airlines including the budget ones. You are always sure of having researched all options. You can also book your car rental through Skycanner.
  • For car rental in Europe that has flexible pickup and drop-off options, I recommend Auto Europe.
  • Book your accommodation with Booking.com. I find they have the widest selection and a nice, user-friendly, transparent website.
  • If an Airbnb experience is more your style, book Airbnb here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay.
  • Protect your trip and, more importantly, protect yourself with travel insurance. I use World Nomads and have been very happy with them.
  • Looking for a small group tour to unforgettable destinations with top professionals? Intrepid Travel is your choice.
  • For more general tours to any destination or attraction, book with Viator. Check them out.
  • Need a visa? Get your visa for all countries with iVisa.

I personally use, and can recommend, all the companies listed here and elsewhere on my blog. By booking through these sites, the small commission we earn – at no cost to you – helps us maintain this site so we can continue to offer our readers valuable travel tips and advice.

The post SAFE TRAVELS: A DOCTOR’S 20 TIPS FOR TRAVELING HEALTHY appeared first on Travels with Talek.

]]>
https://travelswithtalek.com/doctors-tips-staying-healthy-while-traveling/feed/ 2 15836