COVID-19 has thrown many social pleasures out the window, from weddings, summer festivals to concerts. But the pandemic has curtailed one of life’s biggest pleasures: travel. With global travel restrictions in place and pockets of rising cases, it seems like travel is the last thing on anyone’s mind. I, myself, had several big trips derailed due to the pandemic: skiing in Banff, California and Colombia. Regrettably, I don’t think I’ll be going abroad for the rest of the year!
Being a travel enthusiast, I feel somewhat empty inside not being able to indulge in one of my greatest pleasures. You fellow ‘wanderlusters’ probably feel the same way. But just because there are worldwide travel restrictions doesn’t necessarily mean travel has to go out the window completely. Now is the perfect time to play tourist in your own backyard and go ‘local’. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month now.
I’ve been visiting towns and villages near my home that I either have never been to or haven’t been to since I was a child. And now that I have, I’m discovering local treasures I never knew existed. For example, I recently visited a town nearly seventy miles from my house. It turned out to be along this pretty river known for paddling and rafting. It also was a quaint town to walk around, I felt as if I was experiencing a more authentic Ontario. In another example, I went to a lakeside town that has a renowned theatre, and is popular with couples. It is also in the heart of Niagara wine country with vineyards galore!
If you set your travel radar to local, you can have similar experiences as me! Chances are your home is nearby to countless ‘treasures’. Not convinced? Try doing a Google search or use an app I love called Culture Trip. You can use it to find various travel tips and insights on practically any destination worldwide. I normally use to look up places I plan to visit on any trip abroad. Give it a try! I’m sure you’ll be able to find places within 80 miles of your home, which would make the perfect daytrip!
Overnight stays at a hotel/motel may not be plausible for obvious reasons, so it’s best to look for places you can easily visit for the day. Not only will you discover new local treasures, you will have an opportunity for a selfie or two to add to your Instagram feed! So get online, discover travel-worthy locales and keep up on traveling. The day will come when we can all get back to savoring the great wonders of the world! I know I will when that day comes!
Happy ‘local’ traveling, where ever that might be!
We all know that Mexico doesn’t exactly have the best P.R. reputation at the present. Homicides, kidnappings, drug cartels, etc. And then, of course, we have the situation with Trump. It seems like Mexico is the last place anyone wants to visit. Over the Christmas holidays, I traveled through this amazing country, and I’m here to share with you why Mexico rocks and why you should consider a trip there.
Most of my countrymen – and other foreign nationals – prefer to stay at resorts on the coast, such as the Mayan Riviera, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. Prior to my trip, I had only gone to Tijuana on a day trip from San Diego. I didn’t have the best impression from, and many Mexicans that I had met over the years told me Tijuana is not exactly authentic Mexico. So over two weeks, I traveled through southern Mexico, starting in Mexico City and finishing in Playa del Carmen. I hit hotspots such as Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Campeche. It was fantastic! Even Mexico City etched a special place in my travel memories! I also felt as if I had experienced things that resort-goers rarely experience. Furthermore, I didn’t feel unsafe during my entire trip.
So, what makes Mexico so special?
1. A foodie’s paradise – tacos, tlayudas, mole, enchiladas, the freshest peppers and spices, the list goes on! Note: Mexican food here is not like those typical Tex-Mex restaurants; it’s a whole new ball game, and the food is much spicier. Still, you will not be disappointed with Mexican gastronomy. And if you are looking to up your cooking skills, this is the place to learn. When I was in Oaxaca, I came across a renowned chef, named Gerardo, and his cooking school La Cocina Oaxqueña. Not only did I learn some new skills, Gerardo was an amazing teacher and hospitable. He first takes you to a local market to buy the ingredients, and then brings you to his house to do all the cooking. Totally worth a day out of your time in Oaxaca!
2. Civilizations past – you know them! The Aztecs, Olmecs, Mayans, etc. A visit to Mexico is a chance to step back and time and trace these Pre-Hispanic civilizations. When you’re in Mexico City, you will be in the old Tenochtitlan. This was what Mexico City was called prior to the Spaniards’ arrival. It was also the center of the Aztec Empire! It’s mind-blowing to know that you are in the land of some of the most interesting ancient civilizations!
3. Natural wonders – this is a piggyback to point number two. Chichen Itzá, Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Palenque, etc. Some of these are considered to be the great wonders of the world. Another natural wonder is a cenote. Cenotes, which are scattered in the Yucatan Peninsula, are natural sinkholes in caves. They offer a natural dip in an underground lagoon, where the visitor is soon congregated by minnows and other small fish. I visited one near Merida, and it was definitely a trip highlight!
4. It won’t break your bank – Mexico is cheap compared to other places out there. You can easily have a plateful of tacos and a beer in a taqueria for six U.S. dollars. And Mexico is a great place to practice your bargaining skills when you visit the local markets. They are also optimal for authentic souvenirs. In short, a trip to Mexico will definitely be easy on your wallet!
5. Friendly locals – despite what you may have heard, Mexicans are really friendly, and they really want tourists to visit their country. They are fully aware of the negative narrative going around. I struck up interesting conversations with a few locals (it helped that I’m fluent in Spanish), and I found them to be helpful.
A few helpful tips to Mexican travel:
1. Brush up on your Spanish – this will make your trip more enjoyable, and it is a must if you visit Mexico City, or CDMX as it is colloquially referred to.
2. Include Mexico City – it’s not as bad as P.R. makes it look out to be. With great restaurants, and a chance to discover Aztec history, this city should not be excluded. It was my favorite place, and IMHO, no visit to the country would be complete without CDMX.
3. Download Uber – taxi drivers have a negative reputation in CDMX, and Uber is a safer, more reliable way of getting around this colossal city. I used it to get to the city from the airport. Just know some basic Spanish, as most Uber drivers don’t speak English.
4. Invest in a money pouch/belt – do not carry your wallet in your back pocket for obvious reasons. It’s better to have your money and passport inconspicuously stored.
5. Buy a SIM card – don’t expect reliable WIFI here. A SIM card means you will always have reliable WIFI. They are inexpensive and the data included will last you your entire trip (just don’t stream videos).
6. Travel in an organized tour – not comfortable traveling alone? No problem. I advocate investing in an organized tour, such as G Adventures. This way, you will be traveling in numbers with someone who knows the country inside and out.
So, I hope you are now more convinced about Mexico. If you’re still not, that’s okay too. Happy traveling!
It’s that time of year when many European cities are teeming with tourists. Savoring the countless sights is rewarding, but the costs involved, not so. The plane ticket and hotels can pack a punch on your wallet alone. As well, the exchange rate with the euro is enough to make your head spin. How do you spend two weeks or more in this lovely continent without breaking the bank? It’s possible, believe me. I manage to save quite a bit every time I go there. Even the little things can save you big bucks.
Here are some tips to help you save money while traveling around Europe:
Buy a tourist card. These cards, which can be purchased at European airports or official tourist offices, allow you to visit all the main attractions for free. When you buy them, they can be used for one, two or even three days. These cards start at 30 euro for one day and run up to 60 euro for three days (more or less). If you plan on visiting four major attractions, say London or Paris, it’s worth it to buy the card because you’ll pay one price for the card and be able to visit all the major attractions for free. I recently went to Dublin for three days and purchased a tourist card for one day’s use. As a result, I visited the Guinness Brewery, Dublin Writer’s Museum and the Jameson Distillery for one price. I would’ve spent more if I had paid separate admission to these places! Additionally, these cards entitle you to discounts at restaurants, bars/pubs and even free public transportation.
Avoid eating lunches in restaurants. An alternative is buying food in local supermarkets. I usually eat a light meal at lunch, so a few rolls, an apple and a can of juice is all I need. And I usually never pay more than six euro. Many European supermarkets have hot counters, so you can buy a sausage roll or hot sandwich for half the price you would pay in a restaurant. However, if you happen to be going to Madrid, I would recommend a restaurant called, Museo del Jamón. You can get what is called a ‘Picnic Para Llevar’, which includes a sandwich, an apple/banana and a can of soda or beer all for 2 euro – you won’t do better than that for lunch in Madrid!
Use public transport from the airport to the city center. Let’s take Madrid for example. A cab ride to the city center from the airport can cost up to 30 euro (cabs charge supplements for airport rides and luggage). If you took the metro or train, you would only pay up to 6 euro for that same journey. If you don’t have a lot of luggage, this is a better option and will save you a lot of money.
Avoid restaurants and cafes in the touristy zones. You’ve heard about them from friends/family and read about them in tour books and websites. They are great for sightseeing, but best avoided for eating/drinking. Not only are they expensive, but they are catered to the tourists, which means you don’t get the authentic cuisine of the city you are in. Furthermore, you are more likely to get robbed because these zones are full of pickpockets and other thieves. The lesser known zones often have cheaper, and more authentic restaurants. Ask someone at your hotel or drop by the local tourist office for suggestions.
Hopefully this helps you better plan your trip, so you can enjoy Europe while saving money at the same time. Take it from someone who has spent more than a year living there.