Vacation Rentals- Questions to Ask to Avoid Disappointment

When you are staying in a vacation rental, whether it is run by the owner or by vacation rental professionals like the team at Elan Vacations, you get to enjoy a much more private vacation than if you are staying in a busy downtown hotel.  However, one of the advantages of staying in a hotel is that you have easy access to thinks like concierge assistance, extra pillows or bath supplies, and necessities that you may have forgotten to pack.  Even the best-appointed vacation rental will have difficulty competing with a major hotel on this front, and for that reason, staying in a vacation rental does require a bit of care with respect to making sure you will have everything you need.  Here are some questions that you should be sure to ask when you are choosing a vacation rental.

Is the neighborhood very noisy or very quiet?

Most vacation rentals will have guidelines prohibiting parties or loud activities on the property out of respect for neighbors.  But it is a good idea to find out what the “tolerances” are for noise in the area.  For example, if you are staying in a condo complex, you might find that there are rules about not playing music after a certain time, or you could find that a neighbor has complained about the fact that that you were on the balcony laughing or talking at normal levels at 11pm. Especially if you are travelling with a large group, you may find that your normal activities cause more noise than is normal in the building.  On the other side, you may find that there are lots of dogs in the area that bark at night, or local bars or restaurants that play loud music.  If any of these things are important to you, be sure to very clearly discuss your expectations with the owner or manager, and be sure you understand theirs.

Is there someone close by help if needed?

Any number of things can happen which require the assistance of the owner or property manager – electricity can fail, appliances can break, etc.  If such situations, you want to be sure that there is someone you can call who is able to respond in relatively short order.  You also want to know that there is someone that you can call more urgently, for example if you become locked out, or a pipe bursts and water is filling the kitchen.  Does the owner have a relationship or service contract with local tradespeople?

Utilities

Especially if you are travelling outside the US, you might find that electricity is pre-paid and that you may need to buy more if you go over. Be sure that you understand from your host whether this is the situation, and if so, who pays for additional electricity.  If you are staying in a vacation home for an extended period of time, be sure that you understand who pays the electric bill, and also the water and gas bills, if relevant.  If the owner pays these utilities, be sure to ask if there are any circumstances in which you may be charged for “excessive” use, and get clarification of what those circumstances may be.

These are just some of the many questions that you should ask your host before you arrive at your vacation rental to ensure that all goes well!

6 Overlooked Backpacking Destinations In Eastern Europe

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If you’re an avid backpacker and you’re looking for the next great destination, look no further. Backpacking has been done throughout the world for years now and some of the destinations have been almost literally done to death. After all – how many more secret spots can be found in the places that have been frequented for years by thousands and thousands of people? One region of the planet that seems to be lesser visited than others is Eastern Europe, perhaps due to its relatively negative connotations as former deeply Soviet regions people think there may not be much worth seeing here, but as this article will show you – nothing could be further from the truth.

Belarus

Belarus maintains to this day a strict, enforced and almost militant border policy and government. A visa for most nationals, along with state issued medical certificates and a letter of invitation are required for a trip to Belarus and it could easily be considered one of the “final frontiers” of real adventure travel given its lack of any real tourist infrastructure, especially outside of Minsk. Internet is difficult to find in Minks and nigh on impossible in the countryside. If planning a trip to Belarus ensure you look into the visa situation for your own individual country of residence as it varies from nation to nation. Saying all this though, Belarus is home to a number of very unique experiences and sights, with some of the countryside featuring old world villages and very old world farming practices still used. The food, drink and language is similar to the culture of Russia and Ukraine, so you will find soups similar to Borscht and dumplings such as vareneky with ease. Crime is strictly punished, so street crime is low, however there can be theft from hotel rooms by cleaning staff so ensure you take all your valuables with you or lock them away somewhere safe.

Romania

Despite the fact that Romania is part of the European Union, travel seems to remain a bit wilder in terms of tourist infrastructure and simplicity in some parts. The cities are well equipped to host tourists of all levels of class and style depending what you’re looking for, while out in the countryside depending where you go you might be faced with home stays and local transport. It depends how off the beaten track you want to get, but Romanians on a whole are welcoming and helpful and will help you get from A to B with no worries. With a number of beautiful old world towns – many with their own castles to see – along with the Carpathian mountains you will wonder why you didn’t come to Romania sooner. Don’t forget to check out Dracula’s Castle – a hot tourist spot and a bit of a creepy stopping point for anyone in the country.

Ukraine

Ukraine gets a bad rap due to reports of its supposed rampant corruption, but nothing could be further from the truth. With their attempts to clean up their reputation for hopeful EU admittance, Ukraine has cracked down on former corrupt policies in its borders, police and government and is now a very warm, welcoming place. Kiev (sometimes spelled Kyiv) is the very spread out capital city where you won’t have trouble getting around or communicating your needs with the locals – even those whose English is poor can understand some and most wait staff in restaurants and bars speak at least some English. The food is absolutely top notch – we recommend ‘Shato’, a chain restaurant that features an impressive local and imported beer menu as well as traditional Ukrainian fare such as vareneky, borscht (beet soup), sausages of all kinds and cabbage rolls (holuptsi). Shato is also home to live music by night. Ukraine on the whole is a very affordable place to travel through, especially if you take local transport (Kiev’s metro costs 4 US cents per ride, regardless of how far you go), and longer bus journeys, although somewhat uncomfortable in marshrutkas can be under $10 depending where you’re going. Ukrainiain culture is very vocal and musical, so ensure you take in a show by a live band or dance troupe – you won’t regret it.

A side note to those interested in going to Chornobyl – the site of the nuclear disaster in 1986, ensure you book well in advance and get the checks started, As you’re going into a restricted area they do background checks on you prior to the tour, so you will need to submit for this about ten days before your scheduled tour. You will also need to take your passport with you for the checkpoints along the way into the exclusion zone of Pripyat and Chornobyl. Accommodation wise throughout Ukraine is that you would be better off staying in the likes of an Air Bnb or similar – you will get more for your money and get to hob nob with a local or two who might have some suggestions on absolutely top notch places to see during your trip – they might even join you too!

Moldova/Transnistria

Another unique region slightly similar to Belarus, Moldova and it’s “non-existant” neighbour Transnistria are unique and exciting places for any backpacker who might want to check out something new and unusual. Transnistria is a de-facto self-governing nation with no governmental ties to Moldova, however the sovereignty of the region is not widely recognised by many other countries. Transnistria is the region immediately east of Moldova, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine.

The general region of Moldova in itself is perfect for those who enjoy outdoor activities. With the steppes and wide open spaces featuring lakes and rivers, it’s a great place for hiking, kayaking, hill walking and generally getting out and about. The cities in Moldova feature beautiful town squares and the city of Soroca specifically is considered the home of the Romani Gypsy – so their buildings reflect this culture and are ornately decorated and colourful. The food of Moldova is similar to that of neighbouring Ukraine and Romania – soups, and a lot of use of root vegetables in many dishes as well as breads and dumplings with varying fillings with regional differences.

The Baltics – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

These three countries are tucked away in the north eastern corner of Europe, between Sweden and Russia and south of Finland. Tallin, the capital of Estonia is fast becoming a favourite locale for stag parties from western Europe, but still retains its classical, beautiful European charm and is a welcoming place for travellers of all ages. All three Baltic states are great places to travel through consecutively with a number of interesting and pagan-oriented festivals to be enjoyed throughout the year. Each of these three countries has their own unique flavour but one thing they all have in common is their twisting backstreets lined with cafes, their own regional beers and takes on various dishes such as dumplings, soups and breads as well as their skylines which consist of beautiful church steeples and Orthodox church domes sparkling in the sun. They also enjoy good, well scheduled train and bus links between them to make movement around the Baltics easier than expected.

Georgia

While not officially designated as Europe, Georgia is fighting for its inclusion into the EU and is making a large effort to attract a higher class of visitor as well as backpacker. The capital city Tbilisi is home to a number of high class hotels such as the Radisson Blu and a Marriott. Its low train and bus fares mean Georgia is not only cheap and easy to get around, but it offers links to almost every corner of the country too. From the sloping grape covered wine region of the east, with beautiful vistas over to the mountains around the Caspian sea and Azerbaijan, to the Black Sea coast that features strange cities like Batumi which is more like a Russian’s Las Vegas, Georgia is a peculiar but amazing nation. It’s something that’s come out of a time warp, with cinderblock villages set high in the mountains and roadside vendors selling snacks for almost criminally low prices. With so much to see and do, and multiple climate zones in one place, Georgia has something for everyone – not to mention its nearly 8000 year old wine making traditions!

So there you have six great places in Eastern Europe to explore on your next backpacking trip that each have their own unique flavour and history. So check out some of Eastern Europe next time – you won’t be disappointed!

Things To See And Do In Madrid

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Whether you’re from Europe or not, one thing is for certain – Spain is one of the hottest travel destinations for Europeans and foreigners alike. Conjuring up images of back alley cafes, local wines, delicious tapas and beautiful stone buildings framed with cascading greenery and floral highlights, nothing could be more welcoming than Spain and its people. Regardless of your taste and travelling preferences, one city that has something for everyone is Madrid, and here we look at the top things to see and do in this bustling, beautiful city.

Architecture and Museums

Madrid is awash with architecture and museums – from the beautiful Royal Palace to the Plaza de Sol, a favourite meeting ground for locals, Madrid has beautifully decorated and ornate buildings, statues and more. The Royal Palace is open to visitors, with Wednesdays being free entry days so the lines get incredibly long so make sure you go early. Regardless though, the Palace any day is worth a visit.

The museums on offer are almost countless and cover nearly every topic you can imagine, so a trip to one of their museums along your interests is a must do. Head to the Museum Triangle – literally the Madrid museum district for a great selection of museums. While some of the museums are almost eye wateringly expensive for the budget tourist, most museums do offer free entry at certain times of day or on certain days. Check in advance which museums, which times and which days to take full advantage of some of the fantastic museums in the city. Perhaps the best ones, especially for art lovers are the Museo del Prado and the Sofia Reina National Museum and Art Centre – both of which house classical paintings by famous artists from around the world. The Sofia Reina is in fact the home of Picasso’s famous Guernica.

Parks and Getting Outside

Madrid is lucky enough to enjoy a temperate climate most of the year although it can be chilly in the winter months, but nevertheless getting outside is a favourite past time of both locals and tourists alike. Madrid is home to numerous parks and gardens, with Caixa Forum being a great example of a vertical garden (also on the side of one of many museums!). The Royal Botanical Garden as well as El Retiro park are two of the best parks on offer in Madrid, with El Retiro being home to drumming circles in the summer evenings that are a great way to see the dusk in.

Cuisine and Culture

The Mercado de San Miguel is a fantastic spot to stop off if you’re looking for high quality wines, cheeses, dried and smoked meats and more. An indoor market, this is a great place to go on a rainy day or if you just want to pick up a delicious snack of local fare or a bottle of wine to take home with you. For cultural aspects of Madrid, check out one of the many Flamenco shows that are on around the city – with their bright colours and quick movements and fantastic music. Corral de Moreira is the top rated location to take in a show in Madrid, if not the world, and shouldn’t be missed on any trip to the region.

So there you have the top things to see and do in Madrid on any trip to the area, whethere you’re on a budget or not. Madrid is a great city any time of year, but to take advantage of all the outdoor things to do, summer and autumn are the best to enjoy the warm weather and welcoming patios with local beers and tapas. So pack your bags – next stop: Madrid!

Road Tripping – Canada On A Budget

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Spring break and summer are around the corner and with the holidays come the plans to hit the road for an adventure somewhere fun, interesting and perhaps wild and free. Heading out on the road is always a must do for many people, groups of friends, couples and families alike, but how to know where to hit the highway for a truly enjoyable getaway? For many people, Canada is a country that beckons from the north, and there’s no better time to visit than the late spring or summer when everything is in bloom. Read ahead for some great tips on road tripping Canada on a budget!

The Year of the Freebie – 2017

There is no better year to visit Canada than this year – the year of Canada’s 150th birthday. The National Parks from coast to coast will be sharing the wealth by providing year-round FREE admission, so get in now! Most of the parks are sometimes in the region of $30-50 per day or more depending on what you’re doing, so this is the perfect time to take advantage of a real money saver especially if you’re a fan of beautiful scenery, nature and camping!

Small Towns, Big Hearts

From coast to coast one thing Canadian towns have in common is their unusually huge hearts and warm welcomes to visitors, especially to people from abroad! You can take advantage of cheaper hotels (if you aren’t renting a camper van or RV) and cheaper roadside “greasy spoon” restaurants in the smaller locales than in the big cities, however this being said, if you’re wanting to spend a night or two in a city, try to find hotels offering one or two night last minute deals. Failing that, there’s usually a motel or hotel chain on most highways just outside of main centres which may have lower rates.

Speaking of renting cars and RV’s….

Gas in Canada and renting cars and RV’s can be pretty expensive, but not if you know how to find a deal. RV’s might be expensive to rent and run, but you will have the added benefit of not having to pay for hotel rooms or dinners out along the way, being able to cook your own. Ask around at car rental companies for vehicles needing to be returned to a specific location – if you don’t really mind where you go, and you’re going one-way, this can be a great way to get a reduced – or even free – rate.

Beware the PST

To keep costs low, beware the Provincial Sales Tax. This is a tax that is in effect on almost all goods and services in almost every province/territory except for Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, and Alberta. It is in addition to the GST (Goods and Service Tax) which is a federal tax and is on almost everything throughout Canada at a flat rate of 5%. PST is dependent on the province you are in – some provinces have 7% PST while some have as much as 8-9 or even 10% PST where it will be clearly outlined on your receipt the two tax costs. Some provinces have adopted the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which is a blend of PST and GST into one tax rate and will appear as one tax on your receipts. Saskatchewan has an added tax of 10% on liquor, so it might be worth staying dry in Saskatchewan unless you’re willing to pay a bit more.

Campgrounds

To keep costs low consider stopping at campgrounds that are away from main regions and that are a bit further to get to. You won’t regret it and usually many of these campgrounds have fantastic facilities as well as great lakes, streams and sometimes even sandy beaches. Some campgrounds can be as low as $20 a night per RV or per pitch (for multiple tents) so it can be a really great savings.

So there you have a couple of great ways to keep a road trip in Canada cost effective and easy on the wallet. Grab the sleeping bags and tents – summer is perfect for spreading out under the stars anywhere in Canada, just remember the mosquito spray!

Road Tripping – Sydney To Canberra

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Like most things when you travel, the road lesser travelled is often the more enjoyable and adventurous one and nothing could be more true than when you’re driving from Sydney to Canberra. What seems like it could be a lengthy and interesting drive on the highway is in fact fairly unimaginative – unless you take the scenic route that is. This article will look at helping you plan this little journey and what there is to see along the way if you fancy getting out of town with your mates for a bit!

The Road

There are two options when heading out of Sydney depending on the time you have at your disposal. One route is the coastal route down though Wollongong and the second route is down through Campbelltown. The Campbelltown route is more direct, but still offers some great scenery through some beautiful parts of the Highlands, but the coastal road is fantastic. The Campbelltown route can take around 3-3.5 hours and the coast road around 4.5-5, so it depends how fast you want to get there and what you want to see on the way.

For something truly unique, but lengthy you can choose to go all the way down the coast to Bateman’s Bay and then back up through the Monga National Park to Canberra. This is a bit longer – around 6 hours in length depending on where you stop and for how long but lends itself to some truly unique road trip opportunities.

Things to See and Do

Either route will take you through some fantastic natural areas filled with forests, land formations and if you take the coastal road – the coast! Pack a picnic lunch and stop off somewhere new and wonderful – either in the woods in Yerriyong State Forest or on the beach a bit further down the road. The world is your oyster on a road trip between Sydney and Canberra and the only thing stopping you is yourself!

The Wine Region

As you approach Canberra you will enter the wine region. This is a perfect opportunity for you and your travelling companions to head to a vineyard for a tour or some wine tasting. Perhaps pick up a bottle or two to enjoy once you reach your destination. The wine region stretches all around the city, so it’s easy to find a vineyard that hosts tourists and wine connoisseurs.

Canberra

The city of Canberra is surrounded by hills and is separated by a lake which makes it an enjoyable city to wander around in for those of an outdoor nature. With interesting buildings, the city centre lake and great walking trails around the city, it’s a great place to just hang out and take a stroll. Have a coffee and people watch on one of the outdoor terraces or check out some of the historic buildings that date back to the early part of the territory. Lake Burley hosts boats for hire, making it an ideal place to take families for various lakeside activities, and there are a number of mountain biking tails around for those who like to get out and moving. Head to Mount Ainslie for a truly commanding view of Canberra and the area, and don’t forget to catch some kangaroos in the wild – the Pinnacle Nature Reserve – 10km west of the city centre – is the best place to view large mobs of Kangaroos for free.

There you have a couple of great suggestions to consider for your road trip from Sydney to Canberra. Depending on what you like to do, there’s just as much to see and do on the way there as there is once you get to your destination – so make sure you take the time to enjoy the journey as much as the end result!

How To Enjoy Sydney At Night

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With any trip to a foreign city or location you want to maximise your time on the ground – taking advantage of every waking minute, especially if you are there for only a short period of time. Sydney, Australia is no different, especially when you consider how long it takes people to get to Australia and what a time investment it can be. If you’re interested in getting out after dark during your time in Sydney (and why wouldn’t you be, it can still be daytime highs in your home country at midnight in Oz!) read ahead to check out how best to see Sydney by night.

Darling Harbour

Ideally situated, Darling Harbour makes a perfect place to come any time of day but at night it really comes alive – the lights of the surrounding buildings reflect off the water to create a beautifully lit up area. The harbour front makes for a great strolling spot and with the area’s lively bars and restaurants it will be easy to find the perfect spot to kick back and relax over a local wine or two.

Newtown

Perhaps the most unique, hip and eclectic neighbourhood, Newtown is awash with kitschy bars and restaurants as well as music venues and a chilled out but entertaining vibe. Featuring a mixture of all the foods you can find in the region – from Malay, Thai, Indian, Chinese and traditional western pub food, Newtown has something for everyone.

The Rocks

This area of Sydney comes alive after dark and is one of the city’s most historic areas with its old buildings and cobbled lanes. Come for a drink at one of the traditional pubs in the area or get some dinner at one of the local restaurants that line the streets. This particular area of Sydney has a lively, traditional air to it, so you won’t be disappointed.

Chinatown

A real taste of the Orient right in central Sydney, Chinatown is home to not just trendy sake bars and kitschy yet traditional Chinese restaurants but also is the home of traditional night markets boasting all kinds of cheap street food and snacks. Check out the other items on offer in the night market and take advantage of it all within its close proximity to other areas around Chinatown, such as George Street which is only a few blocks away.

So there you have a couple of great suggestions on how to see Sydney at night. Being such a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, there is something on offer for everyone here. Book your next holiday to Sydney – you really won’t regret it!

A Mini-Guide To Cape Town, South Africa

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If you’re thinking about where to go on your next vacation, you might not have considered South Africa. With a number of cities that bring their own flavour to the game as well as several beautiful national parks that feature the standard African wild animals that can be seen on safari, South Africa has a little bit of everything for everyone. Check out this quick mini guide for a trip specific to Cape Town.

Cape Town – A City

Cape Town, aptly named for its location is the capital city of South Africa and is near the Cape of Good Hope with a number of fantastic attractions and sights nearby. The Cape of Good Hope itself is one such attraction, as is the world famous Table Mountain, named for its flat topped appearance akin to a table top. Visitors that head up the mountain are rewarded with stunning views of both Cape Town and the surrounding area including a few of the wine regions to the north. The Mountain can either be climbed in the old fashioned way or you can also take a cable car up to the top for those not up to the fairly lengthy hike.

The Castle of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest surviving building and is worth a look for those who are into military memorabilia and history. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is perhaps the world’s most spectacular botanical garden, teeming with various species of plants and flowers all set against the impressive Table Mountain, almost overhead.

For those interested in the history of Cape Town and area, check out Robben Island – home to political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela – tours available. You can also check out the District Six museum which highlights the struggles of the area during apartheid.

Wine Regions and Floral Tours

South Africa is known around the world for being the growing and producing region for a multitude of wine varieties. Throughout the country there are numerous vineyards all with their own unique takes on wine making and featuring different flavours, blends and vintages and the Cape region is no exception. Wine tasting and vineyard tours are available throughout the area and many can be booked from your hotel or other accommodation in Cape Town itself. Some of the well known towns and cities for wine making and tours include Somerset West, Paarl and Franschhoek. Picnic tours can also be enjoyed for a romantic twist.

Safari Options

Not only is South Africa awash with wine and vineyards, but it’s likewise well stocked with safari companies and options for those looking to go out on safari to catch some of Africa’s big game in their natural habitats. Safaris can be booked direct in Cape Town if desired, or those looking for something special can head to almost any of the National Parks in the vicinity to book safaris that might be more luxurious or have specific aspects that the traveller is looking for. One popular option near to Cape Town is Tankwa Karoo National Park, with a number of safari options for all budgets. Kruger National Park is another option, but being on the other side of the country, this would be a good option for those who are perhaps planning a trip into neighbouring Mozambique or planning to spend some time in Johannesburg as well as Cape Town.

So there you have a quick run down on Cape Town and all it has to offer to help you plan your next (or first!) visit to the area. With so much history as well as nature around, it’s easy to see why this is a favourite amongst travellers the world over.

Choosing The Best Travel Backpack For You

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If you’re planning on heading out on an adventure sometime in the next couple of weeks or months, you might be wondering what kind of luggage is best for you an your needs. Depending on where you’re going, what you’re doing, etc it can be a daunting task trying to choose the right backpack. There are literally dozens of makes, sizes and style on the market and never mind colours either! So how do you pick the perfect one for you? Read ahead for a couple of things to keep in mind when choosing the right backpack for you!

Consider The Length Of Your Trip

The first thing to consider when planning a trip is how long you want to go for – as well as where you want to go. The time of year can be an important consideration as well – all of these will determine how much you need to take and what – are you going to both summer and winter climates? Only summer? Travelling in monsoon season? These are important things to think of and then plan to take the appropriate gear, including a waterproof backpack.

What Do You Need To Take?

Sandals, hiking boots, waterproofs, sweaters, tank tops, jackets and the like are all considerations to think of when packing. If you’re an outdoor loving person and you want to go hiking, camping, walking, but also like to kick back on the beach, knowing what you will need to take will help you determine the size of the bag you will need. The more things you need to take, the bigger a bag you will require.

What’s Your Size?

Backpacks can come in all shapes and sizes and can either hinder or help your trip. Buying a backpack that is too big for you to comfortably carry can be a hindrance to moving around on the road. When you’re looking around for the cheapest room options and needing to carry all your stuff with you or similar activities, an oversized and overloaded bag can be a huge pain.

For day trips or trips away from your main pack (such as to one overnight location where you don’t need to take your huge backpack) consider getting a day pack that can fit water, some food, a change of clothes or two and other necessities like towels so you have an option to taking your big pack if you can leave it somewhere safe.

Consider Your Budget

Finally, consider your budget. You don’t want to go broke getting a backpack for your trip. The standard backpacks around 60L in size are between $75-100 depending where you shop. It’s always good to go with a trusted brand that has a proven track record in providing quality outdoor products as you don’t want a cheap knock off brand backpack ripping apart three months into a nine month trip. So in this sense it’s good to set some money aside specifically for a good quality travelling backpack.

In all, purchasing a backpack for your trip doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best option is to go to the shop itself and try a few out – see how they feel and what the straps are like. You might find that you can get cheaper bags online which isn’t a bad idea, but buying online is always risky in that you can’t feel the quality of the bag in advance – unless it’s from a reputable seller, so it is always a better plan to stick with shop based bags that you can inspect before buying. Good luck!

6 Reasons To Visit Singapore Now!

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If you are trying to choose a country in South East Asia to head to but you aren’t sure exactly where you’re interested in, why not consider the great city nation of Singapore? Featuring beautiful gardens, a mix of western modernity and ancient Asian culture, Singapore is an ideal place to either start a holiday in the region or is great as a stand alone holiday to introduce you to the area. Read ahead for six reasons to go to Singapore now!

Food

Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in the 1800s and as a result enjoyed a number of influences from across the Empire in terms of food. Likewise the surrounding area of Malaysia and nearby China have added to the almost literal melting pot of food choices here with authentic Malay, Chinese and Indian food on offer as well as western options like burgers, chips and the like. Some Singaporean specific dishes (such as Singaporean noodles) enjoy prominence as well, but ultimately this is the place to try a bit of everything, making it ideal for people who are finicky eaters.

Shopping

With huge shopping malls, authentic local bazaars and other markets to choose from, Singapore enjoys vast shopping that draws people from around the region and abroad for some of the deals to be had regardless of whether it’s in the street side bazaars or the glistening malls.

Vibrant Nightlife and Lifestyle

Across the city state, bars, nightclubs and restaurants are prominent, with many options playing host to live music, DJs from around the area as well as abroad and fantastic opportunities to kick back with a drink or two and get your groove on on some of the quirky and colourful dance floors.

East Meets West Meets East Again

Singapore is a true conglomerate of regional cultures as well as those from further afield. Mandalay, Mandarin, Tamil and English are the official languages of Singapore along with the religions of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism showing just how culturally and ethnically diverse this country is. With Little India, Chinatown, and other regions of the city playing host to travellers it’s easy to see why this is such a great nation to travel to for a truly unique experience.

Getting Out

For those who are interested in getting away and exploring more of the region at large, Singapore is perfectly connected internationally to welcome travellers from around the glove while simultaneously allowing travellers multiple options for getting out of the country by sea, air, or road. Situated on the very southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore is an ideal place to start your South East Asian adventure, with train, boat and bus links into neighbouring Malaysia or Indonesia and further north to Thailand and the rest of the area.

So hopefully these top six reasons to hit up Singapore will help you make the decision to head to this unique, bustling and vibrant city full of welcoming, friendly people and delicious varied food. So pack your bags – Singapore and Asia at large await your arrival!

Food World – What To Try When You Visit Mauritius

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Visiting any foreign country is always a great time to give new things a try. Whether it’s an activity you haven’t tried, a local beer you’ve been itching to taste, or most commonly (and perhaps importantly!) the food! Food is one thing that every country on Earth has their own variation on dependent on what’s available to them. Countries that are large swathes of land may focus more on agriculture and farming based foods such as grains and beef, poultry or pork with regional variations on spice while island nations will have a more fish-based diet. Here we look at the top foods to try in Mauritius – an island nation off the coast of eastern Africa so you can be prepared for when you finally set foot there!

The first thing to know about Mauritian food is that it has a huge variety of influences due to its location – Creole, Indian, Chinese and French influences mean Mauritian fare is filled with variety of not just style but taste as well. Here are some of the best:

Dholl Puri (or Dholl Pori)

This is considered to be the dish in Mauritius. Sold throughout the nation by street vendors, this Indian inspired dish is made of fried flatbread stuffed with ground up yellow split peas, chutney, atchar and curries.

Curry

Of course! But Mauritian curry is different to your traditional Channa Masala or Masala Dosa you’d get in India – or even in other parts of the world. Here there are a number of other influences at play – such as Creole. Creole curry isn’t typically overly hot as the chillies are served on the side, letting the eater control the heat (thankfully!) and it is tomato based. Lentils and chickpeas are the usual culprits in most of the curries – both Mauritian and Indian. If you aren’t brave enough to try a new curry, you can always stick with your favourite Indian ones that you can find as well, served with rice or Mauritian breads.

A Taste of the Sea

Being an island nation, inevitably Mauritian cuisine has a number of fish based dishes featuring almost every seafood you can imagine. For something unique, give the octopus curry a try!

Gajak

A typical street food/snack, these fried delights are great to stave off the hunger pangs after swimming. You can find them sold in most places, usually off carts or the backs of motorbikes. Some of the examples include eggplant fritters, cassava chips and potato fritters.

Mithai

A variation of the Indian sweets, the Mithai are buttery and sugary goodness wrapped up in weight gain waiting to happen! Delicious and sweet, these are almost indsescribably good and if you hit up one of the local shops – such as Bombay Sweets Mart in Port Louis – chances are you will get to sample a few before committing to any one flavour!

Mine Frites

A variation on the traditional Chinese fried noodles, Mine Frites are another food you will likely find on the streets of Mauritius. The best place to get these is unsurprisingly Chinatown, but mix with a bit of regional Mazavaroo chilli paste to give it a real Mauritian island feel.

So there are a few examples of the great varieties of Mauritian food you can find throughout the island. Don’t forget to try some of the Victoria pineapple – sweeter than other varieties and available right on the beach after a swim, or the fresh coconuts for a real island treat.