Chautaugua Meadow – Boulder, Colorado (photo: Jeff Turner)

The United States is a country of diverse landscapes, and while relatively young as a nation, full of historical attractions.

If you live outside the USA and are thinking of visiting on your next vacation, there's plenty of places to choose from.

The large cities, forests, beaches, and national parks offer memorable experiences for all tourists. If your time is short, you may find it hard to choose where to go.

However, every traveler should visit the USA at least once in their life. Just be sure to check your ESTA status before buying flights. 

What is ESTA?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is used by the administration to decide the credibility of the tourist. It determines whether you can travel to the USA or not.

The United States is managing it under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The primary aim of ESTA is taking into consideration security concerns.

Checking your ESTA status is obligatory for every citizen of the world. However, there are some exceptions for selected countries such as Canada.

Boulder, Colorado

Located an hour northwest of Denver, Boulder, Colorado is a popular university town.

There are many points of interest, including:

  • Boulder History Museum
  • Pearl Street Mall
  • Flagstaff Mountains
  • CU Heritage Center
  • Scarp Carpenter Park

In the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is a city for tourists who like the great outdoors. If you are enthusiastic about hiking, check out the beautiful Chautauqua Park.

The clean environment and fresh breezes will transport you to another world. 

Independence Hall (photo: John Salvino) Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a city of historical significance, as well as surprise.

The most visited sites include:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Roding Museum
  • Philadelphia Zoo
  • Betsy Ross House
  • Masonic Temple

Independence Hall is one of the most important places to visit. The Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution were framed here.

Touring this historic hall, and all of Philadelphia is possible only after fulfilling the requirements of the visa process. So, don’t forget to check the ESTA status. You must know ESTA to avoid any problems visiting the USA as a tourist.

Myrtle Beach (photo: Paula R. Lively) Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Some people have a particular affinity for water and beaches. If you're one of them, then the 60 miles of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is for you.

It's a popular, sandy beach that sees a significant number of tourists throughout the year. There are plenty of accommodations to suit your needs, from budget-friendly to luxury.

Plus, beyond the beach, there are over 100 golf courses to choose from, scenic helicopter rides, and tons of excellent seafood restaurants from which to fill your belly.

United States Capitol Building (photo: Phil Roeder) Washington, DC

Washington, DC is the capital of the United States. It's packed with historical places, dozens of museums, and pretty parks.

The district has a clean, modern, safe Metro network that will help you get around in short time, for just a few dollars per ride.

Of the many well-known places to visit, a few include:

  • The White House
  • The Washington Monument
  • National Air Space and Museum
  • National Gallery of Art

The list of such amazing attractions goes on and on. Art lovers, in particular, will have a field day on the National Mall, which is lined by museums that are part of the Smithsonian.

After processing for ESTA registration, make sure to keep checking your ESTA status, so you don't miss any critical notifications.

Beach in Key West, Florida (photo: Mercedea) Florida Keys, Florida

Do you want your vacation to be a break from hectic city life and a monotonous schedule? Consider a visit to the Florida Keys. It's known as one of the most relaxing parts of the United States for a good reason.

The tranquility of Keys, a series of small islands at the southern tip of Florida, make it a worthy destination. Enjoy peace of mind in a part of the USA unlike any other. Take some books because no one is going to disturb you here.

There are multiple islands which are known due to their magnificent beauty. And don't forget to taste a slice of key lime pie before you leave!

This story was brought to you in partnership with GCL Internet Services LLC. 

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Kuwait City skyline (photo: Francisco Anzola)

Are you planning to visit or move to Kuwait soon? This tiny country in the Middle East has its own unique culture, which you'll want to become familiar with before applying for a Kuwait online visa and starting your journey.

Here are some of the things to know before making your trip to Kuwait, from the style of dress to the history and speed of document processing.

Traditional Style of Dress

Kuwaiti women are sometimes seen wearing western-style clothes. Although they choose their clothes from the more modest styles, most of them usually wear the latest designs, regardless of the local weather.

However, the traditional Kuwaiti way of dress, including the thob (long dress), is still being used, especially during major festivals.

When Kuwaiti women are in public, you'll always find them with an aba (black garment covering most of their body).

A burqa, (short black vail covering the full face) is commonly worn by Bedouin women.

Modest clothing is common in Kuwait, and especially as worn by women because such clothing is respectful and demonstrates a sense of self-respect.

Clothing Tips for Foreigners

If you're a visitor in Kuwait, there's no specific way you're required to dress. But, for men, it's best to avoid showing off your bare thighs.

If you want to earn respect as a woman, avoid showing off cleavage. Skirts and shorts that are high above the knee are rare among Kuwaiti women.

Though most women in Kuwait wear veils, you don’t have to cover your face if you are an immigrant or just visiting.

Kuwaiti History

Kuwait is a country with a tumultuous history.

The name “Kuwait” comes from a little gulf located along the coast. This was where several tribes migrated from the Arabian Desert.

However, the place was raided by pirates for several years, which became a significant hindrance to economic development.

It was only when the Britons took over from the pirates that trade started to develop.

Document Processing in Kuwait

The process for legalizing Kuwaiti documents is not dissimilar to the experience in other countries. However, you'll want to pay close attention to detail.

If, for instance, you want to legalize your education documents in the country, you need to provide certification of your highest level of education attained.

For you to be allowed to enter Kuwait, you also need to make sure that you have an updated visa, including all necessary supporting documents.

The Slow Life

When you visit Kuwait, you may notice how life moves slowly. This is especially true if you have issues with official paperwork and the bureau.

If you have something that needs to be stamped on time, make sure you begin the process as early as possible.

This story is brought to you in partnership with KuwaitVisa.com.

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Bwindi National Park (photo: Jule Lumma)

Uganda is a safe safari destination, which welcomes you with happy faces; it's a thriving nation full of natural beauty.

The Pearl of Africa is a country with a variety of wildlife, lush green vegetation, a tropical climate, and rich culture, all of which make Uganda a unique destination to visit.

While Kenya and Tanzania are most visited in search of the Big 5, Uganda has lions, elephants, leopard, buffalo, and rhinos distributed over several national parks.

Uganda is especially well-known as one of only three countries that are home to mountain gorillas. Chimpanzees abound, and it's a birder’s paradise.

Geographically, Uganda has the Nile River, the magnificent Murchison Falls, and the Rwenzori Mountains. The landscapes and wildlife all make Uganda safaris one of the most worthwhile adventures on the continent.

Below are some of the best activities to try in Uganda.

Mountain Gorilla in Uganda (photo: Rod Waddington) Mountain Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla tourism is one of the main reasons tourists flock to Uganda.

Mountain Gorillas are a highly endangered species with a population of 400 in Uganda, mainly in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Start off your Uganda safari with gorilla tracking, which takes place year around, although the majority of tourists prefer visiting from June to September and December to February.

There are 15 gorilla families in total in Uganda with 14 in Bwindi and one family in Mgahinga.

In Uganda, a gorilla permit goes for $600 in the high season and $450 in the low season. The exception to these prices is a gorilla habituation experience that goes for $1,500 but only allows for eight people per day, per gorilla family.

If this option interests you, secure your permit as early as possible so as not to miss out on this memorable experience.

Bird watching

Uganda is a top destination for bird lovers; with over 1,000 bird species at different birding sites, you're sure to catch a glimpse of rare birds.

Uganda has only one endemic bird species called the Fox’s Weaver and many other albertine endemic species that are found in different parts of the country.

You can get to see these and many more birds from places like the Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Lake Mburo National Park, Lutembe Bay, Murchison Falls, Semuliki National Park, and Mabamba Island, common for the Shoebill among others.

Some of the albertine endemic bird species include: Ruwenzori Nightjar, Red-throated Alethe, African Green Broadbill, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Short-tailed Warbler, Collared Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Dawrf Honey guide, Grauer’s Warbler, Dusky Crimsonwing, Rwenzori Batis, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Shelley’sCrimson wing, Strip-breasted Tit, Blue-headed Sunbird, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Rwenzori Turaco, Strip-breasted Tit, Kivu Ground Thrush, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, and the Strange Weaver.

A lion in Queen Elizabeth National Park (photo: Brian Harries) Game drive

This is a fascinating activity for wildlife diehards. It involves driving through the park in the early morning, spotting different animals waking up to start their day.

On this safari, you can spot the Big 5 and rare species like cheetah and jackals in the wild. There are three national parks that offer game drives to display their rich fauna.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most visited and famous because of the tree climbing lions and 96 other mammals found in the park.

North Kazinga Plains and the Ishasha Sector offer almost guaranteed buffalo, antelope, and elephant sightings, along with warthogs and baboons.

Kidepo National Park features rugged savannah plains and has 86 mammals along Narus Valley. Among them are several rare species like cheetah, aardwolf, mountain reedbuck, and caracal. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, Kavirondo bush baby, buffalo, and much more.

Additional parks include Lake Mburo National Park with the famous impala antelope found nowhere else, Murchison Falls National Park, and Semuliki National Park.

Chimpanzee tracking

Kibale is a one-stop destination for chimpanzee; it’s referred to as the primate capital of the world.

Not only are there chimpanzees, but there are other primates including the black and white colobus, red-tailed monkey, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkey, olive baboon, bush baby, and potto.

Kibale National Park is connected to Queen Elizabeth and has a total of 1,450 chimpanzees at different tracking sites, Kyambura Gorge and Budongo Forest.

Tracking of these endangered primates is carried out in groups of four to six people who are escorted by a tour guide.

Chimpanzee tracking is conducted in the early morning, and for that reason, tourists are advised to prepare in advance of their journey by wearing hiking shoes and proper clothing.

Above all, book your permits in advance. The cost is $100 per person.

Whitewater rafting on the Nile River (photo: Maciej) Source of the Rive Nile Water Rafting

Following your safari adventures, visit the source of the Nile River.

One of the longest rivers in the world, the Nile flows up to the Red Sea in Egypt and is believed to have originated in Lake Victoria.

Jinja is located only a two-hour drive from Kampala, and the well-laid road takes you through the dense Mabira forests.

The boat ride is also a great way to indulge in some bird watching along the banks of the river.

Some of the other activities in and around here include whitewater rafting, a visit to the hydro-electric power plant at Bujagali Falls, bungee jumping, and visiting the Nile Brewery (prior booking required) which makes a favorite Ugandan beer called Nile Gold.

This story was brought to you in partnership with Gorilla Trek Africa.

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Statue of Ramses II at Karnak Temple (photo: Edgardo W. Olivera)

You’ll never forget the incomparable feeling of cruising down one of the world’s most famous rivers— a river that has been essential to Egypt’s agricultural and economic wellbeing since ancient times.

As you travel between Luxor and Aswan, you’ll pass a dizzying array of temples, tombs, and monuments.

Here are a few of the highlights from a traditional Nile cruise, plus a few tips for your tours in Egypt.

1. Karnak Temple

This stunning temple complex is far more than just one temple: it comprises temples, chapels, and colossal statues spread out over multiple precincts.

Construction began under Pharaoh Senruset I, who ruled from 1971 until 1926 BC during the Middle Kingdom, and continued for centuries under the pharaohs of the New Kingdom and Ptolemaic rule (305-30 BC).

As you walk through this complex, take your time to marvel at the endless columns, statues, carvings, and friezes, which bear witness to over 1,500 years of history.

2. The Valley of the Kings

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming appearance from the outside: this valley is one of the world’s most magnificent archaeological sites!

Numerous underground chambers contain the tombs of pharaohs, cut out from rock between the 16th and 11th centuries BC.

Tutankhamun is the most famous pharaoh to be buried here, but since his artifacts have been removed to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the other tombs are even more splendid.

3. Temple of Hatshepsut

This beautiful mortuary temple was constructed for Hatshepsut, who plays an unusual role in Ancient Egyptian history as a female pharaoh. The temple’s layered architecture makes a striking visual statement.

The interior at one time contained lavish decorations, sculpture, and relief paintings, but many of these items have been looted or damaged over time.

Nevertheless, this distinctive temple and its pharaoh are famous icons of Ancient Egypt and are well worth a visit.

If you want a sense of how vast this ancient landscape (including the nearby Valley of the Kings) is, consider taking a hot air balloon tour out of Luxor.

The imposing Temple of Edfu (photo: yeowatzup) 4. Temple of Edfu

Monumental. Jaw-dropping. Spectacular.

This temple to the falcon god Horus is a real crowd-pleaser thanks to its size and level of preservation. It features a number of inscriptions, carvings, and decorated columns.

Built during the Ptolemaic Dynasty (3rd-1st century BC), this temple represents a blend of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultural influences and reflects the general wealth and prosperity enjoyed under the Ptolemaic rule.

5. The Aswan High Dam

Built during the 1960s, this dam is a remarkable feat of modern engineering.

For millennia, people living along the banks of the Nile have relied on its regular cycles of flooding. Yet sometimes the river proved unpredictable—high water levels could overwhelm crops, while low water levels caused drought.

This dam was built to take control of the Nile, ensuring favorable levels of flooding and allowing water to be stored for future use.

Construction of the dam, however, displaced thousands of people who lived in areas that became flooded by Lake Nasser.

Due to its sheer size and impact, the High Dam is worth a stop on your itinerary.

Abu Simbel (photo: Paula Asencio) 6. Abu Simbel Temples

These colossal temples were painstakingly chiseled out of the mountains under the rule of Pharaoh Ramesses II during the 13th century BC. The two structures honor Ramesses and his queen Nefertari.

During the 1960s—when the Aswan High Dam was under construction—these temples were dismantled and relocated so they would not be damaged by flooding.

7. Temple of Kom Ombo

Another Ptolemaic-era temple, this one is distinctive because of its double purpose and structure. Its northern half is dedicated to Haroeris, or Horus the Elder, while its southern half celebrates the crocodile god Sobek.

Fascinated by crocodiles? You’re in luck. You can also visit the nearby Crocodile Museum which displays some of the mummified crocodiles found in the area.

8. Traditional Markets

In both Luxor and Aswan, you’ll find delightful markets where you can stock up on local fruits, savor the aroma of spices, browse for clothing, and find countless souvenirs and handicrafts.

Whether you’re on the hunt for perfume or paprika, baskets or bracelets, you’re likely to find it if you look hard enough.

Feluccas in Aswan (photo: David Lee) 9. Felucca Tours

Your large cruise ship may be luxurious, but why not try out a traditional felucca too?

These small wooden boats, a classic form of Nile transportation, are propelled either by oars or by the wind.

A smaller vessel will get you closer to the water and let you truly feel the breeze as you glide along the Nile.

Frequently Asked Questions

And now, some tips for having the best Nile cruise possible.

When should you book your Nile cruise?

Most people prefer going between November and February when the weather is best. The low season runs from June to August, when scorching temperatures deter all but the most intrepid.

What to pack?

Do some research before you book your trip so you know what kind of temperatures to expect.

In summer especially, pack plenty of lightweight clothes that wick away moisture (plus a hat, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen).

Dressing modestly will help shield your skin from the sun, and it may be required when visiting temples and other religious sites.

How long will a cruise take?

Most cruises travel between Luxor and Aswan, which takes three to four days. Longer cruises of about a week go to Dendera and Abydos, then follow the usual route.

Enjoy your ship and take advantage of all its amenities. Many ships are fitted with swimming pools, spas, and comfortable cabins where you can relax after a long day in the sun.

This story was provided by and brought to you in partnership with Memphis Tours. 

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Backpacking in Thailand (photo: David Lee)

Looking your best during a trip can be especially tricky and at the same time important.

Traveling involves lots of unexpected situations and decisions made in a hurry. And while some may find packing enjoyable, others hate it. It takes a lot of time, a lot of guessing and in the end, you may find you’ve still brought all the wrong things.

To make your travels, and especially your packing, easier here are five tips to help you stay stunning while on the road.

I’ve made the following list based on my experience, as I have traveled a lot. These are the things I always take with me on any trip.

1. A special travel bag with make-up

It shouldn't be so big as to take up a lot of room in your backpack, but it doesn't have to be too small either.

It should contain all the necessities for you to look your best. Have it ready at all times, so you can just throw it into your backpack and be set without having to worry about gathering all the right makeup for every trip. Such an approach can save you a lot of time.

Stick to the bare minimum. For example, don’t take ten different shades of lipstick or five nail varnishes, even though the idea of experimenting with your nail color during your trip may seem attractive.

Select the best things that will go well with any outfit and will suit any situation. Carefully consider its contents. It should contain a small mirror, maybe some cotton pads, cream, etc.

This bag leaves a lot of space for your creativity and your self-expression. Over time and with practice, you’ll be able to figure out what you need.

2. A travel hair dryer

What? A travel hair dryer? Yes, sure, it is not the first thing that comes to mind when you start packing.

But consider this: while more expensive hotels usually offer a hair dryer, cheaper hostels don’t.

And there are many more situations when your hair might need washing, and a hair dryer just isn’t available. And once you’ve washed your hair, you will need to style it. Depending on your schedule, you might have very little time for this.

Imagine: you’ve washed your hair, now it’s drying up, and you have to leave in five minutes for a full day tour. This is when a hair dryer comes in handy. The best travel hair dryer weighs very little, and is compact, with a folding handle, so it's easy to fit into your overstuffed backpack.

At the same time, it features most options you’d find on a regular hair dryer. For example, you can switch between different heat settings. It's as powerful as your regular hair dryer. And the prices are quite moderate.

3. An accessory of some kind

It may be a brooch or a scarf or maybe something else – based on your taste and imagination. But such a thing can make all the difference for the way you look if something unforeseen should happen.

For example, you can cover with it an unwelcome stain on your outfit at a moment when you need to look stunning, or you can just use it to complete your ensemble.

A more creative thing to do, for instance, is to use the scarf to hold up the handle of your bag or purse, should it come off. Some such solution will not only help you remain beautiful at all times, it will give you points for creativity.

4. Shoe polish

It takes up practically no room in your backpack, and it’s handy. It’s so easy to neglect our shoes when we travel. And the importance of well-polished shoes hardly needs to be emphasized.

You can’t always predict what situation you might find yourself in during a trip, and buying a shoe polish at the time you most need it may not always be possible, so make sure you have one with you at all times.

5. Sunscreen

The research has now proved without a doubt that sun rays are harmful to our skin. No exposure to the sun is recommended.

So sunscreen is what you need, not just for looking pretty, but for staying healthy too. Of course, having your shoulders all reddened or your nose red and peeling is not pretty. But severe enough sunburn can cause high fever, and that won’t make you into a beauty.

Most probably, you will stop worrying about your looks entirely. Such an event may easily ruin more than just your appearance, but the whole trip. Finally, here is an important part.

You may think that you don’t need a sunscreen unless you're traveling closer to the equator in the middle of the summer, but you still do.

Sun reflected from bodies of cold water or snow can also cause severe damage to your skin. The sun can be harmful in cold weather too. Even on a cloudy day, you can get some harmful radiation.

So whenever you are outdoors for significant periods of time, it’s advisable to wear sunscreen.

As you can see, all these tips are easy to follow. Enjoy your travels and always look your best!

This story was brought to you in partnership with Bestadvisers.co.uk.

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Casting my fly out, knee-deep in the chilly waters of the Poudre River, surrounded by the rugged landscape west of Fort Collins, Colorado I was having a moment of reflection.

I wasn't carving down a mountain in 12″ of fresh powder as I'd dreamed of as a kid, but instead enjoying nature's serenity as a 40-year old man.

As a young adult, I was an avid reader of National Geographic Adventure and recall advertisements for fly fishing.

The scenic images of a man in a river appealed to me amidst the magazine's stories of mountaineering and extreme expeditions, most of which were well beyond the realm of ordinary men.

So it came as no surprise that one of the first activities that popped into my mind when I was invited to spend a week in Colorado last Fall was fly fishing.

I'd only been fishing a handful of times before then, including deep-sea fishing in Florida as a kid and catching snapper off Caye Caulker in Belize as an adult. However, I enjoyed both experiences immensely.

There's something primal about catching one's dinner, and fishing feels like the most easily accessible way to have that experience.

The day after my Fort Collins beer and bike tour, I was up bright and early for breakfast at Lucile's, a creole café. The hot spiced house tea, beignets, and Eggs Benedict were a delicious start to the day.

Gearing Up at St Peter's Fly Shop

My next stop was St Peter's Fly Shop in old town Fort Collins. The main floor was filled with fly fishing gear, including faux flies of all shapes and sizes, rods, and clothing.

I was sized for waterproof overalls and boots, obtained a one-day fishing license ($9), and met Rex, my enthusiastic fly fishing guide for the day.

We hopped in Rex's pickup truck, picked up our bagged lunches from Backcountry Delicatessen (a deli I  became a fan of in Steamboat Springs), and headed west out of Fort Collins.

Faux flies Fly Fishing on the Poudre River

An hour later, we pulled off Route 14 into a parking lot and suited up in our waterproof overalls and boots, which turned out to be surprisingly comfortable.

The overalls included the feet, so it didn't matter that water would get into the boots.

The boots were thick enough to protect against stubbed toes and had a layer of felt-like substance on the soles to give grip while walking across slippery stones.

Outside the shop, where it was easier to focus, I gained a better appreciation for just how small and detailed the flies can be. The one pictured above was smaller than the size of my pinky fingernail.

It dawned on me that with hooks that small, we weren't fishing for thousand-pound marlin.

When I asked about the size of the fish we'd try to catch, Rex responded that it's not about the size of the fish, it's about the process.

I adopted his frame of mind, and we walked over to the gently flowing Poudre River.

Casting the line

Upon wading halfway across the river, and slightly upstream, Rex demonstrated how to cast the fly out and reel it in.

He then pointed out a spot for me to target, further upstream about five meters, along an exposed rock.

For the first hour or two, I gripped the handle far too tightly and used more force than necessary to cast my line.

I know this because my right hand would start to go numb, at which point I was forced to take a break and allow normal circulation to resume.

My first of two wild brown trout that I caught

Within a few hours on the river, I felt a tug. A 12-inch wild brown trout had taken the bait.

I shouted “I got one!” Rex began wading over while instructing me on how to slowly reel it in.

As he arrived and I brought the fish close enough, he scooped it up with a handheld net, removed the hook, and handed it to me for a photo-op. I then released the little guy to continue on his way.

Wild brown trout are the most common fish found in the Poudre River. According to Wikipedia, they can grow up to five to eight pounds here. Farm-raised rainbow trout are also present.

Fly fishing is available year-round on the Poudre River, though the appeal of being out there in the Winter is lost on me. It should come as no surprise Summer is the most popular season.

Following lunch on the banks of the river, and a little more time in the water there, we drove to another nearby spot, where a rocky canyon wall rose steeply above us.

It was mid-afternoon, and my right hand and shoulder were tiring of the repetitive motion. I'd about reached my limit, so we exited the second spot after 30 minutes and headed back to Fort Collins.

All in all, my first fly fishing experience was a lot of fun. It lived up to my expectations as a quiet, relaxing way to commune with nature, though my form could certainly use some work.

As a beginner, a guided trip is absolutely the way to go. Aside from an experienced guide like Rex being an encyclopedia of knowledge, he directed me to fish in places that gave me the best chance of catching something.

And while it would've been a wonderful experience regardless of whether I caught a few little trout, it certainly made it more exciting.

My tour was courtesy of St. Peter's Fly Shop and organized as part of my trip hosted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Visit Fort Collins.

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Mount Rinjani, Indonesia (photo: Trekking Rinjani)

It’s no secret that Australians like to travel. Study results from Wotif-Travel released in late 2016 show that they tend to travel internationally more often staying in-country.

So, when they travel abroad, they seek adventure, cultural experiences, and unique dining opportunities. Perhaps this describes your travel style, too.

Regardless of the thrill of choice, traveling Aussies budget for Australian travel insurance. This desire to have experiences outside of the norm leads to a plethora of possible variables that can inhibit a memorable experience.

Here are five tips to consider before undertaking the next quest.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan Ahead

Carefully research where you plan to travel and decide what you want to do. If you are heading to a winter destination, consider the typical regional weather and possible travel warnings or delays that may occur.

Weather variables are not limited to snowfall. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes may contribute to the potential for weather problems depending on where you decide to visit.

Other considerations are natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, flooding, and mudslides.

The recent eruptions in Bali are a great example of how travel plans changed for thousands of people from all around the globe.

Many had to cancel their visit resulting in a loss of reservation fees or for those already there; they were stuck waiting for the next opportunity to leave.

Another example is in the United States, where the recent wildfires in Northern California and subsequent rain and mudslides have made a tremendous impact in obvious ways as well as subtle ways.

Subtly, the fires have changed the wine country terrain, production outflow, and availability, affecting the overall industry.

So, if you were planning to go to the Napa Valley wine country for a tasting affair, anticipate changes.

While these natural disasters may not prevent your travel in the region, it means that expectations about your experience may need to be adjusted.

2. Expect the Unexpected

So, now you’ve done your homework, booked transportation, arranged accommodations, and now it’s time to decide what to do when you arrive at your chosen destination.

As mentioned, Australians look for adventure, and it comes in all shapes and sizes from zip lining in Costa Rica to riding a mountain coaster in Switzerland, or perhaps, your thing is hiking Machu Picchu. Regardless of the thrill of choice, traveling Aussies budget for Australian travel insurance.

Adventures, by definition, have an intrinsic risk involved. While no one wants to have a calamity that brings an untimely end to a vacation, the wise traveler will understand and take responsibility for a potential fiasco.

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro (photo: Francisco Anzola) 3. City Thrills

Exploring the offerings of cities in another country is always an excellent option for vacationers.

Some countries host charming or majestic castles and palaces, exotic and lush gardens, or meandering museums rich in history and artistic beauty.

Other cities revolve around casual and relaxing activities such as swimming in the ocean or a private pool, sunbathing on the beach with a frothy beverage, or haute couture shopping.

While these activities are not as adventurous as riding a camel in Arabia, it is necessary to be aware of the potential pitfalls of city exploration – pickpockets, careless drivers and con artists to name a few of the obvious.

Additionally, sunburns or heat stroke can sneak up on a beach-bound sun worshipper.

Having one adult beverage too many by the pool can end in heartbreak if you are not aware of the city’s regulations.

Trekking over uneven castle cobblestones can quickly turn an ankle, hobbling a visitor.

The key is to prepare in advance by:

  • Looking up reliable transportation to get you back to your hostel or hotel if you like to imbibe.
  • Shopping for and testing appropriate footwear before rambling over ancient ruins.
  • Checking the tide tables for the beach, you choose your vitamin D therapy location.
  • Alerting your credit card company of your travel plans so that Visa doesn’t decide for you that the fabulous new velvet hat with the flowers and feathers on the brim is outside of your typical spending habits.
4. Think Before You Eat

Seeking a cultural experience through another ethnicities food is a common aspiration with world travelers.

The rising popularity of food-related travel television programs is making it standard practice to travel with the intent of eating all manner of food once thought exotic.

Virtually nothing is off-limits or taboo; insects, extremely spicy fare, and a variety of raw foods are consumed with regularity.

These foodie aspirations are undoubtedly appealing, but also fraught with an element of potential hazard. Guaranteed, no foodie wants to spend their holiday in their hotel room, or worse, in the hospital with any manner of food-related illness.

Sampling unusual food close to home can help you learn your body’s limits and prepare your internal system for whatever cuisine shock you subject your body to while overseas, thus saving you from hotel or hospital room induced cabin fever.

So, there are many good reasons for buying travel insurance, but the main lesson is what Aussies have figured out – expect the unexpected. It’s how to be a savvy and happy traveler.

How do you prepare for travel around the globe? Share your tips in the comments below.

This story was brought to you in partnership with Fast Cover. 

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The Chubu Region of Japan may not be known for its cuisine, but it should be.

My love for food knows no bounds, and I'm comfortable admitting that Japanese food is my favorite cuisine on the planet. Truthfully, It's not even close. So, when I was searching for the best food in the Chubu region, you can be sure that my search was thorough.

When I visited the Chubu region of Japan not so long ago, I certainly had goals of visiting castles, appreciating the beauty of Japanese nature, and experiencing shrines, but it was the food that I really had my eye on.

I am, quite literally, banned from several all you can eat Japanese restaurants in my hometown of Toronto. Spending hours at Japanese restaurants and taking on the menu taught me many things.

For one, your metabolism in your late teens is a gift worth cherishing, but, more importantly, I learned that Japanese food is more than just sushi.

Whenever I mention to people that Japanese food is my favorite cuisine, people always look at me, eyebrow raised, and say something like, “Oh, you love sushi that much?”

The answer is an unquestionable yes, but that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to Japanese cuisine.

This point was repeatedly proven when I was in Chubu. The local specialties are diverse, delicious, and, evidently, worth writing about.

Without further adieu, here are the dishes that I consider to be the best food in the Chubu region of Japan.

The Must-Try Dishes of Japan's Chubu Region

It was hard to narrow down what the absolute best dishes in the Chubu region would be, but here's what I'll say you need to try if you're visiting.

For those who don't know or aren't clear, the Chubu region of Japan is known roughly as the central region of the country and is often called “the heart of Japan.”

It consists of major cities such as Nagoya and Nagano, and a slew of smaller cities and towns like Toyota, Toyohashi, Asuke, Ueno, Toba and so on.

If you haven't been, you need to add it to your bucket list. There's no shortage of sights to see.


Japanese Unagi, which is commonly known as eel, is heavenly when it's prepared correctly.

The Chubu region (and in particular the city of Hamamtsu) is widely considered to have the best eel in the country, and the best idea of how to prepare it.

When I had the opportunity to try some for myself, it was over a bed of rice.

The eel, or unagi, was basking in a semi-sweet teriyaki-style glaze that was just ideal. It went perfectly with the fluffy, steaming rice underneath it.

Beyond just its flavor properties, it's also very healthy for you. In the recently released list from the BBC, eel ranked 56 in the world's top 100 nutritious foods.

If you haven't tried eel or are weirded out about by the slithery motions of the oft-misunderstood creature, I'd tell you to look past all that.

All that to say, Unagi is scrumptious, and the Chubu region is the place to try it. It's some of the best food in the Chubu region, hands down.

Miso-katsu is all kinds of delicious, and a must try in the Chubu region Miso-katsu

So, what is miso-katsu? Well, it's a variation on a Japanese classic. It's this small variation that, in my opinion, adds miso-katsu onto the “best food in Chubu” list.

Tonkatsu is the dish on which this is based. Tonkatsu is simply a breaded pork cutlet, but it's one of the most popular dishes in Japan. It's downright ubiquitous and can be found in any city. Miso-katsu, not so much.

Miso-katsu is still breaded pork, but the sauce which is typically poured over the cutlet is a miso-based sauce which makes the dish flavorful.

In the picture above, you can see said sauce just to the left – it's a thick and robust sauce which is worth traveling to Japan's Chubu region for. I'm not exaggerating when I say that.

The dish is said to have been created in Nagoya, but you can find it all over the Chubu region these days.

Crab sashimi isn't necessarily common, but that doesn't mean it isn't delicious Crab Sashimi

There are many reasons that you should visit the Chubu region, and crab sashimi is one of them. As you may have gathered, my foray into Japanese food goes pretty deep, but I'd never seen crab sashimi on offer.

I'd tried pretty much all the Japanese fish and shellfish in their raw state, but not crab, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got the opportunity.

If you're a “texture person,” this dish may not be for you, but I'd urge you to fight through it. It's marvelous.

The Chubu region is one of the premier places in the country to get your seafood fix, but look beyond the traditional, and go for crab sashimi.

I'd say the best place to get your hands on some would be Nagoya and specifically a restaurant called Sappora Kani-Ya. They do things right from start to finish.

While there, I indulged in five different courses of crab delicacies, headlined by the crab sashimi.

So, what are you waiting for? It easily qualifies as some of the best food in the Chubu region.

Grilled rice cake skewers? Um, yes, please. Goheimochi

It isn't the sort of dish where if someone described it to you, your mouth would instantly water, but don't discount it.

We're talking about flattened rice cakes, glazed in a delicate coating of miso or soy sauce (which is nice and sweet), then grilled to perfection. Japanese street food comes in many forms, and some are hit or miss – but this is an absolute guarantee.

When talking about crab sashimi I noted that the texture might be a hindrance for some, well with this dish, I'd say it's the complete opposite.

The flavor of goheimochi is well and good, but it's also a pleasure to sink your teeth into. Alright, that might just be me, but the moral of the story is that goheimochi certainly ranks in as some of the best food in the Chubu region!

The Best Food in the Chubu Region (Honorable Mentions)

It's easy to get carried away when you're talking about mouthwatering Japanese dishes. I've mentioned four dishes that warmed my heart, but I'd be remiss to not at share a few more, if only briefly.

  1. Oyaki – A dumpling from Nagano often stuffed with vegetables and healthy amounts of soy and miso.
  2. Oysters – Especially as you get closer to Toba and Osatusu, the oysters are to die for.
  3. Red Miso Soup – It's basically white miso, but with more soybeans and fermented a little longer. It's unique, and well worth trying!
  4. Yakisabazuchi – Think mackerel sushi, but even fresher than you thought possible.
  5. Gifu – Also known as ayu, this fish is widely considered to be the sweetest fish around. It can only be found in the cleanest rivers, so the Chubu region takes great pride in them.
Final Thoughts on the Must Try Food in the Chubu Region

Let's be frank – you're not going to go wrong either way. That being said, doing my research on what was available food-wise before landing allowed me to seek out a more enriching experience.

I was asking for miso-katsu when the folks I was with were asking how we would even get from the airport.

I'm all about traveling with intention because you may as well make the most of every minute, and food, for me, is a big part of that.

So, let us hope this article serves you well in your endeavors. In this region of the world, every bite is a blessing.

My trip was hosted in partnership with Go Backpacking and the local government of Japan. All opinions are my own. 

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Online in Costa Brava, Spain (photo: David Lee)

The internet has made travel much easier on several fronts: it’s easy to compare lodging prices, book tickets, and navigate foreign cities. And yet even as we seek the allure of the foreign, it can be hard to give up the convenience of our familiar online environments.

Despite the web being world-wide, the digital landscape can vary significantly across countries.

There are blocked websites, pages in a foreign script, and the never-ending carousel of public networks in airports, cafes, and hotels—each one making vague claims of what it might do or not do with our user information.

If you’re looking to keep your online connections consistent while traveling, you should consider investing in a virtual private network (VPN) service.

A VPN establishes an encrypted connection between a user’s device and server or “endpoint” under the service’s control.

This provides many benefits to travelers regarding safety, convenience, and comfort.

Protect Your Data

Unless you get yourself a mobile hotspot before you go, you will probably rely on a public network for your online activities.

The flimsy security of public WiFi, coupled with travelers’ tendencies to keep important documents (e.g., itineraries, bookings, contact details) online can make for an information security nightmare.

The encryption provided by a VPN, however, makes up for the lapses in public network security.

With your VPN active, you don’t need to worry about other users on the network—in airports and hotels, there could be hundreds—snooping around your emails and transaction data.

Access Blocked Sites

The accessibility of web content can vary from country to country for many reasons, usually involving private licensing restrictions or government censorship laws.

Sometimes it’s no more than an annoyance, but other times it can get in the way of work or other essential tasks. Whichever it is, though, VPNs can help you get around it.

When you connect to one of a VPN’s endpoints, the server you’re using assigns you a new IP address based on where it’s located.

This effectively masks your IP address and tells any web service you’re accessing that you’re located in another region.

This will get you past the most common means of blocking web content, aptly called geoblocking.

With this, you can watch any shows you might be following on streaming services like Netflix, or you could keep up with news that might be censored in the country you’re in.

But if you’re circumventing policies and censors, are you going to get in trouble?

The answer is a bit of a gray area. Hardly any countries have established policies on VPN use.

That said, it’s a good idea to read up before traveling. The United Arab Emirates and China are both stricter than usual on them, for instance.

China’s hostility toward VPNs means that a VPN that works in China likely works anywhere in the world, though, making it an excellent litmus test for potential VPN services.

Savvy Shopping

Just as a VPN’s encryption protects your documents and correspondences, it can also safeguard transaction information, including payment details and receipts.

This is great for making online purchases abroad, especially if you’re limited to public or semi-public networks.

Moreover, because a VPN can make it seem as if you’re in another country, you can sometimes use it to get better deals on travel-related purchases.

Tourists often pay more than locals do for products, services, or access to places of interest. A VPN won’t eliminate this problem, but it can mitigate it in some cases.

Domestic flights, for example, are sometimes cheaper when booked locally—so you can have your VPN mark you as local when you book the flight.

You should note, however, that your transactions will be kept hidden from third parties, but not from anyone directly concerned with the purchase.

If you make online purchases from vastly different locales, your credit card company is bound to notice.

Choosing a VPN Service

All that being said, there’s still the question of which VPN service to use.

There are many reviews available online, but when it comes to VPNs specifically for use while traveling, here are a few things to consider:

  • Choose a VPN that lets you automatically connect to it. A VPN can’t protect you if it’s not active and in the rush of travel, you might forget to connect manually. (Unreliable WiFi signals can also cause disconnection from the VPN.)
  • Find one with endpoints where you need them. This might be endpoints in the country you’re visiting (for faster connections while staying secure), or one near your home region.
  • Make sure it can support as many devices as you’ll need. This is mainly for paid VPNs, which restrict the number of devices that can connect to them and often charge premiums for more devices. If you use several smart devices while traveling, make sure your VPN can cover them all.
  • Again, make sure it works in the country you’re going to. Run searches to see if it’s been working or not within the past few months; this will be a good gauge of reliability.
  • Finally, look up the VPN provider’s reputation. You might think you’re getting a good deal with a free service, but some providers have been known to sell user information to fund their operations.

This story was provided in partnership with Hotspot Shield.

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Thinking about applying for an ESL job in China? Already got an offer for a teaching contract? Don't forget to check the details.

While it's certainly an exciting time to be teaching overseas, it pays to check out all the aspects before heading to the airport. You should read your contract carefully before accepting.

An ESL contract is much like any other legal contract that you'll need to take seriously. It's signed by you and your employer and binds you to what's written.

In essence, it’s your responsibility to enter a contract that meets your expectations.

If this is your first time teaching abroad, you may not know what to be looking for, so we’ve provided a set of key criteria you should be on the lookout for before you accept any ESL teaching position in China.

Similarly, should you decide to enlist in some help, popular services such as Career China will guarantee placement in reputable schools and help guide you through your contract and expectations to help reduce your risk of entering a bad agreement.

Working Hours

The contract should specify the hours you need to work in both classroom and non-classroom setting.

Non-classroom hours include the hours you'll be spending on testing or evaluating students, grading homework or creating new lesson plans.

Make sure that the exact numbers are written on the contract; if there isn't one, confirm the details with the company before signing the contract.

You may be wondering what the minimum classroom hours should be in ESL teaching.

The standard is around 15 to 20 hours of classroom time and not more than 5 hours for non-classroom time. Any more than that and you should be paid for the extra hours appropriately.

Moreover, English training institutions should not ask you for more than 25 hours for classroom and 5 hours for non-classroom weekly.

If there's a need for extra hours, then you need to make sure that you are getting a higher rate for them.


Your salary should always be enough to meet your personal needs. It should also be competitive and in line with the current value of ESL teacher salaries on the market.

Asking a local expert or checking online job listings should give you an idea of how much you should be getting for teaching English in China.

You'll also have to consider the region – teaching in Tier 1 cities like Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou should fetch you a higher salary as compared to the smaller cities because these cities have a higher demand for teachers and have a higher cost of living.

Salaries in public schools can fall in the range of 10,000 RMB up to 15,000 RMB while teaching in private or international schools could get you 16,000 to 24,000 RMB.

Treat this figure as a baseline – if you have more experience and training, then you can and should negotiate for higher pay.

Duration of Contract

Your ESL contract should state the start date and ending date as a teacher.

Standard lengths are 10 months for public school and 12 months for private schools.

When the contract ends, the residency and housing permit usually end as well.

During this time, it will be best to think about whether you wish to continue teaching ESL in China or leaving the country before your residency expires.

Medical Insurance

Your ESL contract should include the terms of your medical expenses.

Most public schools in China offer basic medical insurance for their teachers, i.e., reimbursement for basic hospital fees, etc.

Basic medical insurance changes if a private school decides to hire you. Some companies state a specific amount to pay for medical expenses.

Make sure to check this carefully, as it's a significant factor that shouldn't be taken lightly.

Airfare Reimbursement

Employers may or may not have airfare reimbursement as part of the contract. Travel costs include the airfare ticket from your country to China.

You can check and see if the costs of a travel ticket from China back to your country is included as well.

Generally, this is a set amount that you will be reimbursed regardless of where you are flying or how much it ends up costing you.

Visa and Permits

Spend some time going over the contract and check the part where visas and permits are stated.

As a standard, your employer should give a valid work visa for the duration of your time teaching.

If the contract does not state that you will receive a working Z Visa, then you need to confirm with the school whether they will offer this visa.

If they intend to, then you must get this written in the contract. If they do not give a working Z Visa, it is in your best interest to move on to an employer that will offer you working status.

Often, employers in China will try to get out of sponsoring your working Z Visa because it is both costly as well as requires lots of paperwork on their end.

What this means for you, if you are not provided a working Z Visa, is that you will be working illegally under a tourist visa.

You can face being sent home if you are caught working on a tourist visa and will need to “exit” the country every 90 days to reset your tourist visa.

If you are not living in a border city such as Guangdong or Shenzhen, this equates to a massive headache for you as the teacher and can be avoided simply if you confirm the Z working visa beforehand.

Holidays and Time Off

As a rule, public schools offer more holidays as compared to private schools.

The trade-off is that you're more likely to be paid less if employed as an ESL teacher in a public school.

Take a look and see if you'll be paid for time off as many Chinese holidays are quite lengthy (some up to 4-5 weeks during the Chinese New Year), especially if you're a public school teacher.

Some may pay you in full during these holidays, others at half a rate, while some won't pay at all.

The bottom line is that you should exercise due diligence and check out all these things before finally agreeing to the ESL contract's terms and conditions.

Being prepared and knowing what to expect is part of the ESL teaching experience!

This story was provided by and published in partnership with Career China. 

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