Hi, I'm Rachel. I am a contradiction: part dirty hippie/part girly girl. My aim is to make travel glamorous, on a backpacking budget. I am sharing my stories to inspire you; it is possible to quit your job, travel the world, and look cute doing it. I am currently living in Goa, India.
We continue to mourn & heal as we wrestle with Rachel’s passing.
In May, we tragically announced that Rachel Jones, beloved child, fiancé, sister, friend & travel blogger, had unexpectedly passed away. We’d like to share a bit more about her passing and the future of her much loved Hippie in Heels.
As with anyone who is in the public eye, we understand there’s been some discussion on the cause of Rachel’s passing and we’d like to dispel any rumors.
The medical examiner diagnosed Rachel’s cause of death as a heart disease known as chronic myocarditis, which resulted in a sudden heart attack. We now understand that her condition had been undiagnosed and therefore untreated, but likely developed from multiple infections and viruses over the years.
It is a hard journey, but we are not dwelling on the ‘what-ifs’ of Rachel’s passing. Instead we are mourning love lost, the future that could have been, and reminiscing on joyful memories of her adventures and how she touched our lives.
As we all create a new normal with Rachel in our thoughts, we encourage everyone in need to please speak with friends, counselors, and loved ones to ensure you are supported as you grieve.
What can we expect with Hippie in Heels this summer?
It has taken some time to focus, but we have turned our energies to the blog and uncovered several posts Rachel had written and was preparing to post for Hippie in Heels. They are on a mix of topics from her personal tales and AMAs to packing tips, travel advice, and even one last India post and a very detailed guide about her experience becoming an expat in Mexico. In memory of her we will be posting them in the coming months unedited, her final words illuminating her experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
These posts may be challenging to read, but we want to honor the effort that Rachel made and the stories she wanted to tell. We appreciate you reading her words with us.
What is the long term vision for Hippie in Heels?
Ben, Sam, Travis & Rachel’s parents are exploring options to keep the blog going in Rachel’s memory. This is a significant challenge as Hippie in Heels’ authenticity came from Rachel, her thoughts, her feelings, her opinions, and her happiness from the life she shared with Ben, Omni, Shanti, & KitKat – and no amount of creativity and effort can recreate her uniqueness. We want to keep her fearless spirit and love of travel alive, and we hope Hippie in Heels will continue to inspire and support travelers around the world as they plan their next adventure.
Please keep us in your thoughts as we consider the next steps for Hippie in Heels.
When it comes to being Type A, I’m getting an A+ in it. I am the most organized traveler – and my travel buddies often joke that I never even unpack. I like things to be just *so* in my luggage. Whether I was lugging around a backpack or rolling a suitcase, I had everything organized inside with packing cubes. I have been using them since 2013. While some people like to try different lipsticks, I like to try different packing cubes! I love nothing more than organizing, so I’ve tried out all the top brands. I tend to stick to a few favorites but I’m going to give a run-down of the 10 best packing cubes for you to choose from.
How I Best Use My Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are just little fabric boxes that you put all your stuff in to keep it organized and save space in your luggage. They are lightweight, easy to transfer into hotel drawers if you want, keep your clothing folded nicely while your luggage is being thrown around by airlines, save space, and are typically affordable.
When you buy packing cubes, it’s important to get a set with different sizes and shapes. You need square, you need oblong, you need smaller ones and medium. I like to do dresses in a square one, folded in half twice and then jeans and tees in an oblong one. Then I’ll do my swimsuits and cover-ups in one medium one and undies/bras/PJ’s in another medium one. With the smaller ones, I’ll pack in tech supplies or whatever else I need them for on a specific trip.
There are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan. Cenotes were actually made when the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs hit earth! You can read about the giant crater the cenote created, the Chicxulub crater, at that link. Living in Merida, there are so many cenotes near Merida to choose from. While it’s fun to tour around and check out small off the grid ones, like this one, sometimes you want something *perfect* that will be good for when family and friends come to visit you.
For me, the best cenotes in Merida to take my family to are the Santa Barbara cenotes at Homun. If you ask most locals which is your favorite cenote, they will often say “Homun!” without even thinking. At Homun, are the “Santa Barbara cenotes” which is a set of three cenotes.
Upon arrival, you can choose to tour just one or have access to all three. For three cenotes, the cost is 150 MXN ($7). For an additional 70 MXN, you can add on lunch, which I highly recommend. The cost includes access to three cenotes, transport between them either by horse-drawn carriage or bicycle and lifejackets.
I grew up near Amish country and am very used to horse-drawn carriages but still felt a little bad riding in one. My mom did as well. I think if we went back we would ride bicycles which would be a lot of fun, but most families there used the carriages. The ride is just 3-5 minutes out to the cenotes, then you walk between the three, then you take a ride back.
As you can see, no one is around! We arrived at 9:30. They open at 9 and we were the only ones there for the two hours we spend in the cenotes. As we headed back toward the restaurant, we saw a few families showing up and during lunch, tour buses started to come in.
As part of my Ask Me Anything series, I answer common questions I get from readers. You can read other AMA posts here. In this article, I want to answer the question of how I decide on a place to take my next vacation. If you have wanderlust and want to book a trip, here are some things to think about before that will help you narrow down the destinations.
Readers will sometimes email me overwhelmed with their travel options, because don’t all of us travel-lovers want to go everywhere? It’s all on “our list”. They ask me how I decide where to take my next vacation hoping it will help them decide where to take theirs.
5 Ways to Decide on a Place for Vacation
There are things I consider when I choose my next vacation spot, so I’ll kind of share the thought process I go into when I’m choosing somewhere to visit with the 5 questions you will want to ask yourself.
1. Have I been before?
The first thing I’ll consider is if I am in the mood to go somewhere new or somewhere I have been before and like to return to. I love going back to India, Sri Lanka, London, and so many other places so I try to think if any of them are calling me back.
I know returning to places isn’t as exciting as going somewhere new – but they typically require way less planning and on repeat visits, you get to experience the place more in-depth. You’ll have already done all the touristy things and now you can do the cool things you missed, try new restaurants and bars, and really chill out like a vacation that doesn’t have a checklist of “things to do and see”.
If you want to go somewhere you haven’t been before, think about where friends have gone. Who has told you about a cool life-changing trip they had recently? You can get travel inspiration from Instagram and blogs.
You can also just spin a globe and see where you land! That is what I did in a way with India in 2012. I chose it 100% on a whim. I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before that would provide a little culture shock. I thought, why not India?
2. What the weather like?
It’s important to think about if you want to go somewhere warm like surfing in Maui or you are interested in a cold vacation like playing with reindeer in Finland. Once you decide that, it will help you narrow things down a little bit. Additionally, you’ll have to think about what the season is at the place you want to go – maybe it’s rainy season and all the activities you have in mind aren’t going to be possible at that time.
3. What do I have the budget for?
Do you have the money for flights all the way across the world or just to a few states over? Do you need to take the train/bus rather than fly? Unfortunately, the budget is going to play a major factor. Yes, you can get to places like the Maldives on a budget – but do you want a budget trip to the Maldives or do you want to save it for a luxury honeymoon one day?
Often I will do a close trip – in India, I can do a two-week trip to another state I haven’t visited and spend a lot less than if I flew to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. In Mexico, I recently did a getaway to Mexico City on a whim. I considered other places but wanted a “big city” break I could afford and it was the cheapest city nearby.
Try using the Skyscanner “anywhere” or Kiwi “anywhere” options with your airport as the departure and “anywhere” as the destination. It will give the results of the cheapest places you can fly to. See if any of them stand out to you.
4. Is it an adventurous trip or a chilled one?
For my bachelorette party, my bridesmaids were up for anything! We could have done an all-inclusive in Cancun and chilled or gone to Lake Tahoe for a relaxing lake vacation. I had to think not just about the destination but about what I wanted to do there. I didn’t want to SUP. I didn’t want to go clubbing or just lay by the pool. I decided I wanted to go to Universal Studios. There is so much to do all day at the parks, it’s sunny, there are bars and restaurants within the park and it makes for an easy trip.
Sometimes I want something really adventurous and want to experience a place I haven’t been. Recently, I wanted to go somewhere new with a friend. Neither of us had been to Central America, so we started there. Costa Rica seemed over-traveled. Honduras wasn’t safe. We went through each country to kind of see what we wanted to do. We decided on Panama because it has the city, the Pacific, the Carribean, whale watching, trekking, culture, pristine islands that hardly anyone travels to, new food we’d never tried, and beautiful boutique and eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs. It had a lot to offer and we could do a lot in two weeks.
If you want an adventurous tip, ask yourself what you are interested in: skiing, surfing, safaris, rafting? You can figure out what you want to do then google “the best places for ___”.
5. How much time do you have?
The last point brought us to this: do you have two weeks to go to Panama? If not, and you have one week, is it worth going all the way to just hit up two cities? Would you prefer instead to go to Costa Rica and do a lot in a smaller area?
Maybe you have just a long weekend and could think about flying to Mexico City for a weekend. You can often get flights there from the USA as cheap or cheaper than flights to Vegas, LA, and NYC. Try to think outside the box and make the most of the short time you have. There are international destinations that work for a long weekend. Alternatively, you can do to places in the USA you haven’t explored like New Orleans, Nashville, or St Augustine.
My parents recently came to visit and I really wanted to show them a Hacienda. I had been to some for lunch outside of Merida and had stayed in a couple of smaller ones in town, but I was looking for a really epic one since they were on vacation. Hacienda Sac Chic has won tons of awards and is well-known as a luxury wedding destination and Casa Sisal, another home of theirs on the same property is a house that really inspires Ben and I when it comes to how we want to build our dream house in Cholul. I decided it was perfect to check these out, and they invited me to stay complimentary to share about it with you!
When you first enter, you don’t see the pool straight away but as we toured the house and got settled in, we were drawn to it like moths to a flame! It was a hot day, and the pool was perfect. It’s such a beautiful setting and right next to a bamboo forest!
I actually had to take a photo of these leggings for Instagram, and they are made from bamboo. I didn’t know there would be so much bamboo at the Hacienda, but WOW how well did that work out!?
The entrance had so much colorful walls and different types of plants. I love the cactuses! there were archways throughout the area you could walk around the whole garden exploring and even go up on the roof.
The Hacienda called Casa Antigua is from the 1850’s and is made from limestone. In the main house are two bedrooms, one with a loft up top, a living room, kitchen, and a huge bathroom plus a pool outside. Across the courtyard is Casa Nueva, has three bedrooms as well with a sunken in living room (so cool and something I want to do in my future dream home!), and is a little more modern. We stayed in Casa Antigua. The house was renovated by the architect Salvador Reyes Rios and his partner and wife Josefina Larrain and they made most of the furniture using local craftsmen.
My room, coffee in bed, and the loft which is above
I’m actually obsessed with the blue concrete in the bathroom. I think it’s chukkum which is a local way of doing concrete here and I want to do this in grey one day! It’s so beautiful.
Casa Sisal, Near Merida, Yucatan
Old meets new when you dip under an old archway and cross the grounds into Casa Sisal. I love the Hacienda and my parents really loved it – but Casa Sisal is a modern stunning home that if I could, I would live in! No one was staying there so they let us come over to take photos and use the pool.
Years ago I met Danielle through a friend – she had been to Uganda and I was dying to go! We were both nurses and travel-lovers. She is still a nurse but still finds time to travel all the time and has her own travel blog. I love that she can balance work and travel, and she offered to share with you all how she does it so seemlessly! Here’s Danielle.
12 ways to balance work and travel
If travel is important to you, it is absolutely possible to travel while working full time. I’m a nurse, and I have traveled to 16 countries and 37 states while working as a nurse. I know these numbers aren’t record-breaking, but they also would not have happened if I hadn’t worked hard for these adventures. There are some tricks to balancing work and travel.
Every country varies in how much vacation time a person gets. It would be amazing if we could all be as fortunate as Brazilians who receive 30 days of vacation per year, but some of us live in countries like the United States where there isn’t a minimum required amount of vacation time. And traveling year-round isn’t a feasible option for everyone.
If you’re working full time, you might have to get a little creative in how you fit travel into your busy life.
1. First, Make Travel a Priority.
If traveling while working full time is your heart’s desire, you need to ensure it is a priority in your life. Below is a quick checklist:
Is travel important to you?
Are you willing to sacrifice from other areas of your life to be able to travel more?
Do you consider it to be something you are most passionate about?
Is travel where you want a good portion of your money to go?
If the answer to these questions is yes then you know where your priorities are. You won’t have to question if you are making the right choices in life as you plan your trips, spend money on them, and use all your paid time off to see the world. You will know you’re pursuing your passion.
Never ever let vacation days go to waste. Use those babies. You literally get paid while you are traveling, yet studies say that 41% of Americans let vacation days expire. Don’t be that person. If your vacation time does not roll over, your time-off bank better be empty by December 31st.
Often, employees feel pressured by bosses to always be available at work, but you have the right to take a break from your job. Your vacation time is earned and should be used.
If possible, exclusively use your paid time off for travel. I’m a nurse, so I won’t tell you to go into work if you’re sick or in deep need of a mental health day. But I will advise you to not take the day off because you’d rather not get out of bed. Every hour of vacation time that you save can go towards the adventures that you are pursuing.
3. Take Advantage of Weekends and Holidays.
The weekend is a full-time employee’s best friend.
If you work Monday through Friday, plan your trips around weekends or holiday weekends so that you can use less vacation time. I recently flew to Seattle on Friday night after work, had Saturday and Sunday to explore, and flew back on Monday. It was a decent trip across the country, and I only used 1 day of vacation time.
If you are planning a long trip, 5 days of vacation time will give you 9 days of travel (Saturday through the following Sunday). 10 days of vacation time will give you 16 days for a trip if you plan the weekends out properly. You can see a lot in 16 days.
If you work random days, as some nurses or service industry workers, cluster your work days and travel while you are off work. Work the beginning of a week, travel, and work at the end of the next week. You can travel for a long weekend and not even use any paid time off.
Finally, if you work somewhere where it is not required to use vacation days during holiday weeks, work your full hours and keep the 8 hours of vacation time that week. For example, I chose to work my full hours during the week of Thanksgiving so I could save a day of vacation. I understand working a holiday might be a sacrifice, but remember working full time and traveling may require a sacrifice or two to maximize your vacation time.
4. Be Organized about Taking Time Off.
Talk to the person who makes your schedule, and seek out the vacation policies. Learn the best way to plan your dream trips.
Be organized. Don’t miss out on an epic trip to Chile because you forgot to submit a time off request. Mark your calendar and make plans.
Depending on how your schedule is made, you have some options on how to plan your adventures. If you have your heart set on a certain location, figure out when you want to go, request the time off, and book the trip well in advance. If you want to go where the wind takes you and you have flexibility, take a chunk of time off and then research the best flights during that time.
If you are looking for good flight deals and are up for going anywhere, subscribe to Next Vacay and use Skyscanner’s or Kayak’s Explore features.
5. Be a Stellar Employee.
A manager or scheduler might pay zero attention to your frequent vacation requests if you are totally pulling your weight when you’re present. Work hard, play hard.
6. Visit Destinations that Require Shorter Travel Time.
Consider a road trip to a nearby town that offers new adventures. If the drive is less than 4 hours, you could drive after work on Friday and be back Sunday evening. You can also search nonstop flights from your home airport to save time (and money!) on short trips. Most airline apps or websites offer a filter for nonstop flights.
We often forget to explore our own backyards, and it’s okay to be a tourist in a nearby town sometimes. If you are saving vacation time for a long trip to Europe in 6 months but have the travel bug right now – plan something small that still invigorates you. These types of trips can hold you over when needed.
7. Travel Alone.
If you are limited on when you can take time off, you might not be able to find a BFF that’s available on the only week you can make it to Ireland in September. Don’t always wait for someone else to accomplish what YOU want to do. Solo travel may seem daunting, but it can be one of the greatest experiences.
Traveling alone gives you the opportunity to really put yourself out there and meet other travelers. You learn about yourself and immerse yourself in new cultures. And most importantly for this post, it allows you the flexibility to travel when you want, on your own schedule.
I was living in Boston for a few months and learned that there were cheap, direct flights to Iceland in February. I asked a few friends to join, they all said “heck no” to Iceland in freezing February, so I went alone. I decided that my desire to explore Iceland and see the Northern Lights outweighed my desire to have a travel buddy.
8. Work Remotely.
If you spend most of your time at work sitting behind a computer, perhaps your manager will let you stare at that screen from a coffee shop in Spain. Approach your boss in the right way, provide assurance that you will perform your full work-load from abroad, and offer to do extra work before and after the trip if needed. Bonus points if you can network for your company while you are in the new city.
9. Take Unpaid Leave.
This might be worth a shot. If you are financially stable enough and want to cross off a bucket list location or want to spend an extended period of time somewhere, it could be worth asking your manager if they would consider giving you unpaid leave.
If you are an amazing employee, your manager might allow you to take some time off to pursue your passion and grow as a person. It costs companies a lot more money to hire new employees than to retain current ones, especially if you’re that stellar employee like I pointed out earlier.
10. If You Have an Off Season, Maximize your Travel.
If you work as a teacher or construction worker or any career that gives you time off during the year, take advantage of that time. You should know what dates you will have free ahead of time, so you have the ability to plan ahead. Google what countries are the best to visit during your off time, pick a place, and then track flight prices. The Skyscanner app allows you to set notifications for specific destinations and will email you if there is a decreased fare from your selected airport.
11. Travel between Jobs.
If you are someone who changes jobs frequently and has the opportunity to take some time off in between, do it. This might seem like a scary time to travel, but there is something very freeing in not being held down in a job and being able to travel how you want. This might require saving up some money ahead of time, but it’s worth it. This also might be your best option for longer-term travel. A month in Thailand, anyone?
12. Budget for Travel.
So you took this advice and have a week off to spend in Europe. How are you going to pay for it? Some people have “emergency funds;” I have a “travel fund.” I always try to keep enough money in my checking account that I could take a week-long trip at any time.
(Don’t go empty your emergency fund after reading this. I have one of those too; it’s just a lot more boring.)
Creating a budget for travel means spending less money in your day-to-day life so you can spend it on travel. Everything adds up. An apartment that is $100 less per month can equal a flight to Costa Rica in less than 6 months. Cut down on shopping, eating out, alcoholic beverages, etc. I could live in a nicer place and have nicer things, but that would mean not traveling whenever I am able.
We live in the time of side gigs, right? If you need extra money to travel, you can try driving for Uber, picking up extra shifts at work, walking dogs for the Wag app, or babysitting. If travel is your passion, work hard for it. Rachel has some great advice on her 9 Tips for Saving Money for Travel post.
I understand most of this advice is not easy. Saving an extra vacation day might mean going into work tired after a weekend trip. Spending less money might mean ordering water instead of a cocktail with dinner. Traveling alone might take a leap of faith. Some of these tips are sacrifices, but travel will enrich your life and make the sacrifices worthwhile.
I hope this advice leads to more adventures and less time at work. Travel can be accessible to you if you really want it. Don’t let a lack of vacation time keep you from living your life to the fullest. Save money, save your vacation time, and pursue your dreams.
As I flew back to Goa, I wasn’t sure how I felt. I was excited to go back but also wondered how it would feel to come back as a tourist, without my home and my dogs, and if it would still feel like it did for all the years Ben and I lived there. I started my trip in India on a safari and was pretty tired and jetlagged plus really excited to see friends – when I walked out of Goa airport, it was literally as if I’d been away on a two-week vacation. It was just all the feels, everyone yelling “taxi, taxi”, pushing through to our driver, like always and then taking the same winding roads home that I could do with my eyes closed.
The first week there, I kind of bounced around. I stayed with Priyanka at first. She owns Jamboree Creek and saved me a cabin. Then, I headed over to my friend Tia’s for a few nights. She just had a baby, Zyon, and I’m his godmother. It was so perfect to crash with them and get to know him. He’s such a bubbly happy baby. It was really like no time had passed. He’s not on social media yet, so I won’t share photos but trust me, he’s adorable.
Our old house in Asssagao was ready for us to come back and stay and our landlord kindly let us stay for free (no one has been in it since we moved!) but I didn’t want to stay until Ben came. I thought it would be too weird to be there on my own, no Ben, no dogs, no cat. Ben was working in Mumbai and Pune but once he reached Goa, we moved to our old house.
The monkeys have taken over our house even more than before and really put on a show!
Remember when I spent a monsoon re-vamping it? I bought/made curtains, rugs, re-upholstered furniture, Ben made a couch, painted all the chairs and tables, and so much. It was all still there just as I left it – even the house plants and art. Walking back in that was a shock! I figured the landlord would have been there and changed things. But it turns out, no one had and it was literally still our home. While it might have been sad without the pets, our other favorite dogs came to play. I warn you, this post is mostly about Goa dogs haha! I can’t help it. I love them!
Snowy, who is Happy Bar’s dog, kind of stayed with us for a year when we had Huck. They were good buddies and he spent a lot of time at our house, taking naps next to us on the couch. But Shanti one day took a piece of pizza out of Snowy’s mouth and that started a bitter feud that kept Snowy from coming around so much. We still saw her at Happy Bar along with Elvis and Question Mark but she didn’t sleep at our house anymore.
She must have realized that our dogs weren’t around because she came back – nearly 11 years old, she’s really struggled with her age and when I woke up in the morning she was sleeping on the back porch and came into the kitchen like she did in 2013. It was so crazy how dogs remember these things! She even walked me everywhere like she used to, leading the way and looking back every 10 seconds to make sure I was coming. Back in the day, we would drive our Omni van to Mapusa and she would follow us the whole way there running behind the van. Her, Elvis, and Question Mark the Happy Bar Dogs would walk Huck with us all in a big pack when Huck was alive.
Her and Blackey Whitey dog hung around a lot. We went and saw Three-Legged-Dog (the dog we took to get amputated when he was hit by a scooter outside Cream Choc, it was such a crazy day) and he didn’t remember us sadly but was still cute as ever perched on his bench.
When we first took him into the animal aid to fix his leg
Then there’s Puppy. Puppy was a street dog outside our house that we found in a box in the jungle. We tried to feed him but he was so scared of people and skittish. The next time we found him, he had a plastic bottle on his head. We decided to tie him up to keep him safe and then let him be in our gated area when we were home. He loved Omni and Shanti and even Kitkat and eventually, he started coming in the house, sleeping on the couch, and eventually the bed! I took him to get neutered before we left Goa and our friend Sonu took Puppy into his house to live. It was really sad to leave Puppy behind but he has a good home.
Puppy and Blackey Whitey Dog
Puppy when we left in May on the left (in my bed), Puppy now on the right
When we first saw him, he was as scared as he always used to be until he smelled us and realized who we were and I swear it was so cute he started squealing and making squeezing noises and jumping on us. It was all we could do not to cry! He’s such a cute dog and his new family loves him so much! He came over every evening with Sonu to hang out.
I’ve been on a few safaris as a backpacker in India but hadn’t seen a tiger yet, so was stoked to get to visit Bandhavgarh Park – the park with the highest density of tigers in India. I wasn’t sure what to wear on safari, though! As a backpacker, I just threw on what was in my backpack but I’m not really rocking ali baba pants anymore and as this was a boutique safari lodge it required what they call “smart safari clothing”.
I actually had some cute safari outfits in mind from pieces I had picked up, so I didn’t need to go shopping for this trip. I’m going to share a detailed safari packing list and some exact women’s safari clothing that is stylish AND comfortable while still being “smart”.
You’ll also need some safari gear to go along with your outfits, so I’ll share all those details, too! I’m going to start out with some tips on just want to expect on safari in terms of the dirt, sun, weather, colors to avoid, and other things to make note of.
What to Wear on Safari | My Safari Packing ListJust how dirty will you get?
The roads are so dusty! Most safari parks are shut during the rainy season, so you’ll likely be on a safari when the roads are dusty. With an open-air vehicle, you’ll have the dust get on your skin, hair, and face plus of course all your clothes. Add on top of that there will be more Jeeps around that are kicking up dust.
Beyond dusty roads, there are some times when you might be able to get out of the safari vehicle (when it’s safe) so you’ll want to make sure you’re covered from your ankles to your collar bones! It just will make it so much nicer when you strip off your dirty clothes at the end of the day. Basically, this is not the time for a silky white dress! If you take a backpack, camera, hat, or anything – just know it’s ALL going to be covered in dust.
One other thing to avoid? Fleeces. They just attract the dirt in a big way! Fabrics that are similar to a windbreaker are best. You’ll likely wear the same jacket again and again. and it’s nice to just shake the dirt off so it’s fairly clean the next time you put it on.
What should I expect from the weather?
You are going to need layers. Safaris are usually sunrise and sunset that means it can be cool at the start of a morning safari and the end of an evening safari. But, when the sun is high in the sky, it’s HOT. It’s not a big problem; layers are key.
You have to wear neutral earth-tone colors. Don’t be the person in a bright pink dress scaring off all the animals! You want to blend in. Tans and browns are good. Don’t wear white.
What about when I’m back at the hotel?
My resort was pretty luxurious, and if yours is too, you want to wear something “smart”. A nice midi dress, culottes with a button-up, or jeans and a linen top would be good options.
What Safari Gear You’ll Want to BringSafety/First Aid
Your safari car will likely have all the basic first aid things you might need but it doesn’t hurt to take some to have in your room or in your backpack (or in my case, fanny pack). One thing you need? bug repellant. I love the mosquito wipes, so much easier to use than spray.
You safari might have binoculars you can use, but if they don’t you DO want to have some yourself. You will also want an alarm clock in case you don’t use your phone and for the lodge grounds, a headlamp is so helpful.
My Safari Outfits in India
Cooler Weather Safari Outfit
I am a fan of Anatomie clothing. It is lightweight, takes up essentially no luggage space, is wrinkle-resistant, can be hand-washed in cold water with hardly any effort, and dry in five minutes with a hair drier. According to their site, two pairs of pants weigh less than a banana. That saves a lot of space compared to two pairs of jeans! Plus, they are comfortable, neutral, and look safari-smart.
It’s expensive, and it’s something that you should invest in if you will be traveling a lot and want something you can pack without thinking. I wore these same outfits in Panama for all my adventure days and it’s nice to just have it for future trips.
You might do four safaris on a trip (there are two a day at most places and many people do 3 nights/2 days on safari because it’s kind of pricey to do more), so I wore these two outfits twice each, except I changed tee shirts! But the same pants and jackets because they are that Anatomie fabric that you just brush off the dirt and it’s fine. They are so thin that you don’t sweat in them but also protect from the chill in the mornings.
Our safari gave us blankets to cover up with when it was cold!
I took two swimsuits only because I was also on vacation going to other places. I took my favorite Melissa Odabash swimsuit, the “Mexico” which I have in black and brown. I also took my L*Space “Crossroads Texture” bikini with the Rebel top and Frenchi bottom.
A Sample Safari Packing ListBagsLuggage & Carry-On
I took my current favorite backpack, the Lo and Sons Hanover, as my personal item on the plane (review of the brand here). This is IDEAL because it has all my electronics in it but they are in the organized, pocketed inner-shell. You then unclip that and take it out, leaving an empty backpack and all your stuff that was in it, still in the inner-shell, in the hotel room. I then took the outer shell as my safari bag! It was perfect. I threw in my hat, scarf, sunglasses, ID (you need to take ID for parks!), bug repellant, camera, and lenses.
Going on a safari in India is on so many India travel bucket lists. After doing it and seeing a tiger, I can say it is really SO worth it – even if you have to fly half way across the world. I have done many safaris in India, but the Bandhavgarh National Park safari as the best because I finally saw a tiger. It is one of the most amazing memories I’ll have from being in India. I have traveled all over India and lived there for five years, but this might be the most special experience I’ve had in India.
There are some things to know before you go on a safari in India, so I’m going to share some tips so you are as prepared as you can possibly be! You might already know, but Bandhavgarh has more tigers than any park in India.
Getting to Bandhavgarh: The park is in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The easiest way is to fly into Jabalpur and then take a four-hour car journey into the area of the park. The nearest village is Tala. Your hotel will probably arrange this for you. I flew Spicejet but Air India fly there as well. It’s a tiny airport! You can also take local buses (do not recommend as it will be a lot of bus changes and take ages!) or take a train to Umaria then a taxi.
things to know before you take a Bandhavgarh National Park safari1. You really should book a hotel before you go
It’s best to have a hotel set up ahead of time so they can help with tickets and book them for you. You can book your tickets online at the MP Park website if you want and decide on a hotel, but it’s not always accepting foreign cards without issues. You can book a safari lodge that includes your drives in the tariff which is what I recommend. You can book up to three months ahead of time and you should make sure to at least book a couple of weeks ahead because there is a limit to how many cars can come into the park.
Bandhavgarh National Park safari accommodations range from super budget to super luxury. I stayed at Samode (review here) and they include the safari in the price and book it for you. It’s by far the most luxurious (and expensive) in the area. The Taj Mahua Kothi is luxury but pretty mid-range in comparison, priced at under $300/night. Pugdundee Safaris King’s Lodge is less than $200 a night and very very nice. If you look at these places, you’ll see that most luxury ones like this include the safari in the price (and food and drinks) so make sure you think about the inclusions to see what the best deal will be).
If you look on hotels.com and booking.com with Tala searched (it is on those links) you can see a wide variety of Bandhavgarh hotels and resorts from around 2,000 INR and up (under $50). Typically these budget ones will not arrange your park tickets.
2. Park tickets need to be booked way ahead of time
There are limited tickets for the parks. You must plan ahead of time for a safari. Bandhavgarh safari cost is the same for foreigners and Indians, even though it didn’t use to be. It’s 1,500 INR for the permit fee for a whole Jeep and then you have to rent the Jeep (and driver) which is 2,500 INR. You also have to take a government guide with you which is a few hundred rupees.
If you aren’t coming in a group, the permit fee is 250 (not taking a whole Jeep for 1,500. Bandhavgarh National Park charges aren’t that high in my opinion and even for a budget backpacker, this is something to make sure you put in your itinerary!
So if you are backpacking and want to go on your own, then you will get a single person permit fee of 250 then when you arrive, you will have to split the cost of the Jeep hire with whoever else is in the Jeep.
3. The park isn’t open all year – AND it does get very cold
The park isn’t open all year and closes for the monsoon months of July, August, and September. In May and June, it’s likely to see more tigers because it’s hot and they search for water, but it’s very hot on the safari for the visitors. December and January are peak months and so it’s crowded. I went in March and it was perfect, but honestly still crowded. The park is always closed on Wednesdays and some holidays.
It will be cold in the morning and evenings pretty much all of the open months except maybe April and May. Mid- March was still cold in the mornings and evenings when I was there. The mornings at 5 AM were cold enough we needed blankets and hot water bottles on our laps. I recommend layers – and will be putting up a packing post soon!
4. It’s more crowded then you might imagine
The park is 105 square meters and divided into three “core” zones. Each zone can have 20 cars maximum in it at a time. The park is closed for lunch so you can do a morning safari or an evening safari. If you want to do an all-day safari it costs a lot more and you’ll need to get a special permit.
The core zones are called Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli. There are also buffer zones. You don’t get to pick your zone if you go through a hotel, because they do it for you and it was explained to me it’s almost like a lottery and they don’t find out until the night before. You want Magdhi zone – it is the best currently. Tala was closed when I was there so they re-routed those cars to the other two main zones so it was extra-crowded but this happens often with the zones.
If you book online, you should be able to pick your zone from what I understand.
When a tiger is spotted within a zone, word travels fast and all the Jeeps go off quickly to get to the point the tiger is located. Imagine twenty Jeeps all speeding off together, then stopping altogether in the same tiny space.
I was pretty surprised by how loud the fellow tourists were and that no one told them to be quiet. After all, we are paying a lot for this experience – because it’s MAGICAL – and it to me, should be common knowledge to be quiet and respectful. Yet, there are Jeeps that were full of tourists who were yelling, laughing, playing music on their phones, and arguing with other cars about views being blocked. I lived in India for years and am used to the noise and such but I guess I thought people would have been better behaved during such a special moment. I just wanted to shush everyone because all the yelling was ruining the moment, to be honest.
5. It’s also very very dusty
All the Jeeps make a LOT of dust and you’ll likely have a Jeep in front of you – the drivers sometimes spin the tires out and create more when going quickly to find a tiger that has been spotted. You will want a scarf to put over your face and maybe even hair. We didn’t have one on our first drive and luckily Samode had medical face masks. We looked crazy, but we didn’t care.
Check out my packing post (coming soon) for tips on what to pack and how to protect yourself from all the dust.
6. Tigers are hard to spot and you *might* not see one
It’s no guarantee that you see a tiger! While sometimes they come into the open and you can have a clear view, it isn’t always the case. The first sighting we had, I couldn’t SEE the tiger at first, after all tey are good at camouflage. I saw three one one safari ride and on another one, saw zero.
Can you see the tiger below? He’s there!
7. A government forest guide will go with you
Even if you stay with a luxury hotel that has it’s own guides and safari vehicles, you will still have a government guide go with you in the car. This is to keep things safe and make sure you leave the park when you are supposed to, don’t get out of the car, and they will help find the tigers.
8. Yes, it’s an open Jeep and no, the guides don’t carry guns for protection
The cars are Gypsy’s and they are open. There is nothing there for protection. If a tiger wants to attack you, it will. They HAVE jumped on the hood of Jeeps before – my guide told me! But, that was once so don’t worry. There is a limit of how close you can be to the tiger and while it could sneak up by you and has walked right up next to cars, that is so so rare.
When you see a tiger coming toward you, it is the driver’s responsibility to then drive off. There is a distance they need to keep and the tiger is in charge so if it comes toward you, you must back away.
9. It’s not only tigers
You’ll also see sambar, spotted deer, leopards, birds, monkeys, sloth bear, and jackals. Yes, the tigers steal the show!
10. There are no wild elephants – and if they come, the zone will close
This park isn’t known for wild elephants. They just haven’t been in this area – but that doesn’t mean they don’t come sometimes. They are having their land taken and so they get displaced but it sort of messes up the vibe of the zones and is dangerous for the tourists because they will charge vehicles. They closed the Tala zone while I was there because a wild elephant came into the zone.
If you do a full-day tour, they might offer you an elephant ride. There are elephants that the patrol guides use to make sure the tigers are in the zones and not going out to the villages. They have tamed elephants for this reason forever and always will – but taming this for tourism isn’t cool. While I’ve read there are elephant rides, I did not see any there and none were offered so I hope they have stopped them. Avoid the elephant rides if it is offered to you.
Pin these tips for Bandhavgarh National Park safari in India for later!
There are so many apartments for rent in Mexico City that are boho-chic or modern or have a old fashioned feel. The options are limitless for where to stay in Mexico City. It can feel overwhelming at first when you start to look. You have to really think about the area you want to stay in before you start to look to help you narrow it down. It would be like going to NYC and not knowing if you want to be in Queens or Manhattan – you should figure that out first then look for a hotel. In this post, I’m going to share where to stay in Mexico City based on a few places I’ve stayed and others that are on my list after extensive research – as I know I’ll be back for years to come!
Airbnb’s are a great option! You can get them from $30 a night, or a very cute one for around $50, and a super stylish one for $80, while a luxury one would be closer to $200. Boutique hotels start at $100 and go up to around $400 and there are some really amazing world-famous ones I’ll share about. There are also budget hostels that are perfect for backpackers. I’m going to break the post down into categories and share with you the best of the best in each one!
Where to stay in Mexico City: Which Neighborhoods and Hotels are Best for You
In general Roma and La Condesa are the best. They are trendy, cute, safe, and have awesome cafes and popular restaurants. They also host most of the best nightlife. They are for sure the most fashionable right now. Juarez is just near here and also a good option – some say it’s the next Roma.
For a fancier area, you can look at Polanco which has all the luxury shopping and very rich people hanging out. If you wanted, you could stay at the historic center, but it’s not what I would choose personally as we only went there for a day of shopping and sightseeing. It’s also called El Centro and mostly around the Zócalo area is where you’ll get such a bustlin’ real life Mexican scene like cantinas and crowded markets.
If you want a more local borough that is cute and safe, then look into Cuauhtémoc and San Rafael. Coyoacán is another area we explored a little that has some museums and markets and is pretty much residential but I think it’s best to do just a day trip here.
Overall, Rome and Condesa are the winners and Juarez is a great option, too, if you find a perfect place to stay there. If you want to be in the thick of it, then El Centro but I don’t recommend that.
Where to stay in Mexico City: Airbnb’s in Mexico City
When you search for an Airbnb, just look for Condesa, Roma, and Juarez. Realistically this is where you’re going to find the cutest and most popular Airbnb options. Downtown you’re going to get more average homes that won’t be as “cute” or “trendy” but are real-life homes or modern business-like apartments, while in the areas I listed you’re going to get more upscale apartments that were designed by millennials who probably did so with Airbnb in mind and are set up well for guests. For Airbnb’s, you’re looking at around $40-$100 for a cute, fun one or up to $200 for a luxury one. I’ll share where I stayed plus a few I had found and starred for later trips. I spent so many hours finding the perfect places!
If you book an Airbnb, you can sign up with a new account using my link and get $40-$52 off your booking. That is a night free for a lot of these options! You can also just sign up now and use the credit on a later trip to anywhere.
I loved this little 3 bedroom apartment. It was in Roma, on the main street, located near Lalo and all the coolest cafes. The living room was cute as you can see and the bedrooms were cozy and comfortable with big closets. The bathroom was fairly small and standard, but clean. The kitchen had a nice coffee machine and coffee for us to use. It was $80 at the time of booking.
Our last night, we splurged out in this apartment in La Condesa. It was $180 at the time of booking. It was such a dream, I wish I could have stayed longer. It was a one bedroom huge apartment with a big living room complete with Netflix. The kitchen had snacks, water, coffee, and soft drinks. But let’s be honest the bathtub was the best. It had heaters which were very luxurious in the winter here and not the usual – and having a nice hot bath then staying warm in the heat was amazing. I’ll be staying here again!