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Updated: 05/18/2019 | May 18th, 2019

New York City has been my home for close to three years, though I’ve been coming to the city since I was 16.

(Little known nerd fact: My parents took my friend Matt and me to NYC because we won a free trip for placing first (me) and second (him) in the Massachusetts state championship of the card game Magic: The Gathering. Yes, you read that correctly!)

As you probably know, NYC is one of the best foodie cities in the world — you can find cuisines from every ethnicity here. And from dollar pizza slices to expensive $400 USD meals at Per Se, it also has food to cover all price ranges.

Because of the variety and quality of food here, I rarely cook at home (kitchens are small and there’s better food everywhere!), and so, over the years, I’ve developed a robust list of recommended restaurants that I want to share with you now.

My 25 Favorite Restaurants in NYC


1. Corner Bistro (331 W. 4th Street)
World-famous for its thick and greasy hamburgers, I think this is one of the best burger joints in the city. This tiny, dimly lit bar is definitely not the restaurant you would expect to find such mouthwatering food. I bet they haven’t cleaned the grill in ages, which makes the burgers have such an amazing taste. I’m sure the drinks here are good too but I only ever come for the burger.

2. The Fat Radish (17 Orchard Street)
With some of the best farm-to-table, organic food in the entire city, the menu here changes based on seasonality, offers lots of vegetarian options, and will leave you full and feeling healthy.

3. Hot Kitchen (104 Second Avenue)
Delicious, fiery Szechuan food at a great price. This isn’t the place to get General Tso’s. It’s the real deal. Try the tripe (pig’s intestine) – it’s delicious! Be warned though: the food here is really spicy! Since I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy food, my stomach still suffers the day after I eat there, but if you love fiery food (or are willing to suffer the consequences), don’t miss this place.

4. Jeffrey’s Grocery (172 Waverly Place)
Located in the West Village, this is not a cheap meal (most mains are $20 USD), but they pour heavy, heavy glasses of wine and have some of my favorite oysters and seafood in the city. They also host a $1 USD oyster happy hour on their entire selection (4–6pm during the week), which I think is the best deal in the city!

5. Miss Korea BBQ (10 W. 32nd Street)
This is my favorite Korean BBQ restaurant in the city. Granted, I’m not a Korean BBQ expert, but the meat here is delicious, and they give you a TON of sides of a dizzying variety (which to me is the best part of Korean BBQ. Bring on the unlimited kimchi!). The fact that it’s usually full of Koreans is something I take as a good sign.

6. SriPraPhai Thai Restaurant (64-13 39th Avenue, Flushing, Queens)
The best and most authentic Thai restaurant in New York. As someone who has lived in Thailand, I rarely find a place I like. It’s never as good. I hardly ever get Thai food because I’m always disappointed but this place is the real thing. It’s as close to getting to eating in Thailand as you can get. I especially like the som tam (papaya salad) here. It’s legit.

7. Tomoe Sushi (172 Thompson Street)
This tiny restaurant serves big cuts of fish on perfectly warmed rice. Their toro(fatty tuna) is outstanding. Tomoe is considered one of the best sushi bars in the city and gets packed quickly, so come early or for lunch. Prices here aren’t on the cheap side, but their $18 USD lunch set offers the best value.

8. Yuba (105 E. 9th Street)
My favorite sushi bar in the city, this little restaurant is easily missed. I visit here too often — so often they gave me cake on my birthday and call me up when they have hard-to-get or especially fresh fish. I take all my friends here. It’s consistently the best sushi I’ve found for the best price. Try the lemon roll (you have to ask for it, it’s not on the menu), the toro, and the uni. Tell Jack and Nina that I sent you.

9. Russ & Daughters (179 E. Houston Street)
This is the best breakfast and brunch joint in the city, hands down. Nothing even comes close. Come here for latkes, lox plates, world-class cream cheese, and anything else breakfast/deli like you can think of. There are two sections: the restaurant and the deli. The restaurant always has a long, long wait, so if you don’t get there early, it’s better to grab from the deli around the corner and eat elsewhere.

10. Left Bank (117 Perry Street)
Located in the West Village, this French restaurant offers a wonderful $20 USD Sunday prix fixe dinner that is one of the best budget meals in the city. You get two courses and wine in a romantically lit setting. My roommates and I also come here often, especially if we want a nice quiet bonding evening!

11. Sao Mai (203 1st Ave)
A great Vietnamese place located near my apartment, this place serves pho that rocks my world. The portions are huge here and, according to my friend Jodi, who is an expert in all food Vietnamese, this place is authentic.

12. S’MAC (345 E 12th St) 
A mac-and-cheese shop that takes the traditional dish and makes it even better. It’s heavenly, cheesy goodness. Their 4-Cheese and Cheeseburger are my two favorites. The fact that this place is around the block from my house has become a problem, though — I’m eating there too often and may be getting a S’MAC belly!

13. Masala Times (194 Bleecker St)
I was only recently turned on to this place near the NYU campus. Serving Bombay-style street food, this place serves some really good Indian meals. I couldn’t get enough of it. The plates are sharable, and you get rice and bread, too. Try the Fish Tikka — it’s delicious.

14. Vanessa’s Dumpling (220 E 14th St)
I stumbled upon this place in the East Village while walking home one day; it was only later that I found out it’s actually quite famous. After eating their dumplings, it’s easy to see why. They were delicious — the pork dumplings had an intense flavor to them. And at 10 for $2, the price is just right.

15. Prosperity Dumplings (46 Eldridge St)
Located in Chinatown, this is another amazing dumpling place. The pork dumplings come fried or steamed, and there’s a nearby park where you can sit if this tiny place is full. And if you want more for later? You can buy 50 frozen dumplings for $8!

16. John’s on Bleecker (278 Bleecker St)
Pizza in New York is an institution, and I admit I’m no pizza guru. To me, it’s either bad, good or really good. I can’t make those fine pizza distinctions like some New Yorkers can. I qualify John’s as really good. The thin-style pizza comes in huge portions big enough to serve three. Service is quick, but expect to wait for a table during dinner.

17. Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave)
Chelsea Market is more a collection of food places than a single restaurant. It’s extremely popular and a great place to pop into when you need some groceries, a meal, or snacks. You’ll find good Thai food here, and Amy’s Bread has amazing bread. The Lobster Place has decent sushi (and great lobster), but I really enjoy their clam chowder. If you want a meal with local and organic food, try the Green Table.

18. Rosemary’s (18 Greenwich Ave)
This West Village Italian restaurant boasts a rooftop farm with fresh produce and herbs that goes directly into the food you eat. Their handmade pastas are a must-eat and they have a good Rosé selection. It’s one of the best weekend brunch locations in the city too. Come early because it fills up really quickly, especially on nice warm day.

19. Bennie’s Thai Café (88 Fulton St)
As someone who has lived in Thailand, I’m quite picky about my Thai, but this restaurant is legit. It’s a popular lunch spot with the working crowd and serves incredible curry. It’s one of the few locations where I can get an authentic Thai iced tea too! Service is a little too fast and abrupt, but who cares? The food is incredible.

20. Mamoun’s Falafel (119 MacDougal St)
You will find inexpensive falafel and gyro stands all over Manhattan, but the best one is Mamoun’s. You can pick up a classic falafel with tahini and salad for less than $5, but all the options here are tasty and affordable.

21. Karasu (166 Delkab Ave)
This is often considered a restaurant and cocktail bar, but it’s more of an izakaya speakeasy (you’ll need to enter through a secret door). It has an elegant ambiance and the drinks are top-notch. The menu isn’t huge, but everything is delicious.

22. Peter Luger Steakhouse (255 Northern Blvd)
Located in Williamsburg, this is the best steakhouse in the city. It’s an institution in the city. The restaurant has a German beer hall feel and the steak (which they age in-house) is some of the best I’ve had in my life.

23. Eat’s Khao Man Gai ( 518 E 6th St)
This is a tiny restaurant with a limited menu, but the food here is absolutely delicious. Their Thai-style Hainanese chicken and rice is simple but tasty.

24. Friend of a Farmer (77 Irving Pl)
Since 1986, Friend of a Farmer has been embracing the farm-to-table movement, offering seasonal dishes as well as classic comfort food. The food is filling and hearty. They have a great brunch too!

25. Pete’s Tavern (129 E 18th St)
This vintage bar has been open since 1864. It’s an unpretentious place where you can enjoy some pub food and enjoy that classic tavern atmosphere.

***

After living in the city for years, this list reflects what I think are some of the best and most unique offerings the Big Apple has to offer.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg too. New York City has some of the greatest bars and restaurants in the world and you could spend a lifetime (and a fortune) trying them all.

But don’t take my word for it. Come and put my suggestions to the test and let me know what you think!

NEXT STEP —> Get My Guide and See More of NYC for Less!
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You’ll get off the beaten path, away from crowds, and see the local side of New York City visiting my favorite sights, restaurants, bars, and attractions!

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Book Your Trip to NYC: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Get Your Guide
Check out my detailed guide to planning a visit to NYC with suggested itineraries, places to stay, things to do, where to eat, and how to get around. Just click here to get the guide and continue planning today!

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay in the city are:

  • Q4 (Queens) – This is a recently-renovated hotel/hostel property with basic rooms, comfy beds, and the common room has a pool table and table tennis. There’s a small kitchen for cooking too. It’s a great launching pad to explore one of the best food neighborhoods in town!
  • Broadway Hotel and Hostel (Upper West Side) – This hotel/hostel is close to Central Park and is a nice place to just hang out. They screen movies, have a library, a lounge, and a kitchen as well. If you’re looking for a comfortable place in a more relaxed environment, this is one of the better hostels in town.
  • NY Moore Hostel (East Williamsburg) – Located in the trendy neighborhood of East Williamsburg, this hostel is covered in artwork and graffiti, which makes it super quirky and beautiful. The beds are average, but it’s a cozy hostel to stay at and they have free parking too!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Photo credits: 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13
3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 14

The post 25 Delicious Places to Eat in NYC (A list of My Favorites) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 5/18/2019 | May 18th, 2019

Whether you’re wanting to kick-start a new career or to just work a short-term job until you have enough money to travel again, teaching English abroad is an option that allows you to do all those things. I taught English abroad for two years and it was one of the best experiences I had. It taught me a lot about myself and the world around me.

But how do you teach overseas?

Most would-be ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers obtain what’s known as a TEFL certificate before they begin their job hunt.

But is that really necessary?

This is a question I’m asked a lot (especially since I don’t have a TEFL yet I taught in two countries).

Can you teach English abroad without having a TEFL certificate?

In this post, we’ll examine whether it’s a requirement or not and I’ll give you tips on how to find a job without one.

1. What is a TEFL Certificate?

TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” It’s a certificate program that teaches you the nuts and bolts of how to teach English as a foreign language. The typical TEFL certificate program will focus on a variety of aspects of language teaching, including practical skills, such as how to teach vocabulary and grammar, using games effectively, and keeping the kids engaged, as well as classroom management.

Most TEFL courses run from a few weeks to a few months, both in person all around the world and online, making them a convenient option for anyone already on the road who is looking to make some money by teaching English.

However, with so many centers offering TEFL training, the quality (and price) can vary drastically from region to region.

For that reason, before you sign up for any certificate program, you should always read reviews and do some research to make sure the program you choose is accepted around the world. Some schools don’t recognize certain training programs, so if you have a particular school you want to teach at in mind, you’ll want to make sure the TEFL program you pick will be accepted there.

That being said, the overwhelming majority of schools will accept all certificates. It’s usually just the top-tier schools and/or government programs that are more picky.

Another important consideration is that some schools and government programs will require you to have a certain number of classroom-based TEFL hours. As a general rule, the more classroom hours in a course, the better that course is (and the more expensive it will be). Not only will it increase your odds of getting hired but it will make you a better, more competent teacher.

Prices for TEFL courses range between $300 and $2,000 USD. Courses offered in the USA, Canada, Australia, and Europe are often much more intensive and more expensive, especially if they are in-person classes.

If you plan to teach long-term, I would suggest you take a 120-hour course (the industry standard), at least 20 hours of which you’ll spend in a classroom setting. If you are just looking for something temporary, an online certificate will likely suffice.

2. What are the Requirements for Teaching Abroad?

Fortunately, there are not many requirements to get started teaching English abroad. However, they vary from country to country, so you’ll need to do some research on where you’re looking to teach.

Generally speaking, to teach English abroad, it helps a lot if you:

  • Are a native English speaker from an English-speaking country
  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Have a TEFL certificate (or a CELTA or TESOL, two other ESL certificates)
  • Have some teaching experience (though this is optional)

Most jobs will require you to be a native English speaker from one of the following countries: the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or South Africa.

That being said, some countries might hire you if you’re from another country where English is fluently spoken or if you can demonstrate expert knowledge of the language. But it will be an uphill battle, so be prepared to really show off your skills if you’re not from one of the above countries.

You’ll find this bias to be especially prominent in Asia. There, also being young, white, or female are the most sought-after qualities for teachers. Is that fair? Not really. But it’s just how the system works, so keep that in mind when searching for jobs.

3. So, Do You Need a TEFL Certificate to Teach Abroad?

Maybe.

Not always.

It depends really.

Why is that? Because every country is different – and every school is different too so it depends on how high up the food chain you want to go!

If you don’t have a TEFL certificate but instead have a TESOL certificate or CELTA, you can find a job without any trouble. Without any of those certifications, you’ll have much more limited options.

Some countries will still have job opportunities for you, but they won’t pay as well, and you’ll likely have fewer hours or subpar working conditions. For example, you can work from home teaching English online; however, the pay isn’t great and there is a lot of competition.

And many smaller schools and language institutes don’t really care. I once knew a kid who didn’t have a TEFL or college degree and got a job at a public school in Thailand.

But the higher you go up the ladder, the more limited your options are. International schools, universities, and high-end language institutes probably won’t hire you without one.

A way around this is to be a certified teacher. If you’re a certified teacher, then you can basically get any job you want without a TEFL.

But, assuming that is not the case, there are plenty of entry jobs for teachers so long as you have a university degree.

6 Places to Teach Without a TEFL

If you decide you want to teach overseas without a TEFL certificate, your options are limited but not impossible, especially if you have a university degree.

1. South Korea – South Korea is one of the best places to teach English overseas. The pay is high, the jobs are plentiful, and you get awesome benefits (such as a contract completion bonus, healthcare, free housing, and airfare reimbursement). You’ll also find lots of expats there, so it’s easy to make friends and find community. With a TEFL and a Bachelor’s degree, you can expect a much better salary.

2. Japan – Much like South Korea, Japan has a reputation for good jobs. While the cost of living can eat up your salary in cities like Tokyo, there are a number of programs (such as the government’s JET program) that reward long-term teachers with completion bonuses and generous benefits. You’ll need to have a Bachelor’s degree to secure the best positions, and a TEFL will give you much better job opportunities and a higher salary though.

3. Thailand – Not surprisingly, Thailand attracts lots of young teachers with its cheap cost of living and warm, beautiful weather. The pay in Thailand isn’t that high (unless you teach in Bangkok or at an international school). But teaching English in Thailand isn’t about making lots of money — it’s about everything else: the ease of getting a job, the food, the fun-loving atmosphere, the weather, and everything in between. It’s one of the best destinations for young new teachers.

4. China – As China continues growing, its need for English teachers also increases. As such, it is one of the easiest places to find work — regardless of your skill level or experience. No matter where you go, you can find a position, even in saturated cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The pay can vary wildly, but this is a great place for new teachers to cut their teeth and test the waters of teaching ESL.

5. SpainSpain offers some of the best opportunities for teachers looking to work in Europe. There are plenty of jobs, the government has an active program for attracting teachers, and your visa means you can freely travel around Europe. The competition has grown in recent years, but there are still plenty of jobs — and you can often teach private lessons on the side. You won’t get as many benefits as you would in Asia or the Middle East, but the pay is still enough to live off of.

6. Central America – If you’re new to teaching English abroad, Central America is a great place to find entry-level positions. You can usually find jobs here even if you don’t have all of the suggested qualifications, though the pay will be reflective of that. While you won’t make a lot of money there, you’ll be able to enjoy the amazing weather and laid-back lifestyle, which is a fair trade-off in my opinion!

***

For those looking to work abroad and incorporate more travel into their lives, teaching English overseas is an excellent option. With opportunities in incredible destinations, competitive salaries, and the ability to explore new regions of the world, it’s no wonder that this job market has been booming in recent years.

Whether you’re looking for a new career or just a short-term job to help you travel more, teaching English abroad can help. Sure, it takes some preparation. But the rewards are well worth the effort.

Not only will you get to live out your dreams of seeing the world, but you’ll also be providing children with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their future. And that is a worthwhile reward in and of itself.
 

Ready to Make Money Overseas? Get My Comprehensive Guide

This digital guide will put you ahead of your competition, help you land a high-paying job with a reputable company, and give you first-hand knowledge from real teachers! Get started today with this downloadable PDF (for your computer, e-reader, or mobile device) with the book PLUS 12 interviews about life as a teacher, plus job advice from one of the industry’s top recruiters!
Learn more and download the ebook!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post Can You Teach English Abroad Without a TEFL? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 5/18/2019 | May 18th, 2019

Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But there are still amazing and affordable hostels in Tokyo where you can stay and lower your costs!

Like Tokyo itself, the hostels here are clean, arty, and have lots of charm. A lot of them are super trendy with beautiful décor. Wi-Fi is standard, and many will have cooking facilities too. Beds generally cost between 2,000 and 5,000 JPY ($18-45 USD) per night. They host events, serve a ton of tea, and have little cubbies you can sleep in.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing stay or to party the night away, the city has something for everyone!

Tokyo does hostels right!

To help you plan your trip, here is my list of 13 hostels in Tokyo that I like the most.
 

1. Khaosan Tokyo Origami


This hostel is in Asakusa and only a five-minute walk to Senso-ji Temple and the Asakusa station. The hostel is clean and there’s air-conditioning. The rooms are pretty spacious, which is uncommon in most Tokyo hostels. The beds are comfy and cozy, and there are privacy curtains.

There’s also a nice common lounge with free coffee and tea, and you can use the kitchen 24/7. You’ll also enjoy some extra comforts, such as the slippers they provide, and the free, simple breakfast of toast and coffee/tea. The lounge on the eighth floor is a great place to hang out, play video games, and take in the views over Tokyo!

Beds from JP¥ 3,200/$29 USD, privates from JP¥ 8,800/$80 USD.

—> Book your stay at Khaosan Tokyo Origami

2. Sheena and Ippei


Sheena and Ippei is a small hostel located in downtown Tokyo, near the Ikebukuro station. The décor here is quite unique, as the owners have used beautiful Japanese fabrics to line the walls. The place is very homey, and the staff are really helpful when it comes to suggesting things to do around the area. There is no kitchen, but you can use the microwave and refrigerator.

The first floor is actually home to a café equipped with sewing machines that customers can use (local people make handicrafts and hold events here every week). It turns into a hostel lounge in the evenings, and you can have appetizers and sake on the weekends.

Beds from JP¥ 4,104/$37 USD, privates from JP¥ 15,120/$138 USD.

—> Book your stay at Sheena and Ippei

3. Hostel Chapter Two Tokyo


Chapter Two is a small, family-run hostel not far from Skytree Station in Asakusa. I really like the shared kitchen and common room, as there’s a real social feel to it. The dorms are modern, immaculate, and nicely equipped. You can book a deluxe pod, which gives you a partitioned-off bed with a privacy curtain, which is a nice change from the open-concept dorm.

There’s also a great view of the Sumida River — try to get a bed facing it! The rooftop patio comes with a co-working area, and it’s a terrific option for relaxing and hanging out. The owner is super friendly!

Beds from JP¥ 3,900/$36 USD, privates from JP¥ 9,200/$84 USD.

—> Book your stay at Hostel Chapter Two Tokyo

4. Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki


This hostel’s location in Asakusa is stellar: just a one-minute walk to Kaminarimon (the gates to Senso-ji), Asakusa Temple, and the Asakusa station. The rooms are a little dull, but they are comfy and clean, and all have en suite bathrooms. Try to get a room upstairs so you’re not right next to the common room (which can get rowdy at night). If you can get a view of the Skytree Tower, you’re in luck!

The common kitchen offers free coffee and tea, plus you get free shampoo and conditioner. The staff is really nice, and they have takoyaki (snack) parties where you can learn all about Japanese culture and nightlife.

Beds from JP¥ 2,700/$25 USD, privates from JP¥ 1,2750/$116 USD.

—> Book your stay at Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki

5. Hostel Bedgasm


Located in East Tokyo, Hostel Bedgasm has a lively bar, and guests get a free drink every night. It’s a small gesture, but it’s a great way to meet other travelers and to socialize. The bathrooms are clean, and there’s a common kitchen and a quiet rooftop patio area. There’s plenty of storage for your items, and the staff is very helpful!

The neighborhood is not too noisy and has great food options — especially the nearby ramen place and bakery (the staff will point you in the right direction). You can get to Ueno, Ginza, Roppongi, and the Tsukiji fish market direct by metro from here.

Beds from JP¥ 3,500/$32 USD, privates from JP¥ 8,500/$77 USD.

—> Book your stay at Hostel Bedgasm

6. Kaisu Hostel


Kaisu used to be a ryotei, a traditional Japanese restaurant with performing geishas. The building has kept a lot of its original architecture, like tatami-style private rooms with large windows and a high ceiling; the dorms have bunk beds with curtains for more privacy. This hostel is a bit more expensive, but it feels more like a hotel than a hostel and is spotless. It’s not a party place, but you can meet a lot of fellow travelers at the café.

Plus, guests get two free shots of sake on Tuesdays, and free breakfast every morning! Roppongi, Aoyama, and the National Art Center are within walking distance.

Beds from JP¥ 4,300/$39 USD.

—> Book your stay at Kaisu Hostel

7. Backpackers Hostel K’s House Tokyo


This hostel chain has several branches across Japan. The Tokyo location in Kuramae (next to the Kuramae station on the Oedo line) has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. There’s a sunny, comfortable common area near the entrance, and a regularly scheduled sushi-making class, where you can make some new friends. Breakfast isn’t included, but there’s a full kitchen with free coffee and tea. It’s not exactly in the center of Tokyo, so plan on spending at least 30 minutes to get to and from the hostel. Still, it’s a nice neighborhood and a good place to stay if you’re feeling overwhelmed by Tokyo’s craziness.

Beds from JP¥ 2,900/$26 USD, privates from JP¥ 4,600/$42 USD.

—> Book your stay at Backpackers Hostel K’s House Tokyo

8. Unplan Kagurazaka


This hostel is only a few years old, so it’s still very clean and stylish, with wood floors and minimalist décor. Unplan has a variety of room styles, ranging from dorms to private rooms with four beds, making it a good fit for everyone from solo travelers to families. There’s a public café on the first floor that serves excellent coffee and turns into a bar at night, with plenty of sake and local beers to choose from.

Breakfast is free and hearty. You have to pay extra for the rentable pocket Wi-Fi (JP¥ 400/$4 USD), though. Unplan is a pricier hostel than most, but its location at the center of the city and its quality rooms make it worth it.

Beds from JP¥ 4,200/$38 USD, privates from JP¥ 18,500/$168 USD.

—> Book your stay at Unplan Kagurazaka

9. CITAN Hostel


CITAN is a hipster paradise in the Nihonbashi area, and what I would call a “boutique” hostel. The building is seven stories, with 130 beds, everything is kept clean, and the showers have strong water pressure. The common area on the first floor is a relaxed hangout, and there’s a good kitchen for cooking.

There’s also an amazing coffee shop (Berth Coffee) on the first floor, and a bar and restaurant in the basement. This bar is packed on weekends, and not just with hostel guests; there is also usually a DJ on Saturday nights.

Because of this, it doesn’t have that much of a hostel vibe. But the neighborhood is peaceful, so you’ll get a good night’s sleep.

Beds from JP¥ 3,000/$27 USD, privates from JP¥ 9,000/$82 USD.

—> Book your stay at CITAN Hostel

10. Space Hostel Tokyo


This is a cozy, chill hostel in the Kitaueno area, close to the Skytree Tower and just a three-minute walk to the Iriya station. The rooms are super clean and the beds are comfy, with down quilts. I love the rooftop lounge, and there’s a small but decent kitchen and common area.

But the best thing about this hostel is its events: you can choose from sushi-making parties, calligraphy classes, origami experiences, and Japanese language lessons. Bring cash, as payment is due at check-in.

Beds from JP¥ 2,700/$25 USD, privates from JP¥ 13,200/$120 USD.

—> Book your stay at Space Hostel Tokyo

11. Book and Bed Tokyo


If you’re a book lover, you have to check this place out! This hostel is also a bookstore, where you sleep among the shelves. You can also read the books, magazines, and manga, many of which are in English. You can choose from a compact or standard bunk bed; each room has a shared en suite bathroom, and you’ll get free slippers.

As you can imagine, it’s a low-key place but a really unique experience! It’s also just a three-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station, which will take you just about anywhere you need to go.

Beds from JP¥ 3,800/$35 USD.

—> Book your stay at Book and Bed Tokyo

12. Hostel & Café East57


This little guesthouse is located in Asakusabashi, next to Asakusabashi Station and is a great value. There are lots of beds, so you can usually find a spot. There are several different types of rooms, including dorms, capsule spaces, family rooms, and private Japanese-style rooms. The biggest room has 21 beds, but privacy curtains separate each one.

This is also a newer hostel, so everything is in great condition and very clean. The Wi-Fi is strong, and there’s a fully equipped laundry room. Hang out at the café/bar area (with local beer on tap); it’s sociable and you will end up having great conversations with the staff.

Beds from JP¥ 2,200/$20 USD.

—> Book your stay at Hostel & Café East57

13. IRORI Hostel & Kitchen


This is a unique hostel located in Nihonbashi that focuses on the joy of cooking! There are a lot of shared kitchen spaces, and they are very well equipped. You can visit the market, bring your finds here, and make a delicious meal. And there are always other travelers around who are willing to help out, so you’ll likely find yourself in the middle of a communal meal.

They have an irori (a traditional Japanese fireplace), which you can cook in as well! You can pay JP¥ 500/$4.50 USD for a traditional Japanese breakfast of dried fish grilled over a charcoal fire in the irori, with rice, miso soup, and a side. The dorm beds have privacy curtains, making this a nice option for those who aren’t looking to party. If you’re wondering what to do in Nihonbashi, the staff has tons of great recommendations!

Beds from JP¥ 3,000/$27 USD.

—> Book your stay at IRORI Hostel & Kitchen

***

While Tokyo isn’t the most budget-friendly destination in the world, you can definitely save a lot of money by staying in these amazing hostels in Tokyo when you visit.

Book Your Trip to Japan: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hostel. If you want to stay in a hotel or guesthouse in Japan, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. They’re the best booking site out there.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Looking for more travel tips for Japan
Check out my in-depth Japan travel guide for more ways to save money, costs, tips on what to see and do, suggested itineraries, reading, packing lists, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

The post The 13 Best Hostels in Tokyo appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 05/18/2019 | May 18th, 2019

Travel insurance is probably the most boring topic to discuss when it comes to planning a trip. Dreaming up the perfect itinerary, finding cheap flights, buying gear — all of these things all much more glamorous!

For that reason, many budget travelers actually skip buying travel insurance. Unlike a flight, a travel backpack, or applying for a visa, travel insurance just doesn’t seem necessary.

And since it’s not always cheap, travel insurance is often tempting to jettison.

I mean, how often does something terrible happen when you travel?

Not often, right?

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Sure, over the years, I’ve rarely had to rely on travel insurance.

But I have still had to use it from time to time — including recently when I was stabbed in Colombia. Remember: you’re fine until you aren’t, which is why you get travel insurance!

Yes, for most trips you won’t need your travel insurance. You’ll buy it, save the details in your inbox, and never look at it again.

But a time might come when you need it.

And if you don’t have it, things can get expensive fast.

I was thankful for having travel insurance when I needed to see a doctor in Argentina, when my camera broke in Italy, when my eardrum popped in Thailand, and when my luggage was stolen in South Africa.

It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

In this post, I’ll show you everything you need to know to help you make an informed decision about your travel insurance plan and whether or not travel insurance is a worthwhile purchase for your next trip.
 

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

To illustrate why travel insurance is worth purchasing, here’s a quick list of what the best travel insurance plans will cover (for most countries):

  • Medical emergencies, sudden illnesses, and injuries
  • Emergencies, strife in your destination, etc., that cause you to head home early
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Resultant cancellations, such as hotel bookings, flights, and other transportation bookings, if you have a sudden illness, death in the family, or some other emergency
  • Lost, damaged, or stolen possessions, like jewelry, baggage, documents, cameras, etc. (Also, there is some coverage for your electronics, and often an option for a higher coverage limit.)
  • Twenty-four-hour emergency services and assistance (you don’t want to call to be told to call back later)
  • Financial protection if any company you are using goes bankrupt and you are stuck in another country.

Yes, robberies and natural disasters are rare. But things like canceled flights, minor illnesses, and petty theft do happen often.

With a comprehensive travel insurance plan, you’ll be covered.

The Best Travel Insurance Companies for Travelers

My favorite travel insurance company is World Nomads, founded by an ex-nomad, so he understands what it’s like being a traveler. I’ve been using them since I started traveling all the way back in 2003. They are reputable and reliable, and they process their claims quickly.

With World Nomads, you can purchase and renew your policy online in a matter of minutes, and they have friendly and responsive staff who will answer your questions promptly. They can also help solve problems via social media.

Most importantly, they provide a lot of coverage at a fair price. If there’s one company I would recommend, it’s this one. It’s also endorsed by Lonely Planet and National Geographic, which just goes to show you how great it is!

You can use the widget below to get a quote (or just click here to go to their website directly):

(Want to learn more? Check out my comprehensive World Nomads review!)

Here is a list of other travel insurance companies I like a lot too – and why I like them!

  • Best high-end electronics coverage.
  • Affordable deductables.
  • Up to 5 million in coverage.
  • Available inside and outside of the USA.
  • Best for people living overseas.
  • The closest thing to normal health insurance.
  • Available for non-US residents.
  • 25 different places to choose from.
  • Affordable plans.
  • Basic coverage options.
  • Great for students/shoestring backpackers.
  • Applicable accounts include a free student discount card.
How to Decide if Travel Insurance is for You

If you’re not sure if travel insurance is the best choice for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you have a lot of money saved up for emergencies?
If you have thousands of dollars lying around to cover you in case you get injured or delayed, or need to be evacuated (emergency evacuation can cost tens of thousands of dollars), or in case your items get lost or stolen, then maybe travel insurance isn’t necessary for you.

Are you traveling somewhere with expensive medical coverage?
Sure, a quick hospital visit in a budget-friendly country might not cost a lot. But in many countries, medical emergencies can cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars (especially if you need comprehensive care, emergency surgery, or evacuation).

Do you have a lot of money invested in your trip?
While none of us ever plan to have a trip canceled, the fact of the matter is that emergencies and surprises do happen (such as an illness, a death in the family, and work conflicts). Unless you’re comfortable losing out on that money, travel insurance might be a worthwhile purchase.

At the end of the day, unless you’ve got tons of extra cash just laying around that you can spend on emergencies, travel insurance is likely worth the money.

I know it’s not cheap (especially if you’re a budget traveler), but at the end of the day, it will be much, much cheaper than paying for an emergency — and I say that from personal experience!

Why Buying Travel Insurance is a Must

Can you say no one will steal your stuff while you’re backpacking Europe or that you won’t pop an eardrum diving in Thailand? Can you say your flights won’t get delayed or canceled?

No, you never really can.

And that’s why smart travelers get insurance.

Because, for just a couple dollars a day, you’ll have all those eventualities covered.

I hope nothing bad happens to you on the road, but if it does, travel insurance will be there to help. It’s more than just health coverage — it’s “something bad happened to me” coverage.

Yes, it’s an extra expense. But if something goes wrong you’ll not only save hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars but you’ll have peace of mind, knowing that you’re properly covered.

So, be a smart traveler. Buy travel insurance!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post Is Travel Insurance Worth It? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 05/18/2019 | May 18th, 2019

Europe is one of the most popular destinations in the world.

While I love solo travel as much as the next person — and think Europe is one of the best places to backpack around — the continent is also a huge destination for tour groups.

When you think of group tours, you may imagine a horde of camera-clicking tourists wearing socks and sandals swarming off a massive bus, taking lots of pictures, and then moving on to the next site.

In the past, that image was pretty accurate.

But now? Not so much.

These days, the best tours have evolved and are much more nuanced and diverse, catering to all different age groups and travel styles. From hop-on, hop-off tours and river cruises to big bus and backpacker tours and everything in between, there’s a wide variety of tour options now.

No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for (or your budget), you’ll be able to find awesome and insightful tours to help you make the most out of your next trip to Europe.

I’ve taken tours offered by dozens of companies on the continent. Some were good, some bad, some great.

If you’re thinking of taking a tour around Europe — whether because it saves you time or money — here is a list of the best companies:

THE BEST DY TOURS IN EUROPE

New Europe

Pretty much every major city in Europe has a free walking tour. They are a fun, insightful way to orient yourself and learn about the history of a city. Plus, you’ll have access to a local expert who can answer any and all questions you have about the destination!

New Europe is one of the largest and best tour companies out there. Its guides are knowledgeable, and its tours cover all the major tourist sites. They also offer specialized tours, like food tours, day trips, and tours to specific historical sites (such as Edinburgh Castle or the Sachsenhausen concentration camp). You can find them pretty much everywhere in Europe. Just remember to tip your guides at the end!

Most tours will last around 3 hours. For their paid tours, prices start around 15 EUR per person and go up from there, depending on the duration of the tour.

–> Click here to learn more about New Europe!

Free Tours By Foot

Another free option is Free Tours By Foot. Like New Europe, they have qualified guides and a wide variety of themed tours in over 30 destinations across the continent. Chances are you’ll be able to find a tour with them (or with a company affiliated with them) in every major city around the continent. Tours usually last around 3 hours, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Since they offer free tours, make sure you tip your guide at the end.

They also have partnerships with other tour companies so you can find more specialized options here as well. For example, they have a great beer tour of Paris (as well as a macaroon tour if that’s more your style). Those tours aren’t free (they cost around 60 EUR per person) but they are a great way to get a specialized insight (as well as to try some amazing French beer and desserts!).

–> Click here to learn more about Free Tours By Foot!

Walks

If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth, my favorite walking tour company in Europe is Walks, which can be found in London, Athens, and various cities in Spain and Italy.

What makes these food, art, and history tours so special is that they get access to places others don’t, like the Louvre after hours, secret spots in the Vatican or Versailles, etc. The guides are incredibly well informed, so you’ll learn a ton of information. If you’re looking for a paid walking tour company, Walks is the best.

Their tours are usually around 3 hours, though they also have a few full-day options as well. Expect to pay at least 60-90 EUR per person. Be sure to book in advance as well, as many of their best tours (like their Sistine Chapel early entrance tour) sell out fast!

–> Click here to learn more about Walks!

Context Travel

Context offers comprehensive history, food, and cultural tours all around the continent. They are long, intellectual walks packed with information. Context hires experts to lead these tours (e.g., a chef for a food tour), which is why they are some of my favorites. They aren’t cheap, but they are worth every penny if you’re serious about getting beneath the surface of a destination. Expect to pay around 100 EUR per person.

Context also offers amazing private tours, and you can book customized tours as well if there is something specific you’re interested in.

–> Click here to learn more about Context!

THE BEST MULTI-DAY TOURS IN EUROPE

Busabout

Busabout is a hop-on, hop-off bus service that is popular with the backpacker crowd looking to meet and connect with other travelers. You can purchase tickets that let you travel the whole network with a set number of stops, and you can get on and off whenever you want.

The only downside to Busabout is that if you want to visit a city not on one of its routes, you have to make your own way there at an additional cost. But if you are looking to meet lots of people and not spend too much time worrying about your itinerary, then this is a great, affordable option.

–> Click here to learn more about Busabout!

Viking River Cruises

With multiday and multi-week itineraries to choose from, this is a solid option for anyone looking for a “hands-free” trip around Europe. Much like ocean cruises, with Viking, you simply need to book your cruise and go along for the ride. You’ll explore the heart of Europe from a unique perspective and the comfort of your own cabin, while stopping at some of the most interesting cities Europe has to offer along scenic rivers like the Danube, the Seine, and the Rhine. You’ll also get free Wi-Fi, free port excursions, onboard meals, and 24-hour concierge.

–> Click here to learn more about Viking!

Intrepid Travel

When it comes to multiday (or even multi-week) guided tours, Intrepid Travel is my go-to choice. I’ve been going on their tours for years (I just went on a trip to Jordan with them), and I’ve yet to be disappointed. The guides are excellent, the company offers amazing off-the-beaten-track itineraries, and it is committed to the local environment and support local communities. Their small groups ensure you’re never on one of those giant bus tours either.

BONUS: As a reader of this site, you’ll get discounts on some of Intrepid’s tours. Each month, Intrepid offers Nomadic Matt readers a discount on some of its best tours around Europe and the world. Simply check out the website for more details!

–> Click here to learn more about Intrepid Travel!
***
While solo travel will always be my favorite way to travel, I really do enjoy going on tours. They are a fun way to meet other travelers as well as locals while you see and experience new destinations.

So if you’re looking for a tour on your next trip to Europe, be sure to consider the options above.

Book Your Trip to Europe: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use it all the time. Here are my favorite hostels in Europe.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use — and I think they will help you too!

Looking for more information on visiting Europe?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Europe with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credit: 1

The post The Best Tour Companies in Europe in 2019 appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 05/18/2019 | May 18th, 2019

Every summer, backpackers from all around the world flock to Europe. Gap-year travelers, students on summer breaks, the recently retired — they’re all there to take in the continent’s sights, history, food, and beauty.

And while there are plenty of cheap ways to travel Europe, one of the most popular and iconic is via train, using a Eurail Pass.

The Eurail Pass is a train ticket that allows you to travel Europe on your own terms, in and through up to 31 countries. Eurail was first launched back in the 1950s as a consortium of a few dozen railway and shipping companies, as a way to increase (and simplify) train travel around the continent.

It’s changed a lot since those early days (there are far more rules today, and it comes with this giant instruction manual when it’s mailed to you!), and understanding the ins and outs of the various passes and what they do — and don’t — cover can often be confusing for first-time pass holders.

If you’re thinking about getting a Eurail Pass, this article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions I get about it.

1. How Does the Eurail Pass Work?

First, you’ll need to buy your pass before you visit Europe (see below for details). It cannot be bought while you are on the continent (unless you’re European, but then you’d buy the Interrail Pass, not the Eurail Pass). It’s a paper ticket that must be mailed to you.

When your pass arrives, you’ll get a book that outlines the specific reservation rules for each country the pass covers. (It’s a great reference tool, so make sure to review it while planning your trip.) The pass will become valid the first time you use it.

2. What’s the Difference Between the Passes?

There are two major types of passes: country and global. Country passes work for individual countries, while the global pass will give you access to all 31 countries that take part in the Eurail program (listed below).

Once you know how long you’ll be traveling for (and where you are traveling to), you’ll be able to purchase the pass that best suits your needs.

3. How Much is a Eurail Pass? How Long Do They Last?

The price will depend on which pass you purchase. There are several options, based on how long you’ll be traveling for. There are passes for as much as three months of travel, as well as passes for just a few days.

Here is a chart with all the passes and the prices, so you can compare, or visit Eurail.com:

PASS
CLASS
EURAIL
RAIL EUROPE
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
1 month continuous
1st
$1,112
$893
$1,189
$953
2nd
$893
$727
$953
$776
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
2 month continuous
1st
$1,566
$1,256
$1,674
$1,341
2nd
$1,256
$1,022
$1,341
$1,092
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
3 month continuous
1st
$1,930
$1,546
$2,063
$1,652
2nd
$1,546
$1,258
$1,652
$1,345
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
22 days continuous
1st
$907
$727
$969
$777
2nd
$727
$593
$777
$633
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
15 days continuous
1st
$705
$567
$753
$605
2nd
$567
$462
$605
$493
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
15 days in 2 months
1st
$1,085
$870
$1,159
$930
2nd
$870
$708
$930
$757
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
10 days in 2 months
1st
$829
$665
$885
$710
2nd
$665
$542
$710
$579
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
7 days in 1 month
1st
$673
$541
$719
$578
2nd
$541
$442
$578
$471
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
5 days in 1 month
1st
$553
$444
$590
$474
2nd
$444
$363
$474
$387
Adult
Youth
Adult
Youth
3 days in 1 month
1st
$343
$264
$334
$257
2nd
$257
$199
$250
$193
4. Do Prices Fluctuate?

While there are occasionally sales, the price for the Eurail pass is generally the same all year around.

5. How Far in Advance Can a Eurail Pass be Bought?

Passes can be bought online up to 11 months in advance.

6. Can I Buy a Eurail Pass in Person?

No, Eurail Passes need to be ordered online before you visit Europe, as the pass will be mailed to you. You cannot purchase the pass in person in Europe.

7. Where Can I Buy a Eurail Pass?

There are three places where you can purchase your pass:

8. What Countries Does Eurail Go Through?

As of 2019, there are 31 countries that participate in the pass:

Austria, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland), Greece, Hungary, Ireland (including Northern Ireland), Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey (as well as Liechtenstein and Monaco).

While there is no country pass for Switzerland, all of the global pass options will work there.

9. Does the Eurail Pass Work on Local Trains?

The Eurail Passes only work on intercity train lines and not local trains such as subways or trams.

10. Does the Eurail Pass Cover High-Speed Trains?

The Eurail Pass does cover high-speed trains (as well as overnight trains). However, you’ll almost always have to make advance reservations for these, as they limit the number of Eurail pass holders on each train. (I know, it sucks.)

11.Can I Use Eurail Pass on Eurostar?

Yep, but you’ll need to make a reservation in advance. (Eurostar is a high-speed train connecting London with destinations in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.)

12. Will I Need to Pre-Book Tickets?

Depending on the route, you may be able to just show up at the train, present the conductor with your pass, and continue your journey — or you might need to book a seat ahead of time. Some countries require this, and reservations are often required on most high-speed and overnight trains.

If your train requires you to book a reservation, you can do so the day of or day before you want to get on that train. You don’t need to book far in advance (that’s why the pass is so convenient!).

On the Eurail iPhone app, you can filter for “trains without compulsory reservation.” This will help you avoid seat reservation fees.

13. Is the Eurail Pass Worth It?

That depends! At the end of the day, rail passes are all about money.

A Eurail Pass is only worth getting if it saves you money. Unfortunately, that means you’ll have to do some math to figure out if a pass is right or not. It can be a time-consuming process, but it is certainly worth calculating if you’re on a budget.

To figure out if the rail pass will be economical, you’ll need to plan a route for yourself. After you have a general idea as to where you want to go over what period of time, visit the national railway websites and work out two sets of prices: one for tomorrow (i.e., a last-minute fare) and one for two months from now (i.e., an early-bird fare).

Next, add up the prices in each category to get an approximate total. Then, compare these prices with the Eurail price. That’s how you’ll be able to tell which option is the most budget-friendly.

See this long blog post, which goes into depth about the pros and cons of the pass.

***

The Eurail Pass won’t be suitable for every type of trip, but it’s one of the most convenient ways to explore the continent. Not only is it better for the environment than flying from city to city but it gives you flexible and affordable options for both short-term and long-term travel.

Whether you’re just visiting for a couple weeks or have a few months to spend exploring, you’ll be able to find a pass that suits your needs — all without breaking the bank!

If you want to learn more or have additional questions, be sure to check out my comprehensive guide to Eurail Passes and my experience using them.

Book Your Trip to Europe: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. (Here are my favorite hostels in Europe if you need any suggestions.)

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use — and I think they will help you too!

Looking for more information on visiting Europe?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Europe with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!

Photo credits: 1

The post Is the Eurail Pass Right for You? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 5/16/2019 | May 16th, 2019

Seth Kugel is the former Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times and author of the new Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious, from which this is adapted. I’ve known him for years and our travel philosophy dovetails a lot. I read his book last year and thought “If I were ever to write a book on the state of the travel industry, this is the book I would write!” It’s a great book and today, Seth excerpted part of the book for us!

Stenciled in white block letters on a dreary cement wall in Mezöberény, a tidy but fraying town of twelve thousand in the hyperbolically named Great Hungarian Plain, appeared the word:

SZESZFÖZDE

Hours earlier, in the overcast predawn hours of a nippy January day, I had stumbled off the Bucharest-to-Budapest train to see what it would be like to spend the weekend in the opposite of a tourist destination. Mezöberény was not just absent from guidebooks — it did not have a single restaurant, hotel, or activity listed on TripAdvisor, something that cannot be said for Mbabara, Uganda, or Dalanzadgad, Mongolia. I did have some info on the town, though, thanks to its municipal website: resident József Halász had recently celebrated his ninetieth birthday.

Or that’s what Google Translate told me. Hungarian is a Uralic language, more closely related to the output you might get falling asleep on a keyboard than to English or German or French. That makes even basic comprehension a challenge, as I found as soon as I rushed from the train to the station’s restrooms and faced the urgent need to choose between two doors: FÉRFI and NÖI. The authorities had apparently saved a few forints by not splurging on stick-figure signs.

The day had been born cold and gray and stayed that way as I walked through the town, slowly getting my bearings, intrigued by the pre-war, pre-Communist homes and the more than occasional bike rider — there were almost more bikes than cars — who waved hello. But then a winter drizzle took up, causing an abrupt decline in the number of cyclists even as the number of wandering American visitors held steady at one. To me, a travel day that turns rainy is like a piece of chocolate I’ve dropped on the floor: it’s significantly less appealing, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to throw it away.

It was in the first minutes of rain that I came across that stenciled sign on an otherwise residential street. Beyond the wall, down a cracking, now puddle-pocked driveway, were a dozen or so plastic barrels lined up like nuclear-waste drums. Beyond them, maybe a hundred feet from where I stood, was a one-story L-shaped building. What was this place? Well, SZESZFÖZDE, apparently. But what was that?

In the old days (say, 2009), I would have pulled out an English-Hungarian phrase book or pocket dictionary, but instead, I activated international roaming on my phone, carefully spelled out S-Z-E-S- Z-F-O-Z-D-E, and tapped Go.

The less-than-lightning speed of Great Hungarian Plain mobile service provided a dramatic pause. And then came my answer:

DISTILLERY.

You don’t say.

I would have guessed PRIVATE PROPERTY maybe, or DANGER—STAY OUT, or MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, YOU MEDDLING FOREIGNER! But a distillery? A wave of adrenaline washed down my torso as my lips curled into a dumb-luck smile.

Two rather gruff-looking men emerged from the door, the older one smoking a cigarette and wearing a sweater and work-stained trousers that suggested Warsaw Pact 1986 more than modern-day European Union. I waved to them, pointed to the bulky Canon 7D hanging from my neck, and then to the building. Old-school Google Translate.

They waved me in and gave me a tour.

Inside the ancient but fully functioning distillery, the men let me take pictures as they gave me a vaguely intelligible lesson via pointing, expressive looks, and smartphone-translated Hungarian, on how pálinka — Hungarian fruit brandy — was made.

Those barrels I had seen outside, it turned out, were full of fermenting pear and grape and apple juices. Inside, it was distilled somehow through a looping and tangled system of pipes running out of tin tanks up and along the walls. It looked like the laboratory of a mad scientist with a penchant for tacky linoleum flooring.

As they led me around, I engaged in that most intrinsic of travel activities: trying to see the world from the vantage point of someone utterly different from me. What was their life like? Had they traveled? Who were their parents and grandparents? The language barrier that did not allow them to answer did not stop me from wondering.

After soaking in every rusty detail and every glint of pride in the men’s tired eyes, I typed, “Come visit me in New York” into Google Translate — laughs all around — then headed back onto the drizzly streets of Mezöberény, utterly elated.

What was so great about this moment? Sure, the szeszfözde was a neat little story for friends, and in my case, worth a few paragraphs in the newspaper. But wasn’t it just a grimy business making local hooch in a town that even most Hungarians would classify as the middle of nowhere?

It was a great moment because I discovered it. Not an earth-shattering discovery in the sense of a cure for AIDS or a previously unknown species of poison-spitting neon frog the size of a pinky nail. But it was 100 percent unexpected, 100 percent real, and 100 percent mine.

Discovery used to be the lifeblood of travel, at least for those of us who shun tour-bus groups and all-inclusive resorts. We used to leave home knowing relatively little about our destination — perhaps with some highlighted guidebook pages denoting major attractions and local tipping etiquette, a list of tips culled from well-traveled friends, or articles copied and pasted into a Word document. For the ambitious, maybe a notional feel for the local history or culture gleaned pre-trip from a historical novel.

Beyond that, we were on our own.

Paper guidebooks frozen in time helped us along, as did pamphlets and paper maps from tourist information booths and tips from a hotel concierge. Earlier this century, Google searches in internet cafés also lent a hand. But otherwise, there was no choice: You decided what to do with your own eyes and ears, by wandering, by initiating human-to-human contact. Tips came from hearing fellow travelers’ stories over hostel or (non-Air) B&B breakfasts, entering a shop to ask directions and ending up in a conversation with the owner, or catching a whiff of fresh bread or sizzling chilies and following your nose.

Of course, all that still happens today — but only if you really go out of your way to make it happen. Not only is nearly every place in the world documented to within an inch of its life but that documentation — which comes dressed as both fact and opinion — is overwhelmingly and immediately available, thanks to pervasive technology. That’s great for many things in life — medical information, how-to videos, shorter commutes. But don’t we travel to break our routine? To experience the unexpected? To let the world delight us?

If we do, we have a funny way of showing it. We pore over online reviews for weeks, plan days down to the half hour, and then let GPS and the collected wisdom of the unwise lead us blindly. We mean well — no one wants to have a romantic dinner go wrong or to get lost and miss out on a “must-see attraction” or to risk chaos by failing to keep the kids entertained for three minutes.

But isn’t that just a digital version of the old-fashioned group tour? Well, almost, except that on the bus tour, you actually get to meet the person whose advice you’re taking.

One of my most ironclad rules of travel is this: the number of visitors a place receives is inversely related to how nice locals are to those visitors. Mezöberény, as far as I knew, had received precisely no foreign tourists ever. It was the anti-Paris, and this distillery the anti-Louvre.

People who inhabit the still-plentiful tourist-free swaths of the planet tend to be not only just nicer but more curious. They say a bear in the wild is just as scared of you as you are of it. I say people in places where outsiders rarely go are just as curious about visitors as visitors are about them. The question is not why the distillery workers invited me — a camera-toting, gibberish-talking stranger — in for a tour, it’s why wouldn’t they? If it were me, I’d be thinking: “What is this odd foreigner doing outside our szeszfözde with a camera? Wait till I tell the kids! And by the way, isn’t it about time we took a break?”

More importantly, is it possible that stumbling upon a dank distillery might be just as thrilling as a tour of one of the world’s great monuments? Did the surge of emotion I felt when the word distillery popped onto my screen match what I felt when I first glanced up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?

Probably not, although I remember the distillery moment quite precisely and barely recall what I felt at the Sistine Chapel. Why? Because although Michelangelo’s prophets and sibyls and biblical re-creations are several trillion times lovelier than rusty pipes in a concrete building reeking of fermented fruit, I had seen them before in photos, heard professors talk about them, and read other travelers’ accounts as I sought the best times to avoid crowds.

That’s why I believe it is time we rediscover travel and recognize the value of what an overdocumented world has taken away: the delight of making things happen on your own.

***

Seth is the former Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times and author of the new Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious, from which this is adapted.

In this book, Kugel challenges the modern travel industry with a determination to reignite humanity’s age-old sense of adventure that has virtually been vanquished in this spontaneity-obliterating digital age. You can purchase the book at Amazon and give it a read.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post Rediscovering the Lost Art of Travel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 05/14/2019 | May 14th, 2019

You meet a lot of interesting and smart people when you run an online business and travel the world. One of the people I’ve met is best-selling author Mark Manson. We had orbited each other for many years and finally met when he moved to New York City.

We’ve been “real life” friends ever since.

His first book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, became a runaway hit, selling over 8 million copies. (He wrote a post about how travel made him the person is today, which laid the foundation for that book.)

Now, Mark has a new book out today called, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope. I received a copy to read in advance and it’s a really incredible book about philosophy and how to live a life of meaning and challenge in our modern times. It gave me some good food for thought about issues or perspectives I hadn’t thought about before.

Today, Mark and I chat about his new book!

Nomadic Matt: You have a new book out, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope. Let’s talk about it. What would you say the core of this book is about?
Mark Manson: At its heart, this book is a look at how to develop and maintain a sense of hope for ourselves and the world — and how these hopes affect us. We generally see hope as an unequivocally “good” thing, but I call that idea into question in this book.

Would it be a considered follow up to The Subtle Art?
I’ve been calling it an “expansion” of the ideas from Subtle Art. I think it’s a deeper analysis and more complex application of the same concepts—values, pain/suffering, and our definitions of success. It’s kind of like the calculus to Subtle Art’s algebra or the chess to its checkers.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, just looking around at what is going on in the world. We’re living in a weird time in that materially, the world, as a whole, is the best it’s ever been (less poverty, violence, more wealth, people living longer, etc.), yet mentally and emotionally, people are struggling more than ever with finding hope and meaning in their lives.

And what’s interesting is that it’s the people from the wealthiest and most stable parts of the world who are experiencing these philosophical struggles the most.

On top of that, I’ve noticed in my own life, that as an older millennial, all the promises of my youth have turned out pretty ugly. From the internet to my country and to my assumptions about relationships, friendships, community, it feels like there’s a lot to be justifiably upset about — yet things are objectively better.

I’ve had my own struggles with finding meaning and hope in my own life, despite the fact that, on paper, everything is awesome. So, in that way, this book is kind of my own way to sort through these issues.

Since this is a travel website, let’s talk about your book and travel. How can travel make us less f*cked? Or can it?
I think anything that increases human empathy is hugely important and beneficial at the moment. I also think anything that can cause you to confront your own value systems and question them is incredibly useful.

Travel does both of those things very well.

It’s a bit ironic that by connecting the world more than ever before, we’ve also come to objectify cultures more than ever before. Everything is about “the ‘Gram” so to speak. I think a highly conscious and culturally engaged form of travel is still paramount.

Like anything, travel can become an escape from one’s problems rather than a pursuit of some higher understanding. So, it’s important to always make sure you’re on the right side of that equation.

One aspect of the book I found really interesting was the formula for life and how it relates to being a better person (especially in relation to travel). Can you describe this idea a little bit?
The Formula of Humanity comes from the philosopher Emmanuel Kant and essentially says that the driving force behind all of our decisions and actions should always be people. That more than emotions, more than culture, more than group loyalties, our first principle should always be to treat people (both ourselves and others) with dignity and respect.

And I think travel forces one to practice this.

It’s easy to sit on one side of the world and criticize people on the other. But when you go there and discover that 99% of the people are good, decent people and actually value the same things you do, it makes empathy more possible.

What can people learn from your book that they can apply to their lives?
I think there are five points that people can really apply to their own life:

  • Why self-discipline requires understanding your own emotions.
  • Why trauma and loss cause emotional dysfunction and how we can overcome that dysfunction.
  • How every belief system is ultimately a little bit religious and we need to be careful about that.
  • How to be more resilient.
  • How to be freer in a world of constant distraction and diversion.

You talk a lot about how our feelings brain being in control and that we live in a feelings economy, where emotions run rampant. Can travel temper that in any way? Can travel show us how not to be keyboard warriors?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to NOT be irrational and emotional, as much as we’d sometimes like to. The key is to not resist or attempt to change our emotions but simply work with them, rather than against them. Things like anger, anxiety or even despair can be highly useful if channeled properly. The key is to develop the skill-set to channel them.

I think like a lot of things, travel amplifies who you already are. If you’re selfish and intolerant, then your travel experiences will reflect that. If you’re magnanimous or curious, then they will reflect that. A way that travel can be useful is that it is a tool to force you to work on aspects of yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to work on.

Do you struggle with being alone or caring too much about what others think? Travel alone.

Used to being pampered and upset over every little thing? Go take a train through the Indian countryside. That’ll straighten you out real quick!

You mention a lot of philosophers in your book (which I enjoyed because I got a lot of book suggestions). What are some good books to read around this topic?
It’s exciting because I feel like philosophy is becoming cool in our culture. It makes sense because as all of our basic needs are taken care of, these questions of existential meaning, purpose, and what to hope are more at the forefront of our minds, and those are all philosophical questions.

If you’re a complete newbie to philosophy and want to get a basic understanding of the Western canon, I recommend a book called Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It’s a fun fiction book that acts as kind of a primer to the most important western thinkers.

If you’re into eastern philosophy, DT Suzuki’s books are a nice introduction to Zen Buddhism. The Tao Te Ching is highly readable and thought-provoking. And Alan Watts’ books are indispensable.

And if you want to see how applications of ancient philosophy are incredibly useful in today’s world. Check out Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis or Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.

You talk about how we need pain to grow and, I think, part of experiencing pain is getting out of your comfort zone. What can travel teach us about pain and growth?
Painful travel is the best kind. It’s like going to the gym for your mind and your understanding of humanity. My first trips to India and Africa were two of my most difficult and uncomfortable trips and today I think back to them fondly because they were incredibly formative to my understanding of the world.

India was shocking because of the quantity of beauty and human suffering squished into such confined spaces. You could see one of the most beautiful things in your life and one of the most horrific things in your life, all within a few blocks of each other.

Africa was eye-opening because when you really get out in the bush, you get a real sense of how little humans need to be happy. It’s cliché to say that money and possessions don’t make you happy, but when you see with your own eyes people who are feeling just fine owning nothing more than a goat and a robe, it’s quite profound.

China was probably the most alienating place I’ve ever been. I’ve never felt so foreign in my life. It’s the only place I’ve been where I’ve really gotten the sense that I did not matter, at all. And just having to sit and live with that feeling for the two weeks I was there was quite impactful.

I think it’s easy to forget how resilient the human spirit is, how many places it can flourish, and how easily it can be happy. The first time you see a child shit on the side of the street, it suddenly grants a lot of perspective the next time you complain about bad Wi-Fi.

Ultimately, I argue that a growing issue in the world today is that we aren’t challenged enough and that we don’t have meaningful struggles, so we have to invent meaningless ones to take their place and maintain a sense of hope.

Travel is a way to constantly challenge yourself. Whether it’s traveling to a poor country or forcing yourself to study a language or physically testing yourself through hikes and biking across continents. It’s indispensable.

Finally, in your own words, why should people buy this book?
Because it’s fucking awesome! And, as with my last book, I utilize stories and examples from all over the world and from a number of different cultures to make my point.

There’s a soldier from Poland and a monk from Vietnam and historical fiction about Isaac Newton and a vignette about Friedrich Nietzsche and his over-sized mustache. What’s not to love?

(Matt says: And it really is great like he says! Pick up a copy, especially if you enjoyed his last one!)

Mark Manson is a blogger, entrepreneur, and the best-selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, which has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. He specializes in writing personal development advice that doesn’t suck. His website MarkManson.net is read by over 2 million people each month.

His new book, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope is now available. He lives in New York City.
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and that will save you time and money too!

The post Everything is F*cked: Reflections on Hope and Travel with Mark Manson appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 5/13/2019 | May 13th, 2019

Surrounded by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Central America is a magical region that is perfect for backpacking. The area is full of rainforests, unexplored Mayan ruins, gorgeous beaches, incredible reefs, cheap prices, delicious food, and warm welcoming people.

Though it is not expensive, it is often confusing to arrange your own transportation throughout the region.

So, in this post, I’ll provide some helpful hints on getting around Central America. Here’s how you can travel around Central America cheaply – no matter how long you’ll be there.

Getting Around Cheap By Bus


Buses are the main form of transportation you’ll use to get around Central America. In fact, it’s about the only way to get around Central America as there are no train lines and regional flights are expensive. You’re going to take buses most of your trip.

There are several different kinds of buses in the region.

The most comfortable are the international buses that run between the larger cities and tend to have their own bus terminals. They have set, reliable schedules and are best for long distances. They make traveling easy and even take care of the hassles at border crossings. The companies you use might vary by country, but a few of the larger services include:

On Tica Bus, for example, you can get from Panama all the way to Antigua in Guatemala for $136 USD (a 32-hour journey). From Panama to Costa Rica is about $55 USD (a 16-hour journey).

The routes are often straightforward, the buses are air-conditioned, there’s a bathroom on board, and the seats recline. Some companies (like Tica) will also have partnerships with local hotels/hostels so that you get dropped off right at the door rather than having to find your way at 2am upon arrival.

While most of these bus services have websites, they’re often extremely buggy and difficult to use. To compare routes and prices, you can research your journey on Rome2Rio.com before either booking on the bus company’s website or simply showing up at the terminal to purchase your ticket.

For short distances, you have the “collectivo.” This short-distance minivan service is super cheap, but often very crowded. You’ll usually find them at bus terminals, so it’s worth checking with the drivers to see where they’re going.

Finally, there is the local chicken bus. These colorfully painted vehicles were formerly U.S. school buses. They are called “chicken buses” because they also transport chickens and rice, thus have a lot of chickens on them. It’s a nickname that has stuck among travelers. They stop just about everywhere to let people hop on and off. They are a cramped but fun and interesting way to get around places. I always end up meeting intereting folks.

Here are some sample fares for express bus routes in Central America (in USD):

  • Belize City to Flores – $25 (5 hrs)
  • Flores to Guatemala City – $28 (8 hrs)
  • Guatemala City to San Salvador – $22 (6 hrs)
  • San Salvador to Tegucigalpa – $15 (7 hrs)
  • Tegucigalpa to Managua – $30 (6 hrs)
  • Managua to San Jose – $25 (8 hrs)
  • San Jose to Panama City – $55 (16 hrs)
  • San Salvador to Antigua – $19 (6 hrs)
  • Bocas Del Toro to Boquete – $37 (6 hrs 48 mins)
  • San Jose to Tamarindo – $8 (5 hrs 30 mins)
  • San Jose to Boquete – $13 (8 hrs)
Getting Around Cheap By Flying


Flying isn’t the cheapest way to see Central America (and routes are really limited). San Salvador and San Jose are the most popular hubs, so you may be able to find decent prices to/from these cities.

But then you always have to connect and that’s a pain. Here are some sample flight times and prices (which are really high because the region just doesn’t have that many cheap flights):

Guatemala City to Belize City – Flight time: 1 hr 15 min.
TAG 358 USD (one way), 501 USD (return)
Avianca 284 USD (one way), 299 USD (return)

Guatemala City to San Salvador – Flight time: 35 min.
TAG 200 USD (one way), 347 USD (return)
Avianca 357 USD (one way), 459 USD (return)

Flores to Guatemala City – Flight time: 1 hr
TAG 125 USD (one way), 220 (return)
Avianca – 136 (one way), 218 (return)

Managua to Panama City – Flight time: 1 hr 35 min.
COPA 332 USD (one way), 481 USD (return)
Spirit** 226 USD (one way), 379 USD (return)

San Jose to Panama City – Flight time: 1 hr 45 min.
Volaris Costa Rica 91 USD (one way), 164 (return)
COPA 376 USD (one way), 196 USD (return)

Managua to Guatemala City – Flight time: 1 hr 23 min.
COPA 347 USD (one way), 317 USD (return)
Avianca 348 USD (one way), 528 USD return

San Jose to Panama City – Flight time: 1 hr 20 min.
COPA 150 USD (one way), 312 USD (return)
Avianca 151 USD (one way), 260 USD (return)

Tegucigalpa to San Jose – Flight time: 4 hr 10 min
COPA 357 USD (one way), 355 USD (return)
Avianca 357 USD (one way), 355 USD (return)

San Pedro Sula to San Salvador – Flight time: 50 min.
Avianca 356 USD (one way), 525 (return)

San Pedro Sula to Managua – Flight: 3 h4 15 min.
Avianca 405 USD (one way), 515 USD (round trip)

**Extremely long flights due to layovers

Note: If you book early, you can save on fares. Fares also vary depending on the time of year.

There’s the local Nature Air in Costa Rica, which has fairly inexpensive flights around the country. I’ve flown them a couple of times but I’m not really a fan. They have a mixed safety record and I always feel like flying them is a bit of gamble.

Getting Around Cheap By Car


Renting a car and driving around Central America on your own is not a good idea. For one, rental cars are much more expensive than the public transit options.

That said, if you come down here with a car, I would say go for it. Lots of people drive through the region with a car or van they bought elsewhere. It’s totally doable. I just wouldn’t rent a car to do it in the region.

Getting Around Cheap By Backpacker Bus


Bamba Experience is a backpacker bus company that serves Central America (among other regions). Bamba has a fleet of hop-on-hop-off buses that travel set routes throughout the region, making it easy to get around and explore if you’re looking for a simple tranportation option.

As with all pre-arranged tours, there is much less flexibility with this choice as you’re going on their schedule (though they will always be back if you want to stay somewhere longer). That being said, you can meet a lot of really cool fellow backpackers with this option. They also organize tours and excursions, too.

Personally, these buses are just not my thing. By doing it yourself, you’ll have more flexibility and save money. Want to meet people? Just learn to say “hi” to strangers on buses!

Getting Around Cheap By Boat


If you want to visit islands or coastal towns, boats and ferries are options to consider.

In Belize, ferries to the islands are typically $15-20 USD. You can reach Honduras’ Bay Islands (including Roatan) by ferry, and you’ll definitely want to take a boat trip if you’re heading to the Corn Islands.

If you are traveling from Belize to Guatemala, there’s a water taxi from Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios. And there’s a service from Belize (Placencia or Belize City) to Honduras (Puerto Cortes).

Here are some sample ferry fares:

  • Belize City to Ambergris Caye – From $15 USD (one way), $25 USD (round trip)
  • Belize City to Caye Caulker – From $23 USD (one way), $35 USD (round trip)
  • Between Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker – From $15 USD (one way), $25 USD (round trip)
  • La Ceiba to Roatan – $33 USD (one way), $65 USD (round trip)
  • Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios – $25 USD (each way)
  • Placencia to Puerto Cortes – $60 USD (each way)

For short journeys (like between the Corn Islands or to various towns on Lake Atitlan), it’s easiest to just show up and hire a boat or water taxi to take you across. Prices are usually negotiable this way.

Getting Around Cheap By Train

There are no trains in Central America. It’s not an option!

How Long Does It Take to Get Around Central America?


Getting around Central America can definitely be a bit tedious from time to time. Buses can be slow and don’t always depart or arrive on time. They will often wait until they are full and stop and pick up people on the way or for rest breaks.

But, to help you plan, here is a distance and time chart so you know (roughly) how long it takes to get from place to place in Central America:

Route
Road (km/miles)
Air (hrs)
Bus (hrs)
Guatemala City
– Belize City
625/388
1:15
14 hrs
Guatemala City
– San Salvador
235/146
:35
6
San Jose – Panama City
800/497
1:10
14
Managua –
Guatemala City
735/457
1:23
20
Belize City – Flores
840/525
:45
5
Flores – Guatemala City
481/299
1
8
San Salvador – Tegucigalpa
329/204
1
7
Tegucigalpa – Managua
367/228
4:20*
6
Managua – San Jose
422/262
1
8
San Jose – Panama City
851/528
1:20
16

*No direct flights.

***

Central America is such an amazing place – though getting aroudn the region will take some planning and research.

Things won’t always go smoothly. Getting from place to place here can sometimes be a hassle. But with a little preparation and a pinch of patience, you’ll be able to have an amazing experience.

Be flexible with your schedule. Make sure you plan ahead. Do that, and you’ll be able to enjoy this incredible region of the world!

Book Your Trip to Central America: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
To find the best budget accommodation, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory. Some of my favorite places to stay in Costa Rica:

  • Dirty McNasty (Caye Caulker, Belize) – This is one of the biggest hostels in the country and a hub for party-goers. If you’re looking to let loose, this is the hostel for you!
  • Rocking J’s (Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica) – This an institution in Central America. The hostel has been there for ages and there’s a beautiful white sand beach in front of it. They have nightly BBQs.
  • The Naken Tiger (San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua) – Located in San Juan del Sur, the Naked Tiger is an incredible property nestled a bit far out of town but on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the entire area.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Want More Information on Central America?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Central America for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: 2, 5

The post How to Get Around Central America on a Budget appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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Posted: 5/2/2019 | May 2nd, 2019

Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other women travelers to help cover the topics important and specific to them! In this month’s article, she shows us how solo travelers can deal with traveling as an introvert!

Recently, I traveled to Oakland to attend a birthday brunch. I didn’t know anyone besides the birthday girl. As an introvert, situations like that are hard for me; I don’t like strangers.

Per usual, I was pretty uncomfortable at first, choosing to stick close to the one person I knew and to kill time by slowly pouring myself a coffee and eating a fruit plate at tortoise speed.

But, as time passed, I began conversing with one new person, then another, and then almost everyone who was there. I met truly interesting and friendly people, and by the end of it, I was so glad that I went and that I stayed.

When I’m at home, though, I tend to put off going out to do simple things that involve personal interactions, like grocery shopping, until the last minute. It can get pretty ridiculous, to be honest.

Yet on the road it’s so much easier to get out and explore and especially to meet new people. Why is that?

In a word: dopamine.

According to professors Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long in The Molecule of More, dopamine, which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior, is what pushes us to try new things. In addition, researchers Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düzel found, through MRI scans, that the reward center of our brain is stimulated more by novelty than familiarity.

Therefore, we are hardwired to explore and crave newness. It’s the anticipation of the unknown — and how exciting it could be — that encourages us to go beyond our comfort zones.

So, while it can be difficult for introverts to approach people and venture outside to do routine things at home, where everything is familiar, when we’re on the road we have dopamine on our side.

This scientific explanation makes sense to me. When I’m traveling and experience a moment of true novelty, I feel like I’m riding a natural high, something more pleasurable than I could ever try to manufacture. Newness feels good, so traveling feels good, and being an extrovert in these moments comes naturally.

So just know that even if you tend to be shy and uninterested in going to random house parties or even the grocery store at home, you may find that you have renewed energy for meeting people (and feeding yourself) on the road. It helps tremendously that most other people are also feeling that dopamine rush from traveling, so they’re in a more approachable state, too.

I used to joke that at home in Southern California I had no idea how to make new friends. Do I just walk up to them at a café and ask what they like to do during their free time?

The truth is, on the road, the answer is “yes.” It’s often that simple. Travelers are by and large more receptive and friendlier than most of us are probably used to back home. Since we’re all getting dopamine rewards for meeting new people and exploring new places, it becomes easier for both parties to be more open on the road.

I used to worry that I’d fear approaching new people, but I rarely even have to start a conversation. If all else fails, “Where are you from?” is a perfectly acceptable way to break the ice, an easy question that everyone has an answer to. I’ve had random bus, hostel, and café conversations that have turned into lifelong friendships, and I’ve had others that only served to entertain me for the afternoon; both are of value, and I never know which I might get.

I love having no itinerary and no fixed plans. This is one of the gifts of solo traveling. That said, booking activities ahead of time and paying some kind of deposit can be of help to introverts who might otherwise find reasons why they should stay inside. I’m sure my fellow introverts recognize the scenario of waking up the day of a tour you’ve booked, wishing you could cancel, but since you’ve already paid, you end up going and having the best time. Having some skin in the game makes us way more likely to honor our commitments.

Personally, it’s tempting to cancel even if it’s something fun that I honestly want to do. If I didn’t prebook things in life, I’d never exercise, dive, or explore. It would be too easy to keep putting them off.

For example, I booked an island excursion on Nusa Penida and a cooking class in Chiang Mai, and led a group hiking tour of Torres del Paine in Patagonia that the women participants prepaid for. Many of them tended to be more introverted, but in a group activity like that, other solo travelers tend to show up, which helps everyone to be more social and open.

I’ve also found that staying in an accommodation that is social by nature, like a yoga or meditation retreat, or heading to places that are known for an activity I love, like scuba diving in Indonesia, can make my introversion easier to handle. Knowing that the others there will also be into the activity that I’m into gives us common ground, something to talk about, and the activity itself allows us to bond over a week or two. Some of my favorite people are those whom I met on a dive boat or week of deep spiritual practice.

Though all of these are “hacks” for becoming a more extroverted traveler, we introverts tend to get our energy from time spent alone. At some point we need some “me” time — and this is why solo travel can be so wonderful. Part of the beauty of solo travel is the time that you get to spend with yourself. You won’t disappoint anyone by needing time alone, nor will you have to push anyone away or force yourself into an activity you’re not really feeling.

I used to get down on myself if I went a few days without meeting new people. I’d fret over moments that I felt I’d “wasted” by reading in bed or chilling out for the day. Now I realize how important those days are too. I get to recharge by taking it easy and practicing self-care. And that’s a big reason why we travel too, isn’t it? We want to treat ourselves.

So please don’t feel bad if you’re traveling and you just don’t feel like going out that day, don’t want to be social, or feel like getting room service. It’s okay to do those things if it’s what you feel you need.

Listening to yourself is the most important part of solo traveling, anyway. This is something I’ve learned as a solo traveler in my 30s, and it’s made me enjoy traveling even more.

Knowing that you’ll have dopamine on your side, that you will meet people more easily on the road, and that you’ll be able to make real-time decisions about what’s best for you, you’ll be better off making the leap and traveling solo.

Conquering Mountains: The Guide to Solo Female Travel

For a complete A-to-Z guide on solo female travel, check out Kristin’s new book, Conquering Mountains. Besides discussing many of the practical tips of preparing and planning your trip, the book addresses the fears, safety, and emotional concerns women have about traveling alone. It features over 20 interviews with other female travel writers and travelers. Click here to learn more about the book and start reading it today!

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the largest inventory. If you want to stay somewher eother than a hotel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

The post Can Introverts Successfully Travel Solo? appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

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