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Travel is an almost exclusively joyful activity. From the dreaming and trolling of social media for inspiration, to the planning, anticipation, and ultimately the actual trip. 

Part of being a good traveler, besides knowing about local customs and respecting the cultures we visit, is making sure we don’t unintentionally cause harm. This is why you need to know about African Swine Fever (ASF).

ASF is a highly contagious disease of both domestic and wild pigs that is ravaging parts of the world. There is no evidence that ASF can infect humans, and it is not considered a food safety risk for us but it can in some cases reach mortality rates near 100% in pigs.

What you need to know: 

ASF is not in Canada – we want to keep it that way and you can play a part.

ASF is largely spread by contact between pigs. However, where travelers are concerned, ASF can spread in one of two ways: 

1) The transport of food or animal products that contain ASF across borders, even a cooked ham could contain ASF.

2) On the clothing or footwear of people who have come into contact with ASF while visiting a farm while abroad. Coming into contact with ASF doesn’t necessarily mean coming into contact with pigs. It could mean coming into contact with infection-carrying farm equipment, vehicles, clothing or footwear, or livestock feed. 

How you can help
  • Always declare ALL animal and food products at the border (#BeAwareAndDeclare or risk being fined up to $1,300)
  • Wash or dispose of ALL clothing and footwear worn while visiting a farm outside of Canada.
  • Do not visit any farms in Canada within 14 days of visiting a farm while traveling abroad.
More Information

The ASF Traveler’s Pamphlet:
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-animals-animaux/STAGING/text-texte/dis_africswine_traveller_pamphlet_1548872291603_eng.pdf

More information about ASF transmission prevention:
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/diseases/reportable/african-swine-fever/eng/1306983245302/1306983373952

List of Countries Recognized as Free from African Swine Fever:
http://inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/diseases/reportable/african-swine-fever/countries-recognized-as-free-from-the-disease/eng/1314998276518/1318975777754

I’m proud to partner with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on this sponsored blog post to bring awareness to travelers about African Swine Fever and discuss the ways that Canadian travelers can avoid bringing this disease into Canada.

The post As a Traveler You Need to Know About African Swine Fever appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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Photo credit: AlanDavidRobb via Pixabay

For surfers, South Africa is the holy grail. Thousands of uncrowded bays and point breaks receive Atlantic and Indian Ocean swells in all seasons. It’s home to the iconic Supertubes point break, which holds a spot on the World Surf League (WSL) championship tour and is ranked among the top three waves in the world. However, Supertubes isn’t the only world-class wave in South Africa — the country is teeming with them.

With epic waves comes surfers, and with surfers comes cool surf towns. These are some of the coolest places to book one of many luxury retreats in South Africa and surf until your arms feel like noodles.

Durban

The waves of Durban, South Africa, groomed local hero Shaun Tomson into the world champion of surfing, and they’re bound to help your cutback too. The Indian Ocean waters tend to be warmer here, making it more inviting for surfers of all skill levels. However, beginners will want to remain on the typically smaller southern breaks, as Durban is no stranger to big waves. Often referred to as the “Bay of Plenty,” there are enough waves to go around in this coastal town.

Durban is also an ideal town to visit if you’re traveling with non-surfers or your arms are burned out from too much paddling. You can people watch and snack at local food stands along the Golden Mile promenade, visit the scenic Valley of 1,000 Hills or get up-close-and-personal with African animals at the Phezulu Safari Park.

Eland’s Bay

Head a couple hours north of Cape Town, roughly 220 kilometers, and you’ll arrive at the West Coast town of Elands Bay. This spot is best when the famous left-hand point break is cranking with a westerly swell and southeast winds. Surfing and soaking in the rugged beauty are the most popular things to do here, but hiking, off-roading, exploring rock art caves and venturing onto the waterways by boat are ideal ways to occupy days when the ocean is flat (typically few and far between). Cruise by the Vensterklip Farm Pub to enjoy your after-surf beer in the cozy pub nestled inside a 300-year-old barn.

Muizenberg

It’s said that the earliest recorded wave surfed in Muizenberg was in 1919, which is why it has been dubbed the “birthplace of South African surfing.” National Geographic also named it one of the top 20 surf towns in the world. That’s because in addition to offering two quality reef breaks in the immediate area, it’s also home to Surfer’s Corner, a mellow beach break that’s popular for swimming and learning to surf. The biggest swells typically come from the northwest during the winter months, but rent a longboard, and you can surf almost every day of the year.

It’s no wonder this coastal suburb of Cape Town is ranked among the top surf towns in the world. Muzies, as its known among locals, is home to a long list of iconic restaurants, like Tiger’s Milk at Surfers Corner, and plenty of places to sleep with sea views and ocean breezes. Known for its music, art, food, coffee and historic surf shops, Muizenberg is a must-visit South African surf town.

Jeffreys Bay

The World Surf League’s annual J-Bay Open is held at Jeffreys Bay’s iconic Supertubes break. It’s known for offering one of the most consistent tubes in the world, and experienced surfers travel from around the world to experience the sensation of getting barreled here. J-Bay is also home to a local surf population and the coastline is littered with famous surf breaks (in addition to Supertubes), including Impossibles, The Point, Salad Bowls, Boneyards and more.

An abundance of surf shops and schools, including a Quiksilver and Roxy Factory Shop, embolden the local surfing vibe, and a variety of villas and retreats have been designed specifically to accommodate surfers.  The town also offers a variety of shops offering locally-crafted goods, beachy restaurants and all of the makings of a true surf destination. For many surfers, J-Bay is the ultimate bucket-list destination.

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Port Edward

This small resort town on the south coast of South Africa is the heart of the “Wild Coast,” a long stretch of coastline littered with regionally famous surf spots. Breezy Point, or Ntlonyana, is one of the most consistent point breaks in the area, but there’s no shortage of surf wherever you find yourself along the rugged coastline.

In fact, Port Edward is known for some of the most naturally beautiful scenery in the world. Take some time out of the water to visit the Port Edward Lighthouse, hike the trails in the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve, catch a sunset at Mtentu Beach, mountain bike the Clearwater trails and visit the smallest desert in the world at the Red Desert Nature Conservation Area. The opportunities for adventure in and out of the water are endless here, which is why this area can easily suck you in and occupy your entire holiday.

South Africa’s roughly 2,800 kilometers of coastline is home to more world-class waves and must-visit beach towns that most countries triple its size. Complete beginners can take lessons on small, sand-bottom beach breaks while seasoned veterans get tubed in J-Bay. It doesn’t matter what level of surfer you are, you’ll need at least a few weeks to cruise the South African coastline and uncover all of the cool surf towns it has to offer.

The post The Coolest Places to Surf in South Africa appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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Singapore is a city of culinary diversity and excellence. With so much variety in style and quality, it’s no easy task to choose the best Singapore restaurant for your evening Different restaurants serve different cuisines. Many specialize in exclusive Asian cuisines while others offer a western, modern, and fusion. Quality of service is also key to choosing the best restaurants in Singapore for your enjoyment.

Of course, the best way to learn about the best and most unique places to eat is to take a professionally-curated culinary tour in Singapore. But, if you’re just looking for some suggestions for dinner tonight, these are my favorites.

My 10 Favorite Restaurants in Singapore 1. Birds of a Feather

The restaurant is dedicated to serving western contemporary cuisine with a unique flair. They’re best known for their use of exotic spices such as Szechuan pepper to makes signature dishes stand out. Birds Of A Feather is open during the day (unlike some of it’s competitors), has a wide-ranging wine list, and mixes some a pretty cocktail as well.

2. Fat Prince

Fat Prince specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine. Fat Prince is open every day except Sunday is usually open until midnight for late diners. The dishes at the restaurant are carefully curated to offer a varied overview of Middle Eastern dishes. Talented bartenders ensure each meal will be accompanied by a properly-prepared cocktail and are always willing to provide suggestions. The interior design of the restaurant is also one of its most charming features. It’s almost worth visiting for the atmosphere alone.

3. Chef’s Table by Chef Stephan

Chef’s Table is a western restaurant with an open kitchen concept and a unique approach to dining. The restaurant offers dishes comprised of a selection of 28 key ingredients and the menu is constantly changing. Each dish is made to accommodate the diner’s taste and all diet types (vegan, vegetarian, etc.) can be accommodated. The chef also curates different types of professionally sourced wines to assure customers the best dining experience.

4. Moosehead Kitchen-Bar

Moosehead’s wood-and-mirror decor give it traditional pub feel with a touch of class. The restaurants specialize in Mediterranean cuisine. The casual atmosphere and lunch specials attract a sizeable crowd, so it’s best to try and get in early if you want a seat. The healthy food, chill atmosphere, and mix of of reggae, house jazz and hip hop, make Mooshead a favorite among locals for casual dining and after-work drinks.

5. Gemmills

Gemmills serves great comfort food for expats missing home. This bistro is a great spot to relax with anything from a cup of coffee to a bottle of wine. Their location makes them a great place to stop over and enjoy a casual dining experience. The interior features cozy couches giving it a homey feel. The restaurant has enough space for groups of family and friends but also cozy areas couples as well. The service is highly professional and they atten to each customer in a professional manner to assure you the best dining experience ever.

6. Don Ho

It is a restaurant where you can enjoy Australian cuisine in Singapore. At the restaurant you can enjoy refreshing tropical cocktails and an outstanding dining experience. There is a wide range of menus to choose as you enjoy the captivating atmosphere. Their menu consists of foods from land and sea. Communal dining tables and open kitchen concept lets you feel at home as you dine in Singapore.

7. Oxwell & Co

The restaurant is a high-end Gastropub with excellent cuisine. High-end hearty pub foods are the fare of the day. You can as get a good high-end beer as you relax in the restaurant. The Sunday roast is a local favorite and if you love UK-style cocktails you’ll love the drinks here. The rooftop bar also has a great view of the city lights at night.

8. The Lokal

The Lokal is the local go-to for Australian comfort food. The restaurant is located at the edge of China town and has a modern decor and stylish atmosphere. You can enjoy Australian classics with a unique twist fish and chips with sweet potato fries or the lokal burger with fermented ketchup. If you are looking for a restaurant where you can have a hearty brunch, the Lokal is an excellent choice.

9. Neon Pigeon

Neon Pigeon serves modern Japanese cuisine and a wide selection of cocktails and beverages. If you love Japanese culture, then you will find the restaurant among the best places to enjoy Japanese foods in Singapore. Foods and drinks are carefully curated to allow you enjoy the best dining experience.

10. Blu Kouzina

You can comfortably enjoy authentic Greek cuisine at the Blu Kouzina. Their menu features classic foods such as grilled octopus, cold meze, and fresh seafood with Greek-inspired ingredients and other Mediterranean flavors. The servers are professionals and they will ensure you are comfortable and well taken care of.

The post 10 Excellent Restaurants in Singapore appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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This post was created in partnership with Celebrity Cruises and all photos are courtesy of Celebrity Cruises, but all opinions are my own.

Although most of my writing focusses on adventure travel, like most people, I occasionally dream about taking an indulgent luxurious cruise vacation. And, like most people, I find the dream quite pleasant, right up to the moment it’s ejected from my mind by an invasion of realities like work, bills, and my bank balance.

I recently learned, however, that I’ve been overestimating the cost of taking a luxury cruise. I think most people do.

I recently discovered Celebrity Cruise’s cruise deals listings page. The page features modern and luxurious cruises on sale at affordable rates. This multi-award-winning cruise line offers cruises to over 300 destinations and provides access to exclusive deals and last-minute sales through their website.

I was just browsing the limited-time deals page and most of the cruises I looked at started and around — or less than — $100 USD per person per night. That’s more than I normally spend traveling, but it actually sounds like a pretty great deal when you consider that guests are provided personal butlers, meals crafted by a Michelin-starred chef, spas, nightclubs, and even art galleries and professional photographers to snap your selfies for you.

For $100 per person you can’t even go for a nice dinner and show in most big cities, let pay for a nice hotel room. The more I look into these cruises, the more I’m tempted to book one.

Below is a summary of the deals I’ve been looking at and what they include.

If you’re wondering how it’s financially possible for a cruise to offer such extravagance at such low prices there is a video at the bottom of this post that explains the economics of the cruise industry and how they’re able to provide quality amenities and services at surprisingly low prices.

Multiple Options And Deep Discounts

Celebrity Cruises has structured their deals to aggressively incentivize buyers to upgrade and travel with friends. When you buy a suite including all 4 perks you can save up to $400.

Perks Include:

  • Beverage package
  • Unlimited WIFI
  • Prepaid tips
  • $150 onboard purchase credit

If you’re buying a package that doesn’t include all the perks, you can add an extra perk to your package by putting down a non-refundable deposit when you book.

On top of that, if you can talk friends into joining you, the third and fourth guests you book with can save 50% on their fare.

Resident Rates

In addition to the above discounts, Celebrity Cruises also offers special resident rates for residents of:

  • Alaska
  • Bermuda
  • The Caribbean
  • Dubai and India
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • Canada
Gourmet Dining

Celebrity Cruises provides world dining options. Cruises offer a variety of cuisines in up to 16 different on-board restaurants, each featuring a menu designed Cornelius Gallagher, a Michelin-starred chef, and beverage pairings chosen by their expert sommeliers. There are also numerous onboard bars, lounges, and nightclubs serving professionally-crafted cocktails for evening entertainment.

Your Own Personal Butler

That’s right. Every guest gets a personal butler.

Wi-Fi

All cruises are equipped with onboard WIFI so you can stay connected and entertained during your trip.

Onboard Activities

Celebrity Cruises offer a bevy of onboard activities such as golf, basketball, ping-pong, croquet, bocce and pool volleyball. The ships have large permanent collections of contemporary art as well as art programs you can attend. There are also live art auctions, educational seminars, and exhibitions.

Cruises also have professional photographers on hand to capture your journey so that you can focus on enjoying yourself rather than snapping selfies.

Health and Fitness

Celebrity Cruises provides exceptional spa treatments and salon services. Also, they provide you with a variety of fitness classes and fitness seminars. The spa centers and fitness classes provide a rejuvenating and healthy break from your daily routine while the salon makes sure you’re ready to glam every event that takes place in the cruise.

Medical Needs

Celebrity Cruises accommodates a broad spectrum of medical conditions, including those that require dialysis or oxygen (as long as you bring your own medical equipment). Just let them know in advance. They also offer a set of services designed specifically to ensure the comfort and enjoyment of autistic guests and their travel companions.

LGBTQ+ Cruises

Celebrity Cruises takes pride in facilitating joyful journeys for all guests and their effort has not gone unnoticed. They were awarded Most LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel Company at the 2016 TTG Travel Awards and were named The Best Large Ship Line for LGBTQ+ Passengers at the Cruizie Awards the last four years in a row.

These honors are due in part, at least, to the fact that for years Celebrity Cruises has been performing same-sex marriages when in jurisdictions where it’s legal and in 2017 announced that they would also be able to perform same-sex marriages in international waters under the authority of Maltese law (as most of the fleet is based there).

How Do They Do It?

Do you wonder how Celebrity Cruises is able to offer such extravagant experiences for less per day than renting a Ford Fiesta in New York City? The short answer is by focussing on low margins and high volume. The video below explains in more detail how companies like Celebrity Cruises are able to keep costs low and quality standards high.

How Cruise Ships Work - YouTube

The post Luxury Cruises Are More Affordable Than You Think appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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(Last updated September March 12, 2018)
**This post includes affiliate links, which means I am paid a small commission of any sales resulting from their use. For more information see my disclosure policies page.

Outdoors sports gear seems to be getting more and more expensive all the time. For those of us who love our adventure sports, but don’t have a ton of money, the Internet does have a solution. There are a number of cheap gear websites selling everything from cheap camping gear, to cheap climbing gear, to cheap ski and snowboarding gear, to cheap hiking gear, and this is my personally compiled list of the best websites for buying every kind of cheap gear you can imagine.

How These Websites Sell Such Cheap Stuff

By buying selloffs and promotions in bulk and avoiding the overhead costs of physical stores (leases, employees, bills, etc.) discount gear websites are able to offer incredibly cheap travel and outdoors gear.  Seriously. You can find good brand-name products for 40-80% off on these websites on any given day.

I shop almost exclusively at these stores these days. More and more of these stores have sprung up in recent years, but some are much better than others, so I’ve kept a list of the best ones. This is it.

There are three general kinds of discount gear websites:

  1. Big stores with a wide variety of cheap gear (think an online department store). These are great for the casual shopper looking for a deal or shopping for gifts.
  2. Sport-specific stores where you can find discounts on those hard to find widgets and knick-knacks specific to your favorite sport.
  3. Stores that offer limited-time sell-offs. These are for the hardcore bargain hunters who are willing to snatch a deal when it comes up. Limited-time offer stores usually require you to sign up and then email you about each new limited-time deal. It’s more work, but also one of the best ways to find the most outstanding deals.

Regardless, you can save a lot of money and still get quality brand-name gear. Check out these shops and the only reason you’ll ever visit a mall again is to try things on for size (before you go home and order them).

The Big Stores With All Kinds of Cheap Gear

These ones are big stores with a huge variety — kind of like the costco of cheap gear.

Backcountry.com

Backcountry.com may be the biggest of all the discount online retailers. They have everything from skis and snowboarding equipment to tents to climbing gear.  I head straight to the clearance bins (the link is in the top navigation bar) for as much as 70% off.

The Best Deals: I always scour the outlet where gear is 60% – 80%  off.

REI

Most of us have heard of REI, so I won’t go into detail about them. This sporting goods behemoth requires no explanation. Most of the website is just their normal store. But, there are lots of deals as well.

The Best Deals: The REI Sale and Clearance page often has gear on sale for up to 50% off

Sierra Trading Post

Sierra Trading Post has a wide variety of gear including that used for most outdoors sports, but they also sell luggage, electronics, and even golf accessories. They advertise 35 – 70% off retail prices.

The Best Deals: For the really good deals I go straight to the Bargain Barn.

Altrec

Altrec is an all-round outdoors retailer selling all manner of clothing and gear for travel, hiking, running, surfing, cycling, kayaking, yoga, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. I love this website and often find items I can’t find elsewhere.

The Best Deals: Jump straight to their outlet store for items up to 85% off.

Leftlane Sports

This is another behemoth shop with all manner of outdoors gear. Be careful when you enter. I almost bought a new surfboard 10 minutes ago just browsing.

The Best Deals: The top navigation bar of the site has a ‘Sales’ button on the left. Use at your own peril.

Sport Specific Deals On Outdoors Gear Skis.com

The name of the site is a bit misleading, because it includes snowboards as well as skis. It’s a great site for, especially in the pre- and post-season when selloffs are rife.

The Best Deals: You’ll find the goods all at 30-60% off in the sale area here.

Snowboards.com

When I feel the need to tease myself with stuff I want, I go here. This site has tons of gear for great prices. I literally almost just bought a new board while writing this.

The Best Deals: The super cheap deals (like a brand-new Flow board for $160 I just saw) are in the sale area.

Evo.com

Evo is a well-branded surf, skate, snow focussed website that keeps a good rolling stock of cheap gear for those of us who love to stand sideways.

The Best Deals: Check out the Outlet section for the bottom of the barrel prices.

Dog Funk

Dog Funk has an indy feel to it and is aimed at boarders (skate, surf, and snow) and even has some super-specialty items like avalanche beacons. Most of the gear on Dog Funk is around 30 – 50% off, though I’ve run across items as much as 85% below retail.

The Best Deals: If you’re looking for the really good deals, you should jump straight to their sale page.

Water Outfitters

Water outfitters is not totally sport specific, but focusses on water sports gear with a bent towards lake-based summer activities like wakeboarding and tubing.. Taking the family camping at the lake? Check these guys out first.

The Best Deals: The sales section can be found here.

Limited-Time Sales For Super Cheap Gear Deals The Clymb

This Portland-based store is not just for climbers, as the name might imply. They have up to 15 different limited-time sales, generally running for three to seven days, with goods ranging from luggage, to watches, to sport-specific gear usually for 40 – 70% off. And they say that they have Adventures (trips I assume) coming soon.

PlanetGear

Planet Gear has sells products for about one-week at a time and usually have six to eight offers on any given day. Their prices range from about 40 – 70% below retail.

Steep and Cheap

Steep and Cheap has outdoors and snow sport-related gear on sale one item at a time. They sell until the current item is gone, and then post a new one.

Chainlove

Chainlove is like Steep and Cheap–one deal at a time–except they sell bike-related stuff.

Whiskey Militia

With the tagline “Surf, Skate, and Snow. Cheaper Than Your Mom.” how could you not love these guys? Their wares are geared towards a young alternative crowd. They have one deal on at a time for non-members, but if you sign up (free) they usually have another six to ten deals at any given time.

The post The Great Big List of Cheap Gear For Outdoors Sports and Travel appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

Most people don’t know much about Kyrgyzstan. Hell, most people don’t even know how to spell Kyrgyzstan. When you ask westerners about the country, the most common response is that it’s the country where Borat came from.

And that’s wrong too. Borat was from Kazakhstan.

Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian country about the size of South Dakota that’s nestled between China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It may be small in size, but it’s it’s full of surprises, and astoundingly beautiful

1. Everybody Gets The Name Wrong

If you feel silly for not knowing how to pronounce Kyrgyzstan, don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one. The Internet lost its mind when Secretary of State John Kerry called it ‘Kyrzakhstan’.

Kerry's First Gaffe: 'Kyrzakhstan'? - YouTube

For reference, this is how you pronounce Kyrgyzstan.

2. They Love Kok Baru

One of the most popular team sports in Kyrgyzstan is Kok Baru, which is basically like rugby on horses using a dead goat as a ball. That’s right. A dead goat.

3. They Host The World Nomad Games

Photo: YouTube

Teams from around the world gather to compete in events based in the traditions of the nomadic steppe peoples such as Er Enish (Эр эңиш), in which men wrestle on horseback (each has their own horse), kökbörü (mentioned above), belt wrestling, falconry, and more.The first two World Nomad Games were held in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan and they expect to host many more.

4. Lots Of People Are Still Semi-Nomadic

Especially those in the countryside who raise animals. Constant movement is optimal for raising grazing pasture animals. Nomadic herdspeople don’t just wander the mountains aimlessly. They follow the same route every year visiting, stopping in the places best suited to the weather and season.

5. It Has One Of The Most Epic Lakes In The World

That is no exaggeration. The mountains are full of crisp aqua alpine lakes, which are amazing in their own right. The most epic lake, though, is Lake Issyk-Kul, which is the 2nd largest alpine lake in the world after Lake Titicaca, the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Lake Issy Kul is too big to take a great photo of, though, so the one above is the famous mountain lake, Lake Ala-Kol, which I was fortunate enough to see on the Ak-Suu Traverse Trek.

If you like this photo, there are plenty more in my Kyrgyzstan photo essay.

6. It Has Insane Mountain Ranges

Photo: Wikimedia

Kyrgyzstan is the size of South Dakota and is about 70% mountains. Those mountains are extremely high with dozens of peaks over 5000 m (16,400 ft) the tallest of which is Jengish Chokusu at 7,439 m (24,400 ft). In contrast, the most famous set of peaks in the contiguous USA is Colorado’s fourteeners, which range from 4401.2 m (14,440 ft) to 4269 m (14,007 ft).

7. Snow Leopards Live There

Photo: Wikimedia

Those epic mountains are home to the elusive snow leopard

8. Camels Live There Too

Photo: John Hill

If you’re into exotic animals, you should know they have camels too. As it turns out, not only do camels roam outside of desert areas, some species of camels are built for the cold and love it.

9. These Magnificent Beasts Live There Too

Photo: Wikimedia

They’re called Ibex and they’re all over the place.

10. Bride Kidnapping Is Still Kind Of A Thing (but not officially)

You remember when Borat joked about kidnapping his bride in Kazakhstan (Kyrgyzstan’s neighbor) and you laughed it off as a ridiculous idea made up by Sacha Baron Cohen? It wasn’t a joke. Bride kidnapping has a long and culturally complex history in the area, and, although it has been outlawed by the Kyrgyz government, it still happens fairly commonly in rural areas. These days, many cases of bride kidnapping could be thought of as eloping. But, there are also some cases where it’s not so innocent.

I snapped this photo at the up-and-coming mountain gateway village, Jyrgalan.

11. There’s A Wedding Palace

Photo: Michael Turtle

Bishkek has a non-religious wedding palace built by the Soviets in the 80’s in the apparent belief that when banning people from practicing their religion it helps to build pimped-out non-religious places for them to use for sentimental celebrations.

12. They Have The Most Amazing Hats On The Planet

Kyrgyzstan has the most wonderful headward tradition I’ve ever seen. They have hats that are both bizarre yet stylish and classic, and they have many of them. I modeled a few choice selections in a shop one day, as you can see above.

13. They Have Eagle Whisperers

Photo: Ceyhun Kavakci

The traditional semi-nomadic yurt-dwelling tribespeople of Kyrgyzstan are some of the best eagle hunters in the world, who can be seen most easily by visitors on the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

For some amazing photos check out this blog post by The Planet D.

14. They Offer Visa-Free Travel

Kyrgyzstan has a visa-free policy that enables citizens of 44 countries to stay in Kyrgyzstan visa-free for up to 60 days. This applies to citizens of Australia, New Zealand, most European Union member states, the United States, Canada, Mexico, some other countries in South America, as well as some countries in the Middle East and Southeastern Asia. You can find everything you’d want to know about travel to Kyrgyzstan here.

Do you know any cool facts about Kyrgyzstan that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

The post 14 Surprising Facts About Kyrgyzstan appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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Packing Tips - YouTube

This PSA was brought to you by CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) as part of their ongoing work to raise public awareness about travel safety and to ensure more enjoyable travels for all.

It’s summer, you’ve been planning your big vacation for a while, and all you can think about is getting to the lake/beach/mountain (select dream location here). But with your mind’s eye fixed on your destination it’s easy to forget about the journey, particularly security screening at the airport. The good news is that being prepared can help you breeze through the screening checkpoint, leaving you more time to shop, eat or just relax before your flight.

The first step is doing your homework so you know what goes in your carry-on and what goes in your checked baggage. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has some handy tools on its website, including a searchable “What can I bring” list that lets you know where to pack your items and what can and can’t fly. It also has a travel-checklist generator (insert reminder to water plants here), and tips for all sorts of challenges –  from what to do with large sports equipment and medical supplies to travelling with pets.

According to CATSA, one of the biggest hold-ups at security is having too many liquids, aerosols and gels. Containers over 100 ml and 1 litre bags that are overstuffed with smaller containers (no seal; no deal) will need to be checked. As for that cup of java or water bottle in your hand – if it’s over 100 ml, be prepared to chug.

There are some exceptions, like liquids for kids under two years old and medication. You can check out more here. In all cases, the containers should be taken out of your carry-on bag and ready to present to the screening officer for inspection.

Check Out CATSA’s Security Screening Tips In This Video

Security Screening Tips - YouTube

Once you hit the front of the line, it helps to have your boarding pass ready to show to the screening officer. You can also speed things up if you put any loose change, keys and small electronics (smart phones, cameras, tablets) in your carry-on bag so you can just drop it in the bin. If you’re travelling with a laptop or other large electronics (gaming console, DVD player) you’ll need to put them in a separate bin. For more information on what you can put in the bins at the checkpoint, you can find it here.

If you’re still wondering what to do with an item or want more information about security screening, you can always send questions to CATSA on Twitter or Facebook.

Lastly, travel is all about being mobile, so you should definitely download CATSA’s free mobile app. It’s available on Android, iOS and Blackberry, and can help you with all this and more, including wait times for security at most major airports.

The post Help Yourself To Faster Airport Security This Summer appeared first on XpatMatt.com.

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