All posts filed under: How To + DIY

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Machu Picchu

I was surprised by how easy it was to travel Peru…in fact, it was almost too easy. (Who complains about that though?) In a brief 500 words, here’s all you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu. Trekking Machu Picchu Trekking with porters typically takes 3 to 4 days. A ton of operators can guide you along the Inca Trail, but there are alternate routes too: Salcantay, Chaski and four others. It’s worth noting the Inca Trail closes each February for maintenance. How to Visit Machu Picchu Independently You need to make your way to Aguas Calientes, a town tucked deep in the Peruvian jungle. There is no road access so you need to get there by train. There are two affordable rail companies: Inca Rail and Peru Rail. Trains depart from the town of Ollantaytambo and it takes about two hours to reach Aguas Calientes. Travelling in economy class the cost is $120 USD (or so) round-trip. Trains depart at various times of the day and it’s wise to book your ticket in advance. You can do so online, just make sure …

Backpacking: How to survive the dreaded overnight bus trip

The best way to survive one is to avoid overnight bus travel all together. But if you really must, here are some tips to live by: 1. Never assume there will be a washroom on board. Carefully consider how much liquid you consumer prior to and during the trip. 2. Stock up on food. The bus will likely make a few stops but you’ll be at the mercy of whichever vendor the company has negotiated a stopover with. Usually they are large, cafeteria style restaurants with disappointing food options and a host of toilets around back, which you’ll have to pay to use. (Bring toilet paper!) It’s best just to order a takeaway sandwich or two for the road and hit a 7-11 for snacks. 3. Wear layers. Buses often run air conditioners overnight and it can get very cold. Make sure you bring a long sleeve shirt and consider packing a sleeping bag liner. 4. Essentials: Baby wipes and/or toilet paper, earplugs, and a flashlight if you intend to read. 5. Remember, you get what you pay for. …

Ride Like a Local: How to not crash a motorbike and ruin your trip

Wherever you go you will notice backpackers wrapped in bandages. Unfortunately, not all of those wraps are concealing brand new holiday tattoos. In fact, most are the result of injuries suffered from scooter/motorbike crashes. (Since I’ve mentioned it, don’t get a tattoo. Tattoos heal best out of water and direct sunlight.) If you’re considering a bike rental here’s what you need to know: Only attempt to operate a bike if you are an experienced automobile driver. Save motorbike rentals for the Thai islands or smaller northern cities (Chiang Mai, Pai, etcetera). PS – they drive on ‘the other side of the street’ in Thailand. Most rentals shops require you to surrender your passport as collateral. Ask other backpackers with bike rentals about reputable shops. Some people will tell you never to leave your passport as a damage deposit. This is one of those decisions you’ll have to cut your backpacker teeth on, so to speak. Bikes come in automatic or manual transmission. If you’re taking one on a multi-day road trip (say from Chiang Mai to Pai) …

Essential Safety Tips for Backpackers

  Backpacking is usually pretty safe but obviously there are times when we are especially vulnerable. Here are some tips for staying safe: Watch your bucket! It is really easy to slip something into the wide mouth of a bucket, sand included. I found taxis to be ultra-scammy in Southeaset Asia and tried to avoid them in Bangkok. Travel with a buddy; the more the merrier. Watch the meters in Vietnam especially. They tend to rise strangely fast… Ensure your door guest house or hotel door is always locked. Check that the windows are locked before leaving (especially if you are ground level) Be aware of your surroundings and any new ‘friends’ If something is too good to be true, it usually is If a tuk-tuk driver offers you an exceptionally cheap fare, he will usually make you stop by his friend’s shop. He will receive cash or a gas voucher in return. Inspect a room before taking it to ensure you’re comfortable with the amenities, fire escapes, hotel ambiance, and the room’s proximity to common areas Plan your schedule …

How to Survive a Full Moon Party in Thailand

Full moon parties (FMP) are held once monthly on Haad Rin Beach on the island of Koh Pha Ngan (pronounced Koh pin-yawn). For the few days preceding and following the full moon, backpackers flood the island. Prices for accommodation can double or even triple. The number of attendees is staggering and the atmosphere becomes something akin to ‘frosh week.’ A typical FMP can see ten thousand people on Haad Rin, which is not an incredibly long stretch of sand. FMP around New Year’s Eve can see upwards of twenty-five thousand party-goers. With rumors of people dying during these epic parties, personal safety is paramount. Here are some tips for how to survive – and even enjoy – the experience: 1. Don’t show up too early. The whole point is to make it to sunrise! Eat a proper meal before departing for the party. 2. Establish a meeting point upon arrival. If you become separated you’re basically looking for a needle in a human haystack. In the dark. 3. Pace yourself. It’s a long night, make it a social one. …

Thailand Travel 101

  Thailand is the ideal jump off point for backpacking through Southeast Asia.  A travel hotspot, the country has well trodden backpacker trails, perfect for first-time travellers or those new to Asia. So you ask, “If the country is so easy to travel, why read a how-to guide?” Setting expectations and arming yourself with insider travel knowledge will save you both time and baht (money). We won’t bore you with details like the exchange rate or which power adapters you’ll need, we’ll give you the real deal type of advice you’d get from someone who has just been. Read on rookie Canadian traveller for tips to not only survive, but thrive in Thailand. What’s with all the… Tuk-Tuks These zippy little vehicles are ubiquitous in Thailand. They operate much like a cab. If you’re in a Thai city (especially in Bangkok’s notorious backpacker ghetto Khao San Road) you may be offered an obscenely cheap fixed price tour. The reason? The driver will make a few pit stops along the way, typically depositing travelers in boutiques owned by vendors they know. In exchange …

How to Barter in Thailand

  Prices in Thailand are rarely fixed (with the exception of food menus). When shopping as a rookie Canadian traveller you’ll already be at a distinct disadvantage – vendors can smell your novice negotiating skills from a mile away. (They do this every day!) Here are some tips: The less emotional you are, the more you will enjoy bartering. Determine in advance how much you are actually willing to pay for an item. If you’re quoted $4 for a t-shirt but want to pay $2, your first offer shouldn’t be $2. Always negotiate bus fares, excursions and hotel accommodation. Traveling with a group? Let the seller know! There always seems to be price discounts for groups of two or more, and the more nights you stay, the greater your discount should be. Etiquette says you should barter in good faith. Don’t haggle if you don’t intend to purchase the item. However, it is perfectly fine to enquire after a price to gauge  affordability. Asking the price does not enter you into a transaction. Don’t haggle aggressively over what amounts to less …