Tipping is a hot topic in the United States these days, as rising minimum wages call into question the standard practice of making servers reliant on tips. For travelers abroad, tipping is an equally sticky issue. Figuring out what to tip when can all too quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a stressful one. Knowing what to tip, on the other hand, can empower travelers to navigate a foreign culture with ease.

Because tipping rules vary by country, region, and place of business, it’s important to research your destination’s customs prior to any trip. Start by consulting this guide, which outlines tipping customs in 20 countries around the world, for restaurants, hotels, and beyond!

Argentina

Restaurants: While tipping at restaurants and bars isn’t considered a necessity, many tourists often tip around 10%.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but consider rounding up to the nearest whole peso so the driver doesn’t have to sort out change. If they help you with your bags, add on a bit more as a token of appreciation.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides up to 20% and always give bag handlers a small bill or two.

Australia

Restaurants: Australian servers are paid decent wages and generally don’t expect tips. Recognize exceptional service by rounding up the bill. In upscale establishments only, tip 10%.

Taxis: While tipping isn’t expected, it’s common courtesy to round up to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: For the most part, tips aren’t expected within the hospitality industry.

Canada

Restaurants: Canada’s tipping protocols are similar to those in the United States (although most Canadian servers are paid minimum wage before tips). Most restaurants expect a minimum 15% tip.

Taxis: It’s customary to tip cab drivers 10% upon arriving at your destination.

Hospitality: Tip concierges for exceptional service only, leave behind a few dollars (or more) for housekeeping, and give bag handlers $1-2 for each bag they carry.

The Caribbean

Restaurants: Most places in the Caribbean islands follow the same tipping standards as the United States, so in general plan to tip 15% or more. One possible exception: If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort, check to see if the service charge is included.

Taxis: Plan to tip around $1-2 for in-town fares. Tack on a bit extra for late-night or long-distance rides.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge in the bill. If this isn’t the case, be sure to tip bag handlers ($1-2 per bag) and housekeepers ($2 per day). Many resorts discourage tipping, so use your own discretion.

China

Restaurants: China has a fairly strict no-tipping culture (though some finer establishments may include a 10-15% service charge), so there’s no need to tip at restaurants. If you want to offer a tip for exceptional service, do so out of sight of the server’s employer.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but it is appreciated (especially in larger cities). Because there’s no customary rate, use your own discretion when deciding how much to tip.

Hospitality: Tipping is usually not expected, although this is changing in more westernized establishments. A good bet is to tip tour guides, housekeepers, and bag handlers a few dollars per day (or bag).

Costa Rica

Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most Costa Rican restaurants. If you want to recognize exceptional service, add another 10% on top.

Taxis: Tips aren’t required, but it’s a friendly gesture to tip a few dollars or round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides 10-15%, and give a few dollars to bag handlers and housekeeping.

Czech Republic

Restaurants: While tipping wasn’t always standard in the Czech Republic, the custom has been catching on. There’s no need to tip if the bill includes a service charge (though feel free to add on another 10% for great service). If no service charge is included in the bill, tip 10-15%.

Taxis: Round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-3 per bag, housekeepers $3-5 per day, and concierges $20 if they go above and beyond.

Dubai

Restaurants: The government requires a 10% service charge on all bills at restaurants, bars, and hotels. While it’s not necessary to tip more than that, you’re free to hand over a few extra dirhams to the server.

Taxis: Cab drivers don’t expect tips, but it’s polite to round up to the nearest 5-dirham note.

Hospitality: Because service charges are included in the bill, there’s little need to tip hotel staff unless you want to recognize great service.

Egypt

Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most establishments, but plan to tack on another 5-10%.

Taxis: Pay cab drivers 10-15% beyond the stated fare.

Hospitality: Give housekeepers $1-2 per day throughout your stay, tip $1 per bag for bag handlers, and give the concierge $10-20 at the beginning of your stay to ensure great service.

France

Restaurants: French law requires that service be included in the price, but most locals round up their bills with small change (or up to 10% of the bill).

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers about 10%.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-2 per bag and housekeepers around $2-3 per day. Exceptional service from the concierge should warrant 10 or more Euros.

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Germany

Restaurants: Germany’s tipping customs work much like France’s: Service is included in the price, but it’s customary to round up the bill to an even figure (this usually amounts to 5-10% of the total bill).

Taxis: Round up to the nearest Euro or tack on an extra few Euros if you’re feeling generous.

Hospitality: While tips aren’t required, it’s courteous to leave behind a few Euros for housekeepers and to pay baggage handlers around 2 Euros per item. Slip the concierge 10 or more Euros for great service.

India

Restaurants: Tip 10% for the waiter, even at upscale restaurants (where a 10% service charge is included in the bill).

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected for short trips. If you hire a driver for a long trip or multiple days, tip around 150-300 rupees per day.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around 20 rupees per bag and offer tour guides several hundred rupees.

Italy

Restaurants: Tips aren’t expected, but feel free to round up the bill or tip 10% for exceptional service.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but they are appreciated. Use your own discretion.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tipping really isn’t expected in Italy, but who doesn’t like being appreciated for good service?

Japan

Restaurants: It’s unlikely that a server will accept your tip, so it’s probably most polite not to offer one.

Taxis: Tips are not at all expected. A simple “thank you” will suffice.

Hospitality: Tour guides don’t expect tips but are likely to accept them. Hotel staff may refuse a tip if offered; you’re more likely to transfer cash if you put it in an envelope and leave it behind for staff, rather than foisting cash into their hands.

Mexico

Restaurants: When service is included in the bill, there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, plan to leave 10-15%.

Taxis: While tips aren’t expected, it’s courteous to round up the fare.

Hospitality: Many hotel staff rely on tips as part of their take-home pay, so be generous. Bag handlers, housekeepers, the concierge, and anyone else who performs a service during your stay warrants a tip. The amount is up to your own discretion.

New Zealand

Restaurants: Like Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have much of a tipping culture. Service and sales tax are almost always included in the bill. Tip only for exceptional service or when the menu states that service is not included.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but acknowledge great service by rounding up the fair or leaving behind a few small bills.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tips aren’t expected, but they’re a nice way to express appreciation for a job well done.

Spain

Restaurants: Locals generally leave small change or round up to the nearest euro, so go ahead and follow suit. If you receive great service or are dining at an upscale establishment, leave a 5-10% tip.

Taxis: Small change, rounding up to the nearest Euro, or a couple of extra Euros are all acceptable tips.

Hospitality: Pay the bag handler up to five Euros, the person who delivers room service 1-2 Euros, and housekeepers a few Euros for the stay.

South Africa

Restaurants: In nearly all establishments, it’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip for the waiter.

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers around 10%.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around $1 per bag. Tip other hotel staff at your own discretion.

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Thailand

Restaurants: Expectations here vary widely: Some sources advocate for not leaving a tip, others suggest leaving 10-15%, and still others suggest leaving $1 per diner. Keep it simple by sticking with 10% or $1 per person, whichever is more generous.

Taxis: Tips aren’t encouraged, but a tip of 20 or 30 Baht is courteous.

Hospitality: It’s standard to tip bag handlers 20 Baht. While there’s no standard tip for housekeepers, it’s respectful to leave behind a tip (the size of which is up to you).

United Kingdom

Restaurants: If a service charge isn’t included in the bill, tip 10% (or higher for exceptional service).

Taxis: Tip 10-15% for black cabs and licensed minicabs, or just round up to the nearest Euro. Tip extra for help with loading or unloading baggage.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge, but it’s still customary to offer small tips to bag handlers and housekeepers.

No matter where you are in the world, remember that servers, cab drivers, and hotel staff are performing a tough (and often thankless) job. Be both appreciative and thoughtful—try to tip in cash and in the local currency so your server can put the money to good use. And practice discretion when handing out tips, particularly in regions where tipping may be frowned upon. Respecting local customs will go a long way toward make any excursion a positive experience.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Himpunk on September 9th.

Published in Travel Tips

Throughout history, hotels have continually pushed the bounds of what constitutes an exceptional night’s stay. Modern travelers’ desires for unique, authentic, and Instagram-worthy adventures have driven hotels to market themselves as destinations for unusual trips and immersive experiences. Perhaps no trend better encapsulates this movement than the rise of the ice hotel.

The original ice hotel—appropriately named ICEHOTEL and included on this list—was created in Sweden in 1989. Simultaneously an art exhibition and a guesthouse, the hotel is built out of natural ice and snow harvested from a nearby river. Newer iterations on the concept include igloo villages, art museums made entirely of ice, and a wide range of amenities. Here are four variations you won’t want to miss (just remember to pack the parka).

1. Hotel de Glace, Quebec

The only hotel in North America made completely of ice, Hotel de Glace is open in the winter of each year—and then it melts away. As with the other entries on this list, each room in the hotel is carved from ice, meaning temperatures need to remain below freezing lest the rooms melt while guests are sleeping. But don’t worry about staying warm: The hotel provides beds and thermal sleeping bags rated for freezing conditions, as well as several outdoor hot tubs. Guests enjoy lounging on chairs made from ice, sipping on winter-themed cocktails from the hotel bar, and scoping out the ice carvings and mountain views.

2. ICEHOTEL, Sweden

Located just over a hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle and near Sweden’s Torne River, the original ICEHOTEL welcomes adventurous guests from all over the world. Hotel guides lead guests across icy terrain atop horses, dog sleds, skimobiles, and even MINI Coopers. Food and drink is often served from plates and cups made of ice, and the hotel bar is to die for. The guestrooms are as varied as the hotel’s visitors—some are custom-designed while others include both ice and snow. In the winter, guests can enjoy an unobstructed view of the northern lights.

3. Eskimska Vas, Slovenia

While Slovenia makes for an amazing summer getaway, it’s worth coming back for the opening of the country’s Eskimo Village in December. Guests access the village by riding cable cars up the mountain, then hiking in on snowshoes (so it’s probably best to pack light). Anyone who isn’t exhausted from the trek can enjoy daily outdoor activities like snowbiking, snowtubing, and sledding. Tired visitors unwind at the village’s bar or Igloo restaurant, then hit the (snowy) sack in an individual igloo equipped with sheepskin to keep folks warm.

4. Hotel de Glace, Quebec

Easily accessible from the buzzing hub of Helsinki airport, the Snowhotel promises a quiet respite from Finland’s larger cities and the hum of modern life. Boasting “tranquil silence” and “beautifully illuminated ice art,” the hotel is designed to simultaneously delight and soothe the senses. At night, guests bundle up in thermal sleeping bags atop beds carved entirely from ice. Overnight stays include room wake-up with hot berry juice, buffet breakfast in a the warm “log restaurant,” and guided tours of the surrounding Snow Village, which features an Ice Restaurant, Ice Cocktail Bar, chapel, slide, and a network of corridors decked out in snow and ice art.

Tips for Staying in An Ice Hotel

    DO
  • Learn how to properly use a sleeping bag. If you’ve never slept in a thermal bag before, consult hotel staff to learn how a few small tweaks can keep you warm for the night.
  • Participate in physical activities during the day. This will keep your circulation pumping (and physical tiredness will make it easier to sleep at night). It’s also a great opportunity to try something new. Snowbiking, anyone?
  • Hit the restroom before going to bed. Most rooms in ice hotels do not come equipped with private bathrooms; instead, communal restroom facilities are located around the hotel. No one wants to crawl out of their warm sleeping bag to walk the freezing halls at 3 in the morning!
  • Have a backup plan. Some folks can’t get enough of ice hotels; others decide they’re fans of slightly less adventurous overnights. If it’s your first time, consider booking one night at a time to gauge your affinity for wintry nights. Many ice hotels also offer more traditional (i.e. warm) lodgings nearby, so inquire about your options while booking.
    DON'T
  • Expect a normal hotel stay. Ice hotels are different (that’s the whole point). You’re unlikely to find standard hotel-room amenities such as TV, minibars, or any furniture beyond the bed. You will be in a room made of ice, and that’s pretty much it. Try to embrace the tranquility this affords.
  • Wear cotton clothing. Because cotton traps moisture, breaking a sweat will result in serious chills not long after. Stick to breathable fabrics like wool. Also be sure to follow any other hotel guidelines for apparel.
  • Drink a lot of alcohol. While ice bars may be tempting, consuming too much alcohol before bed promotes heat loss and can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

  This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 12th.

Published in Travel Tips

White Sox. Hot dogs. The longest street in the world (within one single city). The Bulls. 15 miles of public beach. Chicago-style pizza. Yes, the Windy City is home to many things, and it's important to experience and indulge in as many of them in as possible while here. If you've only got time for a short trip to Chicago, overabundance is the key.

Chicago-Style "Red Hots"

When it comes to Chicago cuisine, hot dogs are one of the city's most iconic dishes. Part of this is undoubtedly a result of Oscar Mayer getting its start way back in 1900. And while they still have a factory here, in this post-9/11 world we live in now, it no longer offers tours. (Because we all know that's the first thing the terrorists will go for, our wieners.)

Chicago-style hot dogs are known as 'Red Hots'
Chicago-style red hot dawg....simply delicious!

However, thankfully Chicago style dogs can still be found throughout the city. The battle for Chicago's best dog still rages strong, but that doesn't mean you cannot partake in a few selective battles. Jimmy's Red Hots usually tops most people's top three lists of hot dog joints in Chicago, and for good reason. For over 50 years they've been perfecting that art of the dog and still stay true to tradition by serving all its meals through a small walk-up window.

On the other end of the spectrum is Franks 'N Dawgs, which despite the rough name is actually a rather refined hot dog joint. They've elevated hot dogs to a gourmet level. You have to taste them to believe them! Try the Lamb-orghini, or for a Vietnamese-infused flair, the Banh Mi.

Chicago-Style "Deep Dish"

Pizza in Chicago also has its own unique flair. And much like the rivalry between Nathan's and Oscar Mayer, the feud for the best rages not just between restaurants within the city but also between the cities themselves. While New York goes thin and wide, Chicagoans do like they do with everything and overload it.

Chicago-style deep dish pizza
Chicago-style deep dish pizza

The most popular of all Chicago-style pizzas is known as "deep dish," and it is exactly what it sounds like. It's pizza so hefty you can eat it with a fork. It's the pie of pizzas. And there are far too many amazing pizza joints doing phenomenal things to mention. The Art of Pizza is one such place that is doing great things -- you can tell that by the name alone. Another is Burt's Place, which thanks to Anthony Bourdain is now so popular you have to place a reservation -- not for seats but for a place in the oven for your pie.

Other versions of Chicago-style pizza include the stuffed pizza, a mid-1970s evolution of the deep dish, and thin crust -- with crust so thin it's crispy, unlike New York-style thin crust. (It is also cut into small squares, as opposed to gigantic slices.)

Of course, great Chicago food isn't limited to purely dogs and deep dishes. They also have fabulous Italian beef and a wealth of great Polish and Mexican restaurants. If all else fails, just go out and explore whatever establishments are nearby. And don't forget to book a cheap Chicago hotel to save some extra cash and put it toward that amazing Chicago-style food.

See More!   Great Food to Eat When Visiting Chicago (That Aren’t Pizza)

  flickr   //   benimoto   maveric2003

Published in United States

Backpacking is certainly one of the most authentic ways to see the world. You get to soak up a myriad of experiences, meet new people, eat amazing food, learn different languages, and what’s more, it doesn’t cost you the earth!

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re already drawn to backpacking. Perhaps you’re apprehensive about backpacking because you’ve never taken the road less traveled before. Indeed, backpacking isn’t all fun and games; there’ll be times when you’ll wonder why you even thought of this. But if you do it right, you’re sure to cherish the experience once you get back home!

Here are some don’ts you should read before you plan your budget backpacking trip:

Don't Do It on Your Own

You can't venture into the wilderness on your own if you've never gone backpacking before. If you have a friend or know someone who is an experienced backpacker, ask him or her if you can join them on their next trip. Knowledgeable company is not only good for your peace of mind but you'll also get to learn a lot if you travel with a seasoned backpacker.

Be sure to travel with a compatible partner; traveling with the wrong person can be a lot worse than traveling alone. Of course, you need to be a good travel companion yourself!

Don’t Test Your Limits

You're new to backpacking and if you don't want to be put off by the whole experience, don't push yourself too hard. Don't be too ambitious about how much ground you'll be able to cover on foot each day and don't imagine that staying away from home for a month will be fine.

If you're backpacking to a new country, a week or two abroad should be manageable, and if you're going to be in the wilderness following trails, take a two-day one-night trip. A shorter trip will also mean you’ll be spending less money!

Backpacking the Incan Trail in Peru
Backpacking the Incan Trail in Peru

Don’t Overfill Your Plate

Remember that quality surpasses quantity when it comes to experiencing the outdoors or other countries. So whilst you keep your trip short, also keep it sweet by planning your itinerary well.

A jam-packed itinerary will mean you’ll be running around trying to see and do as much as possible without really appreciating anything. Plan your itinerary such that you get to smell the roses along the way.

Don’t Over-Plan

Planning is good but over-planning things or following a plan to the T isn’t. You’re going on a trip to have some fun, so don’t shy away from making spontaneous plans.

If you’re on a trail and you find out about a precipice that offers a splendid view, go take in the natural beauty even if it means setting off in another direction. And if you have to postpone leaving a city by a couple of days so you can attend the grand annual fest, just do it!

Making changes to your plans might affect your finances. Simply be prepared for any changes right from the beginning so that you’re not short of cash for unexpected expenses.

Don’t Pick Just Any Destination

If you choose someplace far away, getting to the destination itself will tire you out. As a beginner, select a place that is closer to home so that you can get there easily. Also try to be close to home or civilization so that you don’t feel homesick during the trip.

Backpacking along the beach

Don't Splurge on Backpacking Gear

Firstly, you're on a budget so you can't afford to splurge on backpacking gear. Secondly, this is going to be your first backpacking trip and you don't know if you'll like the experience or not. It won't be wise to spend all your savings on backpacking gear if you may never undertake a backpacking trip again.

That doesn’t mean you buy cheap gear though; if the quality of the gear isn’t good, it might not even make it through your first trip!

The best thing you can do is rent instead of buy backpacking gear. Search for rental shops in your area and you'll get all you need for your backpacking trip without having to spend a fortune.

Don’t Pack Too Much

Your first backpacking trip can be overwhelming and you might want to pack all that you can possibly carry. Don’t give in to the temptation though; you’ll regret it in less than a week.

Realize that you won’t need four pairs of pants and ten shirts while backpacking. You can wear a single pair of pants for the whole trip but if you want some change, just an extra pair will suffice. Pack a minimal number of shirts but a fresh pair of socks and underwear for each day of the trip.

Do pack a formal outfit and a pair of formal shoes too; you never know when you might get invited to a wedding. And if you decide to spend on a lavish dinner, dressing up will make the experience much more enjoyable!

If you must carry lotions, creams, and other items, buy travel size packs or make a habit of snagging the free ones from every hotel you stay at ;)

Do remember to leave space for souvenirs!

Conclusion

Backpacking is a great way to travel on a budget. But it’s important to do it right if you want to have a glitch-free trip! Using the tips given here you’ll definitely be able to have the time of your life. Happy backpacking!

  flickr   //   fortherock   jasonpriem

Published in First Time Backpacking

Few cities are as entertaining -- or as overwhelming to first time visitors -- as London. The sheer amount of sights and activities can be mind-boggling. However, aside from obligatory tourist attractions, London has a lot of unique sights, foods and activities that all foreign visitors to London should partake in. Here's what to do on your first trip to London to get the most authentic experience.

Get Your Culture On

The world famous Stonehenge is located in England not far from London

London has history like Hawaii has volcanoes. To visit London and not take a gander at the history and culture is akin to heresy. Although there are no shortage of sights located in the heart of the city, such as the Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the National Gallery, the real history and culture of Olde England lies just outside of the modern city. Stonehenge, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Bath and the historic cathedral city of Salisbury are just a few of the nearby attractions, all of which are accessible via a full day tour through the legends and lore of Olde England.

Indulge in London's Offbeat Side

Whirled Cinema in London, England

Like all great metropolises, London has plenty of quirky and unique corners that remain known only to longtime residents. One such offbeat location is the Whirled Cinema. Tucked away in a side alley and with an entrance that appears to be an abandoned warehouse, few if any tourists stumble upon the Whirled Cinema without being tipped off by a local. The cinema is well-known and well-loved for showing unique and offbeat independent films in a cozy 60-seat theatre that is, of course, stocked with a small bar and restaurant as well.

View more Offbeat London Activities

Getta Lotta Harry Potter

London is the home of Harry Potter

Anyone who has ever seen Harry Potter knows that London is where it all began. Parts of The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows were both filmed in London, and parts of the set are visible on the Harry Potter London Bus Tour. Or for the real Potter enthusiasts there is the Harry Potter Tour of Oxford and Lacock, which takes guests out of London to some of the country's most historic and beautiful sights.

Experience The Foodie Nightlife

Circus restaurant and bar in London, England

One of the best combinations in life besides chocolate and milk is food and alcohol. Thankfully London has an abundant selection of restaurant bars that serve the best food, drinks and entertainment all wrapped up in one nice little package. Take for example Circus, which is exactly as the name indicates: a full-on entertainment experience for all five senses. While guests dine on their delectable food and drinks they are treated to a wild show featuring acrobats, fire dancers and magicians. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!

Check out more Cool & Unique London Restaurant Bars

Bonus: A Photographers Tour of London

Guard change at Buckingham Palace in London, England

Experience the breathtaking fusion of the modern and historic London via a full day tour designed for photographers and history buffs alike. You'll cover some of London's most historic sites, from Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral and the Buckingham Palace -- just in time for guard change!

What other tips or suggestions would you recommend for first-time visitors to London?

  flickr   //   itsbruce   karen_roe   masochismtango   gvillena

Published in England

Vienna is rich in both food and culture, but there is much more than that driving tourists here. Overwhelming history. Amazing coffee. Excellent shopping. Countless nearby vineyards. As Austria's capital and largest city, there is something for everyone here. That is undoubtedly part of the reason the city has become a favorite of so many travelers throughout Central Europe. However, for all you first-timers out there, I've got a few tips and suggestions for you.

Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Visit During the Summer

Summers in Vienna are surprisingly pleasant and as a result there is always a plethora of outdoor gatherings, open-air film festivals, farmers' markets, and other events going on. It's also more enjoyable to sit outside while you eat, breathing the fresh air and taking the opportunity to do a bit of people-watching.

Of course if it's the cold weather you want to experience, Vienna is an impeccable Christmas destination. From late November onward there is an ample selection of Christmas markets to be found all around town, much like there is in Germany.

Eat Your Way Around Town

Restaurants throughout Vienna tend to offer a staggering amount of dishes, most of which are pretty delicious. However, before dining at a restaurant, the first food you must try upon arriving in Austria is a Frankfurter. Regardless of what part of town your are in, within a short walk you will encounter a small street-side sausage stand.

Frankfurter from a Würstlstand in Vienna, Austria

They are known locally as "Würstlstand" and the best way to get a quick, authentic, and tasty sausage for cheap. Enjoy a traditional plain Frankfurter, the Burenwurst (with bacon), Käsekrainer (with cheese), or my personal favorite, Bosna (with onions and curry).

Stop and Enjoy the Beans

There is a strong coffee culture throughout Austria, but most especially in Vienna. Of course when I say coffee, I do not mean Starbucks. Although the chain can be found in the city, it is best to be avoided at all cost. Instead opt for a local cafe or coffeehouse, both of which are in plentiful supply throughout the city.

Coffee in Vienna, Austria

Coffee in Austria is a very leisurely event. Don't ask for your coffee to go. Take your time, savor the moment. Bring a book or a laptop or even a friend. Have a bit to eat with your coffee. And if your waiter/waitress comes across as a bit rude or snooty, don't let it get to you. That's a perfectly normal response to strangers. As a local friend explained to me, "You have to be rude at first, before you can be cordial. It's just how we do things."

Stroll the City

Walking aimlessly around the cobblestone streets of Vienna is an enjoyable pastime as well. It truly is a gorgeous city, full of beautiful streets and spectacular architecture. This is a must for any photography, history, or architecture buffs. Or if you want to add an educational aspect to your journey, consider taking a guided walking tour and learning more about the buildings you are marveling over.

Hofburg, Vienna, Austria

  Have any other suggestions?

  flickr // rejik   gastev   twang_dunga   pedrosz

Published in Austria

India is a wonderful place to visit but is a vast country which cannot be covered in one vacation. The food and the people are so good that you will like to come back to India again and again. The country is incredible....true to its slogan INCREDIBLE INDIA. Now let me present you with 10 important tips that may prove helpful when you visit India.

1   First of all I would like to mention that India as seen by many is not a poor country. You will get all the ameneties provdied that you book in advance and have the capacity to bear the cost. Note: planning trip well in advance will not only provide mental peace but also cut your cost. In India usually everything gets booked compeletely full.
2   Don't rely too much on plastic money, be sure to carry some cash, Indian rupee. Although nowadays most of the reputed outlets accept plastic money, cash is preferred and universally accepted.
3   Carry or purchase drinking water of reputed brands at all times. Check out for the seal of the bottle if you feel the bottle is tempered do get it changed. The brands in India are Kinley, Bisleri, Aquafina, Manikchand, Bagpiper, Neer, Himalaya, etc.
4   Since India is a vast country traveling times vary from place to place. Kindly check on the web for best travelling time and place of interest. Best and true facts are provided with government sites ending in ".gov.in"

Pots for sale in Jaipur, India

5   Beware of the guides, shopkeepers and taxi or tuk-tuk walas. They will pursue you for talking to them. They ususally observe you and follow you. Note: pretending that you are with some Indian or know some local there will always give an edge to you. Best is to book your guide through hotel or government appointed guides directly at the tourist spot.
6   If you are in Rome be a Roman and the saying goes true in India. When in India, do as the Indians do. This is particularly true for single women, who should be dressed modestly in Indian attire if they don't want any unsavory attention. Though the country is liberal, it is best to dress up people admire rather than get stared.
Night life in India can only be found in the metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc or tourist spots like Goa. Elsewhere India doesn't have a strong nightlife culture...yet. If you are partying person hook to these city for parties.
10   Note for giving tips in India. If you want a better and personalized service keep giving tips to room boys, cab drivers, waiters, etc. Tip should be moderate -- a minimal tip from you is still a large tip in their eyes. Enjoy that fact and make the most of it.

  Have any tips to add or questions?

Published in India

After vowing that we would be on full alert, all systems go, eyes peeled and ears cocked, money changed, visas opened and as on guard and vigilant as we could possibly appear...turns out Delhi airport was nowhere near as scary, hectic or confusing as we were incessantly warned it would be. In fact, it was one of the calmest, most relaxed and organised arrivals hall of our whole trip.

Our first impression of India had caught us completely off guard. So many people had made cutting comments, taken sharp intakes of breath and mumbled something about us ‘ being in for a shock’ that I had truly come to believe that we were. ..and not in a good way. One particularly pompous character had even chatted to us about the backpacker suicide rate in India over breakfast, tutting at our laughter and warning us of the dangers of being ‘naive’ to its evils. We did dare to think that, having just spent 2 months in neighbouring Nepal, we might not find it as difficult, but even that was beginning to ring hollow. Frightened that it may actually be as scary as people kept arguing, we had even booked our first night’s accommodation in Delhi. We.were.prepared.

‘Really? You like to live there?’

Approximately one hour later and we were sat in the foyer of our Karol Bagh hostel, drinking a Tiger beer and trying to persuade our new friend Arrun that Birmingham is not the most boring city in the UK. ‘It is just so quiet. So boring. I missed Delhi after like, one day.’ I smiled into my glass.

Our Bangalore born taxi driver had been hilarious, regaling us with tales of uber- famous tourists he had driven and refusing to believe that we were not upset about being unmarried 24 year olds. He’d phoned the hostel to let them know we were en route and practically planned our India itinerary for us. With an aunty in almost every city, and a family reputation for the best chai in town, he seemed like a good guy to have picked for our very first encounter with the local people of India’s capital. The hostel owner refused to let us pay for our taxi, refused to let us carry our own bags and made us promise that we would join them for welcome beers after a ‘nap-sleep’. Not ones for turning down naps, beers or new friends, we did.

It took India approximately one evening to completely steal my heart. Too excited about our first meal to accept Arun’s invitation to the ‘coolest bar in New Delhi’, we had opted instead for the very local Guru Nanak market in Karol Bagh. A labyrinth of dusty street stalls, there was something going on in every single nook and cranny. Men crowded around samosa stands like they would a bar in England, supping tiny paper cups of chai and bellowing with laughter at every given opportunity. Girls shimmied up and down the pathways in reds, golds, greens and silvers- their shalwar kameez trousers sweeping dust from the ground. Kids darted between tables, shiny-eyed.

There were all kinds of shops selling all kinds of junk. Motorcycle parts, plug sockets, yarns of glittery cloth, dried flowers, rusty medicine bottles, ironworks. Hallucinatory images of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu in all their glory. Tailors, barbers, fruit-sellers. Everyone worked to the obliterating noise of car horns and, in the midst of all this chaos, cows sauntered between cars and stands, occasionally knocking over bicycles. Flies buzzed in the smog and the heavy scent of masala spice lingered. For our deciding-what-to-order snack we bought samosas from the busiest stall on the market. Served in scraps of maths text book paper and drizzled with chilli sauce, they looked every bit as tasty as I had imagined. The crowd watched bug-eyed as we took our first bite, and then belly laughed with glee as we demonstrated our approval. Delicious.

Spurred on by the other snackers, we settled in a tiny side-street cafe for our dinner. Clearly bewildered as to why we had chosen his humble establishment for our tea, the owner recited the menu in his very best English and then decided we should definitely have the channa masala and rotis. We did not disagree, ate like kings and reassured him we would be back for breakfast the next morning. He nodded and smiled, laughing as we groaned with being too full and gushed about it being the best food we had ever tasted. Chased by the smiley rickshaw drivers, we made our way back to the hostel to sleep off our feast. We had arrived.

Published in India

Have you ever stayed in a hostel before? Oh you have? Then I guess its just me. A 29 year old hostel virgin is what I was up until last weekend. I wish I could say that my first hostel experience was somewhere exotic like Thailand but alas it was none other than New York City. A city that is 3hours from my home state of Rhode Island.  Why would I choose to stay in a hostel only 3hrs from where I lived?  Well I'll tell you...

It all started when NaEun Park my buddy from Boston asked me to attend the Nomading Film Festival in New York City on Saturday June 23rd. Now if your loyal fans (which I'm assuming you are) you've already read that post and know all about it. If your just tuning in-go check it out! Anyways so she's like "hey lets go to New York this weekend and did I mention we are gonna stay in a hostel?" Ok so maybe she didn't word it quite like that but I was like HOSTEL???? Have you seen me?!

One of my favorite quotes regarding hostels is "You ain't seen hostel till you put me up in one."

That's pretty much how I was feeling until we arrived.

It's one of those situations that unless you've stayed in one before you have no idea what to expect. Here I was a 29year old "travel blogger" and I had yet to stay in a hostel.  Uh oh this smelled like trouble for me...

I was so WRONG!! Hosteling International is like a freakn' hotel! It's super chic (almost W Hotel vibe).  You are greeted with crazy cold AC which is a nice, loud club music, super friendly staff, and plenty of HOT travelers to go around. The question now is, why on earth haven't I been staying in hostels before!?!

All the places you can stay...

 

So let me break Hosteling International down for you:

Pro's:

  • CLEAN
  • Cheap $44/night
  • Onsite cafe
  • Free WiFi
  • At least 3 lounges
  • Pool table
  • Internet room w/ computers
  • HUGE outside area for reading, sunning yourself, etc
  • Bathroom's are new and VERY clean
  • Huge lockers to store your belongings in
Huge lockers

 

Con's:

  • You could be sleeping in a room with up to 12 people
  • You don't get to pick which bunk you get (but I hear if you ask nicely they can switch you)
  • You have to pay to use the internet but WiFi is free
  • Check in is at 4pm and check out is a 11am (not the most convenient)
Checking in...

 

We stayed in a room with 12 people and HONESTLY it wasn't really that bad. Thankfully we could sleep in pretty late the next morning which made it manageable. The girls in our room were pretty respectful, you can't really help what time you need to get up in the morning. Other than that it was actually pretty quiet in the building--although I am kind of a sound sleeper.

My bed--someone stole those towels!

 

Here are a few tips we picked up:

  • Bring your own lock
  • When arriving grab the towels that are on your bed and put them in your locker (someone took mine, thank god I had bought my own)
  • Keep your pajama's out on your bed--makes it easier when your stumbling in at midnight
  • Headphones or ear plugs are a must if your a light sleeper
Pool table

 

So its safe to say that my hostel experience was an excellent one.  You can't beat the price for New York City--in fact I just might be more inclined to visit the city more knowing I can stay there. I should also note that staying in a hostel seems like a really great way to meet people, so there's that.

So if your still a hostel virgin and a little nervous, look into staying at one that's sorta close to where you live that way if it sucks you are closer to home!

Published in United States

Today I was thinking about what effect traveling has had on me my personality my existence. So I thought I would list them out and list the things that I have taken with me from countries. Just to give some context all the first countries in Europe in the list below were visited by a young me in elementary. Though it didnt stop me from trying a lot of things for the first time.

Japan   Tokyo what a city...Japan what a culture...I have never been more amazed by the scale of a nation. I have always been kind of a technology and internet nerd. Which I learned can be part of a culture it was amazing to see how plugged in the youth was. I learned to have more respect for people who are quiet shy and didnt seem to have the need for boastfulness. Once you take that out of the equation your left with a lot of love and good vibes.

Japanese toilet instructions

Belgium   Their I learned to appreciate real food rich cheese, dark chocolate, a real Gyro, real ice cream and delicious bread. When I came back to the states I couldn't help but stare sadly at American cheese it now tasted like plastic and served better as a play-doh. The ice cream now tasted like whip cream, giving a kid food that rich then taking it away is the equivalent to giving someone who likes energy drinks crystal meth then taking it away.

France   Before my family trip to Europe I was a bit sheltered no soda no Simpsons and plenty of church. In France after 8pm porn comes on half the channels, it was surprising to say the least. More then that though the culture there is just comfortable with nudity. There I learned that the nude body has other purposes then sex or comedy. The memories I still have of that lend to my self esteem etc helps my mind fight the culture here.

Philippines   Interesting place and a far cry from big city nights in Tokyo. When I was young I didnt have a lot of views on gay people until my friend came out and it was put in my face. I was suddenly presented with a choice and I chose to embrace people that are different. I didnt have a lot of views on poverty, prostitution and desperation until it was put in my face. It made me realize how much you can get lost in your luxuries and lose site of what real pain is. A girl their who basically offered me sex for free, but told me not to tell her pimp. I respectfully declined but it made me realize even someone as devious and sexually permissive as me, can still has lines that I dont want to cross. Dont get me wrong im not harping on prostitution I actually think it should be legal and regulated everywhere. This though is a different story and a lot of people take an advantage of these girls or lets themselves be taken advantage of by their lustful wants or naivety or both. In the Philippines I learned to appreciate the good things in life despite how I may be feeling and experienced my own character growth as a man.

The beautiful Filipino landscape

The Netherlands   My brother got kicked out of a coffee shop there for trying to steal all the roaches out of an ash tray or at least thats how the story goes. It was amazing that people could get together and puff on a joint instead of drinking. There I learned that some laws just don't make any sense and they are not absolute. Later I learned that if anything doesn't make sense with the government just follow the money and it will start making sense, sad but true.

England   While in England we visited a lot of the castles in Dover and Canterbury made me think about my history, my bloodline etc. I had a revelation like a Eddie Izzard show all of sudden I was like America doesnt have shit were to young we cant compete. Also I stayed at a little BNB there which also happened to be hosting a wedding. I could not understand a fucking word from these liquored up Brits. I hadmuch more fluent conversations with the French.

Costa Rica   Man the stars at night can be a beautiful thing especially in the middle of the jungle. As I said before I like the indoors technology the internet etc. Here though I wanted to be outside so much to look at nature wise and to interact with like the fruit farms or coffee fields. Since then I still eat fruit with my breakfast everyday I also learned thats one thing you can depend on in most counties they might not have Pringles but they probably have something natural. In Costa I learned to truly appreciate the nature earth and everything that comes with it.

Tortuga Island in Costa Rica

You never know what you will learn by traveling until you go for it!

Published in First Time Backpacking

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