A Quick Guide to Taking a Day Trip from Belize to Guatemala

In December of 2017, my husband and I took a 2-week trip to Belize. We decided to spend a week traveling and adventuring, then a week relaxing on the beach. Our first 5 days or so were spent in San Ignacio, in western Belize. It’s an amazing, cute little town and we had a fabulous time there. Since we were so close to Guatemala, we decided to take a day trip there. We picked Tikal, a Mayan historic site. Normally we like to strike out on our own, but for this we decided the best way to get the most out of a single day was to book a tour. Prior to leaving the US, we booked an all-inclusive day tour that picked us up from our Airbnb, drove us to the border, handled immigration, drove us to Tikal, gave us a native Guatemalan (who spoke perfect English) tour guide, lunch, and everything back. We booked with Belize Family Adventures through Viator, it cost $150USD per person, and it was worth it.

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We woke up before 7AM, crazy early for vacation. We dressed and packed a small backpack to share with some snacks for breakfast (neither of us are big breakfast people), water, phones, raincoats, and a camera. We were waiting outside of our Airbnb at 7:30AM for a van to pick us up and take us to the Belize/Guatemala border. There was another couple in the van who traveled with us all day.

We arrived at customs, which was a small building that was basically one room with several customs officers collecting the $40BZ ($20USD) exit fee and stamping passports with exit stamps. I’ve only crossed borders (excluding EU borders) on land twice, and that was the US/Canada border, where you aren’t required to get out of the vehicle. It was a new experience for me to cross on foot.

We paid our fees and exited the building on the other side…which wasn’t really Guatemala. We entered something of a no-man’s land. Our tour guide for the rest of the day met us in that no-man’s land. He collected all of our passports (!!!) and handled Guatemalan entry customs. The four of us (me, my husband, and the other couple, who were also American) sat awkwardly in the van, and I know I personally considered the possibility of this guy running off with our passports and leaving us stranded in Guatemala. But no, he brought them back, handed them out and we were on our way.

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Our guide was awesome. The whole ride from the border to Tikal he told us cool facts about Guatemala: the people and culture, Mayan history and culture, the geography, the wildlife, you name it. And it didn’t feel like a Discovery Channel documentary: the guy was funny and informative.

Tikal was about 2 hours from the border. On the way there we got to enjoy the true natural beauty of the country.  Guatemala is one of the most stunning, lush, green countries I’ve visited.  Tikal is located about 20-30 minutes inside a National park. Our guide took care of all of the fees and stuff and we all got wristbands that said “extranjero” or “foreigner.”

The ruins are mostly spaced out throughout the park. We had to walk through a lot of forest to get to each building or temple. Not all of the ruins have been restored. You can read more about the ruins in my Tikal photo dump.

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After we walked through and saw most of the ruins (and climbed a lot of them; my legs were sore for days!), we had to head out of the park quickly. On the way out we did stop to see some howler monkeys! It was the first time I’d seen a monkey in the wild.

We made our way out of the park and back to the van. Part of our tour package was lunch, which was late, but good. Honestly a little disappointing because it felt like it was catering to American tourists and not super authentic.  Our tour took us back to the border, through customs, and all the way back to our Airbnb in time for a late supper.

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All-in-all, it was a great trip.  I’d definitely recommend a tour to any first-time visitors to Guatemala: I think we were able to make the most of our short visit by cutting out worry about logistics.  We also got so much more out of the trip by having a local guide.

Have you visited Guatemala?  What about Tikal?  Did you use a tour company or strike out on your own?  Tell us about it in the comments below.  Share this post via Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you sign up with my link you will receive a $20 credit to Airbnb.

 

Destination: Oslo, Norway

Oslo: A quick look

Language: Norwegian, English spoken fluently by most people

Currency: Norwegian Krone

Drinking Age: Norway has a minimum purchase age of 18 for anything less than 22% ABV, and a minimum purchase age of 20 for anything 22% or higher

Public Transportation: Oslo has an intricate metro, tram, and bus system that makes moving around the city very easy

Passport: Yes, but US citizens can stay in Norway up to 90 days without requiring a visa.

Vaccines: Routine

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This post may contain affiliate links.

Before you leave:

Situated at the end of Oslofjorden in southeastern Norway, Oslo is the political and financial capital of the country. Founded as a city in 1040, it has gone through many different revisions and changes throughout history. In modern times, Oslo is a multicultural city that possesses a large sphere of influence throughout Europe and the world.

Similar to the rest of Scandinavia, Norway feels quite expensive to most people. Even when compared to Sweden and Denmark, Norway takes the spot as most expensive. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Oslo as fourth in the world for cost of living. That doesn’t mean you can’t get by on a budget! Check out our Stockholm post for tips on how to do it cheaply, as many of the same rules and tricks will apply.

We spent a total of about 4 days in Oslo, which was a good amount of time. For onward travel, the train system is very efficient and makes numerous trips to the other major cities. Although we were there in the fall, we actually think summer or winter would be the best time to go. In summer, the weather will be warmer and walking around outside will be nice and pleasant. In the wintertime, skiing and other winter activities become the main draw. Despite Oslo being a major metropolitan area, skiing and other outdoor activities are easily accessed just outside the city. Many ski resorts even have beginner classes if you don’t know how to ski, so here’s your chance to learn!

At The Globetrotting Scientist, we always recommend learning at least a few words in the local language, even if you can get by entirely in English (like you can in Norway). If nothing else, it shows an observance of the fact you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and you’re attempting to learn more about the culture and language. When Norwegians hear that you’re not a fluent speaker, they’re likely to switch to English, but it’s definitely worth trying! Norwegian is a pitch-accent language, so you really need to hear it to imitate it properly. Norwegian is also considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers (even easier than Spanish) to learn, so here’s your chance!

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Once You Get There:

Where to stay: Airbnb is rapidly gaining popularity in Oslo, but we stayed at Citybox. Citybox is a budget hotel right in the city center. By cutting away all of the excess associated with hotels, it feels like a cross between a hotel and a hostel. It’s definitely worth checking out if you prefer hotels, but don’t want to spend a fortune.

As with our Stockholm post, we recommend trying to limit how much you go out for food and drinks. In a place like Oslo, this can be hard because there’s so many good options! Kiwi is a good, budget grocery store to get most everyday food items. Vinmonopolet is the state run liquor stores in Norway, and you’ll have to go there to get anything stronger than 4.75% ABV. Both Kiwi and Vinmonopolet are easy to find throughout the city.

  1. Oslo Opera House

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    The Oslo Opera House is an architectural work of art. The building itself is beautiful and you can walk onto the slanted roof, from which you’ll see the stunning views of the city and the waterfront. Of course, you can also go inside and enjoy operas and plays, but unfortunately when we visited we did not have the time or funds to do so.

  2. Karl Johans Gate

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    Karl Johans Gate (Karl Johan’s Street) is the main pedestrian street in Oslo. It stretches from Oslo Central Station (Sentralstasjon) at one end, and runs to the Royal Palace (Slottet) on the other. There are many events that happen on or near Karl Johans Gate. It’s definitely worth an evening stroll, especially in the summertime, or shopping any time of year. If you’re there in May, try to catch the May 17th (Norwegian National Day) celebration on Karl Johans Gate.

  3. Oslo city hall

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    Oslo city hall is not just another government building. It’s essentially a museum that’s open to the public, where you can view government conference rooms, artifacts, and historical setups. You can even take tours. When we visited city hall, we got there not too long before closing, but I enjoyed it so much I went back on my own during our short trip.

  4. National theater

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    While we didn’t go inside, the outside of the building is cool. Located in central Oslo, it’s in a cool area too with lots of easy access to greenery. If you’re interested in seeing the inside, there are multiple tours done in both English and Norwegian. To see some Norwegian dramatic arts, there is also shows done fairly often. For a current list of shows and events, check out Oslo’s tourism site. 

  5. Walk around the water

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    When I first visit a new city, one of my favorite things to do is to spend a little time walking around. Norway in general, and Oslo specifically is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Walking along the waterfront or up and down the pedestrian streets is highly enjoyable. Aker Brygge, near central Oslo, is a good place to walk around and see the waterfront restaurants and coffee shops.

  6. Day trip to Lillehammer

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    The 1994 winter olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Luckily, it’s a short train ride from Oslo. If you visit in the winter, you can ski the slopes like an Olympian. We visited in the fall, so we were just able to walk around and take some photos. We spent a whole day in Lillehammer, which would be great if the weather was appropriate for skiing, but if you visit when there isn’t snow on the ground, I’d recommend a half-day trip, as there isn’t much else to do in Lillehammer. If you’re familiar with your Norwegian Netflix TV shows, you’ll see plenty of places from the show Lilyhammer!

  7. Akershus Fortress

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    Akershus Fortress is a fun part of Norwegian history. Originally built in the 1200’s, it has held numerous roles throughout history, including serving as the royal residence and as a prison. In modern times, it functions as a military base, but tourists are allowed to freely walk around much of the fortress during the day. This is also the location of Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, as well as a small museum commemorating the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II.

Oslo is a hidden gem in the European travel scene. It’s definitely worth a visit on your next trip around Northern Europe. From beautiful natural scenery to high culture in the Opera House, Oslo has something for you. If you liked this post, check out some of our other Destination guides for our favorite out-of-the-way backpacker destinations like Stockholm, Sweden, Pristina, Kosovo, Rishikesh, India, and San Ignacio, Belize.

About the authors:

David Anthony is a recent graduate of NC Central University’s School of Business. He is an avid traveler and an enthusiast of all things Scandinavia. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian and was co-organizer of a local Scandinavian meetup. He also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.

Allegra Anthony is who you know as the Globetrotting Scientist. She is a scientist at a small pharmaceutical company in NC. She has visited every Nordic country except Finland and is an avid traveler. She prides herself on being able to predict the outcome of sitcoms. She also enjoys reading, writing, and (very) amature photography.

A special thanks to pixabay.com and Allegra Anthony for providing the excellent photography in this post!

 

Destination: Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm: A quick look

Language: Swedish, English spoken fluently by most people

Currency: Swedish Krona

Drinking Age: 18 to purchase alcohol in a bar or restaurant and to purchase low strength beer at a grocery store. 20 to purchase wine and liquor at the government run “systembolaget.” Many bars and clubs will set a higher limit, usually 20 or 23.

Public Transportation: Stockholm has an excellent system of buses, metro stations, and even ferries that are used to travel around the city. If you plan to use public transportation often, purchase an unlimited access pass at T-centralen (central station). Here’s the website for Stockholm’s public transportation system (in English).

Passport: Yes, but US citizens can stay in Sweden up to 90 days without requiring a visa.

Vaccines: Routine

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This post may contain affiliate links.

Before you leave:

Being the capital of Sweden, Stockholm is the political and economic center of the country. Roughly two million people live in the metropolitan area, spread across the 14 island archipelago on the edge of the Baltic sea. The area known as Stockholm has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and it was founded as a city in the 1200’s. As such, there is plenty of history and culture in Stockholm.

Stockholm, and all of Sweden, can seem quite expensive when compared to much of Europe. To cut cost, try and stay in an AirBnb and buy your food at ICA (a grocery store similar to Aldi). I had a studio apartment for $37 a night, and purchased sandwich ingredients at the ICA down the street from me. Not exactly fancy, but it’ll do the job.

Go in the summertime. Seriously, don’t be me and go in mid January. If you don’t like cold wind, snow, and rare daylight, just plan to go in the middle of summer. Swedes love to be outside, so there’s a lot more going on in the summertime.

At The Globetrotting Scientist, we always recommend learning at least a few words in the local language, even if you can get by entirely in English (like you can in Sweden). If nothing else, it shows an observance of the fact you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and you’re attempting to learn more about the culture and language. When Swedes hear that you’re not a fluent speaker, they’re likely to switch to English, but it’s definitely worth trying! Swedish is a pitch-accent language, so you really need to hear it to imitate it properly.

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Once You Get There:

I can’t stress this enough, but if you’re trying to limit your spending, the easiest thing to do is to avoid restaurants and bars. I would recommend buying alcohol duty free before you enter the country (I bought a liter of vodka for around 10 euros in Munich) and shopping for food. Stockholm has a varied nightlife though, so I’ll give some recommendations below on where to go to meet people and make friends.

In contrast to above, bars are an easy way to meet Swedes. Swedes tend to open up a little easier when there’s alcohol involved. In fact, there’s a bit of a joke in Sweden that if a stranger smiles at you, they’re either American, insane, or drunk. Here’s your chance to make Swedish friends!

  1. Kungliga Slottet and Drottningholm Palacedrottningholm-palace-2419776_960_720

The Royal Palace is just plain cool. As the name implies, this is the royal palace of the Swedish monarchy. Inside the palace, there are several museums including the “museum of antiquities” and the Tre Kroner Museum. Like any proper palace, another common attraction is seeing the Royal Guards. Although pictures and such are fine, they are an actual military force, so follow any posted signs or instructions.

Like many European palaces and castles, there are rumors that Drottningholm Palace (the one where the royal family actually lives) is haunted. Several rumors and legends tell the story of various spirits, including a “gray man” and a “white woman.” Don’t worry though, Queen Silvia says the ghosts are friendly. 

2. Vasa Museum

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Being a city near the water, it makes sense that Stockholm would have an entire museum dedicated to a 17th century warship. In 1628, the Vasa sank on its maiden voyage, but that didn’t stop them from beautifully restoring this ship. It’s 130 SEK (about $15USD) to get in, and children under 18 get in for free. Tours are offered in both English and Swedish. It’s a fun place if you want to nerd out about Scandinavian nautical history.

3. Kungsträdgården

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This attraction definitely falls into the category of things that are better done in the summer. It’s a beautiful park that’s great for an afternoon stroll after walking around downtown Stockholm. In the wintertime there’s an ice skating rink, which I didn’t partake in (despite how hilarious that would’ve been for everyone involved). In the summertime, there are many concerts and events. Summertime is also when the trees come into bloom, and the warm weather and vibrant colors are a welcome end to the cold and gray winter.

4. Nightlife

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And where would a European capital be without a decent nightlife? Stockholm has a wide variety of clubs and bars, but I’ll list off a few unique places that are worth checking out just for their cool factor. Nightlife in Stockholm is broken up into two main areas: Stureplan, and Södermalm. Stureplan is right near the financial center, and subsequently is incredibly expensive. If you’re looking to splurge, hit up Stureplan. On the other hand, Södermalm is the trendier hipster neighborhood where things aren’t quite as bougie.

The Ice Bar is a cool place to visit. Conveniently located near T-centralen, Drinks are served in shot glasses made of ice, and there’s often an interior design theme that gives the place a unique feel and look. The interior is kept below freezing, because most of it is made of ice, so bring a jacket when you go! Kids are also welcome, as the bar serves non-alcoholic mocktails as well. Ice Bar definitely falls into the more expensive category, due to its unique atmosphere and tourist presence.

Aifur is ridiculous. Located in Gamla Stan, It’s a viking themed bar and restaurant that steers into every viking cliche and stereotype imaginable. There are horned helmets and wooden tables and viking decor. The menu includes mead and reindeer hearts. Airfur will be a bit expensive compared to other non tourist-y places, so keep that in mind if you’re on a budget. It feels goofy, but it’s fun in a tourist-y way. It’s definitely worth stopping in for some mead.

On the cheaper end of the spectrum, two bars come to mind. Restaurang Mosaik, located in Södermalm, has an “afterwork” special from 1-6PM where beers are 29 SEK (around $3USD). They also have seats that overlook the water, making this a nice evening place to grab drinks.

Bar 08 is also a solid contender, being far enough away from the touristy places to have a good mix of locals. Beers can be had at Bar 08 for as little as 25 SEK.

This is just a tiny list of all the options in Stockholm. As you can see, nightlife in Stockholm can go from unbelievably expensive to on par with what you’d pay in the US. Shop around, do your research, and you shouldn’t have a problem grabbing drinks on occasion. Many people will pregame before hitting the bars to save money, so this is where buying alcohol in a store cheaply will help.

5. Gamla Stan

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Gamla Stan, meaning Old City, is a fun place if you want to see old architecture. It has the cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, and old buildings that are always fun for a casual walk. Gamla stan also has the Nobel Museum, which has a lot of artifacts and information about the Nobel Prize, and Alfred Nobel. A fun activity in Gamla Stan is to try and find Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest alley in Stockholm which is only 90 centimeters wide at its narrowest point.

6. Stockholm Pass

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Pro tip if you like museums: Stockholm offers a Stockholm pass that gets you into many different attractions, museums, and tours. It can be a bit pricey, but if you’re into doing a lot of museums and tours when you travel, it can save you quite a bit of money. There’s even some suggested itineraries on their website.

There are so many things to do in Stockholm, I could just keep listing things indefinitely. Hopefully this post will help you get an idea of some of the more popular things to do in the city, and help you plan out a fun trip while minimizing cost. The Stockholm tourism website has a ton of info for planning a trip. If you want any more info on Stockholm or travelling in Sweden, ask us in the comments!  If you liked this post, check out some of our other Destination guides for our favorite out-of-the-way backpacker destinations like Oslo, NorwayPristina, Kosovo, Rishikesh, India, and San Ignacio, Belize.

About the author:
David Anthony is a recent graduate of NC Central University’s School of Business. He is an avid traveler and an enthusiast of all things Scandinavia. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian and was co-organizer of a local Scandinavian meetup. He also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.

A special thanks to pixabay.com and David Anthony for providing the excellent photography in this post!

Destination: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Rishikesh: A quick look

Language: Hindi

Currency: Indian Rupee

Drinking Age: 21 in Uttarakhand (the state), but alcohol is banned within the city itself

Public Transportation: Rishikesh is very walkable, but taxi and shuttle services are available downtown. The closest airport is in Haridwar, about 20 km away.

Passport: Yes, US citizens are also required to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival in India. For visits of fewer than 60 days, an electronic visa is the easiest and quickest to obtain

Vaccines: Routine, plus Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Malaria medication may also be necessary; visit your primary care physician prior to leaving your home country to receive vaccinations and recommendations for additional medications based on your specific trip itinerary.

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Before you leave:

Known as the “Valley of the Saints,” Rishikesh occupies the beginning of the Ganges river in the Himalayan foothills. In addition to being a very important area in Hinduism, Rishikesh is also a very popular spot for yoga and other spiritual education.

Remember that Rishikesh is a sacred city in Hinduism. Because of this, alcohol, drugs, and meat are banned in the city. Although alcohol and drugs are not hard to find if you know where to go, please be respectful of the culture, and do not use within Rishikesh.

Hostels are usually the best places to stay in Rishikesh. The one we stayed in was on top of the hill, which gave a wonderful view of the Ganges and the surrounding mountains. Many have AC, reliable Wifi, and breakfast included. In addition, a popular activity is studying yoga and mindfulness in an ashram, which often includes lodging.

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Once you get there:

Don’t be afraid of the street food. Classics like chaat, samosa, pav bhaji, and pani puri are all extremely cheap at street stalls. Be careful and ensure the food is hot, and you shouldn’t have any trouble. The best way to find the good stuff is to go with a local.

Use common sense to avoid scams. Scams are incredibly common in touristy parts of India, and Rishikesh is no different. Do some research beforehand on the most common ones and tips to avoid them.

  1. Beatles Ashram

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This is probably what Rishikesh is best known for in the United States. In 1968, the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh to study transcendental meditation. At the time called Maharishi’s International Academy of Meditation, it’s now simply known as “Beatles Ashram.” There is so much myth, legend, and controversy surrounding the Beatles in India that I can’t cover it all here. Everyone knows where Beatles Ashram is, and it’s definitely something to see when you’re in the area.

2. Trekking/Outdoor activities

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Rishikesh sits next to the Ganges river, and right at the foothills of the Himalaya. This puts you in the perfect spot to enjoy activities such as trekking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and plenty of nature tours. You can find guides for these activities at the guide services downtown.

3. Mussoorie Hill Station

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Okay, so this isn’t technically in Rishikesh, but it’s close enough you can do it from the city. Hill stations are small towns that sit atop high mountains, mostly to keep them cool in the summer. It’s a really nice experience looking down the steep mountains into the valleys.

4. Kunjapuri Devi Temple

Kunjapuri temple

Kunjapuri Devi sits high atop a mountain, about a half hour drive from Rishikesh. You can charter a car to take you up there for about 1800 rupees, so try to go as a group to split the cost. The view from the top is *amazing.* A popular activity is to make it up there early in order to see the sunrise. On a clear day, you can see as far as China and Nepal. Culturally, it is the temple to Sati, the wife of Shiva. The super abridged version of the story is that Sati ended her own life after her father humiliated Shiva. After this, her father carried her body throughout the Himalaya, and pieces of it fell throughout the mountains in 52 different places, known as Shakti Peethas. These Shakti Peethas are found throughout Nepal and India. Kunjapuri Devi is where Sati’s chest is believed to have fallen.

5. Neer Garh Waterfall

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This is a great place to go to get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful Indian nature. After a steep hike, you’re rewarded with beautiful views of the waterfall and surrounding mountains. The water here is nice and clean, and it’s a popular place to jump in and cool off. All in all, it’s a fun place to explore for the day.

6. Visit the temples and bridges

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There are *tons* of temples in Rishikesh. Far too many to name in a short blog article, but I’ll rapid fire off some names to get you started. For temples, the popular ones are Badrinath, Parmath Niketan, Neelkanth Mahadev, and Tera Manzil. Even though it’s not a temple, the Lakshman Jhula bridge is a fun thing to see. A long suspension bridge that connects the two banks of the Ganges, it’s a cool place to get photos of the city and river.

Rishikesh is a great place to get out of the Golden Triangle and see what the rest of northern India has to offer. It’s a great stepping off point to go deeper into the Himalaya, head west into Punjab, or as a weekend jaunt from Delhi. It’s a must see for anybody traveling around northern India.

Disclaimer: I am far from an expert in Indian culture and Hinduism, so I apologize if any cultural facts are incorrect. Let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Rishikesh, India.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Rishikesh? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Sources:
Beatles Ashram photo: http://www.haridwarrishikeshtourism.com/beatles-ashram-rishikesh.html

Rappelling in Rishikesh photo: https://www.thrillophilia.com/rappelling-in-rishikesh

Mussoorie Hill Station photo: https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/mussoorie.php

Rishikesh photo: http://industrips.com/rishikesh/

 

 

Photo Dump! Tikal, Guatemala.

Hello, Globetrotters!

My life is still balancing out; we found a car, but I’ve been sick all week, and found myself behind on homework.  I am working hard to bring you all great content in the coming months!

For this post I wanted to share with you photos from my recent trip to the historic site, Tikal, in Guatemala.  Located in a National park, Tikal is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, thought to have been called Yax Mutal by the Mayan people.   It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.  Learn more about our trip to Tikal in A Quick Guide to Taking a Day Trip from Belize to Guatemala.  Please enjoy my travel photos!

-The Globetrotting Scientist

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The ancient Mayans studied astronomy.  They calculated the position of the sun based on the time of year.  The celebrated the Fall and Spring Equinox and the Summer and Winter Solstice.

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They built some of their temples and monuments based on the position of the sun at certain times of year.

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They used some structures to observe the stars.

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Today we have an amazing view of the rain forest.

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The entire site made up a large city in ancient Mayan times.  It was abandoned when the Spanish conquistadors began their conquest of Latin America.

20171215_132418 Much of the city hasn’t been excavated, due to the risk of erosion and high cost of maintenance. However, the city center (pictured above and below) has been mostly restored.

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The city was built by hand, on the backs of the lower-class workers.

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They did not use pack animals, so every stone was carried by humans.

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The average life expectancy of a lower class Mayan was 25-30 years, due to the nature of this hard labor.

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Today many Guatemalans have incorporated their historical Mayan culture into Catholicism.  When we visited, many locals were gathering to celebrate.

Did you enjoy this post?  Have you visited Guatemala before?  What about Tikal?  Tell me about it in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

How I Moved to India for 2 Months with Only a Backpack

A big thank you to David Anthony for sharing his packing skills in this post. If you would like to learn more about packing light, check out my posts: 6 Tips for Packing Light,  A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip, and Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to).

“Ounces make pounds” is a phrase that’s often thrown around in an infantry platoon, often by your team leader when you start trying to pack another hokey gadget. Spend enough time carrying around your life on your back, and you get a first-hand feel for the consequences of not packing light. In so many aspects of life, overpacking causes grief for a number of reasons.

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This past summer, I completed the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in India. Besides goals like learn as much Urdu as possible and eat my own body weight in chaat, I had another specific goal: successfully survive and thrive in India for two months with only a 38L carry on sized backpack. To do that, I had to be very diligent in which clothing and gadgets I took. I didn’t skimp though. I had my computer, clothing for a week, a towel, business casual clothing, and space for souvenirs. Sure, I didn’t have eight pairs of shoes or a personalized bathrobe, but you don’t need that stuff to travel. Trust me.

Backpack.jpg

For clothing, the best advice I can give can be summed up in a few key points: make it interchangeable, bring lightweight stuff, and roll it up. Lay out all the clothing you plan to take with you. Now, close your eyes, mix it all up, and pull out a random shirt and a random pair of pants. If they don’t go together, your stuff isn’t interchangeable. This rule should apply for everything you bring. Every single thing should work with everything else. This will give you more options with less clothing. In India, I had about four button up shirts, two or three t shirts, four pairs of pants, and a single t shirt and shorts for working out. You’ll have to do laundry, but you probably do that about once a week anyway (right???). I also took a comfortable pair of running shoes I could use for walking around the city and a pair of flip flops (sandals are very common in India). The final tip for clothing is to roll it instead of folding. For my grunts out there, we all know the Ranger roll is superior to folding. The same applies to packing for travel. Linked is an instructional video about rolling clothing.

roll-your-clothes

In India, I knew that I’d be spending most of my time in class. The city I was in was also not exactly known for its thrilling adventure, so I knew I would need something to keep me busy. For me, that was my phone and computer. On my phone, I kept the Amazon Kindle app, which had several books for reading while trying to adjust to the jet lag. For a computer, you want to take something lightweight and durable. I personally had a Chromebook. While big PCs and Macbooks are nice, they aren’t always light or easily replaceable. Chromebooks, being tied to your Google account, are a snap to replace if they break or are stolen. Simply log into a new computer with your Google account, and it will instantly start to backup your stuff. They’re also cheap. For my coders out there, it’s easy to install a custom Linux distro called GalliumOS on a Chromebook, really allowing you to unlock its potential. Light, durable, flexible, and easy to replace. No computer is perfect, but for those who are planning to travel light, the Chromebook is close.

chromebook.jpg

The fact that I was moving to India made things much simpler than if I was backpacking from city to city every few days. I could afford to spread out a bit and get comfortable. Knowing this, I intentionally packed very light in terms of toiletries. I really only took some travel sized items to use if I got stranded in an airport for the night. The best thing to do is buy most of your toiletries once you get to your destination. Not only will this save room in your bag, but exploring the shops is a great way to get to know a new city. I also only packed a small microfiber towel, and upon arrival in India, I bought a larger bath towel for everyday use. Many sundry items are also going to be cheaper abroad than they are in North America. If you’re concerned with having to throw it all away when you leave, look into donating them to an NGO or non-profit. My classmates and I gathered all of our unused toiletries as we were leaving the country and donated them, meaning there’s no issues with having to use up an entire bottle of shampoo before you leave.

toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas-2.jpg

The principles for longer term stays are the same as the ones for short jaunts: be a fanatic about weight and space; always assess and reassess if you really need the things you’re packing; try to pack items that are as multipurpose as possible; and trim down the items you can buy once you’re in-country. It’s that simple. So get out there, start paring your stuff down, and enjoy the simplicity of lightweight travel!

Did you enjoy this post?  What are you hacks for packing light?  Share them in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon link in the body of this post and make purchases through it, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Shout-outs:
Microfiber towel link: http://amzn.to/2DCHvdv
Ranger roll video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq07hyTlrcU
Rolled clothing image: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/57992-Clothes-Storage-for-travel
Travel-sized toiletries photo: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/5-tips-to-travel-size-toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas/

 

A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition

So you just booked a trip to Europe. The plane lands on European soil in January. Hard, frozen, European soil. How do you pack? Do you have to lug around an extra suitcase for all your scarves, boots, and coats? NOPE. Just follow my tips and you can travel with only a backpack in any weather.

  • Wear your bulkiest clothes to the airport

    Warmchunkyclothes.png

    Your chunky boots, thick scarf, and big coat should be on your body, even if it’s a little warm when you’re traveling. It will save you a ton of space in your bag. Don’t try to pack 5 pairs of shoes either–throw in some shower shoes and be okay with the shoes on your feet.

  • A down jacket is more packable than a fleece one

    Coat

    For an all around insulation layer, I prefer a packable down jacket. It’s lighter and more packable than the standard fleece jacket everyone seems to take with them. The one I have weighs less than two pounds and packs up smaller than a football. Sure, there’s some fleece jackets out there that meet that criteria, but this jacket was less than $30 on Amazon. It’s a good all around insulating layer that I use traveling, hiking, climbing, etc.

  • Pack layers

    Layering

    When I traveled to Scandinavia in October a couple of years ago, I wore a coat and scarf over a sweater over a shirt to the airport. Layer up so that you are prepared for any weather instead of packing separate outfits for potential temperature fluctuations.

  • Stick to a color scheme

    ColorScheme.png

    This is a good general packing rule, but is especially important with winter clothing. Make sure you match your clothes to your coat and scarf and don’t pack anything that doesn’t fit in the theme. This means you’ll have many different outfit combinations to choose from.

Pretty simple, huh? For more general packing tips, check out this post, 6 tips for packing light and this one, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip. Good luck!

Did you enjoy this post? What are your packing hacks? Tell me about them in the comments below! Share via Facebook or Twitter and f ollow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Links:

Bulky clothes photo: https://goo.gl/images/qDZ5D8

Down jacket photo: https://goo.gl/images/yXZpsh

Layers photo: https://goo.gl/images/4oYvs6

 

Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip

Worried you might’ve forgotten to pack something for your big trip? Need a holiday gift for your favorite traveler? Check out my list of essential lightweight, durable items every backpacker needs.

    1. Sleep mask
      It’s not easy to sleep on a cramped and crowded airplane, or in a shared room at a hostel. A sleep mask will help you block out light and ease you into sleep. Try this one from Amazon with 4.5 stars. It is a 3 pack for $6.30+, and brags “Fully Adjustable, 3D contoured shape, skin friendly, and soft”

      5 star review from Cotton Candy:
      “The most comfortable sleep mask ever. I had been searching for them for a long time. My favorite feature about these masks is the design of their nose area. They don’t press against my nose bridges like other ones do. Not only the straps has elasticity, you can manually adjust the fasteners in the back. They are definitely one size fits all type of mask.”
    2. Ear plugs
      Have you ever had noisy roommates? Imagine having a dozen of them in a shared room at a hostel! Ear plugs can be a lifesaver in a noisy hostel or long flight. These babies are $10.99+ on Amazon and come with 5 pairs of reusable, washable ear plugs, 1 ear pick, and a storage box on a keychain so you’ll never lose them. They have a 4.3 star review on Amazon and a 36dB Noise Reduction Rating.

      5 star review from an Amazon user:
      “Soft squishy material that fits my ear very well! My boyfriend snores and it drives me to the living room, so I got these earplugs just for that reason. I found that if you squeeze the memory foam plug into a small thin rod, then insert in your ear (as opposed to trying to fit the puffed earplug in), the earplug will puff open in your ear and shut out sound. Make sure you get the end of the plus inside your ear (so it doesn’t slide out). It doesn’t shut out all sound but TREMENDOUSLY quiets sounds.“Comfortable and when you have them in your ears, it just feels like a good comfortable pressure.”
    3. Neck pillow
      Every traveler knows we sometimes must sleep in weird places. Whether you have an overnight flight, a long bus ride, or a layover in an unfamiliar airport, you gotta sleep sometime. A neck pillow is worth having on hand. You can get this one from Amazon for $10.95. It is a memory foam pillow with a removable, washable microfiber cover, and a strap so you can attach it to your luggage instead of trying to pack it. It also has a 2-year guarantee and 4.3 stars on Amazon.

      5 star review from Amazon user Sharon G Hook
      “This pillow is very comfortable because of its softness and [cradling] effect. I use it everyday as I have a neck problem. It seems to give me the support I need. I would recommend this pillow to anyone who is looking for a bit of relief.
      If I had one negative it would be that on hot days the composition of the pillow can be a little warm.”
    4. Backpack
      What is a backpacker without a backpack? If you would like to travel light, you can avoid checking a bag by fitting all of your belongings into a backpack. But you must be sure that that backpack is comfortable, or you won’t want to haul it around. Not every style works for every person, but Osprey backpacks are my personal favorite. They have a lifetime, no-questions-asked repair and replacement policy. I’ve carried Osprey packs in all sorts of climates and conditions spanning three continents and I’m still convinced they’re some of the best bags on the planet. Tortuga also makes some really amazing packs that are designed with international travel in mind. If you want some examples, here is a men’s and a women’s backpack from Osprey to get you started. The men’s one is my current go-to pack for hiking and international travel.

    1. Converters
      Whether you need an adapter or a converter often comes down to the voltage in the country you’re going to, and the type of device you’re trying to use. Most modern laptop and cell phone chargers will convert automatically, while simpler appliances such as hairdryers and electric razors won’t. Do some research on your specific destinations and devices to determine if you need one. If you do, grab this all in one converter. It’ll work in most destinations and one gadget is better than five! It’s Prime eligible, has an average rating of 4.5 stars, and is $19.97.

      Four star review from Taylor:
      “Honestly, before I went on my trip to South Korea, I was freaking out about adapters and feared that my things would get fried. Thankfully, this adapter worked amazingly well! I used it for my computer and iphone. There are a lot of reviews about other adapters out there and how they don’t work or they worked for a short time. I can definitely say that this adapter worked for me while in Korea.”
    2. USB travel adapter
      For those times when you need a to plug in your phone or camera but don’t want to mess with a converter, travel adapters are a good option. These adapters come in a pack of two, and each one has two USB ports. Offer to lend the second one out to someone in your hostel who forgot to bring one, and make a new friend! At $10.99 for a two pack, these are definitely a worthy investment. They’re also Prime eligible! They average 4.1 stars over 287 reviews.

      5 star review from Fred Sandsmark:
      “We bought a two-pack of these for a three-week trip to Italy. They performed perfectly for charging two iPhones, a Fitbit, and a Kindle. They also provided a nice green night light. Well worth the price.”
    3. Packable rain jacket
      A good rain jacket is one of those things you’ll forget you have until you really need it. For lightweight international travel, the best thing is a jacket that packs into itself. These jackets usually have a small pocket or stuff sack that allows you to stuff it away into a beer can sized lump. The outdoor industry has made some incredible strides here, with some jackets packing small enough to go into your pocket and weighing only a few ounces. You don’t have to go that high-tech though, a simple one from Columbia will work fine. That’s what I carried in India to keep the monsoons out. It is $54.58+ from Amazon where is has a 4.5 star rating over 47 customer reviews.

      Five star review by Brian Baker:
      “What can I say. It is a Columbia!! Every Columbia product that I own is a great piece of equipment/clothing!! Hands down some of the best gear you can buy. Love this jacket! I would buy again for sure!!”
    4. Packing cubes
      It may seem counter-intuitive to add items to your luggage to save space, but packing cubes are a lifesaver! They help to pack down clothing and to organize it so you don’t have to dump your underwear everywhere to look for that red t-shirt you just have to wear today. These cubes from Amazon are lightweight with a zipper and handle on each of the 4 bags. They’re $16.02+ and have a 4.8 star review.

      5 star review from Deb:
      “I love these packing cubes! I got them to help organize my backpack for an upcoming trip to Thailand. They are the perfect size and free up a lot of space! I fit all my clothes in 3 cubes and I’ll use the 4th cube for my toiletries and accessories. The quality seems good, I will add to my review if anything negative happens after my trip. Fast shipping as always. Happy customer!”
    5. Sink laundry detergent
      You gotta do what you gotta do, and sometimes that means scrubbing your underwear in the sink because you don’t have access to/can’t afford a laundry mat. This sink-friendly laundry detergent will be a lifesaver. This one from Amazon comes with 12 packs of Tide for $16.83 total and a 4.1 star rating.5 star

      review by Nine Cats Corner:
      “This was far more useful than I thought it would be. We recently made a 3 week trip to the United Kingdom, hopping around the country, and staying in multiple hotels. Packing lightly was a necessity. Every night we washed out our shirts, socks and undies, hanging them to dry on cheap plastic hangers we’d brought with us. Having these little sink packs of Tide was easy and convenient. One pack usually washed out 2 shirts, 2 socks, 1 undershirt and 2-3 undies…These Tide sink packs sure beat lugging bottles of anything.”
    6. Roll-up clothes line
      Hey, if you’re washing your clothes in a sink, chances are pretty slim that you’ll be able to throw them in a dryer when you’re done. So, you’ll have to hang them to dry. Please don’t dump them on your roommate’s bed. Try out this clothes line instead! $19 and Prime eligible, with free returns. It’s also solidly rated at 4.5 stars.

      5 star review from W3KO:
      “I now have two for traveling. Longer trips need more hanging space for two people. The Velcro straps make it adaptable to hanging in a variety of places. Highly recommended for travelers.”
    7. Microfiber Towel
      A lot of people absolutely hate them, but there’s no beating a microfiber towel for its weight and quick drying ability. I never travel abroad without mine. The biggest drawback for some people is that it’s not the warm and soft sensation you’d get from a normal bath towel. If you can get used to it, there’s no better alternative though. They pack up teensy tiny and weigh just a few ounces. So far I’ve used mine on three continents in climates ranging from icy Stockholm to scorching Lucknow, and it’s been a lifesaver every time. This one comes with a hand towel and stuff sack, in addition to being an Amazon’s Choice item at 4.5 stars and $13.35+.

      5 star Amazon review by Sam:
      “These are amazing for travel! Very small and compact for easy travel that doesn’t take up your entire suitcase. I bought these for study abroad and they are great. The large towel is very big so I can wrap it around my body and it is quite modest.”
    8. Shower Shoes
      Shower shoes are an essential for every traveler. You do not want to catch a foot fungus from a grimey shared shower. Don’t spend your vacation fighting athlete’s foot! Just wear shower shoes. You can get these slide-on slippers from Amazon for $8.99+. They come in 7 colors and men’s or women’s sizes. These are quick-drying which makes them perfect for travelers.

      5 star review from YR:
      “I took these on vacation to Mexico. I wore them on the beach, at the pool and in the shower. What I liked most about the shower shoes is that they didn’t slip or slide off my feet. They are very comfortable.”
    9. Sunglasses
      A good pair of sunglasses will be your favorite travel buddy. If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend any time squinting in the sun, or you’ll end up with a migraine. Trust me, you don’t want to spend your vacation in your room with the lights turned off and the curtains drawn because you can’t face the sun. These Ray-Bans fold up and come with a little leather case, which is perfect for throwing in your backpack. They have a 4.6 star rating and a $150 price tag.

      5 star review ByA. Daytonon:
      “I’ve bought many Ray-Bans on Amazon and so far have had good luck getting authentic ones each time. This folding pair is my favorite pair I’ve ever owned. I love being able to fold them up and put them in my jeans pocket or shirt pocket, then I don’t have to hang them from the front of my shirt or hold them while I’m inside.”Another 5 star review, by: L. D. Rafeyon
      “These are absolutely splendid! As advertised, lenses allow perfect clear vision, looks great on my face and fold-able. I dropped them on a hard surface with no breakage. Worth every cent! Accompanied by a beautiful zip case.”
    10. Flashlight/reading light
      Please don’t be that guy in the hostel who leaves a bright light on at 2am because they want to read a book or write a postcard. Invest in a small reading light and be a courteous roommate! This one is lightweight, USB rechargeable, and has 2 brightness settings. It has a 4.7 star review on Amazon and is $11.95

      5 star review from Amy:
      “I really like this book light!! Being able to recharge it in any USB port is such a great feature! Two lighting levels and the swivel light gives me flexibility wherever and whatever I am reading. I would highly recommend this light!”
    11. Passport cover
      Passports are valuable, and not just to you. Many passports are stolen. A common scam regarding passports is RFID skimming. Hackers and thieves can “skim” your passport information while it’s in your pocket or bag using simple electronics equipment. In doing so, they can steal your personal data remotely and either sell it or use it to make black market passports. The easiest way to protect from this is to invest in an RFID blocking passport cover. This one also has a slot for credit cards (another common target of RFID skimmers). At $7.99 and Prime eligible, it’s a worthwhile investment. There’s also free returns, just in case you change your mind.

5 star review from DKP:

“Great soft feel. Beautiful color. Passport fits perfectly with room for extra documents, credit cards etc. Glad I bought it”

  1. Tablet/kindle
    If you’re traveling long-term, you won’t be able to take the library with you (sorry!). Invest in a tablet or eReader instead of trying to pick your favorite book to bring along. The Kindle fire 7 tablet is available for $49.99 on Amazon. It comes with Alexa and Prime members have access to many books and movies for free.

    5 Star review by Julie:
    “…[The Kindle Fire’s] small size and light weight makes it ideal for carrying on car trips.”
    Another 5 star review, by Tammy:
    “Great, just the right size! [The Kindle Fire] fits in my bag. Great product”
  2. Pen and journal
    Write about your journey! Invest in a good pen and journal that you love so much you’ll be dying to put pen to paper and share your experiences. Even if you just keep the journal for yourself, future you will be glad you wrote everything down. Here is a great journal that should serve you well on the road. It’s lightweight, an Amazon’s choice item, and carries a 4.4 star rating. It’s Prime eligible, and affordably priced at $9.99.

    4 star review from Amazon User:
    “I’m happy to inform you that this note goes above and beyond what I expected. I’m a heavy fountain pen writer and travel in rough environments often, so any notebook I end up using for daily journaling needs to live up to some really high standards most consumer quality paper goods doesn’t seem to be able to match most of the time. This notebook completely surprised me. The quality of the paper is good enough that my thickly laden Lamy Safari with fine-medium nip is capable of writing on them without worrying about smudges or spill over into the back of the page. The spine and the requisite finish and binding are also excellent, with no wiggles or any weakpoints I can identify that could cause earlier than expected damage to the notebook structure itself.”
    For a pen, I recommend the Zebra F-701. It’s an all stainless steel pen that’s more than durable enough for traveling. I’ve been carrying one virtually every day for almost two years, and it still works fine. They’re only $6.72, and come with free shipping if you use Prime. They also average a 4.4 star review over 1,185 customer ratings.

    5 star rating from Dana Muwwakkil:
    “I love this pen! As a writer that still loves pushing pen to paper I am a huge fan of this pen. The ink flows out very smoothly and it’s a joy to write with. There is no skipping or streaking from the ink either which is a plus. I also love the way it looks, being stainless steel, it looks professional and has more weight to it than the average pen, making it feel expensive and luxurious. The clip feels strong and works well. There is a fine metal, mesh grip where your fingers hold the pen and it feels very comfortable. In all I say it’s definitely worth the price.”

Many thanks to David Anthony for all of his help writing this article, for his guidance in picking the perfect products, and all of the IT support he provided. Happy traveling!

Did you enjoy this post? What are some of your favorite travel must-haves? Share them in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and follow me right here on WordPress for more great content like this.

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon links in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Destination: Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina: A Quick Look

Language: Albanian; Serbian spoken by a minority
Currency: Euro
Drinking Age: no minimum legal drinking age
Public Transportation: Buses and taxis are common in the city, and between cities
Passport: Required for US citizens. US Citizens may stay in Kosovo up to 90 days without a visa
Vaccines: Routine vaccines, plus Hepatitis A. Hepatitis B and Rabies recommended for some travelers

Before you leave:

  • Pristina is the capital city of Kosovo, a small somewhat disputed nation in Southeastern Europe. It would be wise to do some research regarding the Yugoslavian civil war, which is still in very recent memory for many Kosovars
  • Avoid discussing Serbia if possible. Serbia’s control of the region for many years is not a pleasant memory, and no matter what your opinion of the conflict is, it’s best kept to yourself.
  • Kosovars are very warm and friendly. You will find that many are genuinely eager to be your friend. It’s not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home shortly after meeting them.

Once you get there:

    • The easiest way into Pristina is to fly into the international airport, or to rent a car and driving up from either FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or Albania. Keep in mind that in the past, people have had trouble crossing the border between Kosovo and Serbia due to the border not really being formally recognized by Serbia. It’s possible to drive across, but research the immigration practices before attempting or you could end up with fines and unneeded hassle.
    • Public transportation can be a little hard to figure out in Kosovo. The easiest way to figure it out is to ask a local! You might have to try a few people before you find someone that speaks English, but they will point you in the right direction. Pristina is also rather walk-able, if you so choose.

1. Bill Clinton Boulevard

This is always my go-to fun fact about Pristina: there’s a 10 foot tall statue of Bill Clinton along “Bill Clinton Boulevard.” It was built in 2009 to commemorate Bill Clinton’s support of Kosovo during the Yugoslavian civil war. I remember being caught totally off guard when I was driving through Pristina and happened across a giant Bill Clinton statue next to the road. Good times…

2. Newborn Monument

The Newborn Monument is a must see. Unveiled on 17 February 2008, the day that Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, it symbolizes Kosovo’s status as a new nation. The coolest part about it: It’s repainted every year, with the new design being unveiled on February 17th.

3. Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square marks the beginning of the pedestrian streets in Pristina. It’s also the site of a statue commemorating Skanderbeg, an Albanian hero. There are plenty of nice hotels in this area, and when the weather is good you can see lots of people out and enjoying themselves.

4. Kosovo Museum

The Kosovo Museum is full of artifacts found throughout the country. Its mission is to preserve the history and culture of the country. It is also the headquarters of the Kosovo Archaeological Institute. They’ve carefully preserved thousands of artifacts, some dating all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. It’s a good way to spend half a day if you’re into museums and history.

5. Natural Beauty

Travelling in Kosovo is not complete without also taking in the natural beauty. If you’re used to travelling in North America or Western Europe, Pristina might feel a little run down. If the city is getting to you, there’s tons of things to do in the surrounding countryside, oftentimes these things are also not in any guidebooks. All of the following are not more than a few hours by car from Pristina.

  • Summit Mt. Ljuboten
    At 8196 feet, Mt Ljuboten is the tallest mountain in Kosovo. Climbing the mountain takes most of a day unless you’re really fast, and in the summer it is nothing more than a steep walk and a casual scramble. In the winter, however, you’ll need proper climbing gear as it’s covered in snow and ice. The summit sits right on the border between Kosovo and FYROM. On a clear day, you can see incredibly far from the top. It’s a good place for a #kosovo photo op.
  • Mirusha Park
    Pictured above, exploring Mirusha Park is a great summertime activity. It’s a large canyon with all sorts of waterfalls and lakes to swim in. It’s a great place to cool off in the summer and meet other people. Don’t miss this one.
  • Brezovica Ski Resort
    Called “the most delightfully dysfunctional ski resort in Europe” by the New York Times, Brezovica is a fun place to learn to ski. If you’ve ever been to a ski resort in the United States, you might want to forget about that experience, as Brezovica Ski Resort is nothing like that. The lifts are rickety, the rental skis are well loved, and the kids will literally ski circles around you and laugh when you fall backwards on flat ground. If you don’t know how to ski, my recommendation is to just rent a pair, go up the slope right outside the hotel, and start riding down. You’ll figure it out!

In summary, Pristina (and Kosovo in general) is a good place to start if you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Europe. It’s safe, the people are nice, and the countryside is beautiful. Espressos and wine are fun, but there’s a whole other side to the continent most Americans never take the time to get to know. Kosovo is incredibly unique, you won’t find anywhere quite like it. After having lived there for 9 months, it sorta grew on me in a weird way. If you’re looking to break out of the old Paris-Berlin-Budapest route, hop on over to Pristina for a few days.

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Pristina, Kosovo.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Kosovo? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Links:

Bill Clinton Boulevard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton_Boulevard#/media/File:Bill_Clinton_statue.jpg

Newborn: http://pages.kiva.org/node/10892

Skanderbeg Square: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g295385-d2476250-i131836377-Swiss_Diamond_Hotel_Prishtina-Pristina.html

Kosovo Museum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo_Museum#/media/File:Muzeu_i_Kosov%C3%ABs.JPG

Mirusha Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirusha_Park#/media/File:Unseen_Mirusha.jpg

NYT Article about Brezovica: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/travel/kosovo-ski-holidays.html?mcubz=3

Pristina photo: https://sk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pri%C5%A1tina

6 Tips for Packing Light

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my 15-year-old cousin (who lives near me) to New England for a week to see her aunt, my cousin. I’ve traveled a lot, and lately I’ve been getting into backpacker style traveling. On my last trip to Europe I stayed in hostels and didn’t check any luggage. It mostly started because I’m cheap, but it’s become more of a hobby now (and I’m still cheap). I’ll share some tips for packing light so that you can also stop paying to check a bag!

“You don’t have a suitcase?” My younger cousin’s mom asked me when we met in the airport parking garage a couple of hours before our flight.

“Nope” I replied, and gestured towards my backpack. We trekked into the airport, my cousin, her mom, my husband, and I, chatting about school and work and traveling.

Later, inside the airport, when she was paying $25 extra for my cousin’s checked bag her mom turned to me and asked again “You aren’t checking anything?”

I shook my head and my husband chimed in “Once you’ve lost a bag, you’ll never go back” I’ve actually never had an airline lose my luggage, but I’m super cheap. Paying $25 on top of my $300 ticket AND risk them losing my belongings? No thanks.

We arrived in NY and when my older cousin came to pick us up, the first thing she said to me was “that’s it?” upon seeing my backpack. “I’ll tell you how, just keep an eye on my blog” I joked.

Tip #1: Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Despite impressing my cousins, my husband still accused me of taking too many toiletries. “Do you need all of this?” He asked as he watched me pack. It’s a good question to ask yourself. If you don’t normally need something, it’s probably best to leave it at home unless you know for a fact you will need it on your trip. I’ll admit, in a normal week I don’t need workout clothes (oops) but my cousin is pretty active, so I knew visiting her meant we’d hit the gym at least once. Just be adaptable and pack for your trip and yourself.

Tip #2: Wear your bulkiest clothes to the airport so you don’t have to pack them. Even if it’s going to be warmer and you end up carrying your coat/jacket, it’s a great way to save space in your luggage. Carrying a coat or jacket doesn’t count as a carry-on or personal item. You can also put stuff in the pockets if you’re really desperate, but I would recommend saving this for the return trip, since you’ll likely have souvenirs of some kind. Just be careful not to put anything “suspicious” looking in your pockets.

To the airport I wore:

A short sleeved top
A pair of leggings
A pair of boots
A warm jacket

Tip #3: Plan to wash and/or re-wear your clothes. I haven’t checked luggage in 3 years. You can pack everything you need in carry-on size luggage no matter how long your trip is. I’ve found that I need a certain amount of stuff, no matter how long I’m going away. You always need pants, shirts, etc, but the trick is to re-wear and/or wash your clothes. If you’ll be away for more than a week you’ll probably need to wash clothes, but if you were at home, wouldn’t you be doing laundry anyway?

Tip #4: Save and use small containers for traveling with small items. I’ve saved mint tins and plastic razor boxes for a while and they’re awesome for organizing bobby pins, jewelry, cotton swabs, and other small accessories.

Tip #5: Utilize packing cubes. Organizing your belongings into packing cubes is a great way to save space. It seems counterintuitive to add items to save space, but cubes (or honestly, any small zip-up cloth bags you have) help you to smoosh items down. Bonus: they also help you to organize into outfits or type of clothing.

Tip #6: What you should pack.

What I packed in a backpack for a one week trip:

2 dresses
2 pairs of jeans
1 pair of leggings
2 cardigan sweaters
2 pairs of PJ pants
2 comfy T’s for sleeping
2 tank tops
3 short sleeve shirts
1 long sleeve shirt
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 set of workout clothes (shirt, shorts, sports bra)
Socks and underwear for a week
A laptop
A magazine
An (empty) water bottle
I also packed travel sized toiletries. You’d be surprised what you can find in under 3 oz bottles. I have everything from deodorant to hairspray to baby powder to body spray.

Places to find small bottles of liquids:

Target
Walmart
5 Below
Bath and Body Works
Big Lots

If you can’t find your favorite shampoo or lotion in small bottles, you can purchase empty airplane sized bottles pretty much anywhere (Target, Walmart, Big Lots, REI, Dick’s, etc.) just check the travel section. You can then fill them at home with your favorite product. But lemme warn you, it’s messy and not the easiest task to accomplish. I would recommend just purchasing products that are already in travel sized bottles, but I’m not your dad.

If you follow this guide, you too can stop paying to check a bag when you travel!

Do you have any packing tips? Share them in the comments below!  For even more travel tips, check out Travel Mistakes I Made So You Don’t Have to, A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, How I Moved to India for 2 months with Only a Backpack, and Essential Items Every Traveler Needs Before the Next Big Trip.  Did you like this post? Share via Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter and follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!