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How To Choose The Best Travel Camera (Plus Win A Free GoPro!)

Best Travel Camera Guide

How to Choose a Travel Camera

Travel Photography

After 7 years as a professional travel photographer & blogger, I keep getting asked what’s the best travel camera. There are so many to choose from! Here’s what I would pick, and why.

If you’re into photography, traveling the world with a good camera can help you bring back images that will stand the test of time — memories to share with family and friends for years to come.

Amazing travel photos are some of my most treasured souvenirs!

But what’s the best travel camera for capturing these special moments on your journey? There’s no easy answer to this question. Different people will have different requirements and budgets.

My goal with this digital camera buyers guide is to help you narrow down the overwhelming choices that are out there — and pick the perfect travel camera for your next trip.

Travel Photos from Norway

Norway’s Lofoten Islands

Travel Camera Features

  • Size & Weight: Gone are the days when a bigger camera means a better camera. If you want to travel with your camera, you’ll want something small & lightweight.
  • Manual Settings: Photography professionals want the ability to fully control the settings of their camera so they can dial in the perfect shot in all kinds of different situations.
  • Megapixels: Many people assume that more megapixels is better. This isn’t always true if the pixels themselves are small. However more megapixels on a large sensor will give you higher detail, and allow you to “crop” your image without reducing quality.
  • Fast Lens: Lens aperture is measured in f/numbers, like f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, etc. The lower the number, the better it will perform in low-light situations.
  • Zoom Range: A zoom lens lets you get closer to the action, especially for wildlife or people. But the bigger the zoom the bulkier a camera gets. How much zoom you want is a personal preference.
  • HD/4K Video: Most quality travel cameras will shoot video in HD 1080p. Some even have 4K capabilities — which honestly most people won’t need unless you’re doing professional work.
  • WiFi/Bluetooth Enabled: Some cameras have their own wifi network, allowing you to upload your photos instantly to your computer or smartphone.
  • Interchangeable Lenses: High-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses, allowing you to pick the perfect lens for different situations.
  • Weatherproofing: Will your travel camera hold up against the elements? Some cameras are better protected from moisture and dust than others.
Travel Camera Sensor Size

Understanding Camera Sensors

Camera Sensor Size

When choosing the perfect camera for traveling, you need to understand different camera sensors, and how they affect image quality and camera size.

In general, a camera with a large sensor is going to perform better in low light because that large sensor can capture more of it.

With a large sensor you’ll also get more detail, allowing you to print your images large, or crop them smaller, and not loose any quality.

However a large camera sensor means the camera itself will be larger as well.

Travel Photos from Hawaii

Ridge Hiking in Hawaii

What Do You Want To Capture?

When choosing the best travel camera for your needs, you must define what those needs are. Different cameras have strengths and weaknesses depending on what you’re using them for.

Are you looking for portability? Weatherproofing & ruggedness? Professional high-end image quality? Something reasonably priced? Are you going to be shooting more landscapes, wildlife, adventure activities, or people?

You often can’t have it all when it comes to travel cameras.

Keep reading below to learn the pros & cons for each type of camera, and which types of travel photography they work best for.

Point & Shoot Cameras

Point & shoot cameras have come a long way. As technology has improved, companies have managed to pack these pocket-sized cameras with tons of features. Some shoot 4k video and have manual settings, just like the more expensive ones in this list.

The big difference is the camera sensor is a bit smaller, and they don’t have interchangeable lenses.

In my opinion, a mid-range to high-end point & shoot is the best option for 75% of amature travel photographers. They combine the perfect mix of portability, power, and budget-friendliness.

Sony RX100 Series ($ 700 – $ 1000)

Sony RX100 Travel Camera

Sony RX100 V

The Sony RX100 V is my favorite point & shoot travel camera. It’s what I’d call a “professional” point & shoot. While it fits in my pocket, it has many of the same features as my larger primary mirrorless camera.

It’s a bit pricey at $ 1000, but you can also pick up older models like the RX100 III ($ 700) and RX100 IV ($ 850) for less. They also make reasonably priced underwater dive-housings for this line.

Highlights

  • 4k Video
  • Ultra-Fast Focusing
  • Flip-screen for Vlogging
  • Built-In Flash

Issues:

  • 1″ Sensor
  • Fixed Lens
  • Crappy Microphone

Check Price For Sony RX100 V Here

Canon PowerShot G7 X ($ 650)

Canon G7X II Travel Camera

Canon G7X II

The Canon G7 X is another fantastic point & shoot that’s great for travel photography. A bit less expensive than the Sony, it has fewer high-end features, but shoots great video with better on-board audio than the Sony. It’s a favorite for many YouTubers and Vloggers.

Highlights

  • Flip-screen for Vlogging
  • Built-In Flash
  • Decent Microphone

Issues:

  • 1″ Sensor
  • Fixed Lens
  • Slow Focusing

Check Price For Canon G7X Here

Travel Photos from a GoPro

Best Action Travel Cameras

Action Cameras

Action cameras have really transformed the travel photography & video world over the years. These tiny, waterproof, indestructible cameras can go anywhere & record anything!

If you plan on hiking, mountain biking, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, or even swimming under waterfalls during your travels, an action camera can create epic video & photos of the experience.

GoPro Hero 6 ($ 500)

GoPro Hero 6 Travel Camera

GoPro Hero 6

The GoPro Hero 6 is GoPro’s best camera yet, with improved video stabilization, color, and 60p slow-motion 4k footage. It’s waterproof case and touch-screen will handle any adventures you dream up. A must-have for adventure addicts like me!

Check Price For GoPro 6 Here

GoPro Hero Session ($ 200)

GoPro Session Travel Camera

GoPro Session

The GoPro Session is GoPro’s smaller & cheaper model. Without a screen, this tiny cube can fit just about anywhere — you’ll barely notice it. If you aren’t an action sports junkie, this will do for most people. Connect to the GoPro App on your smartphone to frame your shots.

Check Price For GoPro Session Here

Travel Photos from Hawaii

Best Mirrorless Travel Cameras

Mirrorless Cameras

Larger than a point & shoot, but smaller than a DSLR, mirrorless digital cameras are all the rage right now. Even professional photographers are starting to switch over due to their small size and ability to produce high-quality images.

I use a mirrorless camera as my main travel camera. They offer more features than a point & shoot, like the ability to use interchangeable lenses, and a larger sensor with better low-light capability and detail.

Sony A7 Series ($ 1300 – $ 3200)

Sony A7 Travel Camera

Sony A7ii

The Sony A7 II is one of the best travel cameras money can buy. Sony is on the cutting edge of camera technology lately, and other brands are having trouble keeping up. There are a few different models available.

The Sony A7S II is geared towards videographers, with extremely good low-light capabilities and 4k video. The Sony A7R III is geared for professional photographers who want super-fast focusing and a giant full-frame sensor.

Highlights

  • Full Frame Sensor
  • Internal Stabilization
  • 4k Video (A7S & A7R only)
  • High Dynamic Range
  • Weather-sealed Body

Issues:

  • Lacks swivel screen for vlogging
  • No built-in flash

Check Price For Sony A7ii Here

Fujifilm X‑T2 ($ 1500)

Fujifilm X‑T2 Travel Camera

Fujifilm X‑T2

The Fuji X-T2 is a popular competitor to the Sony A7 mirrorless camera. I’ve used it before, and the Fuji is very well-made! My favorite part about it is the rugged all-metal dials that control this camera’s settings. However it has a smaller APS-C crop sensor rather than being Full Frame.

Highlights

  • APS-C Sensor
  • 4k Video
  • Weather-sealed Body

Issues:

  • Lacks swivel screen for vlogging
  • No built-in flash

Check Price For Fuji X-T2 Here

Sony A6500 ($ 1200)

Sony A6500 Travel Camera

Sony A6500

The Sony A6500 is an even smaller version of Sony’s awesome A7 mirrorless camera. The big difference is a slightly smaller APS-C cropped sensor, and less weatherproofing to protect against rain.

The A6500 also shoots 4k video, shoots faster photos than the A7, and has a touch-screen. For a more budget friendly version, the older Sony A6000 is almost just as capable, for almost $ 700 hundred dollars less!

Check Price For Sony A6500 Here

DSLR Cameras

Digital SLR Cameras (DSLR) wouldn’t be my first choice for a travel camera. Because these cameras use a physical mirror instead of an electronic viewfinder, the body is larger than on a mirrorless camera.

Personally I think most people would be better off with a mirrorless camera system these days. Especially if you’re trying to minimize the weight and size of your travel gear.

Nikon D3400 ($ 400)

Nikon D3400 Travel Camera

Nikon D3400

Check Price For Nikon D3400 Here

Canon 80D ($ 1000)

Canon 80D Travel Camera

Canon 80D

Check Price For Canon 80D Here

Using Your Smartphone

Can you use your smartphone for travel photography? Of course you can! You’ll sacrifice a bit of quality due to the super small camera sensor in phones, but if you’re only publishing to the web, most people won’t notice.

Another downside is lack of a physical zoom feature (digital zooming doesn’t produce great results).

Some smartphones can even shoot in RAW format these days though. I travel with an iPhone 7+, but the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2 also take amazing photos & video. Smartphones are also great backup cameras too.

What About Camera Lenses?

You honestly don’t need a million different camera lenses. When I first started, I only used a single general-purpose lens while I was learning.

If you have money to burn, then get two: a wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom.

These two lenses will allow you to capture a mix of landscapes, portraits, and wildlife from a distance. However lugging around multiple lenses and changing them back & forth can be annoying if you’re new to photography.

To keep things easy, I’d recommend only one lens at first. Something with a decent focal range, around 18mm – 55mm or 28mm – 70mm.

When looking at a lens aperture, the lower the number, the better it will be in low light. F2.8 or F4 should cover you for most situations. If you want to shoot star photography, go with F2.8 or lower.

Hawaii from the Air

Flying my DJI Mavic Over Hawaii

Drones For Travel Photography

Drones are incredible tools for capturing images & video in a totally different perspective. But this probably isn’t the most important travel camera for the average person.

Many places have restrictions on flying personal drones, for example US National Parks, and even entire countries. So you need to do your research to avoid heavy fines or confiscation.

If you REALLY want a drone, I’d recommend the DJI Spark for beginners. It’s tiny, pretty affordable, and very easy to use.

If you eventually want to make money from your drone photography, and have a larger budget, than you’ll completely fall in love with the more professional DJI Mavic Pro. You can see my review video here.

Travel Photography Camera Gear

All My Camera Gear

What Travel Cameras Do I Use?

I actually travel with 4-5 different cameras on my adventures around the world. This is a bit overkill for most people.

However travel photography is how I make my living, so I invest in gear to help me accomplish my job. When I first started 7 years ago, all I used was a Canon 7D and a GoPro Hero.

The camera backpack I use is called a LowePro Whistler 350. It’s got room for a 15″ laptop, jacket, and incredibly fits all 5 travel cameras, lenses & some accessories if I need it to — great as an airplane carry-on.

Travel Photography Tips

I want to let you in on a little travel photography secret. Even if you have a top-of-the-line $ 10,000 camera, your photos aren’t going to be spectacular if you don’t know how to use it.

And I don’t mean pressing the shutter — I mean:

  • Learning how to shoot in manual mode
  • How to expose images properly
  • Adjusting your white balance
  • Framing shots for maximum impact
  • Paying attention to light
  • Post-processing your images with software

You don’t become a good photographer because you have a nice camera, your photography improves over time through practice, patience, and skills you learn from others.

So sure, invest in a new travel camera if you think you need it, but remember to invest money & time into learning new photography skills if you really want to create those jealousy-inducing images for your Instagram feed!

Here are some of my favorite beginner travel photography tips.

Travel Camera Giveaway

Who Wants to Win a GoPro?

Free GoPro Session Giveaway!

If you don’t have a GoPro action camera yet, but want one, here’s your chance to win a GoPro to use on your next travel adventure!

I’m giving one lucky reader their very own GoPro Hero Session 5 (along with some accessories).

I love my GoPro, and travel with it everywhere. It’s great for capturing water sports, hiking trips, epic selfies, and hands-free video from my travel adventures around the world.

I’ve been traveling with a GoPro of some kind for the last 7 years!

Here’s an article I wrote about my favorite GoPro accessories for travel, along with examples of how you can use it to capture amazing footage.

OFFICIAL RULES

ELIGIBILITY: Ages 18+
Promotion is open and offered to residents of any country. However the winner will be responsible for their own country’s customs fees.

CHOOSING A WINNER:
A winner will be selected at random from the list of entries, and notified by email on December 3rd. If the winner does not respond within one week, an alternate winner will be chosen at random.

PRIZE:
The winner will receive (1) GoPro Hero Session, (1) GoPro Backpack, and (1) GoPro Selfie Stick. Prize value worth $ 450. Prizes are shipped to winner’s chosen address. Local customs fees are not included in the prize.

TERMS & CONDITIONS: Click Here For Details

How To Enter Contest

Enter your name and email address below and follow the instructions.

You’ll have the option to earn extra contest entries (and more chances to win!) by completing certain tasks.

Good luck, and I look forward to congratulating the winner! ★

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How To Choose The Best Travel Camera. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about travel cameras? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Why I Quit Being A Digital Nomad (And Moved Back To The US)

Travel Tips for Cuba

I’m No Longer A Digital Nomad

Personal Stories

Last week I spent all day packing up a small U-haul trailer with my belongings, preparing to move to Los Angeles, California. It felt a bit surreal after 7 years living as a digital nomad.

A bed. A couch. A TV. A desk. Cat toys. A cat (no, he’s not going in the U-haul). Pulling it all behind a new Jeep. I haven’t owned this much stuff in years!

What the hell happened? When did I stop being a full-time vagabond, traveling the world while living out of a backpack?

Well, it’s a long story. And it’s about time I shared it with you.

Backpacking in Mexico

2010: My First Backpacking Trip in Mexico

Becoming A Digital Nomad

So if you’ve been following my journey for a while, you’ll know that back in 2010 I decided to save some money, quit my job, sold most of my belongings, and started backpacking around the world, blogging about it as I went.

It was a super scary decision at the time, and I had no idea what the future would bring. My guess was that I’d travel for a year, run out of money, then move back to the US and get a “real” job again.

What actually happened? I managed to build a successful business from my travel blog, and continued to travel almost non-stop for the next 7 years.

Working as a digital nomad from my computer anywhere there was a wifi connection. It was a relatively new kind of lifestyle at the time, and everyone thought I was crazy for attempting it.

During those 7 years without a home, I visited over 50 countries. I lived for months at a time in places like Thailand, Mexico, Turkey, Spain, Nicaragua, and South Africa.

Everything I owned fit into a pair of backpacks — I was completely nomadic. Working for myself. An expert vagabond (hence the name).

I was living the digital nomad dream!

But then my dreams began to change. As they often do over time.

Digital Nomad Burnout

The Downsides of Nomadic Living

Digital Nomad Burnout

I started noticing a change after about 5 years into my fully nomadic lifestyle. Constantly moving from place to place came with it’s own set of problems that became increasingly annoying as the years went by.

Traveling around the world and making money online sounds incredible, I know. And it is in many ways! I’m not complaining. This lifestyle has been very good to me.

However there are also downsides to being a digital nomad.

THIS LIFESTYLE IS EXHAUSTING

Many digital nomads hang out in a country or city for a few weeks before moving on to the next. But you can’t earn money if you’re not working, so now you’re trying to cram work & vacation into a short period of time.

Just when you get into a comfortable routine, it’s time to move and start all over again. Packing up, navigating your way around a new city, a new culture, and all the challenges that go along with those things. It gets tiring!

THIS LIFESTYLE IS LONELY

Yes, you get to meet all kinds of cool people around the world when you’re constantly traveling. But because everyone is always coming or going, it’s tough to form a meaningful connection with anyone.

I missed having a regular group of friends to hang out with. I missed being so far away from family. And unless you plan to date fellow digital nomads, relationships are complicated when only one of you can travel freely.

THIS LIFESTYLE IS UNPRODUCTIVE

Well, I should say less productive than it could be. Sure I managed to build a business while traveling, but it wasn’t easy, and I think I could have grown faster if I worked from a home-base instead of hostels & coffee shops.

Trying to juggle a normal work routine when you’re also trying to figure out where to sleep next week just isn’t ideal. Often, I never wrote much about the places I was living because I was too busy catching up with work after months of traveling.

Nothing Is Perfect

Basically, there is no perfect way to live. By becoming a digital nomad, you simply trade one set of problems for a completely different kind.

“Instead of an addiction to status and possessions, we are addicted to experience and novelty. And the end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what’s real, sometimes suffer.” ~ Mark Manson

Maybe, like me, you won’t be bothered by these things for a few years — it was still far more exciting than my previous life in the rat race! But eventually the problems amplify over time… and you’ll have a choice to make.

Los Angeles Skyline

View of Los Angeles, California

Moving Back To America

As the negatives piled up, I began renting apartments for 3 months at a time. Eventually I signed a year-long lease in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I was slowing down, taking trips that lasted 1-3 weeks, and enjoying them more.

It was nice having a base, a place to call “home” for a while.

However as much as I loved living in Mexico, I soon felt an urge to return to the United States. To spend more time with family & friends. To pursue more lucrative business opportunities there.

And, to participate more fully in my own country’s democratic process, no longer content watching from the sidelines as the United States seemed to spiral into a depressing (dangerous?) abyss of ignorance & hate.

But where to go? Moving from Mexico with my girlfriend Anna, we decided to try Boulder, Colorado for the summer. We’ve been living there with our new cat Poofy (yes, he’s on Instagram!) for the past 5 months.

Boulder was pretty, but not exactly what we were looking for. It was kinda small, very homogeneous, and full of families & students. With our unconventional lifestyles, we felt a bit out of place there.

So now we’re off to California to give Los Angeles a try.

Our Wedding Photo

Marriage: Our Next Adventure!

Plus We Got Married!

Surprise! It’s been a busy year. I first met Anna in 2015 at a travel blogging conference called TBEX in Florida, where travel personalities and companies come together to network.

She’s in the same line of work as I am, running a popular travel/fashion blog and Instagram account.

We hit it off right away, with a common love of travel, cats, and working online. The city girl and the adventure guy, both taking risks & working hard to pursue our dreams.

Anna is a remarkable woman. Originally from Poland, she’s been traveling the world for longer than I have. She holds degrees in International Law, Journalism, and Fashion Marketing from multiple universities (including Harvard). She’s fluent in 5 languages, and has lived in places like Mexico City, Cape Town, London, Miami, and LA.

Soon after we met in Florida, Anna came down to Mexico, where we began dating. Eventually we moved in together, using Mexico as a base to travel from. It was one of the happiest periods of my life, and I fell in love.

After a year and a half of dating, living, working, and traveling together, I proposed early one morning at a remote mountain cabin in Colorado. We eloped in Las Vegas a few weeks later at the famous Graceland Chapel!

It was spontaneous, non-traditional, and fun, just like our lives up to this point.

Vagabonding in Afghanistan

Hiking in Afghanistan

Are You Giving Up Vagabonding?

Yes and no. Yes, I’m giving up on the pipe-dream of constantly moving from place to place, living out of a bag for the rest of my life. What initially sounded romantic, adventurous, and free has become a burden over time.

My goal for this wild experiment has always been to experience as much of our large & diverse world as possible NOW, while I’m relatively young. Not stuck behind a desk working to make someone else rich.

Sharing my travel experiences to help and inspire others, while earning a living on my own terms.

The freedom to do as I please. No approval needed. No bosses to report to. Following my passion and making a living through adventure travel & photography.

Well, I’ve achieved these goals. I am completely location independent. I work for myself, setting my own hours, traveling when and where I want to. I’ve also been fortunate to make a great living doing what I love.

Am I just getting older and feeling a need to slow down? I’m 36 now. Have I simply become financially independent enough that I’m no longer forced to live in cheap backpacker destinations in order to get by?

I think these may have been factors in my decision too.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chilling In Morocco

Choosing Location Independence

I wouldn’t trade the last 7 years of my life working as a traveling digital nomad for anything else. It’s been a wild ride, and the experience has taught me so much about myself and the world in general.

However I now realize that I prefer location independence over fully nomadic living. Because there’s a difference.

Location independence simply means you are free to choose where you live, not stuck living somewhere you hate because of a particular job. Being a digital nomad means you’re always traveling, with no real home.

We spent the summer in Colorado. We’re planning to spend 2018 in Los Angeles. Maybe after that, we’ll decide to move somewhere else. Italy? Spain? Iceland? Kansas?

With location independence, all our options are open!

The important part, is the freedom to choose my location, and the ability to update that choice at any time.

For those of you who are interested in becoming digital nomads, I don’t want to completely discourage you. The lifestyle does have plenty of benefits, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t give it a shot.

However after 7 years living as a homeless digital nomad, I personally no longer think it’s sustainable (or healthy) on a long-term basis.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way either — it seems to be a common choice for many after a few years on the road:

Valley of Fire Highway

Life Is A Highway, And I Wanna Ride It

What’s Next?

Honestly, not much is changing. I’m still planning to travel a ton, about 6 months every year. The only difference is now I have a wife, a home, and a cat to come back to once my trips are over!

Sometimes Anna & I will travel together, sometimes I’ll be on my own. I’ll continue sharing my wild travel adventures with you from around the world through blog posts, YouTube videos, and travel photography.

Having a home-base simply means I’ll be more productive, creating useful travel guides, sharing fun travel stories, and teaching tips & tricks I’ve learned after 7 years working as a professional travel blogger & photographer.

To kick off the change, next spring I’m co-leading my first adventure travel & photography tour in a remote part of Russia (click here for details)!

After moving to Los Angeles this week, Anna & I are researching the possibility of TV and media appearances while continuing to build our businesses here in the United States.

Having LAX airport as our travel hub will keep flight costs low, allowing us both to travel often. We have friends here, and more pass through all the time.

There is a wide variety of epic coastline, mountains, deserts, canyons, and forests within a day’s driving distance from the city if I want to get outside into nature for a while.

I know some readers may be disappointed in this change. Those of you who romanticize living on the road out of a backpack. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off publishing this blog post for so long… I was scared.

I built my brand as a vagabond, what happens once I have a home again?

Unfortunately there’s not much I can do about what other people think. I’ve lived as a vagabond for years, and don’t regret my choice, but my passion for constantly moving began to fade.

When you stop loving something completely, it’s time for a change.

I don’t spend my life trying to make everyone else happy with my choices, if I did that, I’d never be where I am now.

So onwards! To the next chapter of my life — I hope you’ll continue to follow along on my future travel adventures, wherever they may lead. ★

Have any questions about the digital nomad lifestyle? Could you live this way? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

15 Awesome Things To Do In Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula Things To Do

Mexico’s Amazing Yucatan Peninsula

Mexico

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a vast coastal region brimming with tropical beaches, spectacular wildlife, ancient Mayan ruins, small colonial towns, and plenty of outdoor adventures.

The Yucatan Peninsula is a place of emerald waters turning to turquoise waves crashing on perfectly white coral-sand beaches.

It’s a place of lush green forests dotted with Mayan ruins, cool shades of colonial-era architecture, and sea-life ablaze with color – all under Caribbean blue skies.

Many people shorten “Yucatan Peninsula” to “Yucatan”. That’s actually misleading, since the peninsula itself is made up of four different states: Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Tabasco.

The peninsula separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, and everything tropical you associate with the word “Caribbean” is on full display along its shorelines. It’s one of my favorite parts of Mexico!

Understandably, the Yucatan is an increasingly popular place to take a vacation, with cheap & easy flights from many major cities to Mexico’s notorious party town of Cancun.

But there is sooooo much more to the Yucatan Peninsula than Cancun!

Best Of The Yucatan Peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula Chichen Itza

Mayan Ruins Of Chichen Itza

1: Explore Chichen Itza

This UNESCO world heritage site is a centerpiece of the Mayan archaeological scene in Mexico, and gets around 1.4 million visitors a year — the region’s most popular ruins.

For over a thousand years this was one of the great cities of Central America – located here because of proximity to deep cenotes that gave access to fresh water. The modern site covers 5 square kilometers of exposed archaeology and impressive above-ground stone buildings, surrounded by dense forest.

You’ve probably seen pictures of the temple of Kukulcan – also known as El Castillo – because it’s breathtakingly photogenic. However, a century’s worth of excavations means the rest of Chichen Itza is equally cool.

Las Coloradas in the Yucatan Peninsula

Amazing Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas

2: Visit Las Coloradas

In a corner of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, about 3 hours from Cancun, you’ll find a magical place where sea water turns bright pink on an epic scale.

It’s all down to salt production. The Las Coloradas pink lakes are used for industrial-scale sea-salt production. As the water evaporates, salinity causes an explosion in the growth of red algae, plankton and brine shrimp, tinting the water reddish-pink.

You can visit the lakes (and small town by the same name) if you have a car, and walk along their shores taking surreal photos of the pink water. It’s a really weird sight – and, curiously, the reason why flamingos are pink!

You may even spot some flamingos hanging out in the area too. Las Coloradas has become Instagram famous recently, and it’s no longer possible to get into the water, but you can still take photos.

Akumal Beach Snorkeling

Snorkeling with Turtles at Akumal

3: Snorkel With Sea Turtles

Who doesn’t want to swim with sea turtles? Well you can at Akumal beach, just 30 minutes South of Playa del Carmen. This shallow blue-green water is home to 3 different kinds of sea turtles that you can swim with.

For years you could simply swim with the turtles at Akumal on your own, bringing your own snorkeling gear. However to help preserve the area, they’ve implemented some new rules in 2017.

A lifejacket is required (which you can rent along with snorkel gear), and lifeguards patrol the water on paddle boards. Organized sea turtle snorkeling tours are also offered by locals.

Hammocks in Merida

Traditional Mexican Hammocks

4: Buy A Hammock In Merida

The capital city of Yucatan state has colonial history is written into the architecture of most of the buildings in the beautiful, pedestrian-friendly city centre, and liberal use of white limestone has given Merida the nickname “the white city”.

It’s a cosmopolitan place, meaning there are plenty of tourists – but broad streets and high rooftops never make it feel crowded or heavily populated. It’s a great place to base yourself for exploring the rest of the peninsula.

There are some great Maya ruins located nearby, like the site at Uxmal. Along with huge flocks of pink flamingos just 2 hours away at Celestun Biosphere.

Merida is also a perfect place to pick up a locally made Mexican hammock. Hammock weaving in the Yucatan Peninsula is a 700 year old tradition, producing some of the most beautiful hammocks in the world.

Whale Sharks in Mexico's Yucatan

Swimming with Whale Sharks

5: Whale Sharks At Isla Holbox

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, growing up to 40 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. And, you can swim with them! However you don’t have to worry about them eating you, as they prefer plankton.

Swimming next to a 30 foot long sea creature, the size of a bus, was a wild experience. It’s a bit intimidating to be honest… they’re huge!

Whale shark snorkeling trips can be organized from Cancun, but if you want a real adventure, I recommend doing it from Isla Holbox, a small sleepy island paradise off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Izamal Mexico

Yellow Buildings in Izamal

6: Izamal The Yellow Town

Welcome to another city obsessed with a primary color! Almost every major expanse of wall and building facade was painted a deep golden yellow for a special visit from Pope John Paul II in 1993, and they just never changed it.

Izamal is built on a series of hills that once housed Mayan pyramids (and much of the town still speaks the Mayan language). There is still one big pyramid overlooking the town that you can actually climb.

Like Merida, the Izamal is designed to be walkable (be sure to check out the enormous yellow-painted Franciscan monastery in the historic center) – but you can also get around by hiring horse-drawn carriages.

Yucatan Peninsula Cenotes

Dzitnup Cenote Outside Valladolid

7: Swimming In Cenotes

What’s a cenote you ask? It’s an underground cave filled with fresh water. The Yucatan Peninsula has tons of them — sinkholes that open up into underground rivers with the clearest water you’ve ever seen.

Cenotes are the perfect way to cool off on a hot day, Mexico’s natural swimming holes created when the limestone bedrock caved in to reveal underground rivers below.

There are around 2000 different cenotes across the Yucatan. I’ve visited many of them, but some of my favorites are Dzitnip, Azul, Dos Ojos, and La Noria.

For the more adventurous, scuba divers can also explore these underwater caves if you’re a certified PADI diver. The Yucatan is one of the world’s premier cave-diving destinations.

Valladolid Yucatan Mexico

San Gervasio Church in Valladolid

8: Mayan Food In Valladolid

Not to be confused with its Spanish counterpart, this sleepy colonial city is also built on top of an ancient Mayan settlement. The centra plaza is full of classic Spanish-looking buildings, museums, and many wonderfully tasty traditional Maya restaurants and food stalls!

Valladolid is another good base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula with affordable accommodation, close proximity to Chichen Itza (only 45 minutes away), and a bunch of different freshwater cenotes nearby.

The Yucatecan food here is awesome, and I highly recommend you try some traditional favorites like Cochinita Pibil (pulled pork) and Relleno Negro De Pavo (black turkey soup).

Nightlife in the Yucatan Peninsula

Crazy Cancun Nightlife

9: Party In Cancún!

A rough translation of the word Cancun in Mayan is “pot of snakes” – and this accurately describes how you might feel about this riotous city of hotels, bars and every kind of party you can dream up.

Cancun does have a lot going for it though. You can swim with whale sharks, rent jet skis, relax on the beach, take a scuba diving course, race Lamborghinis, or sail around at sunset with a drink in your hand.

Plus, of course, the awesome nightlife you’ll find there.

Most people visit Cancun for the all-inclusive resorts and late night debauchery, but if you skip the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula, you’re totally missing the best stuff in my opinion!

Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan

5th Ave in Playa del Carmen

10: Walk La Quinta Avenida

When it comes to Playa del Carmen, aka “Playa”, I’m a little biased – I spent over a year living and working here. It’s one of the major tourist spots along the Riviera Maya, an impressive stretch of coastline from Cancun to Tulum.

Despite its popularity, the town is a lot less party-oriented than its neighbors, and the nightlife isn’t as crazy. It’s also pedestrian-friendly and laid out in a grid, making exploring on foot an absolute breeze.

Playa del Carmen’s highlight is a walking-street called La Quinta Avenida, lined with all manner of shops, beach bars, and restaurants. For more details on what you can do in Playa del Carmen, check out my dedicated blog post.

Scuba Diving the Yucatan Peninsula

Scuba Diving in Cozumel

11: Scuba Diving Around Cozumel

A short ferry ride away from Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel runs at a completely different pace of life. This low limestone island is lined with scenic rocky beaches and jungle.

It’s also on the cruise ship route, as clearly seen from the amount of gift shops near the docks at San Miguel, home to most of the island’s population – but get away from town and the island’s rich emptiness reveals itself.

Unsurprisingly, Cozumel is a premier destination for scuba diving & snorkeling, catering to all skill levels.

One of my favorite things to do is just rent a car or moped and drive around the island, stopping at pretty beaches and fun bars along the way (careful not to drink too much!).

Tulum Coastline

Tulum’s Beautiful Beaches

12: Sunbathing & Yoga In Tulum

Tulum has the best beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula. The area originally served as a major port for the nearby Mayan jungle city of Cobá – but these days it’s full of hippies, backpackers, and celebrities looking to unwind.

Strictly speaking, there are three “Tulums.” There’s the pueblo (local town) where you can find affordable places to eat and sleep. The Tulum Archaeological Site features Mayan ruins perched on the edge of a sea cliff.

Lastly, Tulum’s playa is the stretch of coastline where you’ll find fancy resorts, vegan restaurants, health spas, and yoga studios. Rent a beach cruiser bicycle and check out all of Tulum’s great beaches!

Tulum has ample scuba diving, snorkeling, kite surfing, yoga, and cenote opportunities. You can also head a little out of town into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve for awesome mangrove & wildlife tours.

Exploring Lake Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon

13: Kayaking Bacalar Lagoon

It’s hard to imagine this sedate lakeside town being overrun by pirates – but that’s the history in these parts. A lack of defensive power in the 17th Century saw the arrival of Caribbean pirates, using natural waterways from the sea to aid their plundering.

Today it’s a quiet, relaxing place of 12,000 souls, well-preserved fishermen’s houses – and lots of boats. If you come to Bacalar and don’t rent a kayak for the day, you’re missing all the fun!

Paddling across the glowing blue waters of the Lagoon of Seven Colors, you’ll notice how it gets its name from the effect of different depths and contrasting ground soils upon sunlight, giving the lagoon a multi-hued appearance.

Rio Secreto Theme Park

Exploring Caves at Rio Secreto

14: Mexico’s Adventure Theme Parks

Throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, especially along the Riviera Maya, you’ll find a series of outdoor adventure theme parks built to take advantage of the natural landscape.

Some of the post popular ones are Xcaret, Xel Ha, Xplor and Rio Secreto. They’re like organized adventures that will take you zip-lining through the trees, swimming in caves, driving ATVs, or snorkeling with colorful fish.

A great way for families to spend a day in Mexico, but adults will have a good time at these theme parks too. I think my favorite was Rio Secreto, because it feels a little more authentic and less touristy.

Calakmul Ruins

Maya Ruins of Calakmul

15: Calakmul Mayan Ruins

Calakmul is an ancient Mayan city located deep within the jungle in Campeche state near the border with Guatemala. Not many people make it out this way due to it’s remote location.

Surrounded by the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, it’s extremely remote, and a true adventure for those looking to get off the beaten tourist trail in the Yucatan Peninsula. You’re likely to see only a handful of other visitors.

Among the many interesting structures found at this archeological site are two gigantic pyramids — with the largest one reaching 55 meters high (165 feet). It’s the 2nd highest pyramid in Mexico, and you can still climb it!

Is The Yucatan Safe?

Despite Mexico’s troubled history with cartel violence, local governments in the Yucatan Peninsula have worked hard to keep their major tourist attractions crime-free.

It’s significantly safer for visitors than other parts of Mexico, making it a popular vacation destination for Mexicans as well as foreigners.

Petty crime and common travel scams can be an issue in more touristy towns like Cancun & Playa del Carmen, but the more serious drug cartel type violence usually doesn’t target tourists.

Yucatan Peninsula Transportation

Renting a Buggy on Cozumel

Transport Around The Yucatan

If your budget can stretch to it, usually recommending renting a car – it’ll give you the freedom you want, and allow you to get to attractions early in the morning, before the crowds turn up and midday heat sets in.

Otherwise, you’ll be pretty well served by the ADO bus network – apart from when you’re in the more out-the-way places. Note that you can’t buy bus tickets online – the only way is to purchase them at local bus terminals.

You can also hunt down local colectivos, shared transportation, where you’ll be squeezing into cars with local (this isn’t a great option if you have a lot of luggage).

Best Time To Visit

If you’re from a relatively chilly part of the United States or Europe, plan to visit Yucatan between the end of October and the beginning of April. It’s when the skies are clearest and the temperature is most bearable.

Busy season in the Yucatan Peninsula starts in December and goes on through March. Basically when all the snow-birds from the US and Canada fly down to escape the winter snow. ★

Traveling To Mexico Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Have any questions about the Yucatan Peninsula? Are you planning a visit? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

17 Best Travel Books To Fuel Your Wanderlust (Plus A Kindle Giveaway!)

Best Travel Books of All Time

What are the Best Travel Books?

Travel Inspiration

These are some of the best travel books ever (in my opinion). If you’re looking for travel inspiration, you can’t go wrong with this wonderful collection of travel stories & helpful guides.

I’ve been traveling the world for 7 years now, and it all started after I was inspired by reading some incredible travel books.

Some of my favorite travel books are based on other people’s travel adventures, while travel how-to guides taught me that international travel is accessible to everyone, not just wealthy & retired people.

So here is my personal list of the best travel books of all time.

I’ve split the list up into two sections. My favorite travel stories/novels, and the most useful books about how to travel the world.

Once I’ve finished reading any of these books, I feel the instant urge to pack my bag and head out to explore the world somewhere new!

Well written travel books like these have helped inspire my own personal travel goals over the years — and will continue to do so.

So if you’re looking for some motivation to head out on a travel adventure of your own, make yourself comfortable and read a couple of my favorites listed here. They are sure to inspire wanderlust in everyone who reads them…

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ Saint Augustine

My Favorite Travel Books (2017)

Best Travel Stories & Novels

Best Travel Books: Travels With A Donkey

Travels With A Donkey In The Cévennes

By Robert Louis Stevenson

Travels With A Donkey In The Cévennes is one of the first travel books I ever read. It takes you on a walking journey with Robert and his donkey Mosestine across a mountainous region of France.

You get to feel what traveling through 1870’s Europe was like, including the landscape, religion, and the people. Robert & his donkey don’t get along at first, but through trial and error they learn to become travel companions.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: Shantaram

Shantaram

By Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram is set in the underworld of contemporary India, where an escaped convict from Australia named Lin is hiding out. He searches for love while running a clinic in one of the city’s poorest slums and simultaneously working for the Bombay mafia.

It’s one of the best written novels I’ve read, and sucks you right into an amazing story full of love, beauty, betrayal, brutality, and compassion. The book has been criticized for being more fiction than fact, however I still highly recommend it as a great travel book. It’s incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking either way.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: World Walk

World Walk

By Steven Newman

World Walk is the story of newspaper writer Steven Newman who at the age of 28 packed his bag to start a 4 year long journey around the world on foot. He walked his way across 22 countries in 5 continents.

He shares heartfelt stories of the people he meets along the way, as well as wild adventures including arrests, wars, blizzards, wild animal attacks, wildfires, and more. A lesson of hope and love told through the exciting adventures of independent budget backpacking.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: On The Road

On The Road

By Jack Kerouac

On The Road is a classic American travel book. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac himself) & Dean Moriarty’s cross-country hitchhiking and train-hopping journey across rural America in the 1940’s.

Written in a rambling diary style, and a bit hard to follow at times, Kerouac takes to the road looking for adventure, sex, drugs, and mischief. A great read for those who would like to escape the real world for a while and just go where the wind blows them.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: The Alchemist

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is an international best-seller that tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of treasure. However on his adventurous quest, he finds himself instead.

This is a powerful book that inspires courage & chasing your dreams. It teaches important life lessons using entertaining stories. It helped me overcome my own fears about what to do with my life, as well as millions of other readers around the world.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: In A Sunburned Country

In A Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson

In A Sunburned Country follows Bill’s hilarious journey through the sunbaked deserts and endless coastlines of Australia, trying not to get killed by the deadly wildlife. It’s full of fun & interesting facts about the country.

It’s not your typical guidebook to Australia, but a must-read if you plan on traveling there. He really gives you a sense of the place, its quirks, and the people using some very entertaining storytelling and history.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: Marching Powder

Marching Powder

By Rusty Young

Marching Powder is the true story of a British drug dealer’s five years inside a very strange Bolivian prison, where whole families live with inmates in luxury apartments and cocaine is manufactured.

When you spend time backpacking around the world, you sometimes find yourself in ridiculous situations no one back home would believe. This is one of those crazy stories — and one of my favorite reasons to travel.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: The Cat Who Went To Paris

The Cat Who Went To Paris

By Peter Gethers

For the wary soul who needs a bit of extra convincing of the life-changing wonders that await abroad, there’s perhaps no better resource than The Cat Who Went To Paris. Peter Gethers’ global journeys with a cat named Norton puts a dose of adorable humor into many common travel situations.

Norton accompanies Gethers on filmmaking trips and helps convince the love of his life that he is the one. After years of adventuring the three settle in New York, Norton being one of the city’s most well-traveled felines.

Buy The Book Here

Love With A Chance Of Drowning is the travel memoir of Torre, who reluctantly leaves her corporate lifestyle for to live on a sailboat with a man she just met, and their adventure across the South Pacific together.

Along with all the challenges and wonder they experience on the trip, the book takes you on a beautiful, romantic and deeply personal journey of self discovery. It’s very entertaining and funny, I couldn’t put it down. Chasing dreams is always scary, but usually worth it.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: Dark Star Safari

Dark Star Safari

By Paul Theroux

Theroux earned his reputation as one of the all-time great travelogue writers because he lives every word that he writes. Dark Star Safari takes readers through his voyage from the top of Africa to the bottom.

He often finds himself at the bottom of his own barrel and unsure of what will happen next. It’s an honest account by a writer that is as ‘working class’ as travel writers come. Overall, an honest if not always refreshing take on overland travel in Africa.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel How-To Guides

Ok now that we’ve got some of my favorite travel novels out of the way, I also wanted to include some more useful travel books in the list too. Books to help you travel cheaper, better, or show you how to travel more!

Best Travel Books: Vagabonding

Vagabonding

By Rolf Potts

Vagabonding is what encouraged me to put my real life on hold to backpack around the world for a bit. This book is essentially about the process behind taking time off from your regular life to discover and experience the world on your own terms.

It won’t tell you exactly how to do it, but gives you ideas and confidence to figure it out for yourself. Many long-term travelers have been inspired by what Rolf talks about, including Tim Ferriss. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to travel more, but thinks they don’t have enough money or time.

Buy The Book Here

Coming from a fellow travel blogger, I’ve got to give Kepnes (also known as Nomadic Matt) props for his New York Times bestselling book How To Travel The World On $ 50 A Day. Matt knows what he’s talking about, and it shows as much in this book as it does on his blog.

He goes into detail on how he’s stayed on the move for so long on a shoestring budget, with tips and tricks coming to life through relatable stories. Also seeping through the pages is a heavy dose of modesty, a necessity when venturing off the beaten path abroad.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: Travel As Transportation

Travel As Transformation

By Gregory V. Diehl

Travel As Transformation takes you on Diehl’s journey from living in a van in San Diego, growing chocolate with indigenous tribes in Central America, teaching in the Middle East and volunteering in Africa.

Through these stories, it shows you how profoundly travel can influence your perception of yourself. Diehl has spent the best part of 10 years exploring the world in countries many Westerners couldn’t even place on a map. The journey helps him find who he really is and what freedom means.

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: Microadventures

Microadventures

By Alastair Humphreys

Microadventures is an uplifting and original concept evolved out of the travel blogosphere and into a catchy book. Instead of pushing his readers to drop everything and hit the road full-time, Humphreys champions the weekend warrior and after-work types with this one.

Among other things, Humphrey’s excursions in his native UK are featured prominently along with tricks of the trade for quick adventure travel. After all, some of the best explorations can happen on your own side of the planet. No need to travel far!

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: How NOT To Travel The World

How NOT To Travel The World

By Lauren Juliff

In How NOT To Travel The World Lauren expertly conveys the fears of a first-time solo traveler who, prior to hitting the road, as she lived a rather sheltered life. The overarching theme is conquering fear and living your dream.

She does a solid job of discussing the emotional steps involved in her process too. I don’t know how Lauren gets into so many crazy situations on her travels, but they make for a very entertaining read!

Buy The Book Here

Best Travel Books: Food Traveler's Handbook

Food Traveler’s Handbook

By Jodi Ettenberg

The Food Traveler’s Handbook is an extension of Jodi Ettenberg’s excellent travel blog Legal Nomads, a go-to for all things street food (and eating while traveling in general). So it’s no wonder she’s got a top book on the subject.

Any who are gluten sensitive or have other dietary restrictions can finally rest easy as she breaks down where to go and what to avoid if you want to eat well while traveling.

Other volumes of The Traveler’s Handbook series are equally as helpful:

Buy The Book Here

The thought that exotic travel has to break the bank is an assumption as sad as it is untrue, and Leffel proves it in The World’s Cheapest Destinations. Active storytelling and honest facts on not only where to go but how to travel once you get there are the driving factor here.

The key takeaway from this book is that proper research and planning, along with a willingness to see a culture for what it really is, can save you a fortune. Oh, and don’t hesitate to bargain – just be respectful when you do so.

Buy The Book Here

Free Kindle Giveaway!

If you don’t have an Amazon Kindle yet, but want one, here’s your chance to win a free Kindle to use on your next travel adventure!

I’m giving one lucky reader their very own Kindle Paperwhite.

I love my Kindle, and travel with it everywhere. My whole reading library fits on something that weighs less than a single book! It’s really pretty amazing technology.

I didn’t think I’d ever get used to reading on a digital device either.

But with incredibly long battery life, ease of use, one-click book buying, and the ability to read in bright sunlight, it’s become one of my favorite pieces of travel gear. Sooo handy on long airplane or bus rides!

OFFICIAL RULES

ELIGIBILITY: Ages 18+
Promotion is open and offered to residents of any country. However the winner will be responsible for their own country’s customs fees.

CHOOSING A WINNER:
A winner will be selected at random from the list of entries, and notified by email. If the winner does not respond within one week, an alternate winner will be chosen at random.

PRIZE:
The winner will receive (1) Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-reader shipped to their chosen address. Local customs fees are not included in the prize.

How To Enter Contest

Log into the Gleam widget below with Facebook or your email address and follow the instructions. The first 2 steps are mandatory, but the others will give you extra contest entries (and more chances to win!).

Win A Free Amazon Kindle!

Good luck, and I look forward to congratulating the winner! ★

Pin This!

Best Travel Books. More at ExpertVagabond.com

What are some of your favorite travel books? Did I miss any good ones? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

2018 Tour Announcement: Travel With Me To Kamchatka, Russia!

Kamchatka Tour

Kamchatka Adventure Travel & Photography Tour

Adventure Travel Tours

You guys have been asking to travel with me for years, now I’m finally going to make it happen! Join me this spring for my first adventure travel & photography tour to Kamchatka.

Have you ever heard of Kamchatka, Russia? Not many people have. It’s cold. It’s isolated. It’s not your typical travel destination.

Which is exactly why it’s the perfect place for us to go!

My wife Anna & I will be co-leading our first adventure travel & photography tour, an extraordinary expedition to the remote Russian peninsula of Kamchatka near Siberia.

Kamchatka is home to unspoiled nature, thick boreal forests, huge volcanos, hardly any people, and very few roads. This is a truly off-the-beaten path travel destination.

We’ll be venturing into rugged Russian wilderness, traveling hundreds of miles by snowmobile, to live with indigenous Even reindeer herders while learning about their way of life.

Kamchatka Tour

Reindeer Herding in Russia

Campfire Cooking

Living Off the Land

Nomadic Reindeer Herding

For the Even people, life revolves around the nomadic herding of domesticated reindeer for meat, supplemented with hunting, fishing and animal-trapping.

Along with their Eastern Orthodox faith, they also practice Shamanism.

Nomadic reindeer herding is a tradition that goes back centuries, but it’s also a dying profession. Younger generations are no longer interested in following the footsteps of their parents.

If older generations can’t pass their knowledge on, the practice could die along with them.

Which is why our trip to live with and learn from the Even people in Kamchatka will be an especially unique travel experience.

Kamchatka Tour

Eat Traditional Food

Kamchatka Tour

Traveling by Snowmobile

A Difficult Journey

This isn’t your typical group tour. Conditions will difficult. It will be cold. Life in North Eastern Russia is harsh. We’ll be deep in the wilderness, staying in yurts, and traveling by snowmobile for days.

There are no supermarkets out here. No Starbucks. No luxury hotels. Reindeer are an important source of food for these people, not pets…

Just a little warning that this trip probably isn’t for everyone (but vegetarians are welcome!).

This is the real deal though — true off-the-grid adventure travel. However if you’re the type of traveler who’s always up for a challenge (like me!), I promise it will be one hell of a journey!

A rugged travel expedition unlike anything else you’ve probably done before, one you’ll be sharing stories about with family & friends for years to come.

Kamchatka Tour

Live with Local People

Kamchatka Tour

One of Kamchatka’s Volcanoes

Trip Highlights

Traveling by 4×4 bus and snowmobile to reach the Even reindeer herders. Local homestay experience in a mixture of backcountry cabins and yurts. Bartering dry goods from the city for reindeer meat.

Watching, participating, and photographing daily life of the Even people. Getting to know a foreign culture & its people.

Visiting natural hot-springs. Photographing active volcanoes from a distance. For those who want to, we may charter a helicopter for a scenic flight over a volcano.

Kamchatka Tour

Adventure On the Edge of Siberia

Kamchatka Tour

Practice Your Travel Photography

Travel Photography Tips

While you don’t need to be interested in travel photography to join us, I will certainly be sharing all my favorite travel photography tips & tricks during our adventure together.

Learn how I prepare my gear, which settings I use, how to tell a story with your photography, and special post-processing techniques to make your images really stand out.

Whether you’re packing a DSLR or a point & shoot camera, I’ll try to teach you something new and help you improve your travel photography to get the best images possible from our adventure!

When Is It?

March 18th – 31st, 2018

How Much Does It Cost?

$ 2,900 USD

What’s Included: Food, accommodation, a support team, local transportation, snowmobiles, and most activities during the tour.

What’s Not Included: International flights to and from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia. Visa fees. Cold weather clothing. A possible scenic helicopter flight. You’ll also be required to have your own travel insurance (I recommend World Nomads).

Join Us In Kamchatka!

If you really want to get into the heart of a destination, meet local people, experience traditional culture, and explore a remote wilderness destination that doesn’t see much tourism, than this is the trip for you.

I’d love to have you join us on this wild adventure travel expedition into the Russian wilderness! Click below for more details about the itinerary and sign up before all the spots are filled…

Click Here To Sign Up!

Bonus Video! Kamchatka Experience

Have any questions about the Kamchatka tour? Would you be interested in more trips like this? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Cuba Travel Guide: Things To Do, Costs, & Travel Tips

Travel Tips for Cuba

Cuba Travel Guide & Budget Travel Tips

Cuba Travel Tips

Is it possible to travel Cuba on a budget? Learn how much it cost me to backpack through Cuba — along with my favorite travel tips, things to do, and more.

Budget Travel Guide: Cuba (2017)

The island of Cuba was “discovered” and claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage to the New World in 1492.

While it’s been a popular travel destination for years, due to an economic embargo, Americans haven’t been able to visit easily until now.

However what draws people to the tropical Caribbean island of Cuba is much more than beaches and antique 1950’s cars, although there are plenty of those.

In Cuba you can wander bustling city streets, go hiking in the mountains, learn about the history of tobacco, or simply soak up the country’s 1950’s time-warp appeal. Get a taste of what it’s like to live in a socialist country.

While Cuba can sometimes be a confusing and challenging place for many travelers, I invite you to give it a try anyway, and experience some Cuban magic for yourself.

There are many wonderful reasons to visit Cuba for your next vacation.

Trinidad Streets in Cuba

Cobblestoned Streets in Trinidad

Cuban Cigar Lady

Cigar Lady in Havana

Budget Travel In Cuba

Cuba is generally pretty affordable, especially compared to other Caribbean Islands, yet is more expensive than other parts of Latin America like Mexico or Central American nations. With a special 2nd currency just for tourists, you’ll be forced to pay tourist prices most of the time.

Budget travelers can survive on around $ 50 USD per day.

Cuba’s local currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP- ₱) and it translates to ₱24 CUP for $ 1 USD. However as a tourist, you’ll be using Cuba’s secondary currency just for tourists, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC – $ ) which is pegged to the US Dollar. So $ 1 CUC = $ 1 USD.

You will need to exchange US dollars for CUC, but there is a special 10% penalty fee for this service. So it’s often cheaper to exchange Euros, Canadian Dollars, British Pounds, or Mexican Pesos for CUC instead.

If you’re an American, you still can’t use your credit cards or ATM cards in Cuba. They won’t work because of the economic sanctions in place.

So you MUST exchange cash to fund your whole trip unless you’re on a pre-paid tour. The other option is buying a foreign pre-paid debit card from banks in Canada or Mexico.

There’s an official currency exchange booth outside the airport in Havana. You can exchange your leftover CUC back to US dollars (or whatever) when you leave the country too.

Travel Budget for Cuba

How Much Did I Spend In Cuba?

My Cuba Travel Budget

TOTAL DAYS = 10

TOTAL SPENT = $ 900 USD

DAILY AVERAGE = $ 90 USD

Please use these numbers as general guidelines only. Remember, everyone travels differently. Your personal travel budget in Cuba may vary.

When I traveled through Cuba for 10 days in 2016, I spent a total of $ 900 for an average of $ 90 USD per day.

Some of the things I splurged on included renting a car for more freedom to explore the island on our own. Rental cars in Cuba aren’t cheap — ours was $ 83 CUC per day (which we then split 4 ways with friends).

Scuba diving, tickets to Havana’s famous Tropicana Show, cigars, and a classic car city tour were some other activities I chose to include in my own trip. Your own choices will affect your travel budget in Cuba.

READ MORE: Travel Banking Tips

Where to stay in Cuba

Casa Particular Sign

Casa Particular in Cuba

Our Casa in Trinidad

Where To Stay In Cuba

While you can find fancy hotels in Havana and all-inclusive resorts in Varadero, the best accommodation options in Cuba are called casas particulares.

Casas particulares are like local guesthouses. The Cuban government allows some residents to rent the spare rooms in their homes for extra income, and as a traveler you get a more local experience.

To find a casa, you simply walk around a neighborhood, pop in and ask to see a room, and decide if you want to stay there. Most are easy to find because they’re marked with special sign that looks a bit like an anchor.

Prices will vary depending on the region. A double room costs between $ 25 – 40 CUC with breakfast included. If staying with locals isn’t your thing, there are other options too. Just a lot more expensive.

  • Casas Particulares: $ 25 – $ 40 per night
  • Mid-Range Hotels: $ 90 – $ 150 per night
  • Resorts & Fancy Hotels: $ 200 – $ 400 per night

I always use Booking.com and AirBnB to find great deals on accommodation when I travel. You can use both in Cuba too!

READ MORE: How To Find Cheap Hotels

What to eat in Cuba

Cost of Food & Places to Eat

Cuban Pizza in Havana

Cuban Pizza is Very Cheap!

Eating Cuban Food

While many travelers complain about Cuban food and its availability, I found food in Cuba pretty cheap and tasty. Not to mention those famous Cuban mojitos for only $ 1 or $ 2!

The lowest-cost options are Cuban sandwiches or Cuban pizzas at street-side stores called “paladares”. These meals can cost as little as $ 1, but are super basic too. Cuban pizzas reminded me of frozen microwave pizzas. Nothing to write home about…

If you’re a dedicated foodie, and need more choices, you can find large plates of lobster, shrimp, crab and fish for about $ 7 at restaurants near the coast. There’s also traditional Cuban cuisine called ropa vieja (old clothes) which is basically pulled pork with gravy, served with rice and beans for about $ 5.

Larger restaurants are generally set up for tourists, with high tourist prices around $ 15-$ 20 for a meal. Most Cubans can’t afford to eat at these places. They cook at home, using government rations called Libreta de Abastecimiento to pay for basics like rice, sugar, and cooking oil.

Transportation in Cuba

Classic Car Rides in Havana

Taxis in Cuba

Horse Cart Taxi

Transportation In Cuba

Flights

The major airports in Cuba are in Havana (HAV) and Santiago de Cuba (SCU). For years, many Americans traveled to Cuba through foreign gateway cities like Cancun, Mexico City, or Toronto. However in 2016 the US government started allowing commercial flights to Cuba from the United States. New York, Miami, and Los Angeles all offer flights.

Buses In Cuba

Bus travel in Cuba is comfortable, but frustrating because you can’t book tickets online. There’s one main bus line called Viazul. Cuban buses are cheap, but the routes fill up quickly, so you usually need to get your tickets the day before. This means paying for a few taxi rides back and forth to the bus station too.

Cuban Taxis

Taxis are available in the more developed cities of Cuba like Havana, Varadero, and Trinidad. Official taxis, in modern cars, will be marked and some even have meters. Old classic car taxis are more expensive, often with set rates of $ 8-$ 10 per ride. Try to negotiate a price before you get in.

Almendrons are local shared taxis that run in some cities. It’s the cheapest option at 0.50 CUC per ride, however they aren’t easy to figure out if you don’t speak Spanish. They run on set routes, simply flag one down and jump in with everyone else. Usually old 50’s vans or Toyota Landcruisers.

Bicycle Taxis are another option. Officially they aren’t allowed to pick up tourists, but they still do. A ride costs about $ 1 CUC. You could get kicked off early if the driver notices police nearby.

Renting A Car

Renting a car in Cuba is possible, but it’s not easy. The online car rental systems there generally don’t work for foreigners. The best option is to inquire by email or phone about a rental a few weeks or more before your trip. Don’t expect to just show up at the airport and book a rental car, they simply don’t have enough for the demand.

READ MORE: How To Find Cheap Flights

Beaches in Cuba

Playa Jibacoa Beach

Visa Requirements

For years it was possible for Americans to visit Cuba through foreign gateway countries like Mexico or Canada first. Then, President Obama opened a loophole for American tourism to Cuba, even though Congress hadn’t actually changed the law yet.

It was a kind of “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” situation. No one was enforcing the law. You signed a piece of paper when you got on the plane saying you fit one of 12 special categories (that don’t include tourism), and no one checked.

Regular flights to Cuba from the United States started up, and things were looking good!

However it seems President Trump is clamping down on that loophole and will be making it tougher again by banning People To People trips, the category most people were using.

Americans can still travel to Cuba independently, but you’ll need to choose an approved travel category other than People To People tours, which Trump plans to ban. Declare a category like Support For The Cuban People when booking flights, lodging and when you return to the US.

You can build an itinerary containing activities that meet the criteria for the category you chose, or get help from local experts to plan a legal trip (5% discount for Expert Vagabond readers!).

Another option is to fly into Cuba from a Foreign Gateway City like Cancun, Mexico or Toronto, Canada. This is what I did, and I share more details about that here.

Every traveler needs to purchase a Tourist Card for $ 20 ($ 50+ if traveling from the United States) regardless of nationality. This is most commonly done at the departure airport itself, or online/through the mail with your airline.

Trinidad Streets in Cuba

Old Buildings in Havana

Scuba Diving Cuba

Wreck Diving the Bay of Pigs

Things To Do In Cuba

Havana

It’s impossible to skip the capital of Havana on a trip to Cuba. Havana Viejo (Old Havana) is the historic city center, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is full of beautiful old architecture, interesting people, and of course – all those incredible classic cars.

  • Rent a classic car for a tour through the city, $ 30 CUC for one hour.
  • Visit some of Hemingway’s old hangouts, like La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio.
  • Smoke a Cuban cigar overlooking the ocean at Hotel Nacional
  • Walk the Malecon at night with a box of cheap corner-store rum.
  • Attend the world famous Tropicana nightclub for a colorful show.

Varadero

Located on the Hicacos Peninsula about 140 km from Havana, Varadero is a popular resort town for tourists. The ivory-white sand beaches are gorgeous! While many beaches in Varadero are part of private resorts, there’s a large free public beach section too, which is just as beautiful.

  • Grab a beach chair, buy a few Cuba Libres, and work on your tan.
  • Rent a kayak or sailboat and cruise along the coast.
  • Eat at one of Varadero’s amazing seafood restaurants.

Viñales

Viñales is a lush green valley surrounded by mountains located west of Havana. It’s a fun small town to visit if you’re into nature, caving, rock climbing, or learning about the art of cigar making. Viñales is Cuba’s tobacco capital, home of the best cigars in the world.

  • Visit a tobacco farm and learn how to make Cuban cigars.
  • Rock climbing on the karst limestone cliffs.
  • Rent an ATV for an off-road trip through the valley.
  • Go horseback riding, or join a cave tour.

Want more travel tips for Viñales? Make sure to read about my experience here: Horses & Tobacco Farms In Viñales

Trinidad

Trinidad is a picturesque colonial town lined with cobblestone streets and pastel-colored houses. It was the epicenter of the Spanish sugar trade in the 18th century, where sugar barons become extremely wealthy off the back of African slave labor. Many of the old buildings have been restored.

  • Hang out on the steps of Plaza Mayor with a mojito to watch the sunset.
  • Visit some art & history museums, like Museo de Arquitectura or Museo Romantico.
  • Climb the bell tower at Iglesia de San Francisco for great city views.
  • Ride a bike to Playa Ancon, a beautiful white sand beach.
  • Go swimming under waterfalls at Topes De Collantes National Park

Want more travel tips for Trinidad? Make sure to read about my experience here: Discovering The Magic Of Trinidad
Malecon Havana Cuba

Havana’s Seaside “Malecon”

Budget Travel Tips

While Cuba can be affordable, it’s not an easy place to travel on an extreme budget. It takes some work. Try eating at locally run paladares whenever you can. Use the somewhat confusing but cheap local shared taxis, or split a 1950’s tourist taxi with other travelers.

Bring a filtered water bottle, as bottled water can sometimes be difficult to find outside of major cities. Stay with locals in casas particulares whenever possible to keep accommodation costs down.

READ MORE: Best Travel Tips After 7 Years Traveling

Off The Beaten Path

There is a cool national park called Topes de Collantes located about an hours drive from Trinidad. It has many hiking trails that lead to different waterfalls, and not many people visit them.

Some of the best waterfalls are El Nicho and Vegas Grandes, both are over 100m high, and its a great way to experience some of Cuba’s mountains. You can book a tour from Trinidad, or go on your own like we did if you have a car. Beware, the roads are pretty bad up there!

Varadero Beach Cuba

White Sand Beaches of Varadero

Farm in Vinales Cuba

Cuban Tobacco Farms

Best Time To Visit Cuba

When is the best time to visit Cuba? Regardless of the time of year, average temperatures in Cuba are very pleasant ranging from 70s F to 80s F.

However the best time to visit is arguably from December to May, as the climate tends to be mild and skies are often sunny.

Wet season is between June and October, with the heaviest rain & hottest temperatures in July & August. It’s generally a less-desirable time to visit Cuba, and hurricanes are also a threat.

The tourist high season in Cuba runs from December through March, due to great weather and large numbers of Canadians escaping the winter snow in their own country.

If you want decent weather, and fewer tourists, April, May, and November are good choices.

Cathedral in Cuba

Church Tower in Trinidad

Cubans on Cellphones

Cuban Cowboys in Vinales

Internet & Cell Phone Service

Internet in Cuba isn’t available everywhere, but it’s possible to find wifi spots in most major hotels, large public parks, and even some casas particulares. For a list of all the known wifi hotspots in Cuba, click here.

To get online you need to buy an internet scratch-card from ETECSA (Cuba’s national telecommunications company). They cost between $ 2-6 for an hour of service. You can buy the cards in front of the airport in Havana, at major hotels, at ETECSA kiosks, or from Cubans themselves.

To use services like Skype or Snapchat, you’ll need to install a good travel VPN before you arrive. The internet isn’t super fast, but it’s fast enough to upload travel photos to Facebook & Instagram if you’re patient.

READ MORE: International Cell Phone Service

Tropicana Show Cuba

Havana’s Tropicana Nightclub

Challenges In Cuba

The lack of internet can be challenging at times, as we’ve all become comfortable finding our way around with help from Google Maps, or searching online for answers to travel questions.

Galileo Maps ( IOS | Android ) has offline maps of Cuba, so you can find your way around using a smartphone even without internet.

If you don’t speak Spanish you might often find yourself at loss in Cuba, as the majority of people don’t speak any English. Without Spanish it’s difficult to arrange things, but not impossible.

While Cuba is a very safe place to travel, there are many scammers too. Especially around Havana. Some popular scams in Cuba include:

  • Being invited to a bar/club from someone off the street, then getting stuck with a huge mysterious bar tab.
  • Women asking you to buy milk for their babies, at inflated prices from shops that are in on the scam.

Everyone isn’t trying to scam you — but you still need to stay cautious and use common sense.

READ MORE: 15 Common Travel Scams

Cuba Photo Gallery

Cuba Travel Photography

Click Here For More Photos From Cuba


Travel Adventures In Cuba

Planning to travel to Cuba soon? Browse all my blog posts from Cuba to get ideas & recommendations for your own travel adventures there.


Suggested Books & Movies

The Other Side of Paradise – A sobering portrait of post-Fidel Cuba. Change looms in Havana, a city of uncertainty cloaked in cliché. (Book)

The Old Man and the Sea – Hemingway’s story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his sea battle with a giant marlin. (Book)

Our Man in Havana – A vacuum cleaner salesman is recruited by the British secret service to act as a spy in Havana. (Movie)

Una Noche – Trapped in the desperate slums of Havana, young Raul dreams of escaping Cuba to Miami. (Movie)

Lonely Planet Cuba – A travel guide to Cuba that includes history, advice, things to do, and places to stay. (Guidebook)

Enjoy Your Trip!

Cuba is one of the most unique travel destinations I’ve ever visited, as the whole island feels trapped in time. Things are changing fast though as more and more tourists add it to their bucket-list.

I hope the Cuban people are prospering from the recent increase of tourism there, and relations between Cuba and the United States improve in the future. ★

Traveling To Cuba Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Bonus Travel Video! 10 Days In Cuba


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(Click to watch 10 Days In Cuba – Havana, Trinidad, Vinales, and More on YouTube)

More Information

Cuba Blog Posts: Read My Stories From Cuba
Accommodation: Click Here For Deals In Cuba
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Cuba

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Budget Travel Guide & Tips For Cuba. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Budget Travel Guide & Tips For Cuba. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any travel questions or tips about Cuba? Other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Surfing & Hot Springs In Tofino On Vancouver Island [PART 2]

Vancouver Island Coastline

Exploring Vancouver Island’s West Coast

Vancouver Island, Canada

The second half of my Vancouver Island road trip took me to the island’s West coast, and the fun little hipster surf town of Tofino. It’s a lush wilderness outpost on the edge of the sea.

I was on a self-drive road trip with Canada By Design — their Coastal Cultural Explorer Tour of Vancouver Island.

Which means I was following a basic itinerary, while my accommodation, a rental car, and some activities were included in the price.

This 8-day journey across Canada’s Vancouver Island was mixed with adventure, a taste of First Nation’s culture, and dramatic Pacific Northwest scenery.

Yet I was on my own, taking my time to enjoy this road trip at my own pace.

Driving To Tofino

For the first half of the journey, I’d explored parts of Vancouver Island’s East coast. Today’s drive was a long one (about 6 hours) which took me across the island from Telegraph Cove to Tofino over the stunning Pacific Rim Highway.

I managed to drop into some native art galleries, hiked an ancient old-growth rainforest, and enjoyed beautiful mountain scenery and lakes along the way.

First Nations Longhouse

K’ómoks Longhouse Mural

iHos Gallery Vancouver Island

iHos Gallery in Courtenay

First Nations Art Galleries

During this road trip around Vancouver Island, I’m constantly reminded of the deep history of the landscape, first populated by the peoples of the First Nations around 7,000 years ago.

Driving into Courtenay, I stumble upon a K’ómoks native longhouse, decorated with a colorful mural featuring an eagle & whale. These cedar buildings were often shared by extended First Nations families, everyone participating in daily tasks like preparing food, building canoes, etc.

At I-Hos Gallery, local people express their identity through art. This gallery, with its masks, wood carvings, intricate prints and textiles, is designed to tell stories as much as please the senses.

Stories of origins, about their technological and spiritual relationship with the natural world, about how they lived, how they died, and how they endured to become modern descendants of First Nations cultures.

Vancouver Island Goats on a Roof

Goats?! On a Roof?

Coombs Vancouver Island Goats

Coombs Old Country Market

Goats On A Roof!

My eyes started to play tricks as I entered the town of Coombs. What first looked like a green hill with goats appeared to become the roof of a long, wood-pannelled building.

I found them. Vancouver Island’s famous “Goats On The Roof!”

In the 1950s, Kristian Graaten and his wife, Solveig, left Norway and emigrated to British Columbia.

When they decided to build a market in the mid-70s, Kris used the Norwegian tradition of lining roofs with grass/sod. It may sound eccentric, but this roof traps the warmth of the building, reducing heating bills up to 25%.

It’s also soundproof, easy to maintain, and the perfect place to keep your pet goats! Which has turned into a huge tourist attraction for his roadside Coombs Old Country Market, a fun location to stop for lunch.

Cathedral Grove Vancouver Island

Yes, I’m a Tree Hugger

Vancouver Island MacMillan Park

MacMillan Provincial Park

Hiking Cathedral Grove

A twenty-minute drive west, and things got even more vertical. If you’ve never seen a majestic Douglas Fir, your first sight can be overwhelming.

Imagine the average fir tree, the kind you’d hang your Christmas ornaments on. Now double it in size. Now double it again. Maybe a third time. Now you’re getting close – but maybe not close enough, since a fully-grown Douglas fir can reach 225 ft / 75 m into the sky!

At the heart of MacMillan Provincial Park stands Cathedral Grove, home of the densest collection of these trees. It’s an opportunity to stretch your arms around their trunks, failing to make it even halfway (the widest has a circumference of 27 ft / 9 m).

When you stand there in the quiet, gazing up towards the distant canopy where the treetops meet the sunlight, it feels unchanging, like time itself has stopped to listen. Some of these trees are 800 years old.

Tofino on Vancouver Island

Ice House Oyster Bar in Tofino

Tofino Town Vancouver Island

Beware of Grandma… She Bites!

Welcome To Tofino

Making it across the width of Vancouver Island, I finally arrive to the quirky Pacific coastal town of Tofino. A place I’ve heard so much about.

Tofino is the gateway to Vancouver Island’s wildest and most spectacular scenery, and in the summer, it’s an enormously popular destination for visitors, greatly multiplying its small local population of 2,000.

Pacific Rim National Park is right next door, a 500-kilometer expanse of rainforest trails, rugged wave-battered coastlines and pristine beaches.

However it’s best to visit in the summer months, as winter conditions can get a little fierce (it’s a haven for storm-watchers in the winter).

Tofino is ideal for hiking, surfing, hanging out at the beach, wildlife viewing, or just strolling down boardwalk paths through pacific northwest temperate rainforests.

Vancouver Island Whale Watching

Pod of Orca Whales

Black Bear Tofino

Black Bear Feeding On Crabs

Hot Springs Vancouver Island

Hot Springs Cove

Whale Watching & Hot Springs

You can’t visit Tofino and not go whale watching! But I’ll give you a tip, rather than take a dedicated whale watching trip, join the Hot Springs Cove Tour with Remote Passages.

Because there’s a very good chance you’ll see whales (and other wildlife) on your way to the hot springs. Like I did. It’s like two tours in one.

As part of the Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, Hot Springs Cove gets its name from the nearby Ramsay hot springs (it hits up to 50 C / 110 F in places), which are only accessible by boat or float-plane.

The trip had us speeding through the waves in an inflatable zodiac, stopping to watch playful Orcas (don’t call them killer whales!), large sea lions, sea otters, and even a black bear fishing for crabs on the coastline.

After the boat ride, it was time to relax by soaking in these steaming-hot natural pools & waterfalls while enjoying an epic view.

Surfing in Tofino

Long Beach Surf Shop

Vancouver Island Surfing

Surfing Chesterman Beach

Surfing Around Tofino

If you surf, or want to learn, Tofino is a good place to hit some waves. In fact they call themselves the Surf Capital of Canada. Although keep in mind this is the Pacific Northwest, and chilly 50 – 60 F water means you’ll want a wetsuit.

There are a few surf-shops in town that can outfit you with a board, wetsuit, and even a surfboard car rack. I stopped into Long Beach Surf Shop and rented a longboard for a morning surf session at Chesterman Beach.

Tofino is a surfer’s paradise – so if you’ve been following my surfing adventures, you can imagine my reaction to these miles and miles of surfable coastline, reliable beach breaks, and uncrowded waves.

There are a few good surf-spots in the area, and waves for all abilities. Long Beach is a popular spot, a 15-km stretch of undeveloped coastline that’s regarded as the park’s most photogenic.

Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay are two more. Winter usually has the better swells, and fewer tourists — but crazier weather and colder water too.

Coastal Sunset in Tofino

Colorful Tofino Sunsets

Tofino Sea Plane Trips

Take a Scenic Flight with Tofino Air

Places To Stay & Eat

As part of my Coastal Cultural Explorer Self-Drive Tour, accommodation in Tofino was included at the stunning cliffside Middle Beach Lodge.

For good food, I recommend checking out Wolf In The Fog for dinner, and Tacofino for a delicious food truck experience at lunch.

Tofino has a super fun farmer’s market every Saturday, where you can sample all kinds of good food, or pick up some locally-made artwork/crafts.

If you’re looking for a great place to watch the sunset with a beer and some fresh oysters, check out Tofino’s Ice House Oyster Bar. Thank me later. ★

Bonus Video! Vancouver Island Road Trip


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(Click to watch Vancouver Island BC – Road Trip on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Self-Drive Tour: Canada By Design
Useful Notes: With a self-drive tour your accommodation, rental car, ferry trips, and some key activities are included. You present pre-paid vouchers for these things on arrival. The rest of the trip is yours to create as you go.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Pacific Northwest
Suggested Reading: Island Of Dreams

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Vancouver Island Road Trip. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Vancouver Island Road Trip. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about visiting Vancouver Island? Are you planning a trip? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Canada By Design

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Why Is Asheville North Carolina So Cool?

Asheville North Carolina

Fun Things To Do In Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville has to be one of the coolest small cities on the East Coast, with a relaxed bohemian vibe and adventurous spirit. Here are some fun things to do there!

Located in North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has a unique mix of hipster coffee shops, award-winning restaurants, outdoor activities, and more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the United States.

After hearing about Asheville for years, whether from friends, or the Obama’s visiting on vacation — it was time to learn what all the fuss was about.

Why was Asheville rated the #1 US travel destination for 2017? Why does everyone think Asheville is so cool?

Pack Square Park Asheville

Pack Square Park

Jack of the Wood in Asheville

Travel Tips for Asheville, North Carolina

Things To Do In Asheville

Anna and I spent 4 days visiting Asheville in partnership with Explore Asheville Tourism, and had a wonderful time eating, drinking, shooting photos, and enjoying nature.

Asheville’s creative (and slightly eccentric) locals contribute to a lively downtown unlike any other. You can experience an intoxicating drum circle, shop at vintage boutiques, sit down to an amazing locally-grown meal, and admire cool street art all in one day.

One of the best ways to experience the city fully is by exploring on foot. With about 87,000 residents, Asheville isn’t huge. But it’s not too small either.

It feels like a large town, and just the right size. Asheville’s downtown in particular is easily walkable, with a charm all its own.

Writer for hire

Asheville Street Performers

Asheville Street Art

“Chicken Alley” Mural

Tons Of Art & Music

Asheville is known for its art scene, and you’ll quickly understand why. There’s fun street art all over the place, like colorful murals painted on the side of buildings & under bridges depicting the city’s history.

My favorite was probably “Chicken Alley” by Molly Must, which you can find on Carolina Lane & Woodfin Street. Two giant chickens watch over the alley, a place that used to be full of real chickens in the past.

In the 1980s artists began transforming a bunch of old industrial buildings along the French Broad River into studio space. Now the public can visit these studios as part of the Rivers Arts District and browse the work of over 200 local artists.

The town is full of small lounges, clubs, and breweries featuring live rock, jazz, and bluegrass. Many don’t charge a cover either.

Or you can check out some fun (possibly strange) street performances in the center of town. Don’t forget to tip if you enjoy the show! Asheville wouldn’t be the same without them.

Beer in Asheville

Lexington Avenue Brewery

Pack's Tavern Asheville

Pack’s Tavern

Beer City USA!

Asheville is known as “Beer City USA”. Because with 26 different craft breweries in the city, and another 60 nearby, beer lovers won’t want to leave.

Some of the most popular in town are Green Man, Catawba, Wicked Weed, and Lexington Avenue Brewery.

About 100 local beers can be enjoyed in Asheville, and each brewery has its own unique character. From strong hoppy IPAs to dark stouts, to fruity raspberry ales, you’re bound to find something you’ll love.

On top of the incredible beer scene, the city is also “steeped” in tea culture.

Check out Dobra Tea, afternoon tea at Biltmore, and The Herbiary.

Asheville River SUP

Whitewater Stand-Up Paddleboarding

French Broad River Asheville

The French Broad River

French Broad River

The French Broad River winds its way past Asheville, providing a natural space for all kinds of outdoor activities & adventures.

You have your obvious river sports like whitewater kayaking and inner-tube floating, but there are some lesser-known activities here too, like “bellyaking” and whitewater SUP.

Bellyaking was actually invented in Asheville — it’s a face first kayak-type ride using special “paddle gloves” to maneuver through the rapids.

I decided to try some whitewater SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) for the first time with Wai Mauna SUP Tours.

Stand-up paddle-boarding through class I & II river rapids on the French Broad River requires a lot of balance, it was more difficult then the lake or ocean SUP I was used to. I fell a few times, but it was still fun!

The Marketplace Restaurant Asheville

Eating Our Foraged Food at The Marketplace

Restaurants in Asheville North Carolina

Salsa’s Restaurant in Asheville

Farm To Table Dining

Asheville is home to over 250 restaurants, many serving locally produced meats and veggies while supporting North Carolina’s farmers. They’ve been doing “farm to table” long before it became a cliche.

We obviously couldn’t try every restaurant in town with just four days, but my favorite places to eat in Asheville were The Marketplace and Salsas.

French Broad Chocolates is an ice-cream lover’s dream too. The line outside is long, but there’s a reason for that.

The chocolate ice-cream floats are sooooo good! It was worth the wait.

Biltmore Estate in Asheville

The Famous Biltmore Estate

Vanderbilt Library

George Vanderbilt’s Extensive Library

Biltmore Estate View

View Off the Back Deck

The Biltmore Estate

The historic Biltmore Estate is one of the most frequently suggested places to visit in Asheville. George Vanderbilt’s gigantic, hundred-year-old property is indeed quite busy all year long.

George, an heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune, fell in love with North Carolina and began building his property by late 1889. He decided to create a dream home surrounded by natural forests and productive farms.

This 178,926 square foot mansion sits on 8000 acres, with over 250 rooms, and is America’s largest home. The Biltmore holds regular exhibitions — they were displaying movie costumes used in films set during the XVIIIth century when we were there.

George Vanderbilt was one of the most-read men in America, and amassed a library of more than 22,000 books — including over 3,000 he read himself. Gazing at the walls of books in his preserved library was fascinating.

Foraging Tour in Asheville North Carolina

Wild Foraging with No Taste Like Home

Mushroom Hunting in North Carolina

Picking Chanterelle Mushrooms

Wild Foraging Tours

I’ve never been wild mushroom picking before, so we signed up for a foraging tour with a company called No Taste Like Home.

The morning began with instruction from owner Alan Muskat about types of edibles we’d be searching for, and which poisonous plants to avoid.

After being equipped with baskets, harvesting knives, and paper bags, we headed into the enchanting North Carolina forest. I was completely surprised at how many things you could eat, and how good they tasted!

We collected Day Lily flowers, Chanterelle mushrooms, Stinging Nettle, Sassafras leaves, and strange mushrooms called Hairy Rubber Cups. While not popular in the US, they are apparently a delicacy in Malaysia.

After, you can bring your “catch” to local restaurants in Asheville like The Marketplace, where chefs prepare your dinner using the wild ingredients.

Asheville Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Hiking around Asheville

Many Fun Hikes in the Mountains

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Nestled between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers year-round access to hiking trails and exhilarating views along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.

The complete route stretches 469 miles from North Carolina to Virginia, and is home to a wide range of diverse plants and animals. It’s technically part of the National Park System.

Along with hundreds of hiking trails, the parkway includes sections of the Appalachian Trail — one of America’s classic long distance hikes that stretches from Georgia to Maine.

Asheville was a perfect base for exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we spent a full day cruising its winding pavement. Stopping occasionally at mountain lookouts and for short hikes to admire the area’s nature.

Waterfalls near Asheville

Looking Glass Falls

Sliding Rock Falls Pisgah Forest

Sliding Rock Falls

Asheville Sliding Rock

Natural Waterslide!

Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest is located South West of Asheville, only 30-45 minutes away. It’s considered the birthplace of modern forestry in America, and home to the country’s first forestry school.

Driving through Pisgah on Route 276 is a fun little road trip complete with waterfalls, white water rapids, hiking trails, and camping opportunities.

We stopped by two different waterfalls. The first is called Looking Glass Falls. Located right off the side of the road, it’s super easy to reach, and a nice place to cool off in the summer heat.

The second is Sliding Rock — basically a huge natural waterslide made of smooth stone. A quick ride down the 60-foot flat, sloping boulder will definitely wake you up due to the chilly 50 degree water!

The Davidson River is a popular area for fly-fishing too.

Asheville Grove Park Inn

Grove Park Inn

Abbington Green Asheville B&B

Abbington Green B&B

Places To Stay In Asheville

If you’re wondering where to stay in Asheville, here are my recommendations:

Grove Park Inn – Asheville’s most famous hotel is one of a kind. Built out of stone on the top of a hill, it features various restaurants, a beautiful spa, and scenic views of the city.

Abbington Green B&B – This has to be one of the best bed & breakfasts I’ve ever stayed at. Beautifully designed with a peaceful garden, tasty breakfast, and friendly southern hospitality.

Downtown Asheville North Carolina

Downtown Asheville

Asheville Travel Tips & Advice

  • There’s a fun public drum circle every Friday night between 6pm – 10pm in Pritchard Park, where people of all ages join in to dance to the music.
  • Asheville has a beautiful array of wildflowers that bloom between April and June. Keep your eye out for trillium, lady slippers, wild ginger, evening primrose, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and many more.
  • The best time to visit Asheville is during the fall foliage season (October), as trees & mountains are incredibly colorful. Summers are usually pretty busy too, and get the best weather.
  • Parts of the Appalachian Trail pass through this region. For a taste of this famous 2,180 mile trek, try hiking the Max Patch Mountain trail for great views.
  • The Biltmore Estate is Asheville’s most popular attraction, so it can get quite crowded. Go super early for awesome photos and less people.

Asheville has a little something for everyone. You can enjoy scenic mountain vistas, fun live music, locally produced food and beer, a vibrant arts scene, hiking and other outdoor adventure activities too.

I have to say it has become one of my new favorite mountain towns in the United States, and an excellent weekend vacation destination. Who knows, you may never want to leave! ★

Bonus Video! Things To Do In Asheville


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More Information

Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Plan Your Trip: Explore Asheville
Useful Notes: Asheville has it’s own regional airport that’s large enough for regular commercial flights. Some airlines that fly there include Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.
Recommended Guidebook: Asheville & Great Smokey Mountains
Suggested Reading: Only In Asheville: An Eclectic History

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Things To Do In Asheville. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Things To Do In Asheville. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Any questions about traveling to Asheville, NC? Do you have any other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Explore Asheville

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

Iceland’s Amazing Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

How to Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

The landscape is full of broken icebergs, streaked blue and black, floating with the tide, occasionally breaking apart in a mighty crash. This is Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Iceland.

Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon is Iceland’s deepest and most spectacular glacial lake, beloved by tourists, photographers, adventurers – even world-famous Hollywood super-spies.

If you visited this frozen landscape a hundred years ago, all you would have seen was ice. But then, the world started to heat up… thanks global warming!

Because of this increase in the world’s climate starting around 1920, the icebound edge of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started to melt. The Icelandic word Jökulsárlón actually means “glacier’s river lagoon”.

Jokulsarlon lagoon forms part of Vatnajökull National Park, and has become one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Selfie

King of the Ice!

Icebergs At Jokulsarlon

In less than a century, this vast frozen landscape collapsed into a mess of shattered ice & liquid that we see now — Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.

A river soon formed, and found its way to the sea, pulling broken icebergs into the North Atlantic and sculpting unearthly shapes along its black-sand banks.

Every year, this fledgling glacier lagoon is made larger as icebergs break off Vatnajökull glacier, float around in the lagoon, and eventually drift out to sea in the summer months.

Jokulsarlon doubled in size between 1975 and 1998. It now covers 7 square miles – and is growing every year.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Sunrise

Colorful Sunrise at Jokulsarlon

Iceland At Its Most Beautiful

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is a photographer’s paradise. I was in heaven during my visit in November. First and most obviously, the ice is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Compressed glacial ice often turns glassy and a deep, luminous blue, and that’s best seen when the icebergs break and flip over.

You’ll see plenty of broken blue icebergs at Jökulsárlón – and the contrast against the white backdrop of the distant glacier and the black sand of the lagoon’s beach is truly other-worldly.

You may even see seals too. Thanks to that small river leading to the ocean, the lagoon is filled with fish, and seals regularly gather at the river mouth to feed, along with huge numbers of seabirds.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Bridge

Bridge Over the Glacial River

Jokulsarlon Iceland boat tours

Boat Tours on the Lagoon

Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours

A tour company called Glacier Lagoon has been running boat rides at Jokulsarlon for nearly 30 years, ever since the world’s most famous super-spy James Bond himself made an appearance.

In the opening scenes of Roger Moore’s A View To A Kill (1985), the iceberg lagoon was used as a stand-in for Northern Siberia – and when news got out, tourists started arriving, as did boat tour services.

(In 2001, Jökulsárlón again doubled as Siberia for scenes in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – and in the same year, the James Bond crew returned to film parts of Pierce Brosnan’s Die Another Day.)

There are two types of tours to choose from. There is an amphibious boat ride (ISK 5500 / $ 55 USD) for a relaxing tour round the biggest icebergs, accompanied by guided commentary.

For the more adventurous, get fitted with a flotation suit and lifejacket and take a Zodiac (ISK 9500 / $ 95 USD) for much closer views of the ice, including right under the glacier’s edge if conditions permit.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Black Sand Beach

Ice Scattered over the Black Sand

When To Visit The Lagoon

Jokulsarlon’s boat tours only run between May and October, and outside of those months, Icelandic weather can get fierce – although bad weather can hit at any time, so it’s wise to always be prepared for white-out conditions.

The best months for good weather (and clear-sky photography) at the lagoon are July and August – but September/October can be a better time to visit Iceland because the tourist season has ended, prices are lower and there will be be less people around.

You’ll also have a better chance of seeing Iceland’s incredible northern lights!

Getting To Jokulsarlon

The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is hard to miss off the side of Iceland’s famous ring road (Route 1) – but it requires some planning to get out here. Rather than try to cram it into a single day, you should really plan for two days.

Rental Car

I visited while driving around Iceland’s Ring Road in a campervan from Happy Campers – it helps to have your own transportation because Jökulsárlón is pretty far away from major towns.

The trip takes about 5 hours from Reykjavík, provided you don’t stop along the way (which is almost impossible in Iceland, there’s so much to see!). Another service I’ve used in the past is called Sad Cars.

By Bus

Strætó Bus: Route 51 from Mjódd bus terminal (Reykjavík) to Jökulsárlón. It’s a 6 hour trip that starts at 1pm – and the next bus back is usually at 12:55pm the next day.

If you visit Jokulsarlon by bus, you won’t be returning the same day – and since accommodation at the lagoon is non-existent (see later), you’d have to be pretty adventurous to pick this option.

Hitchhiking

Another adventurous option, but hitchhiking in Iceland is pretty common and safe. How long it will take you to hitchhike here from Reykjavík just depends on your hitchhiking skills, luck, and how many stops you make.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Camping

Overnight at Jökulsárlón in my Camper Van

Best Places To Stay

I spent the night camped out at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon parking lot in my Happy Campers van. There are no hotels, hostels or guesthouses at the lagoon itself. Höfn is the closest large town, about an hour away.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland near Jokulsarlon, here are my recommendations:

Budget Accommodation

Vagnsstaðir Hostel – This is the closest hostel to Jokulsarlon, about 13 miles to the northeast.

Höfn Hostel – An environmentally friendly hostel with sea views, located an hour away in the village of Höfn.

Mid-Range Accommodation

Hali Country Hotel – This small hotel is a 15-minute drive from the lagoon, offering double & triple rooms and apartments plus a restaurant.

Hotel Höfn – Located in Höfn about an hour away, this hotel offers modern rooms with glacier & sea views.

I also enjoy using AirBnB from time to time. Make sure to read my article about how to find cheap hotels too.
Ice at Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Shiny Diamonds of Ice on the Beach

Jökulsárlón Travel Tips & Advice

  • Iceland in the summer can be surprisingly warm, but icebergs at Jokulsarlon lagoon give off waves of cold air you can feel on your face. Take a hat and a warm gloves, even if it looks sunny.
  • Watch out for the fiercely territorial skua seabirds that live in the area – if you get close to their nests, they’ll dive at you noisily until you back off!
  • Sunrise is the best time to photograph the glacier lagoon icebergs, not only because of great lighting conditions, but also because there are less tourists. Sunset is also good, but more crowded than sunrise.
  • During the tourist season, there’s a small café that serves a limited amount of snacks. But that’s about it.
  • Iceland’s incredible crystal ice caves are not far away from Jokulsarlon, so if you happen to be visiting in the winter, I highly recommend exploring them with a guide!

No trip to Iceland is complete without a stop at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, as you can see, there’s a good reason why it’s one of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions! ★

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Watch Video: Adventures In Iceland


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More Information

Location: Jökulsárlón, Iceland
Useful Notes: While Jokulsarlon is open year-round, the lagoon is often frozen over in the winter. Due to the summer heat, you’ll see the most icebergs in the summer months as ice calves into the lagoon from the glacier and floats out to sea.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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Tips for visiting Jokulsarlon lagoon Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Tips for visiting Jokulsarlon lagoon Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about Jokulsarlon Lagoon in Iceland? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond

How I Saved Money For Travel (You Don’t Need To Be Rich)

Save Money For A Trip

How to Save Money for Travel

Travel Tips

Want to travel the world for a while? Or just take an epic vacation? You don’t need to be rich, but you’ll need to get creative about saving money for travel. Here’s how I did it.

There’s a popular myth floating around that travel is an expensive hobby. Certainly people who travel a lot must have rich parents, lucrative lottery winnings, or work high paying jobs… right?

Normal people can’t afford to travel. It’s far too expensive for the rest of us…

Don’t worry, I understand where you’re coming from. I used to think that way too. As an American who didn’t even know what a hostel or GAP year was, I thought international travel was only for the rich and privileged.

But after traveling the world extensively for the past 6 years, I’m here to tell you world travel is possible for the rest of us too.

How To Save Money For Travel

After countless emails from readers asking about how I’m able to travel the world constantly, I wanted to share some useful tips about how I learned to save money for traveling.

Because in the beginning, before I was earning a living as a blogger, I had to save up on my own. It didn’t come naturally either. In fact I used to be horrible at saving money.

When I quit my job in 2010 to embark on a year long adventure in Central America, I wasn’t rich. I was living in South Florida earning $ 28,000 a year working as a photographer for used car dealerships and nightclubs in Miami.

Incredibly glamorous, I know…

Even with my very average (American) income, and living in a pretty expensive area of the country, I managed to save $ 7000 in 12 months by transforming my lifestyle and living below my means.

I learned how to spend less, save more, and earn extra cash on the side.

It wasn’t easy, and required plenty of hard work and sacrifice, but if I could do it, I’m confident you could too. It doesn’t matter if you want to travel for two weeks or two years, the process is the same.

Here’s my simple formula that will help you save money for your next trip.

Saving Money Advice

We All Want More Of This…

1: Become Financially Responsible

This isn’t intended to sound judgmental. We all start here. What did school really teach you about financial planning? For many of us, not much.

Money management is a learned skill – but most of us don’t master the basics until we’re adults — if ever. I was clueless for a long time.

If you want to save money for travel, now is a good time to revisit those basics, and maybe iron out a few of those bad financial habits we all acquire along the way.

Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

You are making a significant long-term commitment that’s sometimes going to be really hard to stick to. Saving up enough money for travel, or anything for that matter, is tough on the soul and demands sacrifice, which is why so few people succeed. The right mindset is everything!

How much do you want this? Because nobody else will do it for you. It’s your responsibility the whole way.

Equally importantly, how many times are you willing to try and fail until you’ve successfully learned all the habits and strategies that will put the required amount in the bank to get you traveling?

Good. I think you’re ready for this then! (Just don’t expect it to be easy.)

2: Track Your Spending

Money itself isn’t stressful. Neither is effective money management. Not knowing what your money is doing? Being afraid to check your bank balance? That’s where all the stress happens.

The solution to this is simple.

Put aside a day this weekend, buy your favorite bottle of wine (you’ll need it), and go through all your accounts to find out EXACTLY what your finances look like, down to the dollar.

Tracking expenses is an important part of learning where you can cut back, or even eliminate your spending.

I know, you’ve probably heard this before. But have you actually done it? On a regular basis? It’s a powerful way to identify how much money you piss away every month on random crap you don’t need.

Write it ALL down. How much do you spend on food each week? Don’t forget to include groceries, eating out, bottled water, and snacks. How much do you spend on entertainment? Movies, books, music, sports tickets, dates, etc.

What about vices like alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee?

What are your monthly bills? Rent, mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance, credit card interest, cell phone service, gym membership, student loans, etc. Don’t forget miscellaneous shopping either. Video games, clothes, pet toys, etc.

Now, grit your teeth and look it all in the face. You may be surprised at how much you’re spending. Little things tend to add up. This isn’t an easy thing to do, I know. That’s why you might need that wine.

But it becomes a lot easier if you approach saving with the right attitude. You’re not here to judge yourself or wallow in regret. Take your feelings out of the equation because they’re not needed.

This is simply about awareness. You’re looking your financial situation right in the eye and saying, “OK – this is where I am. This is where I need to be.”

If you’re like me, building this kind of awareness, and tracking everything, takes time. That’s the nature of habits – you don’t suddenly change your behavior overnight.

Track your spending like a pro with this free expense tracking app from Mint.
Budgeting For Travel

Stick To Your Budget

3: Budget Ruthlessly

There are two types of budgeting you need to do here. The first is budgeting your trip. The second is budgeting your life.

First, you need to work out how much your trip is going to cost you. If you know what you’re doing, your travel budget can be as low as $ 50 a day.

The amount is going to vary wildly depending on where you want to travel, and how thrifty you are. But for long-term budget travel, I usually recommend planning to spend at least $ 1500 per month.

So that means to backpack around the world for 6 months, you should have at least $ 9000 in your bank account before you leave.

If you choose wisely, your accommodation can cost next to nothing. Cheap flights can be easy to find if you follow these simple tips – and so on.

If you want all my best advice for ways to save money on travel, start here.

You’ve got 16 months before you leave? Great! Your monthly savings goal is 1/16th of that total – and you need to budget successfully to put that amount aside every month, more or less, until you hit your target.

Now the big question becomes – how are you going to hit that target?

First step: create a running budget, assigning strict numbers to recurring expenses – and stick to it religiously. Some expenses are fixed, for example, your rent (although, keep reading below for one way to lower it).

Other expenses are flexible, like the money you spend on food every month, or socializing. The trick with these is to make sure you always know how much of your budget is left, so you’re not a victim of “phantom expenses” that nibble away your hard-earned savings without you being aware of them.

Going shopping? Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend, and use the calculator on your phone to total everything up as you walk round the aisles. Going out with friends? Withdraw cash, and leave your cards at home so you can’t blow your budget.

Budgeting effectively isn’t scary. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. When you have complete control of your money (and not the other way round), your confidence will soar – and you’ll work even harder towards your goal.

Check out this terrific set of free online budgeting classes to master the basics.

4: Reduce Unnecessary Spending

Grab a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of it. At the top left, write “NEEDS” – and at the top right, write “WANTS”.

Now place everything you spend money on into one of these two columns.

Be as brutally honest as possible. Do you need Netflix right now? Do you need that cappuccino you always have on your lunch break? What about those beers on Friday night? How about new clothes?

Consult your spending diary that you’ve hopefully been using. How many of those daily entries were things you actually needed? Will your life end without them?

Once you’re finished, look at the “WANTS” column – and write down how much they cost, next to each item. Now total them up. That’s how much you can instantly start saving every month if you cut all these out.

The final step here is simply to stop buying those things you don’t need. I know, it’s harder than it sounds.

Our extremely effective and profitable marketing industry will try its best to convince you to buy that Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino. Don’t let them win. It’s time to take control of your finances right now.

Cook Your Own Meals

I Cook A Mean Risotto…

5: Develop Habits That Save You Money

How about getting up a little earlier, skipping the bus and walking/riding a bike to work instead? Ever heard of ride-sharing? What other daily expenses can you replace with money-saving habits?

What skills can you learn that will cut your daily costs?

I’ll give an example. By cooking your meals instead of buying them prepared, you can save thousands of dollars every year. Which is exactly what I did when I was saving money for my own travel adventures.

You don’t have to give up excellent coffee and tasty avocado toast — just make them yourself and save money.

Cooking for yourself, especially lunch & dinner, can save somewhere between $ 6 and $ 11 per meal – so if you previously spent all your time eating out, you’d save between $ 125 and $ 230 every week just by cooking.

It’s a skill that puts decent money in your pocket. Plus, it’s fun too!

6: Cut Accommodation Costs

This is extreme – but also extremely effective. If the place you are renting (or own) costs a lot of money, how about taking on a roommate to share the rent and bills? What about two roommates?

If that’s not an option, and you’ve got a year or more before you hit the road – why not move into a smaller apartment, or a cheaper neighborhood? This is one way I was able to save money for my trip.

By moving into a cheaper neighborhood on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale in Florida, sharing a small house with 2 other roommates, I was able to save hundreds of dollars on accommodation every month rather than living in the much more expensive city of Miami.

Other travelers I know moved in with their parents for a few months to save money. Or they rent out their homes and move somewhere cheaper. Obviously these aren’t ideal situations, and may not even be options for everyone, but I just want to open your eyes to the possibilities.

Sometimes you need to think outside the box to make your dreams come true. And drastic measures can be uncomfortable, but effective.

How to Save Money for Travel

Who Needs A Car?

7: Sell Your Crap

If it’s worth good money and you can’t travel with it, then is it really worth hanging onto? In my case, I took a long, hard look at my car one day, decided to sell it, and bought a used folding bicycle to replace it.

Instant injection of much-needed cash! Not only from the sale, but also from canceling my auto insurance and no longer needing to buy gas.

Instead, I purchased a public bus pass. Sure, my commute was longer. Riding my bike to the bus stop in the rain kinda sucked. But you know what? I was dedicated. I was determined. Wearing a poncho and riding in the rain isn’t the end of the world. Other people do it, why can’t I?

In addition to my car, I also sold my DJ turntables, sports equipment, and some furniture I really didn’t need. Everyone’s “crap” will be different. But we all collect it in one form or another.

Sites like Ebay & Craigslist can help you sell your stuff for extra cash to build up your travel fund.

8: Other Ways To Save

No, simply quitting avocado toast and frappuccinos isn’t going to pay for 6 months of travel. But, when combined with other money saving lifestyle changes, it all adds up to make a big difference.

Stop Going Out

Instead of spending too much money at a club or movie theater, invite friends over to your place for a movie night. Get outside and go on a hike.

Cook More

Now is a good time to learn the art of cooking. It’s entirely possible to buy low-cost, healthy ingredients, and cook your own tasty meals at home.

Shop Around

Did you compare prices while grocery shopping last week? Did you buy the cheapest toilet paper? Are you shopping at places like Costco & Amazon?

Cut Your Landline

I can’t remember the last time I used a landline. Cellphones work just fine. Switch to the cheapest provider, with the cheapest plan possible.

Ditch Your Cable

TV is a waste of time. Stop paying to live vicariously through shows, and make your own life more exciting. The internet is full of free entertainment!

Quit The Gym

No need for a gym membership when you can go running, hiking, or practice bodyweight exercise routines outside while enjoying nature!

Slash Your Shopping

No, you don’t need the latest smartphone. No, you don’t need new clothes every month. No, you don’t need 5 different shades of lipstick.

Reduce Utilities

Turn down your air conditioning and use a fan or wear a sweater. Unplug electronics when not in use. Take shorter showers.

Earn More Money

Do You Have Any Talents You Can Sell?

9: Make More Money

Everyone wants to earn more money, right? Well it doesn’t grow on trees, but there are opportunities, even if you already have a full-time job.

Find part time work on the side. Maybe as a waiter, bartender, supermarket cashier, etc. I worked as a nightclub photographer 4 nights a week, putting up with drunk entitled assholes…

It doesn’t need to be an amazing job! Just something to boost your income. Do some research, and figure out what kinds of part-time positions match your skillset & talents.

Selling arts & crafts on Etsy. Stalking garage sales & re-selling on eBay. Walking dogs. Tutoring students. Babysitting. Audio transcription. Playing music.

The only limit is your imagination!

Check out Reddit’s Side Income Wiki for examples of how other people earn extra money.

10: Review Your Employment

Not earning enough money from your current job? Maybe it’s time to ask for a raise (as long as you can prove you actually deserve it). What makes you an important asset to the company?

Alternately, why not attempt to re-negotiate? Ask if there’s any way you can cut back your hours, or work from home a few days a week, so you can use that time you would normally spend commuting… on your side job.

If those aren’t options, you can start looking for another employer who pays more. Train in your spare time for something that pays better.

You’re not a slave to your job — if you don’t make enough, shop around and find a better place to work.

I know I’m making it sound easier than it is… but I never promised this would be easy. It’s not.

11: Earn As You Travel

This is a nice short-cut. If you can earn money as you travel, you won’t have to save quite as much. This is what I did. Before I began traveling, I’d built a small online business selling eBooks about topics I was knowledgeable on.

I managed to squeeze a money-making opportunity from my limited free time – which reduced the amount I needed to save for travel, as I could earn income on the road.

Because I was earning about $ 1500 per month from my online business, I left to backpack around Central America with only $ 7000 in the bank — confident I could continue working from my laptop.

Selling ebooks is no longer how I earn income. These days I make a good living from my travel blog. But that took a few years to accomplish.

How can you earn money online? Well there are all kinds of ways.

Affiliate marketing. Freelance writing. Graphic design. Computer programming. Becoming a virtual assistant. Language translation. I don’t know what skills & experience you have. But there are options.

For more details and ideas about how to earn money while traveling, make sure to check out my travel job guide.

Saving Money Won’t Be Easy!

Saving money doesn’t come naturally to most people. Nearly half of Americans don’t even have a $ 400 emergency fund.

The formula is simple. Live below your means, and save the rest.

Yet implementing this formula is not always easy. There are social pressures. We’re bombarded by marketing. Our willpower is lacking. We make excuses and lie to ourselves.

Others may have additional roadblocks — like obligations to support loved ones, student loans, debilitating injury, chronic disease, or a lack of job opportunities where they live.

If that’s the case, it may just take longer to reach your savings goal.

Following through is the difficult part. I know, I’ve been there. If this was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Resources To Get You There

To help you start saving money for travel, I’ve included some of my favorite resources below. These are useful tools for learning how to track your spending, budget your life, save money fast, or earn extra income.

YNAB – Excellent budgeting software & system to help you get out of debt and save money.

Mint – Popular free app for tracking your finances and managing your money.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – My favorite book about becoming financially responsible & independent.

Remote Job Directory – Wonderful resource that lists websites for finding a location independent job.

The $ 100 Startup – Inspiring book that highlights 50 people who built their own businesses with minimum investment.

The 4-Hour Workweek – The book that convinced me to enter the world of online business and entrepreneurship.

One Last Piece Of Advice

As you’ll discover when you’re traveling, things rarely go exactly to plan.

The ability to think on your feet and adjust your trajectory on the fly is an important skill for travel, and life.

Expect many course corrections. Don’t be surprised when obstacles get in your way. Life is messy and the best-laid plans have a habit of fraying at the edges, or falling apart completely.

That shouldn’t matter though – you’re committed to this, right? You’ll find another way to get there. The specific plan you choose isn’t important… the destination is everything.

Best of luck – and I hope to see you out there! ★

Have any questions about saving money for travel? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Expert Vagabond