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Do Not Miss Lists

South Africa – DoNotMissList

SOUTH AFRICA – DoNotMissList

What to see…. What to eat…in South Africa

Let’s start by saying that South Africa is home to diverse breathtaking landscapes and a rich history that supports 11 official languages!

From the vibrant ‘Garden Route’ to the ‘Dragon Mountains’ you could take in all that the country has to offer without breaking the bank! The climate also supports general travel year round, although if you are interested in specific activities such as diving with great whites, watching the whale migrations, surfing, kite boarding, etc. you may want to check the best time of year for your specific interests!

South Africa, which is the southern most country within Africa is commonly renowned as The Jewel of Africa – and let me assure you, we agree with this sentiment. There’re various ways to get around – from public transport, renting your own car for less then $20/day, walking within all major cities (we tested out Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban) and a variety of well priced overland tours (Intrepid being our favorite).

Now for our South African DoNotMissList:

  1. Garden Route – stretches along the southeastern coast of South Africa and boasts spectacular scenery
  2. Kruger National Park – one of the largest game reserves in South Africa and home to the infamous Big 5
  3. Table Mountain – hike up or take the cable car to see Cape Town from above
  4. Diving with Great Whites in Gansbaai – hop in a cage and go face to face with huge great whites
  5. Boulder’s Penguin Colony – home to the tiny “African Penguins”, formerly known as “Jack-Ass Penguins”
  6. Cape Point – the most spectacular cliff side view
  7. Blyde River Canyon – the largest green canyon in the world
  8. Safari Ostrich Park – the only place I’ve come across that you can ride an Ostrich
  9. Circa on Jellicoe – a modern landmark in Johannesburg’s art district
  10. Stellenbosch Wine Route – a vineyard route outside of Cape Town that offers views that will blow your mind

South Africa’s World heritage sites: 

  1. Mapungubwe National Park – a national park in Limpopo Province, South Africa
  2. The Cradle of Humankind – draws visitors from around the world for the fossil record that lies in the network of limestone caves beneath the surface
  3. Robben Island – an island in Table Bay, Cape Town, South Africa where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years of his 27 year sentence

Grub to try in South Africa:

These are the iconic South African dishes that are proudly served to guests…

  1. Droëwors – a type of sausage popular in South African cuisine
  2. Morogo – known as wild or African spinach
  3. Chakalaka – a South African vegetable relish, usually spicy, that is traditionally served with bread, pap, samp, phutu, stews or curries

Thanks for visiting our DoNotMissList for South Africa – we hope you make it there and know you will not be disappointed!  It certainly ranks in our top ten of all time :)

Do Not Miss Lists

Top 10 Cheap Places to Travel – DNM List

Travel hacks – top 10 places to travel that won’t break the bank

Everyone usually thinks of Southeast Asia when they think of cheap travel – and yes, that is true most of Southeast Asia is extremely cheap and there is good weather nearly year round.  At this point though, I have traveled all over the world and want to give you the top ten cheap places to travel that won’t break the bank, have a lot to offer AND are somewhat unique :)

1. Peru

The land of the almighty Incas.  Of course, you can find the most impressive site in the world here, Machu Picchu, but that’s not it.  Peru also has the range of natural beauty, a cuisine unlike any other place in the world, and some of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet.  The entire sacred valley outside of Cusco is just that, sacred.  You can feel the energy and power in the region – and will leave with a sense of awe and wonder.

2. Indonesia

– Comprised of over 17,000 islands, Indonesia has a lot to offer every member of the family.  My personal favorite island is Bali – beaches, mountains, artist colonies, fishing towns, volcanic regions, and amazing food very similar to that of Thailand.

3. Thailand

– Mainland plus islands brings you a country with a vast array of options from Tiger petting to jungle trekking, island hopping, full moon partying, praying with buddha, taking cooking classes, and elephant riding.  From the north to the south, the Thai people are wonderful and the food is spectacular.

4. Costa Rica

Rain forests, cloud forests, beaches, volcanic regions – Costa Rica is blessed to have two full coasts and then everything in between.  You will not be disappointed with any region of the country as each has a wonderful set of offerings.  Just choose if you want an adventure – in the tree tops, hiking through cloud forests, watching volcanoes ooze from your bedroom, or if you prefer relaxation – checking out sloths in the rainforest, lying on one of many beaches, watching the most incredible sunsets you’ve ever seen while sipping on an exotic drink.  Even better than that, you can have it all, the country is narrow and you can make your trip across easily – so get to planning – there’s a lot to choose from!

5. South Africa

A country with vast diversity, many official languages, and landscapes of every variety – South Africa will keep you busy and happy for a long time.  Whether your fancy is safaris, diving with great whites, kiteboarding, surfing, dancing, wine tasting, mountain climbing, hiking, relaxing – I could go on with this list for quite a while, because South Africa really does have it all.  Cape Town of course is the most impressive of the major cities, but take your time exploring, even rent a car, the roads are good and the adventures are plentiful!

6. Egypt

One of the most moving places I have ever been, Egypt impresses on so many levels it is hard to put into words.  It is not as affordable as the other countries on this list, but it is still doable on a budget and is not to be missed.  The ancient temples (open air museums) of Luxor tell the story of the land and give you true understanding of the Egyptian people.  The sites are more impressive than rome and the food is stellar – what more could you ask for?

7. India

An enormous land with desert, beaches, mountains and spirituality.  India will yes, shock you to the core, but also bring you to a place of inner peace not yet experienced (if you let it).  Yoga retreats, ashrams, meditation, you name it, India has it happening in one region or another.  The food is amazing, but even more than that, the energy and centering that can be felt there will blow you away.

8. Montenegro

– A lot like Croatia, with crystal clear waters, and beaches all along the coast.  One of the few places you can find inland fjords, castles, old walled cities, and mountainous regions that will leave you trekking for days.  Montenegro has it all, and the price tag will agree with your bank!

9. Argentina

The land of steak and malbec.  Argentina is home to some of the most passionate artistic individuals and the big cities like Buenos Aires make sure you feel that.  From dance, art, food exploration, wine regions, some of the most enchanting falls in the world, and the patagonia with black/white glaciers, endless nature, you can find yourself in Argentina.

10. Namibia

Safaris and sand dunes characterize this massive country with a mere population of 2 million.  The infrastructure is sound, the roads good and the animals a plenty.  There is a long coast line, home to the skeleton coast, and sand dunes that go on for miles.  You can spend your time finding rhinos, elephants, zebras, and lions – or taking a snowboard to the dunes, flying down at speeds over 30 km/hr.

So the next trip you are considering – think of this list for the Top 10 Cheap Places to Travel!

Travel Tips

Traveling in Myanmar

Although the border only recently opened, the country has been hard at work to enable the best possible experience.  Traveling in Myanmar is quite easy and the country offers an experience that can hardly be put into words.

Here is my breakdown of a few important things to know before traveling to Myanmar:

PEOPLE

The people of Myanmar are very warm and open to tourists. Of course you should be respectful of them if you want to be treated with respect (like anywhere), but honestly they have one of the kindest demeanors I’ve encountered. The kids learn English in school and there are courses all around the major cities for technology, tourism, English, etc. The borders were only opened to outsiders in 2011 and they are working hard to get things ready for prime time tourism. Everywhere we’ve been (guest houses, pagodas, restaurants, trains, buses), doors were opened and an extra effort made to ensure we were happy and comfortable. There is an English speaking expert at nearly every place we’ve been, even taxi drivers will phone a friend just to be sure they are communicating to you properly.

TRANSPORT

You’ll have plenty of options within cities and between them to get from A to B, but I would recommend being  slightly selective on your choices.

To get between the major cities, I would recommend train only as a last resort. The rail lines have not been updated in decades, the cars are quite dingy, the ride is so bumpy you’ll be 6 inches out of your seat every couple of minutes, there are roaches and Mosquitos both in the sleeper cars, no a/c and fan use only if you’re lucky.

So what should you do?

The bus is excellent! In fact I would recommend using bus all over the country if you don’t want to fly. There is one carrier JJ Express which is exceptionally comfortable, air conditioned, offers screens at every seat (if you’re into that) and is the most modern option around. You can book tickets when you arrive at the airport or at the bus station within the city. I would keep an eye around online too, who knows, they could have online booking available soon…

FOOD

The food in Myanmar is kind of a melting pot.  I would say it’s a mix of Thai and Indian for the most part with a fair amount of Japanese  options (especially in Yangon). I recommend being overly cautious about meat consumption, and that of raw foods, ice, etc. there are tourist restaurants that will specify that everything is boiled, purified, etc. and in that case you’re probably fine.

MONEY

The local currency is over inflated, so everything in Myanmar is far more expensive than it should be. You can dig for deals, but it’s hard to find anything less than $15-$20pp per night in ok accommodations – most hotels are insanely priced and certainly not worth the money.  Food is still relatively cheap, looking at $2-$3 a plate in a decently priced place, but of course the more touristy places try and charge $6-$10. Again, not even close to worth it. After being in Thailand or any other country in south east Asia you will think it’s quite pricey. Hiring a motorbike for the day will run you $15-$20 or a taxi $30-$45 (depending on your negotiation skills on the street).

Also ATMs were only introduced in Myanmar over the past year, so the bank fees are quite high and many of them have very low limits on withdrawals. Some ATMs will only let you take out $50 and they charge a $5 bank fee to withdrawal money. KGB Bank lets you take out up to $500, so it’s a much better bet.

DRESS

The country as a whole is somewhat conservative.  The vast majority of the population is Buddhist, they pray often and wear very covering clothing, even in the hottest times of the year.  As a tourist, I understand we are not necessarily used to wearing floor length skirts and shirts that cover our shoulders in extreme heat, but remember you are in their home.  It is absolutely disrespectful to wear shorts and a tank top when visiting their holy sites (which most Pagodas and sights in Myanmar are).  Some sights will provide you with a floor length skirt to put over your shorts, some may ask you to go home and others may just look the other way.  In all three of those scenarios however, know that you will have offended some percentage of the local population and should make a serious effort not to do so when visiting.  General rules are – no spaghetti straps (as they put it), no shorts, and no shoes/socks in any temple (this includes Pagodas).  They have places to put your shoes when arriving at the temple, but it is definitely easier to be wearing sandals that just slide on and off when visiting many sites in a day.  Just my two cents!

Continue Reading…

Travel Tips

Best Camera Bag for Travel

I spent years looking for the best camera bag for travel, and I finally found it!

For this type of purchase there are likely two style preferences, there are those that like backpacks (for carrying several lenses) and those that prefer shoulder bags (which fit less lenses, but allow easier access to them).  Lowepro offers some of the best bags on the market and they have a model that will suit nearly every photographer’s needs.  There are versions of the bags that even have slots for additional electronics such as a laptop or ipad.

My personal favorite is THIS ONE – this shoulder bag is extremely versatile, and can be worn on your front when you are wearing a larger pack on your back (in my case while I backpack around the world).  Inside the bag there are compartments for your extra batteries, SIM cards, cords, etc., a larger insert (that can be removed) which holds up to 3 lenses and a camera body, and a compression zipper that allows you to easily transform the bag between the two potential sizes.  Even when the camera carrying insert is inside the bag, you still have plenty of room to fit additional items, and there are three pockets on the exterior of the bag as well, so you can be creative with your organization.

I’ve had my bag now for years and taken it to a few dozen countries, so I can additionally attest to its durability.  The bag shows almost no wear at all and it has kept my camera safe and secure in even the most unimaginable situations (I do travel to quite a few third world nations and when I am there opt for local transport).

If you are set on getting a backpack instead – I would opt for THIS ONE.  Again, extreme versatility, just this one has two shoulder straps and is on your back of course…

Hope this helps you determine the best camera bag to bring with you on your next excursion, whether it be in a local park or on a journey to the other side of the world!