It’s almost inevitable that you will get sick (pretty much inevitable) while travelling in India. Lifestyle conditions, letting down your guard and other factors will guarantee it. India’s standards are a lot different than ours so when you’re planning your trip, it’s best to be prepared. How can you travel through India and avoid Delhi Belly? That’s an excellent question, one which I can definitely answer. (I’ve had my share of “Beaver Fever” and Mexican Maladies)

It’s not something a lot of people thing about before buying their flights to India, nore should it scare travellers away from doing so. You have to really get your body ready for the foreign microbes about to hit you a top-speed before your tip. While you’re there in India, make sure you follow some basic precautions and you won’t be one of the foreign travellers dropping like flies or taking up the toilet all day long.

1) Avoid the tap water by all costs.

Simple enough, right? Keep a bottle of water ever-ready for when thirst strikes and when brushing your teeth, don’t use the tap. When buying bottled water, make sure the cap is still sealed to avoid any Slumdog Millionaire-type mishaps. You know that ice in your drink? That’s likely made from tap water so request your cold beverages without it.

2) Go vegetarian, avoid meat.

India is a nation of vegetarians. If you’ve never tried going a whole day without some pork in your beans, start now. India food is flavourful, protein-ful and delicious. Contaminated meats are the main cause for gut rot, so avoid your curry with a side of lamb.

3) Fresh cheese is a no-no.

I know what you’re thinking…but! cheese is a humble host for microbes that will split you in two. Avoid cheese that hasn’t been cooked, for example parmesan over pasta. Pizza cheese should be fine, as is Paneer, a local Indian cheese used in curry.

4) Eat in upscale restaurants.

I know, pretty much the opposite of what I always preach on here… eat like a local, follow the local’s footsteps, bla, bla, bla… but really. This time I’m saying different. Eat at touristy restaurants because they usually have a good reputation, steady clientèle and are most importantly hygienic… or else they wouldn’t find themselves in the pages of Lonely Planet year after year. Street food is not for the weary… what the locals can handle may not be what you can handle.

5) Wash your hands and trust your gut.

Washing your hands regularly before eating is always a good place to start. If there is no soap/warm water available, use a disinfectant (something you should carry around with you). Since everyone’s system is different, in the end, the best advice is to trust how you feel. India is overwhelming, so just go with the flow. You might still get sick after following my advice to the tee, but you might not. Take it easy if you do, Gravol will be your best friend.

Do you have any of your own tips to share?

This photo is from jonrawlinson, Flickr Creative Commons.


Are you tired of Lonely Planet’s “off the beaten track” way around a city only to discover that the quiant cathedral you think you’re discovering for the first time is also being discovered for the first time by a dozen other backpackers with similar Lonely Planet editions hanging out their sacks or back pockets? That’s what happens when hotels, restaurants, tiny museums are featured in guides with such strong readership, such loyal readership. They’re not “off the beaten track” anymore.

But you really really want to get the most out of your trip to Barcelona… without a Lonely Planet.

Le Cool has a happy alternative, The weird and wonderful guide to Barcelona, guaranteed to take you places tourists have never dared to go. Including some hip hotels in Barcelona, funky hostels that there are no signs for and underground absinthe bars that’ll put a wild spin on your night.

Red and hardcover, this little book is complete with witty narratives, maps and ideas that will certainly fill any Barcelona trip. Written by locals for those travellers with a keen for something a little off-beat, a little different. Walking guides, essential stops, interviews with the rich/trendy/famous of the capital of Catalan, where to find a good sex club (should you swing that way), buy cheap cigarettes and don’t worry the Gaudi-mahem is kept at a necessary minimum.

Where can you find the book? It’s available directly from Le Cool as well as Amazon.co.uk. I had a copy once. A travelling friend passed it along to me after his trip to Barcelona, telling me to take it, use it and then pass it along again. I did take it to Barcelona, I stayed at a hostel mentioned there, drank absinthe cocktails with funny names in a dark basement, drank my latte at a chic coffee bar and did a tour of a few off-beat museums. During a trip to Berlin a few months later, I met someone on their way to Barcelona and I passed the Weird and Wonderful guide on to them.

Do you have a copy of this book? These guides are also available in several other cities… check’em out!

Isn’t it every traveller’s dream to take to the open road and make a huge road trip from coast to coast across the great North American continent? It’s certainly been mine for years now and it’s always been on the back-burner. Well that’s all going to change this year, all-American road trip here I come!

First thing is first though, how to plan one. Making a trip like this abroad needs time to plan, that’s for sure. From the research I’ve done so far, it’ll be no easy task so here are a couple pointers that I’ve picked up along with my planning.

  • Give yourself time, at least two weeks to do the trip so that you don’t feel rushed. Plan well in advance (working on this now) making sure you can get time off work and other responsibilities at home for that period. Once you book your flights to the USA, give yourself some days to adjust to the time difference before hitting the road.
  • Make your itinerary, but leave room to move. The spontaneous style of road trips is almost their entire charm. Select some major cities and sights to see and then leave the rest open for new discoveries.
  • Ditch the GPS and pick up state road maps instead. These electronic navigation systems are good but are nothing compared to maps which will tell you the name of that mountain you passed 30 miles back, where the next campground is, how long until the next junction, etc. For free maps, scour the visitor information centres.
  • When planning your route, try to avoid making the whole trip using the interstate. Take the scenic rural highways instead. It will take you longer but you’re more likely to find something interesting on the way.
  • Don’t drive too much in one day, this’ll tire you out. Make the trip with a fellow driver so you two can switch, travelling only for a couple hours each day to be able to enjoy what you see along the road.
  • One last tip, make sure you don’t forget to apply for an international driver’s permit. It’s very important if you plan to drive in the USA to have this paper.

Have you ever taken a real road trip? Any tips to share with us?

If there’s any place I want to be during the holidays, it’s London. Harrod’s window displays ignite the holiday cheer in just about everyone that walks by them (and takes a moment to admire the intricacy), Oxford Street is done up in bows and Regent’s Park looks like something out of a Narnia film once it’s covered in snow.

When the wind really blows, there’s nothing nicer than curling up in a cozy cafe with a mug of apple cider or mulled wine to scare the winter blues away and dry your mittens. London has a lot of charm around the holiday time and a lot of chaos during shopping hours. This is the reason why I love to escape, to the quieter corners of the city.

London Fields

There are a lot of great and very free things to do in London this time of year that won’t freeze your knickers (at least mostly not). If you’re in London this December, I recommend grabbing a room at Tune Hotels London, (£65 a night!) and checking some of these out.

British Museum

As one of the world’s finest museums, it would be a shame to visit the city and skip over it. It’s open from 10:oo until 5:30 in the afternoon. It’s easy to spend a couple of days in there, getting lost and soaking in the history of the artefacts.

Piccadilly Circus

If you hang out here long enough, you’re sure to find some creative minds, street performers and other artists trying to make a living from the crowds. There’s a London saying that goes, ‘If you hang out near the Eros Statue in Piccadilly Circus for 15 minutes, you’re sure to run into someone you know’. It’s where all the action takes place!

Tower of London Tour

Skating at the Tower of London

Yeoman Warders come dresses in “Beefeater” costumes and give free one-hour tours of the Tower of London. Tours leave every 30 minutes from just inside the gate. This is a great way to get a more animated experience of the Tower. Another free activity here is the Ceremony of the Keys, a tradition that has taken place at the tower every night for 700+ years. It starts at 9:30 and ends at 10:05. There’s a trick though to getting tickets, you have to write via snail mail to the Tower of London.

Convent Garden

To get a closer look at London’s street culture, Covent Garden is a right place to be. There is always an abundance of street performers and artists around. Market stalls pop up over night selling handmade wares, fine=crafted jellies, spirits and baked goodness. For the real foodies, Borough Market will definitely satisfy any cravings. Covent Garden markets are just off of the Covent Garden tube stop, while Borough Market is a 5 minute walk south of London Bridge stop.

Speaker’s Corner

Have something to say to the world? Head down to Cumberland Gate Park Lane (the north-east corner of Hyde Park), it’s free! Open Sundays from noon until 7:30. Whether you get your turn in the booth or not, this corner is hopping when it’s open! There’s no other place to hear passionate people express their opinions. This phenomenon started in 182 when the government elected one corner of the city for public speaking on politics, religion and economy.

Platform 9 3/4

This spot in King’s Cross Station is forever popularized by the Harry Potter films but if you’re a fan like I am, it’s no doubt a good place for a photo opp! There’s even a trolly stuck half-way through the wall which was added some years ago when the book series exploded with popularity.

As for London, you can never find enough time to do all the things you want, which is why so many people come back year after year, after year! The city is always changing too, so there is always something more to see around London. As for me, I’m hoping I’ll be there this holiday season to enjoy the festive cheer that’s already hit the streets!




Touring New Orleans

I’ve never seen so many walking tours in one city before. Usually it’s just the usual historical town tour, but not in New Orleans. There’s something for every taste, time and interest it seems. There are a number of tour companies as well which means when it comes to finding a deal, there’s plenty of competition to shop. The main attraction is of course the French Quarter where tunes of sweet jazz, R&B, funky brass bands and blues fill the streets.

New Orleans has a riveting history which is part of the reason why it’s such a great city to visit. Whether you’d like to see how the city has changed since the Hurricane Katrina disaster or visit age-old taverns in the French Quarter, there is certainly something to dig your teeth into in this Louisiana city.

Which of these tours would you like to take?

Tours, tours, tours!

  • New Orleans city tour
  • Haunted tour
  • Garden District tour
  • Swamp tour
  • Plantation tour
  • Jazz music tour
  • French Quarter tour
  • French Quarter twilight tour
  • Cemetery Voodoo tour
  • Hurricane / Rebirth tour

Like I said, there is a whole lot of city to tour and one of the great things is that there are plenty of walking trails, pedestrian-friendly streets and parks to walk around. Always start your tour in the FQ and then branch out the explore the neighbouring “faubourgs”…

It may be quite a jaunt from London but there are enough New Orleans travel deals around to make it an affordable holiday destination just about any time of the year. For the most excitement though, head to Louisiana for New Years, Mardi Gras or Halloween!


Canada’s Seven Wonders

Have you ever noticed how fascinated we are with lists? Especially “Top 10’s”? Sometimes I wonder how these things ever started… in any case these lists don’t just tell you what to read, listen to or eat but what you should see as well when you travel. We’re all familiar with the seven wonders of the world, and the seven natural wonders and the seven ancient wonders… so I’m just going to break it down for you and let’s take a look at Canada’s, just one country to keep it simple, seven wonders.

If you’ve never been to this huge country then you have only one obligation after reading this post: go and book some cheap flights to Canada! You won’t regret it. This place is not only stunning for its wilderness that goes on for thousands (literally) of kilometres, but it’s modern and cultural cities as well.

Can I get a holla from all the moose and beaver lovers out there?!

So let’s get started: Canada’s Seven Wonders

1. Niagara Falls

Until someone turns the tap off on the Niagar River, this baby is going to keep on flowing. Forever dividing the USA and Canada, the iconic falls are the second largest in the world. Take a ride on the Maid of the Mist to the foot of the falls (remember a raincoat because it’s mighty wet down there) and check out the other local attractions which include hiking along the gorge, going wine tasting in Niagara-on-the-Lake and taking the cable car across the river.

2. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

The Sleeping Giant refers to the thin peninsula near Thunder Bay (northern Ontario) that protects it from the winds sweeping across Lake Superior. From a distance it looks like a person laying flat on their back with arms crossed on its chest. Local Ojibway folklore says that Nanna Bijou was turned to stone when one of his tribesmen was tricked into sharing the location of the silver mine. The park is famous for its hiking trails and wildlife.

3. Hopewell Rocks

During low tide in the Bay of Fundy on the east coast in New Brunswick, you can walk out and explore these sand pillars, formed naturally over time.

4. Jasper National Park

The Rockies on the west coast are perfect for camping, hiking, skiing in winter and spotting mountain goats. Surrounded by lakes with crystal blue waters, this place will definitely impress. Climb a glacier, hang out with the caribou or swim in the turquoise waters… Lake Louise is a favourite.

5. Badlands

Where T-Rex made it’s home… Alberta is home to thousands of dinosaur bones, especially in Drumheller. There is a dinosaur museum and you can even join a dig to check out bones that are begin excavated. The Hood Doos and the Royal Tyrrell Museum shouldn’t be missed either.

6. Confederation Bridge

One of Canada’s provinces lies out on its own in the Atlantic Ocean, Prince Edward Island. It’s connected to the mainland though by bridge, the longest in Canada, spanning 8 miles (13 km). It’s an incredible drive and an engineering feat.

7. Cabot Trail

If you think you can’t get much further east in Canada, you can’t. The Cabot Trail is the end of the line on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It’s only 300km long but circles the island and is one of the most picturesque places to visit on the way. Stop for a whale watching cruise, try your hand at fishing from the docks, get lost in the lilacs growing all summer and watch the tide come and go. It’s a place that is mystical yet magical… one of the first places where European’s landed with strong Irish and Celtic roots.

Ever been to Canada? I would love to hear about your trip!

“A” is for Algiers

You’re thinking, “North Africa? Islamic culture? Holiday? No way.” But hold on a minute. Algiers is one very off the beaten track city that deserves a little attention. It’s true that it was only a decade ago that tourists were evacuated from Algeria, some even killed, because of a brutal civil war.

It’s also true though that Algeria is one of the most beautiful countries on the continent and has the potential to be something like Morocco (at least in their tourism industry) if only they’d realise it. The Tassili N’Ajjer and Hoggar regions offer just a glimpse at Africa’s tribal culture which is still very much alive in those regions. The capital city of Algiers is a romantic mix of traditional colonial architecture and a touch of modernism which is inevitable. The Sahara is guarded by quaint Timimoun, what you might think of as an quintessential oasis town in the desert.

Just for fun, I put together 10 things in Algeria, all starting with the letter “A” that could peak just about any curious travellers interest. Have any more to add?

10 things about Algeria that start with “A”

  • Algiers: Characterised by its white-washed walls and relics from it’s pirate days. This city best represents the cultural diversity found in the country on a whole. It’s up to you though to find it.
  • Abdallah Benmasour: As one of the country’s most respected artists, you can find his paintings for sale in his studio in Oran where he also sells simple stationary and art materials.
  • Annaba: For it’s rolling hills, excellent beaches and colonial architecture. It’s Algeria’s fourth-largest cities and one of the most beautiful.
  • Atakor: This place looks more like something out of a Tolkein novel than from Africa. Its a plateau of dry earth and mysterious mountain peaks. To reach it, you’ll need your own transportation. Nearby is the Parc National de l’Ahaggar.
  • Arabic: The national language is worth picking up, at least a few words.
  • Albert Camus: Famous for his novel The Stranger, I bet you didn’t know this 20th century philosopher was born in Algeria.
  • Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad: A ruined fortified city, this fort is a UNESCO site and is an “authentic picture of a fortified Muslim city”.
  • Air Algerie: The country’s national airline is by far the easiest and cheapest way to reach this country.
  • Adrar: A natural stop on your way to In Salah. What’s most notable is the city’s look: its uniform red brick houses and central square surely don’t fit in with the rest of the country.
  • Africa’s Notre Dame: Located in Algiers it’s one of the city’s most outstanding monuments. It’s located in the Z’will ghara district and was built in 1858.