Showing posts with label Guest Post. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Post. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Traveling To Russia

Our guest author Jess Signet travels to a land not much explored and uncovers the secrets of this colossal country with many lesser known attractions. If you are thinking about a maiden trip to Russia, this article will provide you the much needed helpful information from a fellow traveller. And if Russia has never appeared on your wish list, we are sure after reading this article, you’d seriously think about a trip to Russia.

Russia is an exciting and unique place for anyone to travel. Hidden for so long behind the iron curtain of the Soviet Union, western tourism still hasn’t taken this vast and impressive country into its clutch yet. Because of this, the unique and authentic experience that travellers get, without mass-crowds of foreigners, is pretty much unmatchable.

However, as soon as you get off the plane, it’s clear to see that this largely unknown part of our planet is a world away from what most travelers are used to. If you don’t do your research, you’re in for quite a surprise! Culturally, geographically and politically, this country is probably one of the most unique on earth, and arriving without the right preparation could make your traveling experience more difficult than you first anticipated.

Here’s a list of 10 things that I wish I’d known before setting off on my adventure to this wild and wonderful location.

1. You Don’t Know the Meaning of Cold

Coming from Britain, I was quite sure I had wintertime handled. You put on a thick coat, pull up your hood and spend six months of the year complaining that you wish it were summer. Unfortunately, after landing in Surgut International Airport in January, I realized the “cold” that I thought I knew so well was simply child’s play.

Reaching, and staying, well below zero during wintertime, Russia demands several jumpers, thermal underwear, hats, scarves and snow sports-quality gloves. It’s also advisable to have a back-up plan for days where the weather is too bad to go outside.

Catching up on movies, cooking a hearty meal and contacting loved ones back are all good options. Don’t underestimate this great country’s version of freezing, because getting cold, and having to stay cold, is not a particularly enjoyable experience. Note that if you’re planning to watch a fewmovies to avoid the cold when in Russia, be sure that you have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed, as many sites like Netflix are subject to geo-restrictions.

2. It’s Also Warm!

Fortunately, contrary to the popular and somewhat stereotyped belief, Russia can also be very warm. You have to remember that this country is huge, and whereas the northern regions are truly artic in their conditions, down south the climate is warmer than most European countries. I was astounded to discover that palm trees grow in the areas around the Black Sea, and in summer, temperatures can reach an incredible 40-43C and almost never drop below freezing in winter.

Unfortunately this means that any traveler planning to see the whole country requires a vast array of clothing options, from shorts and T-shirts to a fur-lined coat and thermal trousers!

3. Prepare to Chow Down

Perhaps unfairly, Russia is in no way known for its cuisine. Aside from the caviar, most people see Russian food as bland, heavy and generally undesirable. This could not be further from the truth! Whether you’re trying a crepe-like “Blini”, traditional beef stroganoff or a hearty “Knish” pastry, the many local delicacies are sure to delight.

This may be unfortunate news form me as I thought that the lack of tempting food would keep my budget down; however, it was well worth splurging in the local restaurants to try these mouth-watering dishes.
4. Poisonous Animals and Plants

There are many dangerous creepy-crawlies, snakes, stinging-trees and other undesirables in the vast landscape, and unfortunately, the sheer size of the country means that they vary considerably in different regions. Although there is information provided about the different species you need to be aware of when you’re over there, it’s usually in Russian, not explained very well or has pictures that leave a lot to the imagination. To avoid any nasty run-ins or trips to the local hospital, it’s definitely wise to do a bit of research and brush up on the potential dangers before you set off.

5. Journeys are Long…

As I may have mentioned previously: Russia is big! Covering an astounding 17.1 million km2, you only have to look at a map to see that traveling this country is an experience unlike any other. Although most travelers have a vague awareness of this, most people also fail to consider the repercussions.

To put things into perspective, I took the famed Trans Siberian Express journey,and it was an incredible seven days long, but it had very limited facilities, particularly in the lower class sections of the train. This meant that I was travelling for a whole week continuously without even basic necessities like a shower! Because of this I had to be extremely well prepared and ready to sit on a cramped train for, literally, days on end—which wasn’t easy!

6. …and Terrifying

Not only do you have a long way to go when driving anywhere, you also have a terrifying experience to endure. The driving in Russia is terrible, erratic and a complete recipe for disaster. Things to be aware of include the complete lack of use, or respect for, speed limits and sudden and unpredictable lane changes—even in busy traffic. It’s also not uncommon for drivers to use the hard shoulder as an extra lane as I experienced on my first day in the country when in a taxi from the airport.

7. Put Away the Courtesies

British people are known for their incessant politeness and focus on manners. I soon discovered that Russia could not be at a further end of the scale from this. No matter where you come from, you’re definitely going to find Russian people to be rude until you’ve learned to understand their culture.

Russians are very straightforward and genuine. They don’t smile if they don’t need to, and please and thank yous are very rare. However, this is a simply cultural difference rather than anything else, so put away the etiquette rulebook and get stuck in!

8. Vodka is Not Like Water

There’s a very common misconception, probably inspired by the fact we know so little about them, that all Russians are Vodka-guzzling alcoholics. This is definitely not the case. Although there are many heavy drinkers in more rural areas, the cities are no more filled with alcoholics than Germany, Ireland and many other European countries. Alcohol consumption is also banned on the streets and in public places, so if you think you’re going to get away with swigging Vodka straight from the bottle while sight-seeing, then you’re sorely mistaken. I definitely recommend enjoying the drink responsibly in some of the local bars because drinking Russian vodka with the Russians is definitely an experience!

9. Prepare To Queue

There are many monuments and landmarks left over from the Soviet Union and queuing is most definitely one of them. Whether you’re trying to send letters home to loved ones at the local post office or have just nipped down to the shops for a pint of milk, you are definitely going to end up in a queue.

The Russian people are experts at this phenomenon and even better at slyly pushing in without being noticed, so if you do find yourself part of a traditional Russian queue, be sure to stand fast and not give up your place to anyone! I once found myself in a queue when a friendly local popped in front of me to start, what appeared to be, a casual chat, it took a while before I realized they’d actually just stolen my place in the queue without me even noticing!

10. Avoid the Politics

For the majority of the rest of the world, the view we have of Russian politics is, at best, ridiculous and at worst, terrifying. However, partially due to the media input and partially due to the ease of following tradition, most Russian people wholeheartedly support their political regime. Because of this, it’s advisable not to engage in discussions about it as, no matter how convincing you think you are, you’re not going to change their minds, and it’s very likely you’ll offend them in the process.

A trip to Russia will be an amazing experience no matter how much you know, but these ten things are sure to improve your time there no end! If you have any more tips that you feel should be included, then be sure to comment below.

About the author: Jess Signet is an avid traveler who recently enjoyed a fantastic trip to Russia. It’s a great country, so much to see and do and hopefully this article will help you prepare for your trip or just learn a few things about this vast country! You can catch Jess and her adventures on Twitter at: @Jessstravels

Saturday, 13 February 2016

9 Best Historical Places in Dubai

If you think Dubai is all about skyscrapers and man-made wonders, then this article will make you rethink. Our guest author Neha Singh flies back in time and explores the side of Dubai often overlooked by tourists. This article will surely give history lovers a compelling reason to visit Dubai.

Dubai is loved by the whole world. Its exponential growth from a small Bedouin village to the entertainment hub of the world is astonishing. But what makes it more awe- inspiring is the fact that amongst the sky high towers and ultra modern developments, Dubai still has miraculously preserved its heritage and history. The city is full of monuments and places that hold immense historical importance and offer a peek into the rich past of Dubai and UAE.
Here are the 9 best historical places in Dubai that you must visit in order to get a detailed insight into the rich cultural heritage of this amazing city.

1. The Dubai Museum
Dubai Museum
The first place that we want you to visit is obviously the Dubai Museum. But unlike many places around the world, Dubai museum is very carefully adorned with the city’s history and it literally transports us back into the time of the Bedouin era. Every possible little thing of the past is so beautifully and carefully preserved in the museum that it’s hard to comprehend the amount of pain that must’ve gone into maintaining them in such great condition. From multimedia presentation of the history of Dubai to the fishing boats and traditional ornaments, Dubai museum is a must visit for every tourist.

2. Al Fahidi Fort
Al Fahidi Fort
Located in Bur Dubai, the Al Fahidi fort is a hit amongst visitors of all age groups. Built way back in the 1700s, the fort underwent various stages of expansion and played a huge role in preventing the village from the intervention of the neighboring tribes at that time. Over the centuries, AL Fahidi fort went on to become the home of the ruler of Dubai, then a garrison and lastly a prison to house the most deadly prisoners. Today, the fort acts as a museum and has on display various artifacts from the bygone era and local antiques.

3. Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek
The creek of Dubai that divides the city in to two halves goes long back in the history. It is linked to the centuries old trading tradition of Dubai when people used to use the creek as the only way of going to trade to the other side of the city.Going back in time the creek divided the city into Bur Dubai and Diera. It was in the Bur Dubai side of the creek where the Al Maktoum dynasty emerged.

4. Bastakiya Quarters
Bastakiya Quarters
Receiving its name from the historical town of Bastak, the Bastakiya quarters were established in the early 19th century by some of the rich pearl and textile traders from Iran. The area still has merchant houses, galleries and cafes that offer a glimpse of the past era. One of the most interesting neighborhoods of Dubai, Bastakiya Quarter is a delight walk in the glorious past of Dubai.

5. Hatta
Hatta Mountains
Located in the south east outskirts of Dubai, the Hatta Mountains have been a part of Dubai since its inception. Near the Hatta mountain site, there are various attractions that offer a glimpse in to the history of Dubai such as the fort built by the Sheikh Maktoum bin Hashr Al Maktoum in the late 1800s to safeguard the city from the invaders.

6. Sheikh Saeed House
Sheikh Saeed House
The grandfather of Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the current ruler of Dubai Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum stayed in this house from 1912 till 1958. The house today stands proud telling the story of its splendid past. The house which was built in the year 1896 houses a very rare collection of coins, historical pictures, and some of the most important documents and stamps of UAE.

7. Abra ride
Abra Ride
One of the oldest settlements and transport systems of Dubai- Abra has been used as a mode of transport to go to the other side of the creek for centuries. The travelers between Diera and Bur Dubai once had only one mode of transportation of boats known as Abra. Today these are modern motorized taxis, but still exude the age old feel to the tourists. It is still the cheapest way to cross the Dubai creek.

8. Souqs of Dubai
Souqs of Dubai
The Souqs or the markets of Dubai dates back to centuries. One of the city’s oldest souqs are gold souk, spice souq and the textile souq. The shapes of shops may have changed with time but the souqs still offer a feel of the era gone by. These souqs are famous for their bargains and the vibrancy. One of the oldest Souqof Dubai- Nafiq Souq was once a camel market, but now has over 100 shops selling abayas and many other traditional Arabic items.

9. Heritage and Divine Villages
Heritage Village
A great place for history lovers, the heritage villages offer great insight into the traditional and cultural past of Dubai through their historical construction including wind towers. Although it was constructed in the 1990s, the purpose was to allow the tourist to take a sneak peek and experience the cherished past of Dubai. It offers demonstrations for weaving, ship building and traditional cookery as well. It is today one of the most visited places by tourists in Dubai.

Dubai has retained its old-age charm while giving a tough competition to the world in the race of modernization. But in the course of moving towards a brighter future, Dubai has preserved its roots firmly and ensured that the world gets to know about the journey of this incredible city.
Such is the craze amongst tourists to know about the history of Dubai that they specially include most of these historical places in their Dubai tour packages. The start of a fishing village that got introduced to the world through its oil discovery in the 1960s is now way ahead of its contemporaries and is gradually moving towards the title of the best tourist destination in the world.

About the Author

Neha Singh is a postgraduate in Mass Communications, who loves everything about life. Traveling is extremely close to her heart and writing came to her naturally. An avid trekker & explorer, who often takes off some time from her busy life for mountaineering. She loves meeting new people & gets attached to their culture very easily. Her ambition is to explore as many places as she can in her life. She strongly believes in Gandhian principle – “simple living high thinking”.
You can connect with her adventures on Facebook

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Things I Learned After Travelling to Africa

Waka Waka. This time for Africa! Our guest author Amy Mia Goldsmith takes the road less travelled and writes about her first hand experience in Africa, which will inspire you to venture into this territory with full enthusiasm

A while back, I travelled to Africa on a vacation, which turned out to be a life changing experience. What I saw and learned there changed the way I perceive life and the world as a whole. It made me re-evaluate my life priorities and the things I cherished the most at that time. After realizing the following truths, I returned from that trip as a happier woman. Read them to see if you agree with me.

1. Less is more

What Ludwig Mies van der Rohe set as a standard in architecture, could be applied to building a better life of each individual. Regardless of how contradicting it may sound, having a less cluttered life means having a more fulfilled life. Some people in Africa do not have many valuable material things, but still they appreciate life more than us, who are so obsessed about living life to the fullest, that we never stop to actually enjoy in it. That is because we have been taught the things ever since we were born. We were told that material possessions are the measure of our success in life. That they will bring us joy. But the pursuit of material things is a never-ending pursuit. We spend our lives working long hours to earn more money to buy more things. And there always something new around the corner that we do not possess, and so the game goes on and on. This chase distracts us from pursuing what really matters in life, and these are experiences.There is so much truth in the words that pursuing less material possessions actually means pursuing happiness.

2. Having a positive attitude makes everything easier and much better

Despite not having much, people in Africa seem happier and more satisfied than we, the Westerners.It’s a simple life philosophy. A positive attitude makes it easier to cope with problems. It helps you avoid worries and concerns. If you adopt optimism as a life philosophy, it will bring you constructive thoughts and motivation to change things and accomplish goals. You will always see the bright side, and expect only good outcomes. Even when you are faced with a failure, it will give you strength not to give up.

3. Patience IS a virtue

This is all the more true when travelling, and in particular when travelling across Africa. If you have not been very patient before, you will master the skill there. We are all trying to keep everything under our control at all times, and when we realize that we cannot, it brings frustration and anger. Accepting that sometimes the world has its own pace, you will learn to relax and go with the flow. Plus, you will learn to cope with whatever life throws at you.

4. Taking risks brings more opportunities than failure

Settling on the status quo is the worst habit that most people have. If you do not make changes in your life, you will never make any progress. Taking risks might get you where you have never dreamed you could get.It was a risk to invest in the unknown, but I still managed to persuade my partners to invest in Africa. Many people still unfortunately see Africa as a continent of corruption, austerity, and civil wars, with slim prospects of business growth. Africa has come a long way from a place of humanitarian disasters and social turmoil, to one of the best investment destinations. Emerging online real estate portals like the successful are a proof of that.The steady economic growth is based on ample mineral resources, vast arable land, and hard-working people.

5. Sometimes the things you dread the most are the ones that make you grow the most

There are two ways you can deal with your fears – either overcome them or make them stand in your way. I have to admit that I felt a bit anxious about my trip to Africa and at some point even thought about cancelling the whole thing off. But now I regret not doing it sooner. Fear limits your full potential, and once you realize that it is irrational and all in your mind, you will live a happier life.
Are you ready to take risks in your life?

About the author

Amy Goldsmith is a literature graduate from Melbourne. Her job allows her to travel a lot, which also happens to be one of her greatest passions. Find out more about her travels on Twitter.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tips & Tricks for Monsoon Trekking in India

The magical romance of monsoon with Mumbai has never been a deterrent to the trekking enthusiasts who take on the challenge to climb the slippery slopes of Western Ghats. Our adventure loving guest author Ankit K. J. shares some useful advice and handy tips on monsoon trekking preparedness from his own experiences. So, let's take the plunge to monsoon trekking!

Mumbai is a city with a hyperactive soul, they say. She does not sleep. Nor do the famous Mumbai rains stop her. It’s the time of the year where nature tries it’s best to dampen the spirit but fails miserably.

Monsoon is also the season when the otherwise dry Western Ghats turn lush green! The valleys surrounding the metropolis come alive with people flocking to the trails to take on the challenge of climbing slippery slopes only to rappel down a waterfall! However one thing people do not flock to is trekking preparedness. I had previously written a detailed post on trekking tips for beginners after I saw a lot of Indians not prepared for the trail - saves a lot of pain and hassle if you know the little details.

This post is about what to carry and a few tips that came in handy to me. A few essentials to carry on a monsoon trek in India!
Streams while trekking | Image source
1. Headphones/Earphones: If you are planning to do your travelling in a bus (which is usually the case if you want to reach the base where you begin a trek) and are the quiet, contemplative type, never forget to carry a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. You'll lose less sleep and be fresh for your trek. They also have the secondary advantage of being able to play music!

2. A good pair of water shoes or sandals: The thing is that there are innumerable little streams to cross and taking shoes off and putting them on again is quite frustrating to both you and the rest of the group (who've already prepared for this eventuality). Look for shoes with a nice grip (rubber is preferable, since it slips less). Also, if possible, go for the shoes that look like an unholy (pun alert!) cross between a shoe and a sandal. These will have holes in them. To those with a sense of humour, they may also look like shoes in various stages of incompletion. Don't worry. They are designed to let the water out and dry quickly. Choose the ones that cover a maximum area of your exposed feet (so that the jungle mosquitoes have to work just a little harder). If not these, sandals always work best. Do not wear flip flops though, as they may result in your ankles twisting on rocky paths causing injuries!
Also, on a related note: do not wear these with socks or stockings.

Note: Shoes like these are what you are looking for
Waterfall on the way | Image source

3.  Mosquito repellent:Self-explanatory. Forget this at your own risk. Alternatively, you may also want to wear a jacket and full length pants. There are sprays and cream that one can use. If not, there are certain hacks around getting rid of those blood-sucking tiny monsters. Usage of sage leaves in the campfire, for example, also drives them away, leaving behind a pleasant aroma around the camp.

4. Layered Clothing: This is not as obvious as it sounds. Carry a t-shirt, track-pants, an extra pair of socks and a jacket. A cap is also helpful when it’s raining with a balaclava to cover the head. And carry a few layers – you can take them off if it’s hot and put more on if it gets chilly. You can never predict the weather and the rains!

And make sure they are comfortable. As a general rule of thumb, whatever suits you while running, works here. The more waterproof your possessions are, the more comfortable you'll be at the end of the day! Try stuffing it in a polythene bag before you pack them in a bag to keep them water tight! 

5. A bagpack: To carry your precious items. Find a water prof one if possible, but as described above, lining it with polythene can also do the trick. Make sure it isn't too heavy though. Also, carrying a poncho will also help in the rains.

6. Water & Sugar: Water - About 2 litres per person. Food: High energy stuff –Nuts, biscuits and granola bars. Glucose packs also help. The idea is to be prepared. You cannot trust the water on the trail, even if it looks sparkling clean. Animal/bird droppings nearby can easily pollute the water. And you do not want to become dehydrated with no water in the jungle! Light snacks do not take up space and provide much needed energy during crunch times. 

7.A Camera/Phone :So that you can take pics and call for help! And wondering how to use the phone in the rains? Seal it in a thin transparent plastic bag! Thank me later.

8. Towels: This becomes more important during monsoon trekking. Carrying light, quick drying towels help immensely. This may be the sole deciding factor on whether you get a cold after the trek or not.

9. Flashlight: A small hand-cranked flashlight should do the job. This is important especially in the rains, as it tends to get dark early. You do want to lose your way while camping and trekking. If you still manage to do so though, here is a helpful post on what to do if lost on the trail!
Base Villages before Trekking | Image source

Enjoy your treks! Safety first!

About the Author: Hi, I am Ankit. I love adventures and the outdoors and am the go-to guy if you need a sparring partner in adventures or sports :) I write about my travels on AlienAdv with a mission to inspire thousands to get off the couch and get going on lifetime experiences. I share my own travel stories (in the South East Asia and internationally) and my best tips and advice on issues like road-trips, scuba-diving nuggets, surfing, sailing and paragliding. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Friday, 21 November 2014

The world’s best Technicolor destinations

An exclusive guest post by:Holidaylettings – TripAdvisor

So weird, so vivid, so Photoshopped? Some landscapes are just so dramatically shaped and coloured that you can’t believe they’re real. Holiday Lettings travels round the world’s most rainbow-bright places, from strawberry lakes to yellow tulip roads.

Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, China

OK, it took some time to convince us that that this layer cake wasn’t an impressionistic painter’s masterpiece. It’s actually 6 million years’ worth of compressed rock and minerals spanning from colours of deep magenta to maroon and lemon. The impact is even more powerful during sunset when you can admire the shadows and rays of light across the formation. After rainfall, the rocks are like a blazing spectacle of kaleidoscopic colours.

You can hike some of the way around the park, or take a sightseeing car to the four viewing platforms. They’re around 8 km apart and you’ll need to allow about one hour to travel from one point to the other. The second viewing platform is the highest and the panorama is well worth the 666 steps.

Tulips fields, the Netherlands

The Netherlands have blossomed since the first tulip was planted in 1593. Every spring, red, pink, purple and orange flowers completely cover the area outside Amsterdam. The ‘roads’ of yellow blooms reputedly make it look just like a scene from the Wizard of Oz.

The best way to enjoy this landscape must be on an iconic bike ride. Routes through the picturesque fields lead you from the ancient town of Leiden to the gorgeous city of Haarlem. Visit the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens: its 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths fill over 32 hectares and offer you plenty of opportunities to take your own still-life picture.

Namib-NauluftPark, Namibia

No, it’s not an art installation. It’s the Namib-NaukluftPark. The tinted orange hue is due to the morning sun touching a towering dune – it makes a spectacular backdrop for the hulking camel thorn trees.

Do stay overnight in the park if you can. You can venture into the stark and striking desert terrain and walk amongst the tallest sand dunes in the world in the cool of the morning. Later, witness the breathtaking sunset before spending a blissful evening stargazing.

Lake Retba, Senegal

Photo credit: Jeff Attaway (license) via
It looks like a strawberry milkshake spill or the aftermath of a fuchsia dye disaster. In fact, the water’s high salt content attracts algae (dunaliella salina), which has a pigment that turns the water red. The lake is a striking contrast with the golden sand dunes and bleached mountains of salt stacked up on the shore.

When you visit the lake, you can cruise the dunes, try salt harvesting or just float effortlessly on its surface. You can also go out on the water in a vibrantly decorated wooden canoe (pirogue) to see other boats bobbing around and quaint settlements on the water’s edge.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Photo credit: James St. John (license) via
The spring’s multi-hued waters make it the ultimate real-life watercolour with a centre that fades from deep to light blue. Green algae grows along the shallow edge, and a bold strip of yellow deepens to orange around the outside before meeting a rusty red border. As the steam emerges from the water, it turns blue and green. Don’t be tempted to get in though: the spring’s water is too hot to sustain life.

Still fancy a dip of fire and ice? Try a natural hot tub in the Park’s Boiling River. Here a large, hot spring enters the Gardner River, mixing hot and cool waters so that it’s a comfortable temperature to bathe in. Soothe yourself into the warm water and soak up the natural beauty of your surroundings.

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