Archive of ‘Travel’ category

My Favorite “Old New York” Establishments

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Anyone who knows me knows I probably should have been born in a different decade. I’m obsessed with classic movies, vintage fashion, and, of course, old-school restaurants and bars. Having lived in NYC for nearly five years, I grew to love “Old New York” establishments. Sure, there are countless vintage themed speakeasies and cafes, but I prefer a place with history. Here are my favorites. Take note that none of them have windows.

Bemelmans Bar

bemelmans bar old new york

Located in the Carlyle hotel, this is my absolute favorite bar in NYC. I couldn’t go that frequently as it’s far from cheap ($25 cover most nights and ~$21 per drink). But the drinks are good, the atmosphere is unique, and the live jazz is what I live for. You seriously feel like you’ve stepped into a Casablanca-eqsue jazz bar. It’s quaint and you can tell there are quite a few regulars. The artwork is also amazing as a fan of Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeleine. Fun fact: Bemelmans wouldn’t accept payment for his work. Instead, he requested a year of free stays at the Carlyle.

21 Club

21 club old new york

Originally a Prohibition-era speakeasy (and possibly the only one still standing), The 21 Club is a true New York landmark. All of my favorite Hollywood icons have dined here, along with nearly every president. In fact, many have their own favorite table to reserve because they dine here so frequently. It’s also featured in numerous movies and TV shows. I will admit, the food isn’t amazing, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Minetta Tavern

Historical, cozy, and the best burger in New York? Count me in. (Ok so I’m a vegetarian now, but I wasn’t at the time! And it was without a doubt the best burger I ever had.) Minetta Tavern was a regular hang for some of the biggest writers of the 20th century. Stepping in the door on a cold winter night is like finding an old inn to escape from the snow. Be warned though, reservations are tough to come by. We opted to dine at 11pm rather than wait two more weeks. Even though I won’t eat the burger, I’d love to go back to Minetta for the warm, bistro environment next time I’m in town.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

grand central oyster bar old new yorkAnother iconic spot, Grand Central Oyster Bar is known for its high-vaulted ceilings, fresh seafood, and convenient location for travelers and commuters. While it’s not nearly as intimate as the other spots on this list, the architecture is undeniably impressive and the food is pretty good, too. You should also definitely check out the quirky bathrooms.

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6 Things I Miss Most While Traveling

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Every once in a while I seriously consider traveling long-term and never returning to the U.S. Of course, I would never actually do this because I would miss my family and friends too much. But there are also many other downsides to traveling that we often forget about. As amazing as travel is, there are some things about home that will always keep me coming back.

1. Western Food

Yes, foreign food is amazing. I didn’t think I would ever get sick of many of these cuisines. But sometimes you really just want the comfort of the foods you grew up with, like a New York pizza or even just a good sandwich. It’s rough to be stuck in a place where they don’t make it quite the same.

2. Established Friendships

OK, this one is a no-brainer. Sure, you’re meeting so many friends from all over the world and it’s great. But sometimes it’s nice to have a friendship that lasts more than a week or two (not including ongoing WhatsApp messages). And it can also get extremely tiring to go through the same small talk with new acquaintances all of the time. I get to the point where if someone mentions they are leaving the hostel within the next day, I find an excuse to end the conversation. I know it’s terrible, but socializing is exhausting!

3. The Basics

Traveling definitely makes you appreciate a lot of things you always took for granted. I miss being able to order delivery in NYC anytime I want, rather than having to brave the streets during a storm because the hostel doesn’t have a restaurant. I miss being able to find everything I need at the store. I miss being nearly certain I’ll be able to communicate with any given person during my day. Even more basically, I miss toilet paper and bathroom doors that lock. Oh, and then there’s also all the times I miss bathrooms period.

4. Material Things

It’s nice to be a minimalist, but sometimes I miss having stuff. I hate having to live out of a bag. I miss having a room that’s decorated to match my personality with nostalgic memorabilia rather than generic room after room. No matter how hot and tropical the country you’re visiting, there’s something cold about bare white walls.

5. Internet Access

There’s definitely something nice about taking a technology detox for a few days here and there. There are even days when I’m grateful that the WiFi doesn’t work and I’m forced to just relax. On the other hand, there are plenty of times when I feel isolated and disconnected from family, friends, and current events. More importantly, there are times when having WiFi could be a life-saver, like when your credit card stops working.

6. Personal Space

I stay in hostels and take public transportation 90% of the time when I’m traveling. I’ve also taken a few group tours. This means I’m usually in loud and overcrowded environments. Whenever I come back from a trip, I cherish my alone time. I spend a few days at home doing absolutely nothing before I’m ready to be social again.

7. Sleep

People tend to think travel = vacation. Not true. At least not the way I (and most backpackers) travel. You’re constantly on the go. Waking up early for tours, hikes, or just to catch the sunrise. Racing around to catch the next mode of transportation. Even when you do have time for 8 hours of sleep, it’s still nearly impossible to make use of it. You’re bound to encounter a few inconsiderate hostelmates who like to turn the lights on in the middle of the night, play music without headphones, or are just simply loud.

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10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Solo Travel

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I love solo travel, and thanks to social media, more and more people are beginning to feel the same way. But a lot of people are still afraid to travel alone. Even if they’re not worried about safety, they’re concerned about feeling lonely or not getting enough out of the experience. Here are some tips for using the fact that you’re on your own to your advantage. Most importantly, be safe but have fun!

1. Visit somewhere spiritualsolo travel bali temple yoga

Temples, cathedrals, and ancient ruins are perfect spots to explore by yourself. Actually, any quiet, beautiful place will do. You can be more introspective and meditative than you ever could if you were with someone else. Let the dramatic realizations begin!

2. Avoid romantic places

Sure, some people are okay riding down the canals of Venice alone, surrounded by kissing couples. But this would probably make most of us feel a little lonely (and grossed out). Personally, I prefer to save the romantic spots for someone special and go everywhere else on my own.

3. Take yourself on dates to restaurants

Even if you would never do this back home, you should absolutely try it while traveling! For one, you’ll get to try so many different foods than if you just limit yourself to street food. Second, you’ll get to see local culinary customs in action. Lastly, it’s super fun! After all, you are your own perfect date.

4. Go to cute little cafes and people watch

In my mind, there’s nothing more European than this! Grab an espresso or an afternoon tea and take it all in.

5. Head to the park for some quality me-time

botanical gardens singapore

I love going to the largest park in every city I visit. I think it’s usually the most beautiful part and you get to see locals taking a rest from their busy lives. Bring a book, notebook, or sketchpad and enjoy!

6. Do things your way

Embrace that there’s no one else around that you have to please. This is by far the best part of solo travel! Sleep in if you want to. Wake up early and catch the sunrise if you want to. Spend a lot of money on a fancy dinner or grab some ice cream and eat it in bed. Your options are unlimited.

7. Befriend the locals

What better way to get a true feel for local life than by making friends with the locals? Learn from each other.

8. Make friends with fellow travelers

Sure, you’re solo traveling and want to do and see things on your own. But you can’t be alone all the time! One of the best parts of traveling is sharing stories with other backpackers from all over the world. And since many people are on their own, nearly everyone is friendly and up for a good conversation.

9. Go shopping

markets bali Indonesia shopping shops

Shopping is always more fun when you’re not slowing anyone down and can do things at your own pace. Find some hidden gems or just browse the local markets for a few hours.

10. Take a local class

Whether it’s yoga, pottery, or cooking, learn a new craft from the local experts. Plus, you’ll probably make some new friends while you’re at it!

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The Most Unusual Foods I’ve Eaten Abroad

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For me, one of the most exciting things about traveling is trying the local cuisine of different cultures. To quote travel writer Deborah Cater, “You have to taste a culture to understand it.” Most of the unusual foods on this list are considered novelties in their respective countries as opposed to traditional fare. Still, I had such a fun time trying them and don’t regret any of them!

Thailand: Scorpion

scorpions unusual food thailand abroad

Foul. It honestly just tasted burnt and I couldn’t finish it. I wouldn’t recommend falling for this tourist trap. But if you insist, you can find it on all the most popular streets in both Bangkok and Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Vietnam: Rat

This was an interesting experience. With a local guide we ended up in a family home of a local tribe community in Da Lat. They were so eager to have us try everything they had, further supporting my theory that the poor are much more generous than the rich. They gave us a vase filled with what they eat for dinner every night. We asked our guide to translate and tell us what was inside. He refused to tell us until after we tasted it. Well it was chunky and I think I tasted some hair. It wasn’t awful, but I definitely wouldn’t ever eat it again. When the guide confirmed that it was rat, I don’t think anyone was surprised. Still, I was grateful that this family allowed us to try their food.

Vietnam: Crickets

crickets unusual foods vietnam

I also tried crickets in Da Lat. They were deliciously seasoned and came with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. They reminded me a bit of potato chips. I would love to try them again. Luckily, I may have the chance within the U.S. since insect protein is predicted to be the next big thing in sustainable cuisine.

South Africa: Warthog

My friend ordered this dish in a restaurant called Mama Africa in Capetown. Honestly, it just tasted like steak. I was a little thrown off as I expected it to be more similar to pork. Regardless, I highly recommend this restaurant if you’re ever in Cape Town. Delicious, traditional food along with music and dancing every night.

Namibia: Zebra

zebra game meat african food namibia

Out of all the strange things I’ve tried, I have to say this was my favorite. It tastes like meat…but better somehow. However, my dining companions were torn and there were some who really hated it. Head to Joe’s Beer House in Windhoek to sample this along with a host of other local game meats.

Namibia: Crocodile

This was also at Joe’s Beer House. I have to say I liked this as well. Probably because I’m not the hugest fan of meat and this had more of a fishy texture. I believe that most people at my table enjoyed the crocodile as well.

Malaysia: Cendol

cendol strange food malaysia dessert

The only non-meat dish on this list, Cendol is a common dessert in the hawker centers of Georgetown in Penang. While I generally loved the food in Penang, this was a little too much for my taste. It’s basically shaved ice cream with “jelly noodles” on top and red beans throughout. It’s an odd combination of sweet and bitter, but my friend loved it.

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Why Malawi Should Be on Your Bucket List

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malawi village africa chitimba

When I embarked on a 34 day tour of Africa, I’ll admit that I didn’t know all that much about some of the countries I would be visiting. I certainly didn’t know anything about Malawi. But after spending five days there it quickly became my favorite country that I’ve ever visited.

Upon entering Malawi, I was immediately struck by the beauty of Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake. The lake runs nearly the full length of the east side of the country. To the west, a green landscape emerges full of mountain ranges.

This incredibly diverse landscape provides for plenty of local activities, including snorkeling, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking. The hike to Livingstonia, a town that lies on top of the mountains, is particularly impressive. Many locals make this 4-hour hike everyday to trade goods. In addition to offering amazing views of Lake Malawi, the hike also takes you past impressive waterfalls, caves, and swimmable natural springs.

Malawi Livingstonia hike waterfalls

However, the hike certainly isn’t easy. Midway through I suffered a sprained ankle and had to hang back. This seeming misfortune ended up being a great opportunity for immersing myself into the local culture. While waiting for the rest of the group to finish the hike, I spent two hours talking to the local people and sharing stories.

I realized that Malawians were some of the friendliest people I had ever met. Malawi does not have nearly as many tourists as many other African countries, so the locals were so excited to see me and invite me into their world. Despite being one of the poorest countries I’ve ever been to, I found the people so positive and welcoming.

We ultimately ended up staying in Malawi longer than planned since the only bridge allowing us to travel onwards had collapsed from the rain. The locals worked together to rebuild it within two days without any help from the government.

malawi africa children livingstonia school orphanageWhile we waited for the bridge to be rebuilt, our tour group had the opportunity to visit the local school and orphanage. Upon entering the village, we were immediately ambushed by children wanting to hold our hands. When we got to the school, we were taken aback by the lack of resources and poor conditions. We ere able to sit in on a lesson and were stunned to hear that they were learning about HIV prevention and medication side effects at such a young age! It was a truly eye-opening experience.

lake malawi africa livingstonia hike

Seeing the orphanage was equally intense. We walked into a nearly empty room where children were sitting on the floor sharing a single toy. Most of them had lost their parents to HIV. Unlike the children at the school, these children were not excited to see us. Instead they seemed shy and nervous, traumatized from all they had been through.

The bridge collapsing was definitely a blessing in disguise. I’ll never forget the stunning landscapes and friendly faces that are Malawi. Moreover, I gained a new appreciation for the simple things in life. I will certainly be back and I hope to help in any ethical way I can.

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6 Reasons Backpackers Make the Best Employees

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Backpacking

World travel is far less valued in the United States compared to most other developed nations. We get fewer vacation days and have more financial obligations post-college (hello, student loans) so taking the time to do some serious traveling is not usually on our radar. Furthermore, it’s not generally respected by potential employers, who may perceive it as a sign of instability or lack of commitment.

As it turns out, these concerns are not only unwarranted, but they also cause companies to overlook some of the most amazing individuals out there who could really bring something unique to the team! After all, backpacking requires people to develop some skills that are essential to the workplace. So whether you’re an employer who wants to develop a more well-rounded workforce or an applicant who wants to play up your assets, here are 6 skillsets that backpackers hone on the road, making them excellent employees.

1. Planning

Although traveling often consists of last-minute decisions and spontaneity, there is still a lot of planning and research involved. Backpackers have extraordinary attention to detail because we analyze and compare the value of everything in our trip. This could mean anything from evaluating the cost to value ratio of several hostels or which attractions are worth our limited time in a given city.

2. Adaptability

Travelers are able to handle whatever is thrown at us. Delayed flights, undesirable hostel environments, and confusing metro systems are just a few of the unexpected situations we need to adapt to. We need to remain flexible because so much can change at a moment’s notice. This makes us great at working under pressure and dealing with last-minute setbacks.

3. Budget Management

bargaining market travel employees

Backpackers are notoriously skilled when it comes to budgeting. It requires talent to visit 10 countries in 4 months on $5k. In addition to our excellent planning skills, we are also great with negotiation. In many third world countries, prices aren’t fixed in the local markets. Personally, I’ve learned to love the art of bargaining and it has saved me a lot of money. We also occasionally barter our services, such as offering some copywriting help in exchange for accommodation.

4. Teamwork

Backpacking often requires living in close quarters, whether we’re staying in hostel dorm rooms or joining group tours. While this may drive some people crazy, frequent travelers learn to make the most of it and actually thrive in group environments. This leads to strong emotional intelligence, cultural awareness, and overall social networking skills.

5. Independence

On the other hand, we are also very independent and can work well with little guidance. There are plenty of situations where we have to figure everything out on our own, especially when language barriers come into play. My most difficult moment abroad was attempting to navigate the Vietnam public bus system when I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh. I had different people telling me different things until I finally just took a leap of faith and jumped on the closest bus. Luckily, I eventually got to where I needed to be. Overcoming these challenges takes our confidence to a whole new level. This means we’re ready to take on anything and step out of our comfort zones.

6. Large Worldwide Social Network

travel friends social meet people

While this is not a skill or personality trait, it is definitely an asset. Frequent travelers have a larger network than you could possibly imagine. In addition to meeting the locals in our destinations, we also meet fellow tourists from every corner of the world. And we stay in touch. I have places I can crash all over the world and friends in all industries.

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Voluntourism: Why I Didn’t Volunteer in Africa

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voluntourism volunteering africa school childrenI recently went on a tour of Africa. 40 days, 6 countries, and a whole lot of unforgettable experiences. However, I’d wanted to visit Africa for years and I had always planned on going as a volunteer. I wanted to make a difference. But as I started to read more about the concept of “voluntourism,” I learned that my good intentions could actually leave damaging marks on the communities I visited.

For one, I don’t have the skills to make a genuinely positive impact. This is true of most who go on voluntourism trips. Instead, local communities often use more resources for training volunteers than they would if they just hired local workers. In addition, even with training, volunteers are usually still not equipped with the skills necessary to do a good job. I’ve heard countless stories of missionaries going to build schools or hospitals only for the locals to have to rebuild.
It would have been much more cost-efficient for the locals to take the volunteer’s money and put it towards the project directly rather than towards their training.

I also do not think that 40 days is enough time to dedicate to volunteering. In addition to the time and resources that the communities need to dedicate to each new volunteer, it can also be damaging to continuously have new volunteers come and go. This is especially true in orphanages, schools, and hospitals. Many of the children may already be traumatized. Becoming attached to new people that will leave a few weeks later is not helping the cause.

Furthermore, there’s the issue of the “white savior” complex. Constantly having volunteers coming in from Western society perpetuates the view that impoverished communities are helpless and can only be “saved” by outsiders. This is especially true with children. In schools and orphanages, children may come to view their white visitors as their heroes. These visitors who are having the ultimate “volunteer experience” for just a few weeks are revered, as opposed to the local teachers, administrators, and even parents who work full-time to improve their situation. Moreover, this complex leads communities to depend on the short-term help that voluntourism provides rather than developing long-term solutions to create a self-sustainable foundation.

Finally, after reading about the detriments of voluntourism, I had to reevaluate my true intentions behind wanting to volunteer. Many volunteers just want something to put on their resumes or new Instagram photos. I thought my motivation was better, but was it really? Did I really want to help people, or did I want to feel like I was helping people? If I’m being completely honest, my inspiration was at least a little bit selfish. I think that most volunteering is a bit selfish, and that’s fine if it ultimately brings good. But it can also be misleading. It can lead us to believe that we are doing good simply because a little child comes up to hug us. We want to believe we are doing good so we look for any immediate signs to support this hypothesis. We don’t realize how much effort and time it would really take to make a difference. More importantly, we ignore the harm we are doing in the process.

I’m not saying that all volunteering is bad. In fact, I met many volunteers while I was traveling who seemed to be making a difference. These volunteers were skilled doctors, nurses, and teachers who were able to commit several months to the cause. I think this is one of the few exceptions to the voluntourism problem. However, I think there are other ways to make a positive impact for those of us who do not have these skills. We can help by donating and increasing awareness. And as Charlotte Robertson suggests we can help behind the scenes of organizations where locals are the ones working in the field. This eliminates the problem of the white savior complex while also ensuring that the people who know what’s best for their community are the ones doing the work.

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How I Spent A Month in Vietnam for Under $500

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vietnam travel budget backpacking

A lot of people ask me how I can afford to travel so much. There’s a very in-depth answer to this that I’ll share in a future post, which includes frugal living, saving, side jobs, and prioritizing. But choosing affordable destinations is equally important. Here’s how I spent a month traveling through Vietnam for less than $500. You may spend more or possibly even less depending on your spending habits and priorities.

Budget Breakdown
  • Visa: $40
  • Transportation: $91
  • Accommodation: $84
  • Food: $51
  • Alcohol: $18
  • Water: $9
  • Toiletries and Necessities: $7
  • Tours and Activities: $192

Total: $492

Vietnam Visa

The cost of a visa will vary depending on your country of citizenship, as well as where you apply. I found it was much cheaper to apply for my visa in Cambodia than it would have been to apply in advance in the US.

Transportation

I traveled throughout Vietnam exclusively by bus. Many were overnight buses, which were surprisingly comfortable and I had a (mostly) positive experience. However, I’ve definitely heard horror stories as well. Alternatively, you could take planes or trains, which are a bit more expensive but still a lot cheaper than you would pay nearly anywhere else in the world. For $91, I took buses from HCMC-> Mui Ne-> Da Lat-> Hoi An-> Hue-> Hanoi-> Sa Pa-> Cat Ba.

Accommodation

I stayed mostly in hostels and homestays, with the occasional night on a sleeping bus or boat. Rates per night ranged from $2-$7. I definitely wasn’t staying in the nicest hostels, but I made sure not to skimp on anything that was important to me either. Check out my post for tips on picking the best hostels.

Food and Drinks

vietnamese food hanoi

I will admit I probably spent less than the average person in this category. Many of the hostels I stayed in included meals and free/discounted water refills. I also ate mostly budget-friendly, local food rather than dining at tourist restaurants. Western food tends to cost nearly double, but when you’re traveling for a long time I can understand the appeal. I also had the occasional night out, but I didn’t get too heavy with the drinking. Alcohol is very cheap in Vietnam, with mixed drinks coming in under $4, but this can add up quickly if you’re a big partier.

Tours and Activities

A lot of budget backpackers like to skimp on tours in order to save money for alcohol and food. I tend to believe in the opposite philosophy. While I definitely prefer to experience culture through interacting with locals as opposed to taking tours, there are some things that you just can’t do otherwise. I do not regret any of the activities I paid extra for and I highly recommend abseiling, Mr. Rot’s Secret Tour in Da Lat, and trekking in Sa Pa.

Tour Breakdown
  • Sand dune tour in Mui Ne: $10
  • Abseiling in Da Lat: $32
  • Mr. Rot’s Secret Tour: $35
  • Overnight cruise of Halong Bay: $94
  • Trekking in Sa Pa: $26
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Living with the Locals in Sa Pa, Vietnam

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sa pa vietnam trekking

Sa Pa lies up in the North of Vietnam among the mountains. It’s a very scenic town and some even call it the Vietnamese Alps. Unfortunately, it’s become very touristy and the city center is no longer a pleasant area to stay due to aggressive sales people and over-priced restaurants. But a 2-hour hike brings you to the most amazing views and a true local experience if you dare to take a chance.

Most people who visit Sa Pa book an organized tour, often leaving from Hanoi. Others take the bus or train to Sa Pa and book a homestay through one of the Hmong people advertising on the streets. While a homestay is nice in theory, most are crowded and not much different than staying in a hotel or hostel.

I was lucky enough to get some great tips from fellow travelers prior to arriving, including the contact information for a local Hmong woman. As soon as my travel buddies and I arrived in Sa Pa, I called her and arranged to go trekking and spend the night in her home.

The next day, we met Mama Sumy and she took us trekking through the mountains to her small village in the hills. While the hike wasn’t too difficult overall, we did struggle with some steep inclines that we were amazed Sumy easily climbed in slippers. Throughout the trek, she offered a lot of insight into our surroundings, showing us green tea plants, her family’s rice field plot, and the local animals. We were careful not to disturb the wild buffalo as we walked a mere 5 feet away from them. Mama Sumy even made us hats out of the wild plants.

sa pa vietnam trekking mountains

That night, we headed back to her home, which was modest but much more developed than we would have thought. She made us tea and introduced us to her two small puppies. She even showed us the marijuana plants growing in her yard but informed us that they were strictly for selling to tourists as most locals do not smoke. Later we chopped vegetables and helped cook dinner, which was a delicious feast of spring rolls, beef, and stir fried veggies.

We were joined by her 15-year-old son for dinner. Her husband was away in town for work and her other three children were in school. Because the school is a long hike away, most students live there during the week and come home for the weekend. Although Sumy spoke English very well, her son did not since it is not taught in school.

After dinner, we still had a lot of time to kill before bed. Sumy insisted that we all drink some “Happy Water.” When asked what was in it, she simply replied, “alcohol!” It was much too strong for us! We pulled out some cards and attempted to teach her and her son a game. We quickly realized the language and cultural barriers made this difficult. Even games that seemed simple to us proved to be too different for them to understand. But we had fun trying!

The next day, Sumy made us pancakes for breakfast. She gave us bananas which we rolled in the pancakes and ate like hot dogs. She then insisted that we try on her traditional clothing! We looked ridiculous and she had a good laugh. Afterwards, we hiked back to the city center of Sa Pa.

This was one of the most memorable travel experiences for me. There were definitely more moments of silence than I’m used to and some uncomfortable situations, but I highly recommend that everyone stay with a local from a truly different culture at least once.

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7 Tips For Choosing the Perfect Hostel

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youth hostel beds budget backpacker

Staying in a hostel can be rough sometimes, but for backpackers it’s often your best option. Hostels are cheap and a convenient way to meet people. However, the wrong hostel could ruin your trip. Here are my tips on choosing one that suits your needs.

1.) Don’t Book the Cheapest Hostel

Unless it also happens to be the best one! But don’t sacrifice on location, comfort, and friendly staff to save a few bucks as it will definitely impact your trip. Nobody wants to be far from the action in an isolated hostel with no friends. Likewise, you don’t want to be in a noisy, party hostel if you know that’s not your thing. While traveling on a budget, the difference between $10 and $7 a night can seem like a lot, but make sacrifices elsewhere in your budget if you need to.

2.) Use the Map Function

Speaking of location, don’t assume you’re in a good one just because the hostel is located in the city you want. Use the map function on Hostelworld to see exactly where it is. I like to make sure I’m near other hostels as these areas are generally safe, and it’s nice to be nearby other travelers. That said, if you don’t like noise, you also want to make sure you’re not on the same street as all of the bars. In addition, make sure you’re near the attractions that are most important to you.

3.) Read the Reviews

This seems simple enough, but I’ve had travel buddies who have booked places solely based on the star ratings on Hostelworld. Problem is, the star ratings include all reviews and there are so many things that can happen over time, like a change in management. When you actually read the 5 or so most recent reviews, you might find that the 7 star hostel is now better than the 9 star one.

4.) Know Your Priorities

For me, these change based on my mood. But I generally avoid party hostels at all costs. I like to get a good night’s sleep. But I also like a social environment so I can meet other people. You can have both if you look hard enough! It’s usually pretty easy to tell from the reviews if it’s a party hostel. But to ensure that there’s a social scene beyond that make sure that there’s a common area/bar/TV room. If there are organized activities, like BBQ nights or games, that’s also a good sign.

5.) Ensure Basic Needs Are Met

Almost every hostel has working showers, free linens, free Wi-Fi, and basic security features. But some don’t! Double check that everything you need is there. I’ve been to (seemingly nice) hostels where there were no locks on the doors nor any lockers provided. It’s a bit difficult to sleep when you have to keep one eye open.

6.) Decide Whether the Free Breakfast is Worth It

Some backpackers won’t consider a hostel without a free breakfast. However, most hostels that serve free breakfast only give you toast and cereal. Not very nutritious or filling. It might be free, but in most places you can just buy your own groceries for a few bucks extra and live off them for your entire stay anyway. So it may not be the best deciding factor when you’re torn between hostels.

7.) Look for Extra Amenities

Once your basic hostel needs are met, keep your eyes peeled for fun amenities. No, you’re not at a luxury hotel, but you’d be surprised by some of the fancy “flashpacker” hostels out there. I’ve stayed at hostels with nice pools, free dinners, free laundry, and other cool perks. Check out some of the coolest hostels in the world.

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