Safe Travel: How to Stay Secure Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Safe Travel: How to Stay Secure Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Whether you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveler or a plan-and-fret-about-every-detail type, keeping yourself secure while you’re away from home is something even the most adventurous spirits need to think about. But just because you take some smart precautions doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in an iron fortress; safe travel doesn’t have to rhyme with excess worry, nor require expensive security devices.

Do your part to prevent an unfortunate accident or incident, and you’ll give yourself tremendous peace of mind while you’re on your trip. No fortress required! Here are our top tips to ensure you stay safe and secure on your next adventure abroad– and free your mind to really enjoy it. 

Bring Emergency Info & Contact Details Along

Irrespective of whether you’re traveling abroad or staying within your own country, bringing along a handy list of useful emergency information can save you a lot of panic if you find yourself in a scrape. Local police and ambulance information, the location and contact details of the nearest embassy, and identification information for your travelling party are all crucial details to have on hand. Don’t trust yourself to figure these things out when you’re in a panicked fog. An emergency plan on your phone and an offline hard copy that you keep with you can save you a ton of stress. 

Secure Your Stuff

Bringing expensive valuables on a trip is inherently a little risky, as your tourist status makes you especially vulnerable to thieves and pickpockets. But it’s inevitable you’ll want something like a camera, laptop, or cellphone with you, so take some precautions with the expensive items you can’t leave at home.

Before you arrive at your destination, check with your hotel or guest house about whether they provide secure locations for valuables. Are there safes provides in rooms? How about secure bike storage areas and enclosed parking lots?  Know the terrain before you get there. If you’re staying at a hostel, bring your own padlock in case they aren’t provided for you.

And although a TSA-approved suitcase lock can’t hurt, a determined thief can easily slash into a suitcase and bypass the zipper entirely. Without resorting to paranoia, your best bet is to keep your belongings where you can see them if you’re travelling with them outside the secure storage area at your accommodations.

Read related: Are RFID-blocking wallets a good option for travelers? 

Use your backpack as a pillow, for example, when you’re riding on a crowded train. Keep one hand on your purse. Use situational awareness to prevent theft.

How to Stay Secure While Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Get Travel Insurance

It might seem like an unnecessary addition, but travel insurance can make an unfortunate situation like a cancelled flight or a medical emergency far less stressful. Good travel insurance will replace stolen goods, help you to cover unforeseen medical costs, and give you the ability to speak immediately with a live person if you’re in a crisis. Plus, travel insurance gives you peace of mind, allowing you to really relax during your trip. Knowing you have a backup plan makes everything a lot more enjoyable.  

Read related: Top Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling 

A quick note: when you’re buying travel insurance, make sure you’ve read the conditions carefully so you know exactly what you can count on with your specific plan.

Register with the Embassy

An easy step to take before you leave home is to register with your country’s embassy in the area you’re visiting. This lets the embassy know you’re coming and ensures you’ll get the latest safety information when you get there. If you ever need to be evacuated, the embassy can get in contact with you and ensure you depart safely. The United States’ Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is free for all citizens, and Canada’s program is the Registration of Canadians Abroad program. Check with your own embassy to find out how to register: this list is a good one. 

Don’t Dress Like A Tourist

While you’re on your trip, make an attempt not to stick out like a sore thumb. No one wants to look like a stereotypical tourist, especially not when criminals are involved. Do your research before you go: What does the average person at your destination dress and act like? What are the local manners? Aside from helping you avoid being a target, the cultural research makes you a better and more respectful traveler, and blending in with the locals gives you a more authentic experience. It’s a win-win situation!

How to Stay Secure While Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Act Like You Know What You’re Doing

Dressing like you belong is only part of getting around your destination confidently and securely. The next step is to act like you belong. Body language is a powerful signal, and projecting confidence and authority as you move through your trip can reduce your visibility to criminals. Keep your head up and stay aware of your surroundings. If you think a pickpocket may be targeting you, meet their eyes to let them know you’re aware of them.

That said, your cultural research is important here, because in some conservative countries you’ll risk offending someone by making direct eye contact. Still, this might be preferable to having your pocket picked. Use your best judgement.

Be Cautious When Using Public Wi-Fi

Online security is just as important while traveling abroad. Be skeptical of public Wi-Fi networks, especially in tourist-heavy areas. Cyber security is a complex issue, and public Wi-Fi is especially vulnerable to attacks. Your hotel or hostel’s password protected network is a much safer bet than what you’ll find at internet cafes and free internet hotspots. No matter where you are, we suggest never loading and consulting sensitive information such as personal ID or bank statements on a public Wi-Fi network.

How to Stay Secure While Abroad (But Still Have Fun)

Stay (Relatively) Sober

While savoring fine wines and beers might be on your list of priorities for an enjoyable trip, avoid becoming wildly intoxicated. It’s hard, if not impossible, to be situationally aware when you’re drunk, and your risk of getting yourself into danger goes up exponentially the less sober you are. While you might feel like you know the city you’re visiting well enough to navigate it at night, alcohol can quickly make even the best laid-out city feel confusing.

If you plan on drinking, always go with a group and designate a sober person to help keep everyone else out of trouble.

Bring some Medical Essentials

Finally, bring a few just-in-case items to pre-empt any medical issues commonly faced by tourists. Your doctor can prescribe medication for traveler’s diarrhea and motion sickness, and you should also pick up some other drugstore favorites, such as sunscreen, ibuprofen, and hand sanitizer. If you do get sick, the last thing you’ll want to do is navigate a foreign drug store or pharmacy, especially if labels are in an unfamiliar language. Trust us.

Safe travels!

 

Top 15 Ways to Budget Your Trip: Money-Saving Strategies

Top 15 Ways to Budget Your Trip: Money-Saving Strategies

Going on a vacation? There’s no reason you have to spend a fortune to enjoy a great getaway! A few money-saving tactics can really stretch your dollar and give you a more authentic-to-the-country experience. Here are 15 great ways to budget your trip. 

Travel in the off season

One of the biggest ways to save serious money while traveling is to visit in the off-season. In most places, this is October to April. You’ll get cheaper airfare, hotels, and sometimes even cheaper tickets to attractions. Cities are calmer and more laid back, so you’ll end up spending far less time in line.

Stay local

It’s always cheaper to stay in a B&B or a rented private residence than it is to stay in a hotel, and with homestays or apartments you typically get a more authentic experience. Time spent with locals exposes you to the language, food, and traditions of actual citizens of the place where you’re traveling, and you can make some great friendships to boot!

Avoid tourist restaurants

Any establishment catering to tourists will almost always upcharge their products to travelers who don’t know any better, so visit local establishments to get authentic tastes at lower prices. A good tip off is to avoid any place that advertises English speaking servers or menus.

Can’t read the menu? Just ask for the daily special!

15 Tips for Planning A Budget Friendly Trip

Pay in cash

A quick stop at an ATM can save you a ton of money in international currency conversion fees. It’s also faster to pay in cash, and small stores and restaurants really appreciate it. When you’re getting cash, try to withdraw as much as you’re comfortable with at a time, since ATMs charge a flat withdrawal fee.

Exchange currency at your bank

Exchange bureaus charge a fee for their services, and they’re often not up front about what exactly you’re paying to get your currency. There’s a buying and a selling rate, and some bureaus don’t show you both. Get your currency from your bank before your trip and save yourself money in fees.

15 Tips for Planning A Budget Friendly Trip

Skip the rental car

Renting a car is prohibitively expensive in most urban areas, and on top of that, it’s just inconvenient. Between finding parking and the potential for costly repairs if you’re in accident, it’s just not worth the effort.

Take trains

Instead of renting a car, hop on a train! Railpasses can save you tons here if you’re traveling a lot, but if you’re just taking one short trip, stick to a point-to-point ticket. And don’t be lured in by first class tickets: second-class tickets get you there just as fast and cost half as much.

15 Tips for Planning A Budget Friendly Trip

…Or take the bus

Some cities with expensive train tickets have much cheaper options for local or inter-city bus travel. Britain is a prime example of this; bus tickets are generally available at around a third of the cost of a train ticket! Reserving them in advance online can bring down the cost of travel even more. That said, buses are much slower and don’t give you as much of a chance to see the countryside, so spending the extra money might still be worth it.

Buy souvenirs where they’re cheap

If you’re on a multi-stop trip, get your souvenirs wherever they’re cheapest. Countries with open air markets often have a huge range of gifts for purchase at extremely low prices, and the offerings are usually more memorable than store bought ones in larger cities that are massively marked up. Plus, at markets you can haggle!

Don’t overtip at restaurants

Americans are used to tipping around 15 to 20 percent, but in most other places, this isn’t the custom. While your server will certainly appreciate it, know that it may not be expected. Check online to find out if your destination expects tips. Don’t ask an employee at the restaurant.

Skip hotel food

Eating in your hotel can be convenient, but you’ll be upcharged like crazy for the convenience. On that note, skip room service and the minibar in your hotel room.  

Buy your own food

Very few things beat a picnic, and you can have a grocery store feast just about anywhere at a really low price. It’s a great learning experience to shop at a grocery store, and you can stock your hotel fridge up at the beginning of your trip to save time and money.

Eat what’s in season

This is true even when you’re not traveling, but produce that is in-season is both cheaper and better tasting. Take advantage of daily specials for great deals and fresh produce.  Local farmer’s markets are a wonderful source of cultural color, tradition, and delicious native goodies, too– see our complete guide to some of the world’s best food markets for inspiration

15 Tips for Planning A Budget Friendly Trip

Drink at the bar

If you’re stopping for a drink, order at the bar rather at a table. Prices are usually lower because there’s no server to attend to you. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to make friends with the people around you– especially if you’re traveling solo! While you’re at it, order what the locals drink. You get a sample of what’s popular in the area, and locally popular drinks usually come at a cheaper price. Think Sangria in Spain, rum in Cuba, and regional wines in France. You get the picture! 

Get a museum or city pass

We’ve talked a lot about city passes here at Loftus, and for good reason! Travel passes can save you a ton of money if you’re visiting a lot of attractions, and you only have to buy the travel pass once and get access to all the sights without waiting in ticket lines.

Because the passes can be expensive, it’s worth it to check your itinerary to make sure that the pass is actually cheaper than buying the tickets individually. Note that they almost always come with a few days of unlimited public transport in the mix.

Have a clear budget

Sometimes the best way to save money is to keep track of it. Having a daily spending plan for your food, hotels, attractions, and incidentals can be a huge money saver. There are some great apps you can get to log your spending and make you aware of where your money is actually going, and having a plan will help you to feel way less guilty about the money you do spend. Happy travels! 

15 Tips for Planning A Budget Friendly Trip

The World’s 10 Most Romantic Honeymoon Destinations

The World’s 10 Most Romantic Honeymoon Destinations

Getting married, although an exciting time, is also exhausting. From the cake, to the guest list, to the constant planning, and everything in between, it’s a pretty good thing (and a must) that most people take a vacation after tying the knot. The honeymoon after the madness of the wedding is there to give you a break after the best day of your life, and you can use the happy occasion as a reason to see the world!

Without further ado, read on for what we think are the 10 most romantic honeymoon destinations in the world: beautiful, exotic, exciting and relaxing places to get away  together following the big day. 

Bali, Indonesia

Featuring forested volcanic mountains, stepped rice paddies, stunning beaches, and coral reefs, Bali is home to some of the world’s most incredible natural wonders. A trip here is a feast for the eyes and the senses, and it’s a popular honeymoon destination for a reason.

Aside from the beaches, the island is host to amazing temples, as well as yoga and meditation retreats. The Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple rises 200 feet above the ocean on a rocky cliff, and it’s one of the world’s most beautiful places to take in a sunset. The nightly kecak dancers are incredible. If you want more of an earthly experience, the southern beachside city of Kuta has a more urban scene with bars and dancing to help you cut loose after all your wedding planning.

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Bali Indonesia

Orkney, Scotland

With its ancient structures and stunning cliff views, Orkney is the perfect destination for couples who like being outside and experiencing history. Located on an archipelago on Scotland’s northeastern coast, Orkney’s Neolithic sites, green islands, and sandstone cliffs are one of a kind.

The Neolithic sites at Orkney are totally unique! More than 5,000 years old, the sites include Skara Brae, a preserved village and a model house, and Maeshowe, a burial tomb with 12th-century Viking carvings. Or take a day trip and see the Neolithic Ring of Brogdar, which is as unsettling as it is cool.

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Orkney Scotland - cliffs

Cape Town, South Africa

If you don’t want to compromise, Cape Town offers a slice of everything in one of the world’s most gorgeous settings. Beaches, nightlife, and incredible natural wonders, Cape Town has it all. The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas at the very southernmost tip of the African continent are truly a sight to see, and a visit to Boulder Beach will get you up close and personal with the cutest warm-weather penguins.

Cape Town’s neighboring Table Mountain is accessible by slowly rotating cable cars, giving you a view of the whole city, and the flourishing downtown scene offers some of the world’s best cuisine.

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider Cape Town South Africa

Vancouver Island, Canada

If you prefer to stay in North America, Vancouver Island is perfect for any couple who loves getting outdoors in the fresh air. From walking on the Pacific Coast beaches, to biking through pristine forestland, Vancouver Island’s mild climate makes outdoor pursuits genuinely pleasant almost year round. Plus, you can take a boat to the hot springs in nearby Maquinna Marine Provincial Park and soak in the hot water. For a less adventurous outing, Vancouver Island also has a thriving arts scene and lots of good food.

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Vancouver Island

Corfu, Greece

Corfu, a Greek island on the Ionian Sea, is home to the stunning Greek scenery that you see on postcards without the expense of cities like Santorini. Though you still get your selection of resorts and luxury, Corfu is laid back and less expensive.

Ruled by the Venetians, French, and British before it was reunited with Greece, Corfu’s colourful political history gives the town a charming variety of architecture. French arcades and British palaces are very striking against the bright blue ocean, and you’ll get picture-perfect views at every turn.

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Corfu Greece

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

With its crystal clear waters, beautiful mountains, and sandy islets, Bora Bora is a honeymoon hot spot for a reason.

Craving adventure? Scuba dive with colourful fish, or charter a helicopter to see the stunning views from the air. Rent a bungalow suspended on stilts above the turquoise lagoon and get a massage in the sun. Tour a black pearl farm and taste fresh vanilla beans.

Beachy, beautiful, and luxurious, Bora Bora is one of those unforgettable places that will be your computer background for years to come.  

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Bora Bora

Udaipur, India

A town of white stone palaces on interconnected artificial lakes, Udaipur has been delighting visitors since its founding in 1559. Famous for its lavish palaces, Udaipur looks like a fairytale city. Don’t miss the City Palace’s monumental construct of eleven palaces, residences, courtyards, and gardens, all ornamented with one of a kind peacock mosaics.

We suggest staying in the Jag Mandir, a luxury hotel and spa located in a 17th century palace in the middle of a river. Also, don’t miss Jagdish Temple’s incredible terraced architecture; people have been worshipping there since 1651!

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Udaipir India palaces

Kyoto, Japan

Japan’s former capital is now a slower, less stressed-out destination than Tokyo. Located on Honshu Island, Kyoto is a place where the ancient history of Japan lives on! Experience hundreds of classical Buddhist temples and shrines, as well as gardens, traditional wooden houses, and imperial palaces.

The spring cherry blossoms are world famous for their beauty, and the Gion district’s teahouses and the Shirakawa canal are amazing for entertainment. You can even meet a real geisha!

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Kyoto Japan cherry blossoms

Anywhere in Iceland

New advertising campaigns and government programs have increased the popularity of Iceland as a tourist destination, and it’s still a pristine place to experience some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery.

From moon-like rock landscapes, to the Blue Lagoon hot springs, Iceland is the trip of a lifetime! We recommend Snaefellsjökull National Park (say that ten times fast!) for its incredible hidden waterfall. To make the occasion slightly more romantic, get an in-water couple’s massage in the Blue Lagoon. Don’t miss out on Reykjavik, Iceland’s colourful capital, which has a thriving arts scene.

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Reykjavik Iceland

Loire Valley, France

As the home of some of France’s best vineyards and country castles, the Loire region is a feast for the senses and one of the most romantic places on earth. You can tour the Loire region on a wooden boat, stopping to sample some of the best wine in the world.

The central part of the Loire region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so definitely take time to tour some of France’s most famous châteaux and historical locations. The region has been inhabited since the Middle Paleolithic Period, which means history is everywhere!

Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 10 Options to Consider - Loire Valley France

We hope you enjoyed this list, and we at the Loftus Guides wish you a great honeymoon!

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent (And When You Shouldn’t!)

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent (And When You Shouldn’t!)

In today’s era of online research and comparison shopping, travel agents may seem like a relic from the days of PanAm flights and smoking in the office. But that’s very much not the case! Modern travel agents are still a terrific resource for travelers, and their added cost is often worth it. Except when it isn’t.

Here’s our take on the pros and cons of hiring a travel agent.

Pro: Travel agents can save you time

From our experience, one of the biggest benefits is that working with a professional takes a lot of the hassle out of the process. The average flight shopper spends about five hours hunting for flights. Working with a travel agent can cut that down significantly.

Pro: Travel agents have insider knowledge

Because agents work with sophisticated systems and have a network of connections at different destinations, they can get you tons of perks, last minute add-ons, and upgrades. A good travel agent brings more than just their technical skills to the table, they bring mutually beneficial relationships that sometimes end up saving you money.

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent

Con: You can probably do it cheaper yourself

Look, we’re not going to say that you should hire a travel agent all the time. Modern flight comparison tools have made buying flights faster and cheaper than ever before, and with a little time and patience, you can get your flight and travel details booked without an agent. We wouldn’t suggest booking any direct flights or routine, domestic flights through a travel agent, for example, unless…

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent

Pro: Travel agents can simplify planning travel for large groups

If you’re booking flights and hotels for a group of people, travel agents can save you a boatload of time and effort. Planning flights for more than two or three people is like herding cats in a hurricane, and a travel agent will do it for you. And probably do it better.

Con: You need to be sure you’re working with a good agent

Novice agents, part-time agents, and lazy agents won’t give you the expertise and peace of mind that a seasoned one will, so if you’re prepared to spend some money working with a pro, don’t cheap out or go with an agent who doesn’t come well-recommended.

Pro: Peace of mind

When the unthinkable happens (cancelled flight, natural disaster, airline strike), who would you rather be talking to: a travel agent you know and trust or an airline representative halfway across the planet? From travel insurance to insider connections, travel agents will take care of any trip crises that you might end up facing. For a lot of people, that security is well worth working with a professional.

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent

The bottom line:

Travel agents can save you time, stress, and sometimes even money. They bring an expertise to the table that can open doors and make your trip more fun and less risky, but you’ll need to be sure you’re working with a legitimate agent, and be prepared to pay them for their expertise and time.

Aqua Wonders: The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in the World

Aqua Wonders: The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in the World

Ah, there’s nothing quite like the breathtaking beauty of waterfalls. These magical displays of rushing water synergize the best parts of hydrology, geology, and gravity to form one awe-inspiring sight. Read on to learn about the most beautiful waterfalls in the world– from North and South America to the African continent. 

Niagara Falls

Let’s start with one of the world’s most famous waterfalls of all time. Located between the border of the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls is two waterfalls with an island between them. On the Canadian side, the water drops an amazing 173 feet (53 metres) before it hits the river below. It’s an absolutely breathtaking sight.

For much more on Niagara Falls, make sure to visit our sister site, Secrets of Niagara!

Niagara Falls: one of the great wonders of the world

Angel Falls/ Kerepakupai Meru

The tallest waterfall in the world is Angel’s Falls in Canaima National Park in beautiful Venezuela. The water crashes down for a staggering 3,212 feet (979 meters) over the edge of Auyán-Tepuí mountain. The water drops so far that it atomizes into the air and then recollects down the face of the mountain before it even reaches the bottom. This is an essential site on any nature-focused itinerary in Central America. 

Angel Falls/ Kerepakupai Meru

Victoria Falls/ Mosi-oa-Tunya

This waterfall, located between Zimbabwe and Zambia, is classified as the world’s largest waterfall because of its impressive height (180 meters) and width (1,708 meters). The water (from the Zambezi river) moves across a flat basalt plateau and tumbles down into a sheer crevice formed by a fault line. The Tonga name for the falls means “Smoke that Thunders.” Wildlife enthusiasts will adore Victoria: it is home to one of the world’s most biodiverse natural reserves, so in between admiring the roaring falls, you’re likely to see a variety of magnificent wild animals and plant species. The area is especially renowned for its breathtaking elephant and buffalo migrations. 

Victoria Falls/ Mosi-oa-Tunya

Iguazu Falls

The Iguazu Falls is located along the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. It is classified as the largest waterfall system in the world, featuring over 275 different cascades. Though it’s not a tall waterfall, it makes up for a lack of height by offering sheer scope. If you’re planning on visiting South America and Argentina, this is definitely a natural site to beeline to. 

Iguazu Falls

Kaieteur Falls

Located in Guyana, these falls are famous for both their beauty and remote location. Surrounded by wilderness on all sides, these falls attract fewer tourists than comparable wonders around the world, principally due to the lack of local infrastructure to support them. On the upside, you can experience Kaieteur in comparative solitude, taking in the surrounding wild landscapes in near silence and peace. On the downside? You’ll have to be prepared for a long journey to get there– best accompanied by a private guide. 

Kaieteur Falls

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) in Iceland

For those who prefer their waterfalls in a more northern clime, Gullfoss is a magnificent falls located in the southwest of Iceland. Though it’s not as high or wide as other falls we’ve mentioned, it’s still incredible to see because the crevice the water falls into makes it seem that the river disappears into an abyss. You can also read more about it and other sublime falls in the country in this guide to the 100 best sights in Iceland. Also make sure to check out the many breathtaking and dramatic geysers that dot the wild countryside. 

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) in Iceland

Yosemite Falls

The highest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls drops 2,435 feet and is located in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Fed by melting mountain snow, these Falls are truly an unforgettable sight. The amount of water cascading over the edge depends on the time of year and snow conditions, but this is a magical destination year-round.

Yosemite Falls