A Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Wouldn’t it be nice to travel the world and get paid for it?

It may sound like a pipe dream, but this is the reality of a TEFL teacher’s life. Basically, you get paid for teaching English abroad.

With English being a global language, there is a demand for it in virtually every part of the world. And where there is demand, there are jobs.

English is a tool that will open doors for so many people, providing them with opportunities that they didn’t have access to before, and, as the English teacher, you’re the person facilitating and supporting that process.

Being a TEFL teacher is an exchange: the door to the world is open for you to set off and explore it, and in return you do the same for others by removing the barrier of the English language.

So, how do you get started? Keep on reading to find out!

Here are our tips on teaching English abroad

1.     Figure out a location

First and foremost, you have to narrow down your options. Having the whole world at your disposal can be overwhelming.

The sooner you can pinpoint a general part of the world you’d prefer to get started in, the sooner you can start figuring out what the process is to get set up as an English teacher.

For Europe-based teachers wanting to visit the rest of the continent, this is usually a far simpler process. You can put feelers out for English language assistant programs across Europe, such as with Meddeas, to get started, and then choose whichever you feel is the best fit for you.

Home will always be a short flight away, as will other European countries, giving you the perfect balance of travel and family time during the holidays. 

For those that have their hearts set on travelling further afield, platforms such as Teachaway are a lifeline for TEFL teachers, providing current listings of job openings, requirements, and application deadlines in various schools across the globe.

The process for arranging your work visa and organizing flights is usually done with the support of the schools, and many also offer travel stipends to cover the costs of their teacher’s flights. 

All that’s left for you to do is brush up on the culture to avoid making any cultural faux pas upon arrival.

2.     Do your research about what it takes to teach English abroad

Many schools require TEFL teachers to have a university degree, and teaching English abroad is often appealing to university graduates as an exciting opportunity to gain some life experience.

For that reason, your professors will no doubt know a couple of students either currently working in this field, or who worked in it for a period. Utilize this and ask them to get in touch with those people to see if they’d be willing to answer any of your nagging questions about what to expect.

In the case that you don’t know any TEFL teachers or have no connections to anyone that knows someone you could ask, LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to connect with people in the industry. In the click of a button, you can reach out to various teachers to request their input on your questions or concerns.

For those that aren’t feeling as extroverted, blogs like the ones you can find written by The TEFL Org should cover nearly every query you may have.

3.     Learn the local language of where you’re going to teach

The best way to really delve into another culture is to start learning the local language.

Often TEFL teachers can find themselves in an English-speaking bubble in the work environment. For those that want to broaden their social circles and really feel like a local when travelling, getting to grips with a basic level of the native language can lead to new friendships, as well as make everyday life run a little smoother.

There’s nothing like being able to order something in a restaurant in another language to give you that sense of independence and belonging, simultaneously. 

Not only will learning the language help you feel settled, but it will also give you a new insight into what your students experience and feel when learning English as a foreign language.

You’ll be able to empathize more with the anxiety they may feel when pronouncing, but also better understand the common mistakes your students make due to translating their language into yours when trying to speak. Understanding these errors means you’ll be able to draw comparisons between how certain things in English are expressed differently to their language, ultimately making you more knowledgeable as a TEFL teacher.

4.     Share your experiences of teaching English abroad

Once you’ve become a seasoned teacher, the best way to move on to new adventures in different parts of the world is to talk to other TEFL teachers about where they’ve been and taught.

Straight from the horse’s mouth is where you’ll get the most honest and useful information on the places you should absolutely check out, and more importantly, where not to go.

Your fellow TEFL teachers have no ulterior motives. They’re floating around on their own travels, and you’re helping them as much as they’re helping you to continue doing so in the best and most informed way possible. 

Thinking back to the beginning of your journey where you researched and read other teachers’ blogs, once you’ve gained some of your own experience, there’s no reason not to share your own tips and advice to inspire and help others by starting your own. The industry is constantly evolving, new resources are always being developed, but TEFL teaching has always remained a community of people willing to share ideas and help one another.

You can also share some articles about how to get an experience like volunteering. Go that one step further to keep the cycle of content TEFL teachers scattered across the globe in motion.

You all share the same passion: travelling. 

With the knowledge of these four main steps now under your belt, the last part of the process is to get qualified. Obtaining your TEFL Certification is your ticket to the first of many adventures you’ll have as a TEFL teacher.

The TEFL companies will support you with all the information and resources you need to join the industry, and then the rest is up to you.

Be that a 2-hour flight, or 16 hours, the beauty of teaching English abroad is that you get to decide where in the world it takes you.

ETIAS Guide to Visa-Free Travel in Europe

We’ve all dreamed of glorious European vacations, right? Whether it’s spending a week in Barcelona, visiting Sardinia in Italy or eating our way through Paris – there are many European travel dreams.

Citizens of roughly 60 countries, including the US, who can travel visa-free in Europe will soon need to make an ETIAS application electronically before entering any Schengen country.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds though and merely involves a few extra steps to add to your travel planning routine. We’ve covered everything that you need to know about applying for ETIAS for your upcoming trip to Europe below.

ETIAS application
ETIAS application process for visa-free travel in Europe

What is ETIAS?

ETIAS stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System and requires non-European Union citizens seeking visa-free travel to any of 26 nations in the Schengen area to register online and gain approval before being allowed to board planes to the region. It is an entirely electronic system that allows entry and keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone.

It’s similar to ESTA (United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which many travelers need to complete to enter the US. ETIAS aims to lower crime and terrorism risks in Europe and to ease border procedures for visitors.

When will ETIAS take effect?

ETIAS was initially scheduled to take effect from January 2021 but is now expected to become operational by the end of 2022, with transitional measures planned for a smooth introduction.

A list of the ETIAS countries

Countries that require an ETIAS to enter include all countries within the Schengen zone.

The Schengen zone encompasses Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Who will need ETIAS?

ETIAS targets citizens of countries who can enter the EU zone visa-free. This includes 62 countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong, etc. You can check if you require an ETIAS here.

How does the ETIAS system work?

The ETIAS system will be efficient and straightforward to use, ultimately saving time for applicants and processing.

The ETIAS application can be made in three steps:

  1. Complete the online ETIAS application: It takes about 10 minutes to complete and includes biometric information, citizenship, address, contact details, EU country you’re visiting and background and eligibility questions.
  2. Pay the ETIAS fees and submit the form: When you complete the application, you will have to pay the fee and submit it. The system will process your information and approve your application.
  3. Receive the visa waiver by email: In addition to being sent via email, the approved ETIAS visa waiver is linked electronically to the applicant’s passport.

During your application, the system will automatically process your identity, travel documents and answers to background questions against databases (SIS, VIS, EUROPOL DATA, SLTD & TDAWN (Interpol), EURODAC, etc.) and its screening rules and watchlist.

ETIAS are valid for three years or until the end of validity of the passport registered during the application, whichever comes first.

An example: Venezuelans traveling to France

Since Venezuela is part of the European Visa-Exempt Program, travelers must complete an ETIAS application before traveling to Europe.

Once ETIAS becomes mandatory, Venezuelan passport holders will apply for an ETIAS for France (which is within the Schengen zone) before departure. With an approved ETIAS visa waiver, Venezuelan passport holders will be able to spend up to 90 days in France.

Here’s an example of getting an ETIAS for Venezuelans to travel to France:

  • In the online ETIAS for Venezuela to travel to France application, Venezuelans require the following documents:
    • Venezuela passport: this must be valid for at least three months from the date of entry
    • Debit or credit card: this is required to pay the ETIAS for France fees
    • Current email address: the approved visa waiver will be sent to the email inbox
  • While completing the ETIAS online form, you’ll need the below information on hand:
    • Full name as it appears on the passport
    • Contact details including current residential address and email address
    • Passport information such as the number and expiry date
ETIAS application process for visa-free travel in Europe
ETIAS application process for visa-free travel in Europe

How much does ETIAS cost?

It is planned for ETIAS to only cost €7 for each application for adults over 18 years. Travelers under 18 will not have to pay any fees.

Enjoy visa-free travel to Europe

For members of the 60+ countries that don’t require a visa to enter Europe, don’t let the ETIAS application process scare you away. It’s simply a 10-minute online application that is super simple and efficient!

A Guide to Porto Street Art

Porto is Portugal’s second biggest city and has a growing reputation for being a cool place to be which means the Porto street art scene is always worth checking out.

Of course, what can be seen changes regularly but it’s always worth exploring the city streets to see what’s out there.

Some of the street art in Porto is more on the side of ‘big bubble letters’ and tagging with artists just wanting to get their name more well-known but some shows real artistic skill. Stencil art, the style from artists such as Banksy, can be seen usually in black and often with an underlying message.

Porto is a college town but is a historic area too so the mix of young life and old architecture brings plenty of artistic inspiration.

Porto street art, Portugal
Porto street art, Portugal

Where to find Porto street art

In Vila Nova de Gaia, the neighbourhood known for fortified wine, there are great views by the Douro River to inspire further. It’s for sure a spot where you should try to find an apartment for your stay in Porto. That way you would experience the local life and vibe best.

Porto’s stucco facades may be crumbling but street artists are having a lot of fun with the streets as their canvas as graffiti tolerance is very high here and there seems to be little restriction although graffiti is still illegal. Some artists have complained that it’s hard to get a permit to decorate a large wall in the city centre but the fact most buildings have brick walls around them there are plenty of side streets for artists to use.

Bring your camera and just walk the streets as there’s too much Porto street art to just name one area although Lapa Metro Station is a good location to see the latest street art as is Rúa Miguel Bombarda where there are many art galleries too with street art between them all.

As you walk you may start to recognise some of the more popular local Porto street artists’ work such as Hazul who does large-scale two colour (usually black and white) pieces consisting of lots of teardrop and geometrical shapes with more intricate ‘fretwork’ patterns filling the spaces.

While Hazul’s artwork has soft edges and feels rather freeform, another local artist, Mr Dheo, has a much sharper style. He likes colour and crisp lines and often incorporates a face with real character into his spray paint designs. He uses photorealism to challenge himself to be better every time.

Porto graffiti in Portugal
Porto graffiti in Portugal

Porto street art tour

You’ll find a few great Porto street art tours in the city. We love this private urban tour from Get Your Guide with a local guide. This two-hour tour takes your past the historic and modern architecture while exploring the traditional tiles and new urban street art.

The tour includes walking through Rua da Madeira, a hub for street art with incredible murals along with exploring graffiti gems in the side streets of Rua das Flores. You’ll start the tour at the Municipal Library and end it off strolling through the historic and charming area of Ribeira.

Book the tour now.

Porto street art tour
Porto street art tour with Get Your Guide

Photography tips for street art

Whether you bring a professional camera equipment or a just a camera phone the streets of Porto offer lots of opportunities for memorable shots. The juxtaposition of the crumbling walls and the vibrant street art make this a perfect place to practice new styles of photography.

Instead of standing try laying on the ground or climbing up high to get a new angle. And be patient so try waiting long enough so you blend into the scene and see who walks by.

Change to a slower shutter speed to blur movement of someone running or riding a bike in front a brightly painted wall. And try and get different shots so don’t aim to capture the whole of wall but move in close to photograph small sections in more detail.

Check out our guide to street photography for more tips.

The Complete Guide to Volunteering Abroad

Volunteering abroad means giving your time and energy to work in a project without payment.

There are many volunteer opportunities out there for anyone interested in doing volunteer work, more so abroad. Where some people go into the volunteer world for just the simple experience, some go towards it as a vocational calling, or as a stepping stone for their future careers.

It is best to choose a volunteering program that will be most beneficial to you and to those that you intend to help. Our guide to volunteering abroad is here to help you choose which volunteer program is most suited to you!

The complete guide to volunteering abroad

When considering volunteering abroad, you know to know what options are available to you and which programs will be suited to your skillset, likes, and time available. Our guide to volunteering abroad is here to help you decide.

Firstly, what is volunteering abroad?

Travelling is a passion to some while others do it to get away from their routine.

There are many volunteer abroad programs to choose from for example: teaching; orphanage work; HIV/AIDS work; community developed; Health/ Medical work; teaching extreme sports, music lessons; conservations projects; and research projects.

Volunteer travel is a more rewarding experience if you want to do more sitting in a hotel and seeing museums and animals. Volunteering abroad is a life changing experience for anyone who does it, whether you are in your teens, in college, taking a career break and whether you have retired.

The experience you get is worth more the money you spent in your volunteer vacation.

Now, onto our guide to volunteering abroad.

Guide to volunteering abroad
Guide to volunteering abroad

What are some good volunteer abroad opportunities?

The programs of the volunteer work are made by the organization in which you are going to volunteer in.

Most of the volunteer abroad programs are flexible. As you will be putting in your time, energy and sometimes money, the volunteer programs available are flexible. The flexibility comes by choosing the numbers of hours that you are willing to work in a day or in a week and the duration of the volunteer program.

Also most of the work that you will be doing does not need any academic qualifications, meaning anyone can apply. Most volunteer abroad programs involve a lot of traveling, you don’t want to go to another country and find yourself being ineffective. You should put considerable research in to the work that you will be doing abroad. In that, you want to choose a program whereby it emphasizes on your strengths, skills and abilities.

Here are examples of the most popular volunteer abroad programs that are available:

Volunteer Teaching programs

Volunteer teaching programs are the most popular volunteer programs. Volunteers will work in private, public schools, orphanages and community schools. The volunteer work involves working with kids who are 7 to 18 years.

The volunteer will be involved in teaching some of the subjects like English, Math, Science, Music and physical education.  

The volunteers will partner with local teachers and other volunteers to provide proper education to the children. The main duties involve work as a teaching assistant: teaching classes, grading books, work as a social worker with the Administrators, help in sports activities and playing with the kids. For this program, you will need to like kids, love teaching and to be patient with the kids. Sometimes some training for this program is needed but it’s not mandatory.

Those who have done TEFL (teach English as a foreign language) classes have an advantage. Schools are not open throughout the year; you should time your volunteer work in order to coincide with the school calendar.

Volunteer Health/ Medical programs

The volunteer work will be done in hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, and public health offices. The volunteer health programs target the poor and those who don’t have access to medical facilities.

There are many clinics and volunteer organizations in such areas that offer medical help to the poor. In conjunction with the clinics and the health centres (dispensaries) the volunteer will work alongside them to provide medical services. Other duties include filling in forms and charts, diagnosing diseases, giving out prescriptions and consultations.

In this, the volunteer will need to have a medical background in order to work with the patients. This program is best for health professionals like: doctors, nurses, medical students and clinical officers.

Volunteer HIV/ AIDS program

As a volunteer you will be asked to help in the outreach programs to help educate the members of society and create awareness about the disease.  

The volunteer work involves supporting the infected and affected through provision of food and medical supplies.  

As a volunteer work, you will be counseling them, encourage and help empower them. Other volunteer duties will involve: intensify advocacy; demystify HIV/AIDS by encouraging people living with HIV to talk for them and advocate for greater understanding by the society; design, develop and disseminate materials fighting stigma and discrimination.

For this volunteer program, you will need to be compassionate about the disease and understanding to those who are infected and affected. There are no academic qualifications that are needed to work in this program.

Volunteer orphanage work

Working in children’s orphanages is very popular, and it’s the most fun and engaging. If you like kids and want to change their lives for the better then working in an orphanage is the best place. The kids are active and love the attention they get from the volunteers.

The volunteer work involves: spending time with the kids; work as a teaching assistant; work as a social worker; help in cooking and cleaning; help in organizing sports activities and playing with the kids. This program involves little mental work and organizing. Most of the programs activities are already arranged and you will have a supervisor to help you all the time.

Here is a volunteer opportunity to work in an orphanage in Buenos Aires.

Volunteer work involves education, empowerment, construction, and vocational training; providing sex education to the girls and the local community which you can assist with. It also involves empowering women through activities that make them financial independent. This is done through marketing their products, skills development and giving them access to information.

Global Work & Travel offers community volunteer work in Tanzania, Cape Town, Zanzibar and Buenos Aires.

Volunteering abroad with kids
Volunteering with kids

Which volunteer abroad opportunity is for you?

We want our guide to volunteering abroad to help you choose the right volunteer opportunity. Here is a deeper look into some programs you can look into while trying to make your decision.

Related Read: What to know before volunteering abroad

We will kick off by looking at volunteering as a teacher

This is one of the most fulfilling paths one can take as a volunteer. Volunteering as a teacher has a long term outcome in the community you are volunteering in. If you can help educate just a few people from a community that has suffered less fortune than yourself then this few individuals will in turn uplift the whole community with time.

If you have qualifications as a teacher the better but you do not have to teach strictly in the class room, teaching can be in many forms including just showing a community how they build a latrine to ensure that their water is not contaminated. In the end it is all worthwhile.

Let’s look at those who may be interested in volunteering in healthcare

You can therefore help in this regard all over the world. Those interested in healthcare can have a choice in working in places where disaster has struck or picking one specific location along the globe where you would like to help out.

How you help does not have to be strictly in a medical sense, you can do your part by simply distributing mosquito nets to area where malaria is highly occurring, or start a campaign to make sure every household in an area where there have been cholera outbreaks has a means to boil or purify their water. The end result of all these efforts is that you have helped keep a community healthier.

The saying goes that children are our future, so let’s look at those of us who would like to volunteer in children homes or with orphans

In this field you get to mold a person who will go off into the world someday, and make something of themselves because you had the courtesy to be involved in their lives.

In an orphanage you can provide healthcare, teach, work in the kitchen as a cook, build a dormitory, clean up the compound or even do some missionary work while there. And the beauty of all this is you can commit yourself to one or more of the causes above all at the same time; you therefore get to touch a life on several fronts.

If you like animals and the environment around you, the one program you can look into is volunteering in wildlife conservation

Here you get to work with all sorts of wildlife from those that live in the savannah to marine animals, in the process you also get to interact with the environment as you spend a lot of time in the field, sometimes even spending nights outdoors camping, depending on how adventurous you are. Here is a clear instance where you can have some fun while doing your volunteer work.

There are many other potential programs for volunteers out there, including community development, construction work or even missionary work.

Once you have made a clear choice on what you want to work in then the next step is to get your hands dirty and join in the volunteer community around the world.

Global Work & Travel offer volunteer programs to work with wildlife conservation in South Africa, sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, elephant rescue in Thailand, and in an Amazon Shelter in Peru, among others.

Volunteer with elephants in Thailand
Volunteer with elephants in Thailand

What do I need to be able to volunteer abroad?

Picking the right volunteer work program is important as you plan your volunteer trip. There are many volunteer service organizations that offer many volunteer abroad work programs.

All volunteer abroad work programs are not the same. They are different and require different skills, expenses, training provided, types of placements, and quality of service.

The following tips in our guide to volunteering abroad are to help you choose the right volunteer abroad work programs and what you need to volunteer abroad.

Skills and abilities

Many volunteer service organizations recruit volunteers who don’t have any specific skills apart from being able to speak the language in which you are going.

If you are an independent traveler, grass roots organizations also want volunteers with no skills or requirements to come and work for them. Most of the programs don’t require you to have specific skills or academic qualifications except for a few e.g. Health care and medical work whereby you are asked to provide relevant skills or background experience.

One of the reason they don’t require any skills and qualifications because they attract young people who don’t yet have academic and work experience. Meaning anyone can apply for any program and be accepted.

Even though you will be accepted in any program it is better choosing a program where you can apply your skills and experience. This will make you more effective in your volunteer work. With your love for kids and being good with them will help you better work in an orphanage or teaching. If you are a marketer your skills and abilities will be best suited in a marketing position. Also if you want to learn new skills choose a volunteer program where you will taught and experience new skills.


Find out how much time you have for your volunteer holiday. There are programs that range from one week to three years

Some programs are appropriate for short term volunteer work which takes up to one week to one month like orphanage work. On the other hand, there are long term projects like community development, construction projects which take between 6 months and 12 months. The volunteer programs are open throughout the year.  

But some programs are time specific in that they don’t operate in certain times of the year. Choosing the length of the volunteer and timing is important, for example when picking teaching programs take into considerations that the program doesn’t run in certain times of the year because the schools are closed.

Travel insurance

When volunteering abroad, it’s important to get specific volunteer abroad travel insurance.

Buying volunteer abroad travel insurance
Make sure to get volunteer abroad travel insurance

Choosing Volunteer abroad organizations

There are many opportunities that are available for those who want to volunteer abroad.

When you type volunteer abroad on Google you are get around 481,000 results and on yahoo it’s about 21,600,000. There are about 270 organizations or more which provide volunteer abroad programs. These organizations offer a variety of programs in different countries.

The reason for this is because the volunteer service industry is new and is rapidly growing fast. In the last ten years there has been increase on the number of organizations that provide volunteer abroad services. Many are made up of past volunteers and who want to make volunteering easier for the next volunteers. All these organizations are market themselves well, they have really good websites, pamphlets and recruitment drives.

When you are looking for the right organization to use takes too much time and energy.  You are normally overwhelmed with all the information that is out there, making your decision to be difficult.

We recommend checking out Global Work & Travel. They volunteer opportunities in South Africa, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Thailand, Peru, Nepal, Myanmar, Namibia, Ecuador, and Argentina.

When choosing which volunteer service organizations that you are going to use consider the following in our guide to volunteering abroad:


After you make the decision on where you want to go you can narrow the search on which organization that you want to use. When you search on Google and type volunteer in Cambodia you get 200,000 results with much fewer organizations.

There are many organizations that provide volunteer abroad services in different countries. There are problems all over the world and many places where you can volunteer. Deciding on where to go shouldn’t be difficult as you would already have had an ideal place to go and volunteer. After picking the place to go, start sorting through the list and finding out which organizations work in that area.

Also when choosing on where to go the language they speak is important as you don’t want to be in a place where it is hard to communicate. Other things to look out for is whether you prefer a rural setting or an urban setting.


How long you want to stay will influence which organization you will pick. There are different organizations that offer you the option of volunteering for one week and there are others that offer 2 to 3 years. 

Short volunteer programs are for those who are on their holidays which can be up to a month. While those who go for 6 months and more are the guys who are on a gap year. Very few organizations offer you both short term and long term volunteer abroad periods.

The short term projects could be teaching, working in a hospital, and child care. Long term projects include construction and community development programs. Time of the year also matters as it means that some programs don’t operate in December like for example schools are closed. Time of the year also depends on the season of your volunteer holiday. You could travel to another part of the world and find its winter.


Choosing the right organization depends on your budget. There are some organizations that charge thousands of dollars for a month long volunteer program while there are others that charge a few hundred for the same period.

They charge differently depending on the motivation of the organizations. In that some are not for profit while others are for profit organizations. The charges differ depending on the services they are going to be offering you.

Some organizations include travel insurance with their package as well as flight fees and other expenses. When choosing the organization, ask which services they will be offering e.g. room board, health insurance, emergency evacuation, in country support and transport to and from location.

Ask how the fees are being spent and does any of it go to the program projects or the community. There are some organizations that help in fundraising and some offer scholarships for the high costs. There are some organizations that offer paid volunteer work, whereby they help ease the cost of volunteering abroad by giving a stipend and out pocket expenses. Lastly find out if there are any financial penalties if you cancel your trip or whether you want to leave early from your program placement.


This is the volunteer abroad program that you will engage in while you are in the host country. Choosing the right program that matches your skills and interest will determine which organization you will work with. When you decide what you are going to do will help you to find out which organizations are providing the services that you want.

If you have professional experience as a teacher and you want to teach look for organizations that offer volunteer teaching programs. Also if you want to improve on your skills by doing something in which you have no experience in, choose an organization that will help you do that.


Look for an organization that has 24/7 support in the host country. Ask if they have representatives both locally and internationally. Just in case something happens you will have somebody who will be there to help you with your problems.

Look for organizations which have a representative in the host countries. In that when you have a problem you don’t have to call home because they won’t be able to help you as well as somebody who is there for you locally. Support also comes in the training they give you on the culture and language, pre departure information and orientation. 

Guide to volunteering abroad
Volunteering in schools

How much does volunteering abroad cost?

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”  ~Sherry Anderson.

In spite of the fact that volunteering means giving up time and energy to help someone else in need volunteering abroad is not free.

Wherever you want to go, from helping the flood victims in Australia, Brazil and the earthquake victims of Haiti, there is always a price to pay to volunteer abroad. Many volunteers work with small community based organizations or not for profit organizations and the organizations don’t have the resources to pay for hosting and feeding them. Volunteers don’t pay to do their volunteer work abroad. They pay for the costs they will incur while they are abroad.

There are basic costs that everyone has to pay for example air fare, Visa, travel insurance, and vaccinations. In addition to these costs there are other expenses, like; accommodation, meals, and transportation within the country. When using a volunteer service organization, or travelling independently these factors must be put into consideration.

Here are a couple of more things that are included in the cost of volunteering abroad:


The period of time that you volunteer in a foreign country determines the cost. Wherever any volunteers go abroad they are bound to pay for food and accommodation for the length of their stay. Even if they leave their home town for a town nearby, they are bound to pay for these two expenses.

Food and accommodation depend on the length of stay. As an independent traveler, the cost of living will be calculated per day. For those who will stay in a hostel or a hotel they have to calculate the rent, food and transport. Those who will volunteer with travel companies will be charged per week.

The program fees are dependent on the number of weeks they will spend in the country. Their fees will be directed into paying accommodation, food and sometimes transport. The price varies depending on the volunteer travel they choose to use. They can go from between $ 99 to $ 1000 per week.

Volunteer Program

The cost of volunteering can be affected by the type of volunteer programs s/he chooses to work in. Some programs don’t cost too much as there is minimal risk involved and resources needed.

Volunteer programs like teaching, orphanage work and community service do not require many resources and the volunteers can improvise with what they have.

Other programs are more costly because the volunteers are at considerable risk, need more resources and positions are limited. Examples of such programs are wildlife, marine conservation and some sports programs. In wildlife programs, they will be working with wild animals and they need to be protected while they are doing their work, this means that they have to be assigned game rangers to assist and protect them while in the field.

In marine conservation programs the volunteers will be required to take scuba lessons and to have the scuba equipment. These drive up the cost of volunteering.


This is mainly for the volunteers who choose to use a volunteer service company. While the volunteer is in another country they could require somebody to take care of everything else, leaving them to focus on volunteer work. They would require somebody to be there just in case there is a problem and to solve it for them.  

The price that the volunteer travel organization charges, determines the amount of support the volunteer will get while they are in the host countries.

The organizations that have high fees, charge for the following: training and orientation while in the volunteer’s home and host country; language training; 24/7 support and backup; weekend excursions; emergency precautions; and in some cases a college credit.

Those that have lower fees don’t skimp on these services but provide them in a limited capacity.


These are out of pocket expenses that the volunteer will incur. These include buying amenities that the volunteer would require to have while s/he is volunteering abroad for example a bottle of water, snacks, and curios. In some occasions the volunteer would want to go for a local tour that is not included in the volunteer package.

Volunteer work
Volunteer work

That’s it for our guide to volunteering abroad. By now, you should have enough information about volunteering abroad and which program is best for you.

A Guide to the Best Cities in Italy to Visit

Are you already planning your unforgettable Italy trip?

Combining delicious food, glorious architecture, saturated history, and impressive art heritage, this extraordinary country has it all to make you fall for it from first sight. Thus it’s no surprise that the list of unmissable places in Italy can be simply endless.

For your convenience, below, we created a compilation featuring Italy’s best destinations making an excellent introduction to the region and its dolce vita lifestyle. This should help to make the best out of your Italy trip.

Eternal Rome

Indeed, the expression “all roads lead to Rome” is another confirmation that the heart of the country is a good starting point for any Italy expedition, especially for first-timers.

Attracting travelers from all over the world, this art-laden European metropolis can be easily called an enormous living museum. Among its narrow streets are hidden Renaissance palazzos, Baroque fountains, beautiful chapels, and charming piazzas. As for places worth checking out during your trip, make sure to visit the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and, of course, the iconic Colosseum.

The Colosseum or Favian Amphitheater is an incomparable icon of Rome and a must-see spot where you can find out more about epic gladiator fights, entertaining performances, and other legendary events.

Alluring Venice

With its limitless capacity to enchant, striking Venice is more than just a city. It’s an entire series of 118 tiny islands divided by dozens of canals and connected by over 400 elegant bridges.

Let yourself get lost among the little alleys, shop the stalls that line the streets or stop by the Rialto Market, and, as a highlight, explore lapping waterways on a traditional gondola to see the beauty of the town from another angle. Wondering what else can make your Venice travel experience even better?

Thanks to developed lagoon aquaculture, Venetian cuisine offers a mind-blowing selection of seafood dishes. Believe us, accompanied with bubbly prosecco, these mouth-watering delicacies will provide a total blast of your taste buds!

Antique Florence

Famous worldwide as the cradle of the Renaissance, charming Florence represents a paradise for all passionate art enthusiasts since it encompasses numerous exquisite masterpieces of the era.

Tour the Gallery of the Academy of Florence to see the original “David” by Michelangelo, stroll the library of San Lorenzo, and make sure to pop in Uffizi Gallery, which is home to incredible works by such skilled creators as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci.

In addition to high-class museums, this fantastic town is dotted with various historical sites, monumental cathedrals, and glorious palaces, including the white-marble Baptistery, Bargello palace, San Miniato al Monte basilica, and the Medici Chapel.

Tranquil Siena

Situated just 43 miles (70 kilometers in equivalent) south of gorgeous Florence, this wonderful hill town in Tuscany has plenty of things to marvel at. According to ancient legends, Siena is considered to be found by Senius, son of Remus.

When speaking about this lively city, it’s impossible not to mention its main pride, Il Palio, or exciting horse race. This thrilling competition is run around the central piazza two times in summer. Interestingly, you can also see this event in action in the famed James Bond film called Quantum of Solace!

During your stay, save some time to peacefully wander the cobblestone streets, visit the eye-catching Siena Cathedral, and overlook the city from Torre del Mangia, an 85-meter high tower constructed in the 14th century.

Bustling Milan

Being one of the most visited destinations in Northern Italy, the world’s fashion and design capital offers plenty of things to see and do.

As a base for the city’s awesome shopping scene, chic outlets and luxurious boutiques are scattered around the area dictating contemporary fashion trends and attracting everyone with their bright showcases.

Apart from high-quality shopping, think about delving into Milan’s cultural legacy and paying a visit to the city’s remarkable museums and galleries. Witness the grandeur of Milan Duomo, stop by the famous La Scala Theater, traverse the historic Brera district, and pop in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie to see the grand Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco “The Last Supper.”

Vivid Cinque Terre 

How about visiting not just one, but the whole five towns at once? Nestled in the region of Liguria, the Cinque Terre coast is a UNESCO-listed destination that represents a claster of  Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore fishing villages.

Each one of the five strikes with its petite colorful buildings, breathtaking sea views, and heart-warming coziness but still having its own unique character.

Apart from offering some of the most dramatic sceneries on the planet, Cinque Terre provides plenty of hiking opportunities. For centuries, the only way to get around the area was on foot! Thus today the local network of mountain trails is heaven for adventurous hikers eager to conquer unoccupied hills and enjoy untouched natural beauty.

To guarantee great comfort for all guests, the paths here differ in complexity and the length of the journey, so you can easily choose the one according to your preferences.

Summing up, miraculous Italy has everything to satisfy even experienced tourists. And apart from choosing the right destination, a well-planned route is a key to having an unforgettable holiday.

To see many-sided Italy at its best, as an option, you can build your travel itinerary with Triptil and make your travel dream come true!

A Guide to Visiting Portsmouth

Portsmouth, the Great Waterfront City, is packed with attractions, things to do, and summer events. As the UK’s only island city, there’s plenty of coastline to explore and history to learn about.

Visiting museums are among the top things to do in Portsmouth, while there are also a few great FREE attractions and endless shopping opportunities.

If you’re planning in visiting Portsmouth in the next few months, start planning with this Portsmouth guide.

Things to do in Portsmouth, UK
Things to do in Portsmouth, UK

Free things to do in Portsmouth

There are many great free places to visit things to do in Portsmouth. Here’s where to start.

Southsea Common

Southsea Common is a great place for a family picnic, flying a kite or having a game of football, recently voted the best picnic spot in the South East region in Warburtons Britain’s Best Picnic Site Awards.


Portsmouth’s leading contemporary art gallery invites you to explore the innovative, contemporary and visual art on display. With exhibitions, workshops and events throughout the year from international and local Portsmouth artists.

Eastney Beam Engine House

Housed in their original high Victorian engine house of 1887 this pair of James Watt beam engines will be in full steam. You can also enjoy a variety of pumping engines, many of which are still in running order. Open the last full weekend of each month 1pm– 5pm (except December).

Cycle Ride around Langstone Harbour

One of the must things to do in Portsmouth is to visit the harbour. This 15 mile ride takes in mud flats, salt marshes and reclaimed land as it loops around the harbour. Pick up your route map from the Visitor Information Centre.

Related Read: Best UK Cycle Routes

Seafront Cycle Ride

This is a 4.5 mile ride from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard along the seafront to Eastney. This route makes a great day out, you can stop at one of the bars and restaurants along the way or one of the many attractions along the seafront. Pick up your route map from the Visitor Information Centre.

Hilsea Lines

An eighty-hectare site surrounding the fortifications of Hilsea Lines ancient monument, including woodland, meadows and fresh brackish lakes. It is remarkable that it contains the only area of woodland on Portsea Island. The site is of particular interest to botanists and offers easy to use self-guided trails.

Millennium Trail

This Portsmouth walking trail is indicated by a chain motif set into the promenade. Historically it refers to the chains, which use to be tightened across the harbour entrance at times of potential attack. A printed handout is for sale at the Visitor Information Centres, which provides full details of the route and the history associated with the Millennium Promenade.

Farlington Marshes Wildlife Trail

Flower-rich grazing marsh and a saline lagoon, supports a wide variety of wildlife, including internationally important populations of migratory wildfowl and waders such as the black-tailed godwit. Enjoy the circular walk, mostly on the sea wall, which is approximately 4km.

St John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral

Explore the splendour of this city centre cathedral which was built in five phases from 1882. The cathedral was extensively damaged during World War II and subsequently rebuilt. 

St Thomas’ Anglican Cathedral

For centuries the Cathedral has watched, listened and helped the people of Portsmouth navigate the passage of time. It has witnessed wars and peace, famous marriages, been bombed and rebuilt. Everyone from all religious backgrounds is able to come along and enjoy this beautiful cathedral.

Victoria Park

A haven of green tucked away in the city centre adjacent to the Guildhall. It covers 15 acres of grassed area, well-planted flower borders and trees. In the centre of the park is an area containing an aviary with peacocks, parrots and other exotic birds, as well as rabbits and guinea pigs that children can feed. Take some time to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this city getaway.

Canoe Lake

A popular park dating from 1886, filled with some of the mature evergreen oaks planted in 1910, as well as an impressive display of floral bedding. The main Portsmouth attraction is the man-made boating lake. There is a large and very popular children’s play area with equipment for all ages and a sand pit.

Adjacent to the lake are the remaining walls of Lumps Fort which is now a peaceful and restful setting for Southsea Rose Gardens. Canoe Lake is known as a swan’s nursery as it is one of the Mute Swans chosen sites in the Solent. At times up to 60 juveniles can congregate here for comfort and security during the winter.

Portsmouth City Museum

Visit the exciting exhibition that allows you to explore the life and works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of world renowned character Sherlock Holmes. Learn about life in Portsmouth and at the seaside, both past and present through their exhibitions and reconstructions.

Natural History Museum, Cumberland House

Explore the British wildlife and its many habitats. The museum tells the tale of the wild riverbank, marshes, woods and urban areas of the city, and includes a fresh water aquarium. Between May and September you can also take an exciting walk through their butterfly house, see how many species you can spot as they fly around your head.

Museums in Portsmouth

Portsmouth has a wealth of places to visit, but is especially well known for its museums.

When making a list of things to do in Portsmouth for your trip, make sure to include a few museums on the list.

City Museum

See the exciting exhibition that allows you to explore the life and works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of world renowned character Sherlock Holmes. Learn about life in Portsmouth and at the seaside, both past and present through their exhibitions and reconstructions.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Home to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, The Mary Rose Museum and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard offers a full day out. Add to these attractions Action Stations and Harbour Tours which bring the naval history bang up to date.

Book your tickets online before you get there to make sure that you get in.

Royal Marines Museum

Based in a former Officer’s Mess, this stately museum celebrates the famous fighting spirit and history of the Royal Marines. 

D-Day Museum

The D-Day Museum is Portsmouth’s moving tribute to the efforts and sacrifices of the Allies of WWII.  Its centerpiece is the magnificent Overlord Embroidery, 272 feet of panels illustrating stirring scenes of Operation Overlord.  

Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum

This small house, where Dickens parents set up home after their marriage was where the great author was born in 1812. 

Natural History Museum, Cumberland House

Explore the British wildlife and its many habitats. The museum tells the tale of the wild riverbank, marshes, woods and urban areas of the city, and includes a fresh water aquarium. Exotic butterflies fly in the summer in the butterfly house overlooking the museum garden.

Southsea Castle

Built by Henry VIII, Southsea Castle is where he watched his favourite warship, the Mary Rose, capsize and sink in 1545.

Eastney Beam Engine House

Housed in their original high Victorian engine house of 1887 this pair of James Watt beam engines will be in full steam. You can also enjoy a variety of pumping engines, many of which are still in running order. Open the last full weekend of each month 1pm– 5pm (except December).

Shopping in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is retail therapy heaven! 

With three distinct areas to go shopping in Portsmouth, you’ll be spoilt for choice.


There’s a wealth of distinctive stores in Southsea, selling everything from curios to retro clothing. Palmerston Road is home to two department stores and high-street favourites whilst Marmion Road has chocolatiers, designer jewellery, boutiques and inspirational furnishings. 

Albert Road is considered one of the city’s hidden gems and Portsmouth’s answer to Brighton’s Lanes. Discover vintage delights, edgy clothing, antiques and collectables. With a distinctly bohemian feel, the street is buzzing day and night with quirky cafés and bars.

City Centre

To find high-street style, head to the City Centre. Commercial Road and Cascades Shopping Centre are home to some of the biggest brand names in the UK.  From Thursday to Saturday you’ll also find a traditional street market dating back centuries. When you need some time out to review your purchases, head to nearby Victoria Park for a snack and a rest.

Gunwharf Quays

You’ll find top designer outlets, stylish restaurants and chic bars on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays. Meander through the pedestrian avenues and discover massive savings on designer labels and high street favourites. When your feet need a break you can relax with a cocktail overlooking the harbour or take in the views with a trip up the Spinnaker Tower.

The Complete Guide to Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Any trip to Peru isn’t complete without visiting Machu Picchu. It attracts archaeologists, photographers and adventurers, as well as travellers who are eager to tick it off their bucket list. 

The altitude of Machu Picchu is 2 430 m (7,972 feet) – making it pretty impressive (acute mountain altitude sickness can occur).

If you’re planning on visiting Machu Picchu in Peru – here’s everything that you’ll need to know.

Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail To Machu Picchu
Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail To Machu Picchu

How to get to Machu Picchu in Peru

Visiting Machu Picchu isn’t cheap (though you can do Machu Picchu on a budget). As of 2021,

With the train ticket to Machu Picchu Pueblo, also formerly known as Aguas Calientes at US$98 return and a night’s accommodation it easily adds up to over US$200. Visitors to Machu Picchu typically leave from Cusco.

From there, a visitor has the following options to reach Machu Picchu:

On foot

Hiking the Inca Trail is an alternative to get in and a great way to arrive as you first see the city through the Sun Gate (instead of arriving from beneath on the bus). Both the four-day and two-day hikes are controlled by the government. Travelers should be fit enough to walk for days and sleep in tents.

A hiker can also follow the train tracks all the way to Machu Picchu. There is only one track leading out of the Machu Picchu train station in Cusco, so it’s quite simple. It takes about four days, and you only have to pay the entrance fee. Recent regulations require reservations and the hiring of a professional tour guide to accompany you on the hike.

You can also take the less popular Inca Jungle Trail.

Walking Along the Railroad Tracks

While this route is technically illegal, the law is not enforced except at the Inca Trail checkpoint of Kilometer 82. If you wish to get to Machu Picchu by this route, leave from Ollantaytambo early in the morning, at about 5 – 5:30 AM. You will likely have to make arrangements beforehand for a taxi to bring you to Km. 82, as there are not many taxis in service at this time. Once you get to Kilometer 82, begin walking on the tracks away from Ollantaytambo.

The trip is approximately 30 kilometers, but because the ground is flat it goes fairly quickly. You can count on getting into Aguas Calientes sometime after lunch and before dinner. It is then recommended to get a hostel and see the ruins the following day. This method of travel, it should be stressed, is technically illegal, but for a budget traveller looking for an adventure, this is the best choice.

Train to Machu Picchu

The most common way is to take the PeruRail train to Machu Picchu in the morning, explore the ruins for a few hours and return to Cusco in the afternoon, though it can be a bit rushed. The train terminates at Puente Ruinas station, where buses take tourists up the mountain to Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu station is located at Aguas Calientes; this is not the station used by tourists on a day trip.

You can book Vistadome Train round-trip ticket here.

Note: PeruRail’s Backpacker train is segregationist in the literal sense. Tourists ride in a posh car, and Peruvians ride in another car farther back, often standing room only.

Bus to Machu Picchu

From Machu Picchu pueblo Aguas Calientes a traveler can take one of the frequent buses to the ruins (US$12 each way). The bus operates from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and the ride takes about 35 – 40 minutes.

It is also possible to walk the distance, about 2 hours (8 km). This route is mainly stairs, and follows the bus route up. It is a strenuous and long hike but is very rewarding, recommended to start around 4 a.m. to make it to the top before sunrise.

You can also travel the “back way” independently from Cusco by taking a bus to Santa Maria, colectivo to Santa Teresa, and proceeding to the hydroelectric train station by foot or van and on to Aguas Calientes by foot or train. Note that hiking the tracks is technically prohibited. Do your research before choosing this route.

An experience of visiting Machu Picchu by train

Many will take the challenging Inca Trail to reach this New 7 Wonder of the World, but Lisa Rollinson discovered that even those who take the easier route will still be overwhelmed by this legendary site…  

“I had dreamed of visiting the ancient ruins since I could remember. I had heard tales, seen pictures and read books, but finally it was my time to visit this man-made wonder. 

We arrived in Aguas Calientes by train in the early afternoon. This little town is Machu Picchu’s jumping on or off point, for people who have completed their Inca Trail trek or those who are sightseeing by train. A river runs though the village and there are restaurants and souvenir shops lining the main street. You could immediately sense the excitement amongst people who were returning from the sacred ruins, and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the moment myself! 

We joined the queue of locals and visitors who were waiting to board the buses, that 25 minutes later would have us disembarking at one of the most fascinating places on our planet. 

The road snaked its way through the mountains and, as the bus rounded a corner, I had my first glimpse of the ancient Inca ruins. I realised I was holding my breath, taken aback by the size of the site.  

The most astonishing thing is the mountain-side location of the ruins. The amount of work that must have gone into clearing the land is inspiring, but the gradient they are built on is simply unfathomable. 

Our guide explained how the stones used in the construction were both local and brought in from elsewhere. It took around 90 years for the Incas to build the sanctuary and some even say that parts were never finished.  

We had plenty of time to wander at our leisure, take it all in and imagine what it must have been like when the Spanish invaded the region. It was during this time that the Incas were thought to have burned Machu Picchu and hidden themselves deeper in the mountains. 

Machu Picchu was a small community, a place of refuge, built in the most improbable landscape. ‘Incredible’ just doesn’t describe it. Even when you see it for yourself it’s hard to comprehend the scale of Machu Picchu. It will keep you wondering why the Incas decided to build on a mountainside, in the middle of nowhere. There is simply nothing that compares in our modern world!”

Hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru
Hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru

Highlights and things to see at the Machu Picchu, Peru

Take the time to walk around the site; there are many places to see and explore when visiting Machu Picchu. Although it is not necessary, taking a guided tour does provide a deeper insight into the ancient city, its uses, and information on the geography of it.

Also, be sure to wake up early to miss the thousands of people that visit the site each day, or stay till closing time. The first buses start running at 5:40AM, which will give you an hour or two in the pleasant light of dawn but before the full force of the sun begins hammering the mountainside. (If you plan to stay past 10AM, sunblock is requisite.)

Temple of the Sun

Near the summit of the main city, the stonework on the temple is incredible. Look closely and you will see that there are a variety of stone walls throughout the city. Most are rough stones held together with mud, the common stone walls found throughout the world. But many buildings or parts of buildings are done with the more distinctive and impressive closely-fit stonework. The temple is the absolute pinnacle of this technology. Observe it from the side, descending the stone staircase in the main plaza.

Intihuatana – Temple of the Three Windows – Main Temple – Condor

The tour guides will try to tell you that this was a temple, but look closely: between the wings of the condor is a chamber with grooves cut in the stone to secure manacles, a walkway behind where a torturer may walk to whip the prisoner’s backs, and a scary looking pit to let the blood of prisoners drain. Clearly the condor was a symbol of cruel justice, but a santized version is told for the benefit of middle-aged tourists and their children.

The following sights involve some legwork:

Sun Gate

Walk back up the Inca trail away from the site and up the hill to the Sun Gate (or Inti Punku); from here you can see back down each valley offering excellent views. It’s a gentle walk (probably 45 mins tops round trip) and well worth it. If you stay in Aguas Callientes, it is possible to get here early enough to catch the sunrise from here. 

Waynapicchu (Huayna Picchu)

Walk up Waynapicchu (in Spanish Huayna Picchu); this is the “second” hill seen in the many photos. Its a steep but short walk offering very impressive views over the site. Well worth the effort!

Waynapicchu also has ruins atop its peak. As of November 2006, visitors are no longer accepted after 1 p.m. to start the trail, and all visitors must be out by 4:00p.m.

Only 400 visitors are allowed to enter this trail each day. Buses begin leaving for Machu Picchu at 5:30. A line forms early at the checkpoint to the trail. At 7:00 A.M. 400 ticket numbers are issued and the first of batch of 200 hikers is slowly released. The second group of 200 can start any time between 10:00 and 11:00 A.M.. On busy tourist days, the limit will be reached by 7 or 8 A.M..

It is recommended that you go straight here first thing. You will be required to sign in; remember your number (or the time you signed in) so that you can find yourself in the book to sign out again. The climb is steep and at times exposed, and takes about 1 hour each way. Some portions are slippery and steel cables (a via ferrata) provide some support. Decent footwear is important. There is an extremely narrow passage near the summit (a cave).

The view of the city is fantastic as it rises out of the clouds. You can even see all the way to the sun gate. 

At the top is a mini Machu Pichu, with houses, terraces, and some HUGE drop offs where you can get some amazing photos. 

This really is the last epic moment of the Inca Trail and the bit that fewest people get to see. So get past the crowds and hurry towards the mountain, sign the book, pass through the gate and get up to the top.

Take some time to lie on your back and take in the fact that you are on the very top of the Incas world. 

Two cautionary notes: The hike is somewhat strenuous and not advised for visitors who are elderly, pregnant or have heart/lung conditions. Also, the steep stairs and cliffs you must walk along at the summit can be terrifying for those who are afraid of heights.

Waynapicchu (Huayna Picchu)
Waynapicchu (Huayna Picchu)

Moon Temple and Great Cave

If you have some time at hand, or long for a sparkle of solitude, you can also walk to the Moon Temple (Templo de la Luna) and the Great Cave (Gran Caverne). It’s a long walk and adventurous hike involving several ladders. Some may find that the sites aren’t really rewarding, but unexpected wildlife can be seen (wild spectacled bears have been reported).

This hike is also quite interesting because partway through you leave behind the mountain terrain and enter a more conventional forest. The caves can be reached either by hiking down the trail from the peak of Waynapicchu (which includes some semi-harrowing but fun near-vertical descents) or by the split from the main Waynapicchu trail (look for the sign that says Gran Carvern).

Remember that it is much easier to descend from Waynapicchu than to ascend from these temples. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for this long hike. The hike from the summit to the caves and back to the checkpoint takes about two more hours.

Food at Machu Picchu

It’s officially not allowed to bring food into the archeological site. But if you’re planning to stay the whole day, bring some snacks or sandwiches and plenty of water (just be sure not to litter). Your ticket will tell you that you cannot bring food or water bottles into the site, although many people do take them anyway.

Buying them at the site is expensive, and plastic bottles are not offered (glass only). Purchase food and plenty of water and bring it with you. The concession stand near the entrance of the site is pitiful in its offerings and gets very busy at lunchtime. Once in the site, it’s not possible to buy food or drinks. There is a cafeteria near the site, where the locals who work there eat. Ask one of them and if you’re lucky, you’ll be rewarded with a cheap, filling, and unique alternative to the expensive tourist snack-stand.

  • Tinkuy Buffet Restaurant, Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, +51 84 21 1039/38. 11:30AM-3:00PM. Casual lunch buffet with nice picture windows. Expensive: About $33 for buffet lunch, approximately four times that of area restaurants.
  • Tampu Restaurant Bar (Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge guests only). 5:30AM-9:00AM, Noon-3:00PM, 6:30PM-9:30PM. Expensive, but it’s at the ruins site.

Better food choices can be found by taking one of the regular buses to Aguas Calientes (the small town on the train stop to Cuzco) where there are numerous restaurants. These restaurants are not up to the standards of those in Cuzco or Lima, but are generally satisfactory. They tend to be moderately high priced. Some guidebooks report an unusually high incidence of food poisoning in the area, possibly attributable to the fairly common power outages (with loss of refrigeration). Cooked pizza and bottled beer or soft drinks are safe bets, salads and Pisco sours (made with raw egg whites) are best avoided here. 

Accommodation at Machu Picchu

Rather than returning from the ruins the same day, a traveller can stay overnight near the ruins. There are many hotels at nearby Aguas Calientes, but only one hotel at Machu Picchu itself.

Machu Picchu is not a regular town, but a protected sanctuary where new construction is not allowed. That is why all of the places to sleep, with a single exception, are in nearby Aguas Calientes. This lively town offers a wide assortment of lodging options with choices that range from no-frills hostels for backpackers, to very sophisticated hotels. It is recommended to do a thorough hotel research before committing.

The only hotel in Machu Picchu is the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Guests of this hotel can visit the ruins with the same schedule of travellers who spend a night in Aguas Calientes, but can enjoy the magnificent isolation of the sanctuary. The hotel also allows guests to cut out all transfer times from the citadel to their accommodation, allowing for a longer, more relaxing time at Machu Picchu.

How much does visiting Machu Picchu cost?

There are three types of tickets for visiting Machu Picchu. All include admission to the famous Inca archaeological site. However, they also offer access to huge mountains as well as interesting museums to learn more about the Inca City.

  • Machu Picchu Solo (includes access to Inca city of Machu Picchu): $45 USD (152 Soles) for adults and $21 USD (70 Soles) for children (<18 years)
  • Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (includes access to Inca city of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Mountain): $62 USD (200 Soles) for adults and $35 USD (118 Soles) for children (<18 years)
  • Machu Picchu + Mountain (includes access to Inca city of Machu Picchu and Machhu Picchu Mountain): $62 USD (200 Soles) for adults and $35 USD (118 Soles) for children (<18 years)

NB! Note that tickets are not sold at Machu Picchu itself, you need to get your ticket before arrival. Book your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu Lost Citadel here.

When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

The dry winter months of June and July are peak season in Machu Picchu and prices rise accordingly (and Inca Trail reservations are scarce for last-minute planners).

Tourists flock to the sun-soaked coastal regions during the summer months of December and January.

The best bargains can be found during the fringe months of April and May or September and October.

A Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is the most famous of South America’s trekking routes.

The 26 mile trek includes a mix of Inca ruins, mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest and subtropical jungle, leading to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Though the terrain is not extremely difficult to hike, the high altitude will make it hard for an unprepared hiker. Hikers will need to spend several days in Cusco before the hike to adjust to the altitude. Drinking lots of water will help to acclimatize to the altitude.

There are only 500 Inca trail permits available per day, including support staff such as cooks, porters, and guides. So, we recommend booking your Inca trail tour at least 3 months in advance. During the peak summer months, however, you may want to book even further in advance.

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru

The best time for hiking the Inca Trail

The dry season, which is the best time of year to go, lasts from May to October or November and the rainy season is from December to April. The Inca trail is closed in February due to heavy rains. Day time temperatures can range anywhere from 50-82ºF, with night time temperatures from around 32-50ºF.

What to Pack for the Inca Trail

The tour operator you choose will help determine exactly what you need to bring on the trek. Usually they supply the appropriate duffel for you to pack and for the porters to carry, which can weight up to 17.6 lbs. You will carry only a light day pack. Usually they also provide all camping equipment, except for sleeping bags, which are available to rent. We highly recommend layering with water soluble clothing, or fabric the doesn’t retain moisture, and advise against wearing cotton, which absorbs water quickly and is slow to dry which can make for an uncomfortable trek.

We recommend you bring the following:

  • A small day pack that holds your sunglasses, hat, sun screen, insect repellent, a camera, a reusable water bottle, a wind jacket and rain gear.
  • One complete change of clothing per day.
  • Sweater and jacket for cool days or nights, gloves and winter hat recommended.
  • A down jacket is recommended for evenings, as it can get very cold at night.
  • Warm sweat pants for evening around camp and in tent.
  • Comfortable high top and water proof hiking boots.
  • Comfortable wool socks.
  • A pair of sneakers to wear around camp and a pair of flip flops for showering.
  • Passport.
  • A flashlight and batteries.
  • Personal toiletries and medications.
  • Medium sized towel.
  • Peruvian currency (soles) for tips and small purchases along the way.
  • Sleeping bag (if you choose not to rent one).

Check out our hiking gear guide.

What documents do you need to hike the Inca Trail?

You will need a passport that is valid at least six months after your date of arrival. Citizens from the US, UK, Canada and Australia visiting as tourist do not need a visa. Tourist may stay a maximum of 90 days, should you be staying longer you will need to request an extension from the Peruvian immigration authorities. All visitors must fill out a copy of a tourist card which will be provided on your flight to Peru; keep this in your passport and present it to authorities when departing the country.

Tipping on the Inca Trail

We recommend tipping your porters $10 per day and tipping your guide $15-20 a day.

Machu Picchu

Your journey will begin in Lima, where you will spend the night and depart the next day for Cusco. On most treks you will hike an average of 4-7.5 miles per day. Once you reach Machu Picchu you will spend the night and return to Cusco by train the next day. If you do not want to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you can also get there by train.

Hiking the Inca Trail with GAdventures

GAdventures was named the Best Inca Trail Tour Operator by the Regional Direction of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Cusco (RDFTTC) in Peru. By joining this tour, you will be helping to support over 569 local guides, porters, cooks, drivers and staff.

Their four-day Inca Trail trek combines the cultural highlights of the Sacred Valley with hiking through the region’s ruins, mountainscapes, and cloud forests.

Check out the tour here.

Visiting Peru? Check out these posts:

A Guide to Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai (for Non-Muslims)

When the time comes around for Ramadan in Dubai, everything changes in the city.

Breakfast will become dinner, night will become day, and fasting turns to feasting.

For non-Muslim tourists, Ramadan in Dubai seems to be something to avoid like bad weather. In Muslim countries, not just those observing Ramadan, everyone fasts, at least in public.

Malls are wastelands, there’s nothing at all to do during the day in this unbearable heat. Everyone is hungry and grumpy. Working hours drop to 10 to 3, and sometimes nobody turns up to open the shop at all. Ramadan in Dubai generates its own little off season, and all those who don’t want to fast stay safe and well-fed in their own countries until it is safely over.

For the believers however, Ramadan is a string that draws them back to Islamic countries – it’s a time to be united with those of similar goals. Not only that, can you imagine fasting from dawn to dusk in Norway in Summer? No easy task.

But, I’m going to tell you that you should not avoid the Middle East at this time, even if you are a food traveller seeking fodder and cultural experience simultaneously.

Ramadan becomes, in fact, one of the best times to experience regional cuisine and really experience the traditional culture in Dubai.

You just have to do it in the dark.

Like many Christian celebrations (Christmas, Easter, etc), Ramadan has become a period of celebration that has commercial appeal, and every single hotel or restaurant has jumped on the bandwagon. There are two words you will see in every brochure, hear in every lobby, and if you are Muslim, possibly dream about under every sun-drenched minute, and they are Iftar and Suhoor.

Ramadan in Dubai
Ramadan in Dubai

A Guide to Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai (for non-Muslims)

What is Iftar?

This occurs just after sunset (Maghrib), and is the equivalent of breakfast. Yes, you break-fast just after 7pm. Traditionally it is dates and water or milk (the Prophet Mohammed broke his fast with three dates), similar to a small breakfast many of us would take in the mornings. One of my favourite bloggers, Arva Ahmed, takes us through the legitimate experience here, in a way that almost makes the most gluttonous of us all want to fast.

But that’s not usually what you’ll find when you attend Iftar.

And yes, as a non-muslim, you can attend.

Amazing, isn’t it, that you can celebrate the breaking of the fast even though you cracked five hours before, and five hours before that, and probably at several other intervals during your day (even if it was in a cupboard where nobody could catch you).

Iftar when it occurs at a restaurant is genereally fairly lavish. It starts after sunset, and most Muslims will not arrive still fasting – they will have broken their fast simply and prayed before arriving. And then, the feasting begins. It’s a little like a splash-up british weekend brunch (without the champagne) – the dishes range from salads through to whole baked animals, syrupy desserts and fresh fruits and vegetables. To be honest, a little fasting is recommended during the day, even for those not wholly committed, because there will be so much amazing food, you’re likely to hurt yourself if you don’t have an empty belly to start.

What is Suhoor?

Anyone coming to the Middle East and observing Islamic culture would believe that this translates as second dinner. The hotels and restaurants all seem to serve Suhoor from around 9:30 or 10pm, usually with an a-la-carte menu rather than the feasting style meal of iftar. And I suppose, if Iftar is your breakfast, then Suhoor is your dinner.

However, Suhoor is not usually eaten directly after Iftar, but in fact in the very early morning, just before prayers and the sunrise. For tourists however, or even for those who didn’t make it to Iftar, the hours have crept back into a more suitable restaurant-opening time.

What this means is that all those restaurants that would usually be open for lunch, but have to close during the day for the holy month now get to keep their doors open for a constant service – it’s just at night time. It also means that all those jetlagged Australians and Americans on a stopover to Europe can get up at midnight, walk around the souks while it’s a little cooler (trust me, you’re not doing that during the day at this time of year), and have a shawarma at 4am, then sleep in until the airport dash.

What to eat during Ramadan in Dubai

  • Harira – this is a Middle Eastern lentil soup with tomato and coriander base, lightly spiced and usually slightly brothy with small chunks of beans, lentils and meat. It can however be quite creamy, depending on how much the chef has decided to puree the mix.
  • Harees or ursiyah – a wheat (or for the latter, rice) dish that can resemble anything from soup to concrete. It should be somewhere in the middle, similar to a congee. It will usually contain shredded slow-cooked lamb or chicken. It’s a gentle, and some may say, bland, dish, that is very traditional during Ramadan, probably due to it’s ability to fill the belly quickly without causing digestive disorders.
  • Sambousa or Sambousek – Filo pastry triangles filled with sweet spiced lamb or sometimes feta cheese. Just eat one or two – there is plenty more coming…
  • Ouzi – this really just means spiced lamb with rice, but during Ramadan, it is so much more. It’s usually a whole lamb (innards included), cooked for 24 hours in a pit. Spices are sweet and fragrant – cinnamon will feature heavily, and will often be combined with nuts and dried fruit. It’s served with all its juices oozing onto a bed of rice, and it’s abloutely incredible. Just make sure you have good light if you don’t like offal, because you might end up with a bit of gizzard if you’re not careful. (leave it for those like us who class it as a delicacy)
  • Khoresht Fesenjan – a Persian origin chicken stew made with pomegranate molasses and walnuts. Deep brown and gluey-looking, but delicious, usually slightly sour (some make it sweet) and gently spiced.
  • Maqlouba or Maglouba – translates roughly as “upside-down”, and is a chicken and rice casserole similar in style to a biryani, but with tomato and more savoury flavours (plenty of cumin) and larger pieces of meat. Can be made with lamb and/or eggplant, depending on the origin of the chef.
  • Mujaddara – rice and lentils with savoury spices (like cumin, garlic, bay leaf, again will depend on origin of chef), brown lentils and topped with sweet crispy fried onions. Sometimes has little threads of vermicelli noodle.
  • Salad – generally avoided as those breaking the fast tend to head for the richer dishes. However, expect all the standards – fatoush, tabouleh, roca and white cheese, za’atar and haloum,  and plenty of raw salad vegetables including radish, which is vital if you want to aid your digestion.
  • Qatayef – dessert, served in singular pie form  crumbly light pastry, stuffed with white cheese that really just tastes and shares the texture of burrata. Soaked in a cardamom, rose and saffron syrup, and often sprinkled with ground pistachios. Also look for Kunafe, which is sliced from a large flat pan in wedges. Same syrup, same cheese, but topped with crunchy vermicelli-shaped crumble.
  • Umm Ali – an Arabic Bread and Butter pudding, but more delicate than the British versions, often made with pastry rather than bread, and flavoured with rose, cardamom and pistachio. Sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Muhallabiya – creamy rice dessert, usually served cold. The rice is ground and so the texture is more like a custard. Pure white, flavoured with rose and pistachio.
  • Dates – there will be plenty on offer, particularly as the season has started early this year, so there may be some fresh ones to try. Also expect to find size and shape, colour, and tastes that vary from caramel to molasses to plum.
What to eat during Ramadan in Dubai
What to eat during Ramadan in Dubai

What to drink during Ramadan in Dubai

  • Jallab – a rose, grape molasses and date concoction, deep red, and resembling grenadine. Served with nuts (usually pine nut or almond) on top.
  • Tamar hind – translates as “Indian date” and is, you guessed it, a tamarind drink. Usually sweetened and made with water, lemon juice and rosewater. Slightly sour.
  • Kharoub – or carob, is a watery, chocolatey flavoured drink, found only rarely.
  • Sahlab – or Salep, a milky hot drink made with the tubers of Orchid roots, and flavoured with orange blossom, nuts, and/or dried fruit
  • Qamar eddin – a drink made from sheets of dried apricot paste, usually with added orange juice.
  • Lemon juice –not pure lemon juice, but sweetened and slightly dilute like an old fashioned lemonade. Fabulous for the digestion, and very refreshing. Sometimes flavoured with chopped mint.
  • Karkadeh – Deep red/brown Cordial made from dried hibiscus flowers. Can be sweet and innocuous, but ususally slightly sour, intense, deep and floral. Often replaced with Vimto, which is a bottle-cordial that tastes like Creamy Soda without the bubbles.
  • Gahwa – Arabic coffee – percolated rather than espresso-style, quite dilute and infused with cardamom. Drunk in shots. This is what will be in the pretty tall teapots.

Where to go in Dubai for a Ramadan feast?

For small budgets:

  • Al Ibrahami Palace – this Pakistani buffet restaurant in Karama near Burjaman is known by Pakistanis in Dubai as being one of the best.
  • If Iranian is your thing (and they really do make the lamb the best), then try Danial in Al Mazaya or Abshar in Jumeirah.
  • Step up in price just a little at Aroos Damascus, in Al Rigga for Syrian cuisine with a cult following. Try their Shakria – lamb in yoghurt. Yum.
  • Arabian Courtyard – Very well priced iftar served in their Al Khaimah ballroom and out on the terrace (It’s a small ballroom and the AC conveniently drifts out into the open area). Most of the classics and some added Indian flavour. There’s live grilling and chaat stations (yummy balls of fire and sweet and sour tamarind), and those who can’t get through the night without a drink can pop into Sherlock Holmes next door afterwards.
  • Barjeel Guest House in the Heritage Village is the tiny sister of the Arabian Courtyard. If you want to dine in traditional Emirati Style, then this would be your best bet.
  • Al Hallab – for a Lebanese themed iftar and plenty of traditional dishes.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

For glutton muffins:

  • The H Hotel – Arcadia Lounge will have a sumptuous buffet including Ramadan beverages. The plus is it’s all done under the eye of consulting celebrity chef Silvena Rowe, so expect a few twists. There will also be a combination of traditional and contemporary Arabic entertainment throughout the night, and even a kids majilis.
  • Asateer Tent at Atlantis is the big shebang. This place holds 850 people, so can get fairly busy, especially if the hotel is full. Food is always exceptional in this venue, so expect to be spoiled.
  • Bab Al Shams have Iftar offerings at Al Forsan (inside) and Al Hadheera (outside – eek! But I guess it is less humid in the desert, and they do have fans everywhere), and both are probably worthwhile, but for me, the pick is the Suhoor platters (complete with manakish) and the flickering candles and Arabian view at Sarab rooftop lounge. They have fans, but if it gets too hot, you can always toddle inside.
  • Ritz Carlton DIFC – it’s one of the more expensive around, but there’s a couple of highlights. Firstly, you can dine outside in their Ramadan Garden, which is air conditioned. Yes, you read that correctly. Secondly, they have a swathe of the traditional goodies including a fatteh station (toasted pita, tahini and chick-pea dish). But they also have a twist – Arabic Sushi, prepared by their Osaka-experienced chef Ron Pietruszka, who is injecting some health and light in. Chicken shawarma with pickles as a maki-roll? Sounds interesting.
  • Madinat Jumeirah have plenty of options, and offer a booking of six for the price of four with Mastercard. If there are less than six of you, then you can just take the 20% off deal with the same credit card. The big one is Arboretum, a very traditional setting in tent-style buildings around the Al Qasr pool.
  • The Ramadan Majlis at Dubai World Trade Center is fairly well priced for a grand-scale. Traditional foods and Shisha served. They also serve Suhoor all the way through to 4am on the weekends.

If you want something more culture than vulture:

  • Iftar at mosques is generally for Muslims, however you would never be turned away if you are not. Please remember to dress respectfully, and you may join, in most cases, for a free meal (it will be very basic – probably just bread, dates and water). The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi welcomes all cultures as can be read in attached article, but you will find that nearly every mosque has a Ramadan tent erected. Be discreet, ask before entering, try fasting yourself, and you will probably be welcome.
  • The Sheikh Mohammad centre for Cultural Understanding (otherwise known as SMCCU) offer a cosier gathering. You can share the whole tradition of breaking the fast with them in one of the heritage houses, followed by question and answer time. I’ve done breakfast with them, and it was quite a treat.
  • For something a little out of the box, contact the Malaysian consulate, and see if they are still doing their Friday Iftars.

Some tips for experiencing Ramadan in Dubai for the uninitiated

  • Eating during the day – this is prohibited for all Muslims (except a few exemptions like children, the aged or infirm, pregnant or nursing mothers), and in public, it’s also prohibited for everybody else. This includes anything that may go in the mouth, so water, chewing gum and even smoking are taboo. If you are caught, you can get arrested for this. However, the chance of this happening is very low, as most will be offended rather than downright disgusted by your behaviour. Police will probably let you off with a warning as long as you are genuinely surprised and promise to refrain from further gobbling in front of starving people.
  • Expected behaviour – This is a very holy time, and so you are expected to behave with due respect. All those little laws that are relaxed during the year will be a little more strictly enforced. If you walk around the malls with a tank top and short shorts on, expect to be snarled at. If you are in a traditional area of Dubai, e.g. around the Naif souq, or in other emirates, particularly in smaller towns, you may even get spat at or arrested. Absolutely no canoodling in public, and expect to spend a night in the slammer if you’re a bit too drunk.
  • Booze – Surprisingly, you can still get alcohol at this time of year in many Muslim countries, and this is definitely the case in Dubai. However, most venues will remain dry until around 8pm, and will definitely stop service before the sunrise. Liquor stores remain open, but in some cases hours are reduced.
  • Restaurant openings during Ramadan – Most restaurants will serve food from 8pm to around midnight, with many staying open until just before sunrise during this period. This will definitely be the case in Malls (here’s a guide to shopping in Dubai) – you cannot even get a coffee during the day, but they will have extended opening hours at night (usually until 12 or 1am). There are some exemptions, which you will find in subtle areas, usually with a black curtain drawn around, or with entry restricted to back doors. Some open venues in Dubai listed below:
  • International hotels will usually have at least one restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, and will continue to offer room service all day.
  • You’ll usually find a few cafes open, perhaps just with a curtain covering the windows.
  • For something more substantial, head to the DIFC, which seems, as a free zone, to have more flexibility.
  • There are also other free zones to head for: JAFZA (where 1762 is in Jebel Ali), Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Healthcare City, Media City, where you will find most outlets open.
  • Take-away outlets are also open, and it is possible to buy food from supermarkets and other food outlets, however you will have to take food to a private place to consume it.

And finally, your Ramadan Glossary

  • Ramadan – also known as Ramazan, the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, when it was believed the Quran was given from heaven to the Prophet Mohammed. All Muslims that have reached puberty, male and female, must participate in fasting during Ramadan from dawn until dusk.
  • Suhoor – also called Sehur and Sahari, translates as “of the dawn”. Also refers to the very early morning meal.
  • Sawm – the fasting time (daylight). Nothing is to be taken by mouth, including water. Thoughts and actions are also to remain pure.
  • Maghrib – sunset.
  • Iftar – breaking of the fast. Also a splash-up buffet
  • Laylat al-Qadr – believed to be the night when the Quran was first revealed. Every second night for five nights at the end of Ramadan. The most holy time of the holy month.
  • Zakat – charity. Because all deeds committed during Ramadan are more handsomely rewarded than at other times of the year, you will find quite a bit of this going on. This can range from providing meals to strangers, donating clothes and money to the poor or providing whopping great tips to struggling waiters and cabbies.
  • Eid al Fitr – the celebration at the end of Ramadan. This is like our Christmas – non-stop partying, public holidays, gifts. Just no big fat dude in red creeping down the wind tower.

Related Reads:

The Ultimate Guide to Staying at a Hostel

Yesterday one of my good friends asked me a few questions about hostels in prep for a trip to New England and today, she came back with a few more… and it dawned on me- even domestic (read: in the US) staying at a hostel is still pretty foreign to most people.

Well, I’m here to help!

I’ve stayed in hostels since I was 16 and travelled all around the world so I have a really good understanding on what makes hostels tick, what to do, what NOT to do and where to go.

But first I want to explain how freakin’ awesome and amazing hostels are so you understand why you should consider staying in one.

Staying at a Hostel in Los Angeles
Freeland Los Angeles – a top hostel in the USA. Image courtesy of HostelWorld.

Top reasons to stay at a hostel

Price. Hostels are cheap (obviously).

Some even dirt cheap (and some not so cheap but we can get into that later.) Traveling solo or even with a friend, you would be hard pressed to find any accommodation as low in cost with as many amenities as your typical hostel. Which brings us to…

Fun! Hostels are fun, seriously seriously fun. 

Those ‘amenities’ mentioned in 1. can be anything from a rocking bar inside the hostel to pool tables, grills, a full kitchen, swimming pools, community guitars- you name it, I’ve probably found it for free (or cheap) to use in a hostel.


Hostels cram a bunch of people single room with bunk beds (you can pay more for a private room but why would you?) which means they bring in some cash during busy seasons which really means they can afford the high rents in busy, “travel destination” locations.

  • This a. ROCKS because you are in the middle of some awesome city
  • and b. means the hostel is usually somehow or another accessible by public transit which is always great too.

The Staff and other Backpackers. 

80% of traveling is the people you meet and same goes for staying in hostels. From the young, vagabond staff to other travelers staying in the hostel, everyone is there to have a good time. Most hostels have activities set up from city tours, pub crawls, themed dinner nights and even open mic nights to bring everyone together but even without all of that fun activity stuff, staying in a hostel is an amazing social experience that you just don’t get at your local Motel.

There are hostels all over the US so even if you just want to plan a rowdy weekend getaway by yourself or with a few friends, there is probably a rockin-good-time (and sometimes totally-chilled-out) hostel much closer to you than you think.

If you wanna check out hostels in your area, I recommend hostelworld.com because of their rating system (you can get a better idea of what to expect before you go.) I can play around on that website for hours, looking at prices and rating of where I want to go and what activities the hostels have planned. It’s rad. Go ahead and check it out. Really. I’ll wait…

Welcome back! I’m assuming now you are super stoked to finally plan that crazy weekend trip with your best girlfriend so I’ll give you a few tips on what to do when you get there.


HI San Francisco - City Centre
HI San Francisco – City Centre – a top hostel in the USA. Image courtesy of HostelWorld.

Tips for staying in hostels

Get a travel backpack

Backpackers usually stay in hostels and backpackers are called ‘backpackers’ because they (usually) carry a backpack… not a suitcase. Hostels are notoriously NOT roller suitcase friendly. There are typically stairs (if you are physically disabled there are certainly options here though) and tight quarters.

If all you have as a big ass roller suitcase than by all means, take that but if you have carry options of a duffle bag and a backpack instead, I would recommend that simply for easier mobility.

We highly recommend any of the Osprey Farpoint backpacks. They offer various sizes for both men and women.

You need to lock your shit up. 

No, hostels are not the hangout places for shady characters and thieves like some people have made them out to be but here’s the deal- just like you would lock your car even if you live in a safe neighborhood, you should lock up your stuff, even if you’re in a safe hostel.

There are a few ways to do this. Most hostels will assign you a locker with your bunk bed that you can put your stuff into and most of the time it is in the same room as the beds. It’s super convenient but you NEED TO BRING YOUR OWN LOCK. Let me repeat that, for 98% of any hostels that you stay in you will NEED TO BRING YOUR OWN LOCK. A little combination lock from Amazon is really all you need. I personally use a little Burton snowboard lock that stretches so I can lock it around my pack on trains or buses but totally anything will do.

Hostel Kitchen Etiquette. 

An awesomely amazing thing about most hostels is access to a full kitchen. Not only is it a really fun way to meet people (in the AM cooking breakfast, at night making beer munchies) but it is also super super super convenient (can you say, beer fridge?!)

Check out what’s stocked in the kitchen before you go shopping so you know better what to buy. A lot of time, people will stay at the hostel and leave whatever extra food they bought behind which usually becomes a communal food supply. Anything from bread to condiments to boxed meals- you can totally score big in the hostel kitchen. Most stuff will be labeled or marked and obviously, don’t take anything that’s not yours but it’s safe to say the huge ass container of generic brand peanut butter that’s not specifically labeled “STAFF” is fair game.

Always clean up after yourself (cleaning supplies provided) and label your stuff with a Sharpee or Post It… and I always write “COMMUNAL” or “Up for grabs” on the stuff that I leave behind.

Kitchen at the Firehouse Hostel, Austin
Kitchen at the Firehouse Hostel, Austin – a top hostel in the USA. Image courtesy of HostelWorld.

Lock Outs and “Work to Stay”.

Some hostels have something called a LOCK OUT which is anytime during the day that the staff basically kicks out everyone in the hostel for a few hours to clean and prep or whatever. Lock Outs are usually boldly stated on whatever you sign to check in and I have to say, they are not common in US hostels and seem to be fading in Europe as well. Some people get all bent out of shape about Lock Outs but I figure as long as it’s not before 10am, who cares? A little forced sightseeing never hurt anyone (and that’s kind of why you’re traveling, right?)

“Work to Stay” is a really cool thing about hostels too. Work to Stay means just that if you are planning on staying in a place for a week or more, sometimes you can talk to the staff there and set it up that you work a few shifts in return for free room and board. Super super money saver and it gives you a whole new perspective on where ever you’re traveling through as well. Admittedly, that is more of an “experienced” hostellers’ thing but still rad.

The Layout and What to Bring when staying at a hostel (that’s different from a hotel)

Hostels come in all different shapes and sizes (isn’t that cute?) and I love them all.

Your average hostel is pretty predicable though so let me walk you through one…

Most hostels have a courtyard or outdoor space set up with some sort of chairs and tables and a grill. The courtyard is where everyone meets up and chills at night either before they hit the bars or if money is tight, they just hang out there all night. If you want a quieter hostel experience, request a dorm room away from the outdoor area.

Lobby/ Front Desk. 

Hostel lobbies and front desks are super laid back so don’t expect a door man or even any help with your luggage. The staff is usually some 20-something who came to visit from some foreign place and never went back and almost always they are super nice and helpful.

Dorm Rooms. 

Down the hall from the ‘lobby‘ (if you can call it that) will most likely be the dorm rooms. The rooms vary as much as the hostels themselves with 2 to 12 bunk beds, single sex, shared (which means both guys and girls) and even private if you want to pay more (again, why?) You walk into your little assigned room and throw some clothes on a open, clean bed, sometimes tape the little paper they gave you on the bedpost and BAM- you’ve claimed your bed (if the bed number wasn’t already assigned, those are the really organized hostels though.)


Think college dormitory bathrooms. Shower stalls that you walk your little shower bag or caddy to, stalled toilets and usually outlets by the sinks to shave and blow dry your hair. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of most hostel bathrooms. Some people wear flip flops in the shower, some don’t. Some people walk from their dorm room to the bathroom in just their towel, some change in the actual bathroom. Whatevs.

Community Rooms and Kitchen. 

Aside from the outdoor area, front desk, dorms and bathrooms, the communal rooms are a toss up. A hostel in Hollywood has an upstairs bar with lounge couches, a big screen TV and fooseball table. A hostel in Amsterdam has a pool table, bar and “smoking room” complete with a communal bong and beanbag chairs. Some hostels have night clubs, some have computer rooms, usually you can get an idea of what the hostel has from their website but if not, it’s just going to have to be a fun surprise!

Staying at a hostel in New York
The Local NYC- a top hostel in the USA. Image courtesy of HostelWorld.

What to Bring. 

When you pack, pack kind of like you are crashing at a friend’s house. Bring your own toiletries and towel but almost always the hostel provides bedding (it will be boldly stated if not the case.) Bring a lock and your sparkling attitude and you’re set!

Ready, set, EXPLORE!

Book your next hostel stay on HostelWorld!