The TripAdvisor 2016 Traveller’s choice awards have revealed the top 25 destinations to travel in the world! That’s a big call for some of the landmarks because there is so much out there to do and see – I am an avid traveller and so far my list of places to visit is not getting any shorter.
I am curious to see the full list and give my commentary about the destinations voted as the most impressive to visit. I can share with you some secrets of my travels to those spots and for myself – I am keen to see what spots I haven’t been to yet and those will definitely be added to the “TO VISIT” column.
1. Macchu Picchu, Peru
Yes, I love that the 1st place on the top 25 list is Macchu Picchu. I was there in 2010 and I’ve never seen anything like this landmark again, and probably never will.
What you learn about the incredible civilization and witness the sheer genius design, build and functionality will blow you away. The best time to go is super early in the morning. I remember waking up at 4am, taking the bus on top of the mountain from the village below. If Macchu Picchu has been on your To See list for a while, I would encourage you to go see it as soon as possible. Reason being is that this landmark is so old and there are so many tourists that no doubt there will be further erosions (just like the Egyptian pyramids) and the structure won’t be the same in the next 10 or so years. I am sure when we went the site was not the same as it was a decade before that, but the point is things don’t last forever, especially such ancient civilisation places.
Unfortunately, all our photos taken on camera got lost when my laptop got stolen in 2012 but I found a couple of pics on Facebook, thus the lower quality so I apologise for that.
2. Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque Center, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Just looking at the photos of this beautiful Mosque makes me want to travel to Abu Dhabi and wander through this gem of an architectural pioneer. As a number 2 on TripAdvisor’s list, it’s easy to understand why global travellers have rated this landmark so highly. I’ve been to Abu Dhabi but only through the airport in 2011 and there was a lot of construction going on. The airport was incredibly new and the Etihad airline was luxurious and premium. I think my next stint to Central Asia or my home country of Kazakhstan visit will have to involve a detour via Abu Dhabi.
3. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Image via http://whc.unesco.org/
4. St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy
Part of our honeymoon trip at the end of 2012, a visit to Italy couldn’t be complete without going to Rome, a city so full of history with literally layers of centuries in historical importance. The Vatican is an area within Rome’s borders and is considered a separate country. St Peter’s Basilica is where the pope lives and governs through Vatican law. St Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest active churches in the world and is vastly decorated with artwork and marble, containing many tombs where popes have been buried and notable sculptures.
St Peter’s Basilica facade
5. Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Definitely on a top priority on the “To Visit” list. One of the most romantic structures with such a story of love attached to the mausoleum of Taj Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal ( “Crown of Palaces” in Persian) for his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died at the age of 39 during childbirth. The Emperor was so devastated by his wife’s departure that he introduced a 2 year mourning and ordered to build the Taj Mahal as a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess. It took 22 years to build and the structure, since 1643, has continued to mesmerize and inspire lovers around the globe.Image via http://www.tajmahal.org.uk/
6. Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain
Historically, Spain and many parts of Europe used to be occupied by Muslim rule and myself and my husband have previously visited the Seville Cathedral, in Spain, as a part of our honeymoon trip in 2012. The cathedral has the base of a mosque and updated with Catholic church structures. It’s a hybrid of a sort that combines Muslim and Catholic faith in one beautiful structure. Looks like Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba has retained it’s Muslim roots, even in the title. It’s important to understand the history of specific architectural structures and very interesting to learn how these change, under which influence. I would love to visit this Mosque - Catherdal as the interior looks artistically incredible.
At -30 degrees celsius, during my cousin’s wedding photoshoot, we got out of the bridal party limo and managed to snap a few shots of the famous cathedral. Although I must admit, I didn’t go inside, we did explore the area of St Petersburg while visiting for 1 week. Don’t forget that it’s not just the cathedral that you’ll be visiting if you haven’t done so yet, it will also be the Hermitage, The Mariinsky theatre and the various other famous landmarks and museums to learn more about Russian culture and history. I speak Russian as my first language so it was quite easy for me to get around, but I would recommend a tour guide if planning to visit Russia as the language can be a real barrier when you’re travelling around.
8. The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Palace Decorations at the Alhambra
Image via http://www.historylines.net/
9. Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Washington DC, District of Columbia, USA
Haven’t been to Washington DC. In the States I’ve only ever been to California and Seattle. Basically the West Coast has been explored, but not anywhere else. It is imperative that on the next visit to the US, we see New York and perhaps Washington DC. Do you remember that famous movie scene out of Forest Gump when Jenny jumps into the DC Memorial pool to be re-united with a new Vietnam war veteran? It would be incredible to visit this spot and admire President Lincoln in his gigantic chair.
I haven’t been to Milan. In Italy I’ve visited Rome, Venice, Sienna, Pisa, but not Milano. Milan is a city famous for fashion, ecommerce, culture and arts. It is also home to the 5th largest cathedral in the world, Milan Cathedral or Duomo di Milano, and the 2nd largest Church in Italy, 2nd to St Peter’s Basilica. The Cathedral was built in Gothic style which originated in 12th Century France. Gothic architecture characteristics include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress. (Reference from Wikipedia page)
Image via http://www.wondermondo.com/
11. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
The last time I visited San Francisco was in 2007 or 2008. It’s a beautiful city but this famous red bridge is definitely an icon which we often see in Hollywood films and this structure, built in 1937, has a certain romantic flair. It is possibly the most photogenic bridge in the world and can be explored by driving, walking, biking or hiking. I remember it being really windy – San Francisco can be quite cold because of this bay wind, so bring a jacket and a scarf when visiting and take lots and lots of beautiful photos!
As a travel blogger, I spend some time travelling around and have been known to rely heavily on my phone for all sorts of helpful information. I am not sure how we used to function without phones but a lot of people I know even have 2x phones they carry around with them (me!). I am currrently enjoying a long weekend in Bali but I left one of my phones at home! Luckily, the 2nd one still made it and I started thinking about why I rely on my phone so much when I travel and what apps I find useful.
Here are my top useful Apps when travelling internationally:
A great app to have when travelling internationally. If you’re like me, all of the decimal points when converting currency can be confusing and stressful especially when you’re presented with a bill that has too many zeroes and almost everything is done in cash. In these situations I just go to this app on my phone and enter the currency vs AUD and then the world makes sense again. This app also works offline by saving the last updated rates which works great for me because I hardly ever have roaming data.
Free, Available on iOS and Android
You may not be a foreign language pro, but this app helps you translate the basics no matter where you are. The benefits – you only have to download one app, because if you’re travelling through a few countries, that saves you having to download one for every language you encounter.
Just like with the currency app, choose your default ” Translate From” and “Translate To” languages and you’re in business. You most likely won’t be able to have a conversation with a local using this app, but at least you will avoid the worry accidentally going into the wrong bathroom because you are not sure what it says on the door. Cool feature – you can hold your camera up to a word– such as a sign, or a menu – and the app will translate it for you.
Free, Available on iOS and Android
I usually use my Kindle app on my iPad mini when I travel but recently I started also reading books through my iPhone 6. The font is big enough and it saves you having 2x devices in your carry on. I also like that this app connects across my Ipad and mobile so when I am on a particular page and have read ahead on mobile, logging into the iPad app, it will remind me that I’ve read a few pages ahead and will ask if I want to skip to that part. Is there anything better than getting immersed in a good book – especially when you’re travelling? I would argue no, but happy to hear your alternatives.
Free, Available on iOS and Android
I use a few phone editing tools when I travel. I don’t know how to use photoshop so mobile apps that edit my photos are best for me! VSCO is a really popular app to use for Instagram photos because let’s face it, the filters Instagram gives us are not that great! It takes a bit of getting used to and also can seem a bit fiddly if you’re not used to editing photos on your phone, but over time you’ll see why you’ll get addicted to using this app for photography – Instagram worthy or not.
Free, Available on iOS and Android
Yabb is a free messenger app to keep you connected to friends and family while travelling. Jump onto a WiFi network and use this app to message or call anyone in your contacts – completely free. You can also search and send Youtube videos within the app and there is a handy “Whisper” feature to help give your messages more privacy and you can even set a ‘self destruct’ setting to remove private conversations within a time limit.
Free, Available on iOS and Android
If you so happen to find yourself in a hotel that looks nothing like the one you pre-booked from photos online (True story!) or if you AirBnb apartment is strangely creepy (Friends’ true story!), see if you can use your Hotel Tonight app as a great last minute way to find accomodation. The app works by connecting your location search with unsold rooms at the top hotels to then give you really great rates, at last minute. See the full list of cities/hotels HERE.
Free, Available on iOS and Android
If you have any cool apps you can recommend to me, please let me know on my Insta @liveshoptravel or in the comments below!
As you know I love to travel! I usually pick locations that are not too close to home and seek out a different location to travel to and explore when I can.
Recently we went away to South America. The countries visited were Argentina and Chile. Our itinerary included 8 flights within a 2 week period and the long haul flights were: Sydney – Santiago and the same way back (14 hr direct flight).
I’ve collated here a list of top 10 things you should do before getting on an international flight. I’ve collected these tips over the years and most of these are based on personal experience and learnings.
1. Book You Travel Insurance
Last year around July I went away to Bali. (Blog post here). I travelled with my mum and we had a fantastic holiday. The morning of our return to Sydney, the flight got cancelled due to a volcanic eruption. This volcano continued to erupt for a few more months and at the time meant we couldn’t get home for an additional 6 days. That’s 6 days of accomodation, expenses and food. If unplanned, these 6 days could have accumulated to a spend that could set our budgets back significantly. Luckily I had booked travel insurance before the volcanic eruption began. I booked the entire trip (accommodation and flights) through Expedia and selected the travel insurance which appeared on the website. This travel insurance covered us for an additional 10 days with equivalent cost accommodation and expenses. This meant that the trip back was still stressful but less so because we didn’t accumulate additional expenses we could not afford.
There are always things that can go wrong with travel, so book your Travel Insurance every time you travel and make sure to read the fine print to be covered for natural disasters. At present most insurance companies won’t cover acts of terrorism and depending on where you travel, some countries incur additional charges. The majority of travel insurances will cover things like cancellation of flights due to unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters.
Bali, Fairmont hotel (Photo by Dhika)
2. Check the Visa or Entry fee requirements for the country you’re travelling to
We’ve travelled to Argentina once before in 2010 – both my husband and I on New Zealand passports. It turns out that if you travel on an Australian passport, there is an entry fee into the country of around $150 AUD ($100 USD). When we got off the plane in Buenos Aires from Australia in 2010 half of the plane went straight to a counter to pay a reciprocity fee and we didn’t have to pay anything.
This year, my husband travelled on his Australian passport and we thought we would just pay the fee once we landed in Argentina. Apparently the rules now changed over and you have to pay the fee online, print out the confirmation and bring it with you at check-in at the airport. So when we got to the counter at Qantas, we couldn’t check in without the confirmation. Luckily we could still pay at a Flight Centre counter. If this was a night time flight and Flight Centre wasn’t open, I don’t know what we would do. So tip #2, make sure to check what you need to enter the country you’re travelling to – whether it’s a visa or a reciprocity fee and how to get that sorted before going to the airport.
El Bariloche, Argentina
3 . Invest in a Good Carry On Bag
If you’re travelling for a few weeks and your holiday is quite packed, chances are you’ll be doing day trips somewhere where you won’t need your full luggage. Suitcases can be too bulky for some locations too. When we went to Peru, there was no need for our suitcases so we left them in the hotel for the few days we were exploring the Macchu Picchu and Cuzco. In that case, it’s best to invest in a good sized carry on bag. Both mine and my husband’s favourite recently is a duffel bag on wheels. These bags are compact but usually can expand. You can easily pick it up and carry by the middle straps (just like a gym bag) or when you’ve got other bags or are just chilling in the airport, you can wheel it around. A domestic carry on sized duffel bag is big enough to fit all your in-flight essentials and is handy enough to take on overnight trips when needed either domestically or at your destination on another continent. I found a lot of cool bags on this site: Bagstogo.com.au
El Bariloche, Argentina
4. Put A Packing List together for both Carry on and Checked luggage
When you don’t have enough or too much time to pack – it can be equally frustrating. What do I need to pack? Can I keep it light and what gear do I need to bring? The first rule is to create 2x lists. 1 packing list for your carry on and 1 list for your check in baggage. I usually go through days (with undergarments and socks), activities and weather conditions. If you pack enough socks and undies for however many days you’re going (2 weeks is actually pretty feasible), you won’t need to do laundry as often as you think. For activities, think of the most active you will be and the most ‘fancy’ ie are you going hiking and will you also be going to at least 1x nice dinner venue on your trip? Important to pack for both. The in-between clothing should be smart casual – and most importantly – layers! Also don’t forget to pack your medicine – if you need it – into the carry on with you.
I like to bring Hydralite tablets on board, even if you can’t bring a full water bottle on board. Bring an empty bottle and ask the flight attendants to fill it up with water. Dissolve 1-2 tablets in the water and continue sipping while on board. Airplane air is incredibly dehydrating, so it’s important to keep hydration in when flying long haul.
5. Make a copy of your passport + bookings (Itinerary, hotel bookings) and Upload to Google Drive
Your passport is the most important document when travelling. It is the only thing you need to get home in most instances. If there is a lost passport, there will definitely be panic! You can’t always prevent your passport from getting lost, but you can make electronic and hard copies of your passport. With that at least you can go to any consulate in a foreign country and show ‘proof’ that you lost your document. The worst case is probably that you’ll have to wait a few days to get a new passport, but you will get home. We usually carry the print out version of our passport, flights and hotel bookings + upload all scanned copies to a Google drive folder. Remember to save to be accessible OFFLINE, that way you will always have access to your documents even without Wi-Fi.
Dog Sledding in Yukon, Canada
6. Check whether your airline provides entertainment on board through an app
Most airlines now offer entertainment through an App. You can then use your own devices to watch movies and shows through the airline network on the plane. For example, Virgin Australia don’t have TV screens on a lot of their planes, but have the Virgin In Flight Entertainment App. The catch is if the Wi-Fi in the airport is not strong enough (and in most cases it’s incredibly weak signal but also there is a limit on download) you won’t be able to download the app in time you get on board the flight. Then you have nothing to do on the plane except eat and sleep (good luck with that in most cases!). So whatever airline you’re flying with next, have a look online if they offer an entertainment app on their flights and download it beforehand on all your devices. That way if your next flight doesn’t have screens but has an app, you’re ready to go.
7. If you have an tablet, download the Kindle app and load it up with e- books
There will always be downtime when travelling, not to mention all the waiting around at transit spots wherever you go. I used to bring a few books with me, but now I preserve my luggage space for warm clothes and other items. Reading is an activity that can in most instances be achieved peacefully on holiday, so instead of lugging around heavy books (I am a big fan of paperbacks, but when I travel and finish reading a book, I always want to leave it somewhere just so I don’t have to carry it back!) download the Kindle app (or equivalent) and load it up with as many e-books as you like. Amazon for Kindle do a lot of specials on books on particular days of the week so sign up to their newsletter and you can always find something at good value at the online store. I have a mini i-Pad and read a few books at the same time with this app and love it!
8. Call your bank and tell them where you’ll be travelling to
Why? Because in most cases when my bank sees a transaction from Mexico on my account, they will block it! (No offence Mexico!) It has happened to me so many times that I make sure I call my bank when I am sitting at the airport gate, ready to take off, just to make sure I have access to my own cash while overseas. Usually the standard info your bank needs is what countries you’ll be visiting and what dates. That way they can put a note on your account to not block any transactions from those regions as international payments always look ‘dodgy’ to our banks. It’s also a good idea to add a credit balance to your credit card i.e. transfer some additional funds so you go into CREDIT. The reason is that a lot of overseas banks won’t work for your EFTPOS or Savings card and only some international or BIG national bank ATMs will support withdrawal with a foreign bank card. When you’re travelling you won’t often see the ATM you need, but most of the ATMs accept VISA or Master Card. Chances are you can withdraw money from your VISA card and if it is in credit, you won’t be charged ridiculous credit card fees.
9. Invest in some noise cancelling headphones for long haul flights
I highly recommend these if you want to sleep on the plane. If you are not a sleeper anyway, you’ll still want to get these for long haul flights. A lot of the post plane ‘tiredness’ comes from the cabin pressure but also the actual noise that the engine makes. No matter if you’re travelling in business class or coach, you will still come off the plane kind of tired and with a headache because of the humming background noise on every plane. Good quality noise cancelling headphones work to drown out the humming and if you watch movies on the plane, it feels like you’re just watching them in your living room. The sound is that much more clear and you will be able to enjoy your viewing choice without the addition of a crying baby or a snoring passenger next to you. I have the Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones and highly recommend them.
10. Check in online so you can sit together
My husband and I got a surprise one time we were checking in for our Mexico flight with United Airlines. It was a 14 hour flight Sydney – San Francisco, connection San Francisco – LA, and then LA- Cabo, Mexico. In total around an 18 hour flight. We were 2 hours ahead of departure time and the United Flight attendant told us we couldn’t sit together as the flight was fully booked and the only seats left were in different rows. That was completely unexpected because with a 2 hour ahead of departure arrival there are usually lots of spots for 2 people to sit together. I didn’t really feel too excited to sit next to a random for 14 hours if this was mine and my husband’s holiday. Only through refusing to leave the counter did we manage to be sat together – it was such a big deal. What we then found out was that airlines like United ‘block’ a lot of their seats for frequent flyers and there are usually a few rows at the front of the plane that can’t be taken up by someone without a mileage status. Did you ever notice how when even choosing your seat online, the front of the plane is always booked out? All airlines do this and that’s why on particular flights, no matter how early you arrive at the airport you and your partner might not sit together. The only way to change that is either to get to Silver or Gold levels with your points or to check yourself in online the night before your flight. Good tip!
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Happy travels everyone! I hope these tips will come handy the next time you go on holidays. Travelling is the most amazing thing you can do for yourself – every time I travel I find out something new about the world and myself.
Sydney is one of the most well-known cities in Australia. It combines the relaxed beach life with bustling streets, and it has an array of things to do. If you’re a student, considering a university placement in Sydney could be your true calling. Below are some great reasons why you can’t go past this dynamic location for your degree.
1. Luxury Living
For most people, when you picture student accommodation you think about images of box-style dorm rooms, uninsulated walls, and mouldy bathrooms. Studying and living in Sydney offers so much more! Companies such as Iglu (who offer student accommodation in Sydney) provide modern facilities that make you feel more like you’re in a nice retreat or hotel. These types of accommodation are also built specifically for student living, meaning you can move in as soon as you’re ready. On top of that, they also have friendly staff helping out and even regularly organise events for students.
2. The Lifestyle
The big city means it is always bustling, but the juxtaposition with the beach creates this almost ‘mellow’ atmosphere that you can’t help but be affected by. Mostly sunny year-round, the beach lifestyle never gets old. Also, Sydney in particular promotes a healthy lifestyle. You will find people enjoying the outdoors every day, whether it’s running, yoga on the beach, boot camp or going for a swim. Being around people who enjoy living their lives like this is infectious, as healthy leads to happy, and who doesn’t want to be surrounded by happy people—it will help to keep you in the best frame of mind for studying.
3. Location, Location
Sydney is perfectly situated along the east coast of Australia, and is in driving distance to a number of other beautiful locations. Practically in its backyard is the stunning Blue Mountains, which for those people that like a bit of nature with their city-living, is something you can’t pass up. Every student needs to know when to take a break, and driving north—or south—will also mean spectacular coastlines as you hit places like Wollongong, Kiama, Ulladulla, or further up to the Central Coast; and it could all be done on a weekend or day trip, so classes won’t be missed.
4. Social Centre
To live the life of a university student, you have to remember it’s not just about sitting in the library until all hours of the night; it’s also about meeting lifelong friends, gaining life experience, and simply having a life—and Sydney is the perfect place to do this with its buzzing nightlife. This city offers a variety of clubs and bars, whether you’re after underground or rooftop. Boat cruising through the harbour with friends is also a popular choice, as are the never ending number of festivals and events all year long.
Sydney is a vibrant mix of people and personalities, and is welcoming to anyone and everyone who wants to become part of this community. So if you’re looking for somewhere to study that is fun and filled with endless opportunities both during and after your degree, then you can’t go past this beautiful city.
What is it about the idea of Sydney that you love the most? Leave your answers below.
Luang Prabang is one of the most peaceful and laid-back cities in Indochina. A world away from the
bustle and noise of the rest of Asia, Luang Prabang is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Make
sure you enjoy of some of these experiences before you leave:
Shop at the night market
Image source: postcardandtag.com
The country’s royal capital is home to the region’s most authentic night market, where the local
hilltribes come with their handmade silver jewellery, weaving, and delicious regional snacks. Don’t
be afraid to haggle here, it’s a way of life in Laos.
Swim in the Kuang Si Falls
Image source: steinkyle.tumblr.com
This beautiful waterfall is renowned for its crystal clear waters, and is a great place to cool off after a
day of sightseeing in Luang Prabang. Just a one-hour tuk tuk ride from the city-centre, this peaceful
oasis is well worth the short hike through the jungle, and is popular with locals and travellers alike.
Insider tip: arrive early in the morning to escape the crowds!
Climb Mount Phou Si
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
This 100m high hill in the centre of the old town offers stunning views of sleepy Luang Prabang.
Bordered on one side by the Mekong River, and on the other the Nam Khan River, make sure you
enjoy the scenery as you take the gentle hike to the top.
Explore the Pak Ou caves
Image source: thousandwonders.net
The Pak Ou Caves are among the most revered holy sites in Laos. Just 25km outside of Luang
Prabang, the caves are easily reachable by riverboat. The caves are spilt in two, one named Tham
Ting and the other Tham Theung. They are both filled with thousands of Buddha images and statues
which have been deposited here over centuries, mostly donated by local people.
Insider tip: bring a torch so you can explore shadowy corners
Give alms to the monks
Image source: 58bits.com
Witness hundreds of orange-clad monks collecting alms at dawn, a sight that has lured travellers
from all over the world to this UNESCO World Heritage listed town. If you wish to take part in the
ceremony, remember to dress respectfully and kneel when offering alms. Sticky rice is the best thing
to offer, and most hotels will make a batch for you to take with you.
This was a guest article by Insider Journeys. Check out their twitter feed where they regularly post
inspirational articles and photographs of Laos.
Header Image source: internationalphototours-blog.com