Monthly Archives: July 2011

Desolate Sands, Astonishing Life: Backpacking in Namibia

Namibia tells an ancient, desolate story. It’s a country of forgotten natural wonder, where huge horizon-stretching vistas evoke wild, eerie silences, all the while encouraged by unblemished wilderness and miles and miles of rolling sand dunes. As a fact, Namibia holds claim to the 2nd most sparsely populated country in the world, with the wide Gobi stretched expanse of Mongolia just clinching it in the top spot.

Namibian Locals

Alongside the age crusted and fossil strewn sentiments of the Namibian sand, there’s fresh life in the countries roots. Urbanisation has arrived, and none more exemplified by the wonderfully dynamic, charismatic and ever-expanding capital city of Windhoek, Namibia (pronounced ‘Vind-hook’).  Most of the tourist outfits have bases here, and it is the rise in global awareness in Africa that make excursions into this countries most ancient secrets a real possibility.

Etosha SafariSafari in Etosha National Park

Etosha is reachable by excursion from Windhoek, or if you want to stay in the centre of the action, there are 3 safari camps that offer accommodation in the National Park itself. Don’t think lush greenery or thick bushland (which you are more likely to find in East Africa), think more sand beaten, raw and rocky grounds that seems too harsh for animal habitation. This makes way for one of the most special species in all of Africa – the desert elephant. Rumoured here to be the tallest in Africa, they are a peculiar species. It’s quite remarkable really; most of the animals appear to be some of the healthiest in Africa, with fat zebra often found grazing in their hundreds.

The water basin at Etosha Pan is the key. The basin provides many waterholes, and consequently is where the desert elephants are at their fiercest. For game viewers, it’s a real treat, with so little water available, species’ of every size and shape flock to the waterholes, seeking that all important hydration to sustain migration patterns in the devastatingly dry Namibian summer months.

Skeleton CoastSkeleton Coast

To be comfortable you can fly out here; to be uncomfortable, dusty and bruised you can take a bus. If you can part with the cash, the scenic flight over some of the most inhospitable and desolate, but hauntingly beautiful places in Namibia, is an awesome experience in itself.

On arrival it is immediately clear that life on the Skeleton Coast is an ongoing struggle for survival. A fierce Antarctic wind blows tirelessly onshore, the coastline is littered with mammal skeletons, shipwreck sites, roaring dunes and windswept plains. The area is extremely dry, and water is never found in excess – so don’t expect washing facilities. But as with the desert elephants, nature has a way of providing life, even in the harshest of climates. The sea air from Antarctica is unusually high in oxygen content, making the micro-bacteria levels on the shoreline surge. As a result marine life is abundant in the waters off the Skeleton coast, and there is one seal colony in particular that has over 5000 members in one place. An awesome sight, an awesome smell!

5 things not to miss in Namibia:

  • Windhoek
  • Etosha National Park
  • Skeleton Coast
  • Sossusvlei (for some of the tallest sand dunes on the plant)
  • Windhoek Animal Sanctuary (owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie)

For more information on this relatively untouched part of Africa, visit Mydestination.com/Namibia or check out more travel destinations in Africa here.

This is a guest post from Hugo Davison at MyDestination.com

Get the Best Exchange Rate When Changing Money on Your Travels – 5 Simple Tips

money - foreign exchangeWhen you’re backpacking around the world, travelling through a lot of countries in a short period of time, it’s easy to lose track of what each currency that crosses your palm is worth. I know i’ve found myself in countries without a clue how much a can of coke or a sandwich should cost. This can lead to you spending much more of your travel budget than you realise until it’s too late.

Below are 5 simple tips to follow when you’re on the road to try and get the most for your money.

Never Change Money at Airports or Hotels
Due to the amount of footfall and convenience for travellers, airports and hotels will never offer a very good exchange rate. Try and see past the convenience element and make the extra effort to go a bit further to get a much better deal. Local banks are often a good option.

Know the Exchange Rate!
For backpackers travelling through a lot of countries it can be difficult to follow how much a particular currency is worth. From baht to yen to pesos, it can all get very confusing and often leads to travellers spending more money than they ever anticipated, simply because they got a bum deal. Make sure you look into the latest exchange rates and find the best forex trader before you arrive in a new country and then you’ll know how much to expect in return for the money you have. In the age of the internet there’s no excuse for not finding this out!

ATM Money WithdrawalsDon’t Be Afraid to Use ATMs
Many travellers are wary of using ATMs on their travels but if you find a good bank which offers reasonable withdrawal rates then it can be a great way to handle your money abroad. This can also be much safer as it means you don’t always have to travel with large sums of cash. Make sure you alert your bank before you leave though as they’ll often freeze accounts if they see unusual activity in a foreign country.

Credit Cards are an Option
This is definitely dependent on your provider and the terms you have, but it is possible to get some great deals with credit cards which are tailored to travelling abroad. If you are making larger purchases whilst you’re away (some clothes shopping in New York, buying some cheap gadgets in China etc…) then you might get better value from throwing it on the card and saving your hard cash for the bus rides and lunch stops along the way. There are often incentives from the bank as well for using your card over cash. Be careful though, there’s nothing worse than returning from your travels and finding a huge bill waiting which you weren’t expecting – read those small print T&Cs!

thai-money, baht

Plan Ahead
Try and have an idea of what you’ll be spending in the coming days and weeks so you can plan your withdrawals and exchanges around that. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to an ATM and withdrawing cash, spending it all straight away on a big activity that day and having to go back to withdraw more later the same day. If you’re going for a bungee jump, a trek or the like then plan that into your withdrawals so you only make them when necessary.

If you’ve got any more tips for getting the best deal with currency exchange then please share them in the comments!

This is a sponsored post.

Reaching New Heights Backpacking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Known locally as ‘KL’, Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s largest city and it’s also the youngest capital in South East Asia. It has a grand bi-cultural feel, a mix between the Indian Malays living in the north of the city and the Chinese Malays in the south. Constantly growing, constantly evolving, it’s a city of rapid metamorphosis. Building schemes, new road systems, flyovers, skyscrapers and great architectural feats are being constructed in line with the rapid rise in Far Eastern economic influence. And it’s a well-beaten track for travellers too, with Thailand, Singapore, and South East Asia all reachable over land , and increasingly now, by Western style low-cost airlines.

Up the Petronas twin towers.

One look at these soaring spires and you’ll see why the iconic towers are a must for any visit to KL. Together they idolise the civic centre of the city, and its identity amongst the world’s most influential cities. In fact, it’s hard to find a street where they can’t be seen from. If you want sensational views across the cityscape then you need to navigate your way to the 41st floor and to the famous ‘skybridge’.  Arrive at the bottom of the towers (accessible via the Suria KLCC shopping mall) at 7.30am (when it opens) as the queues can stretch to dizzying lengths, and they only let a certain amount of visitors in per day.

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Shopping centre .

On your way to the Petronas twin towers you will pass trough the Suria KLCC mall, and you will see that it’s no ordinary shopping destination. It’s regarded as one of the best shopping destinations in Malaysia. There’s the educatory Petrosains Discovery Centre, the stunning and slightly surreal underwater aquarium and a vast concert hall. It also houses a huge multiplex cinema and flagship shops from all over the word, including Marks and Spencer from the UK and Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore.  More than that, the Suria (meaning ‘Sunshine’) is one of the best places to eat in Kuala Lumpur because, like most of the city, it incorporates cultural influences from all over the world. Head to Signatures Food Court for a unique opportunity to compare tastes, which is the best, Indian or Malaysian biryani?

Kuala LumpurA touch of class at Skybar

Dubbed ‘Malaysia’s best bar’ more times than can be flattering, ‘Skybar’ at the top of Trader’s Hotel draws clients from all over the globe.  The appeal begins in the lift, when your eardrums strain against the rising altitude (floor 33). The bar itself is a visual phenomenon; a darkened aura pierced by soft blue lights reflecting off a bottomless glass floor. Luxurious sofas take in the spectacular view of Kuala Lumpur at night, where the Petronas Towers light up like beacons, seeming closer than they ever did on the ground. This is before you’ve even tried a cocktail. It’s a touch of class and its open to everyone, even though it’s at the summit of one of the best Kuala Lumpur hotels.

5 things not to miss out on in Kuala Lumpur

  • Climbing the Petronas Towers
  • Visiting the Suria KLCC mall
  • Take a stroll round the leafy colonial area of Victoria school
  • Visit the culturally diverse satellite city of Putrajaya
  • Wander through Chinatown and the herb markets on Petaling Street

This is a guest post from Hugo Davison as part of a series provided by MyDestination.com

If you like the look of KL then why not check out some other great travel destinations in Asia….

The Hills of San Francisco, USA: A Photo Diary

San Francisco is an incredible city packed with loads of things to see and do. Around every corner is a world recognised icon or location of a scene from a film, but there is also as much intrigue in people watching as there is in the landmarks.

From the Golden Gate bridge to Alcatraz, the windy Lombard Street to the hippyish Haight, San Fran provides a surprise at every turn and always offers entertainment. Whether you explore it on one of the many trams wandering the city or take the modern option of a stroller you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with the city.

It really is a travel destination which offers a feast for the eyes, which is why i’ve decided to let the pictures do the talking in this post, as they’ll do a far better job than i ever could:

San Fran Houses

San Francisco View

San Fran Building

Golden Gate Bridge

Lombard Street San Francisco

Haight Ashbury San Fran

Alcatraz

San Francisco Trams

If this has whet your appetite than why not book a hotel in San Francisco now and go out an sample it for yourself. It’s certainly a great backpacking destination and well worthy of a visit. And while you’re there you could extend your trip and see some other great travel destinations in the USA too…

This is a sponsored post.

Travel Talk on Twitter, #TTOT – THE Travel Hashtag on Twitter!

Courtesy of Melvin at Travel Dudes – get using the #TTOT hashtag!

What’s it all about?

#TTOT is THE travel event on Twitter… Let’s make it  THE social travel hashtag now!

In January 2011 we started The Travel Talk on Twitter.

It was about time to have a travel event on Twitter, by topics that don’t get dominated by sponsors who pay for it. So a mixed crowd of travelers and companies out of the travel industry started #TTOT = Travel Talk on Twitter.

From the first session it was and still is the most successful travel event on Twitter. Each Tuesday at 9:30 am and at 9:30 pm GMT, hundreds of travelers meet up online and tweet about topics and questions, which were submitted by them on Facebook.

But the #TTOT hashtag is much more!

It’s THE travel talk hashtag!

Whenever you need any travel related help…

whenever you have a question for your travels…

whenever you tweet about travel…

Just add it to your tweet!

It’s short & a very well known hashtag!

Travelers worldwide will look out for it and will use it as well to tweet about their passion… Travel!

It’s not a hashtag of a single company… It’s YOURS… It’s OUR Social Travel Hashtag!

Twitter is about being social and it starts with a simple #TTOT