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When you see pictures or hear stories about visiting the Caribbean, it’s easy to think that it’s going to cost an absolute fortune. This is the worst nightmare of any backpacker who’s living and traveling on a modest budget. But, the good news is that you don’t need to break the bank or stay in the best Caribbean villas to explore this part of the world. I’ve backpacked and island hopped without spending anywhere near as much as I thought. Here’s how you can save money and visit the Caribbean on a budget.

Why You Should Backpack in the Caribbean:

The first most obvious reason is that the islands are extremely beautiful and have a unique style of culture. You can relax on the beaches or take part in a range of watersports, such as sailing and snorkeling. And it’s not limited to just this, each island has their own unique landscapes and wildlife. For example, you can see several exotic birds in the rainforests of Jamaica or visit the semi-desert plains in the Dominican Republic.

Another reason to visit is that there are thousands of islands and each one is different. The culture, the atmosphere, and the environment. If you have the chance to go island hopping, everywhere will be different and it gives you the chance to try new experiences.

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What are the Best Places to Visit?

The best islands for you to visit are based on your own personal preferences and budget. For example, Barbados and Antigua are famous for their beaches and Cuba offers a unique experience. You can also head to other islands to see wildlife, Caribbean culture or to enjoy Carnival. But, if you’re backpacking there are a few things that you need to consider.

The first is the daily cost to stay on the Island. In some places, such as the Dominican Republic, you can survive on a modest budget. Other islands, such as Bermuda, will cost much, much more. Do your research beforehand to find the places you want to visit and their expected costs.

The second consideration is how to get to the island. Some are more accessible than others with direct international flights from major cities in the United States and Europe. The more remote ones may involve a number of connecting flights and a boat ride. It goes without saying that the travel costs of getting to the more difficult to reach places add up faster.

How to Get Around the Caribbean:

Most people who backpack around the Caribbean get around by island hopping. There are several ways to do this and you should research and plan in advance. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to fly from one place to another whereas on other times it’s better if you take a boat. I’ve also met people who found a job working on a yacht and other vessels that give you free transport around the different islands. Search online for these opportunities if it’s something that you may be interested in.

Cruises Can Be a Good Idea:

Another way to see more of the Caribbean is to take a cruise. It’s a misconception that all cruises are expensive. You can find some that take you around the different islands for less than a night on land. The cheaper cruises tend to be advertised online or operated by local companies. Work out your daily costs on the island and compare it against the cost per night on a short cruise. When you start to factor in all the extra costs for getting from one place to another, a cruise starts to get cheaper and more value for money. The only disadvantage is that you won’t get to spend much time on each island. However, it’s a great way to see more of the Caribbean in a shorter space of time.

How to Stay Safe in the Caribbean:

Staying safe is a major concern for people who want to visit the Caribbean. Some islands have a reputation for being dangerous, especially in the bigger cities. Gang violence and drugs are a major part of life in some areas and tourists can sometimes be affected. The high-end resorts are completely safe and you can relax without worrying. The armed guards are there for a reason. But, you won’t be staying here if you’re backpacking. So, how can you make sure you stay safe?

Well, the first thing is to do your research before you visit. Make sure you know the safe places and the not so safe ones and use your common sense to stay away from them. It’s also a good idea to speak to some locals when you’re on the ground for insider tips. Another way to stay safe is to avoid getting too intoxicated as it makes you an easy target and never accept drugs from anyone.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom and most people who visit the islands leave without ever having any problem. The ones who do fall victim are walking around in the no-go areas flashing their cameras or money around. Would you go wandering into the bad neighborhoods back at home after a night drinking? Probably not. So don’t do it here.

The Takeaway Message:

The Caribbean is a perfect travel destination for people with any level of budget. You don’t need to spend too much to visit some of the islands and with a bit of common sense, you can stay in cheaper places and stay safe. Backpacking around this part of the world may be more expensive than other regions, but it’s certainly doable and is worth the extra costs.

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Packing everything you will need on your backpacking trip can be tricky. You have only a finite amount of space, yet there is so much you think you are going to need. There is no way everything can possibly fit in your single backpack. If you want to have everything you need while still traveling light, you need to know the best things to pack for your backpacking holiday.

Essential kit

Perhaps the emphasis here should not be on packing light, but on packing smart. It is more important that you pack things you need rather than things that have been designed to be less cumbersome or less heavy than others but might not do the job as well.

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You want to be prepared for every kind of weather you might experience, so essential all-weather kit should include a waterproof jacket that will keep off the worst kind of rain but can also be folded to take up very little room in your backpack. Instead of packing another jacket for the cold, pack clothes that work as layers, such as a fleece or a sweater that can be pulled on if the weather turns cold. Try to keep shoes to a minimum by packing a pair that will work for multiple occasions. You should also have good socks. Look for ones that are thick and padded enough to cushion your feet and prevent blisters, along with some wicking underwear that will keep you dry.

Backpacking vacations mean that you are outdoors pretty much all the time, so you need to include items in your backpack that will protect you against the elements. Sunscreen to prevent sunburn is indispensable, but do not forget that your lips and eyes need protection too, so pack lip balm and sunglasses. Continuing the theme of safety, a basic first aid kit is an absolute necessity and this should contain bandages, antiseptic wipes, blister packs, sterile pads, insect repellent treatment, antibacterial ointment, and painkillers such as aspirin and/or ibuprofen.

As means of sustenance, you should also pack bottles of water or a water canteen, along with a water filter or treatment system to keep you hydrated. Also, be sure to pack at least a day’s worth of food that does not need to be cooked. Look for items that can be eaten out of the wrapper and have a high calorific value, such as cheese and chocolate. A reflective blanket should also be packed to keep you warm should you have to spend longer outdoors than anticipated, and a flashlight of some kind, whether handheld or headband-mounted, will be necessary for nights. Just remember to pack extra batteries to keep the flashlight working.

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You will also want to bring along items that make your life easier and ensure you do not get lost on your travels. If you are planning to go very far off the beaten track, a compass is an essential, as is a map of your area that is protected from rain and other elements. Optional extras to help you with navigation are GPS and an altimeter. A personal locator beacon is another good gadget to have on your person, while a satellite communicator, 2-way radio or cell phone if coverage is adequate will ensure that you are never too far from help should you need it.

Gadgets come into their own when it comes to backpack packing. Gadgets that fulfill several different functions are great space-savers. For example, a multi-tool that has scissors, a knife and a can opener, such as that found at the former As Seen On TV website, could prove invaluable and replaces three separate tools. If you have digital tools with you, you may find that a solar charger is an extremely useful item to pack.

What about sanitation and keeping yourself clean? Let us not forget that we all have basic needs, and if you do not want to be caught short in the back of beyond, toilet paper should not be forgotten. You’ll also need hand sanitizer gel and something to clean up after you. Be sure to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste, a compact toiletry kit containing soap and deodorant, and a quick-dry towel.

There are many things you will need on your backpacking holiday, but not all of them will be essential. To keep your backpack light and filled with only what you need, you can’t go wrong by prioritizing your health, comfort and safety.

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The function of an SSL certificate is to validate that the company, website, or business is who they claim to be. It is to ensure the customer is actually conducting business with that entity versus a fraudulent website trying to get their hands on a customer’s money, account information, or personal information.

Although most customers who shop online only speculate on the padlock icon on the right side of their address bar, there are other features that do in fact advertise that the site is the official website. Items like the address bar turning green once on the site and an ‘S’ added to the ‘http’ in the address itself are proof of the site’s secure status.

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The differences between RapidSSL and Geotrust lie in the specifications of business conducted by the business or organisation. If the website proves to be a low volume website, then the RapidSSL is great. Those who do a high volume of business will be more likely to go with Geotrust. However, RapidSSL can cover professional grade security for a lower fee. RapidSSL is approximately 70 AUD, whereas Geotrust is approximately 250 AUD. There is quite a gap in the prices.

The reason some higher volume businesses go through Geotrust is that the name is more well-known than RapidSSL, therefore providing extra authentication on their end. The level of security is not different; it is just the name. Most shoppers are unaware of the name of the certificate provider, but they will be aware of the padlock icon and if their browser has a pop-up warning about trust and security levels.

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Both are compatible with all major browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, Google Chrome, Safari, and other widely known browsers. These browsers will display the fact that your website is highly secure and trusted. This means you have gone through the authenticity process, and you are not a fraud. It will build the trust of your clientele and ultimately grow your numbers in loyal consumers and sales.

Overall, RapidSSLgeotrust are the same grades in security, but there is a major price difference between the certification fees. If you want to obtain the same amount of security for less, use RapidSSL.

Switzerland is known for its stunning natural beauty, it’s efficient train network and for being a wonderfully organised country. It is, however, known amongst the backpacker world as being horribly expensive, a consequence of which is that many backpackers don’t even bother to visit this stunning country. Here are a few tips to make backpacking around Switzerland a little more affordable:

Couchsurf:
This is a great way to meet locals, to see the local perspective of a city or country and of course, a way to save money. The premise of Couchsurfing is that you’ll stay with a host on their couch or spare bed without paying for anything. It’s similar to how a friend would come stay on your couch, except it’s someone you haven’t met yet. There is a feedback system so you can see how other people’s interactions have been with prospectus hosts, before committing. This is a fantastic way to keep your accommodation costs low, all while making new friends.

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Don’t Eat Out:
If you eat out, you can expect to be paying upwards of $50 a day and that’s just to eat in cheap places. Eating out in Switzerland is extremely expensive. Head to the supermarket and prepare your own meals to cut down on costs. If you Couchsurf, you can ask your host for suggestions on cutting costs in the food department.

Purchase a Travel Pass:
Like most things in Switzerland, travel can be expensive especially compared to neighbouring countries. Map out your planned route through Switzerland and then compare how much it will cost to buying a travel pass. Often you’ll find the travel pass to be much cheaper and it will offer substantially better value for money.

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Don’t Spend Too Long Skiing:
If you’re super keen to ski in Switzerland, do as it is really beautiful and the slopes are incredible. Just be sure to limit your time. There are numerous slopes around Europe, some in some unlikely places such as Slovakia, that offer substantially better value for money. Skiing is expensive in most places around the world, and no where is that more true than Switzerland. Do your research and be realistic about how much that week or two long skiing trip is going to cost you. If you have more time and are seriously keen about spending a while on the Swiss slopes, consider working in Switzerland for a ski season to make the most of it.

Switzerland is a wonderful country to explore that has so much to offer each traveler, even those on a budget. Spend a little time planning your budget and where you will go and you’ll be able to make Switzerland affordable for those on a backpacker budget.

 

Photos by: ZanthiaAmanda Er and Patrick Nouhailler used under Creative Commons License

Traveling alone, or backpacking, for the first time can be pretty daunting. There are lots of things you can do to maximise your chances of meeting people. Most people find when the travel, they rarely spend time alone. There’s too many other people out there exploring who want to meet people too! Traveling with someone is a lot of fun, but if you can’t find anyone who wants to go exactly where you want to go or for as long as you do, you should go by yourself! Here are our top 4 tips for meeting people while on the road.

1) Stay at a backpackers
There are lots of benefits to staying in a hotel, but that comes with a pretty expensive price tag and also hotel stays tend to be a lot less social than hostels. Hostels often organise great social events during the week and weekend to encourage people to socialise. If you stay in dorm rooms you’ll obviously be sharing a room with others, so that’s a great way to meet people too. If you want to be social but aren’t ready to share your room with strangers yet, consider staying in a private room at a hostel – it’s the best of both words.

2) Volunteer Somewhere
Volunteering while you’re overseas can be a great way to enrich the lives of locals, it’s also a great way to make new friends, both foreigners and locals alike. Many people say that volunteering overseas is often one of the most life changing experiences they do.

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3) Use Couchsurfing
So, you can use Couchsurfing to actually surf people’s couches, or you can use it for the numerous social events that are organised through it. The best thing about Couchsurfing is that there are events almost everywhere around the world, so it doesn’t matter where you’re heading, you can find cool people to hang out with!

4) Approach People
One of the hardest things to get used to when traveling, is approaching people out of the blue. The truth is, most people are looking to meet new people and share new experiences together, and most people would be flattered if you approach them. It takes a bit of getting used to and a little bit of social lubrication (in the form of a few beers) can go a long way to making it easier. Who knows, that person sitting alone at a table in the same restaurant, might become your best friend, your partner or just a buddy for a few days. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Meeting people is one of the best things about exploring new places. Be open, friendly and approachable and you’ll be surprised by how many new friends you’ll make.
Photo: Fil & Sonia and Abigail Frances used under Creative Commons License

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You’ve saved up, found the cheapest one-way ticket scouring the internet could muster, and packed light. Now you need to make sure you can see as much as you can- and still have enough money left to get home. Here’s some tips and tricks for seeing the world without breaking the bank.

(1) Eat smart

Self-cater whenever possible. Foreign grocery stores and market places can be an amazing part of the adventure, and they still have local flavor, whether you’re picking up couscous and dates in a Moroccan market or spanakopita in a Greek bakery. Find a good place to people watch and picnic, or cook in a hostel kitchen. You can probably even gather a group to contribute to a communal “home” cooked meal! When you do decided to indulge in a restaurant meal, make it lunch; you’ll get the best deals midday.

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(2) Investigate unconventional sleeping options

Hostels are the usual go-to, and are generally both fun and cost-efficient, but don’t forget to check out your other options! Couchsurfing means not only getting a free bed, but chances are a new local friend to show you the ropes as well. Websites like Airbnb rent spare rooms or beds for a sometimes more affordable rate, depending on location and season. If you’re outdoorsy and the weather is good, strap a small tent to your bag and set up camp. And don’t forget about overnight transport – taking overnight buses, trains, or boats saves money and gives you more time to explore during daylight hours.

(3) Invest in a good pair of walking shoes

Save money on transport and get your exercise in at the same time. Get a good map, plot out the places you want to see, and create yourself a walking tour while you sip your morning coffee. Try to plan it so that you only need transport to your start point and back again. You’ll see more of the city this way, too. Walking makes you available to spy street art, buskers, architecture, and just plain interesting folks that you might not otherwise be privy to. Some cities also have free walking tours, financed by an optional tip for the tour guide.

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(4) Get off the beaten track

Choose your destinations wisely. Of course, visit the iconic places, but consider less touristic options as well. Budapest or Istanbul will be cheaper than London or Paris, and Chiang Mai cheaper than Phuket. Plus you’ll get a special perspective travelling to unconventional places. The same applies within cities. Try to find places to eat, sleep and shop away from the main tourist sites. You’ll find cheaper options, and probably get a more genuine cultural experience.

(5) Do your research

This is possibly the most important thing you can do to improve your experience abroad, financially and otherwise. Guidebooks are your friend, as are the growing resources on the internet and the advice of any locals willing to offer it. Do any of the museums and sites you want to see have special rates or free entry once a week? When are the peak, shoulder and off seasons where you’re trying to visit? Will the weather be warm enough to wander about on foot? What is the public transport system like? Are there certain clothes you need to bring to be culturally appropriate? What are the local must-tries, must-dos, and must-sees? Use your resources and find the answers. It will save you money, and mean you enjoy everything your destination has to offer. After all, you can’t experience something if you never know its there.

 

Photos: Freddy Olsson and Nomads Hostels used under Creative Commons License

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Backpack? Check.  Passport? Check.  Now, where to go?  Here’s some of the best places to travel light and lightheartedly, backpacker-style, in Europe.

Granada is one of the last holdouts of southern Spain’s “free tapas” tradition- meaning most bars will serve a free plate of food with every drink, a blessing for the backpacker on a budget.  Enjoy a refreshing glass (or two) of sangria after being astounded at the magnificent, worth-every-penny Alhambra, getting lost in ancient Albayzín, or peering into the cave dwellings of Sacromonte.  The next morning, grab breakfast in the picturesque Plaza Nueva before wandering the streets of Spain’s hippest city.

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Every backpacker who visits Berlin waxes rhapsodic about it later.  Hip and innovative in its spirit of rebuilding and renovation, just aimlessly walking around Berlin is a joy.  There’s no need to be aimless, however; the city is rife with (relatively) recent history to take in, including, of course, the Berlin Wall.  Even if you don’t feel like meandering the entire length of the former wall, make sure to check out the East Side Gallery, where this place forced separation now brings people together with beautiful murals.  Berlin is also a mecca for urban exploration, with abandoned airports, amusements parts, and other such delights to discover.  Nightlife is varied and quintessentially Berlin- just weird enough to be enchanting.

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It may seem shocking that notoriously expensive London made the list, but, while food and accommodation may be less budget friendly, some of the greatest pleasures in London cost nothing at all.  A self-guided walking tour could include multitudes of iconic sights, from Big Ben to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  On a rare sunny day, scrounge up a picnic and people watch at Hyde Park and the attached Kensington Gardens, or hit Covent Garden for some of the world’s best street performance.  Perhaps peruse unusual shopping in Camden Town or Notting Hill’s Portobello Market (yes, like the movie).  When it rains, and it will, dive into one of London’s museums; most of the best ones are free.  Or see a West End matinee- check Leicester Square and the theaters themselves for cheap tickets.

Slightly out of the way, Portugal’s Algarve doesn’t make the itinerary for a lot of backpackers, but it should, especially if you’re after an affordable beach holiday.  Lagos’s beaches are nothing less than stunning, with water so blue you almost won’t believe its real. After a day of sun and swim, clean up and hit the town- Lagos’s bars cater to the young backpacker crowd, so a good scene shouldn’t be hard to find.  The city is small and easily walkable, and there are buses and trains to Silves and Faro if you want to continue your Algarve exploration.

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On the other side of the out-of-the way spectrum, Istanbul’s vibrant architecture and cultural mash-up arises like something out of a fairytale.  A day spent wandering the area around Sultanahamet Square is a day spent getting your breath taken away by the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Basilica Cistern, just for starters.  A visit to the Topkapi Palace takes that fairytale feel even further.  Delicious street food abounds (try simit, roasted chestnuts, grilled corn, and doner), and any meal can be finished off with Turkish delight purchased at the bustling Grand Bazaar.  For a memorable evening, gather hostel-mates for wine and meze.  Bonus: you can find a bed for under $10, and public transport is a breeze.

There is, of course, more to explore, but you don’t need us to help you find it all.  You’ve got that backpacker spirit, so grab your pack, book a ticket to one of these great destinations, and let the journey begin.

Photos: ntalkaJoseph HoBlake Maybank and Chris Sewell used under Creative Commons License

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In a New York state of mind?  Are you ready to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep?  Keep reading for some tips on how to make the most of New York City when you’re experiencing it backpacker-style.

1. Seek out the free stuff

Yes, some of the most iconic sites in NYC are a tad on the pricy side, but a lot of classic Big Apple can be experienced for free or close to it.  The excitement of Times Square and the oasis of Central Park are completely gratis, as are Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library, the 9/11 Memorial, the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Station.  So is a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which offers great views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and New York Harbor.  Don’t forget to check museum schedules as well.  Many museums are free or pay-what-you-will certain days of the week, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s admission fees are always pay-what-you-wish.

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2. Make interesting food choices.

Street food is fundamental to New York City, and goes way beyond the ubiquitous hot dog.  Gyros, tacos, knishes… it’s all available without ever going in to a restaurant. For a good sit down meal, explore the city’s ethnic neighborhoods, where the options will be authentic, delicious and affordable. Craving dim sum? Try Chinatown.  Love a good curry? The city is full of Indian enclaves.  Thinking baklava? Astoria has you covered. Plus, wandering the neighborhoods themselves can be a trip-enriching experience.  Last but not least, don’t forget two other New York standbys- the pizzeria and the delicatessen. For more suggestions, check out the travel section on livingthat.com.

3. Take a stroll

Get a good map, plot out the places you want to see, and then plan your own walking tour.  Organize your adventures so that you only have to use your Metrocard a few times a day, ideally once to go out in the morning and once to return home for the night.  Taking the subway is a classic New York experience you’ll miss in a taxi, and you’ll see much more of the city’s charms on foot.  Minimizing transport costs is just a lovely side benefit.

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4. Go to the theater, dahling.

A trip to the city that never sleeps isn’t complete without a visit to Broadway.  Most Broadway shows offer discounted day-of tickets.  There’s a bit of a risk involved, and chances are you’ll have to brave quite the line.  Just remember that patience is a virtue, a virtue that in this case has very sweet rewards.  Don’t forget to check the policies of the theater you’ll be staking out, as rush tickets could be general, student only, lottery or standing room only.  The TKTS discount ticket booth is also a worthwhile option.

5. Use common civility – and common sense.

There are more than 8 million people living in New York City.  While they love that they live in a fabulous place that tourists want to visit, they also have things to do, and you might be in the way. Imagine someone ambling slowly in front of you during your commute, maybe stopping to snap a picture.  If you don’t like that person, try not to be them.  Also, use the same sense you would at home when it comes to safety.  Walking in allies alone at 3 am isn’t wise at home, and it isn’t wise in NYC.  Use common sense, stay safe… and enjoy New York!

Photos: Derek KeyCharles Sporn and Steve Gardner used under Creative Commons License