Something many people are not familiar with is bartering. In America it’s very rare to barter for any goods or services in a traditional marketplace. Of course things like eBay and Craigslist have changed the way we shop, but for the most part, Americans don’t enter a store and offer half of the advertised price and expect to get away with it. In some countries, that’s exactly what you are expected to do though.
Trip to Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco – Video
Click to see this video in HD: Trip to Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco from Jeffery Patch on Vimeo.
From a scary taxi ride through Casablanca to a truly magnificent piece of North African architecture, my visit to Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca was wonderful. This mosque is the second largest in the world after Mecca and is one of the few mosques that allows non-Muslims to enter.
Five Exotic Places in the World (that you can still afford to visit)
Budget travelers are constantly looking for the best possible places they can visit on the cheap. Here are five exotic places around the world that are still affordable for the budget traveler. Read on!
Everybody knows it for the Panama Canal, a must see engineering marvel, but Panama offers much more for budget travelers seeking an exotic trip. Plenty of great beaches in places like Bocas del Torro or for the more adventurous, explore the Darién Gap (with a guide of course, this is one extremely dangerous place). It’s easy to spend several weeks in this exotic country without ever staying in one place for too long.
Panama is served by many North American carriers at reasonable prices. The roads are much easier than Costa Rica but the main means of transport over large distances is by small plane. You can fly to most places in the country on Air Panama or AeroPerlas for $50-100.
Thought by many to be an expensive tourist trap five hours off the coast of California, Hawaii is actually a great trip for budget travelers who enjoy doing their own thing. Amazing beaches with the best surf in North America, scuba and snorkeling opportunities everywhere and plenty of diversity with rain forest and volcanoes for nature lovers.
Read more about Hawaii becoming a budget traveler’s dream.
The most visitor friendly island in Indonesia, Bali may be small in size but not in stature, despite not being the cheapest place in the world to fly to. Flights can cost up to around $1,000 but amenities once you are there can be had at very reasonable prices. Don’t worry, big hotels are available for those who need pampering, but for travelers that require less your dollar can go a long way in Bali.
Apparently in order to be considered “exotic” you need ocean and rain forest so close to each other in the same country that you can literally feel as if you are in another world in the same day. Not only does Costa Rica allow you to do that, you can literally walk from a gorgeous beach where you might not see another person all day, to forest where you will be surrounded by monkeys and sloths. Costa Rica has to be the ecotourism capital of the world and luckily for budget travelers, prices are still reasonable. A bus ride across the country costs less than $5 and there are many hostels for around $10 per night. Tourism is huge though and there are plenty of resorts and tourists traps but you can still easily get by spending $3 for dinner eating with the locals at a small soda.
Morocco stands out on this list because it’s not known for its nature although it does have plenty of that to go around. Fancy a camel ride across the Sahara? No problem. The majority of travelers are here for Morocco’s immense culture though. It’s a taste of the middle east in North Africa. Imperial cities like Fez are home to life in the medinas and souks that has been relatively unchanged for a thousand years. Food lovers will be in heaven enjoying chicken or lamb tagines meticulously steamed for several hours.
1,000 Places to See Before You Die
Inspired by the roaring #1 New York Times bestseller with more than 1 million copies in print, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Traveler’s Journal is perfect for giving–it’s specially designed for people who love to travel and want an elegant place to record their experiences. Scattered throughout the journal are traveler’s lists (“Unforgettable Destinations for the ‘Been There, Done That’ Crowd”and “10 Experiences Guaranteed to Give You the Shivers”) and quotes that will spark insight and provide writerly inspiration. At the back of the diary is helpful nuts-and-bolts info: time zones, conversion charts, telephone codes, mini-translation guides, and more.
Volunteering Abroad During Your Travels
Lately I’ve been asked by several people about things they can do while traveling for an extended surprise. Much to my surprise, some people they will get bored or sick of traveling and want to have something to fall back on.
While I can’t imagine ever getting bored with traveling non-stop I do understand the desire to change it up while out on the road.
Why not look at volunteering? There are opportunities all over the world and you can easily manage to help for a while during your travels.
One problem with searching for volunteer opportunities from abroad is that “volunteerism” has become quite popular and many people are exploiting volunteer’s desires to help by charging high prices for volunteer trips. Some of them might be legitimate, but I don’t understand paying a couple of thousand dollars to go somewhere for a week and work hard.
Luckily, Serve Your World has built a good list of free volunteer opportunities. But keep in mind that your costs are typically not covered so you’ll have to pay for your airfare and travel arrangements but often the organization has some sort of housing for you and sometimes provides meals as well. You might also want to check out Volunteerism.
Looking to make a little more of a dent in the world? Why not check out the Peace Corps? You’ll have to be more dedicated, as the minimum commitment is 2 years.
Becoming quite popular recently is WWOOF’ing. And it’s not just fun to say either. WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. When volunteering on a WWOOF farm you’ll work and live on an organic farm, helping do any number of tasks and receive free meals and a place to stay. There are an abundance of farms in the organization so you should definitely check out the website to see all of the opportunities to help sustainable agriculture. Note: some of the organizations charge a small fee to gain access to the website and this fee goes to supporting the network.
These aren’t the only opportunities around, but three of the more popular options. If you are interested in learning more please check out the appropriate links above. It’d also be worth your time to look into various NGO’s (non governmental organizations) in the area you’ll be in.
Have you volunteered abroad or are you looking into it? We’d appreciate hearing about it in the comments below!
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What to Pack For Morocco
This is the first in a series of posts about what to pack for specific destinations. I noticed an unbelievable amount of Google traffic searching for information on what to pack for Morocco, one of my favorite previous trips. Since I never touched on what I packed for Morocco, I decided to write a post about it. Occasionally I’ll revisit this topic for other destinations that require certain types of clothing or gear.
Morocco is a very unique destination. Located in North Africa but still carrying the vibe of the Middle East. Morocco is full of culture, languages, sights, great food, amazing landscapes, and best of all, relatively safe. This makes it a popular destination for independent travelers and backpackers flock to the various areas around the country.
Morocco is not your every day tourist destination though. Being a conservative Islamic republic, you should be mindful of Moroccan’s customs and be respectful in your dress. This means that, despite the often warm temperatures, you should not plan on walking around in shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts. This goes for both men and women.
For men, jeans, khaki’s and cargo pants are acceptable and long sleeved t-shirts, thin jackets, or lightweight casual button-down shirts are recommended.
Women can generally follow the above recommendations but just be mindful to not wear tops that expose cleavage or have short sleeves. It may not be considered risque in western culture, but these items are generally unacceptable in Moroccan culture.
Recommended Packing List:
- 4-5 shirts (or blouses) – preferably long sleeved
- 1 jacket or sweater
- 2 pairs of comfortable pants
- swim suit – if you’re visiting the beach
- hat – especially if you’re visiting the desert
- enough socks and underwear
- comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes
- toiletries – don’t go overboard, but shopping for your typical toiletries in Morocco might be difficult
- digital camera – smaller is better
Morocco isn’t particularly dangerous, but places like Tangiers do suffer from slightly more than normal amounts of petty theft. If you are spending time in any medina areas and want to take photographs, a small camera is a better idea. Remember, this is where Moroccan’s live and work and aren’t necessarily tourist areas, despite the popularity of them.
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That Taxi Driver is Probably NOT Your Friend
Taxi drivers. You’ve got to love them. It doesn’t matter what country you are in. They always have a unique trinket dangling from their mirror and are happy to provide you with lots of advice on wherever it is you are traveling. Especially so if they pick you up at the airport and you have a big backpack or you’re dragging some luggage behind you.
Unfortunately the first person you usually meet in a new country isn’t always the most trustworthy.
You hop in the car and tell the driver where you’d like to go. Often times they respond by telling you that hotel is booked, it’s dirty, or unsafe. If you don’t know any better, you might believe him and let him take you to a place he recommends.
Of course what he doesn’t tell you is that he is getting a commission for taking you to that place.
This is the oldest trick in the book and happens more often than you might believe. Just last week I had it happen to me. Twice.
So how do you avoid this? First of all, stick to your plans and know what you are getting in to. If you are arriving somewhere late at night, it’s probably a good idea to book accommodation for your first night.
Another trick is charging you a flat rate versus using the meter. This hardly works out in your favor. Some places I have been (Morocco for instance) generally don’t use the meter and offer you a flat rate before you get in. My experiences were fair and the prices were very cheap. Recently in Costa Rica though, we agreed to pay 4,000 colones (about $8) for the three of us to be driven across town to a restaurant late at night. We had a tough time finding a cab so we just agreed and off we went. After dinner we flagged down another cab and headed back to our hotel room. He turned on the meter and it came to 1,000 colones. We realized we were ripped off the first time and always insisted on using the meter from then on.
All this negative talk about taxi drivers probably makes me look like a pessimist. In reality, I’ve had some great conversations with taxi drivers and they are often very nice and enjoy meeting foreigners. Especially if they want to practice your language. I’ve had full conversations about American politics, tourism and the economy–all in various, and probably butchered, languages. Often they can be insightful and entertaining, looking for somebody to chat with just like you are.
On the other hand, I’ve been ripped off (usually for such an insignifigant amount it’s laughable) and attempted to be taken advantage of. So be careful and have a plan. Don’t let a taxi driver boss you around. They usually will take “no” for an answer very easily so insist on going where you want to go.
Have any funny (or horror) stories about taking taxis around the world? Share them in the comments below!
Photo credit: daveknapik
How to Easily Learn a Language and Enjoy your Trip
Would you like to know a little secret?
Language is important.
Pretty obvious, right?
Being American (technically Canadian-American but who’s counting?) I am always surprised by how few of us speak a foreign language. Sure, in California many people speak Spanish, but not nearly as many as you would expect.
One of the things I always tell people is that they should learn at least a few conversational basics when traveling to a foreign country.
I did a lot to cram in some French and Italian before traveling to Europe for my first backpacking trip. I was in no way fluent, or even comfortable speaking either language, but what little I did know helped tremendously.
Many Americans expect that since they are paying tourists, they should be catered to. If you use Paris for an example, you’ll realize that Paris does not live off of tourism! It’s the cultural center of France and if no Americans visited, they would hardly miss us.
I saw this first hand when ordering lunch at a small cafe. I managed to ask for a particular sandwich and a glass of tea but I could not understand the price. I politely asked, “parlez-vous Anglais?”
“Yes, a little,” she responded and told me the price in English. I paid, thanked her in French, received a kind smile and enjoyed my food.
Shortly after another young backpacker came in and asked for something using only English and didn’t even bother to try French. The same lady who was so friendly to me responded, “je suis désolé monsieur. Je ne comprende pas Anglais.” He made a couple more requests in English but eventually left frustrated and hungry. The lady looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
To her, a few Euros were less important than the cultural pride. This attitude is very common not only in Paris, but anywhere that does not rely solely on tourism.
But surely you don’t have the time to enroll in a class and practice for several months before traveling.
So here is the real secret I promised:
Never heard the name before? Well Dr. Pimsleur created a wonderful technique for learning language and has produced fantastic audio programs.
While the full versions with nearly 50 hours of training are quite expensive, there is a great alternative if you wish to get started and learn the basics, whether it be for fun or in preparation for a trip.
The insert Pimsleur Learn to Speak & Understand programs contain 16 lessons (each unit of the full program has 30, so you are getting about half of the free unit). The best part, they’re pretty cheap on Amazon.
Of course, they hope you enjoy them and decide to move on to the full course. If you do, I believe there is an upgrade program for purchasers of the intro versions.
Let me tell you first hand that these work very well and will prepare you for many common situations such as asking (and understanding) directions, ordering food, or exchanging money. Of course you’ll learn how to politely interact with people in that language and how to ask for help if you are unable to understand.
I tried several different French audio training tools before coming across the Pimsleur program. The other were ALL a waste of money.
Here’s the list of all the ones I have used and enjoyed success with:
Again, I am far from fluent in any of these (except French which I went on to study for a couple of years) but learning these basics will be very rewarding.
Sure. You can usually get by with English and hand gestures, but being able to speak a language can help in ways you’ve never imagined.
Have you tried learning a language before your trip? Post a comment and let us know how it went. Have a funny language story? Please share!
How to stay healthy while traveling
Whether you are traveling for a week or for a year, your health is always a concern you should have.
Traveling in a foreign country usually is an experience to remember, unless you get sick. If you’ve been under the weather while traveling you know first hand what I am talking about.
I’m going to go over a few of the ways I combat sickness and attempt to stay healthy while traveling.
You must remember to stay hydrated. Keep in mind that even if you’re just walking around the city with your pack back at your hostel, you’re probably still doing more physical activity than you are used to back home.
Make sure you know if the water in your area is safe to drink though. If not, buy bottled water or if you’re hiking and using stream water, you’ll want.to be sure you can purify your water. There are iodine tablets, filters, and probably the most impressive, the SteriPEN which you can use if you bottle your own water and want to be sure it is safe for drinking. Be sure any reusable bottles you purchase are BPA-free.
A good multi-vitamin can go a long way in keeping your immune system up and fighting the multitudes of germs and bacteria. Some people use fancy multi-vitamin packs with a handful of various pills and others prefer a simple one-a-day vitamin.
3. Hand Sanitizer
Be sure to wash your hands but if you can’t, a small bottle of hand sanitizer can come in handy. No pun intended.
4. Anti-Diarrheal medicines
I’ve saved the best for last. There is absolutely nothing worse than being so sick that you can’t leave your room. Loperamide (Imodium) works very well if you’ve eaten something bad and are having diarrhea. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids as you can easily become dehydrated.
5. First-aid kit
Finally, a small first aid kit with basics such as bandages (useful for blisters, not just cuts and scrapes!), antibiotic ointment, and even burn cream if you might be around campfires. There are a plethora of small first-aid kits available everywhere that will take up hardly any room in your backpack.
Have any other suggestions or tips that you use when traveling? Please share them in comments below.
10 Must Have Items for the Independent Traveler
Throughout my travels I have learned a lot of things about what and what not to bring when traveling independently. If you’re the type of traveler who is constantly on the go, I think you’ll benefit from this list.
1. A good backpack:
Sure, you might have some fancy luggage in your closet but if you’re going to be traveling independently on trains, buses, or by foot, you’ll soon be sick and tired of dragging that rolling suitcase behind you.
That’s why I bought the Kelty Redwing 3100 (read my review) for as my main pack when traveling. I’ve gone through three packs before I found this one. It holds about 50 liters of gear, has great padding, and can be adjusted to fit snug and comfortably.
And as a final testimonial, I had shoulder surgery a year before using this for the first time and I never once got sore wearing this bag.
Of course, everybody’s tastes will differ. It might be a good idea to try on a few at your local outdoors store, but with this model being such a bargain, it might be worth the risk to just give it a shot and return it if it doesn’t work out. Note: good backpacks can run upwards of $300. They might have more space or pockets, but unless you’re packing snow clothes, you shouldn’t need more than 40-50 liters of space.
Best part about this pack, you can carry it on the airplane!
2. A good day pack:
Not everybody will need a second bag, but it can be useful of you will have a base location and be venturing out on hikes or day trips. It’s much easier to leave your large bag behind and load up your day pack with the things you’ll need to get you through the day.
Almost any backpack will do but I particularly like the North Face Recon pack. It holds plenty of gear and is extremely comfortable. As with the Kelty bag, this is one of the first bags I’ve had that doesn’t hurt my shoulders despite loading it up daily with a gallon of water and other junk.
You’ll probably want to have a pack that can hold a water bladder, or at the very least, pockets for water bottles. You can never have enough water with you!
3. Lonely Planet guide books:
Depending on where you’re going, you’ll likely have a choice of several guidebooks. Over the years I have found Lonely Planet to be the most accurate and helpful for the independent traveler. They tend to cover all types of restaurants and accommodations from the bottom of the barrel budget hostels to five star luxury resorts. Several times I have brought two different guidebooks with me and every time, I end up relying solely on the Lonely Planet.
4. Rough Guide books:
Ok, I wasn’t entirely truthful before. When in Morocco I found myself relying a bit more on the Rough Guide. Since Morocco is a bit difficult to navigate, I often utilized information from both books to determine the best route or activity.
On the other hand though, I’ve browsed other Rough Guides at the book store and some have not been very good. When in doubt, check the reviews on Amazon.
5. Digital Camera:
This probably goes without saying as many people don’t leave home without their camera these days. My trusty pocket camera is a Nikon S600 which has recently been replaced by the Nikon S610.
You can’t go wrong with just about any modern digital camera and the choices are endless.
I also use a professional Nikon D200 body, but often I find myself leaving it behind and relying on my smaller camera. It’s easier to carry and takes great photos. Don’t forget, most of these small cameras also record movies now. The quality may not be as good as an expensive camcorder, but they work surprisingly well.
6. iPod touch:
Can you tell that I’m a bit of a gadget freak yet? I’ve always brought an iPod along with me ever since I began traveling. You won’t find me walking around the street with headphones in my ears (I prefer the sound of the world around me), but they are great on airplanes and long train rides.
Earlier this year I learned how great my new iPod touch really was. Not only could I use it to listen to music and watch videos on, but its built in WiFi allowed me to hop on to the Internet at every hostel I’ve been at this year and keep in touch with my friends and family. Check your email, surf the web, even post to your blog. Not to mention you can use it to find the latest information on happenings wherever you may be. I’ve since upgraded to an iPhone, but it is so powerful that I don’t even bother carrying a laptop with me anymore. Not even for business trips!
7. Bpa free water bottle:
Ok, enough with the gadgets. No matter where you are, you’ll need to drink water. Depending on where you are, bottled water can often be much more expensive than you’re used to. Solution? Carry your own bottle and refill it with tap water. Just be sure the water is safe to drink where you are visiting!
These CamelBak BPA free water bottles are great. Safe to use, strong as heck, and spill proof. I carry a 1 liter bottle with me every day.
8. Hiking shoes:
You might not need shoes specific to hiking but if you’ll be doing any treading on uneven ground you’ll surely appreciate them.
They’ve evolved over the years to fit and look more like regular old sneakers and less like the mountaineer boots of yesteryear so you won’t feel dorky wearing them around the city as well.
9. Sport sandals:
These are something I wish I had in Costa Rica (and now I do). I tried to make due with my sneakers but every stream, lake, or waterfall we came to I had to sit down and take off my socks and shoes. Then try to keep them dry as I crossed the river only to put them right back on. I’ve learned my lesson.
They’ll do for mild to medium hikes and you don’t have to take them off when you want to get wet.
10. Quick drying towel:
Last but not least is a quick drying, lightweight towel. They’re thin, light, extremely absorbent, and dry quickly. Much easier to carry than a regular cotton towel, they dry so quickly that they won’t get mildew easily. Perfect for camping or showering at hostels where you generally need your own towel. Some hostels will let you use a towel, but there is often a charge. I won’t travel without one anymore.
That’s it! Throw in a few t-shirts and a couple pairs of shorts and you have my backpack, loaded and ready to see the world.
Do you have any suggestions or special items that you can’t travel without? Please share them in the comments below.
I hope you found this list useful. If so, and you plan to purchase any of these items or anything else from amazon, I will earn a small percentage of any sales made through the above links. Anything helps to keep the site up running. -Thanks!
Morocco, not your typical spring break destination
Here is a short article I wrote for Dig Magazine, CSULB’s monthly publication. My day-by-day travelogue is posted here on Have Pack, Will Travel.
“Where is all the sand?” I thought to myself when I landed at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, Morocco. It turns out that much of Morocco is actually very dense with forests and vegetation. The Mediterranean climate is much more comfortable than one would imagine when contemplating a visit to North Africa.
“Bienvenue en Maroc! Welcome in Maroc!” I frequently heard while walking down busy streets. Not knowing whether I was French, English, or American, they were sure to cover their bases and make sure I understood that I was welcome in their country.
Continue reading “Morocco, not your typical spring break destination”