Monthly Archives: November 2016

Safari safely and ethically

‘Safari’ traditionally means journey in Swahili, but the word now describes the ultimate bucket-list trip to discover Africa’s wondrous wildlife. Yet today, that wildlife seems increasingly vulnerable, so how do you ensure your safari will be both safe and ethically sound?

 

Start with a good safari operator

A good safari operator is key to a good safari. Research well and check the company’s ethical credentials: do they use local staff and guides? How do they help communities? Are they involved with conservation initiatives?

With a bewildering array of safari options and complex logistics, it can be a false economy to book independently: specialist operators have invaluable insider knowledge and often better rates. Websites like safaribookings.com are a good place to start, and offer helpful customer reviews of hundreds of operators and the tours they offer.

 

Stay safe on the road

On game drives, remember wildlife is still wild, even if the lions or elephants you spot seem unperturbed by 4x4s surrounding them. Stick to responsible safari etiquette: stay in your vehicle, don’t stress the animals, don’t stand up or move suddenly, don’t let your driver get too close or go off-road hoping for a better tip, and definitely don’t litter.

Get closer to nature on an exhilarating walking safari: you’ll be accompanied by an armed ranger but the gun is only ever intended as a last resort. Make sure it doesn’t need to be used by always obeying your guide’s instructions, walking quietly in single file, and never ever run – by doing so, you act like prey, and predators will act accordingly.

Most safari destinations, with the exception of parts of Namibia and South Africa, are malarial – use prophylaxes and insect repellent, and if you’re on a budget trip, you may need your own mosquito net. Avoid wearing blue and black since these colours attract tsetse flies – they have a nasty nip similar to a horse fly and can cause sleeping sickness.

Best podcasts to listen when you are traveling

Like it or not, podcasts are the ultimate travel companion of 2017. Whether you want to get gripped by a psychological drama with a Hollywood cast, nerd up on unbelievable facts, learn a brand new language or just have a good old fashioned belly-laugh, there’s a podcast out there for every traveller.

In fact we at Rough Guides are delighted to announce that today, we are entering the podcast-iverse with our brand new show The Rough Guide to Everywhere, featuring conversations with adventurers, comedians and eccentrics about their travel stories from around the world. You can listen to the first episode on Soundcloud here, and subscribe on iTunes or your favoured podcast app.

Here are nine other podcasts that will bring colour, inspiration and laughs to those occasional lonely or boring moments on the road.

 

1. If you’re a first-timer: Serial (series one)

For tens of millions of people, Serial was a deliciously addictive gateway drug into the world of podcasts. In the first series, launched back in 2014, investigative journalist Sarah Koenig delved into the mysterious 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. It’s a true story, narrated with flair and compassion that will leave you yearning for answers.

 

2. If you like eavesdropping on funny conversations: The Adam Buxton Podcast

Dr Buckles is the undisputed duke of British podcasting; only he can make you laugh and cry with equal velocity in the space of one episode. His intimate, honest interviews leave you feeling like you’re listening in on a chat between old friends – which is often the case; Richard Ayoade, Louis Theroux and Sarah Pascoe are a few pals who have appeared on the show.

 

3. If you’ve ever thought about escaping to a desert island: Desert Island Discs

Simply one of the best podcasts out there, regardless of whether you’re on a desert island or not. In each episode, host Kirsty Young asks guests (or ‘castaways’) to choose the eight records they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. The BBC has put thousands of archive episodes online, with Louis Armstrong (1968), John Peel (1990) and Yoko Ono (2007) being a few of the landmark interviews.

All about America that you need to know

A land of ancient ruins, soaring Andean peaks and sweltering, seemingly endless jungle, South America is a true treat for the adventurous traveller.

Covered with sights that give testimony to the continent’s chaotic yet captivating history, across a series of nations as unique as they are huge, this is a region where few are disappointed – and many can’t help but return. If you’re planning a solo trip in South America, here’s everything you need to know.

 

The must-see destinations

The once Inca capital of Cusco is the gateway to the continent’s prime destination: Machu Picchu. Trek the paved path of the classic Inca Trail through lofty peaks and cloud forest, or escape the crowds along the increasingly popular Salkantay or Lares treks that take longer – and more remote – routes to these magnificent ruins.

In the south, Patagonia has become synonymous with world-class hiking, particularly in Chile’s Torres del Paine and Argentina’s Los Glaciares national parks, while Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, are an incomparable sight at dawn.

At the heart of South America, the Amazon rainforest draws visitors in their droves, all keen to spot a yawning caiman or one of the jungle’s most elusive residents, the jaguar. Sling up a hammock on a river boat journey, take a tour from Iquitos in Peru, or explore the wilderness surrounding the Brazilian city of Manaus.

But it’s not all about the countryside in South America. Encounter graceful colonial architecture in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, and learn to tango in the sultry streets of ‘The Paris of South America”, Buenos Aires. If samba, caipirinhas and hedonism are more your style, join the ultimate Brazilian party at Rio de Janeiro’s famous carnival celebrations.

 

Getting around

Covering over 17.8 million square kilometres, the continent is best explored by focusing on a few countries at a time, particularly as domestic and international flights are expensive unless booked well in advance.

Many budget travellers take the local approach and journey by bus. Although the quality varies between countries, overnight buses are an affordable means of travelling and help to save cash on accommodation.

Inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world’s most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you’re looking to wander lost ruins or explore lavish palaces, you’ll find inspiration here.

 

1. The Alhambra, Spain

Towering out of an elm-wooded hillside above Granada, a snowy Sierra Nevada behind, there are few more iconic images of Spain than the ochre-tinted enclave of the Alhambra. Over five thousand visitors wander through the restored complex every day. No amount of words, however, can approximate the sensual charge of seeing the Palacios Nazaríes, the best preserved palace of the Nasrid dynasty, for the first time.

 

2. Baalbek, Lebanon

One of the wonders of the ancient world, the Roman archeological site of Baalbek – a place that, in the words of Robert Byron, “dwarfs New York into a home of ants” – holds awe-inspiring temples, porticoes, courtyards and palatial stone stairways. The Greeks and Romans called it Heliopolis, “The City of the Sun”, a name it shares with another great Classical city in Egypt – but this phenomenal site has no equals.

 

3. Burj al Arab, Dubai, UAE

Dubai is a desert turned Disney. What was once a sleepy fishing village is now a futuristic cybercity, with sparkling skyscrapers, shopping malls, water parks, golf courses and hotels so flashy that Elton John would be proud to call them home. The iconic Burj Al Arab is a striking 28-storey symbol of new-world bling. One of the tallest hotels in the world, the gleaming building is built on an artificial island, 280m from the mainland, and is shaped like a huge billowing sail.

Things you need to know before you go in Portugal

With its stunning beaches, friendly people, unspoilt countryside and tasty local cuisine, Portugal is, unsurprisingly, one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. If you’re planning a trip, here are 10 tips from Matthew Hancock, co-author of The Rough Guide to Portugal, to help you find the most authentic parts of the country, escape the crowds and get even more for your euros.

 

1. Go out of season

While it’s true that parts of Portugal – Lisbon and the Algarve beaches in particular – can be overcrowded and busy in high summer, they are surprisingly quiet out of season.

Autumn is a lovely time to visit – the sea is at its warmest (the Algarve average water temperature in October is 21˚C) while the sun still shines for an average of seven hours a day.

Most Portuguese assert that the sea is far too cold outside the self-imposed “swimming season” (usually just July and August), leaving the beaches more or less empty in the shoulder seasons.

 

2. Venture off the beaten track

In Portugal it pays to get off the tourist trail. Head inland to the border region, where fortified castle towns such as Marvão and Estremoz loom over the surrounding plains, and storks nest in spring above the olive and orange groves.

In autumn, go north to the Douro vineyards, where the vines are bursting with grapes – you can even join in with the harvest and grape-stomping at some wine estates.

If you just want some sun and swimming, head to the coasts of the Alentejo, the Centro district or the west coast of the Algarve, where the long sandy beaches are still relatively undeveloped.

 

3. Eat and drink like the locals

Portuguese food and drinks are usually excellent quality and very good value, so stick to ordering what is grown, caught or made locally. You’ll find a fine array of fresh fish and seafood everywhere, while Portuguese pork and local cheeses are hugely underrated.

The local house wine will almost certainly be excellent. Local beers and spirits will cost around half the price (and taste pretty much the same) as the branded international equivalents.