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Domestic and Global Travel Tips

Travel Tips

Friends often ask me for tips and recommendations about traveling. This is a complete and evergrowing page to host it all.



General

  • Before going on a trip with another person understand these two things: 1. How open minded they are relative to you. 2. How high maintenance are they relative to you.
  • The iPhone will track your location on the map even when you have no service. If you load the maps while you have service, you will always know where you are. Make sure to zoom and in out to have different levels of detail. The app can run in the background but do not close it or else everything will be lost.
  • Traveling with people and traveling alone both have pros and cons. Try both and see what you like.
  • Take more photos than you think you need. Your memory isn't as good as you think it is.
  • Back up those photos.
  • Don't be scared to splurge some on experiences and food. You may never get the opportunity again.
  • It's OK to have a day to just relax during a long trip. Mood and attitude is everything.
  • Eat a big breakfast. You only have so much daylight and you don't want to waste it at a table. That's what dinner is for.
  • Get lost during the day.
  • You don't need to pack as much as you think.

Favorite Websites for Booking Travel:

Favorite Travel Shows:

 

Europe

  • Miss Mexican food? Get yourself a döner kebab or shawarma warp. They're ubiquitously found in every Greek/Turkish spot. Just look for the giant spit of meat.
  • Don't trust any restaurant that hawks at you to try their food
  • Don't trust any restaurant that displays pictures of their food outside the restaurant (see: example)
  • Keep an eye out for restaurants, bakeries, and the such that have stickers (Zagat, Fodors, local publications - see: example).
  • Free bathrooms can be hard to come by. Find the nearest train station and hop on a train that has at least 15 minutes until departure and make use of theirs.
  • Megabus is a great way to travel with friends - extremely cheap if booked early.
  • No, they are not rolling a blunt in front of you. Many people hand roll their cigarettes because it's cheaper to do so.
  • No, there's no ranch for your pizza here.
  • No, there's no peanut butter for your pb & j.

Belgium

  • Brussels has some architectural standouts, but Brugge is the far more stunning city of the two (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • Randomly, the one thing Brussels taught me to appreciate is homemade whipped cream. Completely different from the store bought stuff (which I abhor).
  • If you happen to be in Brussels during Christmastime, visit the Grand Palace at dark (central square) and stick around until the turn of an hour for a treat (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).

Specific Recommendations:

  • Cookies - La Cure Gourmande, Brussels (French brand, but large store in central Brussels)

Denmark

  • If you're unaware of where Denmark lies on the map, it's the southernmost part of Scandinavia. Why is that important? It isn't as cold as the rest and there's more sunlight in the winter.
  • If money means nothing, Copenhagen has a restaurant that is consistently ranked top 3 in the world, Noma.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Burger - Grillen Burgerbar (ht: Julie Grd)
  • Art - Danish Museum of Design, Copenhagen (Free for people under 26; make sure to visit the gift shop)
  • Shop - Playtype, Copenhagen (typography & design)
  • View - Rundetaarn (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1)
  • Take a Picture - Nyhavn (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1)

England

  • The British Museum is free and HUGE.
  • Nando's is the only restaurant in all of Europe than was able to satisfy my craving for spicy food. It made my lips sweat.
  • Platform 9 3/4 (Harry Potter) is free, but the line is extremely long.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Chicken - Nando's (chain)

France

  • Parisians are known as rude. Parisian friends have confirmed this. I didn't feel it though.
  • A drunk French girl once violently grabbed me by my wrist because I was half-jokingly going to put ice in my red wine. I took that as a learning experience.
  • I once went to a French house party. I spent the whole night next to the window. They smoke as much as people say.
  • Crêpes come in a wide variety. Sweet, savory, street-fresh, street-reheated, restaurant made (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • Crêpe is basically pronounced krep, not crayp.
  • Macaroons look nice, but the taste is whatever to me.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Bread, Pastries - Du Pain et des Idees, Paris (ht: Anthony Bourdain)

Germany

  • Hostels in Munich jack up their prices 3x during Oktoberfest.
  • There are only lights on one side of the Neuschwanstein Castle. It also sits atop a tall hill you need to walk up. Arrive in the town with two hours of sunlight at least.
  • A freshly drafted radler (1/2 blonde lager, 1/2 lemonade) is very refreshing. You may get weird looks if you order in the winter, but it's worth it.
  • I hate mustard. However, Bavarian mustard is sweet and highly recommended on a pork sandwich.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Hot Chocolate (w/ Alcohol) - Beluga, Munich
  • Burger - Burgermeister, Berlin
  • Fried Chicken - Hühnerhaus 36, Berlin
  • Hostel - Wombats, Munich
  • View - St. Peter's Church, Munich; The Reichstag, Berlin
  • Nature - Englischer Garten, Munich (bigger than NYC's central park; has an artificial wave open to the public in the river)

Ireland

  • Two of the island's main attractions (Cliffs of Moher & The Giants Causeway) are difficult to get to by public transportation and expensive by private transportation. An economical alternative is the valley of Glendalough.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Hike - Glendalough
  • Ice Cream - Murphys, Dublin

Italy

  • Pisa and Cinque Terre can be done on the same day.
  • The hikes going between the towns in Cinque Terre ARE DIFFICULT. They give amazing views at the peaks, but if you are in terrible shape, you may just want to take the train.
  • As a rule of thumb, homemade gelato is always served in circular containers (see: example).
  • Never EVER eat gelato stacked high that has fruit displayed on the top. For one, it's a ploy to grab tourists eyes. It also shows that it hasn't been selling (see: example, example).
  • Another rule of thumb: if the shop has unusual flavors, it is homemade (ex: fig & cheese).
  • If you're adventurous, be kind and ask the server to serve their favorites. My friend got an extra scoop free of charge this way (shoutout: Gelateria Vivaldi).
  • Order gelato in a cone. I usually seemed to get bigger scoops that way.
  • Napoli is home of the hustlers and also tough people. It's a complete 180º from Florence, but it's very welcomed.
  • I appreciate street food as a whole. That being said, I will never eat Pani ca meusa (Sicily) again (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • Schiacciata bread (Florence) is some of the best bread in the world.
  • The main streets of Venice are ridiculously packed leaving everywhere else nearly empty. Get lost.
  • Venice had the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • Sicilian cannoli is on another level.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Gelato - Gelateria Del Teatro, Rome; Gelateria Vivaldi, Florence (eat in the back room)
  • Pizza - L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Napoli (featured in Eat, Pray, Love; see: example)
  • Sandwiches - Passaguai, Florence
  • Market - Ballaró Market, Palermo (go in the morning)

Madeira, Portugal

  • A nikita is a blended pineapple drink that is similar to a smoothie (but better). It originates from Câmara de Lobos, but can now be found throughout the island.
  • The Prego no Pao is a steak sandwich with garlic and eggs - highly recommended.
  • Espetada is the ONE. It is necessary to eat if you come to the island.
  • Want something as good as Espetada but prefer seafood to meat? Lapas with freshly squeezed lime juice is unmatched.
  • Poncha is the most popular alcoholic drink of the island. It's made with fresh fruit juice and aguardiente (see: Miscellaneous).

Specific Recommendations:

  • Swim - Porto Moniz natural pools, Porto Moniz (see: example)
  • Drinks - Taberna Da Poncha, Ribeira Brava. Sumol Maracujá, canned soda found throughout the island
  • Flora - Madeira Botanical Garden, Funchal (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1)
  • Levada Hike - 25 Fontes/Rabaçal, Rabaçal

The Netherlands

  • Get a bike in Amsterdam. It is a beautiful city, but much too large to just walk around and it's also one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. Just be careful about riding over tram tracks since the wheel fits perfectly inside of them.
  • The Van Gogh Museum doesn't host a few of his most famous pieces but it definitely worth going to.
  • A Dutch pancake is more like a French crêpe than an American pancake. With that being said, my Dutch pancake with goat cheese, honey, and sliced apples was better than any American pancake that I've had.
  • Fresh poffertjes and stroopwafels are amazing.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Burger - Lombardo's , Amsterdam. The wagyu burger was probably the best thing I ate in all of Europe. Don't play yourself. (ht: Alex Dobron; read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1)
  • Brunch - Ree7, Amsterdam
  • Dutch Apple Pie - Winkel 43, Amsterdam
  • Dutch Pancakes - Pancakes Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  • Coffee Shake - Dampkring, Amsterdam (side note: shop featured in Ocean's 12; see: example)

Spain

  • The Catalans have no concept of spicy. Their "spicy"patatas bravas are extremely mild. In Barcelona, I could only find jalapeños canned in a large supermarket. I was able to find fresh peppers (habaneros + others) at a Latin market (across from the Bolivian embassy), but there aren't too many Latin markets around.
  • Do not go cheap with Paella. Many spots will serve you Paella that was previously frozen.
  • Barcelona is a flat city. However, go the a place referred to as "The Bunkers" to get a view above the city. It's accessible by bus, and a common place for locals to watch the sunset.
  • In my five months in Barcelona, I only took public transportation to get around the city for three occasions: to get to the bunkers, to get to Camp Nou while I had a terrible fever, and to get to/from the airport. Walk everywhere. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it's meant to be explored.
  • It isn't the best and it's pretty spotty, but Barcelona has free citywide Wi-Fi.
  • Walk down La Rambla once, and never do it again.
  • I walked around in casual California wear (athletic shorts, Nike shoes, Nike calf-length socks, & t-shirt) and got asked where the closest gym was.
  • Along the same token, sweatshirts are not too common of a style.
  • Maybe it's the California in me, but I've never heard thunder as loud as the thunder in Barcelona. It has waken me from sleep. It has reorganized my heartbeat.
  • I've never equaled the state of tranquillity that I found at the Jardín Botánico Marimurtra (botanical gardens) in the coastal region of Costa Brava in the town of Blanes (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • The fans at Camp Nou (FC Barcelona) were pretty calm compared to the Roma (Italy) and Bayern Munich (Germany) fans. Don't go to a game expecting a wild atmosphere (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • Soccer (football, fútbol) jerseys are only worn on game days.
  • La Merce is an annual week-long festival in Barcelona in September. This was one of the most fun weeks of my life. It's the type of event that could never happen in America (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 1).
  • I once missed a Megabus leaving from Estació del Nord (main Barcelona bus station) because I didn't think my bus would be parked among all of the buses that were parked overnight. I sprinted up the driveway as I saw it leaving and caught up to the door at the top of the hill only to be rejected entrance. Moral of the story: Survey the entire bus station to see if your bus is there instead of just assuming it is late.
  • I searched all of Barcelona for Huy Fong Sriracha (see: example) and all I found was knock offs. Luckily, nearby France had the real thing.
  • Bank hours are a thing. Do your research on when your bank is open.
  • Getting through security at El Prat (Barcelona's Airport) is ridiculously quick.
  • It's very easy to get on the guest list to get into the biggest clubs in Barcelona for free + 1 free drink if you show up before 2am. The club doesn't start filling up until about 3:30am though.
  • The only time people I know got pick pocketed was when they were super drunk.
  • That being said, I've never felt so safe at all times of the night as I did in Barcelona.

Sweden

  • The sun goes down at 3pm in the winter. Either visit in another time of the year or be prepared to make the most of the sunlight.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Tea - Tiger Chai at any cafe in Stockholm
  • White Hot Chocolate - Chokladkoppen, Stockholm

 

Asia

  • China has a law against using electronics on airplanes. Headphones are easy to hide, but don't plan on playing any games on your phone. Luckily personal in-flight entertainment systems are often available with a good amount of content loaded on them. If your flight goes through China, these laws will be enforced.

Cambodia

  • One day is not enough for Angkor Wat.
  • Water is a necessity. That should be already known, but just emphasizing.
  • The steps in Angkor gave me knee pain at the end of my second day.

Vietnam

  • Visa on arrival (VOA) is stressful and risky, but cost effective.
  • Get used to having a film of sweat on your body during your stay.
  • Ho Chi Minh was the ruler of North Vietnam during the war. After the North defeated the South, the North made sure they would never forget it. There is a statue of Ho Chi Minh in front of the city hall, every single piece of currency has his face on it, and they renamed the the South's capital city after him.
  • Everyone in Ho Chi Minh City call it Saigon (it's original name - read above).
  • If noise and traffic are a dealbreaker, stay out of Saigon. (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 2)
  • Even if you survive drinking the tap water for a whole week, you aren't immune (read: The Traveler's Memoir Vol 2).

 

The Caribbean

Puerto Rico

  • If it's 10pm and the cabs driver warns that he is the last taxi around for the night, believe him.
  • El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the US. Experience it. Pro Tip: Take a rappel and zip line tour.
  • La Placita hosts the best nightlife on the island - bar none. It should also be known that La Placita is not a specific club but plaza lined with bars in Santurce.
  • Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques is worth the trip. Prime time is when there is a new moon. Make sure to get a canoe with a see-through bottom.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Nightlife - La Placita, San Juan
  • Nature - El Yunque, Río Grande; Bio Bay, Vieques
  • Stay - Santurce (neighborhood), San Juan

 

USA

Big Island, Hawaii

  • Respect the pace of the island. Don't think about tailgating someone for going the speed limit.
  • I'm convinced there's no better place to stargaze than on the walk back from Kalapana and the Kilauea volcano

Specific Recommendations:

  • Loco Moco (Dinner) - Café 100 (Hilo)
  • Papaya Special (Breakfast) - The Coffee Shack (Kona)
  • Iced Honey Mocha Latte - The Coffee Shack (Kona)
  • Shave Ice - Low Store (Hilo)
  • Island Nachos (Kalua Pork) - Low Store (Hilo)
  • Poke- Da Poke Shack (Kona)
  • Poke Bomb - Umekes (Kona)
  • Banana Milkshake - Just Crusin Coffee (Hilo)
  • Mocha Shake - Just Crusin Coffee (Hilo)
  • Breakfast - Hawaiian Style Cafe (Hilo)
  •  

Los Angeles, California

  • The traffic is as bad as everyone says it is.
  • Hollywood is overrated (but everyone in California already knows that)
  • I'm almost positive Beverly Hills has the highest concentration of luxury cars in America

Specific Recommendations:

  • Jerk Chicken and Fresh Juice - Cha Cha Chicken (Santa Monica)
  • Ice Cream - Sweet Rose Creamery (Santa Monica)
  • Guava and Cheese Pastry - Porto's (Multiple locations)
  • Chicken and Waffles - Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles (Multiple locations)
  • Nakji Bokkeum (Korean BBQ) - Soowon Galbi (Koreatown)
  • Shawarma - Zankou Chicken (Multiple locations)
  • Brunch - Urth Caffe (Multiple locations)

 

Oakland, California

Specific Recommendations:

  • Fried Chicken - Jerry's Beefburgers
  • Pork Belly Tacos - Cosecha
  • Lechon Sandwich - Cholita Linda
  • Chicken and Waffles - Home of Chicken & Waffles
  • Ice Cream (churned-to-order) - Smitten Ice Cream

 

San Francisco, California

Specific Recommendations:

  • Burger - Gott's Roadside
  • Dry Fried Chicken Wings - San Tung