Travel

5 Budget Tips for Travel in Europe

Whether you’re a student on a budget, a family with children, or a travel aficionado, spending a summer abroad in Europe can easily create a large dent in your finances.

However, with a little bit of planning and the use of alternative travel methods, making your way around Europe does not have to necessarily break the bank.

Let’s look at five major ways on how to travel Europe cheaply.

 

5 Budget Tips for Summer Travel in Europe

Eat Local Food From Non-Tourist Restaurants

If you are in a big city and see a restaurant with a sign that says, “We speak English” you will most likely pay for this convenience, one way or another. Such tourist-friendly restaurants cater to foreigners who don’t really know a fair price for food and most likely chalk up an expensive meal as an “authentic European experience”.

You will find great reward in bypassing these familiar-feeling restaurants for locally owned cafés and hole-in-the-wall places that may speak only broken English. Off the beaten path, these eateries offer fresh, traditional cuisine at a fraction of the cost. The staff is usually made up of lively family members who pride themselves on their homemade food, which is created from produce that was hand-selected at the local market that morning. Plus, if you choose a meal with ingredients that are in season, your plate is likely to be even more inexpensive.

 

Research Free Activities in the Areas You Are Visiting

Although notoriously an expensive city, Paris, France offers free admission into the Louvre and other museums on the first Sunday of every month. Major cities, such as London, Paris, Barcelona, and many others have free walking tours. Even without the official tour group, walking around is often the best way to explore hidden gems of the city. Depending on the area in Europe, your most exciting adventures could be found at the beach, on hiking trails, or browsing storefronts in the heart of the city.

 

Take Budget-Friendly Transportation

Consider all of your options: planes, trains, buses, boats, car share rides, bike riding, and yes, hitchhiking (although the latter is only advised in extreme situations). Fortunately, there are several budget airlines available in a wide variety of European cities, and a one-way trip can be as cheap as $20 Euro if you travel with a carry-on bag only. Warning: budget airlines are known for charging extra fees, so be sure to follow all regulations. Some airlines will have a lot of instructions, such as printing your own ticket beforehand, so be prepared to put in a little more work if you want to save a few bucks this way.

Thanks to the infrastructure in Europe, trains are also a cheaper option, especially with a Eurail pass, plus a student or family discount. Eurail is the leading train transportation company that connects people to cities all over the European continent. They provide several different train pass options—from weekly and monthly passes, to passes that work exclusively in chosen countries—in order to give you the best value for your dollar. Also think about taking buses for long-haul rides. Companies like Megabus and Eurolines provide reclining seats, air conditioning, beverages, and other amenities for your enjoyment as you travel across Europe. Take advantage of their low fare which can be as cheap as just a few Euros per ticket.

For more local transportation, don’t forget about taking the metro, riding city buses, using phone apps to initiate car share rides, and biking around town for the more scenic route. Quite honestly, anything will be cheaper than a taxi cab.

 

Book All of Your Transportation in Advance

This is definitely not advised if you want your trip to Europe to be full of spontaneity. However, it should be noted that more often than not, plane and train rides, when booked at the right time in advance (typically six weeks before departure), can save you hundreds of dollars per ticket.

Knowing how to price shop these tickets helps, too. When looking for the best airline prices, search through Skyscanner.com. This search engine allows you to view the most affordable prices from different airlines available. You can even see if changing the date or airport departure aids in lowering your overall ticket price.

According to Tom Allen of WizEssay, “Planning your trip ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars over the course of a long-haul trip. When you factor in flights and boarding that can be booked months in advance, why wouldn’t you want to make arrangements that lower your budget?”.

 

Avoid Hotels as Housing

Yes, hotels deliver a luxurious experience with tons of amenities—but they also come at a price. Try staying in Europe with more affordable housing through hostels, AirBnB rooms, couchsurfing, house sitting, HomeExchange, or even WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and Au Pairing. Of course, WWOOFing and Au Pairing are a bit different; they are an exchange of a few hours’ work per day for free housing and meals. This would be great for a single person who wants an authentic, long-term experience. House sitting is usually also free—and sometimes, they pay you.

 

All in all, traveling across Europe doesn’t have to be full of large expenditures. With these simple tips, the bulk of your budget will now be more on the thrifty side. When it comes down to it, all you have to remember is to live like the locals do.

This way, you will be saving money and you’ll get to have a much more fulfilling experience.

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Great Adventures for Solo Travelers

Hardly anything compares to plunging into the unknown by yourself.

Too often do we associate traveling with group activities, family obligations and collective endeavors. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you can hardly call yourself a hardened globetrotting adventurer if you’ve never gone on a trip all by yourself.

It gives you a chance to reflect on and reassess your life, not to mention the fact you can truly meet new people without being constrained by the group. If you’ve ever felt that itch to travel alone, here are some great adventures for solo travelers.

 

Great Adventures For Solo Travelers

China’s “The Big One”

Solo travelers will particularly enjoy trips to the faraway mountain slopes of China. Lush landscapes, rocky hills, historical monuments and bustling cities are an exceptional treat packed into a 28-day long journey known as “The Big One”.

It is an in-depth experience of the great country that will immerse you into the rich history of the country. It truly cannot quite compare to anything else, and it’s bound to leave you changed forever (for the better, of course). Of course, you will get a chance to see the Terracotta Warriors with your own eyes and step onto the Great Wall.

 

Cycle Through Morocco

There is no better way to meet new people than on a cycling adventure through Morocco. You’ll get a chance to explore wondrous orange landscapes of the Atlas Mountains as they stretch into infinity and disappear in the blue haze.

Along the way, you will be accompanied by other solo travelers, since the setup has been mostly created with one-man adventurers in mind. If you’d like to marvel at palm groves, arid slopes sculpted by time and incredible Atlantic sunsets, this is a perfect adventure for you.

 

Sail a Ship With Your Own Hands Around the Canary Islands

Boarding a fun-filled cruise ship is easy. How about a real, gritty seafaring experience that puts you in the thick of it?

Believe it or not, you can spend a whole week on the open sea under the command of a captain, with a merry crew of sailors. The name of the ship is Morgenster, and it will take up to 24 inexperienced sailors on an adventure around the Canary Islands.

The crew is there to mentor the newcomers, but don’t worry – the work isn’t excruciating. You’ll get plenty of time to sunbathe and explore tropical shores. Just be a good sport and listen to the instructions of your skipper, and if this is your first time sailing, get a funky Go Travel Acustrap that will reduce nausea and make your journey a dream.

 

The Epic Trans-Siberian Railway Journey

Orient Express is out of commission? No problem!

An epic journey on train tracks still awaits you on the Trans-Siberian Railway that goes from Beijing to Moscow. This is a perfect adventure for people who really want to enjoy some contemplative solitude. There is hardly anything more meditative than sitting in your comfortable compartment with the sound of moving along the train tracks in your ears and incredible, untouched landscapes moving past you. Depending on what package you choose, the journey can take up to 20 days.

 

Colombia for Coffee Junkies

Visiting the far-side of the South American continent sounds like an amazing idea, but if you are a true coffee junkie, this trip is pure heaven.

You’ll journey directly into the Colombian highlands and walk through real coffee plantations. Not only that, but you’ll also get a chance to learn more about the process of making coffee and you’ll be able to visit local roasteries too.

 

Get Frosty in Finland

If you want to battle the elements and witness some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes, Finland is the right step on your solo journey.

The birthplace of Santa Clause fully justifies its honorary title once the winter months come. You have an opportunity to join a dog-sledding team and try all snow-related activities under the sun, including skiing and riding a snowmobile. However, the biggest treat on this vacation is definitely seeing the Northern Lights for the first time.

 

Sail Along the Shores of the Balkan

The Adriatic Sea is a small and charming stretch of the Mediterranean tucked comfortably between the Italian and Balkan Peninsula. However, solo travelers tend to prefer sailing along the epic shores of the Balkans and enjoying the dramatically harsh mountain ranges that tower over picturesque coastal towns.

You’ll get a chance to stay in several urbanities of both Croatia and Montenegro, and you’ll definitely visit the legendary Dubrovnik, Split and Kotor.

 

The Magic of Oman

It seems the Arabian Peninsula is embroiled in perpetual conflict which is unfortunate for countless reasons, but one of the major ones is definitely the fact that the rest of the world does not get a chance to truly grasp the captivating beauty and ancient history of the region.

Thankfully, we have countries like Oman – the most welcoming out of the bunch. Go on a solo adventure of self-discovery as you follow the very steps of T.E. Lawrence, through mesmerizing deserts, enchanting oases and mystifying Bedouin villages.

 

If there has ever been a time to go on a solo adventure, it’s now. Believe it or not, there’s a growing demand for solo traveling around the globe, and traveling companies are eagerly tapping into that trend.

After all, it’s not that hard to understand why we have become so enamored with the idea – we live in a world overstuffed with people, opinions and scrutiny over social media and entertainment platforms. It is only natural that, every now and then, a modern person needs to clear their head and enjoy a bit of solitude.

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Exploring Yokohama, Hakone and Kamakura around the Kanagawa Prefecture

Kanagawa is a coastal prefecture in Japan, located within a short distance of Tokyo. The capital of the prefecture is Yokohama. 
 
Kanagawa Prefecture is also home to Kamakura and Hakone, two other highly popular day trip destinations that you can easily reach from Tokyo.
 
Kanagawa has a lot to offer for visitors to the region, such as rich cultural heritage, tasty cuisine and entertaining nightlife. It's worth spending some time here and exploring this unique area of Japan. 
 
Within this helpful travel guide I will unearth the hidden gems that are worth discovering around the Kanagawa Prefecture.

Yokohama, the capital of Kanagawa

Start your journey to Kanagawa Prefecture by visiting the city of Yokohama. 
 
Yokohama is one of the largest cities in Japan. At the end of the Edo period in 1859 the city port opened to foreign trade, and Yokohama grew quickly from a small fishing community into one of Japan's major port cities. 
 
Yokohama remains popular among expats and international communities as it is seen to be the first city in Japan that opened to the outside world. 
 
This is one of the reasons why international sports is popular in Yokohama, and you can find big stadiums with local teams, such as baseball, soccer and rugby there. 
 
Additionally, international cuisine and nightlife are popular in Yokohama, making this an exciting city to visit on a trip to Japan. 

 Getting to Yokohama

The quickest way to Yokohama is by the Tokaido Shinkansen, a high-speed rail line which stops at Shin-Yokohama Station. 
 
The rail line connects the city of Yokohama to many major cities around Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka. 
 
Journey time from Tokyo to Shin-Yokohama Station is around 18 minutes. 
 
Another alternative is Yokohama Station which is the most popular and affordable option for reaching Yokohama from Tokyo with a journey time of around 45 minutes. 
 
It's a popular commuter route and over two million passengers take this journey daily so bear in mind the busy commuter times as it can get crowded.
 
If you fly into Tokyo Haneda International Airport, you can easily take the Keikyu Line to Yokohama Station, and the journey time is around 23 minutes. 
 
Whilst in Yokohama, it's easy and affordable to get around using the public metro service called the Yokohama Municipal Subway. 
 
Both the Minatomirai Line and Kanazawa Seaside Line will help you to access many of the main sites, areas and attractions in the city.
 
As you can see from the suggestions above, Yokohama is easily accessible from Tokyo by using a number of different options, so you have no excuse not to visit. 

Accommodation: Y's Cabin hotel – Kannai, Yokohama

If you're looking for something different and a unique Japanese place to stay in Yokohama, why not try a capsule hotel?
 
Y's Cabin hotel can be found in the Kannai district of Yokohama, and it makes a great base location for your visit to Kanagawa Prefecture with easy access to public transport. 
 
In the late 1970s, capsule hotels became popular options for Japanese salarymen who happened to miss trains home or were away on business looking for affordable sleeping arrangements. In recent years, capsule hotels have also become popular amongst international travellers looking for affordable budget options. 
 
Capsule hotels work in a similar way to hostels where you share a large common room space (male and female sleeping areas and bathroom sections are separated), and each guest is assigned a personal private space called a pod. Within each pod you will find your bed, sheets, PJ's, towel, locker storage, TV and privacy shade – everything you would need to make your stay comfortable. It's your own private pod that you have to yourself to get a good night’s sleep. 
 
I would class Y's Cabin hotel as a more upscale luxury version of the capsule hotel concept as the cabin space is modern and clean and makes for a wonderful first capsule hotel experience. 
 
You also have access to private hot bath called onsen where you can relax after a long day of travelling around Kanagawa Prefecture. 
 
If it's your first stay at a capsule hotel, be sure to observe the rules and customs and follow the instructions given to you by the staff members at check in. Enjoy your stay in this unique Japanese environment. 

Rugby World Cup 2019 in Yokohama, Japan

Japan will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and Yokohama will be a host city for some of the biggest games of the tournament. The games will be held at the International Stadium, Yokohama. 
 
- New Zealand vs South Africa - 21/09/2019 @ 18:45
- Ireland vs Scotland - 22/09/2019 @ 16:45
- England vs France - 12/10/2019 @ 17:15
- Japan vs Scotland - 13/10/2019 @ 19:45
 
Additionally, there will be Quarter Final and Semi Final games held in Yokohama. 
 
Yokohama is known for being a popular city for hosting sports events so be sure to stick around in the city after the game and enjoy the atmosphere of the fan zone area. 

The Cupnoodles Museum, Yokohama

Yes, you read the title correctly. You can visit a museum in Yokohama to learn about the history of the popular Japanese snack, the cup noodles. 
 
Momofuku Ando is the creator and founder of the instant ramen noodles and cup noodles. At the museum you can learn about his creative process that started in his work shed and lead to these great food inventions.
 
The first instant ramen noodles (chicken flavour) were sold in 1958, and the convenient snack grew in popularity in both Japan and around the world ever since. 
 
After a trip to California, Momofuku Ando decided to create instant ramen noodles served in a cup to make the snack easier to consume and attract an international audience. Launched in 1971, the cup noodles were a big success, and the instant ramen cup noodles concept has been popular ever since. 
 
The fun doesn't stop there. Once you've learned about the history of the cup noodles, you can make your very own cup noodles to take home with you. Be sure to visit My Cupnoodles Factory and create cup noodles from scratch. You can choose your own ingredients and packaging design. It’s a super fun experience for ramen noodle fans of all ages! 
 
Momofuku Ando travelled the world to find new flavours and concepts for his instant ramen noodles. Be sure to visit the Noodles Bazaar to follow his ramen journey. 
 
The menu features eight varieties of noodles that he encountered during his travels in search of the origins of noodles. 
 
Enjoy the noodle culture from every corner of the world in an ambient night market setting. From Italian pasta to Malaysian Laksa you can sample all the different flavours and noodle tastes from around the world. 
 
For those brave enough, you can even try curry or miso flavoured cup noodle ice cream. It’s an acquired taste but worth trying for the unique flavours. 

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

Don't end your Yokohama ramen adventure yet but head on over to Shin-Yokohama to visit the Ramen Museum. 
 
If you happen to be a fan of the ramen noodles, this place will blow your mind.  
 
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is best described as a food court themed around Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s when the ramen dish was first created. The entrance of the food court will walk you through a train station to give you the impression that you have gone back in time. 
 
Walk around the area and enjoy the displays which give you a nostalgic feeling. It's well designed and put together, and they even have street performers and police officers from the era walking around. 
 
You will find a selection of around 12 vendors selling a wide variety of ramen noodles. Each shop represents a ramen shop front. This means, you can try all the different ramen flavours from across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu in one location, such as Fukuchan, Ide Shoten, Shinasobaya, Keyaki, Ryushanhai and Hachiya ramen.
 
Simply grab a map, select the ramen you wish to try and then purchase a ticket from the vending machine outside the shop. 
 
For those wanting to try all the different ramen bowls during one visit – you can! Each location has a small sample ramen bowl for you to enjoy the local flavours as you can. 
 
A word of advice before visiting: make sure that you arrive at the Ramen Museum with an empty stomach as you will be tempted to try multiple bowls of ramen during your visit. Enjoy! 

Enjoy Nightlife in the Noge district

If you're looking for a good time and fancy some nightlife, look no further than the Noge district in Yokohama. 
 
I would recommend some spots for you to visit but I personally think it's best to arrive in the Noge district and simply get lost and let the night take over and guide your plans. 
 
First off, arrive at Yokocho street which is located along the Ookawagawa River. This street is especially popular for its old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere. 
 
Here you will find a large selection of bars lined up against each other in old wooden buildings that bend around the river. 
 
Each bar has a cosy space and can only fit around eight people at a time including the bar staff. The bars serve a selection of beer, drinks, cocktails or Izakaya snacks for customers to enjoy. 
 
It's a fun experience with a small group of friends and you never know where you might end up so choose wisely and have a wonderful evening. 
 
What I loved about the Noge district the most was how the bars were different from each other and each location had a local and welcoming atmosphere. It's fun to hop around visiting multiple locations in one night to get the feel of the place. 
 
I also had a great experience asking the bar staff for recommendations for a place to visit and often the owner would walk us personally to the recommended spot. You get a real sense of community and fun with the locals in the Noge district. 

Explore China Town

When visiting Japan, it must feel rather odd to seek out Chinese culture, but the China Town area of Yokohama is the biggest in the country and a vibrant part of the city to explore. 
 
With its bright lights, colourful decorations and tasty dishes, it's worth spending some time here exploring the back streets for a bite to eat. 
 
Keep a good look out for a long line and this should lead you to a wide selection of tasty steamed buns called Manju that are worth trying. 

Take a walk along the harbour front

 
Start your walk by visiting Yamashita Park, which is closely located to China town. Here you will find a stretch of park land located close to the water. 
 
This space is frequently used by the locals to relax and exercise – it is a popular running route. Along this path, you can get a great skyline view of the city. In this area you can also find Osanbashi Pier, Hikawa Maru ship and Yokohama Marine Tower which offers a nice viewing platform.

Enjoy a peaceful journey around Hakone

Hakone is located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Yokohama and Tokyo. Here you will find Lake Ashi, the Owakudani geothermal valley with hot springs as well as the Hakone shrine. 
 
The mountainous town is best known for its endless amount of nature. The trees offer a beautiful autumn time foliage and stunning views of the vast lake. On a clear day you can even see the striking Mount Fuji in the background. 
 
In Hakone you can find hot spring resorts (onsen) created from the sulphur springs of the Owakudani valley. Another stunning place to check out is the Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate overlooking Lake Ashi. The shrine can also be enjoyed from the boat cruise at a distance. 

Purchase a Hakone Free Pass – Hakone transport pass

For those visiting Hakone, be sure to check out the Hakone Free Pass which is a great way for travellers on a budget to explore the region. 
 
The Hakone Free Pass is Valid for 2 days and you can purchase the pass at Odawara railway station. You can reach the station from Yokohama or Tokyo. 
 
The Hakone Free Pass gives you unlimited transportation on the Hakone Tozan railway, Hakone Tozan buses, the Hakone Tozan cable car, Hakone ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, Odakyu Hakone Expressway buses and Numazu Tozan Tokai buses. 
 
The pass pretty much covers your whole journey around Hakone and will take you to all the top attractions making navigation nice and easy. 
 
Be sure to pick up a map with the timetables and work out your best route – you can travel around in a loop formation trying all the transportation options with the pass. 
 
My recommendation is to arrive early at Odawara railway station to collect your pass and take the Hakone Tozan railway to access the Hakone ropeway. The ropeway then brings you to Sightseeing Cruise and onwards to Odawara by bus creating a nice loop route that covers all the main sights. 
 
As the Hakone Free Pass covers 2 days you can also stay overnight at one of the onsen resorts and enjoy the area longer – the option is yours. 

Hakone Tozan railway

Being the only mountain railway in Japan, Hakone Tozan railway is a special experience for Japanese railway lovers and enthusiasts. 
 
The journey will take you from Hakone-Yumoto station (96 meters above sea level) to the final station, Gora (541 meters above sea level).
 
 The journey time to the top of the mountain is around 40 minutes. 
 
During the journey the trains will perform a track manoeuvre called a switchback. 
 
What is a switchback? Great question. I'll do my best to explain this unique train ritual. A switchback allows other trains to pass by on a single track as they go up and down the mountain. 
 
This is done by the drivers reserving the train into a parking bay to allow other trains to pass and switch the direction of the trains. Each time this happens, the driver and conductor switch compartments, and this occurs several times throughout the journey. 
 
It's rather interesting to watch the driver and conductor perform this unique routine that has been done this way for many years whilst enjoying the journey up to the mountain. 
 
It's for sure a unique train journey to enjoy in Japan. 

Owakudani – geothermal valley

From Gora to Sounzan you can take a transporter up the hill to reach the cable car. From Sounzan to Owakudani you can take the Tozan cable car to reach this point. 
 
Once you've finally reached Owakudani, be sure to spend some time here as you can find a selection of viewing platforms and take a good look of the surrounding valley and the geothermal activity that is taking place in the area. 
 
You can clearly see all the steam created from the hot active lava of the volcano. This is why one of the most popular attractions in the area is a selection of naturally heated hot springs called onsen. 
 
Another popular attraction to enjoy here is the black egg called Kuro Tamago. The egg is cooked in a geothermal spring until the egg goes black. You can purchase the eggs in the visitor centre in a bag of five. Locals believe that if you eat a black egg, you can add seven years of longevity to your life. Don't eat too many! 
 
The Hakone ropeway offers stunning views over the valley and of the autumn foliage. The ropeway will take you from Owakudan to Togendai where you can access the cruise boats that will furthermore take you across Lake Ashi. 
 
<h2>Hakone Sightseeing Cruise</h2>
 
Before you get on the cruise boat, why not take a lunch break in the small town of Togendai? It’s located around the dock and looks over Lake Ashi. I would recommend enjoying a Japanese curry at the restaurant Resutoranran located a short walk away from the dock. 
 
The best way to enjoy Lake Ashi is to enjoy a peaceful cruise across the waters. A selection of boats run this route which is included within the Hakone Free Pass. 
 
I'd recommend waiting for the iconic pirate ship if you can so you can feel like a captain of the sea throughout your voyage.
 
This also happens to be the best viewpoint to see Mount Fuji, so fingers crossed for you that you end up with a clear day and can enjoy a good sighting.

Hakone Shrine and the floating gate

Hakone Shrine is a Shinto shrine nestled peacefully in the woods on top of a hill. 
 
The steps start from Lake Ashi and lead up the hill to the Hakone Shrine. At the foot of the steps you will also find a picturesque floating gate which looks over the lake and makes for a perfect Instagram spot. 
 
A word of warning if you wish to take a photo of the floating gate: you won't be alone as many photographers line up to capture the moment. You might have to wait for your turn for some time. 
 
During our visit in the autumn 2018, Hakone Shrine was under construction but still open for visitors. The renovation should be completed in 2019. 
 
Hakone Shrine is a peaceful place to walk around for a while so do spend some time here exploring the grounds. You can also purchase a fortune telling slip at the entrance and see if it brings you good fortune.  
 
The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise stops close by to the shrine and you can stop off in a small town called MotoHakone-Ko for a relaxing coffee break at popular spots, such as Bakery and Table where you can look over Lake Ashi. 
 
You can also get the bus from MotoHakone-Ko back to the train station Yumoto. From there you can take a train back to Odawara and then onwards to Yokohama/Tokyo, which will complete your loop around Hakone. 
 
Hope you have fun exploring Hakone. 

Spend some time exploring Kamakura

Kamakura is Japanese seaside city in Kanagawa Prefecture just south of Tokyo and Yokohama. 
 
In medieval times, Kamakura was an important political capital of Japan, which is one of the main reasons you will find many historical and important landmarks here, such as Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Today, the city is a popular resort town. 
 
Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments to visit.
 
Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji is a Buddhist temple that is known for its giant Great Buddha, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is one of the most famous iconic landmarks in Japan.
 
At Sagami Bay you will find the popular visitor spot, Yuigahama Beach which is a great for surfing and catching the waves or just relaxing on the beach. In addition, Kamakura's sandy beaches attract large crowds during the summer months.
 
Here is what else you can find in Kamakura city. 

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura's most important shrine. It was founded in 1063 and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the samurai.
 
During the New Year holidays, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is visited by over two million visitors. It is one of the country's most popular shrines for hatsumode (the year’s first visit to a shrine).
 
The shrine is located along a wide stretch that starts from the water front and leads you through the city passing many bridges and gateways. Finally, you will reach a flight of steps that take you to the top of the main hall that overlooks Kamakura from above. A great way to walk around and explore the city. 
 
The hall also includes a museum which displays a selection of masks, swords, ancient documents and other treasures.
 
Be sure to check out the large and impressive display of donated sake barrels that can be found on display next to the steps.
 
During my visit I was lucky enough to witness a wedding ceremony taking place at the shrine. It's a popular attraction in the city to explore for sure. 

Houkokuji - bamboo forest and tea ceremony

For a less crowded bamboo forest than the one in Kyoto, be sure to visit the more relaxing Houkokuji bamboo forest in Kamakura. 
 
Often referred to by visitors as the bamboo temple, this location can at first be hard to find as it's nestled within a residential area off the beaten path. However, you will be beating the crowds that can often found at other bamboo forests. 
 
Walk around and enjoy the ambiance and relaxing atmosphere of the bamboo forest. 
 
Be sure to take a seat and take in your surroundings at the tea house and enjoy a casual tea ceremony. The tea is bitter but tasty with home-made sweet treats. 
 
Sit back, relax and take it all in. Perfect spot for those wanting some inner peace.

Cooking knives at Sword Masamune

You will find a lot of historical heritage in the city of Kamakura but for a unique experience be sure to visit the cooking knives shop called Sword Masamune. 
 
In ancient times this shop used to make swords for the samurai, and the skill of sword making has been passed on through the family. 
 
The current owner is an 8th generation swordsmith but as the samurai are no longer around today, the swordsmith skill has moved on to making everyday kitchen knives. 
 
Be sure to visit the shop, meet the owner, and check out this unique workshop and swords on display. Why not take a part of Japanese skill home with you and purchase an authentic Japanese kitchen knife? From fish knives to vegetable knives, they have a large selection to choose from.
 
These knives are top quality and extremely sharp, just like the samurai swords. Perfect way to remember your time in Kamakura, Japan. 

Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui for lunch

Making Okonomiyaki is a fun cooking experience with a group of friends when travelling around Japan. Made popular in Osaka, you can still find this food being prepared in other parts of Japan like in Kamakura at a restaurant called Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui. 
 
The idea is to mix eggs with vegetables, such as bean sprouts, and a seafood, such as squid and shrimps. 
 
Then you cook the mixture in front of you on a hot plate grill until the food turns crispy golden brown. Once cooked, you can add fish flakes and sauce in the mix for additional flavour. 
 
This is an interactive Japanese cooking experience which is fun to try with friends. Most importantly, the food is extremely delicious, something you must try on a trip to Japan. 

Kamakura shopping along Komachi-dori Street

Before you leave Kamakura, be sure to make the most out of all the exciting shopping that can be found along Komachi-dori Street. 
 
Starting from Kamakura JR station you will find the entrance marked by a red torii gate. Along this popular street you can find a large selection of boutique fashion outlets, Japanese souvenir gift shops and countless cafes, restaurants and bakeries to choose from.
 
Komachi-dori Street is also a good spot to find Kimono rental shops. Walking around in this traditional piece of clothing can be a fun way to explore ancient Kamakura.

Thank you for reading about Kanagawa Prefecture

I hope you've found this in-depth travel guide about Kanagawa Prefecture useful and full of information for your next visit to the region. 
 
Have fun exploring the areas of Yokohama, Hakone and Kamakura on your next trip to Japan.

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Spending Easter in Sydney

Once a year, the country comes to the town of Sydney and the city folk get to experience some country life. 

Even though, many people think of the Easter time show to be of a children's playground, full of expensive voyages and screaming youngsters, there is another side to the Sydney show far more suited to adults.

 

Here is Why You Should Consider Spending Easter in Sydney:

The Grand Parades

Every year more than 1200 creatures are on show within the Grand Parades, and many more animals are on display in the animal pavilions ranging from alpacas to bees. Learn about the farming methods and produce associated with these kinds of animals.

 

The Sydney Regal Competitions

The spine of the Easter show is the Sydney Regal Competitions. Everything from martial arts styles & crafts, frogs & reptiles to wood chopping and cake making  are judged at the show.

Look at the pavilions to see the winners or watch one of many scheduled judgings. A favourite is usually the District Displays Competition, where farmers from designated regions get together to display their fresh produce in the most creative method they can.

If you happen to be there on the last day of the show, all the remainders are  auctioned away at bargain prices. Along with the animals and competitions - there is a range of entertainment and also shows enjoyable for all age groups - everything is described on Australian's Sydney Royal Competition's blog.

The key arena is a great spot to stop for lunch capture, some of the action, or go through the day’s program to determine what else will be on. A day at the Easter show can be turned into weekend with a stay in one of Sydney’s many hotels.

 

Look at the Hoopla Festival inside Darling Harbour

While staying in a comfortable Sydney accommodation spend the days free of charge at the Hoopla Festival within Darling Harbour.

This annual event brings the circus to town and runs for 5 days and 4 nights over Easter Saturday and Sunday. Hoopla is a weekend of tight ropes, trapeze, fire eaters as well as daring stunt challenges, with free events from 12am to 5pm daily.

For as little as $5 the fun continues through the night with crazy activities to give you a night to remember. If you are planning on staying in the city, don’t let it sit too late, as Sydney hotels will be booked early over Easter.

 

Do the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk

As long as it is not raining, Easter is really a great time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. The high humidity of summer is long gone and generally Sydney experiences warm enjoyable days, ideal for strolling and getting outdoors. 

The famous Bondi to Bronte wander is without a doubt the most popular stroll in Sydney. The actual walk is 6 km long and winds along the coast with many spectacular vantage points and photo opportunities along the way. Team the walk with a city stay in one of the luxury resorts in Sydney.

 

Sydney, with its numerous sights and Sydney accommodation options is the ideal playground for an Easter getaway. Pack the bags and make way for the city to enjoy Easter in Sydney.

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Budget-Friendly Destinations To Spend Your Gap Year

Once you decide to take a gap year and travel abroad, the first thing that would surely strike you is the budget.

So here's a list of the most budget-friendly destinations that are absolutely perfect choices for backpackers and gap year travelers who are bitten by the wanderlust bug!

 

Budget Friendly Destinations For Gap Year Travelers

Thailand

To say the least, 'The Land of Smiles' undoubtedly tops the chart when it comes to the most popular gap year destination. With an average budget of $20 per day, one can manage the stay, food, and transport easily in Bangkok. And there are ample options for those who wish to go slow and stay for a little longer in this beautiful Southeast Asian nation.

From attending Thai Boxing classes to exploring the floating markets, volunteering for the elephants to gaining some cookery skills - Thailand has the best to offer the gap year travelers and backpackers who are looking for an exclusive experience. It's not just that - you can go for some adventurous water sports, chill by the beaches and indulge in island hopping as well! One can never go wrong while backpacking in Thailand.

 

India

There's a reason why India will always be a backpacker's paradise - it's gorgeous and inexpensive at the same time! A country that is so diverse, it's often said that a lifetime is not enough to explore India's vastness.

From the mighty Himalayas in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south, and from the great Thar desert in the west to the Seven Sister States in the east - you'll just fall short of time to tick off everything that you have on your 'India bucket list'! You just need to 'Eat Pray Love' your way through this awe-inspiring country. Start your trip from the bustling capital city of New Delhi and spend a few days there.

Feel the culture shock and soak in the chaos before moving to another place. You can visit Varanasi and Rishikesh (which are the religious hotspots), Jaisalmer (to experience the bliss of desert camping), Mumbai (from where Bollywood originates), Goa (the beach capital and hippie paradise of India), Pondicherry (the French colony) and Calcutta (popular as 'The City of Joy'). Oh, and how can you miss witnessing the beauty of the Taj Mahal while you are in India!

 

Nepal

If you’re looking for something a bit more spiritual, then head towards Nepal, where Lord Buddha was born 2500 years ago. Termed as 'The Most Budget-Friendly Destination' by the Lonely Planet in 2017, this Himalayan hamlet will sweep you off your feet with its panoramic beauty and peaceful aura.

The capital city of Kathmandu is nothing short of a religious hub where you'll find hundreds of temples and even more sadhus, showering you with blessings. Don't miss the sunrise at Bhaktapur and a boat ride in the serene village of Pokhara. Animal lovers will surely have a treat while exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chitwan National Park.

If you wish to contribute towards the Nepalese society, then be a part of a volunteering project and make a difference. Adventure enthusiasts and mountain lovers shouldn't miss the chance of going for an Himalayan trek.

 

Cambodia

For all those wanderlustful souls, exploring Cambodia needs no second thought! While backpacking across this mysterious land, you'll stumble upon beautiful islands, breathtaking beaches, visit incredible temples, and savor the taste of delicious Khmer food.

Cambodia topped the chart for housing the world's most popular UNESCO Heritage Site, the ruins of Angkor, and you'll know it's essence only when you'll visit the land.

But Cambodia isn't just about Angkor, but the country witnessed a dark past during the Khmer Rouge and slowly pushed itself out of it, towards the light of development. In the current decade, Cambodia is one of the most favored destinations among travelers from all across the world, who are keen on a cultural immersion at a pocket-friendly budget.

It’s truly a magical land where you can buy a can of beer for just 25 cents, rent a bed at a backpacker's hostel for a dollar and a delicious meal for just $2 - are you tempted already?

 

Peru

From one UNESCO Heritage Site to another, the land where the Inca Civilization once flourished is undoubtedly a gem for backpackers. A perfect destination for gap year travelers, Peru has so much to do that you'll surely fall short of time and feel like doing as much as you can, at one go!

From the lush Amazonian forests to the Andean highlands and the mysterious Nazca Lines to the ruins of the Sacred Valley and the gorgeousness of the Rainbow Mountains, exploring Peru will be an unpredictable and unforgettable adventure.

Start your journey from the capital city of Lima and head towards the Arequipa. Move to Cusco later and go for a hiking to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu. You can also enroll in a Spanish Language Learning course, that'll add more to your Peruvian expedition. Spend adequate time in the country, knowing about its glorious past, observe their culture and lifestyle and join their celebrations to feel the true essence of life.

 

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is often mistaken as an expensive country to be explored in Latin America, travelers prefer to head towards the affordable neighboring destinations like Panama and Nicaragua!

But the truth is that Costa Rica isn't as expensive as you think it to be. With its incredible biodiversity, options for adventure sports, series of active volcanoes, refreshing natural hot springs and beautiful beaches, you just can’t skip visiting this land of Pura Vida (Pure Life)!

If you are looking for a gap year experience in Costa Rica on a shoestring budget, then you need not worry much! You can easily manage your accommodation in $7 - $10 a night (even better if you can find options for Couchsurfing), and eat at the “sodas,” or local Tico restaurants which are away from the main tourist hubs!

You shouldn't miss exploring the capital city of San Jose, the endearing beach town of Montezuma, and the volcano parks of La Fortuna. Chalk out your itinerary so that you can get some time to spend amidst nature and made good use of your camera to click some amazing shots of the scarlet macaws, jaguars,  howler monkeys, sloths, and the rare glass frog.

 

Turkey

What exactly comes to your mind when you think of Turkey?

A country that forms a bridge between Asia and Europe, Turkey has emerged as one of the most popular backpacking destinations due to its spectacular landscapes and an immensely unique history. One can easily travel across the country with a daily budget of $15 - $20. The capital city of Istanbul has an old world charm and it's the perfect place to absorb Turkish culture and savor the cuisine.

Explore the historic towns of Göreme, Pamukkale, and Selçuk, spend adequate time in the coastal areas of Kekova, and get amazed to witness the jaw-dropping beauty of the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire. Walk down the local Turkish markets and pick up souvenirs on your way back home!

 

Albania

A cheaper alternative to Greece and Italy, Albania has all the best things that a Mediterranean country has to offer. The country has a remarkable array of unique attractions, from stunning mountainous landscapes to forgotten archeological sites and villages where time seems to have stood still for centuries.

Start your trip from the capital city of Tirana, and hike up the Mount Dajti to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. Make your way through the Albanian countryside and chill on the horseshoe-shaped beach of Saranda.

Don't forget to binge on Balkan burek (a flaky pastry filled with cheese or meat and onions) and make amazing memories while exploring this Adriatic paradise!

 

So, now that you know the list of the most affordable places, get started with your research work and have an adventurous gap year abroad!

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Happening Places to Visit in Hong Kong

One of the most amazing and thrilling places in the world to live and travel is Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong city is so fast moving that many people have compared it with New York. Some also say that a minute in New York is a second in Hong Kong, so just imagine the pace of life in this gleaming city of skyscrapers.

With more than 7 million residents living in this wonderful land, it is not hard to see why this place is so lively and buzzing.  Hong Kong shows you its extreme energy the moment you arrive and honestly, it never lets its energy die.

Here you can shop stylish and branded clothes, try out the delicious dim sums, go on sightseeing trips and visit different and happening restaurants and bars. 

Hong Kong has countless street markets that are painted with different colors and buzzing most of the times. The landmarks and skyline of the city is a thing one must not skip.

While we understand that it is impossible to do everything in Hong Kong, there are a few important and interesting things that you must try.

 

Places to Add to Your Hong Kong Itinerary

1. Incredible Views of the Star Ferry

Are you dying to get the best views in Hong Kong city? If so, you can get some of the most wonderful views of the iconic Hong Kong skyline along Victoria Harbour.

This is the view that you see in almost every Hollywood movie or a big budget Bollywood movie featuring the city.

By boarding the Star Ferry from the Tsim Sha Tsui terminal, you can go sailing to Central. If you're looking for an incredible and cheapest way to travel then this ferry costs only $2.50 during weekdays and $3.40 on weekends.

Tourists often add this attraction to their Macau holiday packages.

 

2. Take a Tram to the Peak

Do you love traveling in tram or wish to travel in one someday?

If yes, the tram in Hong Kong will fulfill your wish. There is this historic Peak Tram that runs  from 7 am until midnight, which gives passengers enough time to take in all the beautiful views of the city that can be seen down below moving as the tram moves.

One can also see Hong Kong's famous mountain range. You can board from Garden Road terminus in Central at just $45 for a to and fro ticket.

 

3. Meet the Giant Panda

Do you love the furry and giant animals that are naturally painted with black and white color? f you love the cute giant pandas, then this is going to be a great experience for you.

Hong Kong's very popular aquatic theme park has two absolutely amazing and adorable giant panda bears. You can see them in their natural habitat munching on fresh bamboo and you can also take selfies with them.

Other than this, you can also meet and interact with the two adorable penguins, dolphins, and seals.

 

4. Symphony of Lights at Victoria’s Harbour

If you want to see the perfect synchronization of lights and music, then it can't be better than the one Hong Kong has.

You must attend the Symphony of Lights, which is the World's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show. The music and light show portrays the life and history of Hong Kong

 

5. Disneyland and Ocean Park Tour

Whether you're with kids or alone, you must visit the Disneyland of Hong Kong.

You can watch colorful and magical shows and your favorite Disney characters moving around. It's so popular that you'll surely find it to be part of most of the Hong Kong tour packages.

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Beautiful Waterfalls in Coorg, India

Coorg, often referred to as the ‘Scotland of India’, is a stunning hill station in Karnataka endowed with mystic hills and aromatic coffee estates.

Madikeri being the headquarters, is also one of the top places to experience Coorg Tourism.

This mesmerizing hill station is blessed with several tourist attractions in the form of waterfalls, viewpoints, temples, trekking destinations, wildlife sanctuaries & aromatic coffee plantations.

Of these, waterfalls are a must-visit attraction included in all Coorg Packages. These gorgeous waterfalls look spectacular during monsoon and attract tourists from all over the country. 

Here are several waterfalls that will add great interest to any Coorg itinerary.

 

Waterfalls That You Must Visit in Coorg

Iruppu Falls

Iruppu Falls is a spectacular waterfalls formed over Lakshmana Tirtha River in Coorg district of Karnataka.

Situated in the Brahmagiri Hills between Srimangala & Kutta, it is one of the famous waterfalls in Karnataka and also top place to visit during Coorg Tour.

Locally known as Lakshmana Tirtha Falls, it cascades from a height of 170 feet through several stages.The picturesque surrounding of the waterfalls attracts a large number of tourists and makes it one of the must include in every Coorg Tour Package.

 

Abbey Falls

Abbey Falls is a captivating waterfall situated in Madikeri town.

It gushes down from a height of 70 feet, the falls is one of the popular Coorg Tourist Places and also one of the most visited waterfalls in Karnataka.

Earlier known as Jessi falls, Abbey Falls is located between the dense coffee  and spice plantations. There is a hanging bridge just opposite to the falls, where visitors can get a wonderful view of waterfalls.

The misty spray of water cascading down to a small river provides a mesmerizing view.

 

Mallali Falls

Formed on the Kumaradhara River, Mallali Falls is one of the gorgeous waterfalls in Coorg and also one of the most scenic waterfalls in Karnataka.

Situated in the northern region of Kodagu district, the falls gushes down from a height of 200 feet. The surroundings of the waterfall provide a spectacular view of green forest, valleys and mountain ranges.

It is the best place for trekkers with mesmerizing beauty around. Monsoon season is the best time to visit the falls, when water rises high and flows with full speed.

 

Chelavara Falls

Chelavara Falls, situated near Cheyyandane village, is a natural waterfall formed by a small stream. Cascading down from a height of 150 feet, it is one of the most scenic waterfalls in Karnataka and also one of the best places to visit in Coorg.

It is locally known as Embepare, as the rock over which the water cascades is shaped like a tortoise.

This waterfall is seasonal and it offers heavenly views in rainy season.The enchanting natural beauty and the tranquility of the place attracts tourists and nature lovers.

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San Francisco Fast Food Guide – $8 or Less!

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Food

San Francisco is known worldwide now to be one thing — expensive!

Why spend too much of your hard earned money on a single meal when you can find delicious and satisfying food for less than $8? Believe it or not you can still grab a good meal for under $8.

Learn more about great and wonderful San Francisco food that varies from Mexican to Vietnamese to Italian to Greek and much more! Many of the city's best cheap eats are simply neighborhood spots, serving up their own versions of affordable fare.

Here are San Francisco's best cheap eats spots that'll satisfy your wallet (and your tastebuds).

 

Here are the spots to visit below:

1. Mexican food in the Mission:

Grab authentic tacos and the Mission style burrito at the classic Spot called  Taqueria El Buen Sabor. Everything is well under $7 USD with exceptions.

 

2. Egg Tarts in Chinatown:

If you are into egg tarts, a kind of custard tart found in Hong Kong and especially here in the city then come here. Egg tarts under $5.

 

3. Banh Mi Sanwich:

Vietnamese food is getting popular, so enjoy tasty and affordable food like the Banh Mi. Delectable meaty, spicy, and veggie options for under $7 USD.

 

4. Greek Yogurt:

Get a little taste of Greece in the Mission at Souvla. This surprising and odd dessert is under $5 USD.

 

5. Single Origin Chocolate:

Free artisanal chocolate from various parts of the word at Dandelion Chocolate in the Mission.

 

6. Coffee:

This is coffee with a view at the coolest intersection in San Francisco's Little Italy at Reveille Cafe. Coffee is expensive but, under $5.

 

7. Italian style Sandwiches:

Molinari's Deli in North Beach is an institution and it is still a good deal. The best sandwiches featuring prosciutto and provolone to the Italian Combo.

 

8. Kouign Amann:

This is a crusty cake made with laminated dough that is very rich. This treat is only available in B. Patisserie bakery in Laurel Heights.

 

9. San Francisco Toast:

The popular or ridiculed expensive toast of San Francisco can be found for $4-$6 at Trouble Coffee near Ocean Beach. This toast is life changing and very rich.

 

Have you been to San Francisco? Let us know if you have tried any of these treats?

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37° 46' 37.8768" N, 122° 27' 30.978" W
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Why Responsive Tourism is Key to Saving the Gorillas in Uganda & Rwanda

Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda has tremendously turned to be one of life’s bucket list wildlife encounters.

Responsible tourism par say comprises of conservation, preservation, maintenance and the protection of wildlife and their habitat. Promoting this kind of practice in Africa’s jungles, where these tremendous primates are kept, will in turn help to increase not only their population but also other wildlife species in the wild.

Around the 1970s, there were only 400 mountain gorillas in the whole world. Because of escalated interest in the conservation and gorilla tourism in the 1980s and 1990s, an increase in population of these critically endangered species was realized and currently, there are nearly 900 that are protected in the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The increase in the mountain gorilla’s population is an indicator that responsible tourism plays an important role in the conservation and protection of these critically endangered species and their habitat.

 

Gorilla tracking as a fund raising tool

Gorilla tracking has not only become an important fund raising tool, in Uganda gorilla tourism contributes nearly 80% of the national wildlife authority’s general budget which also funds most of the country’s wildlife and habitat conservation throughout the year.

Today, mountain gorillas have become a valuable commodity in many local communities around national parks and governments at large. These humble creatures offer a lot more required financing for local infrastructure and job creation not only on a local level but also a national level as well as boosting the countries’ tourism sector. It is this revenue that governments raise from sustainable or responsible gorilla tourism in either Uganda or Rwanda that is used to finance various conservation projects such as anti poaching patrols and critically it makes the local communities to get aware of the economic value of that is derived from these world’s endemic species.

It is also one way that trekkers and other travelers around the world show off their passion, dedication and above all act as vocal advocates of conservation of world’s critically endangered species in their home countries.

 

Gorilla trekking for responsible tourism

Whereas a typical trekker’s major goal is to view mountain gorillas in the wild, in most cases they also end up traveling to more other national parks or exciting attractions in and around the region. Tourism has turned out to be the main player of national economy in respective countries. The Rwanda Development Board revenue has nearly doubled for the past 5 years and tourism accounts for 7.8% of the country’s GDP. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on the other hand estimated that every mountain gorilla generates $1 million in Uganda annual revenue based on the fact that these primates are not killed in the course of the year.

In addition, poachers are not usually after mountain gorillas as most wire snares might only be targeting the small animals, like duikers, but unfortunately the gorillas also get trapped in the course of the day. In 2013, the gorilla doctors, a veterinary group that offers mountain gorillas with medical care in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, carried out 4 medical interventions on mountain gorillas that were trapped in wire snares. One of which was for a juvenile male mountain gorilla known as Kajeyo. The trackers had seen the wire snare covered around this young primate’s arms when they visited the gorilla family with visitors the day before. The operation on Kajeyo was successful unlike other mountain gorillas that rarely survive snare injuries. In the previous years, there were over 1200 snares that were and destroyed in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and this still remains as a main threat to these creatures.

Political unrest is another critical factor. Gorilla Trekking Tours in Uganda and Rwanda tours are unstable unlike DRC where political instability has inflicted not only gorillas and their habitats but also the local communities that have been displaced while others have lost their lives.

 

Health risk and growth rate for the gorillas

Also, health risk to these tremendous species has escalated due to increasing gorilla tourism. Mountain gorillas share nearly 98% of their genes with humans making them the most susceptible creatures to most of human infectious diseases. However, there are strict gorilla trekking rules and regulations which include, among others, a minimum distance of 7 meters and restrain any visitor from trekking these endangered species especially if such a person has transmittable illness. At times certain situations are unavoidable say for instance a gorilla approaches a tourist and gets in contact, you may be asked to step back but at that moment you won’t run away from contact.

More still, it appears there is a surprising relationship between habituated gorillas and the highest growth rate of these species. It is believed that the annual growth rate for habituated gorillas in the Virunga for instance is more than 5 times that of the unhabituated gorillas. This tremendous growth is attributed based on the fact that habituated gorillas have higher chances of benefiting from strict conservation practices like medical interventions unlike the absolutely wild mountain gorillas that are a bit difficult to treat when they are sick, injured by one another. Whereas habituated gorillas can be more vulnerable to human infectious diseases, they also have higher chances of healthy population growth.

Climate change has also continued impacting on the growth of these remarkable species since many farmers look for land at higher altitudes and this threatens the gorilla habitat. It is estimated that the growing conditions for specific crops after century will have increased to nearly 700 meters in altitude which indicates that there will be more demand for land on higher mountainous slopes of Bwindi or Virunga.

 

In conclusion, the survival of mountain gorillas is a significantly critical factor for both local and national economies. The threats that impact on the survival of these species in the world are ever on increase and the only way to save them from extinction is through responsible gorilla tourism.

At the end, respective national parks will also be well protected and many wildlife safari dwellers can be attracted into the destination to enjoy authentic experiences in African wilderness.

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Activities You Weren’t Expecting to Do in Hainaut, Belgium

In this article we are exploring the activities available in the province of Hainaut, the Westernmost province of Wallonia.

Belgium is a country known well for its culture, tradition, food and beer. At least for me it is anyway. We’ll be covering all of these in other articles and videos, so watch out for those.

But first, we start with the...

 

Activities in Hainaut, Belgium:

Getting There

From the UK, Hainaut is easiest reached by plane to Brussels, or overland by car from the neighbouring countries. Most of the cities and towns in Hainaut, such as Mons, Charleroi and Chimay are connected by regular trains running direct from Brussels Airport. For this trip, we were based in Mons, which is the most central town for exploring Hainaut, and we hired a car.

 

Getting Active

It certainly wasn’t something I had associated with Belgium, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of activities on offer in this region, and we weren’t even exploring in summer! I’ve focused on just a few, all of which are featured in the video above.

 

Indoor Skiing

We headed to the Ice Mountain Adventure Park, where the first activity we tried was Indoor Skiing, on real snow! Yes, that’s right, I thought you could only find that in the mountains.

The snow is made from the process of water being sprayed and cooled at lightning speeds, meaning there’s always a thick layer of snow. You don’t have to travel over to the mountains to ski on real snow, brilliant.

Ice Mountain has two slopes to chose from, one for beginners and one for the more experienced, with the beginner’s slope having an easy roll carpet to get you to the top. There’s even small jumps and a rail grind to try on the more advanced slope.

Prices for adults start from €17 for an hour or €42 for the day, and there are monthly subscriptions and weekend offers (such as 2 hours for €25 plus spaghetti Bolognese) available too. Lessons are available from €55 and you have the choice of private or group lessons, with all the equipment available to hire too.

For me, I love to ski so to have this available for a quick stint of skiing is brilliant, and after you can enjoy a Belgian beer and a bite to eat in the restaurant, which overlooks the slopes.

 

Indoor Skydiving

I’ve never tried indoor skydiving, and if I’m completely honest it’s never been high on my list. That’s because on paper, it doesn’t look like that much of a thrill, and I’m a real adrenaline junkie! I was so wrong.

As I casually sat in the briefing listening to the safety precautions, I realised that this is pretty crazy, and I had to pay attention. Don’t get me wrong, the instructor is always there to make sure you don’t get blown away, and there is a second person controlling the fan speed.

I watched the others before me, and honestly my heart was racing. Especially after you see a couple of people struggling to keep their balance, and let’s face it, mine was being filmed for our video! It was then my turn and before I knew it, I was flying! Now I guess a weightless hovering is a more accurate description, but it was brilliant.

I found you really must focus on only making subtle movements otherwise your balance is off, and you’ll crash into the side. So, once you master the skill it’s a real buzz to be effectively floating in the air whilst people watch on with a coffee in their hand! Then the most fun part is when the instructor grips you and whizzes you around and up and down. Far more of an adrenaline rush than I expected.

Prices start at €59 for two flights (children €49) and up to €119 for 5. This price includes all the safety equipment and your detailed lesson before you head to the wind tunnel.

 

Battle Karting

Battle Karting can only be described as a cross between regular go-karting and the video game Super Mario Kart! It all takes place in electric karts controlled by sensors linked to the game, you race around a track that’s projected onto the floor from above. Your position on the track, in the race and in respect to other karts is determined by the software behind the game. It should prevent you from crashing! Sounds intriguing right? Well it is, and it’s also a lot of fun.

After a briefing and introduction to the different games and rules, you jump in the karts and away you go. Our first race was a typical circuit format, where you race each other around the track, but with a twist! There are several bonuses to pick up along the way, such as turbo boosts, rockets to shoot down opponents, and even a bonus to leave a puddle of oil to slow down your opponents.

My next favourite game was Battle Snake, where you pick up fruits to lengthen your tail, a bit like the old game of snake on your phone. You can’t cross anyone else’s snake and the winner is the person with the longest tail! Other games involve a virtual football pitch where you hit the ball in the oppositions net and covering the grid in your teams’ colour.

Each game has points allocated to the winner, and an overall winner is crowned. I can honestly say, as a keen go-karter, I wasn’t expecting this to be such great fun! Prices start at €6 for 5 minutes up to €36 for 30 minutes, it’s located close to the town of Mouscron and only 20 minutes from Lille.

 

Walking

We passed a lot of open countryside and beautiful forest begging to be explored. But from the village of Ellezelle, you can walk the inviting 6km starting at the Maison du Pays des Colline. “Le Sentier de l’Etrange” is a really enjoyable and not challenging walk, which passes art sculptures by the artist Watkyne, all in the breathtaking surroundings of the green Hainaut countryside. These sculptures make for a great photo and add a new element of enjoyment, ensuring you take in each one.

Apparently, every year there are more added, meaning it’s worth coming back to find the new ones.

 

PASS Science Park

Our next activity was exploring PASS Science Park, which has a number of interactive exhibitions for old and young to discover science and learn something new. It’s located in Wallonia, just a short journey from Mons. Interestingly, PASS is also a regeneration project built in an area of Hainaut known for its coal mines, in fact there used to be hundreds of coal mines here. Some of the coal mining history is recognised inside, and it still represents the shape of the old coal mining building.

You’ll also find several special exhibitions and workshops, mostly put on for education or art purposes. I was impressed with the outside, you can learn about how the landscape was formed from the “slag heap”, which has now been colonised by plants! Finally, there’s a network of tracks and studded paths to explore by bike, with a variety of interesting artwork along the way.

You can buy tickets to PASS online, and they are a reasonable €15 for adults, €10 for 6-18 year olds and free for children under 5 years.

 

Triobalade Tour of Mons

For a unique way to explore the city of Mons, I really recommend you try the Triobalade. It’s basically a tour for 1, 2 or 3 people on a three wheeling Tuk Tuk! You can choose a tour length from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Our driver Ludo gave us a fantastic tour which included the Grande Place, information about the Legend of the DouDou, and myths about the city, including why you should rub the bald monkey’s head with your left hand. For more information about the culture of Hainaut, make sure you watch our other video and article.

 

So tell me, were you expecting that there was this much to do in Hainaut? I know I certainly wasn’t.

It was a pleasant surprise, that on top of the things I was expecting, such as the amazing culture and beer, there was something more. Something to please us adrenaline junkies, somewhere to escape to go skiing, on real snow, some beautiful nature and a place to let out the inner child in you (on the Battle Kart field!).

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