Feb 3, 2013 13:30 - sf271 | 1,205 views
You’ve decided to finally chase the dream. See the birthplace of Shakespeare, Harry Potter, and the Beatles, visit our rolling green hills, and have tea with the Queen. So what do you need to know? Firstly, leave all of your preconceptions behind: our rolling green hills are underwater, we only have half of the Beatles left, Potter has grown up, and the Queen won’t want to meet you.
If you aren’t put off by that, and you still fancy visiting, then here are a few pointers to guide you through a country built upon foundations of beautifully misleading stereotypes, and a set of social-rules so strict that no one knows what they are.
Bring an animal. We love animals. We love animals more than ANYTHING (except for tea, talking about the weather, open bars, and queuing). A dog or a horse would be preferable, but a cat will suffice. It may cost you more in terms of flying, quarantine, and finding places that will accept animals, but you will win our hearts within SECONDS. Let the animal do the speaking, and you will have friends aplenty.
Occasionally we remove our tiaras and billowing capes, and don the average British uniform: a waterproof coat, a t-shirt, shorts, a scarf and gloves, and boots.
We have one season: rainy, with a chance of snow or sun, possible gales, and temperatures ranging between -6˚ and 26˚. It’s not unusual to wake up bathed in sun and go to sleep with 4 inches of snow, so it’s a good idea to download an app that will give you hourly weather updates. Bring a selection of outfits, regardless of when you visit: do not assume that just because you visit us in August that you won’t need Wellington boots.
Note: if you want to really fit in, look at the weather, and dress in the most ridiculous way possible. Flip-flops in the snow are fine, as long as you are wearing a jumper. If the sun is out, flesh must be bared, regardless of looming rain clouds or Arctic temperatures.
Some knowledge of the weather is necessary: it’s our favourite conversation topic, and you will be asked about it several times a day.
We also love to moan, complain, and grumble, but in true stiff-upper-lip fashion, this should always be done in your head, on Twitter, or on a blog. If you’re annoyed by something, DO NOT confront the situation. People will stare, and you will be singled out as the-person-who-doesn’t-know-the-secret-rules. React as passive-aggressively as possible: mutter something under your breath and exhale loudly.
Brush up on your manners. Men are no longer required to lay their coats over puddles for women to walk over, but should you forget your pleases, thank-yous and pardon mes, you will be ostracized quicker than Piers Morgan. Hold the door for the person behind you (and most likely the next 20 people behind them), but do so with a smile (forced is fine).
However, British etiquette is very long-winded and even we aren’t too sure of the correct protocol for many situations (safe bet: do what everyone else does, don’t complain, and don’t say what you’re really thinking), so here is a quick run through of THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS you need to know: do not queue jump; do not talk loudly on public transport; do not stop in the middle of a pavement; do not walk slowly (if you must, at least walk to one side); do not start conversations with strangers; do not say how you’re really feeling; always offer tea.
We excel in saying what we don’t mean, being rather indirect, and coating everything in thick layers of sarcasm (once you’ve spent some time in Britain, the word “great” will never sound genuine again). Practice makes perfect, but here are a few examples to (hopefully) get you on track with the (real) English language:
“That’s not bad” translates to “That’s good.”
“That’s quite good” translates to “That is terrible.”
“With all due respect” translates to “I have no respect for you at all, shut up you idiot.”
If you’re coming from a non-English speaking country, it’s advisable to bring translation aids, as we are truly embarrassing when it comes to other languages. Most people can probably manage ‘hello’ and ‘do you speak English’. Sorry.
If you’re coming from America, learn to recognize sarcasm. You may think you understand what we’re saying, but you probably don’t. If it sounds like a sentence should have exclamation marks at the end, it’s most likely sarcastic. An example:
“PLEASE continue telling this story, it’s REALLY fascinating and I LOVE the sound of your voice!!” translates to “Everyone in a 20-mile radius wants to hurt you.”
Understanding our use of qualifiers is vital. We’re never too sure whether to fully support something or not, so slipping a qualifier in is a lovely way of sort of speaking our mind, while remaining excruciatingly neutral. An example:
“Hmm, Boris Johnson isn’t really that funny” translates to “Boris Johnson is an embarrassing fool who should be kept away from people.”
If you don’t want people to think you’re incredibly rude, apologize for everything. When people bump into you, apologize when you knock paper off a table, apologize; when you don’t really know what’s going on, apologize.
The British public transport system peaked in the age of horse-drawn carriages, and since then it has gotten less reliable, more expensive, less environmentally-friendly, and you have to sit with strangers.
There are 4 main ways to get around Britain: car, train, bus, or bicycle. Petrol is inhumanly expensive and British roads are terrible (we have this thing called concrete, but we don’t use it, so roads are either full of craters or are dirt tracks). Don’t drive.
So, the train! Much more environmentally friendly, yes! But also guaranteed to be delayed for any/all of the following reasons: cows on train-tracks, missing drivers, rain, snow, sun, wind, leaves on train-tracks, and occasionally just because they fancy it.
I’m going to miss the bus out for three reasons: they always smell, they are driven by madmen, and you have to sit very closely to strangers.
Cycle! Yes – keeps you fit, very environmentally friendly, and a lovely way to explore our cities and countryside. One drawback: all British car drivers HATE CYCLISTS WITH A BURNING PASSION. You will get run off the road, knocked off your bike, sworn at, and overtaken with millimeters to spare.
My advice is to invest in a horse.
If you do decide to experience British public transport, there are 5 things you MUST NOT DO:
- Sit next to a stranger when there are other available seats
- Sit next to a stranger even when there are no other available seats
- Make eye contact with ANYONE
- Speak/sing/hum/breathe loudly/make any noise
- Attempt to engage in any vaguely human behaviour.
Walking is not on this list because walking in Britain is akin to an extreme sport, and should only be undertaken by those who can equal minimum speeds of 30mph. Wanderers should stick to the moors, dales, and lakes.
Don’t Forget Your Camera
We live in a beautiful, historic, cultural, and fascinating country (hence the reason for your visit), and a camera really is a necessity to capture –
NO. You need a camera for everything else in this wonderful country. We have a sub-species of human that resides in Central London, and go by the name of The Politicians. When captured in his natural environment, he can be spotted doing some BRILLIANT things – and the best part? You can witness their ridiculous behavioral patterns, photograph it, and then leave, without having to suffer the insanity of their decisions. Boris Johnson ( the Mayor of London – he truly is the Pride of Britain), Nick Clegg and David Cameron should be followed with a camera, it will pay off (and out).
WOMEN: BRITISH MEN ARE NOT LIKE WHAT YOU THINK THEY ARE.
We do not have an abundance of Prince Harrys, Hugh Grants, or Eddie Redmaynes. If we did, we would build a very high wall around the country and let no one else in. However, we do have a fair few of these and these. Feel free to take as many as you’d like. Please.
Once you get over that slight disappointment (don’t worry, we’ve all gone through it), you’ll realize we are a (mainly) friendly bunch, and will always be happy to take you to the local pub, and let you buy us drinks. You’ll have a blast.
You’ll come for the rolling green hills, but you’ll stay for our charm, delightful wit, and inability to be (overtly) rude (and because the planes at Heathrow are always delayed).
P.S – don’t touch The Sun. You have been warned.
Picture credit: http://politicalwrestling.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/boris-johnson.jpg
Feb 2, 2013 17:12 - ivanabutler | 726 views
New Zealand is known for its diverse landscapes and captivating scenery. The country also offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are a few noteworthy things to experience while visiting New Zealand:
New Zealand is known by many as a fisherman’s paradise. Avid fishers often flock to Lake Taupo and the Bay of Plenty to find the perfect catch. Tuna, swordfish and other types of big game fish species often swim in the waters around the Coromandel Peninsula. There are also many shallow rivers throughout the country where fishers can enjoy fly fishing. Some of New Zealand’s prized fish species can easily be located with a fish finder. If you enjoy fishing then New Zealand is the place to be.
Trekking across New Zealand’s rugged landscapes is another way to experience the splendor of the country. Visitors can hike through lush forests and across a suspension bridge located in Abel Tasman National Park. A hike to Huka Falls gives explorers the chance to see one of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural sites. Breathtaking images of Lake Benmore and Mount Cook can be seen by hiking along the Benmore Peninsula Track.
Visiting Historical Sites
There are many historical sites of interest located throughout New Zealand. The impressive clock tower at the University of Auckland is reminiscent of many of the old clock towers found in Europe. The iconic ChristChurch Cathedral in the city of Christchurch has managed to survive a series of devastating earthquakes throughout its history. Visitors can also learn more about one of the country’s most celebrated authors by visiting the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum in the capital city of Wellington.
Celebrating at Local Festivals
New Zealand also hosts several festivals throughout the year. Auckland’s Lantern Festival pays tribute to the country’s population of Asian immigrants. The city of Hamilton hosts a Christian music concert series known as the Parachute Music Festival every January. The Allshorts Film Festival, which is traditionally held in October, showcases a variety of short films and music videos. New Zealand’s Polynesian influences are celebrated at the Pasifika Festival held each March at Western Springs Park in Auckland.
Relaxing at the Beach
Many gorgeous beaches can be found along New Zealand’s coasts. Beachgoers often dig personal spas in the sand to soak in the warm waters found at Hot Water Beach. Piha Beach is a popular surfing destination for avid surfers. The coastal area along Auckland’s Mission Bay features a variety of cafes, pubs and ice cream shops. Magnificent sand dunes and crystal clear seawater can be seen at Ninety Mile Beach. Luscious black sands coat the beautiful beach at Karekare.
In addition to all of the amazing sights and fun activities, New Zealand is also a great place to enjoy shopping. Sylvia Park is a modern retail space in Auckland featuring numerous clothing and specialty stores. Also located in Auckland is the multilevel Westfield WestCity shopping complex. The Base, which is the country’s largest shopping centre, features many different types of shops and eateries and is located in the city of Hamilton.
Jan 31, 2013 11:55 - emilygreen | 924 views
A luxury cruise can be one of the most exciting ways to take a vacation. The open sea can be a relaxing backdrop that helps the stress of the day to melt away while, at the same time, the excitement of visiting new places breaks up the trip and keeps it interesting. As you prepare for your cruise vacation, there are a few little tricks you can use that will save you money.
Image via Flickr by twicepix
Many cruise companies will offer customers a package that includes airfare and the cost of the cruise all in one price. If you are looking into the prices of alaskan cruises, then getting a bundled package may seem like a great idea, but there is a good chance that you can get a much better price on your flight if you look for separate arrangements. The small amount of hassle it takes to book your own flight will be more than offset by the savings you will see in your overall expenses.
Image via Flickr by Tara Angkor Hotel
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about cruises is that everything is included in the cost of the cruise. You will find that seemingly harmless events, such as a cruise photos, can add up quick and be added to your cruise tab. Since the cruise lines do not take cash on the ships, everything that costs you will get added to your tab and you will need to settle that tab before you leave the ship. Before you do anything on board your ship, always ask if it is an activity that will get added to your tab, and ask for the amount as well.
Watch Your Kids
Image via Flickr by rickie22
Some people bring their kids on cruises, which is a great experience for the kids, but when your kids start making phone calls to shore and playing video games that cost money, then your vacation costs can start to add up. Keep a close eye on your kids and make sure that you avoid unexpected charges at the end of the cruise.
Image via Flickr by mdid
When you get a soft drink with your meal, it is included in the cost of your cruise, but when you get a soft drink in the ship’s casino, then that is going to cost you. There are two ways you can save money on soft drinks during your cruise. The first way is to buy the beverage package and get unlimited soft drinks for one price. Your other option is to bring powdered drink mix with you and mix it in with the free fresh water you get on the ship.
Avoid Paying for Food
Image via Flickr by The Story Lady
Your cruise came with all the food you can eat in the ship’s dining room, but you are still given the option of dining in other places on the ship that will charge you. The smartest thing to do is enjoy the free meals and never pay for your food during the cruise.
A cruise can be a great experience, but it can also be an expensive experience if you are not careful. Learn the ways to save money on a cruise and enjoy yourself without going broke.
Jan 30, 2013 12:43 - sf271 | 868 views
As the trend in going on a safari rises, general common sense seems to be on the decline. Whether it’s down to hot weather melting people’s decision-making skills, or the breath-taking landscapes literally starving brains of oxygen, people seem to have forgotten that the animals they see on a safari are wild. Like, really wild. Not organised into set places and rehearsing for an Attenborough documentary, but wild. Lions aren’t going to stop and ask why you’re on their territory, elephants will crush you if they stampede, and no animal will let you within 20 meters of her offspring. Disney has a lot to answer for, and making people believe that wild animals will happily pose for holiday pics is certainly near the top of the list. To help, we’ve compiled a guide of what not to say on a safari, to help prevent you from getting killed by a wild animal (or the person next to you).
1. “Can I stroke the lion/leopard/hippo?”
No, no you may not, because you will die. Variations on this question may include “Oh, but a zebra won’t eat me! I can stroke that! It’s just like a horse!” Yes, it has 4 legs and a long nose. Yes, it will turn, run, and probably kick you in the head. Wild animals are exactly that – no matter how cute/domestic-looking they seem, they aren’t. Keep a respectful distance, and stroke a cat when you’re home. However, some tourist areas have special centers where you can hold baby lions/cheetahs/tigers until your heart’s content, so do some research before you go, and pay one of these places a visit to satisfy any “omgit’ssocuuuuute” feelings that otherwise could kill you.
2. “Can you take our photo with that cheetah/elephant/hyena?”
No, I don’t want to witness anyone getting eaten or trampled to death, thanks. Take your photographs of the animal. Stand in the truck with the animals behind you. Get good at Photoshop. But seriously though – you go to an amazing continent like Africa, and think people back home want to see shots of you? Stick to the animals and the landscape.
3. “What time do you feed the animals?”
4. “How long until we see something interesting?”
This is the wild, it’s not a documentary. Nothing can be guaranteed on safari – you might get lucky, or you might just see lots of trees. Either way, it’s way more interesting than standing in queues in Tesco’s at home. Documentary-makers spend months in Africa to get the best footage, so if you don’t see a pride of lions or a herd of elephants while you’re over there, don’t get too disheartened. Soak up the sun and the scenery, and feel extra-special if you do see a baby leopard. However, most guides will know the best places and best times to spot animals, so you shouldn’t go home empty-handed (although literally speaking, yes you should: only take photos home, no matter how cute that tiny meerkat is).
5. “Stop that lion/cheetah/crocodile killing that zebra/antelope!”
No. It’s nature. As hard as it is to watch, that’s how animals survive in the wild – in fact it’s how we all survive. If you’re going to go on safari, make sure you’re prepared in case you do see an animal tracking down dinner. Nature’s red in tooth and claw after all.
6. “Why do those people have guns?”
Trackers and guides should be prepared for any and all situations in the bush, and a well-timed, very loud gunshot can spook animals away. And also because some people are just stupid. If someone gets too close a lion cub (thinking they can stroke it), and mummy-lion sees (which she will), nothing’s going to stop her protecting her cub (and killing said stupid person) apart from being shot at. This isn’t a common reason though, and usually it’s there for the protection of your tracker or guide if they venture off on foot to follow prints.
7. “Where can I get the best signal for my phone?”
You should NOT be checking Facebook/Twitter/emails WHEN THERE ARE LIONS TO LOOK FOR. And if you are, then you deserve to get eaten.
Photo credit: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l8wc252bsI1qzpwi0o1_500.jpg
Jan 27, 2013 12:10 - 84petersmith | 1,250 views
Travelling solo is a great opportunity to see the world in its entire splendor especially if it means not having to pay for airfare for anyone else. You get to meet new people and new cultures. However, travelling alone also comes with its own dangers. You will have no one to guard your back and getting lost in the woods without a companion is a frightening prospect to say the least. Therefore make sure that you keep the following in mind before you start packing your bags –
Picking a Destination
This goes without saying. Being adventurous is exciting but throwing caution to the wind by settling for the first destination that comes to mind is ridiculous. In other words, it pays to do your research. Decide what part of the world you would like to go and whether it will be suitable for an adventure trip.
If you cannot make up your mind or are new to adventure trips you can always play it safe by settling for places that are famous for backpacking or outdoor travel. For example, you can settle for a trek up the Himalayas or make reservations for a trip to the Amazon Rainforest.
Get Used to the Great Outdoors
If you plan on making camp in the great outdoors it will be best if you practice pitching a tent by yourself ahead of time. However, if you plan on going somewhere with a booming safari based touring industry like Africa you will be duly accommodated. An African safari usually comes with big stand-up tents, luxurious beds and shower facilities. If camping outdoors isn’t what you prefer you can always visit places that offer rooms in houseboats, rustic lodges or inns.
Keep Your Budget in Mind
Of course you will have to resort to camping out if your budget does not allow you to book any hotel rooms. Including airfare a ten day trip might cost you anywhere around $2000. If you plan on travelling halfway across the world for fun and adventure you can expect to shell out anywhere between $3000 to $6000.
If you are low on funds, planning your trip ahead of time will help you travel on a budget. For instance you can always choose to book your flights at cheaper airports like Gatwick Airport and utilize its Gatwick airport parking facilities.
Consult Fellow Adventurers
If you know people who have gone on the same adventure trips that you plan on going to its best that you contact them first. Information received from word of mouth is much more reliable than travel brochures anyway.
Check Your Visa and Passport
This is perhaps the most important aspect of going overseas. According to international conventions all passports must be valid for 6 months after entering a country. Also, never make the mistake of putting your passport in your check-in luggage at the airport. Most countries also require Visas before they allow entry.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Directions
It will be wise of you to learn some words that the locals speak. If you get lost you will have no one but the natives to turn to for help, but the natives will be all too happy to help you out.
About the Author
The author is an avid traveler himself and writes travel blogs for likeminded adventure travelers. Most of his writings involve advising people about the best countries to visit for outdoor travel, how to travel on a budget like opting for Gatwick airport parking, the pitfalls associated with each and how to avoid them.
Photo by Getty Images