Category: mini travel guide
Since then I’ve lived on land and on a sailboat here in the Conch Republic, a little chain of islands, (or keys as they’re called from the Spanish word cayo meaning island) off the tip of south Florida. In that time, I’ve explored every inch of this island chain. There is so much to do! (more…)
My name is Suzi and Belize has been my vacation destination for the past couple of years. While I call Seattle, Washington my year-round home, Belize has become another home base since I work virtually with Hanna Stables.
Owned and run by a local Belizean family, this tourist establishment has been welcoming visitors for horseback rides and organic farm stays for several destinations. I’m lucky to work with them to help plan vacations for guests and coordinate online bookings.
Must Go in Belize
Belize’s best sites are spread all over the country so the best way to see them is to hire a taxi or rent a car. Alternatively, you can take public buses or local flights.
Off the coast of Belize City, there are cayes or islands that are popular tourist destinations. While the most popular is the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, there is another smaller, cozier caye right next to it: Caye Caulker. Both are accessible via water taxi from Belize City.
Five miles long, Caye Caulker is a small limestone island with just over 30 tiny hotels and a cluster of restaurants, shops, and snorkeling and diving businesses.
Located on mainland Belize in the Cayo district, San Ignacio is 90 minutes from Belize City. Close to the Guatemala border, it’s usually a stopover for travelers heading to Tikal.
However, there are many Mayan ruins and jungle adventures in San Ignacio and it is worth exploring for a few days. Accommodations vary from cheap hostels to tree house cabanas to high-end resorts. Activity-wise, the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Caracol and Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave are popular.
Even further away from Belize City (3.5 hours) is the former fishing village of Placencia. It is home to a number of beachfront hotels, cabanas, and restaurants as well as the narrowest street in the world.
It is a great base for travelers wishing to do snorkeling or scuba diving day trips or head into the mountainous jungles close to San Ignacio while spending the night closer to the beach.
Must Do in Belize
There is no shortage of Mayan archeological sites; most are located inland in the Cayo District. The most historically significant is Caracol, a site that was once the center of one of the largest Maya kingdoms.
The most popular site is Xunantunich, meaning “Stone Woman” – a reference to a ghost believed to inhabit the site. In Belize, it’s legal for visitors to climb all over the ruins, something you can’t do in the surrounding countries.
Caving is another reason why many adventure travelers flock to Belize. Whether you’re an experienced caver or beginner, there’s a tour for you! One of the most popular caving tours is Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave.
This intense adventure involves swimming, crawling, scampering, and climbing for nearly four hours in an underground cave. At the end of the cave, you can see where Mayan shamans allegedly conducted rituals. Believe it or not, this tour is perfectly fine for inexperienced cavers, as long as they are in good physical condition.
You might already know about the Great Blue Hole, a widely photographed large submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. There are many tours that allow you to dive or fly over the hole.
But did you know that Belize boasts the world’s second-largest great barrier reef?!From any of the Cayes or Placencia, you can take a trip out to snorkel or scuba dive, and there is also a special tour to Shark Ray Alley that lets you swim with rays and sharks!
Must Eat in Belize
The culture in Belize is very diverse and so is the food! Coastal towns have more Kriol influence in their foods and serve lots of fresh seafood. Try the lobster and if you’re adventurous, the conch and barracuda as well.
Inland, Belizean food is more Hispanic, serving staples like rice and beans with cochinita pibil (slow roasted pork) and empanadas. If you’d like to try something new, try the gibnut (a large rodent), cow foot soup, or bamboo chicken (which is actually iguana!)
Cultural Tips for Traveling in Belize
Belize is one of the only countries in Central America where English is widely spoken and U.S. dollars are openly accepted, making it an ideal destination for American tourists.
That being said, there is also quite a bit of Spanish spoken throughout the country, especially as you head further inland. Most Belizeans are very friendly and will greet you with a smile. The country is also fairly safe, but I’d avoid Belize City.
Travel on the Cheap in Belize
Belize can be a relatively expensive country to visit, especially when compared to nearby Guatemala. You can save money by staying in budget hostels and buying your food at the farmers’ markets. Taxis can get expensive.
It’s much cheaper to take the public bus, but it will take you longer to reach your destination. One the best ways to save money is to visit during Summer – the slow season.
Like most places, Airbnb is usually cheaper than a hotel and a lot more authentic! Here’s a treehouse for $75 a night or a private, seaside room for $35. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!
Thanks so much for sharing, Suzi! I’m sure lots of you have been to Belize – what would you add to this list?
Photos: wikipedia // Glen Murphy // Eric Pheterson // Larnie Fox // Drriss and Marrionn // Ian Morton
Looking for a travel guide to America’s Deep South – home to impeccable manners, charming accents, fried chicken, and peach pie? As a third-generation Minnesotan I know NOTHING about life south of the Mason-Dixon line, so I brought in a local to share her best Southern travel tips with us!
Howdy ya’ll! I’m Lauren and I grew up in a small town in South Carolina that had a post office, a church and a rodeo. I lived in and traveled around the Deep South for 25 years until I moved to Seoul, South Korea and everyday I miss those southern drawls and starry skies. But don’t worry, I’ve found a way to make sweet tea here.
I grew up playing in creeks, attending the rodeo and church regularly and sitting on big porches in rocking chairs. It truly is a beautiful way of life in the south and I hope you can experience it one day.
MUST GO IN AMERICA’S DEEP SOUTH
Charleston, South Carolina is truly the gem of the south; if you only have one chance to visit the south, Charleston has it all the southern charm you need. Charleston boasts southern hospitality with that charming southern drawl and it is one of our most beautiful and historic cities.
Spend the day with the locals on Folly Beach and indulge in a rich array of local foods and markets along Rainbow Row. Right down the road, boasting similar qualities but shaded by Live Oak Trees laden with Spanish moss is Savannah, Georgia. And for the wide-open beach bums who want water sports and/or no city distractions see the expansive Outer Banks.
New Orleans, Louisiana is a must to see the French Quarter, eat Beignets and stroll down Bourbon Street. Nashville, Tennessee is the home of country music where you can rub shoulders with stars on any street corner.
Athens, Georgia is home to the beautiful, historic UGA campus and where REM and the B52s both got their start. Athens’ historic downtown boasts of 95 bars within 3 small blocks with more local art, music, food, breweries and shopping than any other small town.
For a mix of the city life but to still enjoy the mountain retreat scene spend some time in Chattanooga or Gatlinburg. For the ultimate mountain retreat experience where you can stay in a log cabin, wear plaid, chop your wood and buy local handmade crafts look for small towns in the Smoky Mountains or along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Make sure to check these smaller towns festival and fair schedules as they have the best events, like the Green Bean Festival or The Possum Drop! Regardless if you stay or not, these places have the best scenic mountain drives around, so be sure to take the long way and stop at as many overlooks and jam stands as you can.
MUST DO IN THE SOUTH
Carnivals and Fairs
A classic southern summer and fall activity are carnivals and fairs. Go ride the ferris wheel and eat a funnel cake. Likely they will also have a country singer doing a live concert at these events and that is something you don’t want to miss! Put on your cowboy boots and cowboy hat and hit the open field for an evening of dancing and live entertainment under a blanket of a thousand stars.
Speaking of dancing, try to catch a lesson in line dancing or shag dancing if you can. Make sure you get outside to ride ATVs, go mud slinging and if you’re near a swamp take an airboat out to see the alligators.
And for all the fans of adrenaline and fast cars, make sure you catch a Nascar Race or a monster truck show. Most southern of all: attend a rodeo! For those looking for a more quintessential and quiet experience do a farm stay where you can milk a cow, collect eggs, till the land and ride a horse.
MUST EAT IN THE SOUTH
The south is famous for its ability to deep-fry anything and then add butter, salt and sugar. While it may not be the healthiest region of the land, it very well could be the tastiest. A southern staple with any meal, at any time of the day is a cold glass of sweet tea.
You should also try Cheerwine, Cherry Lemon Sundrop and for an adult beverage try Firefly vodka or go to a moonshine tasting.
For breakfast eat biscuits and gravy or shrimp and grits. For the rest of your meals you have a lot of great options, most will include a fried dish or two.
Deep pit barbecue
Famous southern meals are Chicken-n-Dumplins and Deep Pit BBQ. You will also want to find good places that serve Soul Food and Creole Food. And don’t forget to eat your veggies: fried okra or squash and collard greens.
CULTURAL TIPS FOR TRAVELING IN THE SOUTH
Southerners are known for their hospitality. When you are out in public everyone will speak to you, wave to you and will lend a helping hand. So be sure to return the favor.
Hold open the door, especially for a lady, say excuse me, don’t push past someone, be a gentleman and be patient. These manners and common courtesies are highly valued in southern towns and will make it much easier for you to make friends and get assistance when needed.
Most importantly, learn your ma’ams and sirs. Respect when addressing someone, especially your elder is the key to winning a southerners heart. Answering questions with a ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘no sir’ will truly make your interactions much more pleasant and successful.
Know that directions can tend to be more ‘loose’ and landmark based. Hearing someone say ‘just go round yonder and turn by the Wal-Mart’ is likely. So be sure to ask for clarification or bring a GPS as dirt roads lined with cornfields can go on for miles and miles with no signs or gas stations.
It gets hot, sticky and itchy in the south. During summer months (April-October) it gets very hot and humid and the bugs come out to bite. So dress accordingly, bring sunscreen and bug spray.
The south is wonderful and hospitable and people will want you to stay and sit and chat, but one area they struggle with is being multi-lingual. The main second language spoken in the south, in general, is Spanish but on a very basic level. So have a good translator app and be prepared with your patience if English isn’t your first or best language.
We respect God and Country and by ‘Country’ we mean the south because those city folk from up north just don’t get understand us sometimes. And on Sundays most everything will shut down so you can attend church. Alcohol won’t likely be sold and everyone will drive nice and slow…
And last, a word of warning: when someone says ‘bless his heart’ know that it doesn’t always carry the kindest connotation…
cheap travel tips for THE SOUTH
The southern states are very expansive and farmlands cover a great deal of the area. Therefore traveling around can be tricky, even in major cities. Southerners are car people. Everyone owns a car because public transportation is almost non-existent.
The best thing you can do on a trip to the south, especially if you are going to be traveling to multiple places is to rent a car. This will also allow you to see some of the South’s greatest natural beauties that you can’t get to on any bus routes.
Speaking of natural beauty, the south is very proud of their land and much of it is reserved as some type of government-protected parks. A great way to see these hidden gems and to have very cheap lodging is to camp. It is very fun pastime for southerners and you will likely make some new friends around the campfire.
Airbnb is likely cheaper than a hotel and a much better way to experience Southern hospitality. Here’s a two-bedroom house in Savannah for $50 a night and here’s a creek-side log cabin in Boone for $60 a night. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Hostels are non-existent. Food is very moderately to cheaply priced compared to the northern states and so is gas.
I hope I’ve given you a tiny glimpse into how diverse and welcoming the Deep South is. If you have any questions please ask in the comments and I’ll be around to answer.
Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren! I’m sure we have plenty of Southern readers – what would you guys add to this list?
photo credits: sonja lovas // john hoey // roger blake // ross catrow // faungg’s photos // aj hill – blacklight propeganda
Hi! I’m Margo, a Virginian currently calling Germany home. Since moving here in 2013, my husband, schnoodle (that’d be a schnauzer + poodle) and I have been traveling around Europe nearly nonstop.
There’s so much to see! One of our favorite destinations to explore is not far from our front door: Bavaria! Home of BMW (Bavarian Motor Works), Oktoberfest, and Bayern Munchen (the Yankees of European soccer clubs), the German state of Bavaria attracts visitors worldwide who come to enjoy it’s culture, food and stunning scenery.
Must Go in Bavaria and Northern Austria
The vibrant capital of Bavaria, Munich (or Munchen) is considered to be one of Europe’s most livable cities. In the city center, visitors find countless pedestrian zones engulfed in cross-timbered architecture, and littered with historic watering holes, like the Hofbrauhaus.
Apart from touring the famous Residenz Palace, be sure to check out the surfers in the English Gardens and grab a beer from one of its many beer gardens.
Must Do in Bavaria and Northern Austria
Party at Oktoberfest
Hike in the Alps
Tour the Christmas Markets
Must Eat in Bavaria and Northern Austria
This white sausage is eaten without it’s skin (ask a local for instructions on the skinning process!) and served with a generous heap of mustard and a classic German pretzel. You’ll find lots of wursts for sale, but in my opinion this one takes the cake!
Cultural Tips for travel in Bavaria and Northern Austria
Bavarians pride themselves on their traditional dress; for many, dirndls (for ladies) and lederhosen (for men) are indeed everyday apparel. If you’re joining in the fun of Oktoberfest, dress accordingly or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb! (Not to mention, it’s more fun that way!) If you’re touring the countryside don’t be surprised by the leather suspenders and checkered fabrics.
Disposable containers are not commonplace in Germany. With that, expect to pay a nominal pfand (1-2 euro) for glasses at festivals and outdoor venues. Don’t worry, when you’re ready to leave just return your glass for a full refund.
When cheers-ing your new German friends say “Prost” and be sure to make eye contact! Not making eye contact is considered rude.
Cheap travel tips for Bavaria and Northern Austria
Hotel rooms in Europe are not typically large enough to accommodate four adults, quickly ramping up lodging costs for travelers. Opt for low cost choices like Airbnb or FlipKey for short term apartment rentals, many require just a 2-night stay.
Must go in Australia’s Northern Territory
Must eat in Australia’s Northern Territory
Crocodile and kangaroo meat is promoted heavily to the tourist market, but often sold in a fast-food format (crocodile burgers, for example). At the end of the day it looks and tastes similar to other types of meat, and won’t appeal to vegetarians.
A more interesting oral adventure can be had sampling bush tucker – traditional foods gathered by indigenous Australians, using knowledge passed down from the elders. Many resorts and parks offer guided bush tucker tours, like this one in Katherine.
Must do in Australia’s Northern Territory
Cultural Tips for Traveling in Australia’s Northern Territory
Respect indigenous culture
Avoid climbing Uluru
Watch the wildlife
Care should be taken especially when driving at night. If you do hit a mammal and it is safe to do so, check the pouch for young and transport the animal to the closest veterinarian. Do not handle bats as these can carry Lyssavirus (this causes a rabies-like virus).