The Best Comments Of The Month: March 2010

March 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Discussion

two girls whisperingThere were some excellent tips in the comments this past month and these are a few of the best comments from March. If you’ve never left a comment before, why don’t you give it a try and say hello and where you are at the moment? Don’t be shy – I’d love to hear from you.

  • Ian E O dishes out a lot of good advice on choosing the right backpack, adding that what you need for a week is all you need for a long trip.
  • The Jetpacker points out that included in a free visit to the Reichstag is a free audio guide that points out landmarks and takes you through the history of the iconic building.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment this month, there are always so many great comments it’s hard to select just a few each month. If you’ve never left a comment before, here’s an easy way to start – simply say hi and where you are right now to get the conversation rolling and we’ll all jump in too.

[photo by: cortto]

Traveler’s Delight In The Heart Of The Marrakesh Medina, Riad Ghallia

March 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Lodging, Travel

The Riad Ghallia is a guest house located in the heart of the old city, or medina of Marrakesh. Its location in the medina, affordable prices, and knowledgeable owner make it an interesting place to stay, as opposed to the newer hotels outside of the medina walls. Finding budget accommodations in Marrakesh isn’t always easy – there aren’t too many hostels around – and the ones that are there vary quite a bit in terms of service and location.

The 5-room Riad Ghallia is a charming guest house and while not the cheapest of accommodations (rooms begin at $25 a night), gives you a nice look at life inside the medina walls. It was a pleasant surprise to stay there on my recent trip to Marrakesh and the Riad Ghallia combines luxury and simplicity quite elegantly.

The Experience

riad ghallia room decorationThe Riad Ghallia is a 15 minute walk from the main square in Marrakesh’s old city – that is, if you know where you’re going. Whether you’re taking a taxi there (which drops you off at the nearby Mokhef market) or attempting to find it for the first time from the square you’ll endure a journey to find it. It can be daunting at first, especially as you are approached by numerous children offering you misleading directions. It’s one of the 4 scams of Marrakesh but after a day or two you end up finding your way through the medina maze and taking little notice of the young hustlers.

The area around the Riad Ghallia is safe and it’s a place that gives you access to the back neighborhoods at night. These are parts of the town that most tourists don’t see after 9pm; children playing soccer, local barbecue grills, people sneaking shots of liqueur in a country where alcohol is taboo for most Moroccans. The atmosphere is a bit more relaxed as everyone doesn’t seem on guard for tourists and you can catch a glimpse of life when you’re not the main focus of it.

Inside The Riad

riad ghallia windowOnce you enter the Riad Ghallia, the sounds and action of the busy streets are mostly shut out. The noises of the alleys fade into the background, even when you’re sitting in the common area. Here, during breakfast around 9am and after dark, is where you’re most likely to bump into other travelers. They range from families, to budget backpackers, to older couples out exploring the world. There’s a large terrace on the roof where the owner Thierry is thinking of putting a hookah for his guests.

Each room is designed uniquely and a lot of care has been taken to ensure everyone who stays at the Riad Ghallia is comfortable and has a good time during their stay. It’s cozy and relaxing which is a nice change of pace after a long day out in the hectic medina.

Breakfast With Thierry

The best part about the Riad Ghallia is its owner, Thierry. Having fallen in love with Morocco 5 years ago he opened the Riad and is a wealth of knowledge about the city and Morocco in general. You can pick his brain about everything from trips to Essaouira to the best hamams during breakfast, where on most days he chats and visits with guests. He knows the city because he goes out of his way to try out each cafe, restaurant, and tour – all of which change constantly.

Travelers looking for a quiet place to stay (with a good complimentary breakfast and wi-fi) in the beating heart of the old city should consider the Riad Ghallia. You can see some more of my pictures in my Riad Ghallia album.

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2010: Championship

March 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Contests, Polls

It’s been a fun ride over the past 5 weeks, from the preliminary round through the Elite 8 to last week’s Final Four being decided in the closing minutes of voting. Paris had been rolling over the competition and was back and forth with Istanbul before eventually losing despite putting up a great fight. Now Istanbul and the quiet underdog Zermatt meet in the Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2010 Championship. You can decide who wins the best city title this year and the $100 prize by voting now below. The poll is open until this Friday, April 2nd 12pm US EST.

best city to visit

best city 2010 final

You can take a look at the entire bracket so far below (or see the larger version).

The winner will be determined on Friday, April 2nd 2010. Missed this contest? I run a number of large and small contests throughout the year. Take a look at some previous competitions and prizes and find out about my next contest first by signing up to my bi-monthly newsletter.

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[top photo by: urlba]

7 Things You Can Really Do Without To Save Money While Traveling

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Money

There are the practical ways to save money when traveling, like looking for a cheap hostel, using hostel alternatives, and figuring out the best places to travel on a weak dollar. Then there are other ways to skimp and save that don’t sound as fun but will save you things in addition to quite a bit of money. There are some things you can really do without, or at least do without when your budget gets tight.

1. Lunch

One of the most important things to look for in a hostel or hotel is a good breakfast so you can load up before you head out for the day. It’s easier to forget about a full lunch when you’re out exploring and on a full stomach. Cutting out this meal in addition to a simple hotel room workout are good ways to keep in shape and avoid gaining a little extra cargo too.

german breakfast

2. Luggage

You can make do without checking in any baggage – at least most people can. I can’t speak for family travelers but even on the longest trips most people can stick to a single carry on by packing like a stripper. You never need as much as you think you do.

baggage claim

3. Alcohol

Alcohol in many parts of the world is taxed quite heavily and you pay a premium for it. You also don’t need alcohol to survive and while it’s nice to drink, a big waste of money on a very tight budget (same goes for cigarettes). If you simply can’t resist some booze, consider getting a bottle of vodka when you pass through the duty free shop – there are 4 other things you can do with vodka other than getting drunk as well.

duty free alcohol

4. iPhone

Or at least turn off roaming (Hole In The Donut has a good tutorial on setting up your iPhone for international travel). Technology is great but roaming charges aren’t and a iPod touch or laptop can replace your iPhone for most purposes. Besides, there are many advantages to traveling without an iPhone.


5. Debt

Using debt is the opposite of saving – it’s spending money you don’t have to get something now. Many travelers use debt to shortcut the waiting process that is saving, but like a sculptor you can hack away the inessential and travel around the world by expanding your budget in two directions.

cut up credit card

6. A Real Place To Sleep

Airports are free places to sleep and if you’re on a long trip around the world, you can save quite a bit of money by planning 1 night over at an airport after each major stop. Assuming the average hostel night will cost you $26, doing this once a month and planning your flights accordingly can save you a bit for a nice luxury stay along the way.

sleeping in airport

7. A Fancy Camera

You don’t need an SLR to take good travel photos and with some minor changes in focus, it’s easy to improve your travel photos. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these travel pictures taken with a cell phone camera.

slr gear

You can also make your money work for you by signing up for mileage and reward programs (Chris Guillbeau’s Frequent Flyer Master comes highly recommended), use corporate discounts (no matter who you work for), and try some unconventional ways to earn a bit more.

[photos by: by_amil, kozumel, sunface13, Christopher Chan, RogueSun Media, pallotron, Claudio Matsuoka]