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The Differences Between Traveling In India And Pakistan

It’s hard not to think about one when thinking about the other and having traveled to both India and Pakistan earlier this year, drawing comparisons was impossible. Both countries are very similar but clearly distinct in ways that may surprise you, all in the video above.

What was unsurprising though is the controversy that video created but the controversial aspects weren’t expected. You can listen to the behind the scenes of creating my India vs. Pakistan video in a recent episode of the foXnoMad Podcast below.

Controversies and comments have been across a wide spectrum of thoughtful, aggressive, and generally ridiculous. In the video below I address some of the best and worst of the messages I received.

There are some general observations I made though in the differences between traveling in India versus Pakistan and vice versa.

  • Crowds – Until you’ve been to India, it’s hard to comprehend what a population well over a billion means. In contrast, Pakistan feels much less crowded which makes sense, it’s population (220 million) is 16% that of India.
  • Tourists – India sees many more tourists per year, fostering a well-developed tourism industry. Pakistan on the other hand is still up and coming – so there are fewer tour and other organized options.
  • Food – Similar in spices with just as much regional variation across both but with meat, especially red meat, making up a big part of Pakistani cuisine. India has a much wider variety of vegetarian options.
  • Accommodation – There’s more stratification in Pakistan, particularly for mid-tier budgets. India tends to have hotels that go much wider – ultra-budget and very high-end without as many middle-tier options.

None of this is to say one country is better than the other, a generalization so general it has no meaning. Travel styles and interests play a big part into whether India or Pakistan might appeal more to you. In both Pakistan and India however, you’ll find friendly people, amazing food, beautiful nature, and plenty of adventure to be had.

How To Stay In Shape Mentally And Physically During Lockdown

edinburgh window

Maintaining an exercise routine can be difficult during normal times and you may have noticed any workout momentum you did have waning as quarantine goes on. I recently spoke with RT Training & Performance Center gym owner and trainer Christos Monastiriotis about how to keep your body and mind engaged during quarantine on the latest episode of the foXnoMad Podcast.

In many ways working out while you’re limited to home is a lot like staying in shape when traveling. You need both motivation and creativity to keep up with good hotel room workouts so most of Christos’ advice is applicable to frequent travelers. From nutrition to online personal training (offered at RT Training & Performance Center) plus the often neglected mental component, it’s an enlightening conversation you can listen to right here.

The Best Travel Memes On The Internet

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2019.

Did I say these travel memes are the best on the Internet? Yes. Did I also create all of these memes? Yes. I may be a bit biased but you can let me know in the comments below. If any of these memes are you, feel free to share and tag me (#foxnomad) too!

drinking beer in airport

hotel lamp usb

water at airport meme

travel advice meme

farting on planes meme

wifi wifox meme

baggage fees meme

travel meme

pug meme

travel memes

airbnb meme

thailand meme

trip meme

hotel meme

airline fees meme

airport meme

economy meme

layover meme

economy meme

traveling meme

Enjoy and don’t forget to tag @foxnomad on Instagram if you share!

Do You Still Need A Point And Shoot Camera When Traveling?

We’ve all got a smartphone in our pocket or hand right now that probably has a camera with a higher resolution on paper than many point and shoots on the market. Software on phones like the Pixel 3 have pushed the boundaries of what small lenses are capable of, so you might be asking yourself if it’s worth bringing a dedicated camera on your next trip at all?

You can see the answer to that question in the video above or read on.

Shrinking Markets

Recently, while doing a Road Tested! on the 4 year old Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45 to see how well it’s held up, I realized the question became less about the camera and more about the technology itself. There are some clear advantages to traveling with only a phone and what they can’t do, bulkier DSLRs do better than point and shoots, similar prices. Small markets generally mean a more specific target market, here’s whether or not that’s you.

shot on pixel 2 andando tours

First, let’s start off with the current phone you’re using. For this article, I’m generally talking about flagship phones that are 1-2 years old at most. The iPhone X, 8, Samsung Galaxy 9, Google Pixel 2 and above – that class of phone. Older phones might be adequate but they don’t do a good job of bridging few large gaps with point and shoots listed below.

Wide Zoom

Because of the limited size of smartphones, manufacturers have had to come up with creative ways at implementing a zoom lens. Some use a two-camera setup (one for wide, the other telephoto) but in general, optical zoom on smartphones is limited. (Digital zoom – a software trick – isn’t very good, although the Huawei Honor View 20 I saw at CES was promising.)

panasonic lumix g7 g85

Obviously cameras with interchangeable lenses like the Panasonic Lumix G85 give you a lot of angle options but if you don’t want to carry the bulk, the ZS70K is a pocket-sized camera with a massive range. And not just zoom range but the often neglected wide-angle.

For travel photos, wide angles are generally more useful. Often, you can get closer to stuff but if there’s a ledge, crowd, or some other obstacle behind you, the wider the angle, the fewer steps backward you need to get one of the world’s largest buildings into view.

Some Considerations Being Eliminated

A few years ago the low-light performance of most smartphones was one of the big selling points for getting a dedicated camera (with its bigger lens). On Google phones at least, that’s not a problem anymore. See below:

Apple and other manufacturers will eventually copy catch up on this incredible software-enabled feature; not only keeping up with point and shoots but leaping well ahead of them.

Niche Functions

Still photos, portraits, action shots, and video are all equally on par with most point and shoot cameras. In many ways point and shoots can outperform a smartphone, but it’s probably not worth the weight or an additional $500. There are some exceptions though; like if you want a microphone jack to record high-quality audio (not impossible with phones either), use HDMI for output, or spare your phone’s battery life.

Additionally a point and shoot can also give you another angle to shoot from (i.e. multiple cameras), tend to sit up better without having to lean on stuff, and aren’t as tragic of a loss or theft than your precious smartphone. Ultimately, good point and shoot cameras worth buying are in the $500 range, bumping right up to cameras like the mirrorless G7. At those prices, unless physical size is extremely important for you, a slightly bulkier camera with lens options might be best, otherwise a new smartphone is likely all you’ll need to carry.

This is an updated version of a post originally written in 2017, a lot has changed in cameras since then.

I Traveled With A Beard And It Was (Very) Different

bearded emoji

A few weeks ago, I let you know I was taking some time off. A week before that I stopped shaving. Combined with traveling across land borders and through airports, I was unaware the bearded experience was writing this blog post.

I’m even not sure if the differences in my travel experience was because of Growing the Beard. Yet after years of traveling all the time, the weeks with my Riker beard seemed to correspond with a lot things that hadn’t happened before. Other things that were rare became very frequent.

This isn’t a rant. I simply found the contrast interesting and certainly surprising.

Setting A Baseline

The configuration of my facial hair is highly variable but I occasionally clean up before flying. I was traveling in a part of the world I thought I blend in, have traveled before, so I figured border crossings would follow a normal distribution of events. Car searches have been rare but occur. Bearded me was one for one. Bearded me then became two for two. Plus got pulled over immediately after and questioned a bit, after my documents were inspected again. More traveling and bearded me was then three for three, and so on.

riker beard

I’ll add again: I’m not complaining, security is often opaque, so it’s entirely possible a certain type of car is being profiled or inspections are increased for any number of reasons.

At the airports as well, documents checked, before entering the airport. Not everyone, just me. Same thing with metros as well in various cities and countries.

A Few Minutes More

All of the security personnel were nice enough and the most these checks did was add some minutes to the streamlined travel routine I have. So much so that I began to add extra time into the routine. To be even more efficient, I unconsciously kept my travel documents much more readily accessible, whereas after the usual security checks I normally bury them somewhere in my backpack.

Security In Security

There’s something about being questioned when traveling that makes you feel safer. “I’m glad I’m being checked.” And I am. You can let your mind drift from there into why am I being checked, something entirely different. Like I mentioned above, that’s not the point of this post. Only that it was fascinating – there’s a lot of random checks I’m leaving out – and now I’m very curious how things will change after I shave later today before I catch my next flight.

Journalist Richard McColl Talks About Colombia’s Forgotten City, Mompos

Richard McColl is a freelance journalist and author based in Bogota, Colombia. He is currently pursuing a PhD and also runs a small hotel, La Casa Amarilla, in colonial Mompos. His podcasts “Colombia Calling” can be downloaded on iTunes and Stitcher. After my recent trip to Colombia I was able to catch up with Richard who talks about Mompos, opening a hotel, and how tourism in the country has changed over the past 10 years.

richard mccoll

Richard, how did you end up in Colombia?

It seems like a long time ago that I decided to move to Colombia! I moved here full time in 2007 after almost 6 years of freelance writing, guiding and organizing social projects all over Latin America. I had come here to Colombia on a few occasions before, once with the environmental NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to report on the state of the communities on the Pacific Coast and write about the mangroves. It was quite the adventure at a time when this region of Colombia truly was off-limits and I guess I was left with a real feeling of affection towards the people. Something about Colombia always kept drawing me back here and finally after working and traveling in every country in the region, I decided to go about getting my journalist visa and make my move here permanent.

What changes have you noticed in the time you’ve been in Colombia?

Colombia has most definitely changed since I moved here in 2007. There has been a huge increase in tourism. Back in the day, if you saw another foreigner in the street you would stop to chat with them so infrequent was this occurrence, now, you cannot swing a cat without seeing or hearing another gringo in some parts of town! Of course this is a direct result of increased and improved security in many regions of the country… and of course perceived improvements in security. Colombia was an unknown destination for obvious and justifiable reasons, now it seems to be a fashionable destination.

La Casa Amarilla mompos

What type of traveler would Mompos interest most?

Mompos is not for everyone, I’ll be the first to admit this. It is an adventure because it still represents an older and more forgotten Colombia where a colonial town – which still belongs to the locals unlike a city such as Cartagena – maintains its authenticity and atmosphere. If you are interested in architecture, history and nature  – as we are located in the middle of a huge wetland filled with bird-life – then this is the place for you. This is not a destination which will overwhelm you with activities to tick off on a list but if you want to soak up an original feeling, wander through an open-air museum, perhaps shop for locally made jewelry and enjoy somewhere where you feel as if you are the only tourist and a pioneer, then Mompos should be on your list.

Many tourists don’t seem to know about Mompos, why do you think that is?

Mompos doesn’t appeal to everyone nor is it part of the “first wave” of destinations to visit in Colombia. As it is quite far away – which is an attraction for some travelers – can be off-putting. It is still very much a pueblo in that it’s a small town and the tourist infrastructure is in its infancy really. Mompos is not ready for a huge wave of tourism either, it needs to come in measured fashion so as to protect what is here and provide an economic stimulus for the town without being damaging.

la casa amarilla mompos colombia

What are some of the easiest ways to get to Mompos from Bogota and Medellin?

The best way in my opinion is to fly from Bogota or Medellin to the airport of Corozal. From here you can catch a car to Magangue and cross the river to Mompos from there.

Many travelers are often heard saying they want to open a hostel/hotel but few actually do. How did La Casa Amarilla go from idea to reality?

Yes, moving from the chatter about opening an establishment to actually doing so is a big step. In my experience, I actually just bought a wreck of a colonial house before having the idea of opening a hostel. I just wanted to restore a house. It then became evident that in order to do so and to maintain the house the building needed to generate an income since the upkeep of a colonial house in the tropics is expensive. Now, we are no longer a hostel but a very good mid-range hotel with only 10 rooms and catering to people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Also, in Mompos I had to go about changing the idea that people had here of what an international tourist really wanted, there was no real understanding of the market…it has been a long but rewarding process.

How would you recommend someone plan a trip around Colombia, including Mompos on the itinerary?

Colombia is blessed with so much to see and this can also be her downfall. So, it kind of depends on how much time you have and what you want to get out of your trip. If you only have a week or two then my recommendation is to focus on some small areas and to fly in between cities to save time. If you have longer then you have more options open to you.

As there are now direct flights from the U.S. to Cartagena and Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast, the options for discovering some of the north coast are quite ample. You could go to Cartagena for its sophistication, Mompos for forgotten Colombia, up to Santa Marta and Tayrona Park for beaches, beyond into Minca for nature and then circle back to Cartagena for your flight.

Or if you want to head first to Bogota and then go North, then why not follow a colonial route of Colombia. You could go from Bogota to Villa de Leyva, to San Gil and Barichara, on to Mompos and then to Cartagena. This way you cover half of the country. Of course, don’t write off Southern Colombia either. Bogota, San Agustin, the Coffee Zone, Popayan and Cali are well worthwhile too!

Thank you very much Richard for taking the time to share your knowledge about Mompos and traveling in Colombia. You can hear more about what Richard’s advice from all around Colombia on his podcast “Colombia Calling” which you can find on iTunes and Stitcher.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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