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Everything You Need To Know About Traveling To Baghdad

Although it might not seem like it, Baghdad, Iraq is a blossoming tourist destination welcoming casual groups interested in history, art, and a city that’s been off limits until recently. Adventurers are also making their way to this exciting new destination in the Middle East but you don’t have to be one to visit Baghdad, a remarkably modern and welcoming city.

Logistics And Accommodation

Flying into Baghdad is straightforward and there are direct flights from several destinations, including Istanbul. Iraq recently implemented an online e-visa program for a number of countries, removing some of the logistical barriers that once existed. Hotels are plentiful though they tend to range from dirt cheap or semi-luxurious, without many options – or prices – in between.

Getting to Baghdad is mostly normal. Flights land as they would anywhere else but upon arrival you’ll want to have your hotel pickup, Baghdad tour company, or other transportation arranged in advance. Unauthorized cars are not allowed up to the terminals at Baghdad International Airport for security reasons (more on that in a bit) so you won’t be able to just grab a cab once you step outside.

Security

Baghdad is a city that has been experiencing recent periods of normality in between waves of local instability, including recent clashes and curfews. It’s best to have local contacts (e.g. guides) who can advise you of the situation on the ground during such waves. Otherwise, as locals will tell you, traveling to Baghdad isn’t dangerous but it is risk(ier) than many other places. Occasionally there are random attacks, mainly on the outskirts of town and they rarely target foreigners. Everyone has a different risk tolerance but when you’re in Baghdad, a bustling, vibrant city of over 7 million, it doesn’t feel much unlike most other developed capital cities.

Baghdadis are by and large friendly, welcoming, and aside from the ruthless traffic, getting around town by car or on foot isn’t extraordinary.

Why You Should Visit

Baghdad is a modern city with its Starbucks, hip restaurants, and a young and open-minded population who will be deciding what they want their country to be. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, there’s history (Babylon anyone?), cultural events in public squares, and some of the best cuisine you’ll find not just in Iraq, but anywhere.

Perhaps the untold story of Baghdad is that its not only a crossroads of time and peoples, but with that comes the unique mix of foods you can find here. Dishes with a range of fresh ingredients you might not have expected from Iraq but remember, you’re in the heart of the Fertile Crescent. There’s masgouf, traditional carp that’s farmed in the nearby marshes or absolutely one of the best falafels in the world (and a nice vegetarian option).

You’ll be welcomed in Baghdad as a guest – the locals will make sure of that – and you’ll be getting a peak into the fragile state of tourism here. It may be the beginning or a temporary end. Only time will tell so if you’ve been considering a trip to Iraq’s capital, now may be the time.

The Best Places To Eat On Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker (pronounced “key”) is a small island off the coast of Belize known for it’s go slow motto, backpacker appeal, and sea activities. Although the large Ambergris Caye not too far away is known for its larger towns and restaurants, Caye Caulker is surprisingly diverse in local Belizean cuisine with enviable prices.

These are the 6 best places to eat in Caye Caulker, Belize.

1. Chef Juan’s Kitchen

There are local Belizean favorites from all meals of the day starting with fry jacks in the morning, fresh ceviches for lunch, and catch of the day fish at night. Only just a sampling of the excellent food cooked from the small kitchen with large portions, good prices, and a smile from Chef Juan.

2. Wish Willy

wish willy caye caulker

An outdoor barbecue that opens as the sun sets, the backyard atmosphere is laid back and welcoming. The long benches make for a social environment and the food is what happens to be fresh that day. All served in person with beers waiting for you in the cooler near the kitchen. Wish Will is not only a meal but a Caye Caulker experience.

3. Namaste

namaste caye caulker

Hipsters rejoice, Namaste is a breakfast to lunch cafe with lots of fresh fruits, omelettes, coffee, and even a yoga studio upstairs. It’s popular with tourists and gets crowded around 9am but the food is consistently tasty, well prepared, and the open space makes for a relaxing environment.

4. Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen

The lobster, when in season, is Maggie’s most popular dish. Once the grill gets going and the sun starts setting, Maggie’s, a family run restaurant, turns amber orange as the food is set on the table.

5. Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks

caye caulker errolyn's house of fry jacks

Open at 6am to about 11 in the morning, Errolyn’s serves up Caye Caulker’s traditional breakfast of fry jacks. Dough stuffed with some combination of mashed beans, ham, cheese, and eggs, then fried crispy, Errolyn’s is the best place on the island to try fry jacks.

6. Rainbow Bar And Grill

caye caulker rainbow bar and grill

A bit expensive but a good variety of foods both local and standard American (hamburgers anyone), Rainbow Bar and Grill is open throughout the day with a nice view overlooking the ferry boats coming in from Belize City.

Selection On A Small Island

As tiny as Caye Caulker is, there is a lot of good food to choose from. Street barbecue, sandwiches, vegan and vegetarian dishes to nice seaside restaurants, there’s a little of something for everyone along this 2 kilometer stretch of paradise in the Caribbean.

How To Plan A Day Trip To Seward, Alaska

You may not have heard of Seward, Alaska until you’ve been or are planning to visit Anchorage. Located about a 2 and a half hour drive south from Alaska’s most populous city, Seward is a town of about 2,100 residents living on the Gulf of Alaska fjord. It’s an excellent hopping off spot to see wildlife, eat at local restaurants, and start an entire Alaska adventure.

Here’s how to plan your day trip to Seward.

Getting To Seward

There are several ways to get to Seward from Anchorage.

  • Car: This is the most flexible way to get to Seward although not the least expensive if you’re renting a vehicle. The road to Seward is mostly flat and relatively straight, just beware of wildlife and keep your eyes on the road. (Moose are common.) The benefit of driving is you can stop at one of several scenic pull-offs like Beluga Point.

  • Train: The Coastal Classic Train moves across some of the most beautiful scenery in southern Alaska. The train runs from early May to mid-September and takes about 4 hours. Most of the boat tour operators are in sync with the train schedule and depart and arrive with train travelers in mind. A dining car is available and prices for a one-way trip run a little over $200.
  • Bus: Following roughly the same seasonal schedule as the trains, a 3 hour bus ride is about $70 one way on Seward Bus Lines. Times vary and some routes are specifically designed for sightseeing. The bus good alternative to the train if you’re traveling in a larger group.

Planning A Day In Seward

One of the most popular things to do in Seward is to take a boat tour of Resurrection Bay and out further to see nearby glaciers. I’d recommend Major Marine Tours (you can see why in the video above) which offer a variety of half and full day wildlife excursions. If time isn’t an issue, the full day tour gives you a much better chance of seeing larger marine life like orcas and other whales, plus takes you out to several local glaciers. All of these glaciers are receding so you may be taking a look at an endangered piece of history.

major marine tours

  • Full Day Tours: Range from 6 to 8.5 hours and cost $180-$250 and go into Kenai Fjords National Park. Meals are included as are assigned seats but you’re free (and encouraged) to roam around the boat, especially when wildlife is pointed out.
  • Half Day Tours: Roughly 4 hours, these tours are usually specifically designed to catch certain types of wildlife sightings, particularly killer whales. Very seasonal (May and June are the best times) half day tours are ideal for those looking to maximize a day around Seward. Cost is roughly $100.

Keep in mind to coordinate your transportation times with any boat tours. There’s plenty of parking available for cars; otherwise check with the bus or train company to see if the ride you’re booking aligns with a particular boat tour.

Where To Eat In Seward

Seasonal, as many things are in Seward, the warmer the months, the more options you’ll have for food. One staple is caffeine with breakfast at 13 Ravens Coffee, appropriately located in a converted train car right by the water. (To be fair, most every place you’ll probably be visiting in Seward is.) A larger meal in a place with limited seating (so get there early) is Mermaid Grotto. After about 9am the service slows down and the seats fill up but another alternative nearby is The Cookery for local foods by Chef Kevin Lane.

Further up the road for those of you driving is the Exit Glacier Salmon Bake, which is as much of an experience as it is a place to eat.

Spending The Day In Seward

In case you’re still hungry after your day in Seward check out the best breakfast in Anchorage or the best pizza places in Anchorage. Seward is an inviting town you won’t regret visiting, especially if you make the most of what it has to offer.

How Much To Tip Movers, Hairdressers, And More In The U.S.

tip jar

Tipping is a confusing in the United States. For visitors it can be hard to understand why the “typical 15%” isn’t always the right amount not to mention industries from hotels, hairdressers, tattoo artists, to nail salons all have their own tipping etiquette. You could argue employees should be paid a living wage where salaries don’t have to be subsidized by customer tips (and you’d be right) but until that’s the case, here’s how much to tip in the United States for common services.

Bars & Restaurants

Unless it’s clearly stated otherwise, a minimum 15% tip is expected at all restaurants and bars. You may leave 20% for exceptional service or up to 25% on smaller purchases, like a cup of coffee. At bars, leave at least a dollar per drink is there is no table service. At cafes without table service there is often a tip jar. The 15-20% rule does not generally apply in these circumstances, leaving small change or a few dollars (based on the cost of your overall order) is acceptable.

This map is now available in app form! TipFox is available on the App Store and Google Play.

 

tipfox ios app store     tipfox google play android
Barbershops & Hairdressers

The standard rule of thumb applies to barbers and hairdressers which is to say expect to tip 15-20%. Tips at barbershops and hairdressers are typically given in cash (so be prepared) but some will accept tips by credit card when you’re done. In cases where tips are collected by credit card it’s important to ask how the tips will be distributed to make sure any assistants who may have helped you are also being tipped.

Salon assistants (for example, those washing your hair) may not be getting a share of the tips being collected. It’s best to check with the receptionist to be sure but if they’re not, then a standard $5-10 is appropriate for each assistant who’s personally attended to you. For hairstylists who are spending more than 3 hours with you (working on cut, color, or other services) then you may want to consider tipping more, around 22-25%.

For quick touchups (like bang trims) that are shorter than 10-15 minutes, a tip of $5-10 is still considered a common courtesy.

Movers

Moving into a new place? For movers transporting your things over long distances (anything further than across town) 15-20% of the total cost of the move is expected. For shorter, across town moves, 5-10% is more common. For difficult moves or particularly good service, a tip of 10-20% of the total cost will be appreciated. Alternatively, flat fee tips are generally acceptable. In those cases, $20-30 per crew member (for shorter moves) and closer to $40 for longer moves (between cities or cross country).

spiral stairs

In case a piano is part of the move, $20-40 per mover. For furniture deliveries typically $5-10 a person is expected but consider $10-20 if there’s assembly involved or otherwise more difficult circumstances (e.g. spiral stairs).

Tattoo Artists

Getting some ink? A 15-20% (generally closer to 20%) tip is expected. Tips should be given once the work is complete.

Massage Therapists

A 20% tip of the total cost is expected. Some spas will have the tip included in the rate (so be sure to check with reception) or will not allow tipping at all. Double check to make sure you know the rules.

Nail Salons

Tips of 15-20% are expected. For shorter services like manicures or new nail sets tip closer to 20-25%. You should check with your technician if tips are left at the front desk or given directly to them. Keep in mind most places will prefer cash, so arrive prepared.

Food Delivery

A 15-20% tip is expected. For fast food deliveries under $10 a $2-4 is expected.

Going Abroad?

Tipping is a global phenomena everywhere except where it’s not. Be sure to keep up with how much to tip for everything around the world before your next trip and download TipFox which puts specific tipping advice automatically on your phone (available for iOS and Android).

The 4 Best Places To Eat In Thamel Kathmandu

Thamel is Kathmandu’s backpacker district but that doesn’t mean this part of Nepal’s capital city doesn’t have some of the best food travelers can eat. Vibrant and full of local, some locally a hole in the wall, options, these are 4 places you should eat in Thamel.

1. Tibetan & Nepali Kitchen

tibetan and nepali kitchen thamel

There’s plenty of space inside but you might miss this family run business cooking up amazing thali (tasting of local curries), thenthuk (wide noodle soup), and of course momos. Tibetan & Nepali Kitchen is cozy inside with the kitchen in partial view and the food served on order with quick turnaround times.

2. Mo Mo Cave

mo mo cave thamel kathmandu

You’ll have to walk through some construction and under a building with a questionable foundation but believe me, the momos at Mo Mo Cave are worth it. Momos take time here in this small family operation that makes the best momos, small, steamed or fried dumplings with vegetarian, chicken, or beef options. Eat here at least once when you’re in Thamel and it probably won’t be your last visit.

3. Himalayan Java

himalayan java

More on the beaten path, this small coffee chain is a little hipster with a lot of local love for good reason. The coffee at a place called Himalayan Java (as one would hope) is good with pastries to match, not to mention excellent free wifi. A nice place to relax, especially during the slower afternoon hours.

4. Yangling

yangling kathmandu thamel

Almost combining a little of the above, Yangling serves up hot Tibetan classics with some local favorites. Yangling’s crowded and the tables slightly messy from the meal someone had before you but the food is tasty, comforting, and served fairly quickly. Being on the edge of Thamel, depending on where you’re staying, Yangling is a longer (10-20 minute walk) but if thupka (thin noodle broth soup) makes you’re heart sing, it will carry your feet away.

More Food For You

A few other places worth mentioning are Black Olive Cafe for breakfast and if the weather is nice, a warm patio to get your day started. Speaking of morning, next to OR2K which has a large variety of Westernized vegan and vegetarian dishes, there’s a small coffee stand with no name. It’s right on the corner here and hard to miss on the ground but if you want freshly brewed local coffee with Thamel’s unique flavor, this coffee stand has your name on it.

How To Use Travel Blogs To Plan A Trip

travel blog pizza

There are a lot of travel blogs on the Internet but as websites keep procreating, many independent sites get lost under search garbage. Travel blogs used to be a primary source of vacation planning until everyone and their weird relatives hopped on Facebook to scream at each other. Still, there are many independent creators focused on writing specific and personalized information about the places you want to go.

Here’s how to find and use travel blogs to plan a better trip than a bland web search can get you.

The Benefit Of Blogs

As clearly biased as this is going to sound, blogs are probably the most free places online. Generally independent from the pressures of algorithms (like YouTube), few worries of shadow banning, and not being like based, many blogs are run by people who inherently enjoy sharing information. Blogs typically live and die by Google search results and since competing with larger sites on common searches has become more difficult, crafty bloggers tend to get specific. Really specific, like the “the best way to get a taxi in Istanbul.”

best taxi istanbul

Blogs are often updated more frequently than tent pole pages in mainstream media because there are a lot of travel bloggers, blogging about somewhere you want to go, at any given time.

Finding Good Travel Blogs

Sifting through abandoned blogs and sites made purely for search engine optimization (SEO) to find quality travel blogs isn’t too difficult. To find a site first, enter in the search term you’re looking for (e.g. “best places to eat in Moldova“) followed by “travel blog.” This sounds silly I know, but entering in “best places to eat in Moldova travel blog” will get you past Google’s generic recommendations and a bunch of bland TripAdvisor recommendations.

Ratings from those sites, short reviews written by anonymous people, and everything being 4.7 stars doesn’t actually give you useful travel advice. But by searching through travel blogs you get detailed articles such as solo female travel in Bangladesh by locals, expats like Turkey’s For Life, and travelers who’ve extensively explored a destination (how about Alaska).

tokyo japan

It’s a good idea to look at the dates of posts to see how recent they are and check the latest posts to see how fresh a given blog is. A lot of blogs don’t add dates to posts because of a misguided understanding of SEO (please, stop doing that) so seeing how active a given blogger is on social media can help with your site freshness check.

How To Use Travel Blogs

Many travel blogs have information categorized by destination or country, mode of travel, or even cuisine. Depending on the site design, I recommend going to the “blog” or “about” pages. The blog page will usually show you recent topics and the about page will give you an idea about the person writing everything. Does the blogger travel like you, have the same interests when visiting a city… there’s a lot you can learn.

Some travel bloggers also run diverse tours and can be contacted with feedback – a lot of us are happy to help. Your question might even turn into an entire blog post about how to use travel blogs to plan your next trip.

Although they’re not as easy to find through a Google search (try DuckDuckGo anyone?), the blogosphere is thriving, independent, and full of useful advice and thoughtful creators. Once you find a blog or blogger that vibes with you and is especially helpful, make sure to sign up for their newsletter, YouTube, or other social channels to keep up in between trips and have a handy resource before the next one.

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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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