Category: Advice

The Best Things To Do In Las Vegas (That Aren’t Gambling Or Drinking)

Las Vegas has been very successful in marketing itself as the world’s debauchery capital but for people who like being in nature, adventure, and local travel experiences, it’s one of the most interesting cities you can visit. Feel free to add the following to your gambling debt, beer, or sober savings as you wish.

These are the best things to do in Las Vegas, whether you like casinos or not.

1. Hoover Dam

hoover dam

Let’s start small with the massive Hoover Dam, a story and engineering feat not to be missed about 30 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip. I know, it sounds boring, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how impressive the Hoover Dam is nor can I adequately describe it in words. There are helicopter tours for $75 nearby but the best views from land are a bit down the Colorado River from the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

2. Red Rock Canyon

red rock canyon visit

About 30 minutes in the other direction from the Hoover Dam, the Red Rock Canyon Conversation Area is the nicest way to see nature from your own hop-on-hop-off car ride in a location that would otherwise find a way to kill you. Red Rock Canyon though is set up with a ring road around to all of the most beautiful sights, so you can hike (or not) and take careful selfies while staying comfortably close to air-conditioning. Entry is $15 per vehicle.

3. Star Wars Secrets Of The Empire VR

star wars the void vr

The video at the top of this post doesn’t really convey how immersive this virtual reality experience is. Helmet, gloves, and a large physical space to move around in and you’ll see your friends as storm troopers as you work to solve an intergalactic puzzle. I was completely shocked that VR technology had gotten this advanced, a nice glimpse into the future. The Void has a number of VR experiences inside the Venetian Casino (Ghostbusters and Wreck It Ralph) well worth the $30 for 15 minutes – trust me on that one. Remember, you need to buy tickets at least the morning in advance, here’s the link to purchase.

4. Viva Las Arepas

viva las arepas

Local food that’s not really local but that brings a common Venezuelan quick meal to Las Vegas. Viva Las Arepas has two locations serving arepas, a sort of sandwich on cornbread with several fillings. There are two locations in Las Vegas, both off the strip. Good food, atmosphere, and inexpensive too.

Bonus: Much closer to the Las Vegas Strip, Bonito Michoacan is large portions of tasty Mexican food at very reasonable prices.

5. Sky Combat Ace

Here’s my full review of Sky Combat Ace, an experience that basically lets you be a fighter pilot for 20 minutes. Better yet, check out the video here.

6. Hit The Extraterrestrial Highway

extraterrestrial highway

This is the ultimate road trip I’ve written about before, particularly if you like remote locations, aliens, or general quirkiness that gets you as close as possible to Area 51.

Keep Going High And Low

Las Vegas may have been a lucky spot for the mob but it’s also in the middle of several different, rather untouched landscapes. The Grand Canyon is a roughly 3 hour drive, Death Valley National Park and its incredible salt flats about 2 hours away, plus plenty of cosplay right around August.

What’s nice about Las Vegas itself is it’s like one of the hundreds of buffets in the city – you can pick and choose what you want to do to your liking. For some people, the blackjack table is a part of the course, but don’t worry if you like to drink lots of it or just use vodka as a bug repellent – so long as you don’t indulge before visiting Sky Combat Ace.

ps. Apparently more than a few people have flown hungover and if you vomit in the plane, it’s a $250 or more fine – plus the poor pilot has to take apart the plane and pick out chucks of your breakfast before it’s can be flown safely again. Don’t be that person.

Where To Travel When You Don’t Know Where To Go

fethiye pool

I’m often asked: “where’s your favorite place?” It’s hard to pick favorites, I’ve got favorite beaches, cafes, cold places, cities to spend a lot of time in, places that are perfect for 48 hours. The answer changes over time but each time I’m asked, the answer is refined just a bit.

A work in progress subject to change though if cornered into giving a generic list of places to visit, to someone who’s ready to take a trip but not sure where to go, these are some of the places I would recommend. In no particular order, consider it a destination buffet for you to pick and choose from.

1. Edinburgh, Scotland

edinburgh scotland

A small city, whose center looks like it’s straight out of Harry Potter, with a climate of comforting mist that’s turbulent enough not to get boring. The food is hearty but if it’s not to your liking then perhaps the whisky will be. A surprising number of bartenders know a lot about the fermented grain drink which blends food with history and of course, good conversation.

2. Montevideo, Uruguay

montevideo food

There’s something in the air in Uruguay’s capital city, including marijuana smoke since pot is legal, fitting nicely with Montevideo’s artistic leaning. Relatively safe for a South American capital city, Uruguay beyond Montevideo is easily accessible by rental car along well-maintained roads. There’s a booming culinary scene and one of the best bars with live music anywhere.

3. Berlin, Germany

berlin silhouette

Ah Berlin. Have you ever been to a city that made you say its name like it was an idea, every time? Berlin takes all of the organization of Germany, leaves out some of the rough edges, and is as classy (or not) as you want to make it. Of course, momo man is there every Thursday night in Kreuzberg, the center of Berlin’s Turkish community.

4. Tbilisi, Georgia

tbilisi georgia

It’s surprising more people aren’t visiting here but in a way, that makes a trip to Georgia’s capital city feel more like you’ve got the city to yourself. There’s an invisible threshold for every city that turns it from an authentic experience into a version of tourism Disneyland and Tbilisi isn’t close to it…yet.

5. Kyoto, Japan

kyoto golden pavilion temple

Everything in Japan feels different but familiar, leading you to the conclusion that in many ways, reflections of human culture are arbitrary. Taking a train from Tokyo using this purchasing trick, you leave behind a city that looks like Times Square however is clean, relatively quiet, and doesn’t have the ever-present odor of urine. The whole world could look like Kyoto but it doesn’t, one of the reasons traveling is so compelling. Here’s a local’s guide to Kyoto.

6. One Moment Please

airplane wing photo

At this point in the list, I’m realizing there are so many places I could add, like everywhere on this list too. This is the inherent problem with these types of lists I mentioned above, so let’s wrap up with some a la carte options to pick and choose from.

7. Beirut, Lebanon

The name Beirut might immediately cause a good portion of you to back off of the idea but give me a moment. Beirut is truly a special city that might be a reflection of humanity. Practically, Beirut is also where you’ll find arguably the world’s best falafel and views like these. Lebanon’s capital is more accessible and safe than many presume it to be – you don’t have to be an adventurous person to enjoy Beirut.

8. Seattle, USA

very first starbucks

The drive from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport into Seattle is one of the most beautiful introductions you can have to a city. Winding roads around mountains at the feet of large evergreen trees, in the distance Puget Sound, the first Starbucks, Pike Place Fish Market, plus one of the most interesting interactive museums in the world. Also, it rains more per year in New York City, in case you were worried about the weather. (Seattle just spreads the rain out over the year.)

9. Still Searching?

This list gets less useful the longer it goes on, too many ideas makes it more difficult for you to narrow things down. In short, let me mention Iceland in the winter, Mexico here, here, and here, and of course two time Best City to Visit winner Granada, Spain.

granada science park museum

I could go on but I haven’t been everywhere, which is why large parts of Africa are missing and some popular southeast Asian destinations are absent. The list above represents places that are great overall travel destinations, relatively stable, safe, with good food, infrastructure, and plenty to do. In case you’re looking for a larger assortment of cities to choose from, take a look at the most common entries into the annual Best City to Visit Travel Tournament here or the other countries I’ve written about here.

The truth though is every time I’m asked, “where should I go,” it’s often followed by a “I hear this place is interesting,” or “I’ve been thinking about…” Usually, wherever around the world I take someone looking for advice, more often than not, we end up back there. For travel, like life, the best way to go is by following the little voice in your head that somehow already knows where you want to go.

A Map Of All The Places You Can And Can’t Drink The Local Tap Water (Updated In Real-time)

tap water drinkability

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

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
Whether or not you can drink the local tap water is a question most travelers will ask themselves at some point but finding reliable online is difficult. Most online resources are either inaccurate or out-of-date and local governments, for political reasons, often claim their tap water is cleaner than it might be. When traveling you don’t want to find out on a toilet the local water is dirty – or on the other hand waste time in stores unnecessarily buying bottled water if the tap H2O is potable.

To solve some of these problems, I’ve spent the better part of a year gathering water potability reports from governments, independent third-parties, non-profits, NGOs, and a variety of other relevant sources to create the map below.

  • Last update: November 16, 2018

What’s resulted is a straightforward map of water potability based multiple information sources, that’s updated in real-time. You can bookmark this page or the map to keep up with any future updates and for offline use, there’s the FaucetSafe app available for iOS and Android you can take everywhere.

Adjusting To The Tap

Remember that even clean tap water in a new city can upset your stomach for a short time. Your immune system might have to adjust to variations in sanitizing methods, and local bacteria. This water potability map is an informational resource only and although I’ve done my best to compile the most accurate data possible, always check with your doctor if you have specific medical concerns or questions.

Chances are the local water in many places around the world you’re visiting is good for drinking but without any reliable, practical, or current information you’ve bought bottled water to play it safe. Reducing use of bottled water not only can save you money but also lessen the amount of plastic we use, 8.6 billion kilograms of (19 billion pounds) of which is already in the oceans. Hopefully this map helps solve the problem of not knowing where the water is drinkable so you can travel smarter.

What To Expect At Your First Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

creation las vegas star trek convention

You might be a Star Trek fan who’s finally decided to attend a convention (or be the friend roped into it all) that’s got no idea what goes on at the annual 5-day Creation Entertainment event in Las Vegas. To help prepare you, here’s everything you need to know about the Creation Star Trek convention held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino every summer.

Why Las Vegas?

There are plenty of Star Trek conventions around the world but the Las Vegas event held at the Rio All-Suite hotel is North America’s largest. (Creation’s convention competes with several in Germany every year for the world’s largest attendance.) Over 15,000 people are expected at the 2018 convention.

What Do You Do All Day?

There are events all day and night planned for the August 1-5th convention but most first-timers have no idea what that means. The easiest way to put it into perspective is to think of the Las Vegas Star Trek convention like Comic-Con, but focused on Star Trek. There are 30-60 minute panels throughout the day which consist of talks plus Q&A sessions with Star Trek actors, directors, writers, and artists like Oscar winner Michael Westmore. (I highly recommend his book Makeup Man for the Michael Jackson stories alone.)

makeup man bookMakeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek

buy from amazon

Additionally, Creation invites scientists and other engineers to hold discussions on space exploration. Several engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be giving talks on current and fictional Star Trek technologies that may become reality in the near future. (Sorry, transporter technology seems the longest shot.)

klingon armor discovery

People tend to float in and out of the talks, making their way through the vendor room where there’s all kinds of nerdom represented. Need a Starfleet uniform or a Darth Vader mug? The vendors will have it. There are also a lot of independent artists and creators selling handmade crafts as well, in my opinion the most interesting items sold at the convention.

In the evenings you can opt for additional events like a 45-piece orchestral performing Star Trek: Live, or swing by the Masquerade Bar where by Thursday night the entire hotel has been taken over by Star Trek fans.

Do You Need To Dress Up?

No – but a lot of people do. Uniform t-shirts are common but then there are real cosplayers, peaking on Saturday when an annual costume contest is held. Here are pictures of the best cosplay from 2017 and 2014 to give you an idea but what you wear is up to you.

star trek cosplay

Why Do People Go To Star Trek Conventions?

For a variety of reasons but basically to have fun with other people who are really passionate about Star Trek and science fiction in general. In 2017 I asked a bunch of people why they go to Star Trek conventions, here’s what they said:

People who make it to their first Las Vegas Star Trek convention often return year after year. You see the same people and it has almost become an annual pilgrimage for many, much like Comic-Con is for other fans. If you’re in the Las Vegas area August 1-5, 2018 and interested in attending, you can purchase individual day tickets here (I would recommend Saturday if you’re choosing just one) or get all 5 days at a discounted rate.

Once you’ve got your tickets, you can check out this insider’s guide on saving money, meeting celebrities, and making the most of the Creation Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Qa’plah!

Should You Pay For Mileage Boosters When Buying Airplane Tickets?

airport lufthansa

You’ve probably noticed during self-check-in or when booking tickets, some airlines offer an option to purchase an extra 1,000 or more frequent flyer miles to add to your flight. These mileage “boosters” are supposed to give you a few extra frequent flyer miles at a discount, making you wonder if the cost is worth the reward.

Those of you who collect frequent flyer miles know that they’re a good way to get free flights and other perks but mileage boosting in most cases isn’t money well spent.

What Are Mileage Boosters?

More common in the United States, the trend is spreading to other airlines around the world. Basically, mileage boosters are discounted miles, made available only as an add-on purchase to an existing flight. The idea is that you’ll be able to earn extra frequent flyer miles for a given flight without paying full price for them.

Unfortunately, discounted or not, buying miles is almost never a good deal because the equivalent monetary value in airfare is going to be cheaper.

Adding Up The Numbers

Frequent flyer programs are intentionally vague since airlines want you to disassociate miles with money. Let’s use United as an example (here’s why you should sign up for their mileage program even if you don’t fly United.) They frequently offer 1,000 mile boosters for $35.

A free round-trip flight from, say, North America to Europe, is around 50,000 miles with United on Star Alliance. At $35 per 1000 miles, to get a free flight would cost $2,100 in boosters. Going to United’s website and purchasing 50,000 miles directly costs $1750 – chances are in either case you’ll find airfare for a North America to Europe round trip flight to be half as much.

Additionally, mileage boosters don’t count toward the premier or status miles on United, Delta, and other airlines. In other words, frequent flyer programs have status levels (more miles more status) that give you lounge access (here are the wifi passwords), free upgrades, or other perks but not all miles are counted equally. Some are “special” miles that add to your total status, others like the “boosters” don’t count.

Stick To Flights

Frequent flyer hackers will tell you, if you’re going to buy miles, it’s best to go through some third-party promotion. Otherwise, accumulate your miles in one place like this, wisely use reward cards, or earn frequent flyer miles without getting any credit cards.

In general, refrain from buying miles and earn them the best way – by traveling more – and keep this habit every time you fly so you’re credited the miles you’re due. The airlines have a tendency not to be incredibly diligent in adding miles after a flight and not getting miles you’ve earned is an even bigger waste than a mileage booster.

The Jordan Pass Is A Great Way To Save Money In The Country (And Petra)

amman jordan flag

The Jordan Pass is one of the best discount tourist packages offered in the world but it’s not well advertised. Unfortunately, many travelers learn about the Jordan Pass after they’ve arrived in Jordan or spent $70 entrance to Petra, missing out on a lot of money and time savings.

The Jordan Pass is one of the best tourist discount packages, like Spain’s Granada Card, but in order to take full advantage of it, you’ll need to purchase it before you enter the country.

Includes Visa Entry

There’s one good reason, especially if you’re going to visit Petra, to get a Jordan Pass. But let me start with the obvious bonus all three of the Jordan Pass varieties come with: visa entry fee and shortened entry line at the airport. For Americans and Europeans, plus most other nationals aside from a few neighboring countries, a typical tourist visa costs around $50. The Jordan Pass starts at $99 (70 Jordanian dinar).

jordan pass

Additionally, you’ll get into a shorter line at the airport with a Jordan Pass (for those who already have valid visas) plus save at least 30 minutes from having to go through the process at an immigration desk. You can even save on paper (Jordan is refreshingly good at being green) by simply scanning your Jordan Pass at passport control.

Advantages Even If You’re Petra Only

A single-day entry ticket to Petra is 50JD ($70 USD). So, even if you just use a Jordan Pass to visit the country and see Petra only, it’s saved you $20 already (otherwise it’s around $50 for the tourist visa and $70 for Petra). In fact, the three different Jordan Pass offerings vary only by Petra entry days:

  • Jordan Wanderer ($99): 1 day visit to Petra, 40 other popular sites, tourist visa, digital brochures
  • Jordan Explorer ($106): Same, except has a 2 day Petra entrance ticket
  • Jordan Expert ($113): Same as above, except is a 3 day Petra entrance

Keep in mind to be eligible for the tourist visa entry fee, your trip to Jordan must be at least 3 nights (4 days).

Now you might be wondering who would want to visit Petra 2 or 3 times but it might surprise you that Petra is a lot bigger than most people expect. It’s an entire ancient town spread over dozens of square kilometers. Many travelers stay in town for a few days to explore Petra a section at a time due its size. Others, who only get a day ticket, arrive the night before so they can get in at 6am before the vast majority of the crowds. (It’s not too bad if you’re running late though, here’s how crowded Petra gets at peak hour.)

Plan For The Pass

A Jordan Pass is an instant money saver if you’re only going to visit Petra. You’ll cut costs on Petra and a tourist visa, but even those who are visa exempt or not planning on seeing Petra will likely save because the Jordan Pass includes 40 other sites as well. The Jordan Pass covers places like Wadi Rum you’ll probably want to see – just remember to keep the pass on your phone and ask any site you enter if you’re unsure.

Discount cards, like the JR Rail Pass for Japan, can be a great for your travel budget but Jordan Pass included, often have to be purchased in advance of your trip to make use of the full benefits.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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