Best for nature

 


While planning a round the world trip may involve plotting a course between major cities, it’s often encounters with the local wildlife which create the most memorable moments of a trip. So what are some of the natural attractions worth going out of your way to experience? Here are a few suggestions.

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Best for Cuisine

 

 

One of the most satisfying ways of experiencing a country is through its food. Every place has its own delicacies and its own style of cooking and eating, and some are more rewarding to adventurous diners than others. Here are 6 countries where the food is likely to be one of the highlights of your stay.

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Best for beaches

 


For many travellers finding the best beach (whatever that constitutes) is a serious mission. Here are a few of what are widely regarded as the world’s finest beaches.

Hawaii
Nowhere in Hawaii is far from a gorgeous beach. On the northern coast of Kauai, the big waves at Hanalei Bay make it a favourite winter spot for confident surfers. Those in search of that secret bit of sand could do worse than make their way to Cathedral Beach, also on Kauai. Swimming from a boat is the only way in and out, and the stunning location was used in the filming of King Kong and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Brazil
Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, in the heart of Rio, may be Brazil’s most famous beaches, but people-watching and caipirinhas aside, they’re certainly not the most attractive stretches of sand. For a memorable escape, head to Lopes Mendes; it’s a day’s travel from Rio by road, ferry and taxi-boat, before a hike through a forest reveals a 3 km stretch of perfect white sand, without a bar or a cafe in sight.  

Mexico
Only in Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula will you find a beach below the ruins of an ancient walled city. The Mayan site overlooks a long stretch of white sand, and while hundreds of tourists a day visit the ruins and stare out onto the sea and beach below, the unique setting and the warm Caribbean water more than make up for the lack of privacy.

Australia
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, so there’s no surprise that it’s home to a half-decent stretch of sand; there are miles of pristine beach set against ancient rainforest. Rainbow Beach, also in Queensland, is named for its remarkable sand dunes; thanks to the particular mineral content the sand is a striking combination of red, yellow, orange and black.

Bora Bora
James Cook called it ‘the pearl of the Pacific’ when he sailed through the South Pacific in 1770, and its secluded beaches and high-end hotels have made it a firm favourite with honeymooners wanting to escape from the world. Matira is the best known beach, with a mile of soft white sand framed by palm trees and dropping into a shallow, emerald-green lagoon.

Cuba
Cuba is blessed with a decent selection of beaches; for some of the best head to Cayo Largo, a resort island off the southern coast. Playa Sirena is the place to go for watersports, while Playa Paraiso, as the name suggests, is a quiet spot with white sand and clear water, popular with those wanting to do precisely nothing.

Philippines
Head away from Manila and you’ll find no shortage of world-class beaches. The massed ranks of foreign tourists head to the party island of Boracay; if that’s your scene you’ll find the obligatory white sand, along with all-night bars and beach clubs. Alona Beach on Bohol offers a more chilled-out alternative, while Palawan offers stunning, often empty beaches.

 

Planning process


 

Tap up friends, family and Facebook

With initial ammo gained from the pub fantasising session, expand upon it with other friends and members of family. Get as many suggestions, ideas and dreams as you can. Incidentally, this is where all of those people you’re ‘friends’ with on Facebook but have not been in contact with for years come in handy. A quick query along the lines of “Anyone been to Cambodia? What’s it like?” or “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?” can bring all manner of sage advice out of the woodwork from people you’d forgotten existed.

Head to the pub

There’s no point in going into the detail before you’ve got the juices flowing. And the best place to get excitable about an impending round the world adventure is the pub, preferably aided by a gaggle of mates. Get a few drinks, bat a few ideas around, compare war stories from trips past, drool over dream destinations and pick up top tips about life on the road.

Scour the web for information

With a few ideas in mind, dip a toe into the vast ocean of information that is the World Wide Web. The likes of Lonely Planet, WAYN, Gadling and Vtravelled have heaps of material to sift through and gain information from. Newspaper websites – such as The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent – have a vast back catalogue of articles online too. Don’t limit yourself to UK sites either. The Sydney Morning Herald has a lot more on the South Pacific, Asia and Australia, while the New York Times will have more on the Americas.

Read magazines and guidebooks

The likes of Condé Nast Traveller and the Sunday Times Travel Mag work only if you’ve got towers full of money, or have no intention of going anywhere and just like to look at pretty pictures of spas. But Wanderlust, Travel Africa and Geographical are superb – as are other, smaller niche titles.

And then there are guidebooks. Most people only buy them once they’ve decided where they’re going, but they’re just as useful in deciding where to go. They’re also brilliant for learning about a destination’s history and culture.

The quality of guidebook varies enormously depending on the brand and author – which you prefer depends on your tastes. Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are arguably the best all-rounders (and Lonely Planet has by far and away the best structuring of information and maps). But Footprint is excellent for detail, and Bradt covers some of the more obscure corners of the world with undisguised affection.

If you’re not so keen on buying guidebooks to every country you may consider going to, try the cheat’s method and take them out at the library.

Get a map out

Once you’ve a rough list of what you want to do and where, get a map or a globe out (or use Google Maps) to put things in approximate geographical order. So, for example, it could be Great Wall of China – Thai Islands – Great Barrier Reef – Sailing on Sydney Harbour – trekking the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand – island hopping in Fiji – star spotting in Hollywood – flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter – home.

Check the weather

Unless you want to follow monsoon season around the world, it’s probably work out when you want to go where. January, for example, is great for Thailand but bad for a rather chillier Japan. July is good for northern Australia and the South Pacific, but bad for southern Australia or New Zealand (unless you like skiing). Other countries – and even regions of countries – have bizarre microclimates to look out for. Weather will be a prime factor in deciding when you go and how long you spend in each destination.

Decide when you want to go

The other key factor, of course, is cost. Some parts of the year are cheaper than others for RTW flights. These seasonal differences are largely based on weather (either iffy weather in Asia and Australia or people wanting to come to Europe when it’s sunny) – and the period between April and July usually offers the cheapest deals. A rough run-down of the seasons is as follows:

January - Shoulder / Low Season
February - Low Season
March - Low Season
April - Low Season
May - Low Season
June - Low / High Season
July - High Season
August - High Season
September - Low Season
October - Low Season
November - Low Season
December - Shoulder / High Season

Work to your budget

If cash is tight, then plan to spend more time where it’s cheaper (ie South East Asia or South America) rather than where costs are high (ie. Japan, Australia, much of the Middle East and the US). Also remember that you’re not going to be able to do everything and see everything on one trip. It’s far better – and cheaper - to do a few areas slowly and in depth than to try constantly rushing between tickbox highlights. Check out our budget section

Chat to a consultant

The guys at roundtheworldflights.com are extremely well travelled and know their stuff on how to get the best value routes. They’ll also be able to give insider knowledge on cool stuff to see. Call them up on 020 7704 5700 to get an idea of what’s feasible and what might be too ambitious for one trip. Alternatively, drop into the office - Third Floor, 32-33 Upper Street in London (very near Angel tube station) or give us a call on 020 7704 5700. Opening hours are 8am-6pm (Monday to Friday), from 10am-4pm on Saturdays and online

Youtube, Facebook, blogs and forums

Roundtheworldflights.com has plenty of videos on its Youtube Channel, and has sent top writers David Whitley and Mark Eveleigh off on RTW trips to write about their experiences. Their blog entries make for great reading and include some top tips on what – or what not – to do. There are plenty of other great travel blogs out there – try 501places.com and Everything-everywhere.com and explore their favourite sites for others you like. Web forums, such as Travellerspoint.com and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree are good for picking up tips and asking specific questions. You can also connect to us on Facebook

Web reviews

Web review sites (notably TripAdvisor) can be useful, but they should be taken with a pinch of salt. The main problem is that you don’t know who is reviewing the hotel, tour or restaurant, what they’re accustomed to or what their expectations were. Hence every hotel on TripAdvisor has reviews ranging from gushing praise to accusations of receptionists spitting in the customer’s face. These sites are generally better for pubs and restaurants than hotels – and they tend to be more up to date than the guidebooks.

We've got some great writers and bloggers at roundtheworldflights.com, who we give free reign to produce some of the best features on the planet. Just click on the map above, kick back with a long cold drink, and enjoy...

 

Try out Twitter and Google Plus

roundtheworldflights.com is on Twitter as @rtwflights and Google Plus here. Expect plenty of information, inspiration and potential routes there. But there are other great people to follow for ideas and different cultural perspectives. However, you can search using keywords to find out what’s big news in destinations you’re going to, follow expert travel writers and ask in-the-know strangers for local tips. The best method for deciding who to follow is to check who people you respect and enjoy the musings of follow themselves.

 

 

by Stuart Lodge

Three Pieces of Travel Tech Advice You Can Happily Ignore

 

Like most other travellers, I had no idea what I was doing when starting out. I bought an enormous, badly-made 90 liter backpack, filled it with nothing useful and hauled it uncomfortably round the world for the next three years.

I had more quick-dry shirts and pants than I knew what to do with – but nothing to wear to a bar in the European cities I was spending my time. The bottom of my pack was filled with film canisters, but I had no way to keep them dry or from being fried by X-ray machines. I didn't even have a bandaid when I cut my finger on a blunt knife in a Dublin hostel, never mind antibiotics for the nasty stomach bug I picked up in Kenya.

My tech choices weren't any better. On the advice of a friend, I bought an insanely-expensive digital camera back when they'd just come out, then spent far more time deleting photos than taking them when I couldn't afford any extra memory cards.

I had an ancient Nokia phone with me for a while, but gave up on it when it didn't work anywhere I needed it to. The slightly newer version that came on my next trip stopped working properly in the first week, despite the salesman's assurances it was the best thing out there for travel.

I've worn uncomfortable shoes for months, carried an unused sleeping bag around multiple continents and thrown out far more travel laundry soap than I've ever used.

When trying to figure out why my gear choices had been so bad, I came up with one common thread: I'd listened too much to other people, especially those with no real experience doing the same things I was. Opinions are like bellybuttons – everybody has one – but useful information is rarer. I've stopped taking most generic travel advice these days, and come up with my own way of doing things based on experience rather than theories. To that end, here are three common pieces of advice I completely disagree with -- and what I choose to do instead.

“Travellers Need Macbooks”

The number of Apple logos I see in hostel common rooms grows by the month. Pretty silver Macbooks are everywhere, and if you ask their owners why they're carrying one, they'll waste no time explaining why it really is the only sensible choice. They're apparently easier to use, more reliable, more sturdy and more everything-else-good-in-the-world, and travellers totally need them.

No, they don't. Most travellers don't need a laptop at all, since a phone or tablet can do whatever's necessary in a device much smaller and cheaper. For the few who genuinely do benefit from them, the same software, performance and reliability is available in Windows laptops costing far less.

Of course, you can easily find terrible Windows machines – anything under about £500 will likely fall into that category for travellers. Spend a bit more, though, and you can get something as good as a high-end Macbook without spending anything like the same kind of money.

My old Asus laptop cost £700 and spent three years on the road, surviving everything the tropics could throw at it and more.  I bought a new model from the same company a couple of months ago that is thinner, lighter and has better specifications than a Macbook Pro costing several hundred pounds more. End result? An incredibly fast and attractive laptop – and a much healthier bank balance than if I'd gone down the Apple route.

 

 

“You Have to Have an iPhone”

For a few years, if you wanted a good smartphone for travel, you bought an iPhone. The hardware was better than anything else, sure, but more importantly, most decent apps were only available for iOS. I once travelled with an iPhone 3G for several months and it was a great little phone, doing everything I needed and even surviving being kicked down a potholed Chiang Mai street when it slipped out of my hands one rainy night.

Now, though, the market has changed. Android phones dominate the sales figures, and have driven prices down and app support up. There are very few good travel apps you can't find on the Play store – and when you can't find your personal favourite, there's always an alternative.

You can buy a perfectly decent unlocked Android device for well under £150 that'll do almost anything you need it to, or a sub-£300 match for the latest iPhone models. I've been carrying a Nexus 5 for the last year, for instance, and couldn't be happier with it.

If you want an iPhone, by all means buy one – it's still a great phone, and if you've got the spare cash, you won't be disappointed. Just remember that you've now got plenty of other, cheaper choices as well.

 

 

“Only a DSLR Can Take Good Photos”

As in every other artistic field, it's skill, not equipment, that makes for great photos. A huge camera that costs thousands of pounds won't provide a better shot if you don't know how to use it – it'll just give you a sore neck by mid-afternoon.

As technology has improved, cameras have shrunk in size to the point where a mirrorless or good point and shoot can give very good results without changing any of the default settings.

In reality, you're unlikely to notice a difference between shots from a budget DSLR kit in automatic mode, and those from a premium point and shoot like the Sony RX100M III that fits in your pocket.

If you're still considering buying a DSLR for your trip, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to learn what to buy in terms of both body and lenses, and how to use them properly if you want to get the most out of your investment.

Of course, like any other travel advice, you're welcome to ignore mine as well – that's the great thing about other people's opinions! If so, I look forward to seeing you out there on the road, Macbook under one arm and DSLR under the other, looking stylish in a pair of those gorgeous brown quick-dry pants.....

 

by Dave Dean

Photo credit under Creative Common 1 2 3

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