Writer, photographer, potato aficionado. In 2015 I sold all my belongings, ignored mum’s advice, and left to travel through 28 countries in one year. Lessons learnt: beer is tasty, Nepal is life, and I regret nothing. The word ‘adventure’ is great, whistlers are not, and once I took a 44-hour bus ride from Malawi to Johannesburg which has led me to make better life decisions ever since. I’m also one half of The Common Wanderer blog, follow along at @thecommonwanderer
On the hunt for a non-traditional ski vacation? Look no further than the Japanese Alps. According to American Express Travel, the region has seen an increase in bookings during the holidays in recent years. And while December has historically been less popular than Japan’s peak season—April-November—adventurous travelers are now intrigued by the wilderness of Japan in the winter. The Hida, Kiso, and Akaishi alps are home to indigenous snow monkeys, volcanoes, and lava plateaus, plus, visitors are drawn to the area for its pristine ski offerings, natural hot springs, and rural hiking.
Turkey has bars all over Istanbul and the other tourist cities, but there are also cafes and tea shops and that sort of thing that are filled with locals (and some tourists) all evening. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the only bars are attached to hotels (and there are a LOT of them), but almost no locals drink, so there are unlimited evening alternatives. Other nearby Muslim countries such as Oman and Bahrain are similar, except with far fewer tourists (and drinkers).
When you mention, “not too touristy”, the first thing that comes to mind is San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m not sure if you’ve been there already or not, but one great thing about it is that the “tourist” areas close to Old San Juan are filled more with apartments than with hotels, unlike Cancun, where it’s nothing but hotels and timeshares. I can highly recommend the Condado neighborhood, which does have some large hotels but is mostly apartments for expats and seasonal visitors. There is even a free bus that goes from there to the heart of Old San Juan, which is a gorgeous colonial town filled with great restaurants, bars, and interesting attractions.
We’re a couple and are planning a 5/6 nights trip [around Christmas] from India to some place that is slightly reasonable and wonderful, of course! What we’ve been considering till now is Maldives or Cambodia or Thailand. Can you suggest anything around these or even completely different from these? The reason why we haven’t been able to finalize till now is that we’re trying to find a destination other than beaches, which isn’t as easy as it appeared!
If you are referring to days trips and that sort of thing, it will be much cheaper if you book once you get there. In Vietnam in particular it’s amazing how cheap tours can be if you book them through your hotel. I once did a 6-hour bus tour to Mỹ Sơn, which is near Hoi An, and I think I paid about US$6. It even included a boat ride and a basic lunch. That same day tour online would probably cost US$30 because the booking company takes a share and there is very little competition.
However, I would probably recommend staying closer to the US, unless you are really interested in the Asian cultures or that kind of experience. If you are mainly just interested in family time and a fairly easy holiday for all, and you aren’t specifically interested in getting to know an Asian culture and its food, I think I’d stay in the Americas.
Lovers of historic architecture should consider tiny Malta in November, which still basks in glorious warm weather as much of Europe starts to shiver. The baroque palaces, churches and fortifications of its harbour-hugging capital Valletta look much the same as they did 400 years ago, and are extra lovely when observed from a traditional dghajsa (open boat) water taxi. If a life on the high seas has always appealed, then charter a course for the Cayman Islands come November, when the serene Caribbean isle hosts Pirate Week, a fun-filled festival that includes costume contests, street dancing and a horde of swashbucklers ‘invading’ the island and capturing the governor.
If this were last year I might have also suggested San Juan, Puerto Rico or Cartagena, but both of those have issues at the moment. If for some reason you don’t like what you see in Costa Rica, there are also some really nice resorts in Panama, especially in the San Blas Islands area. Aside from those you’d probably have to fly longer than you prefer. I hope this helps. -Roger
Interestingly, I had not seen that June travel warning. It’s hard to know what to think of it. On one hand, the US State Department has official warnings like this to many places, including quite a few that people safely travel to every day. And also, even when Colombia had its problems for all those years, Cartagena was considered safe because it’s this tourist beach town and the drug and FARC problems had nothing to do with it. My best guess is that Cartagena itself would be fine and perfectly safe, but I wouldn’t rent a car and drive around the highways myself at this point. Sadly, I think it might be best to save Cartagena for another time when there is no known threat.
I’d recommend 1 night in Auckland, then 3 nights on the North Island, and then a ferry to the South Island. If you can spend a week there, and return the camper van or car to Christchurch for a flight to Auckland and home, it would be perfect. As long as you can spend at least 4 nights on the South Island, it will be worth it. But if your schedule or budget don’t allow that much, you might just stay on the North Island. The most interesting place on the South Island is Queenstown, but there is plenty to see all over.
For anyone considering a multi-destination South American trip in November, Santiago should definitely be looked at. The daytime temperatures should be pleasant and warm, and it's bone-dry all summer, so it's a great combination. Hotels in Santiago don't have their peak price season until New Year's, so in November you'll easily be able to find a very good rate at one of the nicer places.
For the record, the official Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30, but hurricanes in November are extremely rare, so we have likely seen the last of them for this season. The devastated islands will need help rebuilding, and the remaining islands are hoping that visitors know they need the business as well, and that there is no risk of big storms starting in December and usually earlier. -Roger
Looking to shake up the traditional holiday season table? We’ve got just the foodie forays for you this festive month. Tuck into a spicy blend of fabulous flavours at Malaysia’s hawker food stalls, where bright bowls of creamy laksa (noodle soup) and deliciously deep-fried lor bak (pork or prawn wrapped in tofu skin, deep fried and served with dips) will soon do away with any cravings for Christmas pudding. With tourist numbers low, now is the ideal time to visit Spain’s Basque Country, seeing out the year with a plate piled high with pintxos (tapas); or check out Cuba’s capital, exploring the crumbling, colonial architecture with a rum-based cocktail in hand.