How To

How to travel more ethically

Interacting with animals can be cute, fun, and thrilling. So how do you make sure the animals are also having a good time? Here are some easy tips to help respect wildlife while on your next trip!

1. Do your research

Before visiting any venue or booking an experience with animals, ensure that the animals are treated humanely and have been acquired legally – that means not through wildlife smuggling. Animals are best experienced in a free or protected environment!

2. Avoid venues with captive animals

Animals belong in the wild when possible. There’s a difference between a preservation or sanctuary and a hotel that keeps animals in cages for display.

3. Be respectful – animals are more than photo opportunities!

Selfies with pandas munching on bamboos are perfect for Instagram. But sometimes animals are used in a way that harms them and demeans them. The animal shouldn’t be restrained or forced to take pictures with tourists. If you are concerned, just admire its majesty from afar instead.

4. Performing animals are often mistreated

Animals performing acts that normally only humans can involve very intensive training that can cross over into cruelty. Make sure the acts are not so unnatural to cross into the absurd, like bike riding, painting, or balancing acts.

5. Stay safe

If you are being exposed to wild animals, it’s imperative to remember that they are just that: wild animals. If you are put in a situation where it seems like you may be in jeopardy, it may be best to play it safe and try something else. The situation may be illegal or cruel for the animal as well.

6. Ask questions

When booking a tour or experience, contact the provider to determine the nature of the attraction and if they are a member of a wildlife protection body.

What to be on the lookout for on vacation

Here are some handy questions to ask yourself when interacting with animals:

1. Is the animal fed and hydrated?

Pay attention to whether the animal looks exhausted or under stress. Often animals work long hours without proper care.

2. Does it have proper shelter?

Animals can be kept in enclosures that are far too small and kept from resting. It should be free and protected!

3. Does it appear to be in pain?

Animals should have proper access to veterinary care and in proper health. If it looks like an animal is limping or has obvious deformations, do not support the venue.

4. Is the animal in distress?

Animals that perform for crowds are often kept in poor conditions and put under psychological stress from intense training. Instead, visit a sanctuary or reserve where animals are allowed to roam free.

Now you’re ready for a safari of your own! Find one on GetYourGuide and experience wildlife all over the globe.

7 Life-Changing Lessons You’ll Learn Traveling Alone

It might be scary, but you’re actually not alone: since 2008, solo travelers have increased a whopping 134%. We’re all spending more time on the road, but this phenomenon is more than just a lifestyle shift. There’s something inherently appealing about going it alone:  solo travel is one of the most empowering experiences you can have. As Hannah Arendt writes, “you are more master of yourself than at any other time” while alone abroad.

Here are 7 lessons that may stick with you forever after traveling alone. I know they did with me.

1.  You can do things on your own

Cristiano Medeiros Dalbem @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Cristiano Medeiros Dalbem @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Yes, you can! The biggest obstacle is that initial purchase, showing up for the flight and just going. My first time traveling alone was my most formative in this regard: I remember strapping in, sitting back and feeling the intense wave of freedom wash over me. I had done it, I was capable, now it was up to me to make the right decisions.

2. You have something to share

As an American, it’s hard not to feel relatively isolated from the rest of the world. When I first stepped off the plane in Prague in 2008 alone, I couldn’t tell a pierogi from a pilsner. But the more I saw, the more I realized how relatable my own culture was to others.  Traveling alone will make people want to talk to you, you’ll seek out new connections and experiences that will enrich your life while shattering stereotypes.

3. You can always reinvent yourself

Thinking outside the box is hard when you’re stuck in a cubicle all day. Let’s face it, Brad the computer technician has to work hard to break out of others’ ideas of him. The moment Brad steps on a plane and leaves behind others preconceptions he’s an art connoisseur, he’s a surfer or a musician. All you have to do is try. And with no one to hold you back, it’s much easier.

4. Life is about experiences

Nhi Dang @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Nhi Dang @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

And not gadgets or expensive things. Remember the tricycle you had when you were a kid? Probably not. But you will always remember that feeling of staring out over the unknown by yourself. By experiencing new things, you’ll gain a new appreciation for living in the now. You never know if you’ll ever have another chance to dance on rooftops in Berlin or float under starry skies in hot-water springs. Shedding the pressure of others allows you to focus all your energies on immersing yourself in the experience, which amplifies its meaning. These are the stories you’ll tell your grandchildren.

5. In general, people are good

You can’t help it when traveling alone: at one point you’ll have to rely on someone else. This can be terrifying. But the more confident you become in asking for help, the more you’ll realize that people are empathetic creatures. We all share the same fears, hopes, and concerns and when we see them reflected in another, our natural instinct is to help. Don’t believe me? Human brains are hardwired for empathy and friendship. Shared experiences are the quickest way to that friendship.

6. Life is full of setbacks – but that’s okay

You missed your train, the Louvre was closed, or your rental car broke down. What may seem like the end to your dream vacation experience is just a setback. When you are on your own you are forced to keep going. There is no backtracking. That means you will create new opportunities for experiences that you may never have expected. This realization and the following hard-fought victory is even more satisfying in the end.

7. It’s okay to be alone

I’ll admit it, there are always lonely moments when traveling solo. It often hits while on flights or plane rides, where it’s hard to find people to talk to. But these moments of self-introspection are something sorely lacking from your daily routine. Removing yourself from the familiar allows you to see yourself in a new light. And you are much more interesting than you think. So go ahead, spend some time with your ever-present companion.

What have you learned traveling alone? And have you ever had any life-changing experiences? Share and comment if so! And find all kinds of experiences on GetYourGuide for your next journey.

Top image Rajarshi MITRA @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

7 simple tips to stay fit and healthy while on vacation

Vacation is the ultimate chance to be lazy. To some, this is the entire point of a vacation: lounging around on spotless beaches sipping cocktails under palm trees is the perfect antidote to hectic everyday life.

Yet research shows that staying active improves your mood and gives you more energy. It will also alleviate the “holiday hangover” after returning home. As our lives become increasingly sedentary, staying active is more important than ever.

It doesn’t have to be grueling (it takes a special, incredible person to run a marathon on a vacation) or expensive either! Here are some simple tips to keep you moving and lighten your step so you can see and experience more – like that extra glass of sangria.

1. Run or cycle around a new city

Cycling

Cycling

Stay active! Waking up a bit earlier on your first day in a new city for a run is the perfect way to get your bearings and get a sense of what you want to see. If you’re feeling adventurous, run up to a popular overlook for a thigh-burning challenge and enjoy that rewarding sense of accomplishment accompanied with breathtaking views over unknown landscapes.

Find a bike or running tour!

2. Dance like you have never danced before

Feel the rhythm! Dancing is a natural way to connect with a country’s culture and soul. A people’s history is often written in the notes and tones of its music. Not only will it transport your soul to a different time and place, it’ll get your muscles firing and the endorphins pumping. A dance class is a great way to learn some culture and stay on your feet.

3. Eat smartly

You don’t need to starve yourself; just be strategic! Instead of indulging on the questionable airline food, splurge on some mouthwatering ceviche, laksa, or mezes (a type of Greek tapas). Pack a healthy meal for the long-haul flight – it’s allowed!

Try a guided food experience

4. Pack smartly

Bring a pair of running or walking shoes to compliment those dancing shoes.  Find a pair that doesn’t take up so much space and pack items like socks and underwear inside so you don’t waste space. That way you can still bring home the nice bottle of local wine for your friends.

Alper Çuğun @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Alper Çuğun @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

5. Walk, do not taxi, to the attractions

Karen Roe @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Karen Roe @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

You’ll see them up close rather than from afar and you’ll get to know the city like a local. Walking also allows you to stop and pop into side shops whenever you wish. Some cities even offer running tours for extra motivation.

6. Choose the perfect location

Enabling yourself to eat healthily and stay active is also a question of your surroundings. If you want to run stay near a park or a beach with abundant space to do so. Stay in accommodation with a kitchen and a refrigerator so you can take leftovers from the restaurant home or cook your own meals. The latter is also a great way to save money and try out local produce and recipes.

7. Relax and enjoy yourself

Trekking Rinjani @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Trekking Rinjani @ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Relaxing may sound like a no-brainer. But sometimes we forget! Turn off the work cell phone, meditate, and clear your head. Then you can enjoy your surroundings more. Simply said, being at peace is the best motivation to get out and have fun. Which in the end will keep you active and healthy. You owe it to yourself!

There’s almost an unlimited amount of ways to keep moving on vacation! What are some of your favorites? Get inspired on GetYourGuide!

Find tours & activities

11 reasons why you have to visit Porto

Ah, Porto. Underrated. Beautiful. Laid-back. I fell in love with this enchanting port town back in November. Here are 11 reasons why you will too.

1. It’s cheap to get there within Europe

3 hours from Berlin or London may be stretching it on a budget flight, but Ryanair is helping to rescue the city’s economy. Porto’s airport is also central and accessible. As one local told me: “we all have them to thank for our jobs.” Porto is booming. So snatch up some affordable airfare for a long weekend.

2. Weather

Feel the breeze

Feel the breeze

It rains some 130 days in Porto a year. But now is the perfect time! Porto’s rainy season is mainly during the winter and fall. Its coastal location also protects it from the harshest summer weather. That sounds juuuust right.

3. Contrast

porto river small

Porto viewed from the Gaia side

Porto is colorful. Not as colorful as Lisbon, but that lends itself to more glaring contrast. The buildings are mostly granite, giving them a darker, more Gothic foundation. When Porto became a big shipping town, the sailors found this drab so they painted the small wooden houses on the river in marvelous colors to greet them when they returned. The effect lends itself to little vignettes wherever you turn your head. My favorites were the little shops and kiosks, buried in between buildings, offering little glimpses of workers in uniforms and families out in their Sunday’s best.

4. English Connection

Throughout history, the British have used Porto as, well, a port. Portugal was often the little side story throughout history, making it attractive to orient itself to their (also) rainy neighbors to the north for protection from the French or Spanish. The city is littered with remnants of this relationship, from the phone booths to the letter boxes. People also speak great English for a city with a relatively young tourist culture.

5. Harry Potter

Majestic Cafe, where J.K. Rowling first started writing Harry Potter.

Majestic Cafe, where J.K. Rowling first started writing Harry Potter.

J.K. Rowling first scribbled some notes on a napkin for what would become Harry Potter in a restaurant called the Majestic Cafe. The rest is history. Exploring Porto feels like you are in a magical world, where sticking your head into the right alley will unlock something spectacular. The college students, with their academic garb, gave the inspiration for the Hogwarts uniforms and other locations might be recognizable to the trained Harry Potter fan eye.

6. Dramatic Hills

One of Porto's sloping, riverside Medieval neighborhoods

One of Porto’s sloping, riverside Medieval neighborhoods

It’s a ride. The city is a roller coaster so getting home after some Port wine tasting will be a serious challenge. It’s fascinating to watch everyday life unfold and watch how it has adapted to the geography of the city. It’s hectic, but the normalcy of it all is very entertaining. Cross the street at your own risk!

7. The incredible food

A Francesinha

A Francesinha

Oh my gosh, prepare your heart. Porto draws inspiration from various places. As a port town with British connections, fried fish (cod) and octopus are staples here. In contrast to Lisbon where, as a local put it, “they eat salads,” the food is filling and hearty. Any foodie will feel right at home and after conquering a mountainous hill just to get dinner, you’ll understand. For the daring, try the Francesinha, (which means little French girl). It’s a three-story “sandwich” monstrosity that will challenge your resolve – and digestive system.

8. Port wine

port wine

Port Wine

You’ve heard of this: port wine. A variety of wine, so good, it has its own name. It’s actually grown and produced in the Duoro Valley, some 100 kilometers inland, but the entire country’s product is stored across the river in Gaya, making it the area with the largest concentration of wine in the world. The drink is sweet and locals sip it as a digestive after dinner. Depending on how it is stored or allowed to age, it takes on wildly different characteristics that you can learn about on one of the many available wine-tasting tours. Secret tip: try the new “pink” port, it was just invented 8 years ago.

9. Its growing tourism industry

Colorful vignettes aplenty

Colorful vignettes aplenty

Has just started here, meaning: cheap, authentic, rewarding, welcoming experiences are almost impossible to avoid if you just ask or stick your head around. It’s enchanting, as one can continually be blown away by what comes next. The city feels alive and lived in, something lacking in larger European tourist hubs.

10. Its craft roots

A belt maker at Mercado do Bolhão Market

A belt maker at Mercado do Bolhão Market

Porto is a mercantile town, so they know how to make things. And thanks to competition, goods are cheap. Leather boots can be found for less than 20 euros, as well as a plethora of colorful, creative household goods, clothes, and so on. The challenge is cramming it all into your Ryanair-sized carryon. Mercado do Bolhão offers cheap, authentic Portuguese goods and is fun to browse in among the locals.

11. Its party life

Cheap, fun, open. The handiwork feel of Porto fills the clubs and bars with rustic old-school charm. The ambiance is classy, subdued, yet rambunctious thanks to the students who pile out into the streets on balmy Summer nights.

12. The wonder

The dusty solitude of Porto

The dusty solitude of Porto

Will stay with you long after you leave. And you may find yourself returning some day for another Francesinha. So that’s why I fibbed a bit, there are 12 reasons. The last is that tingling feeling you’ll get when reminiscing.

Have you ever been to Porto? Thinking of going? Find some great activities to do here on GetYourGuide!