All posts by Tim

The Top Five Destinations to Perform Volunteer Work

Volunteer work can be a fun and rewarding experience. As there are so many communities which require outside aid, you will certainly have a number of different options. What do many consider to be the top five locations that are suited for active volunteering?



Haiti



Although it has been a few years since a massive earthquake rattled this region, Haitians are only now beginning to get back on their feet. Basic necessities such as medical care and potable water are still lacking here. You will be able to make a very real difference if you choose Haiti as your destination.



Vietnam



The friendly individuals within this country still live quite a rural existence. However, many desire a higher education that may be lacking in their region. Many volunteers will travel here to aid in formal educational programmes. Besides having the ability to shape the minds of young ones, you can enjoy some of the most stunning scenery on the entire planet.



India



India is one of the most populous countries on the face of the earth. The communities here are facing numerous challenges. Sanitation, access to primary health care and an adequate education are but a few of the different volunteering options that you will have. You can choose to work in major cities such as Mumbai or for a more rural experience, it is always possible to seek work within an outlying village. The locals will certainly be impressed with your efforts. 



Romania



You may be surprised to learn that a country within Europe is in desperate need of help. While Romania has been slowly improving since the fall of communism, the truth of the matter is that much of the infrastructure here dates from the Soviet era. Thus, it is decades behind more modernised countries. Should you be interested in becoming involved within the construction sector, Romania is a great place to begin. Also, there are a growing number of individuals who are desperate to learn English and better their position in life. Teaching is another great idea.



Ecuador



While the economy here may be robust, this pristine country has been suffering from the effects of deforestation. Many volunteer projects in Ecuador will revolve around teaching the locals better land use policies as well as simply planting trees to help the ecosystems flourish. However, never forget to purchase an adequate travel insurance policy when visiting any foreign country. You will be financially protected in the event of an emergency and you can be provided with the peace of mind to truly focus on your work. 



Volunteering is one of the best ways to experience the world while simultaneously helping those who may not be as privileged as yourself. These five countries are excellent places to begin such an adventure. By performing more research and understanding where your unique skill sets will be valued, you can make the most educated choices possible to begin down this rewarding road. 

Image by Steffan Scherz under Creative Commons license.

Cocktails in Berlin

Berlin is an amazing city. It has an incredible history, fascinating culture, and an awesome nightlife scene. Germans are famous for their love of beer, and it would be easy to to dismiss Germany’s drinking culture as just all being about beer and pretzels, but if you up for a night out in Berlin then you will soon discover that Berlin has some amazing bars and they know how to mix some delicious drinks.

Aperol Spritz
One of the most popular drink for Germans, especially at the beginning of the night or before dinner is the Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian liqueur – similar to Campari with a bitter orange flavour. An Aperol Spritz is the liqueur served over ice and then topped up with Prosecco. Something similar which is also popular is known as the Hugo and it is elderflower syrup topped with Prosecco (with a mint garnish). Every bar in Berlin will happily serve you an Aperol Spritz, but I always associate the drink with the Schöneberg area which is a fun, relaxed neighbourhood. Try the Green Door bar – it has a deliberately kitsch interior and is a favourite with the locals.

U-Boot

For something a bit more hard-core, you could kick your night off in Berlin with a U-Boot. It might be a bit of a stretch to call this a cocktail – it’s a glass of beer served with a shot of vodka. It’s called a U-Boot because the shot glass full of vodka sinks to the bottom of the beer like a submarine (U-Boot is an abbreviation for the German word for submarine). Sometimes the vodka will be replaced with Korn which is kind of like a German version of vodka – also clear but with a bit more flavour. A similar drink to the U-Boot is the Jaeger-Bomb. Jaegermeister is a traditional German digestif, but you can drop a shot of Jaegermeister into a glass of Red Bull and down it all in one skoll – a definite pick-me-up if you feel your energy-levels flagging. Everywhere in Berlin will be able to serve you a U-Boot or a Jaeger-Bomb, but one of my favourite bars is Würgeengel in Kreuzberg, a relaxed kind of cocktail bar where anything goes.

Fragrances

Always at the cutting edge, one of the best bars in Berlin is Fragrances at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. What makes it different? They’re pairing fragrances with bespoke cocktails. There is a display of scents that are matched to the aromatic profile of the cocktails on the menu – you sniff around until you find your preferred drink. If you are drawn to earthy and floral notes then your corresponding cocktail is ”Un Matin d’Orage.” Sounds like something Heston Blumenthal would dream up? Probably, but if the drinks are good then the gimmicks are just for a bit of entertainment along the way.

You never know quite where a night out in Berlin is going to take you, but you can guarantee that there are going to be some great drinks and a few surprises along the way. What more can you ask for? Prost!

Photo Credit: Alberto Garcia under Creative Commons license.

Where to travel in Asia on a tight budget.

Asian countries can be cheap or expensive vacation destinations depending on where you choose to go and what comfort level and extra facilities you are willing to pay for. For example, some people are happy to save money by getting a fan-only room, whereas an air-conditioned is a prerequisite for me when I’m travelling in a hot country.

Below are a list of cheap and reasonably priced Asian destinations based on my experiences and those of some of my travel-blogging colleagues.

1. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

If you want to plonk yourself somewhere for a few months and live cheaply while you work on a business idea, you might consider Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. You can rent a monthly hotel room for as little as $300 USD / month (but you’ll have to pay a bit more if you want a kitchen).

Lots of travel bloggers base themselves in Chiang Mai due to the low cost and ease of living.

Be warned that Chiang Mai is a polarizing place – some people love it and some people hate it. On the plus side, it’s the best place in Asia for vegan food. On the negative side, it’s nowhere near Thailand’s famous beaches. I’d rather pay a little more and live near the beach e.g., Koh Samui.

2. Thai Islands and Beaches.

Compared to similar beaches in other parts of the world, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer superb value. Thong Nai Pan Yai on Koh Pha Ngan is great and you can get lovely air con bungalows for less than $40 a night. It’s a bit isolated and well away from the party scene so ideal for couples looking for some quiet time.

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (HCMC)

Vietnam is extremely cheap overall. You can get guest house accommodation with marble in the bathrooms for super cheap prices ($20-30.)

I prefer the south of Vietnam to the north. You’ll encounter very few problems with touts and rip offs in HCMC (unlike in other parts of Vietnam).

From HCMC, you can take great short trips around the south of Vietnam e.g. to explore the Mekong Delta. The beaches in Vietnam aren’t as good as what’s on offer in Thailand.

Cheap food options in HCMC abound, including great vegan only restaurants and excellent vegetable markets.

James from nomadicnotes.com spent US$724 during a month living in HCMC for a month in 2012.

4. China can be cheap.

Our friends Dave and Vicky of acoupletravelers.com traveled through China on an average of US$33/per person/day which included some couchsurfing.

However traveling cheap in China requires more effort than in places like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam where cheap travel is extremely easy.

For an alternative take on China, Theodora from escapeartistes.com is lived for a few months in Harbin, China and had her son is in local school there (not an expat/international school, an actual local school!)

Where’s not cheap?

– Japan – obviously.

– Singapore – it’s tough to find clean budget accommodation in Singapore.

– In my experience. Malaysia is about 50% more expensive than next door Thailand. However, it’s cheaper than Singapore.

– Korea falls between China and Japan in terms of cost, approx on par with Malaysia.

– Phnom Penh, Cambodia is cheap but the hotel rates are higher than Bangkok or HCMC, Vietnam. In Phnom Penh you get a room with air-con in a cheap guest house for as little as US$15-20/night/per person.

Other considerations

– There are lots of ways to save money once you’re on the road, with the most important tip being that the slower you travel, the less it will cost as you’ll save on transport, you’ll find cheap places to eat, and be able to negotiate long stay discounts.

Photo: Redang Island, Malaysia.