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Captivating Cartagena, Colombia

COLOMBIA, South America

Standing in the middle of the road, looking up, I couldn’t help but smile at the marvelous vista right in front of me. Colorful houses in vivid hues, designed in architectural styles dominant in the Spanish colonial era. In almost every patio and portico, beautiful bougainvillea flowers bloom, and locals wearing friendly smiles spend the lazy afternoon resting in their rocking chairs, and they would wave at you as if you’re a long lost friend.

It’s supposed to be winter in the southern hemisphere but here, the sun shines brightly making you long for ice-cold smoothies, while lying cozily along the the Caribbean coast.

This is Cartagena de Indias, or simply Cartagena, a port city north of Colombia. It is one of the most popular destinations in South America and its offerings are limitless, attracting visitors from different parts of the world, from different economic classes.

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Located at the coast of the Caribbean, Cartagena, with its colorful colonial houses has long been a playground for the rich and powerful elite. For art and history aficionados, the 400-year old houses and buildings, are a major attraction, not to mention, that jaw-dropping murals and paintings painted by the locals.

Those who are into architecture love the city for its massive churches, and colorful colonial-period houses and mansions. and for casual world travelers like me, it’s the mixture of all these makes Cartagena such an irresistible destination that you just have to visit at least once in your life.

I arrived in Cartagena, still feeling jetlagged from traveling all the way from the Philippines and then to Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and then Bogota, Colombia. But all the exhaustion vanished at the sight of Cartagena’s impressive beauty.

 

My wanderings were concentrated in the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site and my three days in the city weren’t enough for me to get a glimpse of of at least half of what this South American jewel has to offer.

Cartagena is a place that makes you drop all of your sightseeing routines and set ways. With virtually every corner and street boasting of a colorful sight, it is best to simply walk you way around the city and the Old Town, and go where your feet and eyes will take you.

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But almost everyone will agree that in Cartagena, the first place you visit is the Centro Amurallado or the Old Walled City.

A Port City, Cartagena is surrounded by a 13-kilometer wall that both protects the city from the elements and from the raiding pirates during the 16th-18th century. You will spend roughly 90 minutes if you walk around the stone walls. Inside the walled city, almost all of the city’s highlights can be reached within minutes by walking.

At the Walled City, the first historical sight that will welcome you is the Clock Tower  or the Torre del Reloj. The most original elements of the tower were built in the 17th century but over the years, its has seen several updates and repairs, and the clock it now sports is Swiss made, added in the early 1900’s.

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Torre de Reloj

Once inside the Centro Amurallado, be sure to check out the stunning 16th century church Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, named after the saint. The church has an imposing facade that lords over the plaza. In front of the church, are several fine dining restaurants where locals and travelers alike, stay drinking wines and dining expensive Colombian delights while waiting for the sunset.

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Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

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Nightlife in front of Iglesia de San Pedro de Claver

Around the wall city are several colorful plazas, houses and buildings that compete with each other in terms of beauty and elegance. One plaza that I really like is the Plaza Santo Domingo where you can find the Spanish consulate.

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Plaza Santo Domingo

Another highlight destination inside the Walled City is the beautiful Cartagena cathedral dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria.The building was designed after basilicas found in Andalusia and the Canary Islands. Outside the cathedral, you can find Colombian artists selling portraits and water color-painted slices if rustic Colombian life.

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Cartagena Cathedral

Walking around the old town’s cobbled alleys, and admiring beautiful porticoes and verandas can take some time, since every houses makes an effort to stun admirers. You won’t have any difficulty finding a hotel, restaurant or souvenir shop inside the walled city, but they are a bit pricey. The up and coming bars and clubs are also located inside the walled city, just right after passing the Torre de Reloj.

If you want more value for your buck, a  few blocks away from the wall city, travelers gravitate towards the hip, artistic, laid back, realistic, if a bit noisy, community of Getsemani.

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A graffito/mural in Getsemani

Over the years, travelers have raised their eyebrows on Getsemani no thanks to its reputation as a sketchy community, where the poorer people of Cartagena live. It also had a reputation for prostitution and drugs but that reputation is slowly washing away as more and more restaurants and hotels open within this enclave, and police increase visibility in the area.

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A Graffito/mural in Getsemani

The result? An up-and-coming destination, that now attracts a serious load of travelers and tourists. Around Plaza Santissima de Trinidad, travelers, even those staying inside the walled city, hand around and mingle with locals for some authentic feel of Cartagena.

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Plaza Santissima de Trinidad

One of the most popular destinations in Cartagena, you simply cannot miss is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, one of the most impressive and solidly build fortresses in the Americas. Built in the 17th century, this fort was never taken, despite attempts by enemies.

Inside the fort is a complicated network of tunnels used by the soldiers of Cartagea to transport food and ammunition. Today, the fort remains intact and a trip to the castle’s highest tip, will reward you with a breathtaking view of Cartagena.

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Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

If you have some extra dough, you can also head south of Cartagena to Bocagrande, long considered as Catargena’s own version of Miami beach. The young, hip and moneyed Cartagenos flock to Bocagrande to dine in glitzy restaurants and stay in upscale hotels and condominiums.

 

Truly, Cartagena is a world class city that opens its arms to the everyone. It is a charming and colorful city that’s full of excitement and romance. It’s a city that makes you feel relaxed and complete at the same time.

If you ever get the chance to visit Cartagena, take it. You won’t ever regret it.

 

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Some of The Most Beautiful Things You’ll Ever See In The World

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The world is an amazing place. Sure, it’s full of dark, nasty places that you probably don’t want to see or even know about. The amazing, stunning views certainly make up for all of that! There are so many wonders in the world that people haven’t even begun to explore yet. If you’re looking for things to add to your bucket list, or simply want to feel better about the world we live in, read on.

The Great Barrier Reef

The great barrier reef in Australia is a must see if you’re ever in the area. You can snorkel and dive here, making note of the completely different world under the sea. There are colourful fish, beautiful plants, and so much more to see. You’ll be amazed if you’ve never done anything like this before!

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are one of the most beautiful phenomenons in the world. The reason they are there and can be seen is very scientific. You can see it from multiple locations, including Iceland and even Scotland. You can start understanding the Northern Lights here.

 

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The Pyramids

The Pyramids are one of the seven wonders of the world, and how they came to be has always been in question. There are many things to see in Egypt, but have you really visited if you haven’t seen the pyramids? There’s no need to see them all, as many of them do look the same. But it’s worth a trip so you can cross it off your list!

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Stonehenge

Another mystery. How did Stonehenge come to be? Nobody really knows. You will usually get an eery feeling here, along with your sense of wonderment.

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The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, made by nature is an amazing site to see. Although you don’t have to visit in a helicopter, going over it will likely be one of the most breathtaking experiences of your life. You can even go down there and enjoy a drink if you book a tour with a good company.

 

Easter Island

Easter Island is a lot like stonehenge, in the way that nobody truly knows how the stone heads came to be there. Another mystery that will have you wondering what happened.

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The Great Wall Of China

The great wall of China has some breathtaking views – it’s one of the only things you can still see from space! Of course, it’s also a huge part of history.

 

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The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an UNESCO world heritage site. It’s created mostly from white marble, and it isn’t difficult to see why it’s one of the world’s most admired masterpieces.

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Machu Picchu

This is one of the most important sites in the world, and is surrounded by stunning views. You could hike the Inca trail to make it up here and really appreciate what it’s all about!

The world has many more beautiful things to see; you’re definitely not limited to this list! The key to seeing the beauty in the world is to find it in the smallest things, even if it’s in your own back garden. Will you visit anywhere on the list?

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Food To Pack When You’re Going On Vacation

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Are you going on vacation this summer or later this year? What you pack will have crossed your mind, but the chances are you’ve been focusing on things like clothes and shoes! Give some thought to the food you should take for a minute or two instead…

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When you’re going camping….

The food that you will eat on a camping trip will be very different to what you would eat at home. This is because you will not have access to the wide range of tools and electronic equipment that you do at home. That’s right; there will likely be no toaster, microwave, slow cooker or over. So instead you need to think up foods that you can heat with hot water, or warm on a fire. For the former, instant porridge in cup packs for camping are fantastic. So are noodles that can be warmed with hot water When it comes to things you can warm up over a fire, tins are usually a good starting point. So, think soups, like chicken and tomato!

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When you’re going on a boat…

Perhaps you’ve got a short ferry crossing or a four-week cruise! Even if you are not usually sea-sick or travel sick, sea sickness can strike unexpectedly. Whether you predict it hitting you or not, it is wise to be prepared just in case. Pack some fluids that have stomach-settling properties. Whether you feel very nauseous or just a tad, these will help. Ginger tea is great for settling an unhappy stomach.

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When you’re going on a flight…

Let’s be honest. When you go on a flight, you are at the mercy of what the air hostess serves you. Sometimes this is bearable, other times not so much! Yes, you can take food items on with you. But if you are on a long-haul flight, these won’t last. So, many airplane foods tastes nicer with this very simple trick…

The main complaint that so many of us have about airplane food is that is bland. Well, spices, seasonings, and condiments can really help this. In your carry-on luggage, take some little pots of salt and pepper. If you like your food spicy, take a little bit of tabasco sauce also!

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When you’re going to a hotel…

It used to be that case that hotels provided a kettle, tea, coffee, sugar and milk all the time. However, hotels are getting savvy to just how important many people find these. They are now being a little cheeky and sometimes charge extra for hiring these items! Avoid this unfair charge by preparing for it and taking your own things. Pack a travel kettle, and fill some clear plastic bags with the items you’ll need. Make one bag for tea bags, and another for coffee granules. Alternatively, you could buy some coffee bags (they exist!). Don’t forget some sachets of sugar and some small pots of long-life milk. Also, be sure to pack a mug! You don’t want to be drinking your morning coffee out of a tiny glass from the bathroom!

 

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3 Things To Know Before Visiting Canada

Canada, North America

I hate to sound like a tourist board ad, but Canada really is a beautiful country. You’re never too far away from a massive expanse of forest, or an intriguing store or restaurant drawn from its diverse population. Aside from that, the people are among the friendliest you’ll ever meet! My first piece of advice on visiting Canada is to definitely, definitely do it! Here are a few more practical tips I can offer.

We’ll get some of the technicalities out of the way first. Unless you’re using Google Translate to read this article, you shouldn’t have any problems with the language. The large majority of the country speaks English, albeit with “eh” used to end every sentence. However, if you’re visiting French Canada (mainly Quebec) you may find things a little harder. English is still widely spoken in these areas, but you’ll probably run into the odd shop assistant or bar staff who only speaks French. Aside from that, they use the metric system, the currency is Canadian dollars, and tipping is nearly as compulsory as it is in the States. You’ll also need a passport with Electronic Travel Authorization. You can apply for one here: www.official-canada-eta.com .

The next big thing is the weather. If you’ve planned your trip in the winter, looking for lower flight and accommodation prices, you may want to reconsider. Canada is famous for its snow, and this reputation didn’t just appear out of the blue. It gets cold, I mean seriously cold. Go walking around in the peak of winter without all the right thermals, and you’ll quickly discover just how intense the cold weather is. If you’re going for the skiing, then no problem! However, if you really want to get a taste for the country, I highly recommend going in the summer. Despite the cold in the winter, the summers in Canada are usually gorgeous. You’ll enjoy the outdoors a lot more, and be able to see more generally.

Finally, the sheer diversity of the country. Like the rest of north America, the whole of Canada was populated by immigrants. This has continued to bloom throughout the country’s history, and it shows in the day-to-day way of life. Walk down any strip in a Canadian city, and you’ll see stores and restaurants which stem from countless different nationalities and cultures. Some 41 members of the Canadian parliament were born in other countries, just to give you an idea.

You might leave your accommodation looking to immerse yourself in the Canadian culture. The truth is, it doesn’t really have one! Instead, I recommend trying to visit a different country every night! You’ll be able to find countless cultural restaurants, venues and exhibitions. You’ll probably be near enough some kind of indigenous museum or cultural spot too, so check that out! The whole country’s a melting pot; make the most of it!

Take these tips on board, and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time in Canada. Even if you came there totally unprepared, their world-famous hospitality would probably see you through!

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Taking A Road Trip In America? Here Are The Places You Must See

North America, USA

 

A road trip through the United States of America is a great idea. Along with Australia and Europe, it is one of the most popular road trip destinations in the world. However, there is one issue, and that is what places do you visit? There are so many towns and cities with things to do that it is almost impossible to pick a route. To help you out, here are a few pointers.

New York City, New York

Okay, so NYC will almost definitely be on your list because it is one of the greatest cities in the world. Still, it is worth a mention just in case you are thinking about leaving it off of your list. With the likes of the Empire State and Statue of Liberty, there are numerous iconic sights. And, the food is among the best in the country. A tip: if you get a chance, try a proper New York deli for a sandwich. Probably the best thing you can do is get a map and just go for a walk. Within a few minutes, you will come across something that blows your mind.

Washington DC

Amazingly, Washington DC isn’t as popular as you might imagine. Sure, it is a pretty popular tourist destination, yet it pales in comparison to NYC and LA. And, the truth is that it has just as much to offer than either New York or Los Angeles. There is the White House, which is spectacular because of its history and prominence. Also, there is the Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial to name but two more. Better yet, accommodation is a lot cheaper, so you will save a lot more money in DC. To explore popular vacation rentals of Washington DC, you can follow the link. The country’s capital is an amazing place that you don’t want to miss.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in the country. Thanks to events like Mardi Gras, the city booms with tourists and people.  Plus, there is the beautiful French Quarter and culture that sweeps through the city. New Orleans also has a history, and, a lot like London, you can feel that history as you walk around. What’s great, though, is that the location is perfect for a road trip. On your way down from DC and NYC, you can stop off for a few days and soak in the atmosphere. Then, you can drive on to places like Texas and Nevada. Perfect!

Las Vegas, Nevada

No road trip would be complete without a trip to Las Vegas. Yes, there are other places to gamble in the country such as Atlantic City. But, they are pale imitations of the City of Sin. Just the drive into the city will make you feel alive. In the middle of the desert, the city all of a sudden comes into view with a host of lights and casinos. Then, you just have to park up and sample a handful of the delights. A bit of gambling is mandatory, but there are other ways to spend an evening. For example, there are plenty of shows.

You don’t see anywhere else, make sure you hit these four cities.

 

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7 Fun Facts About Bali You Probably Never Knew

Asia, Indonesia

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bali is the most famous of all Indonesian islands. It’s a place that boasts tropical beaches, breathtaking mountains, and friendly people. Those are just three of many reasons why tourists flock to the island each year!

You will have no doubt seen some pictures online of what Bali is like. But, how much do you really know about the island paradise? You should check out these seven fun facts to learn more:

  1. Bali is home to the world’s most expensive coffee

In Bali, you can buy a type of coffee called Kopi Luwak. One intriguing fact about it is you won’t be drinking a typical coffee. That’s because Kopi Luwak gets derived from undigested coffee cherry beans! They get refined from the waste material left by civet cats. Why is that type of coffee popular? Apparently, civet cats only eat the ripest coffee beans!

  1. It’s a popular destination for honeymooners

It doesn’t matter where people come from in the world. The island paradise is the top destination for newlyweds from all corners of the globe!

As a honeymooner, your journey may start in a luxury hotel in Bali. You could then explore the magic of the island with your new spouse. And let’s not forget the array of cuisines on offer for those romantic evening dinners! Of course, the only downside is you would need to leave and return home at some point!

  1. Not all beaches in Bali have beautiful white sand

You might not think it, but some of the sandy beaches on Bali is actually black! The reason for that is simple. The sand got formed from the cooled lava of the Mount Agung volcano.

  1. Seafood lovers will enjoy a veritable feast on Bali

Do you enjoy eating seafood? If so, Bali is the holiday destination for you! An astonishing fact about the island is that its waters are home to over 3,000 species of fish!

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5. Bali relies heavily on tourism

As you can imagine, the scenic island of Bali attracts a plethora of visitors each year. And it’s just as well because tourism makes up 80% of the island’s GDP! Islanders have nothing to worry about for their economy. There’s no danger of people not visiting the island any time soon!

  1. Bali islanders are fluent in many languages

As you explore the island, one thing will become apparent. The locals will talk in an array of different languages and dialects. Most islanders speak Balinese, Indonesian, and English. Many will also speak other languages too.

  1. Bali’s new year starts in silence

The first day of Bali’s new calendar is Nyepi. Translating as the “day of silence”, it gets celebrated every Isakawarsa (Bali new year). For 24 hours from 6 am, light and sound must get kept to a minimum. The Hindu celebration also states that no-one is allowed out onto the streets or beaches. In fact, even Bali’s main airport closes during Nyepi!

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The Best Road Trips Around Perth

Australia

If you’re heading down under, there’s no better way to explore than hitting the open roads. If you’re travelling to Perth, why not combine city slicking with a road trip? Here are some of the best routes to take in Western Australia.

Before you go

Before you head out onto the rocky roads, take a couple of days to discover and fall in love with Perth. Tick off the must-sees of King’s Park and Botanic Gardens and Rottnest Island. Enjoy some retail therapy and hit the city’s famous beaches. When you’re ready and raring to go, investigate Perth car hire, pick up your wagon and grab a map. Incredible adventures await.

 

Popular routes in Western Australia

Perth to Esperance

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of driving through stunning landscapes. Road trips give you the freedom to explore at your leisure. The road from Perth to Esperance affords you incredible views and a diverse range of experiences. This journey will take you through the wine regions, down to the coast and through national parks. Highlights include a tour of the Narrogin wineries and a stop-off in quaint Wheatbelt. You can also enjoy a challenging hike through the tracks of Fitzgerald River National Park. Visit historic Albany, sample some fine dining delicacies and enjoy a whale watching adventure. Take a surfing lesson near Hopetoun and marvel at the starry night sky in Southern Cross. Prepare to be amazed by the beautiful vistas from the Southern Ocean Road. If you visit at the right time of year, you may be able to spot Southern Right and Humpback whales in the water. Spend an afternoon at Cape Le Grand National Park before arriving in picturesque Esperance.

The Indian Ocean Drive and exploring the Coral Coast

If you’re looking for a road trip that offers everything, this is the route to follow. The Coral Coast is one of Australia’s prized assets. On this adventure, you’ll see everything from modern art and rolling streams to deserted beaches and sea lions. Start your trip in Perth and make your way up to Geraldton. Stop off to see the famous Pinnacles Desert and look for fossils by Lake Thetis. Go snorkelling in Jurien Bay Marine Park and look out for dolphins and sea lions. Sample the fresh seafood in Dongara. Book a 4WD excursion to Stockyard Gully National Park and take a wander around the mysterious caves. As you arrive in Geraldton, keep your eyes out for the iconic horizontal trees.

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Pinnacles of Nambung Dessert 

If you’re travelling around Western Australia, road trips are a fantastic idea. Get off the beaten track and soak up everything this incredible state has to offer. You can plan your own itinerary and stop whenever and wherever you want. Amble along the coastal roads or get your adrenaline pumping at the national parks. Discover the history and learn about the culture and traditions. Stop off a winery and taste the local produce. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins bobbing about in the water or arrange a whale watching excursion. You can enjoy a whole range of experiences and ever-changing scenery just a stone’s throw from the centre of Perth.

 

NOTE: Featured Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyre_Highway

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A Few Things You Should Know Before Visiting Kuala Lumpur

Asia, Malaysia

Malaysia is a dream destination for a lot of people. It is easy to see why it is on the travel bucket list for many people. I have been to the country before and I can see why people would want to visit it. Despite the awfully long queue at the airport immigration! A lot of people that aren’t native to Asia think that they won’t speak a lick of English. So that can put a lot of people off. The thing is, nearly everyone does speak English. So it is a great place to start off travel adventures. It doesn’t make it too ‘foreign’ in that way.

You can get around using English and asking the locals. On the whole, they are a lovely nation and seem happy to help in my experience. Just don’t talk too fast or go off in an in-depth conversation with them. Keep it simple and they will be able to understand and help.

You don’t need to worry about taxis or hiring a car when you are in Kuala Lumpur. The train system is amazing there. You can get a train from one of the airports and it will take you right into the heart of the city. You sometimes think that everything was built around the train system as it works so well. So when you are making a Kuala Lumpur hotel booking, choose one that has good access to a train station.

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Then you can get around to the see the sights and visit all of the amazing markets. They run every couple of minutes, and they are super cheap. It makes it so easy to get around. So you can feel like you are able to fit in a lot on your trip. As you will be able to get around and see it all easily.

On that note, markets are life in Malaysia. They are so vibrant and full of life. They are great to visit for a self-esteem boost too. Want to be told you are a handsome man that needs a handsome looking watch, then they are the places to be. Be fully prepared to haggle at the markets too. The stall owners are prepared for this and will go in with a high price. It is a good idea to go for at least half of the first price they give. Then go from there until you are at a price you are happy with.

One thing that you need to do in Kuala Lumpur is to try lots of the street food. As the name suggests, it is pretty cheap but truly amazing. You get to try all of the tastes of Malaysia. If you aren’t sure what to try first, it is a good idea to ask the locals. Maybe check with the hotel staff of where you are staying of where they would advise. They will have a better idea of the places that are popular and which areas might make you feel unwell.

Enjoy your trip!