21 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Tel Aviv

21 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Tel Aviv

It is no secret that I am in love with Tel Aviv, and that it is pretty much the only city where I can see myself living, other than Cagliari, where I grew up. There are so many things to do in Tel Aviv, so many places to visit, that I am never quite done exploring.

But more than anything else, I feel like I belong there: I have lots of friends; I know my way around; and simply feel comfortable. Tel Aviv feels like my home away from home; the only place in the world where I am regularly mistaken for a local – until I speak, that is, and people realize I can only mutter a few words of Hebrew (because speaking Hebrew is an added bonus when in Tel Aviv).

To find out why I fell in love with Tel Aviv, read my post “Tel Aviv loves life.”

Tel Aviv skyline

Tel Aviv is ever changing!

I didn’t expect to fall for Tel Aviv. Like most people, I went to Israel to visit Jerusalem, and decided to stay a couple of extra days to see what the hype for Tel Aviv was all about. It didn’t take me long to realize. I found Tel Aviv to be lively yet chilled; political yet welcoming. It is the kind of place where it’s virtually impossible to get bored. Finding fun activities in Tel Aviv is easy, regardless of one’s interests and tastes: there’s always something going on; there’s always someone around, at whatever time of day or night.

To read more about Jerusalem, check my post “Traditional and alternative things to do in Jerusalem.”

Every time I am in Israel, I find new and interesting activities in Tel Aviv – like the time I was walking along Rothschild and found myself in the middle of a silent concert: I spotted a small crowd, two musicians seemingly playing without making any noise, wore a pair headphones I was offered and listened to some great music, dancing along to tunes that passers-by could not hear.

I know that it isn’t every day that one may bump into a silent concert. Either way, Tel Avis is a lot of fun throughout the year, and you should visit for sure. Here are 21 things to do in Tel Aviv to make the most of it.

Places to visit in Tel Aviv

Looking for what to do in Tel Aviv? The beach is a good option!

21 Fun Things To Do In Tel Aviv 

Go on a city tour

Going on a city tour is one of the best things to do to properly discover the city. A good walking tour will hit most of the places to visit in Tel Aviv, such as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Habima Square and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion; Rabin Memorial; Reading, the old power station; Rothschild Boulevard and even the beaches and the waterfront. A fun way to explore the city is that of going on a segway tour of Tel Aviv.

These are the best city tours of Tel Aviv:

Habima Square in Tel Aviv

A walking tour of Tel Aviv is a must – Habima Square is unmissable

Bike around

Tel Aviv is extremely bike friendly, and pretty much everyone in Tel Aviv goes around by bike. Biking lanes connect the entire city, and bikes can be rented at pretty much every corner in town and at any good hotel or hostel. Once you can get hold of a bike, make sure to explore the city; to get to the old Reading power station; to bike along the waterfront and to make your way to Old Jaffa. There even are amazing bike tours that can be easily booked online

These are the best bike tours of Tel Aviv:

TIP: Other than bikes, you can now also rent scooters. I have never done it to be honest – I am not confident I’d be able to ride it. But locals swear by it as a way to zip through traffic.

sunset by the beach in Tel Aviv

Biking is what to do in Tel Aviv in order to get around

Explore Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa is considered part of the greater Tel Aviv area, and one of the best places to visit in Tel Aviv. Needless to say, you have to explore the narrow alleys of Old Jaffa, passing by the Clock Tower, the Flea Market, the Wishing Bridge, Andromeda’s Rock and Al-Bahr Mosque. There are daily free walking tours of Old Jaffa that depart at 2:00 pm from the Clock Tower. Jaffa Port is an incredibly cool place to visit during weekends, when Tel Avivians crowd its many fabulous restaurants.

These are the best tours of Jaffa:

view from Jaffa

Exploring Old Jaffa is an absolute must

Walk around some cool neighborhoods

I can’t quite decide what my favorite area of Tel Aviv is. I love Levontine and its low key bars and restaurants, the music scene and the interesting buildings – so decadent yet so charming. Florentine is my go to area for a night out, as there is an incredible choice of pubs and bars. And Neve Tzedek, one of the coolest places to visit in Tel Aviv, is the perfect place for an afternoon hang-out, with its cute coffee shops and boutiques. In doubt, I recommend walking around all neighborhoods.

Observe the beautiful Bauhaus architecture

In 2003, Tel Aviv was declared UNESCO-rated for its beautiful Bauhaus architecture. This style was implemented throughout the city by architect Sir Patrick Geddes in the 1930s and 1940s. The architects who designed the buildings believed in egalitarianism and carried socialist ideals – hence the flat roofs of the buildings, thought to be communal areas for the residents.

Of the original 4000 Bauhaus style buildings of Tel Aviv, only a few hundreds have been restored. Taking a guided Bauhaus tour is is a great way to admire this interesting architectural style. You can book it here. You can even go on an architecture walking tour which you can book here.

Wander around in search for street art

Street art in Tel Aviv is pretty much anywhere. I found a lot of it in Old Jaffa; I came across some great pieces in Levontine. Yet, the biggest surprise in terms of street art is the new bus station in HaHagana. Hardly considered one of the places to visit in Tel Aviv, I actually went there to catch a ride to Nazareth and ended up exploring it because the street art was just that interesting. Make sure to go – even if you don’t have to catch a bus. Or else, go on a guided tour.

These are the best street art tours of Tel Aviv:

street art in Tel Aviv

Looking around for street art is a great way to explore Tel Aviv – I saw this at the old bus station

Go to the beach…

Mark the words of an expert – I come from Sardinia after all, and I know what a good beach looks like. Tel Aviv is blessed with really good urban beaches. Whether for a simple walk along the waterfront during the fall or spring season, or a dip in the clear Mediterranean waters when the temperatures rise, going to the beach is what to do in Tel Aviv for either fun and relaxation. The good news is that a bunch of them are also pet-friendly!

TIP: If you manage to swim across the waterbreak lines, you’ll get a fabulous view of Jaffa from the water.

Beaches in Tel Aviv

Going to the beach is one of the best ways to enjoy the city

…to the pool…

If you happen to be in Tel Aviv during the summer months (you’ll be happy to know that summer drags alone for quite a few months here) make sure to spend a day at Tel Aviv coolest open air pool. Gordon Pool is right by Gordon Beach, at the very beginning of Tel Aviv waterfront’s walk. Access is around €20 ($20 USD) for a full day, and with that you get access to the changing facilities, showers and a locker, as well as to the loungers by the pool.

Gordon Pool is a fabulous swimming pool and the dream of all swimmers. It’s a 50 meters long open air pool filled with sea water at just about the perfect temperature for swimming. It honestly is the perfect place to train and hang out on a hot day.

… or to the park

Park Hayarkon is a great urban oasis in Tel Aviv and the place to go to for a family picnic or for activities such as biking, running, climbing (yes, there’s a climbing wall!) etc. If looking for a place to hang out during the weekend, Park Hayarkon may be a very good option.

Old Power Station

One of my favorite places to visit in Tel Aviv is Reading power station, not far from Park Hayarkon

Admire a fabulous sunset

The light is special at sunrise and sunset, but I am generally too lazy to wake up before dawn to take pictures of sunrise. The great news is that Tel Aviv geographic position is perfect to stare at the sun setting on the horizon and dipping into the Mediterranean. Indeed one of the nicest things to do in Tel Aviv is admiring the sunset. All it takes is checking at what time the sun sets depending on the season, and walking to the waterfront to enjoy the show.

places to visit in Tel Aviv

Watching the sunset is a must – even cats know it

Get the buzz of Carmel Market 

I love markets. I find them to be the perfect place to observe a bit of local action, and to learn more about the culture of the city and country I am visiting – whether through the items on sale (food does say a lot about a country!); or through the behavior of people at the market (do they bargain the prices? Do they yell for attention?).

Besides, markets are the best places to get some cheap yet tasty street food. Sure enough, going to Carmel Market is a must if you are in search for fresh produce and good street food. This is an excellent street food tour in Carmel Market that can be booked online.

These are some of the best market and food tours in Tel Aviv:

Have a fabulous brunch

When it comes to breakfast, Israelis take it to a whole new level. Salads, bread, tahini, eggs and what not are ever present at any proper breakfast table there. In Tel Aviv, breakfast (or better, brunch), is the most important meal, and if you are looking for what to do in Tel Aviv on a Friday morning, I’d say that eating brunch is just the thing. It is the perfect way to kick off Shabbat, apparently, and there’s a wide range of fantastic restaurants that are famous for their amazing brunches.

The best places for brunch in Tel Aviv are Café Sheleg, on Ge’ula street almost at the corner with Allenby – it’s a small, quaint café where you’ll get a fantastic local vibe; and Benedict, which has several locations around town (I tried the one on Rotschild) and serves breakfast 24/7.

Get stuffed on hummus…

It’s worth repeating that food in Israel is simply delicious and actually very healthy. There’s an abundance of vegetables and salads, and a great selection of vegetarian and vegan food. In fact, Tel Aviv is considered one of the best cities for vegan travelers. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or not, you have to get stuffed on hummus. The best hummus in town is allegedly found at Abu Hassan, which is actually located in Old Jaffa.

best hummus in Tel Aviv

Looking for unmissable things to do in Tel Aviv? Eat hummus!

… then burn it off

I swear I haven’t seen an overweight person in Tel Aviv, despite all the hummus eating that goes on. People stay fit by biking, running, walking their dog, surfing, swimming (see what I just wrote about Gordon Pool), playing beach volley and matkot – a popular game similar to beach tennis. Sure enough, staying fit is a must when in Tel Aviv.

Go shopping

I am hardly a shopaholic, but I admit that I find the beautiful boutiques scattered around Tel Aviv very tempting. Whether looking for the latest trends or for vintage clothing, shopping is what to do in Tel Aviv when wanting to splurge some cash.

If you want a local shopping experience, go to Dizengoff shopping mall. Shops aren’t honestly that great, but the architecture of the mall is interesting. You may get stuck there for a while – it was designed so that the exit is hard to find!

Pet all the cats

I love cats and I miss my cats dearly whenever I travel. The fun thing about Tel Aviv is that there are a lot of cats around. Most of them are strays and the locals take care of them, paying for their health care and food expenses. If you love cats as much as I do, you’ll have a blast stopping and taking photos of the many strays and petting them. Some cats are incredibly shy, but there are some who are very human-friendly.

friendly cats in Tel Aviv

Petting all the cats is such a cute thing to do.

Go on a pub crawl

I am hardly a drinker. In fact, I can endure half a pint of beer without getting drunk, and a pint of beer to become giggly and tipsy. But let’s face it, the bar and pub scene in Tel Aviv is fantastic and going on a pub crawl is one of the most fun things to do in Tel Aviv, regardless of the amount of alcohol you may end up drinking. Pub crawl tours of Tel Aviv can be booked online here for more than reasonable prices (considering how expensive the city is!).

Enjoy the vibrant nightlife

My friends think of me as the biggest potato couch ever. Comes the weekend, and all I want to do is grab a book and sit in the comfort of my home. Yet, Tel Aviv nightlife is so much fun that whenever I am there I feel compelled to go out. Go to Sputnik and Radio – although I shall warn that they are very smokey. Either way, enjoying the city’s incredible nightlife is a must.

Go to a festival

Not a month goes by in Tel Aviv without some major festival taking place. Whether it is a cultural event, a concert, or a huge parade such as Pride, there’s always something going on and it would be a pity to miss it if in town. One of the best things to do in Tel Aviv is attending a festival.

Hang out at a fantastic hostel

As one of the best destinations in Israel, there’s no lack of great hotels in Tel Aviv. I am hardly a backpacker, actually (in fact, I claim to be an unsuccessful backpacker). Yet, whenever I am in town, I prefer staying in hostels: picking a good hostel is what to do in Tel Aviv, especially if keen to save a few bucks. My favorite hostel in town is Abraham – it’s where I stay whenever I visit. Another friend loves Little Tel Aviv, because it’s smaller and quieter.

Hostels in Tel Aviv have been taken to a whole new level, becoming incredible meeting points for artists and musicians; places where it is possible to enjoy a drink, a concert, an art exhibition and even a traditional meal. Locals as well as tourists hang out at some of the best hostels in Tel Aviv, such as Abraham.

For a more complete list of places to stay in Tel Aviv, check out this post

Eilat

Sick of it all? You can easily get out of the city.

Get out of the city

Why would anyone who loves Tel Aviv as much as I do ever want to get out of the city? I won’t hide it: Tel Aviv can be incredibly intense at times. There’s a lot of traffic on weekdays, and it does get very hot in the summer. So, getting out of the city is a great way to recharge your batteries.

Luckily, the city is very well connected by bus and collective taxis that go pretty much anywhere in the country, and it is easy to get out whether for just one day or more. Furthermore, car rentals in Israel are very cheap, thanks to the high competition (it may well be the only cheap thing available).

Places to visit outside of Tel Aviv

A day trip to visit the Masada is one of the nicest things to do in Tel Aviv

A great and easy day trip from Tel Aviv that I wholeheartedly recommend is that to the Masada and the Dead Sea. It is actually possible to book the trip to Masada and the Dead Sea online.

These are some of the best tours to Masada and the Dead Sea:

If getting out of the city is a must when feeling overwhelmed, good options for a weekend away may be the North of Israel, such as the Golan Heights, or Eilat and the Red Sea.

To find out why I am in love with Eilat, check my post “Why I love Eilat.”

The good news is that Tel Aviv is really well connected – major airlines as well as budget ones all fly to Tel Aviv.

Finally, here’s how to plan the perfect trip to Israel.

Have you ever been to Tel Aviv? What did you enjoy the most there?

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Find out the 20 things to do in Tel Aviv, Israel - via @clautavani

 

 

Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka

Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka

Backpacking Sri Lanka is a lot of fun. This is a perfect country for those who enjoy this travel style, as it is usually budget friendly (with some exceptions) and – despite what one may think – it is quite easy to move around. I spent 3 full weeks traveling around the country and visited all the most famous tourist destinations there, as well as some off the beaten path places – and had a real blast!

In this post, I highlight all the things you should know before traveling to Sri Lanka.

For an essential guide to Sri Lanka, make sure to read my post 13 Fabulous Places To Visit In Sri Lanka.” 

33 Things To Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka

You need a visa

The first thing you need to do to set off backpacking Sri Lanka is making sure all your documents are in order. This means applying for a visa before traveling. Visa regulations for Sri Lanka vary depending on which country you are from. I am Italian, and I had to fill out an ETA online and pay for a single entry visa.

People from the US may need a different visa and pay a different fee. The best thing to do is getting a visa in advance and to hire the services of a company that is specialized in visa applications. I recommend using iVisa as they are fast and reliable. You can apply for your visa here.

And you’re better off getting a good travel insurance 

If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I always recommend getting a good travel insurance, no matter where you are traveling to and for how long. Backpackers often seem to think they are invincible and they try to save here and there, including on insurance, but I will never endorse this behavior. You do need an insurance for backpacking Sri Lanka. You can get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Sri Lanka backpacking

Taking in the views in Pidurangala

You will need some vaccinations

Unless you already have them, you may need to get some vaccinations before backpacking Sri Lanka. Mind you – this is not a legal requirement but a recommendation. The recommended ones include Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis A. Make sure to carry your yellow vaccination passport with you as you may be asked upon entering the country.

English is widely spoken

The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhalese and Tamil. However, English is widely spoken and people will always be glad to exchange a few words with you.

You should get a local sim card

One of the first things you should do upon arriving in Sri Lanka (in fact I did it as soon as I landed, at the airport) is getting a local SIM card. You will need a copy of your passport and it will take very little time to get your SIM activated. Data is very cheap and you can top up in one of the many kiosks around the country. I recommend using Dialog for good reception.

Backpacking Sri Lanka

People in Sri Lanka are incredibly friendly

People are lovely

If there is one thing you’ll immediately notice about Sri Lanka is that people are genuine, nice and very kind. Women will always keep an eye out for female travelers; you will notice that they are ready to share tips and to help them out ie when getting on the bus or with useful information.

You’ll get caught in the rain, no matter what

Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, which means that it rains a lot. It wouldn’t be so lush and green otherwise. What this means in terms of traveling is that no matter how much planning you’ll do; no matter how carefully you’ll study where to go when, you’ll end up caught in the rain. For example, it rains pretty much every day in the Hill Country.

If you really aren’t a fan of rain, try to travel to Sri Lanka between December and March – that’s when it’s meant to be dry. The other side of the coin though is that the country will inevitably be more crowded and the prices higher.

The good news in any case is that rain usually starts in the afternoon and lasts for a couple of hours. Make sure to bring an umbrella, a poncho and a pair of flip flops to wear when it rains – or else your shoes will get impossibly wet.

It’s always hot 

Sri Lanka is always hot. That means lots of sweating, being tired of the heat and sleepless nights unless you have a fan or good mosquito nets on the windows to let some air flow through your room. To be fair though, it’s not the temperatures that make it really unbearable – it’s the incredible humidity. To fight the heat, try to remain hydrated drinking lots of water or a refreshing lemonade, and eating lots of fresh fruit.

Except in Nuwara Eliya, where it’s always cold 

Did I say it is always hot in Sri Lanka? Let me take that back. Nuwara Eliya, in the Hill Country, is always cold-ish. In fact, I am convinced that the nickname of Little England isn’t due to the Victorian style buildings left by the Brits, but to the fact that it rains a lot, just like in England. And since it is at over 1800 meters above sea level, it’s also cold. You will need a good jacket, proper shoes, socks and even a scarf when visiting.

To discover more about Nuwara Eliya, make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Nuwara Eliya.”

Backpacking Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has some gorgeous beaches

There are some amazing beaches

Trust the expert! One of the things I appreciated the most when I was backpacking Sri Lanka is the gorgeous beaches. Think long beaches of fine, white sand lined by a thick forest of palm trees, with clear waters and perfect waves for surfing; or small coves with tranquil, transparent sea. It’s perfect for a day of chilling in the sun.

And incredible wildlife 

Few countries in Asia can count with the incredible amount of wildlife that Sri Lanka has. If you plan to go backpacking Sri Lanka, make sure to set part of your budget aside for a safari. I won’t deny the fact that a safari is expensive, but it honestly is truly worth it.

There are several places in Sri Lanka where you can see animals – especially elephants, but also leopards and much more – in their natural environment. Yala is an obvious choice; Minneriya National Park is another excellent one. Gal Oya National Park is perfect if you want to get to a lesser visited part of the country. Read more about Gal Oya in this post.

Whichever place you travel to for a safari, make sure that the company you do a safari with runs in a completely responsible manner. Unfortunately there often are reports of jeeps speeding through the park; too many cars at a sighting (there are set limits of how many cars can be in one place at the same time); or cars getting too close to the animals.

But the use of animals in tourist attractions is still a thing 

Elephant rides, dancing monkeys and snake charming are still common practices in Sri Lanka, and you’ll often come across people riding elephants or a crowd of tourists looking at a dancing monkey show. These animals go through extreme suffering and torture during their training for the sake of entertaining tourists. Don’t be that person! If your tuk tuk driver offers to take you to an elephant safari, say a polite but firm no.

If you care to become a more responsible traveler, read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

Traveling to Sri Lanka

When traveling to Sri Lanka, you’ll be visiting several Buddhist temples

Buddhism is the most followed religion 

Sri Lanka is a melting pot of cultures and religions, with Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists all leaving peacefully next to each other. However, the vast majority of the population is Buddhist, and this is reflected in the presence of an incredible number of Buddhist temples.

The most famous and beautiful temples can be found in Kandy, Dambulla and Anuradhapura. Make sure to visit at least a few of them when backpacking Sri Lanka.

Discover the nicest temples in Sri Lanka in my post “A Guide To The Most Unique Buddhist Temples In Sri Lanka.” Make sure to also read my posts “A Great Guide To Anuradhapura” and “A Guide To The Things To Do In Sigiriya.”

The Hill Country is gorgeous 

You shouldn’t miss on the Hill Country when visiting Sri Lanka! This is a region of forests, temples, tea plantations, scenic train rides, lush nature, parks, gorgeous views. The main city is Kandy, but if you are into hiking make sure you head to the lovely Ella, which has become the backpacker hub of Sri Lanka – for very good reasons.

For more information about Kandy, read my post “A Complete Guide To Kandy.”

Sri Lanka backpacking

Gorgeous waterfalls are everywhere in Sri Lanka

It’s packed with beautiful waterfalls

I have lost count of how many beautiful waterfalls I have seen in Sri Lanka. The area around Nuwara Eliya is packed with gorgeous ones, but even off the beaten path places such Wellawaya have their own hidden gems. My favorite was Elle Wala waterfall, near Wellawaya. I got to enjoy it all by myself, with just the company of two lovely dogs who guided me there.

You have to visit Galle 

Galle is easily the most beautiful city in Sri Lanka, and you really shouldn’t miss it. The city is a maze of beautiful cobbled alleys, well kept gardens, colonial buildings, ramparts facing the sea, an incredibly scenic lighthouse, a just as scenic clock tower, lovely boutiques and art galleries. And to top it off, here you’ll find some of the best restaurants in the country.

Find out more about Galle in my post “A Complete Guide To Galle.”

Tourist attractions are expensive

If there is one complaint I have about backpacking Sri Lanka that’s the price of tourist attractions. You’d imagine that in a country that is so cheap to visit access to sites and temples would also be a bargain, but in a way it is almost disproportionate to the average prices of the country. Tourists pay 100 times more to enter temples and tourist sites. Call that disproportionate! On the other hand, the sites are beautiful – so factor these costs in when budgeting for your trip.

Off the beaten path places are gorgeous

If there is one thing that I can recommend when it comes to backpacking Sri Lanka, is to get off the tourist route. Look for the hidden gems, get lost, find the small villages, the less explored places. They are gorgeous! If you are in the Hill Country, make sure to get out of Kandy to explore the surroundings. Go to Wellawaya, a bit further south than Ella, and you’ll be the only foreigner around. And instead of staying in Tangalle or Mirissa, opt to visit Dikwella or Nilwella for gorgeous beaches. The added bonus? Off the beaten path places are extremely budget friendly!

traveling to Sri Lanka

When backpacking Sri Lanka, make sure to visit the markets!

Markets are fun places to explore

I often begin exploring a place from the market – and it was no different in Sri Lanka. The minute I arrived in Kandy, I set off to visit the local market in search for local produce, and to get a bit of local action. Each city and village has its own market, so make sure to visit – even more so if you are looking for fresh fruits, vegetables or just want to browse around.

You should visit a tea plantation

Sri Lanka is one of the biggest producers and exporters of high quality tea. The Hill Country is packed with tea plantations – you can see them pretty much anywhere, even when on the bus or on the train. Make sure to visit at least one plantation to get a good idea of how tea is grown, picked, dried and brewed. You will also get to try some high quality tea and – needless to say – buy some to bring home. The best tea plantations can be found in the surroundings of Nuwara Eliya.

You should bring a water filter

Plastic is an issue in Asia, and Sri Lanka is no different. Since tap water is not safe to drink, I wholeheartedly recommend bringing your own water bottle with a filter so that you can refill and at the same time avoid creating more plastic waste. I am a fan of Lifestraw.

backpacking Sri Lanka

All this food for less than $3 USD!

Food is cheap

Now, this is what I call backpackers’ heaven. Food in Sri Lanka is cheap, and depending on where you go, you can get a meal of rice and curry for as little as 100 Sri Lanka Rupees (that’s less than 60 cents). If you are staying at a local guest house, you can ask to have your meals there and for just 600 Rupees (less than $3.50 USD) you can have a meal of various courses that is enough for a family of four!

But beer is expensive

Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, with strict regulations and high taxation on alcoholic drinks. Women aren’t allowed to buy alcohol from an off license. I am not sure if that applies to female travelers as well as I only had beers at a couple of pubs when I was in Sri Lanka. This means that beer and alcohol in general can be quite expensive compared to the food, which as I said is very cheap instead.

Local beer can cost up to $2 for a bottle, and to be frank you may as well not have it, as it honestly isn’t the best in flavor and with the heat that warms it up in no time, you’d have to drink it super fast.

A few places in Sri Lanka do happy hour and you may be able to get a cheaper beer there. Ella, backpacking Sri Lanka heaven, is one of them – and (probably under request of tourists) beer is served icy cold.

It’s not a party destination

You’ll soon realize when backpacking Sri Lanka that this is not a party destination. You won’t find bars and pubs that stay open until late, and locals hanging around for a drink. If partying is what you want to do, opt to stay at popular backpackers’ hubs such as Mirissa, Unawatuna or Ella.

You’re better off staying in local guest houses

Good hostels can be found in Sri Lanka, but given that local guest houses are so cheap, comfortable and clean, you may as well opt to stay there and have a more local experience. The bonus is that you’ll be able to get meals for a real steal as well.

traveling to Sri Lanka

Luxury is more than affordable in Sri Lanka

Although luxury resorts are more than affordable

While tourist attractions are expensive in Sri Lanka, luxury accommodation is not. If you budget carefully and plan to travel to Sri Lanka a bit off season, you may be able to treat yourself to a boutique or luxury hotel or villa for a few days. No better way to end your trip!

Buses actually work

Backpacking Sri Lanka is extremely easy thanks to a good public transportation system. Buses may be old and slow; they may be rickety and get incredibly crowded; but they are also very cheap and extremely reliable. Make sure to head to the bus station a bit in advance to secure a seat for your trip – and if you are a female traveler, you’ll be happy to know you can count on the help of local women who will gracefully save a seat for you.

backpacking Sri Lanka

Traveling by train is the way to go in Sri Lanka

But traveling by train is much better

The best way to travel around Sri Lanka, and especially across the Hill Country, is by train. Mind you, trains are incredibly old, slow and hardly ever punctual. But they are very cheap and the rides are as scenic as it gets – in fact, these are thought to be among the most scenic train rides in the world. You can get a ride for as cheap as 60 cents in second class – though you won’t have reserved seatings. If you want to travel a bit more comfortably, make sure to reserve your first class tickets in advance.

Tuk tuk are fun – but learn how to bargain

Tuk tuks are everywhere in Sri Lanka, and they will come in handy when you’ll be too tired to put up with a bus, or when the rain makes it annoying to walk. Make sure to always bargain the prices. Strike off a zero from whatever price the driver is suggesting and use that as leverage for bargaining.

Packing light is key

I always recommend packing light; but especially when backpacking Sri Lanka this is very important! You will be doing a lot of walking to get to your accommodation, often finding you have to go up a flight of stairs with no elevators in sight; you will be getting on and off the bus or on and off the train; and at times you will need to catch a tuk tuk and those really don’t have space for large backpacks and even less so for suitcases. Packing light is key!

Stay tuned as I will be writing a detailed packing list for traveling to Sri Lanka.

But bring hiking shoes

Hiking shoes are a must when backpacking Sri Lanka. The country is packed with good hiking trails, waterfalls, national parks and you will want to plan at least a couple of hikes. Flip flops or walking shoes are really not suitable for hiking. You want a pair of shoes that keep your feet dry, your ankles supported and your soles comfortable.

For a specific hiking packing list, make sure to read my post The Perfect Hiking Packing List For A Long Distance Trek.”

You are better off dressing modestly

Sinhalese people are quite conservative in their dressing style. You won’t see them going around in shorts and tank tops, and for as hot as the country is, you should avoid it too. Wear lightweight cotton pants or skirts that cover your knees, and light cotton t-shirts covering your shoulders. Keep in mind that if you are visiting temples and holy sites modest clothing is required.

traveling to Sri Lanka

Make sure to enjoy a gorgeous sunset

Sunsets are spectacular

Finally, one thing you should enjoy when backpacking Sri Lanka are the incredible sunsets. The ramparts of Galle are a perfect place to take in the views of the sun going down behind the ocean, but there are many other locations around the country where you can admire the sunset.

Have you been backpacking in Sri Lanka? What did you enjoy the most about it?

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Find out what you need to know before visiting Sri Lanka - via @clautavani

A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Climbing St. Peter’s Basilica Dome is the best way to get breathtaking views of Rome. 

I have been to Rome countless times, I have even lived there for a while and I have done my fair search of great viewpoints from where to admire the city. I have yet to find a place that offers views of Rome that are better than those from St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.

Not just that – the Dome, which is the second tallest building in Rome, can be seen from many places in town and makes for a mighty sight, especially at night when it is beautifully illuminated.

Mind you, getting to the top of the Dome is more of an hassle than most of us would like. Much like the rest of the Vatican – in fact, much like the rest of Rome – the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is crowded and you will find a long line of people waiting to get their tickets. After all, climbing to the Dome is one of the most popular things to do in Rome.

To discover more about Rome, check out my post 30 Unmissable, Fun And Cheap Things To Do In Rome.”

The good news is that if you go there prepared and know what to expect, your experience will be all the more enjoyable.

In this post, I will explain everything you should know before visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome and share plenty of useful information on how to get the tickets and skip the line as well as tips that will help you make the most of your time there. Before I do so, however, let me share some background information on this gorgeous building.

St. Peter's Basilica Dome interior

The interior of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

A Bit Of Information About St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome was built to cover the main basilica – which is the largest church in the world and, together with the rest of the Vatican, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its height of 136 meters and diameter of 42 meters, this is one of the largest domes in the world.

While the church was built thanks to the efforts of many artists such as Bernini, Bramante and Raphael, the Dome was designed exclusively by Michelangelo, who was apparently inspired by the Pantheon in its design and who started working on it in 1546 when he was 71. He died before the Dome was completed, in 1564, but his students carried out his legacy and work and the Dome was finally completed in 1590 (the church was only completed in 1626).

There are 551 steps to climb in order to get to the top of the Dome (or 320 if you opt to take the elevator to the interior balcony and then climb the rest of the way), and the climb isn’t the easiest: the steps are narrow; there is a part where you have to hold on to a rope and bend; it is narrow and dark – not to mention crowded. Yet, you should climb it – or you’ll end up regretting not having done so.

In fact, once you reach the top of the Dome, you get breathtaking views of St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Gardens and the city of Rome.

St. Peter's Basilica

The beautiful Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

How To Get Tickets To St. Peter’s Basilica Dome And Skip The Lines

Much like other famous tourist attractions in Rome, there are long lines to get to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome and it may take you anything between one hour to one hour and a half (if not more) to get through the line and finally start climbing.

You may be wondering if such a line is actually worth it, especially when you may only be in Rome for a short time. While the short answer to your question is yes – the view is worth every minute you have to wait in line – the good news is that you actually don’t have to spend endless hours in line!

There are proven ways to avoid the long lines to get tickets to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. That’s how I managed to visit a bunch of times!

Keep in mind that to date there are no options to buy online tickets to the Dome via the official site of the Vatican. If you want to climb all the way to the Dome, you either wait in line to buy tickets in person (though if you go super early you may be able to avoid the line) or opt to buy the tickets via a third party site.

Below, you will find my secret ways to avoid the lines at St. Peter’s Dome.

View of Rome from St. Peter's Basilica Dome

The gorgeous views of Rome from the Dome

Way N. 1: Head to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome before it opens at 7:30 am

Perfect for: Early risers and travelers on a budget

Advantages: It’s the most budget friendly option

Disadvantages: The secret is bound to spell soon

If you want to climb the Dome but don’t wish to go on a guided tour you really don’t have many options to avoid the lines. Your best bet is to head to the Dome as soon as it opens, at 7:30 am, and hope that the rest of the tourists decide to sleep in that day.

PLEASE NOTE: A lot of sites claim that the entrance to the Dome opens at 8:00 am. However, the official site of the Vatican states it opens at 7:30 am.

Keep in mind that in order to get to the Dome you have to go through the Basilica, which opens at 7:00 am.

I recommend to climb the Dome first and then visit the Basilica afterwards – you have to go through the Basilica anyways once you come down.

TIP: If you want to admire Rome in the golden light of sunset, you may opt to climb to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome right before it closes. You can visit the church afterwards even in this case, as it closes later than the Dome.

You can choose between two tickets:

  • The €8 ticket which means you have to climb all 551 steps to the top of the Dome;
  • The €10 ticket which includes the elevator to the interior terrace, from where you will have to climb the remaining 320 steps.

The €10 option usually implies having to wait in line for the elevator, so if you are fit you may as well opt for the cheaper option and climb from the very beginning.

St. Peter's Basilica Dome

A guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica is the best way to also climb the Dome

Way N. 2: Join a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome climb

Perfect for: Those who want a thorough tour of St. Peter’s Basilica 

Advantages: You can buy your ticket online and get a guide to accompany you throughout your visit

Disadvantages: It’s significantly more expensive than the other option

At the moment, there are no direct skip the line or guided tour options that include skip the line tickets to visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. The good news is that, since you are likely going to visit St. Peter’s Basilica anyways, you can opt to get a guided tour of the Basilica that also includes a visit to the Crypt and a Dome climb. That’s the easiest, most hassle free option you have if you don’t want to buy tickets in person.

Guided tours of St. Peter’s Basilica that also include a Dome climb generally start around 8:00 am. You will head straight to the Dome, taking the elevator to the first terrace, and then climb the remaining stairs all the way to the top. Once you are done admiring the views from the Dome, you head back down to visit the Basilica.

These are the best guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica that also include a Dome climb:

Via della Conciliazione

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome as seen from Via della Conciliazione

Other Useful Information For Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Ways of climbing to the dome

When you climb the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you have two different options:

  1. Climb all the way to the top – in this case, you will have to climb all of the the 551 steps to reach the very top of the Dome.
  2. Take the elevator to the first terrace and then climb the rest – in this case, you will have to climb only 320 steps from the first terrace to the top of the Dome.

The price difference for the two tickets is minimal, so you may want to invest in the elevator to ease your way to the top. However, keep in mind that this easy option comes with a cost: there generally is a line to get the elevator.

Once you get to the first terrace you will get the first, gorgeous views of Piazza San Pietro below, and of the upper statues.

From the first terrace, you have to continue climbing along a very narrow spiral staircase, at times having to hang on a rope. It’s a dark climb, but you will occasionally find a small window to peak outside. It will take you roughly 10 minutes to climb this final section.

You will go down via another staircase.

St. Peter's Basilica at night

The stunning views of St. Peter’s Basilica at night

How to get to the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

The entrance to the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is inside the church, which is located in Piazza San Pietro. You have to get in and then head right immediately after the security checks. There are clear signs pointing to the ticket office of the Dome.

By metro

The best way to get to Piazza San Pietro is by metro. The nearest metro station is Ottaviano, which is on line A: it’s a 5 minutes walk to the entrance from there.

The metro system in Rome works decently, tough there are regular mishaps. On a good day, there is a train every 5 minutes.

You can buy metro ticket at the kiosks at the metro station, at bus stops, in tobacco shops and newsagents. A metro ticket costs €1.50. You have to validate it before getting on the train, and it can be used for multiple rides (including on the bus) for up to 100 minutes.

Alternatively, you can get a day pass for €7. This gives you access to unlimited metro, train and bus rides in the city. A 2-day pass costs €12.50 and a 3-day pass costs €18.

Keep in mind that if you get the Roma Pass this generally include access to public transportation for its duration.

By bus

You can also get to Piazza San Pietro by bus. From Termini, take bus n. 40 or 64. If you are traveling from Tiburtina, take bus n. 492. From the Colosseum, take bus n. 81. A bus ticket costs €1.50 and it is also valid on the metro for a period of up to 100 minutes.

Opening times

The opening times of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome vary between winter and summer months.

From 1 October to 31 March, the Dome is open from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm.

From 1 April to 30 September, the Dome is open from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm.

For the updated opening times, you may want to consult the website of the Vatican here. Keep in mind it’s in Italian only, but it is fairly self explanatory.

Good to know

It will take you about one hour to visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. This includes the time necessary to climb all the way to the top (depending on which option you pick, anything between 10 and 20 minutes); admire the views and take photos and then head back down to visit the Basilica. You may want to keep this in mind if you are packing your day with other visits.

St. Peter's Dome

It’s all about gorgeous views

Dress code

Keep in mind that there is a strict dress code to enter the Vatican – including the Basilica and the Dome. Avoid wearing shorts, tank tops and flip flops; make sure to cover your knees, chest and shoulders. In general, I recommend wearing long pants or a long skirt even in the summer months, and to carry a light shirt to wear on top of your top for the duration of the visit.

The best time of year to visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Any time is a good time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, but if you want to climb the Dome I recommend going when the chances of good weather and clear skies are higher, in the late spring and summer months – so between May and the end of September. That’s when Rome is most crowded with tourists, but it’s the price to pay to make sure you have higher chances of good weather – plus, despite the heat, there really is something special about Rome in the summer.

Prices of the tickets to St Peter’s Basilica Dome 

The following are the prices for tickets to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome if you buy them in person at the ticket counter:

  • €8 for the option that requires you to climb all 551 steps to the top of the Dome;
  • €10 if you opt to take the elevator and the climb the remaining 320 steps.

Security checks

Keep in mind that, no matter the kind of ticket you have purchased for your visit of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Dome, you will have to go through the security checks. For a faster process, make sure to leave any bulky items in your room, and not to bring prohibited items such as umbrellas, tripods, knives or scissors.

Toilets and other facilities at St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Toilets are located on the first terrace, where you will also find a water fountain, a coffee shop and a souvenir shop. You will have to go a few steps down from the terrace.

St. Peter's Basilica Dome view

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome as seen from Orange Garden B&B

The best views of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

The views of Rome from the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are stunning, but the views of the Dome itself are just as incredible. You will get beautiful views from the Aventine Hill, where Villa del Priorato di Malta has a unique keyhole view of St. Peter’s Dome. If this something you are keen on, I recommend going on a guided tour of Secret Rome. You can book it here or here

You’ll also get incredible views of the Dome from the dining room of the lovely B&B Orange Garden. You can book it here.

Further readings about Rome

If you have just a few days in Rome, make sure to read my itineraries to help you maximize your time in the city:

If, on the other hand, you have plenty of time in the Eternal City, you may also want to go on a day trip. In this case, head over to my post “20 Great Day Trips From Rome.” 

Make sure to also read my post A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Rome.”

For more tips on how to skip the lines in Rome’s most crowded attractions, read my tip-packed posts:

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Mouthwatering Egyptian Food: 15 Egyptian Dishes You Have To Try

Mouthwatering Egyptian Food: 15 Egyptian Dishes You Have To Try

Egyptian food is absolutely delicious. Though everyone knows about kebab and falafel, there’s much more to it and if you are traveling to Egypt it would be a real pity to miss out.

As a popular tourist destination, Egypt receives millions of travelers every year. They go there to see the Egyptian Pyramids, sail the River Nile, take photos next to the famous Great Sphinx, tour ancient temples and museums, or to sunbathe at its beautiful beaches and dive in the Red Sea.

While Egypt’s numerous tourist attractions are a good enough reason to travel to the country, Egyptian cuisine is another reason to visit. By taking a culinary journey to Egypt you’ll learn more about its history, people and experience their culture first hand. 

In this post, I will highlight the best of the culinary delights you’ll find if you decide to travel to to Egypt. At the end, I will share some tips to better prepare for your trip.

Without further delay here are my must try Egyptian dishes!

Egyptian cuisine

Egyptian cuisine is absolutely delicious

All The Egyptian Food You Should Try: 15 Delicious Egyptian Dishes

Koshary

This is one of Egypt’s national dishes, and it has an interesting history to it. It started as an Indian dish of rice and lentils that British settlers in Egypt used to make in the 1800s. Italians added pasta to the meal before Egyptians finally added fried onions and tomato sauce to make what is today known as Koshary.

Apart from rice, lentils, pasta, fried onions and tomato sauce, other ingredients used to make this vegan meal are garbanzo beans, spaghetti, hummus, garlic, chili, and vinegar sauce. This interesting mix of ingredients gives koshary several mouth-watering flavors.

The Egyptian dish is sold everywhere in Egypt, from street food stalls to five-star hotels in cities across the country. You must try koshary when in Egypt, but if you don’t want to add too much weight while on holiday don’t eat it too often. The dish is loaded with carbs which can lead to weight gain.

Molokhia

This is another vegan meal that is named after the plant used to make it. It is prepared using molokhia plant leaves which are cooked with lemon juice, garlic, and coriander to make a thick dark green soup.

When served, molokhia may not look appetizing because it has a slimy, mucus-like appearance. But I guarantee you it tastes better than it looks, and it has many health benefits. You can have molokhia with bread, rice or chunks of beef, chicken or rabbit meat. It’s an absolute must when it comes to Egyptian cuisine.

Ful Medammes

Ful is one the best known traditional food in Egypt, believed to have been cooked way back in the ancient times when pharaohs ruled the land. Together with koshary, this meal is one of the most popular Egyptian dishes.

Its main ingredient is fava beans which are cooked with vegetable oil, lemon juice, onions, and salt. The fava beans are usually soaked for long hours so that their bean casing can be removed before they are cooked. The delicious beans stew is a popular breakfast meal in Egypt but you can have it at any time of the day. You can enjoy it together with eggs, cheese, pita bread or pickled vegetables.

bread in Egypt

Bread accompanies every meal in Egypt – photo courtesy of Martina Santamaria (Pimp My Trip)

Egyptian Shawarma

Shawarma is now a popular street food in many cities across the world. In the streets of Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, shawarma joints with mouth-watering beef or chicken rotating on a grill are common. As you tour the city you can stop at one of these places and grab a shawarma.

To make the Egyptian shawarma slices of marinated meat carved from a slowly revolving skewer are wrapped in a bun together will tomatoes, onions, spices, and fatty sauces. When you take the first bite of the shawarma your taste buds will be blown away. I wouldn’t be surprised if you order 3 or 4 of this because they are so tasty.

For the best shawarma in Cairo visit Abu Haidar located on 13 Ibrahim El Laqqany Street.

Hamam Mahshi (Pigeon)

When you travel the world you’ll be surprised to learn some of the things people eat. In Egypt, pigeon meat is a delicacy that is mostly served during special occasions such as weddings, because it is considered a luxury food.

Pigeons are bred across the country until they are six weeks old, after that they are turned into one of the most famous traditional dishes in Egypt. To cook the dish a pigeon is stuffed with rice or freekeh (wheat), nuts, spices, and chopped onion then grilled over a wood fire until it turns golden brown. The bird has a crispy and unique flavor.

I know pigeons are seen as pests in the western world, but when in Egypt forget about that and try some hamam mahshi. You can order this meal in restaurants across Egypt. When you order pigeon eat with your hands like the locals do, that way you can get the meat between the bird’s bones.

Hawawshi

If you love meat pies then you’ll enjoy eating hawawshi. This is a snack, a kind of sandwich you can take-away from many restaurants in Egypt to enjoy later as you sightsee. It is also often taken for lunch or dinner.

To make it minced meat, parsley, onions, and pepper are mixed then put in dough before they are baked in a wooden oven. Because of the pepper hawawshi is rather spicy; so have some water to cool your mouth if you’re not used to taking chili – alternatively, you can order one without the chili.

Ta’meya

Known to the rest of the world as falafel, this is a snack many Egyptians take for breakfast. It is also made from fava beans or chickpeas, which are first soaked to make them soft, then crushed to create a bean paste. The bean paste is mixed with coriander, chopped onions, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt, paprika, cayenne, chickpea flour, then everything is rolled into a ball that is deep-fried to until.

You can ask for this cheap and delicious vegan food in nearly all food stalls and restaurants around Cairo. While common as a breakfast snack, you can have it at any time of the day. It is usually served with salad, aish baladi (Egyptian flatbread), tahini and a side of ful.

Fattah

Just like ful medammes, this dish is centuries old. It was served in ancient Egypt during big occasions such as weddings or at celebrations to mark the birth of a child. Even today, this traditional Egyptian dish can’t miss from the menu of a major event. For example, on the first day of Eid-al-Adha (an Islamic feast), fattah is often the main dish.

It is very easy to prepare because all it takes is for prebaked aish baladi, cooked rice and meat pieces to be mixed together. The mixture is then coated with tomato or vinegar sauce then served. Most of the time ordinary beef is used to prepare fattah, but on special occasions, lamb is the meat of choice.

While simple this dish is very filling and delicious, it is also rather nutritious. So if you’re usually concerned about your weight, limit the number of times you have fattah while in Egypt.

Egyptian dishes

Setting up a meal while cruising on the Nile

Feseekh

Feseekh isn’t for everyone. This dish is typically eaten during Sham El Nessim, a spring celebration. It consists of fermented mullet that’s prepared by letting the fish dry in the sun, soaking it in salty water for about a month. It’s served with salad and pita bread.

Masaa’a

When you order this dish whose main ingredient is eggplant don’t expect anything like Greek moussaka. This typical Egyptian food is more similar to a curry than to a dish of layered eggplants. It’s prepared with eggplants, potatoes, bell peppers, chickpeas and all sorts of spices and seasoning such as garlic and pepper. It’s vegan!

Hummus

The debate over who invented hummus will never end, just as much as the debate over where you can eat the best hummus. In fact, hummus is found across most countries that were under Ottoman rule, including Egypt. This combination of crushed chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon and tahini is served warm, with pita bread. It’s a fabulous dip.

Shakshuka

Israelis will shiver at the idea of shakshuka, which they consider one of their national dishes, being mentioned in a post about Egyptian food. Yet, this dish of poached eggs cooked in tomatoes with spices, garlic, paprika and bell peppers is very common in Egypt.

Roz Bel

Another sweet dish of Egyptian cuisine that can actually be found in many other countries, with a slightly modified recipe. It consists of rice cooked in milk, cream and sugar and served hot topped with pistachios. It’s simple yet delicious.

Konafa

This lovely sweet is made with baked noodles made of phyllo pastry and a very sweet syrup. Much like baklava, it’s a common sweet across all countries that were under Ottoman rule.

Umm Ali

Another traditional Egyptian food worth having for its interesting history – according to legend, umm ali was created in the 13th century by the wife of Sultan Ezz El Din Aybak in order to celebrate a victory. It’s similar to bread putting and it is prepared using bread, milk, sugar, raisins, nuts and coconut flakes. It’s served piping hot.

Egytpian drinks to accompany the best Egyptian food

Make sure to visit an ahwa, a traditional Egyptian coffee hous,e to enjoy a cup of some of the best coffee in the world, or a shai (tea). Ahwa’s are a great places to interact with the locals, so don’t be surprised if the person sitting at the next table starts a conversation with you.

Egyptians also love juices and there are many juice shops around Cairo. A popular juice is assab, made from sugar cane.

Egyptian food

A spice shop at the market

Five Important Things To Consider Before Visiting Egypt

Tap water is not safe to drink

If there is a country where tap water is not safe to drink, that is Egypt. Not only you should directly avoid drinking tap water, but you should not even use tap water to brush your teeth, and you should avoid things such as salads and cocktails with ice unless you are 100% sure that tap water has not been used. As plastic is an issue in Egypt – and in many other countries – I recommend carrying a Lifestraw water bottle and filter and refilling regularly.

You need a visa

You will need a visa to visit Egypt. For example, if you’re traveling from the UK you’ll need a valid passport and an Egypt visa for British citizens. You can make your visa applications online or at the airport when you arrive. I recommend you do it online, as this will save you the hassle of having to queue at the airport to get your visa. The online process will take you a few minutes, and if you have everything in order your Egyptian e-visa will be sent to you via email in a day or two.

Driving is crazy

I have been to a great deal of countries where driving is insane, but honestly nothing compares to Egypt when it comes to driving. The combination of high amounts of cars on the streets, no speed limits, no traffic lights and everyone on their horns means that it just is crazy. There is no time of day or night when traffic stops, and the only place you can escape cars in Cairo is the Citadel.

Keep in mind that there are no zebra lines or crossing lanes either. If you want to cross the street, your best bet will be to follow a group of locals and hope for the best.

Travel insurance is essential

Travel insurance is something I recommend getting for any trip – including a trip to Egypt. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Dressing modestly is recommended

Egypt is a conservative country. Unless you are visiting a hipster bar in Zamalek, Cairo most up and coming neighborhood, you really are better off covering your arms, legs, chest and shoulder. It’s a sign of respect, and a safety measure as well.

Conclusions On Egyptian Food

Enjoying the local cuisine of the countries you travel to should always be a part of your to-do-list. Don’t just visit the top attractions and go back home without having a single bite of your destinations food like some travelers do. In my opinion, sampling the food will make your trip more memorable. If you don’t know where to start, you may even take a guided food tour to check out what’s on offer. You can book your food tour here.

So, when you travel to Egypt be sure to try as muchEgyptian food as you can. You can begin by tasting the Egyptian dishes mentioned on my list. Once you leave Egypt you may be hard-pressed to find restaurants in your country or other parts of the world offering authentic Egyptian cuisine. So, it will be nice to say you have had Egyptian food once in your life if you never travel to the country again.

For more travel tips about Cairo, make sure to read The Crowded Planet’s post 13 Unique Things To Do In Cairo In 3 Days.

Is food a big part of your travels? Make sure to read my other posts on food:

Legal Disclaimer: This post was written in cooperation with Egypt Visa. Needless to say, the views expressed are my own.

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The Complete List Of Travel Essentials For Women

The Complete List Of Travel Essentials For Women

This list of travel essentials for women includes all the items that a girl shouldn’t travel without.

It took me years of traveling and carrying heavy backpacks to master the art of packing – and even more so the art of packing light. No matter how much thought and effort I’d put in my packing, there always used to be something I’d forget to bring; something that I brought but was never used; something that was completely out of place and some things that were just too much.

If you are a girl about to embark on a trip – short or long, it doesn’t matter – you’ll be relieved to know that I have this female packing list thing finally nailed. You can count on me to tell you what to bring and what to leave behind, and to share a bunch of useful travel packing tips.

Are you heading on a long term trip? Make sure to read my post All The Useful Backpacking Essentials For Long Term Travel.”

In this post, I will tell you all the travel essentials for women that you should take with you, and share a few packing tips for female travelers.

travel essentials for women

A small backpack makes an excellent daypack

9 Useful Packing Tips For Female Travelers

Pack light – no matter how long you are traveling for

Whether you are traveling for a month or just for a long weekend, you need to minimize the amount of stuff you take with you. Remember that there will be times when you’ll have to walk a few blocks to get to your hotel; or your accommodation won’t have an elevator or someone to help you with your luggage. The heavier your bag, the harder it is to carry it around.

Regardless of the duration of your trip, don’t pack more than 12 kgs!

A backpack is always a good idea

After having had to dodge a suitcase in the streets of Havana and Trinidad, avoiding potholes and dragging it on cobbled alleys, I have resolved to always use a backpack. Unless you are being taken from door to door and don’t have to worry about carrying a suitcase at all, a backpack is always a better option for it allows you to move more easily and it is much easier to carry up a flight of stairs.

Use a small backpack as a carry on 

During one of my last trips with my sister, I was using a small backpack as a carry on, while she had her usual small rolling suitcase. As we were going through security, she was stopped by the airline personnel who demanded to weight her bag and forced her to re-distribute her stuff (she had to take several things out) so that it didn’t weight as much. They didn’t even bother looking at me and my backpack. Yet, I am convinced it actually weighted more than my sister’s suitcase.

Backpacks attract less attention and they are rarely checked for weight – probably because considered less obtrusive. Invest in a small backpack as a carry on, and ditch the small rolling suitcase!

Pack a change of clothes in your carry on

Luggage gets lost occasionally and you may get stuck in a city you don’t know, after a very long flight, desperately looking for some clean clothes and a change of underwear in shops you don’t know. Always pack a change of clothes in your carry on – something you can count on until your bag is delivered to you. Keep it simple – a pair of leggings and a t-shirt, or a light dress, and some clean underwear and socks.

Don’t put all your money in one place

If you are carrying lots of cash with you, don’t put it all in one place! Put some in your purse and some in your main backpack – if you get robbed, you will at least have something for small expenses until you get your documents sorted.

female packing list

Will you be hiking? Then boots are a must!

Keep in mind the places you are visiting

Are you visiting cities and archeological sites, or will you be hiking up mountains? Are you going to the least explored regions of the Amazon, to the Andes or to Antartica? Keep your destination in mind when packing.

The clothes you should bring with you vary greatly depending on the regions you are visiting. In some cases you will be crossing several climates (that’s when packing becomes even more of a challenge), and you’ll have to be prepared for all of them.

For detailed, regional packing lists, check the following posts:

Make sure to also consider whether the places you are visiting are off the beaten path – off the beaten path places are fantastic to visit, but you usually can’t get hold of things you may need there. 

Consider the style of your trip

Are you traveling independently or will you be joining a guided group tour? Will you be using public transportation much, or are you only counting on private transfers or a car rental? Are you covering long distances by plane, or will you be catching night trains?

First of all, whenever possible opt for trains over planes – it will lower your carbon footprint.

Make sure to read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

If you are traveling by plane, you will need to keep in mind the baggage restrictions and regulations. Please remember that different airports in different parts of the world will have different security checking procedures. If traveling within Europe, you can consult the website of the European Commission.

If you are using public transportation, packing light is even more important. You won’t have the comfort of a car or shuttle picking you up directly from your hotel and loading the bags for you, and on some occasions you’ll have to run to catch a train or bus that is departing.

If yours going to be an adventurous trip, with a lot of hiking, or do you plan to just sit at the beach or at most explore an archeological style or a city? Whatever you carry with you will change depending on what you plan to do while traveling. If you are going hiking, you will have to take your boots with you. And you can’t wear bright clothes on a safari.

Are you planning a long distance hike? Head over to my post The Perfect Hiking Packing List For A Long Distance Trek.” 

travel gear for women

Being comfortable is key

Be comfortable

Unless you are traveling to attend a conference, an event or a business meeting, you should leave your fancy clothes at home. Bring pants and shirts that can be layered and matched with different items to create a variety of outfits, and that can be layered easily. Take stuff that packs small, that doesn’t require ironing and that you can easily wash. Bring a t-shirt or a dress that you can easily dress up or down. And remember that nobody will think any less of you if you don’t wear heels.

Leave that hair dryer at home 

Much like you don’t need to be dressed up while traveling, you definitely don’t need to have perfectly styled hair as well. That is to say, leave that hair dryer and curling iron at home. In any case, most hotel rooms nowadays have a hair drier and if they don’t, reception will lend you one.

All The Travel Essentials For Women You Can’t Travel Without 

The basics

Backpack

The number one in the list of travel essentials for women is a good backpack. You won’t ever find me recommending a rolling suitcase. Unless I am staying at a luxury hotel, I won’t ever use one. In fact, most of the time I opt for a backpack no matter the kind of hotel where I am staying.

When it comes to backpacks, you really want to opt for something that is big enough to carry your stuff, but not so huge to be impossible to lift. Your backpack should be:

  • Light and at the same time sturdy
  • Waterproof or at least with a rain cover – this is important if you travel during rain season
  • With padded shoulders and hip bands
  • With plenty of side pockets to keep things separate and within easy reach
  • Opening like a suitcase as well as from top and bottom
  • Adjusted to your body size – this is probably the most important thing!
  • Comfortable.

Make sure to try the backpack before purchasing it. However, keep in mind that it won’t be the same thing as actually packing it. Which is why love Osprey. They have an app you can download and input your body size and type to pick the best backpack for you. That’s who I ended up with my Ariel 65, which is just perfect for me. I also have a  Berghaus Wilderness 60+15 which I find is too big for someone my size.

These are my favorite backpacks in the range of 60 to 70 liters:

Daypack

A good daypack is just as important in the list of travel essentials for women. It’s what you’ll carry with you on the plane, what you will use during the day while exploring, and what you will take with you while hiking.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll often be wearing your daypack in front of you. Some backpacks are very comfortable to wear – just not in the front. So for example my Osprey Daylite Plus is a great small backpack for a hike, but its handle is such that I can’t really wear it in the front without choking myself.

My favorite daypacks are:

You can also pack a very small purse to use during the day. It should be small enough to be comfortable to carry around, but at the same time pack your phone, wallet, and anything else you may need for the day.

travel essentials for women

Kuhl clothes are lovely – they make you look stylish while feeling comfortable

Smart packing

Packing cubes

Packing cube have recently made my list of travel essentials for women. I love how they help me keep my backpack tidy and organized. I recommend using one for your t-shirts, one for your underwear and one for your cables and camera equipment.

Ziploc bags

Ziploc bags are one of the biggest travel essentials for women, because they have several uses. I normally use them to pack any toiletries that may leak.

The tech stuff

Camera Gear

If you are a photography geek, you will want to include a good camera and a couple of lenses in your female packing list.

This is the camera gear I normally travel with:

If you are not obsessed with photography, buy a good compact mirrorless camera. If you have an excellent smartphone, you can even just use that. 

Miscellaneous tech items to add to female packing list

Other items that are travel essentials for women include:

  • A smartphone – you’ll use it to talk to your family and friends at home; to take photos; and to guide you through apps such as Google Maps. Make sure it is unlocked, in case you need to buy a local SIM card.
  • A reliable power bank – in case you need to charge your phone on the go.
  • A universal plug adapter – depending on where you are traveling to, this is vital.
  • A kindle – a must if you love reading. Make sure to get one with a built in light so you can read at night too.
  • A lock – to keep your stuff safe, especially if you opt to stay in a dorm. Pick one that has a combination – so that you don’t have to worry about the key.
female packing list

Pack smartly, and it’ll save you a lot of hassle!

The Clothes

Comfortable yet pretty clothes are the best thing when traveling. I am a huge fan of Kuhl clothes because they are very comfortable, perfect for hiking but also for sightseeing, easy to wash and dry and at they make me feel pretty.

My list of travel essentials for women includes clothes that you can layer to wear even on colder climates:

  • 3 pairs of pants, best if in colors you can easily match. I love Kuhl Cliffside Convertible and Kuhl Hykr pants. Convertible pants are a great solution if you think you will need shorts at some point.
  • A pair of shorts. I love Kuhl Horizn shorts.
  • Depending on where you travel, a combination of 6 long and short sleeves t-shirts. I suggest picking 100% cotton shirts for the summer ones, and cotton mixed with wool for colder climates. Throw in a thermal shirt if you are going to a very cold place. I often wear my Kuhl Sora t-shirt, and the Kuhl Wunderer shirt. I have both in a few colors. For short sleeves I pack the Kuhl Kyra and Kuhl Sora.
  • A comfortable t-shirt and a pair of leggings – they can be used as a pajama.
  • A tank top or two, to wear on warmer days. I like kuhl Karisma.
  • A sweater or preferably a micro fleece – the latter are very lightweight. Also take the Kuhl Alska for extra warmth and a Kuhl Lea Pullover for something more casual and easywear.
  • 6 pairs of very comfortable underwear and just about the same number of socks. Throw in also a couple of pairs or hiking socks if you plan to hike.
  • A sports bra and a normal one.
  • A rain and windproof jacket or a poncho. I have Kuhl Airstorm.
  • If your trip requires a warmer jacket, opt for Kuhl Firestorm Down Jacket.
  • A hat or a beanie.
  • A light scarf – you can use it when it is cold, or to cover your shoulders if you are visiting churches or temples.
  • A swimsuit, if your trip has some beach or pool time.
  • A pretty dress. I love Kuhl dresses as they are comfortable, easy to wear and with the right accessories they can become nice and fancy. I love the Kyra dress.

The shoes

I have some news for you! You don’t really need to pack 5 pairs of shoes. Are you shocked?

Ok, just kidding. The bottom line here is that much like for the clothes, when deciding which shoes to bring with you you have to think of the things you are going to do during your trip. If you are going to hike, hiking boots are a must. Also bring a pair of flip flops (perfect for the beach and to shower) and a pair of comfortable walking shoes.

These are some good shoes to add to your female packing list:

Personal care

A list of travel essentials for women is bound to include a good dose of personal care items. Make sure to get yourself a good toiletry bag like this one – something you can hang and that has pockets to store all your toiletries and keep them separate. Other than the obvious, make sure to pack the following:

  • Sunscreen with very high SPF
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Solid shampoo – it’s much lighter and smaller to carry than liquid one, and it’s great on your hair!
  • Solid conditioner – for the same reasons.
  • Tea tree oil: perfect to put on insect bites and on minor cuts.
  • A menstrual cup – it produces zero waist and thus is much more environmentally friendly, and you won’t have to worry about having to buy tampons, liners and the like. The only recommendation I have is to pick something that fits you in terms of size and feel, or else wearing it is a real hassle.

First Aid Kit

Make sure to add first aid kit with at least some basic medications and your prescription drugs to your female packing list. You should include the following:

  • basic pain relief medicines such as paracetamol.
  • imodium or any other diarrhea medication.
  • bandaids and other bandages.
  • antiseptic wipes and cream.
  • cortizone cream.
  • steristrips.

Miscellaneous items to add to your female packing list

Other things you should be including among your travel essentials for women:

  • A personal safety alarm – it’s small to carry and easy to use. In case of emergency, you press it and it sounds very loud, attracting attention.
  • A quick dry towel for those beach days
  • Ear plugs and eye mask – to help you sleep
  • Head lamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle and filter – because you want to use less plastic
  • Pins and clothing line – this isn’t essential actually, unless you hand-wash your stuff
  • Sewing kit – for fixing stuff on the go. Some of them are tiny!
  • Guide book – if you need to look for quick info about your destination but have no internet
  • Notebook – if you like keeping a diary while traveling.
  • Spare cash – keep it separate from your wallet.
  • Spare passport photos – for that SIM card you may want to get.

Travel Insurance

By all means, among the female travel essentials that should never be missing there is a good travel insurance. If you are still unsure whether you need it, make sure to read my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Otherwise, you can get a good travel insurance here.

Are there any other items that should be included among these travel essentials for women?

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Find out the best travel packing tips for women - via @clautavani