Where to Go

Big question: where to go, what to see, where to start. Maybe we can have you ask a few questions of yourself and point you towards some places you may not have considered.

Where to travel

With so many options and 'must sees' on the world map, you may need some ideas of where to go and how to plan your travelling experience.

For want of a better name 'the good, bad and the ugly'. This is a run down of some of the highlights and lowlights of the world (in no particular order). It's very subjective so please don't pay too much attention, but it gives a good idea of some places you might not have heard of, but should consider in an itinerary and also some places you might like to avoid. This page is not about name dropping; there are many sights that have been omitted simply because it's believed they are over-hyped and not worthy of the list - click here to go straight to the list, or read on for some thoughts on planning a route...

Planning a route: For a long trip (word on shorter trips later), don't get too much into planning at home - just pick, depending on how much time you have, a few places and regions you want to see. For those lucky enough to travel for longer, what you often don't realise is that after several months on the road you can lack the passion for another 14 plus hour bus trips or the money for internal flights to get to every 'attraction'. Equally many regions aren't as connectible on a budget as a world map might make them look. It's true that the happiest travellers are the most flexible. Hell, if you have the time, why not even try to travel without an ultimate return ticket - or at least make sure dates can be changed with ease. You will soon realise where the tourist trail is (the easiest and most convenient way to see all the sights) and follow it, making modifications where you want. Most itineraries are just that - dots on a map of places people would like to see or things they'd like to do, then joined up by the cheapest most convenient transport options. Maybe your desired route comes from places/regions you'd always wanted to see, are interested in or simply sound romantic/adventurous to you. You'll do a bit of research with guidebooks, the internet and hopefully the list below and add a few more to your list and equally realise which routes are feasible and which are not so, then finally do a bit of tweaking for current events and weather patterns.

Map'Why?' is a excellent question to ask yourself when planning -

What is the purpose of this trip? It's not that your trip really needs a purpose: it just can give you some focus. Why do you want to travel? Are all your friends doing it? Are GAP years in vogue? Have you always wanted to see x, y or z? Do you feel it is your only chance before you start working/have children? Do you want to see as much of the world as you can? Do you want to have a good time and party? Do you want to volunteer somewhere? Are you assuming travel will solve a life problem you have (it probably won't)? Do something unique and maybe exciting and adventurous? Get on/off the beaten track? It can be as simple as wanting to 'be experienced' or to chill out.

Give it some thought - think what might blow your hair back. In addition, look at the list of places categorised under various headings that follow, even getting to a few of these will leave a lasting impression. Please don't feel led into going somewhere just because your mates said it was great or it sounds really 'exotic' or 'cool'. Such places are often the most predictable and touristy or conversely, the most hard work/money for limited reward (Timbuktu being a great example).

And of course it is always good to get a bit of everything, even the bad and ugly mixed in with the good! Few trips are all plain sailing anyway.

If starting with little idea or a blank sheet of paper, good advice is to use travel/tour brochures/websites to get an idea of what countries look like (pictures), time scales and the easiest routes between interesting sights; useful information is also often included (weather, embassies, dangers, etc.) STA travel and other student travel agencies produce free booklets that are great for flicking through. The problem is simply that there is just so much to see.

Of all the travel clichés it has got to be that it is the journey and not the destination that matters that is most overused and yet rings truest. Before you roll your eyes and dive head long into ticking off a list of must have photos at various landmarks, it is worth giving this some thought. What does it actually mean? Is the 10 hours in a cramped plane or bus seat better than the pizza in front of the Coliseum? Or is it some philosophical concept that only after a year in a Tibetan monastery you can start to grasp? Well it is true that it comes with time, after you have initially rushed around ‘must-see’ attractions to be found in reflection, but at its core it means that your expectations of places you wanted to see often conflict with reality and the most difficult and challenging journeys you make are the most fulfilling.

Bucket and spadeIt is fairly obvious to say that flying directly with ease and comfort to simple access (thus crowded) attractions is about as fulfilling as seeing the Eiffel Town next to the pyramids of Giza on the Las Vegas strip. That does not mean that you need to suffer in getting to what you want to see or that there is glory in being uncomfortable while travelling, but it does mean that challenges and the over-coming of them ultimately brings fulfilment and rich memories (okay maybe this is starting to sound philosophical, bear with us). That can be the personal struggle to just find the time/money/health to get away in the first place, a difficult visa, figuring out your route, getting your head around some language basics to buy your train/bus ticket or getting fed... the list goes on – but it is the struggle in the nature of independent travel (compared to travelling on a tour) that makes it so great. As much as it is easy to look at a must do/see list here, on TripAdvisor or your friends Facebook page, think bigger and although you have something to head to, don't shy away from what you think is difficult (it's probably not) and embrace all that is travel: getting there and revelling in all (good and bad) that is the world you live in.

The world an open book

Limited to a shorter few week trip?

For the record if you are reading this and have weeks not months to travel in, this shouldn't deter you. Sure you need to plan a little more - pick one or two destinations and remember a few internal or regional flights and a little bit more money, lets you cover a lot in a short time-frame. It's not uncommon to see and do more in a few weeks than some long-term 'backpackers' achieve in a month!

However, if you are lucky enough to have the time, then pick a couple of regions, say SE Asia or Central America (good starters, loads of options), India/northern Pakistan (as good as it gets and quite a test) and Australia or Europe (Western countries are less exotic, but not less interesting; don't discount them - just budget well!) and plan to spend a few months in each, of course being flexible to stay longer or move on faster. Plain and simple, caprice is a great thing to have.

It's only natural that many travellers will want to see as much as possible in whatever time they have and plan a meticulous, rigorous schedule to do so. But in such a manner you will get unstuck as totally effective planning is never possible and certainly not when sitting at home. Have a rough idea about where you want to go, what you want to see and how much time you have. From there adlib a little, taking days and their circumstances (festivals, unrest, visas delays, food poisoning, bus fatigue, hearing about somewhere new, etc.) as they come - quality not quantity.

That said you can still travel fast and see a lot if you want. One breed of traveller will get pretty bored sitting in the same place for days on end and want to keep moving and see more and more. Most common is to rush around sights and then all of a sudden, when finding the right place, take a good rest and enjoy what's there.

The other breed of traveller you will come across - maybe you are one of them - tend to spend weeks in any sort of resort with good prices and facilities. These travellers' hang-outs are all over the globe and a great place to relax for a while, but not months! The main reason, and one that perhaps many of their residents might not admit to, is that travelling is hard work. No one likes sitting on buses, but that's how you get places and independent budget travelling on the whole is not about or conducive to relaxing. If you want to get the most out of your trip and make it the best value for money, to a certain extent you do have to be determined to push on. Travel as hard or fast as you like, just don't set any standards in your planning stage at home - things change.

Do yourself a favour and make sure you go to both somewhere fun and easy like South East Asia, Central America, Turkey, South Africa or Oz and somewhere less in vogue and more of an experience like the Middle East or East/West Africa. Anything is possible; the world is actually very open and despite what the mass-media might lead you to believe, on the whole (apart from notorious hotspots) safe for sensible independent travellers. Don't be put off venturing away from the normal run of the 'Oz to Europe' or 'Latin America' rat-runs. Even as a first timer or on your own, you will have no problem, be amazed at what you have almost to yourself and most likely have a fantastic experience when heading somewhere that isn't the latest 'hot' backpacker destination.

*Rough Guide's: First Time series is an excellent planning tool with clear overview maps, routes and highlights marked. Also recommended, if you can find them, since they are out of print are Trailblazer's: Asia Overland and South East Asia Overland. Recommended for those who like slick layouts and lots of pictures to inspire is Lonely Planet's: The World. This has it all covered (UK link).

Palm TreeSee a list of all useful planning guidebooks here (if you are going to purchase any, doing so through this site is appreciated). Guidebooks by themselves with all their practical information, are not so good in the original planning stage.

Also recommend by many are on-line Atlas such as Google Earth - useful for checking out distances, pictures of interesting landscapes/places, political borders, topography and running word searches on place names unknown to you.

New Have a look at what others are doing and what is possible on our key global travel routes map.

? How many countries are there?

So where to go first?

The place you always wanted to go is the obvious answer! Your personal attitude and expectations are going to be the biggest influence on your experience with the normal formula of: 'happiness = expectations minus reality', being true. Where you ultimately pick will probably depend on where you call home in the world, your attitude to 'risk' and your finances. The best first time destinations for those looking for some experience are regions where it is easy to get around and everything is close together, fun and interesting. For non-Europeans that will probably be Western Europe, for Europeans, North-East Asia (Japan/Korea) or New Zealand and Eastern Australia. Those on more limited budgets will pick South East Asia or Central America. All of these regions have loads of potential to get off the beaten track and make side trips away from the crowds. Those wanting to look elsewhere will find many parts of regions like Africa or the Middle East not as dangerous, difficult or inaccessible as people seem to think and extremely rewarding for those with a little confidence.

Clearly no matter how much time you have you will not see everything in one trip, no matter what you think and despite many of those you might meet on the road with grand ambitions to 'travel forever' (what they normally mean is get a job in Australia or sit on a beach in Goa/Thailand), it is typical that what you do and where you go will evolve with time. Each trip spurring interest for another region and the confidence building to tackle regions and places that once intimidated you. Remember the potential of places you can see, do, smell, touch is greater than you can possibly imagine... you only have to fire your imagination and have the time, money and confidence to make it happen. Taking this too seriously could damage your mental health

Drawing together several well travelled heads, numerous opinions and experiences in many, many countries... below is some fuel for the fire and hopefully many good ideas:

[Please note, the following lists are not rank order specific - if you are not sure what/where something is - click on the link for the Wikipedia article]

* Get your bearings... show/hide map of the world or have a look at what others are doing and what is possible on our key global travel routes map.

  • Rivers: (spend some time in all these areas for a great trip) Nile, Ganges, Indus, Zambezi, Yangtze Kiang, Mekong and Danube.

  • Easy Street: (great times, not so much to worry about) Thailand, Philippines, Turkey, Train/Hostel through Europe or Japan, New Zealand, Nepal, Guatemala, South Africa and Greece.

  • Culture: (and some damn nice people) Iran, India, Ghana, Bolivia, Georgia, Ethiopia, Mali and North Vietnam/Laos and Philippines.

  • Religion: (some 'centres' of the world) Rome, Israel, Punjab/Varanasi in India, Labella in the Ethiopian highlands and Buddhist sights in Nepal, India and Tibet.

  • Overlanding: (famous and great open jaw trips) Istanbul - Cairo, México City - Panama City, Istanbul - Kathmandu, Cairo/Nairobi - Cape Town, Casablanca/Dakar - Accra, Bangkok - Bali, Santiago - Bogotá/Quito, London - Hong Kong (via trans Mongolian railway) and London - Athens/Istanbul.

  • Compact circuits and great intro countries: (great for short trips) Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, The Gambia/Senegal, Jordan/Israel, Thailand/Cambodia, New Zealand, Uganda and Sri Lanka or Goa.

  • Life's a Beach: (great destinations, lots of sand) Mozambique, Jamaica/Cuba, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, South Africa, Turkey/Greece, Kerala/Goa (India), Honduras/Belize, Zanzibar/Lamu (Tanzania/Kenya) and of course Brazil.

  • The highlife: (altitude, tough going, heavy breathing but spectacular scenery) Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan, Chile/Bolivia, Santo Antão (Cape Verde), Nepal/Tibet, Kashmir (India/Pakistan) and Ladakh (India).

Or pick a popular, well travelled route where you know you will find plenty of others and traveller friendly infrastructure in a well-worn attraction dense circuit. See the most popular routes here.

Okay you won't have the place to yourself, but...

  • India, Nepal & Sri Lanka

  • New Zealand

  • Turkey

  • South Africa

  • Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Philippines

  • Guatemala & México

  • Brazil, Bolivia & Argentina

* Honorary mentions: USA (don't knock it until you've tried it), Western Europe (Italy/Spain) and Japan.


Feel free to contribute - add a recommendation to any list. Just a quick e-mail and your reasons is all that is needed. Also point out if you think anywhere is incorrect or over-rated.

If you need any more inspiration or more in-depth info on any place mentioned here, a planning guide or guidebook is the next best step. For a full recommended list click here.

"Don't listen to what they say. Go see - Chinese Proverb."

However, they can seem well travelled...

  • Anywhere in the Middle East, apart from Syria that is.

  • Leave the SE Asian mainland crowds behind and check out the amazing Philippines and South West China

  • Ethiopia, Uganda, & forgotten Kenya including Lamu Island

  • Ghana, Benin & off-the-beaten track Brazil or forgotten India/Pakistan

  • Neglected Europe: Romania/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Serbia/Georgia

  • Mozambique (parts away from South Africa), Cameroon & Zimbabwe

* Honorary mentions: Dominica, Cuba and Israel/Jordan. In South America try Venezuela. If you really want less travelled countries head to West Africa or Central Asia, but they are not particularly pleasant to backpack in. The advice is: don't worry about it - even in the most visited countries you can always find gems if you have the time.


Not really that dangerous, but a bad rap with the west or infant tourism keeps many travellers away...

  • Myanmar & Indonesia- areas off the tourist trail

  • Serbia & Bosnia along with other vast 'out of vogue' areas of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine which is (apart from the break away region) super cheap and a great country.

  • The Caucasus (specifically Georgia) Iran and North Eastern Turkey

  • Mountainous Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan & Northern Pakistan

  • Caribbean South America: Colombia & Venezuela

* Honorary mentions: Most of the Middle East, The Xinjiang mountains (China)

* Honorary mentions: Chichen Itza and many others (México). Remembered: Arg e Bam (Iran) and Palmyra (Syria)


* Honorary mentions: Vatican City, The Forbidden City (China), Palace of Versailles (France), Hampi (India), Grand Palace in Bangkok, Temples of Japan (Nara and Kyoto) and Sagrada Familia (Barcelona). Plus, not really buildings, but extremely impressive - the Eiffel Tower, The Banaue Rice Terraces (Philippines) Baha'i Gardens (Israel), Venice (Italy) and Mount Rushmore (USA).

KilimanjaroSo many, here's just a few outstanding examples...

  • Almost any major mountain range or altiplano in the world. For accessibility the Himalayas in Nepal and, more so the Alps. For extra wow and isolation the Karakoram, the Pamir highway or Kyrgyzstan 'the Switzerland of Central Asia'. The Switzerland of Europe isn't bad either.

  • Stunning Islands: Jamaica/Dominica (and much or the Caribbean), Fraser Island (Australia) and Santo Antão (Cape Verde).

  • America's amazing national parks inc. Yosemite, Alaska and South West national parks (the Grand Canyon & Bryce Canyon NP the most notable)

  • Great Barrier Reef or any big coral reef - Red sea is fantastic so are the waters off Thailand, Belize, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines

  • New Zealand's fiordland, or similar examples in Norway, Iceland or Chile

  • South American: Patagonia and the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile and Bolivian salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) plus Altiplano

  • Expensive, but amazing: Antarctica, Galapagos Islands, Pamir highway, Iceland and Ngorongoro crater (or any East African safari)

* Honorary mentions: Iguazu Falls on Brazilian/Argentinean border, Namibia's Namib-Naukluft National Park plus Skeleton Coast & the Egyptian White Desert, Ha Long bay, The karst formations near Guilin and Uluru (Ayres Rock).

WaterfallSome compact areas that have a lot to offer, many with few tourists...

  • Karakoram area (Pakistan), Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) and Ladakh (India) - breathtaking mountains, slim crowds

  • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of Colombia's Coast - amazing mountains meeting perfect beaches, or Merida across the border in Venezuela

  • The Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, plus North-East Turkey) - deserts, mountains, churches, mosques and lots of wine/vodka

  • Guatemala - try Todos Santos Cuchumatán on Nov 1st or Antigua during Semana Santa

  • Jordan/Lebanon/Israel - don't be put off, amazing

  • North Laos/Vietnam - difficult and bumpy transport, unique and beautiful region

  • Central Sulawesi and Eastern Indonesia - a whole world to explore

  • Southern Africa - best with your own transport: Deserts to Vic falls to Great White shark dives

* Honorary mentions: Chilean lake district and Patagonia (very south), Cape Verde (little expensive, but part hikers/bikers paradise) and Yunnan province (Xishuangbanna is over-rated, but mountains around Dali are not) in China


Some cities or hang-outs that make you feel amazed and happy to be alive...

  • Trinidad, Cuba and Antigua, Guatemala (Easter week aka Semana Santa, amazing)

  • The great cities of Europe: London, Paris, Krakow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Venice/Rome.

  • Jaisalmer and loads of other hangouts in India and Nepal: Simila, Varkala, Goa and Pokhara

  • Jerusalem, rather a lot in a small area, or New York, a modern wonder of the world

  • Butterfly Valley (near Fethiye) & Cappadocia both in Turkey

  • South America: Cusco in Peru, Valparaiso in Chile, San Agustin/Zona Cafetera in Colombia and Merida in Venezuela

* Honorary mentions: Yangshuo, China, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Treasure Beach, JamaicaCappadocia, Karimabad (Pakistan) and Luang Prabang (Laos)

Okay it doesn't come for free. You'll certainly spend more time and money than you wished, but if you are looking for some fun try...

  • Greek Islands and Turkish Coast

  • Thailand (especially the islands and Bangkok) and Boracay, Philippines

  • Carnival! (the week before Lent). New Orleans, Barranquilla (Colombia), Northern Germany, Port of Spain (Trinidad), Brazil or Santiago de Cuba (this one is over the summer)

  • Jamaica (Negril) although crowds can be too much

Great Wall of China
  • Agra (home of India's Taj Mahal)

  • Florence, Venice and Rome

  • New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, New Orleans, London, Paris, Amsterdam and Sydney

  • Nepal & Thailand's islands and beaches

  • Havana/Trinidad, Cuba and Antigua, Guatemala (and the rest)

  • Cairo/Luxor, Egypt

  • Dogon Country, Mali and Vic Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

  • Northern Tanzania Safari circuit /Zanzibar Island

* Honorary mentions: Bolivia's 'death road' out of La Paz, Edinburgh, Romania's Transylvania with its rolling hills, mountains and medieval towns and castles, Bali and the Gili Islands, Kyoto and Gyeongju, Korea.

  • Varanasi (and pretty much all of Northern India)

  • Tokyo & Osaka, Japan

  • Lagos, Nigeria & Cotonou, Benin

  • Ho Chi Minh City, aka. Saigon

  • And top place: Dhaka, Bangladesh during Eid [al-Adha]

* Honorary mentions: Marrakech, México City and Cairo

  • CocktailOn a boat - Mekong, Niger or YangtzeKiang slow boat and Nile Feluccas (probably best to avoid public vessels if you want to chill)

  • On the beach - Varkala, Goa (India), Bay Islands (Honduras) or Ko Tao et al. (Small (touristy) Thai island)

  • By a lake - Lake Malawi (Nakata or Monkey bay), Lake Atitlán or El Estor (Guatemala) or Lake Titicaca (Bolivia/Peru).

  • Others - Huge inlet, quiet town - Kotor, Montenegro; or peaceful, mystical China - Yangshuo or quiet fly-in only island - Lamu, Kenya


Any day of the week we would be happy to return to:

  • Ethiopia, South Africa and Zimbawe.

  • Thailand, South Korea and India/Pakistan.

  • Switzerland, France, Lisbon, Berlin, Georgia and Turkey.

  • Chile, the best of the USA and Jamaica.

* Honorary mentions: China (not the best place, but changing at such a rate, always great to see) and Cuba.


In this narcissistic age, most of these places turn into zoos and bring the worst out of people desperate for the best shot and those trying to make a few bucks from them. If you must, do us all a favour and leave the selfie stick at home and don't do a stupid pose.

  • Europe: Big Ben, Familia Sagrada, Red Square (St. Basil's), The Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and Acropolis.

  • Africa and Middle East: The Pyramids, Victoria Falls and Table mountain. Jerusalem's golden Dome (Al-Aqsa Mosque) and Petra.

  • Asia: Mao's photo on the entry to the Forbidden City (Tiananmen Square), in the swimming pool of the Marine Bay Sands hotel (Singapore), Taj Mahal (Dina photo anyone?), Mount Fuji and Angkor Wat.

  • Australia and the Pacific: Sydney Opera House and Easter Island statues

  • The Americas: New York Skyline, Hollywood sign, Grand Canyon, Tikal, Machu Picchu and Rio's sugar loaf or Christ.

* Honorary mentions: Dubai's Burj Khalifa, Niagara Falls, Ayers Rock, Shanghai skyline, Brandenburg gate, Everest base came and a floating in the dead sea.

Sand Dunes

Thanks PJ for getting this list started.

  • Buddha Park and/or Plain of Jars, Laos

  • Huis ten Bosch, Japan and the Chocolate Hills, Philippines

  • Hong Kong Island (an odd mixture of British and Chinese) and any one of the toilet restaurants to be found in North East Asia.

  • Any salt flat, most commonly seen in Bolivia, but also the Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana. Add water for a trippy effect (and cliqued photo).

  • Natural gas flares, found in Turkey and most notably Azerbaijan (Yanar Dag) and Turkmenistan, including the surreal Door to Hell.

* Honorary mentions: Dali Museum in Figures, Spain and Memento Park, Budapest, Hungary. Also, Astana, Kazakhstan, the ultra modern look in the middle of no where.

There are all sorts of people in all sorts of places, but the following countries are well-known for the kindness and hospitality of their population.

  • Iran, Pakistan (Northern areas) and Bangladesh

  • Ghana, Zimbabwe, Dominica & Sudan

  • India/Nepal (in the right places/circumstances)

  • Georgia & Turkey

* Honorary mentions: Cuba and Ethiopia. As a general rule of thumb, the more travellers the less friendly people get. So head off the beaten track and venture to destinations most would be put off visiting. There are many such suggestions above.

(a few, often long train journeys in some remarkable places)Zebra

  • Europe's best (and priciest): Any thing in Switzerland down Lake Geneva on in Jungfrau region or special trains like the 'Glacier Express'. Norway's Bergen to Oslo is well-known for many reasons - it's stunning.

  • Trans Siberian/Mongolian: Moscow to (generally) Beijing, passing through some of the worlds most remote places for days on end.

  • Africa's best: Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to (almost) Lusaka (Zambia): pass through pristine African bush for two days and a night - better value than the raved about Nairobi to Mombasa line. Get off at Mbeya to travel Malawi. Or for the adventurous: Dakar (Senegal) to Bamako (Mali): an out-of-this world 30-36 hours - very hard work, may leave you mentally scarred!

  • South America: From Calama (Chile) to Uyuni (Bolivia): a cold at times high-altitude lunar type experience.

* Honorary mentions: Any train journey in India or China, Japan's Shinkansen (bullet) trains which with a rail pass are quite affordable, without - ridiculously expensive.

> Spoiled by tourism

(not everywhere, but in general)

  • Spanish Mediterranean/Atlantic Islands

  • Cancun and Yucatan Peninsula

  • Thailand's famous beach and islands (e.g. Pattaya, Samui and Phi Phi)

  • Greek and Turkish Aegean coast/islands

  • Bali (Kuta) & Fiji's tourist hubs

* Honorary mentions: Kathmandu, Everest Trail and base camp and Bora Bora

> Keep an eye on your things

(beware of thieves)

  • Nairobi (Nai-robberi)

  • Delhi/Agra/Varanasi

  • Johannesburg/Cape Town

  • Costa Rica

  • Prague/Barcelona/Rome

Honorary mentions: Bogotá, Lagos, Cusco, Lahore hotel rooms

> Worst forms of transport

(or the biggest thrill!)

  • Caspian Sea ferry

  • Indian or Pakistani Himalayan/Karakoram jeep

  • Dushanbe to Khorog (45min) flight

  • Shared inter-city taxi in Kurdistan (Iraq) or Saudi Arabia

  • Long-distance West African Bush taxis

Honorary mentions: Lao Mekong fast boat, unofficial taxis from Caracas airport, bicycle on any busy 'developing country' road and Kenyan matatus

> Budget travellers beware

(aside from Western Europe, Japan and North America)Zebra

  • The Caribbean, especially leeward and windward islands, with the worst offenders being French territories and the Bahamas

  • Bhutan, Turkmenistan and others where 'technically' you need to be on an expensive tour to gain entry

  • Israel, Botswana, Australia and Brazil

  • Moscow & St. Petersburg plus other large cities of fast developing nations where high inflation levels have pushed costs beyond what many budget travellers might expect (for example: Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, etc.)

  • Amazing, but shockingly expensive islands: Galapagos Islands, Iceland, Norway and French Polynesia

  • East African activities (Gorilla viewing, Kilimanjaro climb or any safari)

* Honorary mentions: Main East-coast Chinese cities & Hong Kong. West African nations using the CFA, Brunei - or not taking out medical insurance!

> Closed borders - where 'overlanding' plans come unstuck

  • Africa: Algeria - Libya (fly over) Morocco - Algeria and Ethiopia - Eritrea

  • Middle East: Israel - Lebanon and Syria plus numerous other nations that won't like that passport stamp

  • Asia: Korea (North to South); Burma (some access overland, but no way into India/Bangladesh); India - China (go via Nepal or Pakistan)

  • Europe: Europe's last closed borders are Armenia with Turkey and Azerbaijan

  • South America: Venezuela - Guyana (go via Brazil)

* Honorary mention: Panama - Colombia (fly or sail), not so much a closed border as an extremely difficult one overland.

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it. - Rosalia de Castro"

(things do change rapidly as currencies strengthen/weaken and/or inflation catches up with weak economies). Check exchange rate trends for the best latest indications.

  • Ukraine, Indonesia, Russia, Argentina and South Africa

  • Iran and Cuba

  • Japan, Abenomics has contributed to a dramatic weakening in the Yen. Visit before the currency strengthens again.

  • As always: India/Pakistan/Nepal/Sri Lanka/Bangladesh

* Honorary mentions: Bolivia

Confidence, flexibility and (where necessary) some effort in the local language will get you to do/see far, far more interesting things/places that money alone ever could. Get involved with locals and never, never be afraid to make friends and keep asking questions.


Things do change rapidly, many of the places mentioned are not necessary the most sensible places to visit right now. Always check for yourself before you travel, some areas will be best avoided including (all or parts of):

Afghanistan, Libya, Burundi (outside of the capital and main roads), Central African Republic, Recovering from Ebola West Africa, DR Congo (outside Katanga), Iraq, Syria, Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan (around border with South), Yemen.

MapThis map gives you a pretty good indication.


Governmental warnings do sometimes need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but they are warnings for a reason and worth to keep abreast of. We like FTAS, which is a website that summaries all the latest advice from various governments in an easy to use website that can even send you automatic alerts based on your trip. Something well worth having especially if off-the-beaten-track and in politically volatile countries or those areas of conflict.

E-mailed comments:

Remember, it's your trip. You don't have to do all the so-called 'Must-Sees'. It is possible to have an amazing time and not see all the stuff in the glossy pages at the front of the guidebook. Do the things that interest you. Similarly, you don't have to plan your itinerary around how all the other backpackers typically do it. Getting off the gringo trail, even if it's just seeing cities in a different order or throwing a less-visited sight into the mix, is a great way to immediately step off the beaten track and away from the hassle of any 'scene' that exists. Equally don't give too much credence to backpackers' gossip about what places are 'bad', 'good', 'expensive', 'touristy', etc. These are opinions, keep an open mind, no matter how 'notorious' the place is. - with thanks to Sara Clarke.

I have travelled the world for the last 45 years and have been to 90 countries. I consider this site very informative and interesting. Traveling is a mixed bag as some trips are good in retrospect. I always travel light with an open mind. Each country/region is what it is and you cannot be changed, especially by moaning. Be a positive and honest traveller! Long haul trips are not always the best and you can have an interesting time travelling your own country/region. Always be vigilant and beware of the unexpected. However if you listen to every scare mongering story you would never leave your home. Keep in touch with loved ones often as they do get worried. Have fun. - David (UK)



(goings on in 2015 and 2016) Globe

Expect excellent sights and scenes, but also closed banks, packed transport and perhaps that Mary and Joseph feeling if you don't book ahead. Holidays are as follows (note if date falls on a weekend, following working day, may well also be a holiday):

Major holidays and celebrations:

  • New Years - Nowruz (Persian-Zoroastrian): 19th March 2016, Chinese New Year: 8th February 2016 (28th Jan 2017), Songkran (SE Asia, aka. water festival, known by different names outside Thailand): 13-15th April 2016.

    Other - Carnival: (ends) 9th February 2016 (28th in 2017), Golden Week (Japan - China also has a similar period): 29th April - 6th May, Duanwu (Dragon Boat Festival, China): 9th June 2016, FIFA World Cup: 8th June to 8th July 2018 (Russia).


Major religious holidays and festivals:

  • Islamic - Ramadan: 18th June until 17th July 2015 (6th June till 5th July in 2016), Edi: (al-Adha) 24th September 2015.
    Hindu - Holi: 23rd March 2016 / 13th March 2017, Deepavali/Diwali: 11-15th November 2015 / 30th October - 3rd November 2016
    Christian - Easter (Semana Santa): 25-28 April 2016 / 14-17 April 2017, Christmas: 24-26th December, Orthodox Christmas: 6-8th January.
    Buddist - Songkran and New Year (Thai water): 13-15 April 2016 / 13-15 April 2017.

    Some of these are signification (everything stops), others not. Some are localised, others wide-spread. If in doubt do a little research...
    i Interested in a map of world religions?

Please feel free to have your say - click here to add a recommendation to any list, just a quick e-mail and your reasons is all that is needed. Also point out where you think anything is incorrect or over-rated.

Obviously we have not been to all these places (but pretty much most, bar one or three) and do not claim to have been; perhaps you might like to send your two cents worth in (many mentions come from reader's comments). Remember this is more a fun list than a serious one.

"Breathe, breathe in the air, don't be afraid to care; leave but don't leave me. Look around and choose your own ground, for long you live and high you fly, and smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry. And all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be."

— Roger Waters & David Glimour