How to Communicate Around the Globe Without Words

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words

Last week, we spoke about the top languages to help you travel the world. As helpful as these languages are, they will only help to facilitate communication with around 60% of people on Earth. When you are travelling through several countries that have different languages, it becomes almost impossible to learn phrases from every language. So what do you do when you hit an area where you can’t speak the language? You can do your best mime impression, or you can use symbols to communicate around the globe without words.

Universally Recognisable

Many symbols are universally recognised around the world. If you’ve been to Europe or Australia, you’ve probably seen Brown Tourist Signs somewhere. They are a set of over 90 uniform symbols to help tourists find places of interest. You’ve also probably seen a ‘No Smoking’ sign. Anyone, no matter what language they speak, knows what that one means. Whether they take note of it is another matter. It’s infuriating how many times I’ve seen people smoking right under/near no smoking signs in countries all around the world. Smoking is bad, mmmkay!

Communicate Around the Globe Without Words – Transport

Unless you plan on walking everywhere in a new country, you’re going to need to take transport at some point. But how can you find the train if you don’t know how to say train? Transport options can be very regionally specific. For example, places with islands are likely to have ferry services. Many regions do not have train services. Other regions have tourist transport options like cable cars, monorails and funiculars. Here we’ve included signs for the main types of transport you would encounter in most places.

Primary Transport

The most common forms of primary transport are planes, buses, trains and taxis. In many regions, notably Latin America and Africa, minivans and shared taxis/collectivos replace bus services. Some cities also have tram services and ferry services. Here we’ve provided symbols for all of these. If you want your own copy of these, you can click on the picture to download your own PDF and keep it on your phone to show people when you’re in a new place.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Primary Transport
Primary Transport Symbols

Alternative transport options involve some regional or touristy forms of transport. For instance, monorails, which are generally more of a gimmick than useful city transport. In many countries throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa, you can find Tuk Tuks, also known as Autos, Rickshaws and Kekehs depending on the region you’re in. Funiculars and Cable cars are more often than not found at touristy places. Especially when there are hills involved.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Alternative Transport
Alternative Transport Symbols

In some areas you can find water taxis in the form of Sampans, Gondolas and speedboats, among others. Sometimes, you just need to grab a bike and make your own way there.

Services

After you’ve sorted your transport, you might need to find out where certain services are. I guess the most important things that people look for when they first get to a new place are WiFi and ATMs. To be honest, if you just say the words ‘WiFi’ or ‘ATM’, people will know what you mean in most places. If they don’t, they’ll definitely know what these signs mean!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Services
Service Symbols

These symbols can also help you if you’re looking for a shopping centre, a library, toilets, a museum or a stadium/Sport Centre.

Communicate Around the Globe Without Words – Where are the Tourist Sites?

When you land in a new city, you’ll no doubt want to find out where the good tourist sites are. Or you might get lost on your way to the site and need to ask a local for directions. Of course, the best place to get information is a place where the staff are likely to speak English. This would be the nearest Tourist Information Centre. If that’s nowhere near, then give these symbols a go!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Sites
Site Symbols

We’ve covered the most visited tourist sites, including viewpoints/lookouts, churches, mosques, castles, city centres, UNESCO sites and information centres.

Accommodation

From experience, it can often be difficult to find your accommodation in a new place. Whether you’re trying to find some accommodations for the night, or you’ve already booked a hotel, motel, airbnb, hostel, homestead, yurt/ger or a tent, these symbols should help you get there.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Accommodation
Accommodation Symbols

If you’re lucky, someone at your accommodation might be able to speak English. More often than not in off-the-radar countries you can’t rely on that to be true.

Communicate Around the Globe Without Words – Entertainment Facilities

So you’ve got yourself settled in and you want to check out what’s happening in town. Where can you find yourself a meal or a good cup of tea or coffee? Or maybe you want something stronger, like a beer? We’ve got some symbols for that.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Entertainment
Entertainment Symbols

We’ve also got pictures for plays, movies, concerts and karaoke because that always seems like a good idea after a beer.

Communicate Around the Globe Without Words When Dining

Dining in foreign countries can be rather difficult if you have special dietary needs and cannot communicate them effectively. In fact, some would say it’s a nightmare. Especially if you have allergies. It’s no fun to carefully pick at your food, or just leave it uneaten because you’re scared of what could be in it.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Dining
Dining Symbols

That’s where these symbols come in. They should all be easily decipherable for anyone. We’ve covered common allergies like nuts, pepper and dairy. There’s even one for the vegetarians that can be used in conjuction with others for vegans, as well as a no sugar one for people on Keto. If you’re a Keto Vegan with nut and pepper allergies, just go ahead and use all of them!

Natural Sites

The best part of any trip is finding the natural gems in your destination, right? Whether it be waterfalls, desert canyons, tranquil lakes, snow-tipped mountains, meandering rivers, the beach or national parks, who doesn’t want to see it all?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Nature
Nature Symbols

Once you make it to your natural paradise, What will you do? You can use our next set of symbols to find out what activities are available there!

Activities

If you’re someone who loves a bit of physical activity, you’re almost certainly always looking for your next thrill. You’ll love these symbols then. We’ve got you covered if you want to go hiking, ziplining and hang gliding. There are also some snow sports in there, or kayaking and swimming if you prefer being on or in the water.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Communicate Around the World Without Words. Activities
Activity Symbols

Now, the last activity here is probably not for everyone, but at least with this symbol you won’t have to try to work out how to mime bungy jump without injuring yourself!!

Take the ‘Communicate Around the World Without Words’ Mini e-book With You!

Do you want your very own e-book to keep handy for use when you really need it in foreign lands? Then feel free to download our mini e-book, Communicate Around the World Without Words for all the symbols above in one place. We compiled it specifically to help you on your journey, so please, enjoy! :o)

Do you only want one of the above pages? No problem. Click on any of the pictures above to download the corresponding PDF. Let me know if you find it helpful! :o)

If you want to be inspired by some things that you can do and see around the world, check out the following posts

Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World
Sunsets Around the World
Amusingly Funny Signs Around the World
Mesmerising Lakes Around the World

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Languages to Help You Travel the World

One of the major hurdles to travelling far and wide, for some people, is the language barrier. Of course, it can be daunting to travel to a new place and not be able to communicate effectively. To that end, you may be wondering what languages you should learn to help you communicate with the world. Read on as we discuss five languages to help you travel the world.

Languages to Help You Travel the World – Most Widely Spoken Language

First up we have English, the world’s most widely spoken language and Lingua Franca. You may be surprised to know that non-native English speakers outnumber native speakers three to one! It is spoken by about 20%, or over 1 billion of the Earth’s inhabitants. It is also one of two official languages in space! At the International Space Station, that is. This means that you may also be surprised by just how many countries you can travel through if you only know English.

World map percentage english speakers by country

Tourism has meant that English is widely spoken on all continents. You can guarantee that airports and hotel chains in all countries have workers that speak English. It also holds official status in the European Union as well as over 80 countries and territories around the world. Even creoles in some areas like Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone often have enough lexical and grammatical similarities to English that they can be partially understood.

Most Widely Spoken Native Language

From the most widely spoken language, we’ll move on to the most widely spoken native language in the world. It gets that title because its 480 million native speakers are spread across four continents, thanks to the early conquistadors. Have you guessed what it is yet?

Detailed SVG map of the Hispanophone world

It’s the romance language of Spanish. The great thing about Spanish is that it is mutually intelligible with Italian and to a lesser extent, Portuguese (the sixth most spoken native language). So being able to speak Spanish could potentially allow communication with over 900 million people (including nearly 300 million Portuguese speakers and 70 million Italian speakers) across all six inhabited continents. It will definitely help you through Latin America as well!

Dialect Variances

One issue with Spanish being spread so widely around the world is that there are many different accents and regional variances. Similar to English. These differences generally don’t affect understanding though. People in Spain may find it slightly amusing when an obvious non-native speaker has a Latin American Spanish accent. The good news is that as an English speaker, you may find it relatively easy to learn Spanish. Spanish and English belong to different branches of the Indo-European language family tree, making them cousins of sorts. Here are some phrases to get you started. Useful Spanish Phrases PDF

K in Motion Travel Blog. Languages to Help You Travel the World. Spanish

Where is it Useful?

It is the majority language in over 20 Latin American countries as well as a couple of countries in Africa. I have also found it useful in Portuguese speaking countries like Guinea-Bissau in Africa. With some Spanish knowledge, you could conceivably communicate with around 900 million people in 35 countries, including Portuguese and Italian speaking countries. Aside from that, it’s actually a fun language to speak.

Languages to Help You Travel The World – Parlez vous Francais?

French is spoken natively on two continents and widely spoken as a second language on a third continent. The dialects and accents vary greatly across the three continents. French speakers from France say that they often have difficulty understanding French speakers from Canada and Africa. I’ve also heard French Canadians talk about how weird they found the African variety of French.

French Language Around the World Encyclopædia Britannica

No matter the region, the basics of the language are the same and all regional dialects are mutually intelligible. French is also a romance language, like Spanish, so it should, in theory, be relatively easy for English speakers to learn. Here are some phrases to get you started. Useful French Phrases PDF

K in Motion Travel Blog. Languages to Help You Travel the World. French

Where is it Useful?

Besides France and parts of Switzerland and Belgium, French is spoken natively in the Quebec province of Canada and bilingually in the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia provinces. It’s also spoken in the French Polynesia and New Caledonia territories in the South Pacific. Learning it would allow you to communicate with around 400 million people across 30 countries.

If you plan to travel through Western and Central Africa, then French will be very, very useful. Almost all the countries in that region have French as an official language. In fact, there are so many different languages in some African countries that locals even use French to communicate with each other! Imagine being from the same country but having to use a third language to communicate with your significant other!

Languages to Help You Travel The World – русский

When you think of world languages, Russian might not be the first that comes to mind as a multi-country language. Unless of course you’re over the age of 30 or were paying attention in your history classes and remember the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) or Soviet Union. The disbanding of the Union led to the establishment of 15 new states. All Russian speaking. Russian is also the second official language in space!

Although Cyrillic, the written alphabet for Russian, can look quite daunting, it’s not too difficult to pick up. After less than a week in Kazakhstan, I was able to recognise and sound out some common words and even understand some basic Russian questions. Here are some handy Russian phrases for you. Useful Russian Phrases PDF

K in Motion Travel Blog. Languages to Help You Travel the World. Russian

Where is it Useful?

Russian is fluently spoken in all of the 15 republics that emerged after the disbanding of the Soviet Union. That includes five Central Asian countries, three Caucasus countries, three Baltic countries, three Eastern European countries and one Central European country. There are also many Russian speakers in previously occupied countries, like Poland, Romania, Finland and Mongolia. That means you could reach nearly 300 million people in 20 countries by speaking Russian.

Most Spoken Native Language

Our last ‘language’ is Chinese. The idea of a Chinese language is actually a bit of a misnomer. Chinese, in itself, is not a language, but rather a collection of dialects, or arguably, languages. The most spoken of the ‘dialects’, because it is the enforced national language of China, is Mandarin or 普通话 (Common Speech). It has around 900 million native speakers. A similar version of the Mandarin dialect is also spoken in Taiwan, where it is referred to as national language or 國語, and Singapore where it is referred to as Chinese Language or 华语.

None of the Chinese dialects are mutually intelligible, which is why some argue that they are languages. Most speakers of more than one variety tend to agree that they are languages rather than dialects. Especially in the case of Cantonese, which has huge lexical and grammatical differences to Mandarin. It is even written differently and has its own characters used in conjunction with standard Traditional Chinese characters. You can see some of these differences for yourself below.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Languages to Help You Travel the World. Cantonese K in Motion Travel Blog. Languages to Help You Travel the World. Mandarin
Useful Cantonese Phrases PDF, Useful Mandarin Phrases PDF

Where is it Useful?

To be honest, Mandarin and Cantonese are really only useful if you plan to travel to China, Macau or Taiwan. As an aside, I’d highly recommend visiting Taiwan. It’s an amazing place. Other places with high numbers of Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, like Singapore and Hong Kong, for instance, also have English as an official language. But it can be fun to randomly converse in Cantonese with a Chinese store owner in Tonga. Or have a conversation in Mandarin with an old Chinese couple in Mauritania.

Special Mention – Arabic

Arabic is a beautiful Semitic language with a long history. Unlike most modern languages, it is written right to left, which is pretty cool. While it has slightly more native speakers than Russian and is spoken in more countries, it tends to exist in places where English and French are spoken due to colonisation. For instance, it is the main language in Egypt and Lebanon, but tourism and colonisation have ensured that English is prominent in Egypt and French and English are prominent in Lebanon. There is also a lot of variation in Arabic dialects, making it a difficult language to learn for general travel.

Despite the fact that it is easy to get by with French or English in most Arab speaking countries, I would still recommend learning a few Arabic phrases if you plan to travel to North Africa and West Asia.

Hello مرحبا marhabaan
Thankyou شكرا shukraan
No لا la, or la’a in some dialects
Please رجاء raja’

Which one of these languages would you like to learn? Or if you already speak one or more of them, what has been your experience travelling with them? Let us know by dropping a comment! :o)

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How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter

For those warm-weather people out there that plan to head to cold climates in winter, here are some tips to help you get by. You might be thinking,’I’ll just take a warm coat and thick socks and I’ll be fine’. You’d be surprised about the little things that people from warmer climates just don’t think about when travelling in winter. This article will show you how to prepare for Finland in the winter. It’s also good for other winter wonderlands.

How to Prepare For Finland in the Winter – Gloves

Gloves are a must whenever you’re outside, of course! But what happens when you want to take photos? Your hands quickly become sore and numb when they’re exposed to sub-zero temperatures. You’re going to need two sets of gloves. I don’t mean to match with different outfits, I mean to wear at the same time!

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Outer Gloves

Touch Gloves

Touch gloves are amazing. They allow you to use your phone as you would with bare hands. The problem is they don’t really offer much protection from the cold in places like Finland in the winter.

Our solution: wear touch gloves under your other gloves. That way, when you need to take a photo, you only need to take the top glove off. That means your hand still has some protection from the cold. This will definitely increase your comfort level!

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Touch Gloves

While we’re on the subject of gloves, it’s an annoying fact that you will regularly need to take one or both gloves off. For several different reasons. But where do you put the gloves so they don’t get in your way? Or so you don’t accidentally drop them? You’d be surprised how often that last one occurs!

Our solution: join your gloves together with a piece of material to keep them in place when you need to take them off.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Gloves Attached to Each Other

That way, they’ll always be within easy reach and you’ll never lose them or drop them!

How to Prepare For Finland in the Winter – Let’s Heat Things Up!

So obviously you’re going to opt for layers and a warm coat but if you’re particularly susceptible to the cold, this may not be enough. If you think this will be the case, you might want to pick up a heated jacket before you go. They run on USB so you’ll also need to carry a power bank with you.

Unfortunately, there are some body parts that cannot be warmed by a jacket, specifically the hands and feet. Some people find that even with gloves, thick socks and cold weather shoes, their hands and feet still get cold. Like loss-of-feeling kind of cold. Hands can be warmed by putting them in your pockets, but what about your feet?

Our solution: put heat packs/toe warmers in your pockets and your shoes to keep your hands and feet nice and toasty.

Hot Water Bottle

Another suggestion for keeping yourself warm is using a hot water bottle. If you’re using a backpack, you can just stick it in there. It’ll keep your back warm and you could also put your hands between your back and bag if they start getting a little cold. If you’re not carrying a bag, pop the hot water bottle inside your coat before you zip it up. This will also keep your pockets warm.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How To Prepare For Finland in the Winter. Hot Water Bottle

Flask For Drinks

Do you love a cuppa to keep you warm on a cold day? You might want to take a flask of your favourite warm beverage with you when you go outside. While a nice cuppa will definitely warm you up when you’re out in the cold, it could create another problem. If you drink too much liquid, you’ll need to pee a lot.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter. Flask For Drinks

You might actually be surprised to know that if you carry water with you, it could end up freezing in the bottle. While this is not likely to happen during the day, it’s quite likely to occur when chasing Auroras at 1am. If you prefer your water as a liquid, then you might want to take a flask for your water too.

Your Electronics Have Feelings Too, You Know!

Unless your phone is a special, made-for-cold-temperatures one from the Finnish brand Nokia, it’s going to hate the cold too. Yes, this includes iPhones. In fact, they’re the first ones to die in sub-zero temperatures.

If a thermometer starts flashing on your phone, you’ll need to warm it up quickly! The best way to do this is to stick it in your pocket with the heat pack. But it’s likely that if you’re seeing the warning, the battery is already on it’s way to dying. So how can you prevent this from happening?

Our solution: keep your phone warm with heat packs and only take it out of your pocket for short amounts of time in sub-zero temperatures.

How to Prepare For Finland in Winter – Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses!

With what you’ve heard about Subarctic locations, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that you won’t see the sun much. Okay, that part might be true, but it doesn’t mean that things don’t get bright during the day. Snow is very white and even on overcast days can create quite a glare. If you are sensitive to light, then you’re going to need your sunglasses! For at least a few hours a day.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How To Prepare For Finland in the Winter. Sunglasses

Now wouldn’t it be handy if all this information was put together in a simple, quick-reference guide? Well, we thought of that too! Here’s a nice little graphic that we put together to show you how to prepare for Finland in the winter.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter Guide

Please feel free to save it for your next trip to a Subarctic region. We’ve even included a downloadable PDF version for you to keep on your phone for quick reference.

How to Prepare For Finland in the Winter

Other Things to Know About Finland

Just a couple more things to know about Finland and some other Subarctic regions. Everyone is expected to be honest and upstanding citizens in these areas. People will leave their bikes outside buildings unchained. They will leave their keys in the ignition of their cars when they are parked. They will leave their front doors to their houses unlocked. This means that you can travel the area with peace of mind.

Crime rates are low, probably partly due to the biting cold. People are generally friendly and helpful. Like the librarian who wrote a note for us to help us get the bus ticket we wanted.

K in Motion Travel Blog. How to Prepare For Winter in Finland. Librarian's Note

Speaking of buses, everyone waves to the driver and says thank you as they alight from buses in Finland. If you want to fit in, you should do the same! :o)

This post was compiled in collaboration with Gimagery

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Free Things to do in Tallinn

Estonia’s capital Tallinn is one of the very few places in the world that effortlessly combines living history with modern living. Its amazingly well preserved Old Town and its wonderfully modern infrastructure are sure to capture your heart. As if that wasn’t enough to make you fall in love, there is also a plethora of free things to do in Tallinn. Read on to discover what they are!

Churches

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be religious for this one. In fact, less than 20% of the Estonian population identifies as religious. So you may find it surprising that the city has so many churches and cathedrals. These churches and cathedrals cover several religious denominations. Some of them have even switched between denominations at different periods in time.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. St Simeon and St Anna the Prophets Church K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Church of Bishop St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker

Religion aside, these buildings cover many different architectural styles and all have immaculate interiors. Some may look rather small and unassuming from the outside but inside are ridiculously ornate. Some, like St Olaf’s and St Mary’s have an entrance fee, whereas others like St John’s are free to enter. Either way, it’s still free to admire and take photos from the outside. The Visit Tallinn website has more information about entry fees and opening hours for churches in Tallinn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. St Paul and St Peter's Cathedral K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Old Town

The Tallinn Old town is one of the world’s most well preserved medieval towns, which makes it an absolute treat for the senses. As soon as you step onto its cobbled streets, you really do feel like you’ve walked into another century.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Old City Stone Wall K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Old Town Street

While wandering around the town, there are many things to discover. Like St Catherine’s Passage, Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) and the Danish King’s Garden, just to name a few. The town also contains Europe’s oldest pharmacy, Raeapteek (Town Hall Pharmacy). It was run by the same family for 330 years!

Vabaduse väljak/Freedom Square

At the south end of the Old Town is a public square with monuments to Estonian independence struggles and victories. The open-air Freedom Square is a local gathering place and has been the site for celebrations and demonstrations.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Independence War Victory Column at Freedom Square K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. St John's Church at Freedom Square

It’s a great place to visit during the day but at night it comes alive. Flashing lights have been installed on poles in the square and the victory monument gets lit up as well.

Free Things to do in Tallinn – Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill and Toompea Hill

Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill lies right behind the victory monument of Freedom Square and offers a great view over modern Tallinn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill at night

If you continue walking away from the square, you’ll hit Toompea Hill. It forms the northern border of the Old Town and is home to the Toompea Castle. The Castle is now used by the Estonian parliament.

City Parks and Gardens

Although Tallinn is a fairly small city, it is packed with green spaces! A lot of them are small sculptured gardens, like Tammsaare Park, where people mainly sit around admiring trees. Others however are important gathering places with monuments and historical remnants. There are also walking trails and lookouts. Probably the most interesting part of some of these parks is how they came to be.

Commandant’s Garden (Komandandi Aed) and Governor’s Garden (Kuberneri Aed)

In between Harjumägi/Harju Gate Hill and Toompea Hill are two small gardens. Commandant’s Garden was named for the house on its corner where the Commander-in-chief used to live.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Komadandi/Commandant's Garden

The Governer’s Garden is beside Toompea Castle and used to be joined with the Castle Gardens until they were destroyed.

Two Parks in One: Linda’s Hill (Lindamäe Park) and Deer’s Park (Hirvepark)

These two parks are historical heavyweights in Tallinn. They are located within the same city block on the embankment of the former Rootsi/Swedish bastion. Linda’s Hill gets its name from A Weizenberg’s sculpture, called Linda, in the north of the park. Memorial ceremonies for Soviet repression victims have historically always taken place near the sculpture. It also has 250 year old trees.

Deer’s Park was the site of the first organised demonstrations against the communist party in 1987. Those demonstrations sparked anti-soviet sentiment and independence protests. A chain of events that eventually led to Estonian independence is 1991.

Police Garden Park (Politseiaia)

The Police Garden Park was previously known as the Military Vegetable Garden. As you can guess, it was used to grow vegetables for the police. It now contains walkways, fountains, a skate park and giant, people-size clay pots.

Photo by Madis Veltman
Children’s Park (Falgi Park)

This park was created in the mid-nineteenth century by filling in a pond with sand and planting some trees. It was bombed then refurbished in the mid-twentieth century as a garden with the ‘Circle For the Flowing Water’ fountain and children’s playgrounds.

Sneli Park/Toompark

The biggest of Tallinn’s inner-city parks, known as Sneli Park or Toompark, creates the northern border of the old town. It was once a fortification for the city and the park’s Sneli Pond is all that remains of the moat that used to protect the city. This park also contains the Kohtuosta, Patkuli and Piiskapi viewing platforms. These platforms offer great views over the city and the Baltic Sea.

Kadrioru Park

The Kadrioru Park was constructed by orders from a Russian Tsar in the 18th century. It’s design elements span three centuries. Aside from cultural monuments, canals, fountains and ponds, it is home to not just one, but three museums. KUMU (the Estonian Art Museum), Mikkeli Museum and the Kadriorg Art Museum. The later is housed within the Kadriorg Palace, a centerpiece of the park.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Tallinn. Kadrioru Park

Kalamaja Park

This park can be found in the historical, yet hip Kalamaja area. It used to be the Kalamaja Cemetery but it got a make-over in the 60s. That’s when it became the park that it is today, a tree-lined, relaxing area with children’s playgrounds and an historic bell tower.

Free things to do in Tallinn – Kalamaja

Kalamaja means ‘Fish House’ in Estonian, so can you guess where this area is, right? On the waterfront of course! The former working-class area is now pretty much hipster-ville. The old factories now house museums, cafes and bakeries. So many bakeries. Kalamaja is known for its pastries.

Aside from food, the Kalamaja district is known for its cute and colourful wooden houses which were originally built to house factory workers in the 19th century. It’s also known for its lively culture and nightlife. The area contains bars, restaurants and even a brewery that attracts locals and visitors from around the city.

The Port of Tallinn or Tallinna Sadam is part of the Kalamaja district. One of Tallinn’s premier fresh produce markets, Sadama Turg, is located there. Kalamaja is also home to the neo-gothic Kalju Baptist Church and its own park, Kalamaja Park (mentioned above).

Tallinn Card

So this one isn’t free, but purchasing it gives you free entry to many attractions, like churches and museums that normally charge entry fees. It also lets you use all public transport in the city for free. If you are staying for more than a few days and really really want to see some museums, it may be worth it. If you’re thinking of getting it for free transport, it may not be worth it. Tallinn is a small and very walkable city. You can explore everything mentioned above easily on foot. Tallinn is a very pleasant city to walk around.

Related Post – Tallinn



Check out our other Northern European guides –
Free Things to do in Vilnius
Free Things to do in Riga
Free Things to do in Tallinn
How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter

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Free Things to do in Riga

The Latvian capital city of Riga has a lot to offer budget travellers. This list of fun and free things to do in Riga will really help you experience the city’s nature and history without spending a penny!

Walk Along the Pilsētas Kanāls/City Canal

Located in the heart of Riga, the Pilsētas Kanāls canal is leftover from medieval times. The moat was once for protection from invaders, but now its location at the centre of the city makes it popular with visitors. Many of those visitors will pay €18 for a 1 hour ride down the canal in a small boat. But you can take it all in at a slower pace, by walking along the banks of the canal!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. City Canal

The canal runs for 4 kilometres and is flanked by parks, memorials and Vecriga or Old Riga. Each bank of the canal offers a different experience. You can access the east bank from the Riga Central Market and follow it to Kronvalda Park. You’ll pass through quite a few of the city’s green spaces and see a lot of pieces of history. Perhaps the most interesting place to see some history is the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. It’s right near the canal and entry is free.

The west bank will also take you through some green spaces with monuments. Then you can take a detour into Vecriga/Old Riga and literally walk into history.

Free Things to do in Riga – Discover the Cobbled Streets of Vecriga

Vecriga/Old Riga was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997 and it is Riga’s historical centre. The best thing about Vecriga is that it’s made for pedestrians, which makes it lovely to walk around. Upon entering Old Riga, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another century. It’s jam-packed with historical buildings.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. Vecriga
Image by Makalu from Pixabay

You could easily spend a whole day wandering around the narrow cobbled streets just checking out the history and architecture. There are also no less than ten museums within the confines of Vecriga. These include the Cosmos Illusion Museum and the Literature and Music Museum. Most have admission fees of €2-8. The Latvian War Museum however is free and will give you insight into Latvia’s political and military history.

City Parks

There are a surprising amount of small parks located within a 10 minute walk of the old town. Once you step inside these parks, the buzz of the city fades away and it’s very easy to forget that you’re still in the city. Many contain sculptures, historical monuments and other points of interest.

Vērmanes Garden Park

Riga’s second oldest public garden, Vērmanes Garden Park, is spread over 5 hectares. This tiny park is full of things to occupy your senses. From sculptures, gardens and fountains to historical monuments and a flower market. There’s even a play area for kids, an open-air stage and cafes where you can sit down and relax. The walking paths running all through this park are well-maintained and easy to follow. There are also plenty of benches around if you get tired or just want to stop and take it all in for a bit.

Esplanāde

At 8.75 hectares Esplanāde is the second largest of the inner city parks in Riga, taking up a whole two city blocks. Like the other parks in Riga, it has monuments, fountains and many well-maintained paths running through it. What’s a little bit different about this park is that it has a cafe in the middle of it. Furthermore, it contains one of the city’s biggest attractions; the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral.

Bastejkalns Park

Bastejkalns Park is a thin strip of greenery running along both sides of the Pilsētas Kanāls/City Canal, between the bridges of Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela and Krišjāņa Barona iela. It is home to some of the most unique flora in Riga, as well as fountains, bridges, important sculptures and monuments. Three of the city’s most recognisable sites, the Freedom Monument, Peace Dance Sculpture and the Laima Clock stand within the park.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. Nymph Fountain Bastejkalns Park

Bastejkalns Park is lovely to walk through both during the day and at night. At night there is the added bonus of bridges been lit up. The lights of the city also cast surreal reflections on the impossibly still waters of the canal.

Kronvalda Park

The largest of Riga’s inner-city parks can also be found on the banks of the City Canal. Aside from memorials and fountains, the 11.92 hectares of Kronvalda Park include walking paths and a cafe. For the more active among us there is a playground, rollerskating tracks and bicycle hire.

The unique thing about this park is that it contains some of Latvia’s largest willow, oak and beech trees. Additionally, the Chinese Pagoda in the park was an anniversary gift from Riga’s sister city Suzhou, China.

Viesturdārzs

As Viesturdārzs is on the outskirts of the city centre, it is the quietest of all the parks in Riga. It’s not near the City Canal like the other parks, but it has its own tranquil bodies of water. Like the other city parks, Viesturdārzs has monuments and playgrounds for the kids. And also for dogs! Viesturdārzs is a dog-friendly park.

Aside from being furry-friendly, something that sets this park apart from the rest is its art. There are permanent art installations all around the park.

Free Things to do in Riga – Visit the Castle of Light/Gaismas pils

The Castle of Light is the combination of two significant ideas from Latvian culture; the Glass Mountain and the Castle of Light. The Glass mountain represents obstacles faced by creative folk while the Castle of Light symbolises human creativity and freedom. So it’s quite apt that the combination of these two ideas should house the National Library of Latvia (Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka).

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. Castle of Light
Image by Nikolaus Bader from Pixabay

With its striking design and 68 metre height, it has become a dominant part of Riga’s cityscape since it’s construction in 2014. The Castle of Light is said to be one of the most beautiful modern libraries in the world. It was even included in the BBC list of the ten most beautiful modern libraries in the world in 2017.

The thirteen floors of the library are home to over 5 million titles, including manuscripts from the 14th century! So it has something for the book worm in all of us. Did I forget to mention that it has free WiFi?

Finally, if you’re planning a trip to Riga in the future, here’s a downloadable Free Things to do in Riga Itinerary just for you!

Related Post: Reflections of Riga



Check out our other Northern European guides –
Free Things to do in Vilnius
Free Things to do in Riga
Free Things to do in Tallinn
How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter

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Can I Travel the South Pacific on a Budget?

The South Pacific region in Oceania, which encompasses Melanesia as well as parts of Micronesia and Polynesia, is renowned for pristine beaches, sparkling blue waters and island resorts. Resorts don’t exactly conjure up a picture that seems affordable to the average person, right? You may therefore be asking, can I travel the South Pacific on a budget?

The short answer is yes! In practice, it’s a little more complicated but it’s still very doable. You’ll just have to plan and research more than you would for somewhere like South East Asia. It’s not really a turn-up-and-go-for-it kind of region. This is due to a variety of factors, including limited transport options and the sheer distance between islands.

Imagine an area larger than the whole of the European continent, but with thousands of small islands randomly dotted around it. Then thousands of kilometres of deep water between them. The South Pacific is home to some of the most remote islands in the world. Despite the logistical difficulties it can still be done and it’s more than worth visiting! Let’s look at some commonly asked questions about travel in the South Pacific on a budget.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Boats and Blue Water

I Can’t Afford a Resort! Where can I stay?

There are a surprising amount of choices for budget travellers in the South Pacific. It can get a bit trickier on the less frequented islands but all of the major islands have hostels. Most can be found on Agoda. If you can’t find any on Agoda or similar booking sites, you may need to ask Uncle Google and book directly with the property.

Obviously some islands are a bit pricer than other places in the world. Most still fall well within the budget category though. Expect to pay somewhere between US$10-20 for a bed in a dorm room on most islands. Or US$20-160 when there are no dorm beds available. Below is list of prices valid as of March 2020. Some of these prices have decreased in recent years as some islands have become more popular destinations.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific On A Budget

For the islands of Wallis and Futuna, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Nauru a little bit of research is required. As the third least visited and least visited countries in the world, Tuvalu and Nauru have limited choices for accommodation. There are only 2 places in Nauru! Due to that and the limited international flights serving them, these four islands could be the hardest in the world to travel on a budget.

Travel the South Pacific on a Budget – Couchsurfing

If you haven’t heard of Couchsurfing, you can check out my article about it here. In a nutshell, it’s a platform that allows you to get in contact with locals who are willing to open their home to you. It can be a bit hit and miss on some of the islands, because there are barely any hosts. But in places like Fiji and Tonga there are many hosts willing to take you in.

Couchsurfing isn’t just about getting a free bed. It’s about cultural exchange and giving you a window into local life. It can give you some of the best travel experiences you’ll ever have. Like sitting down to a traditional meal with your hosts. Or insider information on the quiet beaches and best islands to visit. There is also a facebook group based on a similar idea, but only for females called Host A Sister.

Travel the South Pacific on a Budget – Village Homestay

This could be the way to go in places like American Samoa and Tokelau (arranged through the Tokelau Liason Office). It’s a very similar concept to Couchsurfing, but is usually organised by a government department, who will vet hosts to make sure that guests have the best experience possible. As with Couchsurfing, it’s a great way to get a feel for local life.

Travel the South Pacific on a Budget – Volunteering

This could be an option if you intend to stay in each place you visit for several weeks. Sites like WWOOF and Workaway offer volunteer opportunities. For most jobs you are expected to work a certain amount of hours in exchange for food and board. Many engagements require you to stay for a minimum period of 2 weeks to a month.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Beach Hammock

Isn’t it just all resorts?

No. The locals don’t live in resorts. They generally live in simple houses in residential areas. In many cases, they are happy to share their home and food with travellers. There are also volcanoes, hills that can be hiked, lagoons, atolls, reefs to be snorkeled, waterfalls to be seen. The list goes on!

Do I have to Fly Between Every Island?

No. You cannot fly between some countries in the South Pacific. For instance, if you want to get to the Cook Islands, the only place in the South Pacific you can fly there from is New Zealand. No other island chain has air links to that chain. The same goes for Niue. Tuvalu and Kiribati, on the other hand, can only be reached via biweekly flights from Fiji. There is only 1 weekly flight between Tonga and Samoa/American Samoa. If you want to get to any other island chain from either of these countries, you need to go via Fiji or New Zealand. Then Tokelau has no air links at all! You can see now why planning your trip could give you a headache!

When it is an option, flying is definitely the easiest way to go but it’s not cheap. Those biweekly flights from Fiji to Tuvalu are over US$500 for a round trip. The weekly flight from Tonga to Samoa/American Samoa is over US$300 for a one way trip of less than 2 hours. Auckland, New Zealand to the Cook Islands is around US$250 return.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Weekly Flight From Tonga to Samoa
Weekly flight from Tonga to Samoa

If you have a bit of time, it’s also possible to buy yourself passage on any of the cargo ships that visit the islands. They have a small passenger allotment that is never full. This is of course much cheaper than flying but it will take time. A lot of time. You may also not be able to get to the exact island you want on the first try. It will definitely be an adventure though!

Inter-Island Transport

Most island chains have scheduled ferry services between other islands in the same chain. Frequency can vary wildly depending on the country though. Some like Fiji have very developed water transport systems to most islands. Ferries to many islands leave throughout the day. The more remote chains, like the Cook Islands don’t have any scheduled ferries. Locals normally have their own fishing boats for getting between the islands. So your options would be either fly or make friends with a boat owner.

Isn’t Food Expensive?

Yes and no. While it is true that most food is imported, there are still a lot of locally produced foods. A traditional meal at a local restaurant can turn out to be quite reasonable. Somewhere between US$4-25. Food at supermarkets can be expensive because it’s mostly imported. Tropical fruits grown on the islands seasonally will also be quite cheap. I honestly can’t think of anything better than eating bananas and coconuts everyday! Check in with locals and see what they’re eating. As most locals receive modest wages, eating like a local would be your best bet for keeping your expenses down.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Coconut

Can I do It By Myself?

Yes! Absolutely! The Pacific islands are super safe and full of caring, helpful people. Don’t be surprised if people in cars stop to check if you need a lift somewhere when you’re walking along a road. It’s really easy to hitchhike on all islands. You could even end up doing it accidentally!

Public transport will also give you a chance to make some new friends. It’s almost impossible to take a bus in the South Pacific without someone wanting to get to know you. It’s also quite a cheap way of getting around, with local buses costing anywhere from US$0.45-2.50.

It’s also easy to hire bicycles and scooters on most islands. Bicycles are a great way to get around the smaller islands and range in price from US$8-25 for a 24 hour period. Scooters are great for the bigger islands and can be hired from US$10-35 for 24 hours.

If you really want someone to share the adventure with, you can check out social media groups to see if anyone else is travelling there at the same time you plan to. It can sometimes be invaluable having someone to share car rental costs with, to make sure you see all the waterfalls and volcanoes you may never get a chance to see again.

Why I should I Go?

Let me answer this one with pictures
K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Cook Islands Calf K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Tongan Coral K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Samoan Calf K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. Cook Islands Beach K in Motion Travel Blog. Travel the South Pacific on a Budget. New Caledonia Sunset

How Do I Get There?

This will depend where you are in the world. The most accessible of all the South Pacific Island chains is Fiji. It has international flights arriving from every continent. It can also serve as a base for getting to other island chains. If you can’t get a flight to Fiji, then New Zealand would also be a great option, especially if you’re planning on going to Tokelau, Niue or the Cook Islands.

Get Yourself Into The Right Frame of Mind For Travel to the South Pacific on a Budget

I wish I could say it was easy but it’s going to take a lot of organising. Possibly months to get an itinerary that works logistically and financially. It definitely requires a lot more planning than places like Asia where you can just turn up. There are so many things to take into account, ranging from flight schedules to intermittent transport options. Once you’re there though, things will get easier as almost everyone speaks English and islanders will always want to help you. You know what? You got this!

Related Posts:

Friendliness and Festivities in Fiji
Tantalisingly Tropical Tonga
American Samoa
Surprising Samoa
The Captivating Cook Islands
New Caledonia
Discover the Real Vanuatu
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands
The Untouched Pacific Paradise of Palau

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Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World

Are you an adventure lover? We have compiled this awesome list to help you plan your next adrenaline-filled holiday. On a budget! If you’re tired of the same old boring sights and you’re looking for something to get your blood pumping, you’ll love this list of amazingly unique adventures around the world!

Africa

Let’s take a trip to the little-known, but wonderfully welcoming northern African country of Mauritania. Its location at southwest corner of the Sahara makes it very flat and desert-like. What Mauritania has that no other country does, is one of the longest freight trains in the world that allows stowaways! It’s colloquially known as The Iron Train.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Riding The Iron Train In Mauritania

The loaded up train runs from the iron ore mines in Zouérat to Noudhibou via Choum, then returns to Zouérat empty. Stowaways can hop on at any of the three stations, but competition for the best cargo car can be fierce! You don’t want to end up with a two kilometre walk back to the station because you got on the wrong end of the train!

Where: Zouérat, Choum and Nouadhibou in Mauritania
Price: FREE!! Yes, you read that right!
Adrenaline rating: 😲
Best time to do it: April to June

Further reading Mauritanian Adventure

Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World – Asia

The second of our amazingly unique adventures around the world happens in the South East Asian country of Laos. You can hire what looks like an inner tube from a tractor tyre and float for three kilometres down a not so beautiful river. The scenery you’ll see on the way is pretty amazing though!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Tubing on the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng

There are a few riverside bars on the way offering drinks and local delicacies. While the pace of Tubing is generally slow and relaxing, there can be patches of water where the flow is faster than the surrounding water. Or even patches of rocks close to the surface that will conspire to not let you pass. Navigating these can lead to hilarity.

Where: Nam Song River, Vang Vieng, Laos
Price: 55,000KIP/US$6 for the tube and 60,000KIP/US$6.70 deposit returned to you if you take the tube back before 6pm.
Adrenaline rating: 😲😲
Best time to do it: December to February to avoid the crowds, or July to September if you want a faster ride and don’t mind competing for space at the riverside bars.

Europe

Do you like drifting through snow and ice with your butt mere centimetres from the ground? Then this one’s for you! When winter really sets in near the northern Estonian town of Tartu, the winter Go Karts come out. You can hire one of these karts to speed yourself around a frozen lake for 8 minutes.

If you prefer the safety of a car, you can try an Adrenaline Drive, Taxi Lap and Rally Experience. These three options are not quite in the budget range though. Obviously, the weather has to be cold enough for the lake to be sufficiently frozen, so you need a bit of luck on your side for this one.

Where: Lake Võrtsjärv, Tartu, Estonia
Price: 15 for 8 minutes
Adrenaline rating: 😲😲😲😲😲
Best time to do it: January and February, if it’s cold enough for the lake to be completely frozen.

Further Reading: Winter On Lake Võrtsjärv

Amazingly Unique Adventures Around The World – North America

Next up on our list of amazingly unique adventures around the world is Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua. Yes, this is exactly what you think it is! Take a rickety wooden board and fly down the side of an active volcano on it. What could possibly go wrong?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua

In truth, the volcano is constantly monitored and hasn’t erupted since 1999. The tour operator gives you safety gear and a full briefing on how to control your speed on the descent. They’ll even record your speed with a radar gun. It seems 40-50km/h is about average, but some speedsters have been clocked at over 90km/h!

Where: Cerro Negro, Leon, Nicaragua
Price: US$25 + $5 park entrance fee
Adrenaline rating: 😲😲😲
Best time to do it: December to February

Further reading: Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua

South America

A tiny little town in Ecuador provides us with our next unique adventure. The Swing at the Edge of the World. It sits atop a 2600m high mountain overlooking a valley. Legend has it that a grandfather who worked at the seismic monitoring station inside the treehouse at the top of the hill wanted to encourage his grandkids to visit by adding a swing to the treehouse. It worked and eventually word got around.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Swing at the Edge of the World. Casa del Arbol, Banos, Ecuador

Where: Casa del Arbol, Baños, Ecuador
Price: US$1
Adrenaline rating: 😲😲
Best time to do it: Any day! Be prepared for a small line.

Not to be outdone by a smart grandpa, another entrepreneurial soul decided they could ‘one up’ the Swing at the Edge of the World. Hence the Swing to Heaven was created on the other side of the mountain and it’s not for the faint of heart! Sure, it swings but it also rolls and turns. It’s probably best not to eat before trying this one.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Amazingly Unique Adventures Around the World. Swing to Heaven. Casa del Arbol, Banos, Ecuador

Where: Casa del Arbol, Baños, Ecuador
Price: US$4
Adrenaline rating: 😲😲😲😲😲
Best time to do it: Any day!

Further reading: Baños – A Crazy Little Town in Ecuador

Oceania

Last, but not least, it’s time to head to the land down under, to climb its tallest building, Q1. This climb takes you up 300 stairs to an external observation deck with a 360 degree view of the Gold Coast and the sea below. Normally the climbs start fairly early in the morning to beat the harsh Australian sun. Sunset and night climbs are also available. Ugly jumpsuits and harnesses are provided.

Where: Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Price: From AU$69. Night and sunset climbs cost more.
Adrenaline rating: 😲😲😲
Best time to do it: Spring (September to November) or Autumn (March – May)

Which of these unique adventures would you choose to do? Have you done any already? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Never heard of Uzbekistan? Well, put it on your ‘must see’ list right now! It’s an amazing Central Asian country that could just capture your heart. Before you head there, check out this list of 9 things to know about Uzbekistan, to give you a head start when it comes to navigating the country.

3 Important Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Tourist Registration

It is a government requirement that tourists register within 3 days of entering the country. That doesn’t mean that immigration checks this too closely when you exit though. There are 2 ways that this registration can be carried out. The first way is to stay at a hotel/hostel and they will do the registration for you and give you a small white piece of paper to keep in your passport. The idea is that you show that paper to immigration officials upon exit.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Guesthouse Registration Slip K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Hotel Registration Slip K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Hostel Registration Slip

The second way is to register online. This way involves registering at this site. Once you’ve input all the details, the site will calculate a daily tax that you need to pay, but it can only be paid with an Uzbek card.

Drivers Be Crazy

Travelling by road in Uzbekistan can feel more like a rollercoaster ride in a theme park than an intercity drive. From what I could tell, red lights and line markings are for indicative purposes only. People don’t seem inclined to follow them most of the time. By people, I mean just about every driver on the road. A lot of roads don’t even have lane markings, I presume because they figure that drivers would ignore them anyway.

Being a pedestrian in Uzbekistan can often feel like playing a game of cat and mouse. While stopping at crosswalks is legally mandated, it’s far from practiced. It’s probably safest to cross where there are traffic lights combined with a crosswalk. A lot more cars will stop in that situation. But if it’s a crosswalk by itself, the best advice is to look for a break in the traffic and run.

Super Hospitable Locals

Uzbek hospitality is really something else! Uzbeks will always try to help a stranger out in any way they can. That could mean simply helping them find a place they’re looking for. Or it could mean inviting them to stay at their house and force-feeding them tea and sweets at 1 am.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Tea and Biscuits K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Tea, Biscuits and Fruit

On the subject of tea, there are two main varieties available in Uzbekistan. Green and black. Every good host will always have both on hand and will offer you a choice. I prefer the black variety, as it’s stronger, but the green one is also nice.

3 Handy Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Language

Uzbeks speak the Uzbek language alongside Russian. A little Rusian can get you a long way in Uzbekistan. Younger people tend to speak at least basic English, as do a lot of people working in customer service, so it is also possible to get by with just English. Most road signs and a lot of businesses use Latin transliterations of the Uzbek language, rather than Cyrillic.

Transport

Uzbekistan has the cheapest transport in Central Asia at just 1200 Som/$US0.15 for city buses and trains. When taking buses, the fare is paid to a ticket person on the bus. If there is no ticket person, then you pay the fare to the driver as you exit. Intercity trains are also available at varying fares, depending on the destination. You can find out more on the Uzbek Railway site.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Inner City Bus K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Intercity Train

Mashrutkas (minivans) are common forms of inner and intercity transport, although they seem to be a little more compact than their counterparts in other Central Asian countries. Their prices vary depending on where you are going. They normally cost between 5000 Som/US$0.58 and 10,000 Som/US$1.16 within cities and 10,000 Som/US$1.16 to 30,000 Som/US$3.50 for intercity routes. They do not run on longer intercity routes.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Mashrutka

For intercity routes, the main option is shared taxis. They can cost between 20,000 Som/US$2.50 and 150,000 Som/US$16 depending on the city you want to get to. You would pay 20,000 Som for a 1-2 hour drive and 100,000 Som/US$11 for a 12-14 hour drive. Some taxis will charge up to 150,000 for an overnight drive between Termez and Tashkent, but from Tashkent to Termez you may only have to pay 100,000 Som. In the city, taxis will cost between 3000 Som/US$0.34 and 7000 Som/US$0.81. As in other central Asian countries, you can flag down an unofficial taxi by standing on the side of the road with your hand out. Or you can use the Yandex Taxi-hailing app, if you have internet.

Potable Water

Despite what the internet says, the water in many places in Uzbekistan is drinkable. Some say that if your body is not used to it, you may have problems. I didn’t encounter any issues. Locals will generally boil tap water before they drink it.

3 Quirky Things to Know About Uzbekistan

Gas Stations

If you’re from North America, you’re probably wondering, ‘why mention gas stations, they’re everywhere’. That’s true, but there are special stations in Uzbekistan that only sell gas, as in liquid gas. You can’t fill up cars that run on petrol or diesel at these stations. These stations don’t really look like your average filing station either.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Uzbekistan. Gas Station

Crisps/Chips in Shwarmas

While Shwarmas can vary from region to region, perhaps the strangest variation occurs in Uzbekistan. The standard composition of a Schwarma there is meat, salad, sauce and crisps/chips. But they’ll look at you weirdly if you ask them to leave the crisps/chips out.

Airconditioning is Not Standard

Most people will not have airconditioning in their homes, but a lot of places offering accommodation will also be without airconditioning. You’re probably thinking that not having airconditioning is not really that much of a weird thing, right? Would you still think that if you were in an area where temperatures edge towards 50 degrees Celcius in the summer? If you find it hard to handle hot temperatures, ensure that you carefully check that your accommodation has airconditioning before you finalise your booking.

Want to know more about Uzbekistan? Have a look here and here.

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9 Fun Things to do In Baku – 2 Days on a Budget

So you want to see a beautiful Western Asian/Eastern European city but you’re short on time and cash? Then this list of 9 fun things to do in Baku is for you!

Aside from being beautiful, Baku is also unique in so many ways. It’s the only metropolis in the whole of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, it’s situated below sea level on the shores of a sea that isn’t really a sea, but the world’s largest lake. Keeping yourself occupied in this city won’t break the bank. In fact, there are many cool and quirky things to do for free!

The activities below will definitely keep you occupied for at least 2 days, but possibly longer if you like to do things at a more leisurely pace.

3 Fun Things to do in Baku For Free

1) Go on a Fountain Hunt

If you love fountains, you’ll love this! The city of Baku has a crazy amount of fountains. Who can blame them really. I mean, who doesn’t love stylised water jets? Seeing how many you can find is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the quirks of the city while you find your bearings.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Fountain

To save water, most fountains do not run during the daytime, so fountain hunting is some thing that you might want to try after 7pm in the summer season. the added bonus there will be that everything gets cooler in the evening.

2) Admire the Architecture

While you’re hunting fountains, you’ll see a lot of pretty buildings, in both the new and old town. If you love architecture, you can wax lyrical about the different structural influences that can be seen around town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Subway Ceiling K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. City Centre K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Building With In-built Monuments

If you’re not architecturally inclined, there’s certainly still a lot to appreciate about the city’s buildings. Maybe you can take pictures for your friends on Instagram?

3) Find Some Pop-out Friends

You may notice that some of the pretty buildings have heads popping out of them. These are sculptures of people that played a part in the city’s history. Most have a short explanation about how the person contributed.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. White Pop-out Head K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Black Pop-out Head K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Grey Pop-out Head

Some even pop right out of the ground.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Head popping out of the Ground

3 Fun Things To Do In Baku For Free, With Optional Budget Extras

4) Visit Baku Boulevard/Denizkenari Milli Park

Denizkenari Milli Park, the biggest park in the city, is also known as Baku Boulevard. It stretches along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea for almost 4km. That means you should easily be able to find a quiet spot where you can sit and admire the sea.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Looking out to the Caspian Sea

You can continue your fountain hunt while walking through the park.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Fountain

When you finish your walk at Flag Square, you can play chess with little-people-sized chess pieces under the Azerbaijan flag.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Flag Square

Here are some optional extra things to do in the park if you don’t mind spending a little bit of money.

Go to the carnival area and go on some rides. This area may be aimed at children, but they don’t have any signs saying that child-like adults can’t join in the fun!
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Carnival Area

Maybe if you have kids, you can leave them at the carnival and take a gondola ride on the canal a short walk away.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Gondola Canal

Finally, to escape the heat, you can head to the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum. It comes highly recommended by locals and costs 7 Manat for entry.

5) Rise Above It All

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. View of the City From The Hill
There is a place where all the locals in the city gather for the best view. It’s known as ‘The Hill’. You can also find it on Maps.me as ‘Panoramic View’. The beginning of the stairs that lead to the hill can be seen across the road from Flag Square in Denizkenari Milli Park/Baku Boulevard.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Stairs to the Hill

If you want to go for the free and fit option, you can walk the 700 metres up the stairs. Make sure you take enough water as there isn’t really an option for resupply on the way up!

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Entrance to the Funicular

If it’s too hot, or you’re feeling a bit lazy, there is a funicular near the start of the stairs that goes up to the Flame Towers. The towers are a little bit past the hill, so you’d have to backtrack a bit, but at least it won’t be uphill! The funicular costs 1 manat each way.

The Flame Towers come alive at night

You could also take a taxi. I’m sure all the drivers will know what you mean if you say ‘The Hill’. It shouldn’t cost more than 5 manat/US$3.

6) Get Lost in the Old Town

It’s free to wander around the UNESCO Heritage Listed old town of Baku and soak up the old timey-ness of the narrow alleyways and cobbled roads. There are also handy maps and markers to show you where the points of interest are. Audio guides available to explain the importance of the points of interest, but they cost 5 manat/US$3.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Miniature Book Museum

Among the many attractions of the old town is the Miniature Book Museum. It is free to enter and quirky to boot. It’s definitely something to tell your friends about. Unfortunately, it’s closed on Mondays and Thursdays, so plan accordingly.

3 Fun Things to do in Baku on a Budget

7) Qobustan Mud Volcanoes

Looking for a fun adventure outside of the city? Then get yourself to Qobustan, (pronounced Gobustan)! This unassuming little town hides some quirky little secrets away from the main road. Mud volcanoes! These ‘volcanoes’ are about 10 minute drive down a dirt road into the middle of nowhere.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Qobustan Mud Volcano

The sounds as the volcanoes ‘erupt’ are giggle-worthy. This place is guaranteed to put a smile on your face without burning a hole in your pocket. To get there, you can take the 125 bus from the city to Bina Ticaret Merkezi, then get the 195 bus and let the driver know you want Qobustan. The combined cost of these buses is less than 1 manat. You’ll get dropped off on the side of the road, where a taxi will be waiting to take you the rest of the way. They will barter hard, but it shouldn’t cost you any more than 10 manat/US$5.

8) Bibi-Hebyat Mosque

This is an amazing mosque and adjoining cemetery perched high above the Caspian Sea. You can catch the 125 bus from the city, so it can be combined quite easily with your visit to Qobustan.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque

9) Take a Bus or a Train

The transport in Baku is efficient, clean and cheap! You shouldn’t have to pay more than 1 Manat to go anywhere in the city. Each bus stop and metro station has machines where you can purchase a Bakikart for you trip.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. BakiKart Machine K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. BakiKart

Above is a one-time use BakiKart, but there are also BakiKarts available for everyday use, that can be recharged at the machines at all stops. It could be a good idea to purchase one if you plan to spend more time Baku, because you’ve fallen in love with the city. I did! You can see why here.

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Things To Know About Kyrgyzstan

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz Landscapes.

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful Central Asian country that was once a major feature of the trade routes of the Silk Road. It’s an adventure waiting to happen. Aside from its natural beauty, Kyrgyzstan is full of beautifully warm and friendly people that will try to help you in any way that they can. This list of things to know about Kyrgyzstan will help make your visit to the country even more memorable.

If you haven’t thought of visiting yet, you should put it on your list right now! Keep reading to learn some important things to know about Kyrgyzstan.

Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan – Language

Most people speak Kyrgyz, alongside Russian. Both languages have huge similarities. For example, the word for cafe in Russian is кафе and in Kyrgyz it is кафеси. Both languages use the Cyrillic alphabet. The Kyrgyz Cyrillic Alphabet has 3 unique characters not found in the 33 character Russian Cyrillic Alphabet.

While speaking Russian will get you through Kyrgyzstan with no problems, it’s also completely possible to travel the country relatively easily with no knowledge of Russian. You can find English speakers here and there, especially in cafes in Bishkek or Osh. There are also many Kyrgyz people using Couchsurfing, who speak English well and are eager to meet travellers.

If you can’t find a common language, you can always resort to hand gestures, body movements translation apps and using props. Kyrgyz people are a patient bunch, so they’re willing to spend time figuring out what you are trying to say.

Kyrgyz English speakers don’t have a strong ‘non-native’ accent when they talk, which means when they do speak English, they are very easy to understand.

I ❤️️ Signs

Every major city in Kyrgyzstan seems to have an ‘I Love’ sign. some even have 2. Locals love to hang out in front of these signs for crazy amounts of time taking selfies and ignoring everyone around them. Good times.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz I Love Bishkek Sign K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. I Love Bishkek Sign K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. I Love Osh Sign

Interesting Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan – It’s Okay to Hitchhike!

Hitchhiking is a completely safe and viable way to get around Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz people aren’t afraid of language barriers and will pick you up and chat with you regardless. You will of course, be asked the standard questions; “Are you a tourist?”, “Where are you from?”, etc. Once you answer, don’t be surprised if your new driver will tell you their life story.

Approachability

Kyrgyz people are friendly and approachable. If you ask someone in the street for help, they will most certainly assist you. Even if you don’t share a common language, they will find a way. They will likely stay with you until your problem is solved satisfactorily

Quirky Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan – 3 Som Coins

Perhaps the quirkiest cash denomination I’ve seen in all my travels is the 3 Som coin. It is worth approximately US$0.04. There are apparently no 5 Som coins. You will instead get one 3 Som coin and two 1 Som coins. Or if you get 10 Som change, it will be three 3 Som coins and a 1 Som coin.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. 3 Som Coins

Handy Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan – The Water is Potable!

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet! Many sites claim that the domestic water supply in Kyrgyzstan is not safe to drink, but those sites are mistaken. Locals and tourists alike drink the water with no problems.

Don’t waste your money buying one-time use bottles of water. Save the environment and bring your own bottle to fill up from the tap. If you’re still a bit worried, you can simply boil your water before you drink it but that’s really not required.

Carnivals

One of the more quirky things to know about Kyrgyzstan is that people there enjoy carnival-like atmospheres. This can range from the hiring of motorised toy cars and selling of light-up souvenirs in a park, to permanent rides, carnival games and stalls set up in a reserve near a river. You gotta love people that just wanna have fun.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. Carnival in Osh K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. Carnival near Jayma Bazaar in Osh

Important Things to Kow About Kyrgyzstan – City Transport

Transport in Kyrgyz cities is cheap and efficient. Buses cover many major routes in the cities and out to the suburbs for 10 Som/US$0.15. They run at intervals of 5 minutes or less. Bus information for Bishkek can be found here

Taxis

Taxis around the city cost about 100 – 300 Som/US$1.40 – 4.30 depending on the distance travelled. Yandex taxis are also available in Kyrgyzstan and the cars actually have Yandex Taxi written on the side of them. You can use the Yandex Taxi Hailing app to order a taxi if you have data/WiFi access and a phone number that can receive messages in Kyrgyzstan. If you don’t have internet access, you can hail an unofficial taxi by standing on the side of the road. This should cost the same as an official taxi.

Mashrutkas

Mini-vans that work in a similar way to shared taxis, known as Masrutkas, are available for travel within the city, but the system is very hard to navigate unless you have a local with you, or you can read/speak Russian. There are many numbered Mashrutka routes that cost around 20 Som/$US0.30.

Intercity Transport

Mashrutkas are the main form of intercity transport. They operate out of bus stations in the cities and drop off on the side of the road in small towns. You can buy a spot in the van directly from the driver, although there does appear to be a ticket desk at the Western Bus Station. Mashrutkas leave when all their seats are filled. A Mashrutka from the Western Bus Station in Bishkek to the small town of Kadji-Sai near Issyk-Kul costs 300 Som/US$4.30 and takes around 3-4 hours.

Meat

If you’re a meat lover, Kyrgyzstan is the place for you! Meat is the main feature of most menus in the country, with popular dishes being Shishlyk (barbequed meat on skewers), kebabs and doners. The main meats used in these dishes are beef, lamb and chicken. Horse meat is also a popular dish in the area, given that other foods were often scarce in Kyrgyz nomadic history.

It might be hard to find vegan food in Kyrgyzstan, as even some salads have meat in them. unless you want to spend your whole time eating mushroom Shishlyk. Even salads in Kazakhstan can have meat, so it always pays to check what’s in the food you’re ordering!

Unusual Things to Know About Kygryzstan – People Love Drinking Horse Milk

Horse milk is a popular drink in Kyrgyzstan, probably owing to their nomadic history. These days, it is often sold from containers on the side of the road. There are different types of horse milk with different levels of sourness. Yes, you read that correctly. Different levels of sourness. It’s quite unlike any other milk you’ve ever tasted.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. Horse Milk on the Silk Road

If you want a super local experience, you could stop at a yurt on the Silk Road and sit down for some horse milk and bread with a local family. Even if the horse milk is not to your taste, meeting locals is always nice!

Music

Whenever you go to a cafe or restaurant, you’re almost guaranteed to only hear 80s or 90s English language music. Normally the songs playing are remixed into more mellow versions of the originals. You can actually be listening to a song for a few minutes before realising that it’s a song you know. When you’re in a car however, locals are likely to not be listening to any music, so that that can chat with you. Or they play Kyrgyz music at a decent sound level and just talk loudly over it.

Bazaars

In the major Kyrgyz cities, when you ask a local what the must-see places are, the first thing they will suggest is the local bazaar. The bazaars are seen as the one-stop place for everything you could ever want and some things you didn’t know you wanted. The Osh Bazaar in Bishkek is huge and slightly confusing, but if you keep at it, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Things to Know About Kyrgyzstan. Jayma Bazaar, Osh

The Jayma Bazaar in Osh is a little bit smaller and easy to navigate. I was able to find what I was looking for within 2 minutes.

On The Roads

While the majority of cars in Kyrgyzstan are left-hand drive, there are also a decent number of right-hand drive cars. Perhaps people drive the later for financial reasons, as they are much cheaper to buy than their left-hand drive counterparts.

Whether they’re on the left or right-hand side of the car, Kyrgyz driver can get pretty crazy. Lane markings are completely ignored at all times and overtaking on the most dangerous parts of bends on mountain roads is commonplace.

Pedestrians can’t escape the craziness either. While legally, cars should give way to pedestrians at traffic lights and designated pedestrian crossings, that’s not always what happens in practice. At traffic lights, turning cars will drive towards you, but will stop to let you cross. Although they may keep inching towards you slowly in a not-so-subtle attempt to get you to hurry up.

At pedestrian crossings, it’s anyone’s guess what cars will do. Most drive too fast to be able to stop for the crossing, while others do the right thing and stop. There is no simple way to cross a road in Kyrgyzstan and pedestrians need to constantly check for cars doing the wrong thing as they’re crossing.

You can read about my adventures in Kyrgyzstan here, here and here.

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