How to start house sitting around the world

Have you ever wondered how to cut the costs of traveling by as much at 50%? Did you know that when you see your favourite travellers on Instagram, lounging around an exotic looking pool, that they are often getting their accommodation totally free? Yep, much of the time that’s how they afford such an exciting life full of travel and beautiful destinations. It’s a tactic I’ve used too, and I’ve gotta say, I’m a rather huge fan.

The cost of accommodation is a major part of traveling, often costing as much as 50% of your budget (and sometimes even more!). If you didn’t have to pay for where you slept, would that mean you could get out and travel more often?

I know it does for me.

House Sitting is a super-secret weapon in many travelers arsenal, and one that is gaining massive popularity amongst travelers around the world. In exchange for feeding the dog, watering the plants and treating somebody’s home as if it were your own, you can get that extra 50% of your budget back and travel the world for a whole lot less. Continue reading

4 Minute Travel Guide: Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a vibrant metropolis where old meets new and bicycle rickshaw drivers peddle past goats grazing trash outside sparkling clean restaurants, the modern kind, tailor made for Western hikers. A city that is overcoming natural disaster and capitalising on the tourism created by it’s world-class hiking trails, famous towering mountains and incredible, almost overwhelmingly kind hospitality. In this 4 minute travel guide: Kathmandu, you’ll get a taste for this Himalayan capital. 

Four Minute Travel Guide: Kathmandu

This four minute travel guide: Kathmandu is designed to give you just the most important features of a destination, without the heavy reading! Designed to be read and digested in around 4 minutes. So kick back, scroll down and spend 4 minutes exploring one of my favourite cities in the world. If you reach the end and find yourself captivated, I’ve inlaced some links to some of the best Kathmandu related reading from around the internet.

― Jane Wilson-Howarth, Snowfed Waters

Getting Started in Kathmandu

The main thing to know about Kathmandu is that Thamel is the main tourist-area. It’s where you’ll find the most shopping, bazaars, hotels and restaurants in Kathmandu. If it’s your first visit to Kathmandu, this is most likely where you’ll want to be. Kathmandu is serviced by an International Airport. You can also reach the city via bus from India (Delhi, Varanasi and Gorakpur are the most common places to leave from). At the time of writing, the roads to Tibet are still closed, and Nepal only shares a land border with these two countries. Nepal has no trains (well none useful to visitors, anyhow) so getting around is by bus, car and taxi.

When to Visit Kathmandu

October is Autumn , and the peak season for visiting all of Nepal. The weather is mild and the air is clear from recent monsoons. It is dry but not too cold at night, and generally warm and sunny during the day. It also features Tihar and Dashain, the two main Nepalese festivals of the year. So if you like the atmosphere, this is an excellent time to come over. If you want to avoid the festivals and throngs of tourists, then the springtime, from March until May, is a fabulous time to experience the rhododendrons and other blossoming flowers of Nepal. Best to avoid: June-August is summer and also monsoon. So unless you particularly like the wet, monsoon season, it’s not a good time to visit. December – February is winter, it can be very cold and snow (but not in Kathmandu). However it can also be very scenic and good for low altitude trekking, so take your pick!


What to Do in Kathmandu City

Kathmandu is an interesting city to explore, and has a number of areas, temples and markets to explore. Some of the key things to do in Kathmandu are:

  • Shop for handicrafts in Thamel. Some of the popular wares include pashminas, yak wool blankets, bone, wood and glass jewellery, wooden musical instruments and puppets.
  • Visit Durbar Square to explore historic temples and the temple of the living goddess
  • Stroll the Garden of Dreams for a soothing spot of tranquility amongst the chaos of the city
  • Check out Swayambhunath Temple & Boudhanath Stupa to see some of the more ornate and spiritual sites of Kathmandu.

Where to Stay in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is the hub of Nepal and there are no shortages of accommodation, especially within the area of Thamel. It is definitely possible to turn up and look for somewhere to stay once you arrive. However, if you feel more comfortable booking in advance, I can personally recommend:

  • Katshmandap Travelers Home: What I believe to be the best hostel in Kathmandu, great for dorm-style living and meeting other travelers
  • Bright Star Hotel: Private rooms at a good price. Clean and safe and in Thamel, but down a side road so away from the chaos
  • Papaya House: Unbelievably good value and gorgeous, comfortable, clean rooms. Good WiFi too. A little out of the way so you need to catch taxis or local busses to get just about anywhere.

4 Minute Travel Guide Kathmandu Takeaways

  • Nepal is home to some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met in my travels. The hospitality is exceptional
  • Kathmandu is an amazing city to explore, although rather compact and small. After a few days you may feel that you’ve seen it all
  • The city is in a valley and the pollution is some of the highest in the world. Factor this in when you are deciding your length of stay
  • The city has an amazing blend of Nepalese, Indian, Tibetan and Chinese Influence, so the food is diverse and the atmosphere much more relaxed than in neighbouring india
  • Thamel is one of the best spots in all of Nepal for well-priced handicrafts, so shop it up!

Have an Urban Adventure in Kathmandu

Urban Aventures is one of my absolute favourite partners, and I use their services myself – so these recommendations come from my own experiences! (check out the time I went to Mexico with their parent-company, Intrepid Travels) If you’re not sure how to spend a day in Kathmandu, they offer some pretty incredible (and super affordable) day trips within the city. For under $100 (yep, that’s right) you could be exploring Kathmandu by bike, getting to know the cities spiritual sideExperiencing the city as a rickshaw night explorer or learning to cook some incredible Niwali cuisine in a traditional cooking class

Urban Adventure Tours

Who would I recommend Kathmandu to?

Anybody who wants to be near excellent trekking, or experience a more chilled-out version of India. Kathmandu still has the amazing culture, vibrancy and delicious foods, curries and festivals like India, but without so much of the things that can make it overwhelming. If you’ve enjoyed the 4 minute travel guide: Kathmandu, then odds are you should know by now if this Himalayan city is the right destination for you.

More Links:

General: Guide to Thamel, Kathmandu | 10 Important Tips for Visiting Kathmandu | Ten Interesting things to do in Kathmandu | 5 Offbeat Experiences in KathmanduSolo Female Travel: Traveling Alone in Nepal as a Woman

Books to Read: The Snow Leopard (Penguin Classics)| Lonely Planet Nepal (Travel Guide)Escape From Kathmandu | Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (Travel Guide) | While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal | Nepal – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & CultureLittle Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
Eating: Eight Great Eats in KathmanduTrip Advisors Top Kathmandu Restaurants ListVegan & Vegetarian Food in Kathmandu | A Backstreet Guide to the best Cafes in Kathmandu | Putting Nepali food on the map
Kathmandu Itineraries: Rough Guide’s Kathmandu ItinerariesKathmandu Valley, Nepal: itinerary, cost breakdown, packing list  | Nepal in under a week: visiting with only a 7 day or less itinerary
Trekking: Tips for Trekking to Everest Base Camp | A Backpackers Guide to Nepal | Guide to the Annapurna Circuit Trek | A Photographic Journey to Everest Base Camp
Other parts of Nepal:  Chilling at Lakeside Pokhara, NepalHike From Nagarkot To Nala | 2 Days in Pokhara | 10 Reasons to Visit Chitwan National Park

Have You Been to Kathmandu?

Let me know what you thought of the 4 minute travel guide: Kathmandu in the comments! I’d love to hear your own recommendations or experiences from your trip.

Why you don’t need to travel to Iceland

Why you don’t need to travel to Iceland (And 8 incredible destinations you could visit instead!)

Iceland has quickly propelled itself to the top of most people’s places to be list. It’s the theme-du-jour for most travel agencies, blogs and travel groups, and everywhere you turn airlines are offering cheap flights and package deals enticing adventurous travelers to take a dip in the blue lagoon and explore Reykjavik. Check any travel group or blog right now and you’ll see hundreds of reasons why they think you should travel to Iceland.

 This far-north nordic island receives its fair share of media coverage, from cheap flight deals to excellent government and incredible scenery – what’s not to love? However, thanks to a sudden burst of overwhelming popularity, this icy nation is becoming overloaded with tourists. This article from the Telegraph even claims it’s becoming a bit of a modern-day Disneyland, thanks to a massive popularity boost in travel to Iceland.

 Yes – Iceland is certainly an enchanting fairy-tale land full of crystal caves and wondrous natural attractions. However, if time, distance or budget doesn’t allow – fear not! You do not need to travel to Iceland when there are so many irresistible alternatives on this planet for you to check out.

1. Mountains Ahoy in Nepal 

Why travel to Iceland when you could hike in Nepal?

 Want Snowy, Towering Peaks? Try instead: Annapurna Range, Nepal.

Iceland is a scenic wonderland studded with pristine mountain ranges, but there are plenty of other options when it comes to breathtaking mountain ranges. Nepal offers some of the most incredible – and tallest – mountains in the world, including the famous Mount Everest, as well as a fascinating culture, overwhelmingly friendly hospitality and plenty of awesome tourism opportunities.

When it comes to Nepal, the spectacular Annapurna Range is the place to be. While the Everest Base Camp is more famous, it is also considerably more crowded. By making trails to the beautiful lake-side city of Pokhara, you can make your way for a trek lasting as many as 20 days, or as little as 2, with views to rival those of the nearby Everest and without the heaving gaggle of fellow-trekkers to contend with.

If trekking the ranges is a bit out of reach, you can also take a pretty awesome bicycle day trip into these spectacular ranges, just check out Urban Adventures’ ‘Pokhara by Bike’


2. The Northern Lights in Alaska

 Why travel to Iceland when you could see the Northern Lights in Alaska?

Dream of Watching the Northern Lights? Try instead: Alaska

 Sure, you could take a one-in-a-lifetime road trip to the Iclandic northern lights (in fact, here’s a pretty cool Icelandic road trip itinerary by @AlexCornell). But if Iceland’s not on your winter travel plans, why not try Alaska? A first-rate rival when it comes to witnessing the amazing lights, the Aurora Express is a magical rail service that will take up up through the Alaskan tundra, through snow-hedged forest and up to some of the best Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) viewing spots in North America.

 Take your time and stopover for a dip at the steaming Chena Hotsprings while you’re at it, and enjoy an exhilirating dogsled ride through the snowy slopes. Haven’t convinved you yet? Let the wanderlust take hold and check out this excellent NYT travelogue from Ethan Todras-Whitehill who took the Aorora Express.


3. Active Volcanoes in Japan

Why travel to Iceland when you could visit the volcanoes of Japan

Excited by Active Volcanoes? Try instead: Kyushu, Japan.

 The volcanoes of Iceland are nothing short of exhilarating, the perfect destination for adventure-seekers. But believe it or not, Iceland is not the only port of call for intrepid volcanic journeys. In fact, Japan is home to one of the largest calderas in the word – Mount Aso, In Aso Kuju National park. Hiding out on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, Mount Aso offers stunning vistas over a other-worldely pitted landscape of twisted rock and geothermic displays. Curious? Mac from Halfway Anywhere went climbing Mount Aso, check out his account here..


4. Impressive Croatian Waterfalls

 Why travel to Iceland when you could visit Croatian waterfalls?

Want to Splash in Photo-Worthy Waterfalls? Try instead: Plitvice, Croatia

 Each day holiday-makers and selfie-taker flock to the Skafatell National Park in Iceland for the magnificant waterfalls. But you don’t have to travel too far Southeast from Iceland to discover Plitvice National Park in Croatia. Amidst the oldest national park in Southern Europe, you’ll find tremendous waterfalls and famous lakes here, as well as impressive ancient architecture and the nearby attractions of the Dalmation coast. For more info on this European wonderland, check out Yulia’s excellent article over at MissTourist , or ‘Tips for Visiting Plitvice Lakes in Croatia” by Kirsten from the Blonde Abroad, for all the information, tips and tricks you need.

5. Glacier Gazing in Kashmir

Why travel to Iceland when you could visit Kashmiri Ice Caves?

Impressed by Mesmerizing Glaciers and Eye-Catching Ice Caves? Try instead: Kashmir, India

The word ‘Iceland’ incites visions of bewitching ice formations and abundant glaciers. India, not usually so much. So it may come as some surprise to learn that northern India features some of the most astonishing glaciers and ice caves in the world. Measuring in at an impressive 62 kilometres in length, the Baltoro Glacier in Karakoram, Kashmir, is one of the longest alpine glaciers on earth and a great alternative to the tourist-laden glacier sites of Iceland (and India is astonishingly more budget-friendly to boot). Another of the most incredible treks in Kashmir takes 5 days, and trekkers visit a holy ice cave. Legend says this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and the universe to Parvati – you can learn more about this incredible experience, named the ‘Amarnath Yatra’ over on SandeepaChetan’s Travel Blog.

6. Incredible Ukranian Caves

 Why travel to Iceland when you could visit Crimean Marble Caves

Into Exploring Extravagant Caves? Try instead: Crimea, Ukraine

 Even the most exhuberant cave-lovers may not have considered the Ukraine as an alternative, however many speleologists (those who study and explore caves) think of Crimea’s Marble cave as one of the most beautiful caves on the planet. Ukraine is an undiscovered gem of a country yet to be drowned in tourism, and it’s a great opportunity to get off the beaten track and explore the caves that have inspired fairytales. Many operators offer tours and treks in the region, Try Ukraine offer listings of some of these treks here if you’re not sure where to start.

7. Puffin Watching in Scotland

 Why travel to Iceland when you could visit puffins in Scotland?

Up for a spot of puffin spotting? Try instead: Northern Scotland

 The large puffin colonies in Iceland are a massive attraction to many birdwatchers and non-avian enthusiasts alike. But did you know that you can check out these brightly-beaked characters in Northern Scotland? Puffin’s are lovingly referred to as ‘Clowns of the sea’  A great place to start is in picturesque Tobermory in Scotland’s Isle of Mull. A cute, quaint and colourful fishing village where Puffins return to breed in April. Much of the year Puffins are out at sea, so make sure to head over during April and July for the best chances of spotting these fascinating sea birds. For advice on the Isle of Mull (and exploring Scotland in general) take a visit to the Traveling Savage blog

8. Stunning Volcanic Lakes in New Zealand & Turkey

Why travel to Iceland when you could visit Turkish volcanic lakes?


Spellbound by Bright Blue Geothermic Lakes? Try instead: Whitianga, New Zealand & Pamukkale, Turkey

You don’t need to travel to Iceland to experience etheral bright-blue lakes set off by milky white mineral rocks. Both New Zealand and Turkey boast mineral-rich thermal waters with impressive scenery to rival anything found in northern Europe. The lost springs are dazzling thermal pools inside a cave in Whitianga, on the North Island of New Zealand. If the antipodes are a little far to venture, Pamukkale in Western Turkey features pristine chalk-white travertine terraces with flowing thermal waters. Zolton over at Lost at E Minor write’s a pretty convincing case for New Zealand most relaxing natural spa, or check out Evan Antin and Nathalie Basha’s very cool video of their visit to Pamukkale, Turkey.

But – let’s face it, Iceland is pretty amazing and I can completely understand why it’s so popular! But, if travel to Iceland is off the menu, at least there’s a whole host of other awesome options. Have I missed any out? Let me know in the comments!