5 Reasons to Visit Belize

A few years back, I spent a couple of months teaching and traveling in Belize. Before I left for the country, I basically knew nothing about it.

For those who have never heard of it, it’s a tiny little country around the size of New Hampshire and with a population of less than 400,000 people. Although it may be small, there’s a ton of stuff to do.

Here are five reasons why you should visit Belize.

 

#1 You Can Get Around With English

For those who don’t speak a language aside from English, traveling in a foreign country can be a little bit intimidating. While many people in a lot of countries speak some English, it can still be tough to communicate exactly what you want or need. However, you don’t need to worry about that if you visit Belize. 

In fact, English is their national language.

As a former British colony, the language that they learn and use in the public school system is English. With that said, you’ll likely hear a bunch of different languages depending on where you are in the country. Belizean Creole is probably the language that’s used most widely, but you’ll also hear a lot of Spanish depending on where you are (in addition to more indigenous languages).

 

#2 The Local Culture is Still intact

In a world that is increasingly globalized (read: Americanized), it’s refreshing to visit a country in which the local culture is still very much intact. In Belize, you won’t find many American establishments.

As of 2016, there were 36,899 McDonalds restaurants in 120 different countries… but not one in Belize.

You can basically count on beans, rice, and seafood everywhere you go. Despite not having the best food scene in the world, you truly leave everything that you have at home and enter into a different world when you travel to Belize.

 

 

#3 The Beaches are Incredible

Whether you’re in the north or south of Belize, you’re always close to beautiful beaches when you visit this country. There are beaches like Placencia in the south with a seemingly endless amount of islands (cayes) that you can visit. I only made it to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, but you also have St. George’s Caye, Tobacco Caye, Long Caye, and many many more.

Also, if you’re into diving, you can also visit one of the most famous diving sites in the world: the Great Blue Hole. Although I didn’t get to visit while I was there, I’ve only heard amazing things.

Seriously, look it up.

 

#4 It’s Easy to Travel

Getting places in Belize is simple.

There are basically only five major paved roads, and the country is tiny. If you need to go somewhere, just hop onto one of the many buses that run throughout the country. On these old school buses from the U.S., you can get almost anywhere in the country in less than a day of traveling, and for a pretty reasonable price too. Just a fair warning though, the buses can get pretty crowded during peak times (and by that I mean strangers basically sitting on top of you).

If you want something more comfortable, you can always take the taxis (or a helicopter if you’re really feeling yourself).

 

#5 Nature

Let’s put it this way; Belize is not developed.

They aren’t really an industrialized nation, they don’t have a ton of commerce, and their population density is super low. While this doesn’t make for a prosperous nation (not yet, at least), it does mean that much of their nature has been left untouched. As wildlife is one of the biggest attractions for tourists in the country, the government works hard to protect their forests, wild animals, and birds.

In fact, Belize is home to the world’s only (as far as I know) jaguar preserve.

If you want to explore beautiful rainforest and incredible animals in their natural habitats, Belize is the place for you.

 

The Takeaway

Although a little-known country to many, Belize is one of the most underrated places that I’ve been. It doesn’t get nearly as much love on the tourist circuit as somewhere like Costa Rica or Nicaragua, but it’s one of the most unique countries in the world in that much of the country is relatively untouched.

If you want a unique, authentic travel experience, you should definitely visit Belize.

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The Lima List: What to do for a day in Barranco

A lot of blogs and articles recommend heading to Miraflores for the best that Lima has to offer, but if you do, you’re missing out. Barranco is far and away my favorite neighborhood in Lima. It’s trendy, hip, and artsy. It has amazing food and nightlife, and a super chill and happy vibe. It’s easy to spend a day in Barranco, and when you do don’t miss out on my favorite spots!

 

To Do

One of my favorite places to stop by during a day in Barranco is definitely Dedalo Arte y Artesenia. This store is almost like a gallery because everything they sell is so beautiful. Trust me, it’s not like the other tourist markets with the same alpaca sweatshirts and knick knacks. At Dedalo, every room has a different theme, from jewelry, to art, to my favorite with gorgeous ceramic tea pots that I definitely can’t afford but still will dream about. There is also an outdoor cafe with craft beer, coffees, artisanal chocolates and desserts and an amazing secret garden ambiance. Don’t miss stopping in Dedalo if you’re in the area!

 

 

La Feria market is another can’t miss spot in Barranco. It’s one street up from the main square, but only open on the weekends. If you can, plan your trip around being here because it’s amazing. Stalls sell homemade products, clothes, art, and of course amazing food. There’s a sushi stall here I really want to try, as well as crepes, ice cream, coffee, cocktails, pizzas, and plenty more. There’s a stage for live music at night, and the last time I was here there was even an adoption stall with puppies and the tiniest kittens we could hold and play with. It seriously does not get any better than that!

Feeling outdoorsy? The beach walk is a great, free, and relaxing activity to add to your to do list. Barranco is located on cliffs overlooking the ocean, and there are little parks, paths, and green spaces along them to walk or sit and enjoy the waves. If you’re lucky enough to be there when it’s not gray and smoggy, you’ll also get awesome skyline views of Lima as well.

 

 

Finally, the Bridge of Sighs is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Barranco, and it’s cool for a couple reasons. Built in the 1800’s the bridge is the historical center of the neighborhood. It’s surrounded by amazing graffiti, an old church, and a score of restaurants and bars. It has a view of a cobbled street packed with vendors and you should definitely spend some time wandering the area, relaxing in the flowered park, and taking in the ocean view from the nearby vantage point.

 

To Eat

Barranco has some amazing spots to sit down for a bite to eat. While there, we tried a lot, and passed by more restaurants we wish we had room for!

The first is La Panetteria. This cute little bakery is perfect for a meal or a snack. We got iced coffee, a smoothie, and some fresh ciabatta to take home, but they also have sandwiches and amazing looking desserts. It’s right by the main square and a perfect place to chill. They even had some craft beers on the menu that I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Peru, like a cream and cocoa brew.

I’ve been craving a good burrito forever (miss ya Chipotle!) so when I read the reviews for the Burrito Bar, I knew we couldn’t miss it. It’s for sure the best burrito I’ve had in my 10 months in South America, and also cheap. It was only about $5 for a burrito that is definitely big enough to split. The tortillas are so fresh and tasty, and the barbacoa meat was really flavorful. It’s easy to order and build with the exact toppings you want, so if you’re missing good Mexican food, the burritos, quesadillas, and tacos here are a must.

 

 

Some honorable mentions on this list are two restaurants I passed by but didn’t try. Both were packed, and one even had a line of people waiting out the door. The first is Isolina Taberna. This restaurant is Peruvian and must be amazing. The decor inside was cool, and the menu was surprisingly cheap for how nice it looked. Interestingly, the menu states that every meal is big enough for three people! The Peruvian dishes seemed heavy on the meat, but were still only $10 to $20 each. Not bad to feed a whole group. They also had $5 fish and pork sandwiches that sounded delicious. Second, if you’re craving seafood and ceviche (Lima has some of the best in the world) then check out El Muelle. It was packed all day and the dishes people were eating on the patio looked gigantic. If I head back to spend a day in Barranco again before I leave Lima, this is definitely at the top of my list and I will report back on the experience!

 

To Drink

By far my favorite bar in Barranco is Wick’s. This traditional English pub is run by a English-Peruvian couple. All of the staff spoke English and best of all… they had draft cider! If you’re a cider lover like me, you’ll be in heaven! I haven’t had a good one since I moved to South America so it was a delicious taste of home. They also have their own house beers on tap, as well a a daily deal for a meal and a pint for $10.

The Barranco Beer Company is another great bar for beer lovers to visit during a day in Barranco. The bar is big and you can see their brewery in the back. The Barranco Beer Co. has a few different house beers like the new Saca Tu Machete on tap with 10% ABV. We tried the oatmeal stout and the lager and both were really good. If you’re sick of drinking Cusquena and Pilsner, this is a great place to try something new.

 

 

If  you’re more into cocktails than beer (I’m not, so I didn’t try this bar but it has rave reviews) check out Ayahuasca Resto Bar and let me know how it is. The bar features craft cocktails and is built in a renovated colonial mansion. Nothing more hip than that!

 

If you’re in Lima and planning to spend a day in Barranco, don’t miss these top spots to shop, take in the sights, and of course eat and drink some of the best Lima has to offer. Barranco is a trendy, hipster neighborhood in Lima and feels like as escape into a totally different world. Definitely don’t forget to add a day in Barranco to your Lima to do list!

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Medellin Nightlife: The Ultimate Poblado Bar Crawl

Alright. I lived in Medellin for 6 months, so I had plenty of boozy weekends to put together the perfect night out in Poblado. I’m guessing you probably don’t have as much time in the city as I did, so I put together this guide to help you hit up all my favorite places in one night. Follow these suggestions for the ultimate Poblado bar crawl. Whether you’re into craft beer, shots, classy establishments or clubbing all night, this list has it all.

 

Dinner

Every one knows you can’t go out on an empty stomach (or you will seriously regret it the next morning) so obvs you need to start your Poblado bar crawl with dinner. What’s your budget?

Bonhomia is the best restaurant in Poblado. It serves amazing charcuterie platters, fresh baked bread, and papas bravas. A meal for two here will run you about $25. They also have a fancy cocktail menu, involving fresh strawberries and fizzy stuff and all that jazz, and they are around $8 each. I recommend this restaurant if you have money to blow and want to check out their awesome patio and chill ambiance.

If your budget is a little lower (let’s face it it usually is) then definitely hit up Querido Food and Love. This place is a gem. Its cute and classy, but meals will only run you about $5 each, and glasses of wine are only $3 more. I recommend the spinach and artichoke dip and truffle pizza. Yuuum.

 

Happy Hour

Are you ready to get f*cked up? If you answer yes like any backpacker should, then the only next logical stop on the ultimate Poblado bar crawl is the Happy Buddha Bar. A lot of people know this is a major party hostel, but most people don’t know that the cocktails are 2 for 1 between 6pm and 8pm. Thats two mojitos, gin and tonics, or whatevers for $4. And they’re strong too. Happy Buddha Bar is also great because it is on a second level open air balcony, has pool tables, and usually some interesting people hanging around. It’s also right across the street from Querido. If you hit up this happy hour, I guarantee you’ll start your night off right.

 

Craft Beers

Yess craft beer my favorite part of the night. So, the happy hour ended at Happy Buddha, and you’re probably more drunk than you should be. No worries, just cross the street and take a seat at the Brew House. This place is run by a Colombian American who is pretty much always drunk and giving out free shots of Jaegar. The bar has beer pong, darts, and best of all: their own craft beer. At $5 for a pint, escape the clutches of Club Colombia and splurge on something new. Plus, the owner told me they’re working on a house brewed cider coming soon… my fav!

 

Shots

If you manage to leave the Brew House (most times we went we ended up staying and drinking with the owner and his friends after closing) then continue your Poblado bar crawl at Shupa Shots. This is a small bar right near Parque Lleras with an insane shots menu. They have candy shots, coffee shots, and literally every flavor under the sun. They also have alcoholic slushies, hats and costumes to dress up in (why?) and a giant shot wheel to spin and see what you should order next. The two deadliest shots here are definitely the Heroina shot (served in a giant syringe the bar tender empties into your mouth) and the Gasolina shot that tastes absolutely awful but gets the job done. The shots cost around $4 each and one shot here is more than enough, you’ll feel the effects hit you almost immediately. They are strooooong.

 

The Last Stop

Ok, I have three great choices for the last stop on your Poblado bar crawl, depending on what you’re into.

First, there’s the classy stop. Walk to Panorama Rooftop Bar. This bar has multiple levels and different balconies. It’s open air, has tons of greenery, is always packed and has a great vibe. It’s a little expensive ($5 or $6 for a glass of wine) but a great place to relax, chill, and end the night right.

Second is the for people who want to dance all night. Although I don’t club much, there’s a great one next to the Happy Buddha Bar on the left side… but I forget what it’s called and can’t find it online. It was fun when we visited and had great music and lots of dancing. If you want to walk a little further, the Sixxtina club in Poblado is popular too and has good reviews online.

Finally, there’s the Lili Club for the most adventurous. This place is…. alternative. It’s a cab ride away from Poblado, and you can only get in if you’re a couple or have more girls than guys in your group ( or are willing to pay a little extra cover charge.) This website is pretty family friendly so I won’t tell you any more but make sure you google it before you go… it’s an insane experience but definitely not for everyone.

 

Medellin is a can’t miss stop on the gringo trail through South America because it has some of the best nightlife on the continent. No matter what you’re into: shots, clubs, craft beer, or chill nights out, this ultimate Poblado bar crawl guide has it all. If you have any more suggestions to add to the list (if you can remember them that is) then comment below and let me know!

Ally my love,

Di

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The Best Restaurants and Craft Beer in Huaraz

Daniel and I spent one month in the small city of Huaraz in central Peru, and we ate and drank our way through the town like champs. Surprisingly, the food was a lot better than I thought, and there we’re even multiple breweries selling craft beer in Huaraz. If you find yourself in the city before your next trek, use my list to try the best restaurants and craft beer in Huaraz.

 

Trivio

Trivio is great because it has good food and craft beer. Trivio is the official restaurant selling Sierra Andina beer, a craft beer brewed in the city. Sierra Andina is the best beer that I’ve had in Peru. They have a couple different flavors and types, including an IPA that is 10.5% alcohol. Deadly, but delicious. At Trivio you can get 1/2 jars and full jars of beer to split. A 1/2 jar (which we usually got) is two beers for 15 to 18 soles. Otherwise, you can get bottles for 7 to 10 soles each.

When it comes to food, Trivio has huge portions. My favorite dishes there are the 20 sole chicken tender and fries platter thats definitely big enough for two, the 10 sole menus of the day with an appetizer, meal, drink and dessert, or the breakfast for 16 soles with eggs, bacon, pancakes, coffee and fresh juice. All great.

 

Chili Heaven

I loooooove Indian food (who doesn’t?) so for my birthday meal we decided to check out Chili Heaven. They had good reviews for their indian curries on TripAdvisor, but unfortunately on the night we went they didn’t have it! Instead, we tried the Thai red curry, and it was seriously amazing. Easily as good as any other Thai restaurant I’ve been to in the states. The prices are a little high at 27 soles for the curry & rice, but it was big enough for two people to split. Definitely worth a visit if you enjoy Indian and Thai food!

 

La Comedia Pizza

This place is bomb. It’s a kind of long walk from the main square to outside of town (about 15 minutes) but it’s so worth it. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven and were just as delicious as the pizzas I used to eat when I studied in Florence, Italy. We got the margarita pizza, garlic bread, and a water bottle for 36 soles total. Not bad, especially because its nice, well-lit, and romantic to boot. A perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Huaraz.

 

13 Buhos

I know this article is called the best restaurants AND craft beer in Huaraz, so of course I can’t leave 13 Buhos off the list. Surprisingly, this restaurant brews their own beer, Lucho’s, named after their owner. The large beers are big enough for two, so when Daniel and I went we split a large “Coca Roja” for 12 soles (really unique flavor) and each got a massive burger and fries for 20 soles more per plate. The portion was huge and I took at least half of it home for another meal. The fries were also really delicious and some of the best I’ve had in a long time. If you’re a craft beer lover, definitely don’t miss Lucho’s beer at 13 Buhos.

 

BONUS: I also want to mention some of the street foods we tried in Huaraz, because the options were so different from everywhere else we’ve been in Peru. They have large fried potato balls with boiled egg in them and an onion sauce (kinda weird, they were ok) but also this great bean salad called ceviche de tarwi. The beans are just like ceviche, with a vinegar and citrus onion sauce, and a weird texture thats hard and soft at the same time. It’s really good and super cheap to buy a portion for one or two soles on the street. If you pass someone selling it definitely stop and give it a try!

When it comes to restaurants and craft beer in Huaraz, the city surprisingly has some really great offers. Check out these restaurants next time you go out, and treat yourself to a craft beer as a reward for completing a long trek like Santa Cruz or Nevado Mateo. Huaraz is a small but quaint mountain town with some great eats if you know where to look 🙂

 

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How to Fly on a One Way Ticket to South America

This is an interesting problem, and one I encountered when I first began planning our trip to South America. Like many backpackers, I had a lot of time to spend on the continent and had done almost zero planning. That meant the best course of action was to buy a one way ticket into Medellin, and then gradually figure out our travel plans from there.

However, we hit a little snag. You’re not allowed to enter the countries in South America on a one way ticket.

Why? Well the problem is due to the airlines. Most countries in South America “officially” have a rule in the books stating that if you have a one way ticket to South America, you also need to show a return ticket out of the country. However, in reality they rarely, if ever, enforce these rules (because they need that sweet sweet tourism money.) IF the country did decide to deny entry based on this rule, though, the airline who brought the tourist in would then be on the hook to deport him free of charge.

The airlines don’t want to take this risk however small it may be, and therefore they are actually the ones who strictly enforce this rule. I’ve flown on a one way ticket to both Colombia and Peru, and both times I was asked at checkin to pull up proof that I had flights leaving the country and returning to the Unites States before they let me through.

Going into Colombia, I had no idea what my future travel plans would hold, and didn’t want to lock myself into a destination or a departure date I would later regret. So, how do you successfully buy a one way ticket to South America? These are your options:

 

1. Fake It

While researching the various choices I had to be allowed to board my one way flight to South America, I came across this option surprisingly often and it kind of blows my mind. I’m no goody two-shoes, but creating fake flight tickets just seems incredibly risky and stupid to me. Still though, it is an option that others have said work for them. They just create their own fake email receipt confirming flight reservations. If you do this (and you probably shouldn’t) they insist that it’s important to use real flight numbers and times for future routes.

 

2. Buy the Cheapest Bus Tickets You Can Find

This is another option, but I didn’t do it because it has one specific issue. When I was reading about airline and their rules, many stated that not only did we need proof that we were leaving Colombia, we actually needed proof that we were leaving the continent. Therefore, my plan to buy two $20 bus tickets from Medellin to Quito wasn’t going to work. I originally thought it was a great idea because I could use them in the future if my plans allowed, or just skip the ride and only be out 40 bucks. Not too bad.

Unfortunately, this rule requiring return flights to be off the entire continent threw me for a loop. I don’t really understand the reason behind why that would be required, but I also didn’t want to be stuck scrambling and trying to buy a flight back to the US in the airport at checkin either.

 

3. Buy A Refundable Return Flight

Ultimately this is the option we went with to use our one way ticket to South America, and it worked perfectly. First, I searched online for the cheapest flights from South America to the US that I could find. Even though I was flying into Colombia, a flight out of any country on the continent would do. So, I chose the one way tickets from Quito to Miami for $250. Then when I was buying them, I made sure to upgrade to the extra expensive refundable fare. This doubled the fight prices, but because I wasn’t going to use them, it didn’t really matter. Now, we each had a $500 one way flight off of the continent.

Just as I expected, I was asked to show our reservation emails to JetBlue upon check in. They were ok’d and we flew to Colombia. Of course, immigration never asked to see anything, but either way we were in the clear.

The next day, I just hopped on the JetBlue website and cancelled out fares in two clicks (it was seriously so easy) and within a week or two the money was all returned into my account. This option only works if you’re not tight on cash and can handle having $1,000 tied up for a week or two. If you can, though, it’s definitely the easiest and most risk free choice for your one way ticket to South America.

 

If you’re planning on backpacking through the continent, buying a one way ticket to South America is a no brainer. However, it can also cause you some issues that you may not expect – like denied boarding at the airport! The best way to get around this is to purchase a refundable fare off the continent, and then cancel it after arrival. If you’ve tried the other two options, though, I would love to hear about your experiences!

All my love,

Di

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The Top Three Things to do in Pokhara, Nepal

After our seven day Everest View Trek in Nepal, we took a private car and spent four happy and relaxing days in Pokhara.

Pokhara is billed as a resort town, and it’s built on a lake with lots of little shops, restaurants, and hiking trails to spend your days exploring. Like Lukla is the starting point for Everest treks, Pokhara is the base point for treks into the Annapurna mountain range, so the mornings boasted exceptional views of the rocky Annapurna peaks, before the smog and haze inevitably rolled in to obscure them for the day.

We spent our days rowing on the lake, hiking up to stupas and viewpoints in the surrounding hills, day drinking in beer gardens and enjoying the warm sun. Some popular choices of things to do in Pokhara include…

 

 

Top 3 Things to do in Pokhara

 

1. Paragliding. This is one of the most a popular activities in Pokhara, and if you do it on a clear day it offers stunning views of the lake, city, and Annapurna mountain range. It costs around $80 pp, unless of course you choose to upgrade to parahawking (you know, paragliding with a hawk on your arm, normal stuff.)

2. Visiting the World Peace Pagoda. This was great because we rented a boat to row across the lake for a couple dollars, then once we reached the other side, there was a dock and a trail to hike up to the World Peace Pagoda. It offered beautiful views of the city, lake, and surrounding mountains.

3. Eat, drink, and relax! Chances are you’re visiting the resort town after a grueling trek in the Everest or Anapurna ranges. When it comes to things to do in Pokhara, my favorite was to just chill. There are paths along the lake to walk in the sun, beer gardens, and plenty of restaurants and shops to explore. I personally recommend spending a day just drinking a few beers and doing… nothing 🙂

 

 

There are plenty of things to do in Pokhara, and we had a great four day stay in the city. Go paragliding, hike up to the World Peace Pagoda, and most importantly, spend a couple days just relaxing in the warm sun!

PS If you’re planning a trip to Nepal, read more about our Everest View Trek, what to do in Kathmandu, and my Nepal FAQ here!

All my love,

Di

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