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It may be wintry outside, but somewhere in the world right now there’s a carnival stirring. Traditionally during the run up to Easter, Christians celebrate lavishly ahead of lent (aka. The 40 days of giving up your guilty pleasures). Today, however, that tradition has extended to the masses, who all want to be a part of the party. What originally started off as a religious festival has now infected the world with full-on fiestas, all-night music, dancing, feasting and parades galore.

If you’re looking for a holiday that will offer you opportunities to indulge your senses in the madness of Carnival then look no further. Here are the top 10 Carnivals in the world for 2017.

10. Carnival of Oruro

During Carnival season the isolated town of Oruro, located in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, comes to life. The usually sleepy town is awoken once a year before lent with a festival of masks that is truly out of this world.

When is it? Every year on Saturday before ash Wednesday (on the 25th February in 2017)

How many people attend? 400,000+

Why visit? The Oruro Carnival has been running for over two decades and in that time it has built a solid reputation for amazingly intricate masks, vibrant music, dances and extravagant costumes. Make sure to look out for the Diablada masks, cuecas and the fraternidades.

9. Cadiz Carnival

Located on the western coast of Spain, is the port city of Cadiz, which annually hosts one of the biggest and most loved Carnivals in the country – and is also said to be the third largest in the world!

When is it? The 10 days leading up to Shrove Tuesday (this year between 23rd February and 5th March)

How many people attend? Hundreds of thousands

Why visit? The Carnival draws in people from across the world for its unparalleled mix of music and comedy. You’ll find quirky costumes, delicious tapas and the infamous ‘

The Carnival draws in people from across the world for its unparalleled mix of music and comedy. You’ll find quirky costumes, delicious tapas and the infamous ‘chirigotas’; where groups of musicians play satirical songs that target everything from politics to celebrities.

8. Carnival of Viareggio

One of Italy’s finest Carnivals is the ‘Carnivale de Viareggio’. Located in the town of Viareggio in Tuscany, it’s origins date back all the way to the 19th Century.

When is it? A month long celebration that peaks annually on the four weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday (This year it falls on the 12th/18th/26th/28th of February and 5th March)

How many people attend? Thousands

Why visit? Viareggio has one of the best parades, with a mammoth selection of floats, artwork and costumed dancers. Look out for the Carnival’s official mascot (the Burlamacco) the giant papier-mâché floats and of course, the undeniable Carnival spirit.

7. Cologne Festival

The town of Cologne becomes one giant fancy dress party in the lead up to lent. The streets are filled with costume-clad jecken (people who participate in the Carnival) and the wrappings of tons of tiny sweets or kamelle, which are ceremoniously thrown into the crowd during the parade.

When is it? The Thursday before the beginning of lent (in 2017 the Carnival runs from 25th – 28th February)

How many people attend? Over 1 million people

Why visit? Apart from the joyous satirical floats on show at the main parade, you’ll also find some pretty crazy customs including on the ‘Women’s Day’ where women go around kissing men on the cheek and cutting off their ties. Not to be missed is the Rosenmontagszug on Rose Monday and the three symbolic rulers who preside over the carnival (the prince, the peasant and the virgin).

6. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

This small Caribbean island is bursting with life in the days before lent officially commences. The festival has been a tradition, since Catholicism was brought to the country, where followers use the Carnival as an opportunity to prepare for a whole month and a half of abstaining from meat (and other debaucherous activities!).

When is it? The Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday every year (27th and 28th February in 2017)

How many people attend? 300,000+

Why visit? Known locally as Carnevale, which literally means ‘

Known locally as Carnevale, which literally means ‘to put the meat away’, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival hosted in the capital, Port of Spain, is now world famed for it’s colourful costumes and irresistible Caribbean beats. You can’t miss the free soundtrack to the carnival provided by the catchy soca (soul of Calypso) rhythms and the distinctive steelpan bands which you can find all over the town. Try and make it down to Maracas Beach for some “shark and bake” and the Panorama steelpan competition is out of this world!

5. Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The Canary Islands annually host the biggest Carnival in Spain, on the island of Tenerife. The Carnival has been celebrated here since the 18th Century and is extremely popular amongst the local Tenerifstas. You can expect all-night parties, delicious feasts, dancing on the calles and of course, plenty of live music.

When is it? The week before Ash Wednesday (22nd February – 5th March 2017)

How many people attend? 250,000+ participants

Why visit? Every year the Carnival picks a different theme, making each experience just as exhilarating as the last – this year’s theme is the Caribbean. The island of Tenerife typically enjoys

Every year the Carnival picks a different theme, making each experience just as exhilarating as the last – this year’s theme is the Caribbean. The island of Tenerife typically enjoys glorious spring weather and with temperatures ranging from 72℉, you can expect to get a tan whilst joining the festivities. Essential viewing during the Carnival includes the election of the Carnival Queen on day 1 and the comical ‘Funeral of the Sardine’ held on day 8 of the celebrations!

4. Notting Hill Carnival

Unlike the other Carnival’s on this list, Notting Hill’s takes place in August, during the peak of summer in the UK. The Carnival dates back to the 60’s and is recognised as one of London’s biggest street parties – it’s also the second biggest globally after Rio. The entire festival is a celebration of diversity and the distinctive influences of British West Indian culture.

When is it? During the last weekend in August annually (27th and 28th August 2017)

How many people attend? Up to 2 million people

Why visit? During Notting Hill Carnival you’ll experience a plethora of live music from Salsa and Reggae to the more modern Dub Step, all whilst walking through historic parts of West London. There are over 40 static sound systems, hundreds of masquerade-clad bands and some tantalising food stalls showcasing the best of fusion British West Indian cuisine – and the finest jerk chicken and rice this side of the Caribbean!

3. Mardis Gras

Mardi Gras, which literally means ‘fat Tuesday’, dates back to Medieval Europe and arrived in South Louisiana when a French-Canadian explorer landed there during the start of lent. Today the festival is known across the globe as the home of partying and debauchery and is held in New Orleans, aka. Big Easy.

When is it? The 2 weeks leading up to ‘Fat Tuesday’ (the day before Ash Wednesday)

How many people attend? 750,000+

Why visit? Apart from the eye-popping costumes and masquerades, you will find across the daily parades, whilst watching you’ll also have the opportunity to get bathed in everything from gold, purple and green beaded necklaces, doubloons, moon pies, decorated plastic cups and small toys! Each parade is organised by a krewe (social club) and each and every krewe brings its own unique flavour, and theme, to the Mardi Gras madness. It may seem overwhelming but it’s one heck of an experience and definitely one to add to your bucket list!

2. Carnival of Venice

Number two on our list is the Carnival of Venice. Although regarded as slightly ‘tamer’ in nature than other carnivals, the ancient city definitely doesn’t disappoint. Every year before lent, Venice hosts what is arguably the ‘king’ of all masquerade events.

When is it? The 2 weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday (11th – 28th February 2017)

How many people attend? Thousands

Why visit? The magical city of Venice is transformed by the Carnival. Everywhere you look you’ll find the iconic Venetian masks decorating even more extravagant and bizarre outfits. You can explore the city’s offering via its narrow streets or sail down the grand canal in a traditional Galleon – and you can guarantee that you’ll be passing a sea of Venetian masks on the way. For the ultimate exuberant experience of the Carnival head to the Valentine’s Grand Masquerade Ball, but be prepared to spend a decent amount as prices range in the hundred of Euros (per person). To take in all the amazing sights and sounds of the authentic Venetian Carnivale head to St. Mark’s Square where you’ll find enough and more photo ops alongside the winner’s of the best dressed competition.

1. Rio de Janeiro

Of course our list would not be complete without including the Carnival capital of the world, Rio de Janeiro. The out-of-this-world 5-day celebration will make even the biggest party animals feel faint. Prepare for thousands of half-naked dancers clad only in body paint, glitter, giant feathers and sequins shaking vigorously to extremely upbeat music.

When is it? The festivities commence 40 days before Easter and last for 5 straight days (24th February – Fat Tuesday)

How many people attend? 2 million people every day!!!

Why visit? The former Portuguese colony is bursting with cultural diversity, from Africa, South America and Europe, and this is reflected in the range of music, dances and food on offer at the carnival. You can always reach the heart of the carnival by following one of the many bandas (moving street parties) that trail through the city’s streets led by drummers, exotic dancers and singers. Make sure to buy tickets ahead and if you want to rub shoulders with Rio’s creme de la creme, attend one of the glitzy Carnival Balls. Not to be missed is the Samba parade held in the Sambadrome, where the carnival climaxes into a mix of insatiable beats and the best Samba dancers in the country.

If you’ve got Carnival fever and are thinking of planning your next party-cation remember to book ahead – prices will surge during the run up to Easter and Carnivals are extremely popular. We also recommend bringing along your Tep portable wifi device with you on your travels. Not only will you save money on ridiculously expensive data roaming charges, but you’ll also be able to capture all of the Carnival madness from your mobile phone and share instantly. The device is only $9.95 per day for unlimited data usage, plus, you and your friends (or loved ones) can all share one device (up to 5 gadgets can connect at a time). Tep’s portable device is Carnival-friendly too, it will slip into a handbag, pocket or rucksack, and could save you from losing your friends in the chaos, as the internet will always be at your fingertips. To find out more or to buy/rent a device click here.

Travelling is the ultimate way to literally and figuratively expand your horizons, but it’s also extremely good medicine for your mind, body and soul. In fact, frequent travel can help you de-stress, improve your personality and can even keep your heart healthier. Here are our top 5 reasons to go travelling as much and as often as you can.

1. Travel boosts your immune system

When you leave the comfort of your home and step out into the world, you’re also exposing yourself to new and foreign bacteria. As a defense mechanism, your body naturally produces antibodies that help to protect you, and over time, your immune system develops resistance and gets stronger. The more you travel, the more your body is exposed and the stronger your immune system will become. Some well-seasoned travellers even swear by travelling as the ‘best probiotic on the planet’. Whilst we are by no means suggesting you forget basic hygiene and take unnecessary risks, we do think that a little dirt can do more good than harm.

2. Travelling improves your heart health

Believe it or not, travelling can actually decrease your chances of getting heart disease. A study conducted in the U.S. found that men and women who travelled more frequently were less likely to develop heart problems compared with those who vacationed less often. Amongst women it was found that heart disease risk could be reduced by as much as 50% and around 32% in men. Great news for anyone looking to justify their next holiday, as it could literally be giving you the gift of extended life.

3. Vacationing keeps your mind healthy

When you travel you’re constantly challenging your mind, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and pushing your boundaries. All of these have been shown to increase your concentration, memory and overall cognitive flexibility. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published research that proved that travelling improves your personality across the five overarching domains (emotional stability, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness). In addition, travel has even been linked to people being more outgoing, optimistic, interesting and just generally more awesome!

4. Holiday = ultimate stress buster

It may be one of the most obvious benefits on our list, but it’s definitely one not to underestimate the importance of. Rest and relaxation whilst on holiday helps your body to rejuvenate and recharge. It doesn’t take much for down time to make a big difference either, almost 90% of holiday makers surveyed said they felt a significant reduction in stress levels after just a few days away.

5. Build stronger relationships on vacation

Solo travelling can be great for helping you find yourself, but when you travel with your loved ones, holidays take on a new meaning. You can build even stronger connections with your partner, family or friends simply through your shared vacation memories. For couples, travelling frequently can be hugely beneficial, with 63% of people believing that it helps them stay together longer. For families there are benefits too, 49% of adults claim they still have vivid (and happy) recollections of their family holidays, showing just how important it can be to make sure you take your family away every now and again.

Hopefully this post has left you with no doubts as to the amazing health and wellbeing benefits of wanderlusting. To summarize, travelling is almost guaranteed to help you live a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life – and could even help you live longer! Don’t forget to take along your very own Tep portable wifi device to get the most out of your time away. The device will help you reduce stress whilst on vacation, you won’t have to worry about huge data roaming bills when you return home (it’s just $9.95 per day for unlimited wifi for 5 devices) and you’ll never have to worry about getting lost as you’ll have access to the internet on the move! To buy or rent a device click here or for more travel inspiration check out our blog here.

There are a number of stark differences between the working cultures in the U.S. versus that of Europe but perhaps one of the most notable is the difference in paid vacation time. Shockingly in the U.S. employers are not required to give their employees a single day of paid vacation leave. Unfortunately, this has meant that 23% of Americans have no paid annual holiday at all! On average, however, the typical American will get around 10 days of paid vacation leave (typically for national holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving) which means it’s even more vital that they spend those precious holidays moments somewhere they will truly enjoy.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, the paid holiday vacation is somewhat better. Whilst EU laws state that countries should offer a minimum of 20 days paid vacation time annually most offer far more – some as much as 5 weeks per year! In this post, we’ve compiled a list of the top countries in Europe that also happen to give their citizens the most time to kick back and relax.

Denmark

25 paid days leave

This year Denmark was voted ‘the happiest country in the world’ so it would naturally follow that Danes have some of the best holiday leave in Europe. There is plenty on offer in this Scandinavian country including Michelin starred restaurants, Viking heritage, Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish Riviera and the famous 100-year-old Little Mermaid statue. The best time to visit Denmark is during the summer months of June, July and August, but it’s just as good during springtime.

United Kingdom

28 paid days leave

The UK is another extremely popular destination for visitors from all over the world. In fact, last year Business Insider ranked it the 6th most popular destination for Americans to visit. With some top attractions including Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, London’s West End, Oxford, the Lake district and Hadrian’s Wall you’ll be spoilt for choice on holiday. If you’re planning to visit London we recommend you read one of our previous posts which covers the city’s highlights in detail. You can visit the UK at any time of year but perhaps the ideal time to visit is during the summer months or during Christmas time.

Germany

29 paid days leave

Germany is the largest European country (in terms of population size) and a nation steeped in cultural history and beauty. You’d be mistaken if you thought Germany was a country of homogenized towns, sausages and lederhosen-clad beer drinkers – although you will find plenty of the latter two should that be what you’re after. Some of our favourite attractions in Germany include the Berlin wall, Schloss Neuschwanstein, the Pinakothek der Moderne, the ‘Am Dom’ Christmas market in Cologne, Oktoberfest, the Rhine valley and Skiing in Garmisch Partenkirchen.

Lithuania

34 paid days leave

It’s hard to believe that Lithuania only gained its independence from the Soviet Union 26 years ago. In that short time, the country has experienced huge levels of growth and modernization and has positioned itself as an increasingly attractive tourist destination. Lithuanians are renowned for their hospitality, which could be linked to the incredible 34 days of paid leave they enjoy every year!  Things you can’t miss include the beautiful baroque architecture of Vilnius, ‘Curonian Spit’ the gorgeous national park on the Baltic coast, Trakai Castle and the party beach resort of Palanga.

Sweden

34 paid days leave

Swedish culture has managed to penetrate almost every corner of the globe with its minimal yet practical furniture design, saunas, smorgasbords and the much-loved music of ABBA. As the largest Scandinavian country, with a population size of just under 10 million, there is an abundance of open countryside to explore and enough attractions to keep you entertained. Although the country is not known for its tropical climate you’ll find some stunning beaches and midnight sunshine in one of the few places on earth where the sun never sets. Our top picks whilst in Sweden include the impressive Ice Hotel, the medieval city of Gamla Stan in Stockholm, the Vasa warship, experiencing indigenous culture of the ‘Sami’ people and visiting one of the 30,000 islands that make up Stockholm’s archipelago.

Portugal

35 paid days leave

Portugal is arguably one of the most laidback countries in Europe and with 5 whole weeks of paid leave, it’s really no surprise! The country, which was well known during the colonial era for its dominance of sea trade routes, still maintains a close connection to the Atlantic Ocean that wraps around its western side. You’ll experience some of the finest perks of beach life and find some of the best spots in Europe for surfing, kayaking, mountain biking and even dolphin watching. You shouldn’t miss the Algarve’s rugged beaches, the medieval hilltop village of Monsaraz, the grandiose Batalha monastery, the famously narrow streets of Alfama and of course the vibrant nightlife in Lisbon!

Iceland

36 paid days leave

Whilst the country’s name may leave you thinking that it’s covered in ice and snow, Iceland is in fact, a unique island that combines lush greenery with fjords, glaciers, volcanoes and even hot springs. It’s also recognized as the most peaceful country in the world for the seventh year running – perhaps something to do with the 36 days of relaxation that each Icelander gets annually? The island is far from hectic, with a population of just over 300,000, but don’t be fooled by its small appearance as nature really does do all the talking. During winter you can enjoy spectacular views of the Northern Lights and in summer you can expect to enjoy 22 hours of daylight – meaning you can pack even more into your days! Do not miss out on the chance to experience the very best of Icelandic culture with a dip in the Blue Lagoon, the geothermal lake of Askja and bubbling hot springs of Landmannalaugar. The country’s capital, Reykjavik, also has plenty to offer including the Pearl, the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, the Imagine Peace Tower and Höfði House (the official location that marked the end of the Cold War in 1986).

France

36 paid days leave

The French enjoy amongst the most paid holidays in all of Europe and it is truly reflected in the French “arte de vivre” (art of living). You’ll come across a plethora of delights to tickle your fancy in France from orgasmic culinary experiences at Michelín starred restaurants to gorgeous coastlines fit for celebrities in the south. The country has enjoyed a reputation for being a world-class holiday destination for many years and in 2016 the capital, Paris, was named in the top 10 best European cities to visit. Our favorite picks for tourists include the Louvre museum in Paris, the evergreen region of Champagne, the picture perfect Mont Saint Michel and Europe’s very own version of the grand canyon Les Gorges du Verdon.

We hope this list of our top ten European cities to visit has helped give you some inspiration for your next holiday – or just somewhere you’d consider moving to make use of Europe’s holiday friendly laws! To make the most of your time whilst abroad we also recommend having regular access to the Internet via a portable wifi device so you can make bookings, contact your tour guide or just check TripAdvisor. Tep’s wireless device allows you to seamlessly connect to the internet without having to worry about changing SIM cards or racking up a huge mobile phone bill. The device costs just $9.95 per day and can be rented or bought here.

The world is full of millions of wonders and plenty of thrilling destinations to excite even the most demanding travelers. It’s also home to some pretty scary locations that will test all you adrenaline junkies and hardened adventurers. In this post we’ve given you a rundown of some the scariest locations you can visit in real life with our own fear factor rating to help you decide which ones you can (or cannot) handle

10. Nagoro, Japan

Fear Factor: 4.5 /10

The lonely village of Nagoro in Japan has been transformed from a ghost town to a very creepy memorial to the dead. Nagoro resident, Tsukimi Ayano, returned home to her village only to find it was empty, due in part to a lack of jobs and an aging population. She decided to fill the void by replacing her departed friends, family and villagers with hand-made life-sized dolls. Tsukimi created around 350 dolls, all of which are scattered around the town, in the places that she associated with each individual. She has even recreated a very eerie classroom full of children complete with a teacher. If you’d like to get a real feel for Nagoro you can take a proper tour or simply catch a glimpse of the dolls out on Google Map’s Streetview.

9. Beelitz-Heilstätten, Germany

Fear Factor: 5/10

For those looking to take an in-depth look at one of the world’s most notorious sanatoriums and snap up some amazingly eerie photos, then Beelitz-Heilstätten in Germany should be your first stop. Located on the outskirts of Berlin you will find the Beelitz Sanatorium, which once famously treated Adolf Hitler. After the Second World War ended, the giant sanatorium complex was taken over by the Soviets who made use of it until 1994. Since then, the 60 impressive buildings that comprise the sanatorium have become dilapidated and nature has literally started to become one with the brickwork. Beelitz has gone from being a place of recuperation for injured Russian and German soldiers to a place that has hosted some of its own horrors. In 2008, the ‘Beast of Beelitz’ aka Beate Schmidt, a notorious German serial killer, used it as a venue for some horrific violent acts. If you’re a daredevil you could try and sneak inside some of the buildings to take a peek (like blogger Ciaran Fahey does here) but we would recommend you stick to the ‘baumkronenpfad’ or tree top walk-way that meanders through the entire sanatorium and gives you excellent angles for your photographic genius to shine through!

8. Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan

Fear Factor: 5.5/10

Everyone’s heard of the pearly gates of heaven, but have you visited hell on earth? The Karakum desert in Turkmenistan is home to a literal inferno called the ‘Gates of Hell’ (also known as the ‘Door to Hell’), which you can now see for yourself. The crater was formed as a result of an accident during oil drilling in 1971 and has remained open since. Nothing short of mystifying, the crater is composed of fire, boiling mud and bright flames that makes it look like it belongs in a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. It’s definitely one to add to your bucket list but falls quite low on our fear factor scale as you can enjoy the spectacle from a safe distance!

7. Pripyat, Ukraine

Fear Factor: 6 /10

Today an entire abandoned ghost town lies just a few kilometers away from the famous Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The plant, which was once the largest in Europe, was decimated in 1986 when an explosion occurred. The destruction caused the entire area, with some 50,000 people, to be evacuated for fear of radiation exposure. The aftermath of the disaster left the once bustling town of Pripyat looking like a post-apocalyptic movie set. You can visit Pripyat and experience the haunting scenes of abandoned homes, left exactly as they would have been in the 80’s.

6. Forest Haven Asylum, U.S.A.

Fear Factor: 6.5/10

Built in 1925, Forest Haven Asylum was a state-of-the-art facility for mentally ill patients to recover, far away from the bustle of city life. However, due to serious budget cuts, the asylum deteriorated rapidly and became a real life horror story for thousands of its patients. After the asylum was forced to close in 1991, due to a series of lawsuits and a serious lack of funding, the buildings and grounds fell into disrepair. Today’s scenes are chilling; rusted medical equipment, battered furniture, lost records and rubble fills rooms that have witnessed many horrors.

5. Chapel of Bones, Portugal

Fear Factor: 7/10

The Chapel of Bones is one of Evora’s most iconic buildings and definitely worth visiting for a hair-raising experience. The Portuguese chapel, which was built in the 16th century, is creepily decorated with human bones, skulls and two mummified bodies. The chapel was constructed from the corpses of approximately 5,000 monks who were all from the same town. As soon as you enter the chapel you’re met with a sinister greeting from the bones themselves, We bones, are here, waiting for yours. Originally built to deal with the lack of cemetery space available, the chapel has become a place for solemn reflection on the meaning of death – and somewhere you’re guaranteed to experience the heebie-jeebies.

4. Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize

Fear Factor: 7.5/10

Deep inside a jungle cave in the Mountain Nature Reserve of Belize lies the remains of several people who were the victims of an ancient Mayan sacrificial ritual. Actun Tunichil Muknal, or “ATM” as it’s locally known, is where you can find the famous “Crystal Maiden” skeleton that has become completely calcified and gives off a mystical sparkle. The site is said to be haunted by the ghosts of those who were violently sacrificed there some 1,100 years ago. This one is not for the faint of heart and will require some stamina to reach the caves, explore inside them and also return back safely!

3. Pluckley, United Kingdom

Fear Factor: 8/10

This extremely tiny village in Kent is one of the most sought after locations for ghost hunting in the world. It’s also known as the most haunted place in Britain and for good reason. There have reportedly been at least 15 ghosts that haunt Pluckley’s streets on a regular basis. Some of these include the apparition of a mysterious gypsy woman, a ‘red lady’ who wanders church graveyards at night, a ‘hanging colonel’ who committed suicide in the forest and the supernatural presence of a monk. The town gets so packed with ghost hunters during Halloween that there is an increased police presence – so be wary of the time of the year you visit.

2. Island of Dolls, Mexico

Fear Factor: 8.5/10

Perhaps one of the most mysterious and bizarre sights you will come across is located in the heartland of Mexico’s canals. The Island of Dolls has become renowned as a tourist destination and not for the reason you might expect – it’s far from a child’s playground. The tiny island in Xochimilco is inhabited not by humans, but by hundreds of terrifyingly decrepit dolls many of which are simply heads, limbs or broken parts and all of them absolutely terrifying. As the story goes, the island’s caretaker, Don Julian Santana Barrera, found the body of a young girl who had drowned in the canal and shortly thereafter found a floating doll in the water, which he thought contained the spirit of the girl. To mark respect Don Julian then hung up the doll on the island but apparently became haunted by the spirit of the girl. In an attempt to appease the dead girl’s spirit, he began hanging up more and more dolls all across the island. In perhaps what are the most chilling circumstances, Don Julian was found drowned in exactly the same spot that the girl had died. There are still haunting stories of people seeing the dolls moving and whispering at night and some have even said Don Julian’s spirit now inhabits the dolls. So if you’re brave enough to witness the eerie island you could continue the tradition and hang up a doll of your own.

1. Aokigahara Forest, Japan

Fear Factor: 9/10

If you’re looking to push your boundaries with holidays and are looking for a stunning but deadly area of natural beauty, look no further than Japan’s haunted Aokigahara Forest. Deep at the foot of Mount Fuji lies one of the most well-known suicide hotspots where around 70 people commit suicide annually. It has also disturbingly been referred to in a Suicide Manual as “the perfect place to die”. In fact, Aokigahara Forest is the world’s second most popular place to die and it’s no surprise given it was popularized by the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai. Apart from the obvious spine tingling you would receive from seeing the remains of those who have taken their own lives scattered amongst their personal belongings, you may also, according to Japanese spiritualists, come across some serious paranormal activity. Be wary – compasses, GPS and satellite navigation have all been known to stop functioning in the forest.

Having reliable internet access whilst traveling can make all the difference on a scary holiday and could save you from a few horrors of your own. Tep’s portable travel wifi device lets you stay connected even when you’re in the depths of a haunted forest or visiting an abandoned asylum. The device allows you to connect your mobile; tablet and laptop simultaneously with your very own secure travel Wi-Fi hotspot. It costs just $9.95 day and will definitely save you money on roaming bills. The usage is unlimited so whether you want to browse your emails, Skype your family or send an SOS message, you can make the most of your traveling time anywhere in the world. To find out more or to rent a device visit click here.

2016 has been a pretty hectic year in terms of newsworthy events, but the highlight of the summer was arguably the Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro. Being the first South American nation to host the prestigious event, there was a significant amount of pressure on Brazil to deliver a Games like no other. Whilst the lead up to the Games, and the event itself, was shrouded some in controversy, Rio managed to pull off 16 straight days of sporting entertainment. There was everything from world record breakers, huge upsets, accidents and spectacular displays of athletic prowess.

Every four years the finest athletes from across the globe compete against one another for a slice of Olympic glory – and hopefully a medal or two (or six if you’re Michael Phelps). This year there were 41 sports on offer, from archery and volleyball all the way to Greco-Roman wrestling. As usual, the crowd favorites did not disappoint with football, basketball, athletics, swimming and gymnastics, all giving their share of thrills and spills. Here is Tep’s run down of the highlights you might have missed.

The Sporting Highlights

The Games began with a spectacular opening ceremony that saw fireworks redecorate the skyline above the iconic Maracana stadium, in a celebration of Brazilian heritage. There were 206 nations participating, from Olympic heavy-weights China, USA and Russia all the way to the tiny nation island of Nauru.

2016 also saw the addition of #TeamRefugee, a group of 10 athletes chosen by the International Olympic Committee to represent refugees all over the world. Yusra Mardini, a swimmer and a member of team Refugee, had a particularly remarkable story. She used her talent to rescue 20 people, after their boat started to capsize whilst crossing the sea, and was forced to swim for over 3 hours in order to steer the boat to safety. Whilst she didn’t pick up a medal in the games, she did win her heat in the Women’s 100m Butterfly and served as a beacon of hope for refugees that anything is possible.

The Olympic stars were out in force in Rio including ‘king of speed’ Usain Bolt and ‘flying fish’ Michael Phelps. Both men, who are world record holders in their respective events, managed to retain their titles and put on one last incredible show for fans. Bolt picked up gold medals in Men’s 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay and Phelps, already the most decorated Olympian in history, took his Olympic medal tally to 28 with an outstanding performance with 5 gold medals and 1 silver in Rio. The two athletes who are now both over 30 have officially retired from Olympic sports but have left a legacy, and some pretty impressive records, for the generations to come.

Team USA dominated in the Women’s gymnastics with a win for the team but the star of the show was undoubtedly Simone Biles, who racked up an amazing 4 gold medals and 1 bronze. Dubbed ‘one of the greatest gymnasts of all time’ Biles even has her own signature move named after her, which is an absolute crowd favorite.

Another impressive woman to come from Team USA was Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab whilst competing in the Olympic Games. Muhammad represented the U.S. in sabre fencing and managed to secure a bronze medal whilst also combating multiple negative stereotypes of Muslims, African Americans and women.

The Rio Games saw over 70 world records being broken with one of the most nail biting being the Men’s 400m final in which South African Wayde van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old record by 0.15 seconds. Another impressive record breaking event came in the Men’s 100m Butterfly where 21-year-old Singaporean, Joseph Schooling, beat his idol Michael Phelps in the pool – just 8 years after they met at a training camp.

Other Highlights from the Games

Close to a third of all nations that compete in the Olympics have never won a single medal but for Fiji and Puerto Rico, Rio 2016 officially ended their medal dry spell. The Men’s Rugby Seven’s Team from the island of Fiji managed to take away gold and with it, bring home the country’s first ever medal. Likewise, Monica Puig held off Angelique Kerber of Germany in the Women’s Tennis finals to clinch the title and Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal.

The Host nation was under a huge amount of pressure to deliver on gold medals this Olympic Games and luckily they did not disappoint in two of the country’s best-loved sports, football and volleyball. Brazil’s Men’s football team defeated Germany to take the gold medal in football – and after 2014’s spectacular 7-1 World Cup defeat to the Germans, the Brazilian team finally got their own back. The Men’s Volleyball team also sealed the deal on the final day to the delight of the local spectators and brought the country’s gold medal tally to 7.

The Rio 2016 Games will also be remembered for some exceptional displays of sportsmanship. In the Women’s 5,000-meter heat New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin tripped and fell mid-race and took down another runner, Abbey D’Agostino from Team USA. Instead of simply getting up and continuing the race, the American D’Agostino decided to help her fellow competitor up and later on when she faltered Hamblin stepped in and helped her across the finish line. Whilst neither went on to win the race, both athletes received a ‘fair play’ award for their sportsmanship.

One of the most iconic photos to come out of the Olympics was this photo between two gymnasts from North Korea and South Korea. The simple act of taking a selfie between Lee Eun Ju (S. Korea) and Hong Un Jong (N. Korea) transcended the years of political tension between their two countries and showed that the Olympics can truly bring unity to the world.

Tokyo 2020

The next Olympic games are due to be held in Tokyo in September 2020. If you’re planning to head out to Japan to witness first hand the magical atmosphere that the Olympics brings, we suggest you go prepared to capture the action. Your mobile phone can be the easiest way to navigate the various venues, keep up with the latest sporting news, live stream world records being broken and hopefully even snap selfies with the Olympians themselves!

Unless you want to end up like one of Japan’s Olympic athletes this year – who racked up a $5,000 dollar bill whilst using his mobile phone playing Pokémon Go in Brazil – we suggest you arm yourself with your very own Tep Wireless device. The device works in over 80 countries worldwide and gives you seamless access to the internet without ever having to change SIM cards. The device costs a fixed amount per day ($9.95) and means you’ll never have to stress about crazy roaming charges. The device can also be used by up to 5 people simultaneously, so is a super cost effective way for you, your friends and family to feed your every data need.

Unless you’ve been residing under a rock for the past couple of weeks you’ll have heard the word ‘Brexit’ (aka Britain’s formal exit from the European Union) being thrown around in the news. On the 24th June 2016 the great British public, and the world, awoke to the news that they would be saying auf wiedersehen to the EU, after 52% of the population voted to leave in a referendum. In this very topical post we’ll be exploring what impact Brexit could have on European holidays and what it means for British tourists who want to travel outside the sunny British Isles.

So how will the Brexit affect travel plans and the thriving European holiday industry? It’s tough to call exactly how the new Europe (minus Britain) will look, given that they haven’t actually officially left yet. ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents), who are pretty well placed to judge the changing travel landscape, post-Brexit, have argued that there could be a broad ranging impact:

Many consumer protection issues, such as financial protection, health cover, and mobility, are all subject to EU regulation. As such, Brexit could potentially have a significant impact on many pieces of legislation that impact UK leisure and business travellers.

Once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (the constitutional agreement that holds Europe together) is triggered, the UK will have exactly 2 years to negotiate trade and other deals with Europe and the rest of the world. Until then, the UK will remain part of the EU and will still benefit from the free movement of goods and people. So for anyone who has booked a European getaway, you’ll still be able to travel with your existing passport, you won’t need a visa (if you’re British) and crucially, you’ll still be able to take full advantage of duty free – for now!

What’s going to change once the UK finally leaves?

Almost certainly prices will go up for anyone earning in pounds. On the day of the referendum results, the pound (one of the strongest currencies in the world at the time) fell to a 31 year low as global markets said “oh golly” to the news.

Whist this is splendid news for foreigners, wishing to travel to the UK this summer, it’s not so fabulous for Brits – who’ll have to fork up more money to pay for their cerveza in the sun this year. The knock on effect of the devalued pound is that everything from flights to room service at the hotel will cost you much more than it would have earlier this year.

Bye bye cheap European airfares?

As part of the EU, the UK currently enjoys very airline friendly service agreements that allow companies like Easyjet and Ryanair to operate routes from as little as £10 each way. Once the UK has left the EU it will have to renegotiate these agreements and this will ultimately impact how cheaply airlines can continue to run. Last year David Cameron even used the threat of losing consumer friendly airfares as a key reason for people to vote remain.

Sadly, it’s not only higher plane tickets that Britons will have to worry about. They might also lose some consumer rights that are currently protected by EU laws. For example, if you’re flight is cancelled or arrives more than 3 hours late (into its final destination) you could claim up to €600 from your airline. Once Brexit becomes official, the same protection will not be guaranteed, as new legislation will need to be passed in Parliament in order for it to be applicable to UK citizens.

Adios healthcare?

Under the current system, any British travellers with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can benefit from lower or completely free healthcare across Europe – should they fall ill whilst on holiday. Until a new agreement is in place, the EHIC scheme is in jeopardy and could mean higher premiums on health and travel insurance once Brexit is a reality.

Au revoir cheap roaming deals?

The European Union has done its utmost to try and reduce costs for EU citizens using their mobile phones across the continent. They’ve currently capped roaming charges so that telcos can’t exploit their customers for simply wanting to access the internet or make calls whilst abroad. They’re also set to abolish data roaming charges as of next year (2017). ABTA and Deloitte have already predicted that a Brexit will equal disaster for any travellers hoping to roam using their UK mobile phone service provider.

“…leaving the EU would exempt the UK from these regulations, meaning costs may increase. The uncertainty is a particular worry for those who use their mobile phones as sat nav devices

Once the UK is no longer part of the European Union, consumers will not have the same protections, including the cap on data roaming charges. Particularly for families who take a range of mobile devices, tablets, laptops and sat-navs, it could spell shock bills on their return.

Weather the Brexit storm with Tep

Instead of worrying about the potential shock bill you could be receiving when you next roam – why not avoid the unexpected costs altogether by renting a wifi device instead. Tep’s portable wifi device can help you avoid the uncertainty of European roaming charges, leaving you to bask in your holiday snaps instead of Brexit madness.

Our device allows you to connect up to 5 devices simultaneously (yes – that can include a satnav too) and gives you access to safe, secure and unlimited internet on the go. The device is just £6.50 per day – so no surprise bills, just one fixed daily cost.

Whilst we can’t tell you exactly how Brexit will play out over the next couple of years, we can give you peace of mind that you can still go on holiday without having to worry about the added cost of data roaming!

Technology has made its way into the heart of modern life. Just 24 years ago the smartphone didn’t even exist and now 2 billion people worldwide own one. The only problem with the massive infiltration of technology is the very technical language that comes with it.

Even if you get your hands on the latest gadgets, there’s no way of explaining to your friends and family why you decided to splash out on that new upgrade when you have no clue what words like, 4G, ISP and MB mean. Most people can recognize those buzz words, but how many actually know what they mean?

In this post we will be deciphering some of the technical jargon associated with your mobile phone and internet connection. Let’s remember you’ll have to be able to keep up with the next generation – who are practically born with an iPad in their hands – so get learning!

Here is a list of the most commonly used technical terms with a less technical and easy to understand explanation of what they mean:

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be pushed across a channel. Imagine a stream, if it is narrow, only a bit of water can flow through, however, if you have a wide river (think: the Nile), lots of water can flow through. This is the same with bandwidth, the larger the bandwidth, the more data can flow through and the faster you’ll be able to access the internet!

GSM (“Global System of Mobile Communication”)

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communications, it’s a digital technology used for transmitting mobile voice and data. It has managed to penetrate 70% of the global communications network and has over 1 billion active users. If you are connected to a network, chances are it’s based off of GSM.

GPRS (“General Packet Radio Service”)

GPRS was one of the first commercial communication channels, and is built on the GSM network. It had a limited amount of data you could push through which is why SMS used to have a 144 character limit. You may remember once having to go back through your text messages and replace ‘you’ with ‘u’ just to save those precious characters! Whilst it’s old, it is still widely used.

EDGE (“Enhanced Data for Global Evolution”)

Edge, like GPRS, is also built on top of the GSM network, however the key difference is that it allowed users to access the internet for the very first time. When it launched 10 years ago, this was cutting edge technology that facilitated much faster data transmission. However, when compared with today’s data download speeds, Edge is very slow, so when you see an ‘E’ at the top of your phone you’re likely to avoid trying to connect.

3G (“3rd Generation”)

Until 2010, 3G was the fastest speed available anywhere in the world. With a 3G connection you can achieve up to 3 Megabits per second of speed – to put that into context, you could download and listen to one song on YouTube every minute. This leap in technology helped pushed mobile browsing to the forefront – finally people could browse their facebook feed unhindered by slow internet!

4G (“4th Generation”)

4G is the next level up from 3G in terms of speed. A mobile phone with 4G available simply means you’ll be able to enjoy the fastest upload and download speeds available currently. 4G connections are typically 5 times faster than 3G – and also likely to be more expensive. You’ll also need to make sure you mobile is “4G enabled” before you can enjoy the faster connections, so make sure to check before you upgrade!

ISP (“Internet Service Provider”)

Think about every internet-connected device; they have to get their internet from somewhere right? These are the ISPs, Internet Service Providers, they supply the gateway to the internet. Interestingly enough, they don’t actually provide the internet, they just allow you to access it from wherever you are. To give you an example, imagine you want to get to a building, you’ll need to have a road first in order to get there. In this example the ISP would be the road that leads you to the building, which represents a website on the internet.

Network Infrastructures

This describes the hardware and software resources of a network that allow your computer, mobile phone and router to communicate with each other so that you can carry on using the internet.

Router

A router is a networking device that is used to relay data packets from a source to a destination. The entire internet functions on sending these data packets from one location to another. As an end user, you can find a router in your home, which receives data from a source somewhere, and relays it to your computer.

Kilobytes (KB)

A kilobyte is a unit of measurement of the size of information on your mobile or computer. A kilobyte is made up of 1,000 bytes – to give you some context, 1 single byte is equivalent to 1 typed letter on your computer. In terms of data usage, an email, without attachments could use between 3 KB – 20 KB and a social media update with a photo could be up to 500 KB of data.

Megabytes (MB)

A megabyte is bigger than a kilobyte and 1MB is roughly 1,000 kilobytes. To give you an idea of how much data 1 MB is, a song on YouTube will use around 1 megabyte per minute.

Gigabytes (GB)

A gigabyte, or 1,000MB, is the largest of the units of measurement that we typically associate with data usage on mobile phones. 1 GB of data could get you approximately 280 app downloads on your mobile or let you watch a movie on Netflix. As data usage varies so greatly, depending on what you use your mobile for, you can expect to get through anywhere between 3GB and 10GB per month – or even more if you’re sharing with the family!

What is roaming?

Normally you are charged by your ISPs rates when you use your mobile phone. ISPs are typically country or region specific, and because they don’t operate globally they cannot provide you with cellular connection everywhere. Your ISP will have deals with other ISPs globally to ensure they can cover their customers in areas beyond their reach. Roaming occurs when you connect to a network, not owned by your ISP but that it has a deal with. It’s usually a lot more expensive, as your ISP will be passing on the extra costs to you the customer!

When does mobile roaming happen?

When you’re at home using your mobile to browse the internet, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will either charge you for the amount of data you use or they will charge you a fixed monthly fee for using a set amount of data that rolls over every month. For example you could be charged $5 per 100Mbs of data or $50 per month for 1Gb of data to use. Mobile roaming occurs whenever you leave the area covered by your ISP, usually when you go on holiday, and you connect to the internet. Mobile roaming can be very costly as ISPs can charge a huge premium for using your mobile phone abroad – with some horror stories of customers being landed with shock bills they didn’t expect when returning from their holiday. Check out our post on how to avoid data roaming here before you travel!

To avoid getting lumped with huge roaming costs you should definitely take a look at getting your own portable wifi device. A portable wifi device allows you to connect to the internet from wherever you are using a mobile data connection to give you your own ‘hotspot’ or wifi connection.

Instead of having to pay a premium to use the internet when you’re abroad or risk your data on dodgy public wifi, with Tep’s device, you can enjoy your holiday with the comfort that you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying for a safe, secure and reliable connection. The device costs just $9.95 per day to rent for unlimited internet access for up to 5 people at the same time! No more fighting over who gets to use the internet, as everyone can enjoy it – and all on the go. Tep’s got you covered in over 80 countries worldwide so you won’t even have to worry about needing to change SIM cards or buy a different package. It’s one fixed daily cost for your entire holiday! To find out more or to rent or buy a Tep wireless device click here.

As John F. Kennedy once said, “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike” and thankfully you don’t have to be a professional (or a president) to enjoy riding one. In fact, cycling is one of the most cost effective and eco-friendly forms of transportation humans have ever designed. Cycling is extremely popular across Europe, particularly in countries like Spain, Germany, France and of course, the Netherlands (which has almost as many bikes as people).

Cycling holidays are a fantastic way to take in the sites, sounds and swells of fresh air, all whilst doing something that’s super healthy (just one hour of cycling can help you burn over 500 calories). Apart from some obvious health benefits, you’ll also get a lot more freedom and flexibility whilst on holiday. You can customise almost every aspect of your journey and choose when to stay on the tourist routes and when to venture off the beaten path. You can also decide whether you want a gentle cycle through the Andalucian Mountains, an intense thigh burn in the Alps or a calm ride along the coast.

If you need any convincing just scroll through this master class in cycling photography by Jered Gruber or read up on first hand experiences from top travel bloggers Ordinary Cycling Girl (voted Best Cycling Blog 2015) and Raz (who cycled an impressive 2,400 km from Turkey to Azerbaijan) and Diane from Biking Expert.

We’ve chosen 5 of the best guided and self-guided tours which have a combination of great cycling, amazing locations and a variety of difficulty levels. So here are our top picks for cycling holidays in Europe:

5. Germany and Austria – Self-Guided Cycling along the Danube

Difficulty: Easy

Journey length: 335 km

This tour allows you to take in some of the best sites in Austria and Germany including the City of Three Rivers (Passau), Persenbeug Castle, the medieval tower at Enns and beautiful Vienna. The route is downhill all the way, so makes for a very comfortable ride and a great option for beginners. The tour is run by Skedaddle and lasts 10 days. You can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 per person for overnight accommodation with breakfast (flights are not included).

4. Sicily, Greece – A Self-Guided Tour through the Ancient Cultures

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Journey length: 365 km

This is the perfect tour for balancing a good cycle with amazing cultural and historic locations. You’ll pass through ancient Arab, Byzantine, Norman and Romanesque ruins, architectural master-pieces and take in the impressive hills, coasts and villages of Sicily. This tour will cost you between $1000-$1500 per person and includes accommodation (bed and breakfast), bike rental, transfers and a route/map. You’ll need to pay for additional meals and flights to and from the island. For more information on the tour visit Hooked on Cycling.

3. Croatia – Guided Cycling Holiday in South Dalmatia

Difficulty: Medium

Journey length: 197 km

We absolutely love this tour for its quirky mix of land and sea. You’ll get to hop from island to island and spend time enjoying the views from both boat and bike. The main highlights include visiting several UNESCO World Heritage protected sites Trogir, Hvar, Stari Grad and the medieval town of Korcula – which claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo. The great thing about this tour is that you get to spend 7 nights on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean whilst also getting some quality cycling time in too! Prices for this guided tour start from $1,000 per person with most meals and all accommodation included. To book this tour visit Hooked on Cycling.

2. Andalucia, Spain – Guided Mountain Biking

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Journey length: Depends on route

For the more experienced, adventurous or competitive bikers, the mountainous region of Sierra Nevada in Spain provides ample opportunities to try free riding, single track trails, technical down hills and cross-country routes. The weather is also extremely favourable all year round with 300+ days of sun a year and temperatures averaging a pleasant 15ºC (59ºF). Andalucian Cycling Dreams offer flexible options for holidays and can tailor your cycling route to your experience/level. It costs upwards of $700 for their fully guided mountain biking tours with self-catering or B&B accommodation.

1. The Alps, France – Guided Alps Tour

Difficulty: Hard

Journey length: 740 km

The French Alps annually host the final stages of the Tour de France and are renowned worldwide for first class cycling routes. Whilst you won’t be expected to ride 3,500km, you will be tested to the limits, so this tour is not for the faint of heart. You’ll begin on the banks of Lake Geneva and pass through the jaw dropping gorges, cliff faces and dizzying heights of the mountainous Alps. You will also pass through the world famous Ski town, Val d’Isere for some down time and a quick bite to eat. The final stop on this 740 km route is the relaxing Cote d’Azur (you’ll definitely need a few days to relax after this tour). This once in a lifetime experience will cost you close to $2,000 per person and includes accommodation, meals, full professional guidance and digital photo album of your entire experience. For more information on the tour check out Le Domestique Tours.

If you’re travelling to Europe from abroad you should consider getting travel and health insurance before you depart (and make sure cycling is included in your package). You may also find this guide with packing tips and advice useful before you book your cycling holiday. We also highly recommend taking your own portable wifi device with you on your travels so that you can capture and share all your hard earned memories! Tep’s portable device is perfect for travelers on the go, it connects seamlessly between over 80 countries and fits in your pocket/bag. For a fixed daily cost of just $9.95 per day, you get unlimited internet usage for up to 5 devices so you’re guaranteed to save you a lot of money on roaming charges. Plus, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to find a wi-fi zone when you’re biking through mountains or remote islands. For more info or to buy/rent a Tep wireless device visit our site here.

Whether you’re an avid adventurer or simply someone who likes the occasional getaway, traveling can give you thrills, spills and memories that will last a lifetime. Whilst social media may give you the impression that holidaying is all about those picture perfect moments – think infinity pools overlooking the Mediterranean and Instagram worthy plates of foodie goodness – there is another side to it. Some places bring as much risk as they do charm like these 10 well loved destinations, all of which are particularly precarious for foreigners. Whilst that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to enjoy the vibrant favelas of Rio or the bright lights of Bangkok, it does mean you will need to take some precautions and do your research.

Safety might not be on the top of your list when you’re booking your dream getaway but if you want to return home safe, sound and glowing with post-holiday happiness, we suggest you read on. Tep wants to make sure you have complete peace of mind when you’re travelling, so here are our top 7 travel tips to keep you safe, secure and happy on your next holiday:

7. Do your research

This might sound simple enough, but it’s vitally important that you know what to expect when you get to your destination. Always check your country’s foreign travel advice before you depart and look out for any warnings or guidance they provide. It’s also helpful to read up on the local customs, culture and laws ahead of time, as behaviour that may be perfectly acceptable to you could big a no-no whilst on holiday. For example, in Laos pointing fingers it’s considered extremely rude and could get you on the bad side of locals completely unknowingly! For more info visit Footprint Travel Guides, who offer in depth guides on local customs and laws for almost all popular destinations. If you have access to local contacts, speak to them and ask them about any ‘no go’ areas and any must see hidden gems. If you can’t, there are a vast array of forums and guides you can easily access online like Thorn Tree by Lonely Planet or any of these top 15 sites.

6. Safety at home

A slightly less obvious tip, but one you shouldn’t neglect, is making sure your home is safe and secure before you go away. Particularly if you are away on a longer holidays, it’s important to make sure your house isn’t a target for criminals. Here are some great tips to keep your home safe and avoid any nasty surprises on your return. We recommend having a friend or relative visit the house every couple of days or investing in a good home security system. You could even keep track of your home via these amazing phone apps whilst on holiday!

5. Pack light and secure your luggage

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re choosing what items to take with you and the temptation can be to pack additional items “just in case”. The reality is you’ll only use half the clothes you take and if you really need something, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll probably be able to find what you’re looking for on holiday – the tags will just be in a different language! Check out our previous post for tips on how to pack light (and how to increase your chances of getting an upgrade!) and this savvy packer’s list of all the essential items you should take. However, if you have essential items that can’t be bought elsewhere (like medication) remember to pack enough and more, as well as a doctor’s note explaining why you must have the medicine on you. The final thing you need to remember is to lock your checked-in luggage with a padlock like this TSA approved one – so that no unexpected hands find their way through your belongings!

4. Be prepared for the unexpected

Before you leave, we suggest you invest in comprehensive travel and health insurance that will cover you for your entire journey. There are thousands of insurers to choose from so make sure you read up on exactly what you’ll be covered for and for how long. If you need some help getting started, these are some of the highest reviewed insurance companies from 2015/16. Every country has different policies on how it treats non-nationals in cases of emergency so it’s always advisable to have a copy of your insurance documents and the address and contact details of your Embassy on your person at all times. You should also make copies of all of your important travel documents including your travel itinerary, ID, passport, driver’s license and insurance documents. Tep suggests you keep one copy stored safely in your hotel/accommodation and another copy with a trusted friend or family member back home who can keep tabs on you.

3. Leave your valuables at home

Wherever possible, avoid carrying valuables (like jewelry, cash or expensive electricals) with you on your travels. If you can manage without a laptop, it’s advisable to stick with smaller, more travel friendly tech like a mobile or tablet. Check out this post on the best pocket-sized travel tech or if you’re going away with your family, or try this guide on the best gadgets to keep the kids occupied. If you have to take a valuables, figure out a safe place to store them whilst you’re out adventuring, like in a hotel safe, a secure locker or in a secure anti-theft bag. For cash and cards it’s advisable to have a contingency plan in case of theft or loss. We recommend having a backup credit card or cash hidden away somewhere (like in between clothes, at the bottom of your luggage or in a non-obvious location) for emergency situations.

2. Blend in

This is one of the most simple and effective things you can do as a tourist to stay out of harm’s way. We love Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops but if you’re in Europe, you might as well have a sign above your head reading “easy target”. Tourists are usually targeted by local criminals, scam artists and pickpockets because they lack knowledge of the area and frequently carry high value items such as cameras, laptops and cash. This extremely helpful post lists some of the most common tourist scams across the world which could stop you from losing your valuables on holiday. You can avoid having your belongings stolen by investing in an anti-theft backpack, like this amazing one by PacSafe or by leaving expensive items at home or in your hotel. Keep your wits about you and avoid being preyed upon by dressing as much like a local as possible and by knowing what areas you should steer clear of.

1. Stay connected and safe

The internet is an invaluable resource when you’re on holiday. If you have data on your phone it can be almost as good as having a local tour guide. You can find the best (and worst) restaurants on Tripadvisor, book last minute accommodation on Airbnb and let Google translate save you from some embarrassing mistranslations. With Tep’s portable wi-fi you can now enjoy the same fast, reliable and secure connection as you get at home, without the ridiculous roaming charges or insecure public wifi connections. The device allows you to connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, so an entire family could benefit from one plan and a fixed cost of $9.95. You all be able to keep in contact and make sure no one gets lost, ensure you’re always contactable and crucially for the foodies, could help you avoid dining at a low-rated tourist trap for a quick bite.

The device works in over 80 countries including all of the romantic destinations we’ve mentioned in this post. It costs just $9.95 per day for truly unlimited data so you can upload as many cheesy photos, videos and memories as you like without worrying about data roaming costs!

For more information on buying or renting a Tep portable wi-fi device for your next holiday click here.

Long stay holidays are the perfect way to submerse yourself in an exotic new world and actually find out what it’s like to live like a local; there’s only so much you can get from 5 star resorts with pristine private beaches and packed hostels in the middle of a bustling cities! In order to truly experience your destination away from the overpriced tourist hotspots, you’ll need to venture off the beaten track. With just a little research and some cash to burn you could be enjoying weeks or even months of authentic adventures in a new found home. Here’s our pick of the best options for travelers who want to lodge abroad:

The Homestay – Your home away from home

If you’re looking for the real deal when you go abroad, there’s nothing quite like staying with a local family. Homestay is a great site to check out if you’re looking to return each day to a delicious home cooked meal instead of an all you can eat buffet. They advertise homestays all over the world and are very reasonably priced for long trips (on average you can expect to pay around the same or less than a hostel). You can also read detailed reviews for every host to help you decide which will be most suitable for your needs. Airbnb also offers a selection of homestays where your host will be available during your stay. We also recommend trying GoDifferently if you’re interested in visiting Vietnam or Thailand. Apart from offering amazing homestays with local people, GoDifferently also give their guests the opportunity to mix holidaying with volunteer work. For some handy do’s and don’ts whilst living with a family check out this blog post by GoOverseas. If you’re willing to compromise a little, MonasteryStays offer incredible deals on rooms in stunning churches and monasteries all across Italy. All their accommodation is run by real monks and nuns, so be warned of their strict room policy, like no unmarried couples sharing rooms. If you’re cool with sticking to the rules and are in the mood for a tranquil location in some of Italy’s most idyllic cities this might just be for you.

If you’re a homeowner yourself, you could even try a home swap vacation. Instead of paying to stay in someone’s home you can search the internet and find someone who’s willing to come and live at your house whilst you try theirs! It might sound like a logistical nightmare but there are entire sites dedicated to matching people who want to find the perfect swap. LoveHomeSwap, Homelink and HomeExchange are some of the best sites to use on the market and are tried and tested by thousands of users. Home swaps are a fabulous option if you can find your ultimate match, but they aren’t free. Most sites will ask for a monthly or annual subscription to access their property swapping services, which can range from $50-$100 per year – even if you only plan on using it once in those 365 days we think it’s totally worth it!

Free Accommodation – Give a little, to get a whole lot more!

If you don’t have savings in abundance but still want to escape to your dream destination you could always volunteer your time in exchange for a free stay. So it’s not exactly ‘free accommodation’ but it is as close as you can get without sleeping on the streets (especially for those on a shoestring budget). There are plenty of people all across the globe that would love an extra pair of hands to help them out with the daily running of their businesses. For just a couple of hours of your time you could be enjoying a holiday with free food, free accommodation and the opportunity of a lifetime. Volunteering can give you the chance to try out some pretty extraordinary (and sometimes outrageous) things like milking goats in Hawaii, conducting llama treks in Peru or meditating on an organic farm in the Himalayas. Some of the best sites to search for work-trade volunteering opportunities include, WWOOF, Help Stay, Workaway, Caretaker and HelpX. For a really in depth guide to volunteering abroad make sure you read blogger Nomadic Matt’s post on ethical volunteering.

Private Lodging – Get off the beaten path

For people who like their privacy whilst on holiday, private lodging is a great alternative to homestays. If you have the budget for the additional costs you could enjoy a dream home all to yourself. Airbnb is a leading site and has a very good range of properties all over the world including castles, penthouses and cottages – if you’re feeling extra fancy. Their prices can be on the higher side if you’re looking for a long term options so make sure you factor this in before you book. Spotahome is another great site that specializes in mid to long term holiday rentals – so it’s naturally much more cost effective plus it gives you way flexibility. Spotahome currently operates in major European destinations like Barcelona, Paris, London and Rome so you’re guaranteed to have a true taste of chic city life. For a slightly more rustic experience away from the big city lights Tep highly recommends trying out ‘Glamping’ (aka glamorous camping). It’s the perfect blend of outdoors and comfort so you’ll be able to take in the scenery, go on long walks in the countryside and will still have all the luxuries from home like running water, a bed and even electricity. GoGlamping or CanopyAndStars are the top websites to check for unique camping experiences all over the world.

For any travel plans you make, we always suggest you research the location and all of your options carefully. Apart from comprehensive travel and health insurance we also recommend you bring along your mobile, tablet or laptop (if you’ll have a safe place to store it) when you go on holiday. Not only will these devices let you stay in touch with loved ones, they’ll also let you explore the world around you more quickly and efficiently – Google Maps and TripAdvisor are on our ‘must-not-travel-without’ list for obvious reasons. Unfortunately adventuring comes with a high probability that internet access will be sparse and when you do find it, you’ll either be logging onto to dodgy public wifis or will be getting charged the earth for using your mobile’s data roaming. For a full overview of the pitfalls of holiday wifi and data roaming check out our informative post here.

Thankfully Tep has come up with a solution for modern wanderlusters who need to stay connected even when they’re off the beaten path. For a fixed daily cost you can have access unlimited internet through Tep’s portable wifi device. The small pocket sized device can easily be transported when you’re moving from one destination to the other and it works seamlessly across over 80+ countries so you won’t even have to worry about buying local SIM cards or paying for overpriced wifi access! It’s perfect for uploading holiday snaps, blogging about your travels, keeping in touch with friends and family or just simply helping you navigate unchartered territories. For more information on how Tep works or to rent a device for your next trip click here.

Finally, Tep’s affiliate program is one way for bloggers to generate income from their website and we already have a few on board such us Travel with Bender, Gypsynester, TravelingMom and Traveling Well for Less.