Travel Guide: Pro Tips for Traveling In and Around Mexico

By Alexandra McGowan

Mexico is an extraordinary country with a rugged and mysterious landscape ready to enchant. Uncovering the mysterious of Mexico's ancient history, while discovering the exciting cuisine and the stunning architecture, is only part of what will make this vacation something a little different. Sprinkle on top sprawling jungles, soaring peaks, and luscious beaches, and it's sure to become unforgettable.

This is a photo of El Castillo

Good to know before you go

This is an infographic of Mexican travel essentials
This is an infographic about Mexican slang

Getting there and around

With 30 Mexican airports with direct flights from the U.S., it couldn't be easier to start your next vacation in this Central American paradise. Fear not if you're coming from further afield, Cancun is particularly easy to reach if you're heading in from Europe.

Taking a car across the border is also an option and gives you the flexibility that perhaps a flight wouldn't. With 40 official crossing points along the border, there's no excuse not to pack your surfboard and hit the waves on the Mexican coast.

Just a word of warning, it's an idea to pack some spare parts with you. In the case of a break down along the way it's good to be prepared. Also, be sure to take a look at the safety information along your planned route in advance, just in case you need to adapt your plans.

All cars must have a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit, which must be canceled before you drive back across the border. This little extra bit of paperwork is sure to be worth your while when you hit the open road with no boundaries on your adventure.

This is a picture of a road trip.

If you prefer, head across the border with one of two bus companies, Greyhound or Omnibus Mexicanos. Not only do they have great links across the border, but will also give you a fantastic opportunity to take in the scenery as you head south. Traveling with like-minded travelers might also be the perfect way to enrich your travel plans with some new tips and pointers.

Fancy arriving into Mexico a little differently? We'd suggest zooming across the water in the Belize Water Taxi. This out-of-the-box travel option will make sure you enjoy new experiences from the get-go.

Mexico isn't known for its cycling tours, and if you plan to tour the country on two wheels you might be in for a bumpy ride. However, cycling in cities is becoming more popular with some of the bigger cities, such as Mexico City and Guadalajara, introducing a few cycle lanes. This could be a wonderfully relaxing way to explore the city while also keeping active. If you're looking to travel a little further, you can head out on the high seas and take a boat between Baja California and the Mexican mainland.

This is a picture of a boat

Mexico has frequent buses and a good road network though there can be occasional safety risks. To avoid risks, try to use toll highways whenever you can. Traveling first class will also reduce risks. It's best to keep valuables with you, but putting baggage in the hold should be safe; make sure to get a receipt for your baggage, though. It's fine to buy bus tickets on the day of at the bus stations. If it's a particularly busy route, buying from a bus ticket agency in the center of town would be advisable.

Hitting the open road with your own set of wheels will be sure to give you a freedom like no other and is the ideal way to lead your own adventure. With 6,000 kilometers of toll highways, the road conditions are fair. There are frequent gas stations, but it's good practice to fill up when you can in rural areas.

It's best to avoid driving at night due to visibility issues. Also note that if you plan to travel the roads of Mexico City, your gallivanting will be brought to a halt on Sundays. Cars are banned from the city's road one day a week.

Luckily, if you ever need a helping hand Mexico boasts "Green Angels," which are mechanics that patrol the highways to help out tourists in motoring difficulty. Taxicolectivos and microbuses are also great ways to hit the open road in a less cumbersome vehicle.

If you prefer to let the train take the strain, why not enjoy the famous Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico Route, starting from the Sierra Madre Occidental to Los Mochis and Chihuahua? The Copper Canyon Railway will impress. Be sure to experience this exhilarating railway journey and pass over its 37 bridges and through its 86 tunnels!

This is a picture of a train

Useful Facts

This is an infographic of facts about Mexico

Culture

Food and Drink

This vast and complex country has a vibrant culture that you are sure to enjoy, no matter where you choose to go. The complexity and variation is echoed in the colorful cuisine and striking history, commemorated and remembered in many events throughout the year.

This photo is of Mexican tacos

The most important staple in Mexican cuisine is corn and has been since the crop was developed there over 7,000 years ago. Travelers need not worry, though; this seemingly simple staple can produce so much more than the typical, albeit delicious, taco. Try fried tortillas in the form of tostadas, piled high with beans, cheese, meat, and/or seafood.

Wake up to a beautiful coastal view and try the spicy shrimp and octopus cocktails. Or how about enjoying a quick tasty snack of elote, corn on the cob with a variety of herbs and spices? Then spend a lazy afternoon with huevos rancheros as comfort food or try some churros for a sweet treat? Heading into the evening kick back and relax while enjoying Kahlúa, a famous Mexican liquor made with coffee and rum.

History and Heritage

Mexico's history is as varied as its cuisine. The country boasts awe-inspiring ancient ruins from the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzáto to the Aztec sights of the Pyramids of Teotihuacán. For the budding archaeologists or the aspiring historians, these sights will undoubtedly be the highlight of the trip.

If your visit is lucky enough to coincide with the Winter Solstice, you could get to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichén Itza in all its glory. This marvel of ancient architecture was built in such a way that at this specific point on the calendar, the shadow of a serpent appears to run down the side of El Castillo.

This is a photo of Mayan ruins

Events

Mexico has numerous vibrant events adding to its rich culture. The Day of the Dead, which ends on November 2, is one such festival, and it is believed that on midnight on October 31, the spirits are released from Heaven to visit their families. This festival is celebrated across Mexico and commemorates family ancestors.

Family altars are prepared with ofrendas, or offerings, and are decorated with flowers, candles, ceramic skulls, and pictures of loved ones. Pan de muerto is made specifically for these altars. Festivities continue into the night, as some relatives choose to spend the night in the cemetery. This ancient tradition reaches far back into Mexican civilization, all the way to the Aztecs, 3,000 years ago.

September 16 is celebrated across Mexico to commemorate Mexican Independence. On this day in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issued a rallying cry against colonial rule in Mexico. He is known in some cases as the "father of Mexican independence" for encouraging resistance to Spanish rule. Mexico’s throwing off of colonial rule is now celebrated each year on the very date of this rallying cry. Celebrations include parades, bull fights, fairs, dancing, fireworks, and rodeos.

This is a photo of Mexico City

Safety and Essentials

Documentation and Customs Regulations

Let us clue you up before you set off. Our low-down on the ins and outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate. Be aware that documentation and visa checks are carried out before boarding the plane and make sure you have them ready to be checked.

  • Note that duty-free allowances restrict imports to two cameras, two cell phones, and one laptop per person.
  • U.S. and Canadian travelers do not need to apply for tourist visas.
  • All tourists must have a Mexican-government tourist permit, or Forma migratoria multiple, and the maximum stay is 180 days.
  • Travelers must pay a departure tax, Tarifa de Uso de Aeropuerto (TUA). This is normally included in the cost of your flight. If not, this must be paid in cash at airport check-in.
  • If you intend to drive, you must have your home country's driving license with you.
  • Mexican liability insurance is needed when driving. No other policy will be recognized.
  • A temporary vehicle permit will also be required, which is valid for six months. This should be canceled upon leaving Mexico.
  • U.S. and Canadian citizens can apply online for these permits to have them mailed in advance.
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is needed if arriving from a country at risk.

Health

  • Bring insect repellent and anti-malarial medication.
  • The following vaccines are recommended when traveling to Mexico: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Tetanus, and Tuberculosis if visiting rural areas.
  • Water purification tablets are essential for rural areas.
  • Bring medical prescriptions if bringing in drugs from outside of Mexico;
  • Bring altitude sickness medication.

Dangers

  • Follow travel information and guidelines to avoid areas of carjacking and robbery.
  • Altitude sickness.
  • Snake or scorpion bites.
  • The sun is powerful in Mexico. It is important to stay hydrated and cool.
  • Zika, Malaria, and Dengue Fever are present in Mexico and precautions should be taken.
  • Don’t drink tap water.

For comprehensive travel advice, please refer to the U.S. Department of State website.

Places to Visit

Ruins of Tulum

This is a picture of the Ruins of Tulum

The Ruins of Tulum are set on 39-foot cliffs on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and are an example of particularly well-conserved Mayan ruins. The city of Tulum was built by the Mayan civilization and was most prosperous during the 13th and 15th centuries. While there, tourists can also visit the Sian Ka’an Reserve, where you can even catch a glimpse of some nesting sea turtles hunkering down on the beaches.

This is a photo of an Air-Conditioned Beach Cabana in Tulum, Mexico

Why not stay in a relaxing beach cabana in Tulum, Mexico?

Islas Marietas National Park

This is a photo of a humpback whale

Travel across the waters from the mainland to Islas Marietas National Park. You'll be crossing into a world of natural beauty and tranquility, so be sure to grab your snorkels and your scuba mask to head down into the crystal clear waters of the Marieta Islands. They are just off the coast of Nayarit and boast stunning marine life, you'll be mesmerized by its sparkling waters and hidden beach. If you're heading there between December and March, you could even catch a glimpse of some humpback whales!

This is a photo of a Premium Tropical Villa Rental with Private Pool near Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
Relax and Unwind in this tropical villa near Puerta Vallarta, Mexico!

Espíritu Santo

This is a picture of a Mexican beach

This UNESCO World Heritage site is made up off 244 Sea of Cortez Islands. This stunning spot is a paradise of ocean wildlife. These uninhabited islands are also a Biosphere Reserve and a popular ecotourism destination. It's home to, among other creatures, such as dolphins, sea lions, and hummingbirds.

Sea kayaking is a popular way to tour the island to take in the stunning scenery, reefs, and wildlife, all while keeping a respectful distance from the wildlife inhabiting these islands. This would be a nature enthusiasts paradise—and the perfect spot to capture some fantastic outdoor photographs.

A picture of Luxury Camping Experience on a Picturesque Beach of Isla del Espiritu Santo, Mexico
Discover a luxury camping experience on on a picturesque beach of Isla del Espiritu Santo, Mexico!


What are you waiting for...? Grab your sunglasses, and start glamping in the enchanting country of Mexico!

Australia Travel Guide: Pro Tips for Traveling the Land of Oz

By Xavier Vale Buisson

Author's note: This was co-authored by Alexandra McGowan.

The great southern continent is a place of wonder just waiting to be explored. Its vibrant cities, marine wonderland, and rugged landscape are all only a part of what gives Australia its magic. To find out what gives Australia its aura of adventure, you’ll have to head there yourself. Luckily, you have our travel guide to point you in the right direction, and we’ll give you a sprinkling of some glamping inspiration, too.

Good to know before you go

Getting there and around

As if you need any more excuses to embark on your next adventure, it’s great to know that this is a lot more straightforward than you may have first thought. Traveling to the southern hemisphere may feel like an odyssey to the other side of the world, but Australia has many international airports, making this far-off wonder very accessible. The international airports are in a number of Australia’s major hubs: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Once you’ve touched down Down Under, traveling around Australia presents you with various options. Australia’s wide reaching and reliable road system gives you the perfect opportunity for a road trip. Car hire is reasonable, so buckle up and head out on the open road; but remember, in Australia the cars drive on the left side of the road! Just be sure you have a driving license issued in English or an International Driving Permit.

If you fancy a road trip but driving doesn’t appeal to you, why not try the Australian bus system? Greyhound Australia has a national network of comfortable buses and offers a short "hop on-hop off" bus pass for 30 days. You could even join a backpacker bus to take in all the sites along the way. Groovy Grape Tours offers small group tours ranging between one day to one week.

The sheer size of Australia, however, can make land travel time consuming. Head up into the skies to cut your travel time with the many domestic airfares on offer. Jetstar, Qantas, Tigerair, and Virgin Australia are all well-known domestic airlines. It’s also good to know that if you’ve arrived in Australia with Qantas or American Airlines, you can apply for a "Walkabout Air Pass." This offers benefits for customers when booking domestic flights.

Alternatively, you could even head onto the high seas and enjoy a short distance regional ferry ride to Kangaroo Island, Rottnest Island, and Bruny Island. Long-distance boat trips can also be enjoyed on the Spirit of Tasmania when departing from Melbourne to Devonport.

Useful facts

Culture

Food and Drink

The vast majority of Australia's hot spots are based around its incredible coast line. This creates the opportunity for travelers to indulge in some of the world’s best seafood. Whether you're looking for a three-hat ('hats' being Australia's answer to Michelin stars) experience or simply some "fish 'n' chips" by the beach, Australia has got you covered. For those that are a fan of lobster, look out for the Moreton Bay Bug or marron, which are unique shellfish native to Australia. If there is any seaafood that describes the local cuisine and atmosphere the best, that is the simple prawn or tiger prawn. Australians love this simple crustacean that can be cooked in a variety of different ways to tantalise the taste buds.

Seafood aside, Australia has many other popular culinary traditions. You can’t get more local than sizzling some steaks on the "barbie" and having a beer with your family and friends. Kangaroo meat is becoming an even more popular choice among locals and is perfect for a barbecue. For snacking in between meals, you should try a bit of toast with the infamous Vegemite spread. Very similar to British Marmite, guests will either love or hate this acquired taste!

Despite popular belief, Fosters beer is not actually readily available in Australia. Popular local beers include VB, commonly known as Victoria Bitter, XXX, and Carlton Draught. The coffee culture has grown intensively over the past few years, too. Melbourne, which is the sport capital of Australia, can also be dubbed as one of the coffee capitals of the world. So for that morning burst of energy, or that simple relaxing brew, Australia has got you covered.

Sporting Events in Australia

Melbourne is home to numerous sporting events throughout the calendar year. One of the first events to arise is one of the four major tennis competitions held between January 15-28. Watch the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle it out on court to enter the history books. Next on the calendar in late January is the festival of sails held in Geelong. This festival is a week of festive fun with fireworks and free sailing entertainment for all.

For the motorsport fanatics, Melbourne always plays host to the opening race on the Formula 1 calendar. This includes four days of action-packed drama. Albert Park hosts this event, which is right in the centre of Melbourne. Finally, the events keep on flowing for motorsports fans, as MotoGP comes to town in late October and offers even more exhilarating drama.

The State of Origin series is one of Australia’s biggest sporting events. It’s all about one very bitter rivalry between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons. Rugby League is already huge within Australia, but this event tops it all. Players are selected to represent their state, and it is a huge honor for these players to battle it out in front of a sold-out crowd. Make sure to try and catch one of these events either live in the stadium or in a bar around Australia—it is an experience not to be missed!

Australia Day

This important moment in Australia’s calendar is a national holiday to commemorate its settlement in 1788 by the British. Be sure to celebrate in style with the locals on January 26, and check out one of the many events, shows, and ceremonies that run throughout the day. The biggest events take place in Sydney Harbour, which the British fleet sailed into in 1788. There will be fireworks, performance acts, and a buzz in the air on a day that cannot be missed.

Alongside Australia day there is another festival hosted called the Yabun Festival. It celebrates the survival of the aboriginal culture during one of the most frightful days in their history. These side by side festivals highlight the great diversity of cultures and beliefs in this sprawling country.

Safety Essentials

Documentation and Customs Regulations

Let us clue you up before you set off. Our low down on the ins-and-outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate. Be aware that documentation and visa checks are carried out before boarding the plane, and make sure you have them ready to be checked.
  • Proof of a yellow-fever vaccination if arriving in Australia within six days of staying overnight in an affected country is required.
  • A "travel history card" and an "incoming passenger card" must be filled out on arrival.
  • Tourists require an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority).
  • All food, plant material, and animal products must be declared on arrival. Be aware that due to strict biodiversity protections, most food, animal products, and plant or wood products are not permitted to enter the country, at the risk of severe fines or even jail time!
  • Prescription medicines must be left in original packaging and accompanied by a doctor’s letter noting the dosage. No more than a three-months supply can be brought into Australia.

Health

  • Tap water is safe to drink. Treat any water that is not tap water.
  • Do not underestimate the strength of the Australian sun. Be aware of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Apply plenty of sunscreen, stay hydrated, and seek shade.
  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing, and bug spray to protect against insect-borne diseases.

Dangers

  • Be aware that many areas are far from each other. Always carry a means of communication and First Aid supplies when taking a trip outside of the city.
  • Take care on rural roads, especially at night time, due to roaming wildlife.
  • Check the regulations regarding Interstate Quarantine of fruit and vegetables, if traveling between states.
  • Take note of warnings from local authorities about possible natural disasters including bush fires, floods, and cyclones.
  • Be aware when swimming in Northern Australia. Check with locals to find out if crocodiles frequent the waters.

Places to visit

Great Ocean Road

Rated by many as a true bucket list item the Great Ocean Road is not to be missed. Located just west of Melbourne, explore one of the greatest coastal drives the world has to offer. Stretching for 243 kilometers you can sightsee, sunbathe, and surf your way down the coast. The biggest attraction along this road is the 12 apostles that have been formed by thousands of years of constant wave erosion. As the coast line gets pushed back, several of these apostles continue to stand tall and strong embedded in the ocean floor.

Elsewhere along the Great Ocean Road, you can partake in numerous outdoor activities, including mountain biking and bush walks. For the animal lovers out there, take a detour off the road and visit one of the many koala sanctuaries and share some incredible moments with these charming creatures.

Why not completely immerse yourself in nature by staying in a Romantic Canvas Bell Tents for Two in Natural Bush Setting near Melbourne?

Great Barrier Reef

Arguably the southern hemisphere's most famous natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef provides color, life, and adventure for those who seek to dive in its magical waters. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef, and it is made up of over 3,000 different coral systems. The magnitude of this reef cannot be overlooked, quite literally, as it can be spotted from outer space.

The best way to visit the reef is by partaking in one of the numerous activities on offer including snorkeling, scuba diving, and for those that are not a fan of swimming, glass-bottomed boat sailing. The Great Barrier Reef is located on the North Eastern coastline of Australia and is easily accessed from Cairns, in the state of Queensland.

Start your next adventure by staying in the Gorgeous Glass Cabin Rentals in Bushlands of Queensland on Sunshine Coast

Blue Mountains

Just west of the thriving bay city of Sydney are the glorious Blue Mountains. This National Park is a heritage site spanning over 1 million hectares. The best way of exploring the parks is via the walking trails. You should look out for the famous Three Sisters, a uniquely shaped rock formation that marks the skyline. Once at the top, take your time to walk around, relax, and watch the sun cross this stunning bush greenery at one of the many viewing platforms provided.

For those that are not afraid of heights and are up for the challenge, check out the Giant Stairway, which is a trail spanning from Echo Point to Scenic World. This 4.7 kilometer trek can take around three hours in one direction, so food and water provisions are a must while taking on this walk. .

Treat yourself to a once-in-a-lifetime vacation by staying in a Romantic Airstream Rental with Outdoor Shower near New South Wales Coast

Uluru

Right in the center of Australia, within the heart of the desert outback, exists an enormous sandstone rock named Uluru, a sacred site to many of the aboriginal people of the area. If it is total seclusion that you're looking for, glamping around this area would be perfect, as Uluru is located 450 kilometers from the nearest big town of Alice Springs. Uluru stands at 348 meters high; however, this is a very minute part of the rock. The rest of it is a whopping 2,500 meters underground.

The best way to appreciate this beautiful red natural wonder is by taking a 10-kilometer trek around the base of the rock. This incredible experience will take you three hours and 30 minutes and will be sure to leave you with lasting memories of Australia’s incredible landscape.

Head out to the great outdoors and stay in this incredible safari tent on the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory of Australia

Ready for your Aussie adventure? Take a peek at our stunning Australian accommodations here!

Travel Guide: Pro Tips for Traveling Kiwi-Style

By Xavier Vale Buisson

Author's Note: This post was co-authored by Alexandra McGowan and Ben Clarke.

New Zealand’s evergreen pastures are sure to enchant. Being known for its relaxed atmosphere and welcoming vibe, New Zealand is the perfect place to explore the Great Outdoors. Whether you’re a travel expert or have a newfound sense of wanderlust, our knowledgeable travel guide—complete with a dusting of glamping magic—will supply all you need for a fabulous trip to New Zealand!

Mitre Peak on the South Island of New Zealand.

Good to know before you go

Guide to New Zealand customs and tourist season
Guide to New Zealand currency and slang

Getting there and around

Air New Zealand

New Zealand consists of two large islands. Both are easily accessible via airplane and have excellent infrastructure, so guests can easily travel to their unique glamping accommodation. The main international airports are Auckland, Hamilton, and Rotorua on the North Island, and Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown on the South Island.

All of the main rental companies are represented at major airports, so you can get straight on the road after your flight. Younger visitors need to be wary that the rental age in New Zealand is commonly 21 and older. We strongly recommend renting a car, as it is the easiest way to explore this magnificent country and the best way to access our glorious glamping sites. You should also note that in New Zealand you drive on the left!

  • Rail travel in New Zealand tends to be more scenic than efficient, but guests will be able to get a unique perspective of the New Zealand countryside that is not available from the roads. The country’s cities are well-connected by rail, especially when compared to the U.S.
  • For a cheap and easy way of getting around, visitors can find bus fares from as cheap as $1NZD. The main companies are InterCity and StrayBus.
  • The quickest way to visit New Zealand's major cities is via plane. It takes under two hours to fly from Auckland in the North Island to Queenstown in the South.

Train Travel in Wellington.

Useful facts

Guide to population and climate of New Zealand

Culture

Food and Drink

Dairy cows grazing in the countryside.

Dairy production is extremely important to New Zealand's economy. Here are some quick facts:

  • New Zealand is the world's eighth largest dairy producer, and accounts for 3% of total world production.
  • New Zealand exports 95% of its dairy.
  • New Zealand exported $8.5bn worth of dairy products between June 2015 and June 2016.
  • There are over 5 million dairy cattle in New Zealand.

Many consider New Zealand’s lamb to be the best in the world. It is produced so efficiently that it is often cheaper after shipping than U.S. lamb, so it’s likely that you already have a taste for it. Lamb from New Zealand is grass-fed throughout its life and tends to have a more pronounced, richer flavor. In New Zealand, only animals under 12 months old can be labeled as "lamb." There are no such regulations in the U.S.

Wine in New Zealand is a young industry. In the 1960s and 1970s, many young New Zealanders traveled, lived, and worked in Europe, due to the rise of commercial airlines. This was the first time that many New Zealanders came into contact with the well-established wine cultures of Europe. For many years, New Zealand has produced what many consider to be some of the world’s best Sauvignon blanc. More recently, the country has began to develop many other types, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet/Merlot blends, Pinot noir, Pinot gris, and Syrah. Visitors can find wineries all over.

Mānuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native mānuka bush. It is commonly sold as an alternative medicine. Its advocates cite the natural antibacterial properties of honey. Although it is four times more antibacterial than standard antiseptic, there is little scientific backing for its medicinal use. Nevertheless, the Māori have used its honey and oils for centuries, and honey producers have developed a scale for rating the potency of mānuka honey called UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. Therapeutic honey starts at 10 UMF.

Mānuka honey being poured.

History and Heritage

Māori traditions.

New Zealand is a relatively new country. It was the last habitable part of the world to be discovered and settled. The first inhabitants were the Māori, who arrived from Polynesia in the 13th century. According to legend, New Zealand was discovered by captain Kupe. The first European to visit was Abel Tasman in 1642. He gave it its Dutch-sounding name, Nieuw Zeeland. It was later colonized by the British in the early 19th century. At Waitangi in 1840, over 500 Māori chiefs signed a treaty with the British Crown.

War broke out on the North Island in the 1860s and swathes of Māori land was either bought or confiscated over 20 years. The South Islands prospered, chiefly from gold. The British continued to invest in New Zealand, and railways and new towns sprang up. In 1882, the first shipment of frozen meat arrived in England, and paved the way for New Zealand as an exporter of meat and dairy products.

In 1893, New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote. State pensions and housing were also first offered in New Zealand. New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907. It contributed many troops to the ANZAC in both World Wars, as part of the British Empire, most famously at Gallipoli. New Zealand became independent in 1947. When Britain joined the EEC in 1973, New Zealand began to accelerate its export diversification, and today exports farm goods and other exports to many other countries.

Events

A music festival.

New Zealand's music festivals take place during the peak of summer, from November to February. The two biggest music festivals happen in late December. Rhythm and Vines is situated amongst the sunny vineyards of Gisborne, the first city to see 2018, thanks to its location on the international dateline, and Rhythm and Alps is set among the picturesque peaks surrounding Wanaka on the South Island.

Rugby Sevens has been a big festival for several years in New Zealand and it's taking place in Hamilton on February 3rd-4th. The competition will involve 16 of the world's greatest sevens teams, and attendees will also be treated to live performances and competitions.

Rugby

The Marlborough Wine Festival on February 10 involves 40 wineries and an evening of great music, delicious food, and excellent wine!

For those with an adventurous palate, the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika on March 10 is well worth visiting! There's a whole range of exotic food, including huhu grubs and bats. Enjoy cooking demonstrations, wear fancy dress, and party all night.

Matariki (Māori New Year) has had a revival in recent years and is celebrated nationwide on June 15. It is a time for remembering the dead and celebrating new life and is marked by kites, fireworks, and hot air balloons.

Fireworks

Māori religion

Traditional Māori religion has changed very little from the beliefs of their Polynesian homeland. The believe that everything, including natural elements and all living things, are connected by common descent through whakapapa. All things are thought to possess a life force (mauri). Tangaroa was the god of the ocean and ancestor of all fish, Tāne the forest and all birds, and Rongo peaceful activities, agriculture, and the ancestor of cultivated plants.

The Māori have traditionally believed that people and objects contain mana, spiritual power or essence. Society was stratified according to this belief. Tapu implies rules and prohibitions. There are two types: public and private. A person, an object, or a place that is tapu may not be touched or in some cases not even approached. Nowadays, tapu is mostly observed in matters relating to sickness, death, and burial.

Since the early 19th century, Christianity has become increasingly important amongst the Māori. Large numbers became affiliated with the Church of England and the Catholic Church. Nowadays, Christian prayer (karakia) is often the expected way to begin and end Māori public gatherings.

Māori Temple

Safety and essentials

Documentation and Customs Regulations

Let us clue you up before you set off. Our low-down on the ins and outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate. Be aware that documentation and visa checks are carried out before boarding the plane and make sure you have them ready to be checked.

  • For duty-free allowances, check out the New Zealand customs website here.
  • It is advisable to declare any unusual medicines. Have the medication clearly labeled with a signed and dated letter from your doctor explaining your condition.
  • Plant and animal products must be declared. Any type of food or wood product must also be declared.
  • The United States is a visa waiver country of New Zealand and therefore a visa is not required to visit for three months or less. Consult the US government's state department link for passports and visas here.

Health

  • Be sure to take out comprehensive health insurance before your trip.
  • New Zealand has no essential vaccinations; however, as always, the World Health Organization recommends that all travelers should be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, and hepatitis B.
  • Do not drink untreated water from streams or lakes. Giardiasis can be passed through untreated water. That said, tap water in New Zealand is normally safe to drink.
  • Insect repellent is advisable to ward off sand flies in coastal regions.

Dangers

  • Hypothermia can be a big risk during the winter. Be sure to keep warm at high altitudes or when exposed to high winds.
  • Be aware of the ocean! Rip tides and undertows are common.
  • Occasional earthquakes do occur in New Zealand so be sure to know the protocol in such an occurrence.

For comprehensive travel advice please refer to the US Department of State website.

Places to visit

Auckland

Auckland's Skyline

As you’re most likely to end up here after your international flight, it’s well worth staying for a couple of days to explore New Zealand’s largest city. The Auckland Art Gallery is the country’s largest and is great for a cultural fix. It features over 15,000 works of art from a variety of styles and eras.

The Auckland Domain Park is the city’s oldest park, and at 185 acres, it has a bit of everything. The park has been developed around the cone of an extinct volcano, and features exquisite Winter Gardens, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Formal Gardens, and several duck ponds. The city is also home to a wide range of international restaurants and has an excellent nightlife.

For those who are more adventurous, there is a Auckland Bridge climb, and even a bungee jump.

Luxury Tent Resort and Tree House Paradise above Karioitahi Beach, New Zealand

How about renting a luxury tent or treehouse within easy reach of Auckland?

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

Located in the northeast of the North Island, about a three hour drive from Auckland, this archipelago consists of over 140 subtropical islands. It’s famed for its beautiful undeveloped beaches and big-game fishing. It is also an important historical site, hosting both Māori artifacts and the whaling town of Russell, the nation’s first colonial capital. It is the perfect place to go sailing, boating or fishing. You can also take up a new hobby; Paihia Dive offers an introduction to scuba diving course which ferries you out far into the bay. There are also opportunities for both dolphin watching and even swimming with dolphins. Don’t forget to check out the Hole in the Rock, an opening in a rock formation that you can sail through, tide permitting.

Deluxe Private Suite with a Hot Tub at a Bed and Breakfast in Kerikeri, New Zealand

Look over the stunning bay from this deluxe private suite with a hot tub.

Rotorua

Rotorua Hot Springs

A geothermal town in northern New Zealand centered around Lake Rotorua, Rotorua is renowned for its effervescent mud pools, impressive geysers, and natural hot springs. The surrounding nature is also stunning. There are crystal-clear streams, encapsulating redwood forests, whitewater rivers for rafting, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia, the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park, a Polynesian spa, and the Skyline Gravity Mountain Biking Park, which takes visitors to the top via gondola and allows them to cycle back down.

Peaceful and Romantic Bell Tent for Rent near Tauranga, New Zealand

Get back to nature and kick back in this peaceful, romantic bell tent.

Waiheke Island

Vineyard on Waiheke Island

Situated to the east of Auckland, the island is easily accessible by ferry. The island is home to many excellent vineyards, so you’ll definitely want someone else to transport you around. Waiheke Island Wine Tours will shuttle you to three different vineyards to sample 14 varieties of wine. Waiheke is also home to a popular arts community, beaches, forests, and olive groves. It’s also a great place to go hiking. The Headland Sculpture on the Gulf hiking trail is particularly worth seeing. We also recommend the Connells Bay Sculpture Park, which hosts nature-inspired sculptures by New Zealand artists.

Romantic Studio Rental for Two for Wine Tasting Getaway near Auckland, New Zealand

Why not treat yourself and your partner to this romantic studio rental in Waiheke Island wine country?

Queenstown

Queenstown

Queenstown has long had the reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and with good reason. During the winter and spring (June to October) it is a premium skiing destination, with the Remarkables Ski Area of particular note. Other adventure activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and river rafting attract adrenaline junkies year-round. At 182 meters, the Shotover Canyon Swing is the world’s highest cliff jump. Queenstown also has some of New Zealand’s best dining, including burger joints, steak houses, and fine dining options.

Sunny Farm Cabin Rental with Wood-Burning Stove near Lumsden, New Zealand

Escape to the picturesque South Island countryside in this cabin rental on a farm.


Get your suitcase ready and check out more of our New Zealand glamping accommodations here!

Travel Guide: Pro Tips for South African Safari Travel

By Alexandra McGowan

Author's note: This post was co-authored by Xavier Vale-Buisson.

Get ready for the trip of a lifetime from the minute you touch down in South Africa! There’s so much to see and do in this spectacular country, so it can be challenging to fit it all into your vacation.

Luckily, we’ve created a one-stop shop for all the travel info and pro trips you’ll need to make your South African safari dreams come true. You'll be out exploring a beautiful country in a stylish way in no time!

A group of lions laying down together in South Africa.

GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

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Getting There and Around

Airplane

Getting to South Africa by plane has never been easier. The principal international airports are Cape Town International Airport, O.R. Tambo International Airport (for Johannesburg), and King Shaka International (for Durban), all with plenty of international connections to choose from.


Fan of the getting up high among the clouds? While traveling in South Africa why not try something a little more unique! Head up into the skies at sunrise in a hot air balloon. This balloon has only one destination: Kruger National Park. Soar over the western edge of the park as you scan the horizon for the Big Five.


Kruger National Park

Bringing you back down to earth for a second, the Baz Bus can be a reliable and fun, everyday method of transportation. This handy hop-on, hop-off idea can get you to Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, all while traveling with fellow explorers. This safe, reliable, and user-friendly initiative gives you the perfect excuse to discover the stunning beaches of Durban, such as Ballito, ranked among the most beautiful and environmentally-friendly in the world.

If you fancy heading back up into the sky, fear not—domestic flights are super reasonable and are an alternative to the longer Baz Bus routes. Mango and Kulula are two inexpensive airline options, which will get you to major cities quickly and with little hassle. Just kick back and relax, and you’ll be across the country in no time.

Off-road driving at sunset.

Fancy going solo? A 4x4 is highly recommended. Traveling by car will give you a fantastic opportunity to make your own itinerary. Why not visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park? It's one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage sites. This stunning park is home to hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos—sure to be an unforgettable experience. Then again...that will likely be the case with your entire vacation here.

Useful facts

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Culture

Food and Drink

Braai

South Africans are world famous for their braai. Such pride is taken in this traditional South African barbecue that it has become an art form. Of course, no meal is complete without drinks, so be sure to head into the Cape Winelands, mostly found on the beautiful Garden Route, one of the most spectacular coastal roads on Earth. This area is famous for spectacular grapes and boasts wine tasting routes where you can savour as many glasses of the nectar of the vine as you could wish for.

South Africa is full of diversity and this is reflected in its cuisine. Trying the traditional South African flavors such as biltong (cured meats) is a must, but so is sampling the wide variety of other flavors on offer. Durban has close ties to the Indian subcontinent and offers a spectacular array of Indian cuisine. Cape Town offers tantalizing Malay cuisine that is also sure to impress.

History and Heritage

Cape-Town

This beautiful country has indeed suffered a turbulent history, but there is nothing better to represent its resilience than its rich cultural and social diversity. From the Mediterranean feel of the Cape coast, to the traditional villages of Zululand, and the Gumboot mining dancers of Johannesburg, you are bound to experience a country that embraces the many influences of its past.

Events

Art festival

Kicking off in mid-March is South Africa’s largest street festival; the Cape Town Carnival. This vibrant festival has many different activities going on. There are a variety of beer tents, music venues, art galleries, and film installations to keep visitors fully entertained. This event takes over the suburb of Observatory, for a street party like no other!

The National Arts Festival in South Africa is the biggest collective celebration of arts on the whole African continent. This festival is held in Grahamstown, a small town just east of Port Elizabeth. Each year, visitors are treated to new and thought-provoking art forms making every year different from the last. Included in this festival are music, film, and visual arts productions. There really is something for everyone. This event runs from the end of June until mid-July.

SAFETY AND ESSENTIALS

Documentation and Customs Regulations*

Let us clue you in before you set off. Our low-down on the ins and outs of documentation is sure to save you a headache at the departure gate.

  • In terms of visas, British and American citizens visiting South Africa for tourism purposes can stay in the country for up to 90 days.
  • Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after the return date.
  • There must be at least one unused visa page in your passport for the South African Immigration Services.
  • A certificate of a Yellow Fever vaccinaction is required of those traveling from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission.
  • In terms of customs regulations, if you have anything to declare you must fill out at TC-01 form upon arrival.
  • A Traveler Card must be filled in before heading to immigration.
  • Excess currency, animals and plants as well as their products, medicines, and herbal products all need written authorisation

Health

  • It is advised that all your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Among others, the vaccinations of tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, and rabies are recommended.
  • The tap water is drinkable but not in rural areas.
  • Malaria is present, so be sure to take the relevant precautions. These include using insect repellent and mosquito nets.

Dangers

  • For safety, all hiking trails should be completed in groups consisting of a minimum of three people.
  • Travelers should avoid walking alone at night particularly in isolated areas.
  • When driving keep doors locked and windows closed.
  • Beware of ATM scams. Don’t leave your card unattended and take a friend when withdrawing cash.
  • Use ATMs in shopping malls or ATMs with guards.

    For comprehensive travel advice please refer to the United States Travel Department.

PLACES TO VISIT

Kruger National Park

Elephants

South Africa is famous for its stunning wildlife and luscious landscapes. Kruger National Park is the ultimate place to unleash your wild side. Buckle up in your 4x4 and head out into the wilderness. With the help of your safari guide you’ll have the best chance of spotting the Big Five.

There are three local airports that serve the park; Phalaborwa Airport, Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport, and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. Alternatively, travelers could drive from Johannesburg, 260 miles away (420 kilometers).

A view from the exterior of these luxury vacation rentals near Kruger National Park.

Take in South Africa from these luxury vacation rentals near Kruger National Park.

Namaqualand

Namaqualand desert filled with flowers in spring.

The arid desert region of Namaqualand stretches through South Africa and Namibia, covering an impressive 170,000 square miles (440,000 square kilometers). But come spring and this dry expanse bursts into color and life, becoming home to countless flowers of an infinite color palette. Famous among locals, this is must-see for those looking to go off the beaten track.

Cape Town

Cape-Town-at-night

Cape Town is a must see during your visit to South Africa. This vibrant ocean city sits on the southern tip of the continent and is surrounded by breathtaking ocean views, as the cape separates the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. These far-stretching waves are home to whales and dolphins, which you can even catch a glimpse of. More adventurous travelers can even try their hand at cage-diving with Great White sharks near Gansbaii! Be sure as well to head up to Table Mountain. Trekking up this six-hundred-million-year-old peak won’t only stretch your legs but give you stunning views of the breath-taking city below. A cable car service can also cater for those who not wanting to hike!

An exterior shot of the beautifully-furnished tree house in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Discover the treetops of South Africa from this incredible tree house rental.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Flamingo

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Exploring this nature reserve will be an experience you’re unlikely to be able to replicate at home. As you’re surrounded by unique wildlife such as hippos and flamingos, you won’t be able to help but gaze in awe, while maybe snapping a few photos too. A trip to iSimangaliso Wetland Park is sure to impress while creating unforgettable memories.

A view from the exterior of these exotic, upscale suites on a game reserve near Johannesburg.g

Treat yourself to a slice of luxury at one of these upscale suite rentals near Johannesburg.


Ready for your South African adventure? Take a stroll through our South African wonders here!