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Chile’s Humboldt Current: Sustainable Fishing for Healthy Oceans (360° Video)

Chile’s Humboldt Current is one of the planet’s richest marine environments and one of its top 10 fish producers. But over exploitation is depleting Chile’s ocean. The Nature Conservancy is working with fishing communities in southern Chile to implement sustainable fishing practices that will protect life in the Humboldt Current.

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An Inside Look At Living and Working in Saudi Arabia

Teacher in Saudi Arabia poses on sand dune
Saudi Arabia is a country of mystery: it’s not easy to visit as a tourist as tourist visas are rarely approved, non-Muslims can’t visit the holy sites like Mecca and Medina, and most workers live on special compounds. My friends who have lived there have told me that’s a weird life – you stay mostly on the work compounds, you can’t really travel many places, and it’s often suggested you don’t wander the streets alone, especially as a woman.

So when Ceil write me explaining that she was a Jamaican woman teaching English in Saudi Arabia, I was instantly curious! “What would that be like?!” I wondered. Saudi Arabia is a lucrative place to teach but what is life in the country actually like? Is it worth it? Ceil gives us insight:

NomadicMatt: Tell us about yourself.
Ceil Tulloch: My name’s Ceil Tulloch and I’m 44 years old. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in New York City. I’ve been teaching ESL/EFL abroad for the past 11 years – first, in the Far East and more recently in the Middle East. Currently, I’m teaching at a university in north-western Saudi Arabia and have been in the Kingdom for a total of two years. I’m a global adventurer who has traveled to 41 countries, a travel blogger and also the author of the nonfiction book, Remembering Peter Tosh (2013).

What is life like as a foreigner in the country? Sum it up as best as possible!
First, it’s conservative and provincial. This is the first country that I’ve resided in where the genders are segregated so severely and there are numerous restrictions on mobility. Since I’m accustomed to interacting and socializing with males, plus coming and going as I please, it was initially difficult coming to terms with the policy of not associating with men who aren’t relatives in public, the separate entrances to public establishments for males and females, or being denied total access to a facility due to my being female.

Second, it’s quiet and secluded. Due to there being no social venues (amusement parks, clubs, movie theaters, bars, public swimming pools, etc.) in the Kingdom, socializing is confined to the compound. So, unless somebody decides to throw a party, or extend a dinner invitation, life’s very quiet here.

Third, it’s diverse. The expat population is approximately 20% of the total Saudi population; therefore, foreigners have the chance to meet people from the four corners of the earth right here. That’s pretty special.

Interesting. How did you end up teaching there??
Quite by accident. Although my master’s degree is in Education and my BA in English Literature, I never wanted to teach. While working as an admin at a firm in Manhattan, I saw an ad for becoming TESOL certified and decided to contact the Director of the Institute. He spoke so enthusiastically about his personal experiences of teaching ESL for a decade in South America, I decided to enroll in the course. The instructor was excellent and after I’d completed the program, I decided to go to South Korea and teach there for two years. I had so much fun I ended up staying for seven years.

The opportunity then arose to teach in Saudi Arabia – and I was curious about life in the Middle East – so I accepted the contract. Afterward, I worked in the Sultanate of Oman for two years. Now, I’m been back in Saudi Arabia for one final contract.

ESL teacher in South Korea with her elementary school students
What kind of work do you do in the Kingdom?
Since relocating to the Middle East, I’ve been teaching students at the collegiate level in what’s called the Preparatory Year Program (PYP). The English language PYP is a prerequisite for students prior to them being able to study their major. Its aim is to provide students with the rudiments of the four English language skills that will enable them to express themselves in English at the Freshman level.

Is it easy to find work as a teacher in Saudi Arabia?  What is the process like?
Understandably, retention is problematic here, so there are many teaching opportunities available in the Kingdom throughout the year – especially for males. The minimum credential required for native teachers here is a Bachelor’s degree. The preferred disciplines are: English, TESOL, or Applied Linguistics. Additionally, two or three references are usually required. If a candidate wants to teach at a secondary or an International school, a teaching license from his/her home country is mandatory. Applicants for university positions almost invariably need a Master’s degree or higher in one of the aforementioned subjects, plus a CELTA or TESL certificate with over 100 hours. Naturally, having prior teaching experience in the region is advantageous. Currently, the age limit for teachers here is 60 years old. The Kingdom doesn’t accept online degrees either.

Upon arrival into the Kingdom, the employer will request a notarized and authenticated copy of your university degrees, two color photos, and your passport in order to apply for your resident permit/work visa which is known as the iqama. It took me two months to get my iqama, but can take several months. Once an expat has an iqama, s/he is now able to conduct business transactions such as banking, getting phone service and internet, and mailing packages at the post office.

Due to the recent economic crisis and drop in oil prices, it’s becoming more challenging to find plum teaching positions here. In the past, I could pick and choose from several offers, but this last time, I only received one and the package offered wasn’t as lucrative as it was four years ago. My friends at other universities across the Kingdom have also shared similar experiences. They’re being offered less attractive packages and if they want to renew their contracts, are being asked to take a cut in salary.

Why did you take the job in Saudi Arabia?
To be quite frank, I wanted to do some more traveling in the Middle East and Africa. Saudi Arabia is the perfect location for me to achieve my goals because I can also save the most money here.

As a woman, how do you feel working and living in Saudi Arabia? It must be quite a different experience.
It’s been quite challenging being an expat here. As you already know, females aren’t allowed to drive or cycle in the Kingdom and many places such as parks, gyms, and eateries are off-limits to us. Plus, once I’m outdoors, I must wear the abaya – which is rather encumbering. So, being a very independent and liberal person, it took me a while to adjust to the Saudi lifestyle.

In terms of teaching here, it’s a bit frustrating because education isn’t really valued and most students aren’t interested in learning. They basically come to school because their monarch gives them a monthly stipend (approx. $265 USD) to attend an institution of higher learning. Additionally, due to the culture, fun learning activities with music and film that can be implemented in the classrooms in places such as South Korea are prohibited here. So, the teaching experience for me hasn’t been as rewarding as it was in other places.

What advice do you have for people who want to live and work in Saudi Arabia?  Are there other jobs open to foreigners there – or is it mainly teaching positions?
I’d recommend that people who desire to come to the Kingdom do a bit of research on the culture to ensure that this is the right place for them. If they opt to come, they must remember that the only thing that matters here is Sharia law… To survive here, they’ll need to leave their Western moral sensibilities behind.

Other employment opportunities in the Kingdom are in the fields of Energy, Health, Construction and domestic work, but tend to be restricted by nationality. I’ve noticed that the male engineers at the oil companies such as Aramco are from the USA, the UK, and South Africa. The doctors and pharmacists are predominantly Egyptian, the nurses are females from the Philippines… The laborers/construction workers are primarily from India and Pakistan; while the housekeepers hail from Africa and Indonesia.

Woman teaching in Saudi Arabia at a camel farm wearing Middle Eastern clothes

How does one get a job teaching if you aren’t in Saudi Arabia?
The best way to job hunt here is by networking. If you don’t have any contacts, the next best option is to use websites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe and Serious Teachers. They were very helpful when I was job hunting. Going through a recruiter is also an option since many institutions here seem to be leaning more towards the third-party method instead of the traditional direct-hire method. Once you’ve been offered a contract, you’ll have to return to your homeland in order to start the application process that I mentioned earlier.

I tend to prefer schools that are well established as opposed to start-ups. If I’m unfamiliar with the universities that I’m interested in working at, I’ll do a Google search of teachers’ reviews of those institutions to learn their experiences and opinions. The three things that matter most to me when considering a university offer are:

  1. The length of contract – I prefer one instead of two-year contracts because if it isn’t working for me, having a commitment for more than a year will be very painful.
  2. The promptness in paying salary – There have been many horror stories of institutions here not paying teachers on time or in full. So, I want to ensure that isn’t an issue at the university I elect to work.
  3. The standard of accommodation –  I like to see photos of the compound / hotel where I’ll be residing. I’ve been lucky to have decent housing, but other teachers haven’t been as fortunate. Some live in decrepit spaces and have to share rooms.

Why do you think teaching is a good option for people looking to live abroad?
I believe that teaching overseas is an excellent way for people to immerse themselves in a new culture, plus hone their teaching and communication skills. Since there are numerous teaching positions around the globe, this is a wonderful employment opportunity for people who enjoy traveling and want to stay in a particular country for several months or years. Most teaching contracts offer generous vacation/leave days during the school year and summer break, which is ideal for teachers to indulge their wanderlust.

For someone looking to live and work in Saudi Arabia (in general, not specific to teaching), what are three pieces of advice you would give them?

  1. Bring as much Saudi currency (riyals) as possible with you to tide you over until you receive your first paycheck. Depending upon your arrival date and the employer’s policy regarding payment, an expat might have to wait a couple of months before receiving his/her first wages.
  2. Expats need to understand that contracts here aren’t as binding as they are back in the West. Sometimes benefits that are initially promised don’t materialize. For example, relocation allowances and bonuses.
  3. A positive attitude and sense of humor are essential for enjoying your experiences in Saudi Arabia.

If you want to read more about life in Saudi Arabia, check out Ceil’s travel blog.

Become the Next Success Story

One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way, but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world. I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who gave up living a typical life to explore the world:

We all come from different places, but we all have one thing in common: we all want to travel more.

Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

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10 Awesome Destinations for Solo Female Travelers

amazing glaciers in iceland
Every month (most of the time), Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes a guest column featuring tips and advice for solo female travelers as I obviously can’t talk expertly on the subject! She’s back this month with an awesome list of destinations for female travelers!

Traveling solo is a unique opportunity to find out exactly who you are in completely new surroundings and without anyone around from your past to influence you. That can be a scary prospect, but the good news is there are plenty of places out there that can make you feel safe and welcome. And when in the right place, a solo trip — regardless of how long it is — has the power to benefit you for years or even a lifetime thereafter.

Before I traveled alone, I was pretty terrified, mostly because I didn’t think I’d like my own company enough to be solo 24/7. I was delighted to find that I met new people constantly (something that’s true for solo travelers in general). When on the road, people are social.

While it was possible to feel inspired and delighted everywhere, a few places in particular stand out as great options for women traveling alone. Below are 10 solo travel destinations that you probably didn’t expect to be awesome for solo female travelers in particular, whether for their women-oriented businesses or for their safety, solitude, spirituality, or sociability:

1. The Karoo, South Africa

Overlooking view in The Karoo, South Africa
Most people who visit South Africa head right to Cape Town or Kruger National Park, and while those spots are both popular for good reasons, why not take a look at the orange, rocky, rugged bush called the Karoo as well? It’s safer than Cape Town and less crowded than Kruger.

It didn’t take long for the Karoo to feel special to me while I was staying on a farm there, appropriately called The Rest. As a solo traveler, a great way to get to know the area is to do some kind of workaway program at such a place.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: South Africa, with its high levels of crime, might not initially seem like a logical destination for solo female travel. However, the rural parts, like the Karoo, are so isolated and far from the sometimes-dangerous bustle of the cities that staying with a family there and learning how to work the land can be both a safe and character-building experience.

Plus, with all of that space and time to feel and think, it can promote a lot of personal growth. Such a desolate landscape, with almost nobody and nothing around, can give you much time and freedom to think and feel, which is one of the greatest benefits of solo travel.

2. Yubeng, China

Flags in Yubeng, China
Yubeng is a remote village in the Chinese Himalayas that can only be reached by foot or mule. During the hike in, I saw Tibetan prayer flags strung from tree to tree, snow softly falling, and animals roaming freely all throughout the town. There are stupas (mound-like structures containing relics and used for meditation) everywhere.

Yubeng is peaceful in a way that much of the rest of China isn’t. The feeling is hard to explain, but it’s felt by all who pass through. If you’re overwhelmed with the rest of China, seek refuge in Yubeng.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: In the big cities, scams often target young female tourists, but in the Himalayas, you’re more of an esteemed guest. The friendly people of Yubeng are so relaxed, patient, and welcoming, as are the younger tourists who flock there, often with some English-language ability and curiosity about foreign visitors.

As a solo traveler, I was worried that I would be completely going this one alone, but I was surprised and delighted to find that young and friendly Chinese people take this route too, seeking the same sacred place.

3. Maui, Hawaii

Getting ready to catch waves in Maui, Hawaii
Maui isn’t typically what comes to mind when most people think of a solo trip, but with all its activities — from surfing and hiking to driving the road to Hana and taking boating and snorkeling tours — it’s actually a great place for those flying solo.

With its constantly changing microclimates, the beautiful island has pockets of sandy sunset beaches, sprawling resorts, quaint little camping spots, and hikes through the valley.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: The cool thing about Maui is that it feels like a different country than the States, what with the tropical weather and Hawaiian culture, but you don’t need a passport, an RTW flight, or to learn a different language to enjoy it. Plus, there are female-focused activities — like the Maui Surfer Girls camp, designed specifically for solo female travelers who are looking for a supportive group of women to take up a new sport with. It’s an experience that is both empowering and fun!

4. El Chaltén, Argentina

Incredible view at El Chaltén, Argentina
If you love nature, there’s almost no better spot in the world to enjoy it fully than in Patagonia. Much of the region can be quite remote, but El Chaltén is Argentina’s trekking capital, and as such there are plenty of hostels there, and the whole town is totally chilled out. It also draws plenty of solo travelers who are open and happy to meet others to share the trails with, some of whom I met and hiked with when I was there (albeit not solo myself), and we left as new friends.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: With its constant catcalls, South America can sometimes feel stressful for solo female travelers, but this trekking town is different. It’s full of nature-loving artists and hippies who are welcoming, as well as hikes that are full enough of people that even if you show up solo, you can easily meet others on the trails. So, you could spend time in town just chilling and relaxing, or you could join glacier hikes, learn how to rock climb, or go on camping excursions, all of which accommodate solo travelers.

5. Iceland

Reveling in nature in Iceland
It hit me as I was staring up at the Northern Lights in Iceland, watching them swirl and snake across the sky in flashes of green, that this has got to be, hands-down, one of the most unique and drop-dead gorgeous places on this planet, with its black sand beaches, icy fjords, and those huggable, iconic ponies. Where else can you see the northern lights, geysers, and incredible land formations all in one spot? I saw so many waterfalls, I stopped counting anymore or even paying attention. That’s how abundant the natural beauty is!

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Iceland is the safest country in the world. Seriously, people leave their cars running, with the keys inside, when they go grocery shopping. That’s how high the level of trust between people is! Plus, the capital draws so many solo travelers on layovers from the US that it won’t be hard to meet someone cool at your hostel to split a car rental with for a day trip like the Golden Circle or even a longer journey like the Ring Road.

6. Ylläs, Finland

Snowcapped trees and a beautiful sky in Ylläs, Finland
When thinking about an escape, heading to the Arctic during the winter was not exactly at the top of my list, but after experiencing how amazing the Arctic could be in Iceland, I went for it: Lapland, Finland, in January.

I found that when the weather is so cold that it drops to 30° below freezing, the air becomes incredibly crisp. Also, that far north, the sun barely sits on the horizon during the short time that it’s out, creating an an unusual combination sunrise/sunset.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: The locals are so darn amiable that you’re sure to make a few friends, especially if you head to the female-owned-and-run Aurora Estate, where the owners can help you plan some awesome excursions snowmobiling and snowshoeing. The region is also home to the only ski slopes in the country, which tend to draw solo travelers. Head to an after-ski bar, join a husky safari, or talk to the locals in Snowman World (ice bar and restaurant). Who knows? You might catch the Northern Lights, too!

7. Big Sur, California

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California
I call California home, but for some reason it took me until I was 29 to finally visit Big Sur — and I couldn’t believe what I had been missing: the rocky coastline, whales breaching in the distance, dolphins just about every time I looked at the horizon, and waterfalls in the state parks. It’s no wonder that the Central Coast has long enchanted actors, poets, and writers (just crack open any book by Jack Kerouac and you’re bound to read at least a little bit about coastal California, particularly Big Sur).

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Camping in Big Sur is the perfect opportunity to meet others, because campers are friendly. Chances are good you can make a pal at the very next camping spot, especially if you offer them a locally-brewed beer. The hustle and bustle of Los Angeles turns some visitors off, so if what you’re seeking is some incredible nature, just head five hours north and you’ll be in paradise. How can you stare up at a redwood tree (some of the largest and oldest trees in the world) and not feel moved?

8. Bayfield, Wisconsin

Incredible caves in Bayfield, Wisconsin
Those who have never been to Bayfield might be scratching their heads, wondering how Wisconsin made this list. But trust me on this one, because it’s a unique Midwest gem.

It’s a tiny town full of artists, and people are incredibly friendly, living up to that Midwestern charm. Just about every person I met there seemed to have the time to stop and talk to me.

And you absolutely cannot beat the amazing sea caves! There’s something really special about kayaking through them. Or jump on a boat, sail around Lake Superior, and live a bit like Robinson Crusoe.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: I was afraid that Bayfield might be lonely since it initially seems like a family destination, but I made friends easily on kayaking tours around the caves, which accommodated me as a solo traveler, and found it easy to speak to people working in the restaurants and even on the sidewalk. Plus, it’s a safe place with low to no crime, so as a solo female traveler, you can even camp alone and enjoy the solitude.

9. Sossusvlei, Namibia

The desert in Sossusvlei, Namibia
It might seem like a barren desert isn’t the place to enjoy by yourself, but I have found it to be quite the opposite. That kind of space to think and feel can really be incredible for personal development. Plus, in Namibia it’s warm and dry, so the sky is absolutely incredible for stargazing.

Climbing up and around Dune 45 at sunrise was a beautiful experience for me. After everyone else descended, I stayed up top to explore a bit more — and I had the whole view to myself. Can you imagine sitting in one of nature’s biggest sandboxes and having it feel like it’s all yours? My inner six-year-old rejoiced.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Namibia is adventurous and social without feeling dangerous. All of the backpackers and camping accommodations have pools and other common areas, which makes it easy to meet others if you’re solo. It’s also a gorgeous destination in Africa that isn’t crowded and chaotic, and is more about the peace and space than anything else. In a country of only two million people, your biggest worry is the scorpions (for real, though — watch out for those!).

You can also join a tour or safari and meet plenty of other solo travelers. It’s what I did, and what Matt did too when visiting the area.

10. Berlin, Germany

Gritty street art in Berlin, Germany
How did a big city make this list? Well, Berlin is not just any city; it’s full of artists and has been for the past 30 or so years. It’s hard not to feel inspired in a place where so many people make their living by creating and honoring their passions. This is why I’ve also made it my home base and became a resident of Germany. I just couldn’t be without this funky place for too long!

Though it’s the capital, Berlin doesn’t feel crowded because it is so spread out. And with so many big parks in just about every neighborhood, peace and quiet is easy to come by.

Why it’s great for solo female travelers: Berlin draws many solo travelers, and it’s easy to meet others. It’s also a socially progressive city with a low violent crime rate that’s simple to navigate and easy to love. Take a street art tour and combine everything at once! There are also tons of expats, so check out a Meetup.com group or a Couchsurfing event to get a mix of visitors and those who are more familiar with the city.

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While solo traveling and soul-searching don’t lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all approach, generally the places that draw solo travelers are the ones that are the most interesting and unique, provide opportunities to enjoy nature and connect with others (and with yourself). Regardless of which place you’re targeting in the world, with these options covering just about every continent and style of travel, you can find a place that suits you.

Conquering Mountains: The Guide to Solo Female Travel

conquering mountains: solo female travel by kristin addisFor a complete A-to-Z guide on solo female travel, check out Kristin’s new book, Conquering Mountains. Besides discussing many of the practical tips of preparing and planning your trip, the book addresses the fears, safety, and emotional concerns women have about traveling alone. It features over 20 interviews with other female travel writers and travelers. Click here to learn more about the book and start reading it today!

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.

Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

10 Great Gay Hotspots Around the World

rainbow flags waving at LGBT festival
I’ve added an LGBT column for the website to make the site more inclusive and talk about issues that affect some members of our community. In this column, we hear from voices in the LGBT community about their experiences on the road, safety tips, events, and overall advice for other LGBT travelers! Returning this month is our column leader, Adam from travelsofadam.com

The great thing about travel today is that more of the world is accessible and open — no matter your sexuality or gender identity. While there have been ups and downs in the political movement for LGBT equality, major cities still provide the safest and friendliest spots for LGBT individuals.

I’ve been traveling around the world since 2009 and have visited some of the world’s most popular LGBT-friendly destinations along the way. I’ve marched and danced in Gay Pride parades from Sydney to Stockholm and been to more queer music festivals than I ever even imagined existed.

As the Orlando Pulse shooting reminded us, the gay club is still an important place to find culture and community. And there are still cities that really strut their LGBT history and queer identity, so we need to hang on to them.

There are many more gay-friendly hotspots around the world, but these are 10 of my favorites because of their history of activism, the number of diverse LGBT events they host, and the fact that they’re just really cool cities. If you are a gay traveler looking for a city that has it all, check out one of these:

Berlin

a man painted in silver at a LGBT pride event in Berlin
Germany’s capital has a unique place in gay history. In the 1920s Weimar era, it was one of Europe’s most liberal cities — home to gaudy cabaret and the site of one of the first gay villages. Today, Berlin’s free-spirited attitude has propelled it to the top of many “best of” lists thanks to 24-hour nightlife, a burgeoning art and food scene, and a diverse, international population.

Historically, the gay center of Berlin was around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg, an area still popular for its fetish clubs and leather bars, not to mention the legendary Folsom Europe street party each September (and where you’ll also find a gay history museum). But in today’s Berlin, the new gay hotspots are found throughout the Kreuzberg and Neukölln neighborhoods in indie bars and clubs such as SchwuZ, SilverFuture, or The Club. Berlin’s legendary nightlife shines through queer parties that are increasingly not just for LGBT people — everything from the techno-fueled weekends at Berghain to KitKat Club’s bi-monthly Gegen party.

When to visit: Visit Berlin during the summer, when the city comes alive with countless festivals, open-air parties, and queer events. The annual Christopher Street Day parade (Gay Pride) is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists each June.

Manchester

a plaque dedicated to alan turing in manchester england
While London still holds an important place in the UK’s LGBT scene, Manchester plays host to a number of the biggest and best LGBT events in the country. Once the home to iconic gay hero Alan Turing, Manchester became internationally famous from the 1990s Queer as Folk TV series set in and around the city’s gay neighborhood, Canal Street.

Today, Canal Street is still filled with bars, clubs, and other gay-owned businesses — from the pretty and glitzy Richmond Tea Rooms to popular nightclubs like G-A-Y and Poptastic. Manchester’s Northern Quarter, with its trendy bars, underground rock clubs, and small indie art galleries, has also become a gay hotspot a little further removed from the twinky, tank top–filled Canal Street.

When to visit: Manchester Pride is the UK’s largest, taking place each September, but other queer events happen year-round, such as the trans-focused Sparkle Festival in July and the Queer Contact arts festival each winter.

Dallas

gay pride parade held in Dallas Texas
Maybe it’s not the first LGBT-friendly place you think of in the United States, but Dallas, Texas, has become a hotspot in the past decade. The Oak Lawn neighborhood is the epicenter of LGBT culture there, with many gay bars and LGBT-owned businesses on Cedar Springs Road, as well as in the nearby Bishop Arts District. Legendary nightlife venues like Station 4 and the Round-Up Saloon attract big crowds each weekend with their drag shows, square dancing, and other special events. And for those looking for slightly more offbeat travel adventures, the nearby Wildcatter Ranch is a gay-friendly cowboy resort.

When to visit: Dallas Pride takes place each September, but the Oak Lawn neighborhood also comes alive, full of color and costumes, each Halloween for the annual Oak Lawn Halloween Block Party.

Los Angeles

a plaque for Christopher Street, where the first gay pride parade in Los Angeles started
With its seemingly endless warm weather, sunshine, and meticulously manicured population, Los Angeles has been one of the United States’ most gay-friendly cities for a long time. So much so that since 1969 there’s been an LGBT center in the city that now boasts it serves more LGBT individuals than any other organization in the world. You’ll also find the ONE Archives Foundation, tasked with recording LGBT history by preserving historical artifacts, publications, and testimonies. Culturally, Los Angeles is famous for being the global cinematic capital, but it also has world-class restaurants and museums, such as LACMA and the Getty Museum.

Then there’s the nightlife, including West Hollywood’s gay clubs and bars, such as crowd favorites The Abbey and Flaming Saddles. Outside of the “gay ghetto” of WeHo, Silver Lake is a popular gay hotspot. There, you’ll find The Black Cat, site of the first documented LGBT civil rights demonstration in the US and now a popular brunch hangout. For nightlife in Silver Lake, Akbar draws the bearded hipster crowd with its small dance parties.

When to visit: The LA Pride Music Festival and Parade takes place each June in West Hollywood, with hundreds of thousands of spectators, but if summertime is too hot, the biggest gay party of the year is the free Halloween Carnival, a street party on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Buenos Aires

gay pride flag hanging from Argentinian building in Buenos Aires
Argentina was the first South American country to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption rights, putting the country at the forefront of LGBT equality since 2010. The capital Buenos Aires has benefited, with a large and vibrant LGBT culture.

The areas of Recoleta, Palermo, and San Telmo are where you’ll find the largest concentration of gay bars and nightlife. Palermo, with trendy bars, cafés, shops, and restaurants in its Soho district, offers a lot of cool things to see and do — from the Latin pop and drag at Jolie Club (Fiesta Jolie) every Wednesday to the gay-friendly underground speakeasies (such as the new Victoria Brown Bar).

The gay community in Buenos Aires is relatively out and open, but the culture is more subdued than other over-the-top gay destinations. But still, you’ll find LGBT life fairly well integrated in society, with many tango bars and clubs even offering queer tango lessons and dance nights.

When to visit: Buenos Aires Pride takes place in November, at the beginning of the southern hemisphere’s summer season.

Bangkok

men dressed in pink performing in gay pride parade in bangkok
A longtime favorite for LGBT tourists, Bangkok has a lot to offer, making it one of Asia’s most popular gay destinations. The fun and friendly gay scene is centered around the Silom neighborhood, specifically the streets known as Soi 2 and Soi 4. Bangkok’s best gay nightlife is at DJ Station every weekend, specifically the midnight drag shows each Friday. Telephone Pub on Soi 4 serves as an early evening hangout with drag shows and pub food, while G.O.D. (Guys on Display) draws the after-hour crowds when all the other gay bars close down for the night.

While Thailand hasn’t recognized many LGBT rights, many tourists will find the city surprisingly open-minded. And while you’ll find some seedy sex clubs throughout the city, Bangkok’s legendary shopping and culinary scenes make it equally interesting for travelers with more discerning tastes. Also: look out for gay events at Bangkok’s luxury hotels such as the Sofitel So, which runs regular gay parties on its rooftop bar and pool lounge.

When to visit: One of the biggest and best events in Bangkok is the annual Songkran water festival in April, with the largest circuit party, called gCircuit, takes place in Silom — with all the trappings of every other international circuit party (think: hunky shirtless guys and lots of electronic music raging day and night).

Dublin

global gay pride parade in Dublin Ireland
When Ireland passed same-sex marriage laws in mid-2015, the country became the first in the world to offer equal rights by popular vote. At the head of Dublin’s LGBT scene sits local icon and activist Panti Bliss, who has been at the forefront of Ireland’s LGBT movement and owns the popular club Panti Bar. Gay pub The George also plays host to Dublin’s best LGBT events, with regular drag and karaoke nights.

When to visit: Paying homage to Dublin’s important place in literary history, the city plays host to the annual International Gay Theatre Festival each May. The festival began in 2004 to mark the 150th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s birth and has since become the world’s largest queer theatre festival. Wilde, one of Dublin’s most important literary figures, has a statue commemorating his life in Merrion Square Park (near his birthplace). The park is also where Dublin Pride takes place each June.

Stockholm

a rainbow flag at stockholm's gay pride event
Famous for cold winters, sunny summers, and trendsetting Swedes all year long, Stockholm has a strange mix of art, fashion, culture, and design — and one of Scandinavia’s best LGBT scenes. Sweden is also one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to LGBT and women’s rights.

The LGBT scene is spread throughout the city. From the underground indie club King Kong to the kitschy ABBA Museum, there’s something for everyone in the city. During the summer months, the Mälarpaviljongen restaurant (located on a set of floating docks) hosts a number of LGBT events, fundraisers, and parties.

When to visit: Stockholm Pride each August is the biggest gay event of the year, with big music acts, parties, and public seminars on everything from fetish training to human rights.

Toronto

lgbt people marching together in toronto canada
Home to Canada’s largest LGBT community, Toronto has a vibrant and lively gay village. The intersecting streets of Church and Wellesley feature a number of gay-owned bars and businesses. The area comes alive each night with locals and visitors, most famously at Woody’s, one of the best clubs on Church Street.

But Toronto’s gay-friendliness extends elsewhere in the city, such as the West Queen West and Trinity Bellwoods neighborhoods. Take a walk down Ossington Avenue, College Street, or Queen Street West (bordering these neighborhoods) for a number of cool, queer-friendly businesses, from Toronto’s best macaroons at Nadege Patisserie to the monthly Yes Yes Y’all queer hip-hop and dancehall party.

When to visit: Too cold in the winter, Toronto is best in the summer when it’s sunny and full of color. Pride Toronto — one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations — attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. Other popular events include the Inside Out LGBT film festival which takes place over two weeks at the beginning of each summer, showcasing more than 200 queer-themed films alongside artist talks, premieres, and industry panels.

Sydney

sydney opera house decorated in rainbow colors to celebrate gay pride
While Australia is currently arguing over same-sex marriage equality, Sydney remains a beacon of gay-friendliness on the continent. With Sydney’s progressive attitudes, beautiful beaches, and an active arts scene, the city is as vibrant as ever.

The Darlinghurst neighborhood, just south of Hyde Park on Oxford Street, serves as the unofficial gay neighborhood. Palms on Oxford, with its pop hits, hosts some of the biggest parties each weekend and is a longtime favorite for locals and tourists. But the areas of Surrey Hills and Newtown further out from the city center, with their cool cafés, trendy bars, and small, indie basement clubs (like the Tokyo Sing-Song bar) are also accessible and mostly gay-friendly areas.

When to visit: Sydney’s annual Pride takes shape in the form of Mardi Gras (February/March). It’s one of the world’s largest Pride parades and features weeks of events and parties. It’s a colorful event, with crowds that fill the streets and parks of Sydney all day and night.

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Here’s the thing: just about any city in the world can be a “gay hotspot” — it’s always a matter of knowing where is safe and how to meet locals. Planning your visit around LGBT events — from film festivals and Pride parades to political activist seminars — is a pretty solid way to make any holiday that much more gay.

Adam Groffman is a former graphic designer living in Berlin, Germany. He’s a gay travel expert, writer, and blogger and publishes a series of LGBT-friendly Hipster City Guides from around the world on his gay travel blog, Travels of Adam. When he’s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he’s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. Find more of his travel tips (and embarrassing stories) on Twitter @travelsofadam.

P.S. Want to meet some cool travelers? The Nomadic Matt team is hosting a bunch of meet-ups around the U.S. over the next few months! You can find out how to join one of them (they are free) by clicking here! We’re even giving away prizes to attendees!

Photo credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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How To Save Money in Dubai

View of Dubai from one of its tall skyscrapers
Dubai is a big stopover destination for travelers flying Emirates Airlines as they transit around the world (or Etihad passengers if they decide to visit from Abu Dhabi). As explored the city, I was shocked at the cost of everything — from taxis to dinners to basic goods.

The rumors I heard were true: Dubai was expensive.

But like every destination (except maybe Bermuda), there are plenty of ways to save and visit on a budget if you look beneath the surface.

Today, I’m going to show you how to save money in Dubai as well as some of my favorite activities:

How to Save Money in Dubai

Dubai skyscrapers lit up at night
Dubai doesn’t have to bust your budget but it easily can if you aren’t careful! Like most cities with extremely high prices, many of the city’s residents have found tips and tricks on how to squeeze every last dirham possible.

Use Groupon – Groupon is huge in Dubai, and you can find tons of discounts, 2-for-1 specials, and deals on the website. If there is something you want to do, check there first as there is a high chance you’ll find a discount.

Get The Entertainer The Entertainer, a magazine found in many countries (even in the Maldives!), offers discounts and specials on restaurants, hotels, and activities. There’s one for the UAE that all locals swear by. You’ll get 2-for-1 specials and discounts on attractions, restaurants, drinks, clubs, them parks, and hotels. You can pick up a copy when you arrive in Dubai at supermarkets and bookstores, or find an online version on their website (the app costs 445 AED or $121 USD). The hard copy costs 495 AED ($134 USD) but can quickly pay for itself.

Find a cheap brunch – I strongly advise attending brunch, as it’s a tradition among locals in Dubai and quite fun. Every Friday, locals flock to a midday buffet of unlimited drinks and food. As the day goes on, it often turns into debauchery that would make Nero proud. However, brunch is not a cheap affair, with some costing as much as 700 AED ($190 USD). Therefore, knowing where the deals are very important.

Tenth Street is only 295 AED ($80 USD) for unlimited food and drinks (which you can order multiples of at a time).  Warehouse, Rock Bottom, and Waxy O’Conners are also cheap. For a good alcohol free brunch, try More or Beirut.

You can ask people on Couchsurfing too. There’s an active Dubai group on the site.

Attend a happy hour – The lifeblood of any drinker, happy hours are where you can go to save a buck: from McGettigan’s drink specials (29 AED ($8 USD) for selected house drinks) to Agency’s 100 AED ($27 USD) bottle of wines. Dubai is FULL of happy hours (and drink specials can be found in The Entertainer too). To see what current happy hours there are in Dubai, check out:

Moreover, check out the app Guzzler, which also lists the current best happy hours in the city.

Get pizza for lunch – Tucked into The Dubai Mall — near the entrance used to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa — is a place called Debonairs. It’s located right in the food court on the ground floor and has a pizza-and-drink lunch special for 15 AED ($4 USD). It’s one of the best bargains I found. The pizzas are small (you can upsize for 22 AED ($6 USD)) but filling enough for lunch.

Eat in old Dubai – Step away from the hotels, malls, and fancy souks meant to make you think you are in Aladdin and head into Old Dubai for cheap eats. Meals at restaurants in this area generally cost 20-30 AED ($5-8 USD). I really loved Al Usted, an Iranian restaurant near the Al Fahidi metro.

Take the metro – While the metro only really cuts through the middle of the city, it does go to the marina, airport, and Old Dubai. At 8 AED ($2 USD), it’s cheaper than any taxi. If you have to go somewhere away from the metro, take a taxi from the metro stop nearest your destination. You’ll save time and about 30 AED ($8 USD). Otherwise, most taxis are 40-60 AED ($11-16 USD) for anywhere in the center of town.

Know where the cheap accommodation is – Nice hotels in Dubai are fairly expensive ($150-200 USD per night). All the major hotel chains have locations there, so if you have hotel points, use them. Point redemptions are a bargain here. I used my SPG points for a night at the Sheraton for 10,000 points! (Read more on travel hacking.)

However, if you lack hotel points or simply don’t want to stay in one, there is a very active Couchsurfing community in the city. I would definitely recommend contacting residents before you visit and see if anyone has a room.

Very basic hotels can be found for $40-50 USD per night on Booking.com and on Airbnb the private rooms in the $35-45 USD range (if you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay here).

There are also three hostels in town that cost $15-25 USD for six- to ten-bed dorm rooms. (I didn’t stay in any of them, but some Couchsurfers told me they weren’t great.)

Skip the booze – Outside the happy hours and all-you-can-eat brunches, drinking is expensive ($10 USD beers, $15 USD glasses of wine), so I would go easy on the drinking during your visit.

Where to Go in Dubai

The beautiful Jumeirah Mosque -- FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/photos/phareannah/3216054008/sizes/l
Dubai doesn’t have a lot of traditional “things to do” — it’s not Paris, London, Hong Kong. But it does have enough attractions to fill a few days. My favorites include the following:

Burj Khalifa – The tallest building in the world lets you go up to the 128th floor for 100 AED ($27 USD). From there, you get panoramic views of the city and desert. When I went it was pretty hazy, but it still made for a beautiful contrast. I would highly recommend it (but don’t pay 500 AED ($136 USD) for the 148th floor. It’s not that much of a difference!). At night, the building is illuminated by a spectacular light show of fish, palm trees, and other scenes while the fountain below dances to music.

The Dubai Mall – This was one of my favorite malls simply for the cool aquarium, ice skating rink, movie theater, large bookstore (though it didn’t have my book), and all the little cafés that dot the mall. It’s worth a wander. You’ll see a lot of people just hanging out here, drinking coffee, reading a book, chatting, and escaping the heat.

Jumeirah Mosque – This beautiful mosque is one of two in the city you can actually visit. It’s small, consisting of one large room but there is a guided tour take place each day at 10am. It’s 20 AED ($5.50 USD), comes with a great breakfast spread, and is more cultural information on Islam than a tour, but if you don’t know much about Islam or the role it plays in the UAE, it’s pretty interesting.

The Palm Jumeirah – On this famous palm tree shaped island, you’ll find a large shopping walkway, the Atlantis resort, Aquaventure waterpark, and a host of fancy restaurants, bars, and clubs. It’s beautiful to walk around and explore during the day (at night, it’s pretty boring!)

The Marina – The marina area is surrounded by tall buildings and contains a beautiful boardwalk. You can see the fancy boats and get some stunning photographs of the harbor and skyline. Be sure to checkout Pier 7, which is seven floors of restaurants and bars on the water. I liked Asia Asia, with its gaudy Asian theme (it has 2-for-1 specials in The Entertainer too!).

Souk Madinat Jumeirah – This souk (market) is a modern building designed to look like something out of Aladdin, but it’s home to some incredible restaurants, like Agency, a modern wine bar with a huge selection of wines and yummy meat and cheese plates. There’s a beautiful inner courtyard pond in this complex, too.

Dubai Museum – A small museum in Old Dubai with not a lot of information but some really cool displays. It teaches you the history and culture of Dubai and life in the desert. At $1 USD admission, you can’t go wrong.

Old Dubai – This is Dubai as it used to be. Markets (like the famous gold market) pepper the area, small merchant shops line the streets, and you can get lost in a maze of alleyways! Take a boat across the river, wander aimlessly, visit the Dubai Museum, eat at some of the traditional restaurants (there’s also a lot of good Indian food here), explore the art district, and see Dubai as it is away from the glitz of the malls and high-rises.

Visit the desert
– I didn’t get a chance to do this during my visit but everyone – from friends to travelers to locals – said this is one of the best things to do in Dubai. Take a day trip or spend a night out in the desert. It’s supposed to be beautiful.

Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/