June 2011: Questions & Answers

Croatian Mail BoxI’ve just arrived in Valencia, Spain where I’ll be speaking at a social media conference on Thursday and watching the Formula 1 race on Sunday. It has been a crazy week flying from Istanbul to Vancouver to the Yukon and now back to Europe.

However, it is time once again to open up the old email bag and answer the questions that the world is dying to know the answers to:

Joel Pennington asks: Which country/region is about to explode onto the travel scene? why?

There are a couple of criteria I’ll use in determining what places will be the next big travel destinations:

  1. I have to have been there. There might be other places, but if I haven’t been there, I have no idea what they are like.
  2. They have to be places the that get below average numbers of tourists.
  3. There has to be some compelling reason to go there

With that in mind, I’d say the following countries could become big draws over the next few years:

  • Oman: A very clean country with great infrastructure. Unlike its next door neighbor of Dubai, you really get a sense that you are in an Arab country when you are here. I haven’t met anyone who has been to Oman who didn’t enjoy it. It is an easy flight or drive for people flying into Dubai.
  • Laos: While lacking the tourism infrastructure of its neighbor Thailand, Laos is becoming more and more popular with the backpacking crowd. It is often compared to Thailand of 20 or 30 years ago. Where the backpackers go, they usually return when they are older and that will probably be the case with Laos.
  • Slovenia: One of the cheaper countries in the EU, it is located about halfway between Venice and Vienna. Ljubljana is a small city as European capitols go and is very picturesque. The cost of living, location and wide spread use of English I think will make Slovenia more attractive in the next few years.
  • Romania: Romania is perhaps the cheapest European country I’ve visited (along with Bulgaria). Getting around in Romania is as easy as it is in France, Spain or Italy. Bucharest is a large city with a reasonably vibrant culture. I’d have no problem going back to Bucharest. The whole vampire thing is also a big draw for some people. I think people backpacking through Europe will eventually gravitate towards this place.

Don Faust asks: You recently got back from some former eastern block European nations. What is the not-so-obvious place that someone visiting some of countries should definitely see?

Here are the places I thought were the most interesting that are not capitol cities:

  • Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic:
  • Velinko Toronov, Blugaria
  • Belogradchik, Bulgaria
  • Sigishora, Romania

I only visited Budapest and Bratislava when I was in Hungary and Slovakia, so I didn’t get a chance to see anything else outside of the capitols.

My time in Eastern Europe was pretty limited. I only spent about a month total there, so I wouldn’t declare myself as an expert.

One thing I would recommend if you are in Prague is to visit the Hotel Jalta and ask to see their bomb shelter. The hotel is located right on Wenceslas Square and contains a bomb shelter used during the Soviet Era to house Warsaw Pact generals in the event of a war. It is very cool.

Chris Backe asks: In which countries do you think it’s easy to find work as an outsider / foreigner?

My knowledge on this is pretty sparse because I don’t seek out work visas when I travel. Also, this is large part depends on what you do and where you are from. A doctor from the UK will find it easier to work overseas than a unskilled laborer from Somalia.

That being said, I think one of the best places for skilled, knowledge workers to work is Singapore. They are very aggressive about letting people come and work who can bring value to the country. I met with some people in the government and within 15 minutes they suggested I move there :)

I’ve met lots of backpackers doing agricultural work in Australia, so I don’t think it is too hard to get a work visa there.

The fact is most countries you’ll have to research on an individual basis. Laws everywhere are different as are everyone’s skills. It might be totally different for each person.

Sean E Keener What makes you unique from your perspective?

I have three dimples. I know of no one else that has that. I also have a birthmark under my left armpit that few people know about…..until now.

Mary Jane Murry asks: What are the best ways to minimize foreign currency exchange fees & charges?

Try to avoid using the currency exchange windows at airports. I only use them when I have excess money from the previous place I was at and I need money for transportation. Your best bet would be currency exchange places in town because there is more competition.

The best rates for currency exchange might very well be from your bank via an ATM machine, but ATM fees might change the equation.

Given how long I travel, ATM’s are my sole source of cash. I usually try to take out the maximum I can because the ATM fees are on a per transaction basis, not on a per currency unit basis.

10 thoughts on “June 2011: Questions & Answers”

  1. Cesky Krumlov definitely should not be missed on any Eastern European adventure. Ljubljana is also a great location that seems more like Western Europe.

    Bulgaria is a great country to visit with plenty of amazing sites, but without a friend to help me get around, I would have found it very difficult with everything in Cyrillic.

  2. I thought I read that the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge were going to the Seychelles. If that’s the case I guess that might be even more popular than usual. Also because of the couple in question, Kenya. I just think a lot of people jump at a chance that’s been recently visited by very famous people. But I could be wrong!

  3. Thanks for the info Gary. I’ve always had a particular interest in Budapest, since I know someone who was raised there, and they gave pretty detailed descriptions of the Jewish quarter and general history of the city. I’ve also been curious about Romania – the Transylvania factor might have something to do with it. I’ll have to look up your recommendations.

    Good info on the Schwab bank account from Kate.

  4. i’ve new discovered that blog, and i like so much. i feel i’ll spend so much time here =)

  5. Dude, great blog! My wife and I are expats, living in Taiwan, and we try to do our share of traveling as our schedules allow. Your writing is fantastic. You must have a ton of stories by now.

    I’m sure its been suggested before but couchsurfing.org is a great organization that you should definitely be using. Some of our greatest people meeting experiences have been because of it. If you are ever in Taipei our couch is open.

    All the best,


  6. What other Asian countries aside from Laos? Like and say for example, Burma, the Philippines etc? I’ve seen a lot of improvement also in these countries for them to become the next travel destinations.

    • Burma still has a military government. Until that goes, I don’t think tourism is going to really explode. There are no ATM’s in the country.

      I think the Philippines is already a pretty big destination. Cebu and Boracy in particular.

  7. For saving on currency conversion, I recommend Americans check out Schwab for a bank account — I get refunded all domestic and international ATM fees at the end of the month. Their customer service has always been great as well.

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