Getting out of Rome can be not only refreshing, but imperative to leaving Italy with a positive outlook. Just a short tube and one hour bus away (3.5 euro), this town offers historic villas, expansive views of the Roman Campagna, and great food on a backpackers dime. Depending on what you want to see, this town can eat up half a day or take sun up to sun down, it is all about your speed and pocket.
Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este are UNESCO World Heritage sites from Roman times. Each cost about 8 euro respectively and though we had seen enough Roman history by this point, I have heard good things from those who did make it through the ruins
Rocca Pia is a 16th century castle, perfectly preserved and set in the center of the city. Open hours fluctuate based on time of year and from the top are said to be incredible panoramic views
The winding streets and street art provide a wonderful atmosphere for a walk, with winding path full of window plants, Italian hellos, and various photo opportunities
Few of the locals speak English, but they are friendly and even attempts at Latin are met with smiles
Beer is incredibly cheap, around 1.3 euro at a restaurant
Buses pass through the city constantly, and can be caught at several points throughout the day
Great food can be had at the Pizzeria near the overlook, the staff is friendly and I spent 12 euro to feed two people, with two beers and leftovers for dinner/breakfast
Easily one of the smallest capital cities I have seen around the globe, Dublin retains the small town vibe on a large scale. There are no skyscrapers or traditional business districts, instead the Guinness tower is the only building breaking the skyline while a few old church spires peak above the neighborhoods. One can easily walk one end to the other in an hour, and even if you start at the Whiskey Museum and hit pubs all the way to the Jameson Distillery for a drink, the layout is very easy to navigate on a stumble (personally tested in the name of helping my fellow traveler).
Isaac’s Hostel is the place to stay, budget friendly (book in advance, prices vary by season), it has a sauna, washroom, hot water, breakfast, great community spaces, and killer staff. Check out the display by the front door to receive discounts to a variety of attractions. Easy 5 minute walk to the shopping street, 15 to the Whiskey Museum, and under 20 to most the pubs
From the airport take the Airlink if you are in a hurry (book roundtrip for about 13 euro, comes with WiFi and a short trip with one stop in the city centre and the other at Heuston Station). If money is better than time, walk just outside for the local bus, it will add 25 minutes to your ride but is only 2.30 Euro each way and all the stops are a great way to start building a mental map of the city
Any drinking enthusiast needs to visit the Whiskey Museum, the whiskey flights are the heaviest pours I received in all of Europe and discount tickets are given out at all tourist spots and hostels.
Jameson Distillery has an entire bar of just Jameson drinks and is a 5 minute walk from the main pedestrian area, again discount cards everywhere
Guinness is for those of you who have never had a real stout and think you know beer, go up to the tower for a free pint. (Drink O’Haras for the best stout in western Europe instead)
Dublin Castle and the surrounding old structures are well worth the peruse, and most city maps include them as points of interest
Trinity College has stood for centuries as an active center of knowledge in the middle of Dublin, entrance is permitted until 1600
Walk to the Dublin Heuston station to catch a cheap train to all parts of island, only 20 minutes along the river from the center of town, book in advance for more affordable tickets
Irish food is great, but save money and go to the market. Most hostels have kitchens and the market is cheap
Pub crawls are a must here, with Backpacker Crawl my favorite for meeting people and the guide is a great bloke. You will hear live music, go to clubs, sample some great beers, and if your lucky make some great friends. (I still stay in touch with the people I met on my crawl). You can go back free for life if you keep the bracelet!
Since 1198, the Brazen Head has been serving beer and whiskey, and they don’t intend to stop soon. It is a bit pricey and full of tourist, but at the end of the day its one of the oldest bars in the world and worth the bragging rights.
I have been to London a handful of times now, and though it is far from one of my favorite cities, it is worth a couple of days if you can figure out how to not break the bank.
Transit in London varies prices based on the time of day, if going to or from the airport, always book online in advance. Use the National Express buses to save the most money, but they take roughly 2 hours from the airport to Victoria station (roughly 10 pound compared to the 16 or so for the half hour tube)
Stay at Clink78 by Kings Cross Station for a great central location with cheap drinks in the underground bar and a easy social atmosphere (roughly 13 pound a night)
Wetherspoons is the go to bar for cheap food, good beer, and the best prices in London. They have multiple locations across the city and one in Gatwick airport
Walk everywhere. From Kings Cross it is under a two hour walk to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, the British Museum, and a dozen other local attractions. The city is easy to navigate after you get a rough lay of the land
To get outside the main tourist area check out Notting Hill, just beyond Hyde Park for the chance to see the more upscale end of London living or Shorteditch for a more hipster art vibe
Beer is not great in London, and Gin is the only go to in the pub if you insist on trying something local
November is a great time to go, wonderful Christmas markets, less tourist (cheaper everything), and the weather is pretty fair with a chance of snow
Museums are free, so if London is breaking the bank or the weather is foul, just head inside for hours of history
Nearly every place in London accepts card, there is no reason to get coin unless you plan to ride the bus or buy something off the street
Buy from the market and cook! You will get pounds more food for your pound and the chance to try a larger variety of locally sourced products
If leaving London for other European countries, I recommend flying out of Stansted for the cheapest flights (I was able to fly to Stockholm for 11 USD in December and 13 USD to Rome in November)
I loved Sofia and I plan to return to the Balkans as soon as possible to spend more time crossing these beautiful countries. The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is full of art and parks, with great eats, beer, and of course, snow dots the soviet era buildings in the winter time. A budget backpacker could easily survive here for a month on a 300 USD budget.
Stay at Hostel Mostel, rooms start at 7 USD and if you stay in any room beyond the basic you get all you can eat breakfast and a dinner dish with a beer. Accommodation includes a free nightly pub crawl, nice communal area, kitchen, towel, linens, and wifi. 5 minute walk to all major nightlife and 25 minute walk to the central train/bus station
The city if full of mosques, churches, art, parks, ancient ruins, and statues. It be walked from one end to the other in an hour in a straight line, but I recommend a varied approach in order to see the most possible
Travel in the winter to enjoy the snow and see the surrounding terrain at its most beautiful
Eat at the bakeries and drink anywhere
ATMs have no fees, but your bank may still charge you. Many places do not accept Visa or card at all
Nis (Neesh) is a wonderful city in Serbia. Everything is within walking distance and the food is wonderful.
Visit the Fortress in the city centre to see Turkish, Ottoman, Byzantine, Roman, and Serbian historical structures
Skull tower is a several hundred year stone tower with actual skulls set into the walls
Crveni Krst Concentration Camp is well preserved and takes about a half hour to fully explore. It is the site of the largest escape by prisoners in WWII
There is also a one room museum near the walking street in town. A ticket for the Camp, tower, and museum together will only set you back 200 dinara (less than 2 USD) but separately will cost a total of 450 da
Eat the street food, it is delicious and cheap (less than a dollar in most cases)
In the winter there is no one here, making the visit feel more authentic and leaving much time to get to know the locals
The airport is only a 45 min walk from the city center (5km), 200 dinara bus, or a 4 USD taxi ride
I will start by saying that Spokane is not a must-visit location in Washington by any means. Ideally the next decade will see the city join the friendly, eco-loving, and not-so conservative rest of the PNW, but until then be prepared to hear a lot of bigotry and conservative radio damning the 90% of the world who is not meeting the WASP standard. But if for some reason you do end up in the eastern part of the state, there are some serious good finds hidden among the abyss that make it worth the trip.
General note: Watch your gear and car wherever you choose to go in Spokane, locals complained of broken windows and Park Rangers said theft is common
Minnehaha – Located at John C Shields park and not at Minnehaha park that is down the street, there are 100+ boulders and dozens of trad/TR routes. The sport climbing is limited and you need several long slings to rig a safe anchor no matter what you climb, but it is easy to have a fun day out here and its only 15 minutes from downtown.
McLellan – Multiple locals mentioned this as a top notch spot to skip the crowds and get some good climbing in, sadly we didn’t have time to add it to our weekend but its on the must for the next time back
Mountainproject includes 8 more locations and since they already list them, I won’t bother considering I have no firsthand experience in the area
Bloc Yard – Similar to the Circuit we have here in Portland area, and set by a former Circuit setter, Bloc Yard is a great bouldering gym to crush a few great problems and get kombucha on tap. Complete with a parking lot just 10 minutes from downtown, be sure to check out Groupon for regular deals before jumping on a route or two (we got our day pass for two with shoes for $21)
Wild Walls – My friend has a regular membership and we did a quick tour after our pump at Bloc Yard. Sitting right on the edge of downtown, Wild Walls has some great rope options and a nice mezzanine workout area. The walls are at least 40 feet high, there is a sick crack, and a small bouldering cove. There is a yoga studio on the ground floor and the staff were quite friendly. They even host events like black out climbing (climbers just using headlamps) and it looks like they are in the works of further developing the space (they moved into an existing, shared building). Again check out Groupon for rotating deals (Last week there was $16 one week of climbing, rentals, yoga, and a basic climbing class)
Where to Crash
We camped at Bowl & Pitcher for $20/night. From the campsite we were 20 minutes from 5 of the climbing sites, both gyms, downtown, and a 2 minute walk from the suspension bridge/hiking trails
The nearest free camping is in the National Forest is just over an hour away
The Nyne Bar & Bistro had a great Halloween party, with live music, cheap beer ($3.50) and a line out the door. Bartenders were friendly and the atmosphere was worth a revisit for sure
Revolver is a a dive popular with college students that offers $1 domestic beers on Thursday nights just a few minutes from downtown
Check out Brew Brothers for a cozy and friendly coffee shop downtown, but also be ready for the homeless to gather on the couches and discuss conservative politics while you want to enjoy your coffee racism free
Don’t want to eat the standard American food crap? Don’t worry, I got you covered.
My Fresh Basket has you covered for health foods, not the cheapest but its centrally located and has a good variety
The Main Market Coop is another great option for healthy eats and paleo treats, with tons of local options
Home of Western Washington University (my alma mater), Bellingham is one of the biggest cities in Washington and home to a culture all it’s own. There are more types of recycling than colors in the rainbow and locals spend twice as much to buy products that are locally sourced.
Visit the Coop for local foods and vegan/vegetarian options
AB Crepes is one of the best local eats, opened by two former WWU students, it is affordable and stays open as late as there are customers
Vital Climbing Gym is a 24/7 bouldering gym with a great environment and one of the best communities I have ever had the privilege being part of. They always have dogs inside and you can add your own music to the playlist while climbing, training, or on the slackline
Tour Western for a gorgeous campus full of interactive art and a view of Bellingham bay
Hike or climb in the Arboretum, the large forested hill in the center of town, with miles of trails past a few pot smoking hippies and plenty of families out enjoying the weather, rain or shine