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Thousands of Americans attend the Festival of Colors at Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah, USA

So this is how Mormons get high! Thousands of young Americans at the Festival of Colors at Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah, USA in 2013. The Holi Festival of Colour on March 23 is a big hit (literally) in the streets of Kathmandu in Nepal and Indian cities such as fascinating Jaipur, but is also enthusiastically embraced by some western countries, notably Germany and USA. Holi involves everyone throwing coloured water, powder or paint over everyone else, including you. It's an iridescent madhouse. Holi Festival of Colors video further down the page. Photo by Steven Gerner.

 

Vacation Ideas March - April 2016

North AmericaLatin AmericaEurope

AfricaAsiaAustralasia

 

 

March - April

Note that Sunday March 27 is Easter day so the weeks before and after are going to be hectic for tourist accommodation and crowds (book early!) but equally hectic with festivals, though Carnival events are in February in 2016. If you want to confirm festival dates during February and March check our festivals listings here and April dates here.

The Northern Hemisphere is coming out of its winter depression, daylight hours are a decent length, grey skies are morphing into blue and spring flowers are popping up so it's time to celebrate! Now... where to go?

 

Royal reliefs in Palenque, Mexico. Jim

What a relief in Mexico's Palenque! Yes, Mexico has a lot more to offer than beaches, tequila and pyramids. This ruined palace relief still on the walls (as opposed to being in a museum) shows a king being dressed for battle, with hieroglyphs visible on the right. Photo by Jim.

 

Low cost vacation destinations in 2016

Europe

This continent is still cheap or possibly even cheaper due to terrorist and migrant issues. The chance of being involved with the former is about equal to being hit on the head by a coconut while the latter has little impact on tourists now that Angela's open invitation to immigration has been shown to be seriously flawed and police/military/intelligence services have upped their game considerably. And fences are being built...
Bugbog is currently based in Nice, France, and we read news of busted European terror cells and see regular military patrols but life in this gorgeous city has not been impacted at all, except for less tourists than usual. We wouldn't hesitate to travel to any city in the Eurozone.

Some of the most interesting and best value southerly European countries (the north will still be very chilly) are: Portugal; Spain (esp. Barcelona for Gaudi, Seville for very warm weather, beautiful environment and Semana Santa festival in March/Feria de Abril in April); Italy (esp. Rome, Florence, Venice); Czech Republic (esp. Prague); Hungary (esp. Budapest).

Worldwide

Interesting tourist destinations with low-value currencies at the start of 2016 are China, Russia, Japan, Bali (Indonesia), Vietnam, Cambodia, South Africa, Zambia, Morocco and Canada. If you care for a little risk Egypt is extremely cheap and wonderful in this season. Wow! Plenty of excellent choices there!

Beaches

The Dominican Republic is consistently rated as the best value beach island in the Caribbean while Puerto Rico is supposed to be good value and of special interest to Americans as it's practically part of the USA.
In Europe Greek beach destinations are cheapish (esp. Crete and some less known Aegean islands); Croatia is pretty, relatively undeveloped and Zlatni Rat beach on Brac island is gorgeous.

Zika virus

 

North America March - April

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, March 20-April 17 in the US capital, Washington DC

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, March 20-April 17 in the US capital, Washington DC. The average best time when most of the blossoms are open is April 4. The best walk to view the trees is around the Tidal Basin (photo above by Al Jazeera), near the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Memorial. Try to visit in the early morning or early evening and avoid weekends.

USA

USA Map

Beaches in southern California should be reaching comfortable highs of around 69F (20C), lows around 50F (10C) while on the other side of the country north Florida - such as Panama City - should be a little warmer with Daytona Beach showing highs of 77F (25C) and lows of 52F (11C).
5th of March is the start and best bit of Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race; the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo runs from 1-20 March; Daytona Beach's Official Bike Week - the world's biggest motorbike fest runs from 4 - 13 March in 2016; USA, St Patrick's Day Parade is as always on 17 March and is an especially good event in Chicago, Boston, New York and San Francisco; California's Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival takes place 15 - 17 & 22 - 24 April; .
New Orleans' spectacular Mardi Gras goes over-the-top on February 9th but locals start celebrating up to two weeks before while the biggest party in Texas, Fiesta San Antonio, runs 14-24 April.

 

A glimpse of what goes on in Daytona during bike week.

Spring Break

The notorious American Spring Break, when a few lucky destinations are overcome by shrieking, maddened, semi-naked teens, runs through most of March (Spring Break full dates listings) so steer clear of these destinations during that month: Florida's Panama City and Daytona Beach; Las Vegas; South Padre Island, Texas; Mexico's Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco; Nassau and sailing trips in the Bahamas; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Mexico & Caribbean

Mexico Map and Caribbean Map

Mexico and the Caribbean will be good and hot for your dollars as usual, and coming towards the end of their best season. Easter is March 27th and booking accommodation will be difficult for the weeks before and after. Mexico offers a lot more culture (this is one of the world's most interesting countries) and low cost travel options than the Caribbean but budget Caribbean islands do exist and some - such as Puerto Rico - are even American territory so US citizens need only an ID card to get there, currency is dollars and flights are short and cheap. Unfortunately PR is currently in financial trouble, with high unemployment, high levels of poverty, rising crime and shopping costing around 20% more than most US cities.

An alternative choice for American visitors to the Caribbean is lovely St John in USVI, small and upmarket; visitors need to fly to St Thomas (also USVI) and then take a short boat ride. Still, St John is beautiful, no passport needed, it's safe and American visitors are - of course - welcome.

Zika virus

Bahamas pigs taking a cooling dip off Vorobek beach

Bahamas residents taking a cooling dip off Vorobek beach. Photo by cdorobek. The climate of The Bahamas is warm year-round, English is the language and Americans find it easy to get to by plane, cruise ship, private yacht or even speed boat as it's near the coast of Florida, less than 50 miles/80kms in places. Most major airlines fly directly to Nassau (the capital) from Miami and other major US cities. The Bahamas is not technically in the Caribbean as most of its islands are in the Atlantic Ocean with only a few in the south bordering onto the Caribbean Sea, but the latitude is similar and the experience more-or-less identical.

 

The Dominican Republic is still the best value island with lots of activities and magnificent beaches; the island is huge so you should be able to avoid Spring Breakers on Punta Cana without difficulty.

Check on the Sargassum seaweed situation before booking in the Caribbean or Mexico! Most good beaches in the Caribbean and Mexico now use a large and efficient seaweed 'dozer to keep the noxious stuff off prime strands but verify before paying out. Ask for recent, dated photos?

Canada

Canada Map

Canada's currency is suffering so this is a good time to visit though tourist life there is still mainly about winter sports during these months with BC's Whistler and Quebec's Mont Tremblant at the top of winter destination list. Whistler's WSSF -World Ski and Snowboard Festival is Canada’s largest free outdoor concert series, snow and music/arts/sports combined! It runs 8-17 April. Hiking life etc. starts in May.

 

Latin America March - April

Latin America Map

Miraflores district of Lima, Peru

Miraflores district of Lima, Peru. Peru is an absolute must-see destination for any traveler interested in exotic surroundings with colorful people, amazing Inca structures, Andes Mountains, Amazon Rainforest, Nazca Lines and guinea pigs for dinner! Yum.

In Latin America (Central and South America) March - April should be fine in Argentina (esp. Patagonia or Bariloche hiking and Valdes wildlife), Chile (esp. Atacama Desert and brilliant hikes in Torres del Paine NP), Costa Rica (esp. wildlife + beaches +rainforest + volcanoes), the Galapagos Islands (wildlife) , Guatemala (pyramids and colorful people), Peru (everything! #1 must-see in the world!) and of course Mexico (magnificent Maya structures, brilliant beaches, great food and drinks, cheap!) but the weather in the remainder of the South American continent is at its worst.

Zika virus in Latin America February 2016

The mosquito-borne Zika virus currently ranges across at least 20 countries in Central and South America including Brazil, Mexico and the Caribbean's Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe. The effects are generally mild but the concern is about a probable link with brain defects in babies.
If in any doubt head elsewhere for your vacations BUT if pregnancy is not an issue due to contraception, age or gender then this may be a good time to travel in Latin America as competition for rooms and sun beds is likely to be lower than normal. More.

 

 

Europe March - April

Fallas de Valencia, Spain, from 15-19 March annually.

European Festivals

Europe Map

Arguably the craziest festival in Europe at this time is Fallas de Valencia, a madly explosive carnival/fiesta on the east coast of Spain. Locals spend 5 days partying with parades, pageants and modest fireworks until the last night when they set fire to hundreds of massive, spectacular papier-maché figures stuffed with fireworks. Kaboom.

 

Catholic penitents suffering for their sins in Seville 20-27 March, Semana Santa in Seville,Spain

No, not the KKK but Catholic penitents suffering for their sins in Seville 20-27 March, Spain.

For a more sombre but also spectacular few days in Spain head for Seville and Granada during Holy Week - Semana Santa - hundreds of pointy-hood penitents and torch lit processions up to Easter day in two gorgeous cities. Seville is much bigger. The premium time is during the night/early morning of Thursday-Good Friday.

Serious drinkers should perhaps head for Dublin St Patrick's Festival and St Patrick's Day Parade - a wild, green five days with main celebrations 14-17 March; folk who are partial to a funny smoke and drinks could do worse than hit the streets of Amsterdam on 26 April for King's Day this year (Orange Day); down in Italy Florence hosts a celebration known as Scoppio del Carro - Explosion of the Cart - in Piazza del Duomo on Easter Sunday, set off by a mechanical dove from the Altar during Mass; Mayrhofen in Austria is the scene of the Snowbombing Festival - a week long live music event, with bands and world-class DJs in a fantasy alpine setting. This 'Ibiza in the Snow' is regarded by many as 'the Greatest Show on Snow' and happens 4-9 April in 2016.

Koningsdag (Orange Day) in Amsterdam is the wildest day of the year. The city streets and canals burst with orange as locals and visitors enjoy this city-wide celebration.

Favourite Europe photos

 

Africa, March - April

Lake Yasmina, an irregular attraction in Merzouga, Moroccco, North Africa.   Africa

Lake Yasmina, an irregular attraction in Merzouga, Moroccco, North Africa. Look carefully and you can see tourists climbing the dune, almost at the top on the right. Morocco is currently the safest North African country.

North Africa will be brilliant in March/April, the last best months before the heat arrives, so madly colourful Morocco and Egypt (if you have courage you can get incredible discounts in Egypt!) will present blue skies and fascinating exotic sights. Morocco is primarily about desert trips, wacky cities, Atlas Mountains hikes and beach life.
Central Africa is not so good now but South Africa's varied attractions, from beaches to wildlife, brilliant hiking, wines and more are at their best now, in autumn.

Spectacular Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan and Israel generally are also perfect in this season (even if they're not exactly in Africa!).

 

 

Asia, March - April

 

Holi Festival of Colour in USA! But more commonly in India and Nepal on March 23.

Good Value Asia in 2016: China, Russia, Japan, Indonesia's Bali island, Vietnam and Cambodia are all remarkably low cost destinations this year thanks to currency movements.

If you're in Japan at the end of March/early April for Sakura Matsuri or Hanami Cherry Blossom time (especially in Tokyo's Ueno park or Aoyama cemetery) then do consider a trip to Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo, to visit the hilarious Kanamara Matsuri (Iron Penis Festival) at Wakamiya Hachiman-gu Shrine in Kawasaki, between Tokyo and Yokohama on April 3. An hilarious, good-feeling event loaded with music, double-entendres, huge portable wangs and little willy lollies. Kanamara Festival Pictures.

India is also awaiting your visit but it's massive so focus, don't try to see everything at once! The biggest sights are in the Golden Triangle around Rajasthan, great in March, as is Holi Festival of Colour on March 23. This event involves everyone throwing coloured water, powder or paint over everyone else, including you. It's an iridescent madhouse. Especially spectacular Holi are held in Jaipur, Mathura, Braj Bhoomi and Sri Krishna in India and Kathmandu in Nepal.
One of India's most extraordinary events, Kumbh Mela crowds in to the the Kshipra river in Ujjain from 22 April to 21 May 2016, a prime Hindu pilgrimage destination. It is not only the biggest religious assembly in the world but also recorded as the the largest peaceful human gathering in 2013 with 100 million people, though pilgrim stampedes in India are not uncommon, with large numbers of fatalities. India Travel Guide.

The other monster destination, China, is difficult to plan these days - too cold, too hot, too, dusty, too polluted! But cheap now the yuan (local currency) is on the run, in fact near collapse. 13-15 April there is Poshui Jie, Water Splashing Festival in Jinghong, beautiful Yunnan province, with dragon boat racing, fireworks, dancing and throwing water over everyone, but everyone.
A similar event splashes into Thailand on the same days as China, Songkran Festival (New Year Water Festival) nationwide is especially lively in Chiang Mai with four days of parades, fancy dress and water, water, everywhere.

Nepal is still fine in March, the skies are mostly clear, the ancient artefacts bizarre and the walks stunning.
Vietnam looks good in these two months as does Malaysia but Thailand's beaches reach their peak in March and become less attractive in April.
Early April is roughly Cherry Blossom time in Japan, a fantastically beautiful season if the weather is willing.

Over in Mexico March is a lively month with Noche de Brujas (Night of the Witches) on Cerro Mono Blanco, Catemaco as shamans, healers and witches gather for witchcraft ceremonies while down in the Yucatan the Kukulcan Snake God's shadow slithers down the side of the massive Kukulcan pyramid in in Chichen Itza during the equinox March 20/21.
Cumbre Tajin in Veracruz celebrates mind, body and soul in the spiritual Tajin park with massed alternative therapies, art, music and dance but ardent Catholics are awaiting Semana Santa, 20-27 March nationwide but especially in Chiapas, for processions, costumes, fireworks, music, dance and strange rituals.

In the Philippines the extraordinary Crucifixion in San Fernando takes place on Good Friday (March 25) when locals play out Christ's agony, all dressed up, beaten by whips and finally nailed - for real - onto crosses..

 

Australasia, March - April

Hiking in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Hiking in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand.

Southern Australia moves into Autumn during these months and sees less of the blue skies while up north in Cairns or Brisbane the weather is still extremely humid and cloudy.
Adelaide Fringe is the Australia's largest, wackiest festival. A huge and unhinged event - Edinburgh in the sun (14 February-16 March). Adelaide Pictures and Information. The more formal Adelaide Festival runs 28 Feb - 16 March.
Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 7 February to 2 March with the Big Parade on 1 March - is a monster world famous celebration of gay life, with a stunning parade, shows and parties.

March and April is prime time in New Zealand for incredible walks, beaches, wine tasting, and insane adrenalin activities.

 

Dangerous Countries

We don't want to discourage travel but should clarify for adventurous but novice travelers which parts of the world are problematical - troubled by disease, terrorist attacks, high levels of crime or aggressive disrespect for single women.

Egypt is off the tourist route for the moment though robust travelers who can find reliable, sophisticated flights (i.e. with proper safety checks) going to Luxor could mean the opportunity of seeing the incredible sights a) at low cost b) more importantly without the massed crowds that are normally there stuffing up the ambience.

Turkey has had a number of bomb attacks recently including the murderous Sultanahmet suicide bombing on January 11th 2016. Being close to the mid-east troubles is making security difficult. Best to avoid.

Here are some broad generalisations on where NOT to go on vacation if you have a nervous disposition.

Avoid

Africa except for Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritius.

Middle-East except for Israel, Jordan (if you're nervous about flights but really want to visit wonderful Petra, fly to Israel on the world's safest airline - El Al - and drive into Jordan), Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi.

Venezuela, Honduras, Haiti. Some drug-cartel regions of north Mexico are also off the tourist trail.

Solo women travelers should think twice before going to Pakistan, Philippines, North Korea, Indonesia, India, east China.

There have been mysterious killings on Thailand's west coast islands such as Ko Thao, always blamed on 'foreigners' and generally giving the impression that Thai police are either very corrupt, or very inefficient, or most likely, both. Budget island travelers beware, something psychotic is lurking in the soft, sandy darkness.

 

US State Department Travel Alerts

 

UK FCO Travel Advice

 

Whatever, wherever, safe travels!

 

 

 

Holiday Deals

Trek America discounts (USA, Canada, Central America)

 

Grand American Adventures (USA, Canada, Latin America)

 

Useful World Travel Apps

Citymapper

Easy to use and playful, Citymapper offers detailed journey planning, real-time departures and disruption alerts, as well as Uber integration and cycle routes. It is available in around 30 cities worldwide. Free.

Duolingo

A free and well-designed language learning app, though not a replacement for proper language tuition. The app is a fun way to get the basics or to freshen up on grammar and vocabulary before a trip abroad. Free.

XE Currency

XE is the go-to site for currency conversions on the web, so it's no surprise that its app is so popular. It has lots of business-oriented features but for the regular traveller it is most useful for the simple fact that it's able to convert every world currency. Free.

Tripit

Tripit pulls together travel information from your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, rental cars, events bookings and converts it into a single itinerary. Just forward your emails to the app and it will do the rest. If you’re travelling with others you can easily share the plans, making this a useful app for coordinating a group trip. Free.

App in the Air

A simple 'Personal Flight Assistant' that offers excellent coverage of airlines and airports. It will keep you updated about flight status – even if you don’t have internet coverage – and helps you manage your time at the airport. Free.

Google Translate

This translator can be a useful tool to support your own, more serious language learning, but realistically, it’s most useful on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels. For example, you can hold your camera up to text – such as a sign, or a menu – and Google will translate it for you instantly. Free.

Time Out

Time Out app is a great directory of ideas of things to do in cities around the world. With coverage from Accra to Amsterdam, Edinburgh to Singapore, the app covers everything from bars, restaurants, attractions and events. The event finder is a particularly useful tool, meaning you’ll never struggle to find the most popular concerts, festivals or one-off happenings going on around you. You can also book restaurants and concert tickets through the app and create a customised travel guide for your holiday. Free.

Splittr

Splittr is geared up for travelling, providing a simple platform to share costs between friends. You can enter expenses as you go, including who paid what and the app will do the rest. A nice touch for longer, multi-destination trips is that all currencies are supported and you can mix currencies without having to do the conversion yourself. $1.99/£1.49.

Images and more useful apps from Guardian Travel

 

Travel Money

Buy goodies or pay bills (checks) with credit cards when on vacation as they provide insurance as well as delayed repayment but don't draw cash out from ATMs with them (unless it's a new-wave, no-fee card). Interest starts accruing immediately and bank exchange fees in addition to the ATM fee may be unreasonable.

It's better to buy foreign cash at home from a commission-free provider though, of course when you travel you'll have to carry a fat wad around, so the best solution depends on the security of your holiday destination. If you travel a lot and want to get cash from an ATM do some research on transaction fees and get the lowest fee debit (not credit card) card you can find.

Gap Year travellers might consider also acquiring a prepaid Travel Money Card (aka Currency Card) which can be loaded with any amount of any currency before travelling and then topped up by family or friends while the Gappist is still in the big nowhere. Compare prepaid Travel Money Cards.

And of course never pay for anything abroad in your home currency (the exchange rate will be absurd), insist on paying in local currency.

To summarise, buy stuff abroad with a credit card, but try to pay off the balance each month before interest charges blow the wheels off your trolley; get cash from ATMs with a debit card.

Finally, don't go short of travel insurance if you're going to be participating in any kind of marginally dangerous activity, or even a non-dangerous activity in a third world location, that's NOT the way to save money! Use your brain while it's intact!

 

 

Social networking while traveling

Keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while traveling abroad has become so much easier thanks to the internet and social networks.

Travelers logging onto social networks while abroad should ensure that they properly log out before leaving an internet café or similar because in some areas of Africa, East Europe and India it's not unknown for a watcher to access a tourist's Facebook (or similar) account after they leave and send a desperate message to family members about an accident/hospitalisation and needing money urgently. Money transferred of course disappears into a mystery account and no one's the wiser, for the time being.

 

Best way to communicate while travelling (updated December 2015)

 

1. Using your own mobile/cell phone

- Check out your provider's deals for using an extended service outside your registered country and check if your phone works over the network at your destination, as well as the cost.
Turn voicemail off as some companies charge for incoming calls. Also it's best to switch off the cloud service, mobile data and roaming data as those apps can really rack up the charges. Use free local Wifi instead.

- If your trip is long or you use the phone a lot, the best way to save money is:

If your phone is unlocked, get a local sim card and buy prepaid credit, possibly with data too so that you can use 3G or 4G. The downside of a new sim card means the number will be also new.

If your phone is locked, either get it unlocked or buy a cheapo unlocked local phone.

2. Using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google+Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, LINE and Tango with your devices.

This involves contact via the internet, though nowadays it's not only speech or video calls but all sorts of communication ranging from instant messages and chats to sharing images and videos from anywhere worldwide free of charge, so long as each party has access to WiFi.

Although WhatsApp is only free for the first year - with cost of a dollar per year after that - WhatsApp is a brilliant service and currently the most popular app on the planet, with 900 million users worldwide.
LINE has 50 million registered users in Japan and nearly 600 million worldwide.
For a faster and more secure service, the newish Telagram is recommended. It's a cloud-based messenger with seamless sync, ad free and costs nothing.

3. Sign up with a global WiFi internet service such as Boingo and Fon WiFi.

You pay a small fee per month (from US$4.98 for the first months then $9.95; a higher price for laptops) for access to WiFi hotspots such as airports, stations and cafés worldwide.
Alternatively Skype users can use Skype credit to connect to WiFi.

- For those who need to be connected to WiFi or data all the time, you can rent a portable WiFi-enabled device or a pocket WiFi. This is a wireless modem from companies such as XCom Global and Tep wireless that gives have access to high-speed Internet at a flat rate (from €8.95/$9.95/£6.50 a day).

4. Not a cheap options but if your purpose is limited to emergencies, buy or rent a prepaid phone, online or at the airport on your arrival.

5. Old fashioned but check out the new generation phone cards to call just about anywhere, though public pay-phones are disappearing so it's hard to find one that works properly when you need to make a call! Also others can't to reach you, unless that is precisely your point!

 

 

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