Croatia is one of Europe’s rising tourist stars. This remarkable Adriatic country of 1244 islands, bear and wild boar inhabited forests and world-class vineyards is so much more than just a beach destination. To make sure you hit the ground running in this complex and diverse nation, follow our top ten Croatia travel tips.

1. Be picky

Avoid the temptation to cram too much of this geographically challenging country in to your first visit. If you only have a week split it between the capital, Zagreb, for a night or two and spend the rest of the time exploring the famous Adriatic coast. Longer trips allow rewarding forays further afield, where gems like the UNESCO listed Plitvice Lakes, the castles of the Zagorje and the Slavonian vineyards await.

2. Don’t only go to Dubrovnik

Yes Games of Thrones star Dubrovnik is every bit Lord Byron’s ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, but also tempting on the coast is Split, the country’s second largest city, whose city centre is remarkably a UNESCO site, the spectacular Roman Diocletian’s Palace.

Further north the old Roman hub of Zadar and early Croatian city Šibenik are lively hubs just emerging from the bitter 1990s war, where the cafes are less filled with tourists.

The same goes for the city of Pula in the northwest of the Croatian littoral, which boasts a UNESCO listed Roman amphitheatre.

Croatia, Dalmatia, Hvar, Hvar Town from the sea

3. Don’t let the bugs bite

From late spring into autumn mosquitoes are a nuisance throughout much of the country so find a good repellent that your skin does not react to. Light colours help. Avoid wearing fragrances too. Tics are a more pressing problem as they can cause serious illness so wear thick socks and cover up your legs when hiking. A simple tic remover is a good investment, especially if you may be trekking in rural areas.

4. Get the best beds

Spare beds can be hard to come by in summer especially in the most popular islands – like Hvar and Brač – and Dubrovnik. Booking ahead makes sense, but if you do get caught short look out for the sobe signs, which are essentially advertising rooms in locals’ homes. As well as being cheap, staying at a sobe can be a great way to meet Croats. If they are full, owners will often point you in the direction of another nearby.

Croatia, Dalmatian Coast, Pelgesac, two bottle of red and white Croatian wine and half full glass of red wine resting on barrel, barrels in background

5. Drink up

Of the big domestic brands Karlovacko is the favourite beer of many Croats and justifiably so. Croatia’s wines are seriously underrated abroad, at least in part due to the relatively small production and high domestic demand. Look out for the mighty Dingac red and the dry Posip white, both from Dalmatia. Istria is renowned for its Malvasija (great with seafood), while the Dubrovnik region’s own Malvasia is on the rise too.

6. Health matters

You should always take out decent travel insurance, even for a weekend break. If you’re an EU resident, be sure to pack a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to a basic level of state health care in Croatia. It won’t cover you for repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment though, which is where good travel insurance comes in. The emergency ambulance number in Croatia is 112.

7. Get active

Croatia may be famed as a sea and sun destination, but getting active is the best way to discover its wilder corners. Paklenica National Park offers superb hiking and climbing, while in the islands the walk to the highest point, Vidova Gora on Brač, offers remarkable views. For rafting the Cetina River tempts, while windsurfers should head to Korčula and paragliders to Mount Ucka.

Croatia, Dalmatian Coast, Split, pile of silver fish at fish market

8. Eat well

Croats are justifiably proud of the fine organic produce their country conjures up in such abundance and many will refer to the processed food in supermarkets witheringly as ‘cat food’. Wherever you are, a local market is never far away, so shop local to put together a mouth-watering picnic bursting with fresh flavour.

9. Talk to the locals

Be very careful when discussing the Homeland War, which ravaged the country as it became independent from Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with a local. Do a little bit of research before your trip and hold back any too hastily formed views. Then when a Croat does decide to open up a little about those defining years, your knowledge and interest may help you gain an insight into the country well beyond the tourist sheen, which adds a totally different dimension to your trip.

10. Savour the seafood

Croatia’s seafood is truly world class. A bounty of fishy delights are hauled daily from the Adriatic, the cleanest corner of the Mediterranean. Even if you’re timid about bones and shells no trip to the coast is complete without a seafood feast. The best value way of sampling a range of delights is to order the riblja plata, a mixed platter of fish and shellfish, which is usually plenty for two to share.

Explore more of Croatia with the Rough Guide to CroatiaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Go Buggy Rollin, France

Buggy, what? Yes, that’s right: Buggy Rollin. It’s a relatively new adventure sport in which each participant wears a full body suit covered in wheels and stoppers – a bit like a PowerRanger – and then hurtles face-first down a bobsleigh track at speeds of up to 100km/h. Weird, wonderful and a little insane – but we love it. Try it at the Beton on Fire festival in La Plagne in the French Alps.

Go Buggy Rollin, France

Highline above a canyon, USA

Like a giant spider’s web, a network of slacklines link one side of a canyon to another. At the centre of the net (dubbed the ‘Mothership Space Net Penthouse’ by its creators) is a hole through which base-jumpers drop while highliners perch on one-inch wide pieces of string slung 120m above the ground. The venue is the Moab Desert in Utah, USA, where these extreme sports nuts meet annually to get their kicks.

Highline above a canyon, USA

Ride the world’s steepest rollercoaster, Japan

Get ready to scream as your carriage slowly makes its vertical ascent before plummeting at 100km/h down the world’s steepest rollercoaster drop – a hair-raising 121 degrees in freefall. Takabisha is the newest rollercoaster at the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Yamanashi, Japan, and is enough to put the wind up even the bravest of fairground thrillseekers.

Ride the world's steepest rollercoaster, Japan

Wing walk in the UK

In 1920s America, flying circuses travelled the country to promote aviation. Their ‘barnstorming’ pilots performed stunts like rolls and loop-the-loops while wing walkers wowed the crowds with their dangerous acrobatics on the wings of tiny biplanes. You can have a go at wing walking in Yorkshire in the UK, where, despite being fully kitted out with safety harness and parachute, none of the thrill has been lost.

Wing walk in the UK

Free dive in the Bahamas

In 2010, William Trubridge broke the free-diving record when he descended to a hundred metres on a single breath at Dean’s Blue Hole. It’s the world’s deepest salt-water blue hole, which is a kind of underwater sinkhole that opens out into a vast underwater cavern. Learning to free-dive in its turquoise waters is a remarkable experience, especially as the coral caves are teeming with sea life, from tropical fish and shrimps to seahorses and turtles.

Free dive in the Bahamas

Go volcano boarding in Nicaragua

It’s a steep one-hour climb up Cerro Negro, an active volcano in northwest Nicaragua. From the rim you can look down into the steaming crater, then hop on your board. The way back down takes only about three minutes: surfing or sliding, carving up pumice and coating your skin in a layer of thick black dust. Messy, exhilarating and oh so fun!

Go volcano boarding in Nicaragua

Climb cliffs without ropes, Ethiopia

The only way to access Tigray’s rock-hewn medieval monasteries is by foot, but they are high up in the Gheralta Mountains and there are no ropes to help with the climb. Visitors must traverse a narrow ledge and free-climb up a vertical rock-face. The rewards, however, are plentiful: grand views across a wide rocky landscape, striated pinnacles of sandstone and the fascinating painted interiors of the ancient churches.

Climb cliffs without ropes, Ethiopia

Edgewalk at CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

The EdgeWalk at CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, is the world’s highest external walk on a building. Small groups that venture out onto a 1.5m-wide ledge that circles the very top of the tower are encouraged to dangle hands-free off the side of the building, 356m above the ground, trusting completely in the safety harness.

Edgewalk at CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

Explore the world’s largest cave, Borneo, Malaysia

You’ll soon find out if you suffer from bathophobia – the fear of depths – as you enter the Sarawak Chamber, the world’s largest cave by surface area. Beneath Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo, an underground river channel takes you deep into the cave network. When you finally arrive at the Sarawak Chamber, the size of the space is hard to comprehend: at 150,000 square metres, the chamber is large enough to house forty Boeing 747 aeroplanes. You’ll feel very small indeed.

Explore the world’s largest cave, Borneo, Malaysia

Base jumping from Angel Falls, Venezuela

Ever fancied jumping off a vertical cliff in a wingsuit? If so, you should head to Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall and one of the most magnificent locations to take part in this extreme sport. Just getting here is an adventure. The 979m-high falls are located in a remote spot in the Guiana Highlands, accessible by riverboat and a trek through the jungle.

Base jumping from Angel Falls, Venezuela

Bungee jumping from the Verzasca Dam, Switzerland

Like James Bond in the film Goldeneye, you too can leap from the world’s highest stationary bungee platform. The Verzasca Dam (or Contra Dam) in Switzerland is a 220m-high hydroelectric dam near Locarno, which holds back a reservoir containing 105 million cubic metres of water. For an extra adrenalin rush, try jumping at night.

Bungee jumping from the Verzasca Dam, Switzerland

Cliff diving at La Quebrada, Mexico

Leaping from the top a cliff into choppy seas below is a popular daredevil pursuit worldwide, but in La Quebrada, Mexico, it’s so dangerous that it’s best left to the professionals. With one swift movement, each diver soars high then gracefully turns and dives, hitting the water just as it surges up the gorge.

Cliff diving at La Quebrada, Mexico

Flyboard in France

The sight of people hovering up to three metres above water is slightly futuristic, especially when they start flipping, spinning and diving whilst attached to what looks like a giant vacuum cleaner tube. Don’t be alarmed, this is flyboarding – a new watersport invented in 2011 by French jet-ski champion Francky Zapata, and it’s (literally) taking off around the world. A good place to try it is at La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic Coast.

Flyboard in France

Camp out in bear country, Wyoming, USA

Ah the Great Outdoors. If wild camping in a remote spot sounds idyllic, then Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, could be for you – unless you don’t fancy your chances against grizzly bears in search of dinner… In fact, there is only about one bear attack in the park each year so your chances are pretty good, but you’ll need nerves of steel to lie all night in a flimsy tent whilst listening for bear-like rustling outside.

Camp out in bear country, Wyoming, USA

Swimming in Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

Daring swimmers can bathe in this natural infinity pool just inches from the world’s highest waterfall: Victoria Falls in Zambia. Lie against the edge of the precipice and watch the Zambezi river cascade into the canyon 100 metres below, obscuring the view of the rainforest beyond with clouds of mist. This exhilarating swim is only possible in the dry season (May–October) when the waters are low enough for the natural pool to form.

Swimming in Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

Abseil from Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Extreme sports professionals regularly fling themselves from South Africa’s famous flat-topped mountain, but now mere mortals can have a go too. The world’s highest commercial abseil starts at 300m above sea level from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. On the 112m descent, look around you – if you can – at the spectacular view over the beaches and bays of the city’s glittering Atlantic coast.

Abseil from Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Skydive over Mount Everest, Nepal

There can be no adrenalin rush quite like it. Free-falling from 29,000ft above Mount Everest in Nepal, will literally take your breath away – not just from the thrill of the jump but from the extraordinary view of the world’s highest mountain. Unfortunately, this once-in-a-lifetime experience comes with a high price tag: tandem jumps with Everest Skydive start at $20,000.

Skydive over Mount Everest, Nepal

Cycle Death Road, Bolivia

This is said to be Bolivia’s scariest road. The Yungas Road is a narrow track, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, with a sheer drop on one side and a vertical rock face on the other. Heavy-goods trucks used to plough along it – and frequently off it – but now only thrill-seeking cyclists hurtle down the 64 kilometre route from the snowy mountains to the rainforest below.

Cycle Death Road, Bolivia

The Northern Cape, home to diamond mining capital Kimberley and wilderness of the Kalahari Desert, remains South Africa’s least visited province. But it just doesn’t make sense, according to writer Meera Dattani. Here she tells us why it’s one of South Africa’s top destinations.

So why should I go?

If empty roads flanked by saltpans, sand dunes, rocky hillsides and quiver trees aren’t enough to tempt you into a road trip, perhaps you’ll be intrigued by the San hunter-gatherers and Khoi herders, or Bushmen, who once lived here and are now reviving lost customs.

Either way, the Northern Cape is a rich, sparsely-populated and under-visited region. So rent a car and enjoy the verdant landscapes along the Orange River as you drive towards Augrabies Falls National Park, get active in a National Park or taste wine in one of the many vineyards along your route.

Where should I go?

Covering one-third of the country, it’s impossible to see South Africa’s largest, least populated, region in its entirety.

Sand dunes and saltpans are the main sights along the Red Dune Route, north of Upington. Stay at lodges en route to small town Askham before the region’s holy grail of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where game drives weave in and out of Botswanan and South African territory. Lucky visitors will hear the roar of black-maned Kalahari lions and all can enjoy unpolluted, sparkling night sky.

San Tribesman with Homemade Bow and Arrow, Northern Cape, South Africa

Another highlight is the Green Kalahari area, between Namibia and Botswana, combining desert adventures with the Orange River and waterfall at Augrabies Falls National Park.

From Upington town, the Orange River flows west along the easily navigable Kokerboom Food & Wine Route through Keimoes, Kakamas and Marchand. Upington’s small-town charm is worth experiencing, with nearby vineyards and sunset sailing aboard Sakkie se Arkie.

From Tierberg Hill in Keimoes, see how the Orange River has irrigated an otherwise dry landscape by exploring one of the 120-odd islands; Kanoneiland is South Africa’s largest inhabited inland island.

What is there to do?

Spot wildebeest and klipspringer in rocky Augrabies Falls National Park, home to the 184ft-high Augrabies Falls, Khoi for ‘place of the Great Noise’. The park offers opportunity for river-gorge walking, white-water rafting and canoeing.

The region is also home to 10 percent of South Africa’s vineyards. Visit Bezalel in Kanoneiland, De Mas Wine Cellars in Kakamas and Orange River Wine Cellars in Upington, Keimoes and Kakamas.

In Riemvasmaak, where apartheid policies scattered Xhosa, Nama and other communities who have since returned, there’s Nama cuisine, cultural tours, hot springs and hiking.

At Kalahari Trails on the Red Dune Route, Welsh-born Professor Anne Rosa takes visitors through her 8640-acre farm and interprets the night’s wildlife action, often accompanied by resident meerkats. Rooiduin Guest Farm offers sand-surfing and dune safaris or head to Zoutpanputs game farm, home to Cape birds, meerkats and the elusive pangolin. You can also see springbok and gemsbok lick salt off the pan, go camel riding or book floating salt pool sessions and salt work tours.

Full Moon over Red Dunes in Kalahari, Northern Cape, South Africa

At Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, so-called from Tswana for ‘waterless place’, wildlife includes the Kalahari lion, ostrich, Cape fox, cheetah, aardwolf and spring hare. Double the size of Kruger, it’s run by Mier and San communities with South Africa National Parks.

Where can I stay?

Guesthouses, lodges and tented camps are how the Northern Cape rolls. In Upington, guesthouses include A La Fugue, Riverplace and Brown’s Manor. Along the Kokerboom Route, consider De Werf Lodge, Ou Skool Guesthouse and Ikaia B&B in Keimoes or, if feeling flush, a suite at African Vineyard in Kanoneisland, run by Elmarie de Bruin and photographer husband Theuns.

En route to Augrabies Fall National Park is Lake Grappa Guest Farm in Marchand. The national park’s cabins are excellent, or you could try Kalahari River & Safari Company and luxury Tutwa Lodge.

Heading north to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, guesthouses include Kalahari Guest House & Farm Stall, Rooipan Guest Farm in Askham and Loch Maree Guest Farm. For glampers, there’s Kalahari Info & Tented Camp Rietfontein near the Namibian border and safari-style Molopo Kalahari Lodge, one of four Northern Cape Famous Lodges, offers private dinners on a nearby pan.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape, South Africa

In Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, community-run !Xaus Lodge offers rustic luxury overlooking a huge pan. Kalahari Tented Camp and Kielie Krankie come recommended while Kgalagadi Lodge just outside the park is outstanding.

How do I get around?

You drive. This is dream driving terrain. Stop at quirky padstals, roadside farm stalls, and forget GPS. Have a good map, local phone, keep petrol topped up and ask locals. Don’t be surprised if you’re told to turn left at the tenth quiver tree when there’s an obvious landmark in situ. Traffic is unlikely, bar speeding rock rabbits.

When should I go?

Optimum months are March and April, and the winter months of August and September when desert flowers explode in the westerly Namaqualand region, another astonishing sight in one of South Africa’s most unexpected regions. Avoid December to February when temperatures reach 40°C (104°F).

Explore more of South Africa with the Rough Guide to South AfricaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

A fascinating, fast-developing city in southern India, Hyderabad is one of India’s up-and-coming tourist destinations. Co-author of the Rough Guide to India, Nick Edwards, gives us an insider’s guide.

The rapidly growing metropolis of Hyderabad and its twin city Secunderabad occupy a fascinating place somewhere between India’s past and future. The old town is by far the most traditional Islamic enclave in south India, while on its outskirts stand the gleaming skyscrapers of HITEC City, which have earned the city the nickname of Cyberabad.

Hyderabad is also currently in the unique position of being the capital of of two states at once. It will eventually only be the capital of newly created Telangana but is still acting as the first city of Andhra Pradesh while the latter’s brand new administrative centre is constructed at Amaravati.

Explore the beating Islamic heart of the city

Immediately south of the mostly dry River Musi, there is no mistaking the dominant cultural group. Women in full black burqa or the occasional more colourful hijab scuttle around, shopping in the cramped alleyways of Lad Bazaar, where you can find anything from spices, clothes and cheap bangles to high quality silver filigree jewellery and exquisite bidriware. It’s a great place to get lost and caught up in the atmosphere.

At the centre of Lad and its sister bazaars lies Hyderabad’s most famous landmark, Charminar, which means “four minarets”. This chunky triumphal arch with four 56m-high towers commemorates the city surviving a plague epidemic in 1591.

Traffic on road near Charminar, Hyderabad, India

Nearby the massive Mecca Masjid, built in 1598, boasts some delightfully delicate architectural features and can hold up to 3000 worshippers.

The other major tourist attraction in this area is the now fully restored Chowmahalla Palace. Dating from the mid-nineteenth century, the official residence of the Nizams who ruled the region is actually a group of four imposing palaces and other ceremonial buildings. These are set in extensive and beautifully manicured grounds, which make a fine spot for a picnic.

Find space to breathe on the lakeside

Nobody can claim that Hyderabad is without its issues, principal among them its diabolical traffic and concomitant air pollution. Just crossing one of the main thoroughfares requires putting your faith in Allah or your preferred deity.

The main relief from this mayhem comes in the shape of the large man-made lake called Hussain Sagar, which effectively divides the twin cities.

The best place to enjoy the respite it offers is at Lumbini Park on its southern shore, from where you can also take a short boat trip to get a close-up view of the huge statue of the Buddha Purnima, the water’s focal point.

Nearby stands a prominent hillock, atop which the lively Birla Venkateshwarar Mandir curves and tapers towards the sky. The temple forms part of a complex that also includes the BM Birla Science Centre. This museum typifies the city’s tendency to straddle time by having displays on satellite technology and modern gadgets cheek-by-jowl with a modest collection of dinosaurs, as well as an entertaining planetarium.

Participants in the National Laser Sailing Championship sail in the waters of Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad

See the old and new together

The past and present come into play again with the most notable out-of-town attractions. In many ways, the jewel in Hyderabad’s crown is the magnificent Golconda Fort, around 11km to the west. This grand edifice with ascending ramparts piled on top of gargantuan foundations like grey stone lego completely lords it over the surrounding plains of dry scrubland.

Various halls, baths and palaces are linked by a series of steps, solid arches and lush lawns to give an overall very harmonious impression. While here, be sure to check out the amazing acoustics, which allow claps and shouts at the upper levels to echo clearly down below.

Predictably, there is also a slightly cheesy and over-dramatic sound and light show in the evening. Just one kilometre to the north, more attractive lawns surround the 82 scattered tombs of the Qutb Shahi kings.

Qutb Shahi Tombs, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

In complete contrast, another fun day out can be had at Ramoji Film City, in the opposite direction, 25km east of the city. As the largest film studio complex on the planet, covering an impressive 2000 acres, it cannot fail to impress by its sheer scale.

Although you cannot see actual live filming, it is possible to tour the elaborate facades, watch stunts and other performances, or choose from an array of rides, such as a simulated earthquake. Observing all the cinephile families and groups of youth squealing in seventh art heaven is entertainment in itself.

Get cosmopolitan in the high-tech hub

Cyberabad’s brains are concentrated in the ultra modern environs of HITEC (Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy) City, on the northwest fringes of town.

This futuristic digital hub has led to Hyderabad rivalling Bangalore as south India’s high-tech capital and attracting millions of dollars’ worth of business and many of India’s finest young IT experts.

There’s not actually much to see or do here, and most of the complexes are under heavy security and only accessible if you have business, so you’re better off exploring the nearby neighbourhoods of the Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills. These modern areas are where the city’s bright young things and visiting foreign IT professionals go out to play in the trendy international restaurants and bars.

Traffic Streaming Past Cyber Gateway in HITEC City

Explore more of India with the Rough Guide to IndiaBook hostels, hotels and tours for your trip, compare flights, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Want to travel somewhere new this year? There’s plenty to discover in 2016. Take a look at these new attractions opening around the globe for inspiration for your next trip.

1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hollywood, USA

On April 7 2016, Universal Studios Hollywood will mark the much-anticipated opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With its cobblestone streets and quaint alleyways, the attraction will transport visitors to the wondrous world of Harry Potter. Hogsmeade will be a hive of activity with pubs packed with eager customers and a train conductor welcoming “passengers”. On a thrilling three-dimensional, high definition ride guests will wear Quidditch-style 3D goggles as they are immersed in the life of Harry and his friends, swooshing along an elevated track.

2. British Airways i360, Brighton, UK

Created by the same architects of the London Eye, this new attraction (opening in summer 2016) will be the world’s first vertical cable car and the world’s tallest moving observation tower. The circular viewing pod cruises slowly up to a height of 162m, allowing visitors to soak in the views of the seaside town of Brighton, the South Downs and the Sussex coastline.

3. Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE

Set to open at the end of this year on Saadiyat Island, this state-of-the-art museum was born from an intergovernmental agreement between the UAE and France in 2007. It will comprise 9200 square metres of art galleries, housing a permanent art collection, themed temporary exhibitions and loan pieces from institutions all over the world, including Leonardo da Vinci’s La belle ferronnière, currently in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Brand new attraction for 2015, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Middle East

4. Independence Plaza, Space Centre, Houston, USA

In late January 2016 the first Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905, and the shuttle replica Independence will go on display in Houston’s Space Centre. NASA 905 played a pivotal role in the orbiter’s development, carrying space shuttles 223 times and amassing a total of 11,017 flight hours. The fuselage of the plane and the inside of the shuttle will house interactive learning spaces with artefacts and exhibits that trace the shuttle programme and provide an insight into the history of the shuttle era. It will be the world’s only replica of its kind, mounted on a shuttle carrier aircraft, with the public able to enter both.

5. Omaka Aviation Centre, New Zealand

Located five kilometres from the centre of Blenheim on New Zealand’s South Island, the Omaka Aviation Centre brings history to life with Sir Peter Jackson’s WWI aviation collection. Summer 2016 will see the opening of a new WWII hangar exhibition, with theatrical lighting to illuminate the exhibits. Visitors will go on a geographical and historical journey as they walk through the exhibition. The world’s only flyable Mk1 Avro Anson twin-engine bomber will be on display, while a Yakovlev Yak-3 will be parked on a snow-graded airstrip at the edge of a bombed out city.

6. Kynren: An Epic Tale of England, Durham, UK

This new live action night show launches in July 2016 at Auckland Castle in County Durham. With a cast and crew of 1000 volunteers on a 7.5 acre stage, this is open-air theatre on a gargantuan scale. The storytelling journey will span 2000 years, with each 90-minute show travelling through different time periods, including the Roman Times and the Industrial Revolution. Performances run from July through the summer, and organisers hope the site will later be turned into a permanent theme park.

Kynren new attraction, UK

7. Museo Nacional del Perú de Pachacámac, Peru

About 40km southeast of Lima is the site of Pachacamac, one of the most important archeological complexes of the Peruvian coast. Established around AD200, in Pre-Inca and Inca times it was an important pilgrimage site, with 17 pyramids, palaces, plazas and temples identified so far. The new museum will showcase locally discovered relics along with pieces currently on display at two museums in Lima.

8. Movie Animation Park Studios, Malaysia

Asia’s first and largest animation theme park is set to open in the state of Perak in northern Malaysia. Spanning an area of 52 acres, the park will feature all manner of fun, from rides to stunt shows. There will be 40 attractions across six thematic zones – with areas dedicated to Casper The Friendly Ghost and The Smurfs. Look out for The Magamind Megadrop, the country’s tallest drop tower over 20 storeys high.

9. Chaplin Museum: The Modern Times Museum, Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin fans will delight at the opening of this new museum in the star’s former home, the Manoir de Ban in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life at the house, and died here in 1977. Visitors will be completely immersed in Chaplin’s world: “His soul, his spirit, is still here … so people will meet him, people will encounter him, people will hear his voice, will see his movies, will hear his music,” said Director Yves Durand when speaking of the new museum that is due to open in April 2016.

VALLE D'AOSTA-SkyWay Monte Bianco (foto Enrico Romanzi)-7758pPhoto © Enrico Romanzi

10. Mont Blanc Skyway, Courmayeur, Italy

Officially opened last summer, winter 2015/16 is the first ski season for the Mont Blanc Skyway, a rotating glass-fronted cable car offering spectacular 360° views of the Western Alps’ highest peaks. At a height of 3466m, the circular terrace at the top station is the closest point accessible by public transport to the summit of Mont Blanc. Free ride skiers can head on some of the Alps’ most exciting off-piste routes, while in summer visitors have access to the Saussurea alpine botanical garden.

Featured image © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s15) © 2015 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Get more holiday inspiration for 2016 with the Rough Guide to 2016Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Many visitors to Cape Town leave with a fairly limited view of the Mother City. They see the whitewashed beachfront restaurants and hotels, take the cable car up Table Mountain and top up their tan before heading home with a suitcase full of overpriced carved wooden animals that were actually made in China.

The overwhelming majority of Capetonians inhabit a very different world. That world is broadly referred to as the Cape Flats, and comprises the range of crowded informal settlements and “ghetto” townships – once known as “apartheid’s dumping ground” – that sprawl beyond the city centre and its leafy suburbs.

But a number of young township-based innovators and entrepreneurs are reimagining and repackaging these traditionally peripheral areas as much more than sad, impoverished and passive backdrops for a quick tick-the-box “poverty safari”. To these guys, the townships are the pulsing epicentre of urban South African experience, culture and creativity.

Take the time to get beneath the surface of Cape Town’s townships and you’ll find it’s hard to argue with them. Here are five of the best ways to see the irrepressible township revolution in all its glory.

Enjoy the sounds of Jazz in the Native Yards

Just around the corner from the raucousness and revelry of Mzoli’s Place in Gugulethu, you’ll find a live jazz venue with a difference.

Jazz in the Native Yards, the brainchild of former arts journalist and local boy Luvuyo Kakaza, takes some of the best jazz musicians from across South Africa away from overpriced and exclusionary city centre venues and squeezes them into a cozy township living room.

When the music isn’t playing, drinks can be ordered through the kitchen hatch and there’s a braai (barbecue), lots of banter and a distinct lack of racial boundaries to enjoy outside in the yard as the sun goes down.

Get your caffeine fix at the Department of Coffee

In 2012, The Department of Coffee was the first artisan coffee shop and espresso bar to open in a Cape Town township.

Found behind the busy Khayelitsha train station and the labyrinth of market stalls that surround it, this shop, run by three local twenty-somethings, is showing the surrounding community that a good brew is not just for the affluent – none of the delectable creations on offer cost more than R10 (about 50p), and all are made with local beans roasted specially for Department of Coffee.

You can sit and enjoy your coffee and the incessant hustle and bustle of this part of town on one of the shaded stone tables out front.

Department of Coffee, Cape Town, South AfricaImage by Chris Clark

Catch dinner and a show at Theatre in the Backyard

Acclaimed theatre producer and director Mhlanguli George has teamed up with Cape Town experiential tour operator Coffeebeans Routes to offer an innovative and interactive twist on traditional dinner theatre.

George’s visceral, hard-hitting theatre pieces are staged in a township backyard in Nyanga, where his actors make use of the various “props” that are available to them while the audience, with no allocated seating, have to negotiate their way around the performers and the space.

After the show, you join the unfailingly affable director and his performers for a home-cooked dinner and a couple of beers, and George will tell you more about his Theatre in the Backyard concept.

Theatre in the Backyard, Cape Town, South AfricaImage by Chris Clark

Experience the urban creativity of The Langa Quarter

According to the Langa Quarter’s creator Tony Elvin, a black Brit who has settled in Langa, this so-called Social Enterprise Precinct will one day be to Cape Town what the French Quarter is to New Orleans.

Langa is both Cape Town’s oldest township and, interestingly, the geographic centre of the metropole. The Quarter thus serves both as a museum of the city’s past, and a creative hub of contemporary music, art, culture and design. Various artists living in the precinct use their houses as open art galleries, while others have painted directly onto the quarter’s walls and buildings themselves.

A ”hotel homestay”, where you’ll be put up and fed by a local resident, is the best way to experience the Langa Quarter’s growing number of attractions.

Langa Quarter, Cape Town, South AfricaImage by Chris Clark

Feel the vibe on Spine Road

Strangely quiet during the week, this long road into the heart of Khayelitsha comes alive on weekends in a cacophony of sizzling meat, bassy Kwaito music, tooting car horns, laughter and general revelry.

At the sophisticated Deep Kultsha Café, the local elite dress to the nines and enjoy the views of the street below from the floor to ceiling windows of the raised venue. Just around the corner at the open air Rands Lifestyle Space, the in-house DJ gets the droves of beautiful people moving to the beat long before dusk. Punters bring their own alcohol and ice and set in for the long haul.

The crowds on the street – deck chairs out on the pavement and beats pumping from their car sound systems – sometimes outnumber those inside the venues. To those in the know, this is the city’s undisputed party capital.

Explore more of the Cape Town with the Rough Guide to Cape TownBook hostels, hotels and tours for your trip, compare flights, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Despite India’s vastness, foreign travellers tend to clump together in a relatively small number of well-known regions or cities, leaving plenty of destinations to the more intrepid few who are willing to take the challenge of escaping the tourist trail. Here’s a selection of our favourites:

1. Climb to spiritual highs in Palitana, Gujarat

Gujarat is one of most rewarding states to visit in India, yet sees far fewer foreign visitors than neighbouring Rajasthan or Maharashtra. A significant portion of the country’s Jain population, which accounts for a tiny fraction of the whole nation, live in Gujarat, and this small community has produced some of the most spectacular temples in the world.

Walk up the 3500 steps to Palitana, considered the holiest of all Jain sites, and you won’t be disappointed: a fairy-tale marble wonderland of hundreds of gleaming spiralling peach-and-white turrets, with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.

Once you’ve walked all the way back down, you’ll easily have earned yourself a mouth-watering unlimited thali, another of Gujarat’s highlights.

Palitana, GujaratPhoto by Helen Abramson

2. Feel the beat of the ritual drum in Kannur, Kerala

Between November and May each year, evenings in the Kannur region, in northern Kerala, come alive with theyyem rituals. Increasing numbers of travellers are heading here to seek out these intense displays of spirit-possession, but it’s still well off the main Keralan tourist trail.

The several-thousand year old ritual involves locals wearing startling face paint and dressing in elaborate costumes with colossal red headdresses. Their bodies inhabited by deities, the participants dance with increasing passion for hours on end and perform phenomenal, godlike feats, such as rolling in hot ashes.

Theyyam ritual near Kunnur. Kerala.

3. Take a slice of the deep south in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu

Just 50km from Sri Lanka, the island of Rameshwaram is accessed from the Indian mainland by a 2km bridge affording epic views over the Gulf of Mannar.

The tiny island is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites in southern India, yet barely visited by tourists. Turquoise waters lap at pristine beaches surrounding the island, and glorious temples dot the scenery inland.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated Shiva, the god of destruction, is the main event, with mesmerizing pillared walkways and brightly coloured patterned ceilings. Pretty much year-round strong winds make this an excellent kitesurfing destination too.

RameshwaramPhoto by Helen Abramson

4. Chill out on Little Andaman, Andaman Islands

Seek out the most beautiful beaches on the Indian mainland, and you’re also probably going to find an awful lot of people. The Andaman Islands, over a thousand kilometres off the east coast, in the Bay of Bengal and not far from Myanmar, don’t escape the crowds either.

That is, except Little Andaman (actually one of the biggest), the least-visited island of the archipelago and the furthest south tourists can travel.

A tropical climate, crystal-clear waters, stunning reefs, thick jungle bursting with wildlife and the best surfing conditions on the Subcontinent make this remote haven worth the admittedly long and difficult journey.

Andaman Islands, IndiaBack from fishing trip by Jakub Michankow via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

5.  Hike the Himalayas in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh

Way up in the Himalayas, tricky to get to and almost touching the border with Tibet, the Spiti valley is one of the world’s highest and most isolated populated areas.

Surrounded by peaks with an average on 4500m, the scenery is unfailingly dazzling: hanging glaciers, barley fields covered in layers of crisp snow, vast rocky plains and monasteries balanced precariously on rugged mounds.

Buddhist culture, similar to that of Tibet, permeates the peaceful, welcoming communities of the mud-brick hamlets clinging to the mountainsides, and trekking here allows a glimpse into a way of life that’s barely changed in centuries.

Pin valley, Spiti, HP, IndiaPin valley, Spiti by Vikash Prasad via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

6. Walk the wilderness in Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh

In the very northeastern tip of India – the least explored area of this immense country – lies Namdapha National Park, bordering Myanmar’s most northerly point.

Exceptionally rich in biodiversity, with an impressive collection of flora and fauna, the protected area spans a huge range of altitudes, from verdant river valleys at 200m to snow-capped peaks at 4500m.

Don’t forget your binoculars – remote and wild, the virgin forests here are ideal territory for elusive big wildlife such as tigers, snow leopards, red pandas and the endangered Hoolock Gibbons.

 Namdapha National Park, Arunachal PradeshNamdapha by Prashanth NS via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

7. Gaze at the ghats in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh

Varanasi is famous for the sacred rituals on the banks of the River Ganges and the religious intensity that saturates the city. If you want to find a similar atmosphere but without the hordes of tourists, head to Maheshwar, a thousand kilometres west, in Madhya Pradesh.

On the banks of the holy Narmada River, Maheshwar is an important pilgrimage point for Hindus, and was mentioned in the epic ancient stories of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The enthralling town is lined with temples and colourful houses overlooked by a grand eighteenth-century fort. A wander down to the ghats makes for a very absorbing stroll – you’ll find a hub of spiritual activity, with pilgrims bathing in the holy waters while orange-clad sadhus sit on the shore praying.

Maheshwar, Madhya PradeshMaheshwar, India by mauro gambini via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Explore India with the Rough Guide to IndiaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

America’s fourth largest state, Montana is bigger than Germany or Japan. Despite the presence of some of the nation’s fastest highways, the drive from one side to the other takes around twelve hours.

Fortunately, many of the state’s most treasured destinations and experiences are clustered in the rugged western portion, making it less daunting for the first-time visitor trying to discover the best of “Big Sky Country.” Here, Eric Grossman tells us why Western Montana is the star of America’s West.

1. Glacier National Park is one of the country’s finest

Considered by some to be America’s most spectacular national park, Glacier National Park is chock full of picturesque scenery.

The huge park, which straddles the Canada–US border, encompasses over one million acres (4000 sq-km) and includes parts of two mountain ranges, more than a hundred lakes, and hundreds of species of animals, with grizzly bears and mountain goats the most notable residents.

The iconic Going-To-The-Sun Road crosses the park, offering spectacular panoramas and spine-tingling vertical drops. Nervous drivers, meanwhile, can opt for one of the signature “Red Jammers,” the restored 1930s coaches that offer tours throughout the park.

USA, Montana, Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald

2. You can discover your inner cowboy (or cowgirl) in style

Thanks to the stunning natural landscape and proximity to Glacier National Park, Western Montana is home to some of America’s most lauded ranch resorts. These properties enjoy acres of space and abundant natural resources, including some of the world’s highest-rated fly fishing locales. Staffers patiently guide visitors as they try their hand at popular Western-inspired activities such as horse riding and target shooting, and guests of all ages often jump at the chance to take part in a cattle drive on a working ranch.

Synonymous with rustic luxury, the Ranch at Rock Creek offers one-of-a-kind accommodations ranging from heated “glamping” (glamorous camping) tents to a five-bedroom log home. Guests enjoy extensive amenities, inventive cuisine and access to roughly twenty guided outdoor activities on 6600 acres of mountains, meadows, forests, trout ponds and a mountain-fed creek.

Ranch at Rock Creek, MontanaImage courtesy of The Ranch at Rock Creek

3. There are outdoor activities as far as the eye can see

What the region lacks in sophisticated, contemporary experiences it makes up for with its plethora of year-round outdoor activities. World-class camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, and whitewater rafting is available at all skill levels.

Sporty types can enjoy golf, archery, all-terrain vehicles, and more. Between Glacier, numerous state parks, and myriad private resort areas, there are literally thousands of outdoor options.

Upper Missouri Breaks, MontanaUpper Missouri Breaks NM by Bureau of Land Management via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

4. It’s home to one of America’s best university towns

Missoula – Western Montana’s largest city – is a convenient hub for those looking to explore the region. The city is best known for being home to the University of Montana, which keeps Missoula festive and youthful year after year.

For an unparalleled, and free, view of the city, simply hike up the small mountain next to the university’s campus to reach the iconic letter “M” that can be seen from across the region. Then follow the students to the Missoula Club, a century-old bar that’s beloved for its inexpensive, juicy burgers made from fresh Montana beef.

Tap into the exploding beer scene and sample fresh local beers at bars like The Dram Shop, and enjoy local ingredients prepared with aplomb at hip restaurants such as the Red Bird and Plonk.

On the rare hot day, cool off with a surfing session on the Clark Fork River, and then treat yourself to a scoop of huckleberry ice cream at Missoula’s beloved Big Dipper.

Montana, Big Dipper, MissoulaImage courtesy of Destination Missoula

5. The wildlife watching is among the best in the West

Montana is massive – 147,040 square miles (380,800 square kilometres) – yet the population is only around a million. This means there is loads of room for wildlife to flourish.

Visitors to Western Montana can explore the National Bison Range, established in 1908 to provide a sanctuary for the American bison, in the town of Dixon. Residents think nothing of spotting moose, big horn sheep, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bald eagles and other birds of prey.

Fishers compete for more than seven species of trout, plus walleye and smallmouth bass.

Hunters search for dozens of game birds and animals, ranging from elk, antelope, and deer to pheasant and partridge.

Moose, MontanaBull moose swimming by Jeff P via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

6. There’s more for foodies than you might expect

To the uninitiated, the region offers a surprising number of dishes and ingredients that are unique to Montana. And a variety of small, family-run restaurants, along with local fairs and festivals, provide opportunities to try Montana staples like cowboy beans, buffalo chili, and Indian fry-bread.

Huckleberries – perhaps the state’s most famous, and abundant, ingredient – are served any which way, in pancakes, ice cream, and as a sweet accompaniment to the state’s ubiquitous beef. If you want to snack on some of the tart berries, ask a local where to go pick your own – just keep an eye out for berry-loving bears.

Explore more of the USA with the Rough Guide to the USACompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

In search of somewhere a little more adventurous and lot less travelled than the famous backwaters of Kerala? Head to the Godavari Delta on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh, where you’ll find a rich area for exploration says Nick Edwards, co-author of The Rough Guide to India.

The mighty Godavari, second only in length to the Ganges, traverses central India from its source near the holy city of Nasik in the Western Ghats, finally issuing in the Bay of Bengal after its almost 1500km journey. As it widens and then divides into several distinct mouths, not only does it create a highly fertile basin but it also offers a number of delightful hideaways that are only just opening up as tourist destinations.

So far such visitors as do make it here are almost exclusively domestic tourists, meaning that it’s a great place to get an authentic experience of being the only foreigner for miles around.

Drop anchor at Rajahmundry

The best base to start investigating this fascinating region is Rajahmundry, which sprawls along the east bank of the river just at the point where it makes its first major split into the mouths that constitute the vast estuary.

Although Rajahmundry is a good eighty kilometres from the coast, the river is so wide at this point that it takes five to ten minutes to cross by road or train. It’s well connected, lying on the main east coast transport route, roughly halfway between the  better known cities of Vijayawada and Vishakapatnam.

Godavari, Andhra Pradesh

Godavari by Venkataramesh Kommoju via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The city itself is busy in a typically Indian way and doesn’t offer any particular attractions but is far from unpleasant, with plenty of greenery and a lively riverfront. As you would expect for the last major town on India’s second holiest river, this area is lined with all sorts of temples, shrines and bathing ghats, making it a splendid spot to take in Hindu practices at work.

As many of the places that are worth visiting are quite difficult or impossible to access under your own steam, Rajahmundry is also the place to organise a tour with a dedicated agency such as Konaseema Tourism.

Head for the hills upriver

One excellent tour that is well worth considering is the trip north up the main trunk of the Godavari to the hills of Papikondalu. This can be done as a lengthy day-trip but it’s far better to make it into an overnight stay.

Having been transported some 50km by road along the west bank of the narrowing river to a small jetty at Polavaram, you board a double-decker motor boat and are fed a typically South Indian breakfast of idli, vada, sambar and coconut chutney. This vessel then chugs upstream at a sedate pace, as the river snakes through a mixture of agricultural and wooded land, fringed with more thickly forested hills.

Man taking water in bucket Godavari river at Papi Hills Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India

The trip is very much geared towards locals, with speakers blaring out extremely loud music, ranging from devotional temple chants, through Bollywood hits to Indian reggae (yes, reggae not raga), interspersed with a rapid rap-style Telugu commentary. There are a couple of stops, one for puja at a small riverside Shiva temple and later a quiet Ramakrishna hermitage. A tasty veg lunch is also provided on board.

If you choose to stay overnight, there’s a choice between the very basic Kolluru Bamboo Huts, only accessible by boat, and a slightly more comfortable hotel at Bhadrachalam, which has an impressive Sri Rama temple and is connected by road, so the tour can actually be used as a means of transport, much like the famous Kollam to Alleppey trip in Kerala.

There’s is no doubt the more romantic option is to stay at Kolluru. The huts certainly have no frills, or even doors, but the location on a hillock between the Godavari and a picturesque side stream, surrounded by the high Papikondalu Hills, is exquisite. Try local specialities such as bamboo chicken, where small chunks of meat are roasted over coals in a thick hollowed-out section of bamboo, and take in the unforgettable night sky.

Explore Konaseema and Koringa

The other rewarding areas to explore are to the south and east of Rajahmundry.

Konaseema is the palm-rich region in the flat delta of large islands created by the seven mouths of the Godavari, dotted with grassy marshes, fishing boats and small motorised ferries. Fairly upmarket waterfront resorts are beginning to appear, mainly around the villages of Dindi and Razole, both of which are accessible by bus.

There are also the early signs of houseboats becoming available, although there is nothing like the choice of Kerala yet. This is the part of Andhra Pradesh where the purest form of Telugu is spoken and its vibrant cultural heritage is evidenced in colourful festivals at the many temples, such as Sankranti in January.

Konaseema, Andhra Pradesh

Konaseema – Coconut trees by { pranav } via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Finally, occupying a large swathe of coastline just north of the main mouth of the river, between the small Union Territory of Yanam, an old French colony, and the busy port of Kakinada, lies the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. The area is densely packed with mangrove swamps, second only in surface area to the Sunderbans, and a host of other water-loving plants, shrubs and trees.

There’s a boardwalk set up through the muddy groves and a tiny jetty for boat trips when the tide allows, plus a concrete viewing platform for a splendid overview. Among the birdlife you can spot here is the ubiquitous egret, the open-billed stork, kingfishers and even the Brahminy kite, while the elusive otter is the most notable resident mammal. The surrounding bay is also a major breeding ground for the Olive Ridley turtle.

Explore more of India with the Rough Guide to IndiaCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Volunteering abroad is one of the best and most rewarding things you can do on your travels – but getting involved often isn’t the straightforward and speedy process you might expect. Many people are amazed when it becomes apparent just how much preparation is necessary.

But don’t let this put you off: it’s important to be aware of all the facts. A well-planned placement will be mutually beneficial for both you and whatever people, wildlife or environment you’ll be working with. Here, Will Jones gives us his top 7 tips.

1. Make sure you can afford it

Spending money to work for free may seem bafflingly illogical at first glance, but the reality is that volunteering abroad is expensive. Before you have even paid for your placement you will have to make sure you can also afford the airfare to get there.

You’ll also need to consider the cost of visas and vaccinations. The charge for the placement itself will depend on many things, such as the type of volunteering, the location, and how much time you spend on the placement, and typically covers your accommodation, food, training, local transport, insurance and background checks.

Chicken buses (camionetas),second-class public transportation in Guatemala.

2. Find a good organisation

The international volunteering industry is absolutely huge, and growing by the minute. With so many organisations out there, inevitably some are more scrupulous than others, and it’s crucial to get in with the former to ensure you end up on an ethically sound placement.

The key is research. Tons of it. If you find a project you’re interested in, find out as much as you possibly can about the company behind it. Check online reviews and search through forums. If possible, speak directly to people who have worked on whatever placement it is – any reputable volunteering organisation will be happy to put you in touch with its previous participants.

View from one of the El Mirador temples, Petan.Northern Guatemala.

3. Ask the right questions

Once you have found an organisation you trust, it’s time to dig a little deeper. It would be ideal to speak to them in person but a phone call is a good second best option. Be prepared with a list of questions. Some of these could include:

Why do you need a volunteer and not a local person who could work for a wage?

How exactly does my fee break down?

What kind of training will you provide?

Is there a local partner organisation who manages the project on the ground?

In what ways is the local community involved?

How do you select your volunteers?

What will my day-to-day life be like on the project?

What are the long term goals and how do I fit into them?

What kind of support will I have on the ground?

They should be just as interested in you as you are in them. So if the only questions they are asking are concerned with the numbers on your credit card, be very cautious.


4. Match your skills and interests to a project

When choosing a volunteer placement, it’s really important to think of the big picture. If you are already involved with or want to pursue a career in teaching, a suitable project could be teaching English to children (providing you get a TEFL qualification). If you want to work in the veterinary profession, an ideal placement could be rehabilitating animals back into the wild. Those studying to be doctors or nurses could join a medical elective for a few weeks.

Matching a project to your skills and interests not only means you have a rewarding and truly valuable experience, but it also ensures the project is genuinely benefiting from your presence.

5. Spend a suitable amount of time

How long to commit to any given project is subjective and largely dependent on the type of volunteering. Generally speaking, if you will be working with young children (perhaps teaching) a good amount of time is two to three months, so you can create a real and meaningful rapport with them.

For environmental and wildlife placements, which are often more focussed on manual labour, you can make a positive impact as a pair of arms in just a few days.

Keep in mind that for some projects, on the ground training will be necessary, so factor this into the total amount of time you can dedicate.

Beach volley ball game, Monterrico,Pacific coast of Guatemala.

6. Be prepared to work hard

Whether you’re digging foundations for a new school in Cambodia, collecting marine data on a coral reef in Belize, teaching football to kids in Romania, educating a village community in Ghana about AIDS, or clearing out a pen in an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka, one thing is guaranteed: you will work hard.

This is exactly how it should be: the last thing you want is to be standing around kicking your heels. The harder you work, the more important you will feel to the project and, ultimately, the more difference you can make.

7. Isn’t it better to just donate money?

Sometimes, yes. A good example where money is much more welcome is in areas hit by natural disasters, at least in the immediate aftermath. While it might be tempting to get the first plane out there to pitch in, you could end up being an added burden in what will already be an incredibly chaotic situation. In a general sense, the best thing is to think with your head and not your heart.

In other words, try to put aside altruistic feelings for a moment, and truly ask yourself whether you as an individual will make a more positive difference by physically being on a project as opposed to simply donating money.

Will is the Editor at, a website aimed at backpackers and budget travellers, and where you can plan, book and share your travels. He tweets @willjackjones.

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