You’ve probably never heard of apitourism, or even considered “bee tourism” to be a thing. But it is, and it’s a travel trend swarming all over Slovenia.

While bee populations in countries such as the US are dwindling at an alarming rate, Slovenia is the only EU member state to have officially protected its prized bee race. They have 9600 beekeepers, around 12,500 apiaries and nearly 170,000 hive colonies.

We say ‘prized’ because the Carniolan honey bee is known for its friendly nature (they rarely sting) and hardy characteristics (they can survive sub-zero temperatures). Which explains why they sell 30,000 of their Queen Carniolan bees to European countries each year.

As the only country to certify apitourism providers, Slovenia will also host the European Green Capital in 2016. They’ll educate visitors on biodynamic and eco-friendly farming methods. Plus they’ll shine the light on the capital’s urban beekeeping and celebrate the UN movement which has declared May 20 World Bee Day.

So how can you get in on the action? Here are five ways to get up close and personal with Slovenia’s bees.

Slovenia, Ljubljana, Riverboat just before it reaches Cobblers' Bridge (Shoemakers' Bridge) from Triple Bridge direction

Go on the honey tasting trail

Thanks to its rich diversity of flora and expertise in mobile beekeeping, Slovenia produces 2400kg of honey each year.

Visit Marko Cesar, of the family-run Cesar brand, at his home near Maribor and you can sip on the country’s only sparkling chestnut honey-based wine. Elsewhere, you can sample liqueurs, mead, vinegar, beer and goats cheese, all made from honey.

Further west at the quaint Restaurant Lectar in Radovljica you can watch traditional honey bread hearts, or lectarstvo, being made; many biodynamic farmers flavour theirs with cinnamon, ginger, blueberry and chocolate.

Cesar honey & Chestnut Honey sparkling wineImage by Lucy McGuire

Take an apitherapy tour

Nineteenth-century physician Filip Terc was ridiculed for claiming that bee venom could cure arthritis. But apitherapy is now recognised by the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association as a legitimate form of homeopathy.

You can learn about the bacteria-fighting properties of propolis and the ‘curative’ effects of royal jelly on high blood pressure on an apitherapy tour.

Those with asthma can inhale ‘healing aromas’ from the hive while anyone feeling a little weary can try honey massages, beeswax thermotherapy – claimed to boost circulation and treat skin disorders – and a nap on special beehive beds, whose vibrations are said to induce calm.

Get hands-on at an apicamp

Whether you’re a beekeeping pro or simply want to learn more about the api-industry, Slovenia offers various ‘apicamps’ on Queen breeding, the apiculture science and traditional AZ hives.

You can join lectures in honey production, bee feeding and everything from comb wiring to obtaining propolis and royal jelly. Or if you want to do some serious swotting-up, you can head to the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association in Lukovica – home to a honey laboratory and apiculture Library.

Honeycomb, SloveniaImage by Lucy McGuire

Stay on an eco-api-friendly estate

The apitourism trend has done wonders for highlighting new forms of eco-conscious travel. And many companies like ApiRoutes are using this niche industry to shine the spotlight on an array of eco and socially conscious accommodation and tours. In the lead up to 2016 – when Ljubljana will be hailed the official Green Capital – this ‘Green Piece of Europe’ will be thrust onto the responsible stage.

If you do one thing, check out the remarkable Trnulja Estate – a 100% organic farm with charming bio-apartments and excellent green credentials. Tanja Arih Korosec, Director of AriTours, says: ‘Tourism is becoming more about sustainability and if we can [use apitourism] to encourage tourists to act in a more sustainable way, other countries will follow.”

Traditional Bee house, SloveniaImage by Lucy McGuire

Discover api-folklore

During the mid-eighteenth century, Slovenia was rich in rural folk art, which appeared on many of the country’s traditional stacked AZ bee houses – it was believed that the motifs helped the bees navigate back to their hives.

Visit the Slovenian beekeeping museum in Radovljica to see 600 of these original hand-painted panels or take an excursion to the beautiful village of Selo to meet Danijela Ambrozic, who offers traditional api-artwork workshops from her beekeeping farm.

For more information on AriTours and ApiRoutes, visit and Find more travel information on the Slovenia Tourist Board site at WIZZ flies from London Luton to Ljubljana from £11.49. For more information visit Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Have you ever wanted to just set off? To grab your bag and go – with no map, no partner, no fixed address. In our video of the week, online entrepreneur Jacob Laukaitis does just that.

Travelling from Lithuania to Greece and back with a GoPro Hero 4 strapped to his chest, Laukaitis journeyed across 15 countries in just four weeks. Now you can do it too, by watching his footage.

You’ll make your way through the Balkans on an old motorbike, weaving across misty valleys, pine forests and cobblestoned villages. Through rain and shine you’ll cover 8000km of narrow roads, coastal motorways and dusty dirt tracks.

Taken while in constant motion, the footage is strung together in a montage sequence, with brief shots of its filmmaker brooding silently over the stunning scenery.

Laukaitis points out that although his speedometer broke on the second day of the trip, he never bothered to fix it. Perhaps that’s the broader message of his video. Life blazes by quickly; the speedometer goes out of control. Sometimes you just need to jump off your motorbike, take a breath, and enjoy the view.

If you’re in need of inspiration, TED Talks aren’t short of it for most topics – and they certainly aren’t lacking when it comes to travel. You could spend hours watching presentation after presentation, soaking up all the words of influential and interesting people from around the world. But we’ve got a few favourites; here are the essential TED Talks every traveller should watch and learn from.

1. Where is Home? with Pico Iyer 

“It’s such a simple question,” travel writer and author Pico Iyer muses at the beginning of his talk. But is it really? How many of us know exactly where we come from? As travellers, we often find ourselves feeling at home in the oddest of places, or if we’re on the road for a long time, perhaps we never feel at home at all. Join Pico Iyer in contemplation here.

2. Jimmy Nelson on photographing vanishing tribes

We published these photographs from Before They Pass Away – Jimmy Nelson’s gorgeous coffee table photography book. Here you can hear about the tales behind the pictures in his extremely entertaining, beautifully candid TED Talk. We challenge you not to be inspired by his passion for the people behind pictures.

3. Living the Nomadic Dream with Kitra Cahana

“There was a deep restlessness in me” – we can all relate to this. Here, photojournalist Kitra Cahana tells tales from her time following “the Nomadic Dream, a different kind of American Dream”, in which young Americans spend their lives travelling across the USA.

4. Find out why you should leave the house with Ben Saunders

This is pure inspiration to travel and excellent advice from a man who gets out of the house quite a lot – polar explorer Ben Saunders. “Growth only comes from challenge,” he say. So go on, get out!

5. A window into our weird and wonderful world with Karen Bass

National Geographic and BBC filmmaker Karen Bass has plenty of stories to tell. Here she shares some stunning footage – see the adorable bears at 2:15 – she’s shot over the years, and reminds us of what an incredible world it is that we live in.

See more inspirational travel videos with the Rough Guides YouTube Channel

New business traveller networking app MileHi is raising some eyebrows among travellers.

MileHi aims to connect business travellers on the same flight for networking (or should we say, jetworking?) purposes. Before you fly, you download the app, enter your flight number and see a list of registered users on the same plane as you.

However, the app’s innocent intentions have come under question – not least because of its suggestive name. Using swipe right or left movements you can connect with or dismiss other travellers at first sight – sound familiar?

Above the clouds

On their website, MileHi also suggest they intend to broaden the app’s scope, not only targeting business people, but also singles. “Seen a pretty guy or gal heading your way?”, they say, “Introduce yourself, break the ice and make a great first impression.”

Once you’ve entered your details and got the list, communication can be carried out through either group or private chats, and arrangements to share taxis can be made alongside general networking.

The app saw a strong lift off when it was released in July, downloaded 3000 times within the first two weeks, but its final destination remains a matter of speculation…

Travel is increasingly driven by the sharing economy: we can sleep in strangers’ bedseat in other peoples’ homes and take tours led by locals. These experiences help us see the world from a new perspective and make new friends at every turn. But has this movement been taken too far?

You’ve got your itinerary set, decided which hotels you’ll stay in and found the perfect tour. The only thing standing between you and your dream trip is the money. Or is it?

Enter crowdfunding websites GoFundMe and Trevolta, who are allowing wanna-be globetrotters to set up their own page where friends – and even strangers – can donate money towards their next adventure.

Some people are using them to fund volunteer trips where they can give back to the communities they’ll be visiting, others have set up pages to help them emigrate, but a few are using these sites to fund trips they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford.

They’ve got a trip in mind, but can’t foot the bill, so they’re asking friends, family and strangers alike to donate to their kitty. One has even raised upwards of $10,000.

We’re all for supporting travellers in as many ways as possible, but…

World-Record holder, explorer, ex-Army Captain, occasional naked island-dweller… is there anything Ed Stafford can’t do? Ahead of his new Discovery Channel show – Ed Stafford: Into the Unknown, in which he heads to harsh environments, including West Papua and Ethiopia, on just a few hours’ notice to explore unsolved mysteries showing up in satellite images – we caught up with the man himself on a crackly line from Peru.

What was the scariest moment during filming for Ed Stafford: Into the Unknown?

I was outside my comfort zone in Siberia. It was so cold that it was actually causing my brain to slow down. I was slurring my words and my thinking capacity, which isn’t great at the best of times, just went down.

I got caught out because I just didn’t have the experience to realise what to do when you’ve got wet leather boots and it’s getting dark. I didn’t want to leave them outside my sleeping bag because I knew that they’d be frozen solid in the morning, so I put them inside my sleeping bag, which was right. But the wrong thing to do was to keep them on my feet. So my feet froze overnight and I had quite severe frostbite. I’ve got to have plastic surgery.

I do pride myself on being able to go to pretty much anywhere, but I’m also humble enough to say that I didn’t have much experience in that environment, so it did slightly get the better of me!

Ed Stafford, SiberiaEd meets locals in Siberia

You’ve travelled the length of the Amazon, been to deserted islands and seen incredible, untamed environments. What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen, what will stay with you?

The things I end up getting touched by more than anything else are displays of human kindness. If I do have slightly teary moments it’s when somebody, out of the blue, gives you a plate of food when you’re starving.

In Peru, there are a lot of people who’ve been quite downtrodden and ask for money a lot. I got to a village where this old woman started walking with me and she had her three-year-old granddaughter with her. We walked together for about three or four miles towards this village and I thought, because I was getting a bit cynical and a bit travel-weary by this point, that she was only walking with me to ask me for money. When we got to this village she just gave me a hug, and her granddaughter gave me a big hug, and they just wished me well and saw me on my way.

Because I’d expected it to be so negative it literally brought tears to my eyes. They just wanted to walk with us and chat with us and have a nice time. It’s this kind of thing that I find beautiful, more than an amazing sunset or something. It’s when people touch you in some way.

Ed Stafford in West PapuaEd helping build a mud island in West Papua

Anyone who travels for a long time sometimes gets a little cynical, travel-weary, maybe a bit homesick. Do you have any tips on how to deal with that?

As much as I know that I love travelling and I love meeting people, you can get quite weary of it. I worked out that all I was suffering from was a sort of accumulation of small annoyances.

Invariably in Peru I had to answer the same questions or defend myself in the same way time and time again, as there is a degree of ignorance towards travellers. Over the months it became an accumulated intolerance, so that I could snap so easily at somebody who just asked me one question!

How do you combat that? I suppose just recognise it, and realise it’s my responsibility to turn up with a smile on my face and be understanding.

Ed Stafford, ZambiaEd Stafford in Zambia

These are people’s homes, this is their land; I’m the foreigner, I’m the one who has to step outside of his own comfort zone. If you’ve got the money to go and travel, then you’ve therefore got the responsibility to control what impact you have on people.

And that weariness – well, if you’re that weary of travelling, go home! You’ve got to still have the capacity to step outside of it and make the effort for people. And if you haven’t got that capability, I do think it’s time to go home.

What do you think it means to be an explorer today?

I don’t think it’s always a geographical thing, and we’re often not doing things for the benefit of science, either. It’s far more of a personal thing, a human endeavour – but I don’t think that makes it any less important.

We live in a world where people don’t challenge themselves that much, they don’t move outside of their sphere of comfort. To live in that sort of world, to wrap yourself in cotton wool, I don’t think it’s good for the soul.

Ed Stafford in West PapuaEd meets a local pastor in West Papua

It’s good to put yourself through challenges every now and again, and discomfort as well, so you understand a bit of the yin and yang of life. And it helps you grow – because you’ve got to think outside of the box and cope with things that you maybe haven’t had to cope with before – and on a personal level that’s really important.

At a bigger level, I think it’s partly about inspiring other people. If you’re doing something that helps you become a better person and it also vicariously seems to help other people, I don’t think there’s any negative there. You could talk yourself down into thinking it was a bit self-indulgent, but I genuinely don’t think that.

A lot of explorers try and hide behind “I’m going on this expedition to raise money for charity,” and I don’t think you always need that excuse. The trips are important, pushing the boundaries of human endeavour is important, and on a personal level just doing things that stretch you, gaining a bit more understanding about the world and yourself, is important.

Ed Stafford in ZambiaEd Stafford in Zambia

What’s next for you?

There’ll be three more all-new episodes of Marooned, which is the survival series I’ve been doing for the Discovery Channel. Two weeks in the Gobi Desert, two weeks in Guatemala in the rainforest, and then two weeks in Madagascar in the baobab forests. So three months of not eating much, probably!

These environments are a little more extreme than the last series, so it’s upping the ante a little bit, and I can’t wait to get back into it. There’s no script, there’s no one else to deal with – you literally have a blank sheet of paper on each episode, so that’s really exciting.

Ed Stafford: Into the Unknown will premiere on the Discovery Channel on August 27 at 8pm BST.

As a travel writer you spend lots of time giving people travel tips on destinations, but also dispensing advice on how to make the whole experience run more smoothly. From a life working on the road you learn many lessons – lessons that everyone can benefit from. So join us now as we take you through nine crucial things you learn about travel as a travel writer.

1. To prepare, prepare and then prepare some more

Yes, part of the beauty of travel is being spontaneous, but the more planning you do in advance will help make sure things like travel health, money and your own safety will all take care of themselves. So many ‘travel nightmares’ come out of a lack of basic trip planning.

2. To always stay calm

This is both obvious and hard to do. The clichéd travel writer who bellows “do you know who I am?” is not going to win over hard pressed staff at airline check in who have seen all the histrionics before. Be polite (firm is ok) and calm, smile when you can and you might just find you do get given a better room, or that taxi driver might actually understand why you don’t want to pay double as you can read Greek and it isn’t a bank holiday, and that policeman may let you off with just a word of warning.

India, bombay, dabbas, mumbai, Dabbanwallah using a mobile phone to organise dabbas delivery times and places

3. The world changes fast

While it’s nice to hark back to the old days, “oh, Goa was so much cooler before the backpackers moved in”, this is actually a great thing. It means there is always a reason to go back to places rather than just say you have ‘done’ them. Most European cities have new attractions every year, but destinations like Dubai seem to transform themselves every month.

4. Free wi-fi is like gold dust

When you get the chance to get on wi-fi, whether it’s on a short bus journey or in a café, snatch it – you never know when you will next get online. Many hotels still charge for wi-fi so checking your emails coming in from the airport for free saves you racking up a steep hotel bill or mobile roaming charges.

5. A notepad and pen are essential

Free wifi and a strong phone battery are always welcome, but don’t ever totally rely on technology. Every writer knows always to have a pen and paper handy as often you cannot fire up devices on a plane and batteries tend to die just when you are taking a note of something really important.

Nepal, Bardia National Park, tourist photographing wildlife (Indian rhinoceros)

6. Take photographs and then take some more

You may well only visit a place once in your life, so snap away. In this era of quality smart phones and digital cameras there is no excuse for not taking photo after photo. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great photographer to start with, your images will get better and will be enough to help keep your own memories warm and show friends.

7. Don’t be a stranger

It is easy to walk around in a cocoon chatting with your mates or thinking about home on the road. Yes, you will still come back with memories of Paris, but you will also have missed the great chat you could have had with the guy at the crêpe stand, or that ultra-friendly student in the Left Bank who could have told you about that cool pop-up bar. Apply the usual sensible precautions you would at home and meeting people really can make a trip.

8. The world is an incredible place

It really is. Hardened hacks can get, er, a little cynical about travel given the sheer volume of places they visit. While travel writing isn’t always the dream job people often think it is (there’s an awful lot of hard work involve, we promise!), we are still lucky. It is important to remember – and you will always enjoy a trip more if you do – that most people will just never get to visit the places you see.

Alpamayo peak in Cordilleras mountainby Fotolia: Galyna Andrushko

9. To always take a guidebook

We might be biased, but hear us out: a physical guidebook will stand by you when you have no power or signal on your mobile devices. It is also great for dipping into in the bath (and you won’t get an electric shock if you get it wet) or on a plane. Truth be told, many travel writers themselves would struggle without one.

Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, find tours and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The Great Lakes comprise the largest body of fresh water on the planet and more than 35,000 islands are found in the water system. Not all are inhabited and some aren’t much more than a single rock jutting out of the lake with a lighthouse on it – but the inhabited ones provide the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway. Here’s our list of the best islands in the Great Lakes.

Lake Huron: Manitoulin Island for First Nations Tourism

Manitoulin is largely undiscovered territory for modern travellers because it’s difficult to get to without a car or boat, but it’s totally worth the effort. Six small reserves with names like Kagawong, M’Chigeeng and Sheguiandah dot the shores of this island and are the best places to find out more about Canada’s First Nations people.

Canada’s most famous First Nations theatre group, De-Ba-Jeh-Mu-Jig (meaning “storyteller”), are based in Wikwemikong and do performances of native legends during summer.

The island is also unique for the small reddish hawberries that grow wild along its shores. Early settlers ate the berries in winter as a last-remaining food source – today, residents born on Manitoulin refer to themselves as “haweaters” as if it’s some secret club.

Bridal Veil Falls - a Niagara Escarpment plunge type waterfall in Kagawong, Great Lakes

Lake Ontario: the Thousand Islands for history

This isn’t just one island, but an archipelago of 1864 dots of land straddling the Canada-US border on the north-eastern exit of Lake Ontario into the St Lawrence River. The islands span fifty miles from the lake into the river, with dozens of waterfront towns (and even some cities) and restaurants.

The Thousand Islands have a rich history – they were a battleground for the War of 1812, an early 1900s playground for the rich and famous, and have always been a hub of maritime activity. This history is celebrated in the many museums, castles and mansions across the islands. If you’re looking for a hands-on experience, take part in one of the re-enactments or living history demonstrations that overtake Sackets Harbor Battlefield during the summer.

One of the thousand islands by  Benson KuaOne of the Thousand Islands by Benson Kua (license)

Lake Michigan: Beaver Island for hunting and fishing

Beaver Island’s history is unique: it began as a strong Mormon settlement with 300 followers of the Strangite sect, the Mormons who chose to follow James Strang instead of Brigham Young. The Strangites weren’t necessarily welcomed, and after Strang’s death in 1856, mobs from nearby communities drove the settlers off the island. So then the Irish fisherman came – earning Beaver Island the nickname “America’s Emerald Isle”. They were quickly followed by droves of outdoor-loving tourists and now the island is a hotspot for fishing and hunting.

The Beaver Island Wildlife Club has been active for more than 70 years working to preserve and maintain the wildlife and its habitat. In addition to many available deer, wild turkey, and small game for hunting, the island is known for excellent fly-fishing and a robust supply of smallmouth bass, carp, and walleye.

Beaver Island, Michigan, USA

Lake Erie: South Bass Island for late-night revellers

Party-lovers rejoice: you have your place in the Great Lakes, too. South Bass Island is home to one of Lake Erie’s largest entertainment destinations, the town of Put-in-Bay. Beer Barrel Saloon claims to have the longest uninterrupted bar in the world, seating 160 people on its stools, and the Round House has great live bands daily. There’s a reason it’s called the “Key West of Lake Erie,” and it’s not just because of the sun-kissed sands.

Rabbit island – courtesy of http://rabbitisland.orgCourtesy of

Lake Superior: Rabbit Island for artists

This small island once belonged to a Swedish fisherman but was recently purchased by New Yorker, Rob Gorski, and turned into a thriving artists’ colony. Gorski, an emergency room doctor, found the island on CraigsList. At the time, it only held the remains of a cabin, but Gorski saw more. Now the island has a shelter, a kitchen, and a sauna, and attracts artists from across the world to live in the wild wooded space and let Lake Superior’s moods influence their art.

Gorski hopes to eventually open an office and studio space in nearby Calumet, Michigan, to showcase the work of the island’s artists for locals and visitors interested in the robust art scene in the Upper Peninsula.

Explore of this area with the Rough Guides Great Lakes SnapshotCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

After 150 years of boom and bust, Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood is being redefined. Mary Novakovich takes to its bars and restaurants to discover what’s hot about the city’s hippest neighbourhood.

Things weren’t looking too promising when the taxi dropped us off on a dusty road with a railway on one side and grim-looking industrial units on the other. “We’ll take you out to the Junction,” my Toronto friends said. “It’s a cool place. Lots going on. Full of craft breweries. You’ll love it.” Possibly, but the initial signs weren’t good.

I lived in Toronto in the mid-1980s, when my flat was a good 5km east of the Junction yet still felt like the Wild West in the days when Queen Street West was the hub of the hip universe. Thirty years later, Toronto’s twentysomethings have been priced out of the centre and are discovering a new Wild West where the rents are much cheaper.

Only the Junction isn’t so new. And you could argue that it’s less wild now than it was in the nineteenth century. The Junction – named for the four railways that crossed into the neighbourhood – was a hive of industry back then, with a large number of taverns to keep the many railway and factory workers well watered.

The Junction, toronto, Canada, North AmericaImage © Adam Batterbee

A once-dry neighbourhood making up for lost time

Unfortunately, the taverns did too good a job: by 1904, residents had had enough of the debauchery on their doorstep and voted for a ban on the sale of alcohol. The district stayed dry until 2000. They’ve been making up for lost time ever since.

While the Junction has had its periods of boom and bust over the past century and a half – some really quite bleak – this is clearly boom time. Shops and small warehouses that had gone bust in low periods have now been taken over by juice bars, restaurants and cool cafés.

The industrial shock we faced on arrival was all forgiven within a few minutes of walking through the door of Junction Craft Brewing – part tap room, part shop and total brewery. It had all the hipster hallmarks you would expect from a small-scale yet busy craft brewery: industrial chic interior, chunky wooden tables, artfully arranged barrels and some really good beer in an agreeably laid-back atmosphere. If you can’t decide on which beer to choose, you can have a flight of four small glasses of whatever’s on tap. The Tracklayer’s Krolsch was particularly refreshing.

Junction Brewing company, Toronto, Canada, North AmericaImage © Adam Batterbee

“The promise of Toronto’s best southern fried chicken was waiting for us”

It was tempting to stay for a third round (the first two went down far too easily), or even pop next door to the Toronto Distillery Co for a taste of organic gins and whiskies. But the promise of Toronto’s best southern fried chicken was waiting for us. And more craft beer.

Within a few minutes we escaped the nondescript railway sidings and wandered down Keele Street to Dundas Street West, which was one long line of bars and restaurants – all of them buzzing. A Canadian friend told me how he grew up in this neighbourhood and still couldn’t quite believe how it became so trendy. It was such an ordinary-looking district, he said, and I couldn’t help but agree. Architecturally, its appeal wasn’t obvious, but the answer wasn’t long in coming.

On Dundas Street West we entered our second craft brewery of the evening, Indie Ale House. It was less rough and ready than Junction Craft Brewing, with warm exposed brick walls and a beer shop at the entrance. And the best southern fried chicken in Toronto? It really was, even if I couldn’t do justice to the gargantuan portion on my plate. And the accompanying glass of Iron Lady was considerably more palatable than its steely namesake.

Big plates for small prices

Our next stop on the Junction line was 3030, a cavernous space that combines a bar with a restaurant and a music venue. A row of vintage pinball machines made one wall glow and flash and ping, and at the far back was a stage where a bearded DJ was setting up his computer.

The bar was championing Ontario craft beers, with offerings from Mill Street Brewery, Hogtown Brewers, Beau’s and, of course, its near neighbour Junction Craft Brewing. A pint of Beau’s Lug-Tread slipped down pleasantly, though I discovered later that Beau’s makes an ale that has possibly Canada’s best beer name: Beaver River IPEh?.

The menu carried the two words that usually make my heart sink: small plates. But from what I could see, 3030 was sensibly subverting the rip-off European version of this insidious trend by offering relatively big plates of food for small prices – about $5 (£2.60) a pop. That was more like it.

The whole area was shabby-chic central. Some of the interiors probably came from a shop like Smash (, a local showroom where salvaged furniture has been given a new lease of life in fun and innovative ways. Rather like the Junction itself, which has finally found itself on the right side of the tracks.

Explore more of Toronto with the Rough Guide to Canada or get the Rough Guides Snapshot TorontoCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Featured image by Wyliepoon on Flickr Creative Commons

India varies greatly between its 29 states. Yet there are some things you’ll discover no matter where you are or how long you stay in the vast Subcontinent. If you’ve been to India at least once, you’ll relate to a few of these lessons we’ve learned over the years…

1. The street food is incredible

For 50 cents you can fill up on any number of delectable dishes, from masala dosa (rice pancake with chutney and daal) to pav bhaji (veg curry in a soft bread roll), to simple snacks like samosas and chana chaat (spicy chickpeas). You’ll never tire of what’s on offer. If you miss out on street food, you’re missing half the fun of coming here.

2. People will go out of their way to help you

This is true anywhere in the world, but is especially evident in India. Sure, some of the people you meet will be trying to pull a fast one, but others will go unexpectedly far out of their way to help you. Total strangers will share their meals with you on a train, give you their seat and make sure you get off at the right stop, or show you all the way to the front door of your tucked-away guest house. Go with your gut, and be prepared to get it wrong – everyone does at some point.

3. Chai is a blessing

Thick, milky, spicy and sweet, the ubiquitous chai (Indian tea) is usually served in a small cup for about 10 cents. It’s reviving, comforting and delicious. You’ll find it on trains, in bus stations and on street corners – they don’t make it this good anywhere else on Earth.

Meenakshi temple, Tamil Nadu, India, Asia

4. The temples are beautiful (and a great place to cool off)

Religion permeates the very core of Indian life, and as such the country is home to some of the world’s most spectacular and awe-inspiring temples. Whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian or Jain, places of worship are a great place to cool off and gain some tranquillity. Often placed at the top of hills with magnificent views, the buildings range from humble shrines to palatial marble structures with glittering spires and swirling fairy-tale-like towers.

5. You can bargain for most things

…but don’t quibble over 10 rupees. Whether it’s for a room, a trek, a rickshaw ride or yet another pair of Ali Baba pants, keep it jovial. Walking away usually brings the price down, and it’s a good idea to know what you’re willing to pay for something before you start haggling.

6. There’s always a celebration

The Hindu calendar is jam-packed with festivals. Getting involved in the major ones such as the colourful paint-throwing revelries of Holi is a great way to immerse yourself in Indian culture. However, there’s no need to fret if you miss the big hitters, as smaller local festivals take place all the time in communities throughout the country. When you hear loud drumming, be sure to follow that sound – you’ll likely discover a parade of fantastically decorated elephants and people dressed up as mythical creatures and deities.

Cochin parade, festival in India, Asia

7. Cows have right of way

Seeing cows merrily wandering anywhere they please can take some getting used to. Stopping traffic in the street, lying casually on the beach, nosing their way into people’s front doors… they are all over the place. Fortunately, Indian cows aren’t fussy eaters – most of the time they’re munching on anything they can find, from food waste to paper bags.

8. You will get asked awkward questions. Constantly.

What is your salary? How many girl/boyfriends have you had? Are you married? Why don’t you have any children? What is your father’s salary? What is your religion? Such questions are perfectly normal in polite conversation among strangers in India, and asking them does not appear negatively intrusive, as it would at home. It’s not worth getting offended – you’ll soon tire yourself out with the effort. All the same, you may want to invent a few white lies to make life easier.

9. Personal space is subjective

Joining another long queue? Prepare to be continually pushed from all angles and uncomfortably squashed between the people behind and in front of you. Standing on a train? Don’t even think about being able to move your limbs or work out an exit route. You’re going to know what your neighbours ate for breakfast, and nobody is going to give two hoots that everyone’s all up in your grill. Personal space is a luxury most Indians can’t afford.

Busy station, Churchgate, Mumbai, India, Asia

10. You are going to be a curiosity

Walking around in anonymity and gaining a fly-on-the-wall experience in India is simple never going to happen. Everywhere you go people greet you, stare intently at you, chat to you and even take photos of and with you. Travellers are intriguing and endlessly entertaining to many of the local people. You may as well enjoy the attention while it lasts.

11. Bum hoses are the bomb

You will probably scorn it at first, thinking Western toilet habits superior. But you’ll come around soon enough. Using a jet of water that shoots out of a hose means you don’t have to worry if you forgot to bring toilet paper, you don’t have to go anywhere near the disgusting overflowing waste bin, you’re saving the trees and you come away feeling much cleaner… if a little damp. Bum hoses win, hands down.

12. You are probably going to get sick

Even those who only eat in the classiest restaurants and don’t let a drop of tap water ever come near their toothbrush still often get sick. Taking probiotics can help strengthen your weak foreign stomach, but you should still always be prepared for the worst, and check in to somewhere decent when it happens.

elephants in Kerala, India

13. The Indian head wobble is an essential skill

Somewhere between a nod and a shake of the head lies the Indian head wobble, a side-to-side tilting that means “yes”, “I get it”, or acts as a sign of acknowledgement and encouragement. You’ll definitely look silly trying it, but you’ll always get a positive response.

14. Everything takes ages

Want to post a parcel but didn’t bring two passport photos, three copies of your passport, seventeen copies of your visa and numerous identical forms filled out with a heinous amount of unnecessary information? And you didn’t leave three hours to spare? The British brought some good things to India; bureaucracy was not one of them.

15. Expect the unexpected

India is one of the most bizarre, crazy, hectic, magical and sensational places on earth. You literally never know what’s going to happen next, but it’s one of the most exciting places to travel. Find out where you should start your adventure in India.

Explore 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.

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