Albania is everything you are looking for when you vacation – it’s safe, inexpensive, the people are lovely, the beaches beautiful, the food delicious, you can shop until your hearts content – what more could you ask for?
We actually really enjoyed Macedonia, even though it wasn’t nearly as cheap as we’d been led to believe. However, we have a lot of time and it was easy to get to. Would I take a plane trip halfway around the world and use my allotted 2 weeks per year to vacation there? Probably not. So if you’re in the Balkans and have some extra time, definitely stop off and most definitely see Skopje. That city will likely change drastically in the next 10 years. But don’t make an entire vacation out of it…
Montenegro is small, full of culture and history, and fairly easy to cover with a car and Google Maps. We loved the freedom of driving around, stopping for photos at sunset, and exploring little towns that we would otherwise never visit if we were relying on public transportation. But driving in Montenegro is also pretty horrifying so prepare to be aggressively passed no matter how fast you are going and how winding the road is and get over your fear of heights if you want to visit the more popular landmarks. It’s easy to travel in Montenegro, it’s cheap, great food, good people, great experience!
We LOVED Mostar. It was everything you want a city to be; friendly people, fantastic shopping, delicious food, inexpensive prices, pedestrian-friendly, decent public transportation, loads of things to do, etc. It was kind of what I expected Dubrovnik to be. We originally booked 3 nights and then added one more and probably should’ve stayed longer. In hindsight, we should’ve gone to Sarajevo. We did hear one negative review as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but we also heard a ton of glowing reviews about the city.
To sum up our 12-day Croatian experience… Croatia seems to be everything you think it will be… lovely old cities that are rich in history; wonderful and helpful people; a place where you feel safe and generally welcome; fantastic cuisine; generally reasonable prices in most cities; and most people speak English so it is easy enough to communicate and to get around. BUT I mentioned at the beginning of this post that my draw to Croatia was because I assumed it hadn’t gotten all crazy touristy yet, and that is most definitely not the case. We visited at the very beginning of their peak season and I cannot even imagine what the old city of Dubrovnik will look like in a month or two. I’m fairly certain I’ll want to be as far away from there as possible…
India is one of my top 5 countries that I’ve visited to date. As I write about it now I’m dying to go back and see all of the cities that I missed on my first trip. However, it is also the most challenging country I’ve ever visited so if you’ve never really traveled before, you may find it to be a nightmare. The food is rough on the belly, trains are always late, there is trash everywhere (and if you don’t throw your own garbage on the ground people will look at you like you’re crazy), public peeing is quite normal, you’ll need to cover your shoulders and knees all the time in extreme heat, and female butt-groping is really an issue. But if you can have infinite patience with the people and the customs, it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life!
To date, Myanmar is absolutely, without a doubt my favorite country I’ve ever visited. We encountered the most lovely, welcoming, friendly, amazing people who genuinely had an interest in interacting with foreigners (aka they don’t yet see $$$ when they meet tourists). Every time I look through my old photos of Myanmar I cry a little inside because I’m not back there in that moment and I miss it like crazy. Book your trip, get off the beaten path a bit, and prepare to be amazed!
By the time we got to Colombia, I was at my South American wits end. I don’t think I gave it the chance it deserved. We heard a few horror stories but for the most part we felt very safe while we were there and didn’t have any issues. We will most certainly be back in the future to give it a proper, untainted visit.
Ecuador seemed to be an incredibly popular destination for Americans and it was easy to see why – they are on the US dollar, most people speak English, it’s fairly easy to get around, and it’s a fairly short flight from the East Coast. But it seems that unfortunately the crime rate against tourists is increasing (after we were robbed we heard loads of other similar stories) so keep your wits about you! It’s definitely not on my list of favorite countries that I’ve visited but the Galápagos Islands are epic and most certainly worth the trip!
Peru is a very nice mix of city life, beaches, mountains, and culture. The people are lovely, the food is TO DIE FOR (I was on an all-ceviche-all-the-time diet for far too long when we were on the coast), it’s super safe, and they have llamas AND Machu Picchu! What more could you want from a country??? Book your Inca Trail hike early and acclimate! Oh, and skip Lake Titicaca…
I can’t help but feel a little sad for Bolivia… they seem to be the landlocked underdogs of South America. Because of that the country seems to be far cheaper than others we visited and food isn’t as fresh and it’s just more difficult for them to get the things they need. That said, the people are absolutely lovely and seem to more concerned with working and caring for their families than hustling unsuspecting tourists. It’s gritty and rough-around-the-edges and awesome and stunning and shocking and in my opinion the absolute BEST country in South America!
Chile is BIG. Obviously. But what that means for the average tourist is really looooong, cold, expensive, uncomfortable bus rides. Or long, amazing boat rides. But either way, in hindsight we agreed that for the money we spent on bus tickets, we could have easily taken a short cheap for around the same price and saved us some of our sanity. IF you opt for the bus, don’t drink any liquids because bathroom breaks are few and far between and bring a blanket! Patagonia is amazing, the W trek is still to this day my all-time-favorite trek, and the fjords are out-of-this-world. Also, we regret not going to Easter Island – it’s expensive to get there but you are so close!