Adventure Travel Blog

  1. A Dong for your thoughts: worthless currencies of the world

    Picajsxs andyjarosz on 12th May 2011 | 2 comments

    Buying a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe :)

    A little over two years ago, Bill Gates was listed as the world's richest man with a fortune of $40 billion. If he was having trouble counting his zeros, spare a thought for the typical person in Zimbabwe in the same year if they nipped to the corner shop for bread and milk (which of course they wouldn't). They had to face the fact that even one of their new 100000000000000 notes would not be enough to buy a loaf of bread. It's a case where people were pushing around wheelbarrows full of bank notes and a thief would have his eye on the wheelbarrow itself and not its contents. 

    The fact is that not all currencies are born equal, and even those that are once strong can soon get watered down to worthlessness. I am still a proud owner of a few Yugoslav Dinar coins, picked up when I travelled through the country in 1987 on my way to Istanbul. When I returned to the region a few months later, the currency was worth 10% of its value on my earlier trip. 

    When currencies hit a downward spiral the instinctive remedy for governments is to issue a new set of bank notes, first adding and then removing a string of zeros from the original currency. In the last twenty years this has happened in Europe to Yugoslavia, Turkey and Romania. Needless to say the change in the number of noughts does nothing by itself to deal with whatever the issue it is that's causing the problem and just creates confusion for those who have to use these paper symbols of failure.

    So what are the current basket cases in the world's currency markets? Here are five countries where you'll become an instant millionaire after an ATM visit.

    5. Guinea - $1 buys 6675 Guinean Francs

    4. Laos - $1 buys 8135 Lao Kip

    3. Iran - $1 buys 10671 Iranian Rial

    2. Sao Tome and Principe - $1 gets you 17244 Dobra

    And in number 1 place is the good old Vietnamese Dong - for $1 you can get 20876 Dong

    So what does it mean for those of use travelling through these countries? Well, above all else you need to become familiar with the money very quickly. It's very hard to count multiple zeros quickly in the back of a taxi or when getting change from a street vendor. The best advice is to learn the colour of the different notes as this will be the quickest way to distinguish a 100000 from a 1000000 note without making an expensive mistake. 

    And as for saving any leftover money for your next visit? If you're one of those who likes to keep a few notes or coins from each place you visit then consider your stash a collector's item. The chances are that when you return to that country again, the money literally won't be worth the paper it is printed on. 

  2. Pre-scheduled Atlas Mountain trek dates

    Missing ben on 10th May 2011 | 0 comments

    Solo trekking in the Atlas Mountains

    Below are our pre-scheduled treks in the Atlas Mountains which you are invited to join. If the dates are not suitable, we will create a new date for you. By default, treks are kept open for others to join unless you specifically request a private trek.

    To book any date (whether a pre-scheduled trek from the below table or a new date), please book online via the relevant trek page or contact us on  

    03/09/2011 07/09/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    05/09/2011 07/09/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    06/09/2011 08/09/2011 Overnight Berber Valley Trek & Boutique Marrakech More
    07/09/2011 10/09/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    11/09/2011 15/09/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    13/09/2011 18/09/2011 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More
    16/09/2011 19/09/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    17/09/2011 19/09/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    19/09/2011 24/09/2011 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More
    20/09/2011 24/09/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    21/09/2011 27/09/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    24/09/2011 26/09/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    04/10/2011 07/10/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    08/10/2011 08/10/2011 Boutique Marrakech Break, with one day in the Mountains More
    09/10/2011 12/10/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    11/10/2011 13/10/2011 3 Day Imlil and Ourika Valley Trek More
    16/10/2011 21/10/2011 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More
    16/10/2011 21/10/2011 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More
    22/10/2011 24/10/2011 3 Day Sahara Desert Tour to Erg Chebbi More
    23/10/2011 28/10/2011 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More
    23/10/2011 28/10/2011 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More
    24/10/2011 24/10/2011 Boutique Marrakech Break, with one day in the Mountains More
    25/10/2011 31/10/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    28/10/2011 30/10/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    28/10/2011 30/10/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    29/10/2011 31/10/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    30/10/2011 02/11/2011 Classic Berber Villages & Toubkal Ascent More
    04/11/2011 06/11/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    05/11/2011 13/11/2011 Draa Valley Desert Trek More
    05/11/2011 06/11/2011 Overnight Berber Valley Trek & Boutique Marrakech More
    09/11/2011 11/11/2011 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    15/11/2011 17/11/2011 3 Day Atlas Valleys Trek More
    23/11/2011 25/11/2011 Overnight Berber Valley Trek & Boutique Marrakech More
    27/11/2011 28/11/2011 Overnight Berber Valley Trek & Boutique Marrakech More
    29/11/2011 01/12/2011 3 Day Atlas Valleys Trek More
    03/12/2011 05/12/2011 Overnight Berber Valley Trek & Boutique Marrakech More
    23/12/2011 28/12/2011 Overnight Berber Valley Trek & Boutique Marrakech More
    24/12/2011 26/12/2011 3 Day Sahara Desert Tour to Erg Chebbi More
    31/01/2012 03/02/2012 Winter Toubkal and Ouanakrim Climb (Experienced) More
    17/03/2012 24/03/2012 Winter Toubkal and Ouanakrim Climb (Experienced) More
    13/05/2012 15/05/2012 Climb Mount Toubkal More
    16/06/2012 21/06/2012 6 Day Toubkal Circuit More


  3. Should you hire a local guide?

    Picajsxs andyjarosz on 4th May 2011 | 2 comments

    Follow the leader? Tour group on the march

    Guide at Jerash

    We had hired this lady to show us around the Roman ruins of Jerash in northern Jordan. Sure enough, a couple of hours later we had heard much about the history of the site and how it might have looked in its heyday (if you haven't been, I highly recommend a visit). That was two years ago and I still remember the charismatic lady who showed us around. But I have forgotten pretty much everything she told us about the Romans in Jerash. Instead it is the insights into her own life, living, working and bringing up a family in this dusty Jordanian city that I remember most; her family in America, her own struggles to get her children educated, her tales of Jordanian wedding culture. 

    For me, this episode illustrated perfectly the value of having a local guide. A few days later we were at Petra and the young lad who took us through the Siq and around the main sites was equally charismatic, although he was less inclined to venture off script. He had come down to Petra specifically to seek work as a guide. I suspect it's a more cut throat market down there as well. In any case, it was the more mature lady who shared with us the stories that for me embodies the real value of a guide: the chance to speak to someone who can tell you at first hand about life in a country.

    As tourists passing through the country for only a few days this was one of the few opportunities we had to do this. An outsider can come in to an important historic site and soon gain the knowledge required to tell a visitor all about the relevant stories. But ask tourists what they remember from a tour with a guide and they'll often cite the personal reflections rather than the recital of facts. 

    For many of us it is an interaction with a local guide, even if only for an hour or so, that provides us with our only exposure to a local person. It is during our official tours that they can digress and begin to share a few personal stories that allow us to learn a little about local life. 

    Local tours also provide a clear benefit to the person you hire. Usually working as freelancers, most if not all of the money you pay goes directly to that guide, and in many cases this is their sole income. In places such as Jordan choosing to pay a few dollars to a guide at the entrance to a site can do so much more than merely reading the relevant pages of your Lonely Planet book as you wander around. 

    What's your view on using local guides at a site? Do you prefer the freedom of wandering around by yourself at your own pace? Or do you enjoy the interaction and local insights you can gain as a bonus to the official tour? 


  4. How much do you plan for a trip? How much is too much?

    Picajsxs andyjarosz on 27th April 2011 | 0 comments


    A few months ago we set off for a six week trip in central America. I booked a place for the first night as I didn't want to be scrambling around at night after stepping off an 11 hour flight. I also booked a room for Christmas as I wanted to make sure we spent it somewhere comfortable. Other than that however, the rest of the plan was left open. With a rough idea of what route we wanted to follow, other decisions were made as our mood (and the bus timetables) dictated. 

    |This month we set off for a couple of weeks in Europe, travelling overland from Portugal to London. This time almost everything was booked - I reserved all 14 nights, in 10 different hotels. We also had five rail tickets and a coach ticket already secured before we left, and most of these bookings were non-refundable. Why the different approach? 

    There isn't a good or bad way to plan a trip and how detailed you make your plans in advance depends on a number of factors that are very much specific to the trip and to the individuals concerned:

    How flexible is your itinerary? In Central America we could go pretty much anywhere. Apart from a fixed Christmas hotel midway through our trip it didn't matter if we spent an extra night in one town or missed another place out entirely. We wanted the ability to change our plans at the last minute. 

    How expensive is transport? This is the big factor in western Europe. Travel costs can be very high, yet in France, Spain and to a lesser extent the UK, buying train tickets in advance can save 30-40% off the standard price. Flexibility allows you to walk up to the station and get on whatever is leaving next, but you'll pay a high price for the privilege. We opted to sacrifice flexibility for the cost savings we made on cheap rail tickets. In a relatively short trip there is a lot less flexibility in any case.

    How fussy are you about where you stay? If you're happy enough to arrive at 9pm in a new city and roll into the first accommodation you find within your budget, then you are probably not going to waste time booking for beds in advance. If on the other hand you want to have a reasonable hotel room without breaking the budget, it probably pays to seek it out online. You do occasionally stumble into a great place for a bargain price but more often than not you'll find the fleapit that lives off those who don't want to carry their bags any further and will take anything just to know they've got somewhere.  

    How much time do you have? If you're short on time as we were in Europe, you don't want to waste it looking for a place for the night. Here, a strategy of securing a bed relatively close to the station is a good one - you can drop your bag and make the most of every hour of daylight to explore your temporary home. 

    How much you choose to plan is ultimately down to the individual and only they will know what suits their style, circumstances and character best. The good news is that even for the most meticulous planner out there, you'll often still be left to fly by the seat of your pants when your plans unravel as they inevitably do. 

  5. 5 Signs that it's time to come home

    Picajsxs andyjarosz on 20th April 2011 | 0 comments

    Is there such a thing as too much travel? While some perennial nomads might argue that you can never have too much of a good thing, for the majority of people there comes a time when our thoughts of home become sweeter and more appealing by the day. 

    The exact point when that happens can depend on many factors.

    What have we left behind?

    If travelling alone then missing a loved one will naturally play on the emotions; if you have a nice home, close friends and family that you miss then these too will play their part in drawing your thoughts towards coming home. 

    What have we experienced?

    A good trip can last forever. Except of course all trips have their highs and lows, and it is at these low points that we think fondly of going home (just as, in our low points at home our thoughts might turn to travel). Sickness, discomfort, loneliness, robbery, and unpleasant experiences all help a traveller to feel homesick quickly. 

    Why we are travelling?

    The motivation that was behind the initial journey will often determine when that urge to return home kicks in. Those with a strong purpose behind their travels will often endure far more hardships for the sake of staying on their mission (whatever it is). 

    So how do we know enough is enough?

    As with any condition the symptoms may vary, but the following are just a few signs that the traveller has become jaded and may be craving the comforts of home:

    1. You arrive in a new city and find nothing you want to explore; the museums look boring, the buildings unoriginal and the food unappealing. In fact, your preferred option is staying in your lodgings and watching American comedy re-runs on TV. 

    2. You're getting increasingly frustrated at other people's inability to speak English. 

    3. You're getting snappy at street vendors and tuk-tuk drivers - don't they know you've said NO a thousand times??

    4. You can't stand how people still try and rip you off by charging you $1 for your dinner when you know that the locals pay only $0.25. And you tell them. 

    5. You decide what to do next not based on what you want to do but on how little time you'll have to spend on yet another bus. 

    Others may show their travel weariness in different ways but I suspect we each of us look back we will recognise when it was that we had hit 'the wall'. At when that happens it's only natural to think of going home. Even the most ardent long-term nomads have written about their need to recharge their enthusiasm from time to time.