BerndtCanada Travels

Travel smart...Travel frugally...Travel often!

This is the personal website of Erich and Carol Berndt, two avid travelers from Calgary, Canada. We have created this travel information site to offer our insights and ideas to fellow travelers who wish to travel frequently; exploring, learning, and appreciating the geography, culture and history of the places being visited.  We hope you will find this website useful in imagining and planning your travels.



Home Page

Learn about some of our Travel Destinations

by clicking on any picture or label found below:

North America

Asia Pacific

Scotland & Ireland

Mexico

Austro-Hungary

Mediterranean

Hawaii

Spain & Portugal

Baltic Cruise

Caribbean Collection

Panama & Costa Rica

European Excursions

Australia & New Zealand

Asia Collection

 

 

Disclaimer


 

 
Home About Us Accommodations Gadgets and Apps Travel Information Flights

 

Preparation


Our approach to travelling is to enjoy all aspects of the experience including getting ready to go. We find it fun to plan a trip, and to find ways to save money while doing so. We don’t have much patience for  being herded through over-crowded sites full of selfie-taking tourists. We prefer more independence which requires preparation and research. We appreciate and take advantage of the advice of seasoned travelers regarding how to pack, budget and get around; where to go and what to see; and what is important to understand about the experience.  We take pleasure in engaging authentically with the people and places we visit. We strive to stay safe and healthy without being overly fearful.

         Being prepared with print and audio guides, flexible gear and clothing, and open minds

 
Rick Steves Travel Tips offers a range of practical tips for travelling in Europe (but useful elsewhere) such as being strategic about sightseeing, using technology, tipping, staying healthy and getting medical care, planning meals, managing money, packing light, avoiding thefts and scams, understanding signs and procedures for driving, taking trains, using public transit and toilets, and behaving in culturally appropriate ways.
 

Becoming Familiar with Destinations

 A lot of the fun in planning is to become familiar with places before we arrive. For this purpose we use online resources such as:

Google Maps offers street maps, satellite imagery, 360° panoramic street views, route planning for travelling by car, transit or foot, and real-time traffic conditions. It is available as a GPS navigation app.

GPSmyCity is an app for acquiring self-guided walking tours in over 1000 cities. They are prepared by locals and highlight and explain the major attractions. Different walks are available for different interests such as museums, religious buildings, nightlife, etc. There are also travel article app giveaways.

Cruise Port Wiki and What's In Port provide detailed information targetted to cruise ship passengers about their ports of call. They provide maps and advice about logistics, transportation choices and tips for seeing the top sights.

 Tripadvisor Travel Forum provides an interface to directly ask questions and get advice from people more experienced and familiar with locations. This site also has more “beyond destination” general forums such as cruises, road trips, solo travel, travelling with pets, travel gear, etc.

  

            Sample downloadable maps from GPSmyCity and What's in Port
 

Practicing Cultural Sensitivity

While we recognize that we have probably inadvertently offended people we have met on our travels, our intention is to be respectful and appreciative of cultural differences. We welcome the learning opportunities that arise from the uncertainties of being in a new place and experiencing a new culture. Here are some sites we have found useful for gaining understanding of different cultures.


Kwintessential provides guides to the etiquette, culture, customs and business practices of various countries.

Commmisceo Global provides country guides on topics of language, society, culture, food, beliefs, business practices and social etiquette to build skills to improve communication and act appropriately.

It is important to be aware of the cultural and legal aspects of our behaviour and clothing, such as the expectations when entering places of worship. Another aspect of culturally respectful behaviour is verbal and non-verbal communication. We always try to learn a few phrases of the language and a few of the gestures of a place we are visiting. While not necessarily improving communication, showing that we’ve made the effort shows respect, builds acceptance and warmth, and frankly makes others more willing to give us a hand when we need some help. An online search of “survival phrases in X language” or “X language basic words for travelers” yields helpful lists and videos. See the Gadgets and Apps page for ideas about translation tools.


Staying Safe

We appreciate that in the majority of places we travel the local people are helpful and kind and proud of their homeland. We are thankful that many countries have developed or are developing useful tourist infrastructure. We believe that for the most part, the world is a pretty safe place.  However, it is still prudent to take safety precautions, to avoid thefts or mishaps, and in a sense to prepare for the worst. Things to pay attention to ahead of time include required travel documents, procedures for dealing with medical emergencies, or government travel alerts such as political instability or health warnings. We also find out what immunizations are needed for travel to particular areas, and what prophylactic medications, such as anti-diarrheal or anti-nausea drugs, we can take with us. We always purchase travel medical insurance and trip cancellation insurance.

The Government of Canada Travel Abroad website provides a wealth of information on health and safety, travel documentation, border crossings, travel advice and advisories, and vaccination requirements.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes advice for hundreds of destinations on getting immunizations, staying healthy while travelling, accessing medical care, and packing necessary documents, medicines and first aid supplies.

Unfortunately, there are places where dishonest folks will try to take advantage of tourists. Some places are notorious for pick-pocketing, tourist scams or credit card fraud.  There are many common-sense approaches for being aware of risks and keeping valuables safe.
 

  

       from Rick Steves, Thefts and Scams

25 Important Travel Safety Tips Everyone Should Know

Solo Travel Safety: 50+ Tips for Those Who Travel Alone

Is it Safe to Travel in ....

 

 

Getting Around

While preparing for a trip it is important to pre-plan how to get around to both maximize your time and stretch your budget. Depending on the destination, the best alternatives may include flying, going by train, ferry or bus, renting a car, using taxis, water taxis, shuttles or ride shares, or relying on organized tours.  In cities, it is often best to use public transportation (metros, buses, trams), and to select accommodation based on access to stations, terminals and stops. The popular hop-on hop-off buses are also a convenient and inexpensive way to access major tourist attractions in many cities.

An initial search can be done by entering "how to get around in...X destination" in a regular search engine such as google, or by using the search box in Frommer's.    Nomadic Matt  also offers a similar search box, and features tips for inexpensive transportation options in Central America, South-east Asia, New Zealand and Australia.

 Rome2Rio: Discover How to Get Anywhere is probably the best site for comparing travel options by air, train, ferry, bus or rideshare. Booking tickets can also be done on this site.

Articles like those below address some of the available transportation choices and considerations to be made while deciding on the best options. 

 

Complete Guide to Train Travel in Europe

Transportation Options in Asia

Essential Tips for Renting a Car Overseas

Tips for Booking a Rental Car in Europe

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours

 

 

  

Packing Appropriately

One of the easiest ways to enhance the travel experience and to stay safe is to travel light. Carrying as little luggage as possible allows you to get around more easily, especially when doing things like traipsing along cobblestone streets or boarding trains. Traveling light can save money by avoiding luggage fees on planes or extra charges for taxis.   It is possible to dress well by packing a few interchangeable pieces of clothing that can be layered for varying weather. We select clothing made of  "quick dry" fabrics that allow us to wash clothes by hand in the bathroom sink if necessary, hang them up overnight and be ready to go the next morning. Depending on our destination, we carefully consider which toiletries and gear are essential to pack and which are better purchased on arrival. There are packing methods that allow for very efficient use of space.

Why You Should Pack Light and How to Do It

Packing Like a Pro and Travelling Light

Travel Tips on How to Pack Light

The Ultimate Carry On Travel Packing List

    

from Mark Marek, Packing Like a Pro

 

Managing Finances

The challenge of dealing with foreign currencies can be alleviated with a few tools. We have recently discovered that Canada Post delivers foreign currency with low exchange fees. We have also found a credit card that charges no currency exchange transaction fees. Here are some tips we have found useful.
 

How to Manage Your Money When Traveling has some excellent tips for finding accounts with low fees, using credit and debit cards, accessing ATMs, and using cash.

Rick Steves’ Travel Tips: Money has cash and currency tips for Europe, including advice about tipping practices, theft-proofing, using PIN and chip cards, and claiming sales tax rebates.  

XE Currency Converter provides a tool for converting any currency into any other currency. The website also has additional resources such as tips for preventing fraud, and tips for reducing foreign exchange costs.

 


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