5 Reasons Pittsburgh is the Best City to Travel to in Pennsylvania

With a population around 305,000 within city limits, Pittsburgh is a mid-sized city with big city amenities. Known as the City of Bridges, Pittsburgh is an increasingly popular destination in Pennsylvania. Lacking the traffic and bustle of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is a safe, clean, and convenient city to visit.

Pittsburgh boasts internationally renowned museums, serves up authentic and delicious eats, and is regularly touted as one of the best sports cities in the United States. If you’re planning a trip to Pennsylvania, these are the top five reasons Pittsburgh is the best city to visit.  

Fun (and Easy) to Go Downtown

Pittsburgh
[Image via Flickr by kla4067.]

Downtown Pittsburgh is a compact, pedestrian-friendly 50-acres bordered by Grant Street, Penn Avenue, and the Boulevard of the Allies. When downtown, you are only a few blocks from any destination. Unlike larger cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh provides 20,000 parking spaces, making exploring the downtown area convenient. Visit the Strip District on the Allegheny River. The area is home to unique shops, art galleries, produce and meat markets, and a variety of delicious restaurants. Pittsburgh’s hotels are just as great as the eccentric vibe of this upcoming city.

Oh, Brother the Delicious Food

Pittsburgh Sandwich
[Image via Flickr by Dan4th.]

In Pennsylvania, there is a continuous debate on Philadelphia’s famed cheese steaks versus Pittsburgh’s Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Although cheese steaks are delicious, Primanti Brothers’ corned beef sandwich, topped with crispy fries and creamy coleslaw, is divine. 

In addition, Pittsburgh’s multicultural heritage is well-reflected in its food, and many immigrant and blue-collar dishes have become Pittsburgh culinary staples. Pierogies, kielbasas, and chipped ham have all been perfected by Pittsburgh chefs over the years.  

Impressionist to Pop, Excellent Museums

Pittsburgh Sandwich
[Image via Flickr by Eva Blue.]

Pittsburgh is home to a number of internationally recognized museums, namely the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Science Center. Both institutions were founding by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie in the late 1800s. The Carnegie Museum of Art boasts an stunning collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, and the Carnegie Science Center offers 250 interactive, hands-on exhibits and houses the Rangos Omnimax Theater, a domed-shaped, four-story IMAX Theater. Another beautiful art destination is on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, the Frick Fine Arts Building is a beautiful medley of history, art, and architecture.

For American Pop Art enthusiasts, the Andy Warhol Museum is also in Pittsburgh. Opened in 1994, the museum houses a large collection of paintings, movies, drawings, and prints created by Warhol, who is originally from Pittsburgh.  

Steeler Nation and Pirate Pride

Pittsburgh Steelers
[Image via Flickr by Paula R. Lively.]

No matter when you visit Pittsburgh, professional sports will dominate Pittsburgh’s headlines. Grab a Terrible Towel and root for the Steelers, one of the most successful football teams in NFL history. Looking for something more relaxing? PNC Park is a beautiful baseball stadium, and watching the Pittsburgh Pirates makes for a wonderful afternoon. For hockey fans, the Pittsburgh Penguins have one of the most feverish fan bases south of the Canadian border.

Safe to Enjoy and Explore

Pittsburgh is an incredible safe city. In 2013, Farmers Insurance ranked Pittsburgh as the third safest city in America. In 2014, a study performed by Smart Growth America also ranked Pittsburgh as the second safest city for pedestrians.

With Pittsburgh’s incredible safety ratings, your visit to Pittsburgh and all its wonderful destinations will be a fun, entertaining, delicious, and safe experience. 

The history of currency

When I’m at home I never stop to think about the currency that I use in day-to-day life, but once I visit a new country that changes. Maybe it is part of the excitement of going on a trip, but I love to study the currency of the land I am about to visit. You should anyway, so you can be familiar with the denominations and colours and not be caught out with the wrong change.

The history of currency is an interesting story as well. Our friends at Travelex are experts in international payments and they have put together this infographic on the history of different currencies from the most popular travel destinations around the world.

The history of currency

Unlocking the history in Europe

Whether visiting just one European city or region, or taking an extended tour of England, Italy, Germany and France, there is so much history to discover that a single trip will only allow the traveler to scratch the surface. While each country has its own distinct culture and history, each has waged war and been conquered by one another, and/or shared kings and queens, sometimes on more than one occasion. The result is an often bewilderingly complex and colorful history that can be traced back for many thousands of years.

Although it is almost impossible to list everything a visitor to Europe should see and do, here are just a few suggestions to whet the appetite.

England

Most visitors to the UK will arrive in London, which has countless historic sites and museums. There is the Tower of London, which William the Conqueror had built in the 1080s; 11th century Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum… the list is endless.

Outside the capital, one of the country’s most popular and ancient monuments is Stonehenge, which is thought to have been constructed between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. There are dozens more ancient stone circles and monoliths dotted around the country. Dating from more recent times, 1775 to be precise, the world’s first cast iron bridge is located in Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, some 158 miles northwest of London. A World Heritage Site, featuring a number of museums and craft centers, it is widely accepted as being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

Italy

Rome has so many museums and ruins it seems there is something to see around every corner. There is the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus and the Palatine Hill, while in the Vatican City there is the 15th century St Peter’s Basilica.

Florence is home to the Uffizi Gallery, with its sculptures and paintings by artists such as Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt. Construction of Florence’s cathedral, The Duomo, started in the 13th century and the cathedral is dominated by a magnificent dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Also not to be missed are the Leonardo da Vinci museum and the Accademia Gallery, which houses Michelangelo’s David.

During the Battle of Cannae Hannibal of Carthage, outnumbered more than two to one, defeated an 80,000-strong Roman army led by Consuls Varro and Paullus II. Fought on August 2, 216BC, it is claimed to be the bloodiest battle in history. The site of the battle is near the town of Barletta, some 250 miles south-east of Rome.

Germany

Germany has been at the center of Europe for many centuries, from its early tribal beginnings, through invasion by the Romans, to the 20th century when it was epicenter of two world wars. After the Second World War the country was divided into East and West by the Iron Curtain, before finally being reunified in October 1990.

Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, which was constructed between 1788 and 1791, was originally the entrance to King Frederick William II of Prussia’s Palace. It became the symbol of the reunification of both the city and the country following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Short sections of the Wall, which was erected in 1961, have been preserved throughout the city. A 1.3-km length is visible at the open-air East Side Gallery.

Going back much further in time, the Imperial Baths of Trier were constructed in the 4th century AD by the Romans, who fought numerous skirmishes and battles with Germanic tribes between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD. The Baths are the largest outside Rome and significant sections remain standing. Visitors are also able to see and explore the Baths’ underground tunnels.

France

One of the first structures travelers arriving in Paris are likely to spot is the Eiffel Tower. This iconic landmark was opened in 1889 and, along with Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Versailles and the Arc de Triomphe, is sure to be high on any tourist’s list of essential sights.

Another major attraction in the city is the Louvre Museum, which contains over 35,000 objects in an area that covers over 652,000 square feet. The museum’s exhibits date from modern to prehistoric times, though it is most famous for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which the artist is thought to have completed while at the court of Francis I.

France has seen numerous battles over the centuries but those fought during the First and Second World Wars are likely to be of most interest to today’s visitors. The First World War saw some particularly bloody encounters and, at the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood, which took place between June 1 and 26, 1918, 2,289 US soldiers are buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. At Bayeux in Normandy, where thousands of Allied troops landed on D-Day, August 29, 1944, the conflict is remembered at the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum. Many other museums and memorials can be found all along this part of the French coast. Bayeux is also where the famous tapestry depicting a much earlier battle; the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, is displayed.

Europe offers something for everyone and each country has its own language, though English is also widely spoken. Whether traveling on a budget or staying in five star hotels, there are comfortable accommodations to be found in almost every town and city. What’s more, by checking out websites such as Flights.com, getting there need not cost a fortune.

Is a timeshare a good investment?

More and more families who love to travel are finding timeshare’s as a viable investment option for their annual holiday vacation spending. Here are some reasons why:

1. BE ABLE TO EXPLORE THE WORLD YEAR IN, YEAR OUT
Its acceptance worldwide lies largely in the people’s need for quality holiday vacation that allows them to explore different places around the world with loads of benefits. Generally, a timeshare accommodation is more than just a hotel room. It has enough space for a family and more friends with its homey and self-catering facilities like kitchen, living, dining rooms, laundry washers and even sauna, Jacuzzi, pool and kids facilities in other accommodations. Timeshare providers like Resorts Condominiums International, Interval International, Holiday Club, The Registry Collection and Preferred Residences, to name a few have thousands of destinations around the world for their clients to enjoy.

2. FLEXIBILITY OF USAGE
Added to that is the flexibility of when and where to use it. They have various types of ownership to choose from that would suit their lifestyle: fixed week, floating week or rotating/flex week ownership. If the owner is unable to use his timeshare for that year, he can rent it out or give it out as a gift to friends or donate to charity. And if he and his family get tired of going to the same holiday accommodation venues and want to try other new destinations, they can swap their timeshare with other affiliated vacation ownership resorts around the globe. They may also join in the timeshare networks in order to exchange their timeshare ownership with another timeshare owner directly or thru third party agents.

3. OWNERSHIP BENEFITS
It also carries along with it a sense of ownership. Timesharing is vacation ownership or having a long-term vacation plan for yourself and your family. It allows a timeshare owner to have a part-ownership in a unit in a host of resorts, vacation rentals, holiday homes and hotels for at least a week every year. You own your annual vacation time in your purchased holiday accommodation or in your choice of new destination as part of timeshare exchange options.

4. QUALITY EXPERIENCE
Many satisfied families appreciate the value of being able to spend quality time with family and friends in luxurious destinations worldwide. One couple said that if it had not been for timeshare, they would just be staying in the usual budget hotels and not be able to see majestic destinations within and outside their country. Certainly, it will multiply your opportunity to enjoy and afford quality experience because of your exposure to various destinations.

5. AFFORDABILITY COUPLED WITH LUXURY
It allows you to plan your vacation in the long-term. One satisfied owner said that with a timeshare, it forces him to make time for his family’s yearly luxury holiday vacation which helps keep the family together. It saves him also from current huge hotel rates as he is paying at today’s prices the cost of tomorrow’s vacation.

Also, instead of purchasing a vacation home, timeshare gives you the liberty to go to a different destination each year and saves you on a full mortgage, tax and maintenance cost as you are sharing the burden of maintenance cost with other owners. You only pay for a fraction of the cost of ownership proportionate to your use each year.

Timeshare is definitely a good alternative for keen travelers but must ensure that your payments are processed thru the help of reputable timeshare merchants that will allow your transactions to be facilitated whether in-person, over the internet or by phone.

Blair ThomasBlair Thomas is an electronic payment expert, who loves all things finance and planning.  He is also the co-founder of eMerchantBroker.com, the #1 timeshare merchant account provider in the country. If you would like to see what he’s up to, add him to your Google+ circle.

Top attractions of Rio de Janeiro

The sunny climate, welcoming atmosphere, and attractions of Brazil make it a popular tourist destination, with many people choosing Rio de Janeiro for a vacation in the country. This is the second biggest city in Brazil and one of the biggest in the world. This ensures that there are plenty of things to see and do while there, and the following Rio de Janeiro travel guide provides details of some of the city’s top attractions.

Beaches
No trip to Rio would be complete without spending some time on the beach and there are two famous locations for this. Copacabana is a 4km long stretch of golden sand that offers the chance to people watch, sunbathe, or play some sport. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants along the boardwalk at which to have some refreshments and visitors can also take in historic Fort Copacabana, which stands at one end of the beach. The second location is Ipanema, with this beautiful arc of soft sand regularly featuring in lists of the world’s top beaches. It is one of Rio’s top attractions and the pristine sand and clear water make it a perfect place to enjoy a relaxing day by the sea.

Christ the Redeemer
This iconic statute stands on top of Corcovado Peak and is one of the most impressive sights in Rio. It was originally designed and built during the early 1920’s, so has now been watching over the city for almost a century. A view of the statue can be gained from many locations around Rio and those that want to get a closer look can choose to climb the hundreds of steps to get to it or take an elevator for an easier trip to the summit of the peak.

Maracana Stadium
Football is almost a religion in Brazil and the country’s population worship the players that turn out for the national team. They play many of their games at the Maracana, with this stadium being one of the most famous in the world. It has stood in place since the 1950s and once was capable of holding up to 200,000 vociferous football fans. While it has a smaller capacity these days, it is still the biggest stadium in South America and a historic location for any football fan to visit.

Sugarloaf Mountain
This is probably the most well-known of the peaks that tower over Rio and there are some great views of the surrounding city and coastal waters for anyone that makes the trip to the 1,300 feet high summit. This is made easy to do these days, with glass-walled cable cars carrying people up from a base station at Babilonia Hill. This is certainly worth doing to enjoy the ride and get some great photographs of Rio.

Carnival
Many people choose carnival time to visit and it is one of the most exciting experiences that the city offers. The carnival has been part of Rio life for hundreds of years and has grown to become one of the biggest street festivals in the world. It usually takes place over a few days in February and March each year, with the floats, samba dancing, and exotic costumes definitely worth seeing. Up to two million revelers can take part each day to make it an experience to remember.

A trip to Rio offers plenty to make it a great choice for a holiday. This Rio de Janeiro travel guide highlights some of the top attractions although the size of the city means there is much more to see and do. To explore further you may want to get a Rio de Janeiro tour guide to help you make the most of your trip and take the stress out planning the trip yourself.

Australian expats living abroad

Living as an expat is a great way to travel as it affords you the chance to experience another culture while earning money. Plus you can also go on shorter side trips that you would not be able to take if you are living in Australia.

If you have travelled abroad you may have noticed that Aussies are everywhere, and this infographic from Travelex breaks downs just how far Aussies have wandered around the globe.

Australian expats living abroad

How to stay healthy on vacation

There is plenty of evidence that taking naps, enjoying nature walks and meditating have the capacity to increase productivity, deepen memories, sharpen attention and encourage personal creativity, according to an article in Scientific American in 2013. In light of this, taking a vacation must represent the ultimate opportunity for making the most of mental and physical downtime – for deep relaxation, enjoyment of new cultural experiences and the chance to recharge one’s batteries. Unless, of course, a health problem occurs, in which case stress can kick in, big time. Here are a few things to think about before setting off.

Before departing

Travelers should research local healthcare provision before going abroad and really think about what to pack when it comes to the first aid kit. A three-day course of probiotics before a trip is a good preparation to ward off tummy troubles as they keep the gastrointestinal tract in good shape. More than one in five people who travel by plane catch a cold within one week so it’s also a good idea to bolster the immune system by getting between seven and eight hours sleep at night for several nights before leaving.

While away

It may be very pleasant to lounge in a hammock for some of the time but it’s important to try to stay active so that excessive weight gain doesn’t become a problem. Just 30 minutes of activity will make all the difference and ensure calories are burned successfully. Sightseeing, hiking, cycling, and swimming are all great ways to exercise on vacation. The same goes for paying attention to diet as it’s great to eat well on vacation and this is possible without consuming high-calorie foods at every meal. Picking one meal a day as a treat, and focusing on lower-calorie foods such as fruits, lean meats, fish, and vegetables, is a good compromise.

Stomach upsets

Someone who is otherwise in general good health might nevertheless find they suffer from one or more of the common illnesses that afflict travelers; stomach upsets (gastrointestinal illnesses) can affect up to one in five vacationers in many parts of the world. There are some simple precautions to take – for example, washing hands thoroughly before eating and after using the toilet. Water is best consumed from sealed bottles, while hot drinks such as tea and coffee should present no problems. The same is true of processed drinks such as soda, beer and wine. Cooked vegetables are safer than salads and all fruit should be peeled. It’s best to avoid local dairy products, especially cheese and ice cream, both of which can cause diarrhea. People living locally can probably give useful advice on what’s safe to eat and it’s best to remember that shellfish and other fish, even if well cooked, may be hazardous.

Sun and sangria

If traveling to a hot country it is important to guard against sunburn as this can lead to skin cancer. Being out in the sun between about 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. is best avoided. Travelers should use a high factor sunscreen, cover up when necessary, and remember to wear a sunhat and shades. They should also beware of excessive alcohol consumption, especially if sunbathing is a significant part of the vacation plan. Alcohol and sunbathing are not a good combination as alcohol dehydrates the body; partying and excess alcohol intake should be matched with lots of (safe, bottled) water.

Insect bites

People who are not allergic will have an unpleasant but transient experience from a wasp sting whereas some mosquitoes carry malaria and can make travelers very ill indeed if they are bitten. This problem is most common in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Travelers to one of these destinations must purchase medication to combat malaria beforehand. It’s possible to take anti-malarial tablets before traveling and the potential side effects are negligible compared with the disease itself. Using a mosquito net around the bed at night, packing strong insect repellent, and keeping bare skin covered up from dusk until dawn are all important preventive measures.

STIs

It’s important to practice safe sex when abroad; bringing home souvenirs and great memories from a vacation is fine, whereas returning with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is highly undesirable. Condoms should be included on the vacation packing list; these must be stored in a cool, dry place away from oil-based products, such as baby oil, suntan lotion and lipstick that can damage them. They should always be easily available when needed, especially if planning on going out.

First aid essentials

A durable plastic container is perfect for assembling a travel first aid kit – preferably the sort that is compartmentalized so that individual items can be located and retrieved quickly. The kit should include strip bandages, antiseptic ointment and wipes, gauze pads and medical adhesive tape – especially if a lot of outdoor activities are planned. Tweezers and scissors are useful for dealing with splinters and minor wounds, while painkillers will give comfort if needed. Tablets can help with water purification and hydrocortisone (anti-itch) cream will soothe irritated skin.

Additional personal items can be added depending on individual requirements. For instance, the risk of catching a stomach bug is increased in developing countries and anti-diarrhea medication and oral rehydration salts should be used to prevent dehydration and limit diarrhea. Travelers with a history of motion sickness might want to pack tablets to prevent this and including cold remedies is also a good idea.

One or two extra items may come in handy. For example, spare syringes may be useful, particularly if a hospital trip is necessary. This is because in many poorer countries the cleanliness of hospital syringes cannot be guaranteed. Butterfly closures are useful in the event of a deep cut – in this case a QuikClot sponge to stem blood flow will also prove useful. An antihistamine, to guard against allergic reactions, and sanitizing wipes for general use are also recommended. Finally, travelers using prescription medications should always take more than needed in case of delays.

With a little bit of forethought and some simple preparation, the vacation can be trouble-free and any health problems that are encountered can be dealt with promptly and effectively.

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a collection of 19 islands that are situated almost six hundred miles from mainland South America. They are part of Ecuador, which is situated to the west of the Islands. The Galapagos Islands are particularly renowned for its rich variety of wildlife and plants, and the Islands have been a World Heritage Site since 1978. The area is also a whale sanctuary, marine reserve, and biosphere reserve. To make the whole Galapagos Islands experience a relaxing one it’s wise to cover every eventuality, and to ensure that you have taken out single trip insurance before you go on your trip. 

Galapagos National Park

Some 97% of the land area of the Galapagos have national park status, and the area was established as a national park in the late 1950s. Visitors are invited to take photos of the local flora and fauna, but are also expected to respect the environment. Some of the most iconic of the species found on the Galapagos Islands include giant tortoises and different types of iguana. Camping is allowed on the site, as long as you have acquired the necessary permit from the Galapagos National Park Director.

Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz Island

South-west of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz, Tortuga Bay offers visitors a free opportunity to observe some of the most celebrated wildlife on the Galapagos Islands. Though a fairly long walk to the beach, it’ll be worthwhile for anyone who wants to see the variety of wildlife that the Galapagos has to offer. There is an option to hire a kayak, too, to see turtles, sharks and rays in the water, while, on the beach, you can see marine iguanas, pelicans, flamingos, and red crabs. 

Charles Darwin Research Centre

British naturalist Charles Darwin discovered the Galapagos Islands in 1835. On Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Darwin’s significant impact in bringing the Galapagos Islands to the world’s attention is recognised by his name being given to this research centre. The tortoise breeding centre is probably the most notable aspect of the research centre, and there are a variety of tortoises to see here. Visitors can also walk among these endearing creatures and take photographs. Available at the Centre too is information on the Galapagos Islands environment generally. 

Isabela Island

Isabela Island is the largest of the Galapagos Islands and it has one of the most curious landscapes of any tropical island. Consisting of six volcanoes, the wildlife here is particularly stunning, and includes Darwin’s finches, cormorants, penguins, and marine iguanas. Isabela Island also boasts a tortoise breeding centre, a white beach and lagoons.

Tips on How to Travel Safely in Johannesburg

Johannesburg can be a pretty mean and dangerous city for travellers or visitors who have not had a few basic lessons in street-smart behaviour before visiting this giant African melting pot. Johannesburg is a very large city with two general business zones, a more affluent north and a more working class centre. The north is pretty chic with upmarket shops and fine restaurants exuding more of a European feel, while the centre is busy and bustling with street vendors exuding a distinctly Africa feel. Generally, it is safer in the north than in the city centre, and naturally safer during daylight hours than after dark. The Gumtree South Africa team presents us with some high-quality tips on how to stay safe during your adventure in ZA.

The most important safety tip might well be to first understand the city layout and know where you are, especially after dark. Like most big cities in the world, being lost in the wrong part of town in the dark is usually a recipe for some calamity or the other, though not always. Be sure to be in the northern suburbs after dark if you are unfamiliar with Johannesburg and visiting this great city for the first time, which means getting your downtown Johannesburg city acclimatisation done during the light of day. Of course, the theatre district of downtown Johannesburg, for example, is pretty safe at night, but then you need to know how to get there directly.

A second big safety tip when in any city with a reasonably bad reputation is to not stand out as a visitor – undecided, unfamiliar, vulnerable, naïve, or unguarded. Have a look at the dress sense and behaviour of the local inhabitants, and try to emulate this. Behave casually, and try to be anonymous in your dress and behaviour. Be a tourist but be cool about it. Have a camera, but carry it discreetly. Sit in a coffee bar, check your maps, and plan your walking route, then explore that area with confidence and try not to make too many obvious referrals to guidebooks and maps. These are probably two of your best guards against petty crime and theft in big, dangerous, and foreign cities, namely know where you are and then try not to stand out.

Other safety tips are mostly practical and relate to passports, money, and credit or bankcards. If you are in a decent hotel, then leave all your valuables, including passport and cards, in the safe. Out on the street, carry only your cash, and be clever about how you handle it in public. Keep the small notes on the outside and then just a few hundred bucks at a time in one pocket for small purchases, keeping the big loot in a secure pocket if you have plans to spend big. In other words, be discreet with your money in public, and don’t make it obvious that you are carrying large amounts with you.

Also, get local advice before you head off into the city – advice about where you are planning to go and what you are planning to do. Ask at the hotel, or at the backpackers, whether your day’s tour plans seem reasonable and what the risks might be. Don’t be shy.

Finally, be very careful about your transport plans at night, including how you plan to get back to your accommodation. Take only certified taxies, or only get a lift with somebody you are familiar with and then preferably be in a group. Of course, most importantly, stay in control and don’t get intoxicated. Afraid of traveling alone in South Africa? Find yourself a travel buddy to explore the area with.