Quirky Tour Option: The Flying Outback Pub Crawl

If you’re interested in exploring South Australia‘s Outback in an unusual way, now is your chance. Goin’ Off Safaris is offering a Flying Outback Pub Crawl where visitors will fly around the Outback in a turbo prop plane stopping at local pubs.

The quirky pub crawl leaves out of Adelaide, and takes you through many different areas of the Outback. Along with drinking Cooper’s Ale, you’ll also explore Australia’s first official mosque in Marree, learn about Australia‘s historical Cooper Creek, canoe in Innamincka, take a walking tour of the famous Birdsville and more.

As of now, scheduled pub crawl dates include:

Price per person for the excursion is $3,130, all inclusive. For more information, click here.

Doomsday Bicycle Tour Lets You Ride To The End Of The World

What do you want to be doing when the world ends in December? If your answer is exploring Mayan temples ruins, gazing upon volcanoes and waterfalls, and basking in Central America‘s warm autumn sun all from the seat of your mountain bike, then Tour d’Afrique has a pretty epic tour for you to consider.

Tour d’Afrique’s Doomsday Ride is a 2,300-kilometer (1,429-mile) transcontinental bike expedition along the “Ruta Maya” timed to coincide with the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. The trek begins in San Jose, Costa Rica, on November 17, 2012, and follows a winding, but well-scouted, route through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. It concludes at the Lamani Mayan Temple outside of Belize City, Belize, on December 21, 2012 – the supposed date of the apocalypse.

Along the way, participants will get to check out Mayan ruins at Tikal and Copan; the great colonial architecture in the city of Granada, Nicaragua’s erstwhile capital; and villages, markets, rainforests, volcanoes, crater lakes and many other slices of life and nature off of the tourist track. If you can’t take off for the full five weeks of the expedition, Tour d’Afrique offers three shorter sections that average between 10 days and two weeks.

To learn more about the tour, the route, rates and schedules, check out Tour d’Afrique’s La Ruta Maya – the Doomsday Ride Blog.

Sandboarding And Sunset In The Atacama Desert, Chile

“They call this Death Valley because of all the people who don’t make it out alive,” our tour guide, Steve, whispered in a haunting voice.

Staring at the enormous sand dunes and unworldly rock formations, I felt fearful of what I was about to do. Of course, Steve was joking. The name actually comes from a mispronuciation by a Belgian priest, Gustavo Le Paige, who thought the landscape looked like Mars, or Marte. Because of the way he spoke, locals believed he said “death,” or muerte.

I found myself here after booking a “Sandboarding in Death Valley + Sunset in Moon Valley” excursion with Atacama Inca Tour. It was during a trip to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, where tour agencies occupy every other storefront. However, this company was the only one I noticed offering this unique combination package. For 12,000 Chilean Pesos (about $25), plus 2,000 $CLP (about $4) to enter Moon Valley, you get transportation, a sandboarding lesson and about two hours of sandboarding, a tour of the Chulacao Caves, which are covered in edible salt, an uphill trek to a viewpoint in Moon Valley to sip Pisco Sour while watching the sunset and a free DVD of the afternoon. The tour also stops at many lookout points, so you’ll be able to get many photos. While Death Valley holds a surreal beauty, Moon Valley has some interesting landscape as well. In fact, the area gets its name due to its resemblance to the moon’s surface.

For a more visual idea of the day, check out the photo gallery below.


Spotsi App Helps Travelers Find Local Spots

Maybe you’re in Brooklyn and you want to find a great local bar. Or perhaps you’ve landed in Portland and are in desperate need of a cup of coffee but want to mingle with the locals (and try a locally-made roast while you’re at it). Let Spotsi, a new user-generated mobile app, help

There are lots of apps that help you explore like a local, but Spotsi is a little different. Locals use Spotsi to map their favorite locations in a city – the places they hang out in themselves and would recommend to friends who are visiting. With tours like “Vegetarian & Vegan in Dallas,” and “New York, I Only Love Your Beer, Women, and Art,” the app is a dream for travelers who want to skip tourist traps and explore spots favored by locals. Some tours are even authored by local celebrities, such as Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, a Portland-based orchestra with 13 members. Of course, anyone can create a tour on Spotsi so long as they are willing to take the time to plot the locations on a map, upload pictures and write short descriptions. More catered to a traveler’s individual interests than a guidebook and far less embarrassing than schlepping along on a city tour, Spotsi might just have what it takes to revolutionize the way we travel.

The only downside to Spotsi is that its makers are currently focusing on Austin and Portland, leaving many other cities virtually off the map. However, the app just debuted in January so it has a lot of room for growth. Anyone from any city is allowed to submit tours – and if the app takes off it could end up being an invaluable resource for travelers to find underground hot spots in cities across the country and globe.

Image: Nong’s Khao Man Gai, one of the stops on Pink Martini’s tour of Portland
[Flickr photo via star5112]

Travel Smarter 2012: Travel apps help you explore like a local

Whether you are preparing for a trip or are on the ground in uncharted territory, smartphones are making it easy to avoid looking like a lost tourist. Download the following apps before setting off on your next trip and you’ll navigate new cities and cultural divides with ease.

Need to navigate a new place? Don’t just wander around aimlessly. Whether you are looking to tour a city center or want to go for a walk in the woods, EveryTrail (free) can show you the way. The app goes above and beyond traditional guidebook maps by using GPS technology to show you exactly where you are and what is nearby. It also offers facts and figures on landmarks and historical attractions allowing travelers to decipher exactly what they’re looking at (and maybe impress their traveling cohorts with some inside information). As for public transportation, many individual cities have apps such as the Chicago L Rapid Transit app ($0.99), but AllSubway ($0.99) can help you understand the underground systems in over 100 cities throughout the world with just one download.

Skip the national chains and search for independently owned restaurants with Local Eats ($0.99). The app allows you to filter eateries by neighborhood, category, or rank. All restaurant listings are unique to that particular city and include a description of the quality of food and service. If you’re still having trouble deciding, tantalize your taste buds with Foodspotting (free), an app that uses location technology to show you user-submitted pictures of nearby food. On the other hand, if you’ve already chosen where to dine but want to make sure you order the right thing on the menu, Foodict Food Dictionary ($1.99) has a comprehensive database of international food expressions and definitions. No matter what obscure foods you encounter, the app allows you to order with confidence.Entertainment
When it comes to finding attractions, Goby (free) uses GPS data to give personalized recommendations for things to do, such as local live music and art openings. On the other hand, Where (free) allows you to search for static locations, such as nearby historical sites, art galleries, museums, hiking trails, or even miniature golf courses. Although both apps also come with events listings, Eventful (free) has a more comprehensive database of performers. You never know, your favorite act might be on the road at the same time as you.

Whether you are looking to learn a whole new language or just figure out the local vernacular, iPhone apps can help. Triplingo ($9.99) schools users in the local vernacular through a nifty “slang slider,” which offers words based on whether you are looking to speak formally, casually, or in slang. Before you go, download Hello Hello (free), a free language course that allows you to connect with native speakers to practice various languages. On the ground in a new place, Google Translate (free) is an invaluable tool that lets you speak or type phrases and hear the corresponding translations. Word Lens ($9.99), on the other hand, is a nifty app that allows you to take a picture of text and gives you the translation.

Travelers hoping to learn cultural facts and traditions should take some time to browse through World Customs (free), an app that lists need-to-know information such as proper greetings and gestures. Howcast (free) uses video tutorials to show you everything from how to hail a cab in New York City to how to properly use chopsticks. On the other hand, those looking to learn more about particular topics can try HearPlanet ($3.99), an app for landmarks and attractions that speaks to you like an audio tour. Just don’t forget your headphones, or you’ll definitely stick out as someone from out of town.

There are also plenty of apps out there that can be useful tools when traveling. Currency Converter (free) by OANDA Corporation is a currency calculator that stays meticulously up to date. ConvertMe (free) converts temperatures and measurements meaning you’ll never have to go outside dressed inappropriately or take guesses on whether or not your luggage will be overweight at the airport. Finally, Clothing Size Conversion (free) is a useful tool for shoppers who need to figure out what size shoes (and other clothing) to buy.

More Insider Tips
Depending on your destination, there are plenty of other apps that can help you blend in and get insider information. Do a search in the app store for your locale and you might be surprised what comes up. For example, writers living in 39 cities in Europe contribute tips to Spotted by Locals (free), which allows users to scroll through tips handpicked by locals. Tourist commissions and bureaus often manage their own apps that are full of great tips, such as the Explore Canada Like a Local (free) app that includes tons of advice from Canadian locals on where to sleep, play, eat, drink, and more.

[flickr image via JD Hancock]