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Top 5 travel moments of 2014

I am moving to www.thelitebackpacker.com 🙂

Blogging… it isn’t easy.  I still remember my first post about my favourite village in England.  It took me hours to write, days to re-write, weeks of feed back from friends and family, and countless hand wringing moments.  When I finally hit the publish button I felt simultaneously elated and exhausted.  The next few posts got only a little easier – and then suddenly I had an epiphany – no one but people I knew was reading my blog, I stopped taking it so seriously.  Over night, I relaxed my writing style, poured more of my heart and personality into my posts and found fulfilment in just writing.

Then suddenly there were people following my blog who weren’t related to me…

The excitement I felt at seeing that email in my inbox to tell me that someone was following my blog… AND I DIDNT KNOW THEIR NAME! I then called my mum (obviously), texted my best friend and spent the whole day smiling.

That was the beginning – 2 1/2 years ago!

Lyme Regis in Snow

The last couple of years has helped to shape me as a blogger and a writer. Through the highs of getting likes to the lows of feeling un-inspired.  I have loved every second of it and through this blog I have learnt so much, about writing, connecting, networking, how big and small the world is, and about my own strengths!

The time has now come for me to take the next step, to build further on the foundation of this amazing blog.

I have spent the last couple of months building a website that will embody all of the things that I loved about this blog and have the platform to build so much more.  It’s still about travel (obviously) but with a healthy twist!

Check out www.thelitebackpacker.com to keep in touch with my adventures!

Here you will see some of the posts that you have loved from this blog, such as:The Lite Backpacker

Looking forward to connecting with you all through my new site.  Would love to keep in contact and continue to share. If you are my wonderful family and friends who have faithfully followed this blog from the beginning – I expect you are already following my new website… 😉

Thanks,
Helen AKA The Lite Backpacker

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Are you a suitcase snob?

Santa Monica Beach - how do you travel?

This morning I had lunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  She has been off travelling the world for the last year, roaming around Europe and Asia – she has made a pit stop in Sydney over christmas before she continues her adventures in New Zealand… oh what a life!

Over breakfast she was telling me a story about how she had met a Chilean guy while traveling, at first she didn’t think he would be cool to hang out as he was travelling with a suitcase but then on further acquaintance she learnt that the reason he had a suitcase was because he was so broke he couldn’t afford to buy a new backpack.  She looked at me and said with refreshing honesty “I’m a suitcase snob”.

Cambodia - to suitcase or backpack - how do you travel?

It got me thinking – previously I have written about how we are all travel snobs, how we judge people for not travelling in the way that we think “real” travel should be done.  What it came down to is that there is no right or wrong way to travel – but you may not get along with someone who is cocktail bar hopping when you are chasing down the cheapest beer in town. Fact.

My friend is a very practical lady, throughout our misspent youth there would be many times when her practicality would win out – such as at 3am after dancing all night in heels and a short dress… suddenly my feet were sore and I was cold.  Whereas she would be in cute but sensible shoes and would have packed a cardigan – all warm and toasty! So she practically unpacked her comment – suitcases just weren’t a sensible travel accessory if you want to travel on a budget. Therefore anyone travelling with a suitcase is either a) travelling in “style” or b) not sensible.

Croatia - taking a suitcase or backpack... oh so many stairs

After a few moments thought on my last few trips I had to agree.  Suitcases were not sensible for the budget traveller!

So can your travel bag define your travel style? And does it determine the travellers you will associate with while on the road?

Yes, your travel bag is definitely going to determine your travel style. Without the money to splurge on door to door taxi’s wheeling a suitcase through most cities would be a nightmare.  I could mention the crowds and the numerous stair cases but I think the main problem would be the cobbled streets – your arm would vibrate off! Then imagine schlepping it through the underground in London or New York – up and down those escalators with people rushing past climbing over your bag – just awkward. If your island hopping through South East Asia try wheeling your suitcase through sand as you walk along the beach looking for the path to possible accommodation.  None of this sounds like fun. So you wouldn’t do it – if you are travelling on a budget a backpack is always going to be your choice (unless of course you are one of those people who common sense eludes).  You would catch a cab from the airport instead of public transport.  You probably wouldn’t go to little off the beaten track islands which have no resorts on them to avoid getting bogged down in the sand. And the underground was never an option. Therefore a suitcase would be no hassle and actually the right bag for you.

But should we backpackers be snobby towards the suitcase pullers? Like my friend, when I am in a hostel and I see a group of girls with suitcases – my first thought is always “they are probably not my sort of travel people” and yet 9 out of 10 times once I have chatted to them I have learnt that the suitcase never mattered – they are girls, I have had a good gossip with them, maybe even borrowed their hair straightener – which they mercifully had room for in their spacious suitcase – and found some fabulous new friends. In short, no – lets not judge the suitcase pullers for their bad decision.  Their travel style is just a little different is all. You can still travel on a budget and have a suitcase – you may choose to spend your money on those methods of transport that make your life easier rather than the numerous beers your average backpackers consume every night. Or you may enjoy carrying a suitcase up several flights of stairs as it’s how you get your daily work out in while travelling.

I ask you fellow backpackers out there – are you a suitcase snob? be honest now!

Backpack or Suitcase - how do you travel;

5 things you can do to be a tourist at home

We all think our city is great for a variety of reasons, and we all like to boast/defend our city to the death.  How many backpacker conversations have gone sour when someone says “oh I have been to (insert your home town) and I didn’t like it very much…” When I lived in

Walking around the Lake - Canberra

Walking around the Lake – Canberra

Canberra (which if you know anything about Australia you will know that a) it’s the capital city and b) it’s not renowned for its “entertainment”) I would rave about all of the amazing things you could do there if you just knew a local who could show you around (bushwalking, Tidbinbilla, the space tracking station, lake walks – just to mention a few). Now I spend most of my year in Sydney which many argue IS the greatest city in the world. It’s famous for its stunning beaches, relaxed life attitude, beer gardens, seafood and of course the harbour.  But, I would question how many Sydney Siders really KNOW Sydney. Sure they know that Cabramatta is the best place to get Vietnamese, or if you want a great surf beach away from the crowds you need to head to Marobra not Bondi and every local knows that underground bars dot the city if you know where to look. But have the locals walked the harbour bridge, surfed Bondi, gone up Sydney Tower or eaten a Balmain bug on the balcony of the Fish Markets? Sometimes its easy to miss the amazing things that make your city so famous to the rest of the world – so here are five tips on how to get to know your city a little better.

1. Pub Crawl – we all have our favourite bars or pubs, for whatever reason we prefer a select few above all of the rest – but they are usually far away from those that are considered tourist hot spots. Spend a lazy Saturday afternoon doing a pub crawl through your more touristy areas. If you are able to look past the tourist prices and the tourists themselves you will see why those pubs are so popular. Maybe it’s the view, the micro beers, the great cover band or even the mismatched group of tourists who are so friendly that you are instantly their best friend for the afternoon.

Rocks pub crawl

Rocks pub crawl

2. Picnic – when you are travelling you often end up grabbing a quick takeaway sandwich or salad and sitting next to the famous tourist attraction just taking it all in. Why not pack yourself a picnic, grab a blanket and head to that great-place-with-a-view for a relaxing lunch. Don’t be afraid to do it on your own, take a book and soak up the feel of the place.

Picnic in front if Salisbury Cathedral

Picnic in front if Salisbury Cathedral

3. Get a little lost – When we live in a place we rush from point A to Point B as quickly as possible, we know all the short cuts and have passed each of the stores so many times that we don’t even notice them. Give yourself a mission – head into the centre of town, pick a direction, start walking and go in search of a new bookshop/dumplings/whisky bar/clam chowder/vintage clothing – the only rule – DON’T USE GOOGLE!

Searching for long lost pubs in London

Searching for long lost pubs in London

4. Tourist Attractions – Every city has a top 10 tourist attractions, just type it into Google and I am sure TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet will be able to tell. Run your eye over the list and make sure that you have been to all of the items on there. I have yet to go into the Sydney Opera House and I live in Sydney (shock/gasp). Spend a weekend ticking every single one off the list.

Westminster - London

5.Eat – Your city has specialties, things that it thinks it does better than anywhere else in the world! If you’re in Sydney head to the Fish Markets and delight in fresh oysters, if you are in San Francisco head to the piers and warm up with some chowder, If you are in Ho Chi Minh head to Pho 2000 to eat where President Clinton did! They are specialties for a reason, I guarantee their reputation is well-earned!

Crab, Cheese and Cornish Pasties - Doreset

So this weekend – instead of heading to your local or your favourite beach, read the lonely planet for your city and head out on the town with camera in hand and get to know it a little better!

Top 5 Travel moments of 2014 – Bring on 2015!

Top 5 travel moments of 2014

2014 is nearly over and 2015 is looming eerily in the future, pulsating with new possibilities. The introvert in me (yes shockingly I do have an introverted side) needs to stop and take a quick breather before I jump head first in the new year, I need time to look back on all of the awesomeness that took place in the last 12 months; to ensure that the memories are firmly lodged in the vast sometimes empty space that is my brain – I don’t want to lose a single second of my favourite moments.

Here are my top 5 travel experiences for 2014! What an amazing year!

1. Climbing Yosemite Upper Falls Hike – 2,600ft in 6 hours in about 28degree heat with only one water bottle. I learnt a lot during my few days in Yosemite. About how to push through the pain, how small negative comments can completely demotivate you, the buzz of exhilaration when you reach the top and most importantly I learnt that coming down hurts WAY more than going up. By the end I discovered a new hobby – hiking really big beautiful things!

Things I learnt while hiking Yosemite Upper Falls Trail2. Exploring Sydney… again – I live in one of the worlds most beautiful cities, but sometimes it is easy to forget.  If you walk from Coogee to Bondi often enough you stop seeing the beautiful cliff tops and only focus on how many calories the stairs are burning, you head out for drinks at Opera bar and complete ignore the sun setting behind the harbour bridge in favour of another mimosa.  This year I have made a conscious effort to see and get to know Sydney again – discovering new underground bars, a sneaky lunch at the fish markets or a walk through the botanical gardens reminds me that I am pretty lucky!

Sydney harbour bridge

Getting a little lost in San Francisco – It’s a city that has spawned some of America’s greatest authors, artists and poets and as you wander through the hilly streets it’s not hard to see why. Breath taking views of fog rolling across the bay swallowing the bridge, ships and Alcatraz juxtaposed against the graffiti alleyways of Mission and culinary gems of all cuisines that are dotted mysteriously through the city. Letting your feet and stomach guide you as you stumble around – it’s much more fun.

San Francisco, Mission, Lonely Planet Walking tour

3. Bushwalking – Tourists flock from all of the world to enjoy Australia’s natural beauty.  Growing up in a place so naturally blessed its easy to forget that its there.  This year I have made a huge effort to get out and do some of the bushwalks around Sydney, including parts of the Great North Walk and the Kiama Costal track.  Not only is it a mini city break but its also a chance to get fit!

bushwalking the Kiama costal path

4. Eating a Japadog hotdog in Vancouver – some meals you forget about before you have even finished the last bite. Other meals you dream about for years to come, you try and re-create them, you tell all of your friends about them and when you meet someone who has had the same experience you feel like you have found your soul mate. Japadog was one of these life changing meals for me. The concept of the Japanese style fused with the New York hotdog was not something that appealed… especially as I didn’t particularly like hotdogs. Two bites in, I knew I would never be the same again!

Japadog - Kobe Beef. Things to do and eat in VancouverLooking back I think that 2015 has a lot to live up to.  How exciting to think of the possibilities of what could happen next year! What were your best travel moments of 2014 – would love to hear them all!???

Things to do in Vancouver

What should you REALLY ask your fellow travellers?

The awkward traveller "getting to know your" conversation

The “are you someone I want to associate with” conversation is something that happens in all walks of life. If you work in a big city the conversation usually starts off with “Where do you work? What industry are you? Where do you live? Oh do you know so-and-so?” these first vital questions when you meet someone can often determine how much energy you are going to put into getting to know them.  If all of their answers show that you have absolutely nothing in common then you may not try so hard to get past those initial impressions.

Of course there are other factors that may determine your how you build your relationship with someone – attractiveness, charisma, sense of humour or they may have another interest that is completely aligned with your so that you can look past the fact that their answers to the initial inquiries were the complete opposite of your own.

Imagine your first day in a retirement home, you would ask the standard identifying questions “Are you married? Oh a widow? What doctor do you see? How many grandchildren do you have? What does your son do? Did you watch Better Homes and Gardens yesterday?” how would you feel if every answer you received from someone was the complete opposite of your own interests? Like a fish out of water I am sure.  Then an off the cuff comment about your passion for parasurfing lights a small fire in the other persons eye – instant friends for life!

Old people funnyTravellers are exactly the same, when you first meet someone you go through the questions that determine whether they are someone you wish to hang out with.

  • Where are you from?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
  • How long are you travelling?
  • Are you travelling alone?
  • When do you leave this place?
  • Have you tried/eaten/seen that amazing thing that you HAVE to see/eat/do?

What does this really tell you about someone? You could have a very different travel style and different interests in where you are going and what you are seeing but that person may just be the ideal best friend/husband/wife/travel companion/cribbage partner.

Relax there is a way to find out if the amazing people you are meeting have more to offer than the what the common identifying questions offer. What you need is a maverick question – a question that will exhibit responses from people who will satisfy your need to get to know them with ease and speed. A way to break out of the mould and standard answers and pull back the layers to find their inner passions.

After a full moon party in Thailand several years ago, in need some time to recover and regenerate I hopped over to the island paradise of Koh Tao.  The island is so relaxing that the two days I had planned there extended to three, then four, then five – before I actuallyThe awkward traveller "getting to know your" conversation had to leave due to visa restrictions.  My days were simple, I would get up, wander down the main street parallel to the beach sipping a fruit smoothie until I found a great place to relax, I would then set up my towel for the day, every time I got too hot I would roll into the water for a splash or a snorkel.  When I got hungry I would find a restaurant that was hanging over the water so I could continue to eat noodles, relax, snorkel, eat, relax, snorkel. When evening came I would sneak back home for a nap before heading down to one of the many beanbag bars on the beach.  I would then sit in a beanbag slowly sipping on my beer watching fire dances and laughing with my many new friends – suddenly it would be nearly dawn which meant hurrying to grab a pancake before flopping back into bed. Repeat!

During one of these beanbag conversations the question was posed – Who would win between a Great White Shark and  a Saltwater Crocodile? Debate ensued almost immediately. Parameters had to be defined before any serious conclusions could be met.

  • Both creatures are fully grown: Full grown Great White is 6 meters, Saltwater Crocodile is 6 meters (evenly matched)
  • Water depth is deep enough that the both creatures have room to manoeuvre
  • The water is salt – as both creatures need salt.
  • Both are hungry and are extremely cranky!

By the end of the evening there was a clear split in the group, half thought the crocodile would have better chance of grabbing and thrashing the shark by the tail or fin taking it into a death roll.  Others argued that the shark could grab and rip off a leg or arm and that its body mass is too big for the crocodile to get their jaws round.

In the end the answer didn’t really matter – what did matter was that by the end of the conversation the four people who were left discussing it turned out to be the best people for me to spend my time with on Koh Tao – and in fact I am still in contact with most of them.

Making friends!

Making friends!

I decided to take this question and try it out when I met other travellers, this then became my barometer for connecting with people.  If they didn’t understand the question or thought it was weird – they clearly didn’t enjoy the absurd and ridiculous the same way I do. If they immediately jumped on google to find out the answer they didn’t see the point was to have a conversation and discuss. If they couldn’t give a reason as to why they thought either the crocodile or shark would win then they weren’t giving it the proper analytical consideration.

What I found is that when you give someone a strange and out there topic to discuss they tell you a lot more about them selves than if you were just discussing the road from Chang Mai to Bangkok.  Suddenly people would explain personal anecdotes, fears, pet peeves, bucketlist items and even fetishes. The best answer I have was from a German guy who I ended hanging out with for a few days, after pondering the question for a while he said “What if we added a fully grown anaconda into the mix” – Wow, mind blown!How to avoid the old traveller questions?

For years this has worked for me – but alas last week the Northern Territory News in Australia may have answered the question (if you don’t read the Northern Territory News I strongly suggest you start – its editorial content is an ongoing joke about crocodiles and scantily clad women).

In reading further into the sensational article I have discovered that the conditions have not quite been met.  The shark in question was a Bull Shark – the Great White Sharks smaller meaner brother.  At a measly 2.5 meters it didn’t have the size or the strength to go up against Darwin’s biggest known corc Brutus who is 80 years old and 5.5 meters long. I breathed a sigh of relief – my get to know you question still works!

Out of interest – who do you think would win between the Great White Shark and the Saltwater Crocodile?

Walk, Eat, Shop, Drink – North Van Style

Things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver is just like Sydney, but instead of beaches they have mountains.  There are so many similarities that if it wasn’t for the weather I could see myself living there with little change in my life style.  The city is clean, the people are friendly, there are great fusion restaurants and cute little shopping streets. Yet, what I liked most was the attitude of the locals – like your average Sydneysider, Vancouverites are focused on enjoying the good things in life such as a nice local Pale Ale from BC (British Columbia which is the province that Vancouver is situated in) or sushi fusion with locally caught fish.

However, in order to enjoy all of this without your jeans suddenly becoming unbearably tight, Vancouverites are also very active.  Sportswear shops are more common than McDonald’s and everyone appears to be wearing what my grandmother would call “sensible” shoes because they walk everywhere. Indeed when you visit Vancouver your guidebook recommendations on things to do alternate between eating and exercises:

Like Sydney, the city is separated by a giant body of water into South Van, Vancouver City and North Van. Each place has its own identity with loads of things to do. Here is my must see itinerary for the best of North Van – Vancouverite style day. This is also a little off the tourist (beaten) track and a somewhat cheaper than doing the main attractions – yet still beautiful and tasty.

Note: The best way to get to these activities is by car, however if you don’t mind spending some time looking at the stunning scenery from a bus window there are also public transport options that are easy and cheap.

Exercise: Hike at Deep Cove

Public Transport Option: Catch the 210 from Pender and Granville St and then Change to the 211 at Phibbs Bus Exchange

Arriving at Deep Cove is breathtaking, making time to loll on the grass looking at the still water surrounded by forested mountains wouldn’t be a mistake.  Once you have recovered your breath head to the left of the Cove (there is only one street so you can’t miss it) where you will find the start of the Beaden Powell Trail. This is a great 3k return track through luscious pine forest that ends at Quarry rock and spectacular views. Once you have returned from your walk maybe grab a coffee or ice cream in the main street of Deep Cove.

Things to do in Vancouver

Shop: Lonsdale Quay Market

Public Transport Option: Catch the 211 back to Phibbs Bus Exchange and change onto the 239

Vancouver is known as the city of glass, which pretty much sums up the vista as you stand on the Quay behind the markets.  The markets themselves are a great place to pick up unique Canadian and Vancouver souvenirs.  There is also an art gallery upstairs that is well worth a look as it showcases a lot of local artists, and there is usually an artist working in the gallery as well.  I suggest grabbing a cider and watching the big container ships stroll past on their way back out to sea.

Things to do in Vancouver

Eat: Tomahawk Restaurant

Public Transport Option: Jump back on the 239 and get off at Marine Dr and Philip Av, or if you feel like walking it takes about 40 minutes.

I actually read about this restaurant in Lonely Planet, however, my local Canadian friend hadn’t heard of the place so it didn’t seem to me to be a place that would be overwhelmed by the tourist trade.  The minute I walked in I could confirm that it is still very much a local hang out, with two locals sitting alone at the bar wolfing down their burgers and chatting to the wait staff as though they were part of the furniture.   The bar is decorated in souvenirs that have been gathered over the decades, giving the eye something new to look at in every direction. The restaurant has been open since 1926 and you can read the full story on the menu.  I ordered the Chief Dominic Charlie Burger which had an organic beef patty, Yukon-style bacon, lettuce cheese and Tomahawk special sauce with chips, and because I like the novelty of free re-fills, a coke. Every bite was like absorbing a little of the Tomahawk décor – whimsical, classic and oh so tasty!

Things to do in Vancouver

Exercise: Walk across the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (a free version of the Capilano Suspension bridge)

Public Transport Option: from Tomahawk Restaurant catch the N24, however you have to walk the final part.  From Deep cove catch the 211 and then the 210. Or there is a hike through the forest from Deep Cove, however do your research before you attempt this as getting lost in the Canadian wilderness wouldn’t be much fun.

You can do a walk either side of the bridge, there are loads of maps and information in the park so it is fairly easily to plan.  If you have an extreme fear of heights like me, you may want to wait until there is no one else on the bridge before you attempt to cross it as it can swing through the air a little. Also if you are scared of heights I don’t recommend looking down at the crashing river that is blasting its way over rocks below you – that really doesn’t help.

Things to do in Vancouver

Drink: Cactus Club on Beach Avenue

Public Transport Option: Catch the 210 back to the city

There are Cactus Clubs dotted all over Vancouver so you could really go to any of them.  The one on Beach Avenue however has the best views and a great patio (which is what Canadians call beer gardens, or outdoor spaces where you can have an alcoholic beverage). Watch the sun go down and while sipping on a sangria which is topped with their world-famous Peach Bellini.

Things to do in Vancouver

The best part is that the exercise in beautiful wild green locations, will have negated any calories you may have indulged in with eating all of the scrumptious local produce.

What to do in San Francisco

Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com

Need some help narrowing down your itinerary for San Francisco as there is SO MUCH to do there! Here are my top things to do and note:

Where to stay:

  • USA Hostels – this is where I stayed, it is a little but more expensive for most hostels but there are so many little extras that it is totally worth it! Little things such as – small dorms, power point shelves inside your bunk bed, really friendly cleaning staff, clean and equipped kitchen, free breakfast pancakes and fruit, great security, comfy beds and loads of activities running daily.
  • The Green Tortoise – I really wanted to stay here but sadly it was booked out.  However, everyone I know who did stay there strongly recommended it.  They also do a free dinner two nights a week!

Things to note:

  • Weather – all year round San Francisco has fog, it may be summer everywhere else but pack layers for San Fran.Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com
  • Maps – get the uber great transit map from your hostel or the information centre as it not only marks all the great attractions but also all the bus routes on it.
  • Airport – you can catch the Bart train in from the airport for about $8 or speak to your hostel about an airport drop off or pick up, it’s usually about $12… you pay the extra $4 to not have to carry your pack up a hill!
  • People – generally everyone you meet is super friendly, super helpful and so outgoing its daunting. San Francisco also has a large population of homeless people, this was a huge culture shock for me – it was heartbreaking to see so many people living rough in one of the worlds wealthiest countries.

Where to eat:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf – Try the world-famous clam chowder in a sour-dough bread roll while sitting on the seafront fighting off seagulls. Only $6.50!Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com
  • The Capital Restaurant (China Town) – Well recommended by Yelp and Tripadvisor.  Affordable and absolutely delicious, the place is always packed and you must order the chicken wing starters.  Every table had a plate one and one bite will tell you why.
  • Taqueria – Ask at your hostel or hotel where they think the best locals taco’s can be found.  It won’t be in any guide-book but it will be the best Mexican you will have.
  • Mission Cheese – Bask in the sunshine while sipping wine and nibbling on cheese
  • In N Out Burger – A Californian institution and the Ferrari of fast food. But one that Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.comshould be only be used as hangover food or in extreme circumstances once you are over the age of 22 – otherwise you will feel the grease sliding down through your intestines.

Things to do and see:

  • Golden Gate Bridge – of course! You can hire bikes at Fisherman’s Wharf and cycle across, stopping on the other side for some lunch.  Though if you prefer to take in the scene at a more relaxed pace, you can walk across.  There and back only takes 40 minutes and there are buses that run from Downtown to the Bridge every 20 minutes.
  • Mission – Spend an afternoon walking around the colourful streets and popping into Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com local bars – Lonely Planet has some great suggestions on how to lose yourself for an afternoon – check out my last blog on it!
  • Coit Tower – Walk up to the tower that over looks the whole city for great views of The Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and Lombard Street.  You can go up to the top of the tower for $7 but if there is fog in the bay obscuring the view it may not be worth it.
  • Alcatraz – see the cell where they kept Al Capone and receive chills down your spine as you wander the dark deserted corridors of America’s most notorious prisons.  Book early though as only one company runs tours out there and it books out quickly especially in the summer months.
  • Lombard Street – If you feel like some exercise walk up the stairs on the side of theThings to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com zig-zag street.  Stop to admire the beautiful flowers and graceful architecture of the houses on either side.  Just be careful not to get swamped by the hundreds of tourists with cameras.
  • Union Square – Be mesmerised by shoes and designer glasses as you stumble around the plethora of giant American shopping chains such as Macey’s, Nordstrom’s, Forever 21 and the Gap.
  • Golden Gate Park – take a relaxing day out from the hustle and bustle of the city while perusing the greenery in this giant park to the south of the city.  The Japanese Tea Gardens in the centre are highly recommended… however I was unimpressed for the price.  The Botanical Gardens over the road were much more impressive and were FREE on the day I was there.
  • Cow Hollow (Union Street Shopping, not to be confused with Union Square) – for some cute boutiques and fun kitchy cafes head to the other side of town.  It was a little out of my price range but I loved walking through looking at the creative store names. Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com
  • China Town – fight through the tourists to pick up some great souvenir bargains. Don’t forget to check out the streets either side as they have some great little surprises such as full wall murals and a some great places to get a manicure.
  • Ferry Building to Pier 39 – Start at the old Ferry Building markets to indulge in some delicious local produce.  Then walk it off by walking round through the piers admiring the views and the giant ships as they head out to sea.  Stop at pier 39 to watch the Sea Lions who have taken up residence.
  • Harbour Tours – See the city from the sea and get up and close with the Golden Gate Bridge, take a stroll across Treasure Island.  It’s not hard finding a tour company or boat as the wharfs are crowded with choice.

Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com

Something Extra:

  • Wine Tours (Sanoma and Napa Valley’s)- San Francisco is just a couple of hours away from California’s premium wine country. Take a day trip or even a couple of days to explore the region with your tastes buds.
  • Yosemite – although a 6 hour drive from San Francisco there are plenty of tour groups that do all the driving for you.  Spend a couple of days traipsing across the peaks and absorbing the spectacular views.

Hopefully this will give you a place to start – good luck on your exploration.

Things to do in San Francisco - thelitebackpacker.com