Finding My Roots In Ireland: Family Genealogy Road Trip

Genealogy in Ireland

Family Genealogy Trip in Ireland

Glengarriff, Ireland

It only took me 34 years to visit my family’s ancestral homeland of Ireland. Joined by my parents & sister, we traveled to the Emerald Isle to research our history.

Like most Americans, I’m a mutt. My family immigrated to the United States from Ireland, Poland, Germany and England. Mostly from Ireland though — including my paternal grandmother.

Concentrating on the side of the family with the most recent links to Ireland, we decided to visit the area where my grandmother was born. A small south-western coastal village called Glengarriff in County Cork.

I was especially excited for this journey, as it was the first time that my family members were going to travel with me internationally, and years since we’d traveled together for any kind of road trip. Woohoo!

O'Neils Bar Dublin

Guinness For Breakfast

Dublin Sights

Dublin Castle

Arriving In Dublin

The first order of business once we arrived in Dublin after checking into the Trinity City Hotel was to grab a large Irish breakfast and wash it down with a few pints of Guinness at O’Neil’s Bar & Restaurant. At 10am of course. We were off to a good start.

Hey, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in Ireland?

We spent the rest of the day exploring Dublin by bus and on foot. Everyone was running on little sleep due to the intercontinental flight the night before, so our activities were kept to a minimum.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle was originally built as a defensive structure for the city of Dublin, later serving as residence for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who governed for the King of England. These days it’s used for presidential inaugurations and state functions.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is Ireland’s largest church, founded back in 1191. Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was once the dean, and is currently buried here. Dublin actually has two cathedrals belonging to the Church of Ireland, the other being Christ Church Cathedral.

Teeling Whiskey Distillery

Most people who visit Dublin go to the Jameson Distillery, which is just a showroom for tourists. The only working Irish Whiskey distillery in Dublin is called Teeling. We watched the whiskey process from start to finish and tasted the difference between single grain, single malt, and age.

Cashel Castle Ireland

Rock of Cashel

Colmans Cathedral

Port Town of Cobh

Irish Genealogy Road Trip

Now that we’d experienced a taste of Dublin, it was time to embark on the core mission of this trip. Searching for any information we could find about my grandmother’s life in Ireland before she sailed to Boston in 1930.

Prior to traveling to Ireland, my sister Lindsay had done some research on Ancestry.com which helped us track down basic United States immigration records for my grandmother.

To expand on those, we also enlisted the services of Eneclann, a genealogy research company. They provided a detailed report based on Irish census information with all kinds of interesting facts we’d never known before!

Like that we came from a family of fishermen and farmers.

Armed with this new knowledge we rented a car and began driving southwest across Ireland on the M8 through the town of Cashel and the city of Cork stopping at famous landmarks along the way.

One such landmark is the port town of Cobh, formerly Queenstown, where 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America left from. Including my grandmother in 1930!

Glengarriff

Glengarriff, Ireland

Carraig Dubh House

Paudie & Kathleen Connolly

Glengarriff Village

Arriving in Glengarriff after navigating some of Ireland’s notoriously narrow roads, we checked into a quaint local bed & breakfast called Carraig Dubh House perched on a hillside overlooking the town. It was here we met the cheery owners Paudie & Kathleen.

They would be the key to unlocking the mysteries of our quest.

We explained that we were in Glengarriff as part of a genealogy trip, and asked if they might remember my grandmother or her family. Of course they did! In a small town of 800 people, everyone knows everyone.

My aunt had given us an old postcard of Glengarriff from when she visited a while back. It was said to feature the McCarthy family home that my grandmother grew up in.

Glengarriff Ireland

Old Postcard of My Grandmother’s House

Ellen's Rock Glengarriff

We Found It!

Searching For The House

Our hosts took one look at the postcard and confirmed our suspicions. Yes that’s where she grew up, and it still exists! In fact it’s just down the road…

The traditional 3-room Irish home made of stone is located at a place called Ellen’s Rock, a famous spot for photos when Glengarriff was a popular tourist attraction and ocean cruise destination in the early part of the century.

We jumped in the car and headed over to see it for ourselves.

Sitting on the edge of Bantry Bay, the building has seen better days yet was still standing. Turns out it’s owned by my father’s cousin Teddy, a long-lost family member none of us had ever met before.

Our next mission? Track down Teddy and buy him a beer!

Everything seemed to be falling into place perfectly.

Ireland Family Trip

My Dad Meets His Cousin Teddy

Garnish Island Ireland

Garnish Island Gardens

Meeting With Relatives

Teddy keeps the McCarthy family tradition of fishing and sailing alive as a boat captain for the Harbour Queen Ferry. They take tourists out on fishing trips and ferry rides to the beautiful Garnish Island Gardens.

We went down to the docks, but unfortunately just missed him, so we decided to ride the ferry out to Garnish Island and explore the gardens. Motoring past happy seals sunbathing on rocks.

Concluding the island excursion, we surprised Teddy with an unexpected family visit. He seemed a bit taken aback, and not sure how to respond. Who are these strangers from the United States claiming to be relatives?

We made plans to meet later that evening at The Cottage Bar, a favorite local watering hole in town. Hopefully we would all get to know each other a bit better over a few pints of Guinness.

Glengarriff Church

Sacred Heart Church in Glengarriff

Glengarriff Cemetery

McCarthy Family Plot

Learning Family History

Teddy brought his wife Abigail to join us at the bar. Luckily she acted as a translator too, his thick Irish accent difficult for us Yankees to understand! We learned that Teddy likes to work on old boats, just as my father does.

My great grandfather Timothy was apparently a fisherman & boatman. He boasted the most groomed mustache in town, and was always seen wearing his favorite bright white pea cap.

My sister Lindsay apparently looks just like Teddy’s daughter Marie.

One mystery we never solved is why my grandmother sailed from Ireland to the United States on her own when she was only 17 years old. Everyone we spoke with seemed to remember her siblings, but almost nothing about her.

The town church and local cemetery was our next stop, paying respect at my great grandfather’s grave and chatting with the local priest. My grandmother’s birth was never registered in official county documents, but we did have her baptismal record from the church.

Father Michael Moynihan explained to us over coffee that this was common in those days, as many people from the countryside didn’t bother to travel to the city to register their children so soon after birth, and often forgot to later.

Sheep in Ireland

Irish Traffic Jam

Ireland Road Trip

Learning to Drive on the Right

Exploring Ireland

Towering Cliffs of Moher

Wild Atlantic Way

Overwhelmed with all that we had learned in just a few days, it was time to say our goodbyes and continue our Irish road trip up the West coast along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The complete route stretches 2,500km (1553 miles), however we were driving the southern section up through Dingle and on to Galway before heading back across the country to the capital. I’ll go into more detail in future posts, but the highlights for me were Slea Head Drive and the Cliffs of Moher.

Driving in Ireland can take some getting used to! The back roads are super narrow with no shoulder to pull off on, locals drive fast, curves are sharp, and sheep are plentiful.

But by the 3rd or 4th day I started to get the hang of it. A good trick is to buy the “learner” sticker sold at gas stations so locals don’t get pissed at your incompetence on their roads.

Overall I’d say our Irish genealogy road trip was a success. Together we teamed up to track down relatives, learn about our heritage, and experience a little Irish culture, food, drink, and hospitality.

Ireland’s coastal landscapes are breathtaking to see in person. It was a memorable journey, and I’m happy I experienced it with my family. ★

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Have you ever been on a family genealogy trip before?

Fantasy Fest: Key West’s Crazy Street Festival

Fantasy Fest

Fantasy Fest in Key West

Key West, Florida

Want to learn about the best-kept secret for street celebrations in the United States? It’s a wild 10 day costume party in October called Fantasy Fest in Key West, Florida.

If I had to describe Fantasy Fest in one sentence, I’d say it’s Burning Man meets Mardi Gras for Halloween on a tropical island. Except in a place where you can also stay in a beautiful B&B surrounded by ancient banyan trees.

A place so diverse that gays, bikers, pirates, artists, strippers and entrepreneurs are the norm, living a motto “One Human Family.” A place where you can watch the sun both rise and set over the ocean every day.

After knowing about the festival for years living in South Florida, I finally made it down to see what all the hype was about with my blogger friend Steph from Travel-Break.net.

Our week was incredibly fun, absurd, and liberating all at once.

Fantasy Fest Pirate Bash

Shiver Me Timbers!

Fantasy Festival Key West

Super Heroes Showing Some Skin

The Conch Republic

Key West is America’s own little Caribbean island, known as the Conch Republic to locals who fancy themselves a separate country. The island is located at the southern tip of the beautiful Florida Keys.

With certain laws being a bit more lax (like allowing “open containers” on the street) and such a unique blend of people and styles, you actually do feel as though you’re in another land.

Spend an afternoon walking past Key West’s pastel colored homes or browsing some of its 50 art galleries while still never more than a dozen blocks from the sea in any direction.

The whole island’s 1 x 4 miles is navigable by quaint lanes bordered by tropical flora, feeling a bit like a secret garden which you can navigate by foot, bike or moped.

Fantasy Fest Toga Party

Steph is Attacked by Sexy Spartans

Fantasy Fest Parade

Fantasy Fest Parade

Fantasy Fest Vibe

This magical little island gets even wilder when it celebrates Halloween for 10 days at the end of October in an incredible wonderland known as Fantasy Fest… where almost anything goes.

Bring out any piece of your character (or a different one every night)!

During the festival venues host their own special events. These celebrations create an entire world within themselves, worlds that you are encouraged to join in! They pull together a combination of local cuisine, talented artists, and fundraising for various local charities.

This collaboration makes each event take on a life of its own, feeding everyone’s creative inner-child that you’ll leave the festival feeling closer to.

There are costume competitions, AIDS fundraisers, family-friendly parades, drag-queen contests, and more.

Pirate Party

Pirates

Alien Costume

Intergalactic Alien Invasion

Intergalactic Freak Show

The theme for 2015 was the All Hallows InterGalactic Freak Show, and it certainly lived up to its name. This small town welcomed 60,000 freaks, free spirits, and aliens from all over the country.

People spend months planning out their costumes (or lack thereof) for the multitude of themed parties that happen throughout the week. I got into the spirit of things by packing 3 different costumes myself — Greek God, Dirty Pirate, and Intergalactic Alien complete with full-body paint job.

One night Steph and I found ourselves at Irish Kevin’s annual Fantasy Fest 80’s party when who should crash the stage but Mr. Margaritaville himself!

Jimmy Buffett (ok, maybe not the real one) picked up a guitar and played along with the band for a few songs as the rest of us danced like no one was watching.

Just a typical evening at Fantasy Fest in Key West.

Exploring Ireland

Is that Jimmy Buffett?

Fantasy Fest Queen

King & Queen of Fantasy Fest 2015

Fantasy Fest Events

Some highlights of Fantasy Fest include The Coronation Ball where the Conch King and Conch Queen make an appearance. They win this royal title by having raised the greatest amount of funds for AIDS Help.

In 2007 they raised over $200,000 and since 1989 almost $2.6 million has been donated.

Goombay is a two day street party held in Key West’s Bahama Village neighborhood. It’s named after the goatskin drums that generate the party’s rhythms and celebrates the heritage of Key West’s large Bahamian population with food, art and a lot of dancing.

Other popular events include the Zombie Bike Ride, Pet Masquerade, Anything But Clothes Party, Rum Barrel Pirate Bash, Airbrush Expo, Sloppy Joe’s Toga Party, and much more.

You can find a full listing of events on the Fantasy Fest Website.

On the last day, the festival culminates with the Fantasy Fest Parade down the town’s main Duval Street spanning the 1 mile cross-stretch from the Atlantic to the Gulf shore.

Key West Parade

There’s No Place Like Home

Pirate Bash

Arrrrrgh! Rum Barrel Pirate Bash

Fantasy Fest Tips & Advice

While basically an extended adult costume party at the end of October, Fantasy Fest doesn’t always fall on Halloween itself. It did in 2015, but that’s not always the case.

There’s some nudity at Fantasy Fest, but that’s not all it’s about. You’ll find people of every race, age, body type, sexual-preference, and career here too. A celebration for judgement-free and open-minded people.

With only 75 taxi cabs and 60,000 people during the event, finding a taxi isn’t always easy. Renting a bike might be a good option for getting around, provided you don’t drink too much.

No Fantasy Fest experience is complete without some body paint. Airbrush artists from around the country set up shop to make your dreams reality. Prices range from $100 to $800+ depending on how intricate the work is.

Need a cure for your killer hangover the morning after? Grab a bite to eat at Blue Heaven or some strong cuban coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen.

Clown Costumes

Psychotic Clowns

Fantasy Fest Costumes

Don’t Mess With These Two…

Getting There

So how do you get to this crazy party called Fantasy Fest in Key West? Fall down a rabbit hole? Hope a tornado picks up your farmhouse in Kansas? Fortunately you can just drive 160 miles South from Miami on Highway US1.

The road trip to Key West from Miami is a beautiful drive over endless bridges across the Florida Keys islands, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.

A quick 45 minute puddle jumper flight from Miami or Ft Lauderdale airport directly to the island is also possible.

Good Places To Stay

We stayed at the beautiful Casa Marina Resort on the edge of the water. But I’m a big fan of AirBnB too. If you haven’t yet, make sure to read my article about how to find cheap hotels.

So if you’re looking for a good party, and wild photos of crazy and scandalous costumes, you have to check out Fantasy Fest sometime. I hope I’ll see you there next year! ★

READ NEXT: Ultimate Key West Road Trip

Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail: PART 4

Arctic Circle Trail Hiking

Sisimiut, Greenland

Carefully trying to pick my way across a marsh, I sink into a deep pocket of mud up to my shins. This wet terrain is a regular hazard on the Arctic Circle Trail.

DAY 9: Innajuattoq to Nerumaq

Hiking Distance 18 km (11 miles) | 7 hours

The Greenlandic morning is dark & wet with heavy fog at 8am when I begin packing my gear for the next leg of the Arctic Circle Trail. Luckily most of the day will be hiking downhill out of the mountains.

Stuffing dry kindling from my failed fire attempt under a rock for the next hiker to use, I gradually make my way into a valley lined with small lakes and cotton grass blowing in the wind.

Eventually the fog clears and I spot reindeer grazing in the hills beside me. Then another arctic hare. There are so many wild animals roaming Greenland!

Nerumaq hut is not far away, and I stop to take a short nap due to lack of sleep the night before. Today will be a long day on the trail and I’ll need all the energy I can get.

Moving quite fast now, at this pace I should finish by tomorrow evening. My backpack is exponentially lighter having eaten most of the food I began with.

Arctic Circle Trail Landscape

Arctic Circle Trail Trees

Willow Tree Forest

The Arctic Circle Trail threads through a patch of dwarf willow trees, the tallest are only about 6 feet high. It’s the largest forest I’ve seen since arriving in Greenland last week. Trees don’t grow well in the arctic tundra.

More and more rivers snake their way down from the mountains across my path, some with small waterfalls. Most are easily crossed by rock-hopping.

The trail becomes wet & swampy again. The weather worsens.

In fact now it’s raining. I still haven’t found the next hut. Fog moves in and the sky darkens. While I’d love a dry place to sleep tonight, it looks like I’ll have to pitch camp in the rain.

I curl into my sleeping bag and snack on dried fish — washing it down with the last of my potent Greenlandic schnapps in an attempt to stay warm.

Arctic Circle Trail Hike

Arctic Circle Trail Cabin

Arctic Circle Trail Sled

DAY 10: Kangerluarsuk Tulleq to Sisimiut

Hiking Distance 22 km (14 miles) | 8 hours

The next morning I prepare for what will hopefully be the final day of trekking. Right away my feet are sucked deep into bog mud, up to my shins. Not a good way to start!

Climbing a hill I soon discover the Tulleq hut I’d been searching for the night before. Ahhhhh! Only 10 more minutes and I would have enjoyed a solid roof over my head.

The trail rises back into the mountains through a high rocky valley, with views of snow covered peaks on either side. I find the remains of dog sledding equipment scattered about.

Hiking through boulder fields alongside a small river, crossing it a few times before coming to a wide open valley called Nasaasaaq. Jagged mountains can been seen in the distance.

Nasaasaaq Arctic Circle Trail

Arctic Circle Trail Musk Ox

Musk Ox Surprise

Trekking down into this beautiful valley, I spy something large, shaggy, and brown moving across the trail. It’s a musk ox!

The musk ox is Greenland’s largest land mammal weighing up to 400 kilos (880 lbs). These huge shaggy creatures are related to goats, but look more like buffalo to me.

I watched a group of them from a distance earlier that week, but this bull was only 50 yards away — blocking the path ahead. The Greenlandic name for them, Umimmak, means “the long-bearded one”.

Musk oxen are an important source of meat and wool for native Greenlanders. You have to be careful not to get too close or they can charge.

Eventually this one smelled me & ran up a mountain. I don’t blame it.

After passing an out-of-place ski lift, I round a corner to find the Arctic Ocean. Perched on the edge is the colorful fishing town of Sisimiut.

Sisimiut Sled Dogs

Sisimiut Greenland

Fishing Boats

Fishing Town Of Sisimiut

Success! I made it! I hike into town past hundreds of barking sled dogs feeling on top of the world. My feet ache. My body is exhausted. Yet I can’t stop smiling.

Trekking for 10 days across the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland’s wilderness was a rewarding adventure travel experience.

I’d lived off the land eating berries & mushrooms, saw all kinds of cool wildlife, camped under the stars, and spent time alone with my thoughts surrounded by nature. It was my personal version of into the wild.

To celebrate the end of my long journey I checked into a fancy hotel, boots still caked in mud. Jumping into a hot shower for 20 minutes with a cold beer. Followed by a delicious musk ox steak dinner with Greenlandic coffee.

Damn it felt good to be back in civilization!

The next 4 days were spent walking around Sisimiut, hanging out with other hikers & a group of theater actors from Norway & Denmark. We danced to Greenlandic hip hop & learned about Inuit culture.

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland and reconnecting with nature in the wilderness has been the highlight of my travel year so far. ★

Watch Video: Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail

(Click to watch Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail – Greenland on YouTube)

READ NEXT: Complete Travel Gear Guide

Have you ever wanted to travel to Greenland?

Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail: PART 3

Arctic Circle Trail Hut

Ikkattooq Hut on the Arctic Circle Trail

Pingu, Greenland

I remove my clothing and waterproof my gear in preparation for the deepest and most dangerous river crossing of the hike. It’s time to get wet!

DAY 7: Ikkattooq to Eqalugaarniarfik (and beyond)

Hiking Distance 19 km (12 miles) | 8 hours

Before we get to the river, let me first tell you about an interesting Danish couple I met at the Ikkattooq cabin. We chatted for a few hours before night fell, hiding out from the storm overhead.

Fleming & Ellen have hiked the Arctic Circle Trail 6 times now.

They’re both 70 years old. And if that wasn’t enough to impress you, they’ve also trekked completely across Greenland over its vast ice cap! An astonishing feat that takes a month to accomplish pulling sleds full of food & gear.

These two have hiked to Everest Base Camp, climbed Mont Blanc (Europe’s highest mountain), and are frankly some bad-ass senior citizen adventurers. Plus, they didn’t even get into trekking until they were in their 40’s.

It’s never too late to try something new & challenging.

Fleming & Ellen

Meet Fleming & Ellen from Denmark

Cold Morning

A Cold Early Morning Start

Greenland’s Mosquitos

The next morning we part ways and I start to climb over a steep ridge in crisp 38 degree mountain air. From there the trail winds down into a huge valley. Descending to the river below is when the first mosquitos begin to attack.

Greenland has a big mosquito problem.

They breed in the many lakes & ponds scattered across the landscape, feeding on the reindeer population. But mosquitos are hatching earlier and earlier each year — which many scientists attribute to global warming.

When hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in June or July, these epic swarms are out in force. Wearing a mosquito headnet is essential for keeping your sanity.

By mid August most of them die off due to colder night temperatures. I still encountered small swarms over bogs & marshy areas of the trail. These little insects are a huge pain in the ass!

Arctic Circle Trail Bones

More Reindeer Bones

Arctic Circle Trail River Crossing

Let’s Get Wet!

Naked River Crossing

The valley surrounds Ole’s Lakseelv, the widest & deepest river on the Arctic Circle Trail. The local name for it is Itinneq. There are two ways to cross.

You can get wet and ford right through, or take a longer detour to a wooden bridge that was built nearby. In the early spring or after a lot of rain the river level can be high, up to your chest.

However in mid August, knee or thigh-high is more common.

I was determined to ford right through. But because it had rained the night before, I wasn’t sure how deep the river would be.

To be safe, I stripped down to my birthday suit and waterproofed my pack by lining it with heavy duty garbage bags. The source of all this water is Greenland’s ice cap, so you can imagine how cold it is!

Slowly & carefully I maneuver my way across the river using trekking poles for support. The icy water reached the top of my thighs at its deepest point. Safely on the opposite bank I dry off, repack, and continue into the valley.

Eqalugaarniarfik Cabin

Can You Spot the Cabin?

Cotton Grass

Patches of Cotton Grass

Wild Greenland

Into the Wild

Reconnecting With Nature

The trail rises up into the rocky mountains again towards Eqalugaarniarfik Hut after the river. I encounter my 6th reindeer along the way and stop for a while to watch her graze.

There’s nothing like a boots off, socks off, lay-in-the-grass break every 1-2 hours to keep you fresh and rested on a long distance trek. It’s been about a week since I’ve had to respond to email, write blog posts, edit photos, or stay active on social media — and I don’t miss it.

While I love my job working as a professional blogger, being online all the time takes its toll. This journey into Greenland’s wilderness on my own with no distractions feels like a proper vacation.

I pass Eqalugaarniarfik Hut and hike uphill on an old snowmobile track lined with white-tipped cotton grass blowing in the wind. Turning to watch the little red building shrink in the distance.

Arctic Circle Trail Lakes

Lakes Around Every Corner

Crow Berries

Arctic Crow Berries

Camping in the Arctic

Camping in the Mountains

DAY 8: Eqalugaarniarfik to Innajuattoq (and beyond)

Hiking Distance 19 km (12 miles) | 7 hours

It gets windy but I manage to find a decent camping spot sheltered by hills on all sides. Pitching my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II tent beside a small pond as a pair of snow-white arctic hares watch me from rocks nearby.

Mosquitos wake me the next morning. I’m packed up and on the trail by 9am after munching on wild berries & mushrooms as a light breakfast.

The path continues over a mountainous region dotted with lakes. Patches of permanent snow can be seen on the peaks. Looking at the landscape, you get a sense of how massive glaciers carved this valley long ago.

At the first of the two Innajuattoq huts I stop to take an afternoon nap surrounded by the rugged Taseeqqap Saqqaa mountain range. Walking down to the 2nd, larger hut I discover my Danish friends Fleming & Ellen who’d passed me as I slept.

They show me where to cross the river ahead as it drains from a lake. I hike on while they choose to end their day early at the cabin.

Arctic Circle Trail Cabin

Innajuattoq Cabin

Arctic Circle Trail River

Another River Crossing

Arctic Circle Trail Cairn

Red Painted Cairn Marks the Route

The Reindeer Family

Suddenly I see two reindeer 50 yards to my left. Then three more, including a baby. It’s a whole family! I carefully take off my bright orange backpack, pull out my camera, and crawl on my stomach commando style up a hill to try and capture photos before they spot me.

This is the closest they’ve been, and I get great shots.

Then the wind shifts and one of the males smells me (easy to do after a week with no shower) and sounds the alarm by grunting to the others who quickly run off in all directions.

Greenland’s arctic tundra is covered in flowers during the spring & summer. Purple, blue, red, pink, yellow. I’m not sure what the names are — my favorite is a little red one that looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book.

The trail passes through a forest at one point too! Well, what seems like a forest by Greenland’s standards. A grove of dwarf willow trees 6-7 feet high.

Flowers in Greenland

Dr. Seuss Flowers

Arctic Circle Trail Reindeer

Sneaking Up on Reindeer

Campfire Fail

Grey clouds move in and the wind picks up again. I scramble to locate a good campsite before dark, stumbling upon a flat tent pitch that’s unfortunately exposed to cold wind blowing up from the valley ahead.

Luckily loose rocks surround the area — perfect for building a makeshift wind-break in front of the tent. I attempt to light a fire using fluffy cotton grass & twigs I’d collected earlier, but the wind is too strong.

This is why I love emergency space blankets.

You never know when they’ll come in handy. I always pack a sturdy version for long hikes. Wrapping it around my sleeping bag helps trap heat and protect from the wind sneaking under the lightweight tarp tent.

It’s a long, cold night, but I manage to get some sleep dreaming of the huge, mouth-watering musk ox steak that I’ll devour when I finally reach Sisimiut.

I wake with drool on my face & thick fog hanging over the area. Onward! ★

READ NEXT: Complete Travel Gear Guide

Have you ever thought about traveling to Greenland?

Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail: PART 2

Arctic Circle Trail

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

The adventure continues as I trek across West Greenland’s colorful tundra on a trail that winds between numerous glacial lakes. Bleached reindeer bones guide the way.

DAY 4: Hundesø to Katiffik

Hiking Distance 20 km (12.5 miles) | 8 hours

Arriving at Hundesø in the middle of the night, I decide to camp nearby rather than wake any potential hikers/hunters that may be sleeping inside.

This cabin isn’t exactly “offical” like others along the hike, but anyone is free to use it. Basically it’s just an old camper with room for 4 people, perched on a rocky hill overlooking the brackish Hundesø Lake.

Reindeer bones litter the area including piles of skulls, antlers, and hooves. Some of the bones still had flesh & fur attached. Fresh kills.

Hundesø lake is salty but completely safe to drink. A few crumbling fishing boats sit on the shore. Sleeping on its sandy beach made for a comfortable night. I woke to the bright orange glow of an incredible sunrise around 4:30am.

Once I’d captured the colors on my camera, I went back to sleep with the help of an eyemask. August in Greenland means there’s only 4 hours of darkness each night! Highly recommend one.

Hundesø Cabin Greenland

Hundesø Hunting Cabin

Arctic Circle Trail

Treeless Arctic Tundra

Crazed Rabbits & Wild Berries

Back on the trail for a few hours and my knee began to ache. This happens occasionally when I’m loaded down with a lot of gear on long-distance hikes.

It can get pretty bad, but I’ve learned how to deal with it by slowing down with long breaks every hour. It usually heals up by the next day.

On a remote adventure like this, you need to be extra careful.

I entertained myself by watching Arctic hares do this hilarious “seizure jump” thing they do. They’d be chilling one minute, then suddenly leaping & twisting into the air for no reason the next.

It looks ridiculous. Tweakers I tell ya!

Must be those wild arctic berries that make them crazy…

The temperature rose to a toasty 65 degrees (F) as the sun came out, and I found a nice mossy area to nap in. Rolling over only to snack on the tasty crack-berries the rabbits loved so much.

Landscapes morphed from wet boggy areas into rocky mountain trails. Occasionally the path would branch off in different directions, forcing you to guess. The most traveled route wasn’t always where the marked cairns were.

Due to my aching knee, it took 8 hours to finally reach the next cabin when it should’ve been about 5 hours at my normal pace.

I hobbled in to find three other hikers preparing dinner.

Peat Moss Greenland

Thick Yellow Peat Moss

Rabbit Arctic Circle Trail

Psycho Bunny Watching

DAY 5: Katiffik to Kangerluatsiarsuaq

Hiking Distance 25 km (15 miles) | 6 hours

The Katiffik hut is located on the eastern shore of Lake Amitsorsuaq, a long and narrow body of water that stretches about 14 miles. I run into my first hikers here. Lucas from Washington DC and two Germans — Hans & Hieko.

I shared the cabin with Lucas while the Germans camped in a tent outside. In the middle of the night we find ourselves with another roommate. Frieder is a 70 year old Danish guy who’s hiked the Arctic Circle Trail 11 times.

He’s brought us a fantastic surprise too. A canoe!

See, there are two ways to travel the next section of the trail. Walking beside the lake all day, or paddling across it in a beat-up canoe.

It’s pure luck if you find a canoe, rumor is there’s 10-14 scattered about. Most are bashed up good, like they’ve been dropped off a cliff. Holes patched with duct tape. Makeshift paddles carved from 2x4s.

Luckily Frieder was hiking in the opposite direction, West to East. He crossed the lake at night in what was easily the best canoe available.

Lucas & I teamed up to make use of this gift and give our feet a rest.

Shelter Arctic Circle Trail

Katiffik Shelter

Arctic Circle Trail Hikers

Hans, Lucas, and Hieko

Arctic Circle Trail Canoe

Traveling By Canoe

Crossing The Lake

Heavy duty garbage bags are one of my favorite pieces of gear to pack on a trek. You can use them as ground tarps, rain covers, drybags, etc. They weigh & cost almost nothing.

We lined the bottom of our leaky canoe with plastic, threw our packs in, and set out across the lake. One paddle was made of plastic, the other was a piece of treated wood wrapped in duck tape.

With no headwind, we made great time in the bright arctic sun.

Apparently there’s a lot of gold, diamonds, and rubies buried in Greenland. We paddled past rocky cliffs decorated by multi-colored layers of bedrock, wondering how many millions were hidden inside.

I noticed an ice halo around the sun, a cool atmospheric phenomenon caused by sunlight reflecting off of ice crystals suspended in the air.

Ice Halo Greenland

Ice Halo Phenomenon

Canoe Adventure Greenland

Rocking the Wooden Paddle

Amitsorsuaq Canoe Center

It only took about 4 1/2 hours by boat to reach the Canoe Center, the next cabin on the trail. This is the largest shelter with space for 16 people. It was built as part of a failed business, hence the random canoes out here.

Shortly after we arrived the Germans joined us. They’d walked along the lake but set out a few hours earlier. So traveling by canoe was much faster than walking.

I was feeling wonderful after giving my feet (and knee) a break.

Rather than stay at the Canoe Center I decided to push on solo further down the lake using a second canoe. But the wind had picked up and it wasn’t easy. My craft was repeatedly swept against the shore.

A pair of reindeer on the hills above the lake spotted me and ran off. However there was no way to pull out my camera due to the strong wind. By the time I reached the end of the lake, I was exhausted from the battle.

Walking for another few hours, I stop to make camp as the sun sets.

Amitsorsuaq Lake Greenland

Amitsorsuaq Lake

Camping Arctic Circle Trail

Wild Camping in Greenland

DAY 6: Kangerluatsiarsuaq to Ikkattooq

Hiking Distance 16 km (10 miles) | 6 hours

My camping spot is located in a valley just above Lake Kangerluatsiarsuaq. Packing up the tent, I head down to the lake for a tasty breakfast of cold muesli mixed with water, brown sugar, and wild berries. Yum!

There are at least 3 varieties of arctic berries growing along the trail. Blueberries and black Crowberries, plus some red ones whose name I’m not aware of. All are edible.

My favorite, and the least common, are the red ones that taste like crispy sour apples. You can gather berries almost everywhere, and I always have a stash saved up for breakfast.

Splashing ice-cold lake water on my face I’m ready to start the day.

Loons laugh from the water as I follow the winding path next to the shore. A sharp screeching sound catches my attention. It’s a beautiful Peregrine falcon perched on a rock, warning me to stay away.

Arctic Circle Trail Breakfast

Healthy Trail Breakfast

Arctic Circle Trail Cairns

Rock Cairns with Antlers

Arctic Circle Trail Beach

Who’s Up For a Swim?

Reindeer Hunting

An hour or so into the hike, the trail meanders up & down a series of rocky hills. Around a corner I discover a pristine little beach on the edge of the lake.

If the sun was out, this would be the perfect spot to get a tan!

Past this lake the route gets very steep. While climbing up a rugged cliff I spot a few reindeer who haven’t noticed me yet. Most reindeer will run if they see you.

They key to a decent photo is staying hidden and stalking them like a hunter would. Crouching low, upwind, and taking cover behind some brush or large boulders. Then when the moment is right…

BAM!

What does one do alone to pass the time on a long distance hike?

Hunt down wild animals with a camera of course!

Reindeer Greenland

Hunting Reindeer with My Camera

Arctic Circle Trail

Summer Above the Arctic Circle

Hiking in Greenland

In the Middle of Nowhere

Into The Mountains

The trail climbs higher and higher until you’re walking on bare rock for most of the time. Darker clouds moved in and a light rain began to fall. I stop to put on my rain shell and see yet another arctic hare in the bushes.

So far I’ve seen 5 of them now, along with 5 reindeer too.

The rain suddenly picks up, becoming steady. Glancing at my map I can tell the Ikkattooq hut is not too far further ahead. I was planning to skip it and push on, but the crappy weather is giving me second thoughts.

I finally arrive to a little red cabin (it looks like a garden shed) perched between two mountains on a broad platform of rock. Peering inside, it seems I won’t be the only one spending the night here.

Two others are tucked away into sleeping bags. They wake up from their nap & offer me hot tea as I prepare an oily canned fish sandwich for dinner.

My new Danish roommates have some incredible stories to share… ★

READ NEXT: Complete Travel Gear Guide

Have you ever wanted to travel to Greenland?

Trekking The Arctic Circle Trail In Greenland

Arctic Circle Trail

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Standing alone on Greenland’s barren ice cap in complete silence, you’re hit with the reality of how remote this place is. Smiling, I hike West as snow begins to fall.

Before visiting Greenland to hike the Arctic Circle Trail, I mistakenly assumed the country was a huge mass of snow & ice. However that’s not entirely true…

While 85% of Greenland is covered in ice, there’s a narrow strip along the coastline that’s actually green! And red. And purple. And yellow. In fact I would soon learn that Greenland can be pretty colorful.

It’s also the most sparsely populated country on the planet.

To give you an idea of just how sparse, Greenland has more landmass than Mexico, yet has a population of only 50,000 compared to Mexico’s 122 million. There’s a lot of untouched wilderness to explore here.

The small town of Kangerlussuaq (population 500) is home to Greenland’s largest international airport. I began my adventure here after a 4 hour flight from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Greenland Trek

Trekking in Greenland

The Arctic Circle Trail

Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail is often listed as one of the best long-distance hikes in the world. The trail stretches up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the edge of the ice cap to the fishing town of Sisimiut on the West coast.

Depending on fitness levels and the specific route chosen, it can take anywhere between 7-12 days to complete. Spread along the trail are a couple of basic wooden huts for bad weather, but packing a tent is recommended.

Only 300 people hike the trail every year, so while you may run into other hikers, it’s possible to go days without seeing a fellow human. The normal hiking season is from June to August. I was hiking mid August to avoid swarms of mosquitos that plague the area earlier in the summer.

Arctic Circle Trail hikers must be totally self sufficient too.

The only towns are located at the beginning and end of the trail, meaning you must pack all your own food & survival gear for the duration of the hike. Outside the towns there’s no cell phone reception either.

I was looking forward to this journey for many reasons — testing my survival skills alone in the middle of an arctic wilderness, and enjoying a much needed break from a world of hyper-connectivity.

Ice Cap Greenland

Greenland’s Massive Ice Cap

Point 660 Greenland

Leaving Point 660

DAY 1: Exploring The Ice Cap

Hiking Distance 12 km (7.5 miles) | 5 hours

I arrived in Greenland at night after our plane was delayed in Copenhagen. But it was still light out. Kangerlussuaq is located North of the Arctic Circle, and the August sun sets around 11pm.

Most hikers start the Arctic Circle Trail directly from Kangerlussuaq, hiring a taxi to the trailhead and walking West towards the coast. However I wanted to begin my hike 40 kilometers East on the edge of the ice cap.

So the next day I booked an afternoon tour with World Of Greenland, requesting they leave me at the ice cap and I’d walk back to town on my own.

A 4×4 bus drove us along a rough dirt road to “Point 660”, where we spent about an hour walking on the ice. There was no need for crampons or safety ropes here, as the nearby glaciers relieve the pressure that normally causes crevasses. The ice was grippy too, like a layer of crusty snow.

Glaciers are rivers of unstable ice that flow down from an ice cap. The ice cap itself doesn’t really move — it’s actually very solid and can be miles deep.

Mushrooms in Greenland

Tasty Wild Mushrooms!

Arctic Hare Greenland

Arctic Hare

First Signs Of Wildlife

The tour group eventually left me on my own. I decided to explore Greenland’s ice cap for another few hours. It was spectacular. Rivers of blue meltwater snaked down a landscape of ice that stretched out towards the horizon for as far as your eye could see.

While many people visit glaciers around the world, the opportunity to actually stand on an ice cap is pretty unique. There are very few places where it’s so easily accessible without the use of a helicopter.

Dark clouds suddenly rolled in, forcing me to leave the ice and begin hiking down the dirt road back towards Kangerlussuaq. Pretty soon it was snowing! Only 30 minutes earlier the sky was blue… this would be a reoccurring theme in Greenland. The weather changes fast.

I saw my first animal dart away into the rocks. It was an arctic hare, his bright white fur standing out in contrast to the greenish-yellow landscape. Further on, a reindeer bounded across the road.

This was the beginning of many wildlife sightings on the hike.

The next 5 hours were spent walking on the dirt road, built by Volkswagen many years ago to test their new cars in harsh winter driving conditions.

I finally reached Russell Glacier around 11pm and set up camp.

Camping in Greenland

Camping Next to Russell Glacier

Glacier in Greenland

The Wall of Ice

DAY 2: Road To Kangerlussuaq

Hiking Distance 25 km (15.5 miles) | 6 hours

CRACK! BOOM! SPLASH! This was the sound of ice breaking away from the 60 meter (180 foot) glacier beside me. The earth trembled as the ice slowly advanced.

Russell Glacier is a towering wall of white, blue, and black frozen water covered in jagged cracks. It moves about 25 meters every year, with sunlight and warm summer temperatures helping the ice “calve” into a glacial river.

Mountains of moraine flank the glacier’s sides, loose gravel that’s been bulldozed into huge piles over thousands of years by millions of tons of moving ice.

You feel very small standing next to it all.

The glacier is impressive, and I hung around for hours watching the spectacle of falling ice. Some chunks were as large as a school bus!

It’s important to keep your distance from the face of a glacier. Falling ice can easily crush you, pieces can be ejected out over the river, or large waves from the splash could knock you off your feet into the freezing water.

Desert in Greenland

Desert Landscape in Greenland

Arctic Fox in Greenland

Blue Arctic Fox

Arctic Deserts & Arctic Foxes

Reluctantly leaving the beautiful glacier I continued following the river. The landscape turned to sand, complete with wind-swept dunes along the banks. It’s an arctic desert called Sandflugtdalen.

In the distance, 3 shapes lumbered up the basin towards some mountains. These were musk ox, large buffalo-looking animals native to Greenland. They’re hunted for their tasty meat and warm fur by the local Inuit.

Too far away for a photo, but I’d get another chance.

Kangerlussuaq used to be an American air base before it was Greenland’s international airport. Next to the road you can find the remains of a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star that crashed along with 2 others during a blizzard in 1968. Apparently all pilots ejected safely.

I spied something black moving in the scrub brush ahead. Not sure what it could be, I pulled out my telephoto lens to get a closer look…

An arctic fox! What a nice surprise!

Arctic foxes can be super shy. They’re also pretty small — about the size of a large house cat. There are two varieties, white or “blue” like this one. I crept up as slowly and quietly as I could, but he saw me coming.

Like a flash, the fox darted out down the road. Somehow I managed to fire off a few shots with my camera as he passed.

Sugarloaf Arctic Circle Trail

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

Kangerlussuaq Airport

The Town of Kangerlussuaq

Spending The Night In Town

A few miles away from Kangerlussuaq there’s a prominent mountain near the road called Sugarloaf. Climbing it rewards you with incredible 360 degree views of the area — Greenland’s ice cap to the East, Kangerlussuaq to the West, and the glacial river called Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua below.

At the summit I found a cabin with a few wooden radio towers, part of the old US air base. The hike up looks easy, but it’s actually pretty steep.

Just past the mountain are signs warning you not to venture off the road due to possible unexploded ordinance. It seems when the Americans left, they blew up what was left of their ammunition here.

However years later some local school kids found a grenade.

While a ring of white posts marks the danger zone, the road itself is safe.

Arriving back into town after a long day, I decided to pay for a room at the Polar Lodge rather than camp out. I needed to recharge all my camera batteries and iPhone (for GPS), as well as repack.

I’d rented a locker at the airport to store most of my food during this first section of the hike. No reason to walk an extra 20 miles with it!

I also purchased some dried fish and peanut M&Ms at the local supermarket to supplement what I’d brought with me. In total, I’d have 9 days worth of food packed for the remainder of my Arctic Circle Trail hike.

Kellyville Greenland

Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility

Hundesø Greenland

Hundesø Hunting Camp

DAY 3: Road To Kellyville/Hundesø

Hiking Distance 20 km (12.5 miles) | 5 hours

When I first arrived in Kangerlussuaq I mistakenly purchased the wrong gas canister to fuel my backpacking stove. Now I was trying to track down a replacement with no success. The entire town was out.

A local guy offered to rent me his stove, which used a different type of gas. But I later learned it couldn’t be refilled at the airport until the “big” 747 airplane left. After wasting hours waiting for it to leave, I finally gave up.

So much for hot food & coffee! I’ll hike without a stove.

From Kangerlussuaq most hikers choose to hire a $50 taxi to the official trailhead 10 miles away. I stubbornly decided to walk the road, starting late in the afternoon.

There’s not much along this road. A tiny local shipping port, some huge diesel storage tanks, and a scientific research station called Kellyville (population 7). They study the Earth’s atmosphere & Northern Lights.

Past Kellyville, a rock cairn painted with a red semi-circle marks the official start of the Arctic Circle Trail. The end of civilization.

Greenland’s rugged wilderness stretched out before me. ★

Watch Video: Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail

(Click to watch Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail – Greenland on YouTube)

READ NEXT: My Favorite Camera For Travel Photos

Have you ever thought about traveling to Greenland?

15 Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them)

Common Travel Scams

Common Travel Scams You Can Avoid

Travel Tips

Shady people love to take advantage of tourists, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to become a victim. Here are some of the most common travel scams around the world.

As travelers, it is easy to think that we are smart enough to avoid getting ripped off. But, the truth is, it happens to the best of us. Including me!

From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information, travel scams exist the world over.

While it is nearly impossible to know when you will be scammed, it is important to know what kind of scams exist, and what to do should the situation arise.

Most Common Travel Scams (2017)

It sucks to get scammed by a stranger when you’re traveling on vacation. Even after 6 years of continuous travel, I still get caught off guard from time to time.

Here are some of the most common scams you’re likely to encounter, along with personal stories from my own experiences. Knowledge is power! The more people that know about these scams, the less likely you’ll fall for them.

Broken Taxi Meter

Cab drivers near airports or train stations are known to pull this scam, but it can happen anywhere. When you get into a taxi and start to drive, the driver will inform you that the meter is broken and charge you a ridiculous price (to the tune of 100s of dollars if you’re not careful).

My Experience:

This is a very common one in Central America, especially Costa Rica. I’ve probably had 10 different taxi drivers try to pull this scam on me around the world. I fell for it once, during my first year traveling.

How To Avoid It:

Negotiate rates ahead of time, or ensure the meter is in fact working before you get in the car. If the taxi driver refuses to turn on the meter, or tells you it’s cheaper without the meter, get out and opt for another driver. Not all cab drivers are scammers.

Overbooked Or Closed Hotel

Again, this common travel scam happens largely with cab drivers. While en route to your hotel, the driver will tell you your hotel is either closed or overbooked and then take you to a more expensive hotel where the driver receives a nice fat commission.

My Experience:

Luckily I’ve never fallen for this one, however I’ve had 3 or 4 drivers try to scam me this way. Usually by saying the hotel is a bad one, or that it’s closed.

How To Avoid It:

Call your hotel in advance and make sure they’re open. Ask if they offer shuttle service and then schedule a pickup. If your taxi driver still tells you the hotel is not available, insist that he take you there anyway. Tell him you already have a reservation (even if you don’t).

Free Bracelets Or Rosemary

This scam tends to prey on female travelers. A friendly man or woman will approach to chat, then place a “free” friendship bracelet on your wrist. Or hand you a sprig of Rosemary for good luck. Once you have it, they will demand money. When you refuse, they will begin to cause a scene.

My Experience:

I’ve had gypsy women in Madrid try to give me Rosemary.

How To Avoid It:

Don’t allow anyone to put anything on your body, and be extremely wary of accepting anything for free unless there is a good reason for it. Especially in very touristy areas. Ignore them and keep walking.

Spills On Your Clothing

Common in Europe, a traveler will be walking down the street and feel something plop on their shoulder — often times bird poop or a fast-food condiment. Then, a friendly stranger approaches and begins to wipe off the offending mess while plucking your wallet from your pocket or purse.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

The best thing to do in situations like this is to not allow someone to help you. Instead, go to a restroom and clean the mess off yourself.

Police Officer Travel Scam

These Guys Look Totally Legit

Fake Police Officers

The fake police officer scam is a popular one in many large cities. Most often, a person will approach a tourist and offer illicit items, like drugs. While conversing one or two other people will approach, appearing to be police officers and flashing “badges.” They will then insist the unknowing traveler hand over their passport and wallet. However, they are not police officers.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Never hand over your wallet or passport. Request they show you their identification and then inform them you will call the police to confirm they are who they say they are. Or tell them your passport is locked up in the hotel safe, and they’ll need to accompany you to your hotel. If they don’t allow this, simply walk away.

Attraction Is Closed

A common travel scam in major tourist areas, some friendly local (who just happens to speak excellent English) will approach and inform you that the attraction you want to visit is closed for any number of reasons (religious ceremony, holiday, etc.). Then they’ll guide you to a different attraction or shop where you’re pressured to purchase something or pay a lot for entry.

My Experience:

At a busy public square in Mexico, a local man began asking about my travels in perfect English. He then proceeded to tell me the town’s famous hammock shop was closed, but he knew of another nearby. I thanked him but ignored the advice and found the original shop open.

How To Avoid It:

Instead of taking the local’s word, head to the ticket counter or shop and see for yourself. Or ask someone else nearby for confirmation.

Friendly ATM Helper

Someone approaches at an ATM cash machine to help you avoid local bank fees. What they really want to do is scan your ATM card with the card skimmer in their pocket and watch you enter your pin number so they can drain your account later.

My Experience:

I’m embarrassed to say I almost fell for this scam in South Africa. One man was the helpful local, the second pretended to be a fellow customer waiting in line who agreed with what the first was saying. When the first guy canceled my transaction and told me to try it again, I realized what was happening, grabbed my card and walked away.

How To Avoid It:

Never let anyone near you while you’re making an ATM transaction, and ALWAYS cover the number pad with your other hand while entering your pin code. If someone approaches, take your card and find another ATM.

Injured Or Child Beggars

Usually deaf, blind, or pregnant, sometimes accompanied by a “helper”, beggars will ask you for money. Women with babies are common (they might not even be theirs). Children are also frequently used by begging gangs to collect money. Why? Because it’s difficult for most people to say no to the old, injured, or young. Sometimes an accomplice nearby is just watching to see where you keep your wallet so they can pickpocket you later.

My Experience:

You’ll see this stuff almost everywhere.

How To Avoid It:

It’s practically impossible to distinguish who is legit and who is not, so my policy is to never give cash to street beggars. However I do buy food or giveaway old clothes to them. Then your money isn’t going to a gang.

Group Photo Offer

While hanging out in a busy tourist location or landmark, a local offers to take a group photo of you and your friends. As you’re getting ready to pose for your awesome new Facebook jumping shot, you look up and realize your new friend has completely disappeared. With your expensive camera.

My Experience:

I’ve never fallen for this scam, but I’ve had a few people try. In fact one guy tried last week in the middle of Dublin. He was pretty shady (and possibly high), so I told him thanks but I’m good.

How To Avoid It:

This one is tough, you really need to read the situation. I’ve happily handed my $3000 camera over to other people for a group photo. But it’s almost always me asking them for the favor, not them offering out of the blue. Busy city attractions are the most risky places for this. If you have to, ask fellow tourists instead and return the favor for them.

Fake WiFi Hubs

While you can find WiFi almost anywhere these days, some of those free unlocked connections might be dangerous. Hackers will set up tempting unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations that unsuspecting victims eagerly connect to — giving the thief access to your computer, passwords, online accounts, and more.

My Experience:

I’ve never fallen for this scam, as far as I know.

How To Avoid It:

Always ask the hotel/coffee shop/airport staff which wifi connection is the official one. Especially when you see a tempting unlocked connection. To encrypt all your online activity, use a VPN, or virtual private network. I use one called ZenMate.

Bike Rental Travel Scam

Be Careful Renting Motorbikes

Motorbike Rental Damage

After you rent a moped or scooter, it gets damaged (or even stolen) overnight. The owner will demand additional payment or expensive repairs as compensation. What you don’t know is that it was the owner or his friends who caused the damage or stole the bike from you.

My Experience:

This happened to me in the Philippines. My motorbike seat cushion was slashed with a knife for no apparent reason, and the rental guy insisted I buy a new seat cover. I’m still not sure if it was a scam or if it was random, as the repair was pretty cheap.

How To Avoid It:

Take photos of the bike first to document previous damage. Use your own lock, not one provided by the rental guy (who may have a 2nd set of keys). Don’t tell the company where you’re really staying, and make sure there’s a safe place to leave the bike overnight. If damage does occur, take it to a repair shop recommended by someone other than the bike’s owner.

Fake Bus/Train/Plane Tickets

Someone offers to sell you train tickets at a discount, or avoid the line and pay a slightly higher price. Maybe a taxi driver offers to bring you to his friend who’s a local travel agent. However the tickets they are selling aren’t real, and by the time you figure it out, the scammers are gone with your money.

My Experience:

I’ve had a cab driver offer to take me to his travel agent friend. I told him I already had tickets.

How To Avoid It:

Always buy transportation tickets from the official ticket office or website.

Gemstone Or Carpet Deals

A local man casually brings up his lucrative side business of buying jewelry, gemstones, watches or carpets then selling them back in the United States (or some other country) for a fat profit. He offers to share how he does it, and shows you where to find the best deal. The only problem is that these products are fake.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Don’t buy expensive luxury items overseas while on vacation, no matter how good the deal is. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a travel scam.

Fake Hotel Wakeup Call

While staying at a hotel, you get a call from the front desk in the middle of the night to confirm your credit card details. Only it isn’t the front desk calling, it’s a scammer who will drain your accounts when he makes a copy of your card using the details you give him over the phone.

My Experience:

This has never happened to me.

How To Avoid It:

Never give out credit card details over the phone. Go down to the front desk in person the next morning if there is a problem.

Flirtatious Local Women

You arrive to a new country only to discover that beautiful local women seem to pay much more attention to you than back home. One of them invites you out to a nightclub or bar. However after a wild night, the woman disappears and you’re forced to pay an overpriced bill. Or worse, drugged and robbed.

My Experience:

I’ve had a version of this happen to me. Only it was hookers in Panama who attempted to get my attention. When I ignored them, they managed to steal the laptop from my backpack when I wasn’t looking.

How To Avoid It:

Be wary of attractive women who are unusually forward or hitting on you aggressively. I know it is every man’s dream to be propositioned by beautiful women, but if it’s not a normal occurrence for you, then it’s probably a scam.

Travel Scammers Suck!

The truth is that no matter how prepared you think you are, you’ll eventually fall for some sort of travel scam. But don’t let this deter you from traveling the world. Think of it as a rite of passage.

Sure, it’s embarrassing to be tricked out of your money, but there are always worse things that could happen. It’s just a learning experience. At least that’s how I look at it! ★

Traveling Somewhere Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

READ NEXT: How To Find Cheap Flights

Have any questions about travel scams? Have you ever been a victim? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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Shady people love to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. It's easy to become a victim. These are the most common travel scams around the world.