As one of Australia’s top travel writers, Kendall Hill is constantly on the road — and often in far flung corners of the globe.
His 2018 travels saw him spend six weeks in India, go island-hopping in Greece and journey from Ethiopia to the Armenian border.
Here, he lets us in on some of the highs and lows of his travelling year — and reminds us that even a seasoned traveller can fall victim to a scam.
MOST SURPRISING SCAM
Perhaps the last place you’d expect to get ripped off is Switzerland, but it happened to me last summer. The Zurich taxi rort works like this: if you call and book a cab for a certain time, apparently you’re supposed to be in the car and ready to go when that time comes. Otherwise the driver can add another nine francs ($12) to the already exorbitant fare, as ours did even though she could see us walking towards the car at the appointed pick-up time. We were too stunned by her nerve to object.
I’VE TRAVELLED THE WORLD BUT THIS IS MY NO. 1
THE $14 SECRET TO AVOIDING U.S. VISA TRAP
Online visa applications are a blessing for 21st century travellers but Turkey takes the cake for ease of entry. Would-be visitors complete the usual application questions, transfer $US60 and then, instead of waiting 24 hours or more, receive an approval email in about 60 seconds. It should be the model for e-visas worldwide.
WORST TRAVEL ACCESSORY
The sales assistant at Dubai airport assured me the Swiss-designed, Thai-made Skross
adaptor would work anywhere in the world. Except, as I discovered, if you’re Australian and use three-point earthed plugs, which don’t fit in this $70 piece of useless plastic.
BEST GREEK ISLAND
Plonk me on any Greek isle and I’ll be happy for life. But if I had my pick it would be Milos, the surprising horseshoe-shaped island south of Athens. Its mineral-rich soils have created a weird and utterly wonderful place that ranges from the bone-white rock formations of Sarikiniko to the blood-red shores and sulphur-yellow cliffs of Paliorema; the crayon-coloured houses along Klima’s seafront to the classic Aegean scenery of the main town, Plaka. The seafood’s fabulous too.
BEST CITY TOUR
Serious streetfood fans should seek out Culinary Backstreets, a team of passionate gastro-guides who lead tours in the some of the world’s great food capitals — Tokyo, Rio, Naples, Mexico City and New York among them. On a calorie-packed eating binge in Istanbul, guide Gonca Karakoc took me for tea and Turkish bagels (simit) in a 16th century caravanserai before we settled in for a full Turkish breakfast including meneme scrambled eggs and water buffalo clotted cream drizzled with wildflower honey. That was just the beginning. We wandered down alleys and ducked through doorways travellers would never find on their own to more than a dozen food joints where she showed me the city’s best baklava, boreks and pizza-style lahmacun, among other delicious detours. As a fellow eater said midway through our movable feast, “This is the most authentic thing I’ve ever done on vacation.”
Firew Rede Adele, known to all his guests as Freo, is a veteran Ethiopian guide with a smile as wide as the Blue Nile and an easy manner that puts visitors at ease in his home country. During a 12-day escorted adventure through Southern Ethiopia, organised by WA-based Travel Directors, Freo’s longstanding friendships with chiefs and leaders in tribal villages gained us privileged access and insights into a world we never even imagined existed.