Want a Free Home in Sicily?
In the market for a new vacation home? How about an Italian vacation home? Well, the town of Gangi, Sicily, is offering a price that's right: Free. Does free work for you?
There are, of course, a few quid pro quos and provisos. Namely, you've got to have the funds and/or the home-improvement skills to turn an empty, likely rundown Sicilian house into a thriving home, vacation rental, or hotel. You have four years to do so.
Why all the empty houses? The New York Times quotes Gangi's mayor, Giuseppe Ferrarello, as noting that the town, located between Palermo and Catania, has traditionally been regarded as "too far from the sea" to be a magnet for tourists. Generations ago, thousands left Gangi for the promise of a better life in the United States or Aregentina, and these days young people pack up and leave for opportunities on the mainland more often than they stay.
To date, more than 100 homes have been given away or sold at a steep discount. The town government coordinates the sale and has made significant strides in cutting through Italy's dizzying gauntlet of red tape where buying, selling, and improving real estate properties is concerned. (Still, we'd like to echo the Times's suggestion that prospective owners seek English-speaking legal counsel before signing on the dotted line.)
Some Gangi houses have been successfully converted into vacation homes, rentals, and hotel units. The town is looking for future owners who have the money and know-how to elevate the dilapidated properties into vibrant entities that will contribute to the local economy. Successful "buyers" have included Sicilians, mainland Italians, other Europeans, and businesspeople from the United Arab Emirates.
There are about 200 towns left, the waiting list is growing, and competition will tighten as supply dwindles.
If you take the plunge, we'd love to hear about your experience acquiring and upgrading your very own home in Sicily. Talk to us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or email at info@BudgetTravel.com.
We LOVE How Kenyans Reacted To CNN's "Hotbed of Terror" Report
"President Barack Obama is not just heading to his father's homeland, but to a hotbed of terror." This was the opening line of a CNN report published earlier this week, a story about how the president may be in danger if Al-Shabaab, the terrorist group behind recent attacks at Kenyan schools and shopping malls, happens to make a move while he's in town this week. After getting a lot of heat for that sentence and related headline, both were updated by CNN to stress that the threat of danger was a regional thing, not just in Kenya. The story was met by a mix of stirring reactions by the people of Kenya on social media via the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN: anger at these harsh words towards their beautiful country, declarations of double-standards and how the U.S. is much more dangerous than Kenya, and our favorite, hilarious GIFs and photos showing off beautiful city views of Nairobi, portraits of the people who live there smiling, and raunchy jokes about how Kenyan men are the only reason there are "hotbeds" in the country. One photo shows a majestic view of Mt. Kilimanjaro with a giraffe in front of it—the caption: "OMG! A Terrorist! Spotted in the #hotbedofterror." Here at Budget Travel, we believe in always being prepared and recommend checking the U.S. Department of State website for the latest travel warnings and alerts before traveling to another country, any country, not just Kenya. That being said, we hope that crazy clickbait-style stories and sensationalized news reports won't stop you from taking the trip of a lifetime. Kenya is home to the beautiful natural landscapes, Mt. Kilimanjaro, thriving cities like Nairobi, and some of the kindest, warm-hearted people you'll ever meet. It's also the perfect place to take that affordable safari trip you've been dreaming of. We want to hear from you: have you ever traveled to Kenya? Share your experiences with us below!
Attention Millennials: Who Wants To Go To Australia?
Great news for millennials who have always wanted to go to Australia: If you're under the age of 30 and have a few months free, we've got the inside scoop on how you can study, intern, volunteer, take a gap year, or work your way around Australia. The secret: Australia's Working Holiday Visa. Officially known as the Work and Holiday (Temporary) visa (subclass 462), this magical document allows American citizens between the ages of 18 and "not yet 31" to stay in Australia for up to 12 months, study abroad for up to four months, pick up random jobs for up to six months per employer, and leave and re-enter the country as much as you want within that year. In other words, you could work and save up a bit for the first 3-6 months, travel around Australia for another 3-6 months, and even hop over to check out New Zealand in between gigs if you want to. Um, yes please! And now for the fine print: you need to do your homework and apply for this visa while you're home, before you get to Australia. You'll also need a valid U.S. passport and about $325 USD for application fees, and you're not allowed to bring along any dependents for the ride. Want to get started? Check out GoOverseas.com to browse through their extensive lists of programs, perfect for anyone who wants to teach, volunteer, study, take a gap year, or spruce up your resumé with an international internship. They've got a ton of options to choose from, from jobs in restaurants and hotels to PR internships—you can even become a scuba diving instructor, wildlife conservationist, or work outdoors on a farm, ranch, or winery. The best part: If you spend at least three months working in the agriculture industry (ie. picking berries or helping out in rural areas), you're eligible to apply for an additional 12 months and stay even longer. This has always been a lifelong dream of mine, to head to the land down under and backpack my way around the continent visiting friends and working odd jobs if I ever needed more money to keep going. Most of my friends in their 30s talk about how "the clock is ticking..." as they worry about meeting men and starting families—I always respond with, "So is mine. I've only got two more years before it's too late to do the Working Holiday Visa in Australia." It seems I've got an entirely different ticking clock. The good news is Americans over the age of 30 can still technically visit Australia for up to three months, so at least there's that if the long-term idea doesn't end up panning out. Still, fingers crossed! Everybody knows Aussies speak English, but a totally different kind of English. Here's a cute video to help you remember how to speak Australian. Hint: the secret is to abbreviate everything.
Easy & Affordable Caribbean Escapes!
Hurricane season ends on November 30, and early December is a great time to grab bargains in the Caribbean, before the holiday and winter crowds descend, driving up prices. Here, some tips for booking your pre-holiday escape and some money-saving tips that will last all winter long. NASSAU, BAHAMAS: Ready for conch fritters and a beautiful beach? A family of four traveling to Nassau in early December can expect to pay around $1,700 for round-trip airfare and three nights at a nice hotel on Paradise Island. The same family trying to book a comparable deal in February could end up easily paying 50 percent more! (BT's Digital Editor, Kaeli Conforti, just got back from a wonderful weekend escape to Nassau and shared it in Three-Day Weekend: Nassau & Paradise Island.) CURACAO: If you're the impulsive type, we’re especially fond of JetBlue Getaways, which can often be a bit last-minute. You may have to book it within a day or two, but you’ll have till, say, January to travel. JetBlue's Curacao vacation packages start at under $700 per person for airfare and three nights' accommodations at a cushy resort. GUADELUPE ISLANDS AND MARTINIQUE. Norwegian Air Shuttle is offering $99 one-way airfare to the French Caribbean! Nab a flight to the perfect beaches, beautiful volcanic mountains, lush rainforests, and unique cuisine of Guadelupe and Martinique. Norwegian Air Shuttle is making waves with super-discounted airfares, but of course availability is limited and seats go fast—check Norwegian.com regularly and be flexible with your travel dates.
Three-Day Weekend: Barcelona
Sunlight pours through stained-glass windows, illuminating the interior of La Sagrada Família’s columns and pillars, evoking a forest. Wow, I think. That’s just the inside of the cathedral. The building’s magnificent, still-under-construction facade, which depicts famous Bible scenes and is expected to be completed by 2026 (more than 90 years after architect Antoni Gaudí’s death), is what most people come to Barcelona to see. The first time I visited the city, I made a tragic rookie mistake: I didn’t plan my visit to La Sagrada Família ahead of time. If I had, I would’ve learned that a special event was taking place on the one day I was able to visit, and only those who had previously purchased tickets could go in. I was out of luck. In May 2015, I returned to this beautiful basilica, ticket in hand, and got the experience I’d been waiting for. The price was well worth the view ($16, sagradafamilia.org). That day, at the basilica, Barcelona became my new favorite place on earth. The same might happen to you, too. Whether you’re an art lover or a foodie, or you simply love strolling along European boulevards admiring beautiful buildings, here’s how to make the most of a quick visit. Get your Gaudí fix Another Gaudí masterpiece, Parc Güell (pronounced “gway”), offers the best panoramic views of the city, but the number of daily visitors is limited. Be sure to get a timed-entry ticket early—up to three months ahead of time online—in order to avoid missing out ($8, parkguell.cat). For a solid primer on the artist’s life, visit Gaudí’s former residence, Casa Milà, with the striking rooftop piece La Pedrera ($22, lapedrera.com). Casa Batlló is another colorful modernist masterpiece based on nature, and the last that Gaudí designed, between 1906 and 1910 ($23, casabatllo.es). Feast on tons of tasty tapas The best way to enjoy Barcelona’s creative food scene is by ordering plenty of tapas (small plates) and washing them down with a cool, refreshing glass of cava, Spain’s delicious answer to champagne. Sample staples like fried hot green padrón peppers and grilled artichokes topped with Iberian ham at Bar Lobo, located in the trendy El Raval neighborhood (padrón peppers tapas from $6, artichokes tapas from $9, grupotragaluz.com). Or toast the start of a great trip with a glass of the bubbly stuff in the fairy-tale atmosphere at El Bosc de les Fades Café, hidden away in Passatge de la Banca, just a few steps from La Rambla, a beautiful pedestrian-only boulevard that stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to Port Vell. Its montaditos—mini-sandwiches with ham, sausage, and cheese—and olive tapas pair nicely with your cava (from about $4 per glass, montaditos and olive tapas from about $2 each, museocerabcn.com). Visit La Boqueria market Don’t miss this brightly colored market, located just off La Rambla, where vendors sell locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Stock up on candies and nuts and sip delicious fresh-squeezed juice drinks for a refreshing afternoon treat (prices vary, Rambla, 91 Mercat de la Boqueria, boqueria.info). Stroll beautiful boulevards and experience local Catalan culture Strolling La Rambla will be one of your favorite parts of your weekend, but pay close attention to your belongings at all times, as this area is, unfortunately, as popular with pickpockets as any other European hotspot. As you walk along ancient streets, look up and admire the buildings of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. On Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. or Sundays at noon, stop by the Catedral de Barcelona to see locals perform the solemn Sardana dance, a proud Catalan custom that was banned under the Franco regime. If you visit in summer, don’t miss the tradition of castellers building tall human towers by standing on one another’s shoulders on Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. Stay in the center of town—for less Experience Barcelona like a local (and save cash) by renting your own private apartment in the city center (from $54, airbnb.com). Generator Barcelona, a new “poshtel” designed to resemble a boutique hotel more than a hostel, offers private rooms and a ton of fun activities like tapas nights, game nights, movie nights, and Barcelona bar crawls designed to help you connect with your fellow travelers (private rooms for two start at $60 per night per couple depending on room style, single bunks from $12 per person per night, generatorhostels.com). WANNA TAKE A DAY TRIP? TRY SITGES, MONTSERRAT, OR THE DALÍ TRIANGLE Hop on a 30-minute commuter train on the RD Sud Southbound line from Barcelona-Sants to soak up rays on the beach in Sitges, known for its epic nightlife scene and LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere (round-trip train ticket from about $8, free beach access). Visit Montserrat Monastery for gorgeous mountaintop views and a chance to see where Benedictine monks defied Franco by continuing to hold Catholic mass in the traditional Catalan language. Viator offers half-day trips from Barcelona ($57, viator.com). Mix some surrealism into the natural beauty and venture to the Dalí Triangle: the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat, the Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres (house from about $12 per person, castle from about $9, museum from about $13; tickets must be reserved online ahead of time, salvador-dali.org). Bus and train service from Barcelona is available but time-consuming, so consider driving (from $97 for a one-day car rental, hotwire.com).