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Insider’s Travel Guide

Insider’s Travel Guide

UCF students from around the world share their best local travel tips.

Summer 2019 | By Eric Michael ’96

Knights come from more than 150 countries, so who better to tap for trusted travel advice? Whether you’re hitting the road to these exotic destinations — or just fantasizing about it — here’s some great local knowledge from international students about the best scenic sites, cultural experiences, thrilling adventures and fantastic flavors from their homelands that you won’t want to miss.

For tips about traveling abroad safely, visit

Costa Rica

Pablo Ayarza

Industrial engineering

Hometown: San José, Costa Rica

An illustration of Costa Rica and a sloth

Must Visit

Manuel Antonio National Park

“At this protected rainforest on the Pacific coast, visitors can appreciate both jungle and beach landscapes, as well as incredible biodiversity. It’s common to see howler monkeys, giant sloths, lizards and different kinds of birds.”

An illustration of Costa Rica and a plate of breakfast food

Must Taste

Desayuno típico

“When I think about Costa Rican food, the first thing that comes to mind is breakfast. Our typical breakfast comes with fried cheese, fried plantains, toasted bread, eggs and gallo pinto, which is our national dish of rice and beans. Simply amazing.”

An illustration of Costa Rica with a woman zip lining

Must Experience

A canopy tour

“High in the rainforest, you fly along a zip line through the trees and across valleys with incredible views. More than just appreciating nature, you get an amazing rush of adrenaline too.”


Andrea Bruere

Data analytics

Hometown: Recife, Brazil

An illustration of Brazil with a turtle and a man scuba diving.

Must Visit

Fernando de Noronha

“This archipelago about 200 miles off the coast has an ecological sanctuary for animals, and one of the most incredible things to do there is scuba diving. It is special because it makes you feel like you’re literally somewhere outside of Earth.”

An illustration of Brazil with a plate of bread.

Must Taste

Pão de queijo

“It translates to ‘cheese bread’ and is one of Brazil’s food staples. It’s made out of yucca flour, so it’s gluten-free. It’s super gooey on the inside, but crunchy on the outside — and absolutely the first thing I eat when I go home.”

An illustration of Brazil with a female Carnival dancer.

Must Experience


“We celebrate [Carnival] every February or March throughout the whole country, and everything about it is amazing: the colors, the costumes, the music. I think it truly represents the essence of the Brazilian people and their happiness.”


Victor Malagon Santos

Civil engineering

Hometown: Toledo, Spain

An illustration of Spain and an ornate church.

Must Visit

Camino de Santiago

“Many locals and visitors like to walk this network of pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of the apostle St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Some routes cross many heritage sites, plus it is an awesome experience, and you get a certificate when you arrive.”

An illustration of Spain and a plate of food.

Must Taste

Paella Valenciana

“Paella Valenciana is normally made of rice, chicken, rabbit, green beans, tomato, olive oil and saffron. The rice must be a specific size and be carefully cooked so it absorbs all the flavors from the other ingredients.”

An illustration of Spain and a crushed tomato.

Must Experience

La Tomatina

“Located in the small village of Buñol outside Valencia, this annual festival is a huge tomato fight that’s extremely fun. But don’t worry about wasting food: They only use tomatoes that cannot be sold in the market.”


Xiangpeng Li

Mechanical engineering

Hometown: Jinzhou, Hebei province, China

An illustration of China and the Great Wall of China.

Must Visit

Great Wall of China

“You will feel the incredible engineering power of the ancient Chinese people trying to defend themselves from invasion.”

An illustration of China and steamed dumplings.

Must Taste

Nanxiang xiaolongbao

“A special treat you’ll find only in Shanghai, these delicious steamed buns have a thin wrapper and a juicy filling, usually pork.”

An illustration of China and steamed dumplings

Must Experience

The Palace Museum, Beijing

“A former Chinese imperial palace from 1420 to 1912, this is a must for visitors interested in history and culture. Outside, the palace exemplifies traditional Chinese architecture. Inside, there are rare and valuable works of art, including calligraphy, paintings, antiques and bronze-ware.”


Sehej Sound

Integrated business

Hometown: Mumbai, India

An illustration of India and a decorative entrance.

Must Visit


“A city in the western state of Rajasthan, Udaipur is a place steeped in royal culture and boasts an extravagance of fascinating palaces and temples. It reels you into the old quaint world of Indian heritage and history.”

An illustration of India and a bowl of food.

Must Taste

Laal maas

“An absolute favorite of both locals and tourists, it’s a perfect combination of both the Mughlai and tandoori cuisine traditions. It’s a really hot mutton curry cooked overnight in yogurt and a blend of hand-ground spices. It’s so soft it melts in your mouth.”

An illustration of India and a woman balancing objects on her head.

Must Experience


“A visit to this living-history village outside Udaipur is an everlasting experience. I watched a 90-year-old man dressed in flamboyant local attire dancing and singing while balancing four earthenware pots on his head.”


Velda Azaria Iskandar

Forensic science

Hometown: Bekasi, Indonesia

An illustration of Indonesia and a woman surfing.

Must Visit


“Bali is a really unique place to relax, de-stress and grow. I love how it’s different every time I visit. There are a lot of things to do, from hiking and surfing to great nightlife.”

Must Taste

Sumatran coffee

‘Java’ became synonymous with coffee because of this creamy, rich, chocolaty drink from the island of Java. We use a process called giling basah or wet hulling, which gives it a higher moisture than a regular coffee.”

An illustration of Indonesia and a man riding a rickshaw .

Must Experience

Becak ride

“Ride in a tricycle taxi. It’s similar to an Uber, but instead of the driver in front of you, he will be in the back pedaling — and you get to enjoy the view.”

Illustrations By Ali Mac