Dubai is a fantastic melting pot of cultures. But has it occurred to anyone to ask the person sitting next to you what the best places to visit are in his or her country? In a special feature, Alex Westcott talks to a cross-section of people from various places and finds out where they would take you and why.

Murray Campbell's tour of South Africa

South Africa has some of the loveliest beaches and friendliest people in the world. We also boast awesome outdoor sports, great weather and 'braai vleis' – which is a barbeque (but better). At the moment visiting South Africa is very cheap considering the exchange rate.

Rolling out the welcome mat

South Africans are always very welcoming as a lot of our businesses survive because of tourism. Most people in South Africa can speak degrees of English so communicating is not generally a problem.

With vast cultural variety within our borders, we have an extremely rich and diverse heritage. We have 11 official languages! Every province offers something unique – whether you're in Zululand in KwaZulu Natal or at a Cape Malay festival in the Western Cape, there's no shortage of variety!

What to do

There are the more obvious tourist destinations such as the Kruger National Park and Robben Island. These are great to visit but you'll be paying a lot and missing out on some of the country's relatively untapped marvels.

A must is a trip down the Garden Route. The Sedgefield farmers market is held every Saturday morning. Many people keep coming back as it's such a great community with amazing fresh fruits, jams, meat, baked goods and freshly ground coffee. It's hidden away on the outskirts of this sleepy village, which is overshadowed by surrounding tourist towns of Plettenberg Bay and Knysna. You'll bypass Bloukrans bridge on the way which has the highest bungee jump in the world! Grab a surfboard and head to Supertubes in Jeffrey's Bay – this is where the famed Billabong contest is held every year. There are also great surf factory shops here.

A little more off-road is the Transkei with very raw and untouched white sandy beaches with not a city to be seen for miles around. Just watch out for roaming cattle and the potholes – rugged Africa at its best!

The Karoo – our desert area – has a unique beauty: barren stretches of remote veld (bush) with mountains that appear blue and purple on the horizon. Spread throughout the Karoo is the occasional 'padstal' (road shop).

If you're travelling between Cradock and Middleburg you'll find the padstal called Daggaboer. 'Da ga' was a Dutch saying for 'good day' with 'boer' meaning 'farmer', which when said quickly comes out 'daggaboer', hence the name. Here you will find the best roosterbrood in the country – hot off the press served with apricot jam, cheese and biltong grated to a fine powder. It's also a chance to stock up on a supply of biltong (dried meat) ranging from beef to ostrich and even more surprising varieties! A bit further is the one-horse town that is Hofmeyer where there's the Old Vic Hotel. The walls are plastered with newspapers dating back to the late 1930s. If you want a timeline of South Africa's turbulent history, this is the place.

Try shark cage diving or watch a rugby match when in Durban!

If you're the arty type and visiting in July, take a trip to frontier country for the Grahamstown Festival. Street theatre, jazz shows and a great atmosphere can be experienced with a few world class performers in tow – take along a trenchcoat and boots as it can get pretty cold!

Getting around

Flying is the best option as the distances between places in South Africa are considerably long. Try Kulula, Mango or One Time Airways for cheap domestic flights. Renting a car is the other option. Watch out for our local taxis – white mini buses emblazoned with all sorts of designs blaring 'kwaito' music – they're a law unto themselves on the roads. Stick to the main roads and always try to stay in groups. Exercise caution.

Where to stay

Cape Town and neighbouring Stellenbosch are must-sees, and again I would recommend a trip along the garden route to get there. Try camping sites such as Aventura near Plettenberg Bay, Groenvlei outside Sedgefield and the Vic bay camping ground near George.

A safari or game drive must happen at some stage when in Africa – the Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth is one I recommend.

When to go

Summertime is best, however, you may get some rain. Easter time has the most consistent weather and it's great as the beaches are vibey. Pack lots of shorts and T-shirts, a surf board if you have one, sun cream, slops, your camera, a tube of mosquito repellent and the phrase 'ja nee' – which is the answer to everything in Afrikaans; it literally means: 'yes no'.

Carina Marugg's tour of Switzerland

I love the four seasons, especially winter. The fresh air, mountains, surrounding nature and the feeling of freedom and safety. Switzerland has everything to offer: exciting cities, scenic beauty, a unique culture and some of the most exquisite lakes.

Rolling out the welcome mat

The Swiss are generally open-minded, especially in the cities. There are many different cultures within the cities but less so in the valleys and smaller villages. Certainly, there isn't as big a variety of nationalities as there is in Dubai, but nationalities from all over Europe are constantly in and out of Switzerland so foreign cultures are not new or shocking to us. We are hospitable because tourism is an important industry in our country and we generally acknowledge how important visitors are to our economy and our people's experience of diversity. It's also just a part of our nature to be friendly to foreigners, probably because it's a small country surrounded by a host of other countries with different languages and cultures.

In the smaller towns, people probably won't speak much English. But locals will try to be as accommodating as they can. In the cities, English is more widely spoken. Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romanisch, the last only a small minority of our population speak. It's a Latin language quite similar to Italian and is not spoken anywhere else in the world.

What to do

Unterengadin is in the southern part of the Engadin valley and is breath-takingly beautiful. There is a lot of snow here so it's a popular skiing area. It's quite secluded and not commercial, unlike the more famed St Moritz which is usually swamped with tourists.

Domleschg is another valley in the mountains situated next to Chur, which is the capital of Grisons (one of Switzerland's largest cantons).

It is also relatively untouched by tourists. A wide variety of fruits are cultivated here – mostly apples.

If you're keen for a sporty holiday, Unterengadin and Domleschg are great options. You can cycle, hike and walk while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful views. There is no big city life in this part of Switzerland, but you won't miss it!

Lenzerheide is a ski resort in the winter and a hiking area in summer, but is more commercial than Domleschg and Unterengadin. You will find a lot of nightlife, shops and massive ski lifts. There is also the lake of Lenzerheide. Cross-country skiing is popular here and everyone goes ice skating on the lake when it's frozen.

I recommend the restaurant Calanda in Chur in the main city of Grison. They have great food in a modern setting. Also try Hotel Paradies in Scuol (Unterengadin) which is a romantic hotel and restaurant with special food and a stunning view of the valley.

You must try the Swiss culinary tradition of cheese fondue – a pot filled with boiling cheese into which we dip chunks of white bread. Another dish to try is raclette. To make raclette, cheese is placed in a small oven. Once the cheese has melted, it is scraped onto potatoes and eaten with pickled onions and cornichons with different spices. Some people will add meat and sausage. We usually have raclette during winter when it's cold. We Swiss like to take our time when we eat and our meals will usually last for around two hours.

Getting around

Travel by car or train in Switzerland. Public transport is highly efficient. Switzerland is very safe, but take care anyway wherever you are.

Where to stay

Splash out for at least a night in one of Switzerland's five-star hotels. The Palace Hotel is the most famous five-star hotel in St Moritz and is popular with celebrities. The Hotel Waldhaus am See is a four-star hotel with lovely views of the lake. The Hotel Paradies Ftan is for the romantic in Unterengadin valley.

In Domleschg, experience Swiss history and tradition by staying in a Swiss castle. Schloss Sins, Paspels, Schloss Schauenstein and Fürstenau are really old castles, but renovated.

It's a really special experience to stay in one of these places. They're not star-rated, so they're not unaffordable. There's a lot of history attached to these castles. Schloss Schauenstein houses our Chef of the Year 2008 – Andreas Caminada – so you're guaranteed amazing food.

'Jugendherberge' is the German word for youth hostels . These are all around Scuol and are a cheaper option. If you're staying for a week or more, you can rent an apartment. Hotel Weiss Kreuz, Thusis is a cheaper hotel alternative.

When to go

Winter is great for skiing whereas summer and autumn are ideal times to hike and sightsee. Summers can be warm – up to 30ÞC. Although evenings cool to between 15 and 18 degrees, the days are warm and mostly sunny. In winter the weather is sunny but cold with temperatures reaching around –10 often touching –20 at night. During the day it's around zero.

Pack hiking shoes, clothes for different types of weather, a raincoat or umbrella and some smart clothes to go out in and experience Switzerland's vibrant city nightlife. Obviously every place has indoor heating, so don't only pack only woolly clothes. In some places you can get away with just a light jersey.

James Coak's tour of England

I love the greenery of England with its misty, dewy mornings. There is something for everyone in England. England has some great cities. Some of my favourites include Liverpool, London and Oxford. They all have great restaurants, nightlife and culture but it's the history of these places that draws me – you just have to visit Oxford and the universities to witness this.

Rolling out the welcome mat

Like any country, attitudes vary but generally the English are very welcoming. Make sure you can speak English though. Foreign language standards are pretty poor.

The weather can bog you down sometimes if you plan to be outside. It does rain quite a lot. But I reckon the rest of what England has to offer makes up for it.

What to do

Take a trip on a punt on the Thames. This is a narrow pole-driven boat.

It will give you a scenic and totally different view of London. Visit Liverpool and if you need a reason to: it's where the Beatles came from and it has a wonderful revamped waterfront.

If cities are not your thing, take a trip into the countryside. I recommend Cornwall and the Lake District, which offer family adventures and the most amazing scenery.

There are some restaurants you simply must try if you're a foodie. First is La Bouchee in London, Old Brompton Street SW7. This is a lovely French bistro with relaxed atmosphere and authentic French bistro food.

For more foreign fare, visit Tui Restaurant – 19 Exhibition Road London SW7. It's the best Thai food I have had outside Thailand – it's authentic and so tasty.

If you are around Cornwall, you will be close to lovely hidden beaches that no one knows about such as the Portherras beach. The rock pools, cliffs, golden sands, hidden caves and crashing waves make the scene set for pirate stories – which is so exciting for big kids like me!

Penzance is just down the road and you'll have access to the Isles of Scilly by helicopter or boat. You can also walk across the causeway to St Michaels Mount. Watch out though, because the walk is only possible when the tide is out. But don't let this put you off – there are boats coming back if you get stranded.

For many, Pendeen and the surrounding area of West Penwith represent the unspoilt West Cornwall as depicted in so many BBC television series such as Poldark and the Rosamund Pilcher stories. This is a rugged country with dramatic cliffs and quiet coves, windswept moorland and gorse and heather. This is a land of stone-age monuments, iron-age forts and centuries of tin-mining history. However, although giving the impression of being remote, more and more visitors are discovering that Pendeen is an excellent base for exploring the area. Not only the moors and cliffs but also for the towns such as St Just for its Tate Gallery in St Ives and the fishing villages of Newlyn and Mousehole, which are all less than 20 kilometres away. There are also plenty golf courses, riding stables and fishing spots. Even the Eden Project at St Austell, the Maritime Museum at Falmouth, Flambards Amusement Park at Helston, the city of Truro and many other must-see attractions are all relatively close.

The Lake District and Cumbria are found in the north west of England within two hours drive of Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. In Lakeland you will find wild and windswept moorland, beautiful lakes and valleys along with many picturesque towns and villages with historic castles, churches, stately homes and museums. There is
a large range of outdoor activities: climbing, fell-walking, sailing, canoeing, cycling, sky-diving, coarse and game fishing, off-road driving... the list goes on. Stunning scenery is accessible on foot, by bike (on or off-road on your mountain bike), horse, car and public transport. Whether you want a quiet day out with friends, or are planning your dream wedding in the Lakes, a visit to the most beautiful corner of England is not to be missed.

Britain is blessed by an efficient and highly connected public
transport system, and hopping on the underground makes travel cheap with a wide range of destinations readily accessible. But I still think the best way to get round is by road.

To explore Britain, rent a car and start driving. It is a small enough country which you can cover from top to toe in a day! As Britain is relatively safe, you have little to worry about.

Where to stay

Inns are a great means of getting into the heart of a community. They are also a great budget option – but budget in price means that quality can vary. Camping in the summer is great but make sure you have a raincoat.

Accommodation standards vary from roadside motels and backpackers to the highest standards of hotel. Some of my favourites include a small boutique hotel called The Pelham Hotel in London SW7 as well as North Inn in Pendeen, Cornwall. Travel lodges are always clean and offer good services at a fair price. They can be found pretty much everywhere. They're great for when you're on the road but that's about it.

When to go

August is the best month as it has very little rain and the weather is nice and warm. However, if temperature is of no concern, April is still a little cool after the winter months but you cannot beat the flowers of spring.

Take along a raincoat. If you are in the countryside, take some good walking shoes so you can explore on foot.

Erin Wicker's tour of Canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world with some of the most vast and majestic landscapes. What I love most about my home country is the multiculturalism.

We are a tossed salad as opposed to a melting pot. You can sit in a bus carrying 20 people and no two people would be from the same origin. I love the opportunity that Canada represents to our growing nation of multinationals.

Let's not kid ourselves on why you should visit Canada – there is plenty to do, see and enjoy in this large country. There are so many destinations to explore for the young and the young at heart. You can spend a glorious vacation exploring the laid back feel of the Maritimes, the booming mid-east, drive across the seemingly never ending prairies or the stunning west coast.

What to do

Make a stop at Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan. With a name like Moose Jaw, how can you go wrong? They have great ice cream and a fun local theatre company that is uniquely Canadian.

Next stop is Climax, Saskatchewan which is another winner in nomenclature. It's located in the middle of nowhere, has a population of about 250, a diner, a general store and a post-office. It has a very 'Dog River' feel to it (if anyone has ever seen the show Corner Gas) and it is the location that the winning contestants on the show won a plot of land, which is its primary claim to fame! You can't visit Canada without experiencing its majestic landscapes, but naming any one spoy as the idyllic one is as easy as finding the needle in a haystack. But here's a heads up: Algonquin Park, Ontario – all you could want in terms of lakes, moose, canyons, forest, beaches, and more lakes. This is a prime place to go camping. Try staying for a weekend at least and rent a canoe. If you have a few days on your hands you can venture into the interior for a canoe etravaganza! But watch out for the bears.

Once you've had your fill of fresh air and pine needles, head to St Albert, Ontario, where you will be enticed by an amazing cheese curd factory. Try eating the delicacy with maple syrup.

Ottawa, Ontario is the capital of Canada and is often forgotten and underestimated. It's beautiful and clean and there is no shortage of things to do. Don't forget to check out the Elgin Street Diner for their specialty poutines – specifically their onion ring poutine, with fried onion – a real heart stopper!

Halifax in Nova Scotia is beautiful and the people are very friendly. Make sure to stop at Pizza Corner after a night on the town. The donairs there are not to be missed.

Getting around

A car is an obvious one if you're the road trip type. Canada is pretty safe but exercise normal precautions. Investigate local flights such as West Jet and Bearskin. If you're feeling adventurous, chuck on some layers – scarves, beanie and gloves – brave the cold, and try dogsledding!

If you're feeling brave, try spending a night in the Haunted Jail House in Ottawa. It's a bargain for one – but be warned: your sleep may just be interrupted by some rattling of shackles and moaning. It's not called the Haunted Jail for nothing.

When to go

Winter is generally freezing, at times reaching minus 40 degrees with the wind chill. I don't recommend this time of year, unless you are a ski bunny. Spring, summer and autumn are all good bets. Nevertheless, pack layers – lots of layers.

Uniquely South African

Braai is part of our strong rugby culture – second perhaps only to the New Zealanders.

In the Eastern Cape we have a strong hunting tradition. When you shoot your first buck, it's tradition to have the blood smeared onto your face and to eat a piece of the liver – it's not pleasant, but it's the way it's done in the farming communities.

You can visit Xhosa villages in the Eastern Cape where you can try traditional food such as maas and samp and beans and learn about their customs.

Uniquely Swiss

Schwingen is a sport that is like wrestling. Two men compete in an ring filled with sawdust. The goal is to set your opponent on his back. The competitors must remain within the ring in order to stay in the match.

We also have a tradition called Alphornblasen. An alphorn is a horn from the Alps. It's played on special occasions. It doesn't play tunes but instead gives off a long, echoing monotone – kind of like a didgeridoo. Only the Swiss elders know how to play this, so it's very rooted in tradition. The ex-tourism director from St Moritz used to blow the alphorn in order to attract people to the town.

Uniquely English

Visit Gloucestershire for the annual Cheese Rolling and Wake. It has been taking place for possibly hundreds of years. Thousands flock to see this tradition each year, and local residents are determined that
the tradition will never die.

Another great thing about my county's heritage is that the sandwich was invented in England! I'm proud of it.

One of our more bizarre traditions is the practise of gurning. Gurning contests are a rural English tradition and were once common at travelling sideshows and fairs. They are still held regularly in some
villages and the contestants traditionally frame their faces through a horse collar - known as 'gurnin' through a braffin'. The World Gurning Championship is held annually in Egremont, Cumbria as one part of the Egremont Crab Fair in the Lake District. A gurn is a distorted facial expression.

A typical gurn might involve projecting the lower jaw as far forward and up as possible, and covering the upper lip with the lower lip. It's a spectacular event to watch and you wouldn't believe the faces that some people manage to pull!

Bruce Morton's tour of New Zealand

New Zealand is a must see because of the diversity of things to see and do. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie or a culture buff, whether you like the beach, hills or mountains, you can find it all in my home country.

Rolling out the welcome mat

You can expect the locals to be friendly and helpful. New Zealanders are travellers themselves and so are always willing to welcome travellers and point them in the right direction. English and Maori are the official languages.

What to do

Take a drive down the West Coast of the South Island. If your timing is right you can enjoy the Wild Food Festival in Hokitika, which is held every year in March. Even if you don't get to the Wild Food Festival you can see the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes, go white water rafting, underground cave rafting, horse trekking or take a guided walk on the Franz Josef or Fox glacier as a starting point. One thing for sure is you will never run out of things to see and do on the West Coast.

Make sure that you take the drive over to Akaroa and stop at Barry's Bay Cheese factory and enjoy some delicious New Zealand cheese. Wellington city is a great city to explore and find all those funky – often hidden – cafes.

If you are an adventurous skier, make sure that you travel to the Craigieburn Ski Field in Canterbury. But be warned: it's not for the faint hearted. This club field still uses nut cracker tows and was once called "the most extreme ski field in the Southern Hemisphere" by Glen Plake, who is one of the world's best skiers.

Stop in Fiordland, Marlborough Sounds, and Queenstown. New Zealand offers a smorgasbord of activities: you can dive at the Poor Knights and bungee, sky dive and hike pretty much anywhere in New Zealand. It's really a country of extremes: crazy activities are to be experienced, but then it's also a great environment in which to relax.
I recommend trying fresh seafood when at the coast.

Bungee jumping is a must. Also try skiing – some of the best snow and terrain you will find anywhere in the world. Enjoy an Hangi – which is a traditional Maori method of cooking food using super heated rocks buried in the ground in a pit oven. Fresh crayfish cooked straight from the ocean is out of this world – try Kaikoura for this special treat.

Getting around

New Zealand is a pretty safe place – just use some common sense and you should be fine.

Where to stay

There are some really neat bed and breakfasts dotting the country and a lot of farms also have accommodation attached. There are accommodation options for every budget and preference.

When to visit

New Zealand has four distinct seasons and the further north you go, the warmer it gets. So if you want to lie on a beach, then the North Island in the summer is your best bet. Just take with you a 'go!' attitude.

Uniquely Canadian

Every July 1 is Canada's birthday. There are parties throughout the streets of Ottawa and most other major Canadian cities, so if you're looking for a wild party, this is a good time to visit. Winterlude is the winter festival where you can check out ice sculptures and eat a delicious beavertail – a type of local pastry!