Day Trips from Madrid

A day trip is the best way to do some exploring when you don’t have a lot of time or money.

One of the things I love most about Madrid, is the fact that there are so many awesome cities nearby.

TOLEDO

Are you a history buff? You have to check out Toledo (even if your not that into history). Toledo is the former capital of Spain and filled with history, charm, and a medieval vibe.

You can get to Toledo by bus, bla bla car (the uber of Europe), or train.

  • BusAlsa is the company that will take you there leaving from Plaza Eliptica. A round trip ticket starts 11€at and will take a little under an hour to get there.
  • Train: A round trip ticket on the renfewill start at 20,60€ and takes about 30 minutes to get there. 
  • Bla Bla Car–  A round trip farestarts at 11€. It will take a little over an hour to get to Toledo by car.

*Hmmm, I thought I wrote about my time in Toledo. Guess I need to get on that lol…*

SEGOVIA

Segovia is a beautiful getaway from Madrid. Want a day of the city this is the perfect place to go. It’s not super big but has enough to do and you can end the day by having some bomb food. I especially liked food and atmosphere at Jose Maria (a must do when in Segovia).

You can get to Segovia by bus, train or bla bla car.

  • Bla Bla Car– is an app you download on your phone then you’re ready to go. It’s like Uber where drivers put where they are traveling to and you can join them at a cost. A round trip fareto Segovia starts at 10€. It will take about an hour to get to Segovia by car.
  • Train-AVE high Speed– A round trip ticket to Segovia will start at 34€ but will only take 30 mins to get there. The train leaves from Chamartin Station.
  • Bus-La Sepulvedana is the company that will take you there leaving from Moncloa. A roundtrip ticket starts at 14,21€ and will take about an hour to get there.

Read More: Things to do in Segovia

AVILA

The world heritage city of Avila is a must see. Avila is known for its formidable medieval walls, an intact fortified ring around the old city.

Leaving from Madrid, you can get to Avila by bus or train.

  • Train– A round trip ticket on the renfe will start at 17€and takes a little under two hours to get there. The train leaves from the Chamartin Station.
  • Bus-Jiménez Dorado Autocares is the company that will take you there leaving from Estación sur. A roundtrip ticket starts at 13,41€ and will take about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there.

*Avila is still on my To Visit list*

CUENCA

This beautiful World Heritage Site  is full of charm and historical monuments. Warning, be prepared to walk uphill a lot, like a lot. But other than that it is a must visit.

You can get to Cuenca by bus, bla bla car or train.

  • BusAvanzais the company that will take you there leaving from Mendez Alvaro. A round trip ticket starts 21,57€ at and will take about 2.5 hours to get there.
  • Train: A round trip ticket on the renfewill start at 23,80€ and takes about 3 hours to get there. Whereas a round trip ticket on the  renfe AVE will start at 26,30€ and takes about an hour.
  • Bla Bla Car–  A round trip fare starts at 16€. It will take about 1.5 hours to get to Cuenca by car.

Read More: Things to do in Cuenca

Need Help on How to Get Abroad?

Thinking of moving abroad but have no idea where to start. Hopefully this post will give you a little insight on what you will need to do and what to search for.

Telling your family might be the hardest and longest part of the concept. If your family is anything like mines, they might not understand fully why you want to move and will probably try to talk you out of it. Just have your explanation written down, shoot I would even record it and just press play whenever someone asks “why are you doing this?” That will save a lot of time and headache.

Lets talk about what to do abroad.

  1. Volunteering at a hostel
    1. This can be an easy way to save money and get use to your new surroundings.
    2. A lot of hostels will give you free board in exchange for helping out around the hostel. If you want to be paid most hostels will not offer free boarding.
    3. If this is an option for you and you have a destination in mind I would reach out to a few hostels in areas you would like to stay and ask if they offer an arrangement like this or similar.
  2. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
    1. As a volunteer (or the more common term WWOOFer) you would offer your services on an organic farm in the host country of your choice in exchange for room and board.
    2. This is a new concept for me but would love to try it out. This is especially good for digital nomads just getting off the ground. You would work in the mornings and have your afternoons and evenings free for your personal work.
    3. Want to learn more about this phenomenon and the possible destinations, check out their homepage.
  3. Au Pair
    1. Essentially, au pair is a fancy way of saying nanny. In exchange for free room and board, parents will require you to watch their kids. Activities may include dropping and picking them up from school, playing with them, and light housework. Your contract will depict how many hours you work a week and which days you would have off.
    2. Au pairs are especially popular in Europe and there are a lot of different websites and agencies to help facilitate the process.
  4. Teaching Aboard
    1. Teaching abroad can be a great way to explore the world and save a little money as well. And the good thing about it is you don’t even have to be a certified teacher in your home country to teach. You only need a bachelor’s degree (and honestly some private classes and even some businesses don’t even check for that).
    2. The one thing that is necessary in some countries but very helpful for all is obtaining your TEFL/TOEFL certification.
    3. Teaching opportunities are endless but in my opinion the countries that offer the best deals (in terms of being able to save) are South Korea, Middle Eastern Countries (Dubai, Saudi Arabia etc.), and Japan. Don’t get me wrong the European countries pay decent as well but don’t offer free housing or other perks like the Asian and Middle Eastern countries mentioned.
    4. Depending on the country you choose will depict how much money you can save. It really all depends on the type of lifestyle you want while living abroad.

These are just a few things you can do to earn money and get on your feet while abroad. Leave a comment below to let me know if you have tried or all of the suggestions and of any other ways to get established in a foreign country.

Let’s talk about Cuenca

One of the best things about living in Madrid is the fact that you can explore so many surrounding cities with ease.

Cuenca is no different. Cuenca is a beautiful city about an hour and fifteen minutes by car away from Madrid. Of course this all depends on if there is traffic and how fast or slow you are driving.

Cuenca is definitely worth a day trip to walk around the old city and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Be warned though, it is definitely a lot of walking up hill. Let me repeat, a lot of walking up hill. But it’s worth it.

My favorite thing about Cuenca, were the gorgeous views it had to offer and for making me realize that I could speak Spanish for an entire day. I was beyond shocked to say the least but pleasantly surprised that I was able to communicate, be understood, and understand what is said to me all in Spanish.

Lets talk about what to do there. I have found that all Spanish cities are extremely similar. They have an old part of town that allows you to feel their history and a new part of town that is filled with buildings, shops and bars. Cuenca definitely didn’t disappoint in the history department.

Must see things:

  • The Hanging Houses and bridge

 

  • The rocks at the very top of the hill (I know but trust they are not ordinary rocks. The view is worth the climb)
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The view, the shape of the rocks, just absorb lol

  • The Abstract Museum and the Contemporary Museum
  • The Cathedral

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Palma de Mallorca

Ever wonder where to go or what activities you would like to do on vacation. Do you ever feel like you have to choose between a good beach and mountains/nature? Luckily Spain, among other countries, has cities where you can have both.

Mallorca, Mallorca, Mallorca

Mallorca is the largest island of the Balearic Islands.

One of the first things I noticed was how big the Palma de Mallorca airport was. The airport is the first impression you will have of a city/country. The more developed the airport is (i.e duty free shops, Starbucks, McDonald’s) more than likely the more developed the city/country is. Taking the bus from the airport (you can get a round trip ticket for 8euros or a one way into the city for 5) to my hostel I saw just how developed Palma was. My first impression of the city was that it reminded me of Rio de Janeiro. My second impression was thinking how hilly the island was and how its going to suck walking around lol.

I knew my adventure was starting as soon as I was able to put my bags down at the hostel. After dropping my bags off I set off to see the Bellver Castle and then head to the city center to see the sites there.

Lets talk about the adventure I had getting to the castle. The walk to the castle from the hostel was about 15mins but all uphill. I arrived to the bottom of the park I was suppose to walk through and realized that not only was it uphill it was also a series of stairs. (I think stairs are my frenemy) The great thing about this park was that there were a lot of look out points to stop and rest to view the city and harbor. Despite it being a cloudy day I was able to make out the city and yachts/ships in the harbor. I could just imagine it being a clear sunny day. The views would be amazing! Now the heat not so much lol.

Fun fact: Upon reaching the entrance of the castle from the park you feel a sense of accomplishment from walking all those stairs and think finally I can go in and look around. Well that’s a negative. The ticket office for the castle is not at the entrance. Fortunately, the gate keeper/worker allowed me to walk in without a ticket so I didn’t have to go looking for it. (#winning. Saved me 4 euros that I later had to spend on the ticket back to the airport). There is a medieval feel to the castle. It’s totally worth the walk for the unobstructed views of the city and the history.

Walking to the city center was much easier and also very easy to navigate. Once back on the main road it will take you straight to the city center and apparently to El Arenal (the public beach and broadwalk).

Walking through the streets of Palma was clean and pretty empty since I went during shoulder season. Beautiful streets, quirky shops and people is a recipe for a great experience.

I ended my day walking in the opposite direction on the main road looking for Cala Fornaris. This is one of the many beaches on the island but unfortunately I couldn’t find the public access to get to this beach. This lead me to believe that it was a private beach because along the perimeter of the beach was privately owned houses.

Unfortunately, my original plans for Saturday got derailed. Instead of going with my gut and taking the 3 hour bus ride to the other side of the island to explore the beauty there I decided to rent a bike. Yup definitely one of my stupider ideas. For one, the last time I rode a bike was at least 15 years.

Adventure or misadventure I still haven’t decided yet. But renting a bike is super cheap (as long as your not in the city center). Bikes start at $5/day. The shop must be only deals with amazons and giants because all the bikes in the shop were too tall. First sign I ignored lol since its important that you are able to touch the ground with ease. So get this, I thought I was going to bike 64km one way to the other side of the island. Mind you I didn’t make it 6 km before crashing into another biker. Yup, I crashed and burned not once but twice. Luckily, the second time around I only crashed into the sidewalk (an inanimate object). Got my first black and blue eye on this adventure. I ended up only riding 15km to El Arenal and then headed back home.

Moral of the story is that yes it is important to do things out of your comfort zone but to realize that not always will it be a accident free experience.

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My battle wounds!!! But the views were worth it.

Overall, Mallorca is a beautiful island with a lot of hidden treasures and gems. But unfortunately, you either have to be an experienced cyclist or rent a car to get around the island because public transportation isn’t the best.

Leave a comment below letting me know what you thought of Mallorca.

Oh Segovia

Oh Segovia, Segovia! I kept hearing about this cute little mountain town north of Madrid. How it was so quaint, had some cool things to see, and had great food. Well guys I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I got there around 10am and when I say it was completely empty, there were literally only two small families on the streets and an Asian tour group. Y’all know Spanish folks party hard and sleep late. They literally don’t start their day until 12. The crazy thing to me is they have a siesta from 3-6 sometimes 7pm. But anyways enough about that: back to the cuteness that is Segovia. I was able to explore the town without a large crowd and bonus take pictures without people photo bombing intentionally and unintentionally.

Getting to Segovia was an adventure in itself. I took a blabla car (uber for far trips) and boy was that interesting. My driver was super sweet but super active and talkative (like would not shut up talkative). But it was cool, I got to practice some Spanish and he got to practice some English. He dropped me off on the outskirts of the city partly because he had no idea where he was going and partly because he was getting anxious since he was late for his run. But it worked itself out because where we decided to stop I could see the beginning of the aqueducts. So it worked out.

My time in Segovia began with walking along the Aqueduct and marveling in its wonder. A tingy bit of history, the Aqueduct, its Roman…. History lesson over lol!!!

But on the real it’s a beautiful structure held together by air. Well maybe not literally but there is no grout holding it together.

Walking along the wall are many different paths to explore the town but don’t worry you can’t get lost. Everything circles around so you can easily find where you began or at least somewhere you actually recognize.

The Alcazar isn’t that big but still very impressive. It looks like a quaint castle. Now paying 3 euros to go up the tower not really necessary but you do get great views of the city. The only other place to get unobstructed views is to climb the tower in The Cathedral (I think it was either 1,5 euros or 3 euros to climb). Y’all the warning on the signs for The Cathedral said that the climb and descent takes about 70 minutes. That’s how tall and steep it is. I debated doing it and in the end I opted not to. The climb up the tower in the Alcazar was about 10 minutes if that lol.

View from The Alcazar Tower:

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Let’s talk food. Oh yummy food. So one of the most have foods to try (of course that’s if your not vegetarian/vegan) is Cochinillo. Cochinillo is a suckling roasted piglet. Jose Maria is the restaurant you must go to, to try it for the first time. Honestly, I was skeptical because I like to eat off the beaten path but locals and tourists alike were raving about the cochinillo at Jose Maria. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed at all. It is such a cute restaurant. Side bar: cochinillo cost 24 euros person for a piece of meat, no sides, no lettuce, no nada. So your girl was a little skeptical to try it so when I walked in I noticed they were having apertivos so I decided to order a beer and try one. I had the paella and it was quite delicious so that and the fact the vibes in the restaurant was great I decided to stay and go for the cochinillo. Y’all it’s a whole production and its great to see. I ordered cochinillo and a side of fries (not needed bad idea). The waiter came out with an appetizer and a basket of bread. I am only one person, I couldn’t possibly eat all this food. But everything was delicious and well worth every euro. Honestly, I think that’s the most I have ever spent on a meal for (key word is I spent lol).

Overall, Segovia is a cute little town and you only need about 4-6 hours to explore it. Of course, those who like museums would be on the longer end but honestly you do not need more than 8 hours to explore in its entirety.

Leave a comment below letting me know what your thoughts on Segovia are.

Traveling as a Bahamian Woman!

Oh the joys of traveling as a woman and to top it off being a (black) Caribbean woman. Traveling in itself is an adventure but when you add being a woman, being black, and being from the Caribbean it just spices up your experience even more. Depending on the country you travel to will depict how spicy your experience is. Of course if you travel to a country that rarely has a black female traveler let alone a Caribbean woman traveler, your travel experience will be like eating a whole goat pepper, seeds and all. (Spicy as all hell. Also if you haven’t noticed I do like food a lot lol!!!).

Some things that will more than likely happen to you as a (black) Caribbean woman traveling by continent:

  1. Asia:
    1. First and foremost are the stares. No conversation, no hi, no smile, JUST a stare. I usually smile and wave or stare back with my mean face depending on how I am feeling. But I mostly smile and wave.
    2. Photo bombs anyone!! Need I say more? While in China, natives constantly stood under me. Not next to, but under me because of course the concept of personal space is lost. Most times they won’t even ask for a picture they will just stand under you while a family member or friend takes the picture.
    3. You also get called Beyonce or any other celebrity or singer they know.
    4. Hopefully you are not afraid of babies because you will probably hold at least three during your time in the country.
  2. South Europe
    1. Now while living in Madrid, I have experienced some stares but it’s mostly because Spanish people can be rude at times. The biggest question I get asked is; ‘Are you from Senegal? Are you from Nigeria? Or my all time favorite, ‘Are you from Africa?’ During my time in South Europe I have noticed that there are not a lot of black travelers.
      1. Side bar: South Europe experiences a lot of migrators from various African countries so they assume that every black person they see is from an African country. (Remember, I am not speaking for all Spaniards or all South European people, just the majority/what I have experienced) Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being from Nigeria or Senegal or any other African country. The problem lies in the assumptions and the closed ended question. What’s wrong with ‘Where are you from?’

So these are some things I encountered from these specific areas but in general you can expect to experience some variation of them anywhere you go. Disclaimer: I haven’t been to all of the countries in the continents mentioned but where I have gone I have experienced those things. Some countries are better than others. Extra Disclaimer: I wouldn’t want to change my experiences. The different reactions of people help make it a trip, a trip to remember.

Let’s talk visas. So as a Bahamian there are some countries that I need a visa to enter. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced an issue in obtaining a visa for the countries I wanted to visit that needed it. What I have experienced though is the shocked faces when Border Patrol Officers/Custom Officers have when they see that I have a Bahamian passport. This is usually followed by one of two things; ‘Wow, you’re the first person I’ve meet from The Bahamas!’ or ‘Do you need a visa to enter?’ I find that I normally do their job because like anything most people only remember things that they constantly do. What sometimes annoys me is when the officers don’t have a list of countries that need and don’t need visas to enter their country readily available. Travel tip: Make sure before booking your flight and accommodations that you double and triple check if you need a visa and the process to obtain one. So far I have only needed to apply for and send my passport to the consulate for about 10% of the countries I have traveled to.

Leave a comment below letting me know your travel experiences!!!

Making the most of a long layover…

Time is a luxury we don’t always have while traveling. Some people believe that you need 1-2 weeks to visit a country. On the flip side, who has an unlimited amount of vacation days from work that they can take such a long trip let alone take a trip multiple times a year.  I truly believe that you only need 2-3 days to get a sense of what a city is all about. Don’t get me wrong, to find all the hidden gems in a city you definitely need to spend more time but hey thats what a return visit is for.

With that being said lets talk long layovers. Layovers are the perfect way to get a glimpse of another country when you have a limited time frame and budget. Fun fact, tickets are usually cheaper when a layover is involved. To me a long layover where you can actually leave the airport and enjoy the city is anywhere from 6 hours and longer. Mind you there are a few airports that you will need a minimum of 8 hours but for the most part 6 hours is a good rule of thumb.

During my first European Adventure with my girl Tori, we decided to book a ticket with a 24hr layover in Istanbul, Turkey. We landed late evening and stayed in the lounge for Turkish Airlines (one of my favorite airlines to travel) and left the airport very early the next morning. We had about 12 hours in the city and boy did we do and see a lot. Really its all in the planning but of course things can go wrong so you must be adaptable. We planned to leave the airport that evening but I couldn’t get my visa on arrival because my passport only had I think 4 more months until expiration. So unfortunately we all know the later you arrive to the airport or anywhere the less people working. The people who could override my date and issue me a visa wasn’t on shift for a few more hours that’s why we had to stay in the lounge. But hey, bright side, we stayed for free. The person manning the desk was super nice and helpful and allowed us to spend a few hours in the lounge for free. So overall, win win situation.

Traveling to China from Houston, I specifically looked for a ticket with a long over in another country. Lucky me, I found a bomb ticket (cheap and with an amazing airline). I found a ticket with Korean Air (my first love before discovering Turkish Airlines so now I have 2) with a 24 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea. After purchasing my ticket I started researching the airline and airport to see what perks might be there. And let me tell you, my research did not go unnoticed.  Korean Air offered complimentary hotel rooms for persons with a layover longer than 12 hours (this was in 2014 so I don’t know if they still do). Yup, you heard me. I got a free bomb, clean, hotel room on the airport shuttle route and close to public transportation to explore the city. Now it took a little work to get it. I had to email customer service; they responded with a number I had to call. When I called they tried to say Korean Air didn’t offer the service any longer. But with luck and being persistent I was able to find an agent willing to give me the complimentary room. Lesson here is never take no for an answer. Make sure you put in the work and don’t leave any table unturned.

* For some reason I can’t find any of the pictures I took in Seoul. Guess I will just have to go back since no pictures is pretty much like I never went. *

Now don’t just start purchasing long layover tickets without doing any research. Make sure the airport you are flying into isn’t far from the city center or the must see attractions. Make sure you have a general idea of where you want to go, if you can leave the airport, and a general idea of cost. If you prefer leisure travel, a long layover still could be possible but instead of fitting as many sites in as possible maybe you would just want to see one or two sites and eat something.

Remember, always do what is best for you. It is your travel experience so make it work for you.

Leave a comment below letting me know what some of your tricks are when booking flights.

24hrs in Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is hidden a gem with beautiful surprises throughout the city and I’m not even talking about the architecture or sights. I am talking about the murals distributed throughout the city. Glasgow has 23 murals to be exact. You can spend a few hours just exploring and finding the different murals.

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The first mural that caught my eye

I stumbled upon a mural and thought to myself oh that’s cute. Then while looking around I spotted another in the distance. I took a detour from where I was going and walked towards it and boy I was not disappointed at all.

 

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Let’s start from the beginning since I got a little side track talking about the murals.  You might be thinking, is it even possible to see a city in one day. Honestly, you are able to see Glasgow in one day. Depending on the city it’s quite possible to see everything(main attractions) in one day. Granted when you stay somewhere for a while you get the feel of the place and find hidden gems. But if you are on a time constraint never feel that it would be a waste just to visit somewhere for a day.

You want to arrive in Glasgow as early as possible. I arrived at 9 and left the airport by 9:30am.  A must do is to always stop at the tourist information desk in the airport. There you should be able to get useful information, recommendations, and a city map. At the info desk in Glasgow you can also purchase a roundtrip bus ticket to the city center for 12£. The bus has wifi and usb ports. There are 4 stops throughout the city with the furthest stop being 25 mins away from the airport so not bad. It also runs 24hrs so that also a huge plus and savings.

First thing to do even before making it to the city center is to go out west to Kelvingrove. Once there you can check out Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery (for free). Honestly this was one of my favorite stops the whole trip. You will also find in the west different pubs, bars, and cute little shops to stop into.

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In front of Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery

Once you have had your fill of the west, you can then walk to the city center. It is a straight walk on the main road and is about a 25min walk (of course if you are stopping to check out stores or take selfies it will take longer). Once in the city center there is quite a bit to do.

Some of the things you can check out are:

  • Necropolis
    • The gates that lead to the Necropolis covered in pure gold. The rich history inside these gates.

  • St. Mungo’s Cathedral
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      A few of the cathedral from the Necropolis

  • Queen Street
  • Glasgow Green Park

* These are just a few attractions to check out. Of course, it all depends on what you like to do. So if you like to check out museums then add some to the list.*

One of the things United Kingdom (which is made up of 4 countries including Scotland) is known for is Tea Time. I had an awesome experience at the Willow Tea Room. The atmosphere is really chill and chic and the options are endless. I never once felt rushed to get through my meal. Surprisingly, I was stuffed halfway through the second tier of food.

 

Once nightfall hit I looked for a pub to pass my time. I found a little hole in the wall pub called Soulsa to relax and unwind. They serve food there and have student specials. There I met a Scottish young man who befriended me and started chatting up a storm. Did I mention yet that Scottish people are super nice and friendly? Well they are!!! And boy was I glad because I got to go ceilidh which is essentially Scottish line dancing. I had an absolute blast. Check out Avante Grad to have an experience Scottish experience.

Overall, Glasgow is a cool place to visit and can be done in day depending on your style of travel.  Let me know in the comments below what you thought of Glasgow when you visited or other places you think are great to visit for a day.

2017 in a Nutshell

2017 in a nutshell:

  • Another continent checked bringing the grand total to 6 continents visited
  • Living in Europe
  • Learning Spanish
    • Improved my comprehension but still working on speech
  • Travelled to 18 countries, 43 cities
    • Spain- Alicante, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, & Toledo
    • Morocco- Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Ait Ben Haddou, Fes, & Chefchaouen
    • Switzerland- Zurich & Luzerne
    • Guatemala- Antigua, San Pedro, Lanquin, & Flores,
    • Panama- Bocas del Toro
    • Costa Rica- Quepos, San Jose, & Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
    • Netherlands- Amsterdam
    • Hungary- Buda & Pest
    • Bulgaria- Sofia
    • Greece- Athens
    • Italy- Rome
    • The Vatican City
    • Israel- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Jericho, & Jordan
    • Palestine- Bethlehem
    • Austria- Vienna
    • Portugal- Lisbon & Sintra
    • Bahamas- Long Island & Bahamas
    • United States- Paterson, Maplewood, Brooklyn, Manhattan

Least favorite country: Morocco

The least favorite country visited was Morocco. According to research and other people who have visited Morocco, how people feel about Morocco is either love or dislike. For me it was dislike for multiple reasons. Let’s start with a top contender- food. The food was horrible. For all the spices they are known for, there was no flavor in the food. For me one of the key reasons to visit a country is to experience the local cuisine. Another major shock was the sanitary conditions. Morocco is surprisingly behind the times in terms of sanitation and I do not mean fancy systems or anything like that. The simplest thing like compost is widely overlooked. Walking in the markets you will see at least 5 people pushing wheel barrels full of human waste and dumping it God knows where. Mind you while in a market I saw a man fall while pushing a barrel (luckily it was empty though). But just imagine the stench and unsanitary conditions Moroccans are face with daily.   The experiences I had took me through a host of emotions from sad to excited but I wouldn’t visit the country again and to me that makes it the least in my book. Check out my post about Morocco to find out more.

Top 2 countries: Hungary & Switzerland

I can not decide if Hungary or Switzerland was the best country of 2017. I had a great time in both countries but they were slightly different because Switzerland was a solo trip and Hungary was with the Golden Girls. Here are my thoughts about Switzerland.

Biggest thing I learned this year: how to effectively communicate with others especially with those whose first language isn’t English.

Biggest hurdle I had to jump through: was feeling sad that I wasn’t spending time with my nieces and nephew.

Biggest accomplishment: can’t pick between starting my blog or moving to Spain. For me they hold the title for different reasons.

  • Spain: kept talking about wanting to learn Spanish and live on a different continent but never really did anything about it. 2017 I changed that by moving to Spain
  • Blog: talked about it but never took the plunge. Decided to give it a try and the process of creating and maintaining I have learned a lot about my communication skills, passions, creativity.

Planning for a trip!!!

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Struggling with how to plan a trip?  From picking the destination to booking the flight to actually making it to that destination.  If you are like my brother and don’t even know how to look for a flight then buckle up and get ready to be blown away.

One of the important take aways (maybe even the most important) is that Google is life/bestie.  Google should be the first stop in looking up information about a destination.

The very, and I mean very first thing you want to do even before getting to the planning stage is figure out what your Budget is. Especially if traveling with a group. It is extremely important to know up front what type of budget your friends are working with. And not to be on some noisy vibe but to make sure your idea of travel and their idea of travel is the same. The last thing you want to happen is you planning on a fast-food budget and they planning on a five-star restaurant budget.

First thing you need to check when planning a trip is if you need a visa to go to that country. Getting a visa has become less complicated now a days. Most countries you are able to get a visa upon arrival or just need to fill out some online paperwork. Now some countries, like China you actually apply for the visa in person at a consulate. How do you know if you need a visa, simple ask Google.  Honestly, I like to go to google first because sometimes the countries consulate website isn’t so user friendly. So when in doubt I literally type into the search engine, what countries do (insert your nationality here) need a visa for entry? 

Second thing you need to know is what season is it, Peak Season or Shoulder Season & Climate. Knowing what season it is can dictate when you go. Of course, peak season is usually the most crowded and expensive where as shoulder season is usually less crowded and cheaper. If you have a certain budget you definitely want to be aware of what season it is. Climate is also very important when planning. Is the country you are thinking of going in their dry, wet, hurricane/monsoon, or cold season? That is an important question to ask.

Third thing on the list  is the local currency. It is important to know how much your dollar is worth in the country. For example, $1 is about 0,88 euros meaning that the euro is stronger than the dollar. Tip: I like to practice converting small bills into local currency so I have a general idea of the type of change I should receive when I’m shopping. (come on now, who doesn’t shop when traveling.) Also another big tip is do not convert your money at an exchange counter in the airport. In fact don’t do anything in an airport pertaining to money, exchange, booking an excursion etc. For me, I usually travel with a little bit of USD currency and I take out local currency from the ATM. Yup, the ATM usually has the best conversion rate. And depending on your bank, you will only be charged a set fee (which for me usually is cheaper than getting money exchanged at my local bank or a foreign bank.) HUGE TIP: even if your currency is excepted in the country always, and I mean always use the local currency because you will be ripped off by the exchange rate (cause you will be going off the locals exchange rate which will ALWAYS be in their favor.)

Forth thing on the list  is where will you stay. I like to have a few options on places to stay. Some of my top sites I look on is booking.com, hotels.com, and AirBnB (especially traveling with a group). These sites usually give me the best options in terms of quality in relation to price.  Depending on your budget and your style of travel the options are endless.

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1st stop is…..

Lastly, for me is planning what excursions I will do and what sites I will visit.  Without fail, I always look up things to do in the country I am visiting. You want to have an idea of the type of things you can do whether it is extreme activities, water activities, hiking, important monuments to visit etc. I like to have a loose plan of the things I want to see based on what you guessed it, Google and other bloggers suggest. When I reach to my destination, I then like to ask locals what things they feel are important for me to see.

There you have it, the most important things to do when planning a trip. Have any questions or have more tips, leave it in the comment section.

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A little travel inspiration. Sitting in the Sahara Desert thinking of my next moves.