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.

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.