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Discovering Portugal as a Nomad Family

If you are itching to travel again, we have the perfect destination for you and your family! Portugal for digital nomad families is a great choice – as it is an up and coming destination for nomad families. With lush green, clear water, and rich history, it has something for the whole family. Plus, it is home to The Family Workation retreat, a great escape and working holiday for you and your family.

The last year has been challenging for people for many different reasons. Extended time at home, not seeing loved ones, adapting to a new routine, and so much more. As we look forward to the future, we can only hope things go back to normal soon – whatever that may look like. 


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Central Portugal For Digital Nomad Families

Portugal is known for its laid-back lifestyle and fantastic nature. Many families tend to stick to the more popular stops, like Lisbon and Porto, but there is so much more to discover in this scenic country. Central Portugal is quickly becoming a travel hotspot for digital nomad families as it is an excellent destination known for its quality of life, affordability, and natural beauty. Central Portugal can be described as the interior area roughly between Lisbon and Portugal. This area is calmer and less crowded than its more traditional tourist destinations.

Portugal for Digital Nomad Families can use Tomar as a base for their stay.
Not an unusual sight: an old wooden door in the picturesque town of Tomar.

Just about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon is the town of Tomar. Tomar makes a great home base for your trip and will easily allow you to access the surrounding areas. Tomar is a picturesque town with a rich culture and history. The city is home to the Polytechnic Institute, which brings a young, lively spirit to the medieval city.

9 Reasons to Visit Tomar

  1. Castle and Convent of the Order of Christ

The Castle and Convent of the Order of Christ is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It serves as the main monument in the city and an essential statue in Portugal. The convent is situated high up on a hill and is magnificent inside and out. You can explore the halls of the buildings – wandering and exploring the different rooms and corridors. There is a beautiful garden outside, setting the scene for this picture-perfect castle.

One site to visit in Portugal for Digital Nomad Families: The Castle and Convent of the Order of Christ.
Welcome history lovers!
  1. Aqueduct of Pegões

The Aqueduct of Pegões is an amazing monument spanning 6 kilometers. It was built in the 16th – 17th century to bring water to the Convent of Christ in Tomar. In some places, it reaches a height of 30 meters! If you feel adventurous, you can walk along the aqueduct to take in the beautiful surrounding views. You can also take the small “train tour bus” in the city center that takes you to the highest point of the monument.

Portugal for Digital Nomad Families: the historical church makes a great cultural experience while in Tomar.
One of the popular activities in Tomar: a visit of the Convent.
  1. Synagogue of Tomar

Tomar has the best-preserved medieval synagogue of Portugal. It was built in the mid-15th century and has an exciting interior with Gothic vaulting and columns with classic capitals. Since 1939, it has housed the small Jewish Museum Abraão Zacuto, which holds interesting pieces related to Jewish history in Portugal.

  1. Museums
  • Museu de Arte Moderna – Excellent modern art museum home to drawings, sculptures, and paintings of the 20th century
  • Casa Museu Fernando Lopes Graça – This museum is dedicated to the life of artist and composer Fernando Lopes-Graça as well as other local and Portuguese music. 
  • Casa dos Cubos – An art gallery with a beautiful photography exhibit. The gallery is hosted in a lovely space, with gorgeous views surrounding it.
A wall of colorfully painted tiles in Portugal for Digital nomad families
Even outside the many museums you can discover art in every corner!
  1. Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros (Trays Festival) is a lively festival that takes place in July, once every four years. The next one will be held in July 2023. It is the most important festival celebrated in the city and is an ancient tradition in Tomar. The locals parade in pairs with the girls carrying tabuleiros on their heads. The tabuleiro is made of 30 stacked pieces of bread in rows and decorated with flowers. It attracts people from all over the world and is truly a unique experience. 

  1. Praias Fluviais – River Beaches

The area around Tomar is another reason to visit. It has a diverse landscape featuring mountains, lakes, rivers, and eucalyptus forests. Praias Fluviais translates to lake or river beaches and is a fun and family-friendly activity. These natural waters have been modified to make them more family-friendly and accessible. There are artificial river beds, sand, guardrails, and more! They are free to visit and usually have a cafe on-site so you can relax and enjoy the day without a worry in the world.

A couple Praias Fluviais to visit:

  • Praia Fluvial do Mosteiro

About a 45-minute drive from Tomar, you will find a perfect day trip for the whole family. A gorgeous river beach surrounded by fields of green. The water is clear and crisp, perfect for the kids to swim in. You can bring a picnic and enjoy the picnic facilities, or purchase food from the cafe. There are numerous places to sit or lay with the family, allowing you to spend a full relaxing day here.

  • Praia Fluvial de Cardigos

This river beach is about a 1-hour drive from Tomar. It is another excellent day trip for the whole family. There is a swimming pool to enjoy, surrounded by sand and green. There are barbecues and picnic areas to enjoy a family lunch and have a chilled day.

  1. Hiking

Serra da Lousã (and the Schist villages) is only an hour away from Tomar. It is a super beautiful historical and natural place. The landscape is incredible, and you can spend an entire day exploring – stopping for lunch or coffee along the way. This scenery is different from what you may find in the rest of the country and feels like you have stepped into a medieval forest – a magical experience.

The Schist Village is a must-visit in Portugal for Digital Nomad Families.
The historical setting of the Schist Village.
  1. Food

Portuguese food is delicious! One of the Portuguese favorites is the famous pastel de Natas pastries which are a must-try. Throughout the country, you will find delightful seafood stews, as well as tasty meats, cheeses, and of course, wine. 

A few dishes special to Central Portugal that you must try include: 

  • Cozida Portugesa – A hearty stew with traditional Portuguese boiled meat, cabbage, and potatoes
  • Bacalhau – Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for Codfish, which can be enjoyed in many different ways – the Portuguese say there are over 1,000 ways to prepare this! A few methods are salted codfish cakes, roasted codfish, codfish with cream, baked codfish, and so many more!
  • Bifanas – Traditional Portuguese sandwiches made with thin slices of pork cooked in a delicious sauce. The secret is the marinated sauce – it is simple but delicious. This pairs perfectly with a local beer – Sagres or Super Bock. The perfect refreshing meal on a hot day.
Pastel de Nata is a traditional dish to try when in Portugal as a Digital Nomad Family.
Another favorite: Pastel de nata – so yummy!

If you need restaurant inspiration, here are some recommendations to try in Tomar:

  1.  The Family Workation

If you are a full-time location independent parent and want to relax and have someone else take care of logistics for once there is the perfect escape for you! It is a lot of work to plan a fun trip for the family and find the time to work.

The living room of the Family Workation in Portugal for Digital Nomad Families.

The Family Workation is a working retreat where you get the chance to live, play and work with your family and other like-minded people. You get to explore a new destination while also taking advantage of activities and coworking. Situated in Tomar, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and rich history, it is the perfect setting to get inspiration and focus on your work.

The perfect setting of the Family Workation in Portugal for Digital Nomad Families.
Beautiful scenery to unplug after some productive hours…

With licensed childcare providers on-site, you can focus on your work and relax, knowing your children are being looked after in the best way.

It is an extraordinary experience as you get to share this with similar families from all over the world. There are group activities such as wine tasting, surfing, day trips, and cooking classes to partake in.

A home in Portugal for Digital Nomad Families.
A home away from home!

The next Workation is happening in Summer 2021, with the first retreat in July 2021 and the second in August 2021. Check out the dates and full details here. 

You can use our promo code JEYJETTER for a special offer – check out the full offer here!

Swimming pool in Portugal for Digital Nomad Families.
Loads of opportunities to enjoy play time – for everyone!

Conclusion: Is Portugal a good choice for Digital Nomad Families?

Portugal is accessible, adventurous, and a beautiful country – the perfect place to discover with your nomad family. Now that you know more about Central Portugal, will you add it to your travel list?

Tomar offers culture, history, exciting experiences and is home to The Family Workation. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore a new city with your family while allowing time to focus on your work. 

It’s the best of both worlds – a working holiday with activities already planned for you and your loved ones. Don’t forget to check out my special offer here!

Happy workation!


Need More Family Travel Inspiration?

Check out our Family Travel Posts here!

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The Ultimate Guide to Koh Phangan For Digital Nomad Families – What to Do And Where to Stay

It’s no secret, Thailand is a magnet for travelers and digital nomads alike. We found that Koh Phangan for digital nomad families is just perfect! During my eight years of roaming the world, I was lucky enough to visit this beautiful spot of the world several times. But the last time was different. It wasn’t old backpacker-me ticking off tourist attractions this land of smiles has on offer. Nope. This time, I brought my little nomadic family along.

Read on if you want to know where are the best places for digital nomads and how living on Koh Phangan as a digital nomad family looks like.

Koh Phangan for digital nomad families offer so many cool places like this swing heald by palm trees where a couple with their child sits, the ocean in the background.
Swinging life away on Koh Phangan for digital nomad families… at one of our favorite beaches in the south of the island.

Note: This is a collaboration post, partially from people we personally know and have met on my travels, and partially from my blogger network. It aims to give you a not single-minded perspective on the island’s potential! You’re welcome! 😉

Koh Phangan For Digital Nomad Families – why go?

For us, the question of ‘where to next?’ pops up as soon as the days of our current visa come to an end. It’s mostly a challenge and it requires a lot of patience and travel planning skills if you want to slow travel as budget-friendly as possible. But there are a few things that can help you make a decision: One big factor is the weather. Yes, it’s that simple. Don’t visit Europe, for example, in the cold and grey months of November and January (December is fine if you like Christmas, then it’s actually lovely there!).

So, in 2018, during our stay in Portugal’s scenic Algarve, we met so many families who travel and work remotely just like us. After a while, it happened so that we connected and exchanged travel plans. Most of the other families already booked their flights to Asia. And since we now focus on what is best for our kids (back then, we were still with our first son only and me being pregnant again), we decided to follow along and meet with our and his playmates on Koh Phangan, Thailand. Such a great decision!

Koh Phangan for digital nomad families has it all! The (still!) laid-back island vibe you are looking for when thinking of an island escape. GORGEOUS beaches and lush green jungle spots! Oh, and boy, do I love Thai food – take me back, please, yum!

Bird-eye view onto Koh Ma Island on Koh Phangan for digital nomad families.
One of the best views you’ll have up at the 360 Bar.

Koh Phangan for digital nomad families: best places to eat on

Orion Healing Center

This place alone gives me a reason to go back to Koh Phangan. Seriously, I wanted to stay there as soon as we walked in the first time (and we came back many more times during our stay on the island). How can I describe it best to do it justice: you walk into the outside sitting area when you come from the parking lot and feel already peaceful and calm. It’s actually a healing center where people practice yoga and enjoy detox treatments. But you can (and should!) also eat in their fabulous restaurant and cafe.

Collage of one big picture with an outside sitting area with hammocks, palm trees, and two small pictures with typical food.
Take me back… Yummy food and a peaceful vibe!

When you have the time, then you should come several times as it is impossible to try all their food at once – which I really recommend – you can tell, I am absolutely in love with this place (and this is no paid advertisement, it’s my genuine opinion LOL). You can choose from Yogi breakfast bowls to yummy vegan dishes and, of course, sip your way through their healthy smoothies and freshly squeezed juices.


Seed to Feed

We love the idea of this place: they grow their own salads, herbs and green leaves right next to the restaurant. Besides this awesome fact, everything is nicely presented to the visitor and there is simply a relaxed atmosphere. Oh, and of course, the food is delish too! Try one of their yummy salads and you’ll see what I mean. It is a nice change when you want to eat something fresh instead of the evergreen Pad Thai dish. But, of course, you can also get traditional Thai food in case you’re wondering…

collage of two photos, one showing hanging menu signs and the other showing four glass jars with spices and herbs.

Eat.Co

Vegan restaurants are on the upcoming as it is no secret that many travelers come to this beautiful island with a mission to heal, relax and exercise. That’s why you also see many yoga places and organic shops around. Eat.Co makes it a priority to serve creative dishes in a very laid-back and artsy ambience. You can even shop some organic clothes and hand-made jewellery as well as soaps, oils, incenses and non-chemical insect repellent.

Tip: The portions are rather small so if you’re hungry you will have to order two dishes each if you don’t want to leave hungry… But then again, I was there when I was pregnant, so perhaps you will be fine! LOL


Pantip Market

As a digital nomad in Koh Phangan, you can’t eat out in restaurants all the time. Even in Thailand that can get pricey. One of the best solutions, other than cooking yourself, is to go eat at the Pantip Market.

Thai street food market, food stalls and vendors

Koh Phangan’s Pantip Market, also known as Pantip Night Food Market, is an all-day food market in Thong Sala, the largest town on the island.

Whichever time of day you come there, you’ll be able to choose from a wide array of reasonably priced meals. Ranging from the smallest snacks such as pancakes, doughnuts or meat/tofu skewers, to full-on meals such as Pad Thai and of course you can find also the beloved mango & sticky rice dessert. Many of the stalls have started using paper plates and banana leaves instead of the omnipresent plastic.

The market becomes the liveliest in the evenings. Around the Full moon dates, even stalls selling souvenirs pop up in Pantip and it can become quite difficult to find a free seat in the common seating area. 

This tip comes from my friend Veronica from Travel Geekery. Check her also out on Instagram:



What to do on Koh Phangan

One of the greatest things to do on Koh Phangan is clearly to enjoy the countless beautiful beaches and explore the many hidden bays. See below for a full list of best beaches on the island. But one highlight you simply can’t miss is going snorkeling in the little bay of the so-called Secret Beach.

Snorkeling at Koh Raham – Secret Beach

Pass through the jungle-like resort and restaurant entrance from which you will get to the very far back of the sitting area. Once you’ve reached the end of the pathway, you will see people jumping off the little rock. You can also simply put on your snorkeling gear and climb down the stone stairs to submerge into the crystal clear waters.

Immediately you will be surrounded by plenty of fish that hang out there and get attracted by the food people through into the water… (not my favorite part, as I don’t think humans should feed wild fish, but the kids loved to see them and swim with the little fishes…)!

Little alley with coconuts on the side, woman with child in her arms underneath a sign that says Koh Raham
You will feel like a pirate in this place!

Angthong National Marine Park

When we travel, we always try to look outside the box and find activities that are not so common or done while in a destination. Our idea is, in this way, to generate content that is not very common and can help more travelers to plan their trip, and to us to increase traffic to our blog.

During our trip to Thailand, we went, of course, to Koh Phangan, an extremely popular island that almost every traveler to the country visits. But here we found a tour to a national park called Angthong National Marine Park which, despite widely publicized everywhere, very few people really did take. Everyone prefers to party at night and rest in the day…

Man and woman standing at the beach smiling at the camera, sun glasses on their eyes, the ocean and a green jungle mountain in the background.

So, we decided to go on a tour that left at 07:00 am and returned around 19:00 in the afternoon. We were surprised and loved it. We saw several nearby islands, hidden lagoons between mountains and paradisiacal beaches with practically no people. Without doubt, one of our favorite activities in the area, and for which to this day many travelers ask us about.

This tip is from Alejandra from Universo Viajero, you can find her also on Instagram:


Full Moon Party

No article about traveling to Koh Phangan should be without a short mention of the legendary Full Moon Party. It might not be for everyone and is clearly not for (anymore). But this Koh Phangan travel guide wouldn’t be complete without it. So, here is my honest opinion on this rather special event.

When I visited Koh Phangan the first time, back in 2011, I also went to see what it’s all about the Full Moon Party. The hype is huge, people who want to be part of this massive party at the beach, travel from other parts of Thailand (and even outside the country), just to be there when Koh Phangan goes wild. Prices go up, hotels fill up and alcoholic beverages get scarce. Everyone buys colorful (or white) shirts and those neon colors that reflect at night.

Full Moon party bracelet on arm wrist

When you are in your mid-twenties celebrating with your friends, you might have the time of your life dancing the night away right at one of Koh Phangan beautiful beaches. But if you have kids and get a little older, like us, a wild party event like this just doesn’t do the trick any longer. I’d rather stay at home or sit by the bonfire at Zen Beach.

Should you go? Yes, sure. It’s one of those things you can tick off your bucket list. But no harm is done if you miss out. But that’s just my humble opinion… Please leave a comment at the end of this article if you agree/disagree. Thanks!

Check for more activities and tours on Koh Phangan here:


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Where to stay on Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan, one of Thailand’s fairest island getaways, is known for its beauty but, too often, it’s party culture. The home of the infamous Full Moon Party, it can be a little tricky to find places to suit travelers who aren’t on their gap year.

Bluerama

That’s why Bluerama, a small hilltop resort about ten minutes from the port offers the best of all worlds. Situated at the top of a (very) steep hill, this small boutique outfit only has ten bungalows on stilts, each offering incredible views of the bay before them. The bungalows are tastefully decorated, beautifully air-conditioned and offer privacy from other guests.

However, because of the location, the hotel also has one of the world’s most stunning swimming pool views, as you are almost suspended above the ocean. And this poolside setting usually attracts a cool clientele with trendy music and a laid back cocktail vibe around sunset.

view from terrace of the Bluerama on Koh Phangan
Photo credit: Bluerama

Bluerama is also ideal for digital nomads as it offers some of the strongest WiFi signals we’ve seen over South East Asia. Working by day at the pool and streaming Netflix at night means you’re easily connected, albeit in some beautiful surroundings.

This tip comes from James and Lee Scrivener from The Travel Scribes.

NOTE: This is not an ideal hotel for families, in fact, it is an adult-only spot. However, we wanted to include it in this post anyway as it can be interesting for couples and solo travelers who might stop by and read this post too.


Buritara

What can I say – would I recommend it? Hm, not to everybody, I think. But here I am telling you that we had a wonderful time there. Why? Despite the somewhat rundown facilities and the not so ideal location, we can definitely say that it is worth to stay at Buritara if you are a digital nomad family.

Every year, during European winter, many German-speaking families have made it their habit to reunite on Koh Phangan to escape the cold. In fact, there is this one famous German travel family, the Horlachers, who started the so-called ‘Koh Phangan Winter Camp’ back in 2017.

people at the beach, in the middle there is a bonfire lighting up, clouds hanging in the sky.
Getting ready for our bonfire night…

The reason this is such a great resort to choose when visiting Koh Phangan as a digital nomad family is because you will be surrounded by not the ordinary hotel guest but with people who think and breathe exactly like you: travel, location-independence and anything that is related to an alternative lifestyle.

If you are interested to be part of such a community during your workation on Koh Phangan, check out this (German) Facebook group, or simply speak to anyone at one of the many beaches who looks German and for sure they can tell you where the next get-together will take place. Your best place to connect is clearly the god ol’ Buritara.

A big outdoor swimming pool in a resort, children playing in the water, palm trees and the view towards the ocean in the background.

Song Pi Nong and Longtail Beach Resort

The reason I am listing these two hotels here together is that I cannot really speak from personal experience as we did not stay there. But from all the families we met on the island, who stayed at either of the two places, they highly recommended them. In fact, if you want to have a little more European standard and cleanliness, then you are better off at one of these places. Like I explained above, we didn’t mind the lower standard that Buritara had on offer because the people made it an overall positive experience, but as a travel blogger who recommends hotels and restaurants, I honestly have to say that I wouldn’t stay there under ‘normal’ circumstances.

Tip: Check for availability at Longtail Beach Resort and Song Pi Nong way ahead of time, these are popular places and sell out fast during December till March!


Search here for your Koh Phangan accommodation:


These are perfect beaches on Koh Phangan for digital nomad families!

Often we are asked which beaches we find the most beautiful. To answer this question is not so easy, because one beach is more beautiful than the other, that’s how we feel. But here are our two most favorite beaches:

1.) Srithanu Beach (Nice Beach)

Our house beach in Srithanu. We have consciously decided to stay only a few minutes by motorbike from Srithanu Beach. This is where we are most frequently found. We like the clear, calm water, the small bay, the white powder sand and the Nice Beach Restaurant with the delicious Thai cuisine. This beach is particularly suitable for families with children of all ages.

woman with child plays in shallow water at the beach. In the background you can see the sandy part of the beach with little shops and restaurants.

One can walk very far into the water, as the beach doesn’t drop much towards the sea. Since there is very little current in this bay, the water is clear and calm. Here you will find the ideal bathing fun for the whole family but be aware that there are only a few shady places…

From approx. 6 pm you can enjoy here also daily beautiful sunsets. For us, the Srithanu Beach (Nice Beach) is the number one beach on Koh Phangan.

Sunset at the beach, some people are in the shallow water, a couple is laying on a blanket in the sand and watch the sun go down.
Always worth a visit: Happy Beach or Nice Beach, as they call it.

2.) Malibu Beach

Malibu Beach lives up to its name. If you didn’t know you were in Thailand, you might think you were in Florida. It has the finest, whitest beach in the north of the island. From afternoon (approx. 2 pm) more and more shade falls into the bay and thus also on the beautiful beach. Therefore we recommend a visit in the morning. Like at Srithanu Beach you can walk far into the sea. So you can relax on the beach while the kids play in the water.

There is only one restaurant on the beach and it is highly overpriced – on top of that bringing food is not allowed. However, as far as we know, the beaches in Thailand are mostly public, so we decided to bring small snacks, fruits and drinks with us. Tip: Just don’t sit directly in front of the restaurant.


3.) Bottle Beach

This beach in the northeast of the island is very difficult to reach by land, so the best way to get there is by taxi boat. You can book the trip directly at the port in Chaloklum and it should not cost you more than about 300 BAHT for both ways. For children up to 11 years of age, there is usually no need to pay. The travel time is approx. 20 – 30 minutes. It is best to start in the morning at the harbor in Chaloklum. If you are traveling with a larger group, you can certainly negotiate a group discount.

At Bottle Beach, you will find a handful of hotels and restaurants, so there is plenty to eat and drink. Best time to visit: Avoid the weekend! Then, you might be lucky to find the beach all to yourself!

typical Thai taxi boats on the shore of crystal clear turquoise water

4.) Haad Khom / Coconut Beach

Coral Bay Beach, as it is called by most people, is well known for its pet: a huge and friendly pig. In the spacious bay, you will find many cozy places in the shade. Children will love the swings that are hanging down from the palm trees. The restaurants offer good Thai food and the beach pig is, of course, an attraction. As the name „Coral Bay” already suggests, the sand is not the finest and in the water are sometimes some stones and corals. This makes a good snorkel spot though, so don’t forget to bring your goggles.


5.) Zen Beach

Zen Beach is not very suitable for swimming, especially for families with children. Apart from its strong current and the fairly deep entrance right after a few steps into the water, there is a high chance of being stung by a sea urchin. It happens quite frequently that people come out of the water with one of the long spines in their feet.

Nevertheless, this beach has an absolute special vibe. At sunset many alternative free spirits, musicians and acrobats meet here to make music, dance and enjoy a huge fire show. It is a special experience to soak up the colorful hustle and bustle with music, acrobatics and dance around the campfire. Many practice yoga or simply enjoy a coconut and watch the beautiful sunset.

woman kneeling in the sand watching her child walk in the distance towards the ocean, the sun goes down in the background.

More beaches on Koh Phangan

These were our top five beaches on Koh Phangan. As you can imagine, there are many more beaches. Here are more beautiful beaches we recommend to visit:

Thong Nai Pan

Thong Nai Pan is located in the east of the island. With a scooter, it takes about 30-45 minutes to get around.

Cocohut Beach

Famous for its legendary swing, this beach is worth a visit. Make sure to enjoy some delicious food at the Cocohut Resort.

Haad Yao

The bay at Haad Yao is relatively large and offers plenty of space for families with children.

Haad Salad

The bay is very, very beautiful. However, you can always find sea cucumbers (harmless) or sea urchins when snorkeling further out.

Although we have already spent 7 months on Koh Phangan, there is always something new to discover. We can recommend the „Koh Phangan Travel Guide” from „Home is where your Bag is”. We were surprised ourselves about what we discovered in this pointed travel guide.

These tips for Koh Phangan for digital nomad families are from our lovely friends Sabrina and Holger at Worldsafari Family. Check them also out on Instagram.


Conclusion

Koh Phangan for digital nomad families is a very special place – either if you are after the colorful Full Moon Party or if you simply want to stay for a few months and use it as your nomad base. Especially for digital nomad families, this Thai island has a lot on offer: calm and beautiful beaches, friendly and relaxed people which is probably the reason why there is a healthy mix of both travel families and solo travelers.

If you liked this post, please share it with your family and friends. Also, leave a comment to let us know what part of Koh Phangan you like best or if you are still planning to visit this gorgeous island. Stay tuned for more Thai content as we will be back there from January-March 2020!

In the meantime check out our existing Thai articles:
4 Day Thailand Itinerary
Island Hopping Guide for Beginners
5 Things to Know Before Visiting Bangkok


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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Alaska

After spending half a year in the sunny region of New Caledonia, the idea of heading somewhere colder did not appeal to my inner warmth-loving self. However, I promised myself I’d expand my bucket list a bit further to include some of those northern lands that are famous for their vast natural landscapes and untamed wildlife. Or, in the case of Alaska, for their very specific manner of treating moose, so just in case you were planning to offer some beer to a moos – don’t, the law forbids it.

All jokes aside, Alaska, also known as the Last Frontier, deserves the unparalleled pride its inhabitants feel for their homeland, and as soon as you build up the courage to head to this remote destination, you’ll understand why we all need at least one trip to Alaska in our lifetime.

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In an attempt to warm up to the idea of cold, I’ve done my fair share of research, and I suggest you do the same in case you decide to head to this majestic country. Add to that this first-hand experience, and you’ll know if this should be your next nomadic experience or if you’d rather stick to island-hopping and sunny coastlines of tropical lands. Without further ado, here’s my take on Alaska, and I hope it will help you fall in love with its breathtaking wilderness, inside and out, as much as I did.

Beautiful scenery awaits you when visiting Alaska.

Timing does matter when visiting Alaska

If you’re anything like me, and you’d prefer to skip the swarming tourist crowds, then summer is out of the question when visiting Alaska. However, there are many perks of the lovely June-September period, from the mild and warm weather, easy access to some of the most remote parts of the country, all the way to the flora in full bloom. For those who can enjoy the somewhat bustling streets of the few cities in Alaska, then, by all means, go in summer, you’ll also learn what it means to experience never-ending sunlight, as the sun never sets in Fairbanks (and further north) for approximately 70 days per year!

Winter, on the other hand, is not for the faint of heart and those who easily get cold feet – literally. As the country of many extremes, Alaskan winter means you’ll be deprived of too much sunlight, especially if you stay in the north, although the main perk and the key reason so many still venture to Alaska in this time of year is Aurora Borealis – the inexplicably stunning northern lights, only visible during the colder months of the year.

I myself chose to go there in the transitional period of early spring, and it seems that the forecast will be similar for 2019. The Spring Equinox of this year will happen around March the 20th, which means perfectly dark skies for Aurora-spotting, and not such harsh weather as in the dead of winter.

Brace yourself for the vast coast

Alaska takes beach beauty to a whole new level of magnificent and unique. To put things in perspective, Alaska’s coastline spans across staggering 49,000 miles, which is an area that would engulf all of the USA’s coastline and then some. Most of it is uninhabited and some of it unreachable from land, but even a single cruise would get you near some of the world’s most enchanting cliffs and meandering sediments.

In fact, taking an Alaska cruise means you’ll get a glimpse of native wildlife in its natural habitat, onshore and offshore alike, absorb the views of glaciers, and admire the rugged terrain that dramatically changes from one region to another. You haven’t seen true Alaska unless you’ve seen its fjords, charming towns, and National Parks that span across the entire country. My personal favorite was the cruise into the Inside Passage, where snow-capped mountains and iridescent waves compete for your utmost admiration.

The unreachable capital of Alaska

While we’re on the subject of shore, did you know that Juneau cannot be reached by traditional means, that is, by land? Unlike any other capital of the world, this one requires some extra effort if you wish to stay there longer, work, or spend a few weeks exploring the surrounding areas. You’ll need to either fly directly to the city, take a ferry through the Alaska Marine Highway, or alternatively, visit through a cruise, since any single one of them exploring the Inside Passage will take you to the capital as well.

Although it doesn’t boast an endless list of quirky activities tourists normally enjoy, if you’re headed to Alaska, you should expect nature in all of its pristine glory, and a local experience if there ever was one. My advice? Mix and match between wildlife-spotting (whale-watching is extremely popular here) and tasting local delicacies. A trip to Alaska Brewing Company will warm you up in a matter of sips.

The nomadic challenges when visiting Alaska

Now, whether you’re staying in Juneau, Anchorage, or Fairbanks, this is no typical digital nomad spot you’ve ventured into. Of course, you’ll find that local coffee shops are indeed tantalizingly warm and comfortable, but you’ll rarely encounter too many locals at their laptops typing away. However, the recently-opened Juneau Coworking is a promising space for digital nomads who are eager to enjoy the local life of Alaska without taking a long, unpaid vacation.

This coworking space has only recently started operating, and it’s located in the Senate Mall, so if you’re planning a longer stay, it’s definitely worth looking into. On a more mood-related note, winter travelers will often find it difficult to focus, since little sunshine and plenty of snow can make you crave for yet another tropical escape.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Get €25 in travel credit towards your next trip when you sign up for Airbnb using my referral link: www.airbnb.com/c/jjerg or

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Bring out your inner foodie

I personally do not decide on my destinations based on the local menu, but I have to admit I do take interest in what the new country of travel has to offer each time I book my ticket. After all, it falls directly under my task of budgeting, so that I know what I’m getting myself into in case I’m planning to buy my own sustenance for the duration of my stay.

Alaska is a rather peculiar little gem when it comes to food. It’s a foodie paradise so to speak, but a very specific one for the curious souls who don’t mind trying reindeer hot dogs or anything and everything with smoked salmon. Pretty high on the “quirky foods list” is their Eskimo Ice Cream, a local delicacy made of snow, Alaskan berries, seal oil, and reindeer fat. It’s fifty-fifty in terms of the disgusting-vs-delicious ratio, but you won’t be disappointed if you give it a go.

To wrap up

If I had to summarize visiting Alaska in mere words, I’d say it’s fascinating in every way. Depicting its local vibe, the annual festivities, and the many wonderful encounters I’ve had would take a novel, not a blog post several thousand words long. Alternatively, I’d love for you to use this guide to inspire your own adventures and help others envision Alaska for what it truly is – the epitome of freedom.

About the author

Marie Nieves is a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. On her travels, she likes to read poetry and prose and surf the Internet. Her favourite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag. She spends most of her free time at home walking her Labrador Retriever named Max. She is an avid lover of photography and a regular author at AdventureFit Travel. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitterand Pinterest.

Categories
Destination Guides Digital Nomad Top Travel Posts

The Philippines, Every Digital Nomad’s Dream Workation

jeyjetter.com: Great WIFI - even at the beach!

When it comes to working remotely, picking the right place is crucial. Finding somewhere that offers a great working environment as well as new experiences and adventures is what we all aim for. Which is why I’m sharing why everyone should spend some time in the Philippines, digital nomads especially.

To be fair, you have to be careful about choosing the right island, because Internet connectivity varies a lot. But don’t worry, there are places that have it all! Read on if you want to find out how to combine the perfect island escape, with some efficient work hours!

Being A Digital Nomad In The Philippines: Work, Play And Enjoy

Let’s be honest, the whole digital nomad lifestyle only makes sense if you fully embrace the fact that you are location-independent. So, why spend your days in a noisy city if natural beauty is your thing?

At least for my taste, I can get so much more out of it, if I’m in a relaxing and beautiful environment. Surrounded by palm trees and the sound of ocean waves, I just simply seem to function better.

That’s why I loved our one month trip to the Philippines in October. It was the perfect mixture of getting some serious workload off my chest, while successfully improving my suntan. Almost every day, we enjoyed a swim in the ocean and a long walk at the beach, while also being productive a few hours each day. That is my definition of a perfect life-work-balance.

Plus, we got to spend three days with 400 fellow travel bloggers in Manila, networking with companies from the travel industry at TBEX, “The World’s Largest Gathering Of Travel Bloggers, Writers, New Media Content Creators, And Social Media Savvy Travel Industry Professionals.” A perfect wrap-up of what it is like to be a TBEX newbie is coming soon. So stay tuned!

Back to our reasons why it’s so much more fun in the Philippines! Let’s start with my favorite part, the beach:

5-reasons

1) 7641 Philippines Islands For Digital Nomads To Choose From!

If yIf you have been following my blog then you might know by now that I am an absolute beach bum and sun follower. Recently, I got 20 of my travel blogger friends to tell me their top 5 beaches from around the world, in order to get more inspiration and extend my bucket list. But that’s a whole other story.

Our Favorite Island

In the Philippines, we visited many places but if I had to pick one favorite, it would be Kalanggaman Island, a small island an hour from Leyte Island.

It’s a hidden gem and I’d say it’s an absolute insider tip that you should keep to yourself for now or only share it with your best friends. So, yes, you are now part of the inner circle and if you still hesitate, let me show you why you should go to Kalanggaman Island at least once in your life.

img_2354

What I love about traveling is when I discover places that are not yet overrun by tourists. To be honest, I’d rather be on a deserted island than sipping a cocktail on a beach chair next to hundreds of others. Perhaps that’s why I loved it so much on the Galapagos Islands this year in March.

Robinson Crusoe for one day: take a break from your WIFI addiction!

On Kalanggaman Island you (still) don’t have to elbow your way through to the water, it actually gives you the feeling that Robinson Crusoe must have had.

Things To Do On Kalanggaman Island

There are no restaurants, sleeping facilities, or any running water on the island. Ok, so you will have to forget about WIFI and your work for a day or two! But if you hire a tent or bring your own, you can play castaway for a night! And if you stay only for the day and get bored of lying on your beach towel all day, you can go snorkelling, rent a stand-up paddleboard or even go scuba diving.

For advice and help, the friendly staff at Leyte Gulf Travel and Tour are happy to assist you. It’s totally doable to organize everything on your own though, but they are there to makes things easier during your time in Leyte, not just at Kalanggaman!

jeyjetter.com: How to get to Kalanggaman Island

How To Get To Kalanggaman Island:

  • On the Island of Leyte, you take a bus from Tacloban City to Palompon (3 hours). Then hop on a boat (1 hour). Done!
  • Hire a van from one of the well-known companies, Grandtours or Havens, in Tacloban City for about P300 round trip.
  • Make a reservation for your boat at the Eco-Tourism office a day or two in advance. They monitor the number of people and limit it to 500 per day. So, especially in high season be prepared and book in advance.
  • The price for the boat (for a maximum of 15 people) is P3000, so be sure to make friends beforehand and split the cost!

jeyjetter.com: Where to stay on Kalanggaman Island

Where To Stay And What To Do On Kalanggaman Island:

  • We stayed in Tacloban City at XYZ Hotel, which is not a budget accommodation but includes a yummy breakfast buffet and pool on the rooftop. Check out their availability for your travel dates.
  • If you prefer to stay in Palompon, there is Pacci Hotel – a local’s recommendation, check the reviews and prices here.
  • If I go back one day to visit the island, I’d prefer to stay in Palompon. This saves you the long bus ride in the morning. You simply hop onto a boat after you wake up and enjoy the beauty of the island for a whole day.
  • On second thought, I’ll be bringing my tent and sleep on the island – a unique experience for sure!

2) Friendly; Friendlier; The Philippines!

Beautiful landscape and dreamy beaches are only half of your travel experience. It’s mostly the people around you who can turn a trip into an unforgettable memory.

At least, this was my experience in the Philippines. Asia-lovers already know that there is some sort of special kindness and friendliness towards travellers in countries like Thailand and Indonesia.

Yet, I got the feeling that it is almost a tad more genuine or intense in the Philippines than anywhere I’ve been in Asia.

Friendly people in the Philippines

3.) Food Heaven – Delicious Taste Will Make Your Senses Go Wild!

Now, there could be a whole blog post about this topic, but I will keep it short and simple: O-M-G! Think delicious spices, mixed with fresh vegetables and seafood, plus a portion of love. The food in the Philippines is absolutely delicious.

And if coconuts, mangos, curries and seafood are your thing, welcome to paradise! So, while you are working hard on your digital nomad projects, rest assured that your nutrition will be well balanced!

One of my favorite food experiences was the so-called “Boodle Fight.” Everyone stands in front of a table that is covered with big banana leaves. On top of the leaves, you’ll find fresh seafood, a mixture of vegetables and fruits, delicious sauces and plenty of rice.

Now, the best part is that you get to eat with your hands! Perhaps that is where the name comes from… although we didn’t end up fighting with each other. Fighting with ourselves to learn how to elegantly shuffle rice with sauce into our mouths, on the other hand, was a different story!

jeyjetter.com: Boodle Fight and other food delights

4) Great WiFi For Working Nomads On Philippine’s Best Beaches

Let’s go once again back to this topic: the beach. I know, I’ve said it before, but it’s so hard to pick one favourite in a place of almost countless islands. Living nomadic in the Philippines means you’ll need to fit some work into your visit.

So, I thought I would give you a few more examples, in case you decided to try to combine your work with a vacation hotspot.

Best beaches in the Philippines

4 Good Places To Combine Relaxation With Work

Of course, you need to get some work done (hence the ‘workation’), but you can’t miss out on the relaxing and enjoying either. Here are the best places to visit for both working and relaxing.

Manila:

While this is not the beach escape I mentioned earlier, I want to start with the country’s capital as an exception.

Manila lies right at the ocean, but it’s not recommended to take a dip there. It used to have the cleanest waterfront in Asia but that was a long time ago.

Yet, if you want to get into vacation mode (perhaps you don’t ever get out of it as you are continuously travelling like me) then the Belmont Hotel gives you an introduction to Filipino diversity.

It’s a five-star hotel close to the airport where we were hosted a couple of nights during TBEX. The rooftop pool and great WiFi made me want to stay longer…Check for availability here.

Bohol:

Of course, I was glad to leave the city in order to fully immerse in the more natural side of the Philippines! Bohol is an island south of Manila.

We flew into Cebu and took a short ferry ride to neighboring Bohol. This green island is famous for its funky little mountains that are known as the “Chocolate Hills”. Due to a current project, we skipped the tour to the mountains and stayed at our accommodation by the beach.

TIP: Skip Alona Beach! It’s plastered with hotels, boats, and vendors. The West coast around Momo Beach is almost deserted and has nice waters to swim in!

Bohol

Bantayan Island:

An odyssey later, we arrived on an island Northwest of Cebu Island. Bantayan Island seems to be slowly moving its way into the radar of travellers.

The people on the island seem to be preparing for the big tourist rush, with many new hotels and beach bungalows under construction during our stay. The ones that are already up and running are mostly spread out along the beach.

We stayed a few days at Marlin Beach Resort and enjoyed a good WiFi connection right at the beach. Check their availability for your travel dates here.

TIP: Break up your journey or start as early as possible in the morning! The traffic in Cebu city is horrendous! It took us almost two hours to get from the ferry dock (coming from Bohol) out of Cebu city. The bus ride up to the North also was longer than the expected 3 hours. In the end, we missed the last ferry (at 5 PM) and had to stay in a little harbour town to wait for the next ferry in the morning.

jeyjetter.com: Great WIFI on Bantayan Island

Leyte Island:

Sad but true, this island was put into the center of the world’s attention only after it got struck by typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Three years later, the terrible disaster that took many lives is almost invisible, and the optimism of the people who survived and still live there is incredible.

If you want to experience genuine happiness shown to you by welcoming locals and watch a flourishing variety of tourist activities, then you should pay a visit to Leyte. Small cafes, with a great work-space atmosphere in Tacloban and good WiFi, lush nature and crystal clear water are at your doorstep.

jeyjetter.com: Your next digital nomad base: the Philippines

Quirky Facts about the Philippines that will blow your mind!

Travelling is about widening your horizon, right?

For me, it is the most entertaining way to learn new things. Like I said before; the number of islands you find in the Philippines seems infinite.

If you wanted to spend one day on each of the 7641 islands (including the 534 recently discovered,) it would take you over 20 years! Wouldn’t that be a great nomad challenge!?

This huge amount of islands naturally creates a vast cultural diversity and many firsts. You will be able to say without a blink: the Philippines are unique and one of a kind.

Some facts about the Philippines you didn’t know:

  • There are 170 different languages spoken and only two official ones: Filipino and English.
  • Nowhere else in the world will you find so many different dialects in one nation: more than 500.
  • Some Filipinos don’t even understand each other when they speak in their home dialect.
  • From June to December is typhoon season – the Filipinos name those heavy winds from A-Z. Each year they get through the whole the alphabet.
  • The Filipinos start their Christmas preparations on the 1st of September. You’ll see Christmas trees and decorations everywhere while listening to Jingle Bells & Co!
  • The Philippines have one of the world’s largest population (over 100 millions), but you can still find deserted islands and beaches because in total the area is big enough to not make it feel crowded.

Chasing work-life-balance

So, who is up for a workation in the Philippines?
Hopefully this post got you into the mood… Let me know how your workation goes!

[clear-line]

NOT DONE READING YET?

Check out A 13-Day Workation on the Atlantic where you can read about a cool cruise from Columbia to Portugal with 200 fellow digital nomads.

Or perhaps you’re still deciding if the digital nomad lifestyle is for you, read here how Five years of full-time travelling have changed my life.


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Thank you TPB Philippines for this great trip to Leyte Island.
Like always, all opinion are MY OWN. So, to everyone else, no worries on biases or BS, you won’t find that here. I keep this real. Thanks for the support!

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Destination Guides Digital Nomad

6 Months in New Caledonia as a Digital Nomad: the Pacific Island Paradise

Generally speaking, I’d say that remote work is the most exciting career path anyone can take, but I would be lying to myself if I didn’t say that the level of excitement will oftentimes depend on the destination you’re about to call your home for the next few months. I would also be caught with my pants on fire if I didn’t say that I was a bit apprehensive about taking such a long trip to a completely unknown location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

After all, who knows how good the Wi-Fi connection is on a small island paradise in the Southern Hemisphere – arguably a digital nomad’s most relevant concern. Little did I know that this would be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life, culturally, spiritually, gastronomically (dear god, I can still taste that delicious Bougna) and of course, professionally. Here is my take on New Caledonia as a destination for digital nomads, and how you can have a blast living, working, and partying in this little piece of heaven in the Pacific.

Infinity pool overlooking the pacific ocean with a young woman inside

Noumea: a place to live, laugh, and work

Check it, I’m not just a traveller, I also have to make a living, and that requires a stable Wi-Fi connection and a relatively peaceful place to focus and get things done. So, if you were to think that I was staying anywhere else on the island except the capital itself, you would be mistaken. Generally, I heard the internet connection here is not that great, averaging at about 3mbps, so I didn’t want to take any chances.

As for accommodation, the city is full of mainstream hotel brands just dying for you to experience their version of the local culture, which is why I stayed clear of them from the get-go and I advise you to do the same.

Once you settle into a nice Airbnb or a local’s apartment, you can move on to the exploration of this charming urban gem. As for the livability part, the people are friendly, the Wi-Fi is stable, and the city streets are teeming with life at every corner. 


Get €25 in travel credit towards your next trip when you sign up for Airbnb using my referral link: www.airbnb.com/c/jjerg or

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say at TripAdvisor


cristal clear water, paradise beach, a boat anchoring on a small white sand beach

The culinary delights, the sweet summer wine

If you’re a foodie traveller, you’re bound to feel right at home here. The fusion of French and traditional Melanesian cuisine is simply bewildering, to say the least, and if nothing else, it’s bound to tease your taste buds in new, exciting ways. Here are some of the culinary treats I learned to cook during my stay, but you can find them at any restaurant:

    • Bougna. Remember how at the beginning I said that I can still taste the Bougna in my mouth when I think of New Caledonia? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. This traditional dish belongs to the Kanak people if I’m not mistaken, and it’s made out of chicken or lobster (although other variations exist) sprinkled with coconut milk and stewed in banana leaves. Yum!
    • Snails from the Isle of Pines. More on the enchanting islet later on, but for now let’s just stop to acknowledge just how amazing this culinary masterpiece actually is! Honestly, I wasn’t too big on the whole eating-a-snail thing at first, but hubby over here made sure I tried the dish at least once. I wasn’t disappointed, that’s for sure, and the large snails simmered in French wine and garlic really offer something different to your taste buds.
    • Bat stew. Yes, bat stew. Just forget you’ve read that for a moment and focus on the tender marinated meat roasting on the fire, offering quite a punch in terms of flavour and aroma. It’s amazing, to say the least. One little side note: tribespeople eat the meat with the fur still on, but you don’t have to.
  • Poe. Pronounced “poe-ay”, this is a traditional dessert made with pumpkins or bananas enriched with coconut cream. Delish.

palm tree, small sand beach, a few people in the water

Revelling in the beauty of Isle of Pines

If you come to New Caledonia to live and work, you mustn’t skip a day-long excursion to the neighbouring Isle of Pines, arguably the most enchanting place I’ve ever laid eyes on. This place is heaven on Earth, and you can discover the intricate beauty of the Isle of Pines in a myriad of ways. One of the most mesmerizing natural settings I had the pleasure of visiting here is, of course, La Piscine Naturelle (Natural Pool), a small saltwater lake residing on the eastern fringe of the island.

I dare you to resist the urge to dive right into the crystal-clear, shallow waters surrounded by lines of pine trees casting a beautiful shade on the surface – it’s impossible! The entire islet is so breathtakingly beautiful, that if there was a chance to live and work there, I’m not sure I would have gone back to the main island at all. While there, don’t forget to visit the Statue of St. Maurice, and even explore the island by air if you’re not terribly afraid of heights like me.

Book your accommodation here!

a close-up of an animal skull, in the background the ocean and a piece of sand

Lounging at the beaches of the main island

It wouldn’t have been an exotic remote work escapade if I hadn’t taken my time exploring the honey-hued beaches of the main island, ranging from the port in Noumea itself, all the way to the never-ending stretches of sand overlooking the expansive ocean on either side of the island.

If I could recommend a beach you should definitely visit, one which is close, convenient, and long enough to help you avoid the crowds even during those incessant peak tourist months of the year, it would have to be Poe Beach to the north of Noumea. This ten-kilometre stretch of pearly-white sand is bound to steal your heart, and the view from here is just mesmerizing – not to mention that the water is warm, crystal-clear, and full of friendly critters.


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6 months in New Caledonia as a digital nomad

Exploring the cultural heritage of the region

Last but not least, I should note that experiencing the culture here can be tricky business. I guess it depends who you tag along with really, as there are many different ways to get your taste of Caledonian heritage. On one hand, you have the unmistakable French cultural influence that permeates the region (after all, this is their colony), and on the other, you can witness the struggle of the indigenous Kanak people to preserve their cultural identity.

Luckily, the Kanaks are being increasingly represented in recent years, as I’ve heard, because they attract tourists. Whether the reasons for preserving their cultural heritage are honourable or not, you will still have the chance to experience their traditional song, dance, and rituals.

In retrospect

Thinking back on my time spent in New Caledonia, I can safely say that it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. If you’re looking for a mix of adventure, exploration, pure hedonism, AND want to get some work done in the process, well, this is the place to be.

So, what do you think about a New Caledonian adventure? Are you up for an exotic challenge? Don’t be shy and share your opinions down below!


About the author

Marie Nieves is a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. On her travels, she likes to read poetry and prose and surf the Internet. Her favourite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag. She spends most of her free time at home walking her Labrador Retriever named Max. She is an avid lover of photography and a regular author at AdventureFit Travel. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Categories
Destination Guides Top Travel Posts

Cancún Travel Tips – A Guide for First-time Visitors

If you’re planning on going to Cancún anytime soon, but you aren’t really sure what to expect, this guide full of Cancún travel tips is for you.

White sandy beaches, crystal clear blue water, fine dining and a thrilling nightlife scene – Cancún has it all! It’s known as Mexico’s Mecca of beautiful beaches, many great spa-offers and pumping nightclubs.

Mandala Beach Club Cancun
Cancun Travel Tips: Soak up the sun at ‘Mandala Beach Club’

And on top of that, Cancun is the perfect starting point for your Maya expedition! This sounds perfect, right?

So, here are some tips for travelling to Cancun. As well as what you can see and do while there.

 


 

Tips for Anyone Wanting to Travel to Cancún

Some simple tips for a Cancún vacation, great for anyone heading on their first-ever trip to this amazing beach holiday spot – even for families:

  • Brush up on your Spanish
    • Most people working in tourism will speak English, but it won’t hurt to make sure you can say some basic phrases. It’ll help when dealing with the locals, as well gain you their respect.
  • Pack LOTS of Sunscreen
    • The Mexican sun can be ruthless, especially to those not used to it. You don’t want to spend your holiday feeling sick and sore with burnt skin, so lather on the SPF and stay hydrated in the shade!
Mandala Beach Club
Handstands never get old, do they?

Cancún Sightseeing Tips

When sightseeing in Cancún, these are the top tips to help you get the most out of your trip:

  1. Take your time

Don’t try to fit too much into one day. Time in Cancún moves ‘slower’, and it’s going to take you longer to do something than you think. So rather pick a few things to do and see, and spend any spare time soaking up the sun on the beach. That’s what Cancún is for.

  1. Lookout for private property

Most, if not all, beachfront hotels are private property and prefer for non-guests to use the public beaches. You can access one of the public access points, just ask a local if you’re not sure.

Cancún Honeymoon Tips

The most important tip, if you’re in Cancún for your honeymoon, is to go easy on the spicy Mexican meals, especially if you’re not used to spicy foods! They may be too delicious to pass up altogether, so eat them in moderation. You don’t want to be suffering from stomach cramps (or worse) while trying to enjoy a romantic holiday.

Cancun travel tips: Married Couple in the ocean
You can either do what this couple did or follow our Cancun travel tips and this itinerary below

Most Important Things To Know When Traveling To Cancún

You’ll no doubt learn a whole lot about Cancún during your stay, but here are some important things to know before you go.

Many people ask the question, is Cancún safe? While the city is relatively safe, it is still advised to be cautious and to keep valuables safe. Just as you would in most new and foreign countries.

The cost of food in Cancún will vary, but prices are quite average when compared to anywhere else. Tipping in Cancún is usually at 10%, so it’s a good idea to add that into your Cancún budget.

Best Cancún Advice

Another great Cancún trip tip: make sure you have the Mexican currency, Pesos on you. Cancún traders will accept dollars, but you’ll have to use your brain power to make sure you get the correct change back, according to the exchange rate. So it’s easier for everyone if you exchange some cash when you arrive.

Things To Know About Cancún

Here are some amazing and interesting facts that should be known by anyone travelling to Cancún:

  1. The beach sand is cool – in more ways than one

Not only can you take advantage of the stunning white coastline, but your bare feet are welcomed by the crushed-coral sand which stays cool constantly. So even though the temperatures soar, you won’t have to worry about burnt feet.

  1. In 1970, just three people lived in Cancún

A massive difference from the large crowds of locals that mingle with the even larger crowd of tourists along the streets and beaches today.

  1. The second largest Coral reef in the world is just off Cancún shores

The Maya Barrier Reef, second only to Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef, draws many people to Cancún’s shores every year.

Things To Avoid In Cancún

While you are relatively safe in Cancun, there are of course things to be wary of, just like any other place.

  • Walking about alone, especially at night

It’s hardly safe to be in a deserted street wherever you are in the world these days. So it should come as no surprise that tourists are not encouraged to walk the streets at night alone. Be sure to stay in a group and be aware of your surroundings.

  • Timeshare presentations

There seems to be a large group of people specifically trying to sell timeshares. Try not to fall for their charms, and avoid them at the airports and information stands.

  • Tap water

Unless filtered, the water in Cancún is most likely not going to agree with your body. Hotels and restaurants will have filters to serve water to their guests, but while out exploring it is advised to carry bottled water.

Cancún, Mexico Travel Guide

In addition to the above Cancún tips, here’s a rough guide on how to get the best out of your vacation.

Accommodation: Where To Stay In Cancún?

No list of Cancún Mexico travel tips would be complete without tips on where to stay.

Depending on your budget and the type of travel you are planning, Cancún offers two options: the centre/downtown area or the Hotel Zone (“Zona Hotelera”). For me as a nomad/ long-term traveller, I am always chasing the most economic and convenient options. At the moment I am house sitting in Merida, for example, in order to lower my budget…but that’s a different story.

If you want to save money on accommodation in Cancún you’re better off staying in the city centre. We chose a wonderful hostel called Mezcal Hostel, close to the ADO bus terminal in Cancún. For one month we formed part of their team and supported the hostel in the area of marketing and guest relations. It was a great way to save money and put some action into our daily travel-life.

We found this place on a website called Worldpackers which is an organisation that helps travellers and hostels around the world to connect. You don’t work for money but volunteer and receive free accommodation in exchange. On top of that, we got some free tours to some of the attractions in and around Cancún! Not bad for 4 hours of social media marketing.

Hammock_Mezcal-Hostel
‘Working’ on some social media projects… this is the kind of office that I like!

NEED MORE TRAVEL TIPS FOR CANCÚN AND SURROUNDING?

Check out my other post if you want to know which day trips you can do from Cancún.

Or perhaps you are looking to stay in Playa del Carmen – here is my hostel review from our stay.


Beaches: Best Beaches In Cancún

I could stand there all day and take pictures of all that BLUE!!

If you chose to stay in the “Hotel Zone” you’ll be surrounded by restaurants, bars, clubs and also Cancún’s beaches. And there are many of them on the 18 km long strip that divides Cancún’s centre and the beach area. Most of the important hotels have their beaches in front of them.

Playa Delfines
I could stand there all day and take pictures of that BLUE!!

Cancún’s top public beaches:

  • Playa Tortugas
  • Playa Marlín
  • Playa Ballenas
  • Playa Delfines (*my favourite beach, all photos in this section!)

If you stay in the city centre as we did, you can get to all the above beaches with the local bus R1. It takes about 15-25 minutes, depending on which one you choose (Playa Delfines is the furthest away, Playa Tortugas is the closest). The bus costs 10.50 Mexican Pesos no matter where you get off (as of Oct. 2015).

Playa Delfines, Cancun
Playa Delfines: Plenty of umbrellas to stay in the shade…free of charge!

My favourite beach is definitely “Playa Delfines”, where you can find the very colourful Cancún sign. Out of all my Cancún travel tips, here is one of my favourite one: If you intend on taking a picture with the sign, bring some time and patience: people line-up for it!

Cancun Sign
Bring some time to stand in line…this is a popular photo spot!!!

 

Shopping: What Else To Do In Cancún?

Along with all of the other tips for vacationing in Cancún, we suggest doing some serious shopping!

Apart from the beaches, shops and restaurants, there is a very popular market among tourists where you will find all sorts of Mexican souvenirs: Mercado 28. You can buy everything from Sombreros, Ponchos, Ceramics, Pottery, Jewellery to Tequila, Sweets, Spices and more.

A fun way to spend a couple of hours! Make sure to hang out until lunchtime, some of the restaurants sell great food. Look out for the “Menú del Día” options, where you can taste some delicious local food for a good price!

Mercado 28
Colourful, spices and yum!!!
 

Not into local shopping? Why not search for your souvenirs on Amazon and let them send directly to your friends and family:

 


Nightlife: Where To Shake Your Booty In Cancún?

Cancún attracts many club lovers for its vibrant nightlife scene, and this is a must-do for all the party animals out there. People come to party in Mexico’s tourist hotspot in order to see the “Cirque de Soleil” of Cancún at various clubs such as Coco Bongo, Palazzo and Co.

Palazzo
One of the main reasons people come to Cancun: it’s pumping nightlife!

Most clubs offer ‘open bar’ for their pricy entry fees, so you really have a mission to complete by the end of the night: get as many drinks as possible so your 80 USD is well spent. Luckily we are not passionate about clubs, so we didn’t spend money on it.

However, as part of our hostel volunteer program, we went once, for free, and watched the spectacle. I prefer smaller places, like Señor Frog, for example, even though they are sometimes not really less crazy.

Cancun travel tips: Enjoy a night out at Senor Frog
A night out at Señor Frog’s crazy restaurant and club…

How To Get Around In Cancún

If you’re not sure how to travel in Cancún, taking the bus is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around. Bus drivers in Cancún are used to transporting tourists through the streets. You’ll be met by friendly and helpful answers to any questions you may have.

For those wanting a bit more of a structured trip, why not book a guided tour. Going through Cancún, with someone who knows where they are going, will help you familiarise yourself with the place. You’ll also get to hear the best bits of history, news and interesting facts about the place you pass.

For organised tours, check out these great deals:

 

Itinerary: Cancún Travel Tips For One Day

Last on our list of travel tips for Cancún is an itinerary for the best day you could spend in the city. Don’t be lost as to what to do while in Cancún, just use these ideas.

  • Have breakfast at your hotel or hostel (most places offer breakfast included or for a small additional fee they will prepare something for you)
  • Stroll through the stalls at Mercado 28 and find some nice Mexican souvenirs!
  • Eat lunch at one of the local restaurants close to the ‘Ayuntamiento’ before you hop on the bus R1 to the Hotel Zone.
  • Relax at one of Cancún’s many beautiful beaches like “Playa Delfines”, “Playa Marlin” or “Playa Tortugas”
  • Sip a Margarita and watch the sunset at JC Capitan and stay for dinner!
  • Dance the night away in one of the many bars and nightclubs on the hotel strip
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But the best part starts now: From Cancún, you can make a ton of day trips…So, make sure to check out my other blog post with travel tips on where to go and what to see in one day. This post includes a trip to Isla Mujeres, Chichen Itza, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Holbox Island!!

DID YOU LIKE THESE Cancún TRAVEL TIPS? Feel free to like, share and comment below!!! Happy travels, Y’all!

 

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What to do in CANCUN? Travel tips

Do you want to read more about some of the best things to do in Cancun? Here you go! 🙂

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3 Must-Do Slow Travel Stops When Road Tripping Across New South Wales Australia

Road Trips are fun! Don’t you agree? Whenever I even think of one, I get excited and want to hop into the car! Perhaps it’s the freedom of travelling at your own pace that excites me most. On our road trips on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, we enjoyed the fact that we were allowed to sleep in the car wherever we wanted. Guess where we stopped most of the times!?! BY THE BEAAACH YO! Waking up to the sound of the ocean and skinny dipping instead of a shower – ah… the definition of perfection 🙂 Okay, before I am drifting away in good ol’ #travelmemories, here is today’s guest post on slow travel routes across Australia’s New South Wales.

Short Itinerary for Your Next Road Trip from Sydney

Fancy a slow travel itinerary around New South Wales? Home to the famous city of Sydney, this eastern Australia state provides travellers with a range of experiences, including a chill, and not to mention picture-perfect road trip! This article covers why taking a slow travel adventure across New South Wales could be the next great thing to do!

1. Sydney

Home to Australia’s largest entertainment events, Sydney is Australia’s most populous city bustling with culture, events, music and much more. If you are into energetic music festivals, shopping, and sightseeing the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney should definitely be on your bucket list.

Top 3 Slow Travel Stops in NSW Australia - Sydney

Since Sydney is a metropolitan city, the best time to visit the city for shopping is late mornings to avoid traffic, from 10 am onwards. For those of us who want to enjoy a night out, this fashionable city host Australia’s best names in the business, and Vivid Sydney in Winter. You could spend a month here if you’re energetic and enjoy the high life, and hustle and bustle on offer. However, if you like fine dining and the great outdoors….

Top 3 things to do in Sydney:

  • Join a walking tour and stroll around The Rocks to learn about the history of this area!
  • Make your way from Bondi to Coogee along the infamous Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk!
  • Give your legs a rest as you continue your explorations to North Sydney and catch the 30-minute ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf. Not only will you get to experience all that Manly has to offer but on your journey across the harbour, you will get outstanding views of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Kirribilli House.

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3 Top Stops on Your Road Trip Through NSW, Australia for Pinterest

2. Hunter Valley

Take a slow drive to Hunter Valley, home to the finest vineyards in Australia. The region is located two hours away from Sydney but is a must-do for a fine dining experience. The area boasts great local produce, providing numerous local restaurants with the freshest ingredients in a wide variety of cuisines, with multiple Australian owned establishments.

A view onto Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Source: Kevin Rheese via Flickr

Perfect to spend the mornings and early afternoons, the Hunters Region also boasts great hiking trails for those who are into exploring flora and fauna and the natural environment. With the advantage of slow travel being the abundance of time, book a few days at a local Hunter Valley accommodation. The best way to get around various establishments in Hunters Region is by car, as it gives you the freedom to choose how you’d like to spend the time of your day. Just be sure to leave the driving to a designated driver if you plan on wine tasting.

Top 3 things to do in the Hunter Valley:

  • Forget lunch today because it’s time to taste some of the best gourmet cheese and chocolate the region has to offer. Make your way to the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory tasting rooms and select the best option for you.
  • Visit one of the 150 wineries and taste some of the most decadent wines in Australia! Book a wine tour to make your way around the area with a group. Some tours have lunch and/or food included so look out for good deals!
  • Take a hot air balloon ride! The flight lasts for approximately one hour, travelling over Lovedale, Pokolbin, Broke or Rothbury, followed by a champagne breakfast at one of the gorgeous nearby wineries.

Are you a travel blogger on the lookout for more blog juice? Then you’ll love our private Facebook social media marketing support group: Learn, get support and encourage others to reach your goals and get more traffic and social media engagement. Request to join here!

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3. Byron Bay

Complete your experience with a visit to the coastal town of Byron Bay, located on the New South Wales North Coast The town is famous for its amazing surf and sunsets, and retreat type vacation. Visitors can enjoy wide-ranging outdoor and water activities, such as surfing, snorkelling and even hot air ballooning. Join a relaxing day at the spa, or an outdoor meditation retreat.

Bird's eye view onto Byron Bay in NSW, Australia

Enjoy the spectacular views that the drive has to offer, along with the eastern coastal route. Located 8 hours’ drive from Sydney, visitors are encouraged to stop by other towns like New Castle and Macquarie for a meal and to check out small town living before finishing their drive.

Top 3 things to do in Byron Bay:

  • Avoid the tourists and make your way to Wategos Beach. Just around the corner from Main Beach, Wategos is surrounded by a headland making it pretty perfect for swimmers!
  • Stroll through the weekly local markets to try the local food and produce and pick up a few interesting souvenirs.
  • Take a surfing lesson!!

New South Wales provides an exciting opportunity for slow travellers. The wide variety of accommodations, activities, and suitability across a wide range of budgets translates to freedom of choice to participate in activities at their own time. Travelling by car across the city of Sydney and country town seems to provide the best balance between freedom and convenience, while not placing any pressure on time constraints.

What are your favourite stops in New South Wales, Australia? Please share your travel tips and stories down below in the comments! Thanks and happy travels 🙂 


Want to take along a good camera on your trip? To help you make up your mind, check out this travel camera comparison from Jessica over at Longest Bus Rides. 

Or do you fancy another scenic drive? You might be interested in the Great Ocean Road starting from Melbourne.


About the author:

Guest Post by Alex Johnson Aussie Adventurer & Lifestyle Blogger - Inspire A Better Life

This guest post was written by Alex Johnson, a blogger and lover of the little things in life, from delicious brunch spots to interior design. Recently moving to Sydney, he began his blog Inspire A Better Life to positively influence others to get out there and see all life has to offer. Join Alex as he discovers this life one day at a time, documenting his thoughts and others along the way!


 

Not done reading yet?

When in Australia, a common route for many travellers is to combine it with a trip to Asia. Check out my destinations page for travel tips for Thailand, North Sumatra and the Philippines.

If you are in the mood for a little adventure, check out these mysterious islands!

And make sure to always bring along the right gear!

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The Coolest Things About Visiting Rio

Bucket list: Rio de Janeiro; Photo Credit: Agustin Diaz

This is still a big one to tick off my bucket list: Rio de Janeiro. When we travelled from North to South America, this was one of the countries we left out, unfortunately. But it’s just such a big country and we were running out of time as we had to catch our cruise ship to Europe with 100 other digital nomads. If you haven’t done so already, check out our posts from our trip through Central and South America, from Mexico to Ecuador. But now, sit back and enjoy this guest post about one of Brazil’s most thrilling destinations!

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What to do in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most otherworldly cities on our planet. As major cities go, it strikes the ultimate postcard image, with its vast harbor, famous beaches, curious mountains, and the towering, world famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. It’s also known as something of a wild destination, characterized by beach parties, bustling crowds, and at times, unfortunately, a high crime rate. Provided you plan your trip well and stay in safe areas, however, a vacation to Rio can be incredible. If such a trip is on your radar, pay attention to these suggestions for the coolest things to do once you’re in town.

1. Christ The Redeemer Up Close

I already mentioned Christ The Redeemer, which more or less defines the skyline of Rio. But it’s something you should absolutely make the effort to see up close if you get the chance to visit. Widely viewed as one of the manmade wonders of the world, it’s a towering and imposing statue. What some don’t fully realize, however, is that it’s atop 690-meter-high Corcovado Mountain, which only makes its effect all the more striking. Up close you can appreciate both the magnificence of the statue itself and its position overlooking one of the planet’s most beautiful and intriguing cities.

Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro

2. Sugar Loaf Mountain

If there’s a view to rival that from Christ The Redeemer, it’s the one from Sugar Loaf Mountain. This is a mountain you’ll probably recognize even if you’re not familiar with the name. It’s essentially a tall, rounded peak that frames the city of Rio in the bulk of images of the town. Roughly 1,300 feet high over Guanabara Bay, it’s actually reachable via cable car, making for a pretty thrilling (yet relaxing) experience. Many tourists prioritize this cable car ride, and with good reason.

Sugar Loaf Mountain South

3. Local Dancing

Brazil is home to one of the most famous festivals in the world, simply called Carnival. But dancing in the city, you can actually experience a taste of Brazilian Carnival no matter when you happen to be visiting. That’s actually a point that’s made in the description of a casino game based on this cultural aspect of Brazil, and that speaks to the popularity of dancing in Rio. That everything from an online slot machine to an internationally renowned festival can spring up from a city’s dancing culture ought to be a pretty big draw. Even if you don’t personally like to dance, you might consider checking out the city’s clubs to watch some of the experienced dancers.

4. Prainha Beach

If you’re familiar with the image of a gigantic beach packed with people, you’re probably thinking of Copacabana. This is the most famous beach in Rio, and certainly something you have to see and experience for yourself. But Prainha Beach may actually be the more pleasant experience for a lot of tourists. Located a short distance outside the main city, it’s just a little bit smaller and more secluded than the main attraction. That’s not to say you’ll have it to yourself, but it’s a more relaxing alternative to the busy (but still very fun) atmosphere at Copacabana.

Prainha Beach in Rio de Janeiro

5. Maracana

You might consider looking into a tour of the Maracana – Rio’s famous soccer stadium – whether or not there’s actually a match going on. But if you happen to be in town when the national team is playing or any other soccer event is being held, the Maracana should be at the very top of your list. Ranking it among the 10 best soccer stadiums in the world, the sport site FourFourTwo goes so far as to say it’s partly thanks to this football shrine that Brazil’s passion for the sport is known the world over. It’s a massive, historic venue that, on the right day, can make a sporting event seem almost like a spiritual experience. And if that sounds like it might be a little bit of an exaggeration, just ask some of the local fans how they feel about it!

Bucket list: Rio de Janeiro Maracana Stadium; Photo Credit: sama093 on Flickr

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There are plenty of other spots worth exploring, for sure! This is just a short list, an appetizer to get you into the Rio-mood! What about you? Have you been to Rio yet? What must-sees have we missed to mention? Drop a line in the comments below, we’d love to know! 


NOT DONE READING YET?

Are you looking for more Latin American travel guides? Check out our post on Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize if you are into scuba diving. Or what about a less sporty and therefore more cultural trip? Then you might like to read our Guatemala Travel Guide with tips for the ancient Mayan ruins in Copan.

Or are you curious about the lesser travelled routes in Honduras or Nicaragua, make sure not to skip these gems of Central America! Here is another post on Nicaragua about our fun day sailing along the coast of Playa Gigante.

 

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Bucket list: Rio de Janeiro

 

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How to Travel the Galapagos Islands on a Budget

There are not many places around the world that are considered to be unique. The Galapagos Islands, without a doubt, are one of them. Anyone who travels there comes back with a smile on their face. Simply because you get to see extraordinary species and get up close with wildlife that you usually only know from documentary channels such as National Geographic. On the Galapagos Islands, iguanas, sea lions and giant tortoises walk around like cats and dogs in most other parts of the world. Majestic birds like the albatross and colourful ones like the blue-footed booby decorate the sky. The good news is that, despite common beliefs, you can travel to the Galapagos Islands, even on a tight budget! Here is how we spent 14 days on three islands for less than 1000 US dollars.

Iguana on Santa Cruz

Myth #1: You have to cruise the Galapagos Islands

When research how to visit the Galapagos Islands, you get the impression that there is no way other than with a cruise. I was a bit frustrated after I read how much money you were asked to spend to get around and enjoy the individual islands. Then I found offers from tour agencies that sell 4-day cruises for around US 800, which first sounded not that bad. But after reading the comments of other people who had done such a short cruise, it became clear that within 4 days you lose 2 days for the boarding and cruising back to the original port, which didn’t sound like a great deal after all. It became even worse when I found out about the offers that would take you all the way around the islands, stopping at the uninhabited ones with more chances to see unique wildlife. It said, your best choice is to go at least 12 to 15 days for about 6000 to 8000 US dollars, depending on the type of boat you choose… I wasn’t convinced about that.

View from hike to Las Grietas

If you decide to not spend a fortune in order to visit the Galapagos Islands, and instead do it on your own, you will be better off to simply arrive and walk around to see what available. Don’t book any tour or accommodation online, is my advice! The only reservation that we made in advance was our hotel on the first night, because the website of the Ecuadorian government says that you have to show proof of your hotel reservation and pre-register online. We did not do the latter, and it was perfectly fine to fill out the form at the airport in Quito. Also, I found that the booked hotel room wasn’t really necessary, as the officer at the airport did not pay much attention to the copy of our reservation that I presented to him. I guess, it all depends on the officer at the airport, so, to be on the safe side, book your flight and the first night on your chosen island and you’ll be fine.

How to get to the Galapagos Islands

Flying from Quito to Baltra Island

When in Ecuador, you have two options to get to the Galapagos Islands: you can either depart from Quito or from Guayaquil. The flights from Guayaquil are slightly shorter (1.5 hours) and a tiny bit cheaper (190 US dollars instead of 220 from Quito, as of in April 2016). Both airports connect with the two airports on the Galapagos Islands: Seymour Airport on Baltra Island or San Cristobal Airport on San Cristobal.

For us, it was better to fly out of Quito, as we arrived by bus from Colombia. From Quito, we flew to Baltra Island (it’s inhabited and only a short distance away from Santa Cruz, see description below). We stayed on Santa Cruz Island for the first four days. Then, we booked our return flight separately from San Cristobal to Guayaquil. This way, we made the most of the ferry connections between the islands (see below) and got to see both Quito and Guayaquil. If you make your way up from Peru it probably makes sense to fly from Guayaquil and follow our route in reverse.

FInally there!

Before departing, you will have to pay 20 US dollars for your Transit Control Card (TCT). Keep it throughout your whole stay, as you will have to show it again at the airport when you leave the Galapagos Islands. Once you arrive on either of the above airports, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 100 US dollars to the national park. That’s it, you are in! From now on your expenses will depend on your style of travelling and your selection of activities.

Speed boat dock on Baltra Island

Once you land on Baltra Island, there are shuttle busses (2 US dollars) that will take you to the tiny port where small speedboats/zodiacs (1 US dollar) connect Baltra Island with Santa Cruz. On Baltra Island, there is nothing but nature and the airport. The bus ride from the airport to the port takes about 15 minutes and gives you an idea of the landscape you will be seeing on most of the other islands: dry, desert-like, with tons of cactus and lava rocks laying around.

Baltra Island www.jeyjetter.com

 Myth #2: You need to book guided tours to see wildlife or natural sights!

No matter which of the four populated islands you visit, you will be able to walk to most of the popular tourist spots. You can also rent a bike, take a taxi or in the case of Santa Cruz, there is even public transport that takes you to some of the points of interest (e.g. ‘El Chato’, see below).

Some destinations can only be reached by water taxi (which are usually around 0.50 US dollar cents to 1 US dollar). And yes, there are few cases where you will have to book a tour, like for example to ‘Los Tuneles’ on Isabela Island or to ‘Kicker Rock’ on San Cristobal. But it’s a myth that you HAVE TO have a guide in order to get around!

Such a great sign, only here on Galapagos!

Getting from island to island

There are speedboats that operate between the four main islands (Santa Cruz, Isabela Island, Floreana Island, and San Cristobal). To each of them it takes about 2 hours (to Floreana Island a little less, about 1,5 hours), and the cost is always 30 US dollars one way.

Speed boat schedule:

  • Daily 7am and 3pm
  • Exception Floreana Island: once a week or depending on the time of the year/ demand

If there is one bad thing about the Galapagos Islands, it is that you can’t connect between the individual islands. Unfortunately, you always have to go back to Santa Cruz and start your trip over again to the next island.

Speed boat example:

  1. From Santa Cruz to Isabela ($30)
  2. Isabela back to Santa Cruz ($30)
  3. From Santa Cruz to San Cristóbal ($30)
  4. San Cristóbal back to Santa Cruz ($30)

TOTAL: 120 US dollars to visit 3 islands.

This might look like a lot of money, but the total price of this travel option is actually a lot less than you would pay if you went with a tour agency from Santa Cruz. They offer day-trips or 2-3 day trips to visit spots near Santa Cruz or the other islands. But keep in mind, if you go, for example, to Isabela Island for the day or with a 2-day trip from Santa Cruz, you will be bound to the schedule and selection of the agency. Plus, you will end up spending more money than if you go on your own and use the speed boat example from above. For us, it was an obvious decision, as we wanted to go independently to each island and enjoy our time on our own terms.

Some of the most amazing sunsets you'll find on the Galapagos Islands

 First stop: Santa Cruz Island

It’s like coming to a little harbour town, yet, Santa Cruz is the busiest of all the Galapagos Islands. With its 80,000 inhabitants and central location between the other islands, Santa Cruz operates the main tourism of the Galapagos Islands and functions as the ideal spot to explore the nearby islands on day-trips.

On Santa Cruz, we stayed four days at Hostel Sir Francis Drake for 30 US dollars per night/person. It is one of the budget hotels on Santa Cruz, but a very decent one and centrally located just a short walk from the harbour.

Daily fish hunting show starring Mr. Pelican!

 Our Highlight of Santa Cruz Island

Our favourite spot on Santa Cruz is Tortuga Bay. From the town centre, you walk about 10 minutes to the entrance where you register your name and the time of your arrival. This way, the guard knows who is missing or not respecting the closing time of 6pm. They close the beach at that hour because that’s the time when the sea turtles normally come out of the water to lay their eggs in the beach area.

From the entrance to the beach it’s about a 40-minute walk/ 2,5 km, so bring your walking shoes and all you need for your beach day as you won’t find any kiosk or store to buy water/food. And that is exactly why we loved it there so much. This is where you can appreciate pure nature and beautiful white sand that you will share with only a handful of other tourists.

Tortuga Bay www.jeyjetter.com

The guard will tell you not to swim at the main beach, ‘Playa Brava’ (translates to ‘Wild Beach’) due to the strong currents. Instead he’ll ask you to walk to the very far end to reach ‘Playa Mansa’ (Quiet Beach). Playa Brava is a lot prettier because it faces the open ocean, whereas Playa Mansa is hidden behind the bushes and looks more like a lagoon rather than the ocean. And you have so much wildlife to watch (bring snorkel gear!!!) in the water and at the beach. We noticed that most people stay at the far corner of the beach and even the lifeguard doesn’t mind if you dip into that rather quiet corner that connects both areas.

If you are lucky, you might be able to watch a baby turtle making its way out of the egg and into the open ocean. We literally arrived one minute too late after a baby turtle crawled out of one of the 48 turtle nests and into the water… 🙁 All we saw was the excitement of the gathering tourists that just witnessed this unique natural spectacle. Lucky them!

Other places to visit on Santa Cruz

  • El Chato: watch giant tortoises walk around in their natural habitat 

Amazing creatures!

  • Charles Darwin Research Centre – here you can learn all about the history of the Galapagos Islands and their wildlife/nature

Charles Darwin Research Centre

  • Las Grietas – a hidden snorkel spot in between a canyon

Not the typical snorkel spot!

  • The local fish market: battle with sea lions, pelicans and iguanas for fish!

Compete with these guys for fresh fish on the local fishmarket!

Stop #2: Isabela Island

>> BRING CASH, there are NO ATMs on this island!!! <<< 

Someone took my seat!!!

In comparison to Santa Cruz, it feels a little bit less busy and more remote. The streets are not paved, and you are mainly on your own when visiting the natural sites, as the tourists spread out evenly all over the island. Perhaps this is also because we visited in low season, which is in April & May and September & October. We also witnessed breathtaking sunsets every night at the beach off the Malecon.

Gorgeous sunset on Isabela Island

On Isabela Island, we had four wonderful nights at ‘La Posada del Caminante’, which is a family run hotel only a few blocks away from the beach. The hotel consists of two buildings, which the locals refer to as ‘the small Posada’ and ‘the big Posada’. If you come back from a tour and the driver asks you the name of your hotel, make sure you’ll let him know which one you are staying at. If not, you get some extra exercise to walk the short distance of about 50 metres in between both buildings. 😉

La Posada del Caminante

What makes this place special is the very friendly and helpful owner! He gave us info about the island and even let us wash our clothes for free! We stayed in a double room with TV, kitchen and ensuite bathroom that costs 15 US dollars per night/person. On the patio, you have hammocks to relax after your hikes or where you can enjoy your self-prepared meal in good company.

Our Highlight of Isabela Island: ‘Los Tuneles’

Funky landscape: 'Los Tuneles'

Even though the Galapagos Islands are a special destination in general, ‘Los Tuneles’ is outstanding as it has a very exceptional landscape that you probably only see there. The tunnels that you can find in this part of the island are formed from lava, which lay above or below the water. You can visit ‘Los Tuneles’ only by boat, in fact, this is one of the must-do tours while on the Galapagos Islands, or you will really miss out on something special. Our day trip cost US 120 dollars and included the transportation to the tunnels (a 40-minute boat ride,) an English-speaking guide, two snorkel stops (plus equipment) and a lunch box.

Lava tunnels above and underneath the water!

About five minutes before you arrive at the tunnels, it becomes tricky and the crew tells you that it’s not yet clear if you are lucky enough to get to the spot. That’s due to the fact that the boat has to cross the surf to enter a calmer part where you find the tunnels. Depending on the day, the waves can be too big and too dangerous for crossing, because there is a high chance for the boat be tipped over by the waves. We were told, that just a few days earlier, one of the boats actually tipped over and some of the passengers broke their legs. We were lucky that day, as our captain managed to get through and we were able to get out again without any incidents.

Watch Penguins on the Galapagos Islands

On arrival, the boat cruises through the channels that separate the tunnels and you can enjoy the impressive landscape. Then our captain stopped for us to walk around on the lava formations. Our tour guide explained all about the rock formations and species there. We saw a lot of blue-footed boobies and sea lions. We were also able to watch a shark, turtles and golden Manta rays swim past through the tunnels.

Love his shoes! :-)

One part of the snorkelling is done right at the tunnels, which is a bit tricky because the water is really cold in this area. We only lasted 20 minutes and managed to swim through just a couple of the tunnels before we had to get out of the water and warm up. This is probably the downside of travelling in low season, although I read that the water temperature, in general, is never too warm in the Galapagos, so you’re best advised to put on a wet suit. Luckily, the second snorkel spot was in slightly warmer water. Afterwards, the boat takes you to a nearby bay area, which is known for its Golden Manta rays, white tipped reef sharks, turtles and seahorses.

Spot the turtle!

 Other places to visit on Isabela Island:

  • Volcano Sierra Negra and Volcano Chico: hiking tour to both volcanoes from 7 am to 1 pm for 30 US dollars

Moon-like landscape on top of the volcano on Isabela Island

  • ‘Wall of Tears’: rent a bike or walk there! The way is 6 km long and leads you along the beach. It’s a very scenic route with plenty of interesting spots to stop at or swim/snorkel!

Rent a bike to get to the 'Wall of Tears' when on Isabela Island!

  • Snorkelling at ‘Las Perlas’: Just walk down to the harbour and turn left, there is a little dock to hop in from and you are free to snorkel your way through the area. No need for a guide! Watch the surface, some iguanas might swim towards your way!!!

So cute!!!

  • Tour to ‘Las Tintoreras’: A tour in Puerto Villamil will let you watch sea lions, turtles and the Galapagos Penguins as well as some resting White Tip Sharks (we didn’t take this tour as we saw all of the wildlife on our own the day before while snorkelling at the neighbouring bay area, Las Perlas.)

 Last stop: San Cristobal

On this island, life picks up the pace again: San Cristobal is a bit busier than Isabela Island but still a lot quieter than Santa Cruz. The island’s town centre is mainly spread along the shore and has about four parallel streets up on the hill with shops, hotels and tour agencies. When we arrived, we hopped off the boat and turned left to walk along the water to look for accommodation.

Great place to stay when on San Cristobal!

Accompanied by the funny smell and noises of the sea lions that lay on the rocks at the harbour area, we found a hostel just a few blocks down the road, called Hostel Galapagos. Perhaps due to its relatively prime location, they have a bit steeper prices than we were used to. The double room we stayed in cost 30 US dollars per person/night. But we liked it because they have a nice patio with an ocean view and lovely staff that help you to find your way around the island.

Apart from their smell, I really think they're adorable! :-D

 Our highlight of San Cristobal: Diving at Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido)

If you’re a scuba diver, you won’t want to miss diving in the Galapagos Islands. Kicker Rock was our spot of choice, simply because we were supposed to have the highest chance of spotting hammerhead sharks in this area. These funny looking creatures stop at this rock formation on a regular basis to get cleaned by smaller fish and to eat the high density of fish.

Kicker Rock where you might find Hammerhead Sharks!

Sharks don’t like cold water (something they have in common with me), and we went there in the begging of May which is when the water temperature drops to around 15 degrees Celsius. Only when we arrived, we realized that it was already too cold for these sharks. After some disappointment, we were excited to see playful sea lions cruising in the water, loads of turtles, plenty of fish and the occasional White Tip Reef Shark. It was a great experience and we had two fun dives where we swam through the canyons on a mission to encounter big fish.

The tour is from 8 am to 4 pm and cost 150 dollars. It includes a 45 minute-stop at a beach, two dives, the equipment, delicious lunch and snacks, as well as our tour guide. We would have loved to see the hammerhead sharks but enjoyed it anyway. And this way, we have a reason to go back one day. 😀

Other places to visit on San Cristobal

  • Watch giant tortoises and their babies at ‘La Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado’ (together with a couple from Switzerland, we hired a taxi driver who took us for 10 US dollar per person to ‘La Galapaguera’ and the two following two spots, no guided tour needed!) 🙂 

Enjoy! :-D

  • ‘Laguna el Junco’: Hike up a short distance to the top of the crater and see the lagoon that holds one of the few freshwater lakes on the Galapagos Islands:

Day-trip on San Cristobal

  • Enjoy the beauty of the beach at ‘Puerto Chino’:

The most beautiful beach on San Cristobal: Puerto Chino.

  • Get up early to watch the sunrise and morning activities in the water at ‘La Lobería’ where sea lions hang out and hunt for fish:

Lazy Sea Lion on San Cristobal

Have you ever been to the Galapagos Islands? How did you spend your time there, self-organised or with a guided tour/cruise? Which of the islands is your favourite (if you are able to pick one!)? If you liked this post, please feel free to share, like and comment on it below! Thank you 🙂

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Destination Guides Digital Nomad

London and its Potential to Become a Digital Nomad Haven

Despite its ever-growing popularity in different parts of the globe, digital nomads are somewhat of a rare breed in London. Typically, this lifestyle involves travelling to cities or countries where the cost of living is relatively cheaper and the weather is comforting, for lack of a better term. A lot of millennial wanderers compile a list of places to visit – often ditching London because of the connotation of luxury and royalty. However, when it comes to a digital nomadic lifestyle, this European city offers a distinct vibe that highlights convenience and openness.

When travelling from city to city, everything begins and ends inside an airport. London, for one, is the proud home of a couple of major international runways that echo its thriving tourism and transportation sectors. Take Gatwick for instance. According to Panethos, this Crawley, West Sussex landing field has the world’s most active single-use runway and Europe’s leading airport for point-to-point flights. With the constant influx of passengers, airport management invested billions on upgrading its facilities from the inside out. Aside from having world-class amenities, Gatwick also improved its North Terminal, as well as South Terminal parking spaces. Parking4Less even points out an award winning short stay car park situated between the two terminals. In a nutshell, these developments are just the tip of the iceberg of London’s fantastic public transportation systems.

London by night.
Busy streets of London. Photo credit: pixabay.com

A digital nomad’s way of life revolves around the frequent use of public transportation, because they want to soak up the culture, socialize with locals, and more importantly travel around the city. London checks all of the above and more. The world-famous Tube is arguably the fastest and simplest way to travel around the city. In addition, there are local trains and trams, as well as an innovative Docklands Light Railway, that links various parts of the metropolitan. With this, digital nomads in London can drop off near Barbican Centre, where cafés such as TY Old Street and Look Mum No Hands have fast Internet connection.

Like hitting two birds with one stone, London buses offer not just cheap transportation alternatives but an excellent vantage point to see the many tourist spots en route. This iconic transportation system has stops near the city’s private workspaces along the lines of Campus London Café, Forge Co, and Somerset House, to name a few. While on the subject of touring, Visit London suggests River Bus Services as a terrific way to beat the traffic and get a distinct point of view for sightseeing.

Visiting London as a digital nomad can be a great option.
When in London, a visit to the ‘Big Ben’ is a must.

Additionally, during the summer months you’re likely to see digital nomads working on their laptops outside coffee shops, along the Camden Dock or even at some of London’s most revered parks. Famous meeting areas like Hyde Park often attract a montage of freelancers working for as long as their batteries hold out under the unrelenting sun.

All in all, London may not be the most popular destination for up-and-coming digital nomads, as it’s more suited for more experienced ones. The city, indeed, tends to fit the more seasoned batch of working travellers, but it’s not to say that people should count it out altogether. In fact, London can become one of the end goals, a target for a digital nomad to do better and aspire greater.

 

>>> THIS IS A THIRD-PARTY CONTENT<<<

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Zip Lining in Costa Rica’s Monteverde

There are mandatory experiences in a traveller’s life: skydiving in New Zealand, scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, eating ice cream in Italy and Zip-lining in Monteverde. You can’t get around it. The question is not ‘Will you do it?’, but ‘When will you do it?’ So, here are a few insights and tips for your next trip to Costa Rica. Oh yes, by the way, leaving the country without having visited the mountain village Monteverde would be like deciding against zip-lining, so don’t even think about skipping it! It’s one of the Must-Sees, Must-Have-Dones that you can check off your Things-To-Do-Before-I-Die-List. So, please don’t be ridiculous, here is how it works.

The view from the top platform is rewarding
This is where you fly above…

Finding the right company for Zip-lining in Monteverde

All tour companies offer more or less the same program: 14 zip-lines, one ‘Superman’, one Tarzan Swing and a Rappel. (Don’t worry, we will explain the different types later on). They all pick you up at your hotel/hostel in Monteverde and bring you back afterwards. The tour takes about 3-4 hours, so make sure you bring some water, our company did not have water included which would have been nice as it got hot and humid during our trip…

When you get to Monteverde, take your time and walk around the small village. You can compare each offer according to price and size of the group. We decided in the end to go with the tour company called ‘Extremo‘ because it sounded simply tempting to even put an extra bit of extreme adrenaline rush to it. We paid 50 USD which included the pick-up and transfer to the park area, the equipment and the transfer back.

What you can expect when you go Zip-lining in Monteverde

It goes without saying that this is a day filled with fun. I laughed a lot and screamed many times from the bottom of my lungs. Nervous, sweaty hands can be a common symptom, but once you’ve started and gone down your first couple of zip-lines, then you get literally the hang of it and understand that it is not as scary as it looks. Oh and the best part is that you fly above extremely beautiful scenery which makes this rush even more fun! Look down, that’s really breathtaking!

A beautiful view before you go down...

Although the canopy is not inside the main nature reserves like those of other companies, the views are extremely amazing. On top of that, it has the longest lines that are almost 3.2 kilometres (2 miles) in total. The individual zip-lines are between 40 meters (131 feet) to 750 meters (2,461 feet) long, including 4 cables that are longer than 425 meters (1,394 feet). You will walk many stairs and up a hill in order to make it from one end to the next line. It’s a great way to get to know the rest of the group, as we were about 15 people from all over the world lining up for the next zip line. 🙂 

When you make it through the first 10 Lines, suddenly you are supposed to leave your metal hooks in a bucket, as you won’t need them when you go down the Tarzan Swing. Imagine a bungee jump, but with your head up and feet down, plus you are holding on to the rope (all secured, of course). Well, like Tarzan you swing around after a jump off the platform and a free-fall of about 9 meters… it really is not for the faint of heart and made me scream again – I now understand why Tarzan did not swing in silence!

Smile! Before you go down, you have no clue but it's so much fun!
Suddenly, ropes become so precious… 😀 

 The highlight at the end is the so-called Superman which simply means that you are now ready to turn onto your belly and rush down the line with open arms as if flying like, well, Superman of course. Since we went with Extremo, our very last zip line even took us through a tunnel that was recently built to give you an extra bit of rush right at the end. Yet, for me, nothing topped the great scenery that we were able to look at throughout the whole time. All in all, we had fun, laughed and screamed a lot and definitely would go back to do it again!

If you love adventure activities, you might like our post about Sailing in Nicaragua. But first tell us, have you been to Costa Rica? And did you go Zip Lining in Monteverde?

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Travel Guide for Nicaragua

What to See and Where to Go in Nicaragua

When you come from Honduras, like us, then you might feel like entering an oven right at the border of Nicaragua. For me, as I hate the cold, this was a pleasant feeling. Yet, the heat in Nicaragua even made me sweat and gasp for a breeze. Our trip through the country became a mix of city sightseeing and beach escapes with fun things like sailing and hiking.

I still can’t believe that we managed to climb up one of the most active volcanoes of Nicaragua. The view was rewarding and the breeze up there made us forget for a moment that our legs were on fire! Check out our Video on YouTube with some images from our trip or read on for some tips on activities and places to visit. 

Border Crossing from Honduras to Nicaragua

Border crossing by foot, too easy!

Welcome to Nicaragua!We took a bus from Lake Yojoa in Honduras at 6 o’clock in the morning. It took us about 2 hours to get to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and another 45 minutes to figure out which bus leads us to the border. We decided to go with local buses, because the direct tourist buses to Leon or Granada seemed to be a rip-off. It was pretty easy in the end. We just asked around the bus terminal in Tegucigalpa, which local bus goes towards the border of Nicaragua, and a couple of dollars later, we were on a bus for a fraction of the price we would have paid for a direct bus.

 

Once at the border around 4 hours later, we hopped off the bus and walked through border control of Nicaragua after checking in with the immigration office. Make sure to bring US dollars, as you have to pay a fee of 10 USD and around 100 Nicaraguan Cordobas. Then, you simply walk over the bridge that leads to the first village in Nicaragua (not even 5 minutes away). Right after the borde, you’ll find plenty of local buses that will take you to any destination in Nicaragua. My advice, do the border crossing on your own and with local busses, so you save yourself quite a bit of money.

Buses waiting for you after the border of Nicaragua
You have plenty of options to get away from the border of Nicaragua!

Unless you are a slow traveller like us, check out this ‘Nicaragua itinerary‘ for two weeks. If time doesn’t matter, keep reading to follow our route.

León

By 6 pm, we arrived in León, our first stop in Nicaragua. Boiling hot and exhausted from a long trip, we stumbled into the first hostel that we could find. We were on the look-out for accommodation with some other guys from our bus and they told us that they would stay in León for a while to learn Spanish. Later on, we saw that this is apparently the thing to do in León, as the city has a vast selection of Spanish schools. We also noticed that León has a huge variety of clothes and shops that made my fashion heart pump higher! We spent the next day roaming around the little streets, hunting for clothes and cool drinks to get used to the heat. Honduras really was so much cooler, gah…

Colourful streets in León and churches are everywhere.

Leon has so many shopping options, I was busy for one day!The Lion who gave the city its name

 

Las Peñitas

On the beach of Las Peñitas you are sitting in the first row for a beautiful sunset

A couple of days later, we decided to leave León because we were desperate for a cool breeze from the ocean. At least, that’s what we thought…the only refreshing thing in Las Peñitas was the ocean itself and the beer, if you drank it fast enough before it got warm. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the water and wondered if I am too weak for this heat, or simply not used to it anymore! After the cold waves in MexicoGuatemala and Honduras, our bodies seemed to be adjusting, just not quickly enough. Yet, what we saw was great and helped to distract us from the heat. At the end of the day, we still loved being there very much.

Las Peñitas has a huge and broad beach with not many tourists!

Las Peñitas is a really small fisher village with few activities besides hanging out at the beach, kayaking in the mangroves, swimming or surfing. It’s also a good place to enjoy some yummy seafood for a reasonable price and usually, an ocean view as most restaurants are along the beach or along the little lagoon area.

Granada

From Las Peñitas to Granada you have to go back to León, which is about a 45-minute ride by bus. There you board the connecting buses in León centre that go towards Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. By the time we arrived, 2 hours later, we decided to not stay. One, for the heat which is always less bearable in a city, I think. And two, for the less appealing neighborhoods that we drove through when we entered Managua. For us, Nicaragua’s capital did not seem to have much of interest. There are frequent buses to Granada so we didn’t have to wait long, and continued on with our journey. 3 hours later, we arrived in the centre at the bus terminal of Granada and saw a typical Hispanic colonial city with cute colourful buildings and old churches.

Colourful buildings in Granada's Centre

Granada has a lot of colonial buildings and churches in the centre

Traditional dish: Vigoron and Chicha

 

 

 

 

 

When you travel long-term, you have those days when you want nothing but rest. In Granada, we stayed 3 days but did not do much other than working on our computers in our hostel and walking around the streets of the old town. What we did discover, though, was the national dish called ‘Vigoron’ which was a mixture of cabbage, Jukka (native potato), meat, tomatoes and chilies… all neatly served on a banana leaf. We combined it with the very traditional, non-alcoholic ‘Chicha’, a beverage made out of fermented maize, sugar and in our case it had some raspberry juice. Yummy! 😀

Ometepe Island

Due to the low water level in Lake Nicaragua, the ferries no longer run from Granada directly to Ometepe. You’ll have to take the bus to Rivas, which is the closest town on the main road just 15 minutes away from the ferry dock. To get from Rivas to the ferry, walk away from the bus stop and ask for the corner where the local bus leaves every 20 minutes. If you’ve made it through the hassling taxi drivers, then you’ll realise that the bus costs a fraction of what they just offered you for their lift.

View onto Volcano Concepcion from the ferry
The ferry ride towards the island is already entertaining!

At the harbour, you can choose between the ferry and a smaller boat. Both options are around 45-50 Cordobas and take around 1.30 hrs. It really doesn’t matter which one you take, although some people might tell you that the official ferry is more secure and less rocky. We noticed no difference on our way back when we jumped on the ferry, only because it was scheduled before the other one.
On the island, rent a motorbike or scooter if you get the chance! It’s really worth it to explore all the different areas and drive through the small villages. If you get too hot, stop at the natural pool called ‘Ojo de Agua’. Its water is crystal clear and comes from an underground river, so it’s really refreshing!
Ojo de Agua is one refreshing stop on your trip on Ometepe Island!

Traffic jam!Beautiful bays and palm trees all over the island

There are plenty of little bays and beaches along your way and sometimes you even have to stop to let some horses or cows pass by…

Climbing Volcano Concepcion

Hiking up Volcano Concepcion on Ometepe Island.
It seems so close but this was still two hours away from the top!

Nicaragua has some of the most active Volcanoes in Central America and we climbed one of them! This was one of our most exhausting experiences in Central America so far. The hike to the top of Volcano Concepción takes about 4-6 hours, depending on your pace, of course. The top part is the trickiest of the entire hike, as it gets very steep and you walk on gravel and loose bigger stones. If you arrive before 1pm, you will be fine, time-wise, in order to make it back before dark.

We started our hike a bit later than planned and got to the top at 2:30pm, so a friendly tour guide who was on his way down with a group pointed out that we wouldn’t make it all the way to the top and back. We had about 50 meters left to the crater, but it would have taken at least another hour due to its steepness. We decided to call it a day and not push it to the very top (for us, this was already an accomplishment and the view from up there is breathtaking!)

Hike up towards the top of Volcano Concepcion
Far down you see lake Nicaragua and the rest of Isla Ometepe

Playa Gigante

Our last and favourite stop in Nicaragua was Playa Gigante. If you haven’t done so, then make sure to check out the post about our sailing trip along the coast. It was really one of the highlights of our stay in this country, and we were very tempted to stay for much longer…perhaps this is a place to go back to, one day!

Get on the Booze Cruise in Playa Gigante!
A fun day out on captain John’s sailboat!

Have you been to Nicaragua? What were your highlights? Did you climb Volcano Concepcion and have your legs on fire the days afterwards?

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Forget about Surfing: Sailing in Playa Gigante is the thing!

The ocean is my happy place. Sailing in Playa Gigante made this very clear to me again. No matter if I am at the beach, underwater or on a boat, it always feels like I am exactly where I need to be. Perhaps this is why one almost immediately gets soaked into those special destinations where like-minded people get stranded. We had no idea that it would be so hard for us to leave after just a few days in this gorgeous place. Thanks to a spontaneous encounter with a pirate and some fantastic hours on his boat, we call sailing in Playa Gigante one of our highlights in Nicaragua. Here is all about our trip that included awesome scenery, jumping off cliffs and ‘Pirate Punch’. 

Enjoying the cruise, Captain John (in the middle with the beard!) and his crew.
A fun crew and a special captain made our trip awesome!

First of all, let’s introduce John, our Captain, who reminded me a bit of the modern version of Captain Ahab! A lot friendlier, and an impressive character, John shows his guests a very awesome time on his sailboat. He is not only the owner of the boat we were sailing, but also the inventor of the legendary ‘Booze Cruise’. The sailing trip starts almost every day at 2:3o pm right from the beach in front of his hostel ‘Gigante Bay’. You don’t want to miss this unique trip, it’s so much fun to go sailing in Playa Gigante and sip some rum punch along the way!

Enjoyed a lot this sailing trip...or as they called it 'Booze Cruise' :-D
Sipping away yummy Pirate Punch…harr!

It's only about 10m high :-D
Captain John showed us cool jumping spots!

DSC05030_2

Sailing along the coast we past many cool rock formations!
The coastline is just filled with these gorgeous cliffs…

Thanks to Captain John’s adventurous soul, he personally swam along the coastline in order to explore every single rock, canyon and caves, and we were introduced to some awesome jumping spots along the way. With a lot of insider tips from your captain, you will get a glimpse of the gorgeous coastline south of Playa Gigante in a fun way. Originally from San Francisco, John has long lost his real connection to the United States and instead bought a hostel, started a family and grew a beard…the latter fits extremely well with his beautiful sailboat and gives the whole trip a special touch.

Leaving the steering wheel for a while...Captain John dips in the ocean
Captain John enjoys the water as much as his guests!

In general, this part of Nicaragua attracts a lot of surfers from all over the world. You can’t blame them, as it is a paradise that offers first-class waves, but still has not attracted mass tourism. Along the coast, you’ll find endless strips of beaches and bays that show off the most beautiful waves. Even if you don’t surf, sailing in Playa Gigante is a great alternative activity and a lot of fun, too. Furthermore, you can do horseback riding, yoga and, of course, it’s the perfect destination to enjoy a swim in the ocean.

Sailing in Playa Gigante with some yoga moves onboard.
No one said you couldn’t do yoga on a boat! 😀

How to get to Playa Gigante

It is a place that attracts tourists, but Playa Gigante is still very remote and not heavily crowded. Buses from Rivas run only from Monday to Friday. On the weekend, the only bus takes you to a little village 7km away from Playa Gigante… you can either walk, hitchhike or hope for a taxi for the rest of the way. Most likely someone will offer you a ride from Rivas once you get to the bus station. We happened to arrive on a Saturday and paid 4 USD each to a guy who offered us to take us. This doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s still 3 times more than the public bus.

Working at the beach, just perfect!
One of my favourite remote offices so far… 😀

Where to stay in Playa Gigante

Perhaps the exclusivity of this area makes Playa Gigante one of the more expensive places we’ve been to in Nicaragua. The lowest price that we could find for a private room was 20 USD but that was a very basic room. After two nights, we changed our hotel and went to Gigante Bay, a very fun hostel which has dorms from 10 USD up to AC private rooms. We loved it there, not only because of the free yoga classes every morning, but also because we happened to meet a lot of great people and went sailing in Playa Gigante.

Slack Lines in front of the hostel are just one great thing Gigante Bay has to offer...
Nestled in Playa Gigante’s bay, our hostel was just a perfect place to relax a few days…

Have you been there? Did you go sailing in Playa Gigante?


NOT DONE READING YET?

Are you looking for more Latin American travel guides? Check out our post on Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize if you are into scuba diving. Or what about a less sporty and therefore more cultural trip? Then you might like to read our Guatemala Travel Guide with tips for the ancient Mayan ruins in Copan.

Or are you curious about other places in Nicaragua? Then check out this travel guide for Nicaragua, a real fun place to visit when in Central America.

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Sailing in Playa Gigante

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Travel Tips for the Mayan Ruins in Copan

Honduras has a lot to offer right from the start: If you begin your trip in Guatemala like us, then you will most likely pass through the little town of Copan. That’s where one of the most important Mayan cities was built. Today, you can admire the well-preserved ruins and walk around on the former city’s area. Read here how to get from Guatemala to Honduras by bus. But don’t copy our style, we found ourselves in a mildly bewildered situation when we arrived at the border…

Welcome to Honduras!
Dark and no one around… a rocky start into a new adventure!

We should have done some more research before we started our trip from Guatemala to the Honduran border. But who could have known that the public transport system runs only until 6:30 pm! We could hardly believe it when the friendly Immigration officer told us that there were no more buses or taxis at this hour (7 pm!!) It was especially annoying, because minutes before, we politely waved away a very insisting Tuk-tuk driver…had we known that he was our last option for that night….! Yes, we even thought about walking all the way to Copan that lies 10 km from the border! But to be honest, the combination of too much luggage and the fact that is was already dark outside and little lighting on the street made this a bad idea. On top of that, came the friendly reminder of the officer that it was a rather unsafe way to take….

All we could do was sit and wait, hoping it would not be for the rest of the night. Only two hours later, we got lucky: a lonesome car appeared from the Guatemalan side! We stopped the car after it passed through border control and asked the driver to give us a lift. Done! The driver let us hop onto the loading zone of his pickup truck and took us to Copan. Relieved that we did not have to spend the whole night in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the next bus in the morning, we got to our hotel in Copan…exhausted but happy!

Wide and open to walk around and admire the archeological remains...
The Mayan City Copan was constructed on a huge area open for visitors today.

The next day, early in the morning, we went to see the Copan Ruins. It is the main attraction of Copan. The main entrance gate lies about 1 km away from the town centre. You can easily walk there or hop on a Tuk-tuk. Contrary to my personal weather preference, we were told that the unusual cool temperatures were doing us a favour. Usually, it is a very humid and hot place to visit as this ancient Mayan city lies in the middle of the jungle. But with clouds out, we had the perfect climate to stroll around undistracted and could fully enjoy the amazing architecture of this former civilisation.

Me being the absolute tourist!
You can actually climb up to some of the Mayan temples…

Inside the park, shortly past the entrance gate and before we arrived at the Pre-Columbian ruins, some ‘Guacamayos’, the national birds of Honduras, were flying around freely above our heads. These beautiful and colourful birds that I had only known from zoos or inside cages were so delightful to watch in their natural habitat. It was a very cheerful moment and it seemed like they were enjoying their attention very much, as they curiously stared back at us and sat still for the million photos that we took 😀

We almost forgot about the ruins...

Bird love!

They were lining up for us!!!
Patient parrots posed for our photo shoot…

After this highlight, the ruins were almost boring. Just kidding! They were very impressive too and, of course, we gave them, at least the same amount of attention as the birds… The ruins’ construction dates back to 427 A.D. which gives me the chills: such a long time back!!! In that time, the Maya leader ‘Yax Kuk Mo’ came from the area of Tikal (which is in today’s Guatemala) and arrived in the Copan Valley. With his arrival, a dynasty of 16 rulers began and turned Copan into one of the greatest Maya cities during the Classic Maya Period. Today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Mayan statue.
Many of the statues are still in good condition.

Here are some more historical facts: It is said that the main period of Copan (like other bigger Mayan cities), was during the Classical period, AD 300-900. During that period, the Mayas made some significant achievements in mathematics, astronomy and hieroglyphic writing. These become evident when analysing their way of building: today’s archaeological remains reveal the three main stages of development in Mayan culture, during which evolved the temples, plazas, altar complexes and ball courts that can be seen today. The Maya civilisation inhabited the Copan city until the early 10th century.

Mayan Ruins of Copan
Today you can see temples, plazas, altar complexes and ball courts on the area.

Today the Mayan city of Copan has one main complex of ruins which includes the Acropolis and important plazas. Then there are several secondary complexes that surround the main complex. You also find many sculptured monoliths and altars. On the risers of the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza there are more than 1,800 individual glyphs which constitute the longest known Mayan inscription. Impressive stone construction that has over-lived centuries...There is some restoration work at the moment, so some of the statues and stone walls were covered or under a little tin roof.

Little tins roofs hover over some of the statues.
Little tin roofs ruin our pictures but supposedly protect the stones from bad weather…

You can easily spend 2-3 hours walking around the whole area. Of course, if you take a tour or go with a guide, the time varies and may be even longer. If you are planning your trip to this Honduran highlight, check out our post about ‘Where to stay in Copan during your visit to the Mayan Ruins’  for a very comfortable stay in Copan!

How was your visit to the Copan Ruins? Did you have a hot and humid climate when there? What other Mayan sites have you visited or would you like to see?

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Guatemala Travel Guide

Arriving in Guatemala City

Thanks to Lonely Planet, travelling has become very easy. Most of the time, it’s not very difficult to get around. This is also true for Central America as there seem to be mandatory stops and common routes that many travellers take. In our case, we started the trip on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, then went on to Belize in order to get to Guatemala. Along the way, we met many people who did the same. And there is a good reason for it: Backpacking in Central America is great, easy and safe! Here are the highlights from our trip to Guatemala, a country of beautiful natural diversity, a well-preserved Mayan culture, delicious food, coffee, cacao and very friendly people.

Isla de Flores at beautiful Lake Peten Itza

Flores at Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala
Flores is one of the popular stops for tourists in Guatemala… 

‘Flores’ is a place that attracts many tourists because it lies on a gorgeous lake. The town is actually divided into two parts: when travellers talk about Flores, they refer to the part that lies on the peninsula in the middle of beautiful Lake Peten Itza. Yet, when one arrives at ‘Flores’ it can be a bit confusing at first because the bus terminal is on the mainland. From this buzzing part of the town, you can easily get to the more scenic old town on the bespoke peninsula. It’s connected by road and you’ll get there within 10 minutes by one of the eager taxi or Tuk-tuk drivers that is waiting for you in front of the bus terminal. Here is a short video from our Tuk-tuk ride to Isla de Flores:

VIDEO: Tuk-tuks are fun… and they have them not only in Asia! 😀

The view from our hotel opposite the town Flores
Crossing the lake you have a great view of the colourful house facades of ‘Isla de Flores’ or the Island of Flowers…

We stayed one night in one of the hostels on the island and then ‘fled’ to the quieter shore just opposite of the town, from which we had an amazing view onto Flores’ colourful houses. The boat ride is less than 5 minutes, and brings you to an area where only local people live. Yet, there is one hotel (which is still a lot more economic than in the touristy old town of Flores), a couple of shops and a few houses of the local fishermen and their families. For food shopping, you will have to go back to the mainland, but it’s worth it. It’s everything you need if you are looking for some quiet and peaceful time at the lake.

Travel planning in Flores, Lake Peten Itza
Travel planning is one of  our daily tasks and one of the most important parts of your trip when you travel long-term!

There are plenty of things to do in Flores: you can take a scenic boat ride across the lake, stroll through the market, admire traditional Guatemalans’ horse demonstrations, go hiking in the nearby mountains or simply enjoy the view of the lake while sipping a cup of Guatemalan coffee.

Guatemalan tradition: Horseback riding
Spontaneous demonstration in the streets of Flores

Beautiful horses and proud owners
Proud of their tradition: this was a promotion tour for the following event in the market of Flores

Welcome to the capital: ‘Guate’

The streets of Guatemala City.
A typical street of Guatemala City’s centre…

From Flores, we took an overnight bus to Guatemala City or like the locals call it: ‘Guate’. It depends highly on your choice of bus company and price of the ticket whether you will enjoy this ride or not. We probably went a bit too cheap and hardly slept that night due to the bumpy road and the ambitious driver…we arrived safe and according to plan to the bus terminal at 7 am in Guatemala City.

Walking the streets of Guatemala City...
Safe and modern, Guatemala’s capital.

After a strong coffee and a bite to eat, we hopped onto the metro-bus that took us to the city. The public transportation in Guatemala City works with a pre-purchased card that you load with money. If you only stay for a couple days, though, do it like the locals who don’t have a card and ask in line if you can pay someone the price of one ride and use his or her card. It’s very cheap to get around and you would be never able to make up for the initial cost of the card. It’s very common, don’t be shy, everyone is friendly and happy to help out!

Guatemala has many accommodation options.
Spot my favourite motto in this picture….???

In the city centre, there are plenty of options to stay. We chose the Theatre International Hostel which is a cool place for backpackers. It has a pool, a decent common area to hang out, the rooms are nice and the breakfast is yummy! We stayed there two nights and liked it. From there you can walk to the main shopping area of the city, with loads of local and international bars and restaurants. A 10 minute walk away you’ll find the market to buy fresh fruit, vegetables and Guatemalan craft. This is the place where the locals eat lunch, so make sure to try some traditional dishes and enjoy the special atmosphere.

Traditional Guatemalan dish: Chile Rellenos
Chiles rellenos’: mildly spicy stuffed peppers with a delicious side soup of chicken broth… yummy!

What is true for most places in Central America, goes also for Guatemala City: it is considered dangerous. I would say that you need to be a normal person and not a scared victim when walking in the streets ANYWHERE in the world. Plus, stay in the areas that are safe (you can find that out easily by talking to locals or read some guidebooks, although some exaggerate extremely!) and don’t walk around with your valuables/a camera or phone visible in a real dark street late at night, unless absolutely necessary. I mean, all it takes is a bit of common sense and some research. But what I can say about this city is that we felt safe all the time. I find it’s absolutely fine to visit Guatemala City and it has a great deal to offer if you are into museums, shopping, nightlife or some historical buildings.

Centrally located but not running: the old railway station is now a museum.
The Museum of the Old Railway system is in the centre of Guatemala City and close to many city buses depart…

Tourist-Hub Antigua

DSC02331Antigua is dominated by international influence and is the leader when it comes to tourism. Someone in Honduras told me that all of the tourism of Central America is managed through Antigua. And I believe it. There are a ton of tour operators, travel agencies, cafes, restaurants and you can find many  international brands in clothes shops. It almost feels a bit like strolling through a European town… plus, you hear more English in the streets than Spanish. Most people stop in Antigua in to hike to one of the many Volcanoes in the area. We ended up not going because the weather did not match our gear and it was unexceptionally cold those days.

Souvenir shops with traditional handicraft of Guatemala.
If you don’t go hiking, you can spend your time strolling through the markets…

What else is there to do in Antigua? The usual: cute little markets and shops that sell all sorts of local arts and handicrafts. You can find in almost all the restaurants and bars very good coffee and hot chocolate – it’s a must when in Guatemala to try as many variations as you can (it was one of my missions at least ;-)). There are a quite a few bars and clubs if you want to go out at night. We had a quiet time in Antigua as the weather was too cold and windy – we stuck to the hot chocolate tastings for most of the time….

Hot Chocolate tasting is a must in Guatemala
Yummy hot chocolate made from Guatemalan cacao, milk and a bit of sugar!

Lake Atitlan

 

Capturing the moment of a clear view at Lake Atitlan
A lucky day with no mist and a clear view…one of the rare occasions during our time at Lago Atitlan…

One very adventurous bus ride and four hours later, we arrived at beautiful Lake Atitlan. It is really worth the somewhat stressful ride, but be prepared for some adrenalin running through your body on the bus. In general, the drivers in Guatemala seem to think they drive a race car. Luckily, the buses resist a lot, they are the old Ford School Buses from the United States, that were donated to the country….

Buses in Guatemala are donated from the US
The style of a race car represents the driver’s passion, I guess…

San Marcos, Lago Atitlan

Once you get to Panajachel, you can either stay there or hop on a boat to get to one of the places at the lake. The boat ride is about 15-30 minutes depending on your destination. We paid 25 Quetzales/ about 3 USD to get to San Marcos.

Water taxi on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
A very common way to get around at Lake Atitlan: water taxis.

We stayed a couple of nights in San Marcos, which is small hippie town with loads of organic food options, nature-focused shops and spiritual/mind-body workshops. You can do Yoga, attend some moon dancing rituals or get a massage…I think I am not a hippie after all, but like the idea that we should connect more with our body, mind, and nature. San Marcos gets you into the right vibe for that, for sure!

Working in a café in San Marcos.
Take your work with you: no matter where we go, we set up our office wherever we like. Here in a small cafe in San Marcos.

San Pedro de la Laguna, Lago Atitlan

After a couple of days of tranquility and some productive hours in the many cafés of San Marcos, we took one of the small boats (10 Quetzales/ 1.30 USD) and headed over to the busier town San Pedro.

San Pedro la Laguna in Guatemala
Walking the streets of San Pedro la Laguna to get to our hotel…

This place is the absolute opposite of it’s little brother San Marcos: it is a lot bigger and has very steep streets (almost like the streets in San Francisco but narrower) that are filled with the noise of constantly running Tuk-tuks up and down the hills. It’s perhaps great for people who want to meet other travellers and party. Actually, there are also a lot of Spanish language schools. So, many tourists stay for a few weeks in order to learn Spanish or improve their language skills. Guatemala is known for a very clear and almost accent-free Spanish.

Tuk-tuks and tourists - a typical sight in San Pedro...
Many tourists come and stay in San Pedro in order to learn Spanish. 

Leaving Guatemala

After another rocky bus trip back to Guatemala City, we headed over to the Honduran border. The whole way from San Pedro to Honduras you can do in one day, but you have to start early: We took the bus at 7 am in San Pedro and had to switch buses in one of the smaller towns after about 1 1/2 hours. The next bus took us straight to Guatemala City (it took us 5 hours and in total we paid 50 Quetzales which is around 6.5 USD. From there, we had to cross the city from one end to the other (about 2 hours in total, including the transition times) before we jumped on the next bus that took us to the border of Honduras (another 5 hours and 60 Quetzales this time).

At the border of Guatemala...
Still smiling there, not knowing that after we passed through immigration a big surprise came up…

We arrived at the immigration office at around 7 pm and were told that there was no more public transportation to the nearest town ‘Copan’. How we got to our hotel in the dark and why we would do it differently next time, you can read in our post about the Ruins of Copan

Did you like this post and/or have you been to Guatemala? Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you liked it there and what other sights one shouldn’t miss! Either way, thanks for reading 🙂

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Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize

We decided not to skip the next destination, against many people’s advice. ‘Belize is too expensive for what it has to offer’, they said. But being a passionate Scuba Diver and stubborn on top of that, we went anyways. We simply couldn’t resist, and there was no way that my traveller soul would have ever rested in peace without having experienced one of the highlights of that place: diving the Blue Hole of Belize. To be fair, it is an extremely expensive country compared to its neighbours. You spend about double on most things. Coming from Mexico, it was sometimes a bit painful to have such a brutal increase. Here are our tips to help you turn your trip into an unforgettable memory.

One of the highlights of our dive trip: Lunch on a deserted island close to the Blue Hole of Belize
Beautiful spot to have a break between your dives…

Where to stay when diving the ‘Blue Hole’ of Belize

We opted for Caye Caulker because the larger island, Caye Ambergris, sounded too crowded, touristy and expensive for our taste. If you compare the costs of the dive trips, there actually is not a big difference between islands. Both Caye Ambergris and Caulker offer day-trips to the ‘Blue Hole’ for similar deals. Caye Caulker is a bit more laid back than it’s bigger sister Ambergris. There are no cars on the island, people sell their arts and handicrafts on the street, you hear music but you can also enjoy peaceful tranquility if you stay away from the small town centre.

Working on my laptop with ocean view on Belize's Caye Caulker
Enjoying a cup of coffee in one of the island’s restaurants…

There are not many budget accommodation options on the island: Yumas House BelizeDirty Mcnasty’s Hostel and the Blue Wave Guesthouse. But these few options are likely to be booked. When we arrived, the hostels were all full and we had to stay in one of the mid-range hotels. Ouch! So, make sure you do your research well before your trip… Once you’ve decided to go, it’s easy to not regret it, either way it’s a fantastic island and connecting it with your dive at the Great Blue Hole will make it one trip you’ll never forget.

Choosing a Dive Company for your Trip to the Great Blue Hole of Belize

How to choose the right dive company for diving at the Blue Hole in Belize
‘Frenchie’s’ is a locally run business with a great crew and equipment.

When you walk the streets of Caye Caulker, you get the impression that there are a LOT of dive companies on the island. But actually there are only three dive shops that take you onto a Day-trip to the ‘Blue Hole’: Belize Diving ServicesFrenchie’s Diving Services and Big Fish Dive Centre. All the other small shops that try to sell you their spots, refer you later on to one of these three companies. So, if you don’t want pay a commission on top of the regular price and see directly who you are going with, go straight to one of the above.

It all starts with a beautiful sunrise…

Our day trip to the Blue Hole started with a beautiful sunrise
You will be rewarded for getting up at 5am…

Yes, it is painful and really way too early for being on a paradise island in holiday mood. But right from the start, your efforts will pay off. We met at 5:30am at Frenchie’s Dive shop in order to get ready to hop on the boat. They gave us a light breakfast and coffee to wake up and had us double-check our gear that we tried on the day before. At 6am we were on the ocean towards the Blue Hole. It is around 110km away on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, which means a 2 hour boat ride from Caye Caulker. Enough time to enjoy the view and get even more excited for the upcoming adventure.

Morning ride to the Blue Hole with the captain on our speed boat
Our Captain was smart enough to cover himself up against the wind of our speed boat…

The first Dive at the Blue Hole

I lost my underwater camera back on my dive trip in Cancun. So, poor us, we’ll have the duty to memorise the underwater world till the end of our days. To break it down, here is how the dive at the Blue Hole was: it is a deep dive where we went down to 40 metres. Dropping into the deep while there is nothing but darkness below you is definitely one of the best parts of this dive. Once you hit 40 metres, you’re level with caves and stalagmites on your left. To your right, you see dark blue and sometimes a shark swimming past. It’s an incredible feeling to imagine that you are inside an almost perfect circular cave with 124 metres of depth and a diameter of 305 metres.

Diving the Big Hole of Belize part one
Exhausted and a bit tired, but absolutely happy after our first dive in the Blue Hole.

Quickly after that amazing 35-minute dive, the captain took us to a small island about 20 minutes from the Blue Hole. The people on the boat who did not go diving and just came to go snorkelling got off the boat and waited while we went on our second dive at the ‘Half Moon Wall’. This dive and also the third dive at the ‘Aquarium’ are very different to the first one at the Blue Hole. We saw a lot more fish and coral life on these last two dives, but compared with the Blue Hole they are just ‘normal’ dives you could find in other places of the world. Not that I did not like them, as I actually prefer coral reefs over caves and love seeing fish/turtles/sharks etc but I am glad to see what it’s like to dive in the Blue Hole.

Lunch break during the dive trip to the Blue Hole of Belize
Arriving in paradise…

With only 12 people on board and a very laid-back crew, we had a great time. But the setting they chose for our lunch break helped to give this day-trip a five star rating (if I could give one). Spending our surface time between dive number two and three on a little island close to the Lighthouse Atoll was the perfect combination of that magical dive in the Blue Hole. Here are some pictures that speak for themselves…

 

Lunchbreak on paradise island

Dolphins surprised us on our way back to Caye Caulker

Sometimes life is full of surprises and gives you something great and unexpected just when you thought it couldn’t get any better. I was dozing away after three exciting dives and being softly rocked by the boat, when I heard the captain scream: DOLPHINS!!! Everyone jumped up and it’s the classical reaction that all want to see what’s on the side of the boat where everyone is staring. It’s funny that gravity was with us in that moment, but I can’t blame my fellow passengers, it was really amazing to be greeted by at 50 dolphins who were jumping joyfully out of the water next to us…A perfect end to a perfect day!!! 😀

Have you been diving at the Great Blue Hole? What do you think, is it worth going??? Thanks ahead for sharing, liking and your comments!

 

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Day Trips from Cancun: Where to Go and What to See

Chichen Itza
A day trip from Cancun to Chichén Itzá is worth the long bus ride!!!

Use Cancun as your base and explore its surrounding highlights!

It’s very cheap to fly (from almost anywhere) to Cancun. I don’t know why but it seems like Cancun has some major flight deals going on at the moment. And Cancun itself has some attractions that you shouldn’t miss when starting your journey through Mexico. Check out my post on things to do in Cancun! After 3-4 days in Cancun, you should be ready to go on and explore the surrounding area! There are many sites that you can easily reach from Cancun, either on your own or with an organised tour. We did a bit of both and here are our highlights of the Mexican states Quintana Roo and Yucatan:

  • Day trips from Cancun #1: Isla Mujeres

We did a Day-trip from Cancun on a Catamaran to Isla Mujeres with a company called attractions. The tour starts at 10 am in the Marina of Cancun. You can get there easily by bus both from the centre and from your hotel on the ‘Zona Hotelera’. It’s the bus #R1 that gets you there and you need to get off at the Temptation Resort. Once you get off the bus all the tour operators have their people standing on the street in order to lead everyone to the right boat. Make sure, you’ll be there 45 minutes before the tour starts to pay your Ocean Marine Park fee (10 USD) and do the check-in to board the boat.

Once you’re on board, the catamaran takes you in a slow and relaxed pace towards Isla Mujeres. Halfway there, you get an hour of snorkelling time, all the equipment is included. Depending on the weather conditions you can get lucky and snorkel at MUSA, the famous underwater museum! We were not lucky that day because it was too windy. Instead, we stopped at one of the reefs on the way to the island.

Arriving at Isla Mujeres
A very popular way to get to Isla Mujeres is by Catamaran.

The tour includes ‘open bar’! This means you can sip cocktails all day on the catamaran and also when you get to the island where you have lunch. It goes without saying that it turns into a very casual and happy tour. Once you get to the island and after your snorkel stop (about 45 minutes in the water), you enjoy a delicious lunch buffet in a nice beach club. Remember, you can always choose to drink some water, and you definitely should do that in between your Mojitos! That reminds me: Bring sunscreen and a hat for the time on the catamaran and also when you walk around on the island.

Beautiful beaches on Isla Mujeres
Just the colour of the water with the white sand is worth the trip!

After your lunch break, you have 1 1/2 hours of free time to explore the little island. Most people rent golf carts in order to get around and see the island – it’s 7km diameter lets you do that easily in an hour. We forgot to bring our driver’s license, so we were not able to rent one of the golf carts. Instead, we negotiated a fair price with a local taxi driver to show us the island. Which he did for 100 pesos (roughly 8 USD). Some of the people from our boat chose to stay at the beach and simply relax in the shade for some time.

Isla Mujeres
The island is very small and easy to get around.

Isla Mujeres statues
The ‘Iguana statute’ is one of the main symbols on the island.

In the harbour area, there are also cute little gift shops where you can find souvenirs, clothes and jewellery. We resisted buying things, as we always remember how heavy our bags can become if we get carried away…

By 5:30 pm you are back in the harbour of Cancun. The tour includes all snorkel gear, food, drinks and a lot of fun! We were lucky and got to go for free because we helped our hostel (Mezcal Hostel) to sell the tour to the hostel guests. But in general you get it for 45 USD and I can recommend it for anyone who is looking for a fun day on a catamaran and in order to get an idea of Isla Mujeres.

Beautiful coast on Isla Mujeres
That water!!! 😀

  • Day trips from Cancun #2: Playa del Carmen

From Cancun, most people head down south the coast or the so-called Riviera Maya. The beautiful coastline boasts with many nice beaches and stops on the way. One popular place to visit is Playa del Carmen. The small touristic town is just a one-hour bus ride south of Cancun. You can get there in a ‘colectivo’ (minivan) for as cheap as 34 pesos, or for 62 pesos if you prefer the bigger ADO buses.

Playa del Carmen has become a trendy place and has a vibrant nightlife but in a more centred location compared to Cancun: you live where all the activities are and reach mostly everything by foot or a short taxi ride. The main hotel/hostel area is also close to the beach, so you can easily reach your day activities, such as snorkelling, diving, shopping or sightseeing.

Shopping in Playa del Carmen
Shopping is big in Playa del Carmen, you find small shops or big malls like this one…

We visited ‘Playa’ two times; the first time before we stayed just for one night and hopped over to Cozumel (a little island that you can read more about further down in this post). And the second time we stayed for two nights and came back for a very cool music event (see my review about the party location which was actually the hostel where we stayed at Hostel 3B).

Delicious food in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is full of little food heavens: Make sure to try the Margaritas and fresh Ceviches!!

In general Playa del Carmen is a hotspot for festivals and concerts with musicians and DJs from around the world. Especially in December and January during the ‘high season; many international artists come and attract thousands of people from around the world. One major event takes place in January 2016, the BPM: The Festival lasts for 10 days, with over 150 DJs and 50 events. The program is split into daytime and nighttime and is hosted by different record labels and promoters across various venues in Playa del Carmen, including beach clubs, nightclubs and even underground restaurants.

  • Day trips from Cancun #3: Tulum

Tulum's ruins
Tulum is one of the oldest Mayan cities that were built back then…

Further south, you will reach Tulum. This place is not only popular for the tourist that seeks Mayan evidence and wants to visit some of the ruins in the area. Tulum is also known for its variety of eco-stores, fashion and art. It attracts tourists who are looking to spend a bit more in order to get some higher standards of food and products.

When I went to visit Tulum, I couchsurfed and stayed at a private house in one of the outer areas of the city centre. But I was still only 15 minutes walking distance from the main street. During my two-day stay, I visited the ruins and strolled around the quirky little streets.

When you visit the ruins in Tulum, you can take public transport right to the entrance. It takes 15 minutes from the centre and costs 15 pesos to get there. You just let the driver know that you want to go to ‘Las Ruinas’ and they let you hop off. The park entrance is a short walk away from the highway where you can buy your ticket (62 Mexican pesos). Once you are inside the park area, you simply follow the signs to see the ruins. The beauty of this site is its location, it is right next to the ocean and some of the ruins are above the cliffs.

Tulum
Beautiful setting: Las Ruinas de Tulum right in front of the ocean

  • Day trips from Cancun #4: Cozumel

I really liked this little island. Some people go there only for the day, but there are a lot of things to do, so you can easily spend a few days. We went to Cozumel because of its dive spots. So we stayed two nights and spend one day exploring the world’s second largest reef (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) and the little island’s ‘backyard’…

Cozumel
If you leave the busy centre around the main harbour, you find beautiful deserted beaches like this one…

Choose your dive company wisely! There are many options in Cozumel and in this case, it’s definitely not worth saving money as you depend on the company’s selection from the many different spots. I wish I had known that beforehand, as we chose one of the cheaper ones that offered us a special deal…unfortunately though, only one of the two dives were ok. At the second dive spot, our guide got lost and we couldn’t even find the reef…there was nothing but sand to see. When we went snorkelling we saw a lot more fish… 😀

Cozumel snorkelling
Snorkelling just before sunset in beautiful warm waters…

  • Day trips from Cancun #4: Chichén Itzá

The Mexican Peninsula Yucatan is rich in Mayan cultural sights. Its main attraction is probably Chichén Itzá, a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins. A massive step pyramid known as El Castillo dominates the 6.5-sq.-km-ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200s. Graphic stone carvings survive at structures like the ball court, Temple of the Warriors and the Wall of the Skulls. Everyone who visits the state of Yucatan tries to fit in the most popular former Mayan city. The ruins of Chichén Itzá are spread out on a large area that you’ll be able to visit within 3-4 hours. Remember to bring water and sun protection – you are in the middle of the jungle!

Beautiful Mayan Ruins
One of the many impressive Mayan temples in Chichén Itzá.

The place has become a big attraction and is compared to other cultural sites the least magical one. For one, the masses of tourists who walk around the national park can be distracting and it’s hard to get a good picture of the impressive temples without other people standing in front of you. And on the other hand, there are many vendors inside the area who want to sell their souvenirs. They got creative and try to get your attention with all sorts of things, like panther sounds, reminding you that you are in the middle of the jungle. If you are interested in souvenirs you’re better off buying them in Cancun though or anywhere else – the prices in Chichén Itzá are double as high.

Shopping at Chichen Itza
The symbol of eternal love….ahhh 😀

We went on a guided tour this time, which we enjoyed for free as part of our hostel volunteer program. The tour started at 9 am in Cancun and brought as back, from Chichén Itza to Cancun, in the evening. We went in a big air-conditioned bus towards Chichén Itzá. On the way, we stopped at one of the cenotes and swam in its cold fresh water.

Cenote
Underwater fresh water holes ‘cenotes’ are one of the many attractions in Mexico…

Once we got to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá we strolled around on the huge area. The pre-Hispanic city was built by the Maya people and is completely built with stone tools.

Temple of Chichen Itza
Sometimes I am just a fool… 😀

All in all, it is a very intense tour because it’s a long day (we came back around 9 pm) and it was very hot but definitely very great to see such a unique historic Mexican site.

  • Day trips from Cancun #5: Isla Holbox

Holbox Island
The perfect place to relax….!

Going up north, Holbox Island is 2 hours away from Cancun. You can reach it by bus and after a short ferry ride. Its name is pronounced ‘Holbosh’. This is a little gem, where you don’t need to plan anything at all. It is a place to just be. It’s hassle-free with a very remote touch. The streets are not paved and you see horses in use to get around. And when it rains, it can become a bit difficult to cross the streets…

Holbox Island
When it rains, the streets turn into water….

The main plaza is the centre of Holbox from which you reach the beach by foot in 5 minutes and all the restaurants, shops and bars are located around too. If you go, bring a book or simply enjoy peaceful hours walking along the shore. You can do tours, but all they offer to see is right in front of you: birds and more beaches. Every day you can buy fresh fish from the local fishermen that sell their catch off the beach. Or if you don’t fancy cooking, then choose one of the restaurants and enjoy fresh seafood with ocean view – we loved it!

Isla Holbox en la playa
The sand is so fine…

Have you been on the Yucatan Peninsula? What was your highlight? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your story!


NOT DONE READING YET?

If you have more than just a few days time for visiting Cancún, I recommend reading my travel guide for the city. Click HERE to read the post.

Heading towards Belize after your stay on the Yucatan Peninsula? Read what we loved best about this country.

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REVIEW A great hostel and party location in Playa del Carmen

This post is going to be a review about our hostel in Playa del Carmen, but it is also about traveling and electronic music. Since 3 years I have been traveling with a passionate electronic music fan, perhaps now it’s time to introduce my travel buddy and partner in life before I start with my review:

Introducing the photographer and travel buddy.
Meet the man behind the camera who is responsible for most of the pictures on this blog: the boyfriend.

So whenever there is a concert on our way, he is the one who leads the way. Last Sunday we travelled to Playa del Carmen to see a DJ from London, Laura Jones. We stayed right where the concert took place: Hostel 3B.

Here is my review about our stay at Hostel 3B in Playa del Carmen:

Hostel 3B
Friendly staff and welcoming entrance area: Hostel 3B

First of all, it’s the staff that makes this place a very nice place to stay. Everyone is super-friendly and helpful and it feels like visiting friends when you arrive. For a long-term traveller like me, this is something really important that I appreciate a lot. It’s nice to feel welcomed, so that you’ll be able to relax and feel comfortable and that’s what happened at Hostel 3B!

Accommodation: My room

The hostel offers different room types that you can choose from: 2 female dorms, 4 mixed dorms and 5 private rooms. The hostel’s slogan is ‘Chic & Cheap’ and they stand by their word. It’s a very stylish place to stay and the price is ok for a touristic hotspot like Playa del Carmen. The dorms are between 16-20 USD depending on the season and privates range from 50 to 67 USD. My room was for girls only with 8 beds. It was a very spacious, clean and friendly room with an ensuite bathroom with shower. The beds are big and have comfortable mattresses. I really liked the room.

Room
Spacious room with separate areas to give a bit more privacy.

The highlight of this hostel is for sure its lounge area. Every Sunday they organize concerts in their rooftop bar that has a swimming pool. The entrance is free for hostel guests and open for other people too. This makes it a bit messy when it comes to the fact that everyone has access to the hostel’s facilities and you can literally access all areas. The good thing is that the rooms have locks, so no one can enter your room without a key. Also, the lockers are big enough to store all your valuables in case someone enters.

 

Events: Rooftop bar with swimming pool

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It’s a great international audience that you’ll find in Playa del Carmen. That’s why most locations have no problems in organizing events with famous DJs from around the world. Hostel 3B has it’s own event location on top of the building. The lounge is called SOS Lounge and organises great music events on Sundays. We took a video from that night with DJ Laura Jones. Here is the link to my YouTube Channel: Click here to watch the short video of the party.

hurting feet
My feet hurt from dancing too much 🙂

Playa del Carmen is the ‘Ibizza’ of Mexico – a hotspot for parties and concerts with musicians and DJs from around the world. Especially in December and January many international artists come and attract thousands of people from around the world. One major event takes place in January, the BPM.

SOS Lounge with Laura Jones
Getting ready for her gig: Laura Jones

 

Facilities: What you get during your stay

Like in most established places, Wi-Fi and breakfast are the basic standards that you will also find at Hostel 3B. The internet connection is good if you are on the bottom or at the rooftop lounge level. It doesn’t work in the rooms though. The breakfast includes coffee, fruit and toast. It’s basic but and similar to most of the hostels that we have stayed so far in Mexico.

There are two areas to hang out during the day: the entrance area that is connected with a small kitchen where you can prepare your food. And the rooftop lounge area that is open during the day if you want to take a dip in the pool or relax on the sofa beds.

 

The area: Playa del Carmen

The hostel is located in the central area of Playa del Carmen. If you want to read more about the area and the things to do in the surrounding area, check out my blog post about ‘Day-trips from Cancun’.

 

Allover experience

• Clean and trendy rooms/facilities
• Friendly staff
• Wi-Fi and breakfast included
• Free events on Sundays open to the public
• International DJs

So, whoever is looking for a place to party and meet people from around the world in a nice and friendly ambience is perfect at Hostel 3B. I would go back!

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DID YOU LIKE THIS REVIEW OF MY HOSTEL IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN? Have you been to Playa del Carmen? Feel free to like, share and comment on it!!! Happy travels, y’all! 😀

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Travel Tips for Cuba: Sights, Prices and Personal Insights

Fascinating vintage car
Travel Tips for Cuba: Enjoy the beauty of the old cars!

You gotta be quicker than Mc Donald’s!! 

In January I watched the news and panicked! Ok…wait!! This sounds wrong, I mean I was happy to hear that the US changed their Cuba sanctions. But I knew that these changes would mean the beginning of a process that I did not want to see…Don’t take me wrong, I understand that Cuba needs this change (given that it will bring positive effects for the Cuban people, hopefully!!), but from a travellers point of view this was shocking news! I wanted to see Cuba BEFORE Mcdonald’s and Starbucks arrive!

So, with sweaty hands I sent off a message to a friend who just asked me if I had any travel plans for the upcoming spring… I did now! Let’s go to Cuba ASAP!! We booked our flights for March anxious to get there in time before the Americans would 🙂 Puhhh, and we just arrived in time….actually when we got there it looked very much the way it must have looked for the past decades: old cars, old buildings, horse carriages, rusty bicycles, hardly any internet access, regulated wages etc. We made it and saw Cuba in its very surreal and unchanged state. Check out our travel tips for Cuba!

jeyjetter.com: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights

With 3 million inhabitants, Cuba’s capital is busy and full of life. Havana is also the starting point for most travellers, even though there are some other cities that operate internationally. For example, from Canada you can fly into Varadero, where you’ll find one of the most popular beaches in Cuba. We didn’t go there though because it sounded very much developed and crowded… Anyways, in Havana we learned a lot about the local mix of cigars, rum and music. In combination with all those  vintage cars that are still driving the streets of Havana, it gives this city a special vibe.

jeyjetter.com: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
Full of contrasts – old run down buildings and old but well maintained cars….

jeyjetter.com: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
Stuck in time: In Cuba you feel like you’re back in the 60s, like here when you pick up your medicine at the pharmacy!

GENERAL INFO

  • MONEY:

There are two currencies in Cuba: CUC and Moneda Nacional. CUC (Cuban Universal Currency) is for tourists, so if you want to pay local prices go change your CUCs and get Moneda Nacional. For us (in March 2015) the value was as follows: 1 Euro=1,05 CUC –> 1 CUC=25 Moneda Nacional. You can get Moneda Nacional in a bank or money exchange places.

jeyjetter.com: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
Pesos in Moneda Nacional versus the tourist currency CUC.

  • ACCOMMODATION:

If you are travelling on a budget like we did and don’t want to stay in hotels, don’t think of the usual hostel as an alternative! In Cuba you’ll find the so-called “Casa Particulares”. This means that some Cubans have a licence to rent out a room in their house. They offer usually bed and breakfast, some even cook you lunch and dinner if you don’t like to eat out. In some places we actually ate better food cooked from our host mummas than in a restaurant. So, I’d say it is worth trying their cooking at least sometimes. This way you also support your host family rather than a restaurant, which we found a nice way to say thank you for their (VERY awesome) hospitality.

jeyjetter.com: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
We even got picked up one time with a sign that said: Elena + Julia 😀

  • SCAMS:

In general I would say that Cuba is a very safe country to travel through. But like everywhere else you have to be smart and alert about your things. Plus, it has become a “sport” of some Cubans to make some extra money on the side with tourists. So, for example booking rooms in advance can turn out to be used as such an opportunity: We booked our very first “Casa particular” for Havana online, just because we thought it would be hassle free to arrive in Havana knowing an address to go to…well, it usually is more comfortable not having to look around with your backpack on your shoulders after a long flight and perhaps a jet lag, but in our case it actually took us longer to get to the final destination…. The reason: Our reservation was apparently made by the owner of the house, who was gone on holiday for a few weeks and who must have messed up our booking.

So, even though we showed our email confirmation to the couple who took care of the place while the owner was away, they said they had never heard of our reservation and therefore had no room for us. BUT, no problem, we could stay at their place instead! Long story short, we stayed, because we were tired and all worked out ok. But it was far away from Havana’s centre (35 min by local bus). And afterwards we read in the “Lonely Planet” that this was a classical scam and trick to make some extra money on pre-bookings… BUT, we didn’t pay more for the room, we had our breakfast included and a nice and clean room. So, all in all, not too bad either. Still, you might want to keep this in mind before making a reservation in advance!

 

Cuban women with cigars: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
Women on the rise! Cuban women not only manage the bookings and rentals, they smoke cigars and attract tourists just like Cuban caballeros do!

  • TRANSPORTATION:

Funny signs: travel tips for Cuba.

There is a bus company called Viazul (www.viazul.com) that connects many of the places in Cuba. Make sure to check their website though for the actual schedule…we relied on the Lonely Planet one time and missed the bus from Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa. And in general: IT’S FREEZING!! Be aware that in ALL the Viazul busses the AC is on very low and can’t be regulated! So before you board, make sure to take out all the sweaters, long pants and towels that you have in your luggage, no kidding, you will need it, especially if you travel over night!  Also, at some bus stations Viazul workers set up signs that say 1 CUC for your luggage…we spoke to one of the drivers one day and he told us that these signs are not official/not from the company, it’s just another way to earn a bit extra… you decide!

  • LEAVING CUBA:

Save 25 CUC for the fee you’ll have to pay at the airport when leaving Cuba!

Patriots: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
Three weeks full of music, cigars and very friendly people!! Viva Cuba 😀


THE ROUTE – 3 weeks is not enough time!!!

So if you want to go and follow our route, here is what we did, how much we spent and where we went…very detailed and very specific for those who’d like to get some ideas and are like us on the run to still see Cuba in its momentary state!

Havana (3 days):

  • Arriving at the airport, we got out money from the ATM: there is a 3% charge. Later we saw that if you bring cash you can exchange money at the exchange office on the second floor – with no charge!
  • A taxi from the airport to the city centre/Havana Vieja: 25 CUC
  • We stayed in a “Casa particular” (see general info above) for 20 CUC/per night incl. breakfast (I won’t recommend this one though because it was outside of Havana (see the “Scams” info above)
  • Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing City Tour: 5 CUC for a day pass (nice way to avoid walking around in the heat!)
  • The local bus is 0,20 Pesos (Moneda Nacional) each trip

Old cars in front of the 'White House': travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
Vintage cars everywhere – this one in front of the White House “El Capitolio”

  • Sights: Capitol, Malecon, Calle Obispo (good for shopping, bars/restaurant and coconut ice cream out of coconut shells!! mmm)

Coconut icecream: travel tips for Cuba with prices and personal insights
So yummy!!! Coconut ice cream out of real coconut shells 😀

  • “Havana Vieja” (the old town of Havana) is worth a stroll to stop for a Mojito or Cuba Libre! It is actually part of the UNESCO world heritage list and you can tell that this nomination caused a wave of restoration of many buildings in that part of the city. You are walking through cute little streets and pass by bright coloured houses with a lot of music and art on the street.

Take a sightseeing bus to save you time: travel tips for Cuba.
Good way to save some energy for more sightseeing by foot: 5 CUC for a hop-on-hop-off day ticket

Playa Larga/Bay of Pigs (2 days):

  • The Viazul Bus leaves (or at least did so in March!) at 7am from Havana to Playa Larga for 12 CUC/person.
  • “Hostal” Legendario, really the only hostel-like place which is directly at the beach and offers small rooms with a little terrace, breakfast, a welcome drink for 25 CUC. Some evenings they offer salsa classes for free (we missed it) and have a big dinner option for 8 CUC with ocean view….
  • The beach “Playa Larga” was nice, even though the name “long beach” sounds longer than it actually is…

Playa Larga: one stop of our travel tips for Cuba
“Playa Larga” – a cute beach at the historic Bay of Pigs

  • There is just one restaurant on the main road which offers food (around 5 CUC) and then you can get something to eat at the kiosk. That’s about it…or else you eat in your “Casa”…it’s a very small place, so you might wanna bring food!
  • We went scuba diving for 25 CUC (with licence) at the local dive centre Octupus Club. Diving for beginners without a licence is 35 CUC and snorkelling 10 CUC: all you need to do is let your host know that you want to go the next day and they call the company that picks up all the tourist in the area with a big (SCHOOL!!) bus and bring them to the dive centre 15 minutes away from Playa Larga.

Ready to go diving? Check out Playa Larga's nearest dive spots!
Brave Elena who went diving just like a pro!

Travel Tips for Cuba, Cienfuegos (1 day):

  • So here is a tricky one…leaving Playa Larga is a bit of a juggle: you can either wait for the Viazul Bus that comes around 9 or 9:30am and pay 8 CUC once you board…IF there is a seat left! Or you negotiate with the taxi drivers that hang out at the bus stop and offer you the same price like the bus ticket, because they also know about the sometimes fully booked Viazul Buses. We ended up taking their offer for 1 CUC less per person just because we thought it’s a nice change and travelling in an “Oldtimer” was very cool 🙂
  • Casa la Fuente Oraldo & Olivia, 25 CUC incl. breakfast: very nice building, high colonial ceilings, very lovely people, yummy breakfast!!
  • Sights: Old town/city centre, waterfront, beach about 15km by local bus, national park El Nicho (we skipped that one but heard it’s a nice park!)

Travel tips for Cuba

Travel tips for Cuba: Cienfuegos at sunset.

Trinidad (2 days):

  • We liked the taxi idea and drove for 5 CUC from Cienfuegos to Trinidad (instead for 6 CUC by bus) with 3 other travellers…the taxis only leave when their car is full…and by full means 5 people in a normal car, sometimes 6! 🙂

In the taxi to the next stop: Cuban taxis are cool vintage cars!
You can’t see it, but there are four people on the backseat 🙂

  • We stayed in a private house which had no license…so I’d rather not name it here.

Travel tips for Cuba: Motorbike in Trinidad
Streets of Trinidad…

  • We rode our bikes (3 CUC organised by our host mum) to the beach “Playa Ancon” (12 km), nice trip, sandy beach!
  • Sights: Old town, Plaza Mayor

Patria o Muerte: Travel tips for Cuba
On the way to the beach, we passed by MANY propaganda signs… actually you see them everywhere in Cuba!

Travel tips for Cuba: You'll find beautiful beaches all over the island!
“Playa Ancor”: A 20 minute bike ride away from Trinidad

Santa Clara (2 days):

  • This time we took the bus again, 8 CUC from Trinidad
  • And like before, we found our place to stay after arriving. Just walking down the street after leaving the bus terminal someone recommended a place….and we found out later that it was not an licensed one…we paid 20 CUC incl. breakfast
  • Santa Clara is all about history! Here you can soak up Che Guevara’s impressive journey!

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  • Sights: Che Monument and Mausoleum, tobacco production place, train monument, old city centre

Tobacco fabric
Fabric where the tobaccos are made…usually open for visitors but that day we couldn’t go inside because the roof was in risk to fall down. Needless to say, that the company cared about protecting tourists to get hurt, but they did not so much about their workers…

Cuban cigars are a must-try: Travel tips for Cuba.
And just when we left the entrance area of the fabric, one of the workers came out after ending his shift and he offered us Cuban Cigar for a very special price…1 CUC one tobacco…freshly rolled 🙂

Santiago de Cuba (3 days):

  • We went with the overnight bus from Santa Clara to Santiago which left at 7:30pm and arrived at 7am in Santiago: 33 CUC (bring your blankets!!)
  • Casa 15 CUC incl. breakfast
  • Usually people go on a tour and see “El Salto” which is a waterfall, but for us it wasn’t possible to go because it was too dry, so there was no water…
  • And we met many people going on a 1-2 day tour to the national park with the highest mountain of Cuba “Pico Turquino”. we didn’t go there either, because we spent more time exploring the city

Travel tips for Cuba: Santiago de Cuba

  • Nightlife:  Casa de la Trova, Casa de Artes

Casa de la Musica: Travel Tips for Cuba
Casa de la Musica in Santiago de Cuba

 

Baracoa (3 days):

  • By bus from Santiago to Baracoa: 15 CUC
  • Casa Onilda: 15 CUC incl. breakfast: very nice place, beautiful big room and lovely people!!
  • Baracoa is known for great food, it’s the chocolate/coconut area with also a lot of natural beauty products on offers, great seafood too!!
  • Sights: Hiking trip with guide to Humboldt National Park, incl. 1 hour at beautiful Playa Managua
  • Mountain hike to “El Yunque”
  • “Playa Blanca” don’t get fooled by everyone who says it’s a nice beach (and bring 2CUC for entry fee!)… but I’d suggest walking towards the beach anyways, because the old wooden bridge was fun and beautiful when the sun sets!
  • Indiana Jones feeling 🙂
  • If you want to go to Holguin from here, keep in mind that the busses only go Wednesdays and Saturdays!!
  • We went back to Santiago for one night to break up the LOOONG way back…

Hiking through Humboldt National Park. Travel tips for Cuba.
Hiking through Humboldt National Park.

Baracoa is a must-see when in Cuba!

Ciego de Avila/Moron (2 days):

  • The bus is 24 CUC from Santiago de Cuba. From there we took a taxi to Moron for 20 CUC/car (we were 4 persons)
  • So Moron is the starting point to get to Cayo Coco…. THE MOST GORGEOUS BEACH on Cuba!! But there are only few places to stay on Cayo Coco (and mostly high-end hotels). Still, you end up driving for one hour in a taxi for 60 CUC/car (if you are four people that’s ok…), but it would be a lot more relaxed just to stay there…perhaps worth the money
  • Make sure you have your passport with you when going to Cayo Coco, don’t leave it in the hotel! There is a police control for EVERYONE who enters the area. There are many different beaches on Cayo Coco (which is actually an island connected with a long street constructed in the water…), we went to the beaches Playa Larga and Playa Pilar
  • On the way we stopped to see Flamingos!

 

Ciego de Avila: travel tips for Cuba.
No words needed here!

 

 

 

 

Viñales (4 days):

  • Now followed our longest and most complicated trip: by taxi (2 CUC) we went from Moron back to Ciego de Avila
  • From there we took the local bus to Havana (wooden seats and packed), stopped WAY out of Havana…so we had to find another bus to Havana centre…
  • then we missed the bus and paid a taxi driver to Vinales: 15 CUC/person: which was nice because I made a comment on the nice car and the driver let me drive it for a bit 😀
  • There are places everywhere to stay…you don’t need to worry, you’ll find a “Casa” without knowing beforehand. Ours had no name, so hard to recommend and was 20 CUC incl. breakfast
  • Sights: It’s all about the valley in Vinales!!! We made a tour on a horseback in order to see the gorgeous “Valle de Vinales’: 3-5 CUC/hour
  • Go watch the sunset in “Valle de Silencio” (Silent Valley)
  • After all that long bus rides we were ready for massage: 25 CUC/hour
  • People told us about a day trip to a dive spot/beach called “Maria Gorda”…but we were too lazy and didn’t go!

Viñales: travel tips for Cuba
Beautiful valley, with a very lush green landscape!

Viñales: travel tips for Cuba
The best way to discover the valley is on the back of a horse!

Playa del Este (20 km East of Havana):

  • Just at the end of our trip, we needed beach time. So we decided to spend our two last days before heading back to Havana at the beach. Unfortunately it was a bit crowded and a lot of people left their trash/rum bottles at the beach…
  • There are plenty of places to stay for 25 CUC without breakfast, when you arrive in Guanabo just ask around. We got one 2 minutes after getting off the bus…
  • Take a “collectivo” (taxi) for 2 CUC per Person if you have a lot of luggage and don’t want to squeeze in the local bus that runs from there frequently

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Last night in Havana:

  • Just before leaving Cuba, we wanted to get THE picture in a classical old car, so we paid 10 CUC to a guy with a very nice car to take us for a short ride at the Malecon (the famous harbour promenade) for one last ride and THE picture 🙂
  • Our last evening we met up with an old friend of mine from Munich and his newly wed wife (they got married in Havana and were on their honeymoon). We celebrated with Mojitos and said Goodbye to a wonderful Cuba!

The classical shot in Havana: cigars and vintage cars!
The classical shot in Havana: cigars in a vintage car 😉

 

Thanks a lot to my travel buddy Elena from whom I learned that raw garlic can be your best choice if you don’t have a spread for your bread. And who wrote down all these details for her friend who lent us her “Lonely Planet” before that friend even had travelled to Cuba herself… (but that’s a different story) 😀

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Cuba Travel Tips Plus Itinerary

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Did you like this post? Have you been to Cuba? Please leave a comment, if you have any other advice! Your feedback is highly appreciated!