How To Configure A VPN To Get Cheaper Airfare

October 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Air, Money, Security, Tech

orlando airport checkpoint

Virtual private network (VPN) software can do a lot for your digital life when traveling – like protecting your online accounts to helping you avoid regional censorship. But one of the lesser known benefits of using a VPN is finding cheaper airfare when searching for tickets online.

As Paul asked me recently on Facebook – how exactly do you use a VPN to find lower prices on airline tickets? Here’s the best way to turn your web browser into a digital travel agent with insider deals.

First, Choose A Good VPN

Most VPNs worth their 0s and 1s let you select a location where you’ll appear to physically be. So, for example, you might be traveling in Iceland but setting your VPN location in New York will make it appear to websites like Netflix, that you’re in the United States.

spinning globe

Start by downloading one of the 3 best VPNs for travelers or for those of you who don’t carry a laptop, check out TunnelBear.

Location Strategy

Using your everyday browser, starting looking for tickets and routes as you normally would (with VPN off). If you’re not sure where to look, one of the best flight search engines should turn up a good set of routes plus average rates.

eiffel tower

Next, it’s time to turn on your VPN – setting its location to the home country of the airline you’re most interested in. So, if Paris is the destination and there’s a decent Air France flight, change your VPN location to somewhere in France.

Before doing anything else, you’ll want to open up a ‘private browsing’ mode window. Here’s how to do that in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. What this does is ensures you’re IP address is stored in cache so the website you’re looking at can’t remember your real location.

Remember The Basics

For every new flight search, use a new private mode browser window. Don’t forget to use some low-airfare best practices, such as checking not only online travel agents like Kayak but also airline websites directly. Hopefully by now you’ve found a few discounts, even if small; however, in case your VPN searches aren’t turning up anything there’s one more option: use the U.S.

No matter where you’re flying, consumers in the United States are often offered lower rates on airfare, no matter the origin and destination cities. It’s worth a shot to set your VPN to any American city when all else isn’t working. For even more savings, look for multi-city flights, see if you’ve got enough frequent flyer miles for a free flight, and spread your searches out over a few days.

[Eiffel Tower photo from Wikipedia]

The Sydney, Australia Skyline View From Circular Quay

October 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Pictures and Video

Sydney Harbor offers a lot of boat tours but the best way to get great views of the city is by taking the local Harbour City Ferries. There are over 30 stops (you can plan your trip here) but don’t forget to look back, especially if you’re leaving from Circular Quay.

Unexpected Variety: The Foods Of Yemen

September 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Culture, Food

yemeni cuisine

Yemeni cuisine is as surprisingly diverse as the landscape of a country I visited in its last days of stability. Although the security situation has changed considerably in Yemen since 2013, these tastes flavor a culture that’s often obscured by bomb smoke for many around the world.

The Spread

Yemeni breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables only begin like the photo below from At Hameeda, a completely woman owned and run restaurant near the city of Shibam (northwest of Sana’a). After the first course, plus some lounging, the tabletop is replaced with several new dishes.

yemeni lunch

Rice With Hawaij Spice

Common in many Yemeni foods, hawaij is a spice mix that varies but the primary ingredients are cardamon, tumeric, and cumin. Also varied is how much (if any) clarified butter is used for flavor.

yemeni rice


Fried or poached eggs on a layer of tomatoes spicy enough to make your temples glow with perspiration.

shashouka yemen


Bread heavily buttered with a touch of egg.

yemen bread yemen bread


A spongy flat bread served warm with a cool mixture of yogurt, cucumbers with carrots on top.

yemen lahoh


Yemen’s national dish, it never looked the same twice. Saltah’s main ingredient is a meat (often lamb) in a broth with the strong flavor of fenugreek – an unexpected taste that probably takes more than a few tries to acquire.

yemen saltah

Leham Segar

Minced lamb with tomatoes and onion. The okra isn’t standard but your appetite will appreciate the culinary creativity.

leham segar

Cooked Peas (Bezelye)

Those of you familiar with Turkish vegetarian foods might recognize this green pea dish with a tomato base.

yemen peas


A chicken or lamb broth soup that is tastier than its short ingredient list implies.

yemen soup


A variation of saltah, fahsa is cooked at much higher heat until the lamb meat slides off the bone, boiling inside a soup of garlic, onions. It is then topped off with fenugreek paste mixed with tomatoes (which is cooked separately) so you have a layer of bread dip on top of dinner. Well, at least 6% of a dinner if it’s Yemeni proportions.

yemen fahsa

Still Eating

Going through them all I had so many photos from Yemen of food I didn’t realize how much time I spent eating – all different types of food.

yemeni food yemeni food liver

yemeni potatoes yemeni stuffed peppers

yemeni salad yemeni kebab

You’ll probably notice as well that many of the pictures a selected above are from the same meal or two to show you that Yemenis like to eat. Meals are often largest in early noon, since after 2pm most people take some time to get high on khat. I didn’t even mention the coffee a drink introduced to the world from the Yemeni port of Mocha. Unfortunately much of the coffee crops – and the potential export income it could bring in – has been replaced by thirsty khat trees.

The world’s world’s most neglected tourist destination Socotra Island, hundreds of kilometers off the mainland coast of Yemen, still remains accessible by air but for now, getting to one of the world’s best kitchens will have to wait for a distant future trip.

Keep Your Mobile Phone Connected Globally With A TravelSim

September 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Tech, Travel

travelsim card

Although the world is more digitally connected now than it ever has been before, finding an inexpensive connection for your mobile phone when crossing international borders is still a cumbersome process. You either have to contend with expensive, often murky roaming charges, or spend what can be a long afternoon trying to track down a local provider for service. The TravelSim card however eliminates the need for either of those sub-optimal choices, providing you with pay-as-you-need international mobile and data service.

What Is A TravelSim?

Physically, the TravelSim is your basic mobile phone SIM (optionally Micro SIM) card. Functionally, the TravelSim allows you to make calls and send text messages from over 135 countries in the world at national flat rates. Data service is also included in most countries with incoming calls, plus texts, free. The TravelSim is sold online through through their website with two packages available, either 35 or 85 Euros depending on how much initial air time you want.

travelsimTravelSIM International SIM Card with 5 USD airtime

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How The TravelSim Works

The TravelSim is a callback service routed through Estonia. Once you’ve got the TravelSim inserted into your phone (which must be unlocked for the service to work), you make calls as you normally would – with one extra step. Instead of being connected directly to the person you’re calling, once you dial, you’ll receive a phone call from the TravelSim service. You then wait on the line for a second or two before hearing the familiar sound of ringing as you’re connect to the person you’re calling. The additional process adds under 5 seconds of time to an ordinary call and is fairly seamless, once you get used to your phone calling you back before connecting. (Admittedly, it took me a few times.)

travelsim review

Text messages are sent as you would with any regular phone service. To activate data, you’ll need to follow these steps to configure your phone.

Benefits Of Using TravelSim

For starters, the TravelSim is available in a lot of countries from Madagascar to France and is a pay-as-you-go service. Once you’ve added credit to your card on, it’s good for two years. Anyone can get in touch with you through your dedicated phone number, which will have a +372 country code, since TravelSim is based in Estonia. Having (inexpensive) mobile service upon arrival in a new country can be one of the most comforting things a traveler can have, especially if you need to contact your hotel or have a mother who still worries about you.

Additionally, TravelSim gives you a phone number that’s actually usable without costing you twice your plane tickets. Hotels and hostels often want a contact number, as do the friends you make on the road. The TravelSim can’t replace regular mobile service at home but it’s not designed to do that. Ideally, you swap out your home SIM with the TravelSim before your next international flight or train ride to seamlessly close the gap in coverage between arrival and accommodation we all face when showing up in a new country.