How To Track Steps Using Your iPhone (Hint: It’s A Built-In Feature)

lisbon 25 de abril

Many of you want to track the number of steps you’ve taken during the day or know the distance you’ve covered sightseeing. Activity trackers like Fitbit are good options, but if you’re an iPhone user mainly interested in tracking distance and steps, this functionality is already built-in your phone.

All you need to do is activate the feature from Apple’s Health app and remember to keep your phone on you at all times. Here’s how to do the first part, the second part I’m guessing you started a long time ago.

Dust Off Health

It’s easy to ignore the Health app, which has been a part of iOS since version 8.0. Trust me, it’s there, because Apple doesn’t let you delete it – but unlike a number of fairly useless apps Cupertino forces on you, Health, although clumsy, is a convenient way to track your daily movements.

  • In case you can’t find it, ask Siri to “open Health” or swipe down from any screen to search for Health.

Once you’re in the Health app, if it’s your first time using it, you’ll be asked to either enter (or skip) your medical data and emergency contacts. After you’ve completed or ignored those steps, you’ll see the Heatlh Data screen shown below.

ios health data

Tracking Activity

Tap Health Data, then Fitness > Walking + Running Distance. Next, toggle on Show On Dashboard, and go back to the Health Data screen. From there, in about 24 hours after your phone has had a chance to collect some data, you should see a graph of how many steps you’ve taken, flights of stairs you’ve climbed, and the overall distance covered.

ios walking steps

There’s no need for any additional equipment except the phone of course, it can’t track how much you’re walking if it’s not in your pocket. iOS also has a list of recommended apps, which can expand your fitness tracking ability, but for simple sightseeing step counting, Health is a handy tool.

With some data on how much you’re walking, you can better calculate how many calories you burned sightseeing, and potentially encourage yourself to 10,000 daily steps, even at the airport.

Win $600 By Telling Me Your Favorite City For This Year’s Best City To Visit Tournament

best city to visit 2017

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament in an annual contest on this site where 64 cities are matched up and eliminated by weekly reader votes. You tell me what city you think is the best in the world to visit to and if it wins, I’ll give you a $600 gift card to your choice of several online stores, including Apple and Amazon.

To enter, write your favorite city in the comments section of this post before Sunday, February 26th 8:00pm US EST.

The cities will then be placed in tournament brackets sorted by geographical region, with the first round of voting beginning on March 2nd, 2017. Each week the number of cities will be halved by reader votes, until there is one left. Hopefully the winning city is the one you picked.

Tournament Rules

Cities are first come first serve and several cities have already been picked by my newsletter subscribers (who got the first picks). The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is a round robin style competition, with voting every week during the month of March.

Important Dates

Once you enter a city, there’s nothing you have to do but keep in mind voting for yourself isn’t a bad idea. These are the Tuesdays in the coming weeks to make note of:

  • March 2, 2017: Round of 64
  • March 7, 2017: Round of 32
  • March 14, 2017: Sweet 16
  • March 21. 2017: Elite 8
  • March 28, 2017: Final 4
  • April 4, 2017: Championship

Here are some other ways you can help your city win based on how previous winners have succeeded. Please remember that many comments automatically go into moderation where they remain invisible until they’re approved. Selections are still first come, first serve, keep checking back to see if you got the city you wanted or need to pick an alternate.

Winner Announced April 11, 2017

The winner of this year’s tournament will be announced on Tuesday, April 11th and prize gift card delivered electronically to the winner by June 25, 2017. Those are quite a few dates to keep up with – the best way not to miss anything is to get my posts sent directly to your inbox.

  • The gift card can be used on the Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Delta, and Southwest Airlines online stores.

More retailers may also be added; or those above modified at any time before the end of the tournament – gift cards must be for the full $600 prize amount and cannot be split among stores, transferred into cash, and will be sent to the email you use in the comments section to choose your city. Best of luck to everyone and please let me know if you have any questions.

How To Get To The Top Of Tirana, Albania’s Mount Dajti By Cable Car

dajti ekspres

Albania’s capital city Tirana doesn’t have the reputation of being the most beautiful, but I ask you to try agreeing with that from the view atop Mount Dajti overlooking the city. Something more objective however is Tirana’s ad-hoc system for pretty much everything, including public transportation.

You can get to the top of Mount Dajti, just outside of Tirana, by taking the Dajti Ekspress, the longest cable car in the Balkans. There are a lot of options for getting there but only a few that make sense. Here are the best ways to get to Mount Dajti.

From Town To Base Station

Before you do anything, it’s important to make sure you have, or withdraw, enough cash for the journey as well as cable car. The credit card machine at the base station hasn’t worked in forever – show up with only a Mastercard and you’ll have to go all the way back into town.

et'hem bey mosque tirana

  • Cash To Bring – A round-trip cable car ticket is around 800 lek ($6.30 dollars) and the bus about 65 lek (.50 cents US). There’s a good cafe and restaurant up at the top that do accept credit cards but I wouldn’t rely on them, so bring extra cash to enjoy some food as well.

Head to the Et’hem Bey Mosque in the center of town. Looking at the Et’hem Mosque (with the clock town on the left) about 50 meters to the left is a bus station. You’ll see people waiting around, possibly a bus, or neither. Look for the Linze bus and confirm with the driver he or she is headed toward Dajti.

  • Dajti Cable Car Hours – From 10am to 7pm (winter); extended hours to 10pm during the summer months. The Dajti Ekspres cable car is open everyday except Tuesdays.

The trip from the bus station to nearby the cable car station is about 25 minutes. Go to the last stop – it also helps to sit near the front so the driver can let you know you’re at the right place.

Drop Off And Ready To Walk

From this point, you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes uphill following signs that aren’t very accurate. As you walk in the direction the bus was pointing when it arrived at the station, ask every few shops to make sure you’ve not gone off track. The shop owners are very helpful, often leaving their stores to give overly detailed instructions for the deceptively winding roads.

mount dajti tirana albania

Unless you’re arriving with a bicycle, get a round-trip ticket up to the top by taking the 3.6 kilometer (2.2 mile) Dajti Ekspres cable car. A lovely 20 minute ride, unless you have serious fear of heights, take in all of the views of Tirana on the way. After arriving don’t miss the countryside on the far side of Mount Dajti.

  • Meal With A View – Although the pizza is pretty good, be sure to get a seat by the window, even if there is a wait at Ballkoni I Dajtit, the sight is spectacular.

Above it, there’s a cafe that rotates 360 degrees, like this:

Other Options To The Top

Taxi is an option but you’ll have to negotiate your way there, expect to pay about $15 USD for a one-way ride. There’s also a shuttle which connects with one of the bus stops but since there’s no set timing information available, consider it the very leisurely (possibly uncertain) way up. Up, by the way, is the direction it’s easiest to go – finding a taxi nearby, especially close to closing hour means bus is likely the only way you’ll be getting back into town.

Simple But Powerful, Currency Is An Essential App For International Travelers

currency app

For nearly as long as I’ve been traveling with a (then) iPod touch, now several mobile phones, there’s been one app so consistently useful I’ve overlooked how integral its become to my travel routine. Currency is a free app for Android and iOS that lets you convert between multiple currencies, easily and offline.

Current Conversion

Currency is a pretty simple app to set up. Once you’ve downloaded it [iOS or Android] you add the currencies (e.g. dollars, euro, pesos) you want, then pick one to convert the others to an equivalent amount. So, let’s say the U.S. dollar is your home currency, you would choose dollars, then add the other currencies you might be using the near future. Set your home currency to one dollar, to see how many euro or yuan that happens to be. You can also quickly tap on the euro to change it to 1 (or 2, 3.5, whatever) to see how much it is in all the other currencies you’ve added.

currency app

The conversions in Currency are set to update automatically, so whenever you have an Internet connection the rates are as up to date as the time of your last Internet connection. When you don’t have an Internet connection, you can see do conversions with the last rates that were synced. Most currencies don’t change enough over a short period of time to where that should cause a major concern in most cases (save for some local financial collapse).

Constantly On Hand

Currency is extremely handy when you’ve arrived at an international airport so you don’t have to walk up to an ATM with no idea how much money you’re actually withdrawing. You can also help yourself when bargaining abroad because our minds tend to evaluate costs best in our home currency.

There are two versions of Currency: one that’s free with ads – to remove them you’ll need to pay $3.99. The ads aren’t intrusive but if you want to support the developer, it shouldn’t hurt your travel budget at all to purchase a well-designed app that provides a very handy function.

Are Wow Air Deals Worth It?

washingon dc from sky

You may have seen recently a lot of seemingly spectacular deals from Wow Air, a low-cost airline based in Reykjavik, Iceland, that offers transatlantic flight deals for less than $99. Those deals seem worth it (answering the question above) of course, if they are what they seem upfront.

I spent some time booking flights using Wow Air and found while it might be an inexpensive way to cross the Atlantic, it may not always be the best way.

Wow Deals

A lot of low cost carriers advertise big deals on flights, pricing them so low it feels more like you could be booking a bus ticket. Often, those low fares are only for select seats offered on a first-come-first-serve basis or come with high fees, meaning most of the people booking that flight won’t be getting the lowest advertised price. The advertised deals get you to the booking process, and in the case of Wow Air, the fees for most people bring the airfare up to less attractive numbers.

wow air

First Thing Is One Way

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Wow Air’s wonderful $99 prices (they’re sometimes as low as $69) from the United States to Europe are only for one-way journeys. Return flights are typically 2-3 times the one-way fare, around $219 back to America. And don’t forget about the taxes, around $100 usually. Although paying around $400 for a round-trip ticket to Amsterdam from San Francisco isn’t bad at all, there are some other fees you’ll need to accept or avoid to keep prices as low as possible.

The Other Fees

You quickly come across some of the more avoidable fees during the plane ticket booking process, starting with seat assignments. Paying for a reserved seat isn’t necessary, especially if you’re traveling alone or in a small group, plus have the patience to get queued up in line early. Otherwise it will cost you about $8 for each seat reservation. Food or drinks aren’t served, so unless a long haul flight is when you want to experiment with intermittent fasting, bring your own or pay about $12 for an airplane meal. Also, there’s no entertainment center, something you shouldn’t miss too much if you’ve got a travel good book or download a few movies ahead of time.

A few of the less avoidable fees are for checked bags. A checked bag carries a $70 fee per leg, meaning even on a one-way trip, if you’ve got a layover in Reykjavik (Wow Air’s hub), you’ll be paying the baggage fee twice. One carry-on bag under a reasonable size and a ‘personal item’ is free.

Wow Air doesn’t hide its fees but unless you’re traveling especially light or making use of a multi-city flight, your final price might be closer to an Icelandair ticket which offers stopovers, meals, and included baggage. Those of you accumulating frequent flyer miles too might decide Wow Air’s not worth what ends up being a small discount on airfare. Still, many travelers rate Wow Air as a decent airline that doesn’t feel cheap, but be sure to calculate all the fees because the reality is, it may not be that cheap after all.

Is It Safe To Travel To Turkey? [Updated: Jan. 2017]

turkish airlines airplane wing

Around a year ago I originally wrote whether it was still safe to travel to Turkey, a question I get regularly in my inbox. A lot has changed over the past year – and not for the better – with more attacks, a coup attempt; many people have stopped bothering to ask altogether. It’s a dramatic shift in a country that was the 6th most visited in the world, back in 2015.

There are so many reasons to visit Turkey, from balloon rides over ancient volcanic rock formations, the impressive 1,480 year old Hagia Sophia, beautiful beaches, and of course all the food. Still, Turkey’s perception as a travel destination has changed, so has the reality.

Focused Fear

Most countries have rough parts, cities, and often those locations are far removed from the tourist experience. In other words, you have to look for trouble. In Turkey, a lot of the violence it faces from Kurdish terrorist groups, not to mention ISIS, was previously limited to the distant southeast. Recently, it has moved to Turkey’s travel capital, Istanbul.

istanbul from above

A goal of terrorism toward tourists is to invoke a disproportionate amount of fear from attacks designed to make you feel like, “I could have been there,” so that you decide not to go to the country at all. It is easy to dismiss one, even two attacks, but terrorism in places tourists are likely to frequent is no longer an anomaly. There are other unsettling events as well, coup attempts, assassinations, and arrests. Although the chance of something happening to any given person in a terror-related event are low, in Turkey, those events are becoming more common. Disruptions directly related to such events, Internet blackouts, flight delays or cancellations, or curfews, could potentially occur during your trip.

Istanbul, for now, might be a better plan for those who have a little bit of travel experience.

Experiencing The Numbers

A lot of experienced travelers will proclaim, “of course it’s safe, go!” Much like the crime in your own city never seems so bad, because you live the statistics. As you travel you begin to become familiar with what is normal in various regions around the world. You see the nuance. Turkey is a very large country. Multiple terror events, government upheavals, you realize, are very unlikely to affect you specifically. But it takes time for your experience to support what your logical mind can decipher based on numbers alone.

The Real Question

Yes, Turkey is safe. But you have to be prepared when you travel to Turkey, that something bad might happen during your stay there. Not to you specifically, but in a country where there were 16 attacks in 2016 – and maybe to a place you could have been. Internet access might be cut for a time, making it difficult when you need it most, to inform your loved ones you’re safe.

Millions of tourists a month are still visiting Turkey, having wonderful trips, and seeing a truly remarkable travel destination. The question isn’t whether Turkey is safe, but whether or not traveling there makes you comfortable. Everyone has a different level of risk acceptance, and in Istanbul particularly, the risks, although rare, might for the time being exceed your personal limit.

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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Recent Articles

Win $600 By Telling Me Your Favorite City For This Year’s Best City To Visit Tournament

How To Get To The Top Of Tirana, Albania's Mount Dajti By Cable Car

Simple But Powerful, Currency Is An Essential App For International Travelers