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Asking Indians What They Really Think About Pakistan

A few years I ago I visited Pakistan and asked locals if they could say one nice thing about India. After that video was posted many said that trying the same thing in India would go sideways and nobody would have anything nice to say.

Well, I went back to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) which is known for its active student political base during contentious elections. With feelings of nationalism, pride, and general rhetoric in the air, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

You can watch the video above to see the slow start but once people opened up, I was surprised at what Indians had to say about their neighbor, Pakistan.

The Trick To Getting A Bhutan Visa (500 Error Solved)

Bhutan requires a visa from tourists of most countries and on the surface it looks straightforward. However, like most things about visiting Bhutan things aren’t quite a simple as they might seem. Some of the steps to getting the visa can be cumbersome but there is a trick to speeding up the process.

500 Error Fix

Many users who visit the Bhutan visa website and upload their passport information and photo have encountered this dreaded 500 error. Your first instinct is to refresh a million times and eventually try to start the process over again only to get another 500.

bhutan 500 error

Instead, you should email the site’s official IT department to let them know about the 500 error. Once you do, they will manually add your account in the system and you’ll be able to login without issues. These are the email addresses (found in the conformation email you get when you created a site account): [email protected] or [email protected]

Response times are about one to two business days. You’re almost to the finish line but there is another thing to be aware of so you don’t slow your application down.

Bank Troubles

There is a cost to obtain a Bhutan tourist visa as well as a sustainable development fee you must pay. Another problem you might run into is the payment gets stuck at “pending” and never changes status. In these cases, email the accounts personnel ([email protected] or [email protected]) to make them aware. They’re likely going to tell you to simple re-try the payment (with the original still stuck on pending).

paro festival bhutan

Of course, double check with your credit card to make sure you haven’t been double-charged but once you have completed a successful payment, you should be ready to submit your online visa application. After 3-5 business days you will get a response but keep in mind they won’t email you like the system says it will. Because, of course.

Despite the mild hassles though, traveling to Bhutan and seeing sites like the iconic Tiger’s Nest makes it all worthwhile.

Where To Stay In Paro, Bhutan

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan isn’t the easiest to visit but if you’re flying in it will be through Paro. Home to the country’s only airport, Paro is the gateway into Bhutan. A historic city of just over 11,000 people it’s worth more that a stopover and one of the most unique places to stay is fit for royalty.

Hotel Olathang

Literally made for a king, Hotel Olathang was originally created for the guests of Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s coronation in 1974, also making it Bhutan’s oldest hotel. Reservations aren’t possible online, you’ll have to call to make a reservation so don’t rely on last minute planning. Although Bhutan doesn’t get many tourists, around certain times of the year there are events (like March’s Paro Festival) and bookings can fill up fast.

paro bhutan

Royal Rooms With Variety

Because of its original purpose as royal accommodation, Hotel Olathang’s rooms are separate buildings on a large mountain property overlooking Paro. Many of the hotels in Paro are higher up but only a short 10 minute cab ride into town, with each way costing roughly $3-4 USD.

The design of each room is different with several options for larger groups and the newer tent rooms, ideal for summer stays. Walking is a must at Hotel Olathang as the stone walkways to the rooms may not accommodate wheelchair access. Reception is a separate building a few minutes walk from the furthest room and that’s where you’ll find the hotel’s restaurant as well.

paro bhutan

Bed And Breakfast

Hotel Olathang does offer a breakfast that’s not included with all of the rooms but you’re not missing much if you don’t pay for it. The breakfast is a mix of eggs, beans, tea, and bread plus or minus some miscellaneous additions. Where you’re short on time for an early morning to a place like Tiger’s Nest, it’s better than no food at all. Same goes for the dinner at their restaurant but if you have the time, you’ll certainly get a better meal in town. You can also order to the Hotel Olathang which reception will happily help you with.

Best Of Bhutan

Hotel Olathang has incredibly helpful staff that can arrange drivers, pickups, and provide you with a lot of local tourism expertise. Located in the mountains just outside of town gives you incredible views, a peaceful environment, and fresh air. Hotel Olathang is close enough to town where you don’t feel isolated and the wifi is surprisingly fast. Finally, when it comes to the prices the rates at Hotel Olathang are quite reasonable ($50-70 a night) when compared to other accommodation in Paro.

Rolling Your Clothes Saves Space In Luggage But At A Cost

We could all use a little more space from our suitcases and aside from packing less or getting a bigger bag how you fold your clothes can make a big difference. It turns out that rolling your shirts and pants can significantly save space, reduce wrinkles, but not if you’re short on time.

Watch The Technique

You can see in the video above on how to roll shirts (sleeves in, collars forward) and pants (split down the middle and rolled straight) results in space savings of around 44%. That is a lot of added space compared to folding and just a little more than having no method at all. It turns out the throw everything in your bag and smash it down so the zippers close is a valid method only 11% less efficient.

In between though on the scale of time, is folding. Rolling is the slowest method, free for all the fastest, and folding lands in the middle. You can see there are advantages and disadvantages to each packing method so if you’re short on time, fold or throw, but keep in mind that luggage won’t be as efficient. Rolling takes more time not just at packing but also repacking, which can add up if you’re taking a multi-city trip.

The Simplest Way To Understand Schengen Visa Requirements

When you hear the word Schengen you either have never heard of it, know it’s related to Europe, or it’s the bane of your travel plans. Whichever category you’re in if you’re planning a trip to Europe the Schengen Area is a concept you need to be familiar with. Fortunately the Schengen Area rules are not nearly as complicated as people often make them to be. Here’s the simplest way to understand the Schengen Area.

What Is The Schengen?

The Schengen Area comprises of 29 European countries and is is not the same as the European Union although they overlap quite a bit. Norway for example is part of the Schengen Area but not in the European Union. Also, Ireland and the United Kingdom are notably not part of the Schengen Area or European Union (after Brexiting from the latter). The Schengen is a group of European countries but for travel purposes, you can simplify things by forgetting about national borders for a second.

One Area, Many States

Many travelers from various countries are permitted a 90 day visa-free stay in the Schengen Area out of every 180 days. You might be thinking alright, I’ve got a trip to Germany and the Netherlands planned, what does this mean for me?

berlin airport

It depends on where you’re from but to give an example – if you’re an American citizen who is traveling to a Schengen country – you have a visa free stay of 90 days within every 180 days.

So in the case of a 21 day trip to Europe say you spend 10 of those in Germany then 11 in the Netherlands, it’s all part of your 90 day allowance. It’s not 90 days in Germany then 90 days in the Netherlands, it’s 90 days in the Schengen Area.

It’s kind of like the United States. You get a visa to visit the US of say, 30 days, but you can freely go to California, New York, and Michigan, the days of your visit are counted when you enter the country.

You can think of the Schengen Area member countries as US states when it comes to travel. There are open borders between them and you can visit Germany, Spain, then hop over to Greece without having to go through immigration but your stay is counted by the total number of days in the Schengen Area, not each country.

Counting Passport Controls

The Schengen Agreement is why you’ll only go through passport control when you first enter the Schengen Area from say, Berlin, then when you leave the Schengen Area via Amsterdam, as an example. But flying between Germany and the Netherlands, you won’t go through passport control.

For most travelers, the Schengen Area rules only come into play if you’re planning a longer visit to Europe. When your plans start getting close to 90 days, it’s important you remember the specific rules for your nationality. For many, that’s 90 days out of every 180. The easiest way to count is to take a day on the calendar, go forward 90 days and back 90 (total 180), then make sure you aren’t in the Schengen Area for more than allowed resulting in an overstay. Longer (legal) stays will require paperwork but most tourists just need to remember every Schengen country counts toward your visa free stay.

Why You Should Never Post Your Boarding Pass Online

Posting pictures of your recent vacation on social media can be harmless but make sure you’re not uploading a photo of your boarding pass along with it. A boarding pass picture reveals a lot more than you think and could ruin your trip in more ways than one.

What’s On A Boarding Pass?

At first glance, boarding passes seem to have pretty generic information that’s not worth protecting. Your full name, the date of your flight, the departure and destination, flight number and seat. Those pieces of information: your full name, date of the flight, and seat number on their own might not seem like particularly sensitive information. Combined however, those pieces of data can give someone with malicious intent a lot of information to scam you.

Your full name might not seem very valuable but especially if you have a middle name is a good identifier for a thief to narrow things down. Departure city might also be interesting since it could indicate the area you live – and now a cyber criminal has bits of information indicating who you are, where you might live so by putting those together could potentially turn up an address with some Google searches. Going to Vienna for 2 weeks? Your house or apartment might be empty and a potential thief knows exactly how long you’ll be gone.

It might seem like paranoia but robberies after people post online that they’re on vacation do happen.

Changes You Don’t Want

Boarding passes will typically show your ticket number which, combined with the rest of the information on a boarding pass, is often enough for someone to modify or cancel your flights. Most airlines and booking sites will let you make changes to a flight with just a Passenger Name Record (PNR) – a common record on most boarding passes. Someone else with a picture of your boarding pass could do the same – potentially charging you for an upgrade or canceling your trip, causing you one big headache.

austrian airlines

All of this information is also contained in the bar code which can be decoded easily using a number of websites where you can upload an image and read all the data. Your frequent flyer number, flight details, all of that can be used to get into your mileage account or reset the password, locking you out.

Keep Your Identity Private

There are even cases where using the information gleaned from a boarding pass of identify theft where someone calls the airline using information gathered from a boarding pass to get more information and commit fraud, essentially opening the door to other forms of identity theft. In addition to your frequent flier number, your boarding pass can give away your Known Traveler Number which is associated with Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check in the US, and redress number that’s part of Department of Homeland Security’s TRIP program).

It all comes down to information – the less you post online, the better. For boarding passes, make sure you do take a picture of them for this reason just never post it online.

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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