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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.

How Trove Slim Wallets Are Made

Most slim wallets manufacturers are large scale operations pumping out metal backed wallets for a premium price. On the other hand, Trove is an outlier, making fabric based slim wallets by hand and at competitive prices. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Trove factory in Leistershire, England and watch their wallet making process. Each wallet can be custom-designed before ordering and takes around 15 minutes to make before it is shipped out worldwide.

You can watch the entire process in the video tour here.

The Worst Websites To Book Flights With

There are a lot of reasons to not use any of these sites but terrible customer service, undelivered bookings, and general hassle are some of the main offenses.

1. eDreams

edreams

Let’s start with the first offender, eDreams, a site that keeps their airfare listings low by basically not having a customer service department and by sneaking in fees right after you book. For starters, eDreams shows you the absolute lowest price you’ll definitely not be paying when searching. A lot of aggregators do this but eDreams is a particularly bad offender where your final fare can be 30-50% more than what you’re first shown.

Another shady practice many have come across with eDreams is they show you fares with their “Prime” membership discounts included.

So, for example for a flight from New York to London is might show a $535 round trip. Notice the greyed out fine print in the video above though and it’s actually $608. But eDreams automatically includes a free 30 day trial of prime when you book, which isn’t very clear – because Prime is $59 a year – so many people are unwittingly charged a month later for a service they didn’t explicitly sign up for.

You have to click to “Show other fares” to see the true price.

2. SmartFares

smartfares

The trick SmartFares likes to do is show you low prices for a fare, then when you do book, will send you their confirmation code. That’s not confirmation by the airlines – a few hours, up to a day passes, then they say your flight wasn’t booked because the airline raised their price. They’ll then (hopefully) send an email asking if you want to book at the new, higher rate. If you try to cancel, they’ll charge you a fee to do so.

There are in fact so many issues with Smartfares that they’ve included an entire section in their terms about charge backs and credit card disputes. Basically saying you agree to not dispute any of their fees with your credit card and they you’ll be charged a $250 charge back fee if you attempt to dispute.

You know things are bad when there’s several sections in the terms on how you can not get a refund for botched bookings. My advice, avoid using SmartFares when possible.

3. GoToGate

gotogate

GoToGate is so bad, in my testing, I wasn’t able to book a single flight. All were dropped, requests for refunds ignored, and there are fees for handling refunds. And believe me when I say, Gotogate will fight you and your credit card tooth and nail for that refund or charge dispute. They’re really nasty to work with so avoid them. Seriously, you can find a flight elsewhere.

There Is Hope

All services and booking sites not to mention airlines, screw up. They make mistakes are incompetent, some percentage of the time. With enough customers, even a small percentage adds up. But with eDreams, SmartFares, and GoToGate, that percentage is very high. To stay in business they make refunds difficult, charge fees wherever they can – and just enough people have a smooth experience that sites like Kayak still work with them.

Keep that in mind next time you’re looking for a flight and see an unusually low price through an aggregator. It’s probably too good to be true and if it’s one of those 3 sites I’ve mentioned, not worth the trouble.

Use This Trick To Get 10% Or More Off Every Booking.com Reservation

booking.com

Making reservations for hotel accommodations can often seem like a budgetary afterthought since you’ve already spent so much time trying to find the best deals on flights. You then get to the hotel part of the equation and well, it’s often last minute so you have fewer options and with less obvious money saving hacks, you end up paying more than you should.

Within 24 hours to spare however you can use this trick to save 10% or more through Booking.com.

Look Don’t Book

First, start searching for accommodation on Booking.com. Set your actual travel dates, look through the reviews, and find a place to stay like you normally would. In case you have a Booking account you can login but it’s not a requirement for this to work. Once you’ve settled in on a hotel or other type of rental, click the “I’ll reserve” button and let it take you to the next page.

Add your name in the fields provided and importantly, make sure to give a valid email address.

Once you’ve done that, scroll all the way down to “Final details”.

Almost, Not Quite

After you’ve clicked the “Final details” button, you’re going to not do anything else. Yet. The trick to getting the incentive bonus from Booking is to not do anything for 24 hours. Since you’ve entered a valid email address, Booking knows how to get in touch with you. Their system seems to track near-bookings, that is, reservations that got very close to completion but for some reason you left.

With that in mind to try and get your business in about 24 hours Booking.com will send you a discount code for around 10% off.

One Time Use

It’s not a huge discount but 10% off is better than nothing and for more expensive stays that can really add up. The discount code is one-time use only and usually comes with an expiration date, so don’t let it sit in your inbox too long. To continue looking for discounts though make sure you compare prices with other rental platforms and check for conference discount codes.

Where To Find Istanbul’s Best Non-Touristy Photo Spots

Istanbul is one of the world’s most photogenic cities but because it’s hard to find a bad angle, many people end up shooting from the same one. You see a lot of pictures from the same rooftop restaurant in Sultanahmet (seagulls optional), Galata Bridge, and in front of the Blue Mosque. Not that these are bad pictures but if you want to explore Turkey’s largest city like a local while photographing its lesser seen sides, here are three places to head to.

You can see all the spots shown below, with directions on getting to them, in the video here.

1. Parking Roof in Besiktas (Best At Night)

I’m not going to spoil this one but here’s a day time look from this parking lot next to an apartment between Taksim Square and Besiktas. Around a 10-15 minute walk from the square, at night you’ll get some of the best photos of the Bosporus Bridges lit up.

bosporus strait

2. Boat Dock Near Ortakoy Mosque

A lot of people get obstructed views from this vantage point because the cafes, mosque, and people create limited shooting angles. You’ll get a better picture from the small docks for tour and ferry boats a few minutes walk down (through a easy-to-miss) pedestrian tunnel.

ortakoy mosque

3. Turn Right Here

Find this mosque (directions in the video above) and look right where you can see an unobstructed, close view of Galata Tower, with enough perspective to capture the seagulls circling above. I’m not spoiling you though – I want to see the pictures you get. Feel free to link them in the comments below.

istanbul mosque

4. Walk Down Uskudar

Considering how easy Uskudar is to reach with one of Istanbul’s famous ferries and how many amazing views it gives you of the European side of the city, not as many people as you would expect ever make it out here. Maiden’s Tower at sunset makes for iconic photos and all along the coast there are fantastic shots of Istanbul’s famous skyline.

uskudar istanbul

All of these spots and the best photos you’ll take (I’m not showing you mine because the surprises are worth the wait) are walk-able with a ferry or two included. You can though take a taxi in Istanbul if that’s easier but by foot, you’ll get many more unique photo opportunities along the way.

10 Passport Secrets Every Traveler Should Know

On the surface, passports are fairly simple, little books identifying you and with pages for visas. Inside though there are a lot of little secrets. These are 10 passport secrets you might not know about.

1. Passport Blues

The standard United States passport wasn’t always blue. This change happened in 1976 and before that were red, then green. The British passport was blue until 1988, when it became burgundy, the preferred color of European nations.

2. Color Choices

Passport national colors don’t have any international standard and countries can choose the color they prefer and often reflect cultural identity. Predominantly Muslim countries prefer green, but Turkey has a burgundy passport, closer to the European standard. Switzerland has a bright red passport.

passports

3. More Colors

The colors of passports within a given country go vary however and can denote diplomatic or refugee status.

4. Holograms

Holograms in passports are used because they are difficult to forge and the machines to print them aren’t easy to come by.

5. Complicated Configuration

U.S. passports are printed at the U.S. Government Printing Office using 60 different materials.

6. Special Inks

Many passports contain special inks, that change color when heated or cooled, or otherwise might dissolve when tampered with. Your passport likely also has UV inks, visible under UV lights only.

7. Light And Angles

What’s known as optically variable inks are also used, meaning they shift colors depending on the angle you’re viewing them at.

8. Anti-Scan Technology

Also invisible to the naked eye are anti-scan patterns that prevent you from scanning or photocopying a passport without those patterns being added.

9. Small Text

Some of the text on your passport can be as small as a micron.

10. RFID Embedded

You’re probably familiar with this logo for radio-frequency identification or RFID chips which can be scanned.

passport RFID

You can learn more about your passport secrets in this video!

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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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