Category: Travel

Is It Still Possible To Visit Socotra Island?

socotra dragon blood tree

The Socotra archipelago, particularly its main island, is one of the most neglected tourism destinations in the world. A big part of the reason, in addition to Socotra’s remote location in the Arabian Sea, is that it’s Yemeni territory. Despite being 380 kilometers (236 miles) off Yemen’s southern coast, visas, not to mention a precarious security situation on the mainland had kept most people away.

A frequent question I’m asked is whether or not it is still possible to visit Socotra, as Yemen’s civil war continues, bypassing the mainland altogether. The answer is technically yes; but you’re not going to like the details.

Flights To Socotra, Sounds Nice

I visited Socotra and the Yemeni mainland several months before war made it too dangerous for travel – obviously, a lot has changed since then. For a while, flights from Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates near Dubai on Felix Airways to Socotra’s capital Hadibu were infrequent, but flying occasionally. Those flights have stopped completely, despite the claims by a few tour operators in the UAE. I reached out to several of the tour operators in the UAE and Yemen, as well as some airlines who all floated the sentiment they were hopeful regular service would resume soon, despite there being no change for many months.

socotra island beach

Believe In Ferries

Some tour operators based out of the UAE sign people up to tours, claiming to arrange Socotra trips by ferry. Practically all are canceled, so be very weary before booking or giving money to any tour operator. All of the other options are fairly unofficial, such as traveler Johnny Ward coaxing his way on to a cement shipping boat, with a lot of local help.

“One whole week of phone calls, paperwork, cash, documents, visas etc. went by… to ensure my visa to Yemen wasn’t canceled… to ensure that immigration in Socotra would accept me via the cement boat.”

Clearly, not a travel plan possible, or desirable, by most of you.

Situation Determination

You really have to be persistent, determined, and adventurous to even attempt a trip to Socotra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are substantial costs, not to mention risks, right now in doing so. Travel to Socotra is likely to be practically infeasible as the situation in mainland Yemen continues to deteriorate with more than 70% of the population – most of these peopleneeding humanitarian assistance.

Those of you still wondering why you might want to visit Yemen can take a look to what was and hopefully what may be again one day.

Is This The Most Boring Place In The World?

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament I run every year on this site is often controversial for a wide variety of reasons. 2017’s winner, Granada, Spain (yay!) wasn’t a surprising result for many of you who voted but the city it beat in the final, Campina, Romania, generated passionate comments of hate and love, mainly from locals.

Each year, I visit the winning Best City. I’ll be revisiting Granada this fall – though the fact that thousands voted for Campina while at the same time others wrote comments that I might die of boredom there made me curious. I have a goal to visit every country in the world, and there are many places I’ve visited which turned out to be very pleasant surprises, despite not having large tourist attractions.

You can see the story in the video above and decide if Campina is the most boring place in Romania or if a visit to the area should be part of your Romania travel plans.

My Camera Was Stolen In Argentina 7 Years Ago, Now I Finally Have The Pictures

buenos aires casa rosada presidential palace

In 2010 I visited Argentina for the first time, taking countless photos of the tasty foods and scenic views of Buenos Aires. I left Argentina with all of those pictures but when I landed in Santiago, Chile, they were gone. Along with my camera. I wasn’t robbed in a dramatic way – no armed mugging or crafty pickpockets – but fell for a sly scam at the airport which taught me two important lessons for all the travels I’ve taken afterward.

Those pictures I missed because of a security mishap had been on my mind until finally, six years later, I returned to Buenos Aires to get those photographs. Here are some of those pictures, 6 years later, and the story, from six years prior.

Traveling back to a place after a long while is like visiting friends with children, you’re surprised by how much they’ve grown, but also how recognizable their characters have remained. Like looking at an iPhone 7 but not seeing a smartphone since the 4S, the contrast is more evident since you’re seeing two moments in time, not witnessing the evolution in between.

buenos aires colorful street

But cities often look back at you, showing it’s not just them, you’ve grown too.

buenos aires canal

Some tastes may have changed, you can like a place you once hated, and getting to know yourself better opens up more travel possibilities.

la boca art

These beans at Cumana were so good, even the small cockroach in the dish didn’t stop me from finishing the bowl.

cumana buenos aires

A second ride around town with La Bicicleta Naranja was as good, and recommendable, as the first time.

buenos aires la bicicleta naranja

Many touristic areas are popular for a reason, like the very photogenic La Boca neighborhood.

la boca selfie argentina

Although I don’t remember specifically, there was probably a guy doing just this the last time I visited La Bombonera, the Boca Juniors soccer team stadium.

la bombonera

I do though recall flipping through the photos on my camera at Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires, prior to checking in.

park lezama buenos aires

When I got to the check in counter of a small airline I won’t mention, I was told that all of the electronics in my carry-on would have to be put in checked luggage. It was going to be a short flight, so naively, I didn’t resist much.

buenos aires old man

After landing in Santiago, many of the electronics were gone, along with some clothes. It was apparent that someone had a short time to reach in and grab what they could. I’m convinced it was part of an organized routine happening between the check-in crew and bag handlers – mostly because of the insistence of checking the electronics – which was never actually required and the knowledge of exactly where in the bag to look.

plaza de mayo buenos aires

For a travel blogger not having pictures of a place limits how much I can share of a destination. They’re also memories which can be looked back on, gone. On the other hand, not having one can let you focus on what you can’t capture with a camera.

cumana buenos aires

The theft of my camera cultivated two habits I’ve done ever since, which I would recommend to any traveler:

  1. Backup Right Away – After a day of taking pictures or videos, when you’re back at your hotel, transfer the data over to a laptop. Doing so ensures you have copies of you photos in case something happens to your camera plus it lets you comfortably delete pictures from your SD card or phone, in case it fills up when you’re out and about. There are some automatic wireless backup options or you can go with an external hard drive if you don’t have space on your laptop. No laptop? No problem, the WD 2TB My Passport Pro has an SD card slot, USB ports, and is wireless too.
  2. Keep Your Valuables In Hand Luggage – Although it seems very obvious to me now, at the time I didn’t consider theft from checked bags to be a significant risk. (Or even a thing.) Theft from luggage is fairly common all over the world and it’s important to keep an eye on your stuff through security checks as well. With all this thievery going on, tracking your stuff digitally may be a good idea as well.

WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive  WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive

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In the end, not having the pictures from 6 years ago brought me back to a place that was both familiar as I remembered but not quite the same. Which had changed more, Buenos Aires, or me? I wasn’t quite sure I thought as I left town, adjusting my small carry-on backpack with camera securely tucked away – probably, a little of both.

Small, Ergonomic, Revolutionary? A Review Of The Penclic R3 Wireless Mouse

The Penclic R3 Wireless Mouse is a rethinking of how you should use the gadget you probably touch most during a given day. Traditional mice put your arm in an unnatural position, causing wrist, elbow, shoulder, or even back pain from using one. Frequent traveling can make the situation even worse, especially if you’re working on hotel, cafe or tray tables in cramped spaces where you have to get into contorted shapes to type.

penclic r3 wireless mouse  Penclic 3-Scroll Ambidextrous Wireless Mouse – Black

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I know the mouse isn’t the most interesting piece of technology to write about – they haven’t changed much over the past few decades. But as you can see in the video above, the Penclic R3 is really a creative design, put into a travel kit that’s small, light, and very ergonomic.

penclic r3 wireless mouse

The Penclic connects to your laptop with through a wireless USB dongle connection, has a battery life of about a month, and gives you precision hard to find in a traditional mouse. Getting used to the Penclic though will take some time but of all the ergonomic designs I’ve tried, this comes closest to real comfort in a size that’s actually practical for frequent travelers.

A 15 Year Old Explains How To Get Hamilton Tickets Easily For List Price

This is a guest post by 15 year old writer and #1 Potterhead Brian Selcik, a student at the Metropolitan School of the Arts. Brian has previously been a guest here before, writing how you can plan your very own Harry Potter tour in London. He also works for the Harry Potter Fansite MuggleNet and runs an Etsy shop where you can purchase hand knit goods.

hamilton broadway playbill

Hamilton is a great Broadway show that will live up to your expectations but you have to get your hands on some very elusive tickets first. For most people, finding Hamilton tickets isn’t easy or inexpensive but I was able to get tickets for my family and friends at list price, rather quickly, using a simple trick.

Here’s how I was able to get those most-wanted tickets for Hamilton on Broadway without paying an extra cent and how you can too.

Start Subscribing

I follow Hamilton’s Twitter page where they post a lot of Hamilton related content but also occasionally announce ticket specials. Those specials sell out very quickly so when I was actively looking for Hamilton tickets, I turned on notifications for all of the tweets from the Hamilton Twitter account.

1. To do the same, the first step is to follow @HamiltonMusical on Twitter.

hamilton broadway twitter

2. Now, activate notifications for all the Hamilton tweets so you can react fast when they have a ticket deal. To do so, click on the bell icon (it’s near their profile picture).

twitter notifications bell

3. Don’t forget to select ‘All Tweets‘ under Account Notifications.

twitter account notifications

This past spring I got a notification from Hamilton on my phone saying that a block of tickets would be released in 10 minutes for shows from November to January. I immediately followed the link they posted to their site to confirm what I was seeing – sure enough there were the tickets!

I clicked ‘Book Tickets‘ right away before the ten minutes to find they were already available. It’s important whenever Hamilton release a block of tickets on Twitter to check as soon as they announce it.

I called my travel partner and best friend, and confirmed that we were going to go. We quickly decided on a date and purchased our tickets for the list price ($200 per ticket). This may seem like a lot, but we chose great seats and tickets prices before this were ranging up to $5,000, so we were beyond thrilled.

hamilton play

Other, Less Reliable Options

You can also get email notifications by signing up through HamiltonBroadway.com. There will only be an option to enter your email if there are no tickets available. The email notifications are much slower that Twitter, so chances are you won’t be able to use them to get a ticket deal before they sell out. Liking the Hamilton Facebook page is another option but the least effective one if you are interested in taking advantage of ticket deals.

Hamilton was great, worth every bit the small effort I had to put in to find tickets at normal prices. Seeing Hamilton is a wonderful experience if you are planning a trip to New York City that won’t disappoint! Now you know how to get tickets to the show without having to pay the very high resale prices.

Thank you very much Brian for sharing your Hamilton travel trick with us! You can find Brian working behind the wizarding scenes of MuggleNet on Facebook and help support his next adventure by checking out his Etsy page.

How The DJI Drone Repair Service Works And How Much It Costs

dji mavic drone

Crashing a drone, even one with obstacles avoidance sensors like the DJI Mavic Pro, isn’t hard at all. Small falls from a desk can also put your drone out of commission, easily damaging the sensitive camera lens or gimble. For those of you with DJI drones, they’ve got a fairly polished repair service you’ll hopefully never have to use. But things happen.

Here’s how the DJI repair process works and whether or not it’s worth the hassle, cost, or time waiting.

Recover The Drone

First off, I’m writing about the repair process without any kind of warranty, such as the DJI Care repair and replacement plan. So here you are, you’ve crashed or otherwise damaged your DJI drone and wondering why you didn’t spend the extra $99 to get it insured. Whether you have the warranty or not, you need to retrieve the drone. It’s the reason you see people diving into rivers or me throwing car cushions at trees on YouTube to salvage what seems like a lost cause.

dji mavic  DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter Drone

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Once you’ve got your smashed, waterlogged, pathetic looking drone back, log into the DJI website, and head to the repair page.

Find A Service Center

DJI has authorized services centers in over 100 countries (they even list Yugoslavia – not sure what that’s all about). Pick the service center closest to you and select your specific drone (e.g. Phantom 4). The next few pages are where you describe the damage and how the accident occurred.

craiova drone top down

  • Don’t Lie – You might not know it but your drone keeps very details flight records (you can access from the DJI app). Every movement of the drone and controller input is recorded so forget about trying to make a crash seem like a manufacturer defect.

Choose whether or not the damage is a manufacturing defect or pilot error, remove the microSD card, pack up the drone, and send it to the DJI Service suggested to you.

  • Shipping Fees – DJI provide you with a shipping label, covering the shipping, but not packaging, costs.

The average shipping time is about a week, depending on where you’re shipping from of course.

Your Drone Knows A Lot About You

DJI has a repair tracking page whose only purpose seems to discourage you from sending them emails asking where your drone is. Once the technicians get a hold of your drone though, they email you a detailed record of what an idiot the exact events of the accident. Mine went something like this, which you can compare to the crash video below.

Unit was in P-GPS mode and was responsive to RC input; 2. At t=237.9s, relative height=7.1m, unit recorded external impact, then rolled over and fell. 3. User commanded full stick forward toward a tree in a parking lot until 1s before impact. User pressed left turn, backward, right turn, descent, and rightward 1s before impact but forward momentum carried unit to the tree. 4. Obstacle avoidance could not detect fine tree branches due to hardware limitation, especially during winter with no leaf on. Conclusion: User stick command error. Impact in air.

DJI Repair Costs

Obviously this will vary depending on your specific repairs but here’s a general breakdown of the costs, which is contained in that same email with the crash report.

  • Gimbal Camera Component: $101
  • Camera Flexible Flat Cable: $3
  • Back Left Motor Arm: $19
  • Gimbal Vibration Damping: $2
  • Gimbal Mounting Bracket: $1
  • Camera Co-axis Cable: $5
  • Front Left Motor Arm: $22

The service costs $65 an hour – the total work took two hours, added $130 to the cost.

  • Total Repair Cost: $283

Those of you who have DJI Care, if the crash is covered, you only pay up to the warranty. (Varies by drone but for example the Mavic replacement with DJI Care is $79 for the first drone; $139 for the second.) In the email DJI sends back with the costs, they have a Paypal link, where you can decide to pay for the repair or not. Repairs are not started until you make the payment and shipping costs are not charged unless you reject the repair.

Expect To Wait

Clearly, the camera is the most expensive component with labor adding the other bulk of the costs. I was surprised not to see the body, or other parts listed since there were major dents from the fall. I figured DJI would ignore what was probably aesthetic damage but happily surprised when the Mavic was finally shipped back from repair.

dji mavic pro camera gimble

  • Repair Time – Whatever the repair status page says, it will take about 4 weeks.

A drone repaired by DJI is essentially refurbished. There won’t be any signs of previous damage, scratches, or dents. Damaged parts are replaced and repairs are very thorough for the price, essentially 28% the cost of a new drone in this case.

Important: Calibrate Before You Fly!

You may have noticed a few nicks on the Mavic photos in this post and be asking yourself, hey, I thought he said there weren’t any visible marks?! Well, there weren’t when I originally got the Mavic back from DJI but I crashed it nearly immediately. It was indoors for a small test but the Mavic slowly veered left, hitting a wall, then I used the emergency controls to shut off the propellers. I was lucky to have dodged another trip to the service center.

dji calibrate

After looking at the flight records, I realized why the drone wasn’t hovering stably on a horizontal axis. Although DJI tests drones they repair before sending them back, it seems they don’t calibrate the Inertia Measurement Unit (IMU). The IMU orients the drone so when it’s not calibrated properly, it usually drifts.

  • Calibrate All The Things – Be sure to calibrate the compass, IMU, remote controller, and gimble prior to flying any drone you get back from repair.

The DJI repair process is a thorough, but slow, process. Best to avoid it altogether by doing these 12 things before you ever fly a new drone, which will go a long way to prevent a crash in the first place. Given how easy it is to damage your drone combined with the cost of repair makes getting the DJI Care plan all the more sensible. The DJI Care plans cost about 10% the full price of a new drone plus cover two replacement units over the first year – whether or not the damage is your fault. Since it’s a very cumbersome process to add the DJI Care coverage after you’ve purchased your drone (with no guarantees), keep it in mind and part of your budget when shopping.

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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

Is It Still Possible To Visit Socotra Island?

Is This The Most Boring Place In The World?

My Camera Was Stolen In Argentina 7 Years Ago, Now I Finally Have The Pictures

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