Category: Advice

The Best Places To Eat In Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands

curious traveler

The Galapagos is, in places, a remote wilderness but Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island is as close to a tourist-theme town you’ll find anywhere. Puerto Ayora is the main settlement where tour boats come to restock and budget travelers base themselves to do shorter excursions to nearby Galapagos Islands.

Tourism is still in its early stages in Ecuador‘s Galapagos and Puerto Ayora (population 12,000) is beginning to offer visitors a lot of places to eat: many mediocre, some decent, and a few rare finds. These are some of the best places to eat in Puerto Ayora, the largest town in Galapagos.

1. La Garrapata

la garrapata

Right in front of the dock are a long string of restaurants and bars along the tiny main strip in town, visually blending into one another. At first glance, there’s not much to distinguish La Garrapata, one of the better places to eat (with good service) close to the dock. Prices are slightly above average than nearby restaurants but fairly inline with general costs in Puerto Ayora. Food (and beer) portions are large and range from a variety of traditional Ecuadorian to Western dishes.

2. Galapagos Deli

galapagos deli

I like simple foods in large quantities at good prices with a decent selection of alcohol to go with it. If that sounds like you, then you’ll enjoy Galapagos Deli. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the dock – the location keeping its prices under the average of places like La Garrapata. They serve large sandwiches, pizza, salads, fresh juices, beer, teas, and coffees to. Anywhere else Galapagos Deli would be average at best but in Puerto Ayora where much of the ingredients have to be shipped in from the mainland, it differentiates itself in simplicity.

3. 1835 Coffee Lab

1835 coffee lab

Looks like a tourist trap – you know, the kind that’s especially alluring after a long travel day when you just want to hear some trendy pop music you only sing alone in the car. 1835 Coffee Lab checks those boxes (even some 80s hits too!) but does serve a good variety of local coffees. Galapagos coffees are well-known so it’s best to get a good taste while you’re in town. Keep in mind it’s a bit pricey so if you’re on a very strict budget, 1835 Coffee Labs might not be the best place to grab a daily caffeine fix.

The Best Of Average At Best

As I mentioned before, Puerto Ayora’s selection of restaurants and cafes wouldn’t stand out in many popular tourist destinations around the world. In Galapagos however, where there’s not much of a tourist trail yet, most supplies have to be imported, and there’s a steady supply of tourists with little competition, it leaves few remarkable choices. Like albatross returning to land, Puerto Ayora is a rest stop for a great adventure just beyond the shore.

Thule’s Subterra 34L Backpack Tries To Blend Hiking Design With Tech Gear

There are a lot of great electronics backpacks, an excellent choice of hiking bags, but few travel backpacks that blend the features of both. Thule’s Subterra 34L is a good attempt at doing so, giving travelers a large, empty front pocket with one dedicated for organization on the front. A high-quality backpack walking the line between travel styles, the Subterra 34L is a unique choice for select travelers.

You can watch my full review in the video above or read on.

Who’s This Bag For?

Thule has designed the Subterra 34L with a primary, top loading main compartment. It’s large but looks deceptively small for a 34 liter bag. Inside there’s an option packing cube, a laptop pocket, plus two size zippers to get at both without opening the top. Photographers or those of you with a lot of bulky gear will enjoy the space but top loading is not entirely convenient for trips through airport security.

Still, if you have one larger electronic like a DSLR camera but want room for a laptop plus a few days of clothing, the Subterra 34L fits the specific niche well.

Organizing The Basics

On the front of the bag, the thoughtful front pocket is very good at maximizing its use and limited space. Again, from the techie or hiking perspective, the Subterra 34L is an in between, not leaning too far in either direction. It doesn’t have the pockets of the Scansmart 1900 for instance. Travelers who’ve got as much electronic gear as I do will find the organizational space lacking. (A Grid-It might help here.) Trying to stuff the front pocket to your liking also doesn’t work, since when loaded it pushes into the main compartment. Stuffing the top loading main compartment works much better, provided the front isn’t very full.

thule subterra 34l review

For a straight hiking bag, the Subterra 34L is ideal for a day trip or two, but really isn’t a full fledged hiking pack. Thule has consciously limited the size to stay under most airlines’ requirements for carry-on.

Perfect For 30

The Thule Subterra 34L works best when it’s only full to about 30 of those liters. Such a precise physical design is beautiful (the construction of this bag is simply elegant) but isn’t well suited to be stuffed to capacity. In that case, you’re better off looking at larger bags or more specific ones for your particular travel needs.

Still, the Subterra 34L is a few tweaks away from being one of my favorites. Switching the design from top to front loading, with a separate laptop sleeve, and larger organizational front pocket would be my personal modifications. Then again, most people don’t travel with an office on their back. For those of you who travel light and want versatile bag with lots of storage space, I highly suggest a close look at the Subterra 34L.

How To Remove Stickers From Passports

Some airports (I’m looking at you Istanbul) take liberties with your passport, slapping stickers on them at various security checks in between gates, leaving your precious travel identification with adhesive residue that’s hard to remove. When I posted the picture below, many of you left helpful suggestions on how to remove the sticker residue. One that stood out to me in particular was an olive oil trick, which I tried in the video above.

passport stickers

Basic Steps

First, remove the sticker as best you can with your fingernail or a plastic card from your wallet. Once you’re done getting the largest, easiest pieces of sticker removed, dab you fingertip in olive oil. It doesn’t take much, just rub it into the passport where there’s stubborn sticky stuff enough to cover it entirely.

Now that you’ve done that, take a paper towel and wipe off the residue. Theoretically. As you can see from my attempts, after multiple applications, this trick worked… but not entirely. (Although my passport was super shiny, a nice side effect.)

Apply Soon

What I noticed is newer stickers were relatively easy to remove with olive oil, but the older gunk seems it will be one with the passport forever. So, if this passport junk leftover from security stickers annoys you, it’s best to remove at and any baggage tags as you can after arrival at your destination this olive oil trick, which is also unintentionally vegan.

Do you have any tricks for keeping your passport stickers? Let me know in the comments below!

When Airbnb Is Better Than A Hotel (And The Other Way Around)

There are three types of travelers who pay for accommodation: those who primarily use hotels or hostels, those who stick to Airbnb, and the very few who alternate between the two. It’s easy to get comfortable with a particular travel workflow but if you’re diehard in either the Airbnb or hotel camp, you might be missing the advantages both have in different situations.

Here’s when to use Airbnb or a hotel, depending on you travel plans.

Misconceptions About Hotels And Airbnb

Let’s lay down some ground work. First, by hotels, I mean traditional accommodation which includes a variety of services such as cleaning or meals. Airbnb lets you rent a room or an entire home from someone else, generally on a short term basis.

There’s a blurring line happening here, where Airbnb renters are becoming more professional, offering additional services – and hotels are getting into the Airbnb game as well. On the flip side, hotels are now offering more of the perks of Airbnb, such as free wifi. Consequently, Airbnb has gotten more expensive while hotel prices have lowered to compete.

hotel valladolid

Many people who aren’t familiar with Airbnb often confuse it with Couchsurfing, where you crash at someone’s place for free. Although you can rent out a single room in a home or apartment using Airbnb, you’re always paying for it. Travelers who rely primarily on Airbnb, tend to always assume hotels are more expensive which is hardly the case these days.

Last Minute Bookings: Hotel

Much like flights, booking at the very last minute can leave you with exceptionally high or low price options. You might be in luck if someone isn’t able to rent out their place but generally speaking, hotels are often a cheaper alternative in these cases – for the simple reason there’s more of them. Consequently, competition between various hotels and hotel booking engines, encouraging price competition whereas on Airbnb, there’s only Airbnb. (True, there are other home rental options but Airbnb has the most market share.)

Large Groups Or Families: Airbnb

In terms of price per person, Airbnb typically works out much better. Of course it depends on the renter but usually, for large enough homes, the total cost of the stay doesn’t increase much with more guests. In other words, if a home is listed as accommodating up to 6 people, usually then the rate for 2 people versus 6 isn’t much different. Hotels on the other hand are designed for 2-4 people – larger rooms aren’t often available in bulk, so they’re more expensive in general.

hotel swimming pool

Services: Airbnb

Many Airbnbs will offer free wifi, a kitchen, laundry machine, refrigerator, microwave, plus the attentiveness of a single owner, rather than an anonymous clerk at a customer service desk. (Except hotels also may bundle common services such as airport pickup into the price, saving you the cost of a ride.) Having all of those services can save you money over a longer stay since you can get groceries and cook, for example, but for very short trips, you might end up paying for things you never use.

Length Of The Stay: Depends

Longer stays of more than a few days tend to always be cheaper using Airbnb. Hotels charge by the night, mostly a flat rate per day that doesn’t take into account the total time you’ll be staying. Airbnbs on the other hand tend to be more expensive on a daily basis, but discounted in week long or monthly increments. For longer stays you can also contact the owner directly, circumventing Airbnb (as well as its protections) to save even further.

Late Night Arrivals, Comfort, Events: It Depends

One area where Airbnb can get a bit annoying is when you’re arriving late at night. Some owners have automated key lock boxes for guests but where it’s not an option, you’ve got to coordinate through Airbnb’s messaging system. In theory, not too difficult but if your flight’s delayed or you don’t have mobile service upon arrival, it can make communicating hard. Hotels are generally staffed 24 hours so for late night arrivals they make for easier check-ins. In cities where there’s no Uber taxi drivers will have a better idea of where the hotels are; finding an Airbnb in the middle of the night could mean a few extra turns to get lost or scammed.

granada at night

Hotels, for better or worse, are consistent in their quality, not to mention security as well. You can look up a Yelp or TripAdvisor review and have a pretty good idea of what you’ll end up with. Alternatively, cleanliness can vary more widely with Airbnbs. Some owners have lots of reviews you can rely on but even in those cases, I’ve stayed at places where the owner had an off day. They either didn’t arrange the cleaning staff in time for my arrival, forgot, or seemed hungover. An Airbnb can often get away with one bad review among many good – besides most people don’t leave as bad of reviews on Airbnb. (Owners certainly reach out to prevent it.) Hotels have a public image to maintain, full-time staff, and more prepared for a high volume of guests one after the other.

When it comes to conferences or other special events, hotels can be advantageous if you book well in advance before rooms are scarce. Select hotels usually have conference rates and discounts, tending to be closer to the event themselves (potentially saving you on daily transportation costs). Most convention centers or stadiums aren’t in residential areas, meaning few Airbnbs nearby. The Airbnbs that are close go (significantly) up in price, while those further away end up costing you in Uber fees. All of this assumes you’re in town for a short trip.

Always Check Both For Comfort

You want to avoid the habit of only checking for hotels or Airbnb when looking at a particular destination. All of the above are generalities that can’t take into account very specific circumstances, how lucky you are, and the type of trip it is. For some people, a kitchen and a laundry machine give convenience, for others, it’s a burden they’d rather leave at home.

Hotels are generally a straightforward deal, might get you reward points, but there’s less wiggle room for negotiation. You can always call directly, use corporate discounts, or look at private rooms in fancier hostels as well. With Airbnb, a reverse image search helps uncover deals, this device can uncover hidden cameras, and you can turn your phone into a hotel room surveillance device wherever you stay.

What do you prefer? Hotel, Airbnb, or neither? Let me know in the comments below!

A Short Film To Inspire You To: Travel More

I hope this short film I made encourages you to do just as the title says, Travel More. Pass it along to all the people in your life you want to take a trip with or anyone who might need a little encouragement to start their next adventure.

How To Visit The Game Of Thrones Filming Locations In Southern Spain

Much of Game of Thrones is filmed in Spain, even places you might assume were shot in Ireland like Dragonstone, can be found across the country. Although the Baratheon stronghold is in the north (of Spain) there are many easily accessible filming locations in Andalusia.

Whether or not you’re a Game of Thrones fan, these filming locations in and around the popular southern cities of Seville, Cordoba, and Granada are well worth seeing on their own – dragons or not. You can watch how to get to these sites in the video above or read on.

Starting Point

Those of you who are in or planning a trip to Seville, Cordoba, or Granada have several good choices for Game of Thrones (GoT) sites to visit. Keep in mind if you’re going to be in Granada, your best bet is two separate day trips toward Seville or Cordoba. Seville is roughly a 2 hour 45 minute drive and Cordoba about 20 minutes closer to Granada.

real alcazar de seville

Go For The Closest

In Seville, there’s  the Real de Alcazar where parts of Dorne were filmed. The palace is a major tourist attraction in the city and its gardens are well known to GoT fans. (The show’s first choice was the Alhambra but those plans fell through.) Be sure to get your tickets online otherwise you’ll be waiting up to 30 minutes or more to enter.

real de alcazar seville dorne

Since we’re already in Seville – a 15 minute drive just outside the city is the 2,000+ year old Roman Italica Amphitheatre Jon Snow would recognize as Dragonpit of King’s Landing. Further out, roughly an hour from Seville or 90 minutes from Cordoba or Granada, is the Osuna bullring. It’s no longer used for bullfighting but rather to attract tourists to this small town. The Plaza de Toros bullring isn’t open everyday so be sure to check the schedule before driving there.

Being Picky

In case you don’t have a lot of time and want to be selective of where you go, I would recommend setting aside a day and visiting Highgarden, er, Castillo de Almodovar del Rio, outside of Cordoba. It has to be one of the most picturesque places I’ve seen personally, beautifully perched on the top of a large hill overlooking the town below.

almodovar del rio

It doesn’t get a lot of tourists but what’s especially endearing is Almodovar know why you’re at the castle so to help you navigate, they’ve put up handy photos showing you what GoT scenes were filmed where.

castillo de almodovar balcony thrones

Castillo de Almodovar del Rio is one of those places many would miss but you’ll be glad GoT brought you to this Moorish castle from the 8th century.

Tips On Getting Around

In theory you could do this all in one very, long day. Rather, I’d recommend splitting these up into two day trips, depending on which city you’re staying in. (Let me also add the Roman Bridge in Cordoba, the entrance to Volantis in GoT.) Rent a car, roughly 25-40 Euro per day, and you can save a lot of time on buses to get to all of these places. Renting a car also gives you the flexibility to move at your own schedule, plus pull over to catch some spectacular views along the way.

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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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