Category: Advice

Where To Find Bottled Water In Havana, Cuba

havana cuba

You might be thinking a post on where to find bottled water in Cuba’s capital city, Havana, is a weird or stupid thing to be writing (and reading) about – unless you’ve already taken a trip there. Finding bottled water in shops, or shops in Cuba is difficult, because there aren’t many.

Particularly if you’re staying in a casa particular (local home with rooms for rent) or Airbnb (somehow that is an option too) stocking up on bottled water is something every traveler without a plan should be prepared for. Tap water isn’t a safe option but fortunately, bottled water is easy to get, if you know just where to look.

Some Big Hotels

The reason there aren’t many shops in Havana, is because there aren’t many shoppers. Cuba uses a food rationing system (the allowance for eggs is 5 per month, for example) so the larger international hotels are often where you can find Western snacks and water. Some hotels, like the Hotel Presidente, gouge customers with high prices on small bottles of water you’ll sweat out fast – Havana has an average annual temperature of 23C/75F at 76% humidity.

To stock up on larger, 2 liter bottles of water, you can go to the Havana Libre hotel, recognizable from its massive blue lettering.

havana libre hotel cuba

Havana Libre is located off the busy Calle 23 at 23 Calle L E 23 and 25.

Outside of the Havana Libre hotel, immediately to its right if you’re facing it straight on, is a small shop where you can find 2 liter bottles of water on most days. The shop isn’t open late, so if you get thirsty, you can stop by the diner in the Havana Libre hotel, which is open 24 hours. Water purchased at the diner is only a slightly more expensive than from the shop.

Internet Or Water No One Stop Shop

In the evenings, the outside of the diner is illuminated with the glow very old mobile phones, as the Havana Libre hotel is one of the few Internet access points in Havana. Keep in mind if you do want to get online, to purchase your Internet access cards elsewhere – the Havana Libre Internet cards are more than double the price and limited to only the hotel’s connection.

havana cuba sunset

Perhaps not so ironically for Cuba, the Hotel Presidente, which rips people off for water, has Internet access cards for the standard foreigner rate. (There are two currencies, one for locals and Cuban nationals.)

Plan For The Unexpected

I’ve written before that Cuba is not what you think it is. Prior to a trip to Cuba, you’ll need to plan differently, as the country follows its own logic. Simple advice like this can save you an hour upon arrival at Havana’s international airport. Knowing where to find the Internet can get you online, occasionally, slowly, and oddly without much media censorship. There are other – mostly nameless – places to get large bottled water too, the kind you can take back to your room when you get thirsty. And if you find them, grab a few, because it might be a while before you see another.

Everything That Makes It Popular In Summer Is Why You Should Visit Prague In Winter

prague music video

The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, is the 20th most visited city in the world, a fact that’s overwhelmingly evident when you arrive. The 1.2 million resident population of Prague is joined by over 7 times as many tourists annually, making an otherwise great city to visit overcrowded, expensive, and feeling more like a tourist trap than an authentic travel experience.

Cities and touristic sites are often popular for good reasons – Prague is no different. But you can significantly reduce the negative aspects of Prague’s popularity by planning your trip there in winter, ideally, January.

A *Lot* Fewer Tourists

According to Prague’s tourism board, the most popular month for the city is May, the least being January. The number of visitors in January is half that of May; nearly 60% of all tourists in Prague arrive between the late spring and early fall months. Prague is still crowded in the winter but the famous Charles Bridge has fewer touts, tourists, and it’s not the human traffic jam-pickpocket paradise it can be in June.

prague astronomical clock

Hotels Are Significantly Cheaper

Less visitors means airlines and hotels drop their prices, the latter on average by 20-40%. Prague is not a cheap city, sorry, that was way back in 2013, and accommodation prices there probably keep the beer consumption rates among tourists the highest in the world. Beer and food are inexpensive – there’s a lot of competition for that – but hotels are where you can really save or get swindled, depending on the time of year. (Airbnb rates seem consistent throughout the year, though this hack might help you save on apartment rentals.)

Colder That A Cool, Wet Summer

Prague is cold. Even in the summer, the average temperature is only 16 Celsius (60 Fahrenheit) so it’s not exactly a tropical paradise. Winters are cold, solidly stuck around 0C (32F) with the sun being something you’ll probably never see. In other words, Prague, which is stunning on occasional warm days (if you don’t mind sharing it with millions of people shoulder-to-shoulder) isn’t a place you’ll be visiting for its spectacular weather. Actually, it rains nearly twice as much during the summer months anyway.

Obvious Advice For Extraordinary Crowds

Of course, less demand means better deals in pretty much any part of the world – though with Prague, it’s becoming more difficult to escape the crowds. Winter visitors increased by 9% from 2016-2017, so the advantages of traveling to Prague in winter for your sanity (did I mention how crowded with tourists this city is) could be diminishing. Still, a warm jacket in exchange for much shorter lines and less expensive hotels might be well worth considering before booking a summer vacation in Prague. The same goes for Iceland as well, which has even more reasons to visit in the winter.

How To Take A Day Trip To Andorra From Barcelona

andorra

Most visitors to Barcelona, Spain, aren’t aware that they can easily visit the sixth smallest country in Europe by taking a day trip to nearby Andorra. A trip to Andorra is inexpensive, easily arranged, and can be a nice addition to your stay in Barcelona. Here’s how to get to Andorra, why you might want to go, and what to see while you’re there.

Morning To Night, No Flight

There’s no airport in Andorra at all, even in its capital Andorra la Vella, the primary destination for most day trippers. You could rent a car, which isn’t recommended during the cold months as the roads up to the highest capital city in Europe through the Pyrenees mountains are best handled by a driver who knows them well.

andorra bus

A better option is to take a bus, there are many servicing Andorra from Barcelona, and I can recommend ALSA. You can book in advance through their website and check schedules – basically buses leave the Barcelona Nord station in the morning around 7am, and return either in the afternoon around 3pm or 7pm, depending on your preference. A round-trip costs about 60 euro and when departing Barcelona, sit on the left side for a beautiful view of the Punta de Rialb lake, 80 minutes into the trip. (Depending on the route you take, it varies given the driving conditions.)

To Ski Or Not To Ski

Andorra is primarily a ski destination. Snowboarders and skiers who take one look at the mountains overlooking Andorra la Vella will immediately have visualizations surfing down them. For everyone else, a day trip still has a few good options. From the small bus station (here’s how to pin it on an offline Google map) you can grab a coffee with breakfast at the nearby Granja Tuite 42 cafe.

La Noblesse du Temps andorra la vella

From there, if you point yourself toward the La Noblesse du Temps Dali sculpture, you’ll pass through the shopping district if that’s of interest to you. Otherwise, head to the La Noblesse du Temps, and directly to its left you’ll see one of two tourism centers in Andorra. Ask for a map to Rec de l’Obac, a walking path that overlooks the entire city. The Rec de l’Obac is definitely a sightseeing calorie burner so the uphill walk is not for everyone. The scenery though is amazing as well as fresh air – both much more memorable than slightly sore calf muscles.

Small Enough To See

Andorra la Vella is only 12 square kilometers (5 sq. miles) in its entirety so you can see most of what a tourist looks for in one day with time to spare. I’ll have a longer post coming up with more recommendations of what to do in Andorra but even wandering around on your own its hard to miss much. In case you do finish up quickly or get a bit chilly, most tickets can be changed without charge at the ticket office at the bus station for a 3pm departure. Otherwise, be sure to make the 7pm back, or be prepared to spend a night in town.

The Best Cafes In Lisbon, Portugal, For Food-Loving Freelancers

lx factory lisbon portugal

Portugal’s capital Lisbon is truly a city of cafes and small boutique restaurants that feel fancy, creative, and inspirational, while at the same time make you feel a little important too. The kind of cafes where you imagine writing a novel or designing a travel app and your reminiscences of the past are pleasantly interrupted by organic coffee. The cafe culture is a part of the reason Lisbon is becoming a big drawn for millennial expats, a place thousands of you voted the Best City to Visit in 2016.

As I do every year of the Best City contest, I go to the winning city. As I do everywhere, I eat a lot. There are many good choices in Lisbon, Portugal, these being some personal favorites if you like thoughtful food with coffee, whether or not you happen to work online.

1300 Taberna

Located in LX Factory, the old industrial part of Lisbon that’s now pretty much an art district, 1300 Taberna has ambiance with fresh foods on large tables if you need some laptop space. 1300 Taberna isn’t open for many hours, a few in the afternoon – a bit in the evening – but having a built-in deadline goes well with solid wifi, low prices, and staff that are generous with electrical outlets.

1300 taberna lisbon

Portas do Sol

For the days when the weather is warmer and you’re not too worried about an Internet connection, Portas do Sol has amazing views with lots of space in between tables, keeping ambient conversation noise at ideal cafe volume for concentration.

portas do sol lisbon

A Mercearia

The restaurant A Mercearia is amazing. The food is excellent, with the kitchen and chef not more than 10 meters (32 feet) away from anywhere you can sit inside. Any questions or requests for your food allergies or dietary restrictions? Tell the wait staff and the chef will come over and collaborate with you on creative, tasty alternatives. The wireless connection is also strong, plus A Mercearia is quiet in the evenings and the price doesn’t seem at all to match the quality of the service or meals.

a mercearia lisbon

Cafe da Garagem

Although the Cafe da Garagem is hidden under the Teatro (Theater) of Garagem, a lot of people seem to know about it. Open mid-afternoon until late, you’ll want to make reservations because around sunset it’s a popular viewing spot. Otherwise, it’s not uncomfortably crowded.

Cafe da Garagem

Pois, Cafe

Great for breakfasts, Pois, Cafe is certainly the one on this list that feels the most touristy. But Pois, Cafe is popular for many reasons (not that annoying comma in its name) like a diverse coffee menu with wifi. I wouldn’t recommend Pois, Cafe if you like to spread out when you work since table space gets quite limited around noon.

pois cafe lisbon

A Small Sample

Lisbon is a city where the ratio of good cafe choices to bad is so in your favor, it’s easy to find what seems like a hidden treasure. (It could be a Portuguese thing, after all this Porto cafe may be inspired JK Rowling.) These cafes are fairly inexpensive, at the right activity and noise levels, plus provide caffeine in tasty liquids with meals as well. I should also add they don’t mind you spending a few hours typing away as you sip and snack.

These cafes are some of my personal favorites, but those of you who’ve been or live in Lisbon, I would be happy to hear from you – what are some of your favorites? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

A Potterhead Shares 5 Things You Must Do When Visiting Harry Potter World In Orlando

This is a guest post by 16 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’s visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando 4 times and shares what he’s learned from experience to make your trip there even more magical.

harry potter wizarding world

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (we’ll call it Harry Potter World) is one of the most magical experiences for fans of all levels. Whether you’re simply a movie watcher (I’ll try to forgive you) or a super fan like me, everyone will enjoy the magic that Universal has to offer. As amazing as it is, there are some things you should know before visiting Harry Potter World.

1. Use Early-Admission (You May Already Have It)

Starting your day early is a very important factor. The earlier you get there, the less you have to wait for rides in the morning. The lines, especially in the summer, are incredibly long (and hot). If you can get to the parks as soon as possible in the morning, you can jump in the lines quickly and only have to wait about 30 minutes. This photo was taken bright and early at 8:47 a.m:

harry potter world

If you’re staying at any of the Universal Orlando on-site hotels, you almost certainly have early admission to Harry Potter World included with your accommodation. This lets you get into the park an hour (sometimes two) earlier than everyone else.

I would recommend doing Gringotts because that line probably reaches the longest wait time out of all the Harry Potter rides. After you’ve experienced the full queue, you can just hop in the single rider line from there on out.

2. Hop In Single-Rider Lanes For Much Shorter Wait Times

Single rider lines are available for the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the Forbidden Journey rides. Essentially, single rider lines offer a shorter wait time since they’re used to fill in people-gaps on the rides, but you won’t be sitting with your party. For instance, if there’s a party of three going on the Forbidden Journey, they’ll fill in the fourth seat with a single rider. One thing to note: you won’t be able to experience the full queue (there are surprises along the way) with single rider lines, so if you can get that experience in the morning, it’s worth it.

3. Switch To Gringotts Bank Notes

If you plan to buy merchandise, bring money. Lots of it. All the galleons, sickles, and knuts that will fit into your bag… or you can transfer your muggle money into Gringotts bank notes at the Gringotts Money Exchange located in Diagon Alley. Just know that these bank notes can only be used in Harry Potter World. There isn’t requirement at to exchange your money at all, it is simply a novelty but for super fans and kids, a nice addition to the Potter experience.

4. GET BUTTERBEER! ALL THE BUTTERBEERS!

harry potter world snapchat

Regular butterbeer, frozen butterbeer, hot butterbeer, butterbeer potted cream, butterbeer ice cream, butterbeer fudge, OH MY DUMBLEDORE IT’S A BUTTERBEER EXTRAVAGANZA. Get it ALL. I quite like butterbeer, if you couldn’t tell.

5. Cool Off In Honeydukes Alleyway

honeydukes alleyway

Just located near the entrance to Hogsmeade is Honeydukes Sweet Shoppe. If you walk just past it, and make a left and another left, there is a small alleyway type location. It’s quiet and makes you feel as if you really are in the Wizarding World. Stand there, breathe in the magical air, hold your wand and live your best life as the wizard you are. Also, it’s usually cool/air conditioned. You’re welcome!

Thank you very much Brian for all the tips for visiting muggles! You can find more of Brian on the Harry Potter Fansite MuggleNet and he also runs an Etsy shop where you can purchase hand knit goods.

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2017.

The Bags And Other Non-Electronic Gear I Travel With (And Highly Recommend For Travelers)

osprey sojourn 60

I carry a lot of electronics and when I recently posted all of the gadgets I travel with, many of you sent me messages asking what that gear was kept in. We often focus on the complex items, forgetting about the simple, yet critical bags, covers, and cases that protect our valuables.

These are the road-tested, non-electronic items I have used, in some cases for years, and would recommend for your travels as well.

Luggage: Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, 60L

osprey sojourn

The Osprey Sojourn 60L is a good medium between the larger 80L and compact 45L versions. The “L” is for liters of volume, roughly 63.5 centimeters (25 inches) by 35.56 cm (14 in) by 35.56 cm. It’s a roller; which I find preferable to a backpack so if you have another smaller backpack you don’t have to wear both in the “double turtle” tourist configuration. The Sojourn 60L does have backpack straps if you need to carry it on your back (a feature I’ve rarely used) but more useful are the interior compression straps. Those make it much easy to keep your belongings from dancing about, plus takes pressure off the exterior zippers. I have used the same Osprey Sojourn 60L for years, on hundreds of flights, over 6 continents, and they hold up incredibly well.

Electronics Backpack: SwissGear 1900 Scansmart Laptop Bag

swissgear smartscan 1900 laptop bag

This backpack has 15 pockets and comfortably holds all of my electronics, including the DJI Mavic Drone. Made of 1200D ballistic polyester fabric; I used a smaller version, the Wenger Synergy for over 12 years – only changing to the larger SwissGear 1900 to accommodate the addition of a drone.

Daypack: Osprey Daylite

osprey daylite

Carrying around a bag full of all your gadgets isn’t practical or very wise so for days out exploring. Fitting nicely into the Sojourn, the Osprey Daylite (22.86 cm x 22.86 cm x 45.72 cm) is an ideal size for a day pack, trips to the gym, or jiu-jitsu classes. It can carry a DSLR, Mavic Drone, gym clothes, though not all at once, it’s close. Weighing only 426 grams (.94 pounds) with a ventilated back panel, the Daylite is comfortable, small, plus has compression straps for times you need to push its capacity.

Cable Organizer: Cocoon Grid-It 10.5 x 7.5-Inch Organizer

I had put off organizing my cables for a long time but after another time in airport security having to pull out a clump of cords, send them back through the X-ray, and attempt to shake all the tangles out I decided on the Cocoon Grid-It, 5 x 7.5 inch organizer. It’s about the size of a standard sheet of paper with a very slim profile, plus its designed in a way that you don’t need to be very organized to make use of the Cocoon’s organizational benefits. Put the cable where they fit, then be on your way.

Toiletry Bag: SwissGear Deluxe Framed Toiletry Kit

swissgear deluxe toiletry kit

SwissGear make very durable products that are well thought out in design to an extent it’s easy to forget how useful they are. The main pockets of the SwissGear Deluxe Framed Kit are lined with rubber to make them water-resistant – ideal for packing deodorant, perfumes, shampoos or anything else you don’t want leaking into your luggage.

Drone Carrying Case: SwissGear Hanging Toiletry Kit

swissgear hanging toiletry kit

For those of you looking into a drone to travel with, the DJI Mavic Pro is a good combination of size (it’s collapsible) with excellent video quality (shoots 4K). Many of the hard cases sold for the Mavic are big, adding unnecessary bulk to a drone designed to be small. The SwissGear Hanging Toiletry Kit, odd as it may seem, is a soft case that perfectly fits the Mavic (in its sleeve), the remote controller (in the Altura Small Neoprene Pouch Bag), and charging cables nearly perfectly.

Laptop Sleeve: Incase Icon Sleeve

incase icon laptop sleeve

The Incase Icon Sleeve is a soft cover made for a number of laptops and what I keep my Macbook Pro in. The Incase has saved my laptop from what could have been a devastating fall at airport security, protecting it from the effects of traveling.

Wallet: J.Fold Men’s Roadster Torrent Slimfold

jfold wallet

Slim, durable, and as you may have guessed by now, with plenty of pockets.

A Few Other Covers And Cases

I don’t want to neglect mentioning the Moleskine Classic (5 x 8.25) Notebook. Although I tend not to be loyal to a particular notebook brand, I can recommend the Moleskine (5 x 8.25) because of the large writing surface for a compact journal. (The pages also fold flat; i.e. no gigantic hump when you’re writing in the middle of the notebook.)

Lastly, for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45 camera, I use an off brand, particularly mundane looking black case. Another benefit to cases are they can reduce the perceived value of what’s in them and uglifying your gadgets when they’re public can make them less enticing for pickpockets. Like any good case or backpack, you want something functional, not much bigger than the things it’s carrying, with of course, plenty of pockets.

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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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