Category: Advice

The Best Place To Travel Right Now: Answering My Inbox Q&Av2

I’m sent a lot of travel and tech questions by email and although I reply to them all, I want to share some of those responses publicly to help more of you travel smarter. In the video above, I answer your questions about the best places to travel right now, good VPN choices, and more.

I’ll have an occasional Q&A video for you on my YouTube channel so feel free to let me know any travel questions you might have in the comments below.

This Is What Happens When You Say “Yes” To Every Scam In India

There are a number of scams and tricks you’ll likely be faced with when visiting India, typically beginning with someone coming up to you on the street. It’s a country that can be overwhelming, especially during your first 48 hours in India. Saying “no” to everything can be an effective method to avoid being hustled but this broad approach might have you missing out on genuine offers.

Not everyone is trying to trick and scam you – having been to India 7 times myself – I’ve come to learn how to spot the common scams quickly. To help you avoid going through your own trial and error, I decided to say “yes” to every scam I was approached with. I tricked friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl, who was in India leading one of his Wandering Earl Tours, to join me on this project.

You can see all of the scams we “yes” to, the consequences, and the tricks to avoid when traveling to India in the video above.

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!

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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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