Category: Car

Pimsleur Is The Best Way To Quickly Learn A Language Before Your Next Trip

conor mcgregor candle

The answer I can give without hesitation to the question, “what’s the best way to learn a new language before a trip,” is use Pimsleur. People ask me a lot about language learning, with two important caveats. The first being they’re traveling soon (short time to learn) and they need to be able to communicate with people (not necessarily translate names of random objects).

After booking flights, hotels, planning what to pack, language learning is usually a last that-would-be-nice-touch most never get around to. Pimsleur is the fastest way to learn another language at a conversational level if you’ve got 30 minutes a day and a few weeks to practice.

Quickly Conversational

The majority of language courses are designed to teach you a language with the aim to become fluent – an undertaking that often takes years. You’ll learn a lot of words that won’t be immediately useful which is why most travelers bounce around language tutorials and courses so broadly, you end up with nothing once you arrive at your destination. (English it will have to be then!)

pimsleurPimsleur Spanish Conversational Course – Level 1 Lessons 1-16

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The Pimsleur Language Program works differently. Basically, the 30 minute audio-only courses piece together seemingly random sounds with oddly specific visualizations over 10-20 lessons. At the end you’ll be surprisingly able to hold a conversation in that language.

How Pimsleur Works

Pimsleur is incredibly efficient. For example, you listen to one lesson on your commute. Pimsleur notes two important things: you’ll need to repeat what it tells you to repeat out loud and not do more than one lesson a day. A typical lesson is you saying some random sounds, then imaging e.g. a red bird on top of a house. Pimsleur is designed like Pulp Fiction, it’s all out of order at first, but as you go on the lessons start connecting.

gmc jeep interior

The main drawback of Pimsleur is it won’t help you read or write in another language. Pimsleur is audio only, designed to get you talking with people at soon as possible. Pimsleur gives you the mechanics of a given language making you usefully conversational – and if you want to expand beyond that – a solid structure upon which you can add vocabulary and more advanced grammar.

Target For Travelers

Pimsleur has been used by aid and relief organizations to linguistically prepare their staff and volunteers in a short amount of time. (The company donated their Haitian Creole courses after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance). The United States military has also distributed Pimsleur for troops in Afghanistan.

The efficiency of Pimsleur is what makes it so beneficial for travelers interested in learning usable parts of a language in a short time. I’ve found 2-6 weeks and 30 minutes a day (4-5 days a week) is enough to be able to hold a respectable conversation in a foreign language. All you have to do is listen to the audio file (or CD) and repeat as it instructs.

Somehow Pimsleur hacks your memory to install a new language. I wasn’t paid to write this (I legally have to disclose paid reviews) but I can’t say enough good things about Pimsleur. The lessons you learn are also extremely durable – I recall lessons from nearly 10 years ago. You’ll just have to give yourself the time to finish the lessons. Since Pimsleur courses aren’t structured in a conventional way, the more dots it will connect the longer you continue. And it’s not a long or expensive journey. The first entire lesson of Turkish is a total of 8 hours, costing just $40, for example.

Obviously, the more time you have the more of a language you can learn, using these other tools, adding some colorful curses to your vocabulary as well.

The Cheapest GoPro Knockoff Might Not Be As Good But Could Be Enough For Most People

There are lots of popular GoPro action camera knockoffs on sale, most of which are less than $100, but the LeadEdge LE5000 is currently the cheapest with 4K resolution: $39 for a complete kit. Is that too good to be true? Well, it depends on what kind of footage quality you’re expecting from an action camera that’s a tenth the price of the industry leader.

Here’s my full review of the LeadEdge LE5000 action camera and who it might be best suited for.

The Battleground

Let’s start by comparing the LeadEdge LE5000 4K camera to the GoPro line, from the HERO4 ($239) on up since they’re 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30fps as well. For those of you who looking at the LeadEdge I’m guessing 4K is a big reason why, but in case you aren’t quite sure what this higher resolution is, PCMag has a good primer.

Resolution is just one part of how good the video you get looks. The sensor in the camera as well as the lens, amount of light coming through the lens, all play an important factor in video quality. Given that action cameras are designed to be physically small, with very wide-angle lenses (the LeadEdge is 170 degrees), the size of the lenses are heavily restricted.

That means the quality of video you get from any action camera isn’t going to be great and any point and shoot like this bargain Lumix will likely give you crisper footage with better color range in a wider variety of lighting conditions.

Cutting Corners

Given these constraints, the LE5000 has to cut some corners to come $250+ cheaper than a comparable GoPro. Both the lens and the sensor are lacking. The drawbacks of the lens being somewhat grainy footage, that’s especially poor indoors unless you’re working with a lot of light.

You can see examples of LeadEdge 4K footage in my video review above.

leadedge 4k action camera

The electronics in the LeadEdge also seem just barely capable of keeping up with 4K footage, writing to the microSD card sufficiently when there’s little camera motion. On faster action however, the footage is choppy. Slow motion? Forget about using it, the LeadEdge is terrible at 720p 120fps.

Advantages Of The LeadEdge

Clearly you’re not going to get GoPro-level footage with a camera that’s so much cheaper. But the LeadEdge does come with a full kit – case, underwater housing, all of this stuff you can see in my unboxing video.

leadedge le5000 4kLeadEdge Action Camera 4K Ultra HD

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On a tripod, camera dashboard, slow skiing, or as an inexpensive beach camera though the LeadEdge can take some cool shots you couldn’t with a larger mirrorless. The LeadEdge is good enough, but it’s not great. For most users though, an action camera is one you’ll use only a few times a year. Plus travelers will like the reduced theft anxiety of the LeadEdge since it’s much easier to swallow a $39 loss if you get robbed.

Frequent snorkelers, divers, fast-car-snowboarding-all-winter-serious-about-action-vloggers should probably take a close look at a GoPro HERO4 or HERO5. GoPro has also had a lot of financial difficulty, forcing them to lower the prices on their products. Once the HERO4 hits $150 or lower, it will make the choice between a LeadEdge much more difficult. For now, if you only hit the beach once or twice a year, $200 or more dollars on an action camera might not be the best investment.

Best Of The Balkans Few Visit: Photos Of The Belogradchik Rocks In Bulgaria

Outside of Bulgaria, few, even those in the neighboring Balkan countries, know about one of the most visually stunning natural formations in the region: the Belogradchik Rocks. They should be standard viewing for any visitor to the country (it’s a 4 hour drive from the capital Sofia) but less than 1% of the tourists visiting Bulgaria ever make it there.

belogradchik bulgaria

The site of a former sea, the Belogradchik Rocks are about 45 million years old; their formation likely began more than 200 million years prior. The Romans decided to build a fort into the rocks, later taken over by the Ottomans in 1396.

belogradchik fort

Although the 200 meter tall rock formations are reminiscent of Cappadocia in Turkey, Belogradchik’s rocks are the result of water erosion (not volcanic activity).

belogradchik photos

Getting to Belogradchik is fairly easy if you have a car and have downloaded some local offline Google Maps. The roads aren’t the best so you should be gentle on the gas pedal over the 120 kilometer (75 mile) drive.

belogradchik

Belogradchik’s stairs are steep, turn into ladders, though for those who make the climb, the views are impressive. In winters it can be icy though even in good conditions, you’ll probably be the only tourist around.

belogradchik madonna

The Belogradchik Rocks should be on every tourism poster for Bulgaria. What Hollywood has discovered (many movies are filmed across the country) – inexpensive, impressive landscape, lesser known – Belogradchik is only a tiny part of. There are many other cultural contrasts you didn’t know Bulgaria will surprise you with, as well as a big Comic Con annually, you probably didn’t know about either.

belogradchik drone

For those of you looking for off the beaten path, only 17,000 foreign tourists visited the Belogradchik Rocks in 2015. When you’re standing at the very top of the fort, overlooking the valley of rock formations, you’ll wonder how that’s possible. At the same time, feeling happy you’ve got it (mostly) all to yourself.

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.

Cuba Is Not What You Think It Is

havana cuba tourists

There’s a romanticism behind most revolutions, particularly those associated with the now iconic images of Che Guevara. In 2015, a record number of tourists (nearly 3.1 million) visited Cuba, sharing stories online of brightly colored buildings with photos of rebellious ladies in their 60s smoking cigars. The allure of a place stuck in time and misconception, is one of the reasons many, including myself, travel to Cuba in the first place.

Lifted Upon Landing

The passport control in Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport is in a poorly lit hall, immediately behind what is a conspicuous search of carry-on bags. (There’s a detailed list of things you can’t bring into Cuba on the immigration form.) But the friendly, if not slightly bored, faces of the passport control officers puts you at ease. Calmly you’ll walk out into the madness that is the arrivals hall, eventually finding the long, confused line to exchange currency. (The much shorter one is upstairs at departures.) Cuba has two types of currency, one for locals the Cuban Peso (CUP), the other, Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourists. The rate is 25 CUP for 1 CUC.

havana square cuba

Cash in hand, you can see the faces of tourists from all parts of the world light up at the sight of the 1950s Chevy’s lined up as taxis, some colorful, others with fading paint. The car’s seats are boldly taped together, the doors missing interiors, but it’s amazing the vehicles are running as well as they do.

Strict Side Market

Surprisingly, Airbnb is an option in Havana, but you’ll have a less expensive stay at a casa particular. Basically, casa particulares are apartment rooms or sections of homes for rent, since law requires the owner stay on the premises. The particular place in Havana I stayed was an entire apartment floor with multiple rooms, spacious enough for 10 people comfortably.

cuba casa particular

A walk around the street below, the first person I meet is a man asking if I can help carry his bag. Travel scam warnings light up in my head but I do anyway, to see where this is going. Apparently, it’s going about 25 meters because he goes left but before he does, gives me a shot of the rum I was carrying. It’s 9:15 am. Cuba is both confusing, yet convincing, that things are certainly not what they seemed to be.

Many other Cubans are curious, striking up conversations, usually ending with some kind of veiled offer to get whatever (the wink, wink kind) you might want. The first thing that comes to mind is a bottle of water.

Stopped In Time

The heart of downtown Havana is either a rustic rebel against all the nation is deprived of or decades old buildings visibly falling apart despite any contrary effort. People in poverty, including plenty of grandmothers posing with cigars, for a price. The smiles quickly vanish after the photo is snapped or you decline a picture in the first place. Seeing those pictures isn’t ever the same afterward.

old havana

Lunch at Variedades Obispo, a local chicken and rice cafeteria hall, becomes a thought provoking internal debate on Cuba’s food rationing system. People are in a long line for eggs – 5 per month is the allowance – probably the reason small shops aren’t common; there aren’t many local shoppers.

Variedades Obispo

Half-century old cars breakdown. A lot. Those polished, bright, shiny ones you often see in pictures are kept in pristine condition and parked right where tourists can hop in, for $20-30 US dollars, depending on your negotiating skills. Most of the others on the road exhale large plumes of dark smoke, but the ride is still fun, because they often have excellent speakers with good music blasting. Making the most out of the situation is what you see much of in Cuba.

No Time To Scratch Your Head

If there ever were a ride that could symbolize what Cuba is or isn’t, it’s definitely the bright red, double-decker, Habana Hop On Hop Off Bus. What’s an ordinary tour wagon in most major cities, in Havana, the bus an entertaining speedy race around corners at speeds with just enough forward momentum to prevent the vehicle from tipping over. (Watch out if you’re on the sidewalk.) Branches hang low – and I’m serious – if you sit on the top floor without paying attention the best case scenario could be a concussion.

cuba taxi chevy

Some stops are typical: squares, and famous sights but many are big hotels. Aside from housing many tourists, these hotels are pretty much the only places (at least in Havana), where you can find an Internet connection. (And bottled water.) Controlled by access cards that cost about $2 USD for an hour of Internet connectivity, which is, surprisingly uncensored. Many Cubans sit outside of the hotels during the cooler evening temperatures, warming the air with the soft blue glow of their mobile phones. An indication, among many things, that even official salaries aren’t official.

At the end of the wild ride you’re once again slowed to a halt with a confusing reality. An empty Plaza de la Revolucion, with Che Guevara’s determined image looking down. You can’t help but wonder, is this Cuba what he and so many other revolutionaries, romantics, envisioned?

plaza de revolucion cuba

As a traveler it’s difficult to make judgements about something as complex as a society in a short visit. What you see are snapshots from a movie that’s been running for decades. Your Cuban story is colored by critic reviews, and following the advice you’re strongly recommended, talking politics might pose significant problems for everyone involved in the conversation. In a place that prides itself in planning, you appreciate how many long-lived people seem to benefit from an effective and efficient healthcare system. Conversely, the obvious poverty makes you wonder where the lines of premeditation were drawn on who and why.

Cuba isn’t what you think it is. Cuba is not what I think it is. There are very experienced journalists with enlightened insights on Cuba. What I know is what I don’t; a lesson Cuba can teach many of us.

The Best Way For Foreign Travelers To Order A Taxi In Belgrade, Serbia

belgrade serbia streets

Hopping into a taxi – or even finding one – in a foreign country can be a daunting experience. Once inside you never know if you’ll see a working meter or have a sweet talking cabbie who knows how to extend your route just up to a price you’re not likely to argue about. Belgrade, Serbia, where Uber isn’t available, can be particularly tricky since there are a number of taxi companies with intentionally similar logos that confuse even locals.

There is a simple method (that isn’t very well advertised) English speakers can use to call a taxi with a working meter at any hour plus be fairly confident the driver is taking the most efficient route.

The Right Numbers To Call

For travelers using non-Serbian mobile numbers or calling using Skype To Go (here’s information for getting online at Belgrade Airport) you want to Beogradski Taxi, which charges set rates you can find on their website.

  • Beogradski Taxi International Number – +381 011 20 999 20

Getting a local SIM card is fairly easy in Serbia and if you have one, you can call Beogradski Taxi by dialing 19801.

Why This Is Worth Posting

It might seem finding a taxi number in a European city would be straightforward but after trying out a number of recommendations given to me by locals, I found Beogradski Taxi was the only one with dedicated English-speaking staff. Most taxi drivers in Belgrade don’t speak English so having the phone operator translate your directions is very helpful. (Especially if you’re going somewhere non-touristy, like jiu-jitsu class.)

Beogradski Taxi also operate 24 hours a day, something you’ll be thankful for if you’re flying in or out of Belgrade as most international flights take-off and land in the very early morning hours. You are no doubt paying a slightly higher rate for a ride but consider it an exchange for peace of mind.

Despite my best efforts to not make this sound like an advertisement you might be wondering if I got paid to write all of this? To answer your question: no, I didn’t. I just found Beogradski Taxi a service that saved me time and headache, I hope it does the same for you during your visit as well.

Of course if you have any other recommendations on how to get around Belgrade, I’m happy to hear them 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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