Lodging Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Lodging

Everything You Need To Know About Traveling To Baghdad

Although it might not seem like it, Baghdad, Iraq is a blossoming tourist destination welcoming casual groups interested in history, art, and a city that’s been off limits until recently. Adventurers are also making their way to this exciting new destination in the Middle East but you don’t have to be one to visit Baghdad, a remarkably modern and welcoming city.

Logistics And Accommodation

Flying into Baghdad is straightforward and there are direct flights from several destinations, including Istanbul. Iraq recently implemented an online e-visa program for a number of countries, removing some of the logistical barriers that once existed. Hotels are plentiful though they tend to range from dirt cheap or semi-luxurious, without many options – or prices – in between.

Getting to Baghdad is mostly normal. Flights land as they would anywhere else but upon arrival you’ll want to have your hotel pickup, Baghdad tour company, or other transportation arranged in advance. Unauthorized cars are not allowed up to the terminals at Baghdad International Airport for security reasons (more on that in a bit) so you won’t be able to just grab a cab once you step outside.

Security

Baghdad is a city that has been experiencing recent periods of normality in between waves of local instability, including recent clashes and curfews. It’s best to have local contacts (e.g. guides) who can advise you of the situation on the ground during such waves. Otherwise, as locals will tell you, traveling to Baghdad isn’t dangerous but it is risk(ier) than many other places. Occasionally there are random attacks, mainly on the outskirts of town and they rarely target foreigners. Everyone has a different risk tolerance but when you’re in Baghdad, a bustling, vibrant city of over 7 million, it doesn’t feel much unlike most other developed capital cities.

Baghdadis are by and large friendly, welcoming, and aside from the ruthless traffic, getting around town by car or on foot isn’t extraordinary.

Why You Should Visit

Baghdad is a modern city with its Starbucks, hip restaurants, and a young and open-minded population who will be deciding what they want their country to be. Being one of the oldest cities in the world, there’s history (Babylon anyone?), cultural events in public squares, and some of the best cuisine you’ll find not just in Iraq, but anywhere.

Perhaps the untold story of Baghdad is that its not only a crossroads of time and peoples, but with that comes the unique mix of foods you can find here. Dishes with a range of fresh ingredients you might not have expected from Iraq but remember, you’re in the heart of the Fertile Crescent. There’s masgouf, traditional carp that’s farmed in the nearby marshes or absolutely one of the best falafels in the world (and a nice vegetarian option).

You’ll be welcomed in Baghdad as a guest – the locals will make sure of that – and you’ll be getting a peak into the fragile state of tourism here. It may be the beginning or a temporary end. Only time will tell so if you’ve been considering a trip to Iraq’s capital, now may be the time.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy Your Own Private Island?

The thought of buying a tropical island is one many of us have dreamed of. Now imagine you asked a bunch of those people to chip in some money and actually buy an island. Well, that’s essentially what Marshall Mayer did with his Let’s Buy An Island project, resulting in the world’s first crowdfunded island.

The goal began to buy an island- any island – and potentially as more people invested, they could afford something nicer than a tiny river island in northern Canada. Let’s Buy An Island reached well beyond its initial goal in 2018 and ended up purchasing Coffee Caye off the coast of Belize. Now, it’s poised to become a micronation, offering citizenship to what’s being called Islandia.

belize island

Marshall was a guest on the foXnoMad Podcast where we talked about how Let’s Buy An Island came to be and what forming a micronation is like. It’s a fun discussion on the logistics of turning a dream into a tangible… in this case, island. You can listen to the episode here or watch it in full in the video above.

I also happened to be headed to Caye Caulker Belize two weeks after our conversation and guess who made it to Islandia? The plans for the island, mainly a vacation rental property that will make your friends jealous, hasn’t been built yet but it was an adventure just getting there. You can watch the entire trip in the video here.

Airbnb Alternative With Growing Pains: Blueground Review

The Blueground is an alternative to sites like Airbnb and VRBO with a focus on longer term rentals of at least a month long and furnished with a premium aesthetic consistent across their global apartments. If you’re a traveling professional, digital nomad, or tend to have extended stays in one of 18 major cities around the world, then the Blueground has a lot to offer. It basically gets right a lot of what Airbnb gets wrong but unfortunately the Blueground has a lot to learn about what Airbnb and sites like it get right. You can watch my full review in the video above or read on.

Booking And Cost

The way Blueground works is it rents out apartments in 18 cities like Washington DC, Madrid, Istanbul, and Dubai. Their design team then furnishes all of those apartments with similar shelves, beds, televisions, and aesthetic touches. The benefit of that consistency means you know the style you’re going to to get inside the apartment. A modern, minimalist, metallic, white and black look. And it’s a look that’s welcoming and really easy to settle into. The floors and furniture are all nearly new – and the apartments are all professionally cleaned before you show up.

Searching for an apartment is fairly standard although Blueground isn’t entirely upfront about their pricing. You’re shown the lowest prices – no matter the duration or dates the apartment is available – unlike hotel booking sites or Airbnb. You can adjust the dates for a more accurate listing of available apartments but nearly always the difference between a 1 and 6 or 12 month rental is significant. Listings also don’t immediately show you the final price, which can be 30% or more expensive due to utilities, fees, and other insurance.

blueground

The Blueground is a premium service so the higher rates are expected but having to wait several clicks to get the final price is a bit disappointing. Ultimately it makes budgeting more difficult.

The Actual Apartments

Once you do book a place though, the furnishing and top notch. The furniture from the couch to the granite tables, and minimalist lamps are all new or in very, very good shape. You’ll have at least one large screen TV with complimentary YouTube TV giving you more than 85 channels to stream from. The silverware and pots and pans are high quality and the kitchens are fully stocked. The refrigerator, coffeemaker, microwave, and other appliances are updated and you definitely don’t feel like Blueground have skimped on interior furnishing. It’s a premium service that does deliver on a premium feel. Looking for an apartment with great amenities, check out apartments for rent in Springfield!

blueground

Bed sheets and blankets are really soft, I’m not sure what the thread count is but it feels like linens you’d find at a high end hotel. When you move in, Blueground also have some fancy shampoo, conditioner, and lotions waiting for you as well as soft towels a hair dryer, and ironing board.

The Internet connections too are lightning fast.

What’s Lacking

The Blueground does a very good job of the premium experience. The apartments are very nice, the customer service is responsive, and their app lets you manage your bookings and find out useful information like where to put out the trash and wifi password. On the flip side the site search listings don’t show final prices and there are no reviews of apartments available either. Lacking community feedback can be disconcerting, especially since changing apartments carries a $1,500 fee.

Blueground do fill a niche for the growing digital nomad, remote working population looking for consistency in high end temporary accommodations. Still, they have a lot to learn from their established competitors Airbnb and VRBO, starting with transparency.

How Airbnb Rips You Off With Cleaning Fees

Once the lower cost alternative to hotels, Airbnb prices have gone steadily up, even if it’s not apparent from the nightly rates that pop up in the search results. That’s because Airbnb hosts have adopted a strategy commonly used by airfare search engines to get you to pay more than you want to – by using the cleaning fee.

Clearing Up Cleaning Fees

You’re probably familiar with the service fee when booking on Airbnb – the cut the site takes to run their service but much, much more variable is the cleaning fee. Cleaning fees on the other hand are there to cover costs like labor, cleaning products, toilet paper, laundry – as the name suggests, to cover the costs of cleaning an Airbnb after your stay. The cleaning fee, unlike many hotels, is a one-time (non-refundable) upfront cost – in other words you pay a single cleaning fee rate whether you’re staying for a night or two months.

airbnb cleaning fee

Cleaning fees, in theory, vary based on the size of the accommodation, location, and any special circumstances like being on a ski resort for example, where you might have a lot more mud tracked inside. But cleaning fees, at least for the host, are somewhat arbitrary.

Reservation Pricing

An Airbnb host can set the cleaning fee to whatever they want and I’ve seen places where the fee is the same as the rental rate, meaning it can double the cost of your stay if it’s only for a night. See, Airbnb calculates service fees based on the total amount of your payment, which includes the cleaning fee. A high cleaning fee can mean a larger service fee meaning the price you saw in the search could be a lot more each night than at first sight.

reservation pricing

This all makes sense from a logical perspective for Airbnb but for you, the consumer, you still have that original price – the one you saw when you were searching in the first place – you still have that first price in mind. And because of that, you’re more likely to book the Airbnb, high cleaning fees and all. This is due to a psychological phenomenon called “reference price” and it works even better to get you to book an Airbnb if the search price – that first price you see is really low.

Airline Tactic

See, this is a tactic airlines have been using for a long time. You’ve seen it, you search for flights and pick a cheap one, only to watch the total price be way above what you were hoping to pay when airline fees are added. Fees for seating, fees for luggage, fees for food, fees for who knows what else. But you usually end up booking that flight anyway because our brains unconsciously evaluate prices based on the first base cost we’re presented with.

So it’s not a 949 dollar flight, it’s a $600 flight with fees and taxes tacked on. And just like that it’s not a $288 a night Airbnb but a $147 Airbnb with a $105 dollar cleaning fee. For Airbnb, holding off on how long they show you the total price – or rather by showing you the lowest base price for a booking, they increase their chances of you booking. And Airbnb hosts know this as well – so they can lower the nightly rate but make up for it a bit with a higher cleaning fee.

For longer bookings of a week or more, large cleaning fees probably won’t impact the total price too significantly. But for one or two night stays, they can significantly add to your totals. And that’s how hosts can really turn a profit since it probably doesn’t cost them close to the cleaning fee to spruce up after a one night guest.

Overall, hosts get to lower their nightly rate at first glance, profit off the cleaning fee, and all the while Airbnb makes more off increased service fees. To avoid falling for the reference price trap, check hotels, other rental sites, so for better or worse, you’re not just relying on Airbnb.

5 Pickpocket Tricks To Use Against Them When Traveling

aer travel pack 2

Part of any good security strategy is to learn from what the other side you’re trying to protect yourself from is doing. You can’t always avoid an elite pickpocket or completely prevent getting robbed at knife point – but what you can do though is minimize your losses by thinking like the criminal who wants to steal from you.

Your personal security plan needs to have many legs to stand on as well as distractions to keep your real valuables safe.

1. Distribute Your Money

Always distribute your valuables in several places when you travel. This include both on your person, in you bag, and your hostel or hotel room. Never keep all of your money in the same place. You can hide some emergency cash in deep in your socks, in the side of your underwear or in a bra and in your front pocket as well. While you may get robbed or pickpocketed you’ll have minimized your loses.

hotel room pakistan lahore falettis

For extreme circumstances do the same and have some money hidden in your hotel room too. Some in the safe if there is one and inside of a dirty sock in your laundry. Have kids? Their toys make great hiding spots.

2. Use A Decoy

Your wallet is the first target of any pickpocket so make it where you keep your least valuable stuff. Put in a small (but not tiny amount) of money along with some of those inactive (or expired) credit cards you get in the mail. If you don’t get any in the mail cancel your current card and request a new one from your bank – instant decoy. Include a student ID or some other photo identification with no personal information on it. A wallet without an ID might give you away.

trove wallet

Make sure your wallet doesn’t have sentimental value and never keep important things in a big purse – they are very easy targets.

3. Set a Trap

A decoy can be a way to potentially set a trap for a pickpocket. It won’t work in all places but if your bank offers a free checking account or credit card with no fees and is free open one up. Keep this card (with no money in the account) in your decoy wallet. If it’s stolen call the credit card company or bank right away to let them know.

ridge wallet

In most countries the companies will keep close track to see where and if that card is used. If there happens to be a camera at the first place the pickpocket tries to use the card you may be in luck.

4. Make Your Things Ugly

There are several techniques on how to make uglify your camera but the same premise goes for all of your valuable electronics. Get over the need to keep your things shiny since they won’t do you any good if they’re enticing and get stolen. Stickers, worn duct tape, and ugly carry bags work too.

red iphone 11

Oh, and that iPhone – be careful where you flash it. If you’re traveling in a place and worried about the area bring along the cheapest, oldest Nokia you can find and save the Twittering until you can get back to the hotel.

5. Set Up A Camera System

Hotel rooms can be vulnerable spots for your stuff and not all come with safes. You can though use an old smartphone as a security camera to monitor your things and get an alert if anything is disturbed. Also, while we’re at it, always use a “Do Not Disturb” sign and only have your room cleaned while you’re in it (and have packed away your valuables beforehand).

Be Creative and Add More Legs

There are plenty more ways to be shadier than thieves – be creative! Unique hiding spots, zipping your backpack like this, and other tricks are fun to come up with and there are almost an unlimited number of them. The important thing it to have more than one self-security plan and have your strategy stand on many legs so you always have a backup or two.

This is an updated version of a post I originally shared for a now-defunct travel blog in 2009.

5 Creepy Travel Sites You’d Actually Want To Visit

creppy contrails

There are a number of spooky stories. Some are completely based in fantasy while others like recent murders a little too macabre. Mysterious encounters, sightings, and places you would actually want to visit (outside of the creepiness) do exist. These are 5 creepy sites from the foXnoMad Podcast you might actually want to visit on your next trip.

1. Margate Shell Grotto

margate shell grotto

Located in Kent, England and discovered in 1835 by a father and son digging around a duck pond, the Margate Shell Grotto is a snaking 185 square meter cavern. Adorned with over 4.6 million shells, it contains an altar room and rotunda. Nobody knows who built this mysterious site and there aren’t any good guesses either. You can though visit the Margate Shell Grotto for a few British Pounds and explore it yourself.

2. Socorro UFO Landing Site

socorro ufo site

On April 24, 1964, just outside of Socorro, New Mexico, Police Officer Lonnie Zamora was chasing a speeding teenager. As he headed out into the desert though something caught his eye. Zamora stopped pursuit and saw a craft with beings walking around outside. The U.S. Air Force conducted an investigation, collection photos and physical evidence to corroborate Zamora’s story. Even to this day, the official government site of Socorro lists its coordinates.

3. Historic Anchorage Hotel

historic anchorage hotel

Built in 1916 and the only historic hotel in Alaska’s largest city, the Historic Anchorage Hotel is known for 3 ghosts whose sightings are so common, a guest book at reception records them. If you want to see the otherworldly little boy, murdered police chief, or ghastly bride, rooms 215, 217, 202 and 205 are know to be especially haunting.

4. Ruwa, Zimbabwe

One of the most conventionally un-explainable UFO encounters, the mass sighting and interaction between 62 students and faculty of an alien craft and beings in Ruwa, Zimbabwe has shook those who’ve studied it. Harvard professor of psychiatry John Mack interviewed the kids extensively and BBC’s local correspondent Tim Leach said after his investigation, “I could handle war zones, but I could not handle this.”

5. Bunny Man Bridge

bunny man bridge

The urban legend is creepy but the true story is even more bizarre. Studied for over a decade by Fairfax County Archivist Brian Conley, his paper on the government website is the foremost treatise on the Bunny Man. A small bridge in northern Virginia, there’s no asylum or gutted bunnies like the myth but a hatch through a car window? That happened to a couple on October 18, 1970 but a man dressed in a bunny outfit. Nobody was hurt and two weeks later, the Bunny Man was sighted again. Axe in hand, attacking an abandoned home, he threatened witnesses to stay away. Since then, he’s not been seen and nobody knows who this person was. You can try your luck (or lack thereof) on a Halloween at midnight, with a number of locals who dare to defy the curse of the Bunny Man.

Loading
<script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ jQuery(".post-meta").find('a:first-child').each(function () { var obj = jQuery(this); obj.removeAttr("href"); }); }); </script>

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

YouTube Twitter Instagram Facebook

Image Map

Image Map