Category: Money

Win $600 By Telling Me Your Favorite City For This Year’s Best City To Visit Tournament

best city to visit 2017

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament in an annual contest on this site where 64 cities are matched up and eliminated by weekly reader votes. You tell me what city you think is the best in the world to visit to and if it wins, I’ll give you a $600 gift card to your choice of several online stores, including Apple and Amazon.

To enter, write your favorite city in the comments section of this post before Sunday, February 26th 8:00pm US EST.

The cities will then be placed in tournament brackets sorted by geographical region, with the first round of voting beginning on March 2nd, 2017. Each week the number of cities will be halved by reader votes, until there is one left. Hopefully the winning city is the one you picked.

Tournament Rules

Cities are first come first serve and several cities have already been picked by my newsletter subscribers (who got the first picks). The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is a round robin style competition, with voting every week during the month of March.

Important Dates

Once you enter a city, there’s nothing you have to do but keep in mind voting for yourself isn’t a bad idea. These are the Tuesdays in the coming weeks to make note of:

  • March 2, 2017: Round of 64
  • March 7, 2017: Round of 32
  • March 14, 2017: Sweet 16
  • March 21. 2017: Elite 8
  • March 28, 2017: Final 4
  • April 4, 2017: Championship

Here are some other ways you can help your city win based on how previous winners have succeeded. Please remember that many comments automatically go into moderation where they remain invisible until they’re approved. Selections are still first come, first serve, keep checking back to see if you got the city you wanted or need to pick an alternate.

Winner Announced April 11, 2017

The winner of this year’s tournament will be announced on Tuesday, April 11th and prize gift card delivered electronically to the winner by June 25, 2017. Those are quite a few dates to keep up with – the best way not to miss anything is to get my posts sent directly to your inbox.

  • The gift card can be used on the Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Delta, and Southwest Airlines online stores.

More retailers may also be added; or those above modified at any time before the end of the tournament – gift cards must be for the full $600 prize amount and cannot be split among stores, transferred into cash, and will be sent to the email you use in the comments section to choose your city. Best of luck to everyone and please let me know if you have any questions.

How To Get To The Top Of Tirana, Albania’s Mount Dajti By Cable Car

dajti ekspres

Albania’s capital city Tirana doesn’t have the reputation of being the most beautiful, but I ask you to try agreeing with that from the view atop Mount Dajti overlooking the city. Something more objective however is Tirana’s ad-hoc system for pretty much everything, including public transportation.

You can get to the top of Mount Dajti, just outside of Tirana, by taking the Dajti Ekspress, the longest cable car in the Balkans. There are a lot of options for getting there but only a few that make sense. Here are the best ways to get to Mount Dajti.

From Town To Base Station

Before you do anything, it’s important to make sure you have, or withdraw, enough cash for the journey as well as cable car. The credit card machine at the base station hasn’t worked in forever – show up with only a Mastercard and you’ll have to go all the way back into town.

et'hem bey mosque tirana

  • Cash To Bring – A round-trip cable car ticket is around 800 lek ($6.30 dollars) and the bus about 65 lek (.50 cents US). There’s a good cafe and restaurant up at the top that do accept credit cards but I wouldn’t rely on them, so bring extra cash to enjoy some food as well.

Head to the Et’hem Bey Mosque in the center of town. Looking at the Et’hem Mosque (with the clock town on the left) about 50 meters to the left is a bus station. You’ll see people waiting around, possibly a bus, or neither. Look for the Linze bus and confirm with the driver he or she is headed toward Dajti.

  • Dajti Cable Car Hours – From 10am to 7pm (winter); extended hours to 10pm during the summer months. The Dajti Ekspres cable car is open everyday except Tuesdays.

The trip from the bus station to nearby the cable car station is about 25 minutes. Go to the last stop – it also helps to sit near the front so the driver can let you know you’re at the right place.

Drop Off And Ready To Walk

From this point, you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes uphill following signs that aren’t very accurate. As you walk in the direction the bus was pointing when it arrived at the station, ask every few shops to make sure you’ve not gone off track. The shop owners are very helpful, often leaving their stores to give overly detailed instructions for the deceptively winding roads.

mount dajti tirana albania

Unless you’re arriving with a bicycle, get a round-trip ticket up to the top by taking the 3.6 kilometer (2.2 mile) Dajti Ekspres cable car. A lovely 20 minute ride, unless you have serious fear of heights, take in all of the views of Tirana on the way. After arriving don’t miss the countryside on the far side of Mount Dajti.

  • Meal With A View – Although the pizza is pretty good, be sure to get a seat by the window, even if there is a wait at Ballkoni I Dajtit, the sight is spectacular.

Above it, there’s a cafe that rotates 360 degrees, like this:

Other Options To The Top

Taxi is an option but you’ll have to negotiate your way there, expect to pay about $15 USD for a one-way ride. There’s also a shuttle which connects with one of the bus stops but since there’s no set timing information available, consider it the very leisurely (possibly uncertain) way up. Up, by the way, is the direction it’s easiest to go – finding a taxi nearby, especially close to closing hour means bus is likely the only way you’ll be getting back into town.

Simple But Powerful, Currency Is An Essential App For International Travelers

currency app

For nearly as long as I’ve been traveling with a (then) iPod touch, now several mobile phones, there’s been one app so consistently useful I’ve overlooked how integral its become to my travel routine. Currency is a free app for Android and iOS that lets you convert between multiple currencies, easily and offline.

Current Conversion

Currency is a pretty simple app to set up. Once you’ve downloaded it [iOS or Android] you add the currencies (e.g. dollars, euro, pesos) you want, then pick one to convert the others to an equivalent amount. So, let’s say the U.S. dollar is your home currency, you would choose dollars, then add the other currencies you might be using the near future. Set your home currency to one dollar, to see how many euro or yuan that happens to be. You can also quickly tap on the euro to change it to 1 (or 2, 3.5, whatever) to see how much it is in all the other currencies you’ve added.

currency app

The conversions in Currency are set to update automatically, so whenever you have an Internet connection the rates are as up to date as the time of your last Internet connection. When you don’t have an Internet connection, you can see do conversions with the last rates that were synced. Most currencies don’t change enough over a short period of time to where that should cause a major concern in most cases (save for some local financial collapse).

Constantly On Hand

Currency is extremely handy when you’ve arrived at an international airport so you don’t have to walk up to an ATM with no idea how much money you’re actually withdrawing. You can also help yourself when bargaining abroad because our minds tend to evaluate costs best in our home currency.

There are two versions of Currency: one that’s free with ads – to remove them you’ll need to pay $3.99. The ads aren’t intrusive but if you want to support the developer, it shouldn’t hurt your travel budget at all to purchase a well-designed app that provides a very handy function.

Are Wow Air Deals Worth It?

washingon dc from sky

You may have seen recently a lot of seemingly spectacular deals from Wow Air, a low-cost airline based in Reykjavik, Iceland, that offers transatlantic flight deals for less than $99. Those deals seem worth it (answering the question above) of course, if they are what they seem upfront.

I spent some time booking flights using Wow Air and found while it might be an inexpensive way to cross the Atlantic, it may not always be the best way.

Wow Deals

A lot of low cost carriers advertise big deals on flights, pricing them so low it feels more like you could be booking a bus ticket. Often, those low fares are only for select seats offered on a first-come-first-serve basis or come with high fees, meaning most of the people booking that flight won’t be getting the lowest advertised price. The advertised deals get you to the booking process, and in the case of Wow Air, the fees for most people bring the airfare up to less attractive numbers.

wow air

First Thing Is One Way

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Wow Air’s wonderful $99 prices (they’re sometimes as low as $69) from the United States to Europe are only for one-way journeys. Return flights are typically 2-3 times the one-way fare, around $219 back to America. And don’t forget about the taxes, around $100 usually. Although paying around $400 for a round-trip ticket to Amsterdam from San Francisco isn’t bad at all, there are some other fees you’ll need to accept or avoid to keep prices as low as possible.

The Other Fees

You quickly come across some of the more avoidable fees during the plane ticket booking process, starting with seat assignments. Paying for a reserved seat isn’t necessary, especially if you’re traveling alone or in a small group, plus have the patience to get queued up in line early. Otherwise it will cost you about $8 for each seat reservation. Food or drinks aren’t served, so unless a long haul flight is when you want to experiment with intermittent fasting, bring your own or pay about $12 for an airplane meal. Also, there’s no entertainment center, something you shouldn’t miss too much if you’ve got a travel good book or download a few movies ahead of time.

A few of the less avoidable fees are for checked bags. A checked bag carries a $70 fee per leg, meaning even on a one-way trip, if you’ve got a layover in Reykjavik (Wow Air’s hub), you’ll be paying the baggage fee twice. One carry-on bag under a reasonable size and a ‘personal item’ is free.

Wow Air doesn’t hide its fees but unless you’re traveling especially light or making use of a multi-city flight, your final price might be closer to an Icelandair ticket which offers stopovers, meals, and included baggage. Those of you accumulating frequent flyer miles too might decide Wow Air’s not worth what ends up being a small discount on airfare. Still, many travelers rate Wow Air as a decent airline that doesn’t feel cheap, but be sure to calculate all the fees because the reality is, it may not be that cheap after all.

The Best Credit Card For Travel Perks? Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

chase sapphire reserve

Writing about a specific credit card offer isn’t something I thought I would ever be motivated to do but the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is an incredibly enticing offer for travelers who take as little as one flight per year. In other words, you don’t need to be a very frequent traveler to get some serious travel benefits that will save you money, get you free flights, travel insurance, plus a lot more.

What you do need is to be a resident of the United States; so although I am generally hesitant to post an offer that omits 95% of the world’s population, if you can get this card and travel occasionally, here’s why you should seriously consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Points, Miles, Or Both If You Choose

Before I get to the upfront travel perks, let’s start with the Sapphire Reserve’s big hook, 100,000 bonus points. To claim them, you’ll have to spend $4,000 within the first three months of being approved for the card. $1,333.33 dollars a month goes pretty fast especially if you live in the U.S., eat, make car payments, pay an electrical bill, or exist in general.

Travel points can be a confusing system but Chase’s is relatively straightforward. Your first bonus points are equivalent to about $1,500 in the Ultimate Rewards store where you can purchase airfare plus shop at the Apple Store, Amazon, for hotels, and more. Those points can also be converted, one for one, directly into frequent flyer miles for most programs as well. (You should really be using these 3 programs to maximize your earning.) As an example, 100,000 miles with Untied Mileage Plus gets you two round trip tickets from the U.S. to Europe or three, one way tickets, if you use multi-city flights to see more for less.

Points can also be used to put cash back into your account, the first 100k being roughly equivalent to $1,000. Once you get the Sapphire Reserve card, you continue earning points by spending: 1 point per dollar on most purchases; 3 points per dollar on travel and dining related expenses. Like the bonus points, you can convert any points into cash, miles, or for use in the Ultimate Rewards tore.

Fees And No Fees

Let’s get Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card fee out of the way because it probably puts a lot of people off at first sight. The annual fee is $450. Although you may balk at first, if you travel at all, $300 is offset by a credit on any travel or dining costs. Essentially, the first $300 you spend on travel every year is credited back to your account – effectively making the annual fee $150.

prague view

On the other side, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has no foreign transaction fees, which can add up quickly if you travel internationally often.

Now The Coverage Perks

There are a few benefits the Sapphire Reserve has that really make it a unique offering, starting with the travel and purchase coverage:

  • Included Travel Insurance – (Outside of the U.S. only.) This coverage includes medical (up to $100,000) for you and any immediate family members traveling with you.
  • Car Rental Insurance – (Worldwide) So long as you use your Sapphire Reserve card to pay for a car rental, you can turn down the rental companies collision and theft insurance (up to $75,000 protection).
  • Small Item (Electronics) Coverage – Anything you buy with the Sapphire Reserve card is insured against damage or theft for the first 6 months (up to $50,000 per year).

iphone 6s charging case

You really shouldn’t be traveling without insurance but many people neglect to do it because it can cost $60 a week or more depending on where you’re traveling. When you book with the Chase Sapphire Reserve it’s a cost you no longer have to consider. There is also other coverage, you can see all that’s included here.

Priority Pass Into 900 Airport Lounges Worldwide

On its own, an unlimited Priority Pass membership costs $399. You’ll be able to enter over 900 lounges in at these airports (and hopefully remember to share wifi details with your fellow travelers). Also, if you decide to sign up for Global Entry or TSA Pre, you’ll be credited back $100, effectively making them free.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a travel card with a lot of benefits (no, nobody paid me to write any of this) but isn’t the credit card you want to use if you carry any balance from month to month. Interest rates are high (16-23%) plus there are cards without annual fees. In case you’re not eligible or interested in the Chase Sapphire Reserve, remember there are plenty of ways to earn frequent flyer miles without getting more credit cards.

Use This Tip To Save Yourself Up To An Hour When Landing At Havana’s International Airport

Havana Cuba Jose Marti International Airport

The first thing almost all tourists will need upon arriving in Havana, Cuba’s Jose Marti International Airport, is cash. This is particularly true for Americans, whose ATM cards won’t work; nationals of other countries have no guarantees either. And everyone can pretty much forget about using credit cards in Cuba’s heavily cash-based society.

As a visitor, it’s practically a necessity to take all the cash you’ll need with you for the duration of your entire trip prior to departing for Cuba. Unless you’ve got a prepaid ride waiting to pick you up at the airport, you need to convert some cash (e.g. dollars, euros, etc.) into the tourist-local Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Since everyone else has the same idea long, long, lines form outside of the exchange office in the arrivals hall.

Understaffed hardly ever open on time, here’s how you can forgo up to an hour of waiting in arrivals at Jose Marti International Airport after you land.

Go Upstairs To Departures

Walking into the arrivals hall your first stop might not seem like the departures hall upstairs, but it should be.

The departures hall (which will be deserted) has several staffed currency exchange booths and not a single person using them. Walk up, exchange enough money to get yourself where you’re staying, plus some extra. The exchange rate at the airport is often the same, if not better than most of the hotels in town (the primary place to exchange money in Havana) so it’s not a bad idea to convert larger amounts.

cuba old car taxi

Once you’ve converted your money, you can go back down to arrivals. Just past the massive line full of tourists waiting to get CUC will be a taxi that can take you into town. Now you’ve got an extra hour to explore Cuba, which might not be what you think it is.

Small Tips Often Pay Big

Because Havana airport only has a relatively small number of flights, arrivals and departures don’t overlap significantly which is why one is usually empty when the other is not. Keep this in mind when departing Jose Marti International Airport, currency exchange in arrivals is likely to be much less busy.

Many travel tips are as simple as this but go a long way in saving you money, time, or enhancing an experience. For instance, you should do this before visiting the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, find this restaurant in Kosovo, and can save a lot on trains in Japan before ever leaving home.

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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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