Dubai is the most accessible city in the middle east! With Emirates flying to pretty much everywhere in the world, I definitely think it’s worth leaving the airport to explore. You can experience the glamorous and the traditional in the United Arab Emirates largest city. This was our second trip to Dubai and I found myself loving it even more. There is so much to do and see, and it’s crazy to see what man-made structures are being created!!
Last month I spent a week in Cape Town and it just re-confirmed that this is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. With Table Mountain hugging the city on one side and the Atlantic on the other, it’s never short of a beautiful view. Then between that is a city full of life, culture, history and delicious food. There’s so much to do in Cape Town (and if the weather is good) I’d find it hard to ever get tired of being there.
During my recent trip to Africa I spent a few days in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. We were on our way to Zanzibar from Rwanda and the flights we were looking at stopped there anyway…. So why not! Landing into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport I was surprised at how close the runway was to the national park, such a big open space right next to the city skyline.
Exploring Nairobi was definitely an experience, it’s one of the craziest cities I’ve ever been to, winding, dusty streets, that were constantly busy! I always felt very disoriented and never knew where I was going. It probably didn’t help that half the time I was walking with my head down. I don’t think people were aiming for this but I often found them to be very intimidating, mainly because we were getting a lot of stares and men regularly yelling out “Mzunga” (white person).
When most people think of Zanzibar they picture beaches and perfect turquoise ocean – which is exactly what you’ll find! I do think it’s worth telling you about how awesome Stone Town is though; the old town in Zanzibar city is definitely worth exploring. Before heading up north to Nungwi, we wanted to take a day to explore Stone Town, to see all the markets and learn about the dark history of this little island.
I’d had Zanzibar on my travel radar for a while and finally I made it. I had a week exploring the island, staying in three different areas. I wouldn’t say this was long enough but when you’re sleeping only metres from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, for me, it’s hard to ever say “I’ve had enough”.
I found myself instantly loving Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. Driving from the airport I saw a very pretty and clean city. Kigali is home to over 740,000 Rwandans and is surrounded by green hills. When we were there we were told that Kigali is one of cleanest and safest cities in Africa; I certainly always felt safe and comfortable.
For an animal lover, there is nothing quite like seeing a species in their natural habitat. Being able to see Mountain Gorillas in the wild was one of the best things I’ve ever done. For years my friend Bianca and I have dreamt of doing this and finally the time was right and the funds were there, so we headed off to Rwanda and Uganda.
There hasn’t been to many places in the world that have blown me away quite like Samoa, the scenery is absolutely incredible. I’ve been to islands in the Pacific before, but no where is as special as Samoa. I was travelling with my partner Lawrence and his family, and Samoa being their motherland made this trip even more special. We spent a week exploring the Islands of Upolu and Savai’i.
Honduras was our third port of call on our Carnival Cruise and another unexpected one, as our itinerary kept changing when the ship had another hurricane to avoid. It was funny because when we first received the letter with the changes the Wednesday had ‘Isla Roatan, Mohogany Bay’…. Yeah but what country is that?!? When we managed to get wi-fi on board we googled and realised we’ll be going to Honduras. The Honduras mainland has a reputation for being a dangerous place, with gang violence and robberies, I wondered if that had something to do with them not mentioning the country?
When our Carnival Cruise itinerary changed for the third time because there were even more hurricanes around, they added Grand Cayman to the list. When I first thought of The Cayman Islands I just knew that it was where all the criminals laundered their money right?!?
We visited Ocho Rios during our Carnival Cruise in September 2017. We weren’t originally going to Jamaica but at the time there were a number of hurricanes in the area, so our itinerary had changed about three times. No complaints though, none of us had been to Jamaica before & we were excited to check it out. Plus I was hoping this could be my chance to finally run into Usain Bolt haha
A few years ago we stayed in Cancun, living the life of luxury. Cancun is basically one long strip of massive, all-inclusive hotels, spread out along a beautiful beach. We lived like kings and queens, drinking cocktails on our balcony and being served the most delicious food at any time of the day. But I do still love the simple life so when we planned on going to Playa Del Carmen we wanted to get a smaller, less “fancy” hotel. I found Playa to be a little less of a luxury destination and the beach wasn’t as good as Cancun but it’s definitely got a lot more going on right at your door step.
I can see why so many Americans head to South Beach Miami for their holidays. It’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been and I can’t find anything I don’t like about it. Art Deco buildings, Cuban vibes, shopping, food, giant cocktails and a beautiful beach.
I’ve been to South Beach Miami twice and both trips ended up being very different.
If you love cities full of history and culture, landscapes that will take your breath away and clear turquoise water, then Cuba will have something for you. Lawrence and I recently spent time exploring Cuba and were open to whatever it had to offer.
When thinking back to our time in Cuba the one thing that sticks out the most is how friendly and helpful the locals are, from randomly welcoming us to their country while walking down the streets of Havana, to booking accommodation and transport for us. Majority of people in Cuba speak Spanish and I speak very little Spanish but it was never an issue because everyone took the time needed for us to understand each other!
We spent 10 nights in Cuba and on arrival only had the first two nights booked with just a rough idea of where we wanted to go. I personally think this is the best way to do, giving you plenty of flexibility with where to go & what do to. I promise it’s really easy to get around.
Before I get into detail about where we went, I want to share with you some tips that my experience taught me & will hopefully help you with your Cuban adventures.
Airport: We departed from Cancun airport on a direct flight to Havana. Obtaining a Cuban visa at the airport was super easy. As soon as we joined the check in queue we were approached by staff asking if we required a visa. We did and it was just a matter of him filling in our passport details on the visa form and paying the required fee. Payment could only be made in cash, we paid one in Canadian dollars, $30CAD and another in U.S dollars and that was $20 USD.
On arrival into Havana, after you have cleared customs, there’s a security screening point you’ll need to clear, then baggage collection. We may have just got them on a sleepy day but there’s actually arrival forms that need to be filled out, at no point were these handed out. When we were waiting for our luggage I noticed that heaps of people from our flight were being turned away at the exit and going back to security. I went over to ask and they pull out a form from under their desk that everyone needs to fill out. I guess we needed to read minds that day haha.
Money: Cuba has a two currency system, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUP is worth 25 times more than the CUC and as a tourist you’ll be using CUC. Before arriving in Cuba I was slightly confused by the two currency system but basically tourist only deal with CUC and I was only ever quoted and charged in CUC.
Only limited currencies can be exchanged in Cuba, the two that generally have the best exchange rate are Euro and Canadian Dollar. You can exchange U.S. Dollars in Cuba but will incur a 10% penalty fee. There are ATM’s, but they aren’t widely available. We had taken Canadian dollars. When exiting the airport terminal, turn left and there are currency exchanges there.
Opposite the money exchange is a taxi rank, to Old Town Havana we paid $25CUC. Everyone was pretty consistent, charging between 25-30CUC.
Accommodation: Our first two night’s we had pre-booked at Hostel Peregrino, in their Old Town property. From there we started our un-planned adventures; the staff at Peregrino were really helpful. We told them roughly where we wanted to go and they gave us their advice and what would be they most cost effective route to take. We took their advice & within a couple of minutes they’d called a couple of their friends and our Viñales transport and accommodation was all sorted.
We stayed in Casas along the way, rooms in locals homes that they rent out to tourist like us. I chose this over staying in hotels because I figured you can stay in hotels anywhere in the world, I wanted a much more authentic Cuban experience. Also staying in Casas is much cheaper, rooms ranged from 20-40CUC per night. It’s also very flexible, as you can book at short notice and no deposit is required. Some advice we were given at the beginning of our trip was to always book the minimum nights we’d stay opposed to our maximum. Then if we wanted to leave earlier or just didn’t like the room, it would never be an issue.
Booking a room was never an issue; our house owner always had a friend or knew of someone that had a room at our next stop and they’d always be more than happy to call and book for us. We also had the Lonely Planet guide that listed recommended Casas.
Transport: Buses run between all major towns and cities all over Cuba. Prices start at 10CUC per person and the most we paid was 40CUC per person, which was between Trinidad and Varadero.
Tickets for the bus only need to be booked the day before you wish to travel, but we booked on the day once and it wasn’t an issue.
If you’re not feeling the idea of a busy bus, there’s also the option of a taxi. Taxis will go to all the same places & if full, they’ll charge each person the same price as a bus ticket would cost. You can organise the taxi door to door as well, this is great if you’ve had your next casa booked for you and you don’t really have any idea of where it’s located. In my experience it was only about 3CUC per person more than the bus would have been.
The first trip we did in a taxi was from Havana to Viñales. It was door to door and we were lucky that the car wasn’t full so we had plenty of space. It was air conditioned and probably saved us about 30 minutes in travel time. So no complaints there…
Our next journey was from Viñales to Trinidad costing us 40CUC each opposed to 37CUC on the bus. The first two hours were great, only 3 passengers in the car & had air con. We had settled in nicely for our 7 hour drive. Then we pulled over at a restaurant on the side of the highway & were changed into another car. Our first driver lived in Viñales, so needed to go back home. It was still only the 3 of us in the car but there was no air conditioning & the back windows didn’t go down. The mid-day sun was beaming in & it was becoming a sweat box!Then about 1.5 hours out of Trinidad we pulled over again, along with two other cars and they shuffled everyone around. We were then in a full car with no air con and very little space in the back seat. We were well over it by the end and wouldn’t consider getting a taxi again. The only benefit was door to door service.
Food & Drink: I had heard terrible things about the food in Cuba but I really enjoyed everything I ate, just the simple chicken, rice & beans was never a disappointment. Don’t be surprised though if you’re handed a 5 page menu and only a handful of things are available. I’m sure over time this will keep improving; with more small business opening up this will only give people the opportunity to try new things.
A piece of advice that was given to me before coming to Cuba was to bring some snacks, muesli bars, nuts or whatever, as these little things are hard to come by. I’m so glad we did, especially when we stopped at a petrol station during our 7hr drive to Trinidad & all that was for sales was ice cream, mayonnaise & alcohol. Huh?!?
Cuban’s make some amazing cocktails and will top up the alcohol content until your satisfied!! Prices generally ranged from 3-6CUC. My favourite was the mojito but a true Cuban cocktail is a Canchanchara. To be honest it wasn’t very nice but gave a good buzz. I loved Cuban beer too, Bucanero & Cristal…. Mmm I miss Cuba. Beer prices were 1.50-2.50CUC.
Shopping: Cuba isn’t somewhere you’d go to shop but in tourist areas it’s easy to find shops and markets. Selling the typical T-shirts, bags, fridge magnet’s etc, as well as some beautiful art work. If you were after some Cuban Cigars, we were told to never buy these off the street as generally they would be fakes.
Internet: Believe it or not there is internet in Cuba! You’ll need to purchase an internet card; on the back you’ll find the login details and there are Wi-Fi hotspots in most big hotels (not at Casas or Hostels) and in public areas. You’ll always be able to tell when you are in a public hot spot because suddenly they’ll be a large number of people on their phones. The cards last for 1 hours and we’d pay between 2-5CUC, depending on who was selling it. The internet was very slow though and regularly cut out. I recommend taking a Lonely Planet guide with you, it helped us out a lot, especially when google wasn’t available.
Medicine & Toiletries: Everything you think you’ll need, take with you. Cuba doesn’t have supermarkets or corner stores that sell things like sunscreen, Panadol, tampons or moisturiser so buying things like this is near impossible! Save your energy and come prepared.
Cuba is a slow paced country with so much to offer. Be open to things being possibly a little bit different to what you’re used to and I’m sure you’ll find the beauty & uniqueness something to really admire.
For a run down of our itinerary click here.
I hope my Cuba “tips” help you out and please share this blog with anyone you know heading to Cuba.
Que Tengas Buen Viaje.
New York is one of the most famous cities in the world, some say the ‘capital of the world’ and it’s so obvious why! It’s unlike any other city, there are so many different cultures represented, all mixed together to create a city full of life, colour, opportunity & excitement. No matter where you’re from in the world, I believe you’d find your place in NYC.
Nepal is a landlocked country between India and Tibet and only opened its doors to tourism in the 1950’s. Its wonderful to see that Nepal hasn’t been strongly influenced by western culture and still holds it’s values and traditions very close.
After you have explored what Kathmandu has to offer it’s time to explore the rest of the country.
Nepal is a country rich in culture and tradition and one of my favourite places in the world. Before embarking on your own journey to the birth place of lord Buddha and the homeland of the mighty Mount Everest, I have noted down my tips to ensure you have a safe and respectful time. I have been to Nepal 6 times and learnt a lot along the way!
Nepal has always been a place that I’ve had a deep love for; not only for its intense natural beauty and adventurous opportunities but it’s also the Nepalese people that have always made me feel as though I have a second home in the Kathmandu Valley.
Millions of tourist visit Hawaii each year with many spending their time on the picturesque beach front of Waikiki, with it’s white sand, clear blue water and views of Diamond head falling into the sea is something that I easily got used to. After spending a week exploring the streets with my best friend, Crystal, I can see why so many people are drawn to it. Waikiki is the perfect area for a girl’s trip and everything you could expect from an island paradise. The only thing that was missing was hula dancers. (we didn’t see one… what the?)
Are you obsessed with beaches? The perfect turquoise water, the giant granite rocks, the best fish you’ll ever eat and the island vibes you’ll never get sick of? Let me share with you the three islands we explored in the Seychelles and why you should get there.
The Seychelles, a group of islands off the east coast of Africa, really do live up to the hype. Although it’s perfect for honeymooners and those who are after a luxurious escape, we found that it’s within reach for people like us who have a slimmer budget.
Flying from Dubai to Amman, Lawrence clicked on the ‘flight path’ app on his entertainment screen and, I think, felt a little apprehensive about going to Jordan when he realised what countries we were going to be surrounded by…. “Ahh we’ll be right”, I assured him.
There was nothing to worry about; it was not long until we both fell in love with Jordan – The food, the sites, the culture and most of all the kindest people, who were keen to share their countries beauty & history.
I made a trip to the other side of Australia in the hope to Swim with the biggest fish in the world, The Whale Shark and explore the UNESCO World Heritage listed, Ningaloo Reef.
Originally I didn’t think of Exmouth as being much more than a small “mining town”. Then after realising that it’s the gateway to Ningaloo reef and where you go in Australia to see Whale Sharks – I was much more intrigued – I soon discovered all it had to offer.