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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Trip to Santa Barbara

If glossy travel magazines are to be believed, Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive cities in the US. And that it indeed seems to be, given the fact that this so-called American Riviera is home to some of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country. And in any case, a dinner costing some $500 in a top restaurant here is not unheard of. Yet, the city is also home to a large number of college students and retirees, which shows that there are indeed more options in this place than the travel shows and magazines inform us about. If you wish to take a trip to the American Riviera, but are worried about the budget, Buzzle puts forth a few practical tips to plan an affordable trip to this beautiful city.

Travel During the Off-season

Santa Barbara is most crowded with tourists during winter and fall, which are the driest and warmest times of the year. These are the peak seasons, when the city, specially the accommodations are expensive, and it is rarely possible, if at all, to find cheaper bargains. To save money, travel to the city in spring or winter. These are rainier times; however, you will find cheaper deals on accommodations and airfares, and will also be able to escape the crowds.

Opt for Cheaper Accommodations

Though Santa Barbara is famous for its luxurious, high-end resorts, the city has plenty of options for budget travelers as well. You can opt to stay in small lodges, hostels, and motels, wherein you can find affordable deals. Browse the Internet for options, and choose the most suitable one. Look for free facilities such as car parking, Internet access, free breakfast, and so on. Moreover, opt to stay away from tourist areas to find cheaper deals. You can opt for the AAE Santa Barbara hostel that’s located at 111 N. Milpas Street, where room rates start from $23 per night. Alternatively, if you are not on a very tight budget but are still looking for an affordable accommodation, Hotel Quality Inn Santa Barbara at 3055 De La Vina Street may be an option. Here, room rates start at $84 per night.

Explore the City on Foot

While you can hire a cab or opt for the more affordable shuttle service to travel across the city, Santa Barbara can be best explored on foot. Take free, self-guided walks around the city and see the various historic sites, visit the beachfront, and do not forget to try some of the sumptuous street flavors. You can start your walk from a fixed spot each time, and aim to visit different tourist places in the city.

Opt for Free Attractions

While most top-rated attractions here charge an admission fee, there are also several free attractions to visit around the city. For instance, the city’s oldest park―the Alameda Park―offers free admission and is a great place for a family outing. Furthermore, look out for free parking spaces in order to save money.

Eat on the Cheap

This city is famous for its extravagantly charged lunches and dinners; however, finding a wallet-friendly and pleasant place to eat is also not very tough. The option of street food is always available; however, there are also a lot of inexpensive Mexican food outlets in the city. As with the accommodations, the restaurant prices also go on dropping as you go farther from the tourist hubs. Some of the affordable eateries here include Cuernavaca, a Mexican food outlet at 201 W. Carrillo Street, Lilly’s Tacos at 310 Chapala Street, and La Super-Rica Taqueria at 622 N. Milpas Street.

So, head to one of the most affluent cities in the United States, and return satisfied with the fact that you managed to take a trip to Santa Barbara even on a tight budget.

Plan Memorable trip to Sweden

Perched on the topmost part of northern Europe, between Finland and Norway, Sweden is undoubtedly a Scandinavian gem. The largest of the five Nordic countries, Sweden boasts of unparalleled natural beauty, an extremely rich history, and an absolutely amazing blend of indigenous and urban cultures. To the first-time visitor, it seems like a land of the familiar, yet mysterious people straight out of a fairytale―it has got everything that can completely enchant you. If you are planning to visit Sweden this vacation, here’s a brief guide to help you plan your trip.

Best Time to Visit

✤ Despite its location near the Arctic Circle, Sweden is not as cold as one might expect. In fact, while the southern half of the country experiences a temperate climate all through the year, the summers also tend to be pretty warm, even in the north.

✤ The peak time to visit Sweden is during summer and autumn, between the months of May and September.

✤ People who wish to go on a hiking vacation to Sweden should avoid going in the months of June and July―the peak of the mosquito season.

✤ If your plan is to travel during Christmas or midsummer, please carry out an in-depth research before booking your trip. On major holidays like these, most of the country is closed for at least two or three days. So, make sure that you do not land in Sweden during the shut-down period.

✤ The vacation period in Sweden lasts from late June to about the middle of August. Owing to this, most budget accommodations, such as hostels, are crowded. If you are visiting during this time, make sure that you book well in advance.

Tip: During this time, because budget accommodations are in more demand, most hotels offer huge discounts, sometimes up to 50%. Try to avail these discounts when you book your accommodation(s).

✤ Winter in Sweden generally lasts from about November to March, and this is the tourists’ off-season. However, if you are planning for activities such as skiing and dogsledding in the Swedish Lapland, this is the perfect time for you to visit.

Travel Documents and Visas

✤ If you are an EU citizen, you will not need a visa to stay in Sweden for up to three months. All you will need is a valid passport or a National Identity Card (passport is preferred more).

✤ Citizens of the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand also do not need a visa, but only a valid passport, for a stay of up to three months. Moreover, the citizens of New Zealand and Australia who are aged between 18 and 30 years can also apply for a yearlong working-holiday visa.

✤ All the other Asian, African, and Eastern European countries require a valid visa (maximum validity is up to three months for tourist visas) for an entry into Sweden. This can be applied for at Swedish consulates in respective countries, and it takes at least two months to process.

✤ Make sure you obtain all your visas, permits, and other travel documents well in advance of the date of your journey.

Money Matters

✤ Sweden is an expensive country, so if you are a budget traveler, you will need to do a lot of pre-planning before embarking on your journey.

✤ Accommodation is not cheap, and though hostels may seem to be moderately priced on face value, there are surcharges, which are added to your final bill. So, check this out before you check in.

Tip: The cheapest kind of accommodation in Sweden is camping, which is free of cost in most parks, except in some commercial areas.

✤ Food is also equally expensive in the country. If you really want to save some money, opt for outdoor street vendors who sell fast food. Sit-down restaurants are pricey, but you can opt for the daily special menus for lunch, in order to save some bucks.

Tip: If you are camping, consider cooking your own food. It will help you save a lot of money.

✤ Transport in the country is also on the expensive side; however, using public transport rather than the private one can be more economical.

Tip: To save more money on transport, book bus/train tickets at least a month in advance. This way, you can avail some great discounts.

✤ Most museums and attractions around the country charge a fee; however, there are some free ones as well.

Tip: Get City Cards, which can be bought at all major tourist centers throughout Sweden. These are tourist passes, which give you free access to the city’s public transport and many major attractions.

✤ Make sure that you carry enough warm clothing when you go to Sweden. It is not advisable to buy it there, owing to the high prices.

Health Issues

✤ No special vaccinations have been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) before traveling to Sweden. However, if you are traveling from any of the countries falling within the Yellow Fever zone, you will need to take a shot for the same.

✤ Make sure that you are updated with respect to all the other common vaccines, viz., measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio, and diphtheria.

✤ Taking a hepatitis shot is also advisable as exposure can occur anywhere in the world.

✤ If you have been recommended any special medication(s), make sure you carry it with you, along with your doctor’s prescription.

✤ Also, make sure that you know the generic name of your medicine, in case you need to buy it in Sweden, as the brand name may differ.

Tip: In case of emergencies, head to one of the state-run medical facilities, rather than a private one. You will have to produce your travel documents there, but you can avail proper treatment at a moderate cost.

Travel Insurance

✤ Before departing for Sweden, see to it that you obtain a good travel insurance that covers for all kinds of emergencies. It is better to be prepared for the worst possible scenario.

✤ First and foremost is health coverage. Make sure that your travel insurance covers for all possible health-related issues, including accidents.

✤ Your travel insurance should also cover for the loss/theft of luggage, cancellation of your trip, and so on.
Other Money-saving Tips

✤ Opt for beer more than other alcoholic drinks, as heavy taxes have been levied on alcohol in Sweden. Beer, on the other hand, is fairly cheap.

✤ Buy tourist passes, which will give you good discounts. You can either buy these online or from any of the tourist centers in the country.

✤ Advance booking of buses, trains, and other forms of public transport is highly recommended. Book at least three to four weeks in advance to save up to 50% of the total cost(s).

✤ Avoid taking cabs unless absolutely necessary. Private taxis are extravagantly expensive, and unless you are in some sort of an emergency, it is not recommended to take them.

✤ Mineral water is immensely expensive; plus, the use of plastic bottles is hazardous to the environment as well. Tap water is safe to drink, and is free of cost.

✤ Avoid going to clubs, as you will end up spending much more than your actual budget may allow.

✤ Avoid going out alone at night, even if it is to public places. While Sweden is a safe country, petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching are on the increase in some of its major cities, including Stockholm.

So, head to the land of the Vikings, and make the most of your Swedish holiday. Don’t forget to spend a night at the famous Ice Hotel, built from ice during the winter!

Planning a Trip to Indonesia

Best Time to Go

✦ Indonesia seems welcoming all round the year as there are no seasonal extremes; however, it needs to be decided whether you want to go during the wet or dry season; both have their own pros and cons.
✦ The peak season to visit Indonesia is the dry season that falls between the months of May and September. While one can escape heavy rains and muddy roads during this time, it is also slightly hotter, with certain regions experiencing droughts.
✦ The wet season that falls between the months of October and April is the off-season, but it is ideal if you wish to enjoy the tropical rains. However, it may also rain continuously for days together, thus, causing extreme conditions such as floods. Also, muddy roads, especially in the rural areas, may be a deterrent.
✦ If you want to experience and enjoy the festive spirit in the country, visit the place during the holidays―end of Ramadan and Christmas. This is the time when all the hotels and resorts are crowded with tourists, and prices are also high. Make it a point to book well in advance to secure a desired accommodation and a good deal in that.
✦ However, if you want to save money, visit during the off-season―the hotels and resorts decrease their prices, and the airfares are also cheaper.

Plan an Itinerary

✦ This is very important while you plan your Indonesian vacation, owing to the fact that the country is huge. It is practically impossible to see it entirely in a single trip, unless you have a lot of time at your disposal.
✦ Consider the total duration of your vacation, and accordingly, list out places you would like to visit. Also, keep in mind the amount of time you wish to allot to each place.
✦ Refer to travel magazines, read travel books, browse the net, purchase maps, and speak to your travel agent, and/or the people you know. All this will help learn more about the country and narrow down the places you may want to see.
✦ Indonesia has a plethora of experiences to offer to tourists. So, determine precisely where your interest lies―nature, wildlife, history, and so on. You can then plan your itinerary in accordance to your interest(s).

The Overall Budget

✦ Indonesia is cheap and can be considered as one of the budget vacation destinations in Asia. However, the overall budget of your trip will depend on your itinerary.
✦ Accommodation usually grabs the lion’s share of your overall expenses, but you can always go for the budget and mid-range ones, and save some money.
✦ Transport is still cheap in terms of US dollars, although a hike in the fuel prices has led to a considerable increase in the cost of public transport.
✦ If you visit places, which are tourist hubs, such as Bali, Sumatra, Borobudur, and Sulawesi, you will be able to find a lot of competitive offers, especially on accommodation and food. So, book only after you have compared a number of offers.
✦ If you are visiting off-beat locations such as Papua or Maluku, which are still developing into tourist destinations, you may have to pay higher prices of accommodation, food, and transport.
✦ Domestic flights are the most expensive modes of transport in Indonesia. So, if you are traveling on a budget, do not opt for them unless absolutely necessary.

✦ For every traveler who visits Southeast Asia, the WHO has recommended a set of certain vaccines. These include:

✔ Measles, mumps, and rubella
✔ Polio
✔ Typhoid
✔ Hepatitis A and B
✔ Adult diphtheria and tetanus
✔ Varicella (if you haven’t taken a chickenpox vaccine in the past)

✦ If the duration of your stay is one month or more, you will also need to take vaccinations for tuberculosis, rabies, meningitis, and Japanese B encephalitis.
✦ Moreover, yellow fever vaccination is required if you have recently visited a country in the yellow fever zone. If you are traveling to Indonesia from South America or Africa, you may also have to present a documented proof of your yellow fever vaccination.
✦ Consult your local physician or one of the specialized travel medicine clinics, which will be able to advise you regarding the immunization shots you will need to take and the time to take them.
✦ It is a good idea to ask your physician to give you an International Certificate of Vaccination, which will list all the vaccinations you have taken.

Travel Insurance

✦ Make sure that you do not travel without buying an appropriate travel insurance. It should ideally cover all contingencies, which you might face during your trip.
✦ Apart from covering for thefts and/or lost baggage, it should also cover for emergencies relating to your health.
✦ Consider the worst possible scenario, and buy a travel insurance that best suits your needs. You can also buy a separate health insurance, if necessary. Also, make sure you carry your medicines along, if you have been prescribed any special ones.

Tips for Traveling Alone

With the interest and eagerness to explore, traveling alone requires alertness and common sense. I will suggest a few tips that will help you to have a better time on your jaunt.

The Prep
This is perhaps the most important factor in deciding the success of your journey. Prepare well, pack all the essential things. You do not want your baggage to be a burden, do you? So make sure that you do not carry extra unnecessary luggage. In addition to this, avoid carrying your expensive jewelry and other valuables that might get stolen. Along with your credit cards, carry cash in smaller denominations. If you are going outside the country, do carry all the important documents that are required by the country you are traveling to, in addition to the passport and visa. I recommend you to get a temporary contact number if you are going to travel outside the country, and give this new number to your close friends and family, so that they can reach you in case of an emergency. Research about the place that you will be visiting, decide your itinerary beforehand.

The First Day
See that you reach your destination during the day, as your chances of getting conned are more during the night. I recommend you to finalize the hotel for your stay before the outset of your journey, avoid single supplements while booking the room. Avoid getting tricked by the taxi drivers, apart from that, knowing the fare to your hotel and understanding the common words in the native language of the country you are visiting, will help. After reaching the hotel, keep all your important documents in the safety deposit box, or somewhere safe in your room. Spend your first day in settling in your hotel room, and interacting with a few people in your hotel, and check out any local cafe near your hotel.

The Exploration
This is the main purpose behind your travel, so make sure that you visit nice places. Consider the recommendations and suggestions of the natives before you zero in on the places to visit. It is always easy to take the public modes of transport. Try to blend in with the locals, so avoid fancy outfits. While asking for directions, see that you do not clearly indicate that you are alone. Letting others know that you are traveling alone, will make you more susceptible to getting scammed. Beware of the people around you, take care of your belongings while walking in a crowd. Pickpocketing is prevalent in crowded areas. If you are keeping your bag on the ground while taking a picture, make sure that you put your foot through any of the straps, of your bag.

Food Factor
Try different delicacies of the country that you are visiting, but make sure that you know what you are eating, this will help you avoid the foods that are you are allergic to. Avoid eating with strange people, as you cannot be sure of their intentions. If you have made friends (I hope you will), then dine with them, this will help you avoid the boredom of eating alone. Prefer outdoor cafes over fancy restaurants, as a table for one in a fancy restaurant might make you feel awkward. Carry a book or any reading material when you go to eat, they will keep you company. You can always refer to ‘Zagat guides’ to find the best places to dine.

Stay Connected
Traveling alone does not imply that you totally isolate yourself from your family and friends, unless you have run away from them. Stay in touch with them. Make regular phone calls, to let them know that you are safe and having a good time. Being in touch with your family and friends will also kill the pangs of loneliness, if any. If you are changing the course of your journey, let them know. If you have access to Internet, then staying in touch with your loved ones, becomes easy.

Special Tips

  • Make sure that the hotel in which you are going to reside is safe. Compromising security just to save a few bucks, is not a nice idea.
  • I recommend you to exude confidence while interacting with the natives, this will make them realize that you are not vulnerable.
  • Women traveling alone should be more vigilant. Do not tolerate harassment and be cautious of the people you interact with.
  • Prefer asking directions to old women, or a woman accompanied by her children, to avoid fraud.
  • Observe the people around you, and befriend someone trustworthy, by this you will have a companion in times of loneliness.
  • Do not visit secluded locations at night, as it might be dangerous for you. If you want, you can visit them during the day.
  • Get accustomed to the culture of the country that you are visiting, and respect their culture.
    When you feel that you can no longer take the lone traveling, it is time to head home.