Archive for the ‘Travel Tidbits’ Category

It’s pronounced “Lester”, you know like Worcester is pronounced “Wooster.” No matter how much disdain you have for the spelling it wont take away from its AWESOMENESS! Leicester Square is basically party central! It has more clubs and bars than you know what to do with. Now if you’re by yourself, or with one other person, I highly recommend a pub crawl! Here is why a pub crawl is a good choice: A. It’s really easy to meet people, because once you’ve left the first bar, you know who you’ll be surrounded by the rest of the night. B. You get VIP access to every bar or club they decide to take you to. C. Most importantly you get free or discounted drinks. This is key! Because you can either spend $15 for the pub crawl, and most likely another $15 for drinks. Or you’ll end up paying cover charges, waiting in lines, and spending full price on each drink. So it could be as much as $100 vs. $30.  (And yes I converted it out of pounds for you).

So here’s where we went:

The first bar hardly counts. It was more of a meeting place. Get your wristband, hang out. If you get there early, you’ll have time to mill about if you need to get some quick cash or a snack. But don’t stray too far, you want to be there for all the good stuff.

Stop two: Verve. This was nice, because we had all just become acquainted, and Verve has very little to distract you from being social. It’s a well to do crowd that loves red lighting. The bar is hip and modern, playing popular music, with reasonable staff.

Stop Three: Ruby Blue. This bar was strangely shaped. We stayed near the entrance, because there was a lot of space. However, we realized the bartenders constantly had to run by us. The bar was also very short. It was more of a lounge place. Which made it inconvenient to grab drinks or talk to the bar tenders. They did have nice cider though. And it was quiet enough that you could almost hear each other.

Stop Four: Oxygen. This place was more rustic, with some really interesting shots. People were trying all kind of crazy things. I tried taquilla with tabasco sauce. It was kind of wild. But I would probably never have one again. At this point in the night, people started trying to use the restrooms, which was a mistake. Since there was only one stall, and a lot of patrons, people started peeing in the sink. So plan on not being able to wash your hands….

Stop Five: Zoo Bar. This was a great place to end the night. Their shots are very sweet tasting, like lemon drops and kamikazes and such. More importantly there was a big dance floor downstairs. It had a very techno vibe to it, with lots of light effects. This is the best kind of club dancing, because no one can really see you being ridiculous. Unfortunately there was no where to put your belongings.

A couple of tips. There are lots of people promoting their clubs. So if you get separated, just keep track of where your party was heading. Then keep your ears open until you run across the club promoter for where you need to be. They aren’t always a fan of being your chauffeur, but it makes navigating a cinch.  And keep a good eye on your belongings. If you happen to lose a wallet *cough*… odds are no one really wants your cards, just the cash. So check back later to see if its been returned. And if you want to budget for a taxi to take you home, that’s not a bad idea either. The tube closes this late at night, and walking will certainly be tiring.

There are two factors that should decide whether or not you are a good candidate for a hostel:

1. How old are you?

2. How many people are you traveling with?

Now, let’s put aside factors of prissyness, insecurity with strangers, and other obnoxious qualities, and look at this objectively. We will revisit those issues at the end.

Age

If you are between the ages of 18 and 24, then you probably still get all the youth discounts, you may not legally be able to drink in your home town, and this may be your first trip to Europe. This is when hosteling is ideal. Because you are young, you like to party and go out at night, and you don’t really care where you sleep as long as it is cheap and doesn’t smell too bad.

If you are over the age of 24ish…. then you are starting to enter the phase where you may have started a career, are a little more mature, don’t stay out till all hours of the night, and would really like a place to crash where no one will bother you… ever. Thus, I would advise against hostels. And suggest that you get a private room or stay in a hotel.

Numbers

If you are traveling by yourself, hostels are cheaper than hotels by at least half. If you are traveling with someone else, than you both need to be up for it. Because, the two of you could end up in a room with great people, or really gross, annoying, or otherwise unfortunate roommates.

If you happen to be traveling in a large party, like four, six, or ten people, than you could more easily find a room to fill, or dominate the room you are in. This gives you some home turf advantage. Do try and be courteous to the other people. Nevertheless it is comforting to know that the people around you are all your friends, except for Javier in the corner.

Factors into choosing which hostel:

Space. If it’s a private room than space shouldn’t be an issue. You can cozy up to your friends easily. This is an ideal time to do something fun, like staying on a boat Hostel. We stayed on the Gustaf av Klint in Stockholm, and ideal spot if you like boats. The cabins are very small and cozy. Great if you know all the people around you. If there are strangers though…. it becomes uncomfortable. So be aware. When we stayed in the Circus Hostel in Berlin, the room was really large, and even had a table and chairs in the center for doing whatever. Clearly it felt less obtrusive than the boat, even though we now had a room of six instead of four.

Bathrooms. Do you share the bathroom? And with how many people? This really only becomes detrimental if you happen to want to use the facilities at the same time as everyone else, or if you find yourself stuck with less than cleanly people. This is also an ideal time to find a discount. If you have a private room in a hostel or cheap hotel, sometimes the bathroom is still shared. You can save a lot of money this way, and you will often have a private sink or shower in your room. In Nice at Les Camélias we had a bathroom shared by only four people versus St. Christopher’s Village Inn in London, which had bathrooms shared by the whole floor, but offered hair dryers.

Beds. What kind of bed are you sleeping on? Having a good nights sleep might be really important to you. You may also be a sound sleeper, and would never feel the pea under the mattress. When we stayed at St. Christopher’s Village Inn in London, the beds were soft and cushy and warm. It was the best nights rest we’d had in a while. When we stayed at Les Camélias in Nice the beds were rock solid and the room was unbearably hot.

Ambiance. The Flying Pig hostels of Amsterdam range from resembling an opium den to having a “smoking” bar that seems to waft into your room at a constant rate… The Hostel Archi Rossi in Florence offered a private villa in a courtyard that was quiet and tranquil… Wombat’s Hostel in Berlin had a bar that seemed to serve twelve-year olds. Need I say it was loud and constantly busy?

Location. Some hostels are ideally located, while comparably priced hotels are in the middle of nowhere. Decide if you’d rather be close to everything, or don’t mind the commute.

Attitude. Venturing back to the aforementioned prissyness.

Problem: Refusing to sleep in a room with strangers. Solution: Bring five friends, and get a six bed hostel room.

Problem: Refusing to bunk with boys. Solution: Stay in an all female dorm. Or vice versa.

Problem: Questionable cleanliness. Solution: Visit sites like traveladvisor, and see what people have to say about upkeep. Some hostels are cleaner than hotels.

Other benefits to hosteling: It can be a lot more social; there’s usually internet to use; the staff will most likely know of fun and exciting things for young people to do. Which brings me back to how old are you? Let’s be honest, if you are of a wiser and more sensible crowd, you’re unlikely to make friends at the hostel. Make friends at the pub crawl instead.

Put the phone down!

Posted: 25 October 2010 in Europe, Travel Tidbits

Dear world,

it is very much a possibility to take a vacation without technology. Our phones seem to be glued to our faces, which is ironic, because I grew up without a phone, at all… And it was a really nice existence. We feel the necessity to have phones at all times, because our work, our family, and life in general, expect us to be at their beckon call. Guess what, sometimes we just need a break. So when you go on vacation, ditch the phone! First of all your hotel will have a phone, your neighbor will have a phone, and if you’re in a well populated area, you’re probably close enough for other people to hear you scream if you get in trouble. Debate all you want, but my actual point is to tell you what tech you should bring with you.

Do’s

1. A Watch. Do you even own a watch? Not many people do. Mostly because we use our phones too often for telling the time. Just try and have a functional watch on your wrist, and you’ll find it the most useful gadget you brought along.

2. A Hairdryer from the country you’re going to. Yes, we can pile on a million converters. But, if you want your hair to look great, just go to the nearest electronic store and get a $20 no-conversion-necessary hairdryer, and save yourself the headache. Note: Call the place you plan to stay at, it might come with a hairdryer already.

3. Detergent. I know it’s not technology-based, yet it is one of those things that can be either difficult to find, or expensive to buy. Tide makes great travel packs that you can carry onto the plane.

Don’ts

1. A Laptop. If you are staying in a hotel, than OK… you can get away with it. However… Hostels and laptops do not mix. You either have to keep it on your person indefinitely or it will get stolen. Do you really think a rinkydink lock will keep someone from stealing your laptop? Think again. Secondly, learn to detach. No one really needs a status update minute to minute. That’s why there are internet cafes.

2. Electric toothbrush. Sounds silly, but it’s much easier to carry a regular toothbrush, than to carry chargers and converters.

3. A Camera (attached to your face). I know what you’re thinking “Never! How could I not take a picture of everything?!” I don’t want you to not bring it, but try to at least enjoy some of your trip without looking through the lens. Whenever you see a famous landmark: take a deep breath, soak it all in, talk to your friends or family about it. Then, after all that, you can take a photo.

Things to look for:

Internet! Internet cafes are everywhere, and usually cost only a couple dollars per hour. It’s pretty reasonable, and if you can’t find one right away, just ask a local, they’ll probably know. Also try the library! I know it’s a novel concept, but often they will have free internet for people with library cards. If you don’t have a card. Get one. It makes a great souvenir. It’s free. And you can use your hotel address. It usually works. Except in New York….

Laundry! Some cities don’t have laundry facilities readily available. So when planning your journey, also plan where you’ll have access to laundry. If you think that you’ll just wash stuff in the sink… remind yourself how many other people might need to use that sink. Most big cities should have a good option, or their might be laundry in your hostel or hotel. This is one aspect where forethought is key. Never wing it when it comes to clean clothes!

Other useful packing ideas:

Everyone knows how to buy travel sized bath products. But make sure you have a money belt; copies of your passport and credit card numbers; address of the embassy; knowing how to get to and from airports and train stations.

and where have you been?

I love to travel. More than almost anything I can think of. There’s something liberating about walking in a strange new place, free from conventional ties, and with a new understanding of home. I like to think I am well-traveled from the places I have gone, but I have so much more to explore. As my uncle said, I seem to be on my way to the 100-country club. I don’t know if there’s an official membership. But, I still have about eighty-five more to go, so I shall worry about that detail at a later date. For now, I am starting to write about my many adventures. There will be some reflection on the places I have been, because who doesn’t love a good story; there will be much talk about the place I am at; and mostly I look forward to planning my trips to come. So for now, here is my TRAVEL TIP #1: Choose wisely, your travel companion.

If you love to travel, or even moderately enjoy it, then you know it is much better appreciated when the person next to you is agreeable. Take into consideration the type of trip you want. Is it A) A city trip. Glitz, glamor, museums, famous landmarks, great food, and copious amounts of alcohol. B) A tropical trip. Lounging by the pool, the beach, the sauna; soaking in the sun, drinking your martini, and utterly escaping the world. OR C) A wilderness adventure. Mountains, rivers, hiking, exploring, daring, and many furry woodland creatures. ? Well, if you chose A, and your travel buddy did not. . . you are off to your first problem. How much can you compromise, and what will you compromise? Some people like to take leisurely vacations. Some people like to see as much as possible. Others just want to get into the great outdoors. If you can manage to find something that fits all of those needs, like a trip to Sao Paolo, which has the beaches, the city, and the amazon. Maybe you can make it work. Just consider: What is it you would really love to do? That’s what you need to do. Now find someone who loves it more.

Voyage on.

-Ryan