Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Inevitable Trip To Dubai As a Budget Traveler


     No interest in going to the Middle East or a high interest in going to the Middle East? It doesn't matter, if you are a budget traveler, I absolutely promise you at some point you are going to go to United Arab Emirates, and of course more specific, Dubai.

     What you make of Dubai is what you make of it... An advanced civilization, a conglomerate of too many chain stores and too much money, an adventure in the dessert, or a melting spot of travelers from everywhere and every demographic? For me, it was all of those things. After 3 weeks in the Middle East it was my last stop to a great adventure. Here's my tips to make Dubai great without breaking the budget...

  • My usual airbnb, or vrbo advice is a no go here. Emirates don't need your cash and you'll likely not find a good room on a budget, maybe in a large group, but I went solo so hotel was my best bet. As far as the hotel, I stayed in the business district, it was cheap but not to far from the center, if you stay by Jumeirah beach or the Burj Khalifa anywhere on the train line you will have no problems getting around. Hostels are definitely a good option, I'm 36 now, when I started traveling I was 28ish, I'm getting to the point now where I'm the old guy at the hostel and it's not so much of an option now, but more on that another time.
  • Getting around you can take the train almost everywhere except the beach, it's extremely easy, don't do what I did and accidentally board the gold front area, I didn't get busted but it's a fine if you do, you also need to board the male or female area respectively.
  • The Burj Khalifa, let's get this out of the way, you can't go to Dubai without seeing the tallest building in the world (soon to lost it's title to the Jeddah Tower). There are two options, level 125, or level 148. You are a budget traveler, and you will not notice the difference between 23 floors that high. Go for 125. It's a bit more crowded, but you have the experience to deal with crowds.

  • Partying in Dubai, or lack thereof... Dubai and U.A.E. are dry... for locals at least... but for tourists you can drink in the hotels, but get your wallets ready! While Dubai is generally a bit more expensive than most cities, the alcohol is outrageously expensive. It's sin taxed. So take this tip and on your way in stop off at the duty free and buy some booze if you wanna have a few cocktails in your room and save money. The only establishments that will serve alcohol will be in hotels. It's an interesting night because you will meet many people, probably local expats that aren't staying in your hotel and hear the stories of why they came to Dubai.
  • The mall: I'm not a big shopper, but you can shop to your heart's content at the Dubai Mall, however you can't buy this bird there... at least when I went.

  • The food... you will have everything from McDonalds to the Jumeirah Beach 7 star hotel to choose from, but of course as always I recommend going Italian when in Rome, try the local foods. The vast majority of the restaurants on the main street are places you have seen all over the world. Try to find the little local shops (and this won't be easy) and try something different.

  • The Airport: Just a quick warning, I won't tell you the story about how my airline stranded me for 8 hours there, but I will tell you that Dubai Airport boasts tons of things to do, and that's true, but it's only when you get passed the security check points! My 8 hours were spent at Starbucks with no book and limited cell service. So plan accordingly.
  • The Dessert: this is really where I had the most fun, a look into what Dubai was like before the high rises and corporations came in.... While sometimes I advocate against group tours, you are going to be a lot better off here on a group tour, plus you are not allowed to off road on your own which was one of the best parts. During this day tour which is optional as an overnight as well we road camels, sand boarded the dunes, coasted over them in a 4x4 with a our driver, and of course had a great dinner with entertainment at the end.


     Overall, for me Dubai was never a place I had to go, but as you travel more and more, you realize more and more people have talked about it, and eventually you have to see it for yourself. While it's in no way a must go back for me, it was a nice relaxed ending. We are budget travelers, and at this time Dubai is the crossroads of budget travelers for the Middle East, if you are there and you can go, by all means, no journey is wasted when it is spent exploring a new land.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Day Trip In Barcelona

   Quick note and not a fair assessment of this beautiful country, but on my way to Egypt I of course took advantage of a 24 hour layover in this beautiful city! I stayed in the Gothic Quarter and treated myself to delicious tapas, I explored the area a bit then got some good shut eye. 

    The following day I had enough time for two big sights... Casa Batllo...

   And of course, the main event the Sagrada Family Church:


    I enjoyed an espresso for about 1 euro across the street from the Church marveling in it's crazy architecture. There wasn't enough time to do more, because of course as budget travelers, we never have enough time. But nonetheless, I was thrilled to be able to spend 24 hours there before heading to Egypt to ring in New Years 2017.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Moroccan Adventures in Marrakesh and the Zagora

Ait Ben Hadou
       I can't put my finger on what drew me to Morocco in spring of 2017, but I did know that it as my list of things I wanted to see grew I wouldn't have enough time to see it all, Morocco is the type of place you can easily do a month in. But we are budget travelers, we don't always have the month off to do what we love to do. That was the bad news, the good news is that Morocco is a beautiful country, with crazy and amazing people, and for the budget traveler you have hit the jack pot. It's pretty damn cheap. Here's my tips for making the best of your journey:
  • I hate to do group tours as much as the next guy, but to really see Morocco you need to do a lot of driving, and as they say TIA, this is Africa, you're going to be much better going with someone that knows the roads or the way around the roads when they randomly close for unknown reasons. Most companies offer the same exact tours, use internet reviews and your budget to suit what best for you.
  • The Zagora dessert is a must see, they try to entice you to do the 3 day tour, but the 2 day tour has so much to offer, it's a lot of driving but well worth it. We camped out under the stars after a great day there.

  • Ouzoud falls is another can't miss. This photo doesn't come close to the beauty of actually being there.

  • Marrakesh is one of those cities that when you enter, you feel it has a bounding pulse. I stayed in Hivernage for night life which was ok, but if you want real Marrakesh immersion you have to stay in the Medina. The night life is a short cab away if you still want. Speaking of the Medina...
  • Spend a day there, check out the street performers and snake charmers, don't make the amatuer move I made and not negotiate a price before they start throwing snakes on you and asking for more money than you planned!
  • $40 for this photo! Worth it?
  • If you like shopping and you like deals, bring extra luggage! With the exception of my shoe size there's was tons of shops that sell everything you'd buy at home for half price, but of course more authentic African style souvenirs and gifts.
  • If you decide to head out for the night life, get ready... For both safety and insanity concerns! TIA, so be on guard, I left my wallet at home and just went out with cash in my pocket and emergency cab fare home in my sock. There are definitely some shady people and if you are single not every woman that smiles at you is smiling because she finds you charming. That's the bad side, the upside is that these people know how to party. The last place I went to closed around 5am, it's foggy, but I remember a scary clown show with acrobatics, scantily cladded women, and a lot of vodka. Good times.
     Africa is the most country dense continent in the world, sad to know I will never get to see all of it but this was my 6th country on the continent and it could not have gone better. Morocco is a blend of Spanish, Muslim, North and sub Sahara African culture. What makes it a great place is looking at a place like Marrakesh, it's a place that keeps it's old world tradition and style but integrates cultures from other countries and races. We are world travelers shaped by our influences of the places we have seen and been bought to, Morocco is shaped by the people who have seen it and has brought in by it's beauty and history. 

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Year's Eve In Egypt 2017

      When it came time to decide where I would spend New Year's eve entering 2017 the choice was hard as always, I had to look at the bucket list. I had spent new years in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia... two continents remained and I was traveling solo on this one. I had always in my mind pictured New Year's in Africa on a quiet safari somewhere over a camp fire in the jungles... but when I found an Airbnb for $20 to sleep directly behind the great pyramids of Egypt I decided I needed to find a way to make my New Year begin watching fireworks over the 4000 year plus old pyramids.

    Using my tips on how to book a cheap flight, I found an anchor flight from Sweden to USA for only $250! I built the flight around this, but also managed layover and quick trips to England for 2 days, Spain for a day, Tunisia for a Day, and France for one night. As I read more and more about Egypt I knew the trip was going to be jammed pack, it was an itinerary that people would say would take 2 weeks  but of course I was going to do it in only 1. We are budget travelers and do not have all the time in the world we want to see the world.

    I set my eyes on going to Cairo/Giza of course, Alexandria, and Luxor. I really did want to go to Aswan and see Abu Simbel, but in light of time and that being the only thing in that area of major attraction it was cut from the list, it takes quite a bit of time to get there, even if you fly.

     The amazing thing about Egypt is that if the Pyramids weren't so incredible there are a dozen or so other things that would be a postcard worthy cover photo for any country to savor. But the power of the pyramids trumps these somehow. And only by going to Egypt will you appreciate the other beauties such as the Egyptian Museum, the Cairo Tower, King Tut's Tomb, the valley of kings and the valley of queens, and beautiful coastal Alexandria.

            Beautiful Alexandria walk

    Here's my go to budget and travel tips for visiting Egypt:
  • If you are a budget to midrange traveler, stay where I stayed at https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2324 and by the way, long term readers of this blog know I'm not sponsored, but I'll take it if you offer to travel more! This place really made the trip, imagine waking up each morning and having coffee or tea looking at the pyramids. If I was leaving to go to Cairo I first went to the roof to glance at them. And of course the hosts were incredible, private and shared rooms available.
              Good morning Egypt

  • If for some reason you cant stay at Thomas's place try to stay in the neighborhood, be warned Giza is not as safe and clean as Cairo, which is not all that safe and clean anyway, but the memory was worth it for me.
  • Bring plenty of USD or Euro, Egyptian currency at the time of my travels and at the time of this writing was too unstable to be traded anywhere in the world, so I needed to buy everything in cash. I always exchanged with my hosts rather than exchange people or I'd pay in Euro or Dollars at reputable places (i.e. Cairo Tower restaurant)
  • You're in the middle east, be prepared to be heavily checked by security at any major points of interest or even your hotel, it sucks, but it's for our safety.
  • So touching on safety, watch your back. I hate to deter tourism but to safe Egypt is completely safe would be a lie. I never felt in danger in Alexandria, but the other cities definitely had moments where things didn't feel right, and nothing happened to me, but you gotta be aware. On my way out of my guest house my host warned me to avoid saying I was American. I don't think this was an issue but being a tourist definitely was!

  • All the taxi's will rip you off but they are so cheap it doesn't really matter.
  • Overall on budget Egypt is SUPER CHEAP. You're only real costs should be flights and lodging. Everything else is extremely cheaper than what you would spend at home for meals, museums, etc.
  • In light of security stuff already mentioned, get to the airports extra earlier than you normally would.
  • Watch out for the hagglers! At the time of writing this I have been to 42 countries on 6 of the 7 continents and Egypt is by far the worst for hagglers in the shops and main tourist areas! They will leave their stores to try to get you to buy something. At one point an old guy actually was grabbing my arm trying to pull me into the store, in my country I would have considered putting him in an arm bar with at least a verbal threat, in Egypt I politely grabbed his hand off me and told him to piss off.

  • Have dinner on the Nile! Or lunch, or both! I did a dinner cruise which you can book thru your hosts in Cairo then in Luxor I was staying right on the Nile and had a nice dinner at a restaurant there. Don't go in the Nile though, poisonous snakes.

  • Best bet for booking stuff is to have a reliable host or tour guide, booking in advance is of course doable, but trust me it was easier to have a guide and book as I go. I self toured Alexandria and my last two days in Cairo. I had a driver for Luxor and a tour guide for the start in Cairo. A guide may seem pricey for a budget traveler but it probably levels out what you'd be paying if you pay the tourist prices.

  • Remember since the revolution tourism has suffered. I asked my guide in Cairo what the biggest tour she ever did was, she said 120, there were 3 of us that day. It made for amazing pictures that the vast majority of places I went there were only a handful of tourists but it also made me feel bad for the good people there that need the tourism industry. We can only hope that one day this region stabilizes and everyone can enjoy the history, beauty, and nature it has to offer.

     No crazy compilation video but enjoy the fireworks I shot from Thomas's roof the last house before the edge of the dessert to the pyramids. The main reason I posted this was because when I was debating whether to go to Cairo for NYE I actually found it hard to confirm if there were fireworks for the night, I started my year off seeing this, absolutely incredible! Sorry for my shoddy camera  work, I'm a traveler not a video guy, :)

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Flying: The Aisle or The Window

     The great debate that will change your life... ok at least your flight, should you choose the aisle or the window... Here's my way I choose:


  • If I have never been there before and I'm landing during the day do I want a good view of the land from above as I enter?
  • Do I need to sleep really bad? The window is easier to lean on.
  • Do I need to accommodate someone else?
*That being said... I rarely choose the window.


  • Personally I get antsy, I like to get up, walk around and not both the other person.
  • I also like to be able to get things out of my bag if need be.
  • If you are delayed the aisle may give you an extra 5 seconds to run for your connection

    The choice is yours, but I'd say 7 out 10 times, I'm going for the aisle.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quick Stopover in Copenhagen

   On my way to a 2 month trip to Italy this year I saw I could take advantage of a 24 hour lay over in Copenhagen! I'm a huge fan of utilizing layovers, so of course I did it! I didn't have much time for either research or Copenhagen to really, I stayed in the center of the city and in a day managed to check out the pier, hit the gym, try a danish dog, and enjoy local architecture. Too bad my flight was early, I've heard the nightlife there is top end, but that will have to be saved for next time!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

1 Day In Tunisia

    After leaving Egypt on my way home I decided to do what I preach best and do a full stop over in Tunis, Tunisia.  Coming from Egypt the land of hagglers and still being in North Africa I was expecting Tunis to be the same mix of crazy shop keepers, blended with amazing people, and amazing history, I was pleasantly surprised to see the hagglers didn't exist there, I actually felt bad walking into stores where I intended to spend money. Anyway, along with a selective color setting I accidentally found on my camera, while exploring the history of the city and creating a great photo journal of it, here's my tips:

  • If you only have one day to three days, Tunis is renoun for it's beautiful beaches, but if you want a real feel for the history and the people, the Medina is the place to stay. I was fortunate enough to find an airbnb built during the Ottoman Empire, thank god we are in the days of digital cameras, because in the old days I would have ran a whole role of film on this place alone.
  • French and Arabic are the native languages but you will have no issue finding plenty of people that can communicate in English
  • Tunis is cheap, super cheap, but super first world at the same time. Modern facilities, great restaurants, and personally I had zero safety issues.
  • Get your shopping in at the Medina, there's plenty of other places but the Medina is loaded with common items, as well as unique Tunisian items and souvenirs.

Winding alleys of the Medina

  • Sidi Bou Said is like Mykonos, but nicer! That's how it was explained to me and that's how I spent my evening enjoying a delicious dinner there.
  • Worried about getting ripped of by Taxi drivers? Don't. All the cabs were metered and prices matched what I had been told they would by people that lived there.
  • No trip to the middle East or north Africa is complete without vile Turkish Coffee, although I hated it while there, I think about it and crave it anytime I think about this trip for some reason!
  • I didn't have enough time to check out museums etc, this was more because how drawn in I was by the Medina, I can't express how much I loved it, be sure to check it out!

Whether it's just a stop over, or you can spend more time there, Tunisia is not a country to be missed!

                       Enjoy my video of the trip below!

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