How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

I generally plan transportation in advance to/from where I am going when landing to a new place. This time, however, I refrained because booking in advance was extremely extensive $60/each way, and I knew if I procrastinated when I got there I could find a cheaper option. And yes, even looked to see how long it would be for me to walk to the hostel if needed (1 1/2 hours).

When arriving to the public transportation section the typical methods, taxi, shuttles, and busses were available.

  • Taxi estimated cost 50-70 euros
  • Shuttle bus 25 euros
  • Bus 6 euros each way

Do you want to guess which one I chose? You guessed it!

Okay, so the bus… walked to the bus pick-up area. I arrived at 4am, so you can imagine the resources available to answer my questions were limited so I had to figure out. The map of which buses go to which cities and locations was of no help unless you know the district you’re staying. That said, I aimlessly wandered for a good 15 minutes, probably looking like an idiot to those who I thought had it figured it out (more to come). I finally found a website listed on one of the bus signs that noted “avoid the lines book your ticket in advance.” That website: http://www.aircoach.ie. Here you can book online.

Second obstacle, where are you headed? Again, it listed all these districts, but this time it had several “Downtown District” options. I could have researched where my hotel was relative to these district locations but at this point I was just in a hurry to get Downtown and away from the airport, so I selected the “Downtown District O’Connell Street.”

I headed back to the bus stop area, again passing by the people who I found out were waiting for the ticket office to open, which was not until 8am. Again, this was 4am…. uhhhh! I did let them know of the website, but they insisted that the ticket office would have to open soon… I hope they made it alright. Us stupid millennials and our technology (I’m just saying, we are resourceful!).

Okay next hurtle, buses started to come, but none of them said exactly where they were going. So like a true tourist I entered every bus asking the driver by showing my receipt if I was on the right bus. After 2 wrong ones, I found the right one.

Also, luckily, the ticket I bought to O’Connell Street ended up being the right one.  Thank goodness too because they don’t take credit cards on the bus. However, I will say all the people in Ireland are extremely hospitable and willing to help, so knowing that now that I have returned, if I hadn’t picked the right stop I am sure they would have taken me as far as I needed.

I used the same website to book my trip back to the airport, which is a hell of a lot easier since it blatantly lists DUB Airport as the destination. I will say if boarding from the O’Connell area there are about 5 stops to the airport, so plan at least a 45 minute trip (30 mins to get there and 15 mins worth of stops).

Resources:

Air Coach Bus Link

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

On this trip my most common question was how and why do I stay at a hostel. The answer is really quite simple… it is the cheapest way to stay somewhere, generally is safer since surrounded by many people, and because it is a great way to meet new people from all over the world.

Trust me I have had my fair share of bad hostels, but I have found recently that trusting in the ratings by people who stay at hostels has been to my benefit, even if for a little more per night, for the stay.

My Rating:

I would rate this hostel a 10/10! Nothing negative to say!

I highly recommend to anyone staying in Dublin to stay at the Abbey Court Hostel!

Location:

The hostel is located near the city center, and in walking distance to nearly everything, including all the tourism agencies, so that you can make best use of your free time!

29 Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin, D01 AX90, Ireland

Cost:

Each night at the hostel was 94 euros (~$110) for 6 nights, approx. $18USD/night.

Cleanliness:

The hostel was very clean! They have signs throughout the hostel noting that they clean between 10pm-5am. All the bathroom, toilets, and showers, were extremely sanitary. Although they didn’t have cleaning signs up for day cleaning it was evident someone was keeping up with general maintenance throughout the day.

Number of Bathrooms & Showers:

Each floor had 3 general bathrooms, and at least 6 showers. The only time I found it difficult to get in was around breakfast time at 7:30am.

Breakfast:

The cost per night also included breakfast each morning served at 7:30am. My recommendation is arrive about 15 mins early so that you can get dibs on the fresh and best food available. Choices included: cereal, fresh meats, cheeses, pancakes, oatmeal, and fruits.

Accommodations:

  • All women bunk options:  I stayed in 10-bunk room. It was actually quite nice as all the girls were extremely respectful of space, and turning off the lights early at night, and quiet when leaving each morning.
  • Luggage Drop- Off: if you are in between places, or you arrived earlier than the check-in time you can leave your luggage at the front desk for 8 euros.
  • Free Walking Tours: This hostel, among some others, had free walking tours daily generally with two time options, 11am and 2:30p
  • Lots of Common Areas: This hostel had a smoking section that was nicely decorated that had some outdoor access located near the basement of the building, a study area with access to the Internet for free, and a large kitchen area where people often played games, met for dinner etc.

 

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Here’s a quick top 8 countdown guide to the best bars in town!

8. The Meltdown

Located centrally in Temple Bar this bar is perfect for a good drink and has a huge stage for live music, that also converts into a sports bar with a large TV for futbol games.

The average drink was 12 euros, but unlike other bars you’re not obligated to buy a drink to stay and take a table!

7. PantiBar

7-8 Capel St, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

If looking for a liberal crowd of 30-somethings this bar is for you. This is a gay bar that has “fabulous” drinks all for 7 euros! Good place to get started with lots of people showing up early.

 

6. The Arlington

23-25 Bachelors Walk, O’Connell Bridge, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

This bar has a secret located downstairs! You can purchase for 35 euros for a 3 course dinner, 2 hours of live music and traditional Celtic dancing!

If looking for something more affordable, since there are bars that have free live music and dancing options, you can stay upstairs and their main bar area has a live band from 8-11pm–plus during intermission of songs Drake often comes on…LOL.

5. The R.I.O.T

4 Aston Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 VP93, Ireland

Located in the midst of the Temple Bar district is this small bar that has up and coming artists playing requested songs, and good drinks!

Average cost 10 euros.

4. The Bachelor 

This pub is a small hole in the wall pub located near the city center, next to O’Connells Bar Dublin (next recommendation). This place has new artists looking to get the spot light, playing a lot of American rock tunes.

The average drink is 6 euros.

3. O’Connells Bar Dublin

This bar is closest to most hostels in the area located right at the intersection of Bachelor & O’Connell St.

If you’re into a good karaoke night this is the perfect bar for you! On the weekends after 10pm they have open mic karaoke. This bar exceeds the customer service of all the bars I visited during my trip! This is one of the bars that has both outdoor and indoor seating too, if you want to people watch with the live music!

2. The Church 

Junction of Mary St. and Jervis St., Dublin 1, Dublin, D01YX64, Ireland

Talk about a hidden gem! This bar is little off the beaten path, but worth the extra 5-10 min. walk. This bar is a former church that was converted into a bar, and a dance club in the basement. Here they have live music, live dancing, free cover, and relatively affordable food/drinks!

Average Drink 8 euros & average meal 13 euros!

1.Murray’s Pub

33-34 O’Connell Street Upper, Rotunda, Dublin 1, Ireland

This pub was recommended to me by one of my tour guides. When I asked for live music, Irish dancing, cheap drinks, was open later, and in walking distance to central downtown she raved about this bar.

Average Drink costs 6 euros & average meal 13 euros!

If you do the Do Dublin bus tour there is a buy one get one meal before 5pm, which can make for two dinners! Just saying’!

 

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

1. Irish Currency

There are two currencies in Ireland. If visiting the Republic of Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Cork, etc.) the currency is the Euro. If visiting Northern Ireland (Belfast) the currency is the English Pound.  If visiting each side they do not take the other currency so come prepared.

2. Credit Cards

In most main cities in Ireland credit cards are accepted. The most common credit cards include Visa and MasterCard. They do not accept AMEX in most places.

3. Weather

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but according to the residents in Ireland it rains 330 days of the year, with it being unheard of that there is no rain for more than two days at a time. So, plan accordingly!

4. Food

There is no material change between US food and Irish food. The average meal is 8 euros for breakfast, 10 euros for lunch, and 14 euros for dinner. If you’re looking for authentic Irish food I recommend their Fish & Chips, and Corn Beef and Cabbage!

5. Drinks

Being the home of Guinness and Jameson those drinks are often the cheapest. Drink are on average are 8 euros, more if venturing off to the Temple Bar area and cheaper if willing to go to the local pubs.

6. Chargers

You must buy a wall adapter to charge your devices! You can buy these before you leave in Target’s travel section for $10 that includes many different adapters for each continent. If you wait until you get there you can purchase for 8 euros at your local hostel, or if you go to the travel agencies they sell them in their dispensers for 4 euros!

7. Tours

If looking to book a tour I recommend you plan ahead! Many of the tours I went on were fully booked, and did not have same day availability. You’ll find if you book through the same agencies they will give you a 5 euro credit if you book more than one tour through them; something to keep in mind when planning ahead. Popular tour groups were: Paddywagon Tours, Finn Tours, and Dualway Coaches.

*The tour busses leave on time, and are very serious about arriving 15 minutes before our scheduled time. I can tell you firsthand they left people behind.

**Most hostels set up free walking tours. I paid for mine in advance and attended both. They were nearly the same. I’d recommend taking the free one.

8. Temple Bar Trap

Temple Bar area is popular among 30-somethings and most tourists visiting… it’s where the parties are at night. This area is known for increasing the cost of drinks as you drink and the night goes on, so be mindful of that!

I will have a separate blog for my top 5 bars in Dublin of those looking for good spirits at night.

9. Closing Times

To make most of your time while visiting you should know that most museums close at 5pm, restaurants stop serving food around 10pm, the bars during the week stop serving alcohol at 11p. Coffee shops opened around 7am, and places with food generally an hour later. No wonder why they were all skinny!

10. Popular Places to See for the Day

If you’re time is limited don’t leave without visiting the following places:

Trinity College with tour to see Book of Kells

Guinness Storehouse

Walk around Temple Bar

Dublin Castle

O’Connells Street

 

 

10 Things Not to Forget

As I plan for Ireland I thought I’d share top 10 things not to forget!

10. Travel Size Toiletries, if Doing Carry-On Only

9. Trip Itinerary Printed Out, Along with a Map

8. Water Bottle with Purifying Water Tablets 

7. Walking Shoes 

6.  Pre-arrange Pick-Up Plans 

5. Your Phone Charger, Battery Pack, & Foreign Wall Converter

4. Converting Your Cash to Foreign Currency

3. Calling Your Cellular Phone Company

2. Activating Your International Credit Card (Visa/Mastercard)

1. Your Passport, Visa & I.D.

10 Places to See While in Beijing… COUNTDOWN

10. Chinese Doctor 

If you’ve never been to see a traditional Chinese doctor, it is an experience whether you choose to believe their practices or not.

I remember walking in a school of medicine downtown Beijing with my mom (as part of a tour) and sitting waiting to this doctor to do a free consultation. I was hesitant at first since the room they put us was not of a traditional US patient room it was more like a movie theatre (sketch or no?). I mean… comfortable chairs and a big screen tv in the front. We watched a movie for 5-10 minutes going over traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the ways they tell symptoms: through examining your tongue, and feeling your pulse through your wrist.

After the movie the doctor came in with his students started his consult with the person closest to the door… first feeling her pulse, then looking at her tongue. The translator asked a couple questions “are you in pain now” and “what is your stress level 1-10.” After 30 seconds the doctor diagnosed her with two herbal solutions to her back pain, and left shoulder problem. Total cost for those herbs ($500+ USD). I looked in shock. In 30 seconds this lady bought what was recommended. He moved next to my mom, said she was healthy then moved to me. I had made up my mind before even being consulting my answers to his comments were going to be no, because I wasn’t going to try anything from a man who couldn’t even speak my language to tell me what was in what he would recommend. He commented “you work in an office,” “you are happy…that’s good,” then asked,”do you have menstrual problems in your lower stomach?” I laughed and said no. He gave me a look like he could tell I was lying. Afterward I had asked Danielle (the lady who was with us on the tour and spent so much money on the supplements) why she trusted him. She mentioned that she has had terrible shoulder pain and when she is stressed it causes her arm to not go higher than her chest. She added that she was amazed that someone who didn’t know her could have known that so she wanted to try it. After her story I reflected back on what the Chinese doctor told me…. he was right, I do work in an office, I am happy (most of the time), and he was spot on about having troubles with my menstrual cycle. Now, looking back I will always wonder how he knew.

So, not say you have to go– but if looking for an experience and in China you should see what the Chinese doctor would say to you. Share with me if you do!

9. Silk, Jade, and Pearl Stores 

Do you know that silk comes from a worm? And that when layered across each other it is not humanly possible to break real silk? And, did you know to tell whether or not you are buying silk you just twist it, and if it wrinkles it’s fake? This is the stuff you’ll learn by going to a silk shop. I made the mistake in coming here as the last part of the trip, by then I hit my budget for what I could spend and did not have the $50 for the pillows that were softer than a babies bottom!

As for pearls… I GUESS if you try scratching a pearl with a knife and you wipe away the residue and it looks like it was never scratched then it’s real. I don’ know they are super cheap anyway, so if this style of jewelry is your thing get you some!

AND did you know that jade is the stone of China, since it brings luck, happiness, and longevity. Lord knows I needed it. And, it’s true if you go to the actual Jade factory they have the cheapest. I was a skeptic on how prices would jump up/down based on where I was and ended up missing the chance in buying a real jade from the factory, and instead bought a knock off that ended up costing the same (the Jade factory was too far to go back).

These thee places are traditional Beijing visits if looking to wander and be more immersed in culture.

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8. Beijing Zoo- Panda Exhibit 

I had seen koala bears in Australia, so I had to go see the pandas in China right?!

I am so conflicted in how I feel about zoos. The millennial in me hates the idea that we catch animals and put them for showcase and encourage the capture by paying an admission ticket. Then the other half of me rationalizes in saving animals in the wild that are going near extinct, nursing them to health and then mating them to increase their population, for future release. I’m on a tangent….

If you’re about the zoos, go see the biggest pandas you can imagine! You should see these!

7. Ming Tombs

I made the mistake in not researching this place to understand the historical importance, because I thought my tour guide would help bring me to speed. But when you can’t understand the tour guide you quickly learn the importance of knowing where you’re at before you go!

Let me fill you in… in China there is a rich history of many emperors and other government powers that have made lasting impressions to current cultures and traditions.. A lot of these have been dated back to the Ming Dynasty which spanned for nearly 300 years starting in the 1300s. The relics, clothes, replicas of goods (clothing, silvers, jewelry, sketches) found, buried, and treasured from this time cane found at the Ming Tombs.

The tour starts above ground where you can see the original brick and cement walls from the Ming Dynasty. As you walk toward the back you can start to enter different sacred buildings, prayer temples, and toward the end can go underground to see replicas of the tombs. If you’re at all a history guru, you should check out a tour here to feel a part of a history very different than our own.

6. Tea House

I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea! Little did I know that China is one of the main distributors of tea; I had thought it would have been India.

If you’re in China it is tradition in their culture to serve your tea to welcome you to their home, store, or hotel. Most commonly you’ll be served Jasmine. But, at the tea houses throughout Beijing you can enjoy Rose, Citrus, Jasmine, Black and Green Teas. They show you how to property pour tea, how to blend tea with cut-up fruit, and how to greet guests by using tea. This is an experience that had me wanting to return home for a tea party! This is a perfect stop if you’re looking to add some balance and zen in your trip to Beijing!

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5. Shopping Center 

If Time Square tickles your fancy, the Beijing shopping center will not disappoint! This city center was full of people, street food/venders, shops, and also the entrance way to the city center plaza where you can get a bunch of authentic Chinese delicacies including  living scorpions on a stick.

This was one of my most memorable stops of the entire trip to China, and one I would highly recommend! Food recommendations: caramelized strawberries, fresh mangos and pork buns!

4. Temple of the Heavens

This beautiful temple is located on Beijing’s south side, where many ceremonies occur. The temple was made to represent the balance between heaven and earth. If you visit I’d recommend going early, otherwise you’re bound to have someone if your perfect shot!

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3. Summer Palace

If you’re looking for the best IG photo-worthy photos, here is your place. And, you must go near sunset. This beautiful park is situated along the water and has many tiny treasures to find as you walk through, over and under the many trails and paths! It is here, too, that many of the locals fly their kites, make prayer/wish ribbons, and go to enjoy the tides that come and break near the bridges.

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2. Forbidden City/ Tiananmen Square

Have you seen Mulan? The large square at the end of the film you see where Mulan saves the emperor from the Huns… that’s near Tiananmen Square and part of the Forbidden City. If you’re going to China this is a MUST. What I didn’t know was the limited access one has to enter the Forbidden City, especially during Chinese New Year. Luckily for us (mom&I) we planned months in advance for this tour which allows us within the walls of the 100+ acres totaling 999 buildings (why not 1000? They count earth as the last room).

Spending the time/money to make it here won’t disappoint, just ask the 15 million annual visitors!

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1. Great Wall of China

What is a trip to China without seeing the iconic Great Wall of China. Yes, it is as beautiful and as grand as you see in photos. Yes, it’s worth the journey to go! Yes, it spans over the eye can see, and yes, this made this trip to China 100% worth it. So much so I will have a separate blog dedicated just for it!

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15 Things to Know if Visiting China

The stresses of planning for any trip can be a lot. Considerations to hotel, flight, food, and transportation are all things to consider prior to leaving. Especially, in China where the required visa forces you to have your trip booked in advance. Often times we forgot of the little nuances and cultural changes once we get to our destination. Below are 15 things to know if visiting China if you’re planning a trip.

15. No One Speaks English 

I used to think there were two universal languages, a smile and English. That was until I visited China. English is rarely spoken by most people, in fact asking for help is almost pointless unless you have the translation in the Chinese language, thank you Google Translate. I thought this language barrier would make it hard place to visit, but pointing and asking for a “photo menu,” in most places gets you where you are trying to go, or eat. To help, I recommend you bring a map that has the places you are looking to go before adventuring out because all road names are in Chinese & if trying to limit the use of your phone the good old fashion map works great. I found, most hotels have English & Chinese version of their maps, which was a huge help. 

14. Cell Service and WiFi 

Before leaving for this trip I was happy to find out that I would have, with Sprint, free 2GB of cell speed and texting in China. Call costs were minimal costing $0.20/minute. Researching AT&T for my mom, we found that cell service with the company was about $10/day. Needless to say, the costs are quite minimal if needing to connect. 

If you are looking for free, Wifi was available at most common areas, but when hopping on was extremely slow. 

*Tip: Bring a charging stick, or port. It was rare to find any charging stations when visiting places. As a result, when you did find them they were always packed. 

13. Don’t Rely on Your Credit Card, Bring Proper Chinese Currency

It is rare that I bring cash with me at all. But, after reading some blogs before I left on this trip I discovered that American credit cards are rarely accepted in most places. In fact, the only places that accept them we had found were in the shopping areas the tour groups would take you; and trust me you’re paying a premium for it; the cost of the products in these areas are a lot more than you can pay in the markets. 

If looking to transfer monies at the airport, the cost typically to do so is a $10 service fee and the exchange rate difference. To get more, this requires you planning ahead and knowing how much you want to take with you in advance and getting the currency exchange with your local bank. Estimated time to get the monies back is 7-days, for it to be guaranteed in time. By me waiting until I got to the airport I ended up losing $70USD in fees and exchange rate, where my mom only had $10USD with Chase. 

The Chinese money can take you a lot further than anywhere I’ve visited. Normally, I would say bring $50USD/day for food, transportation, and misc. costs. But, food on average is 50RMB/meal ($7USD). I’d say 650RMB ($102USD)/week would be comfortable (food & transportation). 

*Helpful Tip: The common currency in China is WeChat & UnionPay (credit card). Both of these require a Chinese bank account be established with pre-paid funds in order to make purchases. 

12. Get Comfortable in Bartering, or Accept Losing Money 

I’ve never been too comfortable in trying to find what something is worth. Maybe because I have been so used to the American culture where everything is fixed, where the value has been pre-determined and where supply/demand seems to have worked. In China, you’ll find it an easy place to barter especially when choosing to walk away and the price you were getting comfortable in paying is slashed in half, and has you again question the value. 

My suggestion is before buying anything walk around and understand the varying prices, this also helps with buyers remorse. 

From my experience food should never be more than 40RMB (and that’s for a full meal including drink), and gift goods should be no more than 50RMB. In one instance my mom and I were haggling for cheap earrings, she started at 100RMB, by the time we were walking away for the 4th time she was down to 20RMB, and we finally negotiated at 15RMB (Yu Garden). Same place, different store we were interested in potentially getting a necklace that would have the English name with Chinese translation next to it and she started at 150RMB, and when walking away negotiated herself down to 20RMB. That’s right. You’ll know which places allow you to barter, because whenever you walk away they will lower their price and the places with fixed pricing usually have it listed in the door way (almost none of them). 

And, if looking for real jade. Ask for the Jade of pearl. The ones with lighter green are worth more, and on average are around 80RMB (for 1 inch by 1 inch), and can go up to 3300RMB. In the Yu Garden you’ll find the best in what you’re looking for, and because there are so many vendors they are willing to take a lot less so they have your business rather than their neighbor. I ended up getting a Jade of pearl Buddha for 15RMB. 

11. Don’t Bother Renting a Car if Beijing or Shanghai is Your Destination

Typically, I like the option to leave, and feel liberated by having a car. However, due to many affordable and abundant public transportation options, and the high traffic & aggressive drivers I’d say using public transit would be more relaxing. 

By far, the most cost effective way to travel is by bus. It is 2RMB ($0.03USD) for each bus transfer. This allows getting around to be extremely cheap! The most difficult part of taking the bus is figuring out which bus to take and what stop to get off at. This is where going to the nearest hotel and pointing using your map becomes quite handy. 

If you elected to use your cell service, you can always use Google maps to find where you’re going and just hop off when you know you’re nearing. 

*Mindful Tip: If using the bus you must have exact change. If needed, your hotel can provide you small change. 

**We found that costs for taxi cabs started at 20RMB, and based on the distance went up from there. To best estimate we found it is approx. 5RMB/5 mins.

10. Booking at Hotel Near the City Center Pays its Benefits

By now, most of you know that I love AirB&B and prefer a more authentic cultural stay, than to stay at hotels. This trip I chose to book a hotel because (1) the tours I booked would pick-up/drop off from your hotel, very convenient, and (2) I wanted to visit many of the tourist attractions which most in China are near the city center and within walking distance of the “first ring” of hotels. 

The best way to find your hotel for your stay can be using booking sites like Hotels.com, and sorting by distance and cost to the city centers. 

If visiting Beijing I would highly recommend the Novotel Beijing Peace Hotel it was $100/night + breakfast. Because we were staying more than 4 nights they upgraded us to a suite with no additional cost. And, the breakfast…FABULOUS. All you can eat food, they had a pastry section, cereal, fruit, egg, lunch/dinner food area, tea, and coffee areas. The hotel was about a 20 minute walk from the Time Square of Beijing, which was full of high-end stores, as well as from the outside market(s) with authentic Chinese foods and stores. 

If visiting Shanghai I would recommend the SSaw Boutique Hotel. Right when you walk in it smells like an Abercrombie store, that was a great start. The hotel was the cheapest hotel within a 15 min walking distance to Yu Garden (a must see if looking for the Chinese style buildings, food markets, and handmade gifts). The cost was $89/night. Upon entrance they welcomed us with tea, recommendations based on the weather (raining) and time (since it was a holiday). Additionally, they went as far as booking our massage for us, and provided us a map and directions to the nearest bus stop in order to get there. Unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed, they had an online app that helped lay out unbiased opinions of where to go and what to see including estimated costs, open/close times, and feedback from their guests who have tried the places. This was a treat as this leg of our trip was not as planned as Beijing.  

*FYI: The beds are not mattress-like, what you expect in the US and other places. They are more of a box-spring. At home I have a plush and soft bed, so this was quite different. After the first night, I realized this relieved a lot of back pain. 

*Mindful Tip: Be prepared to have them put a hold on your credit card for incidentals, similar to what they do in the states. They run your card and pull the amount, and when you check out, they run it again to provide a refund. The first hotel we stayed held 1200RMB ($189USD), and the other held 400RMB ($63USD).

9. To Be Early is to Be on Time, and to Be on Time is to Be Late- BYE!

We found that in the Chinese culture, being early is to be on time. Most of our tours had hotel pick-up at 6:30a, and almost always showed up 15 minutes earlier. Keep this is mind because it goes for the use of bus, trains, and scheduled appointments. And, if you show up exactly when you’re supposed to then you’re too late and they leave without you. My mom and I watched many trains and tour guides leave without their necessary people. Maybe we Americans should start doing this to get people to value each others’ time just a little bit more. 

8. Second Hand Smoking, Expect It

I am convinced that the Chinese don’t wear the masks due to the smog/air pollution, but rather because of all the people smoking. I have never been in a place where avoiding walking next to a smoker was nearly impossible. Beijing was full of smokers. I ended up buying perfume to spray my clothes at the end of each night. 

7. Get Pushy, or Get Behind 

I used to think the asian women at the grocery stores in the states (weird saying because I’m asian, but I consider myself Americanized) were rude because they pushed you without saying excuse me. Well now, I believe it to be culture. People here push their way through to get from point A to B. I don’t know if it’s because there are so many people, or if because the value of time is so important in their country and they don’t want to wait on someone who isn’t ready. 

When my mom and I went to the zoo, we thought we were waiting in line for the cotton candy to find out a women with her money ready pushed her way to the front and got service. 

Because of this, I recommend planning out meeting points throughout the trip in case you get lost in the shuffle. Especially since when the “walk” line turns green it’s a free for all on how you make it across the street, and if you aren’t forceful enough you will be bullied behind everyone. 

Also, just know that people in China stand closer together, and personal space may not be what you’d be used to. Again, I think this goes along with saving the time.

6. Where’s the Toilet & Toilet Paper?

You better start learning how to squat before you leave. In most places there are no toilets as we are used to seeing them. They are holes in the ground. You use them facing the door, and when you’re done usually they auto flush if they have a sensor, or it will auto flush when you open the door. Also, bring/buy toilet paper before you need to go. Most places don’t have the luxury of carrying the paper for you. 

When on a tour your guide will generally lead you to the nicer “10 star rated” toilets. But, most of the time you’re on your own. 

5. No Tissues, No Problem, They Spit  

I read a lot before I came to China that a lot of people spit. Come to find out when visiting it is because they don’t use tissues instead you’ll see them plug one side of their nose and blow. Sounds unsanitary for us, but you’ll notice it quite a lot. For peace of mind, you’ll find in midnight hours the streets are thoroughly washed. But, keep this in mind if you ever drop something if it’s worth picking it up. 

4. Book a Tour Guide 

In most English speaking places it is easy to create a self guided tour. But, in China finding anyone who speaks Chinese is difficult, so best understanding significant places, is truly best by planning ahead through various travel agencies and travel sites. If you need recommendations just ask me! 

In Beijing, we had two tours planned, (1) Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, Jade Palace, and a Tea House and (2) Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Chinese Doctor & Foot Massage, a Silk Shop, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and a Pearl Store. These tours gave us an overall understanding of culture, understanding of customs, and historical significance of places seen. 

These tours in Beijing are quite cheap compared to tours I’ve booked in other countries. For an 8 hour tour, including lunch and transportation we paid $40-$70 per person. 

In Shanghai, we elected not to take any guided tours. Instead, we elected to do a hop on/off bus, that had English speaking recordings that are sensored when passing certain buildings. My mom and I have historically found these quite fun to give a good lay of the land when we are unfamiliar of where to go. 

3. Authentic Chinese Food is Different than American Chinese Food

Many people before visiting China told me not to expect the food to what we are used to having in the US. In my opinion the food was comparable, just not filled with salts and heavy sauces. The sauces were quite light. 

On one of our tours we found that based on the region of China you visit, the food varies. In the north (Beijing) the foods are more salty and fried, in middle/east region (Shanghai) the foods are more spicy, and in the south region the foods are more filled with rice and organic veggies. All of which were palatable and tasty. But, not what we are used to tasting in a US Chinese restaurant.  

2. If You Plan on Visiting More than One Chinese City, Use a Train!

Prior to visiting we knew that we were going to visit three different places throughout China. Similar to the US there are methods of airplane from one part of the country to the next, but can be quite expensive. We found that taking the train was the most cost effective and time saving option. 

We took a train from Beijing to Shanghai, then from Shanghai to Guangzhou. From Beijing to Shanghai the train was about 4 hours and cost approximately $200USD, and from Shanghai to Guangzhou took about 8 hours and was about $300USD. 

1. Arrive to the Airport Early, I Recommend at Least 3 Hours

To have more peace of mind I recommend that before you go to your flight make sure you call your airline and retrieve the ticket numbers, and your airline carrier name. Most people at the airport only speak Chinese so figuring out that these are the two things you need before you arrive will save you an hour; or at least that’s how long it took my mom and I. 

My mom and I had booked our flight to/from using Delta, however, when arriving to the Guangzhou airport we found out that “Delta” did not exist. Instead the carrier name was China Eastern. Once we found this out we thought our hurtles were past us. Come to find out that the American flight confirmation is not enough, the ticket number is also needed; which isn’t known until seat assignments have been arranged. Calling your flight carrier to retrieve this information is easy, so long as you have cell service. 

*Helpful Tip: You can not check-in if you are within 45-minutes of your flight, you are too late. And, you can’t board if you’re within 15-minutes to your gate.

Guest Blog- Italy!

All About Italy!

Guest Blogger: Jen Elmore

Ever since Pinterest was created in 2010, I have spent countless hours scouring through the travel boards and daydreaming about the picturesque images of Italy. Every village looked like a postcard, every meal looked divine, and every dreamy little beach screamed romance. My husband and I finally booked our dream vacation to Italy and traveled there in 2016. The trip was perfect, however, the planning and preparation getting to that point was less than seamless just because there was so much to see! Therefore, I could not be more excited to be a guest blogger and put together my ideal itinerary if you want to try to see all of Italy on a tight timeline and do not want to spend hours on research.

Capri

JenO1Capri

Capri came highly recommended to me by multiple friends, and after spending three days there, I PLEAD with anyone going to Italy to please spend time there. I have been very fortunate to travel to amazing places on this earth, and Capri is by far the best place I have ever been. To get to this beautiful little island, fly straight into Naples and take a 40 minute high speed ferry into the island. The island itself is small and you can explore the entire place in a few days, however I would spend a week there if I could. We stayed in Capri 3 nights today – spent 2 days in Capri and then took a day trip to Positano.

Where to stay:

The island is split into two parts: Capri and Anacapri. Capri is full of nightlife, shopping, and fun town squares. Anacapri is quitter and more laid back. We stayed at an exquisite Airbnb in Anacapri, which is on the far side of the island and away from all of the touristy crowds. I have never seen sunsets so vivid and views so beautiful that I have from the front door of our Airbnb. The owner Genny and his family live in the main house and built the entire home from hand. They were exceptional hosts and I am so happy to have met such a wonderful Italian family.

http://www.villadalessandro.it/

What to do:

Capri is an island of relaxation and romance, but there is still plenty to do and explore.

  • The Blue Grotto: This is world famous and something that was at the top of my list and was conveniently just steps away from our Airbnb. It is a cove with white sand on the bottom so the rays from the sun make it appear bright blue. The waves are crazy so you need to take a boat into the cove but then you can get out and swim around. It was one of our favorite memories together!
  • Private boat rental: We got a cute little private boat (http://www.giannisboat.com) and absolutely loved it. It was an adorable boat with pillow beds, coolers full of wine and beer, and an extremely knowledgeable captain. This is by far the best way to see the entire island and its secret coves. We did lots of swimming and snorkeling and saw some of the bluest waters either of us have ever seen!
  • Hike and get lost in the winding streets: One of our favorite things was just walking and exploring the beauty of this island. You can take a chairlift to the top and take in the views, or you can hike it yourself I you are feeling adventurous.

Where to eat:

Pro tip – Italians eat LATE. We never made reservations because every time we ate around 7 or 8pm, we were the only ones there! Also, Italian house wine is GOOD and cheaper than water. So don’t be shy, indulge!

  • Da Paolina: This was the best meal of our life. The restaurant itself is the definition of romance and is in the middle of a lemon tree forest! Their specialties are lemon sauce and lemoncello! We also had the best caprese salad of our life here (hint…caprese salad was created here)
  • Da Digiorio: This was steps from our Airbnb and overlooked the ocean and sunset. They had extremely fresh seafood and it has just come in from their fisherman, so we got to go into the kitchen and literally pick our fish out!
  • Ristorante Matertita: We loved this adorable restaurant. It was right in the Anacapri square in front of a beautiful church. We ate vodka sauce gnocci here that was out of this world and had some of the best Rose we had in Italy.

Positano

JenO2Untitled

When I close my eyes and imagined Italy, I imagined Positano. We knew we wanted to go to Positano, but we didn’t have the time to stay everywhere, so we ended up making Positano a day trip out of Capri and it ended up being perfect! You can take a 30 minute ferry out of Capri in the morning, and then take a ferry back in the evening. It ended up being plenty of time to see everything and truly feel like we got the Amalfi Coast experience. In a lot of ways, I preferred this because Positano is a major hub for cruise ships, so it was extremely crowded with tourists and it was just a chaotic feeling. Also, it is extremely expensive to stay there, so a day trip was the best of both worlds.

What to do:

  • Wander the streets: If you are a big shopper, you will love it here although it is very high end. The streets wind like crazy so we loved just getting lost and exploring. Walking around was the best way to take in the sights and see the beauty.
  • Have lunch at Le Sirenuse Hotel: This place is PRICEY…however, it is very well known because it has the best view of Positano so tourists flock here to take pictures. It was worth it. When I walked out on the balcony of the restauraunt I literally gasped in awe….there in front of me was THE Pinterest picture I had seen so many times and imagined how awesome it would be to see it in person. Well there I was, seeing it, and it was so special.
  • Rent a beach bed and relax: Laying around people watching was one of our favorite things to do. Completely surrounded by beauty and drink in hand, we spent hours just doing nothing and it was the best.

Rome

Rome

Rome was an absolute must see for my history obsessed and very catholic husband. Even though Rome is a big city and there is a ton to do there, I recommend spending only 2 days in Rome as it is more than enough time to see everything you want to see.

Where to stay:

The best neighborhood to stay is a cute little area called Trastervere which translates to “the other side of the river.” While it is pricier than most areas, it is very quint, trendy, and has some of the best restaurants in Rome. It is also centrally located to most of the big sites to see.

What to do:

  • The Vatican: This is an obvious one, but if for some reason you feel like it might be overrated and not worth the hype, wrong. It is worth seeing. My husband loves the catholic church so we went all out and did the 3 hours tour which takes you through the basilica and the museum. It is very long so if you are not extremely interested about the Church, I would skip the tour and just walk around yourself through the church and the square.
  • The Colleseum: Another “worth the hype” experience. It was unbelievable to see the ruins and imagine how the romans were able to build such massive structures.
  • Trevi Fountain and the Parthenon
  • largo di torre argentina: This is a ruins site that Caesar was murdered at, but now it is an actual cat sanctuary for the city cats. I am obsessed with cats so of course I had to see it, and there are literally hundreds of cats who live in the ruins and are fed and vaccinated by the city. Even if you don’t like cats, it was actually a really awesome sight to see!

Where to eat:

  • Dar Poeta: Our favorite pizza in Italy!
  • Ristorante Della Ricciotta: This was the cutest boutique restarautant in Rome. Very small and it felt so personal, we also had some of the best pasta here.

Florence

JenO3JenO4

Florence is the definition of an Italian city. We spent 5 days here total, however only 2 of them in Florence but then 3 of them as day trips out of Florence. It is a great home base for day trips because it has a great central location. I recommend doing day trips to other cities because that way you don’t have to deal with the hassle of packing and checking in and out of hotels so much.

What to do:

  • Ponte Vecchio
  • The Duomo: This is the giant church in the main square, and by far the prettiest church in Italy. Make sure you climb the tower all the way to the top for INCREDIBLE views of Florence.
  • The David: I hate museums, but wow. David really was overwhelming. The statue itself was MASSIVE and extremely intricate, it is absolutely worth it to see.

Where to eat:

  • Bucca Mario: Florence is very well knows for Florentine steak and this place does it the best. The steak itself was bigger than my head and it was worth the price.

Day Trips!

Day Trip- Tuscay

Wine.png

I am a huge wine lover so I knew I wanted to see Tuscay, however we just didn’t have the time to really do it, so a day trip was the perfect solution. I recommend using Viator.com which is a website that has a tour for anything you could think of. We ended up doing an entire day tour that took us to multiple wineries in Tuscay where we could tour and taste the wines (https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Taste-of-Chianti-Tuscan-Cheese-Wine-and-Lunch-from-Florence/d519-5070CHIANTISAFARI)

This was one of the highlights of our trip and I am already planning on coming back just to spend time in Tuscany.

Day Trip– Cinque Terre

Day Trip

Okay so I know I say a lot of things are my favorite part of my trip, but this is one of my favorite parts of our trip! Cinque Terre translates to “5 towns” and essentially is exactly that. There are 5 towns all lined up along the coast and each one is the cutest Italian village you could ever imagine. We took a tour to see it all (tours are the way to go) and were so happy we did. Each town is connected by a train or a hike. The views were absolutely spectacular and I highly recommend you add this to your trip! https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Cinque-Terre-Full-Immersion/d519-6274P35

Day Trip– Venice

DayTrip1

I always knew we wanted to go to Venice, but I had friends actually tell me they didn’t like it so I worried scheduling it into our trip. Again, that is why day trips are perfect. We booked a train ticket and it was about 2 hours to Venice. I literally want to stop being friends with the person who told me not to go to Venice, because it was the absolute best way to end our trip. We had nothing planned in Venice, you simply go to get lost in the streets. There are no cars there so no streets. Streets are canals and the entire town is a maze full of turns and dead ends. We explored for a full 6 hours and stopped as cute cafes for lunch and drinks. PLEASE GO TO VENICE. Every corner was cuter then the next and I constantly had to stop for pictures, I wanted to gag it was so cute. I am so happy we got this memory, especially and it may not be around in the future as it is actually sinking.

We trained back to Florence that night and flew home the next morning. All in all our trip was 10 days. A lot to squeeze in, but it can be done. Italy is magical and if you have the opportunity to go there, do it!

 

A-Z Travel Tidbits To Take!

A: ppreciate your surroundings! The only regret I’ve ever had is not living in the moment when I’ve been at a place; often times I have a laundry list of places I want to visit and lose purpose of the whole point I’m there… to enjoy & create memories!

B: ring layers when packing! Yes, it may 80 degrees when you get there, but what happens when Mother Nature decides instead it’s going to rain and you have nothing to wear, CA-CHING! Money is spent, and nothing is worse than spending your “fun money” on clothes because you didn’t bring those layers!

C: onvert your money before you leave! Often times the fees associated to converting money at the airport and in the country your visiting can be expensive. Checking conversion fees at various banks before leaving can spread your dollar.

D: o what is on your wish list, or IG likes! We’re all guilty for loving certain photos on social media, and then put it on a wish list, then when upon arrival find other things to occupy our time. Make it a point to do what you initially wanted to do! Live with no regrets!

E: njoy! Be spontaneous and try things you wouldn’t normally try, within reason. Life’s about creating memories and making the most of it!

F: ollow your gut…when your surroundings tell you something is off pay attention. Traveling somewhere foreign is often fun, but it also means that you can become a target. It’s nothing to fear, but when your gut is telling you something become more aware!

G: o some where new! Traveling somewhere you’ve been, or deciding between two tours/things to do… select the one that you’ve not done, or could do anywhere else. Take advantage of where you are, I mean… why not!

H: ave cash, and your debit card in case! Yes, credit cards are now the most common form of payment, but USD is the most universal currency. Even if just $100 bring some cash in case! There were a couple times I assumed credit cards would be best to avoid credit card theft, etc. & the places I was going didn’t accept card, but guess what… USD cash worked even in Spain! P.S. in France you need to pay to use the toilets and more for toilet paper, caa-ching!

I: nvest in good walking shoes. This sounds like common sense, but really. Don’t cheap out. Nothing is more annoying than your feet hurting, and wanting to avoid paid $$ for shoes when you’re already traveling on a budget.

J: ournal your favorite memories! I’ve found that sometimes just writing out at the end of each night what highlights I had helps me better recall the memories! Try it!

K: eep your passport/visa on you. Just for safe keeping it’s better you have your valuables on you, rather than housed in your hotel/Air B&B. Maybe it’s paranoia, but I always worry that I will be stuck stranded in a foreign country with no way home because I’ve misplaced my passport. I bought a spandex belt that has two holes to allow for items to be stowed, and it fit under my pants; in other words, won’t fall out, and I can tell I have it on me.

L: earn popular foreign terms. Learn how to say “which direction is,” “how much,” “please,” “thank you,” “exit,” “can I have,” “yes,” “no,” “what is your name,” “sorry I don’t understand”

M: ake sure to leave earlier than you think for your return flight! Generally, people come back from vacation in the knick of time for work. Make sure to leave plenty of time to get through the airport, security, and to the gate. To save some time, check to see what the normal security time takes at your airport, know which gate you’re at and look at where it’s located in the airport on your way there, and have your pockets cleaned and packed in your carry-on before you even touch foot in the airport.

N: ever try free food being offered. We all heard as kids not to take candy from a stranger, but when we grow up we willingly take everything that is free, AM-I-RIGHT?!

O: rganize what you need readily available before arriving at the airport. This tip comes from being the frantic and panicking one searching for my drivers license/electronic boarding pass when I finally made it to the from the security line. And, this tip comes from being the one annoyingly being behind the person doing what I had done. Just saying! What you need through security: drivers license/passport and boarding pass. If you’re traveling internally, you’ll also need your itinerary!

P: lan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your itinerary. The most common regret I’ve heard from people and their travels is when they returned back from their trip they saw a photo of a place they wish they would have seen while there. If you research top places in advance you can pack in the most, and not spend valuable time while there to figure out what’s next.

Q: uickly check if the country your visiting has tips included in the price before going out to eat. (I was going to put this under a different letter, but was struggling with Q words!) You’d be surprised how many countries include gratuity in the food price, not even broken out on the bill so you wouldn’t know. I make it a point to research this before you start eating out to save costs throughout the trip.

R: esearch your flights before booking. You’ll find leaving Tuesdays and returning Wednesdays often times is the right combination to find the cheapest flights. If you try this combo, and do it at least 60-days before your flight you have some flexibility to save a pretty penny.

S: hut off your phone! Live in the moment, be present. Often times we become comfortable with our little 2×4 screen that we forget to look up and see what’s in front of us! I’ve made it a point when traveling to keep my phone on airplane mode and live in the moment, get lost a little, and interact with those around me! It makes for a much more complete vacation/trip.

T: ake photos! I am sure you don’t need me telling you, but take the photos of the places you stop at that you like, the candid captures of people you’re with… those are the storytelling  memories you want to have. Don’t worry the scenic typical IG shot is nice too!

U: se hand sanitizer frequently. Did you know our bodies become more immune to bacteria based on exposure? So if going somewhere new I would suggest bringing that handy dandy $1 travel sized bottle!

V: antage point photos! Get them by taking a photo from a perspective that differs than the one every one else is going. This could mean getting the Eiffle Tower from inside an adjacent building rather than pointing the lens at the tower head-on

W: alk frequently. Use the opportunity while traveling to get in a good exercise by traveling from point A-B, not only is this healthy but it allows you to fully experience the smell, sound, and exhilaration of the new place.

X: erox your itinerary. It’s always good to have extra copies handy. Ensure you have your address written down in both the foreign language and in English! Do not put your room number on the itinerary, keep this in a separate location, I put my room key with the room number in my wallet or in a separate pocket. In case something gets stolen you don’t want someone able to find you!

Y: ou’re on your own for the next two… I’m not that clever! But hope the rest of these have been helpful!

Z:

A Whole Trip in a Carry On!

I have inherited the name “Dora the Explorer,” not because I roam where ever my heart takes me, but because I’ve mastered the skill in packing a 2-week trip in a single carry-on.

Yes, I know from people telling me… most peg me for a pre-madonna who would have not only carry-on(s), but several checked in bags. But, haven’t you heard to not judge a book for its cover! So, how do I pack 2-weeks in a carry on? Here are some cheats!

1. Pack Half of the Clothes You Think You Need

I remember when I first started packing clothes I wanted a variety of clothes and plenty of options. Here’s how to accomplish both:

  • Select clothes that you can mix-match, giving the illusion you have many outfits but you’re really wearing the same clothes in different assortments.
    • If you’re going on a 5-day trip; pack 3 shirts, 3 pants, mix match!
  • Don’t overpack for the unlikely, we all have wanted to pack the shorts & tanks even though where you’re going is only 40 degrees, because we are thinking “well it’s just a tank top” and then find ourselves with 10 tank tops and ended up using on 1 or 2. Am I right?
  • Stack What You Want & Cut it in Half; not kidding. You’ll find when you travel frequent you travel a lot more for the unknown that what’s necessary. Once you think you have everything you need, cut it in half. I bet you get to the number ratio in footnote 1. Just saying
  • Roll Your Clothes; roll your clothes, this allows more! If you’re bringing bigger shoes for carryon, I shove my delicates in the shoes. If you have case of stinky feet put your delicates in a zip lock before shoving them in the bad boy. Swim wear goes in the other shoe.

Here’s what I normally bring for a 5-day trip: 1 swimsuit, 3 shirts (tank tops included), 3 pants/shorts, 2 pairs of shoes (cheat below), 6 undies, 3 socks, and toiletries that will fit in a large-size zip lock bag! I’ll make the toiletries a separate blog, there’s enough madness I have learned through that.

2. Bring More by Wearing More 

If traveling to somewhere cold (even if you’re leaving from somewhere warm), wearing your heavier clothes through the airport will allow you to bring more!

  • Pick 2 Shoes & Wear the Heaviest; Yup! Pack a comfortable pair of shoes and one that you want to bring, wear the heaviest at the airport and lug around on your carry-on the lighter pair. YES, sandals count as a pair!
  • Bring 1 Jacket and Wear it to the Airport; There are certain travel (clothing) essentials you have to bring just in case and a jacket is one of them. Even if it’s 80 degrees outside bring a coat, but wear it through the airport. Plus, this has saved me when freezing in the airplane!
  • Ladies, Extensions… Some of you have asked me when I wear extensions have I worn them through airport security, yes. Do they go off in the scanner, most times. Is it embarrassing when they pull me aside, no. Most airports are equipped with technology that shows where the metal pieces are, and when they see it’s your head they just tap, tap, tap. Because you’re a woman, only women can touch you, so they usually know what’s up, or will give you the disappointment look of FAF (Fake as F*), but just smile! Confidence sometimes has to be bought and if clipping in fake hair gets you there, AYYEEEE you go! LOL

3.  Toiletries & Size Limits

I believe we are down to 3 oz. on what you can bring on the airplane…

  • Purchase the airport approved empty containers from CVS or Walgreens. I usually bring shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. If you need more than one 3 oz. then fill up two with what you already have at home!
  • Next time when you’re getting a haircut as if they have sample size of the shampoos/conditioners of the yummy smelling stuff they used on your hair. Sounds cheap, but seriously
  • Take with you the complimentary shampoo/conditioner a the hotels you stay even i you don’t use them on your immediate trip. You can bring them for next time!
  • Only take with you what you can fit in a large zip lock bag! It makes it easy to take out of carry on for airport security (although I keep mine in my carry on, having it in a zip lock still helps them quickly identify my things in the x-ray.

What I usually bring: tooth brush, travel size toothpaste ($1 at CVS), deodorant, 3 oz shampoo, 3 oz conditioner, 3 oz lotion, comb, mascara, eyeliner, mascara, and chap stick.

Be mindful that carryon requirements differ based on what airline you choose to fly with. This has also been a consideration before booking a trip, because airlines such as Spirit & WOW Air charge to breathe…

If you have additional tips/tricks post them in the comment section!