The Electronic Ban for flights to and from the Middle East has been in place since early spring. Now, as the Trump administration pushes for another ban on electronics on flights to and from Europe, more passengers will be affected than ever before. I have compiled a list of things you will need to prepare for flights without your electronics.
Many new travelers tell me they are looking to explore more continents, but they tell me that they have fears of the unexpected. I always have considered Europe the wading pool for most American travelers, and Asia is more like diving into the deep-end of the pool. That’s a pretty big leap, even for some of the boldest travelers.
If you are looking to visit Asia, but have some hesitations due to language barriers and cultural differences, than you should start considering a visit to the Philippines. Many travelers seem to stick to Europe for the majority of their international travel as they find the idea of visiting an Asian country intimidating. Other Asian countries such as China, can be more difficult to navigate for less experienced or less adventurous travelers. In addition, they can also come with a bit more of a culture shock. The Philippines is a perfect place to get your feet wet as far as Asian travel is concerned.
No Language Barrier
If you speak English, you are already blessed as a traveler because you can get around pretty well in most countries. In the Philippines, you are even better off than most European nations, as just about everyone speaks English. This makes it extremely easy to read signs, get around and ask for directions. In many other Asian countries language barriers can cause stress to some travelers. You won't find this to be a problem while in the Philippines, as English is taught schools.
There is Something For Everyone
It's often difficult for one country to appeal to everyone. However, with over 7,000 islands each with a unique culture and personality, there is something for everyone. With pristine beaches, nightlife, outdoor adventures, cultural activities and shopping– the Philippines is sure to please every type of traveler. Some islands are great for swimming with whale sharks, some have a great surf if you want to hang 10, and some islands have incredible SCUBA diving.
Couples & Solo Travelers Will Both Enjoy
The Philippines can be experienced in so many different ways. It can be the perfect tropical romantic getaway or relaxing trip for couples. It’s a great place for solo travelers to immerse themselves in the culture and interact with locals as well as other travelers. It’s also great for adventure seekers thanks to incredible diving, and exotic foods.
The Food is Amazing
The food in the Philippines is delicious. From the ensaymada's (a sweet bread), lechon and adobo, your tastebuds will always be entertained. I really enjoyed Halo-Halo (pronounced "hallow-hallow"). It's a very sweet shaved ice dessert, topped with all types of goodies including ice cream, and then you top it off with condensed milk.
If you are an adventurous eater, you can try balut, which is a fertilized duck egg that is hard boiled before reaching complete maturity. It tastes partially like an egg, and partially like a duck, and is definitely worth it for the experience. I found one to try at Market-Market in Manila.
It's Instagram Worthy
The islands are so beautiful that it will be sure to not only leave you with long lasting memories, but also some incredible pictures. El Nido on the island of Palawan is particularly stunning. Days in El Nido are spent island hopping and SCUBA diving, while evenings are spent at “sunset bars” enjoying sunsets that are arguably the best in the world.
Everyone is Extremely Kind
Adventuring out of your comfort zone can be a difficult task when traveling. Fortunately, the Philippine people are hands-down the most welcoming and hospitable people that I have come across throughout all of my travels. Filipinos are genuinely happy to have visitors in their country, as it’s often missed by the visitors and backpackers visiting Southeast Asia. Any local you encounter will take it upon themselves to ensure you have an enjoyable experience, as they are very proud to showcase their beautiful country.
Adventuring to new parts of the world can often be just as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. If you have been looking to visit Asia, the Philippines is a great place to start.
Pin to Pinterest with this Pin:
READ NEXT: THE ISLAND NO ONE WANTS YOU TO KNOW ABOUT
If you’re anything like me, you feel the best trips are the ones where you’re thrust into experiences you’d never be able to replicate at home. Costa Ricans have a saying: “Pura Vida,” which means pure life, and in Costa Rica it is not only a saying, but a way of life.
After my second trip guiding a group, I can confidently say Costa Rica is the best place to crush comfort zones, be immersed in some of this planet’s most incredible ecosystems, and experience the unique, local Pura Vida lifestyle.
Voted the World’s Happiest Country in 2017, Costa Ricans have many accomplishments to be proud of. In 2015, the country was able to produce 99% of its electricity using renewable resources, and they continue to make strides toward their goal of being carbon neutral by 2021. All of their efforts are directed toward saving their incredible ecosystems, which are home to over 500,000 species.
Costa Ricans are friendly and welcoming, and are happy to encourage visitors to experience everything their beautiful country has to offer:
NATURE: UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
It’s easy to appreciate the attention to preservation and protection around the country by how much nature you get to experience! From the beaches to the cloud forests, even when you sit down to open air dinners, wildlife is everywhere! There are many protected areas throughout the country that you can tour to get a more up close and personal look.
We had amazing experiences with wildlife in every location we visited. In total, our group estimated we saw over six dozen new, exotic creatures we had never seen in real life before! And the best part is, alongside the animals are beautiful views of lush, green landscapes that are totally postcard-worthy.
One place we loved for the spectacular views of a natural wonder was the Arenal Waterfall. It was 360 degrees of pure beauty. The 500 or so stairs to get down to the swimming hole were a bit of a challenge, but it was worth every step!
In Monteverde Cloud Forest, we first opted for a hanging bridges experience. In a cloud forest, each layer, from the ground to the tops of the trees, is home to different animals. The hanging bridges allow you to walk among the wildlife that spend time in the upper regions of the cloud forest, while also getting a glimpse at creatures on the floor on the hikes in between. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we learned so much about the species we were spotting.
RAINFOREST NIGHT TOUR
We also chose to take a night tour of the rainforest in Monteverde, because a whole different set of animals only appear at night. This tour with Don Juan Tours was combined with a coffee and chocolate education course (both grown locally in Costa Rica), which was a great way to start our evening. We learned the process to make our beloved java is way more complicated than we imagined! We were able to sample a number of coffees and chocolates to understand the differences in quality.
When we left the education center and got ready for our night hike, we ran into a scorpion mother on the overhang with dozens of her babies on her back! That surely got the adrenaline pumping for our hike out into the jungle darkness.
On our night hike, we followed our guide into a damp jungle to find porcupines eating fruits, toucans nestled in the greenery, and even were fortunate enough to have a bunch of leaf cutter ants try and make our sneakers their new home! No worries though, they don’t bite.
We visited two Costa Rican National Parks: Arenal Volcano National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park. Both parks offered easy to moderate hiking options and provided a number of opportunities to see animals. We were worried that hiking these parks without a guide may make it harder to spot the animals we were so anxious to see, but after spending time in Monteverde, our group was starting to know where to look. The highlights included spotting a bunch of capuchin monkey families, as well as a number of sloths! Pro-tip: Both of these parks are hot and humid, and it’s best to bring a lot of drinking water along for your hikes!
Manuel Antonio National Park is also home to gorgeous protected beaches and viewpoints. It is definitely worth spending a day there to enjoy all that it has to offer. Just be careful; the animals in this park are VERY outgoing and will do almost anything to get to your food! The park’s strict regulations for what can be brought in helps to cut down on animal intrusion, but take it from us, watching a raccoon forage through your backpack for a banana is mildly concerning.
ADVENTURE TOURISM: GOING EXTREME
The parts of the trip our group enjoyed most were the adventure activities. With different landscapes and terrain only a few hours in any direction, the country offers everything an adrenaline junky could ever hope for. From horseback riding to ATV adventures to bungee jumping to white water rafting, there’s not much more you could ask for.
Ziplining is definitely an activity that Costa Rica is famous for. I’ve been ziplining all over the world, and nothing compares to the thrill of ziplining in Monteverde Cloud Forest.
We chose the zipline experience with the most bang for the buck: 100% Aventura, who boasts the longest zipline in Latin America. Your tour also includes two Superman style lines (face down, being suspended from the harness on your back) that average over 250 feet off the ground, as well as a 13-story Tarzan Swing that has you free-falling for a heart-stopping three seconds. The views are spectacular, and I can confidently say it’s the closest you’ll ever get to flying!
WHITE WATER RAFTING
This was my first time trying white water rafting and I’ll be honest, I was concerned that it would not live up to my expectations. But the trip down the Sarapiqui River with Desafio Adventure Company near La Fortuna was insanely fun and challenging. It was the perfect mix of excitement and relaxation, with the cherry on top being the great guides and breathtaking views along the ride. We rafted for a full two hours and the complimentary lunch was out of this world delicious!
Now, the hot springs in La Fortuna/Arenal are not necessarily what I would consider extreme, but the experience is definitely challenging at times and one you cannot get anywhere else.
The Baldi Hot Springs are situated within their beautiful resort hotel and spa; a nice change from the rustic outdoor activities we had been doing most of the trip. As you explore, you can experience 25 thermal pools that increase in temperature as you get further into the resort. Ending with a steamy experience at the top, where a waterfall cascades with water temperatures reaching almost 120 degrees! There is something oddly fantastic about the heat, if you can bear it!
Along with these beautiful pools, Baldi has fantastic wet bars you can swim up to, beautiful water features including a “grotto” that has an awesome steamy cave, a kid’s area with slides and other water fun, as well as a great buffet to make sure the drinks don’t hit you too hard in the heated water.
One thing about Baldi that is definitely extreme are their water slides. And boy did we underestimate them! You will come flying out of these slides at high speeds, but they are a ton of fun.
In Manuel Antonio, our group decided to try their luck with surfing. Most had never done it before, and those who had, still considered themselves novice. The surf in Manuel Antonio was perfect for beginners. Our group rented boards from our hostel, and were given complimentary surf lessons! A few of our friends got up, albeit briefly, while the rest of us enjoyed a beautiful sunset on one of the most gorgeous beaches we’ve ever been to!
SNORKELING & DIVING
Manuel Antonio has a dozens of snorkeling and diving companies that will take you to great locations to catch a glimpse of underwater worlds. We had the unfortunate luck of scheduling a snorkeling/diving day on a very stormy afternoon. Although our hopes of seeing aquatic treasures were squandered, we took advantage of our booking with King Catamaran.
We enjoyed a beautiful boat ride with enough complimentary drinks that we quickly forgot about the rain, some fun water slides, and a delicious traditional Costa Rican meal. We also took it upon ourselves to start a conga line that eventually got everyone on the boat out of their seats, dancing, and having a great time. Just another example of how making the best out of a bad situation can create amazing memories!
In case you can’t guess, this is just a handful of what Costa Rica has to offer. We only visited three areas and were able to fit all of these activities into ten days! Be prepared, if you sign up for an adventure in Costa Rica, you may need to come home to get a vacation from your vacation! Pura Vida!
Contributor Steph Brochey Zarbo
A Buffalo, NY native, Steph and her husband Brandon co-founded We Must Dash, a group adventure travel company. They are focused on providing millennials easy and affordable travel options to exotic locations all over the world. Steph handles marketing, video/photo, creating itineraries, as well as being an on-the-road experience guide. During the summer months you can find her in her other gig as a wedding videographer, and traveling during the cold Buffalo winters. Steph loves the outdoors, her yellow lab Thai, and trying to recreate delicious dishes she’s enjoyed on the road! Instagram: @wemustdash
A lot has changed in Cuba since I wrote my first guide at the beginning of 2015. Here is an up-to-date guide to help you plan your next Cuba trip!
During the extent of a fifty-four-year embargo, Cuba has remained a mystery to the American public, yet with the recent move to re-establish relations with the US, curiosity seekers can now see what the country really has to offer.
What allure does Cuba’s antiquated setting hold? I would compare it to the exclusive nightclubs and lounges of LA—the more out of reach, the more enticing it becomes. A forbidden fruit, if you will. Only 90 miles off the southern most point of the United States and there is still so much to learn about this small island nation.
Is it Legal for US Citizens to Travel to Cuba?
Yes! It is absolutely legal for you to travel to Cuba. However there is a catch, US citizens can not visit Cuba for tourism. On my last visit to Cuba, I was checking in at the counter and the ticketing agent was discussing the process for those boarding the flights to Cuba from the US. She has to fill out the reason each passenger is going, and when they say "vacation", she laughs and says "pick another reason".
Here is your list of legal reasons for a visit!
The 12 legal types of visits to Cuba without prior government permission:
- Family visits
- Official government business
- Professional research and meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions and athletic competitions
- "Support for the Cuban people"
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
- Exporting or importing information or "information materials"
- Travel related to some authorized export transactions
Be sure to check the US Treasury Departments website for more information.
How to get to Cuba
The first time I visited in 2015, I had to go through Mexico to avoid filling out a ton of extra paperwork, even though my visit was completely legal. Now, you are able to get a visa and get on any flight from the US.
There are many non-stop flights from the states on from the US to Havana. Some carriers include: American, United, Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit. Some of the major cities include: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Charlotte, Tampa, Los Angeles, and Houston.
What Documents Do I Need?
- Valid Passport
- Health Form
- Custom Form (given to you on the plane)
Where to Get Your Cuban Visa
If you decide to go through Mexico, your visa will only be $20. If you go through the US it can range from $50-$100, or even more depending on shipping.
If you are traveling from the US, be sure to get the correct visa. The visa you need coming from the US is the pink one and is not the same visa sold in Canada or Mexico. On my most recent trip to Cuba, I used Cuba Travel Services. They have locations at many of the airports such as LAX, FLL, and MIA where you can get the visa the same day as your flight. Cuba Travel Services is able to ship your visa right to your door, or, if you live nearby like me, you can drive to their office and pick it up!
You Need Special Travel Insurance
In addition to a visa, you will need special travel insurance to travel to Cuba. Many of the airlines flying from the US directly to Cuba will provide this special insurance in the cost of your flight. This makes it easy, and one less thing you have to do. If you are unsure, contact your airline or check their website ASAP.
Will I have Wi-Fi?
Expect limited connectivity while you are in Cuba. More touristy areas, such as Havana and Varadero will have more wi-fi zones then more remote areas. If you are staying in a Casa Particular (AKA: A house or apartment such as Airbnb), you shouldn't count on accessing Wi-Fi from the home.
Understanding the Political Climate
Before hopping on a flight to Cuba, understanding the changes in the political and social changes is important. In recent years, brave Cuban citizens have taken steps toward capitalism. Cuban nationals, mainly in the big cities such as Havana began to open their homes as businesses. Leaving the poor paying government jobs for the unknown, they opened B&Bs and restaurants, catering to the tourists. Now these entrepreneurs are making on average $40 or more a day, when government workers (including doctors and lawyers) are only making $30 a month.
Is Cuba Expensive?
Cuba is certainly not a bargain, but it doesn't have to be expensive. Meals and drinks are less expensive than in the states, but some things are the same price you would pay in the US. If you plan to bring home souvenirs, you will be spending money quickly. Additionally, evening activities like the Tropicana can be fairly expensive.
Where to Exchange Currency
Exchanging currency can be done at airports, hotels and banks. Banks often have long lines, so your best bet is your hotel. You should also exchange some cash at the airport to get you through a couple of days just incase. The exchange rate for USD is a fixed rate of 1-1, but you will be taxed. The tax is around 13% everywhere so you will get $87 for every $100 you exchange.
Remember, Cuba still will not be able to accept US credit or debit cards. That means you can't use the ATM. Bring everything you need + extra. My recommendation is to bring $500-1000 more then you think you will need.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Cuba are expensive. Unless you have a high budget for your trip, your best bet is to stay at a Casa Particular. These used to be difficult to book before arriving. Thanks to the censorship on the US internet become a little more relaxed when it comes to Cuba, it is now very easy. Airbnb is now able to help you book accommodations in Cuba.
The other great part about staying in a Casa Particular is that it supports locals and capitalism. It is a unique time in history for Cubans, especially those venturing into the untamed waters of capitalism in a still very much communist nation. The money from a stay in a guesthouse is going directly into the pockets of the Cuban Entrepreneurs instead of the hotels (which are government owned or operated).
How to Get Around in Cuba
The best way to get around in Havana is to walk, take taxis, bicycle-taxis and coco-taxis. Once you leave Havana, you will want to rent a car, or be on a tour. (I'm more of a do-it-yourself type of girl, so I would opt for skipping a tour and renting a car and hiring your own private tour guide to make the most of it).
Maps.me is essential for traveling throughout Cuba without using wifi or data. Simply download the app on your smartphone and then download the country map for Cuba. Your phone will know where you are at all times. This is great for walking or driving directions and really comes in handy when looking for certain restaurants, hotels or museums.
Throughout Cuba you will find a mixture of European and US outlets. There will also be a mixture of 220v and 110v outlets. Some places I stayed had both right next to each other. Bring an outlet converter just incase, but don't count on needing it.
Hiring a Tour Guide
Hiring a guide in Havana was a lot more difficult in 2015 then it is now. I used to recommend a guide I used on my first trip, and he was decent, but since then I have met the best guide in all of Cuba!
I first read about Frank in a 2012 copy of National Geographic Traveler. Frank used to be a guide for those really expensive National Geographic Tours that were like $6,000 a person before flights. He has worked with high-end clients for years. When I contacted him, he was working for an organization that was government owned and wasn't able to do any private guiding. Shortly after I connected with him, he was given a 5 year US tourist visa, which is basically unheard of for a Cuban National. Before I knew it, we were hanging out in Los Angeles on his first visit to the United States. Frank has visited the US twice, and understands what American travelers are looking for in their experience. Frank is a very talented tour guide that can show you around Havana for just 4 hours, or guide you through the entire country over 10 days. I highly recommend booking him well in advance, as his guide services are highly sought after. And, if you are wondering how his English is, it's better than mine!
Where to Go in Cuba
- Get off-the-beaten-path by visiting Fusterlandia, a mosaic masterpiece rivaling Rio's Selaron Steps, on the outskirts of Havana.
- Have a daiquiri at the famed daiquiri bar El Floridita. Hemingway still holds the record of 14 daiquiris in one sitting (doubles with no sugar)!
- Take the ferry to the Christ the Redeemer statue
- Have a frothy mojito and dinner at Doña Eutemia. Be sure to make reservations well in advance as this spot books up quickly.
- Experience a night at the Tropicana
- Take a ride in a 1950's convertible (You can get one easily outside of Iberostar Parque Central hotel)
- Visit the handicraft market nearby the port
- Take the train on an adventure to explore the abandoned town of Hershey, where Hershey chocolate used to be
- Have a mojito at the roof of Ambos Mundos, and be sure to check out Hemingway's old room
- Take a 7 or 9 day motorcycle tour across Cuba with Che Guevara's youngest son as your tour guide with La Poderosa Tours (plan well in advance)
- Go SCUBA diving
- Take a salsa lesson
- Walk the streets with a mojito in hand
- Listen to live music
- Go dancing at Disco Ayala, the club that is actually in a cave
- Go on a waterfall hike to the Rio Seco waterfall
- Visit Finca Agroecologica, the organic farm and restaurant for a delicious dinner with a view
- Head to the central square at night for free music and dancing
- Visit a local tobacco farm to understand the process of turning tobacco into the world famous Cuban cigars
Where to Buy Cigars & Rum
Cigars should NEVER be purchased on the streets or in homes. They will be a ripoff and will be fake. Buy authentic cigars in one of three places.
- In a government run shop (I recommend the shop in the Parque Central Iberostar Hotel in Havana)
- The farms in Viñales
- The duty-free shop at the airport right before you depart.
Is Cuba Safe?
- Cuba is very safe. There are several reasons why. Punishments for small crimes are quite large, which deters people from committing crimes.
- There are almost no guns in Cuba.
- Communities are tight-knit, which means someone is always paying attention and people look out for one-another.
Will I like Cuba?
Cuba is a place that travelers will undoubtably love, and high maitenence tourists will loathe. If you are the type of traveler that is adventurous and willing to go with the flow, you will love it. If you need a plan, expect luxury, and don't want to mingle with locals, you may have a tough time (unless you plan to rarely leave your hotel). On my most recent trip, despite being electrocuted while charging my camera battery and being locked inside my guesthouse, I still loved my trip and loved the country.
Share by Pining These Pins to Pinterest:
As a travel writer, it is crucial for me to stay connected to my audience on social media while traveling. Skyroam has been a life-changing device for me when I am traveling the world.
What Is Skyroam?
Skyroam is a global hotspot that allows you to access the internet from your phone and computer from nearly anywhere on the planet with a phone signal. It uses 4G & 3G to provide "unlimited" data. It's a great way to avoid unwanted roaming and data charges from your wireless provider.
Skyroam has the ability to connect up to 5 devices. Although, I don’t suggest giving your password to friends because you won’t be able to get them to log off your device and it will bog down your connection speed. This little device is only about the size of one of the original iPods (remember those?), but it packs powerful punch!
What Does It Cost?
There are two ways to use Skyroam. You can rent the device free of charge or buy the device for $99. The service works in 24 hour periods.
Cost of Service:
- Rent- 9.95/day
- Own - $99 +$8/day
Buying the Skyroam device is the best option for frequent travelers. If you don’t travel often, then renting may be the best option. The break-even point for renting vs. owning is aproxamately 51 days of use. So, if you plan to travel more than 51 days while using Skyroam, it would be best to purchase the device.
Does it Work?
I have had excellent luck with Skyroam. It has worked in almost every country I have traveled to, (with the exceptions being Myanmar and Cuba). The battery has been great, as one charge lasts an entire day of using social media, uploading photos and checking emails!
Where Does It Work?
Skyroam currently works in over 100 countries world wide. To see a list of covered countries, click here.
Why You Need Skyroam
- With Skyroam you won't have to deal with overage fees from sneaky wireless providers, where oftentimes it's unclear how much data you are using and what your bill will be.
- Skyroam allows users to access the wifi as needed. Only use it when you need it (in 24 hour increments) and then you only pay for what you use!
- Now there is no need to hassle with your wireless provider before a trip. No need to tell Skyroam when you are leaving the country and where you are going. Simply turn it on when you get to your destination, and hit start!
- Skyroam will give you unlimited data. It will only slow the speed down slightly when you use a lot of data.
- No need to change to a local SIM card ever again, which is great because half the time they never work for me, even though I have a globally unlocked iPhone.
- Skyroam is secure and your hotspot is password protected. This is a much more secure option than using public wifi where you are subject to vulnerabilities!
I use Skyroam on my travels all over the world. It has made staying connected easier, more affordable, and more reliable! It has been a game-changer for me, and they have certainly earned my stamp of approval!
Pin This Article To Pinterest: