What Type Of Traveller Are We?

– By Gabby Lee-Sinclair –

We’ve often found the hardest part about researching itineraries and reading other people’s commentary on places they’ve visited and travel recommendations, is knowing what kind of traveller they are and if we have similar interests, expectations and budgets.

Below is to help give you a flavour of what type of traveller Chris and I are:

Chrabbytravels sitting above Machu Picchu, Peru
Sitting above Machu Picchu, Peru

LONG TERM VS. SHORT TERM TRAVELLER

Although we would love to spend months exploring a single country, the reality is, our bucket list is long and our time to see it all not endless.

We don’t try to do it all, but rather pick our ‘must see’ cities/sites within a country which usually means we’ll spend on average 2 – 3.5 weeks per country.

BACKPACKER OR LUXURY HOTELS?

We have a budget we need to stick to, but gone are our backpacking days!

We always have private rooms (sometimes with shared bathrooms), and our preference is for lower – midrange Airbnb’s or 3-star hotels when we travel. We do splurge on more luxurious accommodation in the form of more delightful Airbnb’s every so often 😊

AirBnb, Iguazu Falls, Brazil
One of our nicer AirBnb’s, Iguazu Falls, Brazil

COMFORT OR COST?

Like many others on a budget, we try to find the cheapest option and are happy to take public transport around.
We do however, weigh up our time against cost, and if it saves us a considerable amount of time or effort for not too much more money, we’ll pay the extra.

PAID OR FREE ACTIVITIES?

We love free activities as much as the next person (hello walking tours!), but alas we have found often things in life (and travel) are not always free.

We budget for activities in every country we visit, and while we don’t do activities just for the sake of it, we pick and choose those we are genuinely interested in. Often, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for us and what’s the point of travelling all that way to only see it from the outside?

Quarry Trail hike, Peru, Machu Picchu
Quarry Trail hike, Peru

OUTDOOR OR CITY FOLK?

We really enjoy the outdoors. I would not describe ourselves as die-hard campers, although the occasional trip is very enjoyable, we do love going on nice hikes, especially when on holidays – even more so if the views are worth it!

We are both young and relatively fit professionals so generally seek the more ‘active’ option in most scenarios.

Inca Trail, Sucre, Bolivia

EARLY RISERS?

We are night people!
This means we love a good sleep in, but at the same time we know the value of “the early bird catches the worm”, so when it is worth it, we’ll be there bright and early!

Peru & The Quarry Trail Trek to Macchu Picchu – Travel Tips & Tricks

Peru, famous for one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. There are so many ways to see Machu Picchu, some more common than others. The known Inca Trail is one, but have you heard of the Quarry Trail?

Everybody has heard of the Inca trail in Peru, and for many, it’s a bucket list item for when they finally plan a trip to Peru and visit the infamous Machu Picchu. My husband and I were firmly in this boat when we booked our Peru intrepid tour. 

But when we were asked what hiking option we wished to do: Inca trail or quarry trail, we were intrigued. What was this quarry trail trek option?

The quarry trail is another hiking option for those wanting to see the Peruvian landscape and Machu Picchu and in our opinion, turned out to be our best option! Keep reading to see why 🙂 

How can you visit Machu Picchu?

There are various itineraries for Machu Picchu, but generally, the three most common options for visiting Machu Picchu are: 

  1. No hiking, you catch a train to the town Aguas Caliente and from there, hop on one of the many regular buses from the town up to Machu Picchu. This is ideal for visitors who don’t wish to trek or have limited time visiting this wonder of the world. 
  2. Hike the very well known 4D/3N Inca trail and on the last day, enter Machu Picchu at sunrise through the sun gate. 
  3. Hike alternative trails, including the 3D/2N Quarry Trail. At the end of the 3rd day after trekking, check into a hotel in Aguas Caliente and on the following morning (4th day), catch a bus from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu. 

For options 1 and 2 there is a wealth of information out there already, particularly from people who have hiked the Inca trail and lived to tell the tale. 

Below we would like to share our experience of choosing option 3 where we hiked the Quarry Trail and why we chose it over the classic Inca Trail. 

What is the Quarry Trail?

This 26km 3 day, 2 night hike takes you through gorgeous Peruvian landscapes, ascending to a maximum altitude of 4,450m (14,599ft) – slightly higher than the classic Inca Trail. Permits are not required to hike this trail, and while you think that may mean more hikers, it’s the opposite! 

Day 1: Beginning at 9 am, you first drive to Choquequilla, a ceremonial place for the Inca for a ‘test run’ mini hike. After the visit, you’re driven to the starting point at Rafq’a where you begin the 7km ascent from 3,600m up to your campsite at 3,750m. 

Day 2: From here, you’ll trek for 14km through two passes, reaching your highest elevation of 4,450m at Kuychicassa pass. You’ll see sacred sites including Intipunku (‘Sun gate’, though not to be confused with the Machu Picchu sungate!) and camp at Choquetacarpo at 3,750m.  

Day 3: Another early morning wake up, but with a more leisurely 7km hike back down to Ollantaytambo, with stops including Kachiqata quarry for which the trek gets its name. You’ll arrive back in Ollantaytambo town around midday and catch a train back to Aguas Caliente and spend the night in a hotel there. 

Day 4: After yesterdays shower and good night rest in a comfortable bed, take a bus from the town up to Machu Picchu at 6 am and catch the sun hitting Machu Picchu first thing in the morning. You’ll spend the day in Machu Picchu with a guided tour from 9 am – 11 am. 

Why choose the Quarry Trail over the Inca Trail?

While we didn’t do the Inca Trail, we were part of a group where fellow group members did do the classic route, and of course, we couldn’t help but compare notes. Keep in mind though our observations are based on what we experienced and what we factually know about both the Inca Trail and Quarry Trail. 

Below are some of our thoughts on why the Quarry Trail was an excellent fit for us and why it could be a better alternative for you too:

1)    You won’t be hiking with 499 of your closest friends 

Perhaps the best differentiator between the Quarry Trail and Inca Trail is the number of other tourist hikers you’ll encounter along your trek. On the Inca Trail, permits for 500 hikers are issued each day and sell out months in advance. This means that throughout your 4 days, you’ll be hiking alongside many other tourist groups, tour guides and their porters. 

In contrast, you are virtually hiking alone with your group on the Quarry Trail. During our 3 days, we encountered one other hiking group briefly on our second day; otherwise, it was all locals going about their daily lives. You truly feel you are trekking off the beaten path in the serene Peruvian wilderness! 

2) Be treated to unbeatable views 

Every day during our 3-day hike brought the most incredible views of Peruvian mountains and valleys. The scenery from start to finish was spectacular, with a particular highlight waking up on the 3rd day in the clouds as you looked out to views of Nevado Veronica mountain.   

3) No dreaded stairs

If you’ve read up on the Inca Trek, you’ll know the second day of the trek is essentially a giant stair master session at altitude. On the Quarry Trail however, there are virtually no stairs! It is predominantly meandering paths through the Peruvian landscape, and while there are definite inclines or steep parts, there is no full day dedicated to feeling the burn like in the Inca Trail. So, if you suffer from bad knees or ankles, this could be a key difference. 

4) Stress less with emergency horses! 

If you are worried about fitness levels or injuries, a bonus aspect of the Quarry Trail is it comes with emergency horses. Due to the terrain, pack horses are used to carry all bags, food and equipment (as opposed to the traditional porters on the Inca trail). Included in this team of horses are two horses designated “emergency horses”, which as the name implies, can be used in the case of any individuals falling ill or injured. 

On our trek, we had one lady fall ill with the flu on the first day, and two others suffer more severe altitude sickness. So for some parts of the trek, under the request of our guide they were popped up onto these horses. If these individuals had on the Inca Trail, they would have been forced to ‘tough it out’ or likely be turned back to town by their guides. 

Another minor side benefit of having horses as opposed to porters is the weight limit for your packed duffel is a little bit more lax. On the Inca Trail bags are weighed precisely to ensure Porters are not carrying additional weight, however, on the Quarry Trail this didn’t happen. That’s not to say you can bring your whole suitcase though as the duffel bags provided are limited in size anyways. 

5) Still physically challenging

Although emergency horses are provided, they are just that – only for emergencies and when needed. You are still climbing to elevations of 4,450m, and as two relatively fit and young people, we found the Quarry Trail physically demanding without being overwhelming. 

6) Meet locals and experience their way of life

A wonderful aspect of the Quarry Trek is passing through small local towns and having many opportunities to meet locals and see their way of life. 

Before embarking on our tour, our group leader took us to the farmer markets where we were able to purchase fresh fruits or biscuits to distribute to families we met along the way. 

On the morning of our second day, our guide provided wonderful insight into the lives of local Peruvians, with one family kindly inviting us into their homes and allowing us to see firsthand how they lived. 

7)    Only 3 days and 2 nights camping

Another benefit of the Quarry Trail for us was the length of the trek. At 3 days and 2 nights, it is 1 night shorter than the Inca Trail and we felt it was the perfect amount of time for us.  

8) You’ll be clean and well-rested for your visit to Machu Picchu

 When you finish trekking on the 3rd day and return to a hotel in Aguas Caliente, you’ll be rewarded with the best hot shower of your life. You’ll be able to sleep in a comfortable bed the night before and be well-rested (not to mention clean!) when you enter Machu Picchu. That simple luxury should not be discounted! 

9) See Machu Picchu without the hordes of tourists & still visit the famous Sungate

As you catch a bus up to Machu Picchu on the morning of the 4th day, you can be one of the first people to enter Machu Picchu. You’ll be able to experience the site people-free. As we arrived in the first wave of buses, we were also treated to seeing the first rays of sunlight hit the Incan site. 

A common misconception is that the Inca Trail allows you to be amongst the first people entering Machu Picchu. Whilst it does allow you a magical sight of seeing Machu Picchu through the Sungate at sunrise (albeit at a distance), you’ll need time to hike back down to the site. In contrast, those visiting Machu Picchu from Aguas Caliente by bus will enter the grounds well before the hikers get there. 

10) You’ll still be able to see the famous Intipunku Sungate

 After entering Machu Picchu by the main gates and snapping a few hundred photos, there is still the opportunity to hike up to the famous Intipuku Sungate. And the best part? By the time you arrive all the Inca Trek hikers will have started their descent down – so there won’t be a huge crowd! 

Also, whilst not the Machu Picchu Sungate, there is also a sun gate to be seen on the Quarry Trail. The vista from this viewpoint simply took our breath away. Emerging from the mist, it offered incredible views over the valley and was well worth the slight detour! This sun gate is located just before you reach the camp on the 2nd day and only adds an extra 15-20 minutes of walking time.  

11) No 3 am wake-up call! 

On the 4th and last day of the Inca Trail, hikers experience a 3 am wake up call and approx 1.5-hour wait in the cold outside the gates of Machu Picchu. While the gates only open at 5:30 am, many groups get up early to be the first ones in. This early wake up is also necessitated by the fact that porters need to pack up campsites by 4 am to be able to catch their early train back to town. If they miss the early morning one, their next train isn’t till nightfall! 

In contrast, if you are travelling to Machu Pichu by bus from Aguas Caliente, you can head down to the bus stop at any time you wish. If you do want to be one of the first ones in, however, you may need to start lining up from 4:30/5am. Being said, we only arrived at the bus stop at 5:50 am but through our wonderful guide, were able to jump straight onto a bus and bypass the queue. We’re still not quite sure how he managed it, so definitely don’t bank on your guide being able to do it too!  

Are you interested in booking the Quarry Trail?

We booked our Quarry Trail trek as part of our Peru/Bolivia intrepid tour here. [https://www.intrepidtravel.com/en/peru/explore-peru-bolivia-116640]

Just some final bits and pieces:

  • Keep an eye out for travel expos or sign up to Intrepid sale updates as you can easily get this tour at a discount. 
  • Remember to check your insurance covers activities at altitude!
  • Remember to check the weather at that time of year and bring layers. You get pretty hot trekking during the day but at night, temperatures are cold.  
  • If you have them, pack your trekking boots. 

 Being said, my husband and I completed this Quarry Trek with regular sneakers (and terrible tread!) with no issues. Luckily it didn’t rain during our trek as if it did, I think it may have been a different story…3

Check out some of our tips and tricks when travelling to Peru.

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12 Things to Know Before Visiting Machu Picchu: Tips & Tricks

Machu Picchu is one of the most incredible 7 wonders of the world. It’s not surprising given its vast beautiful views and breathtaking old ruins high atop the mountain valley. But you want to make sure you’re prepared before visiting, so here are our top 12 tips and tricks to think about before visiting the famous site.

1. Where to stay

It’s easiest to stay in Aguas Calientes, the closest based town to the infamous site if you’re not hiking into Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. There is a range of accommodation on offer in Aguas Calientes, and from here you can easily catch the regular buses departing every 10 minutes for USD24 return that takes between 25-35 minutes each way. [ https://peruways.com/aguascalientes-bus/ } 

If you’re feeling more active though, you can hike up to the entrance too relatively easily for about 1.5 – 2 hours. There is a clearly signposted trail.

2. Pre-purchase your tickets

Pre-purchase your tickets online via this government website for SOL152 (~AUD68) per adult. [https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio] This is recommended particularly during peak season or if you plan to hike Huayna Picchu as well to make sure you don’t miss out!  Once you purchase your ticket though, write down your reservation number – many people have complained about never receiving a confirmation email, but if you have this number, they can pull it up and re-print the ticket for you.

Looking over the incredible Machu Picchu site.
Looking over the incredible Machu Picchu site.

3. Know your entry time

All tickets are split into hourly entry times now from 6 am, and you are officially given 4 hours to view the site. Being said, there is still much confusion over enforcement of this rule and when we visited in May 2019, people could stay as long as they desired as they have no way of enforcing ticket times and ushering people out yet.

4. You can’t leave and re-enter

You’re not allowed to leave and re-enter the site on a normal Machu Picchu ticket. Once you’re in, you’re in!

5. Toilets!

The only bathrooms at Machu Pichu are located outside the entrance and cost SOL2, so make sure to go before you head inside as you can’t exit and re-enter the site (unless you hold a Huayna Picchu ticket as well). It’s a stupid rule but one they haven’t seemed to address yet!

6. Get a guide

Official no visitors are allowed in without a guide on their first visit. Whilst listed as new regulation, many people have entered without a guide as, like many other regulations, enforcement has been quite lax. We recommend going with a guide to best understand the history and various aspects of the site, and what’s more, they’ll know the best route to take as tourists aren’t allowed to backtrack to certain areas once you’ve passed specific checkpoints. The guards stationed at various points will turn you back around.

7. Visiting Intipuku, the Sun Gate

Your regular ticket to Machu Picchu includes access to Intipuku (the famous sun gate) and the Inca bridge. If you wish to see these, however, make sure you visit them before you descend into the ruins as you aren’t allowed to backtrack up to these two spots!

A quick shot from the Sun Gate, looking back over Machu Picchu.
A quick shot from the Sun Gate, looking back over Machu Picchu.

8. No disposable plastics

Officially, only reusable water bottles are permitted within Machu Picchu; however, we saw many people with one-time plastic bottles, so it looks like this rule is not yet enforced.

9. Take a small backpack only

Other things to leave behind are large backpacks (you could be asked to store it in a locker), food, tripods, selfie-sticks and drones.

10. Best time to go

Our recommendation is going early. This does mean trying to catch one of the first buses from 5:30 am. When we rocked up with our tour guide at 6 am to the bus stop, there was already a considerable line as it’s a first come first serve basis, with many people in queue as early as 4:30am. We were lucky, and thanks to our guide managed to skip the line, but I would recommend going as early as possible if you’re looking to watch the first sun rays hit Machu Picchu.

We can wholeheartedly say it’s magical to watch and so worth going early and getting those first few snaps of the incredible site people-free!ho

The one and only, Machu Picchu.
The one and only, Machu Picchu.

11. A Special Passport Souvenir

Bring your passport and get a souvenir Machu Picchu stamp right outside the exit as a memento!

12. Keep Warm!

Don’t forget to bring layers if you’re heading there early. It was quite chilly early morning, but by 10:30 am and after hiking up and back to the sun gate, it was hot!

Thinking about doing the Inca Trail? Have you thought about the Quarry Trail instead?

We’ll have post up soon giving you all the exciting insights into trekking the hidden gem that is the Quarry Trail.

In the mean time check out our latest post on, tips and tricks when visiting Peru.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Peru: Travel Tips & Tricks

Peru is one of the most beautiful countries, tucked away one the West Coast of South America. Home to one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu, Peru is a must see destination for any casual or adventure traveler. But before you go, here are some tips and tricks we picked up on our journey through Peru.

When we visited Peru, we had the luxury of being on an intrepid tour so whilst it generates a different perspective when travelling, there are nevertheless a few travel tips and tricks we picked up along the way.  

1) Yellow fever vaccination 

Per the SmartTraveller website, “You’ll need to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on entry into Australia if you’ve visited Peru in the previous six days.” [https://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/americas/south/pages/peru.aspx#entry_and_exit]

The US CDC also has the recommendation to be vaccinated for any travellers heading to the Amazonas, Cusco or Puno region. To be safe, add yellow fever vaccination to your list of things to do before you leave the country – particularly if you are heading to the Amazon region. Just remember to ideally have your vaccination 10 days before your arrival in the risky areas.

Looking out over the Amazon River, just as the sun sets behind an oncoming storm.
Looking out over the Amazon River, just as the sun sets behind an oncoming storm.

The good news is, the validity of the yellow fever vaccination was also extended in 2016 from 10 years to the duration of a person’s life – so you only need to be vaccinated once for life! If you are ever considering heading to Africa, that’s another incentive to get it as the vaccination is mandatory for travel to most African countries.

Don’t have your yellow fever vaccination or need a prescription but you’re just about to fly out?

If you’re like us and suddenly realise you may need a yellow fever vaccination to enter Bolivia (let alone head back to Australia!), don’t panic. There is a medical clinic at Lima airport who can get you vaccinated in under 5 minutes. Located beneath a set of escalators, next to the women’s bathrooms and directly opposite the gate 11 exit, this little medical clinic is a godsend. For only SOL145 you can get fully vaccinated for yellow fever (or measles, hep b or even the flu if you need!).

2) Don’t fall for tourist trap mobile plans! 

When we arrived in Lima, like most tourists, we checked out the mobile plans available at the airport. USD20 for 2GB by Entel or USD49 for 3 GB and unlimited calls nationally in 30 days seem somewhat reasonable when compared to Australian prices, but felt slightly expensive for Peru. We held off, and we are so glad we did!

A good tip and trick, is to research the best mobile plans before travelling to the country. But I guess that’s why you’re here!

Our tip is to go to the Claro store direct when you arrive. There was no waiting time, and including the SIM activation fee, we ended up only paying SOL35 (~AUD15) for 3.5GB of data over 30 days – much cheaper than any ‘tourist’ package or plan we saw at the airport. 

3) Withdrawing cash fee-free

While Visa is the most accepted card throughout Peru, like many other South American countries, cash is still widely used and convenient, particularly for tipping, paying for local food or souvenirs and entry to local attractions. As such, you might find yourself withdrawing cash quite often.

A couple of tips and tricks so you won’t be hit with local ATM fees? 

Look for Banco de la Nacion, or the “Multi red” red coloured ATM signs. It’s one of the few ATM’s in Peru with no local ATM fees.

 If these are hard to find, the lowest fee-paying ATM is BCP costing SOL13.50 (~AUD6) per withdrawal. 

 Whatever you do though, avoid BBVA which charges SOL25 (~AU11) per withdrawal! 

4) Tips and tricks for purchasing Alpaca products

Peru is famous for its alpaca and baby alpaca wear, however, be warned as every street corner vendor will swear what they’re selling you is “genuine baby alpaca”. If it costs only BOB$50 (~AU$20) for a baby alpaca jumper, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably not what they’re claiming it to be.

Meeting our first Lama up close and personal.  Time for hug!
Meeting our first Lama up close and personal. Time for hug!

Many of the jumpers sold by many stall owners are a synthetic blend, so make sure you know what you’re paying for. The basic test for real alpaca is it should feel cold to the touch – always, even if in sunlight. If you can as well, break off some fibres and light them as real alpaca will burn like hair whereas synthetic will melt. Genuine 100% alpaca jumpers will costs no less than BOB$200 (at a minimum with baby alpaca even more!) but if you’re still unsure head to stores such as Inca Brand or LAM where you’ll pay a bit more but be confident the garments are what they say they are.

Being said, a blend of alpaca and wool still makes a beautiful jumper!

5) Don’t drink the local water 

Unfortunately, all water in Peru is not potable, so you’ll need to purchase large bottles of water if you haven’t invested in a lifestraw. Many hotels will leave you smaller bottles of water for brushing your teeth, but we brushed our teeth using just tap water during our travels with no issues.

6) Allow yourself at least 2 days in Cusco to acclimatise

Cusco is often considered the gateway to Machu Picchu, but in itself is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru. 

 If you are flying into Cusco from Lima, remember to buffer time to acclimatise to the altitude as Cusco sits at 3,400m above sea level. In our opinion, I would allow at least 2 days in Cusco to acclimatise and see the former centre of the Inca Empire. This beautiful city has a lot to offer and is a great place to pick up any last-minute trekking items or shopping!

The one and only, Machu Picchu.
The one and only, Machu Picchu.

We are not doctors by any stretch of the imagination, but some key things to know about altitude sickness are:

  • Altitude sickness unfortunately can affect anyone – it doesn’t matter if you’re the tallest, strongest, most lean or yoga-loving person – there’s no way to predict who and how badly it will impact an individual.
  • There is medication you can take, commonly called Diamox, or Acetazolamide (if you need to buy it in Peru) that can alleviate the symptoms but it’s best to start these 2 days before you arrive at altitude. Be warned though it is a diuretic, so it will make you pee a lot more. It’s almost a glimpse into life at the age of 80+….
  • Stay hydrated and aim to drink 1.5 – 2L of water per day. Hydration plays a crucial role in helping you acclimatise!
  • If you are starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness i.e. headaches, dizziness, nausea or a general feeling of unwellness, rest immediately and if it gets worse, see a doctor. 

 Most hotels also hold oxygen tanks for guests as having 10-15 minutes of oxygen can also help alleviate the symptoms, so ask if you need it! 

7) Make sure to try the local favourite ceviche

Ceviche is fresh, raw fish marinated in citrus juice, typically spiced and is a highly popular dish in Peru, and definite must-try. Throughout Peru ceviche is prepared slightly differently, so why not try it in each region and see which one is your favourite?

8) Don’t flush toilet paper

Alas, like almost every other South American country, flushing toilet paper is a big no-no. Instead, look for the small covered bin in every toilet and kindly dispose of your used papers in there.

9) Try cocoa tea

The famous local cocoa tea is worth trying, if only for the cultural significance the cocoa plant holds in this part of the world. Sworn by locals to combat altitude sickness, it can come in handy those first few days acclimatising in Cusco. If you’re not a tea fan, try chewing it like the locals! (I warn you now though, it gives you a definite buzz if you chew it!) As it is a stimulant, it’s best tried in the morning rather than just before bedtime. 

Having a hot chocolate, looking out over the main square in Cusco, Peru.
Having a hot chocolate, looking out over the main square in Cusco, Peru.

 Also, don’t try and take any back into Australia – I’m 100% sure you’ll be on the next episode of Border Security.

10) Visiting Machu Picchu?

Make sure you’re ready for crowds and entry requirements.

With visitors topping over 5,000 a day in the past, the Peruvian government in 2019 introduced a host of new legislation governing Machu Pichu and restricting the number of visitors to 2,500 per day.

The one and only, Machu Picchu.
The one and only, Machu Picchu.

Check out our post here Machu Picchu tips and tricks, on the top 14 things to know before visiting Macchu Picchu. This will help make sure you’re ready for the best experience.

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Top 12 Things to do While You’re Waiting at the Airport

Check out our list of 12 things to do while you’re waiting at the airport. These tips could score your free WiFi and money!

Waiting long hours in an airport can be very dull. This is especially true when you have a delayed flight and are stuck inside the terminal with nothing to do.

So whether you’re waiting long hours in an international or domestic airport, here is a list of the top 12 things you can do to get comfortable or kill some time while you wait.

Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first

(Or skip down to point 9 and the BONUS tips, which could earn you some extra cash):

1. Restaurant or bars

An obvious one, but there’s likely a lot of restaurants and food about the airport. Take some time to relax and eat or drink. In some airports, they also offer discount voucher booklets for select food and drink places – so keep an eye out for these as you may save a few dollars!

2. Explore the duty-free

Large international airports always have lots to explore and buy and best of all it’s tax free. Time for a shopping spree!

Duty free shopping

3. Plan your trip ahead

Not sure what you’re going to do in the country you’re about to visit? Have you worked out how to get to your accommodation from the airport? Downloaded google maps for the area?

Now’s the chance to sit and plan what you’re going to do and see.

Maybe we have some tips for you to help you out. Check out some the places we’ve visited for things to do, and tips and tricks to help you out.

4. Game of cards

Whether you’re outgoing and can talk to strangers, or you’re travelling with someone, a game of cards to kill time is never a bad idea. If you don’t have a deck, you can always buy one for pretty cheap at the newsagencies about the airport.

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

5. Get a massage

Feeling a bit stressed, and need to relax. Why not grab a massage somewhere. There’s often massage shops around the airport or if you’re looking for a cheaper option, even massage chairs to sit back and relax.

6. Watch people

Gabby and I love observing people, their traits, actions and stuff going on. It can be sometimes a bit rude, but when you have hours to kill and only people around you to entertain you, it’s hard to not start creating fun backstories for those around you.

7. Read a book or listen to a podcast

If you have a book with you, have a read.

You can check out the local book shops around the airport.

Or you can download the Kindle app on your phone to read or listen to podcasts.

8. Charge your devices

The great thing about modern airports is they now have a lot of spots around for you sit down and charge your devices. Look around for power points and USB ports to make sure you have enough power to last the flight.

Now for some of the things, you may not have thought of!

9. Join the local airport WiFi – For free!

Hear me out! Joining the WiFi be may obvious, but I have a couple of tricks for you to get a better and longer connection. Most airports have a free, but often limited, WiFi connection, but are some tricks to get around this.

Option 1 – Boingo:

If you have a Boingo membership, you’ll likely find your free WiFi quite easily, if it’s available. You can download the Boingo app on your phones app store (iOS or Android).

Tip: Sign up to 28 Degrees mastercard and receive a free subscription to Boingo. The best part about 28 degrees is it charges no international transaction fees and offers great conversion rates, so is perfect for travelling.

Option 2 – the Wi-Fi MAC hack trick

A nice trick, if you’re computer is already connected to a time capped free WiFi, is to fool the network with a different MAC address. 

You can download this tool for Windows, https://technitium.com/tmac/

You can try this one for MAC, https://github.com/halo/LinkLiar

You’ll need to log back in each time, but these tools will fool the network into thinking a new computer has connected, allowing you to have unlimited free WiFi while you’re relaxing at the airport.

Option 3 – Crowd source Free WiFi password tracker

A hit and miss sometimes, but this is an opportunity for some free WiFi, no tricks needed. This crowd source project aims to provide free passwords for airports around the world. Just search for your airport, and hope the passwords are there for you to use.

You can also check out more about this crowd source project here.

Check out the map here.

10. Hang out at a club lounge

Club lounges, although usually for members, often have a paid entry service, anywhere from $50USD and upwards. Inside is a buffet of free food, alcohol, and usually a better WiFi connection.

If you’re a club member for select airlines or credit cards, you’ll likely have a couple of free club passes up your sleeve (For example, AMEX or Virgin Credit cards). Check your memberships and credit card terms and conditions, and explore if you get any free lounge passes up your sleeve – you won’t regret it!

Tip: Check your credit cards for this perk early, ideally before your departure day as some banks will need time to process and send out your lounge pass.

11. Find a comfortable place to catch up on some sleep

There is this fantastic website we found, that shares where all of the best sleeping spots are at select airports. 

  • Click the link below, 
  • type in the airport you’re at, 
  • and find a place to get a bit of shut-eye.

Sleepinginairports.net

This saved our life after a 4:30am flight with 7 hour layover in Rome!

12. Games on your smartphone

Smartphones are the new potable consoles of 2019! Every month, new phones come out, with more features and more power than the last one. As they continue to improve, so does the quality of video games that are available on them.

Coming soon, we’ll share all of the best free and paid co-op games you can play to kill time. In the mean time, open up your app store, and type coop games for some choices, using your free WiFi connection of course.

BONUS tips for your next airport trip!

If you’re flying Singapore Airlines and are transiting through Singapore Airport, this one is for you!

If you are flying with Singapore airlines and are transitting through Singapore Airport, you are actually eligible for a $20 voucher to use at the Singapore Duty Free stores.

You can’t use this to buy food at the food courts, but you can look to get delicious snacks at the stores around the duty free shops. Or, perhaps it’s an additional discount for that nice bottle of liquor or piece of clothing you’ve been eyeing.

Flight delays in Europe, could mean you are eligible for some extra cash!

If you are flying within the EU, which means you are departing from an EU country and arriving in an EU country, and your flight is delayed by 3 hours (from you scheduled arrival), you are eligible to be subsidised by up to 600 Euros (depending on delay time and flight distance). Yes, you read this right.

So, for example, if your flight from Spain to Greece, has been held up and you arrive 3 hours and 1 second late, you can claim compensation.

This is one of the EU’s best kept secrets!

Check out some of the details, to see if you’re eligible to claim compensation; here.

The form to complete, if you were delayed is here.

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Crowd Source Project, Making Airport WiFi Accessible & Free to Everyone

Free WiFi at the airport, what!? You have to check this great tool to help you find all the latest passwords for accessing WiFi in airports around the world.

Started by FoxNomad, this remarkable initiative now helps travellers all over the world to access free WiFi at the airport.

Map with WiFi passwords

The full story can be found here

You can check out their story here: https://foxnomad.com/2016/04/26/map-wireless-passwords-airports-lounges-around-world-updated-regularly/

He also has a fantastic Facebook page, which keeps everyone up to date on the latest updates. There are also apps you can download from iOS and Android App stores. Links are available on FoxNomads page, linked above and here.

It’s an excellent tool, especially when it works.

You can check out some other WiFi hacks here, for you next visit to the AirPort.

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12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Bolivia: Tips & Tricks!

Bolivia has an ever-growing tourist following. With a rich culture and otherworldly landscapes, it’s a must-see destination in South America. But with any new country, you need to be prepared. Here are 12 of our tips and tricks, we wish we knew before travelling to Bolivia.

What Bolivia may lack in wealth, it more than makes up for in the richness of its varied landscapes, culture and history. One of the least developed and poorest of the South American countries, Bolivia still has a growing tourism culture. It’s increasingly growing in popularity as a travel destination, as it should be! This is due to its other-worldly salt flats, stunning landscapes spanning volcanoes, deserts and forests and varied local cultures (with over 37 official languages!). Bolivia has something to offer everyone.      

1)   Ensure you have enough time to acclimatise to the altitude

Bolivia is a country at very high altitudes. La Paz is the highest unofficial capital in the world* at over 3,600m above sea level, Uyuni – the gateway to the salt flats – lies at 3,656m, Potosi at 4,067m and Sucre at 2,810m.

As such you should consider a buffer in time (at least 24 hours) to acclimatise. This is particularly relevant if you are flying direct into La Paz. Ideally, to minimise the negative symptoms that might occur, a gradual climb up to altitude is best. However, this is not always possible, particularly if you are beginning your journey in La Paz.

We are not doctors by any stretch of the imagination, but some key things to know about altitude sickness are:

  • Altitude sickness, unfortunately, can affect anyone. There’s just no way to predict who and how badly it will impact an individual. It doesn’t matter if you’re the tallest, most muscular, lean or the most yoga-loving person.
  • There is medication you can take, commonly called Diamox, or Acetazolamide (if you need to buy it in Bolivia). This can help alleviate the symptoms. It’s recommended to start these two days before you arrive at altitude.
  • Be warned though it is a diuretic, so it will make you pee a lot more. It’s almost a glimpse into life at the age of 80+….
  • Stay hydrated and aim to drink 1.5 – 2L of water per day. Hydration plays a crucial role in helping you acclimatise!
  • If you are starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness, i.e. headaches, dizziness, nausea or a general feeling of unwellness, rest immediately. if it gets worse, see a doctor.
  • Most hotels also hold oxygen tanks for guests as having 10-15 minutes of oxygen can also help alleviate the symptoms, so ask if you need it! 

*Sucre is the official capital but La Paz is the country’s seat of government

2)     Cash is king

As with many developing countries, cash is required to pay for most things. During our time in Bolivia, only at select restaurants (and typically the pricier ones) do they accept credit cards. At the markets and most shops, they predominantly deal in cash.

Best local bank to use

When in Bolivia, our recommendation is to use either Santa Cruz bank or Banco Nacional de Bolivia (BNB). Both are reputable banks and best of all, neither charging a local ATM fee. Just look for the green signs!

Planning to visit the salt flats?

The salt flats are undoubtedly the highlight of a trip to Bolivia and to visit them you will need to hire a tour guide. To maximise your chances of having a great experience, here are some key things to note before you head there:

3)     Know what time of year you’re going for the salt flats

If you are looking to recreate that perfect reflection shot you’ve seen before you need to head there during their summertime or wet season. This typically runs from November to April and sees the salt flats wet enough to provide those infamous shots. The downside during wet season is, the salt flats can get rained out and closed to tourists due to flooding. During dry season which runs from May to October, there is slim to no chance of this occurring. Also, perspective shots are easier to take; however, the trade-off is it will be much colder and you do miss out on the opportunity for reflection photography. 

Sunset over the salt flats Uyuni, Bolivia
Sunset over the salt flats – Uyuni, Bolivia

4)     Do your research carefully before booking your salt flat tour guide

When picking a tour operator ideally they come recommended, but if not make sure they have excellent reviews (that are recent). Even through Intrepid, a renowned tour agency, our experience with the local tour operator they used was less than ideal. After being asked and agreeing to a delayed departure at 10 am, we were still left waiting until 11 am when they finally rocked up.

Why? They hadn’t yet filled the last car so spent the morning looking for tourists who would sign on last minute.

Our tip is to confirm whether the car is already full (or if they will depart with less than 6 in the car) and what time you depart in the morning.

Having a delayed start time eats into the time you have on the salt flats. Unfortunately for us, it meant we only had about 45 minutes to take photos. Including the group shots, this was not nearly enough time, particularly when you’re playing around, trying to work out perspectives and helping out your fellow travellers with their shots as well. 

5)     Know your itinerary

If you book a three-day tour, you should know that you only have 1 day on the salt flats, being the first day of the tour. Most tour operators will then head out from the salt flats and circle back around to Uyuni, never passing back through the salt flats. This means, your only chance for photos and to experience the flats is that first day!

We had friends ask their driver if they were coming back and after assuring them they would, guess what – they never did!

6)     Be prepared for very basic accommodation

Despite being the key attraction in Bolivia, decent accommodation in the salt flats and surrounding landscapes have yet to be built. Besides Luna Salada (the one decent salt hotel where you can expect to pay a premium), all other accommodation is very basic dorm room style. On our second night on tour, we 6 to a room, no showers and 2 toilets for 24 people….

Basic accommodation - Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
Basic accommodation – Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

7)     Pack layers, beanies, gloves and warm socks!

If you are heading there in the wintertime, it can be freezing on the salt flats. With windchill, we experienced  -18°C at 5 am when we visited the geysers. It was so cold and windy, people from only 1 of the 3 cars ventured outside to witness the geysers up close, so remember to rug up!

8)     Check out Uyuni train cemetery after dark

When we arrived in Uyuni, it would not have seemed out of place if a giant tumbleweed rolled down the main road. Uyuni is just a gateway town into the salt flats and where travellers depart and arrive back from tours. The one attraction just next to Uyuni town though is the train cemetery.

This stop is usually the first one for all salt flat tours and as such, becomes quite busy each morning.

Our tip is to visit the train cemetery at night time when it’s peaceful and to capture some fantastic night shots of the sky.

You can organise with your hostel/hotel to have a cab take you to the cemetery late at night. For 100 Bolivianos they’ll come out to the train yard with you and wait around for a couple of hours until you’re finished enjoying the night sky. I recommend doing this between 10 pm and midnight.

You check out my post here about how I took the photo above.

9)     Taking the perfect photo

Getting the perspective right is harder than it looks, and it usually takes at least two people to do.

If you are using props, our tip is not to try and line up the subject and the prop on the same horizontal plane – it is harder to do well and in focus. Instead, angle the accessory and subject diagonally in your camera frame and play with the perspective from that shot!

Salt Flats, Photo on the flats, Uyuni, Bolivia
Salt Flats, Photo on the flats, Uyuni, Bolivia

10)     Bolivia is cheaper for souvenirs than Peru

A popular travel route is to visit Peru and then head down into Bolivia. If this is the case, Bolivia is generally less expensive for the same souvenirs, so it might be worth saving all your shopping until the end!

11) Be careful when purchasing alpaca or baby alpaca items!

Bolivia is famous for its alpaca and baby alpaca wear, however be warned as every street corner vendor will swear what they’re selling you is “baby alpaca”. More like “maybe alpaca!” as our guide joked. If it costs only BOB$50 (~AU$20) for a baby alpaca jumper, i’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably not what they’re claiming it to be.

Many of the jumpers sold by many stall owners are a synthetic, or wool blend, so make sure you know what you’re paying for. The basic test for real alpaca is it should feel cold to the touch – always, even if in sunlight. If you are able to as well, break off some fibres and light them as real alpaca will burn like hair whereas synthetic will melt. True 100% alpaca jumpers will set you back no less than BOB$200 (at a minimum with baby alpaca even more!) but if you’re still unsure head to stores such as Inca Brand or LAM where you’ll pay a bit more but be confident the garments are what they say they are.

Being said, a blend of alpaca and wool still makes a beautiful jumper!

12)     Always double check your laundry 

If you’re paying a local laundromat to do your washing, make sure to count the number of pieces before you drop it off. The few times used a laundry service they always managed to; misplace one of our items, or we managed to pick up someone else’s!

They manage the laundry by sewing tiny coloured threads onto the tag of your clothes. There is one colour per customer to help the sort which piece belongs to who. As you can imagine, this can still get confusing, even for the laundromat. So also make sure you remove any previous laundromat threads before you send them for another wash!

Coming Soon: Thinking about whether to do a tour or DIY around Bolivia? We’re pulling together a post that discusses just that and reviews our 25- day Bolivia & Peru intrepid tour.

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5 of Our Must See & Do Activities In Bolivia!

Bolivia is much more than just the salt flats. From lagoons, to mountains, deserts, lakes and forests, there is something for everyone! Here’s 5 of our must see and do activities, when planning your trip to Bolivia.

Bolivia is a country that takes your breath away. Both literally and figuratively! Its largest city La Paz sits at greater than 3,600m above sea level which makes it the highest unofficial capital city in the world (Sucre is its official capital, but La Paz is the country’s seat of government). Whilst acclimatising to the altitude can prove tricky, it’s well worth the trouble.

Although most famous for its salt flats, that’s not all Bolivia has to offer. Beyond the salt flats there are equally breathtaking lagoons, mountains, deserts and lakes. The true beauty of Bolivia we experienced is in the variety of landscapes we passed through and richness of experiences on offer. It’s the only country on our trip where we’ve managed to experience -18°C degrees at geysers above 5,000m and mountain bike through tropical forest climates within the same week.

There is a wealth of activities to do in Bolivia, but below are our 5 favourite must do things in Bolivia.

1) Take a 3 day tour of the salt flats and surrounds, departing from Uyuni

Most people have seen at least one photo of the infamous Bolivian salt flats with its mirror effect or mind deceiving endless plains of white salt. At over 10,582 square kilometres in size, it’s the largest salt flats in the world, with Neil Armstrong famously spotting it from the moon and mistaking it for a giant glacier.  

It’s so popular now that Japanese tourists are even known by locals to fly for over a day just to reach the salt flats, stay for 3 days taking photos before promptly flying back home again! (We call that dedication to the gram)

All that aside, it’s an absolute must visit when in Bolivia. Rather than merely doing a 1 day salt flat tour though, we’d highly recommend taking the 3 day tour through the salt flats and surrounds. Note it may say ‘3 day salt flat tour’ but typically tour companies only spend 1 day on the salt flats with other 2 days spent exploring other equally impressive and beautiful Bolivian landscapes.

Although it is extended periods of driving each day, there are many stops along the way, and the driving will be worth it in the end 😊

Our recommendation:

  • Most tour companies will stop at key sites such as the red lagoon, arbol de piedra, antiplanic lagoon and hot springs, however not all visit the lesser known black lagoon. This lagoon with it’s cute long eared rabbits was the highlight for us in the 2 days outside the salt flats!
  • A 3 day tour takes you into some of the most remote places in Bolivia, away from big cities and lights. It’s therefore a perfect time to do some night shots of the sky, if you have the right equipment. You can check out some tips to do this here.

Look out for our tips and tricks post for Bolivia coming soon with things to look out for when booking your tour operator!

2) La Paz cable car

When we arrived in La Paz, our first impressions of the city as we drove through the congested, dirty streets was somewhat lacking. Considering it is Bolivia’s largest city, home to over 2.3 million people it lacked the beauty and expanse one usually finds in a major city. But rest assured, you can find this in La Paz if you ride their extensive Teleferico (cable car) system.
To see and appreciate the beauty of La Paz, you have to go high! High above the streets where you get a birds-eye view of the valley across which the city is sprawled.

Opening in 2014 as a means to improve congestion and reduce travel time for locals between La Paz and El Alto, the Teleferico is an easy system of coloured aerial cable car lines and an inexpensive way to see the city. Costing only 3 Bolivianos per ticket per line (~AU64 cents), you can ride the cable car system in a circular route around the city in a few hours.

When we were there in May 2019, the Teleferico was never congested and with its prominent coloured lines, dead easy to navigate.

Our recommendation:

  • The red (linea roja) and yellow lines (linea amarillo) give the best birds-eye view of the city, so they’re a must-see. Hop off at the stop El Alto and perhaps if it’s a Thursday or Sunday peruse the supposedly largest outdoor market Mercado 16 de Julio in South America. It’s a giant flea market with everything from pots and pans to car parts.
  • The newer white line (Linea blanco) travels through downtown city buildings too, so provides a different and unique perspective to the other lines.
  • The cable car system opens late, so grab your camera and take the purple line (linea morada) to El Alto to get some great night shots of La Paz!
View of the cit of La Paz in Bolivia
The view from the La Paz cable car

3) Visit Potosi mine

Located to the south east of La Paz (2.5 hr flight or 8 hr drive away) lies the seemingly mundane but historically significant town of Potosi. First founded in 1546, it was once one of the wealthiest cities in the world and larger than Paris and London at the time. Potosi as a silver mining town was established by the Spanish and for 473 years has produced over an estimated 60,000 tonnes of silver. In the second half of the 16th century alone, Potosi accounted for over 60% of all silver mined in the world.  
In keeping with true colonial fashion, the spoils of Potosi were promptly shipped back to Spain where the wealth of the city funded the Spanish colonisation of the New World. It is famously quoted “You could build a silver bridge from Potosí to Madrid from what was mined here – and one back with the bones of those that died taking it out”.

A visit to Potosi mine itself is an incredible opportunity to learn about the history of the town, the process of silver mining and importantly get a glimpse into the modern Potosi miners life. We will warn you though that a mine visit is not for the claustrophobic as to first enter the mine, you need to crouch down and walk through a small mine shaft opening. Once inside, the tunnels do open up to standing height however it is never what you would call spacious!

It is a surreal feeling standing in a mine shaft dug out and still standing from colonial times. The most eye opening part of the tour is being able to see first hand the conditions and working life of the modern Potosi miner. It’s harsh, back-breaking work in what can only be viewed as unsafe conditions with minimal safety equipment, large pits on the side of narrow walkways descending stories down and blasts of dynamite echoing in seemingly close chambers. Hearing about teenage workers and the alcoholism amongst miners is a sobering and sad experience, and one we’ll remember for a long time.

In total, we descended approx. 100-200m into the mine for about 45 minutes, but trust us when we say it felt like much longer and further and never have we been happier to see day light again.

Our recommendation:

  • We highly recommend taking your tour with a miner collective, so all tours are run by miners and profits shared amongst them.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. You’ll be given a thin protective jumpsuit, face mask, hard hat with torch and gumboots for the tour.
  • Visit the National Mint of Bolivia too in Potosi to learn more about the cities fascinating history and see how silver was minted into currency in colonial times. Whatever you do though, don’t forget to bring a jacket as it’s the worlds coldest museum as our tour guide liked to joke!

4) Visit Bolivia’s capital city Sucre

What La Paz lacks in beauty and grand buildings, Sucre makes up for as the political capital of Bolivia. With a population of only 300,000, it is perhaps the antithesis of La Paz, being a relaxed, congestion free city and pedestrian friendly – relative to La Paz! Being lower in altitude at only 2,800 m above sea level, during winter it also has a warmer climate than other cities such as La Paz, Potosi or the salt flats, so can be a welcome warm relief.

Try out local ice cream parlour Vaca Fria.

Known as the ‘white city’ for its fondness of whitewashed buildings, Sucre is a beautiful showcase of colonial architecture and a definite must for those looking for a few relaxing days!  

Our recommendation:

  • For great views of Sucre visit the recoleta, a little piazza close to downtown that overlooks the city and close to downtown, and Convento de San Felipe. A beautiful old monestary, climb to the top at sunset and stand on the roof for a beautiful view of Sucre.
  • For something different check out Parque Cretácico located 5 km from the city centre. Accidentally discovered in 1994, over 5,000 dinosaur tracks preserved in what use to be the banks of a river, were slowly revealed after the top layer of sediment from a mining area eroded. It currently covers an area of 1,200m x 110m and is one of the largest deposits of footprints in the world, and is interestingly seen as a vertical wall now, thanks to tectonic plate shifts.
  • It is rather odd walking down to a historical site that is located right next to a cement quarry, but it is definitely cool seeing footprints from 65 million years ago up close.  The park provides tours in English as part of the entry ticket and if you decide to go, be warned – there are a lot of stairs!
  • My personal favourite – try out local ice cream parlour Vaca Fria. They have delicious flavours, but my favourite is the yoghurt ice cream with honey and quinoa pops. It’s so refreshingly it honestly feels like you’re eating a breakfast snack, so your guilt factor is way less!

5) “You have to do death road!” -Biking down the notorious North Yungas road

Once labelled the “most dangerous road in the world”, the reputation of North Yungas Road precedes itself. Nicknamed death road, there have been many write-ups about this infamous road, but perhaps the main thing to note if you are considering embarking on this 70km bike ride is that in 2006 a new much safer road was opened for cars. This meant the part of North Yungas road most famous for car accidents and deaths is now largely left to just cyclers and quad bikers as cars now take the safer route. Thankfully on our ride, we didn’t have to compete against cars for space on the narrow dirt road.

Once labelled the “most dangerous road in the world”

That being said, it is still dangerous and if you have never ridden a bike before, Bolivia’s death road is perhaps not the time to start. If however, you are a competent rider, this bike ride is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the views you get are genuine showstoppers.

The most common response I got from people who had visited Bolivia when I told them we were going was “You have to do death road!”. Now that I’ve joined these ranks of people, it’s my turn to say it.

We’ll be posting a detailed write up on death road and our experience shortly so stay tuned for it! In the meantime check out our gallery here.

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12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Greece: Helpful Tips & Tricks

If you’re anything like us, visiting Greece and its magical islands was a top bucket list item. After spending a month there island hopping, we can safely say it did not disappoint! If you’ve booked your tickets or are looking to travel there, here are just some handy tips and tricks we’d like to share that we picked up along the way.

1) Be aware of fixed taxi pricing from Athens airport & on the islands

If you are catching a taxi from Athens airport, be aware of the fixed pricing and remember that the cost is all inclusive of tolls, luggage and charges and is the price per cab not per person!

Unfortunately sometimes taxis may try and charge a higher price (such as to Piraeus Port rather than Athens city centre) if tourists aren’t aware of the pricing schedule.

Taxi TransferDay
05:00 – 24:00
Night
00:00 – 05:00
Athens Airport >> Athens city centre € 38 € 54
Athens Airport >> Piraeus Port € 45 € 60
Church in the middle of Athens

Another thing to note is once you’re on the islands, taxis typically have a fixed fare – none use meters. Make sure you confirm the price of the trip with your driver before you get into the cab.

2) The combined ticket for Athens archeological sites is worth buying IF…

If you’re looking to visit most of the Athens archaeological sites you might want to consider the combined archaeological ticket which allows you one entry into the following sites:

  1. The Acropolis of Athens.
  2. The Ancient Agora of Athens and the Museum of the Ancient Agora
  3. Kerameikos and the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
  4. The Temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieio)
    Note: you can see this through the fence quite easily without needing to pay any entry fee!
  5. The Roman Agora of Athens and the Tower of the Wind
    Note: again another site that is out in the open with a small fence around, relatively quite small and in our opinion is not worth buying a separate ticket to visit since you can see it all from the fence!
  6. Hadrian’s Library
  7. Aristotle’s Lyceum (Archaeological site of Lykeion)

During our visit in July 2019 (high season), the combined ticket was €30 and is valid for 5 days from the date of purchase. If you do the maths, the combined ticket is only worth purchasing if you wish to see the Acropolis (€20 adult ticket) and at least two other sites.

Also it’s important to note that this combined ticket does not include the Acropolis museum which charges €10 per adult, so you’ll need to purchase this separately.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets online too and save yourself queuing up from here: https://etickets.tap.gr/

Check out our post on why we loved Athens so much here.

3) Visit the Acropolis and Museum early morning or just before closing

When we visited the Acropolis, we were ready in the queue at 8:00 am when the gates opened. This, in our opinion, is the best time to visit as it’s the least amount of crowds and before the heat of the day sets in.

This also meant we were able to head straight to the Acropolis Museum by 9:30 am where there was no queue for tickets or entry.

If you’re unable to make it this early, go late afternoon. The crowds will die down closer to closing time at 8:00 pm. On a hot summers day, I wouldn’t recommend visiting in the middle of the day as there is no shade and a lot of marble up there, which is highly reflective! Brutal would be the word.

Lastly, don’t forget to pack comfortable and grippy shoes (it gets slippery up there) and lots and lots of H2O.

4) Transport delays are part and parcel of a holiday in Greece

On our holiday alone we managed to experience a 24 hour Greece wide ferry strike, a 1 hr delayed ferry, and 3 x flights delayed anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. All in all I think we had one flight that left on schedule. Travel delays are the norm, not the exception in Greece, so when booking your ferry and flights, be sure to give yourself ample buffer time between them.

5) Google maps doesn’t work so well on the islands

On the Greek islands, particularly the smaller ones, google maps is not always your best friend. Streets that are supposed to be there won’t be there, or streets that aren’t on google maps will suddenly appear!

Also, sometimes roads on maps may end as a hilly narrow dirt street that you end up having to push your car up as the engine can’t make it (true story).

Best to get a locals directions and stick to the main roads if you can as those little backstreets may end up taking you twice as long!

6) Be aware of the Meltemi, the legendary Greek winds

The result of 2 pressure systems, the Meltemi is the prevailing recurring summer wind that blows strongly over large parts of Greece and the Aegean. These winds can wreak havoc on islands such as Milos, preventing sailing tours to certain parts of the island on a given day or making specific beaches unvisitable.

Our tip is to check the weather forecasts and note when the winds are expected to hit and where, and plan your visits accordingly.

On the island of Milos, these winds hit during summer on 15 days out of the month and unfortunately for us, it happened during our sailing tour. It just meant we were unable to visit the north of the island and that most of the “sailing boats” use their motor rather than traditional sail power. We also managed to visit Sarakiniko twice during our visit to Milos, once on a normal day and the other when the Meltemi was blowing. On the day the winds were blowing it was a ghost town as it was impossible to stay and enjoy the water as the wind was kicking up so much grit and sand it was akin to a full-body exfoliation standing there!  

7) Pack those reef shoes

As an Aussie, when we think beaches, we picture glorious inviting and soft golden sand. Sorry to burst your holiday bubble, but alas sand beaches in Greece are far and very few between. Instead, think rock or pebble beaches which can prove somewhat painful to navigate barefoot. One of the things you’ll be exceptionally grateful you packed will be reef shoes!

8) Don’t flush toilet paper

You’ll soon notice that in almost every Greek toilet there’s a little sign saying “Don’t flush toilet paper!”. Greek plumbing gets clogged very easily and can’t support toilet paper being flushed, so unless you want to make a call to the local plumber, look for the little toilet bin to throw away your used paper.

9) Don’t drink tap water on the islands

On the mainland ie Athens, tap water is fine to drink however once you get to the islands, it’s highly recommended to buy bottled water. So play it safe, as who wants to be stuck to the toilet when you’re in paradise?

Are you buying still or sparkling?
A great thing to note is all still bottled water is price regulated by the government, meaning you won’t pay more than 50 cents for a 500ml bottle or €1 for a 1.5L bottle from any little corner shop or cafe. Buying direct from groceries stores makes it even cheaper, particularly if you buy bottles in bulk.

Unfortunately however this does not apply to sparkling water, so at restaurants be sure to check prices. On islands like Santorini we’ve seen a 1L bottle of still water for €1 but costing €7 for a bottle of sparkling!

10) Hiring a car?

On many islands, to truly visit all the exquisite beaches on offer, a car is often required. Below are just some of our experiences and tips when it comes to renting a car in Greece.

An international driving permit is a must to rent a car

To rent a car in Greece, you need an international driving permit, and this is non-negotiable. You can apply for one online easily, it takes 5-7 days to process and costs AU$42 in NSW.

Check the age of your car

If you are like us and left renting a car to the last minute when we arrived on the island (don’t recommend!), before you commit to the rental be sure to check not just the model of the car but the age of it too. You won’t believe the shit box we rented on Milos for €50 a day – I think it was honestly as old as I was and miraculously still working.  

Petrol costs are high on the island

Circa €1.72/L in July 2019 don’t forget to factor this cost in when calculating your estimated car rental cost.  

Check the price of transfers against car hire on the islands

You may find booking a car in advance can cost the same (or less if there’s 5 of you), but give you much greater flexibility. On the islands, all transfer prices are fixed too and don’t operate by way of any meter, so what is a 10-minute ride will likely still cost a minimum of €15. For eg, it cost us €25 just for a taxi transfer from Adamos port on Milos to our Airbnb house, a 12 minutes drive away versus €35 to hire a fiat panda for 24 hours with pick up at the port.

11) Another excuse to shop!

VAT is the standard value-added tax included in the price of goods and services sold in the EU. The good news for tourists though is VAT can be claimed back on goods you purchase when you leave in the EU. 

In Greece VAT can be up to 24% of the purchase price and the best news is the minimum purchase amount is only €50! All that’s required is when you purchase your goods, you receive a completed ‘tax free form’ from the retailer that you then get stamped by airport customs as you leave the EU. The last step is then to submit your stamped documents to the tax refund counter at the aurport such as Global Blue or Planet for your VAT refund!

Things to note when tax free shopping:

  • Always ask the retailer if they do tax-free shopping, as unfortunately, not all stores will offer this. On Santorini with its high tourist volume, many stores offer tax-free shopping however on smaller islands such as Milos; it’s virtually non-existent.
  • Make sure you have your passport on you! Retailers require your passport details to complete the required VAT refund form.
  • Note you won’t get the full amount of VAT back (as the tax refund agency takes a commission percentage) but use this calculator by Global Blue that works out your exact cash refund back after commissions.
  • The €50 minimum must be met at a single retailer – you can’t add up purchases from different shops to get to the €50.
  • You have a time period of 3 months to claim the VAT back from the date of purchase.

Remember to successfully claim VAT back:

  1. You need the VAT claim form completed by the retailer. No matter what a retailer might say, they need to issue this form as step 1!
  2. You can only claim VAT back when you leave the EU. So if you’re flying to another EU country in the meantime, you’ll need to wait until you’re on your way home to claim the tax back.
  3. At the airport when you get your form stamped by customs, make sure you go early and bring the goods with you as often customs will check the form and receipt against the physical goods. These custom counters are typically located before you enter the departures area.
  4. Once your custom forms are stamped, all airports will also have the tax refund counters by Global Blue or Planet where you can make your claim, and receive the refund typically onto your credit card or in cash.
  5. Don’t forget the time limit – you need to claim it by the end of the third month after that in which you buy the goods. eg, if you purchased it on the 15 January, you have until 31 March to make a claim.

12) Lose something along the way?

If the unfortunate event of losing something or theft occurs, contact the Tourism Police first. Check with your host or hotel where they might be located, or call #171 from all over Greece 24/7 to reach them.

Also – if your incident is in any way related to ferries or the ferry ports, you’ll need to speak to the Port Police specifically.

On Santorini, we had to contact the police to lodge a lost item report and we simply googled the closest police station. After a 1.5km walk in the blistering sun, we arrived only to be told to head back into town where we had just come from to speak to the Port Police.

Bonus story on the Greek Islands

The Greek Islands are a highlight of Greece, with over 200 populated islands to visit, something new is being discovered every year. But with the flurry tourism, it’s starting to lose the magic it once had.

Check out the story here during our visit to Santorini.

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Tikal: Guide Tips & Tricks

Tikal is one of the most incredible Mayan ruins located in the heart of Guatamala. Here are 10 tips to prepare you for this must see destination.

Date visited: 18 April 2019

Tikal was an incredible site to visit, but there were a few things we wish we had known before visiting site. Here are the top 10 tips and tricks, for your visit to Tikal.

For most travellers to Guatemala or even Belize, Tikal and its sprawling 16km2 of Mayan ruins are a must-see on their travel plans. Set within 576km2 of jungle it is an awe inspiring UNESCO world heritage site that genuinely showcases the ingenuity and might of the Mayan civilisation before its gradual decline. With over 3,000 structures spanning grand palaces, pyramids and plazas, Tikal expanded and flourished to become one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya until the late 800 AD. Historians debate the cause of the Mayan decline, but it is commonly attributed to several factors including famine, climate change, disease, warfare and unsustainable agricultural practices.

The collapse of Tikal was relatively rapid for a city that had stood for 700 years, with Tikal crumbling in an estimated 100 years and eventually abandoned with the forest quickly reclaiming the settled land.
As with many other famous sites though, it was not until a thousand years later in the 1950’s when dedicated study, excavation and restoration work began to reclaim the forgotten history back from the jungle.

Below are 10 tips, tricks and things learned from our trip to Tikal!

1) Bring your passport or ID

Surprisingly not all tour agencies seem to mention this significant fact, but to purchase tickets, you will need this!

2) As in most of Guatemala, cash is king

While there are EFTPOS facilities, there are no ATM’s around, and on the day we went, the machine was down! Make sure you bring at least Q150 p.p in cash just in case to cover your entry fee.

3) Going early

Tikal is open every day from 6am to 6pm. While we opted out of the sunrise option (which required a bus leaving Flores at 3am), we did opt for the first bus after sunrise which meant the 4.30am bus depart Flores from the ‘Le Peten’ sign at the start of the bridge. (and yes, a 4:30am bus still does not get you there in time for sunrise!). It is a 1.5-hour bus ride, but you should factor in buffer time for delayed leaving times (ours was delayed by 20 minutes) and time for the whole bus to alight and purchase tickets before you are driven to the entry gates to walk through. All in all, we only arrived at the park ready to start walking at 6:50am.

Also, just a note if you are interested in the sunrise option, it is only an extra Q100 park entry fee p.p.

4) Going early for animals

Another reason to opt for the earlier bus is your chances of spotting animals in the national park is much higher! You will be there before the heat sets in and while we did not see the elusive jaguar, we did manage to see howler monkeys, toucans, woodpeckers and plenty of pisotes, all by 9am.

5) Travel quietly

If you are on the lookout for wildlife, it may seem like an obvious one, but travel silently on the trails around Tikal. You are much more likely to not scare them away and spot animals that way.

6) If you’re a Star Wars fan, bring an X-Wing model for a fun photo

George Lucas famously used Tikal as a backdrop to Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope. When we visited, a dedicated fan pulled out a tiny x wing model to take a fantastic and fun shot with it. Our only regret was not being so prepared and doing the same!

7) Beeline to the Grand Plaza, then climb the big temple

When we entered Tikal, we made a beeline for the back of the park via the Grand Plaza and worked our way forward. This meant we could get shots of the central area and larger template with relatively few people in it, as well as climb in the relative cool of the morning before the heat set in. Trust me when we say Tikal gets hot.

8) Alternate restroom

When alighting from the bus in the morning, don’t rush to use the bathrooms at the restaurant next to the bus drop off area. By then there are typically queues from the busload of people arriving, and the toilets themselves are in a less than appealing state. Instead, there are many bathrooms dotted around Tikal with some just inside the main entrance where there are no queues, so I recommend going there!

9) Bring comfortable walking shoes

Tikal is large, and you’ll be walking on trails through the forest or climbing up steps, so something comfortable with good grip is best.

10) What else you need to bring

Bring snacks, enough water (1.5L – 2L) and sunscreen and a hat! While there are a few stands dotted around, it’s best to bring your own snacks (particularly if you want something healthy). Also, make sure you have enough water as you’ll be walking around a lot, and while there is shade at Tikal, there are open areas you need to cross as well that are unforgiving in the sun!

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