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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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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7 TIPS FOR VISITING THE ACTUN TUNICHIL MUKNAL (ATM) CAVE OF BELIZE

You feel like Tomb Raider hiking out and exploring the ATM caves in Belize. Here are 7 tips to prepare you for this adventure.

Walking deep into a cave is not always for the faint-hearted. I wouldn’t say I’m the claustrophobic type, closing a door to a small dark room won’t make me squeal, but squeezing down narrow shafts of a cave definitely gets the heart racing.

Regardless of any fear the mind may have for narrow dark spaces, boy was visiting the ATM cave of Belize was a blast.

A brief history of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM):

Discovered in 1989 and also known as the Cave of the Crystal Maiden, the cave was used by the Mayans in the late classic period in a desperate plea to their gods to help flourish the lands with crops. Mayans were, as you know, an incredible civilisation, and while their end inevitably came from the arrival of the Spaniards, their downfall began a lot earlier. Although there are many mixed opinions on the matter, what was known as their farming capability was nothing short of destructive and conducive to their famine. Rather than refurbish and reuse farmland, they would burn it, and move on to the next patch. Mixed with drying wells, and bad weather, they soon were in danger of starvation.

Regardless of their technology, advanced mathematics and knowledge of the sky, to help with their famine, they turned to their gods.

Mayans believed in the supernatural, which included heaven and the underworld, both with many levels and deities. In this instance, praying underground, meant praying to the gods of the earth to refurbish the land. This is where the cave came in. It was a direct path to give a sacrifice of human life to please their gods.

Travelling deep into a cave:

The tour is quite the adventure, and you get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe as you’re walking through the jungle, swimming through lakes and caves, and squeezing through narrow paths to find the hidden tomb.

The guide enriches the experience with deep knowledge on the history of the Mayans and the region.

Reaching the final room is incredibly rewarding and I still can’t fathom some of the bones, pots and natural cave formations left behind over 1,000 years ago. I don’t want to spoil the setting, you genuinely need to experience it.

But the Crystal Maiden is the final site. An almost perfectly preserved set of bones of an 18-year-old girl who had been sacrificed during this period. A reminder of some of the torment Mayans had endured, and their desperation to save their people from the coming famine.

Tips for visiting the ATM caves, Belize

If you are planning a trip here (which you should!) here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to the ATM cave:

1) Bring reef shoes
Your feet with being submerged in water for much of the tour, so it’s best to bring reef shoes to wear as they dry quickly and won’t get smelly! Although preferable, you don’t need hard toe reef shoes – completely soft ones are okay and accepted by the tour companies. Ideally, if you are travelling down the east coast of Mexico, get them in Playa Del Carmen as it houses the most shops, offering greater choice (cost is anywhere from $10 – $20USD)

2) Bring socks
There is the dry cavern where you will be required to take off your shoes to enter and walk through. As such you’ll want socks on as the ground has many small sharp rocks!

3) Don’t wear a long sleeve shirt
While it seems like a good idea at first, particularly if you’re prone to getting cold, you do visit the dry cavern for quite an extended portion of the tour and you’ll be standing in damp clothes for a long time. As such, it actually makes you colder since you’re wearing more wet clothing, and don’t worry, the cavern air is relatively warm, so you don’t freeze!

4) If you’re a competent swimmer, you don’t really need a life jacket unless perhaps it’s the wet season!
During our visit in early April 2019 (the end of the dry season), the water levels were relatively low, so there were only 2 sections during which I had to swim as my feet could not touch the bottom (I’m 1.7m tall). This was at the very entrance to the cave for about 10m and after about 10 minutes into the cave.

Being said, our guide explained that during the wet season the water levels in the cave can rise by almost 50-60cm, in which case there would be significantly more spots on the tour where swimming would be necessary. Of course, if you are not a confident swimmer, or want the added warmth, then a life jacket is for you!

Also if you are looking to go in September/October, be mindful it is hurricane season and if water levels rise too much, the ATM cave is closed to tourists for safety reasons.

5) Get on the bus early
Being the first group in the cave is magical as the waters are clear (as groups traipsing through haven’t yet stirred up sediment) and with the quiet, it feels like you have the caves all to yourself. We were lucky enough to be the 1st group through for the day. As we were leaving, because you exit the same way you enter, we often ran into groups who had only just begun and were then forced to stop at multiple points to let exiting groups pass. As always, the early bird catches the worm!

6) You can’t bring cameras or video recording devices into ATM cave. Period.
Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events with tourists in the past have lead to this ban on all devices in the cave. The upside though is you don’t need to worry about dry bags, fiddling with cameras, and your attention is 100% focused on taking in the moment 😊. You do receive photos at the end of the trip, but they are pre-taken photos of the cave by the tour agency – there is no tour guide following you with a camera and taking pictures of your group!

7) You don’t have to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft to do this tour
The tour does require some climbing up rocks and minimal parts of swimming (approx. 10m – 15m), but you don’t need to be a gym junkie to do this. The hardest parts are swimming into the entrance of the cave, climbing up a short ladder and a rock boulder to get to the dry cavern and probably squeezing through some tight spaces. All of this, however, is very much doable, and the tour guides guide you through every step, foothold and movement along the way.

Date visited: 16 April 2019.
Tour agency: MayaWalk Tours. We decided on these guys as they were one of the most and highest rated tour operators on TripAdvisor and departed at 7am from their office in San Ignacio.
The price paid: USD85 per person. We were initially quoted USD$95 but received a discount after requesting one for a group of 5 people.

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!

WHY GETTING UP EARLY WHEN TRAVELLING IS THE BEST

Peru, Lake Titikaka

I do not like getting up early. I love sleeping in. I’m a night owl, stay up late, wake up later. My best work is usually done late in the evening. But even though I feel this way, I can not ignore how good it feels to get up early and to be the first to get to something special before anyone else.

Crowds are the least most exciting part of travelling. Waiting in lines to get on the plane, or to get on a ride at a theme park, it’s like that annoying nephew who picks up a box of lego, pores it all over the floor, and leaves it for you to have to pick it all up piece by piece.

I’ve mentioned this previously, I will be first to say I’m not a photographer in the truest sense of the word, but I love trying to chase the perfect shot. To create that lasting memory exactly the way it felt at the time and how my eyes percieved it to look.

Arriving late to a location, for me, has resulted in disapointment as crowds of people are marching all of the place. As such, it’s never going to be possible to get the shot I want. Instead, you’re stuck with pictures of people zooming around behind you trying to do the same thing as you.

 Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Was the first in line at opening time!

Morning also presents one of the best times of the day to take pictures. The sun isn’t too bright, and the nice shade creates images rich in colour. The same can be said for the evening sun, but again it presents the issue of crouds of people interrupting your shot.

So why do I enjoy getting up early when I’m travelling – becuase I can avoid lines and crowds, enjoy the activity with minimal to no people, and get that perfect shot I enjoy chasing.