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Curaçao - Mini travel guide

Curaçao - Mini travel guide

curacao


Curaçao is part of the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean area which also consists of islands like Aruba and Bonaire. It is a small island of just 10 miles across, compromising 160,000 inhabitants. Because of Curacao's colonial history it is culturally and demographically very diverse, boasting some typical Dutch cultural elements as well. The island has one of the world's most beautiful beaches with pearly white sand and crystal clear water. For the active visitor the island is a water sport paradise. If you plan on visiting Curaçao, have a look at this mini travel guide with tips and information about visiting Curaçao.

Highlights of Curaçao

  • Snorkeling and diving: Curaçao's maritime world possesses a great biodiversity, with stunning coral reefs to explore. It is one of the most popular locations for diving in the Caribbean. You can also dive and swim with wild dolphins and other sea creatures.
  • Kite surfing. The prevailing winds make Curaçao a popular kite surf destination. The season starts around March or April.
  • Sailing. Curaçao is home to several international sailing competitions and is a very good sailing destination.
  • Night life: from the African Tumba to the South American Merengue, Curaçao’s rich heritage plays a big role in its energetic music scene and nightlife. There are beach parties on a regular basis, but there are also enough bars and clubs where you can dance and party.
  • Carnival: The annual carnival is the highlight of the year for many Curaçaoans. Streets are filled with vibrant colours and exotic music. The colourful event lasts for almost a month, and it is definitely a must-see!
  • International Jazz festival: One of the biggest music festivals of Curaçao which takes place in September.
  • Willemstad: From the floating market in the old town of Punda to the colourful houses along the Handelskade and amazing Antillian food at Marshe Bieu (the old food market). The capital of Curaçao has a rich history, lots of museums, shops, restaurants and beautiful architecture.
  • Mambo-beach: This is probably one of the most popular beaches. As such it's pretty busy but also very well facilitated with cocktail bars, live music and an open air cinema.
  • Klein Curaçao: 25 kilometres southeast of Curaçao, lies its small sister Klein Curaçao. It is a very peaceful island where you can enjoy beautiful white beaches and stunning coral reefs.
  • Christoffelpark: For the adventurous types there are a lot of active opportunities at this park which includes a mountain you can explore by car, quad, mountain bike, horse or by foot.
  • Kura Hulanda: Impressive museum dedicated to Curaçao’s history as one of the biggest slave trade posts in the Caribbean.

Health and safety in Curaçao

Generally speaking, Curaçao is considered as a safe country, but there are a few areas to be aware of:

  • Mosquitoes love Curacao's climate too. So don't forget to pack your insect repellent!
  • You will only need a vaccination when you have visited a yellow fever area.
  • Tap water in Curaçao is safe to drink, it falls within the World Health Organisation quality standards. The water supply consists of distilled seawater.
  • From June to November hurricanes can occur in the Caribbean area. Yet they rarely reach Curaçao.
  • Despite the village like feel, Curaçao has areas where vigilance is required. Don't show off your expensive jewellery and don't walk around with too much cash in your wallet. Keep valuable possessions in your bag or even better in a safe at the hotel. Avoid alleys, unpatrolled beaches after dark and other quiet or dark streets because these can be unsafe.
  • The traffic is mostly safe in Curaçao. Yet Curaçaoans often don't take traffic rules too seriously
  • All drugs, hard and soft, are illegal. Possessing or using drugs, any drugs including marihuana or prescription drugs for which you can’t provide the prescription, is punished severely. Bring a Medical Passport or an official prescription when using medication, especially any sedatives and strong painkillers containing codeine.
  • In case of emergency you can call the tourist emergency number: 917.

Transport in Curaçao

  • Public transport in Curaçao is fairly limited. Buses don't adhere to a strict timetable but are nonetheless a cheap option. The two major bus stations are at Punda and Otrabanda. Apart from the standard big buses, there also smaller vans that offer public transport. They don’t have a timetable.
  • Due to the limited public transport options, it is definitely recommended to rent a car or scooter to explore the island. The roads are mostly paved and well maintained.
  • There can be age restrictions to rent a car. Check with your chosen rental company beforehand.
  • Taxis are generally cheap and reliable in Curaçao. However, taxis fares are unmetered; drivers may have fare-sheets available. Agree on a price beforehand. Official taxis are easily recognized by having a license plate that is marked with the letters "TX".

Accommodation, food and drinks in Curaçao

  • Accommodation in Curaçao mainly consists of luxurious hotels and resorts. These are generally expensive. There are some cheaper options like bed & breakfasts, simple apartments and Airbnb. Hostels are very rare in Curaçao. Camping is also an option. There are several camp sites where you can pitch a tent or rent a caravan.
  • Curaçao has a very diverse cuisine. From typical Dutch to Japanese, Argentinean, Italian, Brazilian and more. Local specialties are: grilled iguana or ostrich, karni stoba (beef stew) and kabritu (goat stew), Sopi di banana (a soup made of bananas) and Pastechi (a savoury pie).
  • Happy Hour: a lot restaurants and beach clubs offer drinks at half price during happy hour. You can drink different alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails like Piña colada, fruit punch and Awa di Lamunchi (a typical Curaçaoan drink made with lime syrup). Also popular are Amstel Bright (a beer which tastes a bit like Corona) and of course Blue Curaçao, sometimes simply referred to as Curaçao. This liqueur is made with the dried peels of the Laraha, the bitter orange native to Curaçao meaning Golden Orange of Curaçao.

Have you been to Curaçao and do you have other tips for sights, activities or foods to taste? Leave it in a comment below!

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How to prepare for a trip to The Philippines?

How to prepare for a trip to The Philippines?

Waterfall in the Philippines

Although preparing yourself for travel is different for everyone, here are some general guidelines for your trip to The Philippines. Please feel free to add your personal advice in the Comment & Contributions section.

Arrange a flight

For cheap flights, it is always best to book far in advance, the cheapest seats are always sold out first. Good hotels have airport pickups from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. There is a Grab Booth outside the bigger airports, so you can book a taxi without hassle, I am always happy myself to have less hassle, the difference in price is minimal and definitely worth it. Found a cheap flight? Donate the money you saved to your preferred carbon compensation funds or find a more personal way to compensate your impact, like voluntourism.

Get your medical files in order with all vaccinations and malaria prophylaxes stated

Before you leave you should consult your travel doctor about vaccinations and malaria prophylaxes. Tell them where you will be staying and how long, they will need this information.

Arrange your insurance

You need to have a travel-, health- and (when applicable) activities insured.  Some insurances do not cover incidents if you are volunteering abroad or don't cover trips that last longer than 30 days. Talk to your insurance adviser or contact the insurance experts of JoHo Insurances. Better be prepared well, since it is hard to arrange it, once already on the move.

You will need a visa

  • You will need to have a passport that is valid at least 6 months upon arrival in the Philippines. A visa is not required if you stay 30 days or less. If you stay more than 30 days, you will need a visa, which you can get either at the Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines (see below) or at the Embassy of the Philippines in your country of residence.
  • When coming in on a 30-day visa, you can extend your visa in the Philippines by applying for an extension of the visa at the office of the Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros, Manila or at their regional offices all over Metro Manila (Makati Circuit Mall). Please check the Bureau’s websit for more information. They are closed on holidays. When the immigration office is located in the mall, the mall is closed before opening time, but the Immigration Office is already open, you have to ask the guard, if you can enter and go into a seemingly closed mall. 

Arrange your money

  • The unit of currency in the Philippines is the peso, which is also spelled piso in Filipino.
  • The smartest way to bring cash to the Philippines is in the form of a credit card, cash card or debit card. Provided you have your PIN, you can use these to get cash or cash advances from thousands of banks and ATMs in the Philippines (but don't expect to find these in rural areas - always stock up on cash before leaving a city). Of course, you will want to back up your plastic with some cash and travellers cheques. Using plastic with a cash back-up will save you from having to deal with local moneychangers, who seem to have made a science out of ripping off tourists (warning from the Lonely Planet). The advantage of money changers is, that you dont have to pay the bank currency exchange rates and an extra fee of around 200-300 PHP every time you use the ATM. 
  • The leading banks in the Philippines are BDO, BPI, Metrobank, Landbank and RCBC.
  • Banks are open from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM and ATMs are open 24 hours. The maximum amount you can withdraw from the ATM is different per branch at BDO and BPI per transaction with a maximum of PHP10,000-20,000, Citibank Makati PHP15,000 and HSBC PHP40,000. Depending on your own maximum for cash out of an ATM limit a day. At the Citibank, you don't have to pay the extra foreign bank fee. Make sure your ATM is set on using your card outside of Europe. 

Arrange your communication

  • When you stay a longer period of time, it is very handy to use a local simcard, most of the time free at the airport booths. You have two main choices: Globe or Smart. When you have a local card, you can use the WIFI in malls, with your foreign number you are not able to use the WIFI. 

Read about the Philippines

For the touristic highlights and places to stay & eat there's a good selection of travel guides such as:

  • Lonely Planet
  • Footprint
  • Marco Polo

Other books you can read about the Philippines are:

Jose Rizal

  • Noli Me Tangere
  • El Filibusterismo

Nick Joaquin

  • La Naval de Manila and Other Essays (1964)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (1966)

F. Sionil Jose

  • Rosales Saga novels: five-novel series that spans three centuries of Philippine history, widely read around the world and translated into 22 languages

Niklas Reese

  • Handbook of the Philippines: A comprehensive introduction to Philippine society, economy, politics and culture. It aims to shed light to the different facets of life (and of daily struggles and survival) in the Philippines.

What to pack into your bag?

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Print of your outbound ticket (to be shown at the airport of departure)
  • Vaccination booklet
  • Cash money
  • ATM card
  • Travel guide
  • Language guide
  • Reading books
  • Camera
  • Bag/suitcase
  • Labels
  • Day bagpack
  • Money belt (and or travel safe)
  • Locks for your bag
  • Toilet bag
  • Toothbrush/paste/soap/shampoo/comb, disinfectant soap etc
  • Towel
  • Ear plugs
  • Sunscreen high factor
  • Sunglasses/cap
  • Mosquito repellent (and mosquito net)
  • Medical kit, although almost everything is also available in the Philippines: with Immodium, ORS, Paracetamol, band-aid, disinfectant, gauze & bandages etc.
  • Flip‐flops
  • Clothes: sandals, light clothes since the climate is hot and humid, socks/shirt with long sleeves and trousers for the evenings (mosquitoes), swimsuit. 
  • Laptop and mobile phone. Consider bringing a safety cable if you bring yours. Most hostels have free or paid Wi-Fi service. If you want to bring your smart phone, consider also bringing a cheaper phone for daily use.
  • In the Philippines, women hardly use tampons so if you use them you will need to bring them with you.
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Travelling in Japan

Travelling in Japan

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~This blog comes from my personal blog "Hannah-chan's travels" for more blog check out this blog page ~

Finding the best way to travel in a country is always a bit tricky. In some countries it can be cheaper to take the bus, in other countries to take a train of flight. What is always cheaper is hitchhiking of course, but not everyone feels comfortable about getting in the car with a stranger.

I’ve travelled quite a bit in Japan and in my experience, the way you travel depends on your budget, the time you have and on how you want to experience the country. In this blog I’ll try to inform you on ways to travel in Japan and what could be best for your personal trip. I’ve listed four types of travelling (bus, train, airplane, car) and the pros and cons. Just to have said it, I also want to dedicate a few sentences to hitchhiking since it is the cheapest and in my experience a really fun way of travelling.

Hitchhiking

While hitchhiking always comes with a little bit of a risk, the chance something happens to you in Japan is quite low in my opinion. People are friendly, polite and it’s one of the safest countries in the world. If you hitchhike with someone else, it shouldn’t really be a problem. I hitchhiked on Yakushima Island and it was one of the best things I’ve done since I met one really cool guy and we had a free ride. The cons however are that Japanese people often speak little English. They will want to make conversation, but it can be a bit of a struggle sometimes. It always helps if you know some Japanese and they will love it. Another thing is that hitchhiking takes a lot of time and patience. While it is usually an amazing experience, there might also be days that you have to wait for multiple hours, just to get a ride of 30 minutes. If you decide to do it, just make sure you keep this in mind and don’t expect to be at your destination soon.

By bus

The bus is usually the cheapest way of travelling. There are several bus companies operating throughout Japan and the most foreigner-friendly one is definitely Willer Express. This company operates bus routes mostly in central Honshu, but where exactly you can find on their English (!!) webpage. If you want to go to multiple cities and prefer the Willer Expressbecause their webpage is in English I would recommend getting a bus pass. There are three options; a 3 day bus pass, a 5 day bus pass and a 7 day bus pass, so just figure out which one you would need!

Apart from Willer Express there are also other, cheaper bus companies. While Willer Express gives you quite some comfort options (unless you get the cheapest bus), the other companies I’ve travelled with usually have little or less leg room but they are way cheaper. The downside is that their websites are in Japanese so you might want to ask someone at the hotel/hostel to help you. Another thing is that their departure stations can sometimes be hard to find, so make sure you have a map of where you have to go printed out so you won’t miss the bus. The webpage I usually use is busbookmark.jp and for busses around Nagano I use the alpico bus http://www.alpico.co.jp/access/english/ .

By train

A way to avoid this extra time for check-in etcetera is to take the train. There are local/express/limited express/etc trains and there is the famous bullet train or shinkansen. The first trains are way cheaper, however, it will take a lot longer to get to your destination if you’re going long distances. For example Kyoto-Tokyo by shinkansen is about 2.5 hours by shinkansen, but 20 hours by local trains. If you travel where there is not shinkansen line or just short distances, I recommend to take local trains. It is easy and cheap!

The shinkansen is quite expensive. For a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto you pay around 12000 yen. It is however super-fast and if you have little time, a much recommended way of travelling. If you only have 1 or 2 weeks in Japan and you want to see a lot, you don’t want to spend too much time in transit so hopping in and out of a train in the city centre of where you want to be is just AWESOME. Next to that I think that being on a bullet train is also quite a cool experience and maybe even something you have to do if you want to feel the real Japan. Tickets can be bought on the main stations from machines or at the shinkansen ticket centres. Another option is to buy a rail pass. More information about the rail pass can be found on http://www.japanrailpass.net/ . There are different types of rail passes available for different areas so make sure you pick the right one for your trip. Another important thing is that this pass can not be purchased in Japan, so plan your trip ahead and buy a rail pass in time if this is your prefered way of travelling!

By air

A (sometimes) cheap way of travelling in Japan is by air. Even though I don’t like airplanes because of the pollution, I would recommend this way of travelling if you want to see multiple places all spread out over the country and you don’t need to see what’s in between. There are several cheap domestic airlines like Skymark Airlines, Jetstar, Vanilla Air, Spring Airlines and with one of the cheapest being Peach. If you sign up for their newsletter before you head to Japan, you can get updates on their frequent sales and might be able to book a ticket from Osaka-Tokyo for 2000 yen (check-in luggage is not included!). The flights are short, but do remember you’ll spend at least 2-3 hours extra at airports doing check/in and liggage drop-off.

By car

Travelling by car is one of the easiest ways if you want to visit multiple places mostly on the country side. Renting a car in Japan means you’ll need an international drivers’ license and you probably must have had it for 5 years. The cost for renting a car depends on where you rent it and what kind of car it is. The price for gasoline is in the middle range of gas prices. It’s usually cheaper than in Europe, but it’s still on the expensive side.

For finding rental cars in Japan (or actually anywhere in the world), you can use rentalcars.com . However, I’d recommend to ask for rental cars at your hotel/hostel. They will probably know cheaper places to go to.

Well, hopefully this was helpfull! If you have any questions, just comment and I’ll try to reply! Also, if you know more about this and want to share it with other readers, please leave a comment too! Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
Hannah

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