When you think of Amsterdam you know that you are unlikely to have a quiet weekend. With that in mind we knew we wanted somewhere quiet to relax after a big day sightseeing (or night partying) and an Aussie infested hostel was not going to cut it.
With hotels in the city center over-priced we knew our only option was an apartment. Our criteria was strict as we wanted somewhere to prepare our own meals to save some cash, sleep four comfortably and be able put our feet up after a day of exploring.
Along came Roomorama with the perfect answer to living like a local in Amsterdam.
Their online system allows you to search for apartments within a city, region or country depending on the number of people, price range, location and amenities. So if, like us, you wanted free WiFi you could easily adjust your search criteria to suit.
Unfortunately the booking process is not as straight forward as the searching. The apartments are privately owned and Roomorama acts as a middleman. This meant we had to email the owners and wait several days to hear back from all of the apartments we were interested in which was a tad annoying.
Living like a local in Amsterdam
Luckily for us we ended up with a great apartment for just £200 for the weekend which between 4 is pretty reasonable. And you don’t have to worry about being scammed because Roomorama will keep your money in their account until you hand over the secret confirmation code to the owner on arrival. I don’t think this means you can refuse to stay though once you arrive!
Additionally, after booking, Roomorama were excellent in providing all the necessary contacts for us on the ground prior to leaving so that we could speak with the owner who in turn gave us turn by turn instructions. We also managed to arrange with the owner a spare bed for an extra £10 a night for our mate who decided to jump in last minute.
The apartment itself was very spacious with one double room, separate toilet/bathroom, a large kitchen (with FREE coffee) and a comfortable lounge with a foldout couch. And the location was excellent with a supermarket around the corner and it was only a two minute walk to the nearest tram and bus stops to the city center 15 minutes away.
The only problem was that unfortunately the neighbours seemed intent on keeping us awake for a few hours through the thin walls with a bit of a party. It definitely wouldn’t happen in a half-decent hotel as you would be able to complain to someone at least!
That was far outweighed by waking up in a home away from home and cooking our own food. It also gave us a much needed breather from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam in the afternoon before embarking on the (mis)adventures that Amsterdam coughs up at nighttime…
Cultural Resources of archaeology and heritage values – already with a mandatory registration regime?
Svetoslav Kantardzhiev, founder of the Bulgarian Mizia Foundation for Preservation of Cultural Heritage and a member of the Bulgarian Union of Collectors, is the next who openly opposes the proposed amendments concerning the cultural resources (values) in the Bulgarian Penal Code. If the new draft law becomes a reality, Art. 278 para. 6 of the Penal Code will change its disposition by replacing the term “archaeological sites” with the term “cultural resource (value)”. Under the amendment, every Bulgarian citizen will have to register property older than 50 years. Otherwise he will be held criminally liable for the illegal “behavior? of the thing.
Despite the obvious idea that the changes will help to end the schemes for illegal export and trade of cultural and archaeological sites, such changes in the law will not only harm the successful integration of our country into the European Union, but will complicate the social life of many innocent citizens. The ambiguities in the law come from the legal interpretation of the term “holding of cultural property”. This may mean that one can easily become the object of criminal prosecution only because the extension covers not only antique coins and antiques, but also paintings, icons, books and all sorts of other items that most people keep in their homes.
According to Kantardzhiev, the new law demonizes the collecting community and the trade in artifacts. Collectors, numismatists and antique dealers have long since registered their collections and even optional archaeological identification. If anything needs to change, it is to introduce a special regime of what to keep from the state and what not, as in Italy.
Otherwise, the interests of ordinary Bulgarian citizens will be most affected by the law, because primordial human rights are being violated. In the 21st century, it is insane to force half of Bulgarian people to declare and register all their belongings over the age of 50, and to threaten citizens with imprisonment if they do not do so, warns the founder of the Mizia Foundation.
Review: 10 Day Egypt Explorer Tour with Expat Explore
A comprehensive review of Expat Explores 10 Day Explorer Tour through the stunning country of Egypt.
We have been wanting to visit Egypt for a while now so when the opportunity to get away over the Christmas and New Year period arose we knew we needed to head there for a break. We joined Expat Explore on their 10 Day Explorer Tour through Egypt taking in the sights of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and Hurghada.
The reason we chose Expat Explore was that they were the cheapest in price with all the same sights and in the end we were happy with our choice.
Pre-departure they emailed us our itinerary with the optional excursions and additional costs for entry fees included so that we could budget properly. As well as following up with our pre-trip questions regarding flights, insurance and uhealth and safety advice.
From the start they were very professional. Landing in Cairo we were personally greeted the day before our tour and transported to our City centre hotel. That drive was an eye-opener to Egypt with crazy lane changes, honking, swerving, flashing lights with animals, people and vehicles everywhere.
El Tonsy Hotel is your base for your arrival and last night. Luckily we didn’t expect much as our door didn’t lock which was a bit dodgy and the rooms were freezing cold with a broken heater and only one blanket. You wouldn’t think you would need heat in Egypt but it was the middle of winter and it was chilly at night. No complaints with the location though as we could see the Pyramids in the distance and were only 5 minutes walk from the Nile and 15 minutes to Tahir Square (perfectly safe by the way). Plus they have a little bar/restaurant with cheap food and free Wi-Fi. Just buy your snacks and water from the supermarket across the road and you will get on fine.
It’s quite hard to break down a whole trip into one post but here goes:
Your tour starts with the best in my opinion by touring some sights of Cairo. The steeply angled Step Pyramid, mind-blowing Pyramids of Giza and the smaller than expected Sphinx. This day was definitely the highlight.
That night is spent aboard the train for 10-12 hours to Aswan. I highly recommend the Sleeper train for an extra £50 per person. Others that caught the standard train froze their butts off while we had a toasty sleep with a served dinner and breakfast. Unfortunately Expat Explore never told us about the provided food so we ate before we got on-board but what we could fit in was delicious.
The tour splits in Aswan as one group embarks on a River Cruise aboard a 5 star ship while the others spend time in hotels and on a Felucca. No surprise that we went with the cheaper option aboard the Felucca so the next few days are from that point of view.
The afternoon is yours at Sara Hotel on the banks above the Nile. We lapped up the beautiful rays of the sun and managed to turn our pasty white bodies a more fitting slightly white shade. The Hotel was great until the toilet next-door erupted sending a river of smelly waste across our bedroom floor (throw your toilet paper in the bin not the loo)! Luckily we woke in time to rescue our bags from the watery mess! Not the fault of Expat Explore and we didn’t blame the Hotel either as shit happens.
Your day begins by visiting the monstrous High Dam for 10 minutes (fairly boring) and a drive past the Unfinished Obelisk. While the highlight is definitely the Philae Temple. When the sunsets across the Nile reflecting off the stonework it really is quite magical.
The evening ended with an optional dinner in a traditional Nubian families house. The food was scrumptious and you better bring your singing and dancing shoes.
The following day and night is spent relaxing aboard the Felucca for a sail up the Nile for several hours. Sleeping no more than 8 people you will be snug if you bring your own sleeping bag like us. The rest of our crew were jealous as it did get quite chilly in the evening however blankets were provided.
With delicious pita bread and falafel cooked on the boat you will not be disappointed with the food either.
The day ends with a bonfire on the Nile shoreline as you sing and dance with the crazy fun Nubian crews. This was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip for us.
Travel Tip: Don’t be put off by doing your “business” amongst the reeds of the Nile. Just enjoy the view and remember to bring your own toilet paper (which you need everywhere in Egypt anyway).
By all accounts, from the other tour members, the River Cruise is just as great with 3 nights on-board in comfortable accommodation, a pool and buffets morning, noon and night.
Waking to a sunrise breaking the morning chill is a glorious way to start a new day. Unfortunately there is little time for relaxation before you are off the Felucca and on a bus to Kom Ombu and Edfu Temples. I must say, all of the transportation was more than adequate with toilets on the buses and room enough for everyone. It’s lucky because you do spend the majority of the time being driven around.
The Lotus Hotel in Luxor was probably the pick of them all. Situated on the Nile bank with a swimming pool and tasty buffet breakfast.
One more day, one more busy schedule. Rushing to beat the crowds at the Valley of the Kings it’s another 8am start. You are only allowed to visit three tombs and we recommend the guides picks which were Ramses II, IV and IX.
Travel Tip: You are NOT allowed to take your camera with you off the bus. Please don’t ruin it for everyone by taking photos as you will be charged by security when caught.
We also squeezed in the crowded rock carved Hatshepsut Temple but only drove past Luxor Temple as we ran out of time as you need to drive 6 hours to reach Hurghada that night.
Day Seven and Eight
The next two days at the Red Sea are yours to do whatever you like so use them wisely. We joined most of our group for a spot of snorkelling and diving. The dive and the staff were great but the whole day seemed a little rushed which was a shame. Keep an eye out for our post on our diving experience in Hurghada.
So nice being able to relax on a beach and read a book after such a hectic schedule. It’s hard to leave and the 6 – 8 hour bus ride back to Cairo is tough.
Travel Tip: If you plan to do the tour over New Years Eve then you will have to depart Hurghada half a day early which sucked as it meant celebrating the New Year at the Hotel in Cairo. Bit of a let down but when hasn’t New Years Eve been!
Your final day of sightseeing is spent around Cairo. Our favourite part of the day was definitely the Cairo Museum with an excellent tour guide. It fits perfectly at the end by seeing all the history close-up after having learned about it over the last 8 days.
By the time we hit the old area of Cairo and the Coptic Hanging Church we were spent on history but our guide made a good effort at keeping us entertained.
The last group activity is free time for an hour or so at the Khan El Khalili souk markets where the touts try to prise your cash from you for the last time from every nook and cranny.
With the tour over it’s time to head home. Our flight was late the following night so we walked around the city and Souks on our own for the day. Expat Explore provides transport back to the airport which was great.
The trip was awesome but we think it’s important to note the little things that could make a huge difference to the overall experience:
- It felt like we were always hungry. Maybe it is just Kiwi’s and Aussies that eat all the time but it seriously felt like we were constantly starving with lunches being served usually after 4pm and dinner at 9pm onwards. It might be the Egyptian way to eat at those times but not for us. Travel Tip: Buy lots of snacks for the road which are very cheap at supermarkets.
- There was sometimes a lack of direction in what seemed to be happening. Everything is done on Egyptian time so be patient.
- We were often delayed or behind schedule with little to no guidance as to how long it would take to get from place to place. A little knowledge goes a long was as then we can plan ahead.
- More free time would be great to explore places on your own rather than have our hands held everywhere.
As we said above, the trip was amazing and the little positive things far outweighed the negatives which helped make it a memorable trip.
- Pre-departure information and care was extremely good.
- The tour was exceptional value for money and it was the cheapest tour we could find even though we still saw all the same sights the other groups did.
- The guides were extremely knowledgeable and never failed to answer any questions we had. The insights into the daily lives of the people around us was a nice break from all the history. They also ensured you never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
- The Felucca trip was better than expected and overall so was the accommodation and transport options.
All in all we highly recommend you book with Expat Explore if you are considering a trip through Egypt.
Make sure you subscribe now and come back soon so you can enjoy reading our new posts which will cover everything else in more detail.
Disclaimer: Expat Explore provided us with a discount for our 10 day tour of Egypt however as always our thoughts are always our own.
Where to Get the Most for Your U.S. Dollar in 2018
We all know that exchange rates change. But we don’t always think about those rates when we’re planning our next big adventure. As the value of the U.S. dollar changes, so does the buying power U.S. travelers when they’re abroad.
Sometimes those fluctuations are enough to warrant putting off a trip to one of your bucket list destinations for another year. Or maybe to bump an exotic locale to the top of the list so you can take advantage of the extra power your dollar will have while you’re there.
RewardExpert’s latest report looks at just that phenomenon by taking a deep dive into the changes in exchange rates over the last year. And their conclusion? You may want to start looking for a flight to some destinations right now, while other vacation spots are best saved for another day.
A Little Context
Before we get too far into the findings, it’s worth noting that the differences in exchange rates over the past year haven’t been big enough to justify jumping on the next flight to a destination whose currency has lost a lot of value.
On the other hand, if both Turkey and Thailand, for example, are on your list of places you want to see, Turkey’s a better choice at the moment since the dollar has gained about 28 percent in value over the last year. Thailand’s currency, on the other hand, has gotten about 6 percent more expensive.
By the way, Turkey made the top spot on the report for places that have gotten more affordable, and Thailand earned the top spot for places that have gotten more expensive.
All of this, of course, is relative to each country’s currency. So overall affordability of a destination is largely independent of changes in the exchange rate. In other words, it’s still cheaper to travel in Botswana than Switzerland even though the Swiss franc lost value against the U.S. dollar and the Botswana Pula is worth more.
The Dollar Has Lost Ground Overall
On the whole, the U.S. dollar hasn’t done very well recently. There could be any number of reasons for this, but the unpredictability of the current President and his trade policies certainly don’t help.
This is generally bad news for U.S. travelers. Most places you might be thinking about going will be a bit more expensive. It’s not in a free fall, though, and the drop shouldn’t be enough to keep you from traveling.
Where You Should Go in 2018
As I already mentioned, Turkey topped the list of destinations where the U.S. dollar has gained the most value. In fact, it is the place that saw the most change, either positive or negative.
The U.S. dollar will buy about 28 percent more in Turkey right now, so if you’ve always wanted to see the country—and you’re not too concerned about the current political situation over there—now’s probably a good time to plan a trip.
Mexico made number two on the list with the U.S. dollar gaining about 7% in value. And a flight from the U.S. to Mexico will be a whole lot cheaper than to any other spot on the list.
Rounding out the top places you should consider this year if you want your dollar to stretch a little further is Kazakhstan, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and New Zealand. Hong Kong and Trinidad and Tobago also made the top ten, but the changes in their exchanges rates were very minor, coming in at less than 1 percent.
Here’s an overview of the top ten:
|Increase in Value of U.S. Dollar|
|Trinidad and Tobago||0.02%|
Places You Might Want to Skip This Year
I’m sure Thailand is on many lists of dream destinations, but 2018 might not be the best time to go. It made the top spot for places that have gotten more expensive due to a drop in the value of the U.S. dollar. You’ll get about 6% less for your money if you travel there now compared to last year.
Croatia stunned soccer/football fans everywhere by making it to World Cup final, but you may want to put off a trip to the idyllic coasts of this Eastern European spot. That’s because the Croatian Kuna has gained about 4 percent against the USD this past year.
The rest of the top ten that have gotten more expensive includes Canada, Bulgaria, the European Union, Botswana, South Korea, Singapore, Romania and Australia.
Here’s an overview of the spots you may want to skip this year:
|Decrease in Value of the U.S. Dollar|
|The European Union||-3.76%|
Other Tips for Making Your Dollar Go Further
One big takeaway from the report is that the biggest expense when it comes to travel to most of these destinations is the airfare. That’s particularly true of the countries that are harder to get to, but otherwise offer affordable travel. From the list of places where the dollar gained notable ground, I’d include Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Indonesia and Kazakhstan in that category.
If you’re thinking of traveling to one of those destinations, you should consider staying for as long as possible to get the most out of that expensive plane ticket. Once you’re there, you’ll find that your daily costs will be relatively little compared to, say, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the European Union.
Travel Credit Cards Can Help
Since airfare is often the most expensive single purchase you’ll make for a trip, it’s worth noting that getting a great rewards credit card can help cover those costs. If you play your cards right, you can easily cover the entire cost of your airfare with the right card.
If you’re familiar with frequent flyer programs, a card that’s part of a robust rewards program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, is a great option. With those programs you can transfer the points you earn directly to a select group of airlines or book through the programs’ respective online travel portals.
Beginners and those who don’t want to deal with complicated award charts and limited award availability might be better off with a more straight forward travel card, like those offered by Discover and Capital One.
With those programs, you’ll earn miles that can be redeemed for statement credits to offset travel expenses. That means you can simply buy the travel you want from any vendor and reimburse yourself with the miles you’ve earned. You might not get quite as much from your points with a program like this, but they are simple, easy to use and still quite valuable.
Traveling is expensive. So it can be important to get as much as you can for your dollar. Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas about the destinations you should prioritize and avoid this year based on recent changes in exchange rates. And don’t forget, a great travel credit card can help you pay for the most expensive part of many adventures—the airfare.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
New on Four Jandals
- Five Fun Reasons to Move Pasadena April 7, 2021
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- Cultural Resources of archaeology and heritage values – already with a mandatory registration regime? April 1, 2021
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