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5 Ways to Experience Dubrovnik Like a Local

What better way to get to know a destination than as a local?
Next time you’re in Dubrovnik, here are a few ways you can get off the tourist trail to authentically meet more of the locals.

Dubrovnik Old City

1. Enjoy the Local Outdoor Markets

Gundulic Square has a thriving morning market filled with fruits, vegetables, flowers, crafts and more. This is not a tourist’s market. This is very much a local’s market. And who knows, in this friendly setting, you may even make friends with a few locals who can tell you even more about their city.

2. People Watch at Luza Square

Luza Square is the local meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. The square is bustling with people day and night as historic Sponza Palace, St Blaise Church, and city Bell Tower are all central to the square. Find a bench to sit on or a patch of a wall to lean against, and you’ll blend right in with the local scene as you let the streets scenes pass you by. People-watching truly seems to be a favorite local pastime here as well.

3. Hike Mount Srd & Picnic Overlooking Dubrovnik

Rather than piling into a high priced touristy restaurant, why not pack a picnic lunch by stocking up on fruits and cheeses at the local market and head out for a picnic lunch. There are a number of small supermarkets around the main square where you can pick up any other items you may need to round out your meal. You can take your picnic with you to the top of Mount Srd. At 413 meters above the city, it offers the most spectacular panorama view over Dubrovnik. The hike to the top takes about 90 minutes so you’ll have earned your picnic lunch by the time you get to the top. To get back down, you can opt to take the newly restored communist-era cable car, for small fee.

4. Embrace the Coastal Life in a Kayak

Many Croatians living on the coast maintain an active outdoor lifestyle that includes regularly kayaking out to the local islands. A typical kayak trip out to Lokrum Island involves paddling past cliff caves as well as Dubrovnik’s stunning city walls.

5. Spend a Day at the Beach

If you’d rather just laze around in the sun, Banje Beach is where Dubrovnik’s beach culture lives. It’s a bit like Sydney’s Bondi Beach, minus the surfing. So this is where you’ll find as many locals as you will tourists bathing in the Adriatic’s sparkling waters or bask in the Dalmatian sun. This beach is located right next to the old town, so it’s very central, and there’s also a bar and restaurant directly at the beach.

THE LOW-DOWN ON TRAVEL REWARD CREDIT CARDS

If you love travel as much as we do here, you likely want to find ways to be able to do more of it while also making the most of every single trip. And so many of us have been gravitating towards travel rewards credit cards to help us do just that. From earning rewards to be used toward more travel to offering trip protection with travel cancellation, interruption and medical insurance, many of these cards propose they can do it all for us.

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Flickr: frankieleon

Through the years since these cards first appeared, travel rewards cards have become so common though that every bank and airline out there seems to be offering one…and it’s often difficult to know precisely which one to choose.

Our experience has taught us that the best travel credit card is the one that best covers all of your bases, giving you the best points for your use on your particular area of travel interest while protecting you wherever, and for however long, you need travel insurance protection. So, the best travel card for me may not be the same as what may be best for you. The key is to investigate the card’s precise coverage and compare it to your precise needs.

Here’s the low-down of the areas we consider important when evaluating the usefulness of a travel reward credit card.

TRAVEL POINTS REWARDS ON CREDIT CARDS

If you are picking a card based on points, there’s a plethora of options out there for every type of travel reward imaginable. So, it really depends on how you want to use your points…

We tend to spend our points on flight tickets or airline upgrades, which in our experience have been the best two ways to use travel points. So, with that in mind, here are a few of the most rewarding travel credit cards that seem to accrue airline points at a favourable rate. These cards generally allow travellers to collect points that can be used to book travel not only with the same airline but also with airlines within the same airline alliance. When you are picking a card for its flight ticket rewards, pick a card that most favourably rewards you for the airline flights within the precise region you travel most. So, ask yourself where you would want to be spending those points on tickets and calculate how quickly you’ll accrue the points needed to get that reward ticket.  

Another very important point to consider if you are a frequent international traveller is whether or not the card charges a foreign transaction fee. This fee is charged whenever you use your card abroad, and the amounts can really add up. So, the cards we’ve listed here to not have foreign transactions fees (based on our research).

(There are certainly many more travel card options than just those cards listed here. These are simply a few of the top cards we’ve noticed as having some really good options.)

For Americans:

United Airlines Mileage Plus Visa (Chase)
AAdvantage Executive Credit Card  (American Airlines)

Delta Reserve Credit Card

For Canadians:

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card


TRAVEL INSURANCE THROUGH CREDIT CARDS

If you are like most people, you’ve likely only given your credit card’s insurance policy a cursory glance… But, if you are relying on a card for its travel insurance coverage, remember to read the fine print and thoroughly investigate what it covers.

Here are some of the areas to investigate throughly when choosing a travel reward credit card for its travel insurance:

1) Most credit card policies include multiple exclusions for what the travel insurance will cover. In fact, a number of activities and sports may not be covered by the card issuer’s travel insurance policy, so before planning any travel vacation make sure ALL of your planned activities are covered before you rely on your credit card’s insurance policy.

2) If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, be sure to check your card’s policy for coverage details in this area. Many cards are strict about coverage for events related to any pre-existing or chronic conditions. So, this is an area to investigate thoroughly before relying on your card’s policy before any trip.

3) The insured trip duration varies from card to card. The average is usually 15 days, but this is another point you want to confirm before relying on the coverage. Also, for major international trips such as treks and safaris you want to make sure that the entire time you are away from home is covered. Many times, travellers going on trips to places such a Kilimanjaro, Nepal or Peru are out of the country longer than 15 days when you factor in the actual travel days. Fortunately, many cards allow you to upgrade the number of days covered, but again, this is something you want to diligently confirm with your card issuer.

4) If you are relying on your card’s travel insurance for cancellation protection or any coverage related to travel delays, you usually have to have actually booked the trip with that credit card, including any booking deposits that you may have placed on a trip. This is a point we’ve noticed some people forget. So, again, make sure you check your coverage before and while planning a trip so that you ensure you are covered for everything for which you want to be covered.

 

 

Travel to Peru, Frequently Asked Questions

YOUR TOP 10 PERU TREKKING FAQS

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Watch/listen to our recently recorded Peru FAQ webinar on Youtube here.

How has Peru travel changed over the last twenty years?

The number of trekkers has increased exponentially since then. In the early days of Peru trekking, the Inca Trail was the most popular. However, these days there is usually a constant line of trekkers moving along the main (most famous) Inca Trail. As a result, many travellers have begun looking for alternative paths to experience Peru away from the now mainstream Inca Trail and mainstream trekking tourism. As well, the Peruvian government has begun limiting the number of trekkers allowed on the main Inca Trail each day to 500 and those spaces sell out quickly, months in advance.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

What is the best time of year to trek in Peru?

The season for Peru travel is April through November.  “Peak season” in Peru is July and August (because that’s when many families spend school vacations travelling in Peru). It’s also Peru’s winter so it’s the driest time of year to experience Peru. April and May is a great time to experience Peru because that is when Peru is very green after the rainy season. November is when the rain starts, continuing through most of the Peruvian summer, trickling off in March. So it’s not advisable to travel to Peru between November and March, as you’ll experience too much rain for the trip to be enjoyable. But April and May are great times to experience a really beautiful, fresh, green Peru… September and October are also good months to experience Peru outside of the busy season.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Is Peru cheap? What are standard expenses in Peru?
Many places in Peru have prices comparable to North American prices. In Cuzco, for example, the prices are very equivalent to North American prices. A dinner could easily be $20 – 25USD, without alcohol. This is not necessarily a “high end” restaurant. Rather, it is a good quality restaurant, with good service and good meal standards – similar in quality and service to a good, family owned restaurant in North America. Other places in Peru, the meals may be slightly less expensive, closer to $10-15USD. Of course, anywhere in Peru, as with anywhere, you can always find “cheap” places, but the experience will also be relatively cheap as well. A $5 meal will not have the quality standard you want. So, in Peru, for comparable cleanliness and quality, expect to pay North American prices.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Peru Trekking is at high altitude. What do I need to do to prepare?

Cuzco is located at 11,200 feet and Lima is at sea level. And most people are living at sea level. So, your body needs time to acclimate. Take your time settling in at the new altitude. Don’t rush things. Drink lots of water. Don’t physically exert yourselves for the first couple days. Avoid alcohol. Don’t eat heavy meals. It’s really important to spend a couple days at altitude before even thinking about starting a trip. So, many travellers arrive into Cuzco at least two or three days before starting any treks. It’s definitely NOT recommended to fly up to that altitude and then start a trip right away.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Is there more than one “Inca Trail”? What are the differences?

There are many Inca Trails in Peru. Most people know about “The Inca Trail,” the one that ends at the Sun Gate. However, there are many Inca Trails…that is, routes that the ancient Incas used. The Salkantay Trail and Lares Trail are other trails that end in Machu Picchu, just at a different spots than the famous Inca Trail. The Inca Trail has an average of 500 trekkers on the trail per day. The Salkantay Trail has about 100-150 trekkers per day. The Lares Trail has about 150-180 trekkers per day along the most popular sections. However, different companies trek along different portions of the Lares Trail. BikeHike Adventures treks along the more remote section of the Lares Trail, starting where many other tours end. The Lares Trail is really special as trekkers are surrounded by pristine wilderness and pass small villages where there are great opportunities for cultural interaction.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

What kinds of cultural interactions can one expect trekking in Peru?

There is a lot a cultural interaction on the Lares Trail. There isn’t a lot of cultural interaction on the Inca Trail. On the famous Inca Trail, the cultural interaction is limited to interacting with the porters. So, the interaction is more fabricated as they are there on the trail because you are there and you are not interacting with them in their villages. On the Lares Trail, trekkers actually pass through villages and have the chance to interact with locals in their homes.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

What are the trekking conditions in Peru?

You are right on the equator in Peru so it will be warm during the day. But, as soon as the sun goes down, it is cold. And the sun goes down quickly. Expect to be wearing a good jacket, hat, gloves. The terrain itself is nearly the same on all three trails. The trekking conditions on the Lares Trails is sometimes on dirt paths, sometimes through forests, through villages, some sections over rocks by streams, and there are many sections of up and down. The famous Inca Trail has steps because it is so much more touristy.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

How much should we tip guides in Peru? When during the trek should we tip guides?

The standard on trekking trips is that you will be with a guide, or numerous guides, as well as porters and cooks. The porters are carrying your gear. The porters put up your tent and take them down for you. They bring your hot tea in the morning. The cooks are cooking for you all along the way, 4 hot meals a day, to keep you warm. They all do a great deal of work for you. So, it is suggested that you tip them all at the end of your trek. For a 4 day Peru trek, $200USD per traveller is a good start, and that will be distributed to your crew of porters and cooks. It’s best to have a representative of your group collect all of the tips from the travellers and present them at once. Divide the amount up to the portion that goes to the cooks, to the porters etc. Then, have your group representative present each amount to the head porter, and head cook etc.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Is it possible to use foreign cell phones while traveling in Peru?

Yes, wifi and cell reception is available in many areas of Peru, mainly in the cities. However, while trekking in Peru, there are only a few areas cell reception is available and, of course, there isn’t any wifi along the Inca trails in Peru.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Is it easy to travel around in Peru?

Many of the top tourist destinations in Peru are vast distances from each other. So, they’re a plane, train or long bus ride away from each other. While it is somewhat easy to book these, the schedules are not as friendly and many things can go wrong with the connections when you are not familiar with the local region. There could also be massive connection layovers trying to connect the dots of travelling around in Peru. So, it’s always helpful to have someone coordinate all the connections for you in such a way that they make the most of your adventure vacation in Peru.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Cycling Cities in Europe: FIVE lesser-known cycle-friendly European cities

Everyone seems to know how bike-friendly cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam are, but what about some of Europe’s other cities? Surely, city cycling is not exclusive to the Danes and the Dutch!

Lyon, France

Paris has long been known as a city filled with bicycles. However, France’s second largest city has an equally impressive cycling scene. Lyon’s extensive bike share program (called Velo’v) facilitates an impressive 16,000 city trips per day and is considered the second largest bike share network in the world (behind the one in Paris).  Lyon’s bike share network began in 2005 and includes 3000 bikes across the city’s vast network.

Dublin, Ireland

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photo: Flickr / William Murphy

In 2009, Dublin became the first English speaking European city to join the bike-share revolution when it launched ‘dublinbike.’ At present, roughly 1500 bikes are located at stations around Dublin.  Bicycles can be returned 24 hours a day, making them the perfect way to get around the city and are a popular choice for getting home from the city’s many pubs. In fact, the bike network has become such a success that as of 2014 Coco-Cola became a primary corporate sponsor of the bikes, renaming the bikes Coco-Cola Zero dublinbikes.

Bucharest, Romania

In Bucharest, cycling is not only a great way to get around but it has become trendy and fashionable. “Skirtbike” is an annual parade when thousands of women cycle through the city to promote “stylish cycling.” Also, popular Bucharest bars such as the popular “Bicicleta” have used bikes as their design muse. And Bucharest’s bike sharing network (called I’Velo) was launched in 2010 and now has over 1000 bicycles scattered throughout the city.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

A youthful city, thousands of Ljubljana students can be seen cycling to university on any given day. Cycling has become so much a part of everyday Ljubljana life that the city also boasts many bicycle traffic lights and special cycle paths. In 2011, Ljubljana’s share bike network, called Bicikelj, was launched and currently provides over 300 bicycles throughout the city. As one of Eastern Europe’s most progressive cities, Ljubljana also hosted the “Cycling in Central and Eastern Europe” conference in 2013.

Zagreb, Croatia

Cycling in Croatia’s capital city is steadily increasing in popularity among locals and tourists alike with bike racks and bike rentals readily available throughout the city. In 2013, Zagreb joined the cycling revolution by offering ‘nextbike’ share bikes throughout the city. ‘nextbike’ is actually an international brand (started in Leipzig, Germany) that now offers share bikes in more than 70 cities and across 3 continents.

The Best Books and Podcasts That Will Inspire You To Visit Ireland

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Ireland has nurtured an astounding number of writing greats for a country so small. What better way to get inspired to visit this spirited country than read a few lines from an Irish scribe.

TOP IRISH FICTION AND POETRY
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Major Works by WB Yeats
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Gulliver’s Travels  by Jonathan Swift

FUN IRISH NON-FICTION
How the Irish Invented Slang  by Dan Cassidy

PODCASTS FROM/ABOUT IRELAND
The Irish Times  www.irishtimes.com/podcasts
Voices from Ireland www.podcasts.ie/featured-writers
An Irishman Abroad (Culture/Commentary) www.soundcloud.com/an-irishman-abroad