Stig

Stig has many years of travel experience, and has been to over 40 countries so far. In september 2012 Stig and his girlfriend Torunn are going to travel around the world for 15 months , from the Caribbean to South America to the Pacific Islands, Australia and South East Asia.

Aug 172017
 

At the moment of writing I'm sitting in the hotel lobby in a 5 star hotel in Sharm El sheik, and smoking hookah(shisha) While enjoying the atmosphere of the place. there is a deliciously cool wind from the aircondition, While outside there is 33C and sunny in the deserts outside. This is my 7 th time in Egypt, so I feel like a pretty experienced tourist in this place! , and thought i should share some important information.

Why go to Egypt ?
Egypt has everything one can wish for; just relaxing in the Sun for a week or two, or have an adventure holiday, or indulge in culture and history. Egypt can even be a place to party for young adults, but this only works in the Red Sea towns of Hurghada or Sharm el Sheik.

Diving in the Red Sea

The alternative to Egypt for most will be different destinations in Greece, Italy, Spain, and the Islands outside of Spain – Mallorca,Tenerife and Lanzarote.
What Egypt can offer as these do not have is;
– a significantly lower price level on most of the food,drinks and sightseeing.
– The Red Sea with its beautiful coral reefs and amazing colourful fish,Turtles and sharks(nice ones)

– Warmer temperatures all year round, more sunny days, and more stable weather in General. The most popular destinations is Sharm and Hurghada, and these towns are in the middle of a desert, so it's almost always sunny. Sometimes a bit windy, but never storms/Hurricanes.

hit the Bedouins!


– a completely different culture; different food,traditions,architecture,water pipe/Arabic coffee history. Leave Europe/US for a completely different experience!.
– Ancient history – In Egypt, one has the opportunity to visit the wonderful pyramids, see the mummies and the sarcophagi in the large Museum in Cairo, and take a cruise along the Nile and visit the Valley of Kings and Queens in Luxor and Aswan.

 

When is the best time to go to Egypt ?
Best time is in the spring or fall. The summer is also good, but may be too hot FOR most people, and in addition most countries in Europe have nice weather in the summer, so no need to escape to warmer places. November to February can be a little colder, but mostly temperatures are around 20 C . December has a lot of rain, so it's probably the worst month to go. July to November has the highest sea temperatures (26-29 C ) so is good for scubadivers. I dived without a wetsuit in september 2016, but in April 2017 It was approximately 5 C lower temperature in the water at that time.

 

How to get to Egypt ?

From Norway there is only one operator that organizes trips from Oslo Gardermoen – Amisol travels. They usually charter aircraft from Air Cairo. This company is very unreliable. The last 4 Amisol planes I have taken have all been delayed by +/- 2 hours. As long as you know that delays are to be expected it is`nt quite as bad, you just have to plan accordingly.
You can get last minute tickets very cheap; You can get both flight and a perfectly OK hotel for about 2000kroner(200€). . 3-4000 one can usually find 5 star hotel with all-inclusive.
Is there any point in paying extra for All-inclusive? – NO. Most people will be away from the hotel during the daytime, and even if you are just hanging out in the hotel all day you can get a good meal for 30-50 Norwegian kroner(14$) ", and a beer for about 20kroner.

It is also possible to book a flight to Cairo or Sharm from Oslo with Air Cairo, but this will usually cost more than what you pay for a charter journey that include hotel.

Activities:

Diving/snorkeling and water sports

The reason why I've travelled so much to Egypt is that I'm a scubadiving fanatic. Since the first time I popped my head under water in the Red Sea in 2003 I've just kept going back. Egypt is the closest place to Europe where you can dive in tropical waters. 5 hours flight is much better than 14-15 hours to get to Asia or the Caribbean, or 20 hours to Australia.

goldfish on coral

The best places to stay by the Red Sea is Dahab, Sharm El Sheik, or Hurghada (or El Gouna). Dahab is more for the younger travellers/backpackers and bohemians, While the other places are mostly for package tourists.
Egypt is currently the cheapest place in the world to scubadive. For about 200-250 kroner(40$), you get a full day on the boat with 2-3 dives included. snorkeling is about the same price since you go with the same boats and get the same food.
I am shocked to see how much of the coral reef that hasdied/disappeared only in the last 5-10 years, but it's still amazingly nice, with lots of marine life. One can see turtles, sharks(White tip and hammerhead), rays and mantas, tuna and napoleonsfisk, and much more fun.

the turtle

Other water sports on offer is water skiing, bananaboat, glass-bottom boats, stupid tourist vikingship with technomusic, Parasailing etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Culture

The Valley of the kings

From Hurghada you can easily arrange a trip to the Nile – Luxor and Aswan. I would highly recommended it. Valley of the Kings is a wonderful place where you can get a great impression of the ancient Egyptian civilization. There, one can see the characteristic wall paintings, mummies, and lots of nice ruins.

It is also very fun to rent a sailboat on the Nile. There is some very distinctive boats called Faluka. I hired my own captain to sail me around for very low price.

The pyramids: From both Hurghada and Sharm you can take on the org

Sphinx

aniserte tours to see the pyramids in Cairo. It is quite a long distance to travel by bus (8-10 hours) , so it is easier to fly. It is much more expensive, but is worth it to see one of the world's seven wonders. You should check the security situation before you travel, as Giza and Cairo, at times, may be unstable.

 

 

 

 

Other:

There are a ton of other activities in these areas, but most noteworthy are the quadbike excursions, visit to Bedouin families, and desert safaris. Many also offers camel riding; that can be fun for those who have not done it before.

tourist camel

The Sinai Peninsula is in general not safe, but Sharm is safe. Some of these excursions go to the desert around Sharm, so may be a good idea to check with the operator first, that it is safe.

 

Partying

Naama Bay in sharm is “Neon heaven”. It is a chaotic scene; Typical Arab Coffee store on one side of the street, and massive discos and clubs on the other side. Loud music, dancing in the streets, Egyptians coming at you from all sides to sell drugs,or trying to convince you to enter their club.

Naama bay nightlife


Hurghada is much the same, but not quite as crowded. Dahab is more chillout, a lot of young independent travellers, a lot of weed. And a handful of clubs with high partyfactor.
There are all types of alcohol, all of them inexpensive. You can get pretty drunk for 100 Norwegian kroner(14$) ".
The night I went out to party in Naama Bay i experienced that there was about 20 men per 1 Lady, most of them locals. I don`t know how Egypt is for female travelers, but I imagine they might get more attention than desirable, especially if the locals are as intense with their sexual advances as they are when trying to sell stuff. I was there once with a girlfriend, and the second I left her 5 minutes to go to the bathroom, several egyptians tried hitting her up, even though they knew we were together. Luckily I came back before she joined them(unfaithful woman).

Security

Many people in Norway feel it is unsafe about going to Egypt. There used to be many Norwegian tourists, but now there is mostly just Russians there. There is a Norwegian aircraft once weekly(Amisol) with a capacity of 145 tourists, but is usually only around 100 people on this. As long as you take precautions, pay attention to the updated political situation, and check the recent travel advice for Egypt then you should be safe . You have to expect to be cheated. Here's more about security

 

Egypt in a nutshell: Hot, beautiful underwater life, generally friendly people, cheap, and safe

 Posted by at 11:39 in the morning
Jan 162017
 

After the revolution in 2012 the tourism in Egypt has never quite picked up again. There has been, and there still is much unrest in parts of Egypt. But the vast majority of Egyptians are quiet and friendly people, who welcomes tourists and the dollars they bring. Almost 900 000 britter visited Egypt in 2015, all without any bigger problems.

I went from Oslo to Egypt with a charter company in september 2016, and again now in April 2017. In september got me and a buddy flights and a week at the hotel for a little over 2000 Norwegian kroner(14$) ", While in April I paid 3000, but then got a much nicer hotel (5 stars). This had probably not been possible on demand on travelling to Egypt had been a bit higher. The plane was not even half-full, so both me and buddy could stay on top of 3 seats to sleep, and I experienced the exact same thing in april 2017.

Hurghada streets

Hurghada streets

We stayed at a hotel right in the Centre of Hurghada. Here we wandered around as we would without that we at no time feared for safety. Even on the evening/night so it was well lit, and the only ones who contacted us were Egyptians who tried to sell various it's plastic. There will always be lots of people crying out for you on the street, which can be annoying, but absolutely no security problem.
We saw very few other Western tourists, but all the hotels were full of Egyptian tourists.
There are other parts of Hurghada where there are more large hotels, and all-inclusive resorts. That's where most Western tourists live, But if you choose the cheapest hotels, so is the more spread.
The next trip to Egypt was Sharm El Sheik, There was some more tourists, but mostly just Russians and Ukrainians.

The Sinai Peninsula is generally regarded as unsafe. It is because there are many Muslim terrorist groups where. In October 2015 It was a flight from Sharm El Sheik that crashed. Authorities concluded that it was terror. After that so it has been very limited with the aircraft that go to Sharm. Many of the charter companies stopped the offer thereof.
vlcsnap-2017-04-22-13h15m36s805
Travel advice from the British Government warned the e period against flying to Sharm, but said that it was perfectly fine to go there. Update now in 2017 is that it is no problem to fly there anymore. Another option is to fly to Hurghada and take the boat over the fjord. I have even made, and it went very smoothly. There is a lot of security around and in Sharm. . 3 months ago (January 2017) was the airport at Sharm recommenced for tourists. I was instantly to buy ticket. This is a great time to travel on; both aircraft,Hotel and scuba diving are bunnpris. I got day trips on the ocean with 2 dives and all food including, for 200 dollars the day!

cheap diving

cheap diving


The travel advice also warns against to go to all of Western Egypt, that is, everything that is to the West of the Nile. It is not very much to see there anyway. The tourist area around the Nile, that includes the cities of Luxor and Aswan, is not dangerous to go to. Where have you very much nice ruins, pyramids, sarcophagi and amazing archaeological wonders. The Valley of the King and the valley of the queens are worth to get with them.
Water pipe and hummus !

Water pipe and hummus !


It is also worth to take a sailing on the Nile, It is a very nice experience.
This can actually be organized from Hurghada for a very cheap price. The bus ride is about 4-5 hours.
Luxury on sale

Luxury on sale

There is no specific travel advice against Cairo. As a tourist is the only reason to travel there to see nasjonalmuseumet and the pyramids. This can also be done organized from Hurghada. Cairo is a city with over 20 million people, so one must of course take precautions when visiting such a metropolis. There are many areas one should not move around in at night.

There is a lot of political protests in Egypt. By all means avoid large crowds like this. Many criminals see this as an opportunity to Rob/attack/rape of tourists.

 Posted by at 11:54 in the morning
Apr 202016
 

Now that the weather is getting brighter, and hotter our moods also start improving. Here are some videos that will give you the proper “feelgood sensation”, and that gives the urge to enjoy happy summer days, to travel, or simply to break out of the everyday grind. Here is a selection of some of the songs and video that provides that good feeling!!

Remember to enable HD for good quality

10. Klingande – jublande
very chill song. A beautiful and pleasant voice, and a video that gives the good summer feeling. Lots of pretty people climbing trees and such; What's not to like about this!!

 

9.Groove armada my friend
This is the classic theme which many certainly recognize themselves in; Back in the Office after a tropical holiday of partying and fun; a real anticlimax, but this song is not anticlimax!

8.Eric Prydz – Call on me
This is an immortal classic. Both the song and the video will make it impossible for you not to feel good. The facial expressions of the ladies is reason enough in itself to see this video. Also, check out Eric Prydz- Pjano – one of the best songs ever made, in my opinion.

7. SUPERSTITION – STEVIE WONDER
A classic song accompanied with a video from the 70 's soul train. Look at those guys dance!! Impossible not to be happy after watching this video.

 

6.Michael Gray – The Weekend
Yet another office-related video. Lots of pretty Office ladies dancing around a copy machine while they wait for the weekend. We can probably all relate to that scenario.

 

5.Robin Schulz – Sugar
A brilliant song by a brilliant video! Police officer who is bored at work, and decides to to break out of the everyday stress and bustle by showering a bit in the car wash and trash his car.

 

4.Sigala – Sweet Lovin’
Both the song and video get 10 of 10 for the feelgood factor. Very suitable summer song. I never get tired of the scene with the blonde lady walking 360 degrees around her head that is on the ground….bloody hell!

 

3.Avicii – Levels
A song that never gets old. Here we have a proper Office-rat who suddenly get a rush of extreme rhythm that infects the rest of the business landscape and the hospital staff.

 

2. Duke Dumont – I Got U
This video gives a glimpse of the future; instead of just dreaming away inside your mind you`ll put on some VR goggles, and go off to Thailand to ride elephants(not recommended!), swimming on coral reefs and making out with cute, young ladies. Lucky nerd.

 

1. Avicii vs Nicky Romero – I Could Be The One
Another person dreaming her way out of the Office. This chick goes mad!. Amazing video, and awesome song!

 

1.Sigma – Nobody To Love
This is a video that really makes you wanna go on a roadtrip, preferably 2 gorgeous bikinimodels rolling in the sand. Recorded in beautiful South Africa, where I went on a roadtrip a few years ago myself. Lovely song.

 

 Posted by at 5:59 pm
Apr 072016
 

I've climbed more than twenty volcanoes in my life, all with their own inherent charm, and of different levels of difficulty. Acatenango is not the tallest volcano I've climbed, but it's definitely the most memorable.

On the way up to the summit!

On the way up to the summit!

If you`re in Guatemala,and have the time(2 days), then you cannot miss this experience. There are organized tours to the volcano leaving every day from Antigua. In Antigua there are hundreds of tour operators offering lots of different trips and adventures.
The trip to the Acatenango volcano is priced differently , depending on which operator you sign up with. I would recommend choosing the cheapest.
The reason for this is that all tour operators are working together, so if you paid 50$ or 100$, you`ll end up in the same bus, and with the same group anyways!
I found a pretty reasonable operator, charging about 250 Quetzal, which is something like 260 Norwegian kroner(14$) ".
You can choose to get food from the operator, and get some warm clothes from them(tents and sleeping bags are included). I would recommend bringing your own food, as the food from the tour operator was`nt great. Remember to bring water! . no one told me I needed to bring it myself, so I was a little bit stressed on the bus since there were no shops along the road. Ultimately it was`nt a problem; as there are lots of locals selling water at the point where the trek starts. There is water, chocolate, some food, and even beer for sale here. They also sold some homemade small bottles of Guatamalan tamarind liquor. I love tamarind, so brought a bottle to the summit.

 

Large groups!

Large groups!

I didn't really read much about this volcano before I climbed it, so I got a surprise when we started trekking. The trail is very steep, and I was almost getting tired at some points. The first 3 hours continue straight up, without any levelling of the path, While the next few hours are a bit easier,and not as steep. The problem with the way these tours are organized is that they bring way to many people, without giving a lot of information about how difficult the climb might be. There was something like 35 people in my group, so obviously there had to be some people walking excruciatingly slowly(for my taste) . The weaker people in the group kept falling behind. We had something like 10 long pauses before we arrived to the camp.
It is a very nice trip, a varied fauna along the path, Depending on the altitude.

Cozy dinner in the tent

Cozy dinner in the tent

We got to the camp right before it got dark, so we managed to set up the tents before it was pitch black. It was a really social and cozy atmosphere between the people in the group, everyone got along really well, . When the tent was assembled we were 8 people togheter having our dinner in a 4 person tent.
After dinner we went up to the rest of the group, who had gathered around a large campfire. At this point, it was getting very cold, so very good with a campfire to stay warm.

 

 

 

 

The best thing about the experience was the view. The campsite was a very short distance from the top of the volcano Fuego, which is an active volcano. Every 15-20 minutes the top of the Fuego exploded ; to our great joy!.

eruption in the sunset

eruption in the sunset

 

Giant eruption at night!

Giant eruption at night!

Most of the eruptions were small, but it happened 1-2 times during this evening that the entire top of the mountain sprayed lava 50-80 metres straight up, and then covered the entire mountainside. It was absolutely spectacular to experience such a big eruption this close, but still be relative safe. The eruption itself was worth the whole trip for me. You can find daily updates on Fuego activity here: Info about volcanic activity
The evening was magic; campfire, grilling marshmallows, tamarind booze, and 2 big bottles of whiskey that was constantly rotating from person to person.

Volcano climber!

Volcano climber!

 

The next morning we had to get up at 03.30 to walk to the top of the volcano. From there you can see an amazingly beautiful Sunrise with unbeatable views. Sadly, as we woke up to fog and rain, the trip to the summit was cancelled.
It was disappointing for everyone, but ultimately, no one can control the weather.
The mist did eventually clear up, and the most amazing views of the Antigua Valley appeared like magic from the dispersing clouds. Guatemalan mountain scenery to one side, and a beautiful active volcano on the other side – incredibly mesmerising !

 

Beautiful morning!

Beautiful morning!

 

Perfect camping ground

Perfect camping ground

 

The trek down was worse than the trek up to me. It was a very steep path, and several of the younger participants began running downhill, so I could`nt be any worse than them(even if they were 10 years younger than me!)

 

On the way down steep terrain

On the way down steep terrain

We ran down the steep trail for hours. It felt as if we would never get back to the start. When I finally reached the end of the trail, both my knees and thight were completely destroyed.. An ibuprofen is recommended before the descent.

All in all, this is a Must-do, an experience you can't miss if you are in the area !

This trip can be done on your own if you have someone you can team up with, and is feeling a bit adventurous. Then you have to rent camping equipment, and preferably also hire a local guide. From Antigua, you can take local buses(takes some patience and planning..) ; Antigua-Parramos and PArramos-La Soleda Taxi takes 1-1,5 hours and costs around 3-400 Norwegian kroner(14$) ".

 Posted by at 11:39 in the morning
Apr 072016
 

Most tourists/backpackers going to Guatemala will end up in Antigua sooner or later, and for a good reason.
From the airport in Guatemala it is very easy to find transport directly to Antigua. It takes about 1,5 hours by bus. I would definitely recommend going there directly, because there is little of interest in Guatemala city. It is a large and disorganized city, that can also be quite dangerous.

streets of Antigua

streets of Antigua

I landed there late in the afternoon, so had to stay in the big city, but after one night there I went straight to Antigua. All of my time in Guatemala(one week) was spent there.
10 reasons to base yourself in Antigua:

 

1. A base to see the best of Guatemala
From Antigua you can get to anywhere in Guatemala, and also to some places in Honduras(Copan ruins) and El Salvador(El Tunco). The tours go as far as to the amazing mayaruin Tikal in the North, and to the scenic Semuc Champey region in the North-East. It can take 7-9 hours on the bus to get to these places, so it is usually organized as a multi-day trip.

Antigua

Antigua

If you have limited time in Guatemala, I would certainly recommended going on these organized tours. It's cheap, hassle-free, and a great way to get to know other Travelers .
It is also possible remain at the destination after “the tour” is finished. There are many who travel to the beautiful Lake Attilan in this way. There are plenty of backpackers ' hostels in Attilan.

 

2. Volcanoes
Antigua has an idyllic location in the Guatemalan mountain landscape. The city is surrounded by volcanoes on all sides, and all of these are possible to climb, even those that are active.
I would recommend doing this in organised tours. The climb can be done on your own, but it involves a lot of planning, and in some cases(Pacaya) It can be dangerous due to a lot of crime in the area.

Climbing the volcano

Climbing the volcano

There is 3 volcanoes that can be climbed – Acatenango, Fuego and Pacaya.
Pacaya is known as the volcano where you can roast marshmellows over glowing lava. It`s a Straightforward day trip, only takes 2 hours to go to the lava or hot rocks. If you go in the morning you`ll be back for lunch
Fuego is a very active volcano, but the tours go on a path on the side of the volcano where the lava does`nt run(which is to be prefered!). 6-8 hours to walk.
Acatenango is not active, but from the campsite you`ll be able to see the eruptions on the neighbouring volcano Fuego. It is truly spectacular..

Fuego seen from Acatenango

Fuego seen from Acatenango

From the top of Acatenango, you get an amazing view of the entire Antigua Valley, and the surrounding volcanoes. It is organized so that you`ll spend the entire first day to climb Acatenango, The campsite is approx. one hour from the summit. The following day you`ll start walking towards the top at 4 in the morning, so that you`ll get there by sunrise. If you only have time for ONE volcano trip from Antigua then I would definitely recommend this one!, but remember that it's a tough hike up to the campsite. Read about my experience at Acatenango

 

3. Diverse food and great coffee!!

Delicious coffee.. mmm

Delicious coffee.. mmm

There is a truly amazing variety of restaurants in Antigua. You can find everything from homemade Guatemalan food, authentic Mexican, Indian, sushi, Italian, Irish pub food etc.

 

I was there for a week, and did`nt even get to try a fraction of all the restaurants I wanted to sample. Antigua is revelling!
And the coffee…what an amazingly good coffee…they know all about brewing of good local coffee here. There are so many incredible small barristas where you`ll get a delicious breakfast served with the tastiest coffe, The prefectly untainted black kind. A superb start to the day.
I had had a lot of time so I had been missing for weeks in Antigua, and spent the days with a barrista coffee in one hand,and a good book in the second.

 

 

 

4. Party!
Antigua is a Mecca for partying backpackers,as well as families on vaccation. When out on the town you will also meet lots of local Guatemalan “tourists” that take the short trip from Guatemala city to party.
The whole place has a very positive vibe about it, and there are myriads of good places to party the night away.
I came here after spending 4 weeks in El Salvador and Honduras; countries that traditionally have a lot fewer tourists. So when I came to Antigua, I was very ready to socialize with other independent travellers.

ready for the party

ready for the party

I checked in at the city's main “Party hostel” with the appropriate name “Jungle party hostal”.
They had drinking games and such shenanigans every night, and I met lots of cool,young people there. The drinking games were slightly awkward , so we would usually depart for the pubs and clubs pretty early.
There are many clubs in Antigua, so it's worth to go out with someone who knows all the good spots,and know where it is best to party. In the clubs it was evenly distrubuted approx 50-50 with locals and Western tourists. The clubs close pretty early(01.00) due to local regulations. When the official clubs close you`ll have to go around town to find the “unofficial” clubs.
It was pretty funny to see all the confused people wandering the streets of Antigua looking for underground clubs. The wise move is to follow someone who has some local knowledge and knows where to find the places. you`ll have to ask around. I found that there were several guatemalan ladies who were asking me about where to find these clubs!

I also went to a so-called “poolparty” – this was pretty weird as it was a rave party inside an empty swimming pool. It is organized quite often,and is about 20 minutes taxi from Antigua. To find out when it is you will need to talk with local people, and the people on your hostel.

 

5. shopping
There are many markets in Antigua. On the weekends there is a large outdoor market by an old ruin of a church. You can buy all the possible different Guatemalan artisan products there. They have a lot of wooden sculptures, masks,clothes and shoes, fruits and food, and emeralds.

mayawomen selling stuff

mayawomen selling stuff

Many Maya related sculptures and jewelry. I bought some nice locally grown coffee in a home-made knitting bag, and homemade local chocolates.
There is a large indoor market .

This is located 3 blocks West of the main plaza. Where the shelves are packed with, lots of nice artisan products. The vendors can be a little intense once they sense a tourist, especially when times are slow. Many of them are selling the same stuff, so you`ll have to bargain well, otherwise you`ll end up paying twice the price.

 

6. Learning Spanish

He speaks only Spanish!

He speaks only Spanish!

 

Many travel to Antigua to learn the language. Guatemalan Spanish is generally easy to understand, and many travelers stay in Antigua for months while learning Spanish. There are tons of language schools, and it is also possible to participate in so-called immersion programs where you live with a host family, which don`t know much,or any, english.
In antigua there are so many tourists that it may actually be a disadvantage when you're going to learn Spanish. Most locals here speak english so well that they don't even bother trying to speak Spanish with someone who is less capable.

7. Chillout
Antigua is a resting zone for weary travelers ! A perfect place to relax for a while without doing anything useful.

After you have been backpacking through Central America for a few weeks/months it's nice to have a place like this. It's a small town,easily navigated,and easy to get around on foot. .P1010874There are a lots of other travelers to hang out with, but also possible to just be with local people if that's what you want

 

You can easily spend the days chilling in a hammock with a beer in hand, or enjoy a fresh coffee at one of the many barristas, and be social with the other backpackers in the evening. It is also possible to go on day trips down to the pacific coast if you'd like to spend the day on a beach.
I met many travelers who stayed here for months without any special goals or meaning, a lifestyle that would have suited me just fine.

 

 

 

8. Culture

Antigua was the former capital of Guatemala, and was founded in 1543 by the Spanish conquisadors. Churches and cathedrals were built, and destroyed time and again by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
At the present time there are myriads of churches, monasteries and ruins that are worth visiting for the history buffs. It is worth noting; Convento de Capuchinas, La Catedral, El Palacio de los Gobernadores, Convento de Santa Clara, El Arco de Santa Catarina and Iglesia La Merced.
On a hillside above the city there is “Cerro de la Cruz” – a large cross. It is not very interesting in itself, but it's a nice enough walk, and offers good views of the Valley.

Old church

Old church

To me a good cultural experience is more about finding out how the locals are living in their everyday life, not visiting old churches, To me it was interesting to see the local markets, and the festivals and crowds gathering during the weekends. When I was there they were celebrating some Jesus-related holiday where the locals were parading in masks and costumes. On Sunday there were concerts and crowds in the main plaza.
Check with the locals if there are any concerts or local celebrations when you visit Antigua.

 

Activities:
– join a “Workshop” in some local craft, knitting or something – You can learn how to make Guatemalean jewelry(Jade) and textile production, and other handicrafts.
– Learn about chocolate – There is a separate workshop where you'll learn to make chocolate,and about the history of chocolate,and coffee in Guatemala.
– Cooking class – Learn how to create genuine Guatemalan cuisine – lots of exciting food here”

 Posted by at 11:39 in the morning
Feb 032016
 

Honduras is a country in Central America that can offer a great deal of variety, and activities for those who takes the time to go there.. white water Rafting, Scubadiving, island-life, and partying, relaxing on a beach, getting lost in the jungle, looking for wild animals and birds in the unspoiled rain forest, visiting the coffee plantations, seeing Maya ruins and bathing in the hot springs. These are all examples of activities you can find in Honduras.

fisherman in Tela

fisherman in Tela

Many people I met in other countries in Central America was actively avoiding Honduras and El Salvador since they are known as “the bad boys of central America”. The statistics are pretty clear – There are more murders in these countries than in any other country in the world(excluding warzones). It is important to understand that it is exclusively people who are involved in gangs who are responsible for the violence. There is always a risk of being robbed here, but they rarely hurt their victims, as long as the prson being robbed does`nt resist.

Copan village

Copan village

I never felt unsafe in Honduras, and traveled aimlessly between different regions, including 3 nights in San Pedro Sula – a city that has the dubious distinction of being the world's most dangerous city Based on the number of murders. The second place on the list is Caracas in Venezuela.
There is no point in visiting the major cities in Honduras. They are generally quite dangerous, and of little interest. Going to these cities would be more about meeting local people and seeing the daily life,than actually sightseeing, maybe go out to the pubs/clubs at night in places where it is reasonably safe to do so. But for most travelers cities such as Teguigalpa and San Pedro Sula are just a stop on the road toward some of the places that is worth visiting;

 

Bay islands – Roatan and Utila
Number 1 tourist attraction in Honduras, and rightly so. Who doesn't like relaxing Caribbean tropical islands surrounded by beautiful coral reefs?!
A large percentage of the tourists in Honduras spend their whole holiday here.
Honduras is known as a country with very high crime and murder rates, but these islands are relatively safe. Most of the violence is gang related and takes place in the larger cities in the Interior of the country.
Which island should I visit?

Only beach on Utilla

Only beach on Utilla

eating coconut under a Palm tree

eating coconut under a Palm tree

paddling in the Caribbean

paddling in the Caribbean

This was a question I was contemplating when I was visiting. I wanted to go to the “best” island!
I was considering dividing my time between the 2 Islands, something that could work if you have a lot of time, but not if you,like me, only have 6 days. The problem is that there is no shuttle between the 2 Islands,and only 2 boats daily to the mainland. Then you potentially have to take the boat to the Mainland and wait all day long before getting a boat to the other island.

Utila: The island for backpackers/younger travelers who want more parties, and meet people of their own age. Cheaper than Roatan,both for food and accomodation. Much fewer and uglier beaches than Roatan. Smaller island. Much longer to travel to get to the best coral reefs, but the opportunity to see whale sharks in the right season.

Utilla boats

Utilla boats

Roatan: Much larger island. More package tourists, especially a lot of Americans. Has its own airport which makes it much easier to travel there. A lot of nice beaches,but many ugly large resorts. Coral reefs are easily accessible for snorkeling and scuba diving. More expensive.
There is a small site here for backpackers where there are some cheap backpackers ' hostels and street food and such...

 

Rio Gangrejal and the surrounding jungle

This is a national park which is very easily accessible, even for those who only planned to visit the Bay islands. From the Bay islands you just take the boat over to La Ceiba(which in itself is a totally uninteresting dirty little town), then travel to the jungle with an organized tour. It can be organized directly from the island,or by contacting the various ecolodges directly.

jungle animals

jungle animals

It takes about 45-60 minutes from the city to the jungle.

Rio Gangrejal is a very beautiful River, surrounded by mountains and Rainforest. It is worth trying the white water rafting. It is possible to get be in some real fierce Rapids(degree 5), or some less challenging(degree 3) for beginners. It is relatively cheap -40-50$ which includes an overnight stay.
The accommodation is usually in very simple cabins,or tents in the jungle. It is a very nice,and quiet place.,the only sounds you hear are the sounds of the jungle. There are plenty of rain forest in the protected national park in this area, where you can go on long day trips into the mountains. It is a varied wildlife, a lot of different birds.

 

Copan ruins

Copan ruins

Copan ruins

These are the most impressive ruins in Honduras. It is a very well-preserved maya ruin located on the border of Guatemala. They were built by a maya dynasty 1500 years ago, and was inhabited for 500 years. Throughout this period new dynasties kept making more buildings, each with its own history. To get the most out of your visit, it is worth paying for a guide, It is very inexpensive.

Agouti family!

Agouti family!

Macaw parrot eating

Macaw parrot eating

I used the Lonely planet as a guide to the ruin, which offered a simple description of the ruins with a small map.
I have seen so many ruins, and now I'm at the point where I like to just walk around and imagine how it once was. It's extra nice when the ruins are located within i living rain forest, such is the case with the Copan ruin.
The village where you spend the nights is located about 20 minutes walk from the ruins, and is a very quiet and scenic place to stay.

Plaza in Copan

Plaza in Copan

The ruins can easily be seen in 1-2 days, but it is also worth spending some time in the village, and in the surrounding mountains. It is a very beautiful area,and very tranquil.
There is also a “rescue centre” here for the local macaw birds. This is certainly worth visiting, as they're amazing animals.

Macaw Parrot

Macaw Parrot

At the entrance to the ruins there are hundreds of Macaws scattered in the trees. They are very loud,so you can hear them long before you actually see them. They are part of a colony that lives there, and are fed by the locals. There are also some small rodents here,called Agouti. This is a small rodent about the size of a rabbit. Incredible cool little creatures!

The ruins blend in with the rain forest, In this respect they are somewhat similar to the ruins of Angkor Wat. Giant trees crawl up between the rocks on the top of the pyramidal structures. The thing that I liked about these ruins was that I had them all to myself. In contrast to other more famous ruins in Central America(Citzen Itchza and Tikal) Copan is a bit off the beaten path. In addition, there are few tourists who go to Honduras as they are afraid that it is going to be dangerous.

 

Lago Yojoa

Anyone who likes nature, hiking, and wild animals should go here! It is possibly the most scenic site in Honduras.

nature reserve

nature reserve

Lago yoyoba

Lago yoyoba

Honduras largest waterfall

Honduras largest waterfall

There is about 480 different types of exotic bird species in this area, and lots of animals. I was very keen to see some Armadillos,as there is supposedly lots of them here.
There are many opportunities for organized tours with local guides that know where they can go to find wildlife. There are also lots of waterfalls, and one should definitely take the opportunity to rent a boat for the lake. There are no houses around the Lake, so the area feels pretty isolated. The scenery around the Lake is protected in the form of national parks.
There is also a lot of good traditional Honduras food there, and last, but not least – amazingly good coffee.

Coffee

Coffee

Delicious coffee.. mmm

Delicious coffee.. mmm

Coffee plantations covers many of the mountains in this area. It was actually a little sad when I went on a hike 2 hours up the mountain and never managed to leave the coffee and banana plantation…the jungle was gone.

Stig out picking banana

Stig out picking banana

Throughout my journey in Honduras I constantly heard about a hostel named D&D brewery. This is a hostel located in the Woods close to the Lake,and they have their own beer brewery! This is a rarity in Central America because most of the beer is boring diluted dishwater.
That in itself was reason enough for me to suffer through 6-8 hour journey on chicken busses,and 2 spending some nights in San Pedro Sula- the world's most dangerous city .

 Posted by at 7:58 in the morning
Dec 252015
 
The Savior

The Savior

how to get to El Salvador?
It is often a good idea to fly into a more "touristy" place nearby such as cancun, or the bay islands. . Tha will be cheaper than flying directly to El Salvador in many cases,and it is an opportunity to get to visit other exciting destinations. I chose a cheap charter flight to Cancun(4000nok(500$)) ., then relaxed for a few days before flying to Guatemala(2000nok(250$)) from where I took a bus directly to El Salvador(5 hours, ca 300NOK(40$) for luxury bus!)

 

How much time should I spend there?
I would reccomend a week at least. 10 days is better if you have the time

 

What to do in El Salvador ?

El Tunco surfing beach

El Tunco surfing beach

There are lots of interesting palces in El Salvador,both scenic nature,partying and nightlife,beautiful villages, lagunas,volcanoes, and fun activities such as surfing and zip lining.
Most things worth seeing are in west and central El Salvador. There are also some nice mountain villages in the north, ,but they are fairly similar to the villages in the west.
I would reccomend getting to know some local salvadorians, especially if you want to go out in San Salvador and Santa Tecla. I made a little not on the local Couchsurfing page, and got responses from lots of local people who wanted to meet me. I was staying in a hostel, because I also wanted to meet other travellers. So then I ended up hanging out with a good mix of locals and tourists. I brought 2 american girls to meet Julio from couchsurfing. we met him, and 4 of his friends, and we ended up being a big and diverse group.

Meg and the gang from San Salvador

Meg and the gang from San Salvador

we went to a modern area of town called Santa Tecla, where we did some bar hopping, and got to see 4 different pubs before the end of the evening.

Is El Salvador safe?
Yes, and no. you should always be aware that there are lots of social unrest in El Salvador, and many gang-related murders. Getting mugged/robbes is a very real concern, most locals have experienced it,and as a tourist you are more attractive. Take advice from the locals. I would not reccomend first-time backpackers to go here. Seperate article about safety to come.

 

 

places worth visiting:

Route of flowers(the flower route):
this is the highlight of El Salvador. a very pittoresque area surrounded by volcanoes, coffeplantations, and beautiful nature. I would absolutely try to plan to visit during the weekend. That`s when the markets have the most activity, and it is the best time to see the exciting food market in Jujaya. Many of the Salvadorian dishes found there can be difficult to find elsewhere.

village on the flower route

village on the flower route

You can easily travel between villages on the local buses, And there are hotels and hostels in all of the villages along this route; zip lines, horseriding, visiting coffe plantations, and checking out the artisan markets.

decorative buildings in Ataco

decorative buildings in Ataco

I was staying in a very nice hostel in Jujaya, a city which I would recommend everyone to stay in. , .. Remember some warm clothes, as it gets cold there in the evenings.

 

Puerto Libertad and the surrounding beaches:
a large part of the backpackers that go to El Salvador go there only for the surf. It is a typically Central American phenomena, lots of surfbums everywhere. Libertidad itself is not much to talk about, most people will head straight for one the small beach villages. Playa El Tunco, Zonte and Suchal are the most popular ones.

Tunco promenade

Tunco promenade

Sunset on the pacific coast

Sunset on the pacific coast

Playa El Tunco is an established free-zone/party-place for backpackers, and it has a really chillout vibe. There`s only 2 things on the menu; surfing and partying. In the weekends the Salvadorians come down from San Salvador to get some beach time, and some partying. In the weekends it is wise to book your accomodation. We arrived on a saturday afternoon, and had some difficulties in finding a place to stay.
Tunco is a good place to learn how to surf,as it is relatively inexpensive. it costs about 10$ for one hour of tutition, and 10$ for the surf board. Check your board meticulosly, as they will often try to trick you by claiming that you dented/damaged the surfboard. I had to pay 30$ extra(7 days of salary in El salvador) because they claimed that I had damaged the board.

Surfing

Surfing

San Salvador:
Worth going to for the party-scene. otherwise not to much to see for a tourist. It is relatively dangerous to wander in the centre of town where most the "attractions" are. The city is known as one of the best places to go out drinking in Central America. Before going there take time to find out where it is safe to live, and , where it is safe to go out in the evening. Keep in contact with the locals for advice on the current situation. Zona Rosa is a pretty safe part of town,and this is also where most the clubs are. Another good option is to travel to Santa Tecla,which is like a little suburbian city 15 minutes from San Salvador. There are lots of bars/clubs all gathered in one little pedestrian street..

Lake Coatapeque:

Lake Coatapeque

Lake Coatapeque

beautiful lake in a volcanic crater. A place worth visiting. You can easily go here as a daytrip from San Salvador, or any village on the flower route. I would reccomend renting a car, but be aware that the roads to the lake are pretty low-maintenance.
there are local buses going to the lake, but those can be pretty low maintenance as well, and it is not unusual for bad guys to rob the passengers(happens mostly within San Salvador).

boats on coatapeque

boats on coatapeque

When visiting the lake it is really worth hiring a small boat to take you around the lake,and to visit a place that is nice for swimming.
There are som hostels along the crater edge, that has a very good view. it's worth staying here a few nights if you have the time.

East- San Salvador
The november carneval in San Miguel. it was happening when I was visiting the area, but the locals warned me about going there as a crowd like that can get pretty dangerous. There are also some nice scenic villages in this area, but you can get the same experience from visiting similar villages in the west.

Yhere is obviously more places to see in El Salvador, but the ones listed here are the mot popular tourist places. It is a relatively small country, and you can actually see a good many of the sights in 1-2 days if you rent a car. This is absolutely reccomended for those who has less than a week to spend. Just try to avoid driving into gerilja and gang territories, that might cause some discomfort and pain/death

 Posted by at 6:24 pm
Dec 202015
 

Along with my new Salvadoran friend Julio, and the American girls, I had made lots of plans to drive around the rest of El Salvador to see various beautiful places, but it fell slightly apart as Julio had some problems with the car.. We were sitting for half the day at the hostel in San Salvador before Julio came along with another car that he had borrowed. So then we were ready for our El Salvadorian roadtrip !

Salvadorian breakfast

Salvadorian breakfast

It was so late in the afternoon,and since it gets dark at five, we just had to drive right down to the coast to a surf beach called El Tunco. El Tunco was another night of partying with hipster-surfers.

ME and my new friends

ME and my new friends

The morning after we finally got on the road. We went to a volcanic crater lake called Lago Coatapeque.

by a nice volcanic lake

by a nice volcanic lake

When we finally got down to the lake(after almost wrecking the car on the terrible road) we rented a boat with skipper to take us round on the lake. It was very beautiful there, and the water kept a steady 30 degrees.

On the road to the Lake

On the road to the Lake

After that we wanted to see a place called 'ruta de flores " – The flower road - one of the nicest areas in the country. It is a series of small villages high up in the mountains, surrounded by volcanoes on all sides,and coffee plantations, and of course a lot of flowers.

 roadtrip(I`m Mr.crazy)

roadtrip(I`m Mr.crazy)

We came there just as darkness began to creep in, so did not get to see much of the area. We came to a small town called Jujaya. Jujaya has a very nice local food market on weekends with many Salvadoran favorites. We ate at a very famous(locally) steak restaurant. Since we were in the coffee district I could not help myself when I found sirloin with coffee sauce on the menu. It tasted amazing,as good as any sirloin I ever had.!

Coffee steak

Coffee steak

When we sat there the electricity went out, and everything became dark. We heard various fearful screams from the street. I was thinking that now there is surely full anarchy with robbers and other villains sneaking around in the dark. When traveling in El Salvador you constantly have safety in your mind, since it is rated as one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The light eventually came back, and I reckon that that screaming were just kids playing around.
It was very cold up there in the mountains, and I was, in my usual spirit of poor planning, Only wearing a tiny singlet and shorts. Despite this, I took a spontaneous decision to find a place to stay for the night so that I could see more of Ruta de Flores the next day.
My luggage and all my stuff was left in El Tunco, and my friends went back to San Salvador. So there I was in a strange village in the mountains, naked(almost) and alone.

In Ataco along with Canader

In Ataco along with Canader

Next day I took the local buses between the different small villages, and visited a local coffee plantation and distillery.

Coffee my guide!

Coffee my guide!

There I had a private guide who took me through all the steps in the refining of coffee beans, and I got to sample some of the wonderful freshly brewed coffees, everything to the price of 40 Norwegian kroner(14$) ", about the same as you would pay for a cup of coffee in Norway.

The villages were very beautiful, sleepy little places inbetween mountains, each with its own charm.
When I got back to my own village I had planned to go check out some nice waterfalls that were in the woods outside of the village. I found that I had no time for that since I had to catch a bus to the beaches.

Sinnatagg on Ruta Flores

Sinnatagg on Ruta Flores

It worked out for the best,really. My new Canadian friend told me later that 2 other tourists from the same hostel had gone there at the same time, and they were robbed by a nervous guy with a big machete. I was actually constantly mentally prepared to be robbed, but I think it was nice that I avoided it that day.

My journey towards the beach was probably even more dangerous than it had been to get robbed. The driver of the ancient schoolbus speed up downhill as if there was no tomorrow. There was no question of slowing down when approaching a turn, then it was full on pedal to the metal. Had there been any cars around the corner, we had been pretty fucked. Ironically, he had more than enough time when he stopped in villages along the way, Then he would talk as long as possible with various buddies, even stopping for some food here and there.
I got safely(but not comfortably) to the beach after 5 hours in purgatory. I was stupid enough to buy a newspaper the next day. There I found out that another bus had crashed in the same area the same day.

The default transport El Salvador

The default transport El Salvador

In total 8 people died. I also read that there had been a massacre of 4 youths in the city which was located right next to the beach where I lived. It is not an unusual event in a country where there are over 50 murders daily, but I never felt unsafe. Most of these murders are gang members, or business owners who do not pay "tax" to the gangs.

El Tunco was a decent and safe place to stay. There was a blissful mix of Salvadorians and backpackers. Most of the backpackers there were classic surfbums from Australia and USA.
Of course I had to surf a bit when I was there. From past experience I know that I'm not just some crackerjack, so I decided to take some lessons.
The lessons were not much to brag about. I went to 3 different surf shops where I specifically asked for an instructor that spoke English. I ended up with one that could say "hello" and "goodbye".
But it was fine, as the lesson did not involve much chatter. It was just me on the board, and him pushing me into various waves.
It was not very good, I was unable to catch a single wave, or stand upright. The problem was really that one has to jump up on the board in a jerking motion, without using the knees for support. This was a problem for me since the jerking movements felt painful in the lower back.. Maybe I'm too old for this, most people there were 10 years younger than me!

I rented the board the following day as well, but was having the same problem.

Browsing(1 1seconds)

Browsing(1 1seconds)

In addition, as the waves of El Tunco are very unpredictable. One moment there is hardly movement on the surface, next moment there is a 3 meter high wave coming straight towards me. It was actually quite scary at times . It happened that I saw that a wave was coming, but it was too late to swim against it, and too late to swim away from it, so I was just sitting there waiting to get a hefty beating. I was actually mostly afraid that I would loose my gopro camera, it cost a fortune!.

This video led to this article; http://latincorrespondent.com/2016/01/salvadoran-media-mistakes-English-traveler-for-jason-statham/

When I returned the board they claimed that I had made some dents in it, and wanted $ 30, an average weekly wage, to fix it. I'm pretty sure I was careful with the board, but I just had to pay. Recommendation; Take a picture, and video of the board before you rent !

Post-surf chill

Post-surf chill

The next day I was just sitting eating puposaes and drinking beer by the pool, which is also a pretty rewarding activity when it's nice and sunny.

Puposa is the closest thing to national food in El Salvador. It is very easy, just a tortilla that is embedded with frijoles(beans) and cheese, and may also contain chicken, garlic, mushroom, fish, etc. It is very good and cheap. They sell it everywhere along the street,and the so-called "puposerias».

Ladies who make pupusaer

Ladies who make pupusaer

After a few days I had to move on because I had other places to see. I had to take the bus at 04.40 O`clock to San Salvador, then a new bus until San Pedro Sula In Honduras, and then another bus for the last stretch towards La Ceiba where I planned to take a boat to the islands Utila or Roatan.
It was a little scary to walk around with all my things in the middle of the night, especially since I had heard some loud bangs just before I left the hotel.
I met a solitary policeman on the street. He had a loaded gun in his hand. He assured me that there were no villains nearby, so I strolled further.
17 Hours and a border crossing later, I found myself in a dirty and ugly port city by the name of "La Ceiba".

 Posted by at 12:38 in the morning
Dec 172015
 

Finally back to Central America! I saved up all my holiday for a long trip through parts of between America because it is one of the favorite places my travel. Last time I got experienced the best of Panama, Costa Rica og Nicaragua. Another trip took me through Mexico and Belize, So now remained only El Salvador, Guatemala og Honduras – de 3 worst offenders !

The Savior,Honduras and Guatemala

The Savior,Honduras and Guatemala

Last time I was in the area so I let me stop from visiting El Salvador after I had read a little about the country. I read that it is the country with the highest number murder in relation to citizens - 50 people daily. There are plenty of threads where. It is also very much natural disasters - earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, gjørmeras, flooding, hurricanes are all relatively common. The traffic is also dangerous.
So I dropped it at that time. But this time I would not let trifles like that stop me. I've also heard great things about El Salvador, and the people who live there, so felt curious about how it would be. Curiosity is what drives me to go to all these places.
I went from a conference in London to Mexico. So idiotic as it is so significant was the ticket much cheaper from Bergen, although there is a plane that runs from London. That meant I had to fly from London to Bergen in the morning, only to begin the journey from Bergen. So I had to fly back to London in the afternoon to take the plane from there to Cancun.
After a few days of cave diving

Cave dive

Cave dive

and partying in Playa Del Carmen, then I went to Guatemala City, and from there they traveled painlessly with a very comfortable bus to San Salvador.

I was conscious that San Salvador is a fairly dangerous city, but luckily got the bus up on a pretty safe area where I strolled around for a while until I found a hostel.
The time was just 12 when I arrived, so I thought to be a bit touristy, and see a bit of the city. There is a very wide spread center of this city, so not so easy to get an overview. In the center there are some fine churches and sculptures and such that I thought to check out. When I asked the lady at reception about how to get to the center so she simply said "tu eres loco!?», which means "you are crazy?». She told me that for just under an hour ago 3 policemen shot and killed there, and that it was relatively common. So I had to weigh a little back and forth if it was worth going there or not. On one hand, it shall be a terrible beautiful church there, on the other side so I can risk getting shot in the crossfire.

Typical Saddle vad Stop

Typical Saddle vad Stop

I decided finally to just wander around a bit in the Zona Rosa nor, which is a relatively safe area, and where all the clubs and bars located. It also felt safe there with the thought that at least 50% of all the people I met on the street were security guards with shotguns and machine guns around the neck. I thought a bit so that if someone comes villains running and shooting at me as there is always a guard with a rifle right near.

I went on an anthropological museum where I learned a little about immigration. More than 3 millioner El Salvadorere bor i andre land. Most of it in the United States and Canada, but also large groups in other countries like Italy and Sweden.

It was not so much more walking on me that day. It is best to be careful when you are in a dangerous city.
I went out for dinner with the 2 American girls, and afterwards so I took them with me when I was going to meet Julio whom I had chatted with on the couch surfing.

Meg and the gang from San Salvador

Meg and the gang from San Salvador

We met Julio and 3 of his friends, so we were a large group that went on pubcrawl together. We went out to a suburb of San Salvador called Santa Tecla. Where it is quite safe, and lots of bars. It was fun to watch the local when they dance. It seems that everyone has the rhythms naturally in the body, and they just glide along in a sensual dance. I got trained me a bit of salsa with a real Salvador. It was fun since I found out I was not as hopeless as I had thought…
We got home safe and got a few hours sleep before the next day's roadtrip…..stay tuned…..

 Posted by at 12:59 in the morning
Apr 272015
 

I have traveled extensively around the world, and as a tourist there are always hordes of local merchants trying to sell you everything between heaven and earth. Many of my journeys have been long-term travels, where it was not feasible to drag along souvenirs from every town, but in many countries they haggle on even the most elementary necessities.
The more popular tourist destinations, the more vendors(and scammers). Turkey,Egypt and VietNam are among the worst in the world when it comes to haggling.
These guys are experts, it is not possible to win when you haggle with people who work 14 hours a day throughout their lives only to haggle with tourists. It's just a matter of how much you are losing.
But haggling is not just something you do with desperate sellers in tropical countries, it works just as well in Norway, or other western countries. It`s much less common as people there usually have enough money,and are willing to pay what the asking price, but for those who are willing to take a chance there are bargains to be made!.
I don`t buy many things in general,but the 4 last things I bought, I haggled down in price all of them. I bought a diving suit for 7000, when it actually cost 8000, a mobile for 2000, which actually cost 2500, and recently I haggled on a brand new bike model in the beginning of the biking season from 8500 to 8000. This was a bike that had a queue of people who wanted to buy it, but I was the first, and despite all logics they agreed to giving me a discount.
There are some simple rules for negotiating that are easy to follow. ;

Haggling is not only an activity for the Bazaar

Haggling is not only an activity for the Bazaar

 

Have in-debth knowledge of the product, and similar products that you can choose alternatively. Find out what your product,or similar products, costs in other shops in the area. It is clear that if the product is cheaper in another store, you could just buy it in the second store, but sometimes it is not the most practical solution. It can be an online store, or a store located in another city / another part of the country. If there is a similar product in another shop at the same price then you can use that fact as you`re negotiating the price; It has similar specifications, so you would rather go there and buy that product unless you can get a “good deal”.
Be prepared to have to go home without the product, have an idea about how much you are willing to pay,and if there is an option to pay the full price if the negotiations do not lead forward.

 

“Package price”; If you are going to buy more than one thing in the same store then it will very often pay off to ask for a package price. For example, if you are in the electrics shop looking for a new pc, but in addition would like a printer and a modem for your home office. Then you could ask to get it rounded down to the nearest whole sum, like ", 8439 Norwegian kroner(14$) ", What about 8000 Norwegian kroner(14$) "?
Although it looks pretty corny it might actually help to have 8000 in cash and wave them around a bit and say that “We thought the price would be less than 8000, so that's all we brought today”.
I bought recently a bicycle that cost 8000, and after a little haggling I convinced them to include the storage tray,support beam,and mud guards in the price, even though it would cost 5-600 kroner more.

 

Products on exhibition: Many stores sell out exhibition items with significant discounts, just because they have been displayed in the store. These items are usually completely injury-free,but with good prices. As a rule, it's the store that takes initativ to sell these items,but as consumers we can ask to buy the exhibition item at a reduced price, and see if they go along with it. For example; a fancy Flat-screen TV that's on display playing demo-videos. Tell the salesperson that you want to buy just this Tv, but do not have 20000 norwegian kroner today, What if you could get this “weary” display model for 15000 ?? *Twinkle * Twinkle *

It helps to be smart!

It helps to be smart!

 

Do not be arrogant,or expect to get a reduction in price. It helps to “have a twinkle in your eye” and only give a hint like; “is there room for haggling here * * wink wink* *.
If they say no, then it is okay to have a few arguments ready. example; “I have a friend who knows someone who works at the sports shop. He was buying a bike that actually costs 8000 kroners (1100$) for 5500 Norwegian kroner(14$) ", so then it must be possible for me to get it for 7000 Norwegian kroner(14$) " !??”
The store employees in Norway(and other western countries) do not get Commission according to how much they sell,so they usually have no personal gain in "making the deal happen",even if the logic dictates that it is better to sell something at a little reduced price,than for the customer not to purchase the product at all. But even if they do not earn anything on selling stuff, they do have a certain professional pride, and might feel like they are doing a good job if they can convince customers to buy their products.
You will quickly find out how flexible they are to this process. If they reject you flatly without any discussion then it would take a lot to persuade them any further. I was at a game store that sold second-hand games . There they sold a used copy of a game I wanted for 550 Norwegian kroner(14$) ". I pointed out to the people who worked there that this was a ridiculous price,as this game can be purchased for 490 kroner brand new in other stores. I suggested a price of 450 Norwegian kroner(14$) ", which is still too high a price,but at least a little bit cheaper than new. she would`nt even discuss the matter, so I bought it in a different shop brand new,and the store missed out on a good deal on a second-hand game. The game is going to be standing in the store forever because of a ridiculous pricing.

 

The more the thing you buy costs, the more barganing power. When purchasing a car we are in a particularly good position to haggle since many car salesmen get Commission, or bonus, based on the sales figures.In addition,as a rule these guys are “hardcore-salesmen” by nature, and takes pride in the sales figures,so they really want to sell. You can save quite a few thousand dollars by haggling on the price of the new car. Then it helps to have nerves of steel and pretend to be disinterested, no matter how many fancy features the car has, and perhaps also mention that you have seen a car with another car dealership at a lower price,but with many of the same properties. In this case it is important to have done a bit of research before going to the shop, so that you know the selling arguments before you have even seen the car. Knowledge of the product is alpha omega when planning to haggle.
It's a good idea to have a list of current resellers,and ccars that fit your wish-list, so that if there is a seller who is not interested in lowering the price, you always have options.

haggling can save you money!

haggling can save you money!

 

Another area where it really pays off to bargain is with the banks. The banks are thinking only of money, and they have enough financial sense to negotiate with the few customers who dare to try it. Do a search on recent consumer tests that has been done on the loan or deposit interest rate of different banks. If you are going to get a loan with the Bank, then you could tell them that since other banks offer better interest rate conditions you are considering using the other bank,unless the can provide a “good deal”. The same can be done with interest on your deposits. If you have a lot of money in a savings account it is obviously desirable to get Max interest rate. If you already have an account in the Bank that provides the best rate of return, then you don`t have many arguments to mak in a negotiation.. I have my accounts in the Norwegian bank, an dannot bargain as I get the best interest rates ....

Have you ever bargained on something in the industrialized world ??

 Posted by at 7:14 pm
Mar 152015
 

Exploring the elements; a competition for photo bloggers from Thomas Cook.
They want pictures that represent the four elements Fire,water,Earth and air. I have been rummaging through the photo collection from my travels and found these images that fit the descriptions, so here it goes;

Fire – “ Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world Associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit

Fire !

Fire !

This picture was taken during a festival on St.Croix where we saw a flame show featuring some American-Caribbean bikini girls. Read more about the experience here

 

 

Earth – “Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth Associated with stubbornness, collectiveness , physicality and gravity”

Ground

Ground

This is a picture taken in Salento in Colombia. This is the only place where there are some special trees called Wax palms , seen in the background of the image. Read about the experience here

 

. Air:Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement Associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom

Air

Air

This picture is from Otavalo in Ecuador. We were at an information center about local birds. I noticed this guy coming towards us.There was also a group of indian children there(see pics later in article). Read more here

 

 

Water – ” Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world Associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism”

Water

Water


This is from diving in Koh Lanta,Thailand. See later in article for amazing manta picture.. . !

Thank you Ross from Free your mind travels for nominating me, here are my nominees;

I nominate ;

1. Ingeborg from Hamaca reiseblogg

2. Renate fra Renates reiser

3. Etta from Coffe in a cup>

4. May liss from Malivas world

5. Hanne Marit from sackcloth and sandals

 

 

Here are some of the images that I also wanted to post for this contest;

 

Air;

P1060729

Cable car in Medellin

Cable car in Medellin

 

 

Water:

Water

hot springs in Dominica

Water

Manta i Koh Lanta,Thailand

Water

Hot springs in Roturua,New Zealand

 

 

Ground:

Ku in Martinborough

Ku in Martinborough

Tree in Auckland

Tree in Auckland

Hot springs in Bolivia

Thermal-soil in Bolivia

 

 

Fire;

Sunset in taganga

Sunset in taganga

Bush fire in Colombia

 Posted by at 6:58 pm
Feb 042015
 

1. Suomenlinna Fortress and fergeturen trailers
– This is probably the most visited place among tourists to Helsinki. There is a very fine,and cheap, fergetur. I think it is a particularly nice walk in the winter when the ice is above the fjord and frost mist surrounds the water. In winter there are low season for tourists and when I was there in January so I was about the only tourist on the entire island. It's free to go walking around the fort,but the museum costs a euro.Det was built in 1748 to protect the city against the Russians.

Fergetur!

Fergetur!

Suomenlinna in wintertime

Suomenlinna in wintertime

Helsinki seen from the ferry

Helsinki seen from the ferry

 

2. Torni hotel tower viewpoint.

I over 50 years was the tallest building in Finland, but it is still the best place to get an overview of the city. On top of the tower there is a bar, where one can enjoy a beer with terrific views. The toilet here is supposedly very familiar(then known as a toilet can be) because there is a large window with good views.

View from Torni tower

View from Torni tower

 

 

3. Churches;

The lutheranske cathedral: Stands as a bastion heart of downtown. Senat square in front of the church is the natural place to start a sightseeing day in Helsinki.

Senate Square with Lutheran Cathedral

Senate Square with Lutheran Cathedral

It is a short distance from there to “The rock church” – a church that is built into harmony with the mountain, special mood.
It is also not far to the Russian Orthodox Church which stands on a peak above the harbor with good views of the city.

Russian orthodox church

Russian orthodox church

Kamppi Chapel of Silence is a church that does not resemble any other church. It is worth taking a think the only to see the architecture.

 

 

4. Sauna outside the city –

One can somehow not visit Finland without taking a trip to a sauna is ! There are a handful of good saunas near downtown. Sauna Sera is good because it is right by a lake so that one has the opportunity for some ice swimming on vinteren.Det is 5 different rooms, 2 vedfyrte saunas. There are separate days for men and ladies,and according to tradition so you have to be naked.
Kotiharjun public sauna is a sauna that is a little closer downtown, and where they have separate rooms for men and ladies, so that one can actually go there with girlfriend.

Saunamoro !

Saunamoro !

 

 

5.Esplanade –

A very nice and quiet way to experience Helsinki is to stroll along the esplanade, and maybe stop for coffee and cakes at one of the many sidewalk restaurants.. Here is a small park where bohemians hang, and where street musicians gather in the summer months. In summer they put up stalls along the park where you can buy local food,cakes,fruit and souvenirs.
Along this street you can find anything you want by shopping,everything from big purchases center to small cozy corner stores.

Helsinki esplanade

Helsinki esplanade

Shopping street Helsinki

Shopping street Helsinki

 

 

6.seurossari open air museum-

a very nice getaway from the city on a small island. Only open in the summer. Here they set up a small village showing traditional Finnish rural life and values. It is an educational and interesting way to understand Finns, and it is very close to the city center!

Open air museum

Open air museum

Seurasaari museumet i full sving

Seurasaari museumet i full sving

 

 

7.national museum of Finnland
here are lots of great exhibits for those who want a chronological understanding of Finland's history from the Stone Age to modern society. They also often interesting temporary exhibitions. Unlike Seuossari so it is open year round.
What's funny about this museum is that there are many interactive exhibits,so it becomes a little more interressant for children,and for people who easily bored.

Museum

Museum

National Museum of Finland

National Museum of Finland

 

 

8.Hakaniemen torikatu marked
Nicely little marked as your less “touristy” than elsewhere. Here goes the local to buy fresh produce and traditional Finnish meals. There is plenty cafes and bakeries here where one can easily pass the time watching people while enjoying Finnish cakes. There is also much souvenirs and such here,and can be a bit cheaper than the souvenir shops in the center.

hakaniemi markedshall

hakaniemi markedshall

Other markedshallen

Other markedshallen

 

 

9. Sinebrychoff Park

a perfect hangout in the summer when it is sunny and warm. Here you can quickly spend a whole day picnic and do some “people-watching”. Sometimes it is also itinerant show with acrobats here.
In winter there are not quite as attractive, but the park is used a portion of sledging when there is snow.

People in the park on a nice summer day

People in the park on a nice summer day

 

 

 

10. Linnanmaki Amusement Park
One of the biggest theme parks in Finland, lots of different attractions,including a roller coaster made of wood. It costs nothing to enter,Only if you want to try the various attractions. Nice place to spend a few hours,eat ice,get up adrenaline and look at people and livestock.

Linnanmaki Amusement Park

Linnanmaki Amusement Park

 Posted by at 10:16 in the morning
Dec 312014
 

Chance would have it that we ended up in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.This was on New Year's Eve in the year that we were travelling the world. We were very careful to keep informed about where in the city is was safe to be. The day was spent walking around the centre of Port of Spain, a not-so-overly-impressive Caribbean “city”. It's a strange culture in that it is a mix between the typical Caribs and Indians. The indians were imported as cheap labor after slavery was banned. The favorite local food in Port of Spain is Indian Roti – a kind of tortilla containing sauce, meat and potatoes.

New Years meal

New Years meal


Torunn enjoying luxury dinner

Torunn enjoying luxury dinner

It was actually our New Years meal – one Roti on the street. It was a totally slightly-below average meal until I actually found pieces of raw chicken inside the tortilla, then it was suddenly a far-below-average meal.

On the evening of New Year's Eve we did`nt really have many plans, but did have the desire to go out and take part in the Trinidadian party scene. We had a litre of Swedish vodka (which cost considerably less than in Sweden), and after some fruity drinks in our room, the party mood came over us. This was a small rebellion after 4 months with only rum and coke.

Carnival ladies in Trinidad

Carnival ladies in Trinidad


Trinidad is generally a dangerous place to be, so we were not really sure if we wanted to walk around in the streets after dark. The guys at the guest house marked some places on the map in the neighbourhood where they told us to stay away from. There was a nearby grave yard where crooks liked to hang out. I said nothing,but thought that we certainly are`nt going to be visiting any graveyards after dark on new years eve anyways...
We did not notice any bad people , even though we walked around the city, even late at night. It is like most cities; one must know where to go, and where it is best to stay away. I think we would have had more trouble if we had gone to the east side of town where the gangs keep shooting at each other.
They do not have much interest shooting at tourists anyway, because we are pretty neutral to their gangs.
We stayed at a pretty good small guesthouse in a quiet section of a township called St.James.

We went out to a party street in Port of Spain and found a crowd in which we subtly blended in.. There was a small pub which had organized a small party. On the way there we were about to go into a different place, but turned back when we found out that it cost money to get in. That was for the best, since we later found out that it was a gay bar.

Fireworks

Fireworks


We continued down the street party, and remained in a fun little bar that was chock full of welldressed locals.
We stood on the curb and partied with the Trinidadians when we noticed that we were standing right next to a cooler with ice, mixer and a bottle of vodka. Some of the locals had brought their own alcohol to avoid having to buy the expensive drinks at the bar. The owner suddenly came over and poured us some drinks, which we took as a sign that maybe he wanted to socialize with us, but he did not seem interested in that either. He just wanted to give some free drinks to strangers. Its not easy to understand the Trinidadians.
At the pub in Port of Spain

At the pub in Port of Spain


So there we stood ,maybe half an hour, and was given drink after drink by a friendly Carib with his own cooler. Had it been legal to bring a cooler with booze to nightclubs in Norway there would have been some seriously wasted people around.

The advantage of spending New Years in the Caribbean is of course that it is always lovely and warm,and if we had been anywhere else than Port of Spai we could have been drinking rum on the beach,as we did on Christmas Eve. Next time we are going to Trinidad and Tobago we will drop Port of spain ,and go straight to the fine beaches in Tobago. Maybe not as much fireworks there, but it actually means nothing to me if I never see another rocket in my life. There are better,and more environmentally friendly, ways to celebrate .

Here's the video from our time in Trinidad and Tobago;

 Posted by at 1:02 pm
Dec 162014
 
MArked og attraksjoner

MArked og attraksjoner

In this period before Christmas I took a trip to London to enjoy this metropol., and then a visit to the Christmas market in Hyde Park mandatory. I've been there a few times in previous years, and have the impression that there has been growing steadily and evenly, and now covers a very large area in central Hyde park.

luxury chocolates

luxury chocolates

The Christmas market is very popular, Thousands of people crowded the streets between all the stalls. There are hundreds of stalls where they sell all sorts of weird stuff, very many homemade and unique things, mostly made by British artists / artists/ artisans.
We ended up buying local cheddar cheese from different regions of England. These were luxurious and expensive cheeses that you won`t find at any store in England, and they tasted wonderful. It was the sort of cheese that one can continue to snack on until you burst.

The Christmas market is also a little mecca for food,but most of what is found there is of the tasty,but unhealthy type. The entire market is set up to mimic the German Christmas markets, in both food,drinks and entertainment.
Bratwurst, people in lederhosen ,and yodeling in the speakers is all a part in establishing this as a Bavarian-inspired event!

the entry to Wonderland

the entry to Wonderland

Another good reason to visit this market is all the places serving beer !. And then I am talking about proper big german-style beers !, none of the 0,4 litre-nonsense that they serve in Norway. They also serve hot drinks,with alcohol,and without. Mulled wine is a common favorite on cold winter days. It's almost the same as the norwegian drink "Gløgg", only with more focus on wine,spices and raisins, and less sugary than "gløgg". All the pubs are obviously German, with associated oompah-Lompa music.

Christmas market just opening for the public!

Christmas market just opening for the public!

This year it has been unusually warm in London throughout November /December. This is obviously true for all countries of the world, as the global warming finally is revealing its ugly face to those who doubt it..

In any case , we did`nt get as much Christmas feeling this year compared to previous years when we've been there. Gray weather and heavy rain simply does`nt give the same christmas-feeling as frost and snow, Like there has been all previous years that I visited this market. The market is called “Winter wonderland !” !

The market in Hyde park is more than just a market, it is an amusement park as well !

walking through Hyde park

walking through Hyde park

it was quite impressive to see how many different attractions there is here, everything from teacups and Ferris wheels to the pirate cave and a tower that shoots you 100 metres into the air and back. They also have an ice rink, and acrobatics show.

Here is the official webpage; Winter wonderland

 Posted by at 7:30 pm