A Travellerspoint blog

TOGO - the heat...


View 2019 Benin - Togo on ToddP's travel map.

BENIN-TOGO trip
I struggled to plan my visit to Benin and Togo because there is such a lack of information in comparison with other more visited places in the World. Also being ex-French colonies would explain why the majority of the travellers would be from the French speaking world and would not leave many reviews in English. Even the information for visa processes varied depending on the source of information. In Togos case even the embassy in Europe could not confirm the requirements for visa on arrival at the border check-point. Hmmm

These are pure cash societies so plan accordingly. We could not even pay for the hotels on a card (however € was accepted a few times). We knew this prior to travelling so it wasn’t a surprise for us at least. Banks do exist and they’re the best place to be actually during the day as the air-conditioned room is a nice escape during the heat of the day for half an hour or so. :)

It is Africa and both are developing countries with very few tourists so I should have had some reasonable expectation to all of the above when planning :)
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TOGO
"What's in Togo? Why Togo?" Who knows...let's explore it

DAY 4
It’s day four of our trip and we are at the border crossing arriving here from Grand Popo in Benin. As we did not have our visas secured in advance and no confirmed information of what’s required, we had a potential risk that we might have issues here. We had all forms printed from the London embassy website, pictures taken, confirmation of the return flight, etc. but this was completely unnecessary.
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Only Yellow fever cards were checked. We were given immigration forms to fill out and after moving from one desk to another and after a few stamps the formalities were over. We just paid the visa fee in cash and we were free to go. Another final check by an officer outside and we are free to explore Togo. Not even a picture was required.

We walked for a few hundred metres to the top of the shared taxi queue and we agreed to be taken to Agbodrafo village on the N2.

AGBODRAFO
This was our stop for a Togoville visit. We walked to one hotel on the lake which we knew was expensive, but we thought we’d chance our arms and they might do us a ‘good deal’ while we were there. :) This was not the case and we walked out. Guess what?- there was a moto outside who agreed to bring us to our next option along the beach. We were thrilled as did not have to walk in this heat.
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After weeks and weeks of research and chats on WhatsApp I had a tour guide organised in Togoville who would show us around. After my research it was confirmed that the chief of the village will not let anyone walk around on their own and a local guide is required.

The lady from our hotel brought us in her car to the lakeside (we stayed at the beach front) where we managed to negotiate a boat ride across the lake (1.000CFA each one way). Our guide was waiting for us in town and walked us around for an hour or so.
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On the way back it was the same and we agreed the same price for the boat. In Agbodrafo we walked around the village, visited the slave museum (guided around by an older guy who only spoke French) and walked back along the coast.

The room had AC and we were happy enough to pay 25.000CFA which included one breakfast (another breakfast was extra 2.000CFA...I think). We even had our dinner here, which wasn’t cheap but we were that bit far out of town and did not fancy trekking in to the village.
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DAY 5
Our next stop was Kpalime which required us heading in to Lome first and getting another shared taxi north. The hotel staff brought us on the bike to the main road and we were in a shared taxi in no time. 1.200CFA pp did sound like a reasonable fare to Lome.

The driver asked where are we going and said that he will bring us to the right place in Lome for us to catch the next car for Kpalime. When we arrived in the ‘station’ area, this was when the fun started. He would not give us our bags unless we paid him another 1.000CFA for the extra journey from town to here. We argued that it’s too much and a lot of people got involved, and everyone was talking to everyone. Long story short we were not happy but we paid him the 1.000CFA and got our bags (not a big deal as I was ready to give him a tip anyway for the extra journey).

The next car was ready to go and 2.000CFA pp agreed and off we go again.

KPALIME
This was a much bigger place than expected. As we had nothing booked we got off in the middle of town and thought this was a good start. Our French let us down and instead of some lodging it was the city hall. Oops.
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We took a moto-bike to get us to our next option. We managed to book a room in the hotel for the night.

I had a contact for a guide and messaged him that we are here. Received no reply from him so we wandered off in to town for lunch and a haircut.
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Talk about the heat!!…and the trip to the waterfall did sound like a great option for a swim. Thought we’d try a taxi as it was 40min away. Taxi driver got as low as 15.000CFA and would not take us for our offered fare of 10.000CFA. We knew it was too cheap and it was the first time on this trip that someone refused to take money. So we took two motos who agreed to bring us there and wait for us. Was a great idea as the road is NON-EXISTENT. Seeing is believing! While cars did drive there (I don’t know how) it would have taken us hours to get there and back.

On the way we paid some local tax at the side of the road of 2.500CFA total (official receipts and pink ticket given) and another 1.000CFA pp later on as well as an entry ticket to the waterfalls (less official and more local hand written paper issued). :)

Both moto drivers walked with us all the way down the steep steps to the waterfall and the next second, we all swimming together under the waterfall. A French group were just about to leave so it was nice and quiet around. This was a refreshing experience… :)
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DAY 6
KPALIME

We had few options in mind for the day like trekking Mt Agou or trekking Mt Kpalime. As I’d heard nothing back from my contact I asked the hotel reception to recommend a guide the previous evening. We met and discussed prices and all options (this was more complicated than it had to be, but after half an hour we got to understand each other). We decided to go to Chateau Viale (7.500CFA each instead initial price of 15.000CFA) and skip any of the walks as it was super-hot.

Met the guys with their motos outside the hotel and then we learned that we need to get another permit to enter the area from the local county council – 5.000CFA total. We had no choice. So we went to the local county offices with the lads, who asked the security to enter the office, discussed all with the PA of the big boss, we paid the money, paper issued, signed and stamped, brought to the big boss and brought back to us. We were on our trip finally.
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Was a good road all the way with a couple of road blockades were we had to stop. The first one was fine and our permit was checked and we were free to go. The discussion at the second one took much longer than the first one and I only can guess that some money was expected. We definitely had no intention to pay anyone as our ‘tour’ was all inclusive and we had the official paperwork ready. The lads clearly weren’t prepared to share their earnings either and somehow, we were free to go.
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We liked Kpalime as we found this great restaurant that had a full western style menu (ie printed sheet with food and prices on it and even options for dessert) and also a great bar that had a live band playing. Good fun!
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DAY 7
We need to get back to Lome for the final leg of the trip. Same old story – car on the side of the road and price agreed of 2.000CFA each. We were on our way…or so we thought. We circled in town for some time to pick up extra people. Then out of town a big discussion took place saying that we should pay for an extra seat as the demand is high (according to our driver there should be 4 people at the back). We nearly got out of the car as we did not agree to pay extra. Etc Etc Etc – extra person in the car and we are finally on our way to Lome (driver +1 at the front and 4 at the back). Slightly annoyed, but at least we are moving finally.

LOME
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Before leaving Kpalime we booked our hotel in Lome so we did not have to trek around the city to find a place to stay. After arriving at the familiar parking lot in Lome we took a moto from the side of the road who brought us to the beach front location of our hotel (400CFA each).

Glad we were allowed to check in early as this was such a nice place and we just lounged at the pool area. We enjoyed the swim immensely…
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DAY 8
Time to explore the city. There’s not much to it but we had all day to kill before our midnight flight back.

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Similar to the set-up in Cotonou (Benin) the airport shuttle was included in the room rate and the service was exceptional with AC and all. What a nice touch.

Goodbye TOGO!

Posted by ToddP 04:11 Archived in Togo Comments (1)

BENIN - "yavo...yavo"

32 °C
View 2019 Benin - Togo on ToddP's travel map.

BENIN-TOGO trip
I struggled to plan my visit to Benin and Togo because there is such a lack of information in comparison with other more visited places in the World. Also being ex-French colonies would explain why the majority of the travellers would be from the French speaking world and would not leave many reviews in English. Even the information for visa processes varied depending on the source of information. In Togos case even the embassy in Europe could not confirm the requirements for visa on arrival at the border check-point. Hmmm

These are pure cash societies so plan accordingly. We could not even pay for the hotels on a card (however € was accepted a few times). We knew this prior to travelling so it wasn’t a surprise for us at least. Banks do exist and they’re the best place to be actually during the day as the air-conditioned room is a nice escape during the heat of the day for half an hour or so. :)

It is Africa and both are developing countries with very few tourists so I should have had some reasonable expectation to all of the above when planning :)
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BENIN
Everywhere we went we were greeted by shouting voices not only children but adults as well "Yavo! Yavo!" which is "White Man!". Did not bother us as we were told that this not an derogatory remark...and after all we were a 'white man' that stood out in the crowd. :)

DAY 1
COTONOU

At arrival in Cotonou airport we were greeted by a nice bunch of immigration officers. As we did not have an eVisa in advance we asked for visa-on-arrival (VOA). That did not surprise anyone and we just had to wait until everyone from the flight cleared immigration. Yellow fever cards were checked of course. We were escorted out to the office to get the VOA (actually had to stop at the currency exchange as all payments to be made in CFA only). The officer did not mind waiting for us while we exchanged the €. In the office all was straight forward and after answering a few questions (“How long?”, “Tourist?”) visas were added to our passports and we paid all visa fees as expected (10.000CFA).
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If you do book a hotel in Cotonou at anything from €50 a night upwards the airport transfers are normally included. This was a fantastic service as it was late in the day and in an unknown place it was good to have someone waiting for you.

DAY 2
COTONOU – PORTO NOVO – GANVIE – COTONOU

The next day after a simple breakfast we were met by our tour guide for the day. After weeks and weeks of research and chats on WhatsApp this was booked with all details arranged. The tour included Cotonou city – Porto Novo – Ganvie and back to Cotonou. With the car and all guides for the two of us it came to €130. The only extra was our lunch but everything else was included.

PORTO NOVO
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GANVIE
We took a private boat (part of the tour) and we were brought around the water village of Ganvie. This is a fantastic experience to see anything like this. Stopped at a local but very ‘touristy’ place for lunch and a few souvenirs. This was the MOST EXPENSIVE meal we had on our entire trip so please be warned.
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COTONOU
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Could this be done on your own- off course, but on our day one we wanted to see as much as possible and this definitely did that for us. We didn’t waste any time on the day trying to find anyone to get us around, which was great. Off course we paid for this privilege ????

DAY 2
COTONOU to OUIDAH

After another uneventful breakfast (I see a trend coming here) and with our bags we took a zemidjan (a motorbike taxi) from the side of the road to bring us to the Place de l’Etoile Rouge where we could get a shared taxi to Ouidah. We zipped through all the traffic and paid 300CFA each for this ride. What an experience! The guidebook warns about zemidjans for not being safe, which by European standards is probably true. But at the same time the streets are busy, and they do not ‘fly like crazy’. No you don’t get a helmet, but you are in a very different world.
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We asked around who might be going to Ouidah as there was no apparent place where the shared taxis are parked. We learnt our first Benenese lesson that someone knows someone and someone owns something (even the actual location of the kerb) and within seconds there was a shared taxi going to our location with other people in it. Magic. After a few, but straight-forward negotiations, we agreed on a fare of 1.000CFA per person. Then the driver was looking for 2.000CFA, but after us stepping out and not agreeing to pay a dime extra he was OK to continue further on the trip.
Along the road the car stops if there is a fare and more people get on board. Max capacity at the front is the driver + 2, at the back is 3 (however we had a trip with 4 of u at the back once). Personal space is a rare commodity, but for a couple hours out of your life it’s manageable.
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OUIDAH
We truly liked this place. Was good to be out of the madness of Cotonou and experience a more tranquil place in Benin. We had an idea where to stay, but after getting there and finding out that they were full (only 6 rooms in the place) we were recommended another auberge. We walked there, agreed on a fan room for 10.000CFA + petit dejeuner simple for 1.500CFA each and got ourselves settled. The auberge was on the main road (RNIE1) which is bit out of town, so we just used zemidjans again to get around (300CFA each a ride). Not a big deal.
It was scorching hot during the day and standing on the beach beside the Gate of No Return felt even more sad thinking about all the slaves that had to walk to here from the town in this heat to ‘start’ their journey across the Atlantic. Journey of No Return…
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DAY 3
OUIDAH to GRAND POPO

We were on the way to Grand Popo. At this stage we knew the ‘system’ and just stood at the side of the road looking for a car heading our way. Another gentlemen was standing there with all his cargo looking for a ride (but going to a different place I think…To be noted- our French was limited so our understanding of what’s going on even when someone explains was that bit limited ????). I think he stopped a car going our way. Don’t ask why or how- car just stopped and we agreed a price of 1.000CFA each and we were on our way.

GRAND POPO
It’s a small place and not much to the town. But the beach front location is a beautiful one with the sound of the waves crashing to the shore. We found a lovely local bar/restaurant that served very cold drinks and very good food at local prices. Win win here!
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DAY 4
GRAND POPO to the border crossing of TOGO

We needed to get to the border and try to cross in to Togo. All the same again and another shared taxi from the side of the road (800CFA each).
We got off just shortly before the border as we had to change some € in the bank (another cool down in the air-conditioned office!) and walked the last few hundred meters to the actual border check.
No issue leaving Benin as the officers just looked at the visa and stamped our exit and wished us all the best.
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Now we were in no man’s land and hoping for the best to secure a VOA in Togo.
Goodbye BENIN. Off we go…

Posted by ToddP 05:36 Archived in Benin Comments (4)

Flags of The World

all seasons in one day

Don't ask me where and when I got this fascination about flags. In recent years on my travels I am trying to get a picture of the flag of the country I am in at that time. The rule is that the picture should be taken in the country of origin of the flag.
Shame I have missed a few from my earlier travels...

-A-

ALBANIA - Republic of Albania
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ANDORRA - Principality of Andorra
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ARGENTINA - Argentine Republic
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ARMENIA - Republic of Armenia
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AUSTRALIA - Commonwealth of Australia
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AUSTRIA - Republic of Austria
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-B-

BAHRAIN - Kingdom of Bahrain
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BARBADOS
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BELGIUM - Kingdom of Belgium
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BELIZE
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BENIN - Republic of Benin
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BOLIVIA - Plurinational State of Bolivia
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BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
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BRAZIL - Federative Republic of Brazil
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BRUNEI - Nation of Brunei, the Adobe of Peace
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BULGARIA - Republic of Bulgaria
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-C-

CAMBODIA - Kingdom of Cambodia
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CANADA
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CHINA - People's Republic of China
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CROATIA - Republic of Croatia
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CUBA - Republic of Cuba
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CYPRUS - Republic of Cyprus
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CZECHIA - Czech Republic
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-D-

DENMARK - Kingdom of Denmark
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-E-

EGYPT - Arab Republic of Egypt
:(

ESTONIA - Republic of Estonia
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-F-

FINLAND - Republic of Finland
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FRANCE - French Republic
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-G-

THE GAMBIA - Republic of The Gambia
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GEORGIA
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GERMANY - Federal Republic of Germany
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GREECE - Hellenic Republic
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GUATEMALA - Republic of Guatemala
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-H-

HUNGARY
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-I-

ICELAND - Republic of Iceland
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INDIA - Republic of India
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INDONESIA - Republic of Indonesia
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IRELAND - Republic of Ireland
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ITALY - Republic of Italy
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-J-

JAPAN
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JORDAN - Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
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-K-

KAZAKHSTAN - Republic of Kazakhstan
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KENYA - Republic of Kenya
:(

KUWAIT - State of Kuwait
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KYRGYZSTAN - Kyrgyz Republic
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-L-

LATVIA - Republic of Latvia
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LIECHTENSTEIN - Principality of Liechtenstein
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LITHUANIA - Republic of Lithuania
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LUXEMBOURG - Grand Duchy of Luxemourg
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-M-

MALAYSIA
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MALTA - Republic of Malta
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MEXICO - United Mexican States
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MONACO - Principality of
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MONTENEGRO
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MOROCCO - Kingdom of Morocco
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-N-

NETHERLANDS - Kingdom of Netherlands
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NEW ZEALAND
:(

NORWAY - Kingdom of Norway
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-O-

OMAN - Sultanate of Oman
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-P-

PARAGUAY - Republic of Paraguay
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PERU - Republic of Peru
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POLAND - Republic of Poland
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PORTUGAL - Portuguese Republic
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-R-

ROMANIA
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RUSSI - Russian Federation
:(

-S-

SAINT LUCIA
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SINGAPORE,Republic of
:(

SLOVAKIA - Slovak Republic
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SLOVENIA - Republic of Slovenia
:(

SPAIN - Kingdom of Spain
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SWEDEN - Kingdom of Sweden
:(

SWITZERLAND - Swiss Confederation
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-T-

THAILAND - Kingdom of Thailand
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TIMOR LESTE, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
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TOGO - Togolese Republic
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TUNISIA - Republic of Tunisia
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TURKEY - Republic of Turkey
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-U-

UKRAINE
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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
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UNITED KINGDOM - United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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UNITED STATES - United States of America
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URUGUAY - Eastern Republic of Uruguay
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-V-

VATICAN CITY
:(

-W-

WALES
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TERRITORIES

ENGLAND
:(

EUROPEAN UNION
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HONG KONG, Special Administrative Region of People's Republic of China
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ISLE OF MAN
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SCOTLAND
:(

Posted by ToddP 04:20 Tagged flags Comments (3)

VISITING RUSSIA VISA-FREE

/ St. Petersburg - up to 3 days / St Peter Ferry Line

The information provided below is a combination of various sources of information in preparation for my own trip and in no way promoting a particular service provider.
If you do have any additional or more accurate information please share it as it will be added to the blog for everyone’s benefit.

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VISA-FREE RULE

In accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation (RF Government Resolution №397), foreign tourists and persons without citizenship or relevant visa and/or proper permission travelling on ferries may arrive to the Russian Federation without a Russian visa for the period of 72 hours being part of an organised excursion group. VISA-FREE journey can last up to 3 days.

There are 3 rules to follow when considering visiting St. Peterburg in Russia on a St. Peter Line Ferry (Moby Line Limited).
1. Ferry booking
2. Accommodation booking
3.'Organised Tour' booking (City Bus)

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RULE #1 OF 3 - FERRY

1. Passenger must arrive at the port of St. Petersburg on board a ferry of MOBY LINE LIMITED company and leave in the same manner.

2. 72 hour period begins from the moment of crossing border control.

3. Various cabin options are available as the sailing to/from St. Petersburg is an overnight sailing.

4. Price of the cabin is directly dependent on the type of cabin selected.

RULE #2 OF 3 – ACCOMMODATION

1. Hotel accommodation must be booked via the booking system of MOBY SPL LIMITED. Accommodation booked via the Airbnb service is forbidden in the frame of a VISA-FREE cruise. Passengers who booked accommodation via the Airbnb service will be refused at check-in to the ship. MOBY SPL LIMITED reserves the right to refuse check-in in the port of departure if the hotel is booked through other booking systems not affiliated with MOBY SPL LIMITED.

2. Please note list of hotels* who do not accept VISA-FREE
1) Courtyard by Marriott St. Petersburg Vasilievsky
2) Renaissance St. Petersburg Baltic
3) Ghotel on Nevsky

  • *According to Moby Line Ltd –‘Please do not book accommodation in these Hotels’. I do not have any other information to confirm or dismiss this information.

3. If a passenger stays within the Russian Federation territory for longer than one day the passenger must present to the Border Guard Service a hotel voucher and a confirmation of payment for the booking. Passing the registration formalities at the hotel is obligatory. The cost of the registration formalities will be advised at check-in in the hotel.

4. You need to pay the registration fee upon arrival to the hotel. This fee is not included in the hotel prices shown on the website. Registration fee (governmental tax) is usually 150-200 RUB (€2-€2.70) per stay.

RULE #3 OF 3 – CITY BUS TOUR

1. You need to be part of an “organised excursion group” (City Bus Tour in this case).

2. All passengers travelling VISA-FREE have to reserve a sightseeing programme in St. Petersburg in advance.

3. For a VISA-FREE trip to St. Petersburg all passengers must buy a shuttle bus ticket for €25 per person which allows passengers to travel to St. Petersburg without a visa.

4. You must buy The City Bus ticket for €25 in advance at the same time that you are making your booking (the system will add it into your booking automatically after filling in the passenger information).

5. You will buy it only once so in effect it is a single ticket, but you can use the shuttle bus on arrival and departure days if you wish.

6. You will receive the tickets on the departure day during check-in.

7. Your VISA-FREE tickets are included in this price and you will receive them on the departure day.

8. Please note that the City Bus tour is not a guided tour it is just transportation from the harbour to the city centre to St. Isaac’s Square and back to the ferry terminal.

BUS ROUTE:
1. Sea Station Terminal, V.O.,1, Morskoy Slavy square
2. The Manege, St. Isaac's Square, 1
3. ???
4. ???

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All shuttle buses are running on the route according to the schedule below (every 30 minutes):

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LONGEST POSSIBLE TRIP OPTIONS FOR A SHORT STAYS

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HEL - Helsinki
STB - St. Petersburg
TAL - Tallinn

RANDOM BUT SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT NOTES

1. During the booking process you will notice fields for the visa information. Please leave the visa fields empty. If you fill anything into the visa fields then the system will automatically cancel your VISA-FREE tickets because it assumes that you already have a Russian visa.

2. All rules apply for all nationalities and please remember that all passengers must have a valid passport with them and the passport should be valid six months after the trip.

3. If a passenger arrives from outside the Schengen area, the passenger must have a multiple entry Schengen visa to return to Sweden, Finland or Estonia after the cruise.

4. Documents for registration in Hotels of Saint-Petersburg required by immigration authorities of Russia are provided only if the Hotel is booked via MOBY SPL company. Please note that without registration documents VISA-FREE passenger shall not be accommodated in the hotel due to the effective legislation of the Russian Federation.

5. All passengers travelling on board SPL Princess Anastasia with car (drivers) must hold a Russian visa.

6. Make sure that you have received the “Migration card” before passing the Immigration checkpoint with the validation date indicating the final date of your trip.

7. During excursions and during your stay in St. Petersburg, keep your documents in a safe place.

8. As per Russian Legislation for 72 hour rule, you have to leave Russia only by ferry (sea transport). Do not use other means of transport.

9. Fuel and Harbour fees:
During booking a cruise, you should pay attention to the fuel and harbour fees. These are necessary expenses for the stable and the timely service of the ferries at the entry into the ports along the way.
> Route: "St. Petersburg - Helsinki - St. Petersburg". The fuel charge for a full cruise from each passenger is 17 €.
> Route: "St. Petersburg - Tallinn - Stockholm - Helsinki - St. Petersburg". The fuel charge for a full cruise from each passenger is 34 €.

10. All further information and bookings to be made via stpeterline.com

Posted by ToddP 06:13 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

ARAN ISLANDS (Ireland) > Inishmore

Ireland


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ARAN ISLANDS > INISHMORE

Trip: day trip from Rosaveel

Transportation: ferry, push bike

Travel date: Sat, 23-Feb-2019

Ferry company: Aran Island Ferries

1. We arrived by car to Rosaveel half an hour before the sailing and parked our car in a dedicated parking area for ferry users. Day parking fee of €5.
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2. 3min walk from here to the pier.

3. You have to call to the ticket office first (beside the pier) and collect the physical tickets. I booked it in advance online (HINT: online discounts apply). Gave my name and was handed the tickets for the sailing out and return and kindly guided to the right boat.
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4. Tickets checked before boarding the ferry. We got a free map here also.
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5. On the boat there was some seating on the upper-deck (open air) with the majority of seating inside (294 pax + 6 crew). The boat was full. The sailing out was somewhat “rough” but good fun!!! Coming back the sea was actually really calm and the sailing was uneventful. 😊
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6. The actual crossing is around 50min.

7. Right at the pier you have various hop-on/hop-off options to choose from. The mini-bus drivers wait there and will happily offer their services to get you around.
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8. We chose the push bike option. The first rental (Aran Bike Hire) at the pier was actually closed. Not sure if this was because we were in the winter season. Next rental another 2min walk which was very visible and well signposted just beside the tourist information office. €10 per bike + €10 refundable deposit. Paid in cash (not sure if you can pay by plastic, but with 300 people landing at the same time you need to move fast and not waste any time. Just do cash. I saw another bike rental further along the bay towards the town (2min walk from here) which was also closed (not sure if this because of winter again).
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9. Off to explore the island.
We cycled along the bay to (1) Airfield and (2) Teampall Bheanáin. Back the same way and took the white road (on the map) to get on to the yellow road (on the map). This was harder than we thought. Mostly uphill and we had to walk a fair bit. However, the remoteness is rewarding and very picturesque from the top of the hill. We decided to take the shortest way to the main road (red road on the map) towards (3) Dun Eochla.
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Was much easier here on the main road (red road on the map) and we got to (4) Kilmurvey Beach in no time. Slightly up the hill to the crossroads where you can find some local craft shops in little pretty cottages. Also a café. 2min cycle from here will get you towards the (5) Dún Aonghasa visitor centre where you will need to park your bike, pay entrance fee (€5) and enjoy the climb up to the whole experience.
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I will not comment too much here, but you have not lived yet if you have not been here and experienced the sound of Atlantic waves crashing the cliffs by the oldest stone fort in Western Europe

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If you fancy some refreshments now it’s time to do it as you will not get another chance until you get back to Kilronan town. Can be busy so if you don’t fancy queuing please bring your own packed lunch.
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Further up the road for a much quieter experience we got to (6) The Seven Churches. While it’s only a few minute cycle from the crossroads I was surprised so few people actually got to here (or maybe they were still queuing at the café).
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On the way back we pulled to the side of the road, parked our bikes and hiked to (7) Dún Eoghanachta. That was fun as the path is kind of/ish marked and you need to get through the pens with cattle in them. I thought it was hilarious.
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From here we took the lower coast road to (8) Seal Colony Viewpoint. The scenery is very different from the other side of the island. Felt that was it mostly uphill, but maybe it was just that our legs were giving up at this stage. While we did not see any seals, it was nice just to sit down for a few minutes and take in the view.
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Back in to (9) Kilronan around 4pm. Was glad to be back as not sure if I would’ve been able to cycle another 5 minutes. The saddle was…how to put this politely…‘hard’ and I felt it at this stage. Left the bikes back in the rental place and grabbed something to eat from the Spar shop as time was limited. The sun was beautiful, and I truly enjoyed a pint of Guinness sitting outdoors and admiring the harbour…or just happy to sit down after hard days work (ie cycling). Shame we did not have enough time to explore the local craft shops.
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10. A couple of minutes’ walk to the pier and I’m back in the boat for a 5pm sailing back to the mainland. Was a smooth 50min sailing back and was nice to see the changing colours of the Atlantic Ocean.

NOTE:
if you wish to get to (x) The Worm Hole you would need to get to Gort na gCapall village from the main road (you might struggle to find it on the Google maps, but it’s clearly marked on the map we collected prior boarding the ferry). Leave your bike there and walk to the edge of the cliffs.
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Posted by ToddP 06:13 Archived in Ireland Tagged islands aran Comments (2)

TIMOR-LESTE – Country Less Travelled


View 2017 Asia on ToddP's travel map.

I found so little information around when preparing for the trip to East-Timor, which was challenging when trying to plan as much as possible for a short trip. I would like to share some basics here…

Getting there

We flew to the capital of East-Timor Díli from Bali in Indonesia. It wasn’t cheap in comparison to the LCC options in Asia, but at the same time it was affordable (flight was less than 2hr).
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Díli Airport

On arrival before entering the airport it is required to pass through immigration (no surprise here!) We missed something though… At the side of the immigration booth they display a list of countries whose passport holders can enter visa free. If you are one of them just hand in your passport, collect your stamp and you're free to enter the baggage carousel area for your luggage. We clearly missed this and paid for the visa on arrival. The immigration officer neglected to mention anything! So be it…

After collecting your luggage, you have to send them through another scanner and then have to open all your bags for a search to be completed by an immigration officer. No exceptions for anyone so follow the rules. The queuing is slightly disorganised as everyone is trying to leave at the same time so push yourself forward and try not to allow anyone get in front of you.
The facilities are extremely limited.
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From the Airport to the City

There are very few flights from/to Díli airport, however a lot of people gather around when meeting and greeting people outside.
We booked a hotel in Díli city itself that organised a complementary pick-up from the airport. The driver waited for us outside and we were transferred straight to the city. I don’t think there would be an issue getting a ‘lift’ to your desired location as long as you have US$ in cash and are not shy to approach people to talk.

Díli City

The city is in a nice location along the coast. There are a few well worth visiting sites, however everything is well spread out, and some areas are too far to walk. The public transport (minibus type) are exceptionally cheap and easy to use. East Timorese are small people and the transport reflects this so bear this in mind when entering and exiting if you are average height by western standards. Alternatively, there are a few taxis and the fare is fixed for the city. Ask at the hotel reception for the going rates and this will make your life so much easier.
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Money

Not surprisingly this is a cash society and you do need to have US$ in small denominations. Our hotel did accept credit card however. We found another cafe/ restaurant in town that did also accept credit cards.

Safety

The streets are poorly lit, and the paths can be hazardous during the night, but we never felt unsafe, uncomfortable or in any danger while visiting Díli. Strangely everyone (and I do mean everyone) was greeting us with ‘Hi’ or even a smile everywhere we went. On the first day this felt bizarre, but you can get used to the friendliness very quickly.
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Trips and Excursions

The lack of infrastructure in the country and lack of tourists makes any ‘touristy’ trips and excursions very expensive as it is tailored to an individual person or group. As an example car hire costs US$ 100 per day, car hire with a driver US$ 150 per day and so on. Be ready for this…
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We did an afternoon trip to Cristo Rei (just outside Díli) on public transport. Great views from the top of the hill. Be warned that the sun goes down very fast ie one minute it's still bright and next it's pitch black. By the time we got back down to the car park it was dark and everyone was gone. We felt slightly stranded with no way of getting back. Somehow we managed to get a taxi (I think we were just extremely lucky) and got back in to town. The public transport is unreliable and very limited so plan carefully.
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Diving/ Snorkelling

We did a snorkelling day trip to Atauro Island. This was truly great day and we enjoyed the company of other fellow travelers (from Japan, Bulgaria and the Netherlands). By international standards this wasn’t too bad money wise.
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WIFI

We had free WIFI in the hotel but it was very slow with a sporadic connection. Also, another café/ restaurant in town had complimentary WIFI.

Final

Would I recommend making a trip to Timor-Leste? Absolutely without a doubt. The people were extremely nice and polite, and we felt safe. They are undergoing massive transformation and every foreign dollar that can be brought from outside and spent in the country is well needed. They do need that bit of an extra boost with cash and I think tourism definitely can help with that.
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Posted by ToddP 06:44 Archived in East Timor Comments (3)

FREE IN GENEVA (Switzerland)


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I know I am stating the obvious but Switzerland is expensive and it's been like this for some time now. I have visited various places in Switzerland, but honestly can say that I found Geneva the most expensive of them all. But there are few things that are completely FREE!!!

1) Transport from Geneva airport to the city - FREE

Before leaving the baggage area there is this little machine that says 'Free Ticket'. Just press the button and the machine will issue you a free ticket valid for the next 80 minutes for all public transport in Geneva (train from the airport to the city is covered also). DO NOT LEAVE the baggage area until you find the machine and print your tickets as re-entry is not allowed.

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2) Public transport - FREE

All of the city hotels (I believe) issue a 'visitor pass' that allows you to travel for free on all forms of public transport for the whole duration of your stay in the city. This will cover all city trams and buses and...(please see below #3).

3) Yellow lake boat - FREE

Technically this is part of the public transport system. By having the 'visitor pass' from your hotel you are allowed to use any of the lines of the boat system absolutely for free.

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4) City beach - Plage Enfant (Baby Beach) - FREE

To get here you either get the free boat ride across the lake or a free bus or tram with your 'visitor pass'. The entrance is completely free and it's a nice sandy area to lounge around and go for a swim. The water is warm during the summer season and it's a great way of relaxing after touring the city. There are stalls, bars and a few eateries if you get hungry after the swim.

5) Botanic Gardens - FREE

Nice layout makes a pleasant stroll through different areas of the garden when admiring the plants. Grab one of the benches to enjoy some shade and watch people passing by. It's a very nice area to relax.

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Posted by ToddP 07:15 Archived in Switzerland Comments (2)

DAY TRIPS FROM DUBLIN (Ireland)

There are a good few options for a short day trip out of the city of Dublin. Especially if you are over for a few days only please give yourself some time for at least one of them as it will give you a different vibe of Ireland.

This is blog is being updated on a regular basis

#1 Dalkey and Bray

Public Transport: the easiest way is on DART (Light Railway System) from various locations in the city centre.

What to expect:

Dalkey: pretty little town with a lot of small cafes and artisan shops. Simple stroll from the train station. Picturesque main street. Dalkey Castle (FREE) and the Heritage Centre.
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Bray: seaside town with a long promenade heading towards Bray Head. Get that energy going and climb up as the views are amazing (simply done even by a novice walker, no special shoes required). A lot of bars and restaurants. Can get very busy on the weekends and especially in summer.
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#2 Dun Laoghaire

Public Transport: the easiest way is on DART (Light Railway System) from various locations in the city centre.

What to expect:

Dun Laoghaire: nice seaside town with plenty of cafes and restaurants to spend a half day. Long pier next to the marina that makes for a wonderful walk. Can get very busy on the weekends and especially in summer.

#3 Howth

Public Transport: the easiest way is on DART (Light Railway System) from various locations in the city centre.

What to expect:

Howth: picturesque experience once you climb up Howth Head (simply done even by a novice walker, no special shoes required). Can get very busy on the weekends and especially in summer.
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#4 Malahide

Public Transport: the easiest way is on DART (Light Railway System) from various locations in the city centre.

What to expect:

Malahide: seaside town with a lot of restaurants and cafes. Visits to Malahide Castle and the Transport Museum are a must. Can get very busy on the weekends and especially in summer.
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#5 Walk from Greystones to Bray

Public Transport: the easiest way is on DART (Light Railway System) from various locations in the city centre to the furthest point- Greystones Dart Station.

What to expect:

from Greystones Dart Station stick to the coastal route, an easily recognised path as it is a well walked area. Easy and leisurely enough walk for around 1hr30min-2hr and can be accomplished even by novice walkers. Recommend having better footwear than your regular street shoes (runners will do) as it is rocky and some parts are uneven. You will meet a lot of walkers in both directions. The end goal is to arrive at Bray Head for the spectacular views. From here down the hill to Bray town and/ or Bray Dart Station is another 30min or so. Plenty of bars and restaurants here for food or drink. The town can get very busy on the weekends and especially in summer.
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Posted by ToddP 04:03 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin Comments (2)

The best of LITHUANIA (Lietuva)

Lithuania

The Best Of LITHUANIA

1. VILNIUS

Give yourself two days or so to explore the city. Don't forget to head up to the TV tower (bus ride from the city centre)!

INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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2. TRAKAI

Easy day trip from Vilnius. Get a bus from the Central Bus station (50min or so). Easy to walk around and get to the castle.

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3. KAUNAS

Second largest city. Very regular buses, trains from/to Vilnius. You can see the main attractions in a full day.

INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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4. DRUSKININKAI

Slightly out of the way, but worth a trip if you do have extra time or you're heading towards Poland.
Grutas Park is 15min drive from town of Druskininkai but seeing is believing!

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Historically town of Druskininkai has been a spa town and in recent years has regenerated itself with various spa experiences.

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5. Scenic route from Kaunas along the northern rim of the river NEMUNAS

Harder to do it on public transport as so many nice stops along the way. However if you do have your own car this is a great experience. Take a leisurely trip and overnight in JURBARKAS, before heading along the Kaliningrad border towards KLAIPEDA.

Nice stops along the way:
-Vilkija
-Seredzius
-Raudone Casle
-Pilis I (castle)
-Smalininkai
-Viesvile

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6. KLAIPEDA & CURONINA SPIT & PALANGA

Klaipeda is a nice city with beautiful German architecture. Take a ferry to the Curonian Spit and if you have a car this will make it so much easier to get around this part.

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One day for both and towards evening head to Palanga. Seaside resort with a long pedestrian pier. Bear in mind that this is a very popular weekend spot during summer months and accommodation can be eyewateringly expensive. A lot of bars and restaurants.

INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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7. SIAULIAI

Out of the way unless you are heading towards Latvia. A couple hours to explore the city. Not to be missed - Hill of Crosses (not the easiest place to get to on public transport).

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Posted by ToddP 07:25 Archived in Lithuania Comments (0)

BISHKEK to ALA-ARCHA (Kyrgyzstan)

Ala Archa, Kyrgyzstan


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*to be noted that I do speak Russiaan, hence the experience slightly simpler (or maybe not).*

BISHKEK to ALA-ARCHA

1)Got to Bazaar Osh. Marsrutka 265 was parked already. Chatted with the driver to get us as close as possible to the National Park. The route going to Kashka Suu only however agreed that he will drop us to the first gate at extra cost (there are two gates). 100 som each. Defo overpaid here. I believe the ride to the village is only 25 som. Never mind... Took us 1hr10min.
Before the trip we were chatting with couple of taxi drivers. One of them was looking for 1.500 som from the Bazaar Osh to the Alplager for a one-way ride or 2.000 som for a return trip. Other driver was looking for 1.000 som for a one-way ride. I was saying that it's too expensive, but he said that everyone paid this, etc. Once we walked away no one was chasing us so we could not get any cheaper.

2)At the gate 1 is the entry to the National Park and the entry fees needs to be paid here. Lady was selling drinks, crisps, sweets, etc. Walked a bit further from the post and started to hitch-hike for the car passing by. 4 min later car stopped. Taxi driver heading from Bishkek to pick up a couple who pre-booked him to bring them back to the city. Arrived at the gate 2 and gave him 100 som (he did not say no, but defo overpaid here).

3)The hotel here and I believe you can get some food here also. Map highlighting the walks. Tip here! Couple meters from here road swings towards right or there is a path to the left. If you do follow the path you end up on the walk. However this is a steep and not the easiest start of the whole experience. We (by mistake) followed the road to the right towards the river. Along the river and then to the left. Here we ended up at the dead end. BUT- easy enough over the stones and very little water stream and then steep'ish clime up and we ended up on the walk path. I believe this is great way doing the same walk, but avoiding the steep start of the walk.
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4)After the walk we got back to the gate 2 (Alplager). We were tired and decided just stand and wait for the cars. Waited 10-15min when the park rangers stopped to give us a lift. 'Money. Money' he said in English. I said 'Yes' and we agreed that he will drop us back to the gate 1 (he was heading to gate 1 only). Gave the driver 50 som and he did not comment on this.

5) Walked fem meters and waited for cars. Car stopped. Deal was to get from here (gate 1) to the village, where we can pick up marshrutka back to Bishkek. 50 som. He said each, I said no...in total. He was a taxi driver, he said. He was heading back to Bishkek. Agreed that we do the entire journey for 100 som. Thought it's OK deal as marshrutka will be 25 som x2 + 50 som as agreed to the gate. Nice chat along the way. Arrived to the city and he dropped us at the bus stop. Picked a city bus heading to our hotel.
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See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Posted by ToddP 07:00 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Comments (0)

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