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Check out the greatest “off the beaten track” destinations along South Africa’s Garden Route (beyond Cape Town): The Crags, Franschhoek, Storms River, and Oudtshoorn. All you need to know about these places such as attractions, accommodation, where to eat, how to get there, etc… a must if you are exploring South Africa!

*Thanks to André Araújo for writing our first South Africa article on the blog. André is a travel consultant and journalist — you can check out more of his work here.

South Africa is a country known for its beauty, landscapes, safari animals….and Cape Town.  

But here’s the thing. It’s also a country full of hidden nooks, villages that seemed stopped in time, and other incredible untouched nature beyond the big, well-known cities.

And after an awesome 28-day road trip there, I ended up in some of these little-known places. They were the highlight of my trip, and so I wanted to share the word so you can visit them as well.

PS: The map above shows the location of the cities around South Africa.

    1. Little-known (but awesome!) city to visit in South Africa #1: The Crags

The Crags is a rural region situated between the mountains and the sea, and full of farms, villages, wildlife sanctuaries, and many other attractions.

Although it’s along the famous Garden Route, few tourists actually stop to spend time here. Yet, it’s worth stopping in for anyone who likes animals and quiet.

What to do in The Crags / Attractions in The Crags

There are so many excursions to take around the region. Even though I stayed for 3 days in the city, it wasn’t possible to do all that I wanted to do!

And for anyone that loves animals like I do, visiting the wildlife sanctuaries is a must.

The first one is Monkeyland, a sanctuary for monkeys of all species living freely and harmoniously in a vast jungle. Monkeyland has more than 500 primates, and visitors are led on a guided tour through the jungle to get a closer look at them (some monkeys would come just centimeters away because they weren’t afraid of humans!).

Another interesting option is Birds of Eden, which is similar to Monkeyland except without guided tours. At Birds of Eden, guests can walk through the complex on raised wooden platforms while observing the more than 220 species (or 3,500 birds altogether) that live here freely.

But if you prefer felines and big cats, Jukani Sanctuary is for you. Here, you can see lions, tigers (even white tigers), pumas, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and more. The animals live in large enclosures with abundant vegetation that mimics their natural habitats.

It’s possible to buy a combo ticket that gets you into all three sanctuaries. All three sanctuaries are non-profits maintained through sustainable ecotourism. So, I made a point to visit all three to support the cause.

This is important because all the animals in the sanctuaries were rescued from zoos, illegal breeders (who bred them as pets), and laboratories. In other words, these sanctuaries are giving their animals a new chance to live in peace.  

Beyond Jukani, there is another sanctuary dedicated to felines in The Crags called Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation & Awareness Centre. The center has conservation programs dedicated to the felines of Africa and hosts birds of different species. They also have a hospital specialized in jungle wildlife where they help rescued animals with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. When it’s not possible for these animals to return to the wild, they stay in Tenikwa for care.

All of the 4 places recommended above do a fantastic job taking care of animals that were maltreated in the past so they can live a new, better life.

Where to stay in The Crags

The Crags has several different types of accommodation for all budgets and tastes. I personally chose self-catering accommodation (meaning with no meals included) where you cook yourself. I recommend Moon Shine on Whiskey Creek where you’ll stay in lovely, spacious wooden chalets complete with a fireplace, picturesque views of the forest, a pool, and marked trails.

Another place I’d definitely recommend is Four Fields Farm which has cozy cottages that overlook a garden where “retired” horses live quietly.

Where to eat in The Crags

One of my favorite options was Nature’s Way Farm Stall, located just meters from Four Fields Farm. What’s interesting about this place is that they produce everything themselves on their farm….and if you sit at their outdoor tables, you’ll be joined by cattle, pigs, rabbits, and goats.

    2. Little-known (but awesome!) city to visit in South Africa #2: Storms River

Storms River is a tiny village located along the famous Garden Route that has just 3 roads, but a high concentration of guesthouses, restaurants, and excursions….many excursions, since it’s a region of abundant nature.

So, the village has become a starting point for many adventure activities in Tsitsikamma Park. Most Brazilians (and other nationalities) who visit the region just pass through it or stay for a single night to check out the attractions. But for those looking for a quiet place to relax and explore where it feels like time has stopped, Storms River is perfect.

What to do in Storms River / Storms River Attractions

There are many options for outings in the area, but I opted for an ATV Forest Tour.  It was my first time driving an ATV and it’s easy to drive even if you’ve never done it before.

The tour lasted approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes and our guide told us all about the vegetation in the forest and the animals that lived there. But above all, it was exciting to be in the middle of a forest surrounded by wildlife. During the tour, I had the chance to see monkeys, streams, and centuries-old trees.

For those who don’t have the courage to go bungee jumping from Africa’s highest bridge in Storms River, an ATV tour is guaranteed fun.

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The best websites to search, compare, and book attractions around the world. You can use these sites to buy tickets for museums, amusement and theme parks, excursions, tours or any kind of travel activities you can do during your travels. They cover most countries, cities and popular destinations around the world.

 

Ever show up to join a tour or enter an attraction that you reaaaaally want to visit….only find out it’s full or that you could have gotten a 50% discount if you reserved a spot in advance?

Whether you’re a go-with-the-flow type of traveler or someone who likes to cram as much as they can into their trip, there’s a good chance you’ll need to book ahead sometimes.

The good news is that I found 3 great websites that will help you get the best deals to book tickets for tours, activities, and attractions worldwide.

 

Why do I need a tour/activities website to help plan my trip?

Have you ever planned a trip and became exhausted from the amount of research you needed to find the best, most exciting activities….for the most reasonable cost? Or maybe from trying to figure out how to can get into an incredible attraction you’ve heard so much about (like Machu Picchu or the Colosseum) without standing in those painfully long lines to get in?

Well, travel websites can help.

Not only can they show you what your options in a specific destination are, but they can help you do things like getting the best price, make sure you get a spot before things fill up, or find tickets that let you skip the line!

 
What can an attraction/tour website do for me?

With the websites recommended below, you can purchase tickets for events and attractions or schedule tours around your travel destination. And they can save you money, time and frustration by helping you make sense of all of the stuff out there.

These websites can also help you find the best prices for your budget, visit out of the way places, and make sure you get VIP access to the most sought-after places.

All of the tour and travel attraction websites I reviewed offer you the flexibility to plan your trip to fit your travel style and your budget. So whether you’re traveling with your family, craving a romantic trip, or want to have a blast with friends, one of these websites will work for you.

I’ve ranked the websites below in order based on the number of features and services each one offers. So all you have to do is take a few minutes to browse through all their activities, read the verified customer reviews, and then book the travel excursion you’re looking for. 

How do these main websites to book attractions compare for one famous tour?

Below is a sample for the price of a single ticket/tour for the Empire State Building in New York City from the 3 websites I reviewed (including the bonus option).

Tour/Ticket Website Cost Per Person for Empire State Building Tour/Ticket Special Features
#1) Getyourguide.com $37.00 Skip the line + 2 hour tour
#2) Viator $37.00 Skip the line
#3) Tiqets.com $65.00 Skip the line
[bonus] Ticketbar.com $34.00 N/A

In this case, GetYourGuide wins out for this tour since they not only have one of the lowest prices but also allow you to skip the line AND offer a 2-hour tour (something the other companies don’t offer).

But just because GetYourGuide wins for this tour, it’s still worth checking all the websites listed above just in case they have some other tours that GetYourGuide doesn’t. Plus, for different attractions, the other websites might have better deals.

The 3 best (and cheapest) websites to book tours, activities, attractions & tickets around the world 1. GetYourGuide

https://www.getyourguide.com

If you’re looking for a website that’ll give you tons of options for attractions, tickets, excursions and ultimate experiences at your destination then GetYourGuide is where you need to start your search.

It’s one of the largest tour sites in the world and they have over 30,000 activities to choose from worldwide (including tickets for the most popular attractions, the tastiest food, and the best nightlife).

The website also makes it easy to find activities no matter how much time you have during your trip – whether that’s 1 hour, or multiple days

One of the best features is their “front of the line” feature that lets you jump ahead of the long lines. You may still have to go through the security features depending on the attraction, but you’ll still save time and frustrations of being stuck in the crowd.

With each booking, you get a “best price guarantee” on tours and tickets. This means if you find a price that’s cheaper, they will refund you the difference. Not a bad deal!

You can also buy combination packages to experience more than one excursion on the same day. And if you have a question, the customer service specialists are online 24/7.

You can read through reviews and ratings from customers who’ve taken the tours you may be thinking about (which is always important so you know what you’re getting into!)

 

What I like (the tl;dr summary):

  • Huge database of activities, attractions & tours (for both popular and off the beaten path destinations)
  • You can read customer reviews for each activity
  • 24/7 travel assistance
  • Customized packages that let you do multiple excursions on a single day
  • Best price guarantee (they’ll refund you the difference if you find the same tour/activity more cheaply elsewhere)
  • Free “know before you go” travel guides
  • Can pay for tickets in 1 of 13 different currencies (avoid those exchange fees!)
  • “Front of the line” feature
  • Can cancel most activities for free up to 24 hours before

 

What I didn’t like:

While most of the customer reviews I saw raved about the great experiences, there were a couple of complaints about poor organization and big crowds at some of the more popular attractions.

2. Viator

https://www.viator.com

With their 17-year travel and tour track record, Viator is worth taking a look at as well.

On top of that, Viator belongs to TripAdvisor, one of the most famous travel websites in the world!

I like that you can purchase tickets for multiple attractions, including Broadway shows, holiday activities, and kid-friendly tours.

I also like the fact that you can book shopping and spa tours, as well as theme park tours such as Universal or Disney World and cruises. At Viator, you can also buy airport transfers

Like the other websites, they offer 24/7 global support and customer service. They also offer VIP tours which include behind-the-scenes access, private viewings, and ability to “skip the line.”

The website gives options in 13 languages and the ability to use 8 different currencies.

What I like (the tl;dr summary):

  • Lots of attractions worldwide
  • Customizable travel packages
  • Offers airport transfers
  • Have some of the best prices I’ve seen
  • Offers kid-friendly tour packages
  • Can pay for tickets in 1 of 8 different currencies (avoid those exchange fees!)

 

What I didn’t like:

To be honest, Viator is pretty awesome and I didn’t find anything worth mentioning here.

3. Tiqets

https://www.tiqets.com/en/

Just as the name implies, on this website you can buy tickets to popular attractions around the world. If you’re looking for a globetrotting experience at some of the world’s most popular museums, zoos, and attractions, you’ll want to check out his site. And if you are a history buff, you’ll want to check out some of their history-focused tours.

I loved the convenience of downloading your tickets right to your smartphone. Then, you don’t have to bother with losing paper tickets or trying to print them out. When you get to your location, just show your ticket on your phone and you’re in.

Like most of the websites I reviewed, this one also gives you 24/7 customer support from a multicultural and multilingual support team. You can order tickets in 7 languages and can use one of 10 currencies to pay for them.

The site also shows you hours of operation for each attraction, the best times to visit, and has the “skip the line” feature for many tours as well.

Sometimes, you can buy tickets for an attraction without a set date. For example, if you buy a ticket for New York’s Statue of Liberty, it’ll be valid for 2 years. 

There are also featured “insider tips” from verified customers that give some bonus info about attractions you’re thinking of visiting.

Tiqets has been in business since 2013, and has their headquarters in Amsterdam.

What I like (the tl;dr summary):

  • The offer lots of in-depth history tours – great for history fans!
  • You can download tickets right to your smartphone
  • Can pay for tickets in 1 of 10 different currencies (avoid those exchange fees!)
  • Option to upgrade to VIP tickets
  • You can read customer reviews for each activity
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Multilingual website
  • Tickets with flexible dates

What I didn’t like:

If you prefer a paper ticket or don’t have a smartphone, you’ll have to wait until you get to your destination in order to grab a paper ticket from their “newsstand.”

Their 24/7 support is only available for English speaking customers. If you need help in another language, you’ll have to do it during limited hours of availability.

I also found that depending on the attraction, some tickets can’t be canceled. So make sure you check the attraction’s cancellation policy before you buy your ticket.

Tiqets also doesn’t offer tickets for attractions that are off the beaten path. So if you have your heart set on exploring a place that isn’t quite as mainstream, you may need to search in one of the other websites I mention here.

Bonus option Ticketbar

http://ticketbar.eu/en/ticketbar-europe/

Ticketbar offers well-rounded packages for attractions, excursions, tours (including bike tours), and round-trip transportation.

They offer tickets of all kinds including the classic “hop on hop off” bus and private tours, cruises, nightlife excursions, and combination tickets.

Like the other websites, you can book tours and purchase tickets in 9 languages and use 19 different currencies (19 different currencies is a record so far!).

They also have offer discount passes that will save you up to 20 percent on attractions, excursions, and museums.

What I like (the tl;dr summary):

  • They have great deals on roundtrip transportation, “hop on hop off buses,” & bike tours
  • Discount passes of up to 20% off
  • Can pay for tickets in 1 of 19 different currencies (avoid exchange fees again!)

 

What I didn’t like:

There weren’t a lot of cities to choose from.

I also couldn’t find much information about the company like how long they’ve been in business, or where their corporate office is located.

How can I use these tour and attraction websites to help me plan my itinerary?

Even if I don’t book an activity through these websites, I often like to look through them for a destination I’m going to just to see my options for activities to do there. At the very least, they will give you a solid starting point for actually getting that trip planned 

But of course, I know that planning an itinerary is still one of the most time-consuming (and stressful) parts of organizing your trip.

So if you’re in the itinerary-planning part of your trip, I have two resources that might help you out.

The first is our in-detail page for planning an itinerary.

The second is a step-by-step walkthrough of how I actually planned the itinerary for one of our trips (a super budget 3-month trip in Asia and Micronesia).

 

Conclusion…

Whether you know exactly what you want to see and do, or if you are still undecided about your itinerary and tour and attractions you would like to do, these websites above can help you out.

They’ll give you some great ideas of places to check out and attractions to visit during your trip, help you get the best prices, and throw in some bonus features (like skipping the line in famous attractions or VIP..

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Visit Spain in Africa….visit Britain in Spain….and throw in some boat trips along the way? Read on to learn how in this exciting Ceuta, Gibraltar and Malaga itinerary. Find all you need to know including attractions, cheap accommodation, what to do, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar…and more! 

Feel up to an adventurous itinerary where you’ll visit some of Europe’s strangest geopolitical situations while covering 4 “cities,” 2 “countries,” and 2 “continents”…. in just 6 days?

Then read on.

If you follow our itinerary below, you’ll visit:

  • Ceuta: an autonomous Spanish enclave located on the African continent, surrounded on 3 sides by the Mediterranean sea, and the 4th by Morocco
  • Gibraltar: a wealthy British territory that shares no borders with the rest of the United Kingdom (but does share a border with Spain), is just kilometers from the African continent, and is known for its monkeys    
  • Malaga: a lovely coastal Spanish city with all the classic, southern Mediterranean charm (but few of the tourists)
  • The Strait of Gibraltar: as part of the itinerary, you’ll also take a ferry (or even helicopter!) that crosses the famed Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow strip of water that separates Europe from Africa by just 9 miles (14 km)

Interested? Then let’s get started!

Table of Contents
  1. How to start this itinerary (or how to get to Málaga)
  2. Things to know before you go
  3. 6 Day Itinerary (or what to do on your trip)
    1. Ceuta 1 day itinerary
    2. Gibraltar 1 & 2 day itinerary
    3. Málaga 1 & 2 day itinerary
  4. Looking for a next stop? Where to go before or after this trip
  5. Bonus tips for this itinerary (& an Awesome Trip!)

   1. How to start this itinerary (or how to get to Malaga)


You’ll probably want to start this itinerary from Málaga, Spain, as it’s the easiest place to get to. It’s a major Ryanair hub (and other low-cost airlines fly there as well), so you can find cheap flights there from basically anywhere in Europe.


Look at the bottom of our article with 16 tips to save on flights to know what websites to start your search for cheap plane tickets and learn how to make good use of low-cost carriers.

 

    2. Things to know before you go

This is a trip that has a lot of between-places travel. So, you’re probably going to want to book things like your buses and ferries ahead of time. We’ll give you the best links to book them below.

Beyond that, even if you’re a European citizen, don’t forget your passport to cross from Spain into Gibraltar.

    3. What to do on your trip: 6 day Málaga, Ceuta, Gibraltar travel itinerary

 

Here’s a quick look:

Day #1: arrive in Malaga, Spain & catch the ferry to Ceuta

Day #2: explore Ceuta, then catch to ferry to Algeciras, Spain

Day #3: take a slow morning in Algeciras, cross the border to Gibraltar & visit the main city of Gibraltar

Day #4: spend the day exploring Gibraltar’s famous “rock” & head back to Málaga

Day #5-6: explore Málaga

 

Day #1: Arrive in Málaga & take the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Ceuta

 

We decided to head to Ceuta the same day our plane landed in Málaga, so we’d wake up in Ceuta the next day and have plenty of time to explore.

Which means on day #1 you probably won’t have too much time to wander in either city. But fortunately, you’ll have a BEAUTIFUL ferry ride from the European to the African continent one to enjoy!

 

HOW TO GET FROM MALAGA TO CEUTA
  • From the Malaga airport, take the Renfe train to the Maria Zambrano bus station (we actually wrote an article about transportation to/from Malaga airport if you want to read it here)
  • Take a bus from Maria Zambrano bus station to Algeciras (another city in Spain). It takes about 2 hours (if you buy the direct bus) and costs about 17.50 euros. You can book directly with Avanza here.
  • Take the ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Ceuta. The ferry is about 90 minutes and costs 60 euros round trip. You can book directly with Baleária here.

 

As you can see, the ferry isn’t super cheap. But truly, the taking the ferry is an experience in itself! It’s a lovely trip and gives you a chance to see how close Europe is to Africa. Just like this picture (Europe is on the right, Africa is on the left):

And Gibraltar, your next destination:

 

Most ferries will have an area where you can sit outside, so if it’s not too cold or too hot, you can hang out there for a little bit.


IMPORTANT NOTE: So, it turns out you can take A DAMN HELICOPTER for *nearly* the same price as the ferry (35 euros one way)! We were pretty disappointed to miss it…. but by the time we found out, we couldn’t change our itinerary   

 

There is only one day a week with this price (otherwise, it’s 50 + euros) from each direction.

From Algeciras to Ceuta: FRIDAY has two trips for 35 euros from 14:30-14:40 and 15:35-15:45

From Ceuta to Algeciras: SUNDAY has 1 trip for 35 euros from 19:30 – 19:40 PM

You can book the helicopter here (www.helity.es). Just click the upper right button to change the website language to English. They also have an office right at the Algeciras ferry terminal.


OUR RECOMMENDATION:
the ferry was still one of the highlights of our trip….so even if we knew about the helicopter ahead of time, we’d probably take the ferry one way and the helicopter the other way.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN CEUTA

There aren’t a ton of accommodation options listed online for Ceuta.

But since we knew we were going to be arriving late, we wanted to stay somewhere close to the ferry terminal (even if it was a bit far from the city center).

So, we stayed at Pension La Puntilla (which also ended up being the cheapest accommodation we could find) and paid about $40/night for a private double with a shared bathroom.

It was a pleasant enough place and likely your best option if you are on a budget. Plus, the owner was really nice and helpful!

If you want to stay somewhere a little bit nicer and closer to the center, Hostal Plaza Ruiz also looks to be a good choice.

Click either of the images above to get more info about the places or to book your room.


Day #2: Explore Ceuta and spend the night in Algeciras

 

Ceuta isn’t very big, so we felt like 1 full day was enough for us to visit what we wanted. So, we booked our ferry back to Algeciras at 7 PM that same day.

But there a ton of ferries back and forth, you can have some flexibility in how long you stay. Just be sure you don’t miss your ferry 

 

WHAT TO DO IN CEUTA: 1 DAY TRAVEL ITINERARY

Check out our complete 1 day in Ceuta itinerary article here for all the info you need.

If you don’t check out the article, you’ll miss out on views like this!

HOW TO GET FROM CEUTA TO GIBRALTAR/ALGECIRAS

Ideally,..

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If you’re moving or living abroad, then you need expat/international health insurance! But there’s a lot of insurance options out there, so it’s hard to know what to choose. Check out this article to learn about the best options (with pros & cons) and see tables comparing the most important features of each plan.

Picture by saturnism, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

So you’re going to live abroad….congrats!

Living, working, or going to school in a foreign country can be an exciting experience. And you’ll join thousands of people just like you who have the chance to explore the world outside of their home countries. But as you make plans to get that visa and schedule that doctor’s visit for vaccinations, there’s another important thing you want to make sure you don’t forget about: expat/international health insurance.

 

What is expat/international health insurance?

Expat/immigrant/international health insurance covers your medical expenses while you’re living in another country long-term. Usually, it’ll cover you for a wide range of healthcare – from medical emergencies to just preventative healthcare.

As you’ll see down below, this is NOT the same as travel insurance and it’s not something you’ll want to skip.

Why do I need expat/international health insurance?

Just like you need health insurance at home, you also need health insurance if you plan on living in another country for more than 6 months. And many countries also require proof of medical insurance before they grant you a visa or work permit (you’ll find more about this in the “expat/international health insurance for immigration” section down below).

While you’re living abroad, you’ll still need to have regular physicals, treat any health issues when they come up, and have a plan in place in case you have a health emergency.

You may be able to get healthcare through an employer if you are being sent to another country to work, but not always. So, make sure you check with the company to find out if they have an international health plan in place for you and your family.

The good news is that you can buy an immigrant/expat insurance plan that mimics the coverage you have already at home and will give you comprehensive health coverage worldwide.

All of these international health plans I recommend below can be modified whether you are a single traveler or need family coverage.

Why can’t I just make sure I’m healthy before I leave?

Hopefully, you’ll visit your doctor before you leave your home country. But you also need to take care of yourself while you’re away. And if you have pre-existing conditions or are on maintenance medications, they won’t be covered in another country.

And as we all know….accidents happen (I broke my toe once in South Korea, I’ve met travelers who fell off their skateboard, anyone who’s spent time abroad has probably encountered food poisoning, etc.). So you want to make sure you’re covered when they do.

 

Why can’t I just keep the health insurance I already have at home?

Your health insurance from back home won’t cover you while you live in another country long-term. And if you aren’t a citizen of the country you will be moving to, you won’t be covered by its public healthcare system.

Can I just use travel insurance for healthcare while living abroad?

In general, no. Travel insurance is typically purchased for stays that are less than 6 months in a single country (although you can get longer plans for several countries if you’re a tourist).

Here’s a bit more info on travel insurance versus expat/international health insurance below.

Difference between travel insurance & expat/international health insurance

Travel insurance:

  • Is for tourists or people who are just traveling, not living in a new country
  • Usually only covers medical emergencies that happen overseas (and won’t usually cover things like basic preventative care)
  • May also cover things like lost baggage and canceled flight (depending on your policy)
  • Is sometimes required to travel to certain areas (like the European Schengen Area)

To learn more about travel insurance, check out our article with the 3 Best and Cheapest Travel Insurance Companies.

Expat/international/immigrant health insurance:

  • Is for people moving abroad or living long-term in another country
  • Works like your normal insurance from back home would
  • Covers more than just emergency medical care (such as preventative care, dental, or vision)
  • Can cover things like pregnancy, cancer treatment, or mental health services (depending on the plans)
  • Is often a requirement to apply for visas or resident permits

 

Expat/international health insurance for immigration and applying for residence permits/visa

In most countries, to get a temporary or permanent resident visa, you will need to prove that you are covered by some kind of international health insurance (and no, they won’t just accept travel insurance).

We all know immigration can be a bit tricky, so make sure the expat/international health insurance policy you are buying meets the immigration office requirements of the country you are moving to. You may be able to find this info online, otherwise, you’ll probably want to contact them directly.

Personal experience using expat/international health insurance for immigration in Sweden (hint: it’s not always easy):  When Nikki moved to Sweden from the United States, she needed to prove to the immigration that she was covered by an international health insurance to get her temporary residence permit. She bought a policy from one of the companies below, and it was accepted by immigration.

But then when she applied for her tax number through the Swedish tax office and needed to show proof of international health insurance again, this same policy wasn’t accepted and she had to purchase a new one with a different company.

If this is an issue you think you might run into, be sure to look into the cancellation policies of each insurance company. Then, even if immigration rejects the insurance plan you have, you won’t lose too much by canceling your current plan and buying a new one. 

What should I look for in an international healthcare plan?

While the plan you choose will depend on the kind of coverage you need while you live as an immigrant/expat, here are some of the basic things they should include:

  • Adequate yearly benefit maximums
  • Flexibility in plans and prices
  • Wellness care and emergency care
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital visits
  • A large network of doctors and medical facilities to choose from
  • Multilingual and 24/7 customer service

We’ve compared our three favorite expat/immigration insurance options for you to check out below. All offer basic coverage for inpatient care and routine doctor’s visits, emergency evacuations, and 24/7 customer service.

Dental and vision will cost you more. If you are pregnant or plan on expanding your family while you’re in another country, you’ll have to buy the most expensive plans.

And just remember that the less expensive your plan is, the less coverage you’ll get.

So, make sure that you do your research in order to find the right plan that works for you.

Some questions to ask yourself before you buy expat/international insurance:

Do you need a private room if you’re admitted to a hospital?

Are you planning on starting a family or expanding your family?

Do you have any pre-existing conditions or are you on any medications you need to continue while living in another country?

Are you willing to pay a higher deductible for lower premiums?

The 3 Best Companies for Expat Insurance/International Healthcare Plans     1. Cigna

https://www.cignaglobal.com/international-medical-insurance

What I like:

  • Three plans to choose from: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
  • Basic silver plan covers $100 of eye care a year and some cancer screenings
  • You can modify a plan to add outpatient coverage and emergency medical evacuation if you need to leave the country to seek treatment
  • They offer flexible deductibles so you can control what you pay upfront.
  • 24/7 multilingual customer service
  • Monthly, quarterly or yearly payment options
  • Direct provider billing (Cigna pays for your appointment directly)
  • Middle Eastern medical coverage
  • Plans offer organ transplant services & kidney dialysis treatments
  • Their website has info about your host country’s finance system, culture, and schools

 

What I didn’t like:

  • You have to give a lot of personal information before you can get a quote.
  • The basic plan doesn’t cover maternity care (so you’ll need a purchase a more expensive policy if you plan to have a baby while abroad)

Get your Cigna quote here

 

    2. IMG

https://www.imglobal.com/international-health-insurance/global-medical-insurance

IMG sells several kinds of insurance. From travel insurance to health insurance for students to insurance for crew members and, obviously, insurance for expats. So when searching on their website, look for health insurance for “Expat / Global Citizen.”

What I like:

  • Have 5 plans for you to choose from
  • They offer you a cash incentive and up to 50% of your deductible waived if you choose one of their facilities outside of the U.S.
  • They have more than 29 years of immigrant/expat health insurance coverage experience.
  • Their website features an online portal for 24/7 access and emergency medical services
  • A network that includes 17,000 physicians and facilities worldwide.
  • Direct billing
  • They cover individuals & families from all nationalities 
  • Prices for 12-month worldwide coverage with a $250 deductible could cost less than $1000 annually for their Bronze package

What I don’t like:

  • Coverage ends at 75 years of age (but if you take out a plan before you turn 65 and keep it, you can take part in their lifetime enrollment plan)
  • Basic plan doesn’t cover maternity and even their most expensive plan only covers deliveries and newborn care after you’ve been enrolled for at least 10 months

Get your IMG quote here

    3. Seven Corners Liaison Majestic

https://www.sevencorners.com/liaison-majestic#/quote

As with IMG, Seven Corners also has medical insurance for travelers, students, faculty,  and others. 

What I like:

  • They have a 20-year history providing international health insurance options
  • Offer plans that cover pre-existing conditions
  • They’ll locate an embassy for you and give you travel advisories
  • 24/7 multilingual travel assistance
  • Their plans offer inpatient, outpatient, dental, emergency evacuation and emergency reunion (a friend or family member to be flown to be at your side while you are in the hospital)
  • You can add a hazardous sports rider that covers hang gliding, zip lining, water skiing, and bungee jumping.
  • Basic plans are reasonably-priced – A single male moving to Fiji can get a basic plan with a $250 deductible for about $1 a day

  

What I don’t like:

  • You can’t get a plan if your U.S. address is in Maryland, Washington, New York, South Dakota or Colorado
  • Can’t get coverage if you’re above 60 years old
  • They don’t provide coverage in if you’re going to Iran, Syria, U.S. Virgin Islands, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, or Sierra Leone
  • You need to have precertification for certain services like inpatient stays, rehab, and outpatient surgeries, and home healthcare

Get your Seven Corners quote here

 

Do you consider yourself a “global citizen,” or are you a digital nomad and need medical insurance that will follow you worldwide?

If so, the insurance above..

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The Dominican Republic is one of the largest and most visited countries in the Caribbean. Whether for Punta Cana, its colonial past or for kitesurfing, you shouldn’t miss it! Read here all you need to know to visit the “DR.” Including itinerary suggestions, accommodation, attractions, public transportation, etc…

Forget Punta Cana!!

Okay, just kidding (kind of). Maybe you don’t need to forget about Punta Cana, especially if you’re looking for a bit of beach relaxation. But the Dominican Republic is much more than just Punta Cana….especially for those of you who like beaches and water sports!

With this itinerary that I’ll share below, you’ll get your fill of:

  • Beaches that feel like you’re in paradise
  • Hotels and luxury resorts (if that’s your style….if not, you can avoid them!)
  • Water sports (it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to kitesurf!)
  • Colonial history (the capital, Santo Domingo, was the first city in all of the Americas!)

Table of Contents

  1. Fast facts about the Dominican Republic
  2. How to get to the Dominican Republic
  3. How long to stay in the Dominican Republic
  4. How to get around the Dominican Republic
  5. Where to stay in the Dominican Republic
  6. What to do in the Dominican Republic (our 4, 7 & 10 day itinerary)
  7. Where to go before or after the Dominican Republic
  1. Fast facts about the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a country in the Caribbean.  It takes up part of the second biggest island in the Caribbean, Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti.

Due to its size in comparison to the rest of the countries in the area, the Dominican Republic is much more than just beaches and palm trees. There’s also mountains, deserts, and lots of history!

Speaking of history, the Dominican Republic was “discovered”* by Christopher Columbus during his first trip to the “new world” and it became a base from which Columbus explored the rest of the continent. The Dominican Republic was also where the first European settlement was established, which then became the first city of the Americas (which is now the DR’s capital, Santo Domingo).

The currency they use is the Dominican Peso, and the official language is Spanish.

*I put this in quotes since there were obviously other people living on the land that is now the Dominican Republic before the arrival of the Europeans.

  1. How to get to the Dominican Republic

There are direct flights to the Dominican Republic from many parts of the world. Including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe….and from several countries in South America.

The airports with the most international flights are in Punta Cana and the capital Santo Domingo.

For Brazilians (and other South Americans) specifically, Gol has direct flights between São Paulo and Punta Cana. Or with a stopover in Brazil from other cities in Brazil or around South America. In other words, having a long stopover in the Dominican Republic is a great option if you’re heading to the United States.

This is exactly how I got to the DR! I got my flight with Gol from São Paulo to Punta Cana for 20,000 miles, explored the Dominican Republic for a week, then bought a cheap flight from Punta Cana to the United States.

It was cheaper than flying directly from Brazil to the United States, and I even got to have a fantastic week in the Dominican Republic without having to pay extra to get to the island! 

There’s also a ferry that connects the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The trip takes about 12 hours. See this website here for more info:

http://www.ferriesdelcaribe.com/main.php

  1. How long to stay in the Dominican Republic

Obviously, this’ll depend on how much time you have and on what you’re interested in. I’ve met people who just spent a long weekend (3 or 4 days) in Punta Cana and Bavaro to relax in the sun at a resort. Others stayed the same amount of time but took a day to explore Santa Domingo to absorb, beyond the sunshine, a bit of history.

Personally, I think about a week (7 days) in the Dominican Republic is a good amount of time. With that, you’ll be able to visit the Dominican Republic’s most-visited area (Punta Cana), the capital (Santo Domingo), and the most chill place in the country to practice water sports like kitesurfing and surfing (Cabarete).

If you have extra time, 10 days is enough to do the 7 day itinerary below plus add in something like Samaná Bay (which I’ll give more info about below). 

  1. When to go to the Dominican Republic

You can enjoy the Dominican Republic year round. But be careful with the period from June to October when its hurricane season (which sometimes hit the island very strongly!).

  1. How to get around in the Dominican Republic

Basically, you have 4 options: plane, rental car, organized tour or public transportation (intercity buses).

Traveling the Dominican Republic by plane 

Using planes to get around the Dominican Republic isn’t very practical. Although there are some flights between the main cities, the Dominican Republic isn’t really that big. So, there aren’t many flights and they’re expensive.

Traveling the Dominican Republic by trains

There are no trains in the Dominican Republic….so you can forget about this option!  

Traveling the Dominican Republic by rental car

Renting a car could be a good option to get around the Dominican Republic. As always, your own car gives you the freedom to explore places where public transportation doesn’t go and also gives you the flexibility to stay as long as you like. All the main international rental car companies operate in the Dominican Republic.

The find the best deal, I recommend you check out our article with the 5 best websites to compare car rental companies around the world. They’ll make your life much easier when its time to look for rental cars.

NOTE ABOUT DRIVING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Beyond the chaotic traffic (which might not be anything new, depending on where you’re from) and some of the narrow roads are a bit dangerous, it’s not uncommon to be stopped by police trying to get bribes from foreign tourists.

I didn’t encounter this in the Dominican Republic myself since I didn’t rent a car there. But I did rent a scooter in Cozumel, Mexico and ran into the classic scam “you can pay your fine now, or you’ll have to go to the police station to deal with it”….even though I did nothing wrong. So, just be careful! It’s not guaranteed to happen to you, but it’s also not uncommon. 

Traveling the Dominican Republic by organized tour

Obviously, there’s also the option to get around through a private van (like an organized excursion/tour) where the tour company organizes everything for you. If visiting the Dominican Republic with a group tour is your style, take a look at our article with the 5 best small group tour companies for international travel around the world.

Traveling the Dominican Republic by public transportation

Your last option is to use public transportation to get around the Dominican Republic. This was my choice during my trip since I was alone and it made the most sense in my case.

There are two options for public transportation in the Dominican Republic: Guaguas or intercity buses. More below….

How to use public transportation to travel around the Dominican Republic

As mentioned above, your options are Guaguas and intercity buses.

Guaguas

These are small buses and vans that run throughout the whole country stopping in various destinations. This is the most popular and cheapest form of transportation in the Dominican Republic.

The downside to them is that there aren’t set schedules, and the trips can be fairly uncomfortable since the Guaguas are always full. But if your aim is to save money and have a local experience, this is your best bet.

Guaguas!

Intercity buses

There are also tons of buses running between the main cities in the Dominican Republic. What’s nice about the buses is that they are comfortable (but bring a sweater since the air con is super strong) and have a fixed schedule, reasonable prices, and (sometimes) can be reserved online.

The downside is that most of the time you’ll have to pass through Santo Domingo to get from one point to another on the island. In other words, they don’t connect the small cities directly like the Guaguas do.

These are the two biggest intercity bus companies in the Dominican Republic that you can buy the tickets online from:

Caribe Tours

http://www.caribetours.com.do/site/portada/

Metro

http://www.metroserviciosturisticos.com/

There are also other bus companies that you can buy tickets from at the bus station.bus station

  1. Where to stay in the Dominican Republic

There’s a huge variety of accommodation options in the Dominican Republic. From 5 star resorts to much cheaper hostels. There are also more “chill” resorts like what I stayed in Cabarete. I’ll talk more about accommodation in each destination when we move to the itinerary below.

  1. What to do in the Dominican Republic (4, 7 and 10 day Dominican Republic itinerary)

Alright, let’s dive into our itinerary and activities. I’ll begin with a shorter itinerary of 4 days, then move on to 7 days and finally 10.

If you already have an itinerary planned and are looking for activities & attractions in the Dominican Republic, search on “GetYourGuide” They have a list of 220+ things you can do around the country, and you can reserve directly on the website.

4-Day Dominican Republic Itinerary (for those who want to relax on the beach & get a little bit of culture) Day 1: Punta Cana and Bavaro  

I’d recommend arriving in the Dominican Republic through the Punta Cana airport since you’ll probably visit Punta Cana anyway, and flights are often cheapest.

Tip! Since this is an airport that basically only serves resort-goers, it’s not easy to get public transportation from the airport to your accommodation. This is because, normally, the resorts and hotels offer pickups for their guests. 

I had to walk out of the airport along the road for about 10 minutes (and there was no sidewalk) until I found a bus stop to take a bus to my hostel in Bavaro.

And just so you know – Punta Cana and Bavaro are almost the same things. It’s a single beach extended between two.

The main activities here are relaxing at your hotel/on the beach, chilling out, and trying out some of the available water sports.

Where to stay in Punta Cana and Bavaro

I’ll give two accommodation options here. A luxury resort that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and the hostel I stayed at for those who want to backpack in Punta Cana (which isn’t very common, to be honest).

Reasonably-priced resort in Punta Cana

The AlSol Tiara Cap Cana – All Inclusive – Boutique Resort is an excellent option for an “all inclusive” resort. It usually comes out to less than $200 a night (which is pretty good for a resort at this level in Punta Cana).

Click below to check out the photos!

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All that you need to know to take the public ferry from the island of Saint Martin to Anguilla – including schedules, prices, & maps. Plus, more info about the British territory of Anguilla like transportation options, accommodation, and what to do. Works also if you are visiting Saint Martin on a cruise ship!

The island of Saint Martin is one of the main destinations in the Caribbean between all the visitors that come by cruise ship and just pass a day, as well as all those that spend several nights.

There’s a lot of things to do and places to see between the island’s French side, called Saint Martin, and its Dutch side called Sint Maarten.

You can find a list of St Martin activities and things to do here on Get Your Guide. You can even reserve and purchase activities directly (or just look at the options for some inspiration for what to do on your own).

But if you’ve already explored the island enough and are on the lookout for another nearby adventure, then I recommend you spend a day (or several) visiting Anguilla, Saint Martin’s closest neighbor.

What’s Anguilla?

Anguilla is a British island territory in the Caribbean that’s only about 25 minutes by boat from Saint Martin.

It’s a fairly small island that’s just 16 miles (25 kilometers) in length and 3 miles (5 kilometers) wide at its widest point.

What to do & visit in Anguilla

For visitors, Anguilla’s main attractions are without a doubt its 33 beautiful beaches to choose from. Some with lots of wind and thus perfect for watersports like kitesurfing or windsurfing, others tranquil paradises like Shoal Bay. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, Anguilla’s Shoal Bay is considered one of the most beautiful and exclusive places in the Caribbean!

Other famous areas include Barnes Bay, Rendezvous Bay, Road Bay, and Little Bay. Anguilla is also known as one of the few places where sea turtles come annually to lay eggs between April and November. So, if you’re lucky you’ll get to see them!

You can find a list of more activities and attractions in Anguilla here.

How to get from Saint Martin to Anguilla (the cheapest way possible)  

(NOTE: if you’re visiting Saint Martin on a cruise and just have one day to go to Anguilla, read below where I explain all that you need to know about getting from the cruise terminal in Philipsburg to Marigot to Anguilla and back again)

For being so close to each other, there’s a surprising number of ways to get from Saint Martin to the island of Anguilla.

The most expensive and fastest would be to charter a small plane from the Philipsburg airport in Saint Martin to the airport in Anguilla. The flight is just 8 minutes. There aren’t any big commercial flights going to Anguilla!

There’s also the option to take a fast charter boat from Saint Martin to Anguilla. But since they’re chartered, they aren’t exactly cheap.

But if your idea is to save on your visit to Anguilla, the best option is to take the public ferry between Marigot (the capital of the French side of Saint Martin) and Blowing Point Port in Anguilla (and really, the ferry is only 25 minutes…so there’s no reason not to do this option!).

You can get to the Marigot ferry terminal pretty easily from wherever you’re staying in Saint Martin (either by bus or taxi). Just ask your hostel, hotel, or any of the friendly locals on the street for guidance.

Schedule for the public ferry between Marigot (Saint Martin) and Anguilla

8:14

8:45

11:00

12:15

13:30

14:45

16:00

17:15 

Schedule for the public ferry between Anguilla and Marigot (Saint Martin)  

7:30

8:45

9:45

11:15

12:30

13:45

15:00

16:45

For more information on one of the boats that does this crossing, check it out here: http://www.link.ai

Cost of the public ferry between Marigot (Saint Martin) and Anguilla

The cost of the ferry is USD $10 one way or USD $20 roundtrip per person. You can buy the ticket right at the terminal – no need to reserve ahead of time.

When leaving from Marigot in Saint Martin, you’ll also need to pay a port fee of USD $5.00 when you buy your ticket.

If you aren’t going to stay overnight in Anguilla and just plan to spend the day, you don’t need to pay any port fee in Blowing Point when you leave Anguilla. But if you spend more than a day in Anguilla, you’ll have to pay a port fee of USD $23 when you buy your ticket for your ferry back to Saint Martin.

Total price for the public ferry day trip between Saint Martin and Anguilla

Ticket to go = USD $10

Ticket to return = USD $10

Port tax when departing = USD $5

Total = USD $25

And remember, if you spend more than a day in Anguilla, you’ll have to pay that USD $23 port tax when returning back to Saint Martin.

Tips for the trip between Saint Martin and Anguilla

 

As the sea between the two islands can be very choppy and have lots of waves splashing into the boat, I recommend you protect your stuff in a plastic bag so it doesn’t get wet.

And if you get seasick, it’s better to take some type of medicine before you get on the ferry. Crushed ginger pills are a good natural option to help with motion sickness in boats or cars.

Important tip for immigration between Saint Martin and Anguilla: bring your passport with you!!

Remember that you’ll be leaving from a French territory (Saint Martin) to a British territory (Anguilla)! So, since they are different countries (and the United Kingdom isn’t a part of the Schengen area like France), you’ll need to do immigration at both ports. It’s a super simple process, but obviously, you’ll need your passport to do it. Without the passport, you won’t be able to board the boat to Anguilla!

How to get around the island once you arrive in Anguilla

If you are staying in a hotel on Anguilla, they’ll probably arrange transportation from the port of Anguilla (Blowing Point) to your hotel. But if you’re just visiting for the day, you’ll have to arrange your own transportation to visit the places you want to.

Here are your options for local transportation in Anguilla:

Taxi in Anguilla: You can get a taxi right at the port when you get off the ferry. You can have them take you directly to one place (Shoal Bay, for example), or arrange with the taxi driver to drive you around and stay with you for a few hours to see various points on the island.

Price of the taxi: about USD $20 or so per hour (but negotiable depending on the total time)

Rental car in Anguilla: I think renting a car in Anguilla is your best option for transportation, especially if you have several people to split the cost with. It’s cheaper than a taxi and gives you the freedom to explore the island and visit places for as long as you like.

If you’ve read my article on the 5 Best Website for Rental Cars Around the World, you’ll know that I like to check several car rental websites before reserving to find the best deal. But in Anguilla, there’s not a lot of options for rental cars like in other places. Basically, they just have one car rental place and it’s right in front of Blowing Hole Port. So when you arrive from your ferry, you can rent your car from them right away.

It’ll be best if you can call to reserve a car and confirm the price ahead of time. You have to call because this rental car place doesn’t have a website.

(P.S: I know making international calls can be tricky, but I’ve always found Skype to be the easiest and cheapest way to make them. You can read more about how we use Skype for cheap international calls here. )

Here is the info and pictures of the car rental place in Anguilla:

Cost of renting a car: around $60 per day including the Anguilla driving permission (which they’ll give you right at car rental place). You need to bring your passport and driver’s license from your home country to be able to rent the car.

Scooter/motorcycle rental in Anguilla: this would be a great option to explore the island, especially if you’re alone or as a couple. But unfortunately, after the last hurricane that hit the island, all of the scooters were destroyed (as of January 2018). The only place to rent scooters on the island is the same as the car rental place we just talked about above.

So, I’d recommend calling ahead as well to see if there still are no scooters. Perhaps by the time you read this article, the scooters will have been replaced and are now available to rent again.

Bicycle rental in Anguilla: personally, I don’t think renting bikes to explore Anguilla is the best option. The best places to visit aren’t that close to Blowing Point Port, so you’d lose a lot of time just pedaling under the hot Caribbean sun to get to them. The island also isn’t very flat, thus making your journey more difficult. So in my experience, if you only have a day in Anguilla, bike isn’t such a great option.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t places to rent bicycles in Anguilla. But the options available are for speed and road bikes (professional-ish ones), and probably not the type you’d want for a relaxed ride around the island.

Tip about transportation in Anguilla (or really anywhere else in the world): No matter what form of transportation you choose, I recommend you download a map of Anguilla from Google Maps onto your phone. Then, you can use it offline to avoid getting lost while you venture around the island.

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*Gothenburg, the 2nd biggest city in Sweden, is the place Rodrigo and I are currently calling home. It’s a great city and our friend Djordje Milosav, a student here, wrote an article for us with a free thing you can do here each day of the week. Enjoy!

Things you will need:

  1. 5 minutes to read this article
  2. 7 days in Gothenburg (or less)
  3. 1 towel
  4. 1 pair of running shoes and some sports clothes
  5. You don’t really need anything else but 5 is a great number.

Picture credits to Craig Dennis

Gothenburg Free Activity #1: Monday Foam Rolling Class

It’s February (this actually applies from the end of November until the beginning of April – optimistically), so when you get up in the morning, the sun simply doesn’t. You feel that you could pay for it to get up, but then you remember that you are on a budget. Depressing, I know.

Anyhow, as with any other Monday, most of the museums are closed (but are free on other days if you are under 25!) so you go out to explore the city. And sometime after the lunch, you have previously prepared by yourself (let’s say spaghetti with tuna sauce if you’re weird like Rodrigo), you should register yourself for the first free thing on this list: BLACKROLL® Sessions.

The sessions are an excellent and relaxing workout that is great for your legs. You can register is by sending an email to Rebeka at rebekka@tetisport.se as soon as you finish washing up the dishes since the workout starts at 16:30.  

The black roll sessions take place at The Centre of Health and Performance at Skånegatan 14b (the nearest tram stop is Ullevi Norra – see a map below). The only thing you need is some sports clothes….Rebeka will guide you through the rest!

Gothenburg Free Activity #2: Tuesday Running Group Workout OR Jazz Night

Still no sun. But this time, you got up really fast even without any coffee since you did BLACKROLL® yesterday. Already feeling better and ready for some more action?

For those of you who answered “YES,” check these guys out. Gothenburg Running Club is a group of young enthusiasts that organize free running workouts in different places around the city. They meet up every Tuesday at 6 PM and it’s always free to join. You can find where they are meeting in the “events” section of their Facebook page here.

Joining the group is a great way to explore the hidden parks that you didn’t know Gothenburg had and to learn some new Swedish words (hint: the more squats you do, the more Swedish numbers you learn….I did “sju” which totally means 100).

Also, I go every Tuesday and so do Rodrigo and Nikki (those people who actually run this blog), so you can meet them in person 

Picture credits to Gothenburg Running Club

Picture credits to Gothenburg Running Club

But if BLACKROLL® was tough enough for you yesterday, then you should definitely visit Nefertiti Jazz Club instead. They are always free on Tuesdays and offer live jazz jam sessions that are really enjoyable. The place opens at 7 pm and the music starts around an hour later (but if you want a nice spot in front of the stage, then you should be there around 7 PM to get it since a lot of people come).

Nefertiti Jazz Club Gothenburg Picture credits to Jonas Ahrentorp

Gothenburg Free Activity #3: Wednesday Public Sauna

This morning will probably be snowing. But don’t be sad! This is the best weather that you can imagine while experiencing the free public sauna at Jubileumsparken.

This amazing piece of architecture was created mostly from mostly from recycled materials by German architect-collective Raumlabor. And it’s in the middle of the water! If you didn’t figure it out already, this is where you use your towel.

You can book here. Unfortunately, the booking system is only in Swedish so you’ll have to translate everything. There are basically three options to book: male-only sauna, female-only sauna, and mixed. The maximum amount of people that you can register at once is 2 so you can bring a friend along.

I know it doesn’t look like a sauna or a nice place to visit….but I promise, it is! Picture credits to http://www.goteborg.com/en/jubileumsparken/

Gothenburg Free Activity #4: Thursday Museum Day

As mentioned in the beginning, if you’re under 25, the doors of any museum in Gothenburg are open and for free for you.

We personally liked the Gothenburg Museum of Art best since it had a wide variety of art to see from Renaissance to the present, including works from artists such as Rembrandt, Picasso, Henry Moore and Louise Nevelson.

Picture credits to Gothenburg Museum of Art

If this is too “nerdy” (it’s not, btw), try the Volvo or Maritime Museum for a glimpse of Swedish industrial power, or head to Gothenburg’s Natural History Museum for a face-to-face encounter with something more dangerous than a Scandinavian moose (although those moose are still huge and impressive).

Gothenburg (Almost) Free Activity #5: Friday “Don’t-Bring-Your-Credit-Card” OR “Get-Free-Food” Night Out

Although it’s not on us to claim, we’d say that Friday is a Swedish Saturday….which means that it’s time for a night out!

And this is where “almost” in the parenthesis from the title comes in. To be honest, alcohol in Sweden is really expensive (this is only false if you’re from Norway where it’s even more expensive). And one way to make sure you spend nothing on alcohol is to bring only cash when you go out.

It may sound strange, but many places in Gothenburg only accept cards — no cash. So, if you really want to make your night free….leave your credit card and debit card at home!

But if you do bring your card along with you for drinks, and you may as well get some free food out of the deal. Just head to Kings Head Pub on the famous going-out street of Andra Långgatan and you can enjoy an extra (and “free”) buffet with the purchase of a drink (one beer is about 35 Swedish Kronor).

Gothenburg Free Activity #6: Saturday Flea Market

If you stick to the plan and stay on budget by restraining yourself to not get “just one more” (okay, “two more”) beer on the previous night, you’ll be able to get up early and head to the free market called Kviberg (the name of the tram stop is the same —

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The 5 best and cheapest websites and apps to do international wire transfers. Easy to use and you can instantly calculate the cost to send and final value after conversion before confirming your transfer. Works for 40 different currencies in more than 70 countries, including USA, India, Australia, UK, & many more!

Click here if you want to jump straight to the top 5 list

It might seem like this topic isn’t so related to travelers. But believe me, it is. Plus it’s super useful if you (or any of your relatives) live, work, or study abroad.

(By the way, if you or anyone you know are planning or want to live abroad and still don’t know how you can, don’t miss our page with 10 Ways to Live Abroad)

Here are just some examples of when you might use the services of the companies I’ll mention below to transfer money to other countries. If you:

  • Are traveling abroad and want to save on exchange rates (we explain how 2 sections below)
  • Are studying or working abroad and need to receive/send money to/from your family back home
  • Have friends or family studying or working abroad and you need to send/receive money to/from them
  • Need to send money to yourself because you’re living abroad and your money is in a bank account in another country or your home country
  • Have a husband or wife abroad and need to send them money
  • Need to pay for something abroad (see bottom of article for notes on scams and fraud for this)
  • Are traveling and run out of money and need your family to send you money
  • Have international clients/suppliers and need to receive/send payment from them
  • Get your wallet stolen while abroad and need someone to send you money
  • Earn a salary abroad and want to send money to your bank account back home to invest
  • Have bank accounts overseas and need to send money from them to your home bank

And remember, the options that I’ll give you below work for that are living or are from any country in the world….The United States, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, India, etc…

So, let’s get started!

Important note: Official/spot exchange rate vs. retail/tourist exchange rate

Throughout the article, you’ll see us mention the official/spot exchange rate and the retail/tourist exchange rate.

In simple terms, you always want to get the official/spot exchange rate because then you’ll lose less money when you convert your currencies. This the rate that’s used in the financial market where large amounts of currency are traded (think of it a bit like “wholesale” or “discount” currency exchange rates).

Most of the companies I recommend below use the official/spot exchange rate (I’ll mention if they don’t).

The retail/tourist exchange rate, on the other hand, is what you’ll find when you exchange money at airports, banks, currency exchange stands, etc. They use the retail/exchange rate so they make a big profit by giving you a worse exchange rate.  

In other words, always try to exchange currencies using the official/spot exchange rate NOT the retail/tourist exchange rate. We mention below which rate each company uses.

How to save money on your trips by transferring money abroad

As you might already know (especially if you’ve read our article about How to Deal with Money While Traveling), doing things like withdrawing money with your debit card or paying with a credit card abroad can rack up a lot of fees (unless you get a card without foreign transaction fees).

One alternative could be to exchange money in your home country at a bank or agency before you go abroad. But the problem is that, besides not being a great idea to travel with so much cash, the exchange rates used by these places are the retail/tourist rates…so you can end up losing a lot in your transaction.

Another cheaper option for travelers is to use one of the options below to send money to friends or family that live along your travel route. Then, when you arrive in that country, you can pick up the money in the local currency from the friend/family member you sent the money to from back home.

For example, let’s say I’m from the United States and am planning a trip to Australia where my brother is studying. I use one of the 5 companies below to send money from my US bank account to my brother’s bank account in Australia. He’ll receive the money in Australian dollars and can pass it along to me when I arrive in Australia. Then, I won’t need to change money before in the United States nor after I arrive in Australia.

Now, let’s talk about the 5 best and cheapest companies to send, receive, and transfer money abroad.  

But first, what’re the 3 ways you should NEVER send and receive money abroad?

#1) BANKS

Many people around the world think that using a bank is an easy and cheap way to send or receive money overseas. But this isn’t true! 

Doing international transfers through banks is EXPENSIVE!! Banks’ll use a SWIFT code (or BIC) and IBAN to do incoming and outgoing international wire transfers…and they’ll screw you over! 

In general, they charge you a percent of the total amount transferred plus a fee that’s sometimes almost the amount of the transfer itself….and to make things worse, the conversion rate they use is horrible! So, if you transfer money to another country with a bank, you’ll probably end up losing a lot of money that you don’t need to.

For example, if you an American bank to send money to a European bank, fees could easily be $45 minimum for a single wire transfer (plus a horrible exchange rate).

HiFX (one of the companies I recommend below) has a good comparison between their rates and the rates of major bank’s for international wire transfers….

And this table gives you an idea of the fees charged by banks for incoming and outgoing international wire transfers…ouch!

#2) and #3) Western Union or MoneyGram

These are two of the biggest companies for sending money abroad in the world. Which means that, unfortunately, a lot of people are using them and wasting money without realizing it just because they didn’t know there are better options.

But if so many other people use Western Union and MoneyGram, why shouldn’t you?

Because they…

  • Are super expensive and take a high percentage of the money you’re sending

(MoneyGram, for example, will charge you nearly a quarter of the amount you’re sending – or US $22 – for a $100 transfer….what a ripoff!)

  • Don’t let you send or receive money online (you have to go personally to the agency yourself and the person receiving the money has to do the same)
  • Usually use the tourist/retail exchange rate (AKA: the one you don’t want)

One last time, here are the 3 ways you should NOT do international transfers:

#1) Banks

#2) Western Union

#3) MoneyGram

Then what are the cheapest and most practical ways to do international money transfers?

I’ve put the 5 options in order with my favorite options at the top (because of their low cost and ease). But I’d recommend you always test all the options below to see what is best for what you need.

  1. TransferWise

www.transferwise.com

Made by the creators of Skype, TransferWise is probably the cheapest and easiest way to send money abroad. It’s definitely my favorite and the one I use most often.

All you need to do is have a checking account in the country you’re sending the money from and a checking account in the country where you’re sending the money (note:  the account that receives the money doesn’t need to be in your name, making this a perfect option if you need to send money to friends or family).

You basically just put in the amount of money in the currency you want to send (US dollars, for example) and the currency you want to receive (Euros, for example). Then, put in how much money you want to send (US $1,000, for example) and Transferwise will tell the amount the person will receive in Euros including all fees.

Important: you can see that the conversion rates Transferwise uses are the official exchange rates that Google gives. In other words, the best rate possible, no matter the direction/currencies involved.

Then, just sign up with your info and put in the bank info of the person (even if it’s your own account in another country) who is receiving the money.

Depending on the country you’re sending money from, you can send money with Transferwise through domestic bank transfers, debit card, or even credit card! But to use a credit card you do have to pay a small percentage fee.

In some countries, Transferwise will issue you an invoice to pay the amount to be transferred. There aren’t any fees for this.

The money you transfer will be in the destination account in 2-3 days.

And notice that the currency exchange rate from Transferwise is pretty much the same as the official one given by Google!

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