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Dubai is a city unlike any other cities I’ve ever visited and it was the perfect introduction to the Middle East. Globally, the city is known for its superlatives – the biggest mall in the world, the tallest man-made structure in the world, the fastest growing city in the world – you get the gist. So when I first landed in the country, I had a carefully laid out Dubai itinerary – there were some expectations and Dazzling Dubai did not disappoint.

I visited Dubai for the first time back in 2012 – a group of 11 of my university classmates and I were selected to represent Canada in the DohaGoals Forum and we decided to make a stop in Dubai after the session prior to returning to Canada. We were already in the region anyways, so it wouldn’t hurt to extend our stay for another 4.5 days. Since that trip, I’ve been back to Dubai twice – both times en route to South Africa and I had a 1-day layover in the city which gave me a good understanding of the city.

Read More: Postcard From | Dubai

My introduction to Dubai included adventures through the city covering all the touristic destinations and it was great! Discovering the Old Town Dubai, Gold Souq, JBR (Western University students would know this as something else), the Burj Khalifa and the largest malls in the world. Here is our jam-packed 4-day itinerary from my trip in 2012, exploring a little bit of old and new Dubai!

Day 1: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)

Jumeirah is a coastal residential area of Dubai and is also considered as one of the most exclusive areas of the city. It boasts five-star hotel chains along its coastline, the likes you would normally associate with movie stars and wealthy tourists/expats. It is incredibly popular with tourists and expats alike, given the stunning vista of Jumeirah Beach that you wake up to every morning.

As the icing on the cake, the most prominent icon of Dubai, Burj Al Arab Hotel, is located on this beach front. Though the likes of Ritz-Carlton and Jumeirah Beach Hotel chains are way out of my student budget, I found the equally lovely, and more budget-friendly, familiar chain, Ramada Hotel to be far more than enough for my stay in Dubai with my group of friends.

View of the beach located right next to the Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Image Source

My group booked an airport transfer picked up at the airport and was promptly driven to Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Hotel located right next to the gorgeous Jumeirah Beach.

This “aparthotel” was the perfect place to stay being in the “centre” of the actions. Located only 2 minutes away from the beach, 10 minutes from the Mall of Emirates (the biggest mall in the world), and being part of the exclusive part of town definitely made the stay quite a luxurious one!

Since we arrived in Dubai fairly late, we proceeded to find dinner, and stayed to people-watch. The strip of road in front of Jumeirah Beach Residence is like the runway of high end, luxury cars as we spent more time identifying which luxury car just passed by and which that we expect to see than actually eating. It was truly the definition of ostentatious and flagrant display of oil money in Dubai. From Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maseratti, BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Rolls Royce in all sorts of vivid colors with all sorts of add-ons (ahem, velvet?)

Day 2: Exploring Old Town Dubai, the Old Textile Market and Gold Souq

Old Town Dubai

Taking the abra water taxis across the river to see Old Town Dubai

On my group’s first full day in Dubai, my friends and I took a cab to go to the gold souq, otherwise known as the gold market. It was fascinating to see so much gold being sold in a traditional market dedicated to only selling gold. We went there solely to see the market, and not so much trying to purchase gold as the market was quite sketchy at best. The experience was a lot of fun (I mean, how often do you see a vest made entirely out of gold?) and definitely worthwhile to see the “other”, more authentic Middle Eastern experience than the glitzy malls and glamorous hotels.

There were also shops located in the Textile Market set up dedicated to fake designer goods tucked away in very old, almost crumbly buildings that in retrospect was not a good idea to go into. You can choose to buy the high-quality fakes or the low-quality ones, depending on your budget. Every brand, design and world-famous monogram can be found here.

Read More: Dubai Desert Safari Tour | An Arabian Adventure through the Desert.

After the market, we decided to have an early dinner. We wanted to try something local so we walked around for a little bit to find a place to eat. We decided to cross the creek (Al Khor) to see the other half of the market and find a place to eat there as well. We took the water taxi, locally known as abras which costed a mere AED1 ($0.30) for the journey. It’s a favourite of locals and tourists alike and obviously the cheapest way to get from Deira to Bur Dubai. The journey took around 5 minutes!

Day 3: Desert Safari Tour

I’ve written a separate post about my desert safari experience in Dubai. It’s an experience not to be missed and I felt every dollar spent was worth it! I will refer you to the original post so you can read and find out more about it in greater details!

Day 4: Checking out The Biggest Malls in the World

We spent part of the morning exploring Dubai’s two malls – the Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates. Each mall boasts a unique offering that I’ll write more about in an upcoming post but the combination of being located right next to the Burj Khalifa (Dubai Mall) and boasting an indoor skiing range (Mall of the Emirates), these two sites deserve a quick visit, even if it was just for half a day.

Ultimately both malls feel very similar to high-end malls in any other parts of the world. There’s a lot more of Dubai to discover so I would caution against spending too much time here!

Day 4.5: Burj Khalifa

We finished off our visit to Dubai with a stop at the Burj Khalifa. The tower is currently the tallest man-made structure in the world, and is Dubai’s pride and joy. The Burj Khalifa is practically synonymous with the city of Dubai. I wrote a post about my experience on the Burj Khalifa, having visited it twice in the last four years. I’ll be sharing more details in an upcoming post about the Burj Khalifa experience!

What You Need to Know
  1. Getting there: Flying to Dubai is easier than ever – there are plenty of airlines operating direct and indirect flights into the city. My favourites are Emirates (Dubai’s official airline) or Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi’s official airline)
  2. Where to Stay: Dubai is not exactly a budget destination – you can expect to spend some dough in the area. I stayed at the Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence aparthotel as I went with 11 other friends, and our group size made it logical to stay here
  3. Currency: The United Arab Emirates Dirham is known as the Emirati Dinar trades for CAD$1 = AED0.34. It is currently pegged to the USD dollars at a rate of 1 USD = 3.6725 AED.
  4. Getting Around: Dubai has an extensive, brand-new and very modern public transportation system. I never took it as my group preferred to travel by taxi given the short amount of time we had in the city.
  5. Don’t Forget: While Dubai (and the UAE) is a progressive Arab nation, showing and respecting local customs never hurts. When dressing err on the side of conservative where possible. Although the city is highly accustomed to tourists, and there are plenty of expats around, Dubai is still a country that observes a more strict view of the world
  6. One more thing: Dubai is one of those places where you can skimp once in a while. Attractions like the Desert Safari Tour or Burj Khalifa shouldn’t be skipped, but the malls can be!

Have you been to Dubai?

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The post Things to do in Dubai | 4-Days in Dazzling Dubai. appeared first on theFantasia.

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At this point, I hope I’ve convinced you that a trip to the Algarve is an absolute-must. But taking a 3-4 hour trip to the South of Portugal may seem like a daunting effort. So I hope to alleviate those concerns and show you how visiting the Algarve region can be done easily and fairly cheaply too!

Visiting the Algarve region can be done as a day-trip or over the course of several days. If you have the time, I would highly suggest that you stay over a few days. I didn’t because I found the area to be more expensive than Lisbon and opted to spend one glorious, sun-filled, delightful day in Lagos! There are a few accommodation option and plenty of restaurants in the area to spoil yourself silly if you prefer to go slower.

Keep in mind the Algarve region is a popular destination for tourists and locals so it might be a good idea to book your accommodations and transportation ahead of time during high season. I like to research and book my accommodations through AirBnB and Booking.com which provides so many options to choose from and makes it easy to book and check your reservations on the go. I’ve stayed at many AirBnBs and love the more local experience it provides!

If you enjoy this post, discover more of my Portugal travels here!

How to get to Algarve from Lisbon

I may have mentioned it once or twice before, but Lisbon has one of the best public transit systems I’ve ever come across! Whether it is an in-city or intercity system, the ease and reasonable price makes it one of the best budget options to choose from. It’s very easy to hop on a bus for a day trip and not as expensive as you might imagine! There are several buses and trains going to the Algarve region and back and it’s quite cheap to go there and back.

The only (and from my research) and best station to base your travels in Lisbon would be Lisboa Sete Rios station. Think of this as the city’s main station (i.e. the equivalent of Grand Central / Union Station) as you can easily connect between different modes of transportation in this one station.

If you’re taking the metro (Carris): get on the Blue Line and get off at the Jardim Zoológico station which connects to the Lisboa Sete Rios (3-5 minutes walk at most).

From Lisboa Sete Rios, you can connect to the intercity train (Comboios de Portugal), get on the tourist AeroBus (line 2 only), and take the urban bus (Carris).

Below, I’m sharing the public and non-public transit option in the hopes that it will help you decide for your trip!

Beautiful Algarve region and the beaches in Lagos are just stunning to miss!
1. How to get to the Algarve by Car

The easiest and most convenient way to get to the Algarve region is probably by driving. I’ve never rented a car during my travels but I came across many guests who did. There are a number of providers and I haven’t come across or heard of any horror stories which leads me to think it’s a fairly safe, easy, quick and convenient option. The journey is anywhere from 2.5-3.5 hours depending on how many stops you take.

Several providers who you can use include Sixt, Enterprise, Europcar among many.

The best part about travelling by car is you can stop wherever you please and spend as long or as little time as you’d like at various stops. Most beaches I visited last year did have some parking spot and it was mostly empty during the low season, so it could be a very viable option if you enjoy the flexibility.

Read More: Things to do in Belem | Lisbon’s Historic Centre. 2. How to get to the Algarve by Train

The Intercity Train in Lisbon! Take one of these to go to the Algarve Region from Lisbon!

Take advantage of the incredibly easy, clean, speedy and inexpensive intercity train with Comboios de Portugal which departs the main station in Lisbon (Note: locally Lisbon is also called Lisboa). There are several train stations in Lisbon, but the one that I used as my base is Lisboa Sete Rios which is conveniently connected to the intercity bus systems, urban bus and metro systems, as well as the where the CP trains leave from. Think of this station as being your Grand Central Station or Union Station – it’s so easily accessible from the city of Lisbon no matter where you’re staying so it makes a lot of sense to leave and arrive at this station.

Read More: Things to do in Portugal | 10 Days Adventure Itinerary.

In the Algarve region, there are (to my knowledge at least) 3 stops, but you might want to go for the Lagos stop as this will take you the closest to the beaches. Alternatively, you can also take the Portimau or the Faro stops.

The journey takes around 4 hours and tickets are around €22-24 one-way; if you book your tickets ahead of time, you can get it for €14-15 (promo price). I think the 30% discount is very generous and worth booking early (5-8 days) for especially since their website is very easy to navigate!

Do you need a reservation?

Highly recommended! You can secure a 30% discount if you book 5-8 days ahead of time and I would recommend booking ahead of time during the high season as it is a highly popular route for locals and tourists alike. You can book your tickets on the official Comboios de Portugal website.

3. How to get to the Algarve by Bus

The cheapest, and I think the most convenient option for a glorious beach visit is by the bus. It is surprisingly clean, quick, punctual and easy to access (Clearly I have very low standards) from Lisboa Sete Rios! The buses have air-conditioning, a toilet, and free wifi as well.

There are several of operators to choose from: Rede-Expressos (blue and white bus), Renex (red and white bus) and Eva (yellow and green). They’re all fairly identical in terms of service, pricing and leaves from the exact same station. I took the Rede-Expressos on the way there, and Eva on the way back. I think the only difference is depending on what time you’re getting back – I feel like it’s their way of maximizing the number of journeys they can do in a day.

The bus station at Lisboa Sete Rios. This terminal is fairly difficult to find – you have to exit the station on the right-hand side (if facing the exit) until you spot an elevator by the orange building

The journey takes 3-4 hours depending on which bus/time you take. Most of the trip has no stops but it seems 1 route has a “link”. The bus stops at the bus stations towards the end of the journey including Portimau and Lagos.

What I love about taking the bus is that there is FREE and really good wifi on board. I was watching YouTube the whole journey and it’s such a great way to kill time. There’s numbered seating and you can pick your seats ahead of time although if the bus is empty, you can move around as needed. The buses are clean and very punctual which is great when you’re travelling such a lengthy journey. Regular ticket is €17-18 one way, but if you are under 29 years old, you would be eligible for youth pricing which is €15 ROUND-TRIP total price (that’s more than 50% off!)

Do you need a reservation?

No but recommended! You can book your ticket just before you get on board (make sure you arrive early enough), but they have recently revamped their website which means pre-booking your seats and purchasing your tickets in advance is very convenient. I bought my ticket about 15 minutes before departure and the bus was very empty. During high-season, I would imagine the route is fairly very busy.

Pro Tip: There is a fruit market in front of the Lagos Central Bus station which you will immediately see upon disembarking from the bus. I highly highly recommend picking up some fresh, cheap and tasty clementines, apples or other fruits which supports local farmers and makes for the perfect healthy day picnic and will save you money from eating out. I bought a bag of 5-7 clementines for €0.85 (that’s around $1 for fresh and delicious clementines!)

Heading to Portugal soon?
  1. I spent 2 weeks in Portugal and explored the country through a variety of activities! For more details, be sure to check out my Things to do in Portugal | 10 Days Adventure Itinerary.
  2. Lisbon or Porto? 3 days or 3 weeks? Whatever decision you need to come to, here’s my list of things to do in Lisbon!
  3. One of my favourite spots in Lisbon is Belem, its historic centre. Guarded by two famous monuments, a remarkable monastery and the best pasteis de nata spot in all of Lisbon, you’ll want to make Belem your #1 stop in Lisbon!
  4. See why the Algarve region is my favourite spot in all of Portugal!
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The post Getting There: Visiting The Algarve from Lisbon | 3 Ways to Explore the South of Portugal. appeared first on theFantasia.

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It’s absolutely no secret to most of you that I’m in love with anything rose-scented or rose-infused in my routine. My skin just drinks up anything rose-infused and I can’t live without my beloved rosehip oil so I was thrilled to give the LaCoupe Moroccan Rose Volume Loving Shampoo and Conditioner ($9.99, Walmart and Jean Coutu) a go – finally, something rose-infused for my hair!

I hadn’t heard of the LaCoupe brand before but the next time I’m in a Walmart and Jean Coutu store, I’ll definitely be on a lookout! As part of its new Naturals range, which are silicone-, paraben-, cruelty-free and features ecofriendly ingredients, this rose-infused haircare routine is going to be a total treat for your winter-stricken hair. With consistent sub-zero temps, snow storms / squalls that just keep coming back, I’m ready to refresh my hair routine asap!

P.S. Yes, I am the lucky one to get 2 of the conditioner instead of a shampoo and conditioner!

The LaCoupe Moroccan Rose Volume Loving range is available at: Walmart and Jean Coutu as of Feb 2018

I’m obsessed with anything that keeps my hair healthy – I am fortunate that despite daily straightening, and washing (I can’t go to sleep knowing there’s all sorts of hair products in my hair!) my hair is relatively healthy. It’s quite voluminous, and except for humidity, I don’t tend to have a lot of issues to worry about. I do know that because of my constantly tying my hair or putting it up in a bun when I’m relaxing at home, it has created some damage on the top layer, making it even more fine than it needed to be.

The LaCoupe Moroccan Rose Volume Loving Shampoo and Conditioner features moroccan rose as its primary ingredient which not only will deliver a fragrant and aromatic experience in the shower, but also invigorate your hair by strengthening the strands allowing thinning and fine tresses to come back to life.

The rose oil infusion helps to add silkiness and shine to the hair that looks natural. The range is also infused with volume amplifying biotin and collagen which occurs naturally (though slows down with age) to strengthen the hair as well. To round up the fantastic ingredient list, we have 100% pure aloe leaf juice and coconut water to nourish and condition your hair naturally without the use of synthetic ingredients or lab-made chemicals.

The LaCoupe Moroccan Rose Volume Loving range comes with 3 products: a shampoo, conditioner and mousse for styling. The shampoo and conditioner comes in a pump bottle which makes it absolutely perfect to use in the shower (I hate over-extracting products!) and the mousse has a foam-like nozzle to get just the right amount of product out.

The entire LaCoupe Naturals Collection (there are four in total, with this launch being the first) is sulfate-free, paraben-free, propylene glycol free and petroleum-free. The range is also safe to use for colour-treated hair.

This haircare range is a little bit more expensive than your usual drugstore offering. Priced at around $10 a product, that’s probably double of what I would normally pay for a similar-sized shampoo. Although priced at the higher end of the spectrum, it’s certainly not the most expensive when you consider other hair treatment products retail for a similar price. However, it is still affordable considering the natural ingredients packed in all three products. Plus, since they’re available at mass-retail stores, keep an eye out for promotion or sales so you can try out these goodies for yourself!

Have you tried LaCoupe haircare products before?

Disclaimer: This post features product(s) provided for editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.

The post LaCoupe Moroccan Rose Volume Loving Haircare. appeared first on theFantasia.

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You know I love adventures. You know I’d like to Indiana Jones or Lara Croft my way through ancient tombs, temples, monasteries around the world as evidenced by my travels. So upon seeing the new Aura Mugler ($85-150, available here), you can imagine my excitement. This gem-inspired release from Mugler is everything I’ve imagined a hidden, long-lost gem with magical powers might look like. Add the emerald green colour, and you can tell my imagination is going all over the place trying to pretend that I’m holding some mysterious enchanted talisman.

Aura Mugler ($85-150, available here) is the brand’s latest feminine fragrance. Following the success of Angel, Alien and Womanity, the brand is pushing boundaries with Aura. Mugler’s fragrance is something of a hit or miss for me. The brand is known for its forceful and striking combination of notes that leaves a lasting impression on its wearer. That said, the fragrance can come off slightly too strong for daily wear. What I do appreciate a lot about Mugler’s fragrances is the tendency to include smoky woody elements which is something I’m quite partial towards.

Aura Mugler is available at: SephoraThe BayHarrodsSaks Fifth Avenue as of January 18

Aura Mugler | Listen to Your Instinct

Mugler’s fragrances, all the way from Angel to Womanity and now Aura, has always been about defining your own “woman” and fiercely showcasing what that means to the world. Aura is shaped like a heart essentially depicting a woman’s instinct and life “energy”. The silver M that encases the heart is a tribute to the Mugler brand and also because M sounds like the French word “aime” – a tribute to the “shape” of love.

I don’t know about you, something about this emerald green bottle is just so striking. It stops you as you’re walking, and in a wall with dusty rose, peachy, or champagne-coloured bottles of fragrances, this forceful emerald stands out like no other. Add the unique heart shape to it and I think we’ve got a showstopper. Like its famous sister Angel’s star-shaped bottle, this fragrance does not stand up on its own – it really needs to lie on its side which is sadly a nuisance for me personally as I would prefer having my fragrance standing upright.

Aura Mugler | The Fragrance

To create Aura, the team in charge of creating this masterpiece worked with a fragrance house Firmenich, allowing access to a recently-discovered element: the Tiger Liana. This particular note is the backbone behind the fragrance: it is a Chinese medicinal plant that heals heart disease and contributes to balance the body. In addition to the Tiger Liana, rhubarb leaf adds a bit of crispness while orange blossom freshens up the scent – the combination of the two creating a “botanical freshness” that’s equally intense and vibrant. Additional notes include the black flower pod of bourbon vanilla for that woody spicy note (all Mugler fragrances feature some sort of woody scent as noted above). The last note that we should talk about is Wolfwood, also coming from the same firm that provided the Tiger Liana, adds another smokey, oriental layer.

If the emerald green bottle makes you think of the forest and the intensity of the jungle, then you’ll be pleased to know that the fragrance itself has that vegetal freshness smell to it. It smells like being in the middle of the rainforest (think of your camping days – sappy leaves and rain water) with a bit of sweetness from the orange blossom and bourbon vanilla.

Why You Should Check Out Aura Mugler

If the heart-shaped emerald flacon doesn’t stop you on your tracks and make you want to come home with it, then we need to chat. For me, this sculpted heart flacon goes beyond being looking really pretty – the way the facets are shaped around the entire bottle makes this a riveting one to look at. I particularly like the way lights bounce and reflect off of it. There’s something just so enchanting and beguiling about this particular design.

If that doesn’t make you want to go out there and at least give it a sniff, maybe this fact might encourage you. Of all the fragrance brands out there, Mugler is the only one (as far as I know) that sells refills – creating a sustainable beauty range that you don’t feel guilty about repurchasing. Similar to Alien, Angel and Womanity before it, Aura is available a refillable 30, 50, and 90ml bottles. There’s a 100ml eco-refill EdP coming out shortly as well. If you’re interested in more, there’s a a 200ml Body Lotion ($65, available here) and 200ml Shower Milk ($55, available here).

Personally, I found Angel and Alien to be a little too much for me. Aura is a more down-to-earth that still packs a punch and notes of a Mugler fragrance. Aura is easier on the nose and can be more comfortably worn on a daily basis. It’s safe, more subtle and feels a little more experimental considering this is the first time I’ve come across ingredients like tiger liana.

Disclaimer: This post features product(s) provided for editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. For more information about my review policy, please click here.

The post Aura Mugler | Listen to Your Instinct. appeared first on theFantasia.

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I enable you to buy beauty bits too often, so I’m going to take a step back and share a few of my self-care favourites that makes me feel like a million bucks despite the fact that it’s early February and insanely depressing. I got inspired during last year’s self-imposed beauty ban where I pretty much cut down my annual beauty spending by 60%+ (Very proud of myself for this!) so I started thinking about things that help me get things done that aren’t necessarily beauty-related. I picked up some interesting goodies (most of them purchased with coupons too!) to add a bit of oomph to your 2018!

Bath & Body Works Pillow Mist ($12.50)
If there’s anything that could get me to spend money at Bath & Body Works, it’s their coupons (especially those $10 off $30 or BOGO aromatherapy Items). I’ve been really into their aromatherapy range – I think it’s quite new as I’m totally over their generic repackaged permanent lines.

The new spa/aromatherapy range adds a touch of luxury to my life without breaking the bank and I am hoping they might expand this range. I am particularly in love with the pillow mist which I use every night before I hop to bed. I love the “Sleep” (Lavender and Cedarwood) as it adds a bit of that luxury experience to help me drift off to sleep. I also popped one in the shower because I can’t seem to find a good dupe for the shower spa mist that I’ve seen at the Four Seasons Spa. I spray the mist upwards when I’m taking my hot shower and it gives me a bit of a boost. I love using “Focus” (eucalyptus) in the shower.

For those concerned about the fragrance level, these mists are quite diluted as evidenced by the fact it lingers so very lightly on my pillows and usually disappear within 1-2 minutes in the shower. I don’t detect the scent when I wake up so it’s not at all a mist that would give you headaches!

The Body Shop Superfood Expert Face Mask ($28, available here)
My current obsession is the charcoal mask from The Body Shop although I use the others equally as often depending on my skin condition and needs. These masks smell wonderful and are just a fantastic way to wrap up the week with a bit of self-care, book hot tea, and a cozy bed to hang out in! I’m trying to incorporate the masks I bought during Boxing Day in my weekly self-care evenings so I don’t forget about them at all!
[show_shopthepost_widget id=”2969512″]

Sally Hansen Salon Expert Nail Polish ($7.99)
I’ve been so devastated when my Dior nail polish dried out – it was one of my favourite colours and would be the perfect shade for Spring. I was so thrilled to find these two colours from Sally Hansen during my latest Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Boutique redemption haul. I’m pretty stoked at finding these fantastic forumulas at a discount and with colours that I’ve been obsessed with!

Recollection Planner Inserts from Michaels ($7-10)
Michael’s Arts & Craft store is mu achilles’ heel especially after they opened a store about 10 minutes walk from where I live. This store is a total gem and while the prices might seem outrageous, and totally inflated at first, check out their weekly flier which often provides a 50-55% coupon to use on a regular priced item. Plus, everytime you check out, you automatically get a 40% coupon to use next time.

I’m a huge fan of their Recollection planner and planner accessories range which is not only affordable, but so diverse, and tons of fun to play around with. I recently picked up these Fitness and Budget planner “insert” (they’re more like actual books that you pop into their custom planner) for $4.50-5 (Originally around $8, bought with a coupon). They are perfect for habit and goal tracking for the year if you’re not into bullet journal or might have already started a planner for the year and can’t be bothered to restart with a bullet journal for the year. I love that the insert/books already have the headers/lines all set up properly.

In the Fitness book, you can track your fitness goals, meal intake, water intake, and monthly goals. I use the monthly goals section to pop in non-fitness goals like “Reading 2 books”. I also picked up the “Budget” one which would be great as a savings tracker.

If those two don’t interest you, check out the other ones they have including bucket list, daily to-do, faith, and so on!

Also from Michaels, I discovered these Bible Journaling pens. They’re meant to be used as highlighters for bibles which has very thin pages (regular highlighters tend to bleed as I have learned the hard way). These pens make the perfect watercolour decors for my planner or if I end up trying out the bullet journal thing!

So there you go – some of my favourite bargain self-care, non-beauty bits that you can pick up at a great price! What are you obsessed with lately?

The post Self-Care Favourites of the Moment appeared first on theFantasia.

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In case fresh-off-the-ocean seafood, incredibly friendly people, cheap drinks and melt-in-your-mouth pastries and gelatos are not enough to persuade you to head to Portugal, I think I have the “it” – an ultimate list of things to do in Algarve to convince you to head to Portugal as soon as possible! As a bonus, I’ll detail how you can get to the Algarve region, where to stay and other day trips you could consider while there.

I think most people will be shocked at what I’m about to say next, but I’m fairly confident that the Algarve region is much nicer and far more picturesque than the beaches in Santorini or Mykonos. I was far more impressed with my time in Algarve, exploring Lagos and the immediate area as well as snapping away at the various beaches there compared to the crowded beaches in Greece.

If you enjoy this post, discover more of my Portugal travels here!

Why Algarve and Lagos Should be on your List!

I spent a day exploring Lagos (which is the small town closest to a lot of these beaches) which is hardly enough time to see the many beaches that line the region. It’s an incredibly popular holiday / weekend destination for locals and tourists alike so if you plan to go, you need to go early. Best to also pre-book transportation during high season to prevent being disappointed about missing your bus/train because it’s full.

The Algarve is one of the most beautiful areas in Portugal that’s only a short drive (roughly 3-4 hours from Lisbon) away making it the perfect getaway for the weekend. It’s a favourite destinations for many Europeans for its idyllic beaches (there are 17 according to this website), Mediterranean weather all year round, coastlines that stretch for miles, lack of crowds, exhilarating water sports to indulge in, tons of opportunities to sail to deserted beaches, mouth-watering cuisine, and picturesque markets and walking strips that will keep you busy for days!

If being outdoors isn’t your thing (We all like different things afterall!) the Algarve region is the perfect base for a day trip to Seville, Spain (where they filmed Dorne in Game of Thrones), exploring the old city of Faro among other things. Most people who come to Algarve though, tend to indulge in the beaches and impressive list of water spots you can enjoy, regardless your age and fitness level!

Where to Go in the Algarve Region

It can be really confusing and induce a sense of FOMO when you think about where exactly in the Algarve should you go. Want Instagram-perfect snaps? Resort vibes? How about that old town experience filled with local restaurants and goodies to buy? I’ve highlighted three towns that you might want to consider checking out if you’re heading here!

1. Faro: Faro is the capital city of the Algarve region and the easiest way to get to the region if you’re flying. It has an airport and a major bus terminal that services Portugal as well as the surrounding countries. If you plan on taking a day trip to Spain, you’ll want to leave from here. Personally, I opted not to stay here as the cost of food and accommodation was more expensive than in Lisbon. It seemed far away from the beaches and things I actually wanted to do but I would imagine it making the best base for your trip through Algarve.

The Marina in Portimau

2. Portimau: This small town is very close to Lagos; you’ll know you’re in town due to its marina so you’ll be seeing tons of sailboats, yachts, motorboats among many others you’ll spot. It’s got a holiday/resort vibe to it and there’s a number of very expensive-looking hotel that dots the marina. Portimau is also one of the larger cities in Algarve also making it a convenient base for sightseeing.

3. Lagos: I opted to make Lagos my base for the day trip as it was logistically easiest to go here and walk around myself. There are a number of hotels, and budget accommodations as well as supermarkets and restaurants which make it seem like a holiday-town. It doesn’t seem very crowded (then again I was there during low season)

Things to do in Algarve 1. Explore World Famous Beaches

There are some beaches that show up again and again when you look up Algarve on Google, Instagram or Pinterest and they probably made you stop and double-tap that photo. Everyone comes back for the crowd-less beaches, impressive rock formations that were formed naturally through erosion, clean sands, refreshingly cold water, and perfect weather all year round!

I’ve shared a map below which will give you a bit of context on distances between the beaches. There are 17 beaches with various levels of accessibility, sizes, and appropriateness for families or water sports so here are a few options that you might want to consider on your trip.

And yes, the beaches are fairly walkable – even from Ponta da Piedade all the way back to the central bus station.

1. Ponta da Piedade (Mercy’s Point): This beach is probably one of the most famous due to its highly dramatic rock formations. It’s located on the furthest point of Lagos and it’s very easy to take the taxi from the bus station to here for €6 per vehicle! There’s a bit of hiking involved and be very careful as there’s some very major drops! You can also do a boat/ferry tour for a few euros as well!

2. Praia da Balança: This is probably not the most famous beach out there but worth dropping by to see the opposite side of Ponta da Piedade. It’s very isolated and very dramatic cliffs that makes for the perfect instagram backdrop! There is no lifeguard on this beach which may be something to consider since the beach itself is very small and isolated.

3. Praia dos Pinheiros: This is another one of those very small isolated beach because of the cliffs and some difficult steps to get to the actual beach. It’s not a very wide beach so it’s one of those that you want to get to early!

4. Praia Dona Ana: This is my second-favourite beach as there’s something so picturesque about it! It’s a very family-friendly beach and I saw some snorkeling and surfing lessons happen around this beach as well. The beach is similarly protected by some massive rock formations but is a little bit more open and less isolated compared to the prior 2 beaches I mentioned. This is a lifeguarded beach and earned the title of the most beautiful beach in the world in 2013 by Condé Nast.

5. Praia do Camilo Beach: The beach earned its name due to the restaurant O Camilo located on top of the cliff. There is a very sturdy wooden staircase to take you all the way to the bottom of this isolated beach. There’s even parking spaces just right outside of the restaurant! It is a blue-flag, lifeguarded beach making it perfect for families or those travelling with young children!

2. Take a Boat Tour (or Swim) to Benagil Cave

The stunning Benagil Cave in the Algarve Region of Portugal is worth exploring by a boat tour or by swimming directly to the cave!

The Benagil Cave is one of the most interesting rock formations that is world-famous due to its uniqueness and difficulty of getting there. There are a number of boat tours that you can take from the beach which costs anywhere from €15-25. The boat tours are common around the area and goes to visit many caves. Unfortunately, the boat tours barely goes into the cave and stops for only a few minutes which makes it tricky to get really good photos. I’ve also heard of some safety issues with the boat (i.e. the boats driving really fast with little regards to swimmers in the area).

You could also go to the cave by swimming however, the water is quite rough so it’s best to go if you’re a strong swimmer. Plus there are plenty of fishermen boats and tour boats that go which could also make it a fairly crowded/dangerous swimming area.

3. Shop in various Boutiques in Lagos Old Town Market

There are so many little shops and restaurants that dot the Lagos Old Town Market, making them the perfect stop to do a bit of shopping!

I came across this little market completely by accident but I was so in love with this cobblestone-lined street with boutique stores that sells everything from blue tiles, clothes, handmade jewelry in addition to lovely restaurants and gelato shops throughout. I opted to not eat or shop here as seeing the price list made me cringe a little! Things were more expensive than the same places in Lisbon!

4. Day Trip to Faro

Faro is often overlooked for its more scenic, and idyllic siblings, Lagos and Portimau. Rubbing salt in the wound is also the fact that Faro hosts the region’s only airport and major terminal meaning that most travelers only “see” that side of the city. However, Faro has a few things to offer should you have time to explore it.

Faro is a little bit like many European old towns with its cathedrals, old town square churches and museums topping the list of things to do which is probably not as exciting as exploring Lagos’ incredible beaches. However, it’s worthwhile to explore what else Faro has to offer including:

  1. Old Town Faro
  2. Faro Cathedral
  3. Forum Algarve for some shopping!

Faro is also particularly lovely as a departing point for a cruises as they have a lovely lagoon where you can do a bit of fishing and incredible birdlife.

5. Day trip to Seville, Spain

Real Alcazar in Seville Spain is a quick day trip from Faro in the Algarve Region, South of Portugal!

One of my goals when visiting the Algarve region was to cross the border to Seville, Spain. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alcázar of Seville is where Game of Thrones’ Dorne scenes were filmed and also one of its most famous attractions. If you’ve ever watched the show and episodes featuring Dorne, you’ll know that it absolutely picturesque and remarkable. In addition to the stunning palace, this city has a rich history from the infamous Spanish Inquisition to the Alhambra Decree. All the while, different groups of people have called this city home including Catholics, Muslims, and Jews.

Heading to Portugal soon?
  1. I spent 2 weeks in Portugal and explored the country through a variety of activities! For more details, be sure to check out my Things to do in Portugal | 10 Days Adventure Itinerary.
  2. Lisbon or Porto? 3 days or 3 weeks? Whatever decision you need to come to, here’s my list of things to do in Lisbon!
  3. One of my favourite spots in Lisbon is Belem, its historic centre. Guarded by two famous monuments, a remarkable monastery and the best pasteis de nata spot in all of Lisbon, you’ll want to make Belem your #1 stop in Lisbon!
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Before my trip in Ghana came to an end, I decided to visit a historic site in the country called Cape Coast. Although the city itself is known for its fishing trade, it was also home to the infamous Cape Coast Castle, better known as the “slave castle”. Sadly Cape Coast Castle was only one of the many forts dedicated to slave trade that dotted the entire Gold Coast region (areas that were part of the British colony) back in the 1700-1800.

A Brief History of Cape Coast

Cape Coast Castle was not originally built to serve the trans-Atlantic slave trade – it served as a commercial post for gold and timber trade between the Europeans and local population. When it was turned into a slave trade post, everything about the castle change. Inside, the filthy, cramped and squalid dungeon housed slaves prior to their journey whilst the comfortable upper levels were reserved for the colonists. Due to its strategic location in Cape Coast, it is usually the last stop (i.e. from other areas of Africa) prior to departing for the Americas or Europe. As a result it earned the name “gate of no return”.

Read More: Day Trip to Busua Beach in Ghana.

Today, Cape Coast is home to a lively town and is one of Ghana’s popular tourist site. Supposedly, Michelle Obama considers Cape Coast as her ancestral home and in 2009, the First Family took a tour of Cape Coast. If you are interested in learning more about Cape Coast and the slave trade, I highly recommend a reading the novel Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi ($32, available here) which was released a few years ago. It is a story about two Assante sisters who led vastly different lives despite being from the same family: one lives comfortably as the wife of the British governor and the other as a slave in the dungeon. The story chronicles their stories and their descendants. It has 84% rating and a 4.4/5 rating on Goodreads, so definitely check it out if you are interested.

As a travel blogger, I chose not to take pictures of the site out of respect for those who suffered here. I hope you understand why!

I did a brief reading on Cape Coast before heading there but never truly understood the significance of it. At the time, we felt (childishly, I admit) that it was just another historic site located in front of a lovely beach. This oversight remains one of my biggest regrets – I didn’t give it the attention, and respect that it deserved. It’s almost like visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin without reading about the Holocaust.

The Cape Coast beach itself is a vastly more popular tourist destination compared to Busua Beach and is a major tourist attraction. A short drive from Cape Coast is the Kakum National Park, one of the best-preserved rainforest in the region with a canopy trail that gives you a better view of the entire park. You can read more on how to get here from Cape Coast on the Wikitravel site.

Overlooking the Cape Coast Beach from my hut
Exploring Cape Coast: Beach, Castle, and Town

I stayed in Cape Coast for several days with my friends. Since we “roughed it out” last time in Busua Beach, we chose a more luxurious place to stay (luxurious defined by our backpackers’ budget). We opted to stay in the quirky Oasis Beach Resort with its quaint little huts. It was a combination of hostel and hotel but we opted for a more hostel experience – We chose the 3-bed shared basic room (with a fan instead of AC and a wash basin inside the hut) and shared the toilets and showers facilities. It was $40/night shared between three people so highly affordable for what it was.

I found staying in a little hut to be enjoyable and something interesting to bring up when talking about your travels. There’s a mosquito net over each bed so you can rest comfortably knowing that there’s some mosquito protection.

View from the Oasis Beach Resort

Cape Coast Castle in the Background

Whilst there, we heard tons of recommendations about Baobab Guesthouse and their spectacular vegetarian Ghanaian food. Most travellers know that finding food that adheres to specific dietary restrictions can be tough in certain parts of the world, so we certainly weren’t expecting a vegetarian-friendly restaurant at all!

Out of curiosity, we obviously had to check it out – we ended up staying for a delicious breakfast, and learning about this incredible non-profit guesthouse! In addition to running as a guesthouse, it offers a variety of skill-building classes, activities and sells handmade curio and local produce with all proceeds going to running the Baobab school. The school which helps local children to go to school, build a trade, and provide them with resources as well.

I ended up having their hot chocolate and pancake. They make their hot chocolate with locally sourced cocoa beans (that’s as authentic of a hot chocolate as you’re going to get!) and had to bring a pack home so I can make them at home. They also make fresh honey and I brought a jar home as well.

What You Need to Know
  1. Getting In: I spent almost two months working in Ghana with 2 female colleagues. The country is considered one of the safer countries in Africa, and is fondly known as the Gateway to Africa. Still check your country’s official travel advisory site for up to date information
  2. Currency: Ghana’s currency is the Ghanaian cedi (GHc) which equates to GHc3.5 = CAD$1. There are a number of bank branches in the major cities (Barclays and Lloyds, which are popular UK banks) but be sure to bring cash as much as you can. Most vendors value cash over cards for obvious reasons.
  3. Getting Around: Taxis are the most common mode of transportation. It’s cheap too. Make sure to bargain your fare before getting in as there is no meter. For day trips, tro-tro (local minibuses) are also a good (and very cheap) option.
  4. Local Lager: Try the local lager, “Star” where you can. Very inexpensive so you can drink to your heart’s content
  5. Food: Local food is very much carb-heavy featuring rice, yams, potatoes and cassava made into local delicacies. Try Jollof rice (I like to describe it as a variation of fried rice), and if you’re brave, banku or fufu (which comes with a side of paste of cassava and corn that is incredibly filling – my two friends and I attempted to finish 1 dish, shared between us three, and could not even conquer half). My favourite dish is waakye which comes with a side of shiito that makes everything taste so much better!
  6. Where to Go: Accra is the capital city, very much a place to check out. Cape Coast has a lot of history while Takoradi is a developing city that’s seeing more and more expats
  7. Important to know: Entry to Ghana requires proof of yellow fever vaccination. You will be denied entry if you don’t have proof
  8. Staying Connected: Vodafone is a local carrier in the region; it’s very cheap, quick and easy to get set up with a SIM card and a pay-as-you-go plan.

Would you visit Cape Coast?

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A few weeks ago I wrote about The Body Shop Spa of the World Firming Ritual and I’ve been giddy with excitement since to write about its sister set, The Body Shop Spa of the World Relaxing Ritual ($50, The Body Shop).

I picked up both sets during Boxing Day – both were limited edition releases that came out for the holidays and retailed for $50. I picked it up for 50% off making both sets a total bargain considering how massive each tub of treatment is!

The Ritual line from The Body Shop is meant to bring the spa to you – a full range with all sorts of spa-like goodness and treatments that you can do at home and at a bargain compared to visiting an actual spa. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw that the Relaxing Ritual went on sale online and promptly ordered it because this girl needs some TLC after the holidays holiday!

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Spa of the World Relaxing Ritual

The Spa of the World Relaxing Ritual consists of two products to make your relaxing ritual complete: the Japanese Camellia Body Cream Moisturizer ($36, available here) and the African Ximenia Exfoliating Body Scrub ($32, available here). Take an hour every week or so of your weekend to indulge yourself and your senses and feel renewed for the new week!

Let’s kick things off with the African Ximenia Exfoliating Body Scrub ($32, available here) – I love to indulge in this just before I jump in the shower – it adds a bit of oomph to my routine, and I love how the scent lingers after I’m done. I try my best to exfoliate before I shave or do any depilation so I feel this routine helps slough off all the dead cells making the shaving process more effective. I love that this scrub is not oily – there’s no lingering oiliness in the bathtub that might cause accidents (really important if you share your bathroom!) Although the ximenia fruit seed (the key ingredient in this scrub) itself has healthy oils for the body, the overall scrub has that creamy scrub texture that won’t be dripping all over the bathroom if you’re using it as a pre-shower ritual.

The scrub has mild grains and scent to it. It’s not overly abrasive which is one of my main gripes about scrubs – I tend to prefer scrubs with larger granules as I feel they are less abrasive on my skin (sugar over salt for example). Considering how expensive this scrub is without the discount, I try to indulge in this 1-2x a month! I feel that timeline is more than enough time in between scrubs so to not dry out the skin.

I can’t get over how incredible the Japanese Camellia Body Cream Moisturizer ($36, available here) smells! This velvety-like moisturizer just smells like an aromatherapy treatment in a tub! It has a light whip-like consistency that doesn’t get tacky on the skin whilst still giving that lingering scent on the skin.

The Japanese Camellia Body Cream a rich moisturizer and you can feel how soft and supple your skin feels afterwards. I think the only reason I would ever repurchase an expensive moisturizer like this is the scent. There’s really no denying this Japanese camellia will win a lot of hearts. It smells like an expensive treatment and I love applying this before I go to bed since my PJs and bedsheets get to smell amazing thanks to the lingering smell.

I personally think there’s plenty of options that are cheaper from Lush or Bath and Body Works – they just don’t achieve the same spa-like scent ambiance like the Spa of the World treatments do though. I would encourage you to check this out when it comes on sale otherwise wait until the holidays where you can pick up a value set that might take some of the sting from the price a little bit.

Have you tried The Body Shop Spa of the World Relaxing Ritual routine?

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theFantasia by Stephanie | Thefantasia.com - 1w ago

CoverFX is a Canadian brand that’s been on my radar since at least 2010 and one that I have a lot of love and have been trialing for years. It was great to finally see the brand catching up and giving milleanials more options with some innovative launches. I talked about their awesome launch, Custom Drop which can alter your foundation shade thereby “fixing” a colour that would not have worked on you otherwise. This time, we need to talk about the CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops ($52, available here).

Truthfully, I hadn’t planned on getting these at all – I had seen the launch and was intrigued by the success and its popularity. I could not justify spending $52 on a single highlighter colour and that kept me away from Sephora and Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Boutique accordingly. Then the holidays came around and every brand was releasing their own “vault” version of some popular range and the CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops was one of them. I stayed strong. That was until post-holiday sales came around.

The CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops is available at: SephoraThe Bay • Amazon • Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Boutique

CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops

The CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops is a collection of 9 liquid pigments of varying colours and finishes ranging from highlighter to bronzer. Gone are the days that a highlighter is those champagne-coloured powder that you put all over! These days, you can have rose gold, holographic multi-dimensional purple-pink, and bronzey colours – whatever your heart desires! Each bottle comes with 0.5 oz/ 15 mL worth of product which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it actually is. This is about half the size of a standard bottle of foundation and certainly a lot more than you get in a powder format.

This past holiday season, we saw the release of the CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops which includes 7 of their illuminating / highlighter colours. Did I need 7 new highlighters? No. Did I need highlighters this size? Most definitely not. I couldn’t pass up the chance to try these considering they were on sale and I could stack a 15% discount on top of that. Everyone seems to be in love with these so I definitely wanted to give them a go.

Included in the vault are the following shades:

  1. Halo – holographic, multi-dimensional
  2. Blossom – soft, pearlescent pink
  3. Rose Gold – warm, pearlescent pink bronze
  4. Celestial – glistening pearl
  5. Moonlight – soft, silver glow
  6. Sunlight – soft, golden glow
  7. Candlelight – shimmering golden bronze

Like its Custom Drop sister, the Custom Enhancer liquid pigments come in a standard dropper bottle. I sort of wished the vault included the 2 matte bronzer shades as those are pretty fun to work with I’m sure. Otherwise, the brand considers this highlighter range as being quite universal and I think I agree with that.

CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops | Application, Colour & Wear

These liquid pigments have a fairly runny texture to it but not too watery. They are incredibly versatile and easy to use in a variety of ways: on its own, it can be used to achieve that light reflective strobing or bronzing effect or mixed into your foundation, it can add an all-over glow. For those easy no-makeup look, add this to your foundation for a healthy glow on the skin. You’re not just limited to use this on the cheeks – these work well as an eyeshadow colour and to add a pop in the inner corner area. I’ve seen some YouTubers use this as a body highlighter by mixing it with body lotion (i.e. shoulders, décolletage) for the summer season – really the application is quite endless!

These intensely pigmented drops may make you think they will be difficult to work with. The answer is that these are probably some of the least fussy highlighter I’ve tried. No matter whether you like applying these with your fingers or a brush, they will impart the same natural-looking glow on the skin. Before purchasing the full-sized version, I’ve been playing around with the mini version of Celestial. I’d have to say that you really need to play around with these to get the hang of it – so if you feel like you can’t get it to “look right”, try a different technique.

The colours in this range is so stunning – they look like molten metal and there’s no separation between the colour and the base. Needless to say, a little bit of this goes a really long way which is why 1 bottle can easily last you a very long time. If you’re quite generous with it (i.e. using this on the body and face), you’ll still get a lot of use out of each colour, no matter which one you picked up. These are also vegan, clinically tested, and free of fragrance, gluten, mineral oil, and talc.

CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops Swatches

CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops Halo // Moonlight // Celestial // Blossom

CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops Rose Gold // Sunlight // Candlelight

Now it’s over to you! Have you tried the CoverFX Enhancer Drops?

The post CoverFX Custom Enhancer Drops Review. appeared first on theFantasia.

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After graduating university five years ago, I opted to spend my first post-university summer working in West Africa. Ghana was my home for a few months before I embarked on a European trip to celebrate completing my university journey. Throughout my time in Ghana, I had a weekend here and there to explore the southern parts of the country – here is a recap of my visit to Busua Beach, located about 1 hour away from where I was based, Takoradi.

My time in Ghana gave me a glimpse of exploring a world that I would not have otherwise been able to see or explore or appreciate. Ghana wasn’t even a country I would have thought of ever visiting – I didn’t even know it was the second largest cocoa producer in the world (I would have ended up there much sooner if I had realized!) Looking back, I really appreciated the experiences I had and learnings I learned and I plan on sharing more of that in the near future! I hope you find it helpful and could use these posts to help you plan your travels or get to know the country more!

Busua Beach 2.0

Over one weekend, my team and I decided to go to Busua Beach as by the I only had 2 weeks left in Ghana (1.5 weeks in Takoradi!) For this trip, we took the tro-tro (local minibus pictured below) which was very inexpensive although requiring more time and change of transportation.

For some context, CAD$0.30 = GHc 1. From Takoradi, we took a taxi to the Kwame Nkrumah roundabout costing GHc 4. From there we took the tro tro for GHc 1.50/person from the Kwame Nkrumah roundabout to Agona Junction. From the Agona Junction, we took another taxi (because it was raining) to Busua Beach which costed GHc 6.

We could have taken a shared taxi or a tro tro from Agona Junction to Busua for another GHc 1.50/person but didn’t due to the rain. Overall, the trip costed GHc 15 each way for 3 people; this works out to be approximately (depending whether one takes the tro tro or shared taxi, or as we did, chartering a taxi) GHc 5/person each way!

If you’re ever taking the tro-tro (or local minibus similar to this throughout the world), note that the buses don’t have a set schedule and only leave when it’s full. Usually, there isn’t a designated stop so be sure to ask and double-check with the drive to ensure you’re on the right bus; always make sure he’s aware of where you plan on getting off as well.

Taking the tro-tro (local minibus) in Takoradi, Ghana

It was pouring on our way to the beach and we truly hoped the rain would let up. We stayed at Dadson Lodge which was recommended as it was inexpensive, and was the perfect location very close to the beach. As there were the three of us, we booked a large room with 4 beds, and costed GHc 60 for the night (split three ways, it worked out to be $6/person). Dadson Lodge is definitely one of the most well-known and inexpensive accomodations around Busua – there were a lot of Obruni (foreigners, this is not an insult term by the way) staying at the hostel that we met.

The accommodation, though basic, came with a fridge and a TV. The power was out at the time we arrived, and was out until around dinner time. The power went out again the next day, around noon. The room was relatively clean, and the bathroom was also surprisingly clean, came with a bar of soap for shower and a roll of toilet paper (luxury by my backpacking standard). Dadson Lodge is hard to miss as it is painted bright pink, and located on the left side of the main road.

The weather in Busua beach wasn’t the best but it’s the beach, so can’t complain!

Fortunately, the rain did let up. Since we skipped lunch in Takoradi, the first thing we did was to find lunch. I really had to have fresh lobster and was recommended to have lunch at Florence’s. Her restaurant is located almost directly across from the Dadson Lodge, near the corner of the main street (which shouldn’t be hard to find as there is only one). Food in Busua is so inexpensive compared to Takoradi – I had the lobster with fried rice (served with stew) for only GHc 10 ($3!) The same amount of cedis do not go very far in Takoradi though.

Decided to do something a little crazy and try something new for once. I wanted to go surfing and found Black Star Surf which offered a 1 hour lesson for GHc40. After convincing my teammates (both had reservations about the price), we agreed to do the lesson and bargained with the instructor to get more time for the price. It was a fantastic experience and I loved every minute of it. After that we had lunch at Okarye Tree Restaurant which had inexpensive good food (the chips were to die for, though it was mostly oil, grease and salt) and chilled with people we met at the beach over some bottles of Club. We met other Canadians, New Yorkers, Brits, and 2 Italians.

Woke up bright and early for breakfast which was complimentary. Menu was limited; you can get either chocolate pancake, banana pancake or omelette served with white bread. Combinations or substitutions are not allowed, and you take it as it is. The pancakes are more like crepes than actual American pancakes but you know – can’t complain that breakfast was included in a $6/night stay!

To be honest, these were the best cedis spent in Ghana because where in Canada can one really surf for such an inexpensive price? The lesson was longer and more thorough as it covered the topic of rip tides and how to get out of them (which I had zero idea to begin with). Although Busua Beach isn’t a place you’d stay for long periods of time, it was a welcome weekend break!

What You Need to Know
  1. Getting In: I spent almost two months working in Ghana with 2 female colleagues. The country is considered one of the safer countries in Africa, and is fondly known as the Gateway to Africa. Still check your country’s official travel advisory site for up to date information
  2. Currency: Ghana’s currency is the Ghanaian cedi (GHc) which equates to GHc3.5 = CAD$1. There are a number of bank branches in the major cities (Barclays and Lloyds, which are popular UK banks) but be sure to bring cash as much as you can. Most vendors value cash over cards for obvious reasons.
  3. Getting Around: Taxis are the most common mode of transportation. It’s cheap too. Make sure to bargain your fare before getting in as there is no meter. For day trips, tro-tro (local minibuses) are also a good (and very cheap) option.
  4. Local Lager: Try the local lager, “Star” where you can. Very inexpensive so you can drink to your heart’s content
  5. Food: Local food is very much carb-heavy featuring rice, yams, potatoes and cassava made into local delicacies. Try Jollof rice (I like to describe it as a variation of fried rice), and if you’re brave, banku or fufu (which comes with a side of paste of cassava and corn that is incredibly filling – my two friends and I attempted to finish 1 dish, shared between us three, and could not even conquer half). My favourite dish is waakye which comes with a side of shiito that makes everything taste so much better!
  6. Where to Go: Accra is the capital city, very much a place to check out. Cape Coast has a lot of history while Takoradi is a developing city that’s seeing more and more expats
  7. Important to know: Entry to Ghana requires proof of yellow fever vaccination. You will be denied entry if you don’t have proof
  8. Staying Connected: Vodafone is a local carrier in the region; it’s very cheap, quick and easy to get set up with a SIM card and a pay-as-you-go plan.

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