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Mobile phone use while traveling overseas

This is the first in series of posts that will describe my experiences using an iPhone while traveling around the world.   This post is just general tips.  The follow on posts will describe our experiences in the countries I have traveled.  

We typically get a "local SIM" at the airport upon arrival.    This is also called a "pre-paid SIM".  This will save you a lot of money because by paying up front (hence pre-paid), you know you will not come home to a huge phone bill.  You'll typically need to spend between $20 to $30 (USD) to get a SIM and phone plan.  This beats even the cheapest international plans from US phone companies.

You will need to decide if you want data (Internet), voice, or both.  I always opt for both, if possible, as having voice will give you a local phone number.  

Having a local phone number comes in very handy.   You can call hotels or restaurants to get directions easily.  Also, in Paris, we found it was not possible to call and order a taxi without having a local phone number.  

Having data (or Internet access) is great while traveling.  The big thing is using Google Maps to find your way around.  This can be invaluable and can save a lot of time.  It also allows you to keep up with all your social media (Facebook, etc), email, or anything else you'd do online with your phone in your home country.  You can also use various apps to call home for free or very cheaply.  Our current favorite is Magic Jack.  

To use your phone with a lcoal SIM, you need an "unlocked" phone.  Most mobile phones in the United States are locked to a carrier like AT&T or Verizon.  Check with your carrier before leaving for your trip to avoid disappointment during your travels.   Locked phones will not work with another phone company.

For the best experience, research mobile phone companies in the countries in which you will be traveling.  Some carriers work better in some parts of a country, but not all.  Some carriers work well in cities and will not have good coverage in more rural areas.  Again, check in advance by doing a few Google searches before you leave.

Review - Great Flamenco Venue in Seville, Spain

Pictured above is the front entrance to the Los Gallos flamenco venue in Seville, Spain.  The three guys sitting down are performers in the show.   There are two shows each evening.  They were taking a break before the late show started.

We have been to a couple of different ones in Seville.  Los Gallos was our first and is still our favorite.   Below I'll highlight what we felt made the difference between this and other venues in Seville.

  • Service - The service is great.  They come around to take drink orders before the show.  You can also have a slight break in the middle of the show to take a bio break and/or order drinks again.  Everyone on the staff is extremely down to earth and will talk to you including the performers (though they are obviously busy!).
  • Seating - Los Gallos' seating is set up to minimize blind spots.  So, no matter where you sit it is very likely you'll have a clear view of the stage.   Some other venues have quite a few seats with obstructed views.  There is also a balcony which is where they tend to sit families with any young-ish children.   The balcony gives the kids just a little space to squirm around as they will do without disturbing the main seating area.
  • Performance - The shows are two hours which is great.  Other venues are similarly priced for only a one hour show.  The performers are what really make the difference at Los Gallos.  They seem much more passionate about their craft plus there are more performers per show than at other venues.  The extra performers is probably owing to the two hour show length.  This gives the show more variety and a great fiesta scene at the end.

All in all, I can whole-heartedly recommend Los Gallos if you are in Seville (Sevilla) and want to watch a flamenco show.

Until next time...


Western Irish Coast - Ring of Kerry

I took this photo while driving along the Ring of Kerry.  The scenery along the southern half of this ring is the most dramatic. My travel tip is to drive clockwise on the route.   We drove both directions and anti-clockwise seemed like the best route.  Also, the local tourism board encourages anti-clockwise driving to help with traffic flow as some parts of the drive are quite narrow.

There are plenty of places to pull off and enjoy the views.  Make sure to take advantage of the pull offs.

Buy a print of this image

This would be a great image to hang on your wall at home or in the office.

Doing laundry while traveling

People often ask me, "How do you pack for a three week (or month) trip?".  My answer is always the the same.  Pack for one week and do laundry just like if you were at home. You can hand wash things in the sink.  Quick dry clothes work well for this.  But, there's nothing that beats the feeling of a freshly tumble-dried shirt when you've been on the road for two weeks.

Most hostels have a washer and dryer.  This is great other than maybe having to wait for other people to finish.  If you are in a hotel though it is a different ball game.   Hotels usually have a "laundry service" which means they'll do your laundry and charge you by the piece.  For example, maybe seven euros to wash a pair of pants, two euros for a pair of socks, etc.  Just not worth it in most instances.

The hotel front desk staff almost always knows where a local "self-service laundry" place is if you ask.  They will first tell you about the hotel's laundry service, of course.  But, they know it is expensive.

Only once has a hotel not known where a self-service laundry place was and that was in Porto, Portugal.  Even then, the front desk guy got on Google and found us one about a mile away.  The concept of self-service laundromats is just not popular in Portugal.  But, they do have them.

We were totally confused and not sure how to do our laundry the first time we used one of these places.  Sometimes the instructions are only written in the local language.  Generally, someone there will help you.  Just ask anyone.  They obviously know how to use the machines and have time until their load is done!  :-)

In general though, this is how the systems work at the self-service laundry places I've visited.

  1. Put your clothes in (dryer and washer typically work the same way)
  2. Close the machine door
  3. Note the number of the machine (check the top left or right corner of the machine)
  4. Go to the pay station put some money in and press the number of the machine.  If you get change back, bonus!
    1. For dryers:  If it is a standard 10 minute cycle and you want 20 minutes just do the pay station piece twice before going to the next step.
  5. Go back to the machine and press the start button
  6. Wait.
    1. Washers tend to take between 45 minutes to an hour
    2. Dryers usually go in 10 or 15 minute increments.  I've rarely had to use more than 20 minutes to get the clothes dry.

Look around while you are waiting.  A lot of times the laundry place will have baskets that you can use when swapping your clothes from the washer to the dryer or from the dryer to the folding table.   I did not notice these at first.  The baskets really come in handy so you don't drop socks and underwear on the floor.

I will do a separate post to list some of the places I've had good luck with.  As I find other places, I hope to update the post with new self-service laundry places along with any gotchas.

Until next time...

Great activities around Mürren, Switzerland

Mürren is one of the most peaceful places we visited in Switzerland.  There are so many great things to do in the area it is hard to pick.  Here's a list of things we did on our trip and loved each one.

  1. Walk down to Gimmelwald - About mid-way through Mürren there is a path going down to Gimmelwald. It winds slowly down the mountain past a couple houses, a stream, a cow pasture, and finally into the village. The village is very relaxing and quiet. There is a neat playground near the cable car station if you have kids. They will love the long slide there.
  2. Follow 007 James Bond to Schilthorn - This peak is almost 9800 ft high and a great place to see Eiger and Jungfraujoch if the weather is good. The James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was filmed here in 1968. There is a small museum there that shows a documentary of the film and several displays of production photos. You can sit in the revolving restaurant and get a 360 degree view of the area.
  3. See waterfalls inside a mountain - Trümmelbach waterfalls is a great place to go especially if it is raining. You'll be inside the mountain anyway! Take the cable car down from Gimmelwald, walk to the bus station, and take the bus. Very easy. Just ask anyone for help with which direction or which stop.
  4. Visit the Top of Europe - Jungfrauyoch is really a must see. Just the train ride there is an experience in itself. Once you get to the top the views are obviously incredible. There is also an ice palace to tour. Be sure to leave time to walk around the village of Wengen on the way back down. It is a beautiful little place to spend an hour.
  5. Allmendhubel - This is a small summit above Mürren and you can get there via a small funicular train. Great place to walk around and a good starting point for some longer hikes.

Obviously, there are plenty of things to do in Interlaken and you have to go through Interlaken to get to Mürren. I purposely left that out of this post because there is so much to enjoy and experience.

I would be remiss though if I did not mention Hang Gliding Interlaken. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Ed was my pilot and really knows what he is doing. I will say the fool answered his mobile phone while we were up in the air. Scared me at the time, but really makes a fun story to tell now. Good on ya, mate! If you want to fly like a bird, please do contact them.

Until next time... Wyman