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Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

Of all the travel articles to immerse yourself in, one involving dental care is about as must-read as the new terms and conditions on your smart phone’s latest software update.

But, if you’ve ever suffered the misery of oral pain, you’ll know dental problems don’t wait, striking anytime, anyplace, anywhere – demanding you take action. Irritating as it may be, this is when you used to book an appointment to see your local dentist. But times, they are a-changin’, and for many varied reasons this isn’t always an option.

Apart from the odd blip-or-two caused by the recession in the late 2000’s, international tourism continues to grow. No longer satisfied by just an annual 2 weeks’ jolly in the sun, most of us think nothing of going abroad numerous times a year, cramming in a winter ski-ing trip and several weekend city breaks into our holiday entitlement.

 

Who wants dental care overseas?

However, travel is not just about holiday visitors: people travel for business, during gap years and the trend for upping sticks and living overseas seems set to continue as supporting ourselves by working remotely requires little more than a decent internet connection and a laptop.

Notwithstanding all these groups of international travelers who may get caught up in a dental emergency and require the services of a decent dentist, there is another section who travel abroad specifically for dental treatments, who actively plan their holiday around their oral health needs. You may wonder why, but the simple fact is that dental care for populations from English-speaking countries is just too darned expensive, and faced with a huge dental bill they can’t afford, pain and possibly tooth loss, jetting off for cheaper dental care elsewhere in the world is by far the lesser of two evils.

So, where are the top destinations for cheaper dental care?

You’ll be surprised just where you can find top quality dental care overseas, in clinics that are generally well-equipped and in some cases far superior to some you’d find at home.

The Americas

Mexico is one of the most popular destinations in terms of dental travel. It is, of course, a vast country with plenty to offer visitors, attracting sun-worshippers, culture vultures, day-trippers and party-animals to a myriad of appealing locations.

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

From the glorious coastal white sands and turquoise water of resorts such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo san Lucas, to the off-the-beaten-track Pueblos Magicos offering unique history, culture or natural beauty; and from the exceptional biodiversity of its flora and fauna, to the relics of ancient civilizations found throughout the country, Mexico is a smorgasbord of inimitable experiences just waiting to be explored by regular visitors and dental tourists alike.

Americans from the southern states have long taken advantage of the cheaper prices south of Border, with many regularly making the trip to see a Mexico dentist where they generally make savings of around 70%.

Europe

Hungary’s land-locked borders and its position practically in the center of Europe has made it a convenient destination for near neighbors. However, the sleepy town of Mosonmagyaróvár, on the Austrian border, is a surprising hot-spot for dentistry, with the highest number of dentists in relation to population in the world. Traditionally popular with Austrians, it now welcomes visitors from much further afield, including America and Greenland.

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

The Capital, Budapest, is also another favorite destination. Said to be one of the prettiest cities in the world, its stunning historic architecture nestling along the banks of the River Danube and hot, open-air springs offer a relaxing experience to soothe away dental woes, at a fraction of the cost of its more expensive European neighbors.

 

 

Asia

Thailand remains the most popular modern medical and dental tourism destination, providing contemporary, world-class facilities that cater exactly for foreign visitors’ expectations and budgets.

Top Destinations for Cheaper Dental Care Around the World

From the excitement of Bangkok to the calm of Chiang Mai and the rowdiness of Pattaya to the relative tranquility of uninhabited island’s in Phuket’s Phang Nga Bay, you’ll find a Thailand dentist nearby who’ll cater for all your dental needs – from a simple check-up to a full mouth makeover – and all for around 60% less than you’d pay at home – and in some cases as much as 90%.

So – next time you’re having a business lunch in Poland, or negotiating white-water rapids in Costa Rica, or even sitting at home planning your next jaunt, bear in mind there are top destinations for cheaper dental care around the world where your money will go much further, leaving more in your pocket to spend on seeing the world.


 

Header photo by Charles Clegg


 

Amanda DuffyAmanda Duffy is an expert in the field of dental tourism and has been writing on the subject for a number of years. She is currently a key figure in the editorial team at Dental Departures, a company specializing in dental tourism that help patients save money on their dental care by matching them up with the right clinic.

 

Exploring the Swiss Alps

From the Road: Exploring the Swiss Alps

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When you think of Switzerland, you think of the Alps – the enormous snow capped mountains with an alpine backdrop. You barely ever hear mention of the Swiss cities like Zurich or Basel. Swiss cities display an impeccable mix of modern cleanliness and rich historical architecture. When one of these picturesque cities collides with the rugged Swiss wilderness, something truly special is born: Lake Lucerne.

I found myself headed to Lake Lucerne after a brief trip to Munich, Germany, and even the trip there was an adventure. We boarded a little stuffy bus in the early morning, only to find out that we landed on a ferry in the mid afternoon. It was on this ferry that I captured my very first breathtaking picture of Switzerland.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Lake Lucerne became one of the most beautiful cities I’ve laid eyes on in Europe. For someone who is both- a European city fanatic and an outdoors enthusiast- it really was my dream location.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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I knew that I wanted to experience one of the Gondola tours up to the top of the Alps. The most popular two mountains in Lake Lucerne are Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus. Unfortunately, both gondola rides for these mountains were shut down for the winter (it was early November) so I settled for Mt. Stanserhorn.

 

The bus ride to the base of Mt. Stansorhorn took us amidst the surreal Swiss countryside filled with small farmhouses, cattle, and some of the healthiest looking grass I’ve ever seen.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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The adventure to the top of Stansorhorn begins with a vintage wooden train that strolls along the meadows and up the side of the mountain. The sightseeing begins here, as you get higher and higher you can view the scenery in its entirety. The train ride is peaceful and quiet, with only the sound of the train tracks and some cowbells in the distance.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Next, we reached the station of the Cabrio, an open top aerial cable car that would escort us to the top of the mountain (6230ft / 1900m). The view from the second deck of the Cabrio is an unforgettable experience.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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The top of Mt. Stanserhorn offered an outstanding panoramic view over ten lakes, 100 kilometers of Alpine mountain range and three countries. From here, you can hike to the lookout point, or choose from various other paths along the summit. When you get hungry, you can grab a bite at the Ronorama- a revolving restaurant at the top of the mountain. If you time it right, you can get the opportunity to watch the sunset over the mountains, which is a sight you won’t want to miss.

Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Exploring the Swiss AlpsExploring the Swiss Alps

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After returning to the city from our trip to the Alps, we worked up quite an appetite. We opted to take a stroll across the famous Chapel Bridge and grab some Swiss fondue along the water edge. The Chapel Bridge, a landmark of Lucerne, is said to be the oldest woodbridge of Europe (however it was rebuilt after an accident in 1993).

Exploring the Swiss Alps

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The next day we decided to view Lucerne by boat, which is a great way to see the other small towns located around the lake.

Whether viewing the city by boat or gondola, Lake Lucerne is an exceptional town and an enchanting place. I came for the lake, was charmed by the city, and fell in love with the mountains.

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Exploring the Swiss Alps

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Want to see more of Marteen’s experience in Lake Lucerne?

Watch Lake Lucerne: A Video Starring the Alps

 

Marteen is a travel obsessed twenty something trying to live the dream while maintaining a 9-5 to pay the bills (until she has the freedom to go rogue). In her blog, Lust For The World, she proves that it is possible to travel the world while your young, earning an entry level salary, and working 40 hours a week.

 

 

 

The Best Ways to Travel Across Europe

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Europe will always be one of the most popular tourist and holiday destinations in the world, but far too many visitors simply don’t take advantage of all the region has to offer. Coming from the states, Marina and I are always surprised when we travel across Europe, just how close everything really is. So while its lovely to fall in love with Paris for a weekend or get swept off your feet in Budapest, here are our best tips for making the most of your next trip to Europe.

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The Best Ways to Travel Across Europe

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Get out of the city! 

So many visitors simply fly in and out of the same city without ever getting outside the city boundaries, where there is so much left to explore! The city center will always offer a visitor most of the top attractions, tourist restaurants and photo opportunities, but rarely does a city center offer the culture and feel of a country like you find when you escape the tourist traps and long lines. So no matter how you travel, by bus, bike or foot, get out of the city limits!

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Walk Everywhere

Traveling is already exhausting enough as it is, so who wants to walk around all day when you arrive to your destination, right? Wrong! Walking and getting lost in a new city, especially when you travel across Europe is simply one of the best ways to get to know a city, find a secret hole in the wall, run in to friendly locals and discover a completely different side to a city you probably never dreamed of finding. So strap on your big boy shoes, forget the popular areas and wander off into the unknown, we promise you’ll love what you find.

We found some of our favorite areas in Europe simply by getting lost on foot, be it an amazing pub in Tallinn, Estonia or a neighborhood in Holland we never would have seen otherwise.

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Rent a Car

While Europe is very centrally located and much is close together, you’ll still need more than a pair of legs to get around. Flights are a quick and (sometimes) cheap way to get around, however you’ll miss so much of the experience that if you have the time, take a bit longer and consider renting a car. While a bit more time consuming than other modes of transportation, there is really no better or exciting feeling than jumping in a car and driving off into the sunset on a road trip to the unknown. Make sure if you drive in Europe that you have a valid international driver’s license and that you are carrying Breakdown Cover from The AA as the last thing you want to be is stranded in the middle of nowhere. Traveling is all about the adventure, so don’t shy away from a more exciting way to explore a new place, the benefits always outweigh the negatives.

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The Best Ways to Travel Across Europe

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Jump on the Train

Easily the most popular way to travel across Europe, especially among young travelers, the train system in the region is easily the world’s finest, no matter where you are traveling to. While the German, Swiss and Finnish systems are known for their absolute efficiency and on time departures, in general the train will be the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to travel around the area.

The always popular Eurail pass offers travelers nearly endless combinations of routes, passes, tickets to truly match any travel itinerary whether you are hoping to travel in just Italy or through all the 27 countries the pass services.

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Some images provided by Flickr via Santiago La Rotta and Brian Koprowski

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast! 

10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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Europe is packed full of popular weekend break destinations such as Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona, but scratch a little deeper under the surface and you’ll find equally beautiful cities that benefit from less crowd and arguably more charm.

We spent months traveling around Europe this year and while we absolutely loved many of the popular cities, we really fell in love with smaller cities we never planned to visit such as Innsbruck, Austria, Tallin, Estonia and Budapest, Hungary. So take a look at these fantastic little cities in Europe and plan your dream getaway to a city you may never have heard of!

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1. Leipzig

Just over quarter of a century ago there were concerns Leipzig may not survive following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, the concern is they may be soon overrun with tourists and developers as the city builds its reputation as ‘the better Berlin’, combining poignant reminders of history, glorious green spaces and beautiful architecture.

With a focused and blossoming artistic society, Leipzig is fast becoming a city of note for collectors, aficionados and lovers of beauty.

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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2. Naples

Considered to be Milan’s more affordable and beautiful sister, Naples is a historic city, and has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Small streets wrapped around charming old buildings make for an authentic Italian visit. The home of the pizza, nobody creates this culinary favourite like the Neopolitans (Da Michele is the city’s most famous pizzeria, with good reason).

The Neopolitans are fervent football fans; locals worship former Napoli player Diego Maradona, so be sure to make time for a game at the Stadio San Paolo.

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3. Reykjavik

The world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state, Reykjavik is not the location for sun-worshippers. That aside, it’s recognised as one of the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world, and offers incredible natural beauty, plenty of photogenic geographical features such as geysers and glaciers, and a decent chance of seeing the Northern Lights

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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4. Bruges

Located on the north-western point of Belgium, Bruges is picture-perfect, offering incredible architecture and humble beauty. The medieval architecture of the city, mostly still intact, makes it a wonderful place to spend a day simply wandering around. Perhaps Bruges’ most celebrated sight is the Belfry – a stunning 83-meter high medieval bell tower, which still employs a full-time carillonneur (who gives regular free concerts).

Bruges is an ideal city to visit for a day – companies such as Cruise 1st (take a look at the site here) run regular taster cruises, which typically stop off at Bruges and Paris.

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5. Gothenburg

The second city of Sweden is often overlooked by overseas visitors in favour of the capital Stockholm, but offers much in the way of entertainment and culture including the influential Göteborg International Film Festival. The city is growing increasingly popular with Swedish daytrippers looking for a cultural and entertaining visit.

Gothenburg is also developing a reputation as a shopping lovers’ paradise with Nordstan, Scandinavia’s largest shopping centre, based in the city centre.

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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6. Reims

Wine-lovers continue to flock to Reims, which is in the Champagne region, thanks to the city’s wine output. Lovers of the grape make up the majority of the city’s tourism, but there is plenty for teetotallers to enjoy as well including the beautiful architecture of the Basilica St. Remi and Chateau de Conde.

Reims Tourism offers tours around the great Champagne houses, giving visitors the chance to sample the local delicacies.

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7. Ljubljana

Slovenia may not be the first choice which comes to the mind of the British holidaymaker, but the capital Ljubljana is a beautiful city with more than 10,000 cultural events taking place every year. Ljubljana Old Town is beautiful and unspoiled, the perfect size to spend a couple of hours wandering around before finding a café or bar to chill out in for lunch.

For a more modern, contemporary experience Metelkova is an autonomous social centre in the city centre comprising of bars, galleries and artistic studios.

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8. Torshavn

The largest city on the Faroe Islands, Torshavn translates to Thor’s Harbour – after the God of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology. The modern city is much more relaxed than the name suggests with rolling green hills, beautifully simplistic architecture and a clean, peaceful atmosphere.

Take a step back in time by visiting Tinganes, the old region of the city made up small wooden houses covered with turf roofs.

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10 Lesser-Known Cities That Are Made For Short Breaks

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9. Braga

Whilst the Algarve is the epicentre of British tourism in Portugal thanks to the beautiful sunshine and stretches of sandy beaches, the northern reaches of the country have plenty to offer visitors. The city of Braga is a historically significant region with Neolithic, Medieval and Modernist monuments making up the ancient streets.

The Episcopal Palace of Braga is a beautiful old place comprising of baroque, gothic and Portuguese architecture.

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10. Cork

Selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2005, Cork is a beautiful old city on the southern coast of Ireland. Known as ‘the rebel city’ thanks to its people’s support of the Yorkist movement during the English War of Roses and as the country’s ‘real capital’ in reference to the city’s anti-treaty stance during the Irish Civil War, Cork has had a controversial and varied history which still scars the city.

The medieval architecture of the city is enduringly popular, charming visitors for hundreds of years.

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Images provided from Flickr via Leandro Neumann CluffoDavid EversGreg NeateWolfgang Staudt and Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

How I Became a Vampire in Malta

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I always wanted to be involved in making movies, but I was from Ohio.

That’s not to say great movie people don’t come from Ohio; we’ve begotten our share of great actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, and editors, including such illustrious names as Wes Craven, Chris Columbus, and Steven Spielberg… and effectively exported them all to Hollywood.

Ohio is a great place for producing creative people because it’s very boring. Kind of like how so many comedians hail from Canada because it’s very cold and people have such a lot of time to sit around the fire making each other laugh.

Don’t get me wrong, Ohio is beautiful in it’s own quiet way, but until George Clooney convinces the big shots to haul their business over to the Midwest, it’s not a place where aspiring film people are going to make it.

And if you have neither money nor connections, and no way of making either, it’s really no use to hit the road for California.

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Eklissi Director Actors Extras

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As the strange twistings of fate would have it, last year I found myself living on a desert island in the middle of the sea. No, really. Frustration with the American economy had driven me to look for work elsewhere, and to my great shock, I had a contract 5 days after I started my online job search. The next day I handed in my notice. The day after that I bought my plane ticket. 2 weeks later I was here.

Here is Malta. Smallest country in the EU, crossroads of the Mediterranean, and strangely, a little island with a strong magnetic pull for the film industry.

Malta is made of neutral colored sandstone, which looks great on celluloid. Not to mention, there are a whole lot of castle-like structures, underground tunnels, natural rock formations, and a dazzling blue sea, which all make for great sets.

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Eklissi Cameo Shot

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Brad Pitt had been here filming World War Z just before I arrived. The Rome section of Gladiator was made here, as were several entire movies and many small scenes from both cinema and television. Often “at sea” sections are filmed off Malta. The film studio here specializes in coordinating maritime scenes.

I didn’t come to Malta to work in the movies, but it didn’t take long to learn that doing so was not so far out of the question. Though the entire island isn’t much bigger than my hometown Cincinnati, a lot goes on here in the industry, and oddly enough, it’s because of the short distances and thoroughly networked everyone-knows-everyone infrastructure that opportunities are so accessible.

One day as I was waiting for the bus, I got into a conversation with a boy selling tickets there who had worked as an extra in World War Z. He told me to join a facebook group called Malta Film Extras, where openings are posted. I did so, and one day saw a call posted. Interested persons were invited to join in a shooting at a certain street in the city of Isla, from 6pm to 2am. Dress code: Carnival.

I almost didn’t go. I wasn’t feeling good that evening, but I figured I could either stay home and feel sick or do something fun and try to forget about it. I had never experienced Carnival in any European city, and didn’t really know what to do. In the end I settled for my most brightly colored skirt and a polka-dot scarf.

I had never been to Isla either. I looked up where it was on Google Maps and found the nearest bus stop to the right street. When I got there, it was dark and the streets were quiet. I walked down to the marina where I found an old man and asked him for directions. He pointed out the street to me, so I walked all the way to the end of it but didn’t see anyone. It must have been canceled, I figured.

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Maltese Vampires plus Me

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Then I turned around and walked down the street in the opposite direction. And then I saw vampires. Vampires and a lot of people looking very busy. I’d found it.

I had to smile at the irony. This was a vampire show, and I was going to be in it.

I’m the kind of person that so pitilessly makes fun of Twilight that my sisters didn’t even tell me when they went to watch Eclipse. The irony went one step further. The name of this show? Eklissi. That means eclipse in Maltese.

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I spotted a man who looked like he knew what to do and asked, “Can I join?”

He brought me into an open door on the street and up the stairs. This was someone’s house, an old Maltese structure with bare limestone walls and painted floor tiles, with contrasting modern furniture. A bathroom was being used as the makeup studio. The man took a look at my face and gave some instructions to the artist in Maltese. When the girl got finished, I looked ready to suck blood.

Back in the street, I got an idea of what it means to be a film extra. Basically, there is a lot of waiting around. A lot of shutting up so that you don’t spoil scenes you’re not in. A lot of imagination required. But ultimately, a lot of fun too.

We spent several hours dancing around without any music, forming a backdrop for the actors who were performing the story. I had a few memorable moments, like when one of the vampires had to run through the crowd of us, and on every take slammed into me really hard, until I was convinced he was doing it on purpose and went scrambling to get out of the way as soon as action was called.

I even got a cameo. The director arranged a shot of me dancing with one of the vamps. I didn’t even know how to dance, and I got to dance on TV. Irony again.

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After that first time, I worked once more with Eklissi, and almost got to be in an action scene, but then I got terribly ill because we had been shooting in a freezing cold mansion while wearing summer clothes, and so I wasn’t able to make it.

Later I worked once on another Maltese TV show, two separate productions that were strangely both about boxing (lots of cheering and screaming for several hours straight for us extras), and finally on an actual feature movie, in Danish.

Is being an extra really being in the movies though? Yes and no. You get to be there, yes, but really your part is to be invisible, the scenery that needs to be there but that no one notices. You really can’t work your way up from being an extra, unless you happen to be David Niven. And you usually won’t get paid.

On the other hand, you get to watch how magic is made. You get to meet interesting people. You might even get a chance to be a vampire in Malta.

Images courtesy of Viktor Vella.

 

Stephanie Spicer is an American living in Malta. She works at Elanguest English Language School in St. Julian’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airline Review: Finnair

Airline Review: Finnair

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For anyone who knows us or who has read the blog recently, you’ll know how in love we are with Finland and why we think it truly is Europe’s best kept secret – so who said coming and going can’t be just as fun?

Rarely we do have very positive experiences with an airline, and I mean rarely. Thats not to say that every flight we take is a nightmare, but the vast majority of flights do their job in moving us from point A to point B in one piece, or worse case, there is a delay, luggage issue or some other unforeseen problem. Flying from Helsinki to Prague earlier this year we headed to the Helsinki Airport early one morning anticipating an average flight experience, however from the second we entered the airport we knew something about Finnair was different.

FYI: Finnair operates daily shuttles from right outside the Helsinki Central Railway Station that will drop you off right at your terminal. For only a few euros it was a perfect option for us and easier than we imagined.

To start off everyone was exceedingly friendly, and not in a forced way and not overly polite, just downright friendly, and this lasted from the moment we checked in, to the counter staff, Finnair lounge staff, flight crew and stewards, everyone was nothing but helpful, bright and a joy to be around – quite unseen in aviation today.

We ended up arriving to the airport early enough to justify visiting the Finnair lounge for a couple hours before our flight, which ended up being an excellent choice. Complete with free, fast wifi, a complete and impressive breakfast spread, chairs, couches and tables of every size, and most importantly peace and quiet. The lounge is topped off with its own flight schedule with up to the minute flight details, which kept our stress level down and allowed us to relax in the lounge until right before we walked onto the plane.

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“…they have truly found a loyal customer for life and we will always look for Finnair as our first option, we just hope it means we are flying back to Finland.”

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Walking down the walkway to enter the plane we were honestly not expecting much, as we were simply on a short haul flight from Helsinki to Prague. We were lucky enough to have been kindly moved from economy seating to business class, which was totally unnecessary, but again, the kindness of the staff was everywhere. We were close to the first ones on the plane and thrilled with the seemingly extra leg room and comfortable chairs. The business class wasn’t over the top like on some airlines, after all it was a small plane, but to say we were uncomfortable would be a complete lie, it was actually the most comfortable and roomy I had ever been on a flight.

Our flight was on time leaving, arrived early and it was without a doubt the smoothest flight experience we have ever had. No luggage issues, we carried on our bags no issue, no delays, hiccups or anything else to speak of.

Ironically, a few weeks later we needed to fly again and after such a wonderful experience on Finnair the first time we chose it again. This time we did not sit in first class and were shocked to find the economy seats JUST as spacious and comfortable as those in first. I have never been on a flight on any airline (and we’ve flown on 27 already in 2014!) that had as comfortable an economy seating as Finnair did, they have truly found a loyal customer for life and we will always look for Finnair as our first option, and we can only hope we are flying back to Finland – the kindness and hospitality are truly endless.

But don’t take our work for it! Check out this awesome video that Finnair shot recently when they launched their new route from Helsinki to China, I think it helps to illustrate how exactly they go the extra mile in their service and their smiles. With all the stress of travel, when you board an airplane it really is all the little things that make the difference in your flying experience, and step after step Finnair seemed to be right there, with an easy, friendly or fun way to make our journey a little brighter.

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Photo provided via Flickr by takoyaki 77

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jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

How Not To Get Robbed While Traveling

How Not To Get Robbed While Traveling

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In the four years since I absconded from corporate life, I’ve traveled a lot. And in that time, I’ve thankfully never been robbed, mugged, burgled or had so much as a toothbrush stolen from me. (Here’s the point where I knock on wood and rub my lucky rabbit’s foot because it’ll no doubt happen to me tomorrow now that I’ve stupidly said it out loud …)

Of course, there’s an element of luck at play here so I won’t pat myself on the back too much. I have plenty of friends who’ve lost it all in spite of being even more cautious than me. Nevertheless, I have learned a multitude of skills to help keep my stuff safe on the road.

Here are seven tips for helping you do the same …

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How Not To Get Robbed While Traveling

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#1: Make Your Luggage Unsnatchable

Individually your luggage is easy to run off with. A small purse, daypack or laptop bag is a thief’s wet dream.

The solution is to cluster your bags together in such a way that, even if a thief is able to grab them, it’s unlikely they’ll get very far. To do that, simply connect your luggage into a heavy, unruly mess. I always travel with a few carabiners expressly for this purpose. I latch my daypack to my my main backpack or rolling luggage with at least two carabiners whenever I’m not planning on going anywhere for a while.

 

How Not To Get Robbed While Traveling#2: Make Your Luggage Unwantable

If your backpack or camera bag looks bright, shiny and new as the day you bought it, you’re begging for attention. Either dirty or scuff it up so it looks less desirable. Or simply travel with used, crappy-looking bags in the first place. This isn’t for the style-conscious traveler of course, but honestly who cares how good your luggage looks if some thief makes off with it anyway?

 

#3: Walk Like a Boss

As an outsider, it’s virtually impossible to blend in completely. Whether it’s your clothes, your haircut, the way you speak … something is likely to alert the locals that “you ain’t from ‘round here”.

But you can still look as though you belong. And the fastest way to do that is to master a confident stride and act as if you know where you’re going at all times. Don’t walk around with your head on a swivel, staring awe-struck at all the pretty lights and street signs, like a five year old at Disney World. Look straight ahead, towards your destination and move quickly and confidently.

At the very least, locals will make you for an expat: they know you’re not from there, but they’re less likely to mess with you if they think you’ve got the lay of the land. If locals start asking you where such and such restaurant is in the native language, you’re clearly doing it right.

 

How Not To Get Robbed While Traveling#4: Diversify Your Valuables

Whether you’re walking around the city or snoozing on an overnight train, don’t put all your valuables in one place. Disaster professionals call this a “single point of failure” and you want to avoid it at all costs.

The solution is simple: spread your passport, cash, credit cards, plane tickets, travel gadgets, etc. around your person and personal space as much as possible. Stash some in your pockets, in your pack, in your socks, in a stealth travel wallet (the kind that’s ultra thin and is meant to worn under your clothes), etc.

Along those lines, consider a “decoy wallet”. The gist is that you keep a wallet in your pants pocket with just enough cash and cards to fool a mugger into thinking that it’s your only one. Meanwhile, your whole nest egg is safely stashed elsewhere. If you do get mugged, they’re (hopefully) only making off with a fraction of your real stash. (Read more about it on Vagabondish.com)

Be clever about it and you’ll never need to worry about losing all your eggs at once.

 

.#5: Use Clever, Security-conscious Travel Gadgets

This is a hotbed of discussion amongst seasoned travelers. Some argue that accessories like those from Pacsafe (a company best known for over-the-top security mesh bag protectors like this) only serve to make you an easy target. I’m inclined to agree, as I don’t think it’s necessary to go to such extremes.

There are however more subtle and clever ways to protect your wares. A variety of options exist such as the “Shaving Cream Can Diversion Safe” or the entire line from Clever Travel Companion. Or, our personal favorite, the Brief Safe – real underwear with a hidden compartment and “special markings” to keep prying eyes and hands off your valuables. Disgusting, but pure genius.

 

#6: Never Be Alone … Even When You Are

If you’re flying solo (literally and figuratively), you’re an instant, easy mark for thieves and muggers. If anyone asks – no matter how friendly or trustworthy they seem – never make it known that you’re traveling alone. You’re always “waiting for a friend” or “your boyfriend’s in the bathroom”. Whatever the lie you need to tell strangers, make it believable and tell it.

 

#7: Don’t Get Drunk

You don’t really need me to remind you of this, do you? Sure, it’s common sense but I see solo travelers all the time in foreign bars who stumble out the front door completely sauced at closing time.

I get it. It’s hard to say no when you’re crashing a beach bar, toes in the sand, with a sixty cent case of pilsener all to yourself. Still, get drunk in a foreign land – especially if you’re traveling alone – and you’re practically begging to get jumped.

 

Photos provided via Flickr by Michael GilMo RizaAnders Sandberg and John Ragai.

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How Not To Get Robbed While TravelingVagabondish.com founding editor Mike Richard is a Rhode Island native, professional web designer and travel junkie with an unhealthy addiction to backpacking, the great outdoors and seeing the world. He enjoys knit hats, small, declarative sentences and speaking in the third person. His professional credits include “Woman’s World magazine contributor” and having once been interviewed by Tyra Banks (seriously).

6 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cycling Holidays

6 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cycling Holidays

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When you think cycling holiday, what thoughts come to mind? Maybe you think it’s just trips for crazy enthusiasts and fitness fanatics, or maybe just for thrill seekers and those looking for a real adventure. Whatever your interpretation, it might just surprise you when find out what a cycling holiday can really entail!

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6 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cycling Holidays

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First Things First – You Lead the Way

Believe it or not, not every cycling holiday uses a group system. ‘Self-guided’ cycling holidays have exploded in popularity over recent years. Cycling holidays from tour operators such as Inntravel focus on trips tailored to your pace, the way you enjoy your holidays, and guided by you.

A typical cycling holiday in Europe for example would give you a choice of two or more routes per day, staying in each characterful hotel for two nights along the way. One day you could be exploring the rolling foothills of Tuscany, and the next day be recharging by the pool with a glass of wine and some authentic local cuisine.

Something you’d like to see? It’s easy to extend your stay by a day or two, allowing you to really soak up your surroundings, with no pressure or irritating time restraints.

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Yes, many cycling holidays are enjoyed by outdoor guru’s and fitness fanatics, but increasingly tour operators have identified a gap in the market for the same enjoyment, suitable for a whole range of skill levels.

Often split into different grades of varying difficulty, it doesn’t matter whether you enjoy long rides in the hills, cycling through peaceful rural villages or short trips to the nearest beach. There is usually something for everyone, families included!

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6 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cycling Holidays

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That’s a Load off Your Mind

Perhaps a cycling holiday for you conjures up images of cycling up a hill in the rain, lugging around awkwardly shaped luggage and maybe even one of the kids. Doesn’t exactly sound much like a holiday does it?

Relax, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can have your luggage transported for you! Enjoy the freedom of having your luggage waiting for you at your next hotel, and then simply leave it in the lobby ready to be taken to your next destination.

Obviously you should carry with you some essentials, but usually a good rucksack will suffice!

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You don’t have to be the next Christopher Columbus!

It’s true, a cycling holiday doesn’t have to mean years of outdoor pursuit and extensive knowledge of map navigation. We know that Inntravel cycling holidays invest heavily in providing bang up to date cycling notes, as well as an easy to read map and suggested routes.

Not just directions, your cycling notes are your tour guide. Find out about ancient monuments coming up on your route, historic villages, quiet enchanting coves, recommended places to stop for a bite to eat, or simply spots known for their spectacular views!

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6 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cycling Holidays

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No Wheels? No Problem.

Now, for obvious health and safety, having some cycling experience under your belt is recommended. Although, you don’t even have to own a bike in order to give a cycling holiday a try!

Using local specialists to provide the hardware, you’ve got every bit of independence to do as you please, with the knowledge that everything has been taken care of. Catered to the type of terrain, high quality bicycles can be provided that are comfortable, expertly maintained, equipped with saddlebags for daytime essentials, reflectors, lights, puncture repair kits, locks. Everything you need.

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Last But Not Least, You’re in Safe Hands

No matter where you are, you can be assured of emergency assistance from the cycle supplier in the unlikely event that your bike encounters a significant problem. Add to that a 24-hour emergency helpline and you the peace of mind you need to enjoy every moment of you trip.

Beginning to sound much more like a holiday after reading this?

Check out Inntravel Cycling holidays for lots more information on this type of self-guided cycling holiday. Whether it’s Austria, Denmark or Holland, to the sunnier climates of Italy, Spain and the south of France, they’ve got it covered!

 

 

32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

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Going on a trip around the world has always been a fantasy for me, and while I have been lucky enough to see much of the world through my travels, Marina and I were thrilled to finally plan an entire trip around the world, starting and ending in Phuket, Thailand, our adopted home. We would start by heading back to the states via South Korea and then, over the course of five months, make our way across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and into Asia before returning to Thailand, a complete trip around the world.

We packed up our two little carry on suitcases, filled to the brim, and jetted off for the the most intense, longest and adventurous plan yet. Five months later we are hours away from our return to Thailand and looking back over an amazing five months on the road. While we have months of writing ahead of us and are beyond excited to share all of our experiences with you, good and bad, here is a look at some of the numbers from our trip, the statistics behind a trip around the world, from the grandiose to the minute.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

32, 281 Miles

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Since leaving Phuket on December 4, we have traveled a shocking 32,281 miles (51,951 km). The circumference of the world around the equator is just 25,000 miles which means we meandered a bit during our travels. Starting from Washington, DC in January, we jumped to Ireland and then spent the next two months circling Europe in no sensical way whatsoever. But what can we say, there is so much of Europe to see that we couldn’t help but head in every direction possible! From the southern point of Spain in the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland, we experienced all extremes and everything in between. The distance we’ve traveled would have been enough to walk the entire Great Wall of China over four times, or to drive from New York to Los Angeles over eleven times.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

159 Days

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A lot can happen in 159 days, and boy has it flown by. While we started our journey in Phuket, we were quickly hit with the fact that it was the middle of winter most other places in the world. We were first hit with the cold in Ireland, where the damp and gloomy climate chilled us to the bones, thank goodness for friends with warm fireplaces and electric blankets! Marina saw snow fall for the first time in her entire life in the north of Finland, and we even camped in the middle of the Lappish wilderness after ice swimming and fishing. During the last 159 days we have traveled by plane, car, boat, bicycle, ferry, bus and by foot over bridges, through tunnels, fields, cities, deserts and deep, dark woods. A lot can happen in 159 days, and it will take us months to process all we have been through.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

27 Countries

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Since we departed on our adventure we have stepped foot in 27 countries all over the world and when we arrived in Singapore, our last stop, Marina stepped on her 34th country, ironically enough. Through the rainy days we spent in London to the delicious food of Rome, magic in Venice, falling in love with Paris, wilderness in Finland, mysteries in Cairo and decadence in Dubai, we have tried to take in as much as we can and take pictures of everything else along the way. It was amazing to experience countries like Finland and enchanting cities like Budapest, which we had never dreamed of visiting and ended up falling in love with as well as fulfilling life long dreams of visiting the Great Pyramids in Egypt and experiencing Carnivale in Venice, Italy. While 27 countries is quite a lot, it is shockingly only just above 12% of the countries on Earth, so we’ve got our work cut out for us going forward!

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

18 Airlines

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While we’ve heard of people making it around the world without the use of a single airplane, we didn’t have years to spend and while we took ferries, busses and trains to many locations, we turned to flight to take us most of the way. It is hard to travel the world without hearing horror stories of low cost budget airlines creating nightmare travel situations for many travelers, so we were prepped for the worst. We’ve always loved Asian airlines, and started off the trip aboard Asiana, a Korean airline which has never disappointed us. Through the US, we traveled on the American staples of American Airlines, United and Continental and through Europe we held our breath and tried out budget airlines Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Wizz Air, none of which proved as awful as we planned (although I did show up to the Dublin airport wearing four pairs of pants before boarding a Ryan Air flight). 18 airlines means 18 different baggage policies, 18 different weight restrictions and 18 different in flight meals (if you can call them that). Off the top of our heads our favorite was definitely Finnair, which provided us with a first class experience in economy, as they do every traveler, a welcome relief in the ever dwindling world of in-flight comforts.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

12 Friends

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One of the greatest gifts that travel has given us are friendships all over the world and while it is hard to be away from good friends at home, there is nothing better than seeing a familiar smiling face in an unknown city. To put it simply, we never would have been able to accomplish a trip of this magnitude without the unending kindness and support of our friends and family living all over the globe from Ireland to Israel. We’ve had friends give us their own beds, plan entire walking tours, lend us everything they had, cook meals and open up their homes and hearts to us, something we can only ever try to repay as long as we live. The wonderful thing about traveling friends is that many have been shown the same kindness while on the road and know how much it means to find a comfortable couch to sleep on or to have the use of free wifi or a washing machine after long weeks on the road. We could never have done this trip without our friends and will be eternally grateful.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

4 Continents

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The world is a big place, a giant place, filled with the vast deserts of Africa, the bustling cities of Europe, the history of Asia and the excitement of the Americas. Through Asia, North America, Europe and Africa we were lucky enough to witness humanity on the grandest of scales, from the small street side cafe’s in Paris to the kindness of the locals in Estonia to the strangers we met in Egypt and the amazing family we got to spend Passover with in Israel, one of the highlights of our journey. Through four continents we were able to see life lived endless ways, life from many angles, life from many directions, life from many perspectives. Being able to be in someone’s shoes and see the world as they do is a blessing in itself, but to be able and experience this in vastly different parts of the world was truly amazing.

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32,281 Miles, Zero Regrets

0 Regrets

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Through it all we have remained strong and took on each new day with the best of our abilities. We have laughed, cried, bled and changed through it all. Exhausted as we may be, we take none of it for granted and tried to dive as deep as we could into each culture. Connecting the dots of the humanity around us is one of the greatest blessings we could have ever been given and the more we travel the more the dots of the world around us are connected. Meeting strangers who become best friends, tasting a bizarre food for the first time and falling in love with it and proving our pre conceived notions of an entire people or culture wrong is what makes travel worth it and more addictive than any drug imaginable.

And so thus concludes our journey around the world, which will surely be one of the most memorable experiences of our entire lives. An adventure which has taught us endless life lessons we are excited to pass down to those who come after us, to learn from the mistakes we have made the the triumphs we have experienced. We haven’t experienced it all, but we have experienced a lot. We haven’t seen it all, but we have seen enough to know there is a whole lot more life to be lived and a whole lot of mistakes left to make, which we are only looking forward to learning from.

So head out there, get lost, meet strangers, try everything, say yes, smile, and travel like you mean it – the world will take care of you.

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Innsbruck, Austria

Why You Can’t Miss Innsbruck, Austria (PHOTOS)

 

Every young traveler dreams of not only visiting Europe at some point but also of finding the quintessential European city full of charm, history, character and heart. While most traveling chose to visit Paris, London or Rome if they get the chance to hop across the pond, there are many smaller cities worth a visit, which is why you can’t miss Innsbruck, Austria if you have the chance to visit.
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Innsbruck isn’t Austria’s largest or most commonly visited city yet offers those who visit some of the most authentic European experiences that can be found anywhere. Innsbruck offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding during the winter months, as well as sledding, which is ridiculously fun. Ever been to an igloo party on top of a mountain? Innsbruck offers a slick mountain top restaurant right above the city which hosts weekly DJ hosted parties in a gigantic igloo. There is nothing like standing by a fire with a glass of hot wine looking over the majestic city lights below.
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Europe is known for its cuisine and Innsbruck doesn’t disappoint with amazing authentic restaurants as well as many Asian, Mexican and delicious burger places. Walking around the amazingly picturesque downtown area will give you a great sense of history and the many bakeries, cheese and meat stores that line the alleys offer some of the best bites to eat during your day.

 

Innsbruck, Austria

 

Innsbruck, Austria

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While still a small city, Innsbruck played host to be the 1964 and 1976 winter Olympics and many of the sky slopes built are still in use today. If you visit Innsbruck during the winter months, you will be hard pressed to walk through town on a weekend morning and not see many of the locals loading up their cars and heading for the hills. Located in the Inn Valley, Innsbruck is literally surrounded by some of the most impressive mountains we have seen, and when covered in snow they provide one of the most breathtaking surroundings you could imagine, you will feel as though you are in a postcard.

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Innsbruck, Austria

 

Innsbruck, Austria

 

Innsbruck, Austria

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While Innsbruck might not be on your list of must see cities in Europe, it is located only an hour and a half train ride from Munich, Germany and can even be explored in a day trip. While we would spend at least 2-3 days in the city, much can be done in a day, such as visiting one of the many castles outside of the city, enjoying an amazing schnitzel lunch and walking the beautiful banks of the river that flows through the middle of town.

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Innsbruck, Austria

 

Innsbruck, Austria

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Ask the locals for their recommendations, as there are endless hidden nooks and crannies around the city filled with uber authentic dining options. Innsbruck also offers some great nightlife options including dance clubs for the younger generation (or old people looking to be awesome) as well as an opera house for the older generation (or youngsters looking to be pretentious haha).
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Innsbruck offers plenty of hotel options, from high end to budget and the train system all throughout Europe is impeccably clean, efficient and easy to use. We took the train in from Rome and left via train to Venice for Carnivale.
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One of our favorite European cities by far, the air is clean, scenery drop dead gorgeous, people warm and options endless for an authentic and memorable European holiday.

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Innsbruck, Austria.

 

.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

My First Time: Taking a Cruise

My First Time: Taking a Cruise

 

While growing up ,I always imagined that going on a cruise was a luxury and such an elegant experience reserved for the wealthy. Only the elite could afford to take a cruise and travel that way I thought. I looked up to friends of mine who had experienced this kind of stylish travel. While Jeff and I were planning our crazy 4 month European adventure we had talked a few times about going on a cruise, but I didn’t think we could ever afford it. Jeff was convinced that it could be a great way to explore more of Europe and could potentially save us some money. Jeff also knew how badly I wanted to go on one since I had never done so before.

 

Just a week before I was to meet Jeff in Boston, Jeff called me and said he found an unbelievable cruise deal. It was a 12-day cruise on the Costa Serena. It started in Savona, Italy and went to Barcelona, Cadiz, Casablanca, Tangier, Lisbon, Valencia, Civitavecchia, Rome, and then back to Savona, plus the price was marked down 82%! We knew that for that price we would never be able to go to all these places and feed ourselves for that so we jumped at the opportunity. I was shocked at how affordable it was. I mean to be honest it’s most likely because the cruise industry hasn’t had a very good reputation the past few years and need to reboot their image. The Costa Concordia had sank just a couple years ago and they could use some good publicity. The photos and video of the ship looked impressive to say the least. There was so much you could do just on the ship and with only 3 full days at sea there would be so much to explore at each port. I was ecstatic, finally I would have my first cruise experience and regardless of the negative reputation cruises have gained in the recent past, in my mind it was still the luxurious travel experience I had always imagined.

 

A little backstory may help put this into perspective. Jeff and I are huge Titanic fans and every time we are on a boat, ship or even just swimming in the ocean, we love to quote the movie and comically pretend we are Jack and Rose. Cheesy, I know, but don’t pretend you haven’t done this at least once! Anyway, we were excited to play out these roles on a real ship and even though our cruise was in January in the Mediterranean, where the temperature would be around 55 degrees the whole time, we liked to pretend that ice burgs would be a major threat to our voyage.

 

My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Heading to the port to board the boat!

After traveling through Ireland and England we made our way down to Genoa, Italy where our ship, The Costa Serena, awaited our arrival. As someone who had never been on a cruise a few things stood out to me. With a full ship, approximately 2,500 people, the feeling of disorganization couldn’t be more apparent. We were scheduled to leave the dock at 4:30pm, but didn’t leave until around 6. We waited and waited and when we were finally on board we wanted to purchase the unlimited alcohol package. Since we had saved so much booking the fair and since we would be celebrating my 26th birthday onboard we figured we would just get the package and not have to worry about how much we were spending on drinks. I was surprised to learn that although all your food is included in the booking price, water, sodas and juice were not.

 

When we were looking at the drink packages we were a bit confused. If you purchased the “unlimited” drink packaged you could get most but not all of the alcoholic drinks. You could also get a glass of water but not a bottle of water, for that you would have to purchase a different drink package, yet the water was poured from the same bottle. Under the “unlimited” drink plan you had to pay 2 euro to get a bottle of water. For me this does not make any sense. Later in the cruise I got a pretty bad head cold and not having access to water in my room was an issue for me, but I refused to pay any more for drinks. On top of that we had to purchase the package from a waitress then go wait in a huge line at the Customer Service desk so they could change our Costa Cards to say “extra”. (A Costa Card is a card that is your room key and you assign a credit card to it so that everyone uses this card instead of cash or personal credit cards. They also scan it every time you leave or board the ship)

 

I guess with so many people it makes sense that things would be a bit crazy the first day, but I was a little surprised and how complicated and disorganized it felt. There just seemed to be a lot of miscommunication and confusion, but with a little patience everything worked out and the next day was much smoother.

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My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Standing in the Coliseum in Rome, the last port of call on our cruise.

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First Impressions

The ship itself felt much smaller than I imagined. From the outside it looks massive and I thought it would take us days to explore the ship. Once on board, Jeff and I roamed around and figured out the ship quite quickly. There wasn’t as much on board as I thought there would be. While this ship itself isn’t that old, the decor makes it feel like a cheesy Las Vegas casino. The Greek theme feels very dated and the art tries to have a traditional Greek theme mixed with a “modern” 1980’s style flare that doesn’t quite work. Although the decor doesn’t scream 2014, the ship is impeccably clean and the staff is very polite and perceptive. The next thing I noticed is how much older everyone was. I felt like I was almost too young to be there. Every time I ordered a drink or sit down at a table, everyone, including the staff, looked at me like they’re waiting for my parents to arrive. I understand that a lot of people on these cruises are older, but I think it is odd that I felt I was treated differently although I find this to be true traveling in general.

 

I was impressed with how much activities there were of the ship for everyone. There are many games and actives for kids and teens as well as dancing lessons, Bingo, and theatre shows for the older crowd. There is a sports bar that even played the Super Bowl (which was essential for American passengers such as Jeff).

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My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Jeff and I in our room before we left for dinner on formal night.

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The Rooms

After seeing a room without any windows and a room with a balcony I am pretty impressed with how much space they both had. They were clean, functional and have everything you would need. Of course the rooms with the balconies are much nicer and having natural light is always a plus, the inside staterooms were still nice and a great option if you don’t want to spend the money on the larger room.

Each stateroom is assigned a cabin steward who is there almost 24/7 incase you need anything. They are all very polite and extremely helpful.

 

The Food

There is a buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food is pretty basic. It’s good food but after 12 days it does get a little repetitive and although it is good it is not exceptional. Every night there is a formal dinner, sometimes with a dress theme,  and the food is much better than the buffet which mostly serves a revolving mixture of pizza, pasta and salad. We were seated at a table with all english speakers which was great to meet other people. We shared our dinner table with 2 Egyptians, 2 Mexicans, and a family of 3 from Honduras.

Dinner for us is the highlight of our day on the ship. Everyone shared about their day in the ports and everyone was learning a lot about where everyone is from and we found ourselves the last table to leave because we are all enjoying the great conversations.

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My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Jeff and I standing in the middle of colorful Valencia, Spain

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Overall

Even though this particular cruise was a bit different than I imagined, I had an amazing time and loved our experience. I really think that cruises are a fun way to see the world and look forward to going on another one soon. We met some amazing people and saw parts of the world I would never have done to before. Cruising really is a great way to travel and although my expectations were a bit off on this particular cruise I feel like I learned a lot about what I would enjoy in the future. We met some amazing life long friends and saw so many places we fell in love with.

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Bio_Photo_MarinaMarina Dominguez is the co-founder of Latitude 34 Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker.

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more. 

Why Finland is Europe's Best Kept Secret

Why Finland is Europe’s Best Kept Secret

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In September of last year, Marina and I happened to meet a friendly older couple at our friends pub in Phuket, Thailand where we were were living. Upon finding out they lived in Finland, we were immediately fascinated by the country and their excitement and love for Finland rubbed right off on us. Within six months we had planned a winter holiday to both the north and the south of the country, a trip that would take us to the far northern city of Salla in Lapland and down to the metropolitan capital of Helsinki in the south. After a year in Thailand, we were thrilled to explore the wintery adventures that Finland had in store for us and by mid March of this year we were on a plane to Helsinki where we would soon found out why Finland is Europe’s best kept secret.

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Why Finland is Europe's Best Kept Secret

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Over the next few months we will be introducing our new series “Finland Fridays” which will feature a new article, review, video or photo gallery each week highlighting a different part of our amazing Finland experience. From a husky safari to reindeer racing, the vibrant design district of Helsinki, walking tours of Suomenlinna, to world class restaurants, ice swimming above the Arctic Circle and taking snowmobiles to the Russian border, Finland Fridays will showoff the best of Finland through our eyes and show you why we believe Finland is Europe’s best kept secret and a country we are now completely in love with.

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“We immediately felt like we were in a dream, placed in a snow globe, living in a postcard…”

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Now, I have to be honest and say that not only did I not have Finland on my must visit list, I didn’t even know a single person who had ever visited the country when we started planning our trip. All of Scandinavia was a mystery to me and we were excited to explore the country, we really had no idea what to expect. We started our trip by flying directly to Kuusamo, Finland, just below the Arctic Circle and then driving north two more hours to the absolutely stunning little town of Salla, with a population of just over 4,000 people – and more than 15,000 reindeer. We immediately felt like we were in a dream, placed in a snow globe, living in a postcard.

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From the moment we arrived at the Sallatunturin Tuvat hotel, we were met by the warmest staff and an unbelievable Lappish meal at their cozy restaurant. We chose to stay in one of their cabins, which truly redefined our image of a cabin in the woods, complete with all the amenities of home, plus a traditional Finnish sauna of course. Finland offered us all that we love about Europe, the amazing architecture, phenomenal food, fascinating history and local charm while avoiding the typical downfalls of bigger European and remaining one of the cleanest, safest and most beautiful countries we have ever visited. By far the best part about Finland are the people, whom are the most welcoming, polite, cheerful and passionate people we have ever met.

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Why Finland is Europe's Best Kept Secret

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During the next ten days we took a husky safari, rode snowmobiles, went ice fishing, got our reindeer drivers license, took an overnight train to Helsinki, explored the design district, ate some of the most amazing food we have found yet and absolutely fell in love with a country and people we knew nothing about. Traveling is about exploring, learning, experiencing and getting to know the world around you, the places you only hear about and meeting people you will never forget.

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So sit back and join us for the next few months as we introduce you to our new favorite country and let us show you why Finland is Europe’s best kept secret. Check back each and every week for Finland Friday’s, follow us on twitter at @lat34travel and hashtag any comments or questions with #finlandfridays34, we can’t wait to show you all that Finland has to offer and cannot wait to visit Finland in the summer months to see the other side of this amazing country.

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Why Finland is Europe's Best Kept Secret

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

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