Santorini will never be Santorini without its majestic sunsets in Oia. You've probably seen the famous postcard image of this island's blue domes sitting pretty on top of its cliffs or the poetic sun setting beside its iconic windmills.
The truth is that Santorini sunsets are stunning. It's so stunning that it's attracting too many tourists ;-( And if you're a fan of quiet and peaceful sunsets, it might be a little disappointing for you.
Getting a photo is very challenging. Imagine throngs of tourists and aliens suddenly photo bombing just as you're ready to unleash your perfect smile :)) (Hello Ateng! Emote ka pa d'yan! :-P )
After solo traveling in Europe for 42 days, a lot of people are asking me how I managed to plan my itinerary on my own. Yes doing DIY can be tiring and time-consuming but you can save a lot and end up seeing more places (than buying expensive tour packages with fixed itineraries).
I've listed down some tips on how to start planning for your travel. Yes, YOU can do it too ;-)
1. First question you need to answer is: Where do you want to go?
It is always hard to pick the destinations with all the beautiful places you've pinned on Pinterest and bookmarked on your favorite travel sites... But you need to narrow down your choices. How do you decide your picks? 1) Check out the weather. 2) If you're going to multiple countries and you have a tight budget, check out the travel routes and pick the ones that are within your budget and with travel connections that are less time-consuming. 3) You also need to check the prices of hotels, food and transportation. Cost of living can be very different per city. 4) Rank your favorites. Always pick places where you've always wanted to go to.
2. Set price alerts on Skyscanner. If you have no airplane tickets yet, be sure to search on Skyscanner. Set price alerts so you'll get notified about price drops in your email. For my trip, I had to take several flights between countries and getting price alerts was very useful.
3. If you don't know how to travel between places you want to go to, Rome2Rio and goeuro.com will figure it out for you. Comparing prices between trains, buses and flights will be easier. Be sure to book directly from bus/train/airline companies and not through these websites because they add a few euros to the total price.
4. Another problem you need to solve is your accommodation. Do you want a hotel, hostel, or a homey feel? In some cities, I have booked rooms or apartments in Airbnb because a) it's cheaper b) most Airbnbs have dryers and washing machines which can be convenient if you're traveling for a long time. c) you get to meet friendly local hosts and they always give the best travel tips ;)
While in some cities, hotels through Booking, Agoda, Hotel are cheaper than getting Airbnb.
Always book rooms/hotels near the train/bus station.
(If your departure time's after hotel checkout time) Always choose accommodation that offers free luggage storage after checkout.
Always read reviews in Tripadvisor and other forums. And if all rooms have bad reviews, choose the lesser evil :-P
5. And if you're really in a tight budget, try Couchsurfing.
6. Check the time of your arrival, not just the price. Sometimes it is easy to get carried away with discounted flight/ferry/train/bus tickets. But you also need to consider a) the time of your arrival and b) the travel time to your destination. If you need to maximize your time in a place, sometimes an expensive 9AM flight is more worth it than a cheap 6PM flight because you get to see more places and do more things. And if you're in a tight budget and you only have limited allowance for cheap public transportation, always check the opening hours of the train/bus/ferry station before booking your flight. (For example, instead of taking the train, I was forced to take an expensive taxi because of my early flight schedule. And I could have saved a lot had I taken the later flight.)
7. Research on city cards. In some cities, getting a city card (bundled unlimited public transportation and entrance to attractions/museums) can be cheaper. Always do the math ;) Fast-track entries to crowded attractions can also be very convenient.
6. Reserve online. If you're traveling during peak season, always reserve online to avoid the hassle of lining up in queues. Some attractions run out of tickets so better reserve online several weeks before your travel. (Ex. The Louvre, Vatican Museum, Sagrada Familia, Alhambra, Park Guell, Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell'Accademia, Rome Colloseum, etc. )
7. Sign up on free tours. There are so many amazing free tours (tip-based) if you want to explore the city through the eyes of a local.
8. Sign up on useful websites and install apps. My favorites are the following:
Google Maps (for traveling in cities and looking for best-reviewed nearby restaurants)
Rome2Rio (for estimated travel time and best public transportation route)
Triphobo (very helpful in choosing attractions, plotting the best route, and visualizing my itinerary)
Sygic (for choosing attractions and seeing maps)
Google Trips (for choosing food and drink specialties, transportation, attractions and things to do)
Utrip (for thematic itineraries created by locals ex. Midnight in Paris tour, Food Trip in Rome)
Triposo (for attractions, shopping, tours and nightlife)
Duolingo (for learning languages)
9. Make an Excel sheet of your itinerary and estimated cost (entrance fees, tours, food, transportation, accommodation). Thanks to my accountant mom, I have always been organized with the aid of my Excel. With an estimated total cost of your trip, you'd know if your trip's feasible within your budget.
10. Research on European simcards with data. My travel became easier thanks to my 10GB of data. I would have gotten lost 1 billion times without my very reliable Google Maps on my smartphone ;-P
I hope I helped you jump start your planning. It took me a month of researching but in the end, it was worth it ;-)
White. Black. Brown. Gray--- You have probably seen these beaches in different parts of the world. But have you seen a RED beach in this lifetime? ;-)
The rarity of its crimson color and breathtaking cliffs make Kokkini Beach, also known as Red Beach, a famous spot in Santorini, Greece.
Located at the southern coast of Santorini, one must take a ten-minute walk (from the parking) along this narrow beach trail in order to reach the beach. It is also very near the archaeological site in Akrotiri. For those who do not want to walk to the beach, you may take photos from the view point near the parking.
When you say Greece, people will automatically identify Santorini as the ONLY island paradise to go to. Thanks to travel books, I chanced upon two other paradises that are also worth visiting—Gramvousa and Balos Lagoon in Crete.
Located 42 kilometers west of Chania, one can go here via daily cruises from Kissamos port. From May to October, ferries leave at Kissamos port at around 10:15AM and return to the port at 6PM. From mid-June until mid-September, there are also ferries departing at 12:40PM.
To get to Kissamos port from Chania, you may take the bus or get transfers from tour groups. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket office at the port (arrive 30 minutes early to get good seats).
The cruise from port to Gramvousa takes around 45 minutes. You may opt to sit inside the airconditioned part of the ferry if you want to eat (the bar offers traditional Greek and international dishes) or if you feel like savoring the wind and enjoying the breathtaking views, you may relax outside.
Happy Single Awareness every day ;-)
1) Listen to your intuition. Trust that clever inner voice: Am I talking to a nice stranger or a criminal? Have I already consumed 1 liter of sangria or more than 1 liter of sangria? Where the hell is the right airport terminal and train direction? Will this bread be a perfect substitute for my precious rice? Does this random stranger have perfect photography skills for my narcissistic touristy photo#1001?
2) Brag about your country as if you're the country's ambassador. Your country is amazing and sharing it with people who do not know anything about your country may impact their views about your nation.
3) Latino music is the grandmother of all forefathers of last song syndrome. Whether you like it or not, you will unconsciously love it. The lyrics and beat will get stuck inside your eardrums for a long long time. #despacito #subesube
4) Do not feel bad when you realize that the hottest guys on earth live in Italy and Greece (and partially in Spain✌?). Life can be unfair.
5) European door keys tend to be more complicated than your love life. Making them work requires a lot of patience, hard work, and meditation. Not even the magic words "Open Sesame" can do tricks.
6) Love your shoulders more than your clothes, fashion OOTD accessories, and unnecessary souvenirs. Getting bruises on your shoulders will never be fun especially in countries with very expensive massages.
7) But if you need to give up on things for space in your backpack, learn to let go.
8) Do not always trust the weather forecast (especially if you have just finished hanging your clothes outdoors or if you have just decided to wear sleeveless in a seemingly sunny day). Always be prepared to manually dry everything using a hair dryer.
9) Google is the answer to almost everything. Trust it for majority of your travel decisions may depend on it including a) translating indecipherable food menus, cheese varieties and washing machines, b) finding a good bar, c) enjoying a date with a handsome man who doesn’t know how to speak English d) finding the most efficient train route.
10) Learn the art of "chilling" in toilets without bidets. Always invest on wet wipes.
11) Hang out with locals and eat where locals eat.
12) Skip very romantic places if you don’t wanna feel blue. Or travel with someone if you don’t wanna feel blue.
13) Always arrive early in airports. Especially in chaotic airports like CDG.
14) The best conversations can sometimes happen when you least expect them (in ferries, trains, and buses, or during hikes).
15) Control your anger if a gypsy teen duo decided to bully you. They’re probably living a more miserable life than you.
16) Practice an imaginary language. Not because you need to talk to yourself but a secret language will be very helpful in case you'd encounter scammers. When they ask you, "Do you speak English?," you’re ready to reply with a convincing lingo.
17) Religiously apply lotion if you don’t want your hands to turn into a horror movie prop.
18) Greek and Italian time can be worse than Filipino time. Always be prepared to master the art of doing nothing.
19) Hone your sign language (+ charades) skill. It will be useful when you get lost and you need to ask for help from non-English-speaking locals... or when you just wanna chat with friendly non-English-speaking locals. Or if you want to avoid frowns from English-speaking Frenchies✌?
20) Save beer/tapas/aperitivo/sangria/museum money by getting water from the tap until your water bottle doesn't look like a water bottle anymore.
21) Be crazy and take crazy photos.
22) Do not get too attached with your vacation because sooner than sooner, you'll live a monotonous life again ?
Yes, I'm so glad to be home in one piece (with my backpack still A-OK)!!!
Thank you to everyone who made my solo travel an unforgettable crazy adventure!
See you soon, Mongolia or NZ? :-)
Follow me @fartherfurther