Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

How often should we travel?

Whilst some people’s idea of happiness is to get a mortgage and pay off their debts, enslaved to a full time job, this is the idea of hell to others. 

In an ideal world we should be travelling constantly. We were not designed to buy a house and never leave it. The world is impossibly large for a reason, to explore it.

So if, like me, you cannot afford to travel constantly, so have the home and a full time job and waste hours dreaming about travel… How often should we get away?

When I used to work in travel, a month would never pass that I wasn’t on a plane, and I loved it! Nowadays I am lucky if I get away more than once a year. And I don’t even have kids or a mortgage. 

So I decided to travel with work, set up a new life across the country and start a fresh. It’s great because there is a whole new part of the world to explore and it’s fresh and exciting all the time. Although, nothing quite beats getting a flight and travelling a new continent..

  

Book Review: Upgraded! How To Save Money And Fly In Luxury Using Avios Points– Are you one of the 99% who would love to fly Business Class but can’t afford it? This book is for you….

Book Review: Upgraded! How To Save Money And Fly In Luxury Using Avios Points– Are you one of the 99% who would love to fly Business Class but can’t afford it? This book is for you….

Avios Points

Despite having a very good knowledge of air miles schemes, I knew very little about Avios points when I picked up this book so I was intrigued to see what it had in store.

I often read blogs about how to snag free or cheap upgrades but in reality, most of them don’t work. I have tried every ‘trick in the book’ to get upgraded on flights and despite it working once or twice (mostly down to dumb luck), in reality an airline will not upgrade your seat for the simple reason that its clients who have handed over literally thousands of pounds to fly in Business / First class would not be very happy sitting next to someone who paid an economy fare… and Business class passengers are the last type of clientele they want to displease!

Without giving away too much of this book’s top secret tips, Avios appears to be the next best thing in snagging aviation discounts and from countless proven accounts, it actually works! The book talks you through in a step-by-step approach, all you need to know to gain Avios points to snatch discounted flights or upgrade your seat to a Premium cabin for a mere percentage of the going market rates.

The book explains – in some depth – exactly how and where to collect Avios points, and where to spend them and gives very honest accounts on what is beneficial to you, and what is not. It is very simple – if you commit yourself fully and put a little time and effort into the Avios scheme, you genuinely can fly for peanuts!

It is the first book I have seen of its kind which actually breaks down the travel ‘zones’ and how many points are required to fly to these destinations, in which cabin, and roughly the value of points to be collected in various places, including Tesco Clubcard points!! Who knew that?!

To summarise, if you fly with British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Air Malta, Flybe, Monarch, Air Auringy, Qatar or Finnair, for business or leisure travel, this book is an absolute must read for you if you want to save a lot of money and get cheaper flights, or if you want to see how the other half live and travel in luxury.

Having flown in Business / First class myself several times, I can say from experience that once you have experienced it, you will not want to fly Economy again. I have just set up my first Avios account already and you can do the same at https://www.avios.com/

To purchase your very own copy of this incredible book, ClickHere!

Happy Travels!

Cuddle Your Globe

Travel Blogger

13 Tips To Help You Avoid Being Scammed While Travelling

We have all been there – a horrible unjust has occurred that feels like your dream holiday has turned into a nightmare. You feel helpless, distressed, scared, angry, maybe even furious… But the worst part about being scammed abroad is being out of your comfort zone and not having friends / family in easy contact and more importantly, having different laws to abide by. Needless to say, it’s a very unpleasant situation that can cost a lot of money and easily ruin your holiday. 

I have been inspired to write a blog to help others avoid a scam situation either abroad or at home and to give advice on what to do if you find yourself a victim. I have based the blog on travel to any country and any continent. Cultures and law varies and sometimes, paying money out that you shouldn’t have to can save heftier unjusts, such as prison. This blog is a guide to differentiate and help you in these situations.

The most important thing to remember when travelling in general is to be savvy and careful. These tips may seem like there is no fun to be left when travelling but that’s not the case, they are really helpful but sadly there are no guarantees of avoidance. 

Scam and con artists are ruthless and genius and will try anything to succeed. I consider myself to be very streetwise and still found myself mugged in the street in Asia – it happens!!

1. The Hotel Scam

Some people consider a hotel a ‘safe zone’. Don’t. If anybody rings your room telephone claiming to be hotel staff and asks for clarification of credit card details, hang up and visit the front desk for clarification. Don’t leave cash or valuables laying around the room. In some cultures, maids accept cash left out as a tip. If it was not meant to be taken, don’t leave it out. Be careful of bulk safes kept behind reception. I have heard of ‘inside jobs’ where the safes have been raided and all cash / valuables / passports were taken. If you have an in room digital safe, use it for all of your valuables. If you are cautious I would recommend ensuring your hotel has this facility prior to booking.

2. The Booking Scam

When booking your trip, the golden rule is if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Shop around and compare prices. They should be reasonable comparable with other companies. If using a travel agent, I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure they are fully ABTA and ATOL bonded before you hand over your cash. If they are not and they go insolvent, wave goodbye to your money and holiday. Credit card insurance alone is not enough. There have been incidents of people being scammed for over €90,000 from a timeshare con. Do your research before you book.

3. The Overweight Baggage Scam

I will not name individual airlines but I have experienced this scam personally. I have travelled on an international scheduled flight having pre-weighed my luggage and had it verified at check in, only to check in for a domestic flight with a different airline, usually a budget airline when I have pre-paid for up to 20kg to find out that my case that has always weighed 19kg suddenly weighs 24kg, according to their scales and they are demanding $30 per kilo over the 20kg. If you are in this situation, keep calm! Do not shout at the staff, it is not their fault. Politely explain that you are certain the bag is underweight and ask for them to use a different scale. Tell them you cannot afford to pay. Failing these, pay the fee. In some countries, failing to pay this fee can result in bigger fines, deportation or prison. Be warned.

4. The Hire Car Damage Scam

When you collect you hire car, abroad or at home, always check it for existing damage before you get in. Be thorough and report anything you find. On returning the hire car, allow enough time before flights etc to go through an inventory with the staff to ensure you are not left with a larger than planned credit card bill. If there is damage that they think to be caused by you, they will charge you. When you hire the car, always ensure it has CDW (collision damage waiver) and I recommend taking any option extra insurance offered such as tyre and windscreen cover.

5. The Insurance Scam

Separate to the above, when driving abroad (similarly to at home) always be alert and vigilant for other road users. Be prepared for somebody to slam their brakes on in front you. If they do and you crash into them, you just fell victim to the insurance scam which can be more unpleasant than at home as car hire insurance doesn’t always cover for equivalent fully comprehensive.

6. Don’t Get Too Drunk

Yes, most of us like to have a cocktail or two on holiday. Don’t ever lose sight of your surroundings. Alcohol causes a well known delay in reactions and a deluded sense of confidence which makes us all vulnerable prey to scammers.

7. Don’t Buy Drugs.

This one goes without saying really. You are breaking the law. Why on earth would you trust a complete stranger who claims to be selling drugs anyway?! There have been incidents of police offering to sell drugs in some countries, only to arrest and heavily bribe the tourist. This is best case. Other alternatives can include 10 years imprisonment. Just don’t do it.

8. The Crowd Scam

Busy crowds are breeding grounds for this kind of behaviour. Pickpocketing becomes easier and there have been cases of the fake injury scam by ‘bumping’ into a stranger, causing damage to something expensive in which they demand you pay for. If you can’t avoid crowds, be extra careful.

9. The Border Crossing Scam

These are rife in most developing countries, especially on public buses. The bus stops before the official visa check / immigration point and somebody claiming to be official demands money, or worse to check your passport and disappears with it. If in doubt, ask for I.D. Discuss it with other travellers. Somebody else may have done this before and give reassurance. Failing that if there is cause for concern, the scam is less likely to be successful if everybody ‘teams up’.

10. The Hiring Things Scam

This is most common with water sports and mopeds. You get a super cheap deal to hire the equipment, have loads of fun, but when you return it, the staff point out damage and claim you did it and you have to pay a lot of compensation. You can barter, explain, beg, plead, even threaten a lawyer. In many counties, this won’t stand and failure to pay will result in an army of locals claiming they ‘saw you do it’. Try negotiations and pay the fine. It’s easier than prison. The best way to avoid this situation is don’t hire anything without official documentation to protect both parties, unless you can afford to pay.

11. The Fake Cop Scam

It is common is some countries for scammers to pretend to be police in order to gain trust and demand to see passports / money, only to take items and disappear. The bottom line is, if in doubt ask them for identification. If they can’t produce it, say ‘No.’ And walk away. 

12. The Travel Agent Scam

In every country there are thousands of local tour operators. Generally they are fine to use. BUT, be careful. If you are spending a lot of money on a local tour, it is sometimes best to use a reputable agency or the Concierge desk in your hotel.

13. The Dodgy Cab Scam

Never use an unlicensed taxi, period. If you use a licenced taxi, do research beforehand to find out the best company to use. Failure to do so can easily result in a nasty situation where you are locked inside a car with an angry driver demanding much more money than you are happy to pay. If in doubt, agree a fare before you leave. The chances are the taxi driver knows where you are staying – don’t forget that!!

Be safe out there folks!!

Cuddle your Globe xoxo

The Cheapest Way from Newark airport (EWR) to New York City…

The Cheapest Way from Newark airport (EWR) to New York City…

Having just returned from a trip to New York City, I noticed how expensive taxis have become compared to my last visit 5 years ago. I recall paying $50 for a taxi to and from the airport. This has now doubled! A round trip in a taxi will now cost around $200! I can’t comment on JFK as I didn’t commute this way, although from what I heard the taxi’s cost almost the same heading that way.

There is an alternative which is almost as convenient and considerably cheaper. The train!

On arrival to Newark airport, follow signs for ‘Air Train’ which takes you from the terminals and then get off at the ‘Train Station.’

   
 Here you can purchase a train ticket from the NJ Transit machines which currently charge 13 bucks to Penn station. This is the stop you want for Manhattan and is directly next to Madison Square Garden and next to Macy’s.

  
Make sure you do not get off the train at Penn Newark, this is not correct for the city. Once you arrive at Penn station (New York), exit onto 7th avenue and you will find Madison Square Garden and a large taxi rank in front of you if you need wheels to get to your hotel.

Trains run approx. every 30 minutes. I used it both to and fro the airport and it was reliable and convenient for me. It can be annoying if you have large suitcases as there is not much room on the trains to store luggage, but I managed.

30th May 2016.

Cuddle Your Globe

*Guest Blogger* Packing Tips & Tricks for Travel

Packing Tips & Tricks for Travel – from guest blogger – http://www.rebateszone.com

Anyone who has ever found nature to be attractive will at one point in their life wish to visit one of the greatest artistic works of nature: The Grand Canyon. Who can withstand the lure of its layered bands of red rock and its huge expanse! The mule rides and the hiking are definitely worth the effort. Sometimes people who like their nature green have a difficulty in accepting that bare rocks can be beautiful as well. But, even they would admit that the mile deep natural formation is beautiful in its own way.

However, this isn’t your weekend trip. It can be made into one, if you live close enough, but The Grand Canyon requires some special preparations. You cannot appear before the King in your humble clothes, who knows, he may have you killed for the insolence. If you like to be up and close with it, it is best to start planning the trip well ahead of time. The first order of business is packing right for it. Depending on when and where you decide to go, you may have to take special clothing with you. The South Rim is generally pleasant in the Summer, so we suggest you go there.

Nevertheless, it is best to start with making a list of the things that are recommended for the trip. These can include hydration packs, clothing, toiletries, a nice camera, etc. A good backpack from Backcountry is essential (http://www.rebateszone.com/backcountry-promo). This is even more important if you plan on a hiking trip in addition to sightseeing. Optimal weight distribution will help you stay on your feet for longer. If you plan to take toiletries in the same bag as your camera, it would be best to seal them off in a separate bag.

But, this is just the tip of the iceberg, to become a master back packer; we suggest reading through the following info-graphic, which has been prepared just for you.

Thank you to Jose Gonzalez for creating this useful post, with helpful hints for packing.

If I can add one bit of advice; if taking electronics on board, please make sure they are fully charged in case of security requesting you turn it on. If it does not switch on, they could confiscate your belongings!!

Please feel free to check out more at http://www.rebateszone.com

 

Hotel Pennsylvania, Midtown Manhattan 

Hotel Pennsylvania, Midtown Manhattan 

Hotels in Manhattan are notoriously overpriced in general, so on a recent visit I was keen to cut back some pennies. I have known of the hotel Pennsylvania 2* for many years having booked it for thousands of clients and I actually walked past it 5 years ago. It’s well known for being a good budget hotel (starting rates around $150 per night) in the city centre. I have had mixed reviews about the hotel and was honestly not expecting much at all on arrival on a recent six day city break.

The first thing that shocked me was the size of the hotel, it has around 2,000 rooms and towers high (much like many New York buildings) and the queue for check in.


After a long day of travelling, a 45 minute wait to get to the front desk was not ideal. Properties of this magnitude will always have drawbacks. BUT, on the flip side, having a room on the 12th floor meant so much of the New York noise couldn’t be heard when sleeping which is a massive bonus and something most people do not think about when booking a hotel. The check in staff were very friendly and professional.. Worth the wait.

The bedrooms are a little dated and the bathrooms, although clean could certainly have a little revamp. The beds are very comfortable. I think the mattresses were the fancy hypo allergenic sprung types with a topper, which my back appreciated after battling the city each day.


A very bizarre thing happened during our stay. We had a ‘do not disturb’ tag on our door so house keeping did not visit. But, on our return, there was an extra fridge freezer in our room! We couldn’t understand why it had been brought in as we already had one and we certainly hadn’t asked for it. I half expected to find an oven the next day…!

The room keys frequently decided to fall asleep during our visit requiring a frustrating 60 minute round trip to reception and security etc etc to gain access to our room.

Facilities at the hotel are decent, hotel guests have access to an Olympic size swimming pool next door free of charge and if you are offered breakfast, take it!! It’s at a buffet cafe accross the street and is fantastic; salad, fruit, cereal, bagels, pancakes, toast, hot food, tea, coffee and juice…. I am salivating whilst writing this just remembering it. There are also a few stores inside the hotel and a coffee shop. Seating is available in the lobby, but there could be a little more given the amount of guests. The hotel is wheelchair friendly as there are ramps / lifts available.

The best bit by far, location location location!! The hotel is directly opposite Penn train station (which operates a direct train to Newark airport), and Madison Square Garden. The hotel also has several subway stations within a few minutes walk. Times Square is about a 15 minute walk north of the hotel and Central Park another 15 minutes north.

Overall, I was happy with my stay. Would I stay here again? Absolutely. Would I recommend it to others? Definitely. Suitable for all ages? Yes, although in my opinion it is perhaps a little more suited for 18-45 years. Friendly staff? Yes, and mostly very helpful.

I was pleasantly surprised by my stay and if you are considering staying here, do not let bad reviews put you off. It is budget accommodation so don’t expect a 5* hotel, but it’s a great gem in the heart of Manhattan.