How to Prepare Your Trip to Oman

What to pack and what not to pack, that is the question

The allure of Oman lies as much in its geographical location as it does its rich history. Ancient culture blends with contemporary influences to create an intriguing travel destination. What should you then bring on your journey to make the most out of the experience?

Electronic Visa for Oman

One of the most essential items to bring when traveling to Oman is your travel documentation and you will most likely need an eVisa to enter the country. There are different visa requirements depending on which country you come from. Requirements for Americans for an Oman e-Visa for example include a valid passport and the ability to pay for your visa. The eVisa process is fairly simple and it is possible to apply online.

The online visa application process only takes a few minutes to complete and once approved the travel documentation will be sent directly to your inbox. There are different types of visas to apply for and as such, the best things to do is consult official sources online for exhaustive information on all rules and regulations.

Bringing the essentials will make all the difference

1. Lightweight loose-fitting clothes – depending on when you choose to travel to Oman, the country has a sub-tropical desert climate and you need to have suitable clothes for that. This means garments in natural fabrics such as linen or cotton to be able to withstand high daytime temperatures and cold nights. It might also be wise to bring a light jacket in case of rain and wind.

2. Protection against the sun – this means everything from sunglasses to long-sleeved tops and a hat. The sun is relentless and you will need sunscreen as well. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially if you want to enjoy spending time outside. On this note, remember to also bring some mosquito repellent.

3. Sensible shoes – it’s recommended to bring footwear that may be worn at the beach as well as sturdy shoes if you want to go trekking. For everyday use, choose alternatives that will provide some coolness due to the high temperatures.

4. Travel adapter – in order to make sure you are able to use your electronic devices it is best to bring a travel adapter. It might be possible to purchase once you have arrived but to be on the safe side you should definitely bring your own.

5. Suitcase – depending on whether you are traveling with only a carry-on baggage or if you intend to check-in luggage, choose bags that are made of lightweight material and that are roomy. Both in terms of having to carry them but also if you intend to being home some souvenirs.

Travel wisely

Before traveling to Oman, make sure you have your travel documentation in order. It’s also good to take some time to go over your luggage and check to see that you have all the essential items with you. The suggestions here are by no means exhaustive and when traveling to regions such as the Middle East, it’s also crucial to be aware of things like if you are able to drink the local water or not.

Research some before you go and get ready for a unique travel experience.


The post How to Prepare Your Trip to Oman appeared first on Wandering Earl.

Travel Clothes Perfected With Aviator Jeans

Aviator Travel Clothes

It’s not a secret. I’m just not a fan of ‘travel clothes’.

After 19 years of traveling the world, I don’t understand the concept.

Fast-drying clothes? That sounds good but I don’t need clothes that dry in 27 seconds. Regular drying time works for me.

Convertible pants/shorts? Wonderful! However, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a need to switch between the two in the middle of a day, ever. Am I weird?

Super special material? I get it. Different materials have different benefits. Sure, some materials keep you cooler, some keep you warmer. Some are known for their otherworldly softness or their ability to stay ‘clean’, or at least hide the smell. But good old regular cotton does the trick, too. It works for millions of non-traveling people so why can’t it work for travelers as well?

429 pockets? Again, on paper it sounds useful to have so many pockets on a pair of pants or on one shirt. But I barely carry enough stuff to fill up one pocket. What do travelers carry in their pants and shirts that I’m missing?

 

Travel Clothes vs Normal Clothes

What I don’t understand is this – when I’m traveling, there really isn’t much difference than if I wasn’t traveling when it comes to clothes.

In both cases, I walk. I sit. I stand. Sometimes it’s warm out. Other times it’s cool. My money and credit cards go in one pocket. I’m good to go.

So why do I need super special clothes just because I’m crossing a border into a foreign land?

Luckily, I don’t think I’m the only one who’s made this realization. I currently see a trend taking place where overly functional and specialized ‘travel clothes’ are being replaced by normal looking clothes that offer a couple of simple benefits for those who travel.

That’s something I can handle.

 

The Answer – Aviator Jeans

Travel Clothes Aviator Jeans pocket

Where am I going with this?

If I was living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, hitchhiking in the Karaokaram Mountains of Pakistan, visiting Chernobyl or taking a road trip around the Maramures region of Romania, I’d be wearing normal-looking jeans and a normal-looking shirt. So, I like to have normal-looking jeans and normal-looking shirts in my suitcase.

Aviator jeans. That’s what I’ve settled on.

I now have two pairs of these jeans – blue and black – and I wear them almost every day. It doesn’t get any simpler.

Aviator jeans are good looking, comfortable, high-quality jeans. No high-tech ventilation system, no fur from the underbelly of a yak and they don’t turn into a raincoat if I tap my knees three times.

Travel Clothes Aviator Jeans

The passport above fits perfectly into the zipper pocket.

The Travel Benefits of Aviator Travel Jeans?

1. Benefit #1 – They don’t get too wrinkled when folded up in a suitcase for a while. Cool, I can dig it.

2. Benefit #2 – They have a zipper pocket inside of one of the side pockets and inside both of the back pockets too. This provides a simple, yet effective, extra layer of protection for my money, credit cards and even my passport.

3. Benefit #3 –  I could get away with wearing these jeans in almost any situation, from the most casual to a more formal gathering. Ideal for a traveler.

Done.

Three simple, excellent benefits without sacrificing look or comfort (in fact, these jeans are super comfortable).

Aviator jeans.  Normal jeans for travelers. I finally found them.

Thoughts? Are you a travel clothes kind of traveler?

(The post is meant to be sarcastic. Travel clothes clearly offer benefits for many travelers!)

The post Travel Clothes Perfected With Aviator Jeans appeared first on Wandering Earl.

A Great Morocco Road Trip: My Favorite Itinerary and Car Rental Tips

Morocco Road Trip - Dades Valley
 

Let’s hit the road in this North African country and see what we can cover on a 2-3 week Morocco road trip. While you might be turned off by the idea of driving around Morocco, the combination of relatively good roads, a quiet countryside and friendly people make this an option for those who don’t mind getting behind the wheel of a reliable rental car.

 

A Guide to Renting a Car in Morocco

First up…should you book a car for your Moroccan road trip online or find one when you arrive? The answer in my opinion is to book online. In fact, it’s probably essential to reserve a car in advance in high season in order to ensure you get a decent car at a decent price.

The minimum age at which you can rent a car is 19, however, in many cases, drivers are required to have held their license for at least two years prior to renting. Additionally, as is common throughout the world, many rental companies charge a Young Driver Fee for drivers under a certain age (typically under 23). 

As for an International Driver’s Permit, it’s not required to either drive or rent in Morocco. 

In terms of cost, you can expect to rent a mini category car for as little s $130 USD for 2 weeks. However, I’d recommend a bigger, sturdier vehicle for such a trip as this will come in handy when away from the cities. You’ll be able to move at a faster pace while on the open road and you’ll be able to climb up the mountain roads with greater ease. It’s also more comfortable considering you’ll spend a decent amount of time inside the vehicle!

A larger economy or intermediate size vehicle should cost around $220 – $320 from a reputable rental agency, again, for a similar 2 week period.

 

Morocco Caar Rental

 

Insurance 

The most confusing part about renting a car anywhere in the world is the insurance. Renting in Morocco is no exception. To start, most rental companies include Theft Protection, Third-Party Liability and a Collision Damage Waiver with all of their rentals and to all customers. 

A Collision Damage Waiver (or Loss Damage Waiver) is a contract between you and the rental company that waives any charges for damage to the car’s body over the deductible or excess. However, since the deductible/excess for all rental companies in Morocco is at least $1,000, you need to have this amount available on your credit card. The rental company will put a hold on your credit card for the deductible amount for the duration of your rental. If this amount exceeds your credit limit, you’ll need to purchase extra insurance from the rental car company.

If you look at Discover Car Hire’s website, you can actually sort the results by the required deposit helping you find a car that requires the lowest hold on your credit card. They also offer Full Coverage for $9 per day, which is about half of what it would cost at the rental counter, making this coverage a good option for those who want to eliminate the deductible and risk altogether.

Many travelers, especially Americans, have credit cards that provide coverage for rental cars in Morocco. To use this coverage, you must decline the rental company’s Collision Damage Waiver. Note that credit cards usually do not provide third-party liability coverage, so you must make sure the rental company still includes that in your rental contract.

Note that when renting in Morocco, you can not take the car outside of Morocco. Due to political reasons, the border with Algeria is closed to all traffic. It may be possible to take your car to Western Sahara, though. Morocco considers this to be part of its sovereign territory and therefore treats travel to it as domestic travel. 

The Pick-Up and Drop-Off

There are many instances all over the world of rental companies attempting to charge customers for damage that the car already had. I had this happen to me after renting a car on the island of Ibiza. Even large, international rental companies can try this and it does happen in Morocco.

The best approach is to make note of every scratch or dent on the car on the damage report when picking up the car. Do not trust the rental company’s employees to mark everything properly. It is also a good idea to take pictures of the damage. This may help you avoid charges for damage you didn’t cause upon dropping the car off. 

After my Ibiza incident, I’ve started taking a video of the entire outside of the vehicle as extra protection as well. This way, if they try to claim damage, I have a very clear video to prove what was already on the car.

Now that the rental details are out of the way, let’s move on to my recommended itinerary…

Morocco Road Trip Itinerary

With a ton of destinations and routes, you could easily spend a couple of months exploring this country. But of course, most of us have a couple of weeks when we travel somewhere. So, using that time frame, I’ve put together what would be my personal favorite Morocco road trip itinerary based on my extensive travels here.

Let’s get going…

Casablanca

Okay. This has never been my favorite city on the planet but it’s definitely an ideal spot to begin your trip, being home to the largest and most well-connected airport in the country. Arrive, stay at the centrally-located Kenzi Basma Hotel or the more budget friendly Hotel Maamoura, visit the impressive Hassan II Mosque, eat at Restaurant Al-Mounia and then pick up your rental car on the morning you’re ready to head out of town.

Get on the A1 Highway heading north, make a stop in Rabat if you have time and then turn east onto the A2 towards…

Meknes

It’s a small imperial city and the relatively peaceful local market is worth exploring. The main Bab Mansour gate and the Bou Inania Madrasa should not be missed before spending the late afternoon at my favorite spot in the city, the super impressive Royal Stables, located about a 20 minute walk away from the market.

For a half day trip out of town, drive through the beautiful hills and around the village of Moudray Idriss until you reach the ancient and impressive Roman ruins of Volubilis. Hire a local guide from the ticket office and you’ll easily spend 2 hours here learning the history and admiring the landscapes.

*Chefchaouen

For many tourists, this picturesque pastel blue town in northern Morocco needs to be on the itinerary. I personally don’t think it’s worth it as it adds about 7 hours of extra driving time, there’s not much to do there and it is often jam-packed with big tour groups. You’ll get a few nice photos for sure but because a Morocco road trip already involves a decent amount of driving, I’d rather spend my time somewhere with less crowds and spend less time on the road.

So, from Meknes, it’s a short one hour drive east to…

Fes Morocco buildings

Fes

With its sprawling medina, endless lanes and abundance of gorgeous buildings to check out, Fes is well worth a couple of nights. Staying at a riad in the heart of the medina is the way to go so that you simply need to walk out the front door in order to find yourself among the colors, sounds, smells and action of this vibrant destination. While you’ll want to visit the Al-Attarine Madrasa, Bab Bou Jeloud gate, Funduq al-Najjariyyin (impressive wood carving museum) and the Chouara Tannery, leave sufficient time for aimless wandering as well.

The best gems of this city lie in the areas that don’t receive many visitors as most people pop in for a few hours, see a few sights and then take off. Don’t be afraid to speak with locals you come across or to duck into mosques, madrasas, markets and more that don’t have lines of tourists outside. This is what will lead to all kinds of invitations for local experiences that you wouldn’t be able to organize on your own.

Continuing this Morocco road trip, you’ll go south along the mountainous N13…

Merzouga

It’s a long day of driving up and over the High Atlas Mountains but you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to stop for a break. From the Swiss-like town of Ifrane to a spot in the forest that’s home to the Barbary Apes, from viewpoints over the absolutely gorgeous Ziz Valley to fossil workshops in the town of Erfoud (sounds touristy but is actually quite fascinating), the journey will pass quickly with so much to see along the way.

When you arrive in Merzouga in the late afternoon, settle into your guesthouse (I highly recommend Riad Madu) and watch the sun set over the dunes of the Sahara nearby. Then, enjoy a good night’s sleep before you begin a desert adventure the following day.

*Arrange to leave your car at the Riad the next day/night.

Now it’s time to head off into the Erg Chebbi dunes for your overnight Sahara Desert experience. Typically, you’ll leave town in the afternoon and you can travel by camel, jeep or foot (walking across the desert is my absolutely favorite option!) to reach your desert camp.

Most camps offer meals and activities to keep your evening busy before you head to sleep in your incredibly quiet surroundings. A Sahara desert experience is a must but definitely choose one of the reputable desert camps for your stay!

Morocco Road Trip - Sahara Desert

After a night out in the desert, you’ll return to Merzouga the next morning and you can either spend another night here (which gives you time to visit some local Gnawa villages) or you can head off towards the Dades Valley, about a 4 hour drive away.

Leaving Merzouga, you’ll take the N12 and N10 to reach…

Dades Valley

I’ll say it. This is my favorite region of Morocco. I could easily spend a week in this valley, staying at the beautiful Chez Pierre guesthouse, hiking through the Monkey Fingers gorge, taking a 4WD trip across the high desert, through the Valley of the Roses, into the remote towns of Agoulzi and Bou Tharar, walking through local Berber villages, interacting with all kinds of people, eating homemade food and simply enjoying this genuine area that few travelers visit. Take your time, spend a few days here and you will undoubtedly fall in love with this region too!

Coming out of the valley, you’ll head west on the N10 and continue to the N9 which will send you directly to…

Marrakech

Eventually, though, you’ll need to get going and the next drive will take you up and over the mountains one last time en route to Marrakech. On the way, you can stop in Ourzazate (famous for its film studios and casbahs), you can wander through Ait ben Haddou (UNESCO village where many films were made, such as Babel, The Mummy and Gladiator) and you should also stop at every viewpoint you can along the twisty, stunning mountain route.

Then, once in Marrakech, check in to your accommodation (again, I’d go with a local riad in the medina), head to the main square in the old quarter, Jemaa el-Fnaa, and cap off your day with great food and a lively atmosphere that begins as soon as the sun sets.

During your stay in Marrakech, I can highly recommend visiting the Marjorelle Gardens, the House of Photography Museum and the Bahia Palace. Then spend the rest of your time wandering the massive markets and old city (as you can see, Morocco is great for this!) and letting the experiences unfold.

Morocco Trip - Marrakech Market

From Marrakech, if you have time, you could also drive to the coastal town of Essouira, either as a day trip or for a couple of nights. Essouira offers a beach, citadel, art galleries, traditional craft workshops, the lively Moulay Hassan Square, great food and more.

And then, from either Essouira or Marrakech, the drive back to Casablanca is a direct one, where you can drop off your car and spend one last night before your Morocco road trip comes to and!

Morocco Road Trip – Final Thoughts

To complete all of the above, you would need 3 weeks if you want to have sufficient time in each destination. If you don’t visit Chefchaouen and possibly Meknes, you could do the circuit in two weeks and that’s what I’d recommend if that’s the time frame you’re working with.

Either way, Morocco needs to be seen. During the small-group tours I organize in Morocco, it’s quite common for participants to find themselves completely surprised at the sheer diversity of landscapes, sights, people and experiences that we come across. Part of this is because Morocco is the kind of country that makes getting off the beaten path very doable, and that leads to activities and interactions that go beyond what you may see online.

Even in the cities of Marrakech and Fes, two of the most visited places in the country, all it takes is a wander down random lanes or a quick conversation with a market vendor or peeking into a beautiful quiet doorway…and before you know it, you’re away from the crowds, having the kind of local, authentic travel experience that Morocco offers visitors around every corner.

Enjoy your trip and if you have any questions at all, just let me know!


If you have more time, consider extending your Morocco road trip to the remote and otherworldly Western Sahara.

The post A Great Morocco Road Trip: My Favorite Itinerary and Car Rental Tips appeared first on Wandering Earl.

How to Book a Good Airline Seat for Free (A Cool Trick)

Book a Good Airline Seat

When you purchase your flight, you could simply pay a lot of money to book a good airline seat. Of course, most airlines charge you to select a seat in advance. And prices for choosing your own seat in advance seem to be on the rise.

Recently, I was flying from Miami to Lisbon and TAP Portugal Airlines wanted $57 for me to choose a good seat. I decided not to pay.

Does that mean I was stuck with a bad seat?

Not at all. If you don’t want to dish out a bunch of money, there’s definitely still hope for you to book a good airline seat.

 

The second option…

I’m going to use another example of a recent flight I took.

Washington Dulles Airport to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines (A330-300 airplane)

Since I didn’t feel like paying another $50+ for a seat in advance, I waited until 12 hours before the flight departure time to check-in. At this point, Turkish Airlines, like many airlines, allowed me to choose a seat for free.

Upon checking in, however, the seat chart showed only 3 available seats for me to choose from. And to no surprise, the 3 available seats were all in the middle of the middle section, way in the back, in the last three rows. This is quite common to have the worst seats on the plane appear as the only options.

At first, you might think these are indeed the only seats available and that you must choose one. So, you’ll end up choosing what you think is the ‘least worst’ of these terrible seats.

But…try this instead:

A Simple Trick to Book a Good Airline Seat

  1. Don’t choose one of the seats
  2. Keep the app/website open to the seat chart
  3. Refresh the page or revisit the seat chart every few minutes
  4. You’ll start to notice that new seats will suddenly become available for you to choose
  5. Keep doing this until a really good seat is available
  6. Choose it, complete the check-in process and you’re good to go 

 

Flight Good Seat

 

How does this work?

When you go to check in 12 hours before your flight (or any time before your flight), there is no way that every passenger has chosen or been assigned a seat. Too many travelers don’t check in until they get to the airport and too many travelers wait until a few hours before the flight to check in online. Therefore, those people won’t have an assigned seat until they do check in.

As a result, when you check in online, the airline will try to force you to choose a crappy seat on the plane, hoping to fill up those seats with people who actually choose them. This is good for the airline as it leaves better seats available in case they need to move people around or resolve a situation by offering a passenger a good seat.

But, if you keep refreshing the seat chart, during that time, other people will start checking in online and choosing their seats. The chances are extremely high that other passengers will choose those crappy seats, thinking that they are the only seats available.

Then, once those crappy seats have been selected by other passengers checking in online, new seats will become available, because again, all of the seats have yet to be assigned. Once those few new seats are selected by other passengers, other seats will become available and so on, until a couple of hours before the flight when everyone has checked in.

With the example above, I refreshed the seat chart every 5 minutes for about 30 minutes. During that time, the available seats for me to choose from changed as the less desirable seats were filled by others.

I’m quite picky when I fly long distances. I really want to have an aisle seat in the middle section, close to the front of the plane. It’s just my thing.

After 30 minutes of refreshing, boom! Seat 19D was suddenly available, exactly what I prefer, and I grabbed it.

I then finished the check in process and was on my way, in a great seat.

Had I chosen one of those original 3 terrible seats, I would have been stuck in the last rows, in between two other passengers, right next to the bathroom, for 10.5 hours. And it would have been because I fell for the trick airlines play to get me to choose those unfortunate seats.

Don’t fall for the trick. Follow the above and you should get your desired seat, most of the time at least.

——–

Want to learn how I booked 13 flights around the world for $2200?

The post How to Book a Good Airline Seat for Free (A Cool Trick) appeared first on Wandering Earl.

4 Day Chernobyl Trip: Impressions, Advice and Photos

Chernobyl trip - abandoned classroom

I thought it would only be about abandoned buildings. And while we did visit and wander through dozens of schools, cafes, bus stations, hospitals, hotels, boat houses, supermarkets, television shops, summer camps, and a ton of more places, the experience of a Chernobyl trip went far beyond all of that.

For 3 nights and 4 days we were in ‘the zone’.

It was eye-opening, educational and very raw, all in one. We stayed in an old Soviet hotel in Chernobyl city, the only working town in the exclusion zone and home to several thousand people, almost all of whom work in some power plant / disaster related job. The rest of the population in town run the shop, two hotels, restaurant and other small businesses that support the workers.

Each day of our Chernobyl trip we learned more about the 1986 disaster, with our excellent guide, Nazar, providing details and information about every single site that we visited.

In between the education, I was left to stare out the window of the van or walk quietly along paths that meandered through the spectacularly overgrown forest, pondering the remains of a once flourishing region. I was left to try to comprehend the masses of people whose lives were uprooted and left behind, all within a few quick days (or slow days depending on how you look at the response to the disaster).

Chernobyl trip - apartment building

Sure enough, I found myself equally affected by the stories of those who sacrificed their lives to ensure the disaster didn’t escalate even more. And by those who knew the risks but decided to play a major role in securing and cleaning the area nonetheless.

Even today, there are still a couple of thousand people who work at or near the nuclear reactor, in various capacities. They spend 15 days in the exclusion zone and then they’re required to leave the zone for 15 days before they can return. Such workers include scientists, security personnel, contractors, technicians, engineers and more.

Again, this Chernobyl trip was far from a mere stream of photo opportunities.

Did you know that Sweden played a crucial role in uncovering the disaster?

Sweden detected radiation soon after and in their search for the source, they put pressure on the Soviet Union to confess if something had occurred. Had Sweden not detected the radiation and forced the Soviet Union to admit the situation, who knows if we would ever know what actually happened. And that would have been even more dangerous.

Chernobyl trip - control center

Places Visited During My Chernobyl Trip

As we traveled around, there were indeed the checkpoints, the bursts of radiation in certain areas, the feeling of desolation and the disgust at how the situation unfolded. There were the lunches at the local canteens, the memorials and the sad tales around every corner.

But at the same time, most of where we went inside the exclusion zone had a radiation level that would not be considered terribly excessive. The reason, I learned, is that the radioactive elements are heavy and as a result, have sunk into the ground by this stage.

We still found areas with levels as high as 10 uSV (microsieverts) and one piece of machinery that was a very high 750 uSv, but most places were between .4 uSv and 1 uSv on the Geiger counter radiation detector.

As the days passed, I saw the abandoned ferris wheel and the main square in Pripyat. I stood in front of the now covered Nuclear Reactor #3 where the disaster all began. There was a massive, rusted 1920s steamboat we climbed around, stuck in the mud near the Belarussian border. The piano shop was simply eerie, with rotting pianos lying silent all around the room.

Old piano shop

Chernobyl trip - reactor #3

The once grand swimming pool, the isolated summer camp on the shores of a river, the massive Duga radar station and an abandoned school deep in the woods along a road that seemed to receive no traffic for a long time. Dusty doll heads, broken desks, a boxing ring.

Dental implants and vials of chemicals, huge propaganda posters sitting behind a massive stage, an open purse on a kitchen table, in a house that was clearly abandoned in an instant.

A boat house, a rusted bus, a field of huge silent tractors. A cafe with impressive stained glass windows, a supermarket with shopping carts still scattered along the aisles, a room where soldiers studied the various missiles that might one day attack the Soviet Union.

Paperwork and school books, toys and broken televisions, old drink dispensers, gas masks and scattered clothes. Everywhere we went, every day, was a trip deep into the abandoned lives of thousands of people, into the stories and education and work and social activities of those who once called the region home.

Abandoned school house

Chernobyl trip - the gym

Chernobyl trip - dentist

Visiting a Resettler

And then, there was Vasily. One of 170 remaining re-settlers, this kind, golden-toothed 64 year old man returned to the exclusion zone shortly after the disaster, unwilling to have his life uprooted.

Today he lives way in the countryside, in an otherwise empty village located a one hour drive from any other sign of civilization, a village that can only be reached along a narrow, terribly pot-holed, completely forgotten road.

Vasily lives in an abandoned village, in a simple, but warmly decorated home. He grows an incredible amount of fruit and vegetables on his land, with beautiful looking cabbage, apples, plums, potatoes, berries, pumpkin, eggplant and more filling up the fields. He also raises chickens and some ducks, feeds the local storks and makes his own liquor, even though he doesn’t drink.

He leaves the village 1 or 2 times per year, that’s it.

Resettler Vasily

Chernobyl trip - Vasily's house

Our guide knew of Vasily but had never been to his village in the 7 years he’d been leading Chernobyl trips. He decided to take us out there on our third day.

What was supposed to be a quick stay to say hello turned into 5 hours as we dined on a wonderful spread of food – salads, eggs, stuffed tomatoes, sweet bread and of course some shots of his homemade brandy. Generous with his time and happy to have visitors, we asked him endless questions and listened to his stories of life before and after the disaster as we continued to nibble on the endless plates of food he served us.

And while you might hesitate to eat from his garden, the radiation level in his village is around .4 uSv. To give you an idea, a chest x-ray is about 100 uSv, some 250 times as strong. Even with that, Vasily’s health, his house, his land, chickens and even his cat are checked twice per year by scientists and doctors to ensure that it continues to be safe for him to live in this area.

Pripyat's old cafe

Chernobyl trip - cultural center

On our last day of this Chernobyl trip, I woke up in my simple yet somewhat cozy room at the Hotel Pripyat, took a shower in an impossibly small tub and soon found myself eating eggs and pancakes for breakfast. Life in Chernobyl city was remarkably normal considering the devastation that lies only a few kilometers away.

We passed through one last checkpoint, each of us standing inside a radiation detection machine in order to ensure we were radiation free. Then we handed over our lanyards/personal radiation detection devices that we were required to wear during our stay and we crossed the ‘border’ out of the exclusion zone.

And that was it. The Chernobyl trip was over and the exclusion zone was left behind, in a much different fashion than the thousands of people who had no choice back in 1986.

Quick Tips for Your Chernobyl Trip

I highly recommend visiting Chernobyl if you get the chance and I definitely recommend doing a multi-day trip.

A one day trip simply covers the same handful of sites that 95% of visitors see. If you spend a couple of nights in the exclusion zone, you’ll get to visit endless locations that very few people get a chance to explore.

In our 4 days, we saw almost no other tourists apart from at our hotel and at a couple of monuments in Chernobyl city. Everywhere else, we basically had to ourselves, all day, every day.

And while the temptation is high to turn a visit to Chernobyl into one big Instagram photo session, something important is definitely missed if you do. It’s worth taking time to learn as much as you can and to really appreciate the scale of the disaster and its effects. It’s quite an intense and draining experience when you do but it’s extremely valuable nonetheless.

  • Book through a local tour operator in Kiev
  • Book 2-3 months in advance as hotel rooms in Chernobyl city are limited
  • Either a private tour or a group with less than 6 people is the way to go (avoid big groups)
  • 3-4 days is highly recommended
  • Clothing rules require you to wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes
  • Take a comfortable day pack as you’re not allowed to put your bag on the ground while out exploring
  • Bring some money for snacks, drinks and basic supplies at the local shop in Chernobyl city
  • Ask your guide to include a visit with one of the re-settlers in the region
  • Eat at least one lunch at the power plant workers’ canteen
  • When to visit: Summer (great weather), Autumn (leaves have fallen, clearer views), Winter (quiet and eerier), Spring (few leaves, also good views)

Any questions? Just send me a message and I’ll be happy to assist!

Looking for more photos from my Chernobyl trip?

Check out my post: 33 Fascinating Chernobyl Photos

The post 4 Day Chernobyl Trip: Impressions, Advice and Photos appeared first on Wandering Earl.

Travel Advisors Address Growing Demand for Pet-Friendly Vacations

Pet Travel Advisor

Andrea Mladin, founder of Pet Travel Advisor, on the beach with Mila, her Maltese puppy. Pet Travel Advisor

Skift Take: As more baby boomers and millennials take to the road with pets in tow, travel advisors will need to freshen up on their knowledge of rules and restrictions for travel. Hotels are beginning to cater more to pet owners, but the rules among airlines are in a state of flux.

— Paul Biasco

Read the Complete Story On Skift

Pet-Focused Travel Advisors Navigate Challenges of Flying with Fido

Top Dog Travel

Heather Eisenstadt of Top Dog Travel brought along a four-legged companion on a recent white water rafting expedition. Top Dog Travel

Skift Take: For increasing numbers of travelers, leaving home without a beloved pet (or pets) is unthinkable. While the travel industry has become more accommodating to this trend, the challenges are such that services from pet travel experts are in demand.

— Maria Lenhart

Read the Complete Story On Skift

Travel Advisors Step In as Cruise Fees Reach Tipping Point

Carnival Corp.

Cocktail chef Matthew Biancaniello, host of the travel show Good Spirits, has a toasts with guests on board a Carnival Corp. ship. Carnival Corp.

Skift Take: The base fares advertised by many cruise lines rarely indicate the proliferation of onboard charges that can send the cost of the cruise soaring. Travel advisors are stepping in by counseling clients about the added costs and, in some cases, presenting all-inclusive cruises as a better value.

— Maria Lenhart

Read the Complete Story On Skift

Travel Advisors Play Fare Vetter as Cruise Fees Escalate

Carnival Corp.

A guest wears a Carnival Corp. Ocean Medallion wristband. Travel advisors and their customers have to grapple with a bevy of cruise fees that are added to the fare. Carnival Corp.

Skift Take: The low base fares promoted by some budget and mid-level cruise lines rarely indicate what the actual cost of a sailing will be. Travel advisors are stepping in to advise clients about onboard charges and, in some cases, showing that a higher-end cruise with all-inclusive pricing is actually a better value.

— Maria Lenhart

Read the Complete Story On Skift