Guess who's back? Well.. Guess who has been back for about a month but was too lazy to write a blogpost until now? That's right, me. I went on holiday to Moscow with my younger brother and had a great time! And based on my experiences I will give you some things to keep in mind when travelling to Moscow (or any other big city).
1. The language barrier
Before we went to Moscow I already was informed that not many people spoke English in Russia. I was expecting to have to keep things simple in terms of communication, but what I was not expecting was that most people did not speak one single word of English. This made things quite difficult. However, I did come prepared. I downloaded an offline Russian dictionary app and I downloaded the Russian dictionary on the Google Translate app. Especially the latter is great because not only does it allow you to translate offline (since we didn't have wifi in most places and data was too expensive), it also allows you to use the camera function to live translate signs and other written things. This helped us on a few occasions. So if you go to another country with a foreign language I definitely recommend doing this.
2. Finding your way
There is one app that saved our asses during this trip: citymapper. Citymapper is an app that allows you to get around in a city of your choice (it goes by location). It works on wifi but what I did was to save all possible trips for offline use when at the hotel. The evening beforehand my brother and I would pick out three things we would be visiting the next day and I would map out the entire route and save all public transport trips in the offline mode of citymapper. Even when offline it tracks your location so that when you have to walk from a busstation to the actual address it can give you the route and tell you where to go. It shoes the possible public transport options as well as the duration of the trip. At one point I found that it also gave me reminders like "get off at the next stop". I definitely recommend that app for travelling anywhere.
In Russia they use Russian roubles. Now if you're used to a currency like Euros, Dollars or Pounds, you'll very quickly find that everything is super cheap. We managed to do groceries for around €12 which here would've cost us at least €20 if not more. However, it's easy to get lost in this and end up spending way more than planned. So I advice you to beforehand calculate how many roubles is one Euro/Dollar/Pound/whatever it is you use. You can check the currencies online. By doing this you can quickly calculate how much something approximately costs before buying it. I also advice paying with cash. Not that my card didn't work, but it helps you keep better track of how much you've spent. And only get cash at actual banks, not random ATMs on the street. This goes for any country, honestly.
4. Watch your stuff
I always take a small backpack with me when travelling because I always carry things like a water bottle, food and a power bank. However, I keep my valuables close to me. In Moscow I kept things like my phone, debit card, cash, passport and hotel keys in a small travel bag that was hanging around my neck. This way it'll be very hard to steal. Also a side tip for the photographers out there: buy a camera holster. It saves a lot of neck pain.
5. Enjoy the city!
Going to Moscow or any big city can be stressful because you don't know the way, the language or how dangerous it can be. I have to admit, the first day I'm always a bit nervous because of these things. But after that I completely relax and just have fun. So try to let go of your worries and just have fun! Also try some of the local food and buy a cheesy souvenir. There's nothing wrong with being a typical tourist.
I also made a vlog documenting my trip, which you can watch below!
I love travelling. If I have time and money I always try to plan a city trip of some sorts. But when you're new to travelling it might seem a bit overwhelming just thinking about everything you gotta plan. So I've made a list of tips to make sure you'll have to worry a little less.
Booking a flight and hotel
When booking a flight and a hotel you're aiming for getting the best for the cheapest price. I've found that booking a flight through the website of the airline is cheaper than using a mediator site. This is because the site often includes a fee in the price for their services. Also, booking a couple months in advance will often get you cheaper tickets. And on top of that, certain days or periods of the year can be cheaper or more expensive than others. So when you book a couple months in advance you can easily compare the prices for each date and based on that you can book. If you have a job you'll then have plenty of time to request those days off.
When it comes to a hotel I usually search on booking.com. It's just easy to compare all the different hotels and their facilities. Keep in mind that you want the hotel to be somewhat in the city center, or at least near public transport. So check the location of the hotel first. Personally I've never used an airbnb, purely because I don't want to worry about whether or not the place I'm gonna stay is any good or not. I always book a hotel with the thought in mind that I'm there to sleep and to relax. So I don't need many facilities and fancy things. As long as I can rest there and shower I'll be happy (and of course I'd like it to be clean).
Preparations before travelling
A few things you should always check when travelling somewhere is whether or not you need a visa and if you need any vaccinations. And if you're like me and using medication, you should check if you need a special form for that too. Another thing you should do is look up some words and sentences in the language of the country you're going to. Before I went to China I downloaded an offline dictionary app. It proved very useful when I needed to ask things like "where's the toilet?" because I would just type in the word "toilet" and show the other person the translated word. I know that in a lot of European capitals people generally speak English quite well, but that's not always the case, so you should do some research on that.
Another thing that's worth researching is travel. How are you gonna get from the airport to the hotel? Often airports are quite far away from the city center, so you need to travel to the city. You could of course get a taxi, but as someone who travels alone a lot I prefer not to use a taxi because of the risks that it's a fraudulent one. Instead I research on how to get to the hotel by public transport. The Google Maps app is quite useful for this and I often take screenshots of multiple routes. I also always put the address and phone number of my hotel in my phone (if needed, in the language of the country and in English), that way you can show it to someone if you get lost.
And lastly, before I go on a city trip I make a list of things I wanna see and do. I look up the addresses of the places I wanna go and put those in my phone. It saves you the struggle of having to look things up with possible shitty wifi, wasting time you could be spending on actually doing fun things.
On the day you're travelling you should try and be as relaxed as possible. Because you've made all the preparations you know where to go and what to do. When your flight has landed and you're on your way to the hotel, you need to keep a few things in mind.
First of all, watch your stuff. I always act as if everyone around me is a thief, ready to steal my stuff. It sounds silly, but actual thieves will recognise that you're a tourist and will take advantage of that. So be wary of your surroundings.
Second, don't go with strangers. Ever. If someone offers to take you somewhere, just tell them to give you directions. You can ask a stranger for help, but just don't go with them. Who knows where they might take you. Also while travelling, keep your friends or family updated on where you are. When I travelled through London at night I updated my family on where I was going. I sent texts like "I'm now at Luton Airport Parkway waiting for the train to West Hampstead." "I'm now on the underground to Uxbridge." By doing this, people will know where you are at what time. I've recently read something that said that it's better to give these updates not in real time, in case someone has hacked your phone or following your social media (in case you're posting updates there). It's pretty good advice which I will definitely follow from now on. I also have "find my iphone" turned on and "send last location" (this sends the location of my phone to Apple when the battery is low). I believe there are similar settings on Android phones.
When at the destination
When you've safely arrived at the hotel you can relax a bit. Pick one of the things of your "must see" list, use Google Maps to figure out how to get there, and have fun. Usually I pick things from my list the evening before and map out a travel route: how to get from thing A to B to C by using public transport, involving multiple routes. This saves me a lot of time when I wanna go from A to B.
Keep in mind that while sightseeing you should keep your personal belongings close. I usually wear my backpack in front of me. My phone is never in my pocket unless my hands are in there as well, and I try to make sure my wallet is in the middle of my bag so people would have to dig if they tried to pickpocket me.
Try to act like a local, like you know the city. Don't stand somewhere looking around with a confused look on your face. Go sit down and look up the route on your phone, appearing to be texting. Try to stay in the crowd, especially at night. Watch your drinks when you go clubbing or to a bar, and once again: don't follow strangers.
I know this all may seem like a lot of things to keep in mind and it seems like it will spoil the fun. But once you've become more confident in travelling you'll notice that these things come naturally. You can enjoy a trip by yourself, or with friends, as long as you're aware of the risks. Once you're sure that you've got everything under control you can have a stress-free vacation.
Do you have any travel tips? Let me know in the comments!
So during the Christmas holiday I went to Austria, which was very fun! I intended to post pictures here, but I decided that I might as well just post my vlog here! So here is my Austria vlog. I hope you'll enjoy it!
Long time no see! I have been very busy with all kinds of things, I travelled a lot, first to the UK to see my boyfriend, then to Prague for my parents' 25th anniversary, and then to China for a study trip!
Now I could make a whole report here about the travels, but that would make such a long read. So instead, I have some travel vlogs for you to watch. Enjoy!
As promised, here is the video report of Animecon! I had so much fun that I forgot to film a lot, so it's kinda short. But I hope it gives you an impression of what it was like!
Yesterday I did another costest (cosplay test) for Juuzou Suzuya (from Tokyo Ghoul) and it worked out quite well! I'm planning on cosplaying him on Abunai con. I hope to make a report of Abunai as well when the time comes.
Below are some pictures of the costest and pictures that were taken of me and my friend at Animecon!
Last Wednesday I went to visit Clingendael, which is a large park, and a beautiful one at that too. I originally went there to visit the Japanese garden that is located within the park, but I ended up having a look around the entire park. Don't feel like reading? Scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the travel vlog I made!
The Clingendael estate has been around for centuries, and is located in Den Haag (the Hague). It has different gardens, one of which a Japanese garden which is only accessible for 6 weeks a year. When I went to the estate I only was planning on visiting the Japanese garden. But this one turned out to be quite small, so I ended up walking around the entire park.
While walking I felt a great sense of relaxation wash over me. There weren't any sounds of daily life present, just the whispers of the other people and mainly the singing of the many birds that have made their home at the park. Only when you near the edges of the park you can vaguely hear cars in the distance. But being so closed in by nature really felt great.
There are many different flowers and plants, in all colours and sizes. I was completely in awe, and at the end of the journey I felt sad that I had to leave. I would definitely want to live in that park!
Although the Japanese garden is small, it is absolutely stunning. I had never seen a Japanese garden before, but it made me only more eager to visit Japan. It just has this peaceful feeling, and I love that. It's only open for 6 weeks a year because of the fragility of the plants and flowers. So I visited just in time.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of birds at the estate. And I managed to capture some of them up close! Especially the herons made me smile. I managed to get real close to them and I just felt so happy. Which is weird, because usually birds don't interest me that much.
And I had a wonderful lunch! There's this small lunchroom that serves coffee, tea, and all kinds of other drinks. And they have sandwiches, cakes, and more. It was a little pricey, but surely delicious!
Would you want to visit this park? And have you visited something similar? Let me know! Also don't forget to watch my vlog and maybe subscribe too ;-)