Travelling Tips

At the end of my last blog I mentioned that we have already decided on our next trip which starts with travelling to the northern tip of Norway to the town of Tromsø to witness the incredible natural phenomenon known as the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. This has been something that we have wanted to see for many years. Definitely a bucket list item! I thought that I would do a an update on our preparations for this trip as my Day 25 blog for the 30-day Challenge.

We took the first step in making plans for this trip in March of this year and during the year I have written blogs on how I prepare and how things have been going. The more preparation we do the more exciting it becomes. We have learnt to begin preparations early and read any fine print very carefully.

After an 8 day tour in Norway we take a train through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and Spain, spending a week in S. Spain before returning home after a month.

As South Africans we have to obtain a Schengen Visa, making an application through the country in which we shall spend the most number of days. A Schengen Visa is issued by those countries which are members of the European Union (EU) and once issued is used to travel freely between all EU countries as well as some which are not members but agree to recognise this. Norway, Denmark and Sweden are all in this category.

I also mentioned that we visited E. Europe last year. We entered via Sarajevo, Bosnia which also accepts a Schengen for a stay of up to 7 days. What I did miss in the fine print was that we had to enter from an EU country. We had flown on Turkish Airlines and come to Sarajevo from Istanbul. Turkey is NOT an EU country. We were refused entry which is very embarrassing. Everyone in the airport arrivals area watches as you are directed away from the passport queue. Once again, I believe that God was caring for us, as the Bosnian police were very helpful and allowed us to hop on a short flight to Zagreb, Croatia and catch the next plane back to Sarajevo. While waiting for the flight to Zagreb we were able to sit in the Business Lounge and help ourselves to eats and drinks. Not bad for illegal persons.

This time we are being very careful in each step we take. We have now booked and paid for everything except our visas for which we will apply in November. Thank goodness we pay for those in ZARands and not Euros as the exchange rate is currently mind boggling. When we paid our initial deposit in March the rate was R14.03 to the Euro and now it is R15.60!

Gradually I am putting together all the documentation that we require for our visas and this is quite a lot of papers. It includes passports, air tickets, confirmation of sufficient medical insurance, proof that we have roots here and will be returning, bank statements for the past 3 months (and because I do not have a regular income into my account Trevor has to sign a form that he will support me!), a detailed itinerary and proof of accommodation. Having applied for Schengen Visas 3 times before we are getting pretty good at what we need but each country has something different to keep us on our toes.

In the meantime we sit back and think about the cold weather we shall experience in the northern hemisphere. I just love to travel, anywhere and everywhere.th3IEQGJ2C

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Time to keep my promise of 2 days ago and tell you of a mishap with the train in Geneva.

Our few days in Geneva had come to an end and we were now on our way to Interlaken, between lakes, for 2 days before heading further north in Switzerland to visit friends. We checked out of the hotel and made our way across the tram lines and into the station once more.

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I thought that I would discuss forms of transport in the countries one is visiting. We ourselves have now used almost every form of transport in our travels and found advantages and disadvantages in each of them. These also change as one ages and your physical abilities change. I shall give some detail on the various forms of transport we have used and some of our experiences and then create a separate table of what we believe to be the advantages and disadvantages.

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As I have mentioned in a few of my articles, planning and preparation are so vital for when one has to travel, especially as we get older and I have been keeping you up to date with how we are planning for our trip to see the Northern Lights and other parts of Europe in December. This is now step 9 and once again there has been a flurry of activity in the past couple of weeks after a long period of quiet. The highlight of these was to get our Rail Pass to travel by train through Europe after our Norway Safari.

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Time is going too slowly but also very quickly. Suddenly it is just 4+ months to departure date and there is plenty to do and plenty to pay! We sat down earleir this week and worked out our finances and commitments for the next 4 months. It was a bit scary but also very comforting as we now have a clear path to follow to be sure that we can achieve what we are looking forward to.

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We all know the saying, “The best laid plans of mice & men often go awry”.  Well, it certainly is true when travelling. There can be transport delays, bad weather, distance to travel to a particular attraction can all make one have to reconsider their plans on any day. We have had to do this a few times but if you travel knowing that it is not all ‘plain sailing’, you can have great fun.

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Not sure whether to say yippee, there are only 160 days until we leave or, oh no, still 160 days before we hop on the plane on the 1st leg of our trip to see the Northern Lights.  Things are gradually coming together.

Once again Bjarni has surprised me. When I e-mailed him before my previous post he said that no bookings for the Aurora Safari Tour would be done until we had paid in full but just 2 days ago he wrote giving the names of the hotels we shall be staying at in Oslo and Bergen.  We have had the opportunity to look up their web pages and they both look very pleasant.  Also went on to Trip Advisor, an excellent, helpful and informative site, and am convinced that we will have a really great stay in each of these. It was also interesting to read comments by those who have already been on the Aurora Safari Tour and there are plenty of good reads.

What I like about Trip Advisor is that it puts in all the comments, good and bad and one can see various categories – singles, couples, families and groups. I should have checked comments by couples before making our Berlin booking last year. We stayed in a very nice hotel but it was definitely more for younger folk. No cupboard space except a small one next to the bed and what hangers there were did not cater at all to blouses or shirts. They were short pieces of thin wood in the shape of a bow. Then there were 3 geometrically-shaped hooks for hanging jeans, so we were told.  The hotel itself was spotless, well run and very friendly but we only saw employees who were probably under 25. It was the only place we stayed where there was good, free wi-fi  too.  wall hooks Berlin

Back to what has been planned so far. As I said above our hotels for Oslo & Bergen are now booked and from the comments on Trip Advisor, the good news is that they are very close to the station. I have also made bookings at hotels for our self-travel plans from when we leave Tromsø, Northern Norway all the way down to Fuengirola, Southern Spain. All bookings done through and the ones selected require no deposit, the cost is as at the day of booking and they allow one to cancel up to 6pm on the day of due arrival without any cost. 

There is only one city where I have not booked thus far, Barcelona where we plan to spend 3 nights. The reason I have not booked is because we like to have accommodation very close to the Central Station and I am trying to learn the name of the station as it would seem that there are 2 possibilities.  I have e-mailed the tourism bureau in Barcelona and am awaiting their reply. All added to the spreadsheets too!

Once that is done all accommodation will be booked. Still a few things after that to do but will probably only be done from early September – pay balance of tour costs, apply for visas, order Eurail Pass and other bits and bobs.  Yaay!!!  Exciting!!!

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In early 2000 my husband and I were invited to a presentation and if we attended, that is all we had to do they said, we would get a free trip to Mauritius. Being a lot younger and even less wiser, we agreed to attend. Since then we have learnt of so many others who were caught in the same trap. On our arrival at the hall where we had been told to meet, we discovered that it was a presentation on the purchasing of points for holidays in various resorts around South Africa and in neighbouring countries. Within a few years we were also able to book holidays on other continents in partnership with RCI (Resort Condominiums International).

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It has been a while since I wrote on the preparations and that is mainly because we are in the quiet period of preparation. We have planned our itinerary, the deposit on the tour has been paid and accepted, our air tickets have been purchased, we have confirmed our booking for the last week in Southern Spain and we are agreed on how and through which cities we are going to travel from Stockholm to Malaga.  It is hard to believe that 6 months from today we shall be in Trondheim, Norway. We get an extra day on board the boat because we will be travelling on Christmas Day. I understand that Christmas on these ships can be quite wonderful.

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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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