Spontaneous Weekend – Cartagena, Colombia

Adventures, Blog, Budget, Cartagena, Travel

Decided to go on an extended weekend getaway to beautiful Cartagena, Colombia. Flew from Miami (MIA) to Cartagena (CTG) which is roughly a 3 hour flight. Stayed in Bocagrande, which was recommended as one of the best locations to stay in Cartagena, as well as the safest. The hotel we stayed was “Oz Hotel” and literally had the most outstanding customer service I have had in a while – highly recommend staying here. Its a relatively small hotel, with no pool, but recently renovated and to be honest the location makes up for it. We paid about $160 for 4 nights/5 days for 2 people (which is about $40 per night). We booked the flights separately as booking flight and hotel together was a bit more expensive, believe it or not. We booked flights for $260 per person through Sky-Scanner and hotel through Expedia (flying from a Thursday night to a Monday Morning). Make sure you do your research and try avoiding bookings during the weekends (as prices tend to escalate). I usually like to do the bundle save through Expedia, but booking it separately we were able to save about $150 per person. Both flight and hotel came out to $350 /person (not too bad for a long weekend abroad?).

Day 1: booked the sightseeing “hop on and hop off” bus in Cartagena, that way we avoided paying for taxi’s to get around – $36,000 pesos (each Colombian peso = to $2,800 for each US dollar). So we paid around $13 /person for a 2 day pass and we were able to hop off and on as many times as we wanted. We stopped at the old town to explore and talk with locals and took some colorful pictures.

At night we went to dinner to a spot right next to our hotel called “Da Pietro, Bocagrande Restaurante Italiano & Pizzeria – highly recommend this restaurant for their outstanding customer service (specially our waiter Jaime) and their delicious pastas and homemade pizzas. Prices are also very affordable ranging from $5-10 for a plate of pasta and $5 for a personal pizza. After dinner, we got our party clothes on and went on the Chivas Bus (Colombian party bus). The bus cost us around $35,000 pesos (around $12.5 US/person). Hotel pick up and drop off was included on the reservation (which we made with the hotel front desk). We were picked up around 8pm with live music and drinks. We drove around town picking up other people from other hotels who had also reserved the same bus. Highly recommend this experience as you meet people from all over the world, with live music and refreshing drinks. We then headed to the “Ciudad Vieja” located inside of Torre del Reloj, where you can find some great dancing spots (especially for those Salsa lovers).

Day 2: we arranged a trip to the beautiful islands of Playa Blanca and Playa Baru. We also booked this day trip through our hotel – which cost us around $71,000 pesos ($25 dollars /person). The trip included pick up and drop off from hotel, a light breakfast, lunch and tour around 4 different beaches. We took off around 7:30 am and didn’t get dropped off until 6pm. Honestly worth every penny, the experience was so worth it. We originally wanted to go to Santa Marta but it’s about a 6 hour drive from Cartagena, and unfortunately our stay was way too short to make it there and back in one day (but hey perfect reason to go back). Beware of the sellers out on the beach trying to offer you free massages, conchas (oysters), to braid your hair… as these items/services are not free. Be sure that if you want to try something out that you actually want buy it. You can also bargain with them, so make sure they are not taking advantage that you are a tourist.

Day 3: we went to “Castillo San Felipe” which was a 10 minute drive from our hotel. This place was absolutely unreal… so much history all in one place. The sights are also breathtaking, as you can see most of Cartagena once you get to the top of the Castillo. The entrance costs around $2-5 dollars, depending on the day (make sure to wear comfortable shoes and a hat to cover yourself from the sun). Afterwards we walked to “Getsemani town,” the art district of Cartagena, and we were amazed with how much color and authenticity these streets have – most hostels are located in this town.

Later on in the afternoon the day felt perfect to go to “Cafe del Mar” to watch the sunset and have a few drinks. For all those sunset lovers, this place is an absolute must!!! The energy is great and you feel so relaxed and connected to the culture. Make sure to get there early, as they open up at 5pm and the seats get booked pretty fast. There’s no cover charge and the drinks are reasonably priced (ranging from $8-20 dollars). The service is also outstanding, very friendly staff. This placed definitely was the perfect ending to our weekend getaway in Cartagena.

In conclusion to our trip, we brought $300 dollars each to spend, and we were able to do all the activities and more than we intended. Overall with hotel, flight and activities we spent $650 each. Could have possibly saved a bit more money by planning/booking the activities beforehand, but we didn’t want to have everything planned out until we got to our destination.

Hope your stay in Cartagena is as wonderful as ours was.

I hope my travel/ budget friendly tips help!

Top 3 Places to Visit in Cuba

Adventures, Beaches, Blog, Budget, Cuba, Nature, Travel

La Habana

Cuba’s capital and top destination to travel; especially if you want to learn about the countries amazing culture, and better yet, take yourself back in time to the 1960s. If you are staying in the capital for a few days, I highly suggest visiting the old & new part of the city – to get a feel of the real Cuba. We stayed in an Airbnb in La Habana for around 3 days with a breathtaking view of the “Malecon”, or coastline. The entire apartment to ourselves was also a plus (paid about $124 dollars, 3 days / 2 people). Our host, Milagros, was very resourceful and arranged a private taxi to get us around town. The most convenient thing about staying there was the insanely economic restaurant on the 1st floor of the building where they served breakfast/lunch and dinner with prices so low it was almost suspicious!

More sightseeing : “El Malecon”, “El Capitolio” and “Morro Castle” literally all located in the center of La Habana.

You could take a taxi, but I recommend you walk around for a better perspective of the city. Make sure to walk around “Paseo del Padro,” which will lead you to where most of the convertible taxis are located. Here you could rent a driver to take you around town and take some pretty cool pictures with these stunning mid-1900 convertibles (make sure to bargain with them to get a rental for a reasonable price). 

The best thing about walking around is stumbling upon different restaurants/bars for a quick snack or refresher (make sure to try their mojitos and a cold Bucanero – their famous beer).

Cuevas Saturno & Varadero

Varadero is approximately a 2-hour drive from La Habana (if traffic isn’t too bad). On our way there, it was highly recommended to stop at Cuevas Saturno for a quick swim. The driver our host Milagros set us up with was the one who took us (he charged us $80 dollars for 2 people). We made a quick stop to plunge into by far the coldest water I have ever felt. The water was crystal clear to the point you could see the bottom of the cave, about 20 – 25 feet below. We paid $5 CUC (about $5 dollars) to enter the caves for roughly an hour. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, as you have to take a short hike through the jungle before arriving to the cave.

After the cave, we drove about another 30 minutes to Varadero. I recommend this beach as an absolute must see if you visit Cuba. Never in my life have I witnessed water so clear, and I’m from the Caribbean! The entrance is totally free, and you have plenty of room to settle down once you get there (make sure to take beach towels, as they do not have rentals – unless you go to stay at a hotel nearby). After settling in, we honestly just relaxed most of the day in the water.

Viñales Valley

We wanted to get a feel of the “campo,” or country side, during our stay in Cuba, so we booked another Aibnb (or Casa Particular) in Viñales.We stayed with a family that was very welcoming and took care of us every single day as if we were their own blood. We were located in Pinar del Rio, right in the center of ViñalesIn this casa particular, we had our own private room and bathroom, and breakfast/lunch or dinner at an additional cost (the food was fresh and delicious). While staying here, you must visit “Valle de Viñales,” go horseback riding through the mountains and to their cigar and coffee farms. We were able to book these activities once we got there, that way we could bargain down the price a bit. We also visited a hotel called “La Ermita” where you could pay $8 CUC to have access to the hotels pool at the top of a mountain with amazing views of the entire pueblo of Viñales (highly recommend going here for at least a day). I also suggest dining at “Restaurante – Bar Buena Vista” for some delicious and authentic Cuban food.

If you are in the mood to dance and enjoy good quality music, visit “Centro Cultural Polo Montanez”, where you pay only $1 CUC and have access to a live band that plays from 9pm to midnight! Here you will dance until your calves hurt, but you will surely feel the music culture that is Cuba take over you (yes they do have dancers who help you learn a few salsa moves).We honestly enjoyed Viñales the most as the nature lovers that we are.

Some tips to remember before traveling to Cuba:

  • A Visa is needed before traveling (the Airline you book your ticket with could sell you the Visa, which ranges from $80 to $120 dollars. You could also purchase the Visa the day of your flight before check-in.
  • The currency used in Cuba is CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is equal to $1 US dollar. Make sure to exchange your funds to cash at the airport, once you land in Cuba. It’s very difficult to use credit cards here, so I suggest you use all cash.
  • Transportation is relatively easy, but be careful with some taxi drivers who try to scam tourists. We were lucky enough to arrange all of our transportations with the hosts from the Airbnbs that we stayed at.

Weekend getaway to jaco, Costa rica

Adventures, Beaches, Blog, Budget, Costa Rica, Nature, Travel

Ohhhh Costa Rica, a beautiful country with the greatest wildlife, food & people. I always wanted to visit this particular destination, due to all the positive feedback travelers promote. It’s a place full of ecotourism, adventure, sun, beaches, wellness, and the list goes on. There’s honestly so much to do in Costa Rica, that it’s impossible to only visit once.

We decided to travel to Jaco, Costa Rica for an extended weekend. We chose this particular destination, because we enjoy the beaches the most.

 We flew from Miami to San Jose (SJO) – roughly a 4 hour flight. Thankfully, we had our driver Carlos pick us up and drop us off in Jaco,who charged us $80 – round trip. (A friend of a friend, provided us with his information, and he was honestly so resourceful and friendly). He even stopped in Garabito at a river to see the crocodiles (talk about wild). He also provided us with helpful tips to get around in order to stick to our budget (for example: buses to take and places to eat).

Our reservation was from a Thursday to a Monday at the Oceano Boutique Hotel & Gallery. Located right in the center of Jaco, close to the beaches and shops. We were lucky enough to check-in early in the afternoon, and assigned a cozy room with a pool view (let me tell you…this was honestly the best part of my mornings… seeing this view with the mountains in the background). Since we were on a budget, we did the bundle savings of booking Flight & Hotel together and booked this trip through Expedia – paid around $650 per person. A bit high due to us traveling during their dry season & also peak season.

We ate at this delicious place called “Soda Garabito”, where you could get a plate of rice, beans, chicken and drink – all for just $3 dollars (around $2,000 Colones per person). Conversion is as follows $1 dollar = $597 Colones. This place is buffet style, with a different menu every single day (the good thing is that you get to eat different every time). We honestly tried eating here every single day, at least for lunch time (the food was to die for). After our meal, we decided to walk around town and watch the sunset in Jaco Beach (Breathtaking).

At night we wanted to try out a new spot to eat, which was highly recommended called “Ridiculous Burgers”. Prices were between $3,000 – $12,000 Colones (Approximately $5-$20 dollars). All I have to say is, what a delicious burger! Highly suggest trying out this spot for all those burger lovers.

We went on a day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. It was way too expensive to take a taxi, so we decided to take the public bus. It costs us around $2 dollars ($1,000 Colones) per person –round trip. Once we got to Manuel Antonio, we went to Playa Espadilla all day –it was honestly so relaxing to hear the waves, hear the animals and to simply be alive to witness so much beauty. We went parasailing and drank a few Pina Coladas right on the beach. We later had lunch at “El Avion” – where you are literally eating inside of an airplane (prices were a bit more expensive, being that it was located in a touristic zone). The view here was also to die for – be aware of the monkeys, trying to look for food! On our way back to the hotel, we had a quick stop in Quepos, where we witnessed another beautiful sunset. It’s amazing how people go outside, with their families around 5pm, to sit down at the beach and watch the sunset.

During our last day, we went to “La Marina, los Suenos”to eat and watch another lovely sunset. See in Costa Rica, they truly enjoy nature, and watching sunsets with loved ones is a must. I am so glad that I was able to do so every single day during our stay.

“PURA VIDA”

6 Budget Friendly Tips for traveling Abroad

Adventures, Blogger, Budget, Travel

Research everything about your destination – currency | food | transit?

Research about the country you are traveling to… 

Find out what type of currency they use and if the chosen destination is affordable… so that way you are able to coordinate your budget.

For currency exchange, I advise to do so once you land at your destination. Depending on the place, sometimes it’s best to exchange cash at the airport of arrival, if not at a local town where the hotel/apartment is located. I also advise, not to change all of the money brought to the destination, just in case you might need some funds on your way back home (Always leave some cash reserved, just in case).

I personally do not like using my Debit card or Credit card, due to a currency exchange fee charge.  Also, sometimes the bank might lock the account due to possible fraud. If you are planning on using your cards while being abroad, make sure to notify the organization, so that they could activate it during your stay.

For instance, when I researched about Thailand, I wanted to figure out food prices, what type of transportation to use, what places to avoid and what not. I advise for every traveler to do the same, especially if they are traveling to a country with a different culture / way of living.

Best time to travel – dry or wet season?

Pick out the dates you would like to travel – keep in mind that if you are traveling outside of the United States, book preferably 4-12 weeks before traveling. Figure out what’s the best time to travel there… some countries have dry & wet seasons.

For example,Thailand has their dry season from late November until March, then their wet season starts from March to October. It really all depends on the itinerary you have planned, if you are looking for hot/sunny days, make sure to look for dry seasons.

What are the best sites to use while booking?

Search for different sites to book your trip, such as travelocity.comexpedia.com, hotels.com, booking.com  (personally, these sites are the ones that offer the most competing prices).

I mainly use Travelocity and Expedia. The cool thing about using these sites, it’s that it gives you bundle savings- when you book hotel and flight together. It also lets you book your hotel for part of your stay, if you are one of those travelers who doesn’t like staying in one particular place.

I personally like to move around and explore the town I’m staying at, so I would then chose the option of “I only need hotel for part of my stay” and it will still give me those savings needed to stick to a budget.

Another cool thing about Expedia, it’s that they have a program called Affirm- see link –(http://www.affirm.com), which lets you finance your trips for 3-12 months. This is a very cool thing to use, because it gives you the option to make monthly payments on an upcoming trip, without having to pay everything due up front. Using Affirm helped us tremendously when we booked our trip to Thailand, being that it costs around $910 p/person (with flight and hotel included). Affirm charges you a small interest percentage… for instance they charged us $2,080 dollars in total for my boyfriend and myself – which turned out to be around $200+ in interest charge, for a whole year (honestly I don’t think they have any Credit card that would charge that bit of interest throughout a whole year)

Does the DAY of booking matters?

Try to avoid looking for future trips on the weekends, as prices tend to be a bit higher than usual. I preferably like to search for flights/hotels on Tuesdays. There’s just something about Tuesdays that gives you extra savings.

   There is an article attached that emphasizes as to why that may be. (See link) https://www.alternativeairlines.com/blog/cheapest-day-to-buy-flights

Are Airbnb’s affordable?

If traveling with a big group, maybe look into Airbnb, which gives you the option to book a whole apartment or house for multiple people. It’s a great way to save money, due to everyone’s sharing one place. Part of our stay Thailand, we booked an Airbnb through Serenity Residences in Rawai, Phuket – where we paid a total of $849 for 5 people… it turned out to be around $172 dollars per person, for 5 days. We had access to our own Jacuzzi, kitchen, and bedrooms with attached bathrooms & access to our own balconies. See the nice thing about renting a house or apartment, is that you feel like you are at home but during your stay abroad…I like to think that i’m not a tourist but a traveler.

Which airlines are best to travel with?

For long flights, where you are going to be sitting down for extended period of time – make sure to use an airline that is comfortable & affordable. Some airlines charge extra for checked bags,so chose carefully. For example, although Spirit is very cheap to fly in, oftentimes provides poor customer service, delayed or cancel flights and charges extra for your luggage – in other words, you get what you pay for. I’d rather pay the extra money, so that I’m able to fly comfortably. But, if you are just trying to get a cheap fair for in state destination, maybe this airline would be the cheapest. 
I suggest researching reviews on the airlines before traveling, to make sure your needs are being accommodated.

Why do you love Traveling?


“Remember that happiness is a way of travel – not a destination.

Best places to visit in Bangkok, Thailand

Blogger, Budget, Thailand, Travel

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CD502342-D911-4483-A795-1ABD8B973BAEBangkokThailand’s capital and main city to visit.

I would highly suggest visiting the fascinating temples: Grand Palace (Residence & Museum), Wat Phra Kaew (where the Reclining Buddha is located), Wat Arun (Riverside Temple). It’s amazing how much art and color is seen in these temples, the feeling its indescribable. You can easily has access to all these temples for as long as you want, with an entry charge of roughly $100 Baht, per location (every $1 = to $32 Baht). Most of the funds being charged, are used for donations & maintenance of these temples.

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If you are in the mood for shopping, definitely suggest visiting China Town or famous Khaosan Road. Be prepared to walk around crowded and congested roads, full of souvenirs and things to purchase. Main thing to remember – is to bargain with the sellers; their goal is to make a sale and have the customer leave satisfied. But, if you are not really feeling these outdoors shops (under 90 degree weather), another option would be to visit MBK Mall, which has 8 floors filled with stores and items you didn’t even know existed. If you are into buying electronics (such as phones, tablets, chargers, selfie sticks) would recommend visiting the 7th floor. On the first floor, they also have a small shop that can custom made your passport holder, for all my fellow travelers (cost around $100-$200 Baht with name and tags). Keep in mind prices are a bit higher than the outdoor shops.

Best nightlife spot to visit with a breathtaking view, was the Sky Bar – located in the center of Bangkok. It is a fancy rooftop bar, so make sure to dress up for the occasion. There is no cover charge, but drinks are overpriced, due to the location. I highly suggest going for the view and pictures, and maybe one cocktail or two – Be ready to pay around $25-$40 dollars, per person (approximately $800 – $1,400 Baht per drink). Additionally, there are taxes and gratuity included on the bill. But, to be honest the staff was so attentive, that every Baht spent was worth it. They also have a great DJ that made the atmosphere even more pleasant.