close

Germany

Goodbye 2011: Our year of travel in pictures

dani & jess at doi suthep temple chiang mai

Another unforgettable year is coming to an end – this time it is our second year as full-time travelers! We’ve literally been around the world this year and, rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, this Goodbye 2011 post will highlight our favorite pictures of the year, starting in Central America and ending in Thailand after stints in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

January 2011

As we mentioned in our Goodbye to 2010 post, we began the year at Lake Yojoa in Honduras, where we were the only guests at our hotel. 2011 started out as laid-back as can be…

January Lake Yojoa HondurasFor more January highlights, check out our Facebook album Best of 2011: January (Honduras & Nicaragua).

February 2011

Shortly after the start of the New Year, we moved on to Nicaragua – and fell head over heels in love with the country. The picture was taken in Masaya, just outside of Granada…one of Nicaragua’s most visited cities. Throughout the country, the horse and buggy is still a common and totally valid form of transportation – alongside cars, buses, SUVs, motorcycles and bicycles.

february nicaragua masaya church &horse carriageFor more February highlights check out our Facebook album Best of 2011: February (Nicaragua & Costa Rica).

March 2011

After three relaxing weeks in Costa Rica we made our way to Panama and were most impressed with the Casco Viejo area of Panama City (check out our picture post of Casco Viejo). We resisted actually picking up a Panama hat, but couldn’t resist photographing them. Panamanians have certainly got style!

March Panama hats in Casco Viejo panamaFor more March highlights check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: March (Costa Rica, Panama & Germany).

April 2011

Going from six months in the developing countries of Central America to visiting the mighty castles of Germany was an extreme contrast. This is what we love most about our nomadic lifestyle! At the end of the month we completed our first year on the road (find out how much we spent in one year of travel here).

april neuschwanstein castle bavaria germanyFor more April highlights check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: April (Germany, Austria & Italy)

May 2011

In Spring we traveled in Europe, from Germany and Austria to a few weeks in Tuscany. While we were both blown away by the romance of the countryside, the taste of the wine and the warmth of the locals, it was the pizza…the glorious pizza…that became the highlight of May 2011 for us.

may italy montaione pizzas & wineFor more May 2011 highlights including Jess with a group of aliens in Spain, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: May (Italy & Spain).

June 2011

In the first week of June, we went on our first ever cruise and followed that up by reaching 400 days on the road! Just a week later we would discover a city that could possibly, one day, be called home: Lisbon, Portugal. The Portuguese capital just ticks so many boxes – laid-back, sunny, warm, good (and cheap) coffee, beaches as far as the eye can see, plenty of history and oozing with charm. What struck us most was how similar Lisbon is to San Francisco. We spent three fabulous weeks here in June (despite a near heart attack experience that still has us cracking up).

june portugal lisbon tram 28For more June highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: June (Spain, Corsica, Portugal).

July 2011

From Lisbon we flew directly to Toronto to begin an entirely new North American chapter of our travels. We spent six weeks house-sitting outside of Ottawa. These weeks were filled with exploring adorable villages, peaceful sunset bike rides, evenings in the jacuzzi and hanging with the friendly neighbors drinking great Canadian micro-brews.

july kemptville ontario sunsetFor more July highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: July (Canada).

August 2011

August was truly an unforgettable month that brought us through Montreal, Quebec, Boston, and the start of our NYC2NOLA road trip through New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC on our way down to New Orleans. While we loved the freedom of the open road, it was our four nights in New York that dazzled us the most. There is just something about this concrete jungle that gets us every time.

For more August highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: August (Canada & USA).

September 2011

After four weeks and over 4,000 miles we finally made it to New Orleans in September. What we found when we arrived is a city with style, individuality and people with a zest for life and love of music like we’ve never experienced before. We could easily spend more than a week in the Big Easy…in fact we toyed with the idea of a few months here sometime in the future, too. On September 13th, just before reaching Chicago, we hit 500 days on the road.

september New Orleans voodoo skeletonsFor more September highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: September (U.S. Road Trip).

October 2011

And then we flew to the other side of the planet – for our first trip to South East Asia! We started in Thailand, and it was definitely a relief to gaze out at this crystal blue water after a few chilly weeks in Chicago and Colorado!

thailand long tail boats phi phi lei islandFor more October highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: October (Chicago, Colorado & Thailand).

November 2011

After finding a good place to settle down to work in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, we hopped a series of buses and boats to travel around northern Laos for the last two weeks of November. While the two countries have their similarities, we were struck by how much simpler life in Laos is compared to fast-paced and modern Thailand. We have learned so much since arriving in Asia, especially about Buddhism – and have become accustomed to sharing our daily lives with the hundreds of monks populating cities and villages across the Buddhist nations.

november young monks luang prabang laosFor more November highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: November (Thailand & Laos).

December 2011

The last month of 2011 marked a major milestone for us, as we hit 600 days on the road! In some ways it feels as though we have just started traveling. Looking back at everything we have done in these six hundred days truly feels like an accomplishment. One lesson we have learned is that in order to be happy as nomads, we need to know when to take longer breaks and relax. That’s why we booked ourselves in to an apartment in Chiang Mai for one month in December. We love this city, as it has everything we could ever need or want. We celebrated Christmas with friends, went on hikes, spent time with elephants, eaten endless veggie cuisine and learned so much about Thai culture and tradition.

december moat at sunset chiang mai thailandFor more December highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: December (Laos & Thailand).

Happy New Year 2012 to all our readers!

We would love for you to tell us about your travel highlights for 2011 in the comments below – we’re always on the lookout for new locations about where to travel next!

read more

Polaroid of the week: Renewing our energy in Germany

polaroidoftheweekphoto11

polaroid of the week germany wind turbinesAfter two months exploring New York, the two of us need some serious downtime, so it’s fitting that we are renewing our energy in Germany, a country leading the world in renewable energy.

The cynical might see the fields of wind turbines and solar panels as an eyesore, but for us this technology represents serious positivity and a kind of forward-thinking we rarely see as we travel the world.

President Angela Merkel, once a supporter of nuclear energy, has taken a complete turn toward renewables since the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe in Japan, and while the country is already at over 25% renewable energy in 2013, if the Energiewende, or energy transition, goal is met, this number will hit 80% by 2050.

Such a transition has hiccups, such as higher electricity bills for private homes, but poll after poll indicates that Germans would prefer to pay higher prices in the name leading the way to energy independence. First generation turbines are being swapped out for far fewer, much more powerful second generation machines (taller than a redwood tree) that are safer for wildlife. Today we drove past hundreds that were newly built in fields along the highway.

read more

Tops and Flops of 400 days of travel

Dani & Jess in Monterosso Cinque Terre

We spent a wonderful day in Madrid last Sunday, where we celebrated a major milestone – we’ve been on the road for 400 days now! Over tapas and beer in the Spanish capital, we reflected on the last 100 days, which we spent in Costa Rica, Panama, Germany, Italy, Spain and cruising the Mediterranean. As usual, there are always highs and lows throughout our travels. The past 100 days were filled with the highest of highs, and luckily no dramatic lows – read on for our Tops and Flops:

Top travel moments

House-sitting in a B&B in Tuscany

Before we ever set off as permanent travelers, we looked into house-sitting, thanks to this article in the Guardian newspaper. The journalist spent time house-sitting in an old Italian farmhouse B&B. From the moment we read this article, we had dreamt of doing exactly that, and although we have loved all of our other house-sits, we jumped at the chance to housesit in a Tuscan B&B, high up in the mountains between the medieval town of Barga and the buzzing city of Lucca. For ten days in April we explored northern Tuscany, sampled as much pizza as possible, and enjoyed our time in the cozy Italian farmhouse!

Borgo a mozzano Italy

Cruising the Mediterranean

We like to identify as long-term, budget travelers – the kind of travelers who stay for long periods of time in each location, learning and adapting to each new way of life. Spending a week on a cruise ship visiting a new port city each day certainly does not fall into this travel style, but when Jess’ parents invited us to join them on their Mediterranean cruise, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to test out such a different way of traveling.

Cruise ShipTo our surprise, it turns out that we really enjoyed it! After months of fairly hard-core travel through Central America and Mexico, and new hotel rooms every other day, we really appreciated a week of easy travel, comfortable beds, hot showers, the fitness center and spa, plus all the (really tasty) food were all included. The biggest disadvantage of a cruise (in addition to the extortionate wi-fi rates on board) is that you only get a teaser of each port of call, but since we had already visited nearly all the ports before, we just enjoyed the vacation and showing Jess’ parents some of our favorite places in Spain and Italy.

San Gimignano view

Seeing the Panama Canal

Dani has always been fascinated by ports and giant freight ships, so the Panama Canal was a definite highlight of the last 100 days. It was fascinating to witness these massive ships being lowered through the locks of the Panama Canal on their way around the globe, seeing first hand this element of international business and how we acquire the goods like cars, TVs, spices, fruits we have come to expect to be available to us every day.

Gatun locks Panama

The Top of Germany

During our time in Germany, we literally went all the way to the Top, so we just had to include this in our Tops section! We took a gondola up to the very top of the country’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, which is not only the highest mountain in Germany, but also forms part of the border between Germany and Austria. We spent some time watching snowboarders and skiers, eating a German dumpling meal and chugging down Bavarian Hefeweizen beer – which surprisingly tasted much better all the way up there!

Globetrottergirls on Top of Germany Zugspitze

Favorite places

Siena, Italy

This charming town in southern Tuscany combines postcard perfect medieval buildings and tradition with a modern urban feel thanks to the well-established university in town. This modest sized city has good shopping, great restaurants, cheap eats, and plenty of fun bars, but drive just five minutes outside of town, and you are back in the heart of the vineyards, cypresses and olive trees which make up the colorful Tuscan countryside.

Piazza di Campo Siena Italy

Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Panama City can be easily divided into two very distinct areas to explore. The skyscrapers that make up the Panama City skyline rival almost any U.S. city, and the people who live in this area have adopted an identical lifestyle – pimped out SUV trucks, fast-food joints, wide multi-lane city streets and strip malls galore. Head on down to Casco Viejo, however, and the feeling couldn’t be more different. Fully-restored buildings and their still dilapidated neighbors line tiny winding cobble stone streets. The area can feel European, and at the same time, with the Latin rhythms, Panama Hats and laid-back vibe Casco Viejo feels like how you imagine Havana, Cuba might feel. This was easily one of the memorable places we experienced throughout our last 100 days.

Casco Viejo Panama

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

This Caribbean town in Costa Rica has something to match everyone’s tastes, and without even a sliver of stress. We rented bikes and explored the stretches of nearly empty beaches, had overpriced fruity cocktail drinks in a fancy beachside bar, ate street food, and danced to reggaton with blurry eyes until late… we couldn’t have had a better time here!

Music with that Jessie chick in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

San Gimignano, Italy

The medieval town of 13 towers is the quintessential Tuscan town. It is walkable in a few hours and loaded with restaurants and shops selling everything from cheesy tourist trinkets to gorgeous pottery. Make sure to climb to the top of the Torre Grossa, the tallest tower, for breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and keep your eyes peeled for one of the many free wine-tastings available in town!

Plaza in San Gimignano Italy

Bavaria, Germany

We are unable to pick out just one place in Bavaria as our favorite. We just had a storybook time during our house sit in Germany. Neither of us has ever done much exploring in Bavaria before, and we enjoyed taking the time to get to know this very traditional and very green area of southern Germany. We took several day trips to Munich, Neuschwanstein Castle, the picturesque town of Fuessen, visited Innsbruck in Austria and even just strolling through the village we lived in, climbing the snow-covered mountain behind our house and seeing the monastery of Ettal was all really fun.

Bavarian village, Germany

Most disappointing places

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro comprise several tiny islands off Panama’s Caribbean coast, not far from the border to Costa Rica. We thought we would find gorgeous beaches and a purely Caribbean feel. In reality, the beaches are a bus trip or water taxi ride away, and some of those beaches charge to get in and are packed with people. The scenery was gorgeous, but having come from some amazing beaches in Costa Rica and Nicaragua’s Corn Islands, we were hoping for a bit more from all the praise Bocas had been getting from fellow travelers.

Bocas del toro street Panama

Florence, Italy

When it comes to Tuscany, Florence tends to be named as the city to visit, but we missed the ‘Wow’ factor we felt in other spots we visited in Tuscany. We found Florence to be overpriced, overcrowded with bus loads of tourists, and not as pretty as Siena, Lucca or San Gimignano. For art lovers, Florence can be the ultimate destination, as the city is home to the Uffizi gallery and the Academia, which both house incredible paintings and sculptures, as well as being home to an ornate Cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Most people love it, but the famous city didn’t inspire us as much as we thought.

Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati, Florence, Italy

The Panama Canal train ride

Sure, train rides in Central America are rate, nearly non-existent, and one along the Panama Canal sounds fascinating. But we say don’t bother getting up at the crack of dawn for this disappointing train ride along the canal. We had read about this train ride months before we even got to Panama, and descriptions such as luxurious and unforgettable experience really drew us in for the ride from the Miraflores Lock 50km cross country to the Gatun lock. Tourists are herded into one very old car on the train which may have been luxurious 50 years ago, but today feels run down. Very little of the ride offers actual views of the canal, and despite the luscious jungle and blue lakes, the hour-long ride for $22 is a one-way trip which leaves you in the undesirable town of Colon forced to make your way to a bus station to hop on a bus back to where you started.

Panama Canal Train Waggon

Travel recommendations

House-sitting

We recommended house-sitting before, but having had two more great house-sits in the last 100 days, we can only recommend it again. We are signed up with two house-sitting websites which has brought us to two places we wouldn’t have visited otherwise: a tiny German village in the Alps near the Austrian border and a cute Italian mountain village north of Lucca, plus in the very near future, a housesit in Canada, which was not on our itinerary either. Not only did we get to know these regions, but we also took advantage of having a house again for a while: our own kitchen, showers and toilets and having a car – all things we didn’t have while traveling through Central America for the last seven months. We also appreciated the fact that showers were always hot, we did not have to share the bathroom and we didn’t pay a penny for accommodation during that time.

Our home for two weeks - an Italian farmhouse in Tuscany

Car shares in Germany

Car-sharing, or carpooling, in Germany is a well-developed market, and just as common as taking a bus or a taxi. There are several websites for car-sharing, which allow you to search for drivers headed in your direction and book a ride with them, for not more than your fair share of the gas. We moved throughout Germany entirely using car-sharing, and we even went to Italy and back using the same websites and paying only 35 Euros per person instead of 229 Euros which we each would have paid for the train around Easter. Speaking German is a plus not only for reading the site but also when spending time in the car speaking to the wide variety of drivers and other passengers. However, enough Germans speak English well-enough to get you from A to B and save you a ton of money while traveling around the country.

Stay at Belmonte Vacanze

Our time in Tuscany easily competes as the absolute top of our 400 days of travel. There is no question that our overwhelmingly positive experience is due, in large part, to our time at the family-run Belmonte Vacanze holiday apartments, set in the perfect location for the perfect Tuscany farm holiday. Although it feels like you are staying at a villa in the deepest Tuscan countryside, Belmonte Vacanze is actually just a 15-minute drive from San Gimignano, Volterra, ten minutes from our new favorite little town of Montaione, 30 minutes from Siena, and you can even make it to the Tuscan coast and Pisa in 1 hour, and Cinque Terre within 2 hours. There is an on-site horse-riding facility, a large swimming pool, and our one-bedroom apartment which came equipped with everything we needed, including sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside and the friendliest owners we’ve come across yet!

Belmonte Vacanze holiday apartments in TuscanyWorst travel moments

Bank card fraud in Panama City

When Jess tried to use her debit card in Panama City, the ATM spit out her card, but no cash came out. After this happened four times at two different ATMs, we returned cashless to our hostel and checked the online bank statement: several hundred dollars had been withdrawn from Colombia, and as we were in Panama, not Colombia, we saw quickly some major fraud was in action. The bank (HSBC) was quick and efficient in returning the charges, but we were stuck without the only debit card that still worked after a series of debit card issues throughout the year. Luckily this happened one day before we flew to Germany, where we had a fixed address for long enough to get new cards sent over. Cash advances on our credit card ended up being very expensive though.

Top travel mishaps

Opening a bank account with a sh** bank

When we arrived in Germany we finally received our new Nationwide Bank debit cards which had been forwarded to us, after 5 months without being able to use our joint account. After the debit card fraud on our other account, we were more than happy to hold our new cards – the smiles on our faces disappeared quickly though when we read the bold print in the accompanying letter: This card can not be used for cash withdrawals abroad. I’m sorry, can you repeat that?!

We had opened our account with Nationwide in England just before we left on our trip because they were offering free international withdrawals – and now they changed their policy so that the cards can not even be used abroad. If you are from England and about to set off on a RTW trip – do not sign up with Nationwide. Nationwide sucks.

Bad planning: Arriving in Panama just in time for Carnival

When we crossed over from Costa Rica into Panama, we had just found out that all of Panama was celebrating Carnival, which is one of the biggest parties in the world. With the entire country on holiday, we crossed the border into the country on a day when no local buses running and hostels were completely booked. We ended up overpaying for a taxi to the ferry to Bocas del Toro, where we ended up spending a night together in the bottom bunk in a grungy hostel right next to the three-story mega-speakers of the main carnival stage in Bocas. Oops!

Bocas del toro carnival devil PanamaTop food moments

Italian Pizza at Il Ciampo, Montaione in Italy

During our stay in Italy it took us a while to find decent pizza. In fact, we didn’t even like the first few pizzas we ordered. However, the longer we stayed, the better the pizza was that we found! The best pizza that will stay with us forever in our memories of Tuscany was a mascarpone & tomato pizza and a rucola & parmesan pizza at Pizzeria Il Ciampo in the small town of Montaione near San Gimignano.

Pizza at Il Ciampi in Montaione Italy

Pretzels in Bavaria, Germany

Jess loves German soft pretzels, called Brez’n in Bavaria. Pretzels are equal to bread and are used for making any kind of sandwich or come with cheese baked on top. Jess had at least one pretzel every day throughout the seven weeks we spent in Germany off and on in the last few months – she can’t get enough!

Pretzels in Bavaria

Tapas at Restaurante Carmela in Seville, Spain

We always seem to find a great restaurant in Seville, and Restaurante Carmela is no exception. We filled the entire table with vegetarian tapas and were thankful for the long walk back to our hotel to help digest it all.

Delicious Tapas at Carmela in Seville Spain

Gelato in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre in Italy

We each had delicious gelato from a beach-side stand in Monterosso al Mare, but really, you can go to almost any gelateria in Italy and find delicious gelato – chocolate, strawberry, tutti-frutti and even some more exotic flavors such as zabaione and pistachio. Sure some places are better than others, but we did a lot of work as amateur gelato testers and have yet to find gelato that didn’t taste good!

Gelato in ItalyMore Tops & Flops:

Our Tops and Flops of 300 days of travel: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Our Tops and Flops of 200 days of travel: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador
Our Tops and Flops of 100 days of travel: Las Vegas, California, Arizona, Mexico

read more

Polaroid of the week: One of Bavaria’s best inventions: Pretzels!

polaroidoftheweekphoto11

;As our time in Bavaria comes to an end, and we prepare for the heavenly culinary delights of Tuscany, we realized how much we actually enjoyed the cuisine of Southern Germany! We indulged (too much!) in delicious German chocolate and Kaiserschmarrn (pancakes cut in little slices & served with apple sauce), devoured dumplings in mushroom sauce, developed a thing for a Bavarian cheese spread called Obatzda, gained a few pounds by eating too much cheese spatzle and not to forget the famous Hefeweiss beers!

And of course we had countless pretzels (or ‘Brezn’, as it is called in German) which are available in all sizes and varieties at each and every bakery. You can get XXL pretzels, pretzel balls, croissant pretzels, even entire baguettes made of pretzel. They make ’em with salt, no salt, sesame seeds, even pumpkin seeds and fill them with chocolate, cover them in cheese and pineapple or cut them in half with an inch-thick layer of butter in the middle.

We made sure to try as many different kinds of pretzels as possible and we officially vote them our number one food of Bavaria!

read more

How to get around Germany on the Cheap

Dani and Jess in Germany

Even though Germany is compact, the main cities are flung right across it in all directions. On any given trip, you’ll likely have to take at least a couple of mid-length trips. Travel within Germany can be pricey – but only if you don’t plan in advance. As long as you know your travel dates and all your options, you can cut down your travel costs to a fraction of what they would be otherwise – traveling Germany on the cheap is possible!

During the couple of months I spend in Germany every year, I have used every transportation option myself and have compiled them all here for you to know your options and to help you get the best prices on transportation to get around Germany, find the cheapest ways to travel Germany, and other useful money-saving tips.

How to travel around Germany on the cheap

travel around Germany on the cheap

Trains in Germany

You might dream of traveling Europe by train and nowhere is train travel more comfortable or efficient than Germany. But prices have skyrocketed in the last few years. There are still good deals to be had, but these usually are only valid for the slow regional trains, not the slick, ultramodern high-speed ICE trains, and involve changing trains at least once during your journey.

Either way, you need to book in advance. Show up at the train station today and try to book a train form Munich to Berlin, and you’ll have to fork out €125. If you book this journey two weeks in advance instead, you can get the same ticket for as low as €29, which is almost €100 cheaper!

The Deutsche Bahn website has a good English language section where you can check train times and prices, but you will still have to know the German names of the cities or you won’t be able to search, i.e. München instead of Munich, Köln instead of Cologne.

trains in germany
Trains in Germany

Look beyond the standard tickets it offers as well. If you’re traveling in a group of six or more people, check out Deutsche Bahn’s group saver fare. Another great offer is the Weekend ticket which allows you to take up to 4 people with you – the entire ticket is €44, so divided by five, this breaks down to €8.80 per person. There are more Saver Tickets, like a Day Ticket that lets you ride trains in all of Germany for €44. You can check out all Deutsche Bahn Saver Tickets here.

Some cities also offer special ‘tourist cards’, like the Cologne WelcomeCard which is €9.90 and offers 24 hours of free travel on all trains, subways, buses and trams in Cologne, plus discounts of up to 50% on museums, tours and attractions.

travel germany on the cheapDeutsche Bahn offers Germany-only rail passes (as opposed to the popular European rail passes many use) but we find them to be pretty expensive compared to all the other ticket options, unless you plan to take the train often or are under 25.

Buses in Germany

The Deutsche Bahn effectively held a monopoly on public transportation until January 1, 2013, which is when German law allowed the creation of private companies to compete with the DB. Since then, several bus companies have popped up with much cheaper tickets compared to the train, making bus travel in Germany suddenly a very attractive option.

If you decide, with two days notice, to go from Frankfurt to Munich, the train starts at €69 ($92). Bus fares for the same journey start at €20 ($26).

summer in germanyBuses from Berlin to Leipzig are €6, Berlin to Hamburg €9, or €22 for a ticket all the way down to Munich. You can even go all the way to Innsbruck in Austria from Munich for as low as €8! Check out Flixbus or consider EuroLines for international routes. We compared bus prices for our routes using Omio. The site has an overview of which buses cover which routes and compares costs of each company – the site is super easy to navigate and the comparison tool will save you so much money.

Just type in your date and your origin and destination, and it will show you a list of all your options and how much they cost. Then you can head straight to the website of the provider of your choice and book your trip there. It’s important to book your trips in advance, since similar to budget airlines, prices go up closer to the date of travel.

By the way: Omio doesn’t only compare bus prices, but it shows you all available options: buses, trains and flights. You can sort the results by cheapest, smartest and fastest, and sometimes there are flights that are nearly as cheap as the bus tickets (see screenshot below).

how to get around germany on the cheap

Carpooling in Germany

Around the same price as a bus, sometimes even cheaper and always cheaper than the train, are Germany’s many carpooling services. Carpooling is very popular in Germany – not surprisingly since it relies on a green mentality and is common sense. Drivers have extra seats in their car, you need to get to the same destination – why not split the cost of gas and drive together?

Drivers post their trip on a carpooling site, including departure time and per-passenger cost. People looking for rides along the same route call, text or get in touch via the website to book a seat. Most of these sites have an English version and even offer rides on European routes, like Berlin – Warsaw, Munich – Florence or Hamburg – Stockholm. Some of our favorite carpooling websites include BlaBlaCar, Mifaz, and Drive2day for all of Europe (all in English). If you speak German, you’ll benefit from an even wider variety, with services such as BesserMitfahren or Fahrgemeinschaft.de.

carpooling germany
Our comfy carpooling ride which we found on BlaBlaCar.

The advantage of carpooling over buses is that you can be very spontaneous – deciding to head from Frankfurt to Stuttgart tomorrow? No problem, you’ll definitely still find a ride at the same price as an advance bus ticket would cost.

Get a German SIM card for Carpooling, Hitchhiking and Wi-Fi

If you decide to carpool, you’ll need a cell phone to take calls and text about pick up points, etc. You can pick up a German SIM card for as little as €5 including credit (usually the card is free and comes with €5 credit) in the discount supermarkets such as Lidl or Aldi. Unfortunately, new anti-terrorist laws made a little bit more difficult to pick up a local SIM Card – the last time I bought one I had to have my passport on me, and it took a few days for the company to activate the SIM card which was done via video call so that they could see it was in fact me using the SIM card and not some terrorist.

But once you’ve activated your card, you just top it up as needed, and since rates are very competitive, you probably won’t use more than €10 credit per month. SIM cards with data are a little bit more expensive, but make sense if you want to use the carpooling, train or bus apps during your travels. Another advantage to having a German SIM is that while there is free Wi-Fi almost everywhere, often times you need to have a code texted to your cell for access. No cell phone, no free Wi-Fi – so avoid that catch-22 and get a German SIM card! In this article you find more comprehensive information on how to buy a SIM card in Germany, the different providers and price packages, etc.

Hitchhiking in Germany

Hitchhiking in Germany is way more widespread and socially accepted than in the U.S. and other countries. If you are on an extremely tight budget or just up for adventure, hitchhiking in Germany is possible, safe and a legitimate option. You can’t wait on the highway (Autobahn) itself, but you can wait at gas stations and at service areas along the highway. There are sometimes 10, 20, even more than 30 people at popular pick-up spots, so you might consider using websites like Hitchwiki to find a ride before you even leave.

road to the bavarian alps

Car rentals in Germany

If you don’t want to trust the daredevil German drivers with your life and prefer driving your own car, check out the special weekend offers from the big car rental companies such as Hertz, or check out Expedia-owned CarRentals.com for the best deals across all car rental companies. We have taken advantage of deals for €14.99 per day from Friday to Monday and weekend flat rates as well. If you are driving a long distance, why not post your trip up on one of the carpooling websites and make your gas money back taking a few local Germans with you!

Smart &Zugspitze
Our rental car in Southern Germany

 

Car Sharing in Germany

Car sharing services have exploded in popularity over the years, but for the short-term visitor, this option is a bit more difficult to take advantage of. Essentially, car sharing involves being able to rent a car for an hour or half a day any time you want. Cars are usually in convenient locations around the cities, you don’t have to find a rental office and you can book at short notice for as low as €5 per hour via an app on your smartphone. The problem is that you have to register with the company of your choice.

The registration fee is usually around €29, so it makes more sense for longer stays in the country. Once you do have it, you can shop, get out to the countryside or take a quick morning trip anywhere at the drop of a hat. Some car sharing services worth checking out are: ShareNow (in seven German cities; famous for their fleet of Smart cars) Cambio (in 13 German cities), or Flinkster (the official car sharing service of Deutsche Bahn with cars in over 140 German cities (and if you have a Bahncard, there’s no registration fee!).

Domestic flights in Germany

Flying usually doesn’t make much sense in Germany thanks to the country’s compact size, but if you want to save time and are traveling popular routes like Berlin – Stuttgart or Hamburg – Munich, it’s worth checking budget airlines like Easyjet or Ryanair (booked around four weeks in advance, sometimes there are even cheaper deals). If you are planning to take trips from Germany to another destination in Europe, check on Omio or Skyscanner what’s the cheapest option.

airplane
Ryanair – we dislike it, but we use it.

 

Where to stay in Germany

If you are trying to travel for as little money as possible, check out the Couchsurfing scene in the cities you’re planning to visit. Germany’s got quite an active Couchsurfing community, and if you don’t get any responses to your requests, make them more personal. Germans don’t like getting swamped with generic requests – instead, they are looking to make real connections and meet like-minded people. Once a German offers you their couch though, you can consider him or her a friend for life.

A similarly authentic travel experience is Airbnb, which to me feels almost like Couchsurfing when I rent a room in somebody’s apartment (instead of the entire apartment). I’ve found that in Germany, private rooms in an Airbnb usually only cost a couple of Euros more than a bed in a hostel dorm bed – and even though I enjoy staying in hostels, sometimes I appreciate having my own room and not having to share a bathroom with a dozen other people.

If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, sign up through my referral link and get up to $40 off your first booking!

Both Couchsurfing and Airbnb have helped me make my travel experience more genuine and interesting and get a better idea of what life in the place I’m visiting is really like. In a hotel, you’ll never have your host randomly invite you to a party with locals, or to join them on a bar hopping tour. Even when my hosts don’t have time to take me out, they always give me great recommendations for places to check out which aren’t necessarily on the beaten tourist path.

Over the years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find couches to sleep on, especially in popular destinations, which is why I now prefer renting a room in an Airbnb apartment, instead of renting the entire apartment. That way, I get the chance to connect with my host, and when I travel solo I don’t need an entire apartment to myself. I always want to meet new people though. And that’s what I also appreciate Couchsurfing for: their groups and meet-ups. So even if I don’t couchsurf with someone, I can still go to a meet-up and connect with other travelers.

 

 

Also read: How to travel around Europe on the cheap

PIN IT!

travel germany on the cheap

read more

One year of travel: Our expenses

Dani & Jess at Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua

We have on been on the road for one year, and want to share our expenses as a follow up to our first 6 months of travel, which we posted here. Read on for our detailed round the world trip budget, the total sum of every single penny we spent between 30 April 2010 and 30 April 2011. We decided to provide our spending summary for two reasons. Firstly, we would like to compare with other long-term travelers and see if we are in the same range of spending. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we would like to show our readers who don’t travel long-term just how affordable and realistic this experience really is.

Note: Expenses are stated in both USD and GBP since we both earn money in GBP, but did most of our spending comparing various currencies to US Dollars.

round the world trip budget

Our total round-the-world-trip budget – How much did we spend?

Per Couple $28,483.55 £18,181.51
     
Per Person $14,241.77 £9,090.75

Average expenses: Per Month

Per Couple
$2,373.63
£1,515.13
     
Per Person $1,186.81
£757.56

Our expenses include all every flight we took, our pricey Corn Islands vacation, every hostel / hotel / motel / apartment that we slept in, every bus / boat / tuktuk / taxi / train we took, every car we rented, every meal we ate, every beer we drank, various medications, every donation we gave, plus everything else we spent our money on.

Latin America vs Europe and North America

We spent two thirds of the time (8 months) in Mexico and Central America, and one third (4 months, 2.5 / 1.5) in the US and Europe, but over half of our expenses come from our time in Europe/US: $13,232.24 / £8494.41!  Had we traveled only in Latin America, we would have probably spent a lot less.

We have to admit that this round the world trip budget was a bit higher than we expected, but we never really tried to keep our expenses down. Unlike other travelers, we are technically digital nomads and earn money as we go, so we never have to worry (knock on wood) about scraping the bottom of the money barrel. We rented cars in the U.S. and Europe (not cheap!) we ate out a lot, we didn’t always stay in the cheapest hostels, and we recently booked a rather expensive flight to Europe.

Jess backpacking through the jungle

Housesits save money
Thanks to the various housesits during this past year, we saved more than 10 weeks accommodation. This free lodging helped us cut down this part of our budget!

Average Daily Travel Expense: Per Country

This is our average daily spend breakdown per country – both for us as a couple and what that averages out to per person.

U.S.A. Per Couple $90.00 £60.00
  Per Person $45.00 £30.00
       
Mexico Per Couple $41.16 £26.91
  Per Person $20.58 £13.45
       
Belize Per Couple $108.00 £68.20
  Per Person $54.00 £34.10
       
Guatemala Per Couple $46.24 £29.25
  Per Person $23.12 £14.62
       
El Salvador Per Couple $48.10 £29.58
  Per Person $24.05 £14.79
       
Honduras Per Couple $57.36 £36.87
  Per Person $28.68 £18.43
       
Nicaragua Per Couple $63.63 £40.35
  Per Person $31.81 £20.17
       
Costa Rica Per Couple $53.24 £32.97
  Per Person $26.62 £16.49
       
Panama Per Couple $71.42 £43.92
  Per Person $35.71 £21.96
       
Germany Per Couple $52.82 £33.45
  Per Person $27.41 £16.73
       
Italy Per Couple $113.62 £68.83
  Per Person $56.81 £34.42

A few notes on these daily averages:

1. Belize was so high because the amazing tours available- snorkeling and caving – are quite costly, but very worth it. Food and hotels can be very cheap if you do your research.
2. Nicaragua was only so expensive because of our trip to the Corn Islands. Without that, our time there would have been dirt cheap.
3. Honduras would have been cheaper, but we were there over Christmas and New Years, so we had lots of justifications for splurging.
4. Costa Rica is really not as expensive as everyone thinks!
5. Renting a car in Italy makes it expensive – the car ($35 a day at the cheapest rate), the gas (avg. of $9 per gallon!) and the tolls on the Autostrada (roughly $6.50 for a 45 minute drive, $35 for a three hour drive from Milan to Lucca).

30 April marked our 1 year travel anniversary, and we took a look at our expenses so far – how much we have spent, where the money went, and what our average per day spend has been in each country.

Have you traveled long-term? How did our round-the-world trip budget compare to yours? Have you ever considered traveling long-term but thought you don’t have the budget? Did our budget help push you in the direction of long-term travel? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

read more

Polaroid of the week: Cycling through Berlin

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week berlin cycle tourApologies for the lack of updates in the past couple of weeks – I’ve finally tackled the big website update that has been overdue for months, but the transition to my new mobile-friendly site design didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for. Please bare with me as I am ironing out the remaining glitches, bugs and errors – I have plenty of posts waiting to be published.

After our amazing first weekend in Berlin, we continued our adventures with more street art, more German breakfasts, my visitor’s (and my!) first ever curry wurst (this was the first time I found a vegetarian curry wurst), sunsets over Tempelhof airport (one of my favorite places in the city), and an epic 20 mile bike ride through Berlin. The city is so enormously big that is impossible to explore it on foot, and since it is a really bike-friendly city with plenty of bike lanes, bikes are a great way too see Berlin. Tiergarten alone (Berlin’s version of Central Park) is big enough to spend half a day there  (or longer) walking along the trails.

We were blessed with beautiful summer weather, cycled from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburg Gate to Victory Column on one of Berlin’s main boulevards, along the canals, and all over Tempelhof which is another one of those places that is too big to be explored on foot. We did get our fair share of walking in this week, however, with the free history walking tour (I mention this tour in my quick guide to Berlin with a few other must-do activities) during which our guide brought us to the iconic Berlin landmarks such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, the Berlin Wall (again!) and the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square.

Highlights of the week? Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap (a Berlin institution, which I put on my Berlin Must Eats in 2013 and it still totally lives up to the hype), the Turkish market at Maybachufer (I went on both days, Tuesday and Friday), Street Food Thursday, and last but not least: watching Germany win against Northern Ireland in the Euro 2016 soccer championship on the ‘Fan Mile’, a public viewing area with a giant screen right behind the Brandenburg Gate. Experiencing a soccer game with thousands of other fans is such an incredible experience – I am definitely happy to be in Germany for the Euro Cup after watching the last two World Cups in New York where soccer is just not as big as here in Europe.

I didn’t make it to all of my favorite places in Berlin just yet, so stay tuned for next week’s Polaroid with another update from Berlin, and my monthly round-up with all of June’s highlights in more detail.

read more

Polaroid of the week: Love lock madness in Cologne, Germany

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week germany cologne love locks bridgeIt feels like I’ve been all over the place this week: Berlin, then Dusseldorf, and now in Cologne, where I am spending the weekend. My three days in Cologne were definitely my favorite part of the week – my last two days in Berlin and also in Dusseldorf, it was mostly about work, but I tried to take some time off this weekend to find out if I still loved Cologne as much as I did fifteen years ago. Cologne and I have a special history: I visited the city for the first time with my girlfriends when I was 15 and was instantly mesmerized by the multi-cultural, vibrant city. What a difference from my sleepy hometown it was! I decided right there and then that I was going to move to Cologne one day, and a few more visits during my last couple of years in high school reaffirmed my love for the city, which is why I ended up enrolling in the University Of Cologne in 2000.

I had to leave unexpectedly after only two years, but always thought I’d come back one day – possibly to live there. But life had other plans for me and I never returned – until now, that is. As so many cities, Cologne has changed considerably since I lived here, and I had the best time this weekend rediscovering the place I called home all those years ago. With a good friend in tow and perfect summer weather, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time here – from food markets to bike rides along the Rhine River to a night out in Cologne’s thriving LGBT bar scene, I loved every second of it.

Being a sucker for love locks (and maybe even having locked my very own one on a famous bridge) one thing I was excited about was that I finally got to see one of the most famous love lock bridges in the world: the Hohenzollern Bridge. Back when I lived here, there were no love locks on that bridge, but a few years ago I came across an article mentioning that the bridge was covered in more than 40,000 love pad locks. After photographing the love lock fountain in Montevideo, the love locks on the Brooklyn Bridge (which have been removed now), love locks along Italy’s Via Dell’Amore, and many other spots around the world, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a bridge covered in padlocks to the extent this bridge is covered. It’s absolutely insane! Now that I’ve become a little more jaded rational when it comes to everlasting love and love declarations, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these couples were still together. There must be far more than 40,000 locks now – apparently, the love locks weigh over 2 tons! Let’s just hope they don’t cause the bridge to collapse like the love locks at the Pont Des Arts in Paris, where the locks have been removed consequently.

read more

A Beerlicious Weekend at Oktoberfest in Munich

Oktoberfest Munich

A festival dedicated to beer? That’s something I can get behind! Even though I am not the biggest fan of Munich, when it’s Oktoberfest time, I can’t get to Munich fast enough. Read on for some fun facts about the world’s largest beer festival and my best Oktoberfest tips all the way at the end of the article.dani with beer oktoberfestOktoberfest has always been my favorite German festival, and when I still lived in Germany I went to Munich almost every year to celebrate Bavarian beer culture.oktoberfest hearts munichHowever, I’ve only made it there a couple of times since I left Germany in 2006, and my last visit was half a decade ago, which is why I was stoked to find out that my friend Rikka, who recently started her own round-the-world-trip (and blogs about it on Deviatingthenorm.com) would be in Munich during Oktoberfest.

We had made plans to meet up in Germany anyway, and I knew that there was no way that she could leave Munich without experiencing the world’s largest beer fest. So I altered my travel plans and planned to fly straight into Munich from Israel for a couple of days of Oktoberfest fun.oktoberfest with rikkaWe even managed to get a couple of dirndls to celebrate in traditional Oktoberfest-style – definitely a first for both of us!!
Oktoberfest fun 2014Most of the non-Germans I meet assume that Oktoberfest is only an assembly of beer tents in which people consume beer after beer (and admittedly, there are quite a few people for whom Oktoberfest is exactly that), but the festival is so much more than that. First and foremost, it is a big funfair with loads of amusement rides, haunted houses, and other attractions that you would typically find at county fairs in the US.
oktoberfest slideThe most common misconception of Oktoberfest is that is held in October, when it actually takes place in September. It usually ends on the first weekend in October, but the big chunk of it takes place during the last two weeks of September. oktoberfest ridesThe other common misconception is that Oktoberfest is just for tourists, and while it attracts tourists from all over the world, locals also go to Oktoberfest. Most of my Munich friends visit the Wiesn, as the locals call it, at least once – and they all wear the appropriate attire, dirndl or lederhosn! My #1 Oktoberfest tip is to invest in some traditional Bavarian attire if you want to feel like you’re 100% part of the experience. Here’s a great guide on how to dress for Oktoberfest. If you don’t want to spend an awful lot of money on your dress (because the really good ones are hundreds of dollars), Amazon will be your best friend.

oktoberfest dressesOktoberfest started as a big celebration in 1810 when King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on 12 October, and the citizens of Munich were invited to join the festivities surrounding the wedding. It was held in the same location it is in today: the Theresienwiese. The location of the festival is what gives it its nickname ‘Wiesn’.oktoberfest 2014 rides and crowdsThe next year, the celebrations were repeated, horse races were added, and after running the festival for a few years it was decided that this would be an annual event.
oktoberfest horsesOktoberfest would have been celebrated for the 214th time this year, but it had to be cancelled several times due to war and cholera epidemics, which is why it is only at the 181st festival.TheresienwieseI am not sure when the beer tents were added to the festivities, but nowadays, there are fourteen massive tents on the grounds, each of which belongs to one of the famous Munich breweries. There are the super famous ones like Augustiner, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Löwenbräu, and some of the bigger tents hold 10,000 people (see below for more information on the tents and how to reserve a table in one of them). Only beers from Munich-based breweries are served at the festival.Oktoberfest Brewery towersAnd when I say tent, don’t take it too literally – they are proper constructions and their setup begins in early summer, around three months before Oktoberfest starts.oktoberfest braeurosl tent6.5 million liters of beer (or 13.736.947 pints!) are consumed in only 16 days. That might sound like a crazy number, but considering that 6.3 million people visit the beer festival and that beers are served in 1 liter steins, this number no longer seems so outrageous. That’s just a little over one stein per person, and I definitely contributed to this number (maybe even above the average, ahem).dani with empty glassesAnother big part of the event is the food! Half a million roast chickens are consumed every year, plus hundreds of thousands of grilled ham hocks, sausages (especially the Bavarian white sausages called weisswurst) steckerlfisch (fish grilled on a stick), piglings and other meat dishes – Oktoberfest is a meat lover’s heaven. There is an even entire tent dedicated to grilled oxen. 2013 was the first year that some tents offered entirely vegan options on their menu, and this year, every tent offered one vegan dish.oktoberfest spanferkelFor me as a vegetarian, Oktoberfest is where I get my Käsespätzle fix, and I am a sucker for the sweet treats: gingerbread hearts, sugar roasted almonds, chocolate covered fruit skewers… I try to stuff my belly with as many of them as possible.kaesespaetzleAnother favorite of mine: Lángos, a Hungarian fried dough specialty. Similar to a donut (but not sweet), the dough is fried in hot oil and then topped with several toppings. Traditionally that means a spicy red chili and garlic sauce and cheese, but nowadays you also get Lángos with an Italian twist, topped with tomato and mozzarella for example.LangosThe first day I spent at the festival this year was the perfect day to walk the grounds: sunshine, blue skies and warm weather. That’s not the norm for Oktoberfest – I have been several times when it was pouring down. old-fashioned carouselAfter grabbing some hot and tasty sugar-roasted almonds, we made our way straight to the Olympic Rings roller coaster that had caught Rikka’s attention. It took us an hour to cross the Theresienwiese to get from the entrance to that roller coaster, to give you an idea of how big the festival grounds are. The actual size of the grounds is 42 hectares, that’s 420,000 square meters, or the size of 20 football fields. Another important Oktoberfest tip: Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a lot more than you think!oktoberfest olympic roller coasterFor some reason I thought it might be fun to go on that roller coaster, but once the car started moving I realized that it was not a good idea at all. Let’s just say that I’d rather not share the photos of my facial expression before the ride, and the pictures from after the ride I would definitely not want anyone to see. I was terrified and my tummy turned and twisted with every loop. Luckily we hadn’t had any beer before the ride.oktoberfest olympic rings roller coasterFrom there, we headed to the old-fashioned Ferris Wheel which has been an Oktoberfest institution for decades and is the best way to get an overview of the entire fun fair and all fourteen tents.oktoberfest ferris wheel munichI love the old-fashioned cars of the Ferris Wheel (and I felt much more comfortable just going round and round at a leisurely pace, instead of being turned upside down at an insane speed!)
oktoberfest ferris wheelLooking down from the Ferris wheel, we also noticed that we were not the only ones who had the idea to take advantage of the brilliant weather and to enjoy Oktoberfest. The Theresienwiese was PACKED:oktoberfest crowds and tentsOn our second day at the festival, we didn’t spend much time outside but went straight to the tent for which we had reservations. Having a reservation for a table is A HUGE DEAL. It is almost impossible for individuals to reserve a table, most reservations are made through companies, at least six months in advance.oktoberfest tent munich 2014We were lucky enough to get two tickets from two girls who had dropped out of the reservation made by my friend’s friend, otherwise we wouldn’t have had the slightest chance to get into a tent on the closing day of Oktoberfest.oktoberfest tent munichThanks to the reservation though, we got the full Wiesn experience: dancing on the benches, singing along to German schlager and pop music, and of course enjoying some Oktoberfest beer.oktoberfest fun munichThe beer at Oktoberfest is served in a Maß, which is a one liter stein (2.2 pints). You can’t get a smaller beer than that. Adding to that the fact that Oktoberfest beer is stronger than normal beer, with 6 – 7 % alcohol, you can imagine how crazy things get after a while.
oktoberfest beersForeign visitors in particular are usually not used to beer that strong and steins that big and only realize how drunk they are when they get up from their bench. Expert Oktoberfest tip: Drink your beer slowly. Considering how much one beer costs, it’s not a bad idea not to chug your Maß anyway.
oktoberfest tentI have to admit that I had my fair share of drunken escapades at Oktoberfest as well, but let’s not get into those. Let’s just say that this year, I survived Oktoberfest without any incidents 😉Theresienwiese at nightEach tent has a live band that sings a mix of cover songs ranging from international classics like Tina Turner or Rod Steward to German pop singers like Helene Fischer.
oktoberfest bandFrom time to time, you see this happen:

Somebody, usually a guy, climbs on top of a table, cheered on by the applause of his mates, and downs a liter of beer in less than thirty seconds. When leaving the grounds, you’ll see drunk people sleeping on the sidewalks, and sometimes also in the middle of the street – my guess is that those are the same guys that drink the beer in one go!oktoberfest tent in munichThat’s not the only crazy thing you’ll see: the higher the level of alcohol, the crazier people get. There are these guys with the slingshots for example, who offer to shoot chili powder up people’s noses – for money, of course. What might seem a good idea initially, is regretted by most once its done.oktoberfest chili powderI had a blast without any chili or other dubious powders, and this will definitely not be my last Oktoberfest – and now that I have a dirndl, I will have to make sure that it gets used a lot 😉

dani rotzleffe
Rikka couldn’t have chosen a more fitting gingerbread heart for me – it says Rotzleffe, Bavarian for Snotty Brat 😉

My Oktoberfest Tips:

Accommodation during Oktoberfest

If you’re planning to visit Oktoberfest, book your accommodation early – in May at the very latest! Hostels and hotels fill up quickly, and prices go up like crazy. The earlier you book, the less you’ll pay (and the more likely you are to get a room in the first place). TheresienwieseDon’t expect to couchsurf during Oktoberfest. Almost nobody is willing to put up with drunk Oktoberfest visitors. The earlier you book your accommodation, the better. I usually use Booking.com to find the best rates for hostels and hotels.

Airfares to Munich go up during Oktoberfest as well. Consider flying to nearby airports such as Salzburg, Frankfurt or Stuttgart. You can get to Munich from these airports in 2 to 3 hours on the train and if booked in advance, train tickets are 29 Euros. Buses take a bit longer, but can be booked for as little as 10 Euros (sometimes even less). Check Omio.com to see the cheapest option for your trip – Omio compares train, bus and airfare in Europe and gives you the cheapest and fastest ways to get there.Oktoberfest MunichEven though Couchsurfing is not an option during the festival, you should check out Munich Couchsurfing events, groups and forums – there are always meet-ups at Oktoberfest, with people arriving in the morning to hold a table for Couchsurfers. That way, you know you’ll be enjoying a few beers with like-minded travelers.

When you get into one of the tents, just ask people if you can join their table. One of the best things about Oktoberfest is the people you get to meet!oktoberfest dancing girlsAnd last but not least, one of the most important Oktoberfest tips: Get to the festival grounds early – ideally 10am, if you are looking to get a seat in one of the tents. On weekdays you’re much more likely to get a seat than on weekends.

If you see a sign at the tent of your choice that looks like this:oktoberfest tipsDon’t even bother waiting there. That means the tent is already closed due to overcrowding. I’ve seen quite a few foreigners waiting in front of those overcrowded tents because they didn’t know what was going on, but as soon as this sign is hung, the doors won’t open again.

If you are looking to reserve a table, you’ll have to do that about six months in advance. You’ll have to reserve for 10 people, even if your group is smaller. Each reservation includes two beer vouchers and two food vouchers, adding up to about 40 Euros per person, which means you’ll pay about 400 Euros for the table reservation (but you’ll get the food and beer vouchers in return which is a good deal – so the reservation itself is basically free). Find out more about how to reserve a table at Oktoberfest here.beer tentCheck out several tents while you’re there. They all have different decor, cater to a different clientele and have a different atmosphere. Some of my favorite tents are the Hacker Tent, the Bräurosl and the Schottenhamel. You can find a full listing of all 14 tents with a short description of each one here.TheresienwieseExpect to pay around 10 Euros for one Maß. That might seem a lot, but I paid US$16 for a Maß in a German beer hall in New York. In addition to the beer, you’ll have to tip the waitress 1 Euro each time you order a beer.steinsThere is no entrance fee to get on the grounds. Admission to the rides range from 6 to 9 Euros, and snack foods start at 3 Euros. A full meal in one of the tents will set you back around 15 – 20 Euros.

And another important Oktoberfest tip: Don’t try to get anywhere near the festival grounds with a car – use public transportation instead. My advice would be to find a Park & Ride parking lot on the outskirts of Munich and take the S-Bahn train into the city. You can walk to Theresienwisese from Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) and Hackerbruecke S-Bahn station.

oktoberfest fun with rikka

LGBT Travelers: The second Sunday of Oktoberfest is Gay Sunday, celebrated in the Bräurosl Tent. Gaywelcome.com has the exact dates and detailed information. The second Monday of Oktoberfest is known as Prosecco Monday at the Fischer-Vroni Tent.oktoberfest beer glasses munich

PIN IT!

oktoberfest tips

read more

Polaroid of the week: A walk inside Berlin’s stunning parliament dome

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week berlin reichstag dome

After a few short days with my family, I returned to Berlin on Thursday for six days – and to welcome two special visitors from New York!

I have to admit that I am slightly exhausted after  sightseeing for days, but I love showing people around this giant urban sprawl that can be overwhelming and hard to grasp for first time visitors.

We wandered the tree-lined streets of Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, shopped at the Sunday flea market in Mauerpark and listened to people from all over the world belt out their favorite songs in front of 1,000 people at Bearpit Karaoke. We watched an epic sunset from Berlin’s coolest rooftop bar, Klunkerkranich (which even made it in the NYT, as a must-go spot in 36 hours in Berlin) and strolled along the canals. I also managed to get us tickets to visit the Reichstag dome on Saturday, which I hadn’t done in three years  – tickets are hard to get during the summer months, probably because they’re free. Sadly I couldn’t get them for my first visitors a couple of weeks ago, so the happier I was that I was able to show these two Berlin’s best 360 degrees views.

As an architecture geek, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing this stunning glass dome close up, designed by Sir Norman Foster and only added to Germany’s historic Parliament Building in 1999. We lucked out with the time of our visit, which happened to coincide with the time that the sun finally broke through the clouds after a rainy, gray day. And as we made our way up the ramp up to an observation deck at the very top of the dome, blue skies appeared, and we learned all kinds of trivia about the state-of-the-art environmentally friendly features of the dome and about the surrounding buildings thanks to the free GPS audio guide you get when you visit. If you’re heading to Berlin, don’t miss the Reichstag Dome – you can book your tickets online here.

 

read more
1 2 3 5
Page 1 of 5