lodging, travel tips

Where should I stay when I travel: Camping

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Camping:

Outside of friends and family, camping is often your cheapest option. I’ve seen 8-10 people put 3 tents on one $20 camp site and literally pay about $2/each. There are some places you can even camp for free (Iceland and New Zealand are known for allowing people to camp for free on much public land and even the US has some free primitive sites). Being outside with nature is a travel experience everyone should have a least once a year if not much more.

Drawbacks to camping include, cold or hot nights, the need for camping gear, set up and take down, and limited facilities.

To avoid weather extremes, I’d recommend camping in the fall or spring. Bring proper warm clothing and blankets to stay warm. Plan to share a tent in cooler weather and perhaps sleep in a hammock in hotter weather.

Build a collection of camping essentials. These include (but are not limited to) a tent large enough for the group you wish to travel with, a warm sleeping bag, chairs, headlamps and lanterns, cooking utensils, fire starters, lighters, extra blankets, a tarp, a rain fly (if your tent doesn’t come with it), and a large cooler (for food to cook over your cozy fire).

Only camp if you have at least two days to stay at the site. Preferably 3 or 4 nights. While set  up and take down may only take a couple of hours, this adds up significantly when you add cooking time  and inconvenience of showering off site. If you must pay to camp, look for a spot that offers on site showers, has built in fire places with grills, and allows you to make reservations in advance.

One of the last times I went camping was in California in the Inyo National Forest. There were two of us and we stayed 3 days. It was about 45 degrees at night which was rather chilly, but we had 3  extra blankets and two sleeping bags which helped. Set up and take down was about 2 hours total. We did have a couple of fires and cooked our meals on them which was quite enjoyable. Cost was about $18/night plus $5/night for firewood. We already had all the equipment so that wasn’t a new expense.

If you plan on camping overseas and must fly equipment out there, make sure your cost of flying the equipment is worth the hassle. If you are only planning on camping a few nights and flying your gear is going to cost you $$$’s, you may find another lodging option is more affordable and convenient.

Happy Travels!

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city reviews, iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the little big city. Its official population is 119,000 people with about twice that living in the surrounding towns. In the US or most of Europe this would be quite a small city; however, Reykjavik really pulls off a bigger town feel.

Language:

Almost everyone in Reykjavik speaks decent English so communication shouldn’t be an issue if you know that language.

Transport:

The city is very navigable with a couple of larger roads but no real highways. There is plenty of free parking if you are willing to walk a few blocks which I always am! The city is quite walkable once you park. There are also public buses which will get you from place to place; however, they don’t come that often and were a bit hard to figure out for me.

Lodging:

I recommend Airbnb. I paid about $40/night to take a private room for two in an apartment. We had full range of the apartment and hardly saw the owner. Another visit we did use a hotel which was under $100/night for 3 people and included a large delicious European style breakfast. My upcoming trip I have rented a 5 bedroom house for a large group of us for about $350/night.

Eating:

Food is quite expensive in Reykjavik. Going out to eat at an average restaurant that might cost $10-20/person in the US would be about double that in Iceland. However, shopping for your own food is reasonable, sometimes cheaper than the US, but still more expensive than most of Europe.

Because of this I haven’t eaten out much in Reykjavik. There are plenty of other blogs where you can learn more about the cuisine there, but if you are budget traveling like me, you may want to skip it.

Two recommendations I can make: Omnom Chocolate: got a bunch of free samples from them and loved it. Quite delicious dark homemade chocolate bars. Reykjavik Roasters makes some awesome brews. They are located in a quaint red house that really sets that perfect coffee house mood.

Shops and stuff to see:

Most of Reykjavik’s shops and restaurants are located along Laugavegur street and its side streets. Here you will find numerous bars, restaurants, locally hand made products of all sorts, clothing shops, and more. Much of it is touristy of course so prices may be a bit higher than elsewhere. We discovered some cool pottery shops and lots of wool clothing stores on our last visit.

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A view of the city with the mountains behind it from one of the hotels I stayed in on my first ever visit to Iceland in 2015

Nightlife:

For its size Reykjavik has amazing nightlife. Both times I visited, I took one night to go out on the town and had an amazing time. Tons of people out including many locals not just tourists. Last time I met a guy who recognized me from my Instagram where he had seen photos from my previous visit. We also met some random Icelandic guys who showed a great time, skipping the line to get into a more exclusive club. One of the most fun bars in Reykjavik is the gay bar, Kíkí Queer Bar, fun music and a great mixed crowd. We also enjoyed Lebowski BarKaffibarinn, and Austur.

Because drinks are expensive in Reykjavik ($10/beer, $15/cocktail), I’d recommend a good pregame to get the night started. Drinking age is 20 and there are bouncers but they are pretty chill. Icelandic people love to drink and party (or so they have told me), and from what I’ve seen they seem to be right. Most of the bars are off that same main street with all the shops and restaurants. Just walk up and down and go bar hopping. You will have a good time!

Touristy Stuff:

Like most towns there are all sorts of tours including free walking tours. I’ve never done one in Reykjavik but I know that in some towns the system kind of rips off the tour guides, so make sure you tip well and maybe read up on the way the tour guides work before going on one.

Whale watching is tons of fun and a good way to enjoy the nearby natural beauty. I recommend Elding Adventures At Sea, whom I went with and quite enjoyed. They have their own museum about whales as well.

There is also a large swimming area (well lots of them but one in particular) in the city, taking full advantage of the thermal waters underneath Iceland. Every pool at this swimming park is somewhat warm and there are multiple hot tubs of various temperatures. The park is called Laugardalslaug and is open to the public.

Another popular tourist attraction is the Hallgrimskirkja, a large church deigned to resemble the natural volcanic rock formations found in Iceland. It is quite beautiful and offers a great view of the city from the top.

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Random tourist saying a prayer in front of the great church

The best thing about Reykjavik is you can do all this stuff in just a day or two, giving you tons more time to see the rest of the nature on the Island.

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

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country profiles, Norway

A Quick Guide To Norway

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Norway is one of the most beautiful, clean, advanced countries in the world. The natural landscape is second to none. The cities are advanced and so is the economy. However, it is also one of the most expensive countries in the world, certainly that I have ever been to.

What I hope to provide you in this post is bit of advice on how to do Norway in an economical fashion without missing out on the beauty of the country.

How to get there:

From the US you can fly to two main cities: Bergen and Oslo; or perhaps a slightly smaller one Stavanger. Oslo is the largest and most common but I would personally recommend Bergen as it is closer to most outdoor activities. One economical way to get to Norway which I used in 2015 is to fly to Reykjavik with Wow Air and then from there to Norway with Norwegian.

From Europe, Norwegian is a budget airline that goes to most cities in Norway and from most cities in Europe. Once again I’d recommend Bergen over Oslo.

Where to stay:

There is so much to see in Norway, and unlike some other European countries, you really can’t see it all from one base point. If you just have a few days, stay in Bergen and take day trips (this is what I did in 2016 on a 4 day trip.

If you have more than 4 days (I’d recommend 2 weeks if you can afford it), I’d start in Bergen and than loop around the country, perhaps heading south to Stavanger or even further to Egersund where I stayed in 2015. Then make your way back up north to Oslo before cutting back to Bergen. For a longer loop, continue from Oslo all the way north to Trondheim, before heading back down through the fjords to Bergen.

Lodging:

While there are of course many hotels and a few hostels in Norway, Airbnb is by far the most economical. In 2015, my two friends and I booked a private Airbnb apartment for 3 people with a kitchen for about $70 total.

In 2016 I rented a private room for two in an apartment for 4 nights for about $170 total. The owner was hardly ever home, super hospitable, and allowed full use of her kitchen for us to cook.

Oslo is extremely expensive, hence I don’t recommend staying there unless absolutely necessary.

Transportation:

There isn’t really any public transportation in Norway. You can get around the cities by buses and a friend of mine took a bus from a major city to a popular hiking area, but if you want to see more than just the top tourist attractions and the city centers, you need to rent a car.

That being said: renting a car is extremely expensive. The car rental itself is fairly reasonable ($50/day or so but varies). Make sure you get a diesel (its cheaper) and something with good gas mileage. Unless you are there in the dead of winter you don’t need a 4X4.

Getting Around, the roads and fuel:

Gas is approximately $8/gallon or 1.74 EUR/liter. Tolls are outrageous. If you can plan your trips to include minimal back tracking (so you don’t pay the same toll twice) and try to avoid toll roads (Google Maps isn’t quite up to speed on which roads in Norway have tolls and which don’t), you may save a bit.

However, you cannot fully avoid them. Most car rentals charge by plate or by chip on the windshield and you get the bill a few weeks after your vacation. I spent $100 in tolls in 4 days on my last trip. If they have an option for a fixed daily rate to go through unlimited tolls, take it! I did that in 2015 and it probably cut my toll costs in half.

Norway doesn’t have many traditional 4 lane highways. Many of its roads are single lane roads with turn outs for passing and some of these sketchy passes still charge you for a toll. There are also tons of tunnels which is nice because it helps preserve the external landscape. Just drive with care and watch out for other drivers.

DON’T SPEED. Seriously. They give out tickets in some places for just a couple of km over speed limit. Plus it’s not very safe to speed on the curvy roads of Norway.

What to see in Norway

There is too much to see in this beautiful country. Stay tuned for more coming soon!

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

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Save money by traveling like I do

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Nikon D3300
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travel

A quick guide to visiting Iceland (part 3)

Icelandic Horses running through a field
Icelandic Horses running through a field

I didn’t realize there was so much to tell about Iceland. So here it is part 3!

Nightlife

Iceland has a surprisingly thriving nightlife given its size. Locals tell me that everyone there drinks. A lot. And when you go out you see this. Many of the people out at the bars and clubs are locals, not just tourists.

Reykjavik is home to a metro population of about 200,000 or almost 2/3 of the population of the island. While the town is relatively small, it still offers a wide range of bars and clubs, from jazzy coffee shops serving whiskey late into the morning to ritzy night clubs with fancy cock-tales, to American style sports bars with more TVs than patrons. Everything is scaled down to the size of the country but there is still something for everyone.

If you like night life, I’d recommend taking one night to thoroughly enjoy it while in Iceland. If you go during the summer you will get to have the very odd experience of walking out of a club and finding it quite light outside almost as if you partied till 7am, except its only 2!

Alcohol 

Speaking of nightlife, alcohol is extremely expensive in Iceland. Even buying your on liquor or beer and mixing your own drinks can cost a lot. For example, the last time I went to Iceland I bout a 500ml bottle of regular Smirnoff Vodka for about $32. Meanwhile in your bars and clubs drinks start at about $15. Beers are about $9.

If you want to drink in Iceland and want to save money, I highly recommend buying duty free alcohol in the airport before you leave and taking it with you.

Culture and Art

I don’t have as much experience with the culture and art of Iceland but there is plenty to be had if you are interested. pretty much anywhere there are tourists, you can find hand made crafts and goods which may be a bit expensive but are usually beautifully done and support the local economy. Downtown Reykjavik has tons of shops with art, pottery, wool, and much more. There are also performing arts in the city as well

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II